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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Packages Deal to Save Gaidars Position Foreign Minister Kozyrev May Be Sacrificed in Compromise

President Boris Yeltsin offered his opponents in the Congress of People's Deputies a surprise deal on Tuesday, agreeing to cede control over four key ministries in return for the legislator's confirmation of Yegor Gaidar as the head of Russia's government.


Shortly after striking the deal in a meeting with leaders of the parliamentary factions, Yeltsin officially proposed Gaidar, the 36-year-old economist behind Russia's economic reforms, for the post of prime minister.


"You all know him", Yeltsin told the deputies. "He is brave, capable and simply smart". That comment brought laughter from the legislators, most of whom have spent the past week harshly criticizing Gaidar, who has been acting prime minister since June.


The president also said he would "renew part of our cabinet".


"We have to conduct a purge - I do not fear that word - a purge of the bureaucratic apparatus", Yeltsin declared.


If implemented, the deal would give the legislature right of approval over Yeltsin's candidates to head the Foreign, Defense, Interior and Security Ministries. That would almost certainly lead to the dismissal of Andrei Kozyrev, Yeltsin's liberal foreign minister.


By offering to sacrifice Kozyrev, Yeltsin was making a major concession to his opponents. But his choice of ministries also showed the lengths to which the president was apparently prepared to go in order to save his economic program. He would retain control of all five ministries related to market reforms.


The opposition narrowly failed to wrest control over all nine key ministries in a secret ballot last Saturday, gaining 690 of the 694 required for a two-thirds majority.


In addition to Kozyrev, the future of three other so-called "power" ministers is now in doubt: General Pavel Grachev, the 44-year-old defense minister; Viktor Barannikov, 52, who heads the Security Ministry - the internal section of the former KGB; and Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, 48. Gaidar lobbied some 200 uncommitted deputies in a meeting, during a break in Tuesday's session. But it is by no means certain that Yeltsin's proposed deal will guarantee the 521 votes required to save Gaidar when the Congress votes on him.


Lawmakers last week condemned Gaidar's policies in a decisive vote, and on Tuesday they voted down every amendment that the president had proposed to Russia's Brezhnev-era constitution. Those included powers for the president to call referenda and to appoint the head of the Central Bank.


Indicating how far Yeltsin would have to go to placate his most determined opponents, hardline legislators summoned enough votes to block an amendment that would have taken references to the "U. S. S. R". and "socialist society" out of the Constitution.


Ilya Konstantinov, who represents the 350-strong Russian Unity faction, said that "despite Yeltsin's offer. Unity will vote against Gaidar". But some less extreme deputies, such as Andrei Golovin of the Change-New Policy faction, also said that they would oppose Gaidar.


"How can we say that the government works badly but Gaidar works well? " asked a skeptical Yury Gekht, leader of the Industrial Union faction.


Yeltsin's most enthusiastic supporters were furious at the deal, which they considered a major defeat for reform and a trick on the part of hardliners.


"This is a serious mistake, the price is too high", said Viktor Sheinis, a reformist lawmaker. "The president gave his word and he cannot take it back".


Father Gleb Yakunin, a member of the faction that helped bring Yeltsin to power, was visibly shaken. "We did not expect that he could give up Kozyrev", he said. "If this happens, Democratic Russia will go into opposition".


But Foreign Trade Minister Pyotr Aven, another cabinet member whose resignation has been demanded by the opposition, said that he trusted "the president's intuition".


"He has proven several times that he understands the situation better than anyone else", he said, adding that "such a compromise was inevitable".


When asked if he would be in the new government that Gaidar will have to form if confirmed, Aven responded flatly: "No, I don't think so".


Kozyrev, 41, has spearheaded Russia's foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He is popular in the West for his willingness to break with the confrontational and isolationist policies that marked the Soviet era.


But among legislators Kozyrev has long been vilified for allegedly having sold out to Western interests.


"He is the leader of the pro-American lobby in Russia, not the Russian foreign minister", said Oleg Plotnikov, of the Change-New Policy faction.


Many deputies believe Kozyrev has done far too little to protect the 25 million Russians who live outside the country's borders, in the other former Soviet republics. They also resent Russia's participation in the Gulf War against Iraq, a former Soviet ally.


"Imperial traditions are strong in this country", said liberal deputy Pyotr Filippov. "That's why these deputies will vote against Kozyrev".