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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministers Say They Don't Plan To Quit

The reformist ministers who came to power under Yegor Gaidar will not resign en masse with the arrival of a Soviet-era technocrat as prime minister, a senior government official said Wednesday.


But the official, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko, and other sources within the government, said that some ministers might decide individually to step down instead of serving under the new government chief, Viktor Chernomyrdin.


"After the first meetings, it will become clear in what direction we go, and everybody will make a personal choice", The Associated Press quoted Shumeiko as saying at a roundtable with journalists.


"I have long known Chernomyrdin as a staunch adherent to market principles", he said.


Chernomyrdin, who was elected Monday by an overwhelming majority of the conservative Congress of People's Deputies, has pledged to push ahead with reforms. But he has also promised to soften the Gaidar team's shock-therapy model.


In an article published by Izvestia on Wednesday, Chernomyrdin said the government might raise spending to halt the fall in Russia's industrial production.


"We do not plan changes here and now, but I do not promise that they will not come", he said.


Gaidar told Izvestia in the same issue that he respected the new prime minister "as a qualified specialist", but that he had "a fundamentally different concept of how to conduct economic policy and reform".


On Tuesday Chernomyrdin said that he hoped everyone in the current government would remain.


But he may lose those most committed to Gaidar's approach to reform, according to the sources.


Shumeiko, who joined the government in May along with Chernomyrdin, has said that he will stay.


Gaidar, who resigned on Monday after Yeltsin abandoned him for Chernomyrdin, left his government offices on Staraya Ploshchad on Wednesday to return to head his former economics institute, which is to be renamed the Institute for Economic Problems in a Transitional Period.


A source close to Gaidar said that Alexander Shokhin, a deputy prime minister, was likely to join him.


Shokhin is one of a 20-member team of young economists who came to the government when Yeltsin named Gaidar deputy prime minister in charge of the economy in November 1991. Derided as the "boys in pink pants" by some cynics, the team represented a dramatic break from their communist predecessors.


Other members of that team include Anatoly Chubais, the deputy prime minister in charge of privatization; Andrei Nechayev, the economics minister; Pyotr Aven, the foreign trade minister; and Boris Saltykov, the deputy prime minister for science and technology.


These men and other Gaidar associates had said in recent weeks that they would resign if Gaidar did not remain as prime minister. But in a press conference two weeks ago, Chubais said that they would step down only if they were no longer able to carry out reforms as they wanted.


Their departure would "considerably weaken the very idea of reforms", Shumeiko said.


It appears now that these ministers, whom the departing Gaidar asked to stay to carry out the reforms he started, are making their decisions individually. They could be waiting to resign until after Chancellor Helmut Kohl left Moscow for Germany, or until President Yeltsin returns from his China visit.


Chubais will remain in the government, he told Izvestia.


The newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, quoting an unidentified source, said that Saltykov and Sergei Shakhrai, the lawyer who recently returned to the government as deputy prime minister for interethnic affairs, would also stay.


But it also said that Nechayev, Aven, and Vladimir Mashits, another Gaidar associate who is the minister for economic cooperation with the former Soviet republics, would "certainly leave".


Nechayev, who kept a full schedule Tuesday and Wednesday with the Kohl delegation, has been asked by Yeltsin to stay, according to his press spokesman.


Shokhin, who also met with the German delegation, was scheduled to accompany Yeltsin to China on Wednesday night and has made no statement about resigning, his press secretary said.


Aven was in Paris on Wednesday for talks with the Paris Club of creditors. Some ministers outside the Gaidar team of economists also appear to be considering resignation. These include Ella Pamfilova, the social welfare minister.


Although Chernomyrdin was also a deputy prime minister in the Gaidar government, he is not a member of the closely knit Gaidar team.


His surprise appointment was a defeat for Yeltsin, who had fought to save Gaidar during the Congress.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta said Wednesday that by abandoning Gaidar, Yeltsin had lost his basis of support.


"He has virtually no allies left in this game", the newspaper wrote.