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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President's First 100 Days Earn Little Media Fanfare

Although great fanfare was made of security chief Alexander Lebed's first 100 days within the president's administration, Boris Yeltsin's own centennial, which came last Friday, was barely noticed by the Russian press.

Besides making a wooden and distant appearance at his inauguration, the president has not appeared in public since being re-elected to a second term in a July 3 run-off against Communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov.

Yeltsin's most memorable performance in his new term came in a September television interview, in which he confirmed rumors his heart is in a bad state and that he was preparing to have surgery later that month.

The bypass has since been put off until November or December for fear the president is too frail to survive surgery and must have time to prepare. Doctors are expected to meet later this month to formally decide when the triple or quadruple bypass should be performed.

Yeltsin's only other public contribution to Russian politics has been a series of weekly radio messages to the people, possibly taped at the Barvikha sanitorium, where the president is currently resting.

In his second address, which aired last Friday, Yeltsin focused on the problem of tax arrears and on his chief of staff Anatoly Chubais, a free-market economist who was unceremoniously dumped as a deputy prime minister by Yeltsin last January.

Yeltsin named Chubais as deputy to a new "emergency" committee on tax collection, which will be headed by Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin.

The appointment confirms Chubais' status as one of Russia's most powerful politicians who has filled the vacuum left by Yeltsin's absence. He already controls direct access to the president, and no Yeltsin decree is issued without Chubais's knowledge. Although Chubais was responsible for running Russia's economy for three years as a Kremlin deputy prime minister, until Friday he has had no access to economic issues in Yeltsin's new administration.

One Russian newspaper took Chubais' appointment to the tax collection committee as a sign the increasingly influential chief of staff has been handed over some of Chernomyrdin's authority on deciding economic issues. In a front page article titled "Anatoly Chubais Has Created a New Party," Commersant said Saturday that the appointment points to yet another shift of responsibilities among the president's staff.

"The government tax inspectorate has been taken away from the prime minister and has been made responsible to the president, or rather, the head of his administration.

"Of course, formally, the committee is headed by Victor Chernomyrdin. But let's not kid ourselves. We are talking about an emergency committee under the president of the Russian Federation."

The article said this leaves the prime minister as a ceremonial figure, since Chernomyrdin already had the powers to oversee the collection of taxes.

"The real power rests in the hands of [committee] deputy Anatoly Chubais. It is he who will stand at the committee's pinnacle."