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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Resignation Embarrasses, But No Loss




Yevgeny Primakov has not cut a commanding figure as prime minister. He was supposed to be the experienced actor who would build a team and take bold steps to save Russia's economy.


Instead, as Primakov enters his third week in the job he has no clear economic program and can't even seem to form a Cabinet. Some ministers, like tax chief Boris Fyodorov, are still in limbo, their fate uncertain.


Others brought into the government have accepted, thought it over and then announced their resignations.


It was bad enough when Vladimir Ryzhkov, a 30-something State Duma deputy, turned down a deputy prime minister's portfolio to coordinate the work of social welfare ministries.


But how much more embarrassing for Primakov to see one of his top deputies, Alexander Shokhin, suddenly announce Friday that he had changed his mind and wouldn't take the job.


Shokhin said he could not work in the same government as Mikhail Zadornov, who Friday was finally reconfirmed in his post as finance minister. This is a truly bizarre position for Shokhin: He and Zadornov both subscribe to liberal free-market economics.


Shokhin said Zadornov was among those at fault for the Aug. 17 decision to devalue the ruble and default on the T-bill market. But as Shokhin well knows, the government could not prop up the ruble and pay its debts because it was out of money f not because of some sneaky plot between Zadornov and then-Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko.


Interestingly, Shokhin absolved President Boris Yeltsin of blame for the events of Aug. 17, saying Yeltsin was "misled."


But it was seven years of rule by Yeltsin and five by his longtime prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, during which corruption flourished unchecked, that brought Russia to the de facto bankruptcy of mid-August.


Shokhin did not seem to have a problem with any of that. Nor did he seem to have a problem joining a government with Yury Maslyukov, who was the former head of Gosplan in the dying days of Mikhail Gorbachev's bankrupt Soviet Union, and to this day remains a Communist Party member.


So Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin and Maslyukov f Soviet Communist Party chieftains in their day f make fine and competent company. But Zadornov f a free-market economist who distinguished himself in the Duma by fighting a losing battle for responsible national budgets f is somehow objectionable?


Wish Shokhin a farewell. He was always something of a nonentity, and his 10-days were marked by contradictory half-baked mumbling. Better people could easily be recruited to replace him f it's just a shame that Primakov can't seem to find any of them.