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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shokhin Quits Cabinet After 10 Days




Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's already-divided team was further thrown into turmoil Friday when one of his top new ministers, Alexander Shokhin, announced that he was quitting f after just 10 days in office.


Shokhin, the leading free-market advocate in a left-leaning Cabinet, said he could not accept Primakov's decision to keep holdover Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, who like Shokhin is also a liberal economist.


"I consider the appointment of Mikhail Zadornov a political mistake," Shokhin was quoted as saying by Interfax.


Shokhin complained that Zadornov had been party to the government's decision to default on some of its debts and permit devaluation of the ruble Aug. 17. Shokhin has criticized the debt default as illegal.


"It is very difficult to work when there is no mutual understanding with the finance minister," he said.


In response, Primakov said in a statement reported by Interfax that Shokhin's announcement was "a capricious move" and "irresponsible, especially at such a difficult moment." But Primakov also said Shokhin's departure "will not weaken the government, the formation of which is already being completed, and which is already getting down to business."


The reappointment of Zadornov was also cited in the resignation late Friday of Dmitry Vasilyev, the head of the Federal Securities Commission, as reported in a statement from the commission's press service released to Interfax. No other details were available Friday.


Shokhin said Zadornov would be an impediment in talks with foreign lenders and the International Monetary Fund, saying they would not deal with "people who have already deceived them once."


He said he had wanted a "technical" finance minister and mentioned former Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov and Vasily Barchuk, head of the government's pension fund, as possible candidates. The mention of Panskov was particularly interesting: Shokhin had resigned once before from a government post in 1994, citing the appointment then of Panskov as finance minister.


Shokhin said he told Primakov and President Boris Yeltsin of his position Friday morning before Zadornov's appointment was announced.


Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who had earlier criticized Shokhin's appointment, said Shokhin quit because he had failed to negotiate more loans from Western financial institutions.


"Shokhin spent 10 days in the government and realized that he was not achieving anything in his contacts with the West," Zyuganov said.


Zyuganov on Friday said his party would offer only "selective support" to Primakov, but would withdraw their backing if he turns to liberal economic policies and ministers, Itar-Tass reported.


"Attempting to collect representatives of every point of view in the government is futile," Zyuganov was quoted as saying.


An IMF team left Moscow on Friday without indicating when Russia might get the next $4.3 billion installment of a $22.6 billion IMF loan package negotiated in July.


As the team prepared to depart, Shokhin indulged in some wistful arm-twisting, saying it would be "shameful [for the IMF] to leave Moscow without cheering up the world by announcing results."


Shokhin and Zadornov were to be the Cabinet's two leading free-market advocates, stacked up against the new team's left wing led by First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov, a Communist charged with overall economic management.


The government also includes technocrats of indeterminate ideology, a centrist former provincial governor and several Primakov loyalists from his time as foreign minister.


Observers have wondered how such a patchwork can come up with coherent policies, with the leftists calling for printing money to pay the government's debts and support inefficient industries, and the liberals call ing for tight money and austere budgets.


Shokhin's decision to bolt came as Primakov seemed to be making progress filling out ministerial slots.


Including Zadornov, nine members of the Cabinet were reconfirmed or appointed Friday by Yeltsin, who seems to be accepting Primakov's recommendations f though he legally retains sole authority to make Cabinet appointments and has insisted on meeting all candidates.


Yeltsin's spokesman took a modest slap at Primakov on Friday for his statement that Yeltsin had not been aware of the government's decision on debt default and devaluation.


"No one could have foreseen all the effects of these decisions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said. "I think the prime minister apparently meant the seriousness of the repercussions."


"We should live by the present day ? and leave judgements of the past to historians," Yakushkin added.


All but one of the appointments either confirmed an acting minister or moved someone already in the government to a new job. Primakov, a compromise candidate who became prime minister with only a few days warning Sept. 11 in the midst of an economic crisis, now has 20 of 29 ministers in place, according to an Itar-Tass count.


The Finance Ministry appointment had been eagerly awaited by investors wondering how their government bonds, frozen Aug. 17, would be restructured, and by businesses and foreign governments trying to divine just how far Primakov will take Russia back toward Soviet-style government management of the economy.


Tom Adshead, co-head of research for United Financial Group investment bank in Moscow, said Zadornov was a known quantity in financial circles and that Yeltsin "could have appointed someone much worse."


But Adshead said Zadornov appeared to have kept his job because no one else could be persuaded to take it. "He stands for everything that the rest of the government does not stand for," Adshead said.


Other ministerial reappointments on Friday were: Georgy Gabuniya as minister of trade, Pavel Krasheninnikov as minister of justice, Nikolai Aksenenko as railways minister, and Sergei Generalov as minister of fuel and energy.


New appointees were Andrei Shapovalyants as minister of economics, Mikhail Kirpichnikov as science minister, Ramazan Abdulatipov as minister of nationalities, and Boris Pastukhov as minister of Commonwealth of Independent States affairs.


Shapovalyants, former first deputy economics minister, replaces his superior, Yakov Urinson, who was passed over in Friday's appointments.


A former top official in the Gosplan Soviet planning agency, Shapovalyants has served in the Economics Ministry since 1991, making him part of every post-Soviet government beginning with former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar's.


New Science Minister Kirpichnikov, former deputy science minister, replaces his boss, Vladimir Bulgak, who moved up to deputy prime minister for industry and communications. Kirpichnikov, a biologist by training, is another political survivor who has served as a science official in one of the ministries or the government's apparat since 1991.


Abdulatipov held a similar post in the Chernomyrdin government, which was dismissed in March.


Pastukhov, a former ambassador to Afghanistan and to Denmark, was Primakov's first deputy during Primakov's two and a half years as foreign minister.


Ministerial slots lacking confirmed appointees are: anti-monopoly policy, atomic energy, state property, health, culture, natural resources, education, regional politics, agriculture and labor, as well as the State Tax Service. Ministers from the previous government have stayed on temporarily.


? Primakov on Friday addressed Interior Ministry officials and urged them to help fight corruption in the provinces, which he said was leading regions to try to break their ties with Moscow.


"Some representatives of local authorities are linked with criminal structures," Primakov was quoted as saying by Interfax. "Such a connection feeds separatism, strengthens centrifugal tendencies."


Primakov has said one of his top priorities is to keep Russia's economic woes from leading to separatism or even the breakup of the country.