President Boris Yeltsin, who dismissed his last government for not moving more energetically toward economic reform, put the finishing touches today on a new compromise cabinet that bears the fingerprints of Russia's competing financial and economic camps.
After two weeks of behind-the-scenes infighting, Yeltsin approved a lineup of key economic policymakers that mixes some reform-minded bureaucrats with earlier appointments backed by powerful businessmen. Rather than go on vacation, as had been expected, Yeltsin arrived at the Kremlin early today for meetings with his beleaguered new prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, who has had trouble assembling a team.
Mikhail Zadornov, the former finance minister who resigned last week just three days after being named first deputy prime minister, today returned to the fold. He was named special representative to international financial organizations. Zadornov, respected in the West, will have the task of trying to keep Russia's relations with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on track.
Stepashin, who suffered a personal setback with Zadornov's resignation last week, said he had asked Yeltsin to give the 36-year-old former legislator the new post. Russia wants to secure $4.5 billion in loans from the IMF to cover its debts to the fund this year, but the resumed lending is contingent on the parliament's passage of structural reform legislation.
Yeltsin refused to relent on another appointment, that of Mikhail Kasyanov as finance minister. Kasyanov, who had been Russia's debt negotiator and a deputy finance minister, was criticized by Zadornov for lacking experience on budget issues. Stepashin insisted today that he was going to assert control over the all-important Finance Ministry and declared that "the budget is not going to collapse."
Another reformist official, Viktor Khristenko, 41, a deputy finance minister, was named first deputy prime minister for finance and macroeconomics. Khristenko had a similar post in the four-month government of Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko last summer.
The appointment of Khristenko will be balanced by the presence of Nikolai Aksyonenko, the other first deputy prime minister, who is reportedly close to tycoon Boris Berezovsky and who was previously head of the Russian railroad monopoly. According to news reports, Berezovsky and his business partner, little-known oil trader Roman Abramovich, have been trying to place their loyalists in the government.