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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stepashin Insists He's in Charge of Government




Insisting he "held all the cards" in the new government, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said Wednesday he would personally oversee finances, regional relations and security structures - while leaving industry to First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aks-yonenko.


Speaking during a visit to Tula, in central Russia, Stepashin said that the government was "a unified team" - despite widespread media reports of a rift between Stepashin and Aksyonenko, who has claimed sweeping powers to run, as Aksyonenko has put it, "everything."


The prime minister, himself a former top police and counterespionage official, claimed oversight of the "power structures" - the military, police and intelligence services - and also the Finance Ministry and relations with the regions.


Aksyonenko would take care of "the actual economy, industry," he said, while the second first deputy prime minister, Viktor Khristenko, would oversee the "financial-economic, macro-economic bloc."


The prime minister promised more details about the exact division of power at a news conference on Thursday.


"Of course, there are various points of view, but we will work as a single team headed by the prime minister, headed by the president," Stepashin said.


Stepashin, once again, felt it necessary to assert he was the one in charge of the new government, in the face of a blizzard of reports in the Russian media that Aksyonenko is the one with the backing of President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle.


"I hold all the cards," he said.


After Stepashin was approved by the State Duma on May 19, he struggled to put together a team, with Yeltsin turning down several of his choices.


The news media say the infighting stemmed from an effort to exert control over the Cabinet by the president's inner circle, or "the family" - a group usually considered to include Yeltsin's daughter and adviser, Tatyana Dyachenko; controversial business tycoon Boris Berezovsky; Roman Abram-ovich; former chief of staff and ghostwriter Valentin Yumashev; and the current chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin.