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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chubais, Yasin to Head Economy

President Boris Yeltsin appointed Yevgeny Yasin, one of his own Kremlin staff and a veteran economist, to the post of economics minister Tuesday, after promoting Anatoly Chubais, the last remaining proponent of radical reform in the cabinet.


Yasin, 60, is an economics professor who worked on the radical 500-Day Program for economic reform in the dying days of the Soviet Union, and until Tuesday was head of Yeltsin's Analytical Center in the Kremlin.


A Western economist said he approved of the choice, describing Yasin as a professional with a deep understanding of the Russian economy.


"He is an economic liberal, but he understands what the real economy is and doesn't believe he can change everything by putting interest rates up and down," the economist said.


Yasin's appointment is also unlikely to offend the opposition. He is remembered as one of the authors of an economic program floated by the centrist parliamentary group Civic Union in 1992 as an alternative to the policies of the then acting prime minister, Yegor Gaidar.


As the most thoroughgoing government reshuffle in some two years continues, all the main economic portfolios have now changed hands in the past month. Yasin was appointed to succeed Alexander Shokhin, who resigned Friday in protest at the appointment of a new finance minister, Vladimir Panskov.


Yeltsin trumped a series of appointments by creating a new post of economic supreme chief on Saturday and awarding it to Chubais, the only remaining veteran of the so-called Gaidar team of young radical reformers who took power in late 1991.


Chubais, 39, is now first deputy prime minister in overall charge of the economy, making him one of the three most powerful men in the government, along with Viktor Chernomyrdin and Oleg Soskovets. He was also put in charge of a new commission regulating Russia's chaotic securities markets.


Analysts saw the moves as a deliberate gesture of support for Yeltsin's one-time reformist allies, who have been disheartened in recent weeks. Alexei Lipik of the pro-Yeltsin daily Moskovsky Komsomolets wrote that the president needed one high-profile reformer in his government -- and as Shokhin had resigned, it had to be Chubais.


"In short," Lipik said, "if Alexander Shokhin had not unexpectedly announced his resignation, Chubais would have had no prospects in the current government."


He also said Chubais was an important emblem of reform for the West.


"Whom can Chernomyrdin use to get credits in the multibillions from the International Monetary Fund if not Chubais?" Lipik wrote.


Chubais will not in fact deal directly with foreign negotiators. Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov was given Shokhin's brief Saturday to negotiate on Russia's immense foreign debt -- an appointment that was met without enthusiasm among Western analysts, since Davydov has previously advocated writing off Russian debts (See story, Page 11).


As head of the State Property Committee, Chubais, an outspoken economist from St. Petersburg, spearheaded what has been called the largest privatization program in history, and is consequently a hated figure for the parliamentary opposition. His name regularly appears at the top of their lists of ministers they want to resign.


He said Saturday that his main priority was to press on with the tough 1995 budget, which envisages inflation falling to 1 percent a month by the end of next year.


The Western economist said a lot of hopes would now rest on the shoulders of the young and isolated Chubais, who has been entrusted with a huge portfolio.


"It is one thing to have a strong liberal commitment, and another to put it into practice," the economist said.


He said the ideological split in the government was now wider, and there was likely to be a battle between Chubais and Soskovets over the course of economic policy.


But a top Russian economist, who asked not to be named, said Chubais had softened his tough monetarist outlook since being in government and was more malleable than before. "It's impossible for him to be the same as he was three years ago," he said.


Chubais' successor still has to be named before the government shakeup is complete.


Fyodor Alekseyev, political commentator for the newspaper Kuranty, said Yeltsin's liberal supporters, whose tolerance has worn thin over recent months, would not permit any more concessions to the opposition, which recently had its candidate Alexander Nazarchuk made agriculture minister.


"The democrats will not endure a second blow. The threat hangs over the president of the dramatic departure into opposition of many of those politicians who still support him," he wrote.


Gaidar, who has been consistently loyal to Yeltsin, told Ekho Moskvy radio that it would "cost too much" to go into opposition to the president, but did voice a rare criticism of Yeltsin.


"Boris Yeltsin must now re-gather his reformist energies and overcome the stereotype that has formed of him as a tsar among boyars," Gaidar said.