Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

On Yeltsin's New 'Auidience'

President Boris Yeltsin and his most viable opponents, the Civic Union bloc, are reaching out to each other in an attempt to strike a deal that would allow the government of acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar to survive.


While the potential of such an agreement is great, the signs are that the two sides still have some way to go.


In a meeting on Tuesday, Civic Union leaders presented Yeltsin with their economic plan and a wish list of personnel changes the group would like to see in return for their cooperation.


While this implies a government shake-up in the making, the president on Wednesday denied that he was considering a cabinet reshuffle.


Vyacheslav Kostikov, Yeltsin's spokesman, confirmed on Wednesday that Yeltsin and Civic Union had entered into a political alliance to help "change the mood from confrontational to constructive" in the Russian legislature, where the coalition has considerable influence.


Yeltsin and the Gaidar government have been looking for ways to avoid a head-on attack from legislators when the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's highest legislature, convenes on Dec. 1.


Taking a conciliatory tone toward Civic Union, Kostikov told Itar-Tass that the opposition bloc represented "an existing centrist political force, prepared to cooperate for the sake of renovating Russia". He called the coalition "a force which rejects extremist ideology and its methods of struggle" and one that "supports reforms".


Speculation about impending changes in the Gaidar government are nothing new, but Tuesday's meeting, which was attended by Civic Union leaders Vice President Alexander Rutskoi and Arkady Volsky, was different in that it produced a concrete list changes the bloc wanted to see in the cabinet.


Speaking with journalists in a snack bar at the parliament on Tuesday night, Igor Muravyov, co-chairman of the Civic Union's parliamentary faction, said that Civic Union had asked for the resignation of seven top officials, including:


Gennady Burbulis, Yeltsin's state secretary, and long considered the president's right-hand man;


Deputy prime ministers Anatoly Chubais, in charge of privatization, Alexander Shokhin, in charge of foreign trade, and Mikhail Poltoranin, who is in charge of press and information;


Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, Economics Minister Andrei Nechayev and Foreign Trade Minister Pyotr Aven, all of whom have been roundly criticized in parliament and, recently, by Yeltsin himself.


Muravyov later took back his words, which were widely reported in newspapers and on the radio.


Additionally, a high-level source in the Yeltsin administration expanded on Muravyov's Civic Union list of proposed replacements. These included:


Yuly Vorontsov, Yeltsin's adviser on foreign policy, would replace Kozyrev as foreign minister;


Vasiliy Lipitsky, co-chairman of Rutskoi's People's Party of Free Russia, would replace Poltoranin as press minister;


Volsky lieutenant Alexander Vladislavlev, who is also a Yeltsin advisor on entrepreneurship, would replace Aven and Shokhin as the top official on foreign trade;


Liberal Yeltsin aide Galina Starovoitova said on Wednesday that Yeltsin was trying out a variety of candidates to replace Gaidar as prime minister, Reuters reported.


Even Gaidar, in an interview in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, appeared to accept that at least some members of his cabinet might have to go, possibly even Gaidar himself.


"The future of Russia's reforms does not depend on this government being intact", he said. "What is really important is whether we can create a workable consensus with the industrial sector that doesn't undermine the possibilities for a sensible economic policy".