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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Cuts Target Reformers: Report

With just 2 1/2 months left before Russians elect their head of state, the president's hardline chief of staff is overhauling the presidential administration at the expense of reformers, according to a leading newspaper.

The changes come as the Central Election Commission accepted 1.37 million signatures in support of President Boris Yeltsin, and the president's election committee revealed plans for the campaign.

Nikolai Yegorov, who replaced Sergei Filatov as head of the president's administration in January, announced plans to "streamline" the apparatus shortly after his appointment. But the proposed cuts go far beyond a simple trim: According to the newspaper, 600 of the administration's 2,100 employees are being slashed, while the number of its subdivisions will drop from 49 to 19.

Many of the cuts come within Yeltsin's analytical center -- which covers politics, economics, sociology and ethnic-nationality issues. Marc Urnov, the center's chief, has "been removed" from his post, and department heads Nikolai Popov, Eduard Dneprov and Leonid Smirnyagin are in administrative limbo.

A new chief for the center has not yet been named, but, according to Izvestia, one of its new top officials is Vadim Pechenev, who was an aide to Soviet Communist Party boss Konstantin Chernenko. The newspaper described Pechenev as an "ideologue of super-powerhood, a supporter of harsh decisions implemented by force" in the mold of his boss, Yegorov.

One member of the president's analytical center acknowledged Tuesday that a massive reorganization was taking place. "I didn't agree with everything in the article, but in terms of the facts about the [reorganization] process now taking place, it is very close to the truth," said Viktor Borisyuk.

He said Urnov, Smirnyagin, Dneprov and Popov are on the verge of leaving the analytical center, as is Emil Pain, who also heads a presidential working group working on a settlement to the war in Chechnya.

Smirnyagin, for his part, said Tuesday that he remained in his post.

"True, there was a summons on my secretary's desk today from Pechenev, but I haven't been to see him yet, so I don't know," he said.

Smirnyagin, who reported that Urnov was planning to tender his resignation, said that "the size of the analytical center has been reduced.

"But it cannot be said that it has disappeared," he added. "There has been a lot of exaggeration about this. Perhaps the person who gave [the Izvestia correspondent] this information jumped the gun. It might turn out like he said in the end, and I might be fired. Who knows?"

Izvestia said the reorganization of the presidential apparatus suggests Yeltsin and his inner circle are contemplating postponing or canceling the June vote.

"Only a team counting on keeping power not by the route of all-people's elections would be indulging now in apperatus games with such unconcern," the newspaper wrote.

One analyst, however, dismissed this explanation for the administrative re-shuffle as too conspiratorial.

"I will repeat a phrase I often use: If you can explain something in the area of administration either by conspiracy or by stupidity, it's definitely stupidity," said Vladimir Mau, deputy director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition, founded by former prime minister Yegor Gaidar.

On Tuesday, Sergei Filatov, who heads the coordination committee of the Russian Movement for Public Support of Boris Yeltsin, confirmed that Monday one of the 15 initiative groups gathering signatures to put forward Yeltsin's candidacy, turned in its signatures to the Central Election Commission.

A commission official said the group had handed in "as many as 1.37 million signatures," which were submitted along with Yeltsin's consent to run for a second term and an income statement for 1994-1995, Interfax reported. He said the commission will verify the submitted documents within 10 days.

Filatov also said the various pro-Yeltsin initiative groups will hold a congress at Moscow's Rossia movie theater on April 6 to 7. Yeltsin is expected to present his campaign platform there.

Filatov said Yeltsin was beginning to gain on his main rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, and that a Yeltsin victory in a first round of voting "could not be ruled out."

Another member of Yeltsin's campaign team, ex-first deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais said in an interview published Tuesday in the daily Trud that a Communist victory is "a real threat."

Chubais, who was forced to resign in January, has formed a Foundation for the Protection of Private Property, "uniting representatives of big business in support of the current president," the newspaper reported.