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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Gives Cabinet Conditional Support

President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday dismissed as "overdramatized" fears that Russia's newly appointed cabinet signals the end of economic reform, but he gave the new team only a weak and conditional endorsement.


A statement released by presidential spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov, said that the new government has only just begun work and that "there is insufficient evidence for such a pessimistic analysis."


The statement referred to widespread warnings that the new cabinet's policies will lead to hyperinflation and the end of reform, following the resignations of heavyweight reformers Yegor Gaidar and Boris Fyodorov.


"Understanding the motives for such evaluations, the president of Russia draws attention to their overdramatization in political declarations," the presidential statement said.


But it also lacked any pronouncement of faith in Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's cabinet.


The statement instead went on to say that the president "would carefully watch implementation of the government program" and would use his strong constitutional powers to guarantee that reform continues.


In comments quoted by Itar-Tass while he was visiting St. Petersburg with Yeltsin for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nazi siege Thursday, Kostikov went further to say that the president had been concerned by some of the new ministers' comments on a recent visit to the central Russian city of Oryol.


There, Chernomyrdin and his agriculture minister, Alexander Zaveryukha, had promised large sums of money to industry and agriculture, while Chernomyrdin reportedly suggested reimposing a form of wage and price controls.


Yeltsin, said Kostikov, would "nip in the bud" attempts to reverse reforms or to rebuild an "administrative-command-distribution state-planning system."


Yeltsin's supporters in parliament expressed less patience with the new team Thursday. A leader of Russia's Choice, parliament's largest pro-reform group, called on Yeltsin to replace Chernomyrdin as prime minister.


"We have predicted that Chernomyrdin's government will try to limit economic reforms and his latest measures prove it," Sergei Yushenkov said Thursday. "We hope that in this situation, the president understands the need to offer the State Duma a different candidate for prime minister," he added.


Russia's Choice would back a vote of no-confidence in the government if it approved a huge budget deficit that many fear would bring hyperinflation, he said.


"If the government makes any decisions whose consequences will be catastrophic for the country, Russia's Choice will call for a vote of no-confidence," Yushenkov said.


Chernomyrdin has promised to keep fighting inflation, but he has also backed increased spending to resurrect Russia's ailing agricultural and industrial sectors.


Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov had warned on Wednesday that the new plans represented an "economic coup" and would spur a "social explosion."


Yushenkov acknowledged that Russia's Choice, was in a minority against a parliamentary alliance of pro-Communist groups and the ultranationalist Liberal Democrats who support Chernomyrdin's economic policies.


"The first votes in the Duma have shown that the Liberal Democratic Party, the Agrarians, the Communists vote in solidarity," Yushenkov said. "Unfortunately, democratic factions lack the solidarity shown by these factions."


Russia's Choice had once hoped to translate support for Yeltsin into a dominant role in backing economic reforms in the parliament. But an election defeat last Dec. 12, when it won only 15 percent of the vote, has diminished its influence. Yushenkov also said his group would try to impress on Yeltsin the danger of slowing reforms, but that it recognized that "the center of power has shifted from the president to the prime minister."