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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Appoints Privatization Minister

President Boris Yeltsin made a virtually unknown regional administrator his new privatization chief and deputy prime minister Tuesday, filling the last obvious gap in his new government line-up.

The president chose Vladimir Polevanov, the head of administration in the Amur region to head the State Property Committee in succession to Anatoly Chubais, who has been elevated to become first deputy prime minister in overall charge of the economy.

At the same time, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin received a boost after a cabinet reshuffle that has weakened his position considerably when a personal friend of his, Vladimir Babichev, was named as the new head of the government administration.

Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin met in the Kremlin on Tuesday, and Ostankino state television called Babichev's appointment "the main result of the meeting." Babichev, a former bureaucrat in the Central Committee of the Communist Party made his career, like Chernomyrdin, in the gas industry. He replaces a close ally of the Prime Minister, Vladimir Kvasov, who was sacked Friday, and like Kvasov will hold the rank of minister.

"I had certain doubts," Babichev told Itar-Tass of his reaction to being offered the job. "But my personal acquaintance with Viktor Chernomyrdin allowed me to decide for a positive answer."

Polevanov, 45, a geologist by training from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov, has never held an important post in Moscow. Formerly mayor of Blagoveshchensk in the Russian Far East, Polevanov was made acting head of the Amur region in October 1993 after the crushing of the parliamentary opposition in Moscow. In December he took up the post full time.

As local governor Polevanov has been spearheading plans to build a new heavy rocket base at Svobodny in his region to replace the Soviet-era space station at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Unlike many regional leaders he was not elected to the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. Pavel Shtein, who does represent the region in the Federation Council, was scathing about Polevanov's appointment.

"Despite several virtues he is not ready for this job," Shtein said, adding that Polevanov was only an expert in geology.

Sergei Burkov, the centrist head of the State Duma's privatization committee, welcomed the appointment of Polevanov as a "strengthening of regional privatization" but said he knew nothing of his record.

Polevanov's appointment brings the number of deputy prime ministers in the cabinet to eight, even as news agencies have been reporting a possible reduction of the government bureaucracy by 30 percent.

Another deputy prime minister, Sergei Shakhrai, was stripped of his responsibilities for the breakaway region of Chechnya, Interfax reported Tuesday, quoting "informed sources." If true the report is more confirmation of the fall from grace of Shakhrai, once one of Yeltsin's most trusted allies.

Shakhrai was the formulator of Russia's Chechen policy and was much admired by the Chechen opp