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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformers Blast New Cabinet Selections

The pendulum swung back toward conservatives in the government Wednesday, as President Boris Yeltsin appointed two new deputy prime ministers, praising their professionalism more than their reformist credentials.


"The emphasis is being put on professionals rather than politicians," Yeltsin told a group of reporters in the Kremlin, commenting on the latest stage in what is now the most far-reaching government shake-up of his three year presidency.


Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov, named Russia's new foreign debt negotiator last week, was made deputy prime minister responsible for foreign trade and banks, a job formerly held by Alexander Shokhin who resigned last Friday.


Alexei Bolshakov, a little-known St. Petersburg bureaucrat who has never held a position in the national government, was appointed deputy premier in charge of cooperation with the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.


The cabinet has now swelled to contain two first deputy prime ministers and five deputy prime ministers. Anatoly Chubais, the last remaining radical reformer in the cabinet was made first deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, but looks increasingly isolated among his new colleagues.


A leading reformist in the State Duma said the new men had nothing progressive to offer, describing Davydov as a "good bureaucrat" and Bolshakov as a "Soviet manager."


"The appointments mean that all that's left of reforms is a carcass," former finance minister Boris Fyodorov said.


Bolshakov's promotion has provoked an especially sharp reaction.


"He's one of the old nomenklatura," said a Russian economist, who asked not to be named, aghast at the new appointment. Bolshakov, 54, was head of a St. Petersburg joint stock company in charge of the construction of a high-speed railroad between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The controversial project is supported by the St. Petersburg authorities as potentially lucrative, but it has not yet secured proper funding.


Before that Bolshakov, a communications engineer by training, worked for a series of military-industrial factories in what was then Leningrad. He was deputy mayor of the city until in 1991 he lost an election to the new, democratic city council, when the Communist old guard was swept out of power by the supporters of reformist Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.


Nothing in his background indicates strong diplomatic skills. But his personal secretary, who has been with him since Soviet times but who will not go with him to Moscow, has a different opinion.


"He will be make any post shine with his love of work and of people," the secretary, who gave her name as Tatyana Nikolayevna, said in a telephone interview. "I am so sad to lose him. I think it is a turning point in my life."


A reformist St. Petersburg deputy in the State Duma was less effusive but said Bolshakov was capable.


"He is a serious industrialist with sober pro-market views," said Grigory Tomchin of the liberal Russia's Choice faction. "He is also a very respected man in St. Petersburg."


Foreign debt traders are likely to be dismayed by the appointment of Davydov, 54. As foreign trade minister, a post he has held since last fall, he has repeatedly called for Russia's foreign debt to be forgiven.


"Poland and Bulgaria have had their debts written off, so why isn't it happening to us?" he told a recent press conference.


But Davydov, who has worked in various foreign trade organizations since 1966, has also earned a reputation for promoting Russia's integration into international trade organizations such as GATT and consistently lowering import tariffs on foreign goods.


Besides appointing the two new deputy premiers to bring their total number up to seven, Yeltsin made his outspoken economic aide, Alexander Livshits, official adviser on economic policy.


In an interview with Itar-Tass Wednesday, Livshits said that despite the hopes of the reformers, he thought it unlikely that inflation would be brought down to 10 percent a year within the next five years. He said he had told this to Yeltsin.


The president said the government shakeup still had a little way to go, Interfax reported Wednesday. He said two more personnel changes would take place soon, then paused and added enigmatically that both changes would concern the same post.


***Svetlana Vinogradova contributed to this article***