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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shokhin May Lose Job in Ruble Crash Fallout

Prime Minister Alexander Shokhin suggested Thursday that he might lose his job as Economics Minister, as part of the continuing repercussions over last month's ruble crisis, while President Boris Yeltsin summoned leading reformers for consultations.


Speaking at a press conference, Shokhin said he was aware that he might soon leave his post as Economics Minister, while staying on in the government as a deputy prime minister.


"When the president signed a decree appointing me to the government, it only mentioned the post of deputy prime minister," said Shokhin, a veteran of the numerous cabinet upheavals that have taken place since 1992.


"Maybe he meant even then that he wouldn't have to cancel his decree when I step down as Economics Minister," he said.


A top-level Security Council commission investigating the ruble crash blamed the crisis on the Economics and Finance ministries, the central bank and other government institutions. A commission member told reporters Wednesday that heads could fully be expected to roll.


President Boris Yeltsin Thursday held talks with his former economic policy chief Yegor Gaidar, deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko, Nationalities Minister Nikolai Yegorov, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and his predecessor Gavriil Popov, Reuters reported.


A statement from the presidential press office said they discussed possible nominations for government posts, butno details were given.


Yeltsin made it clear earlier Thursday that he did not intend to confine himself to firing former acting Finance Minister Sergei Dubinin and ex-Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko in the wake of Black Tuesday, when the ruble plunged to a record low of almost 4,000 to the dollar.


He issued a "severe reprimand" to Acting Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, who has kept his post but is now unlikely to be nominated as a full minister.


A more junior official, Viktor Krunya, was less lucky, as Yeltsin fired him as head of the Federal Currency and Export Control Service, whose job it is to see that Russian exporters lodge their profits in domestic banks and not abroad.


In the absence of any official word on who would get the Finance and Economics portfolios, the daily Segodnya quoted deputy head of the State Duma's budget committee, Alexander Pochinok, as saying that Vladimir Panskov's appointment as Finance Minister was "99 percent certain." According to Pochinok, a decree appointing Panskov now awaits Yeltsin's signature.


Though no official source confirmed this information, Shokhin said that he was aware of Panskov's candidacy for the top finance job.


Panskov, 50, now deputy head of the Budget and Finance Directorate of the president's staff, spent several months in Lefortovo prison in 1993 on charges of bribe-taking as a top State Tax Service official, but he was then released, his case officially closed.


Segodnya claimed that the Public Prosecutor's office was now looking into the case again, but the Public Prosecutor's press service would neither confirm nor deny this Thursday.


Shokhin, however, said that he considered Panskov's candidacy suspect for reasons other than those old charges. He said that an evaluation of the government's draft 1995 budget prepared by Panskov's directorate was less than complimentary.


"One thing I can tell you is that I'm not going to work with just any finance and economic ministers," he told reporters. "My litmus test for judging whether someone should get the job will be his attitude to the budget."


The minister added that this test completely disqualified Duma Economic Policy Committee Sergei Glazyev as a candidate for the economics portfolio, supported by the conservative factions in the parliament.