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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zadornov Gives Up Cabinet Position

The Cabinet was plunged into deeper turmoil Friday when First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Zadornov, abandoning a back-room struggle for power in the new government, resigned after less than a week on the job.

The loss of Zadornov was a blow to new Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, struggling to put together a Cabinet under pressure from warring Kremlin clans.

Zadornov, finance minister in the previous government, had been seen as a counterweight to the other first deputy prime minister, Nikolai Aksyonenko, who has declared his ambition to exercise sweeping control over the government f and seems ready to overshadow even Stepashin.

Stepashin had lobbied for President Boris Yeltsin to structure the Cabinet to include a second top deputy to run the economy. But Zadornov, though picked for that role, was undermined when Yeltsin refused to let him keep his responsibilities as finance minister.

Rumors that Zadornov would either keep the finance job or quit have filled the newspapers for the past several days. There has been widespread press speculation that Stepashin may quit too f rather than serve as a figurehead prime minister with Kremlin insiders calling the shots.

Aksyonenko is widely described as the prot?g? of "the family," or the innermost circle of Yeltsin advisers that includes his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, and the controversial financier Boris Berezovsky.

Zadornov announced his resignation at a late afternoon news conference at the Finance Ministry. "My stance is that the Finance Ministry should play a key role in the government," he told reporters, explaining that the government needed a "unified economic bloc" to realize its main economic tasks.

"Unfortunately, my position did not find support from the president or his administration staff, and today I tell you that I have to resign," he said.

Zadornov had been a strong proponent of economic reform in the government, and he spoke with pride about his ministry's achievements, including keeping the government within its budget for the last eight months.

Later, in an interview on NTV television, Zadornov said he had not been able to speak directly with Yeltsin about his resignation plans.

His departure is a second, visible defeat for Stepashin, whom Yeltsin appointed prime minister on May 12 after sacking Yevgeny Primakov.

Stepashin had proposed that Alexander Zhukov, the head of the budget committee in the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, be made first deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy, and that Zadornov remain at the helm of the Finance Ministry. But Yeltsin rejected that recommendation.

As speculation about his political weakness has grown, Stepashin has tried hard to project an air of authority f although, being the fourth prime minister in just 14 months, he knows well that Yeltsin can fire him any time.

Earlier in the day, Stepashin had tacitly confirmed that a behind-the-scenes struggle was holding up final decisions on the makeup of his new government.

Stepashin, looking grim, asked reporters covering his meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik to stop asking questions about the Cabinet.

"You know yourselves how it's going," he said with a long face.

All week long, the media have buzzed with theories about which powerful forces have been at work on the Kremlin's picks for key Cabinet posts. Dyachenko, Berezovsky and veteran reformer Anatoly Chubais were all believed to have a part in the decision-making, at Stepashin's expense.

One of the fiercest struggles has been over the finance post. First, the Kremlin said that Zadornov would keep the post, in addition to his new dutiesas first deputy prime minister. But then it said that Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had been appointed.

Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called Yeltsin "a hostage to these string-pullers," Interfax reported. "They seem to be at odds about who will take over the best Cabinet seats, embezzlement-wise."

But the Vremya daily noted Friday that the struggle over who would oversee the Finance Ministry was over much more than a single Cabinet seat. "The question is whether the peaceful change of power in Russia will come to its logical conclusion and juridical form," Vremya wrote. "Because today, one compact financial-industrial group, elbowing out competitors, is getting control in fact over all the key posts in the executive."

Vremya was referring to Berezovsky, who appears to be the biggest winner so far. In addition to Aksyonenko, new Interior Minster Vladimir Rushailo and the new customs chief, Mikhail Vanin, are also believed to have ties to Berezovsky.