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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Technocrats Dominant In Cabinet




The new-look Cabinet confirms that President Boris Yeltsin intends to remodel the government not as a force in its own right, but as a nonpolitical economic bureau of the Kremlin, analysts said Wednesday.


The big winner is Boris Nemtsov, reappointed to the Cabinet on Tuesday as one of three deputy prime ministers and apparently put in charge of the key sectors of economic reform.


According to an announcement on his World Wide Web page, Nemtsov, a potential future presidential candidate, will regain oversight of the crucial fuel and energy sector of the economy, as well as public utilities and transport.


These were responsibilities that he held last year but lost in a series of reshuffles during the winter. Nemtsov will also stand in when new Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko is absent.


Like Kiriyenko and the other newly appointed deputy prime minister, Viktor Khristenko, Nemtsov has no strong base apart from Yeltsin and isn't likely to follow in the steps of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, whose growing independence apparently got him fired.


"I think that's Yeltsin's main idea: to have the government more as an agency for economic management, rather than an independent political entity," said Yevgeny Volk, head of the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation.


"The idea behind Yeltsin's plan to appoint all these people was to have a docile government that would be in his hands and not play a politically independent role, as happened with Chernomyrdin in recent months," Volk said.


After launching the reshuffle by firing Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin said he wanted a government that would spend less time on political maneuvering and more time pushing lagging economic reform.


Significantly, Yeltsin removed the three masters of intrigue in the old government -- Chernomyrdin, Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais.


Former prime minister Yegor Gaidar noted in an interview in the Izvestia newspaper this week that Chernomyrdin and Chubais were so antagonistic that, in one instance, the decisions of a government tax committee swung 180 degrees from day to day, depending on which of the two was chairing the meeting.Yeltsin said he fired Chernomyrdin's government because economic reform was lagging. But Chernomyrdin is also believed to have angered Yeltsin by independently accumulating political support among the financial oligarchs for a possible bid to succeed Yeltsin in the 2000 elections.


The newcomers present a sharp contrast to Chernomyrdin, who had an independent political base as former chairman of natural-gas giant Gazprom, and to Chubais, who has ties to the Uneximbank financial empire of Vladimir Potanin.


Chubais also had a strong bureaucratic base from his days as the head of the State Property Committee, now a ministry, which doled out billions of rubles worth of government property and has branches throughout the country.


All three newcomers, in contrast, are economic managers from the provinces without strong links to entrenched bureaucratic or financial structures. Their tenures in Moscow are uniformly short: Nemtsov, 38, is most senior, with only 13 months of service since coming to Moscow from Nizhny Novgorod in March 1997.


He has strongly criticized the so-called financial oligarchs, and his appointment is viewed as a rebuff to politically connected billionaire Boris Berezovsky, with whom he has feuded openly.


Kiriyenko, 35, has been in the capital for a year, coming like Nemtsov from Nizhny Novgorod, where he ran a bank and later an oil company. He joined the Fuel and Energy Ministry as deputy minister and became minister before being thrust into the top job after Chernomyrdin was fired March 23.


Former economics instructor Khristenko, the least well-known, has worked for only 10 months as deputy finance minister, managing financial ties to the regional governments. He is 40 and until last year was based in far-off Chelyabinsk in the Urals, where he was most recently Yeltsin's representative.


Nemtsov's promotion is also credited to his personal relationship with Yeltsin, which one analyst compared to that between a grandfather and a grandson.


"I think there is something personal about it," said Volk. "Yeltsin likes energetic young people not so much associated with the ***ancien r?gime***, who are really the manifestation of the new Russia, rather than the people from the old party nomenklatura."


The one major Cabinet appointment still undecided is that of the third deputy prime minister. The Kommersant Daily newspaper reported Wednesday that the post was likely to go to Ivan Rybkin, a former minister for affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States and a close ally of Berezovsky.