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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernomyrdin: Regions Should Be Reined In

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on Tuesday called for greater central control of the regions that make up the Russian Federation, warning local leaders against demanding more authority that would "tear" Russia apart.

"The fate of the country is being decided in the regions", Chernomyrdin said, according to Interfax. He said that it was "incorrect" to say that "strong regions make a strong Russia", and called for the federal government to renew its role of managing reforms in the country's outlying regions.

The prime minister was in the central Siberian city of Tomsk, addressing members of the Siberian Agreement, an organization of industrialists and local heads of government from 19 resource-rich Siberian regions formed in 1992 to lobby for the area's economic interests.

Chernomyrdin said that his government would continue the policies launched last year by his predecessor, Yegor Gaidar, aimed at forcing large state-owned enterprises to work more effectively. These included tightening financial policy, cutting back on the issue of cheap credits and streamlining bankruptcy procedures.

Chernomyrdin said that the government would, "as the proprietor of most enterprises in the country", take a more active role in managing local economies. The prime minister has criticized Gaidar for putting too much emphasis on macroeconomic stabilization, and ignoring the specific needs of the outlying regions.

"If we do not learn to work together with the regions, then not one cabinet decision will be carried out to its conclusion", Chernomyrdin said Tuesday. Government leaders in Moscow fear that the Russian Federation, a multiethnic patchwork of regions and semiautonomous republics with widely varying levels of economic development, could break apart, much as the Soviet Union did in 1991.

The regions have taken advantage of the power vacuum created by the power struggle between President Boris Yeltsin and the national parliament to assert their independence from Moscow. Many fear that local governments will now use a scheduled April referendum on a new constitution to finalize the split.

The autonomous republic of Tatarstan has declared independence and adopted its own constitution and has backed out of the nationwide referendum. Another autonomous republic, Chechnya, has effectively seceded. Leaders of the Altai and Chelyabinsk regions have said they will ignore Yeltsin's decrees.

In a way, the president has been part of the problem. Yeltsin has been trying to win support from local leaders, and in return for political support, he has given promises of increased autonomy in economic matters.

Last year, for example, after the appearance of threats that entire regions of Siberia would secede from Russia, the Siberian Agreement won concessions from the central government, which agreed to give the region 10 percent of all revenues from the sale of oil and resources from the region.

Other regional leaders have used similar maneuvers to take more power into their own hands, and make their own decisions on the pace of reforms.

Regions with a stronger industrial base, such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Urals, have proceeded more quickly with reforms, while less-developed areas are lagging behind.

Moscow, for example has privatized over 50 percent of its small municipal enterprises and service outlets, compared to only 2 percent in largely agrarian Tatarstan.