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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiriyenko Appoints Red Trade Minister

Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko appointed the first Communist to his Cabinet on Wednesday in naming Yury Maslyukov the new minister of industry and trade, Interfax reported.

The choice of Maslyukov, the Communist chairman of the State Duma's economic policy committee, was announced by Kiriyenko at a news conference Wednesday. It ended months of speculation over possible candidates for the recently created post.

The appointment could not be confirmed late Wednesday evening. And Maslyukov, 60, himself said he was unaware of his appointment.

"At the present time, nobody has informed me of any changes in my employment situation. I am, therefore, forced to deny the information about a switch to government," Maslyukov said in an interview with Interfax. He could not be reached for further comment.

Interfax quoted senior government officials as saying President Boris Yeltsin had signed a decree confirming the appointment from the northwestern region of Karelia where he is on vacation. The decree has not been made public.

Most observers agree that in making such an appointment, Kiriyenko is broadening the government's political base in a conciliatory gesture toward the opposition-dominated Duma, parliament's lower house. The Duma has frustrated the government's attempts to pass what it considers vital legislation, including austerity measures intended to prove to the International Monetary Fund that Russia is getting its economic house in order and to secure a $17.1 billion emergency loan.

Maslyukov is one of only a handful of Communist deputies who openly voted for Kiriyenko in the three votes it took for the Duma to confirm him as prime minister in April.

"The White House is trying to attract both politically prominent figures and members of the opposition to government," said Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies.

Maslyukov, the Communist Party's chief economist, was perhaps the most moderate and palatable candidate from the opposition for the ministerial post. He is considered one of the few Communist deputies with a solid grounding in economics.

After graduating from the Leningrad Mechanics Institute as an engineer, Maslyukov went on to gain extensive experience in the Soviet government.

He served in a variety of senior posts, including a stint as the head of Gosplan, the government agency that administered the Soviet Union's planned economy. Maslyukov also served as a member of the Communist Party Politburo.

Some observers said Maslyukov's background in the highest echelons of Soviet government could prove harmful for Russian industry.

"He probably knows little about the market economy and may be inclined to use his planned economy skills to try to boost the state's control over industries," said Stepan Mikoyan, deputy chief designer at NPO Molniya, a space design agency. "One should create conditions for investments rather than command in this case."

The Industry and Trade Ministry, created in April as part of Kiriyenko's restructuring of the government, will see its responsibilities considerably expanded under Maslyukov. Responsibility for the military-industrial complex, which has been formerly administered by the Economics Ministry, will now fall to the Industry and Trade Ministry.

The ministry will also determine Russia's foreign trade policy -- formerly the duty of the now-disbanded Foreign Trade Ministry, Interfax reported.

Maslyukov takes over from Georgy Gabyniya, who was appointed acting minister in the Cabinet shuffle in April.

Further changes in the government could be in store this fall with the number of deputy prime ministers growing to reflect the Cabinet's changing structure and tasks, Kiriyenko said Tuesday at a news conference.

Kiriyenko also said earlier this week that some fresh faces from Russia's regions could soon appear in his Cabinet.

The prime minister said he would select "people working in real industry" among whom could be regional leaders and directors of large enterprises.

The newspaper Kommersant Daily speculated Wednesday that Yevgeny Nazdratenko, governor of the troubled Primorye region, could be among the candidates being considered for a prime Kremlin post.

Nazdratenko has been in Moscow this week and has been holding discussions with government officials in the White House. No details have been disclosed.

NTV television reported Wednesday that Nazdratenko and Konstantin Titov, the governor of the Samara region, had declined the posts of deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy.

Some observers said Nazdratenko would be a highly unpalatable choice.

Under his leadership, the Far Eastern region of Primorye has been wracked by electricity black-outs, wage arrears and widespread discontent. Nazdratenko also has squared off against Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov in a bitter and very public political feud.

"He has demonstrated a complete inability to govern there," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst at the INDEM think tank. "A transfer to federal government, in my view, would be a very regressive step."

More may become clear after Kiriyenko meets with Yeltsin, which is not expected until Saturday.