Yeltsin plants to give up job as premier, keep presidency

April 21, 1992|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- President Boris N. Yeltsin yesterday told legislators he would give up one of his two jobs -- that of prime minister -- by July, but it won't be the kind of separation of powers his opponents had been pressing for only a week ago.

Mr. Yeltsin, his policies confirmed by the Russian Congress now meeting, left no doubt that he will place one of his allies in the prime minister's job and continue, if not accelerate, the pace of reforms.

When the Congress of People's Deputies opened, his foes had hoped to place the Cabinet under the parliament's control and leave Mr. Yeltsin as a figurehead president. That plan fell apart when the deputies began to contemplate what kind of government the Communist-dominated Congress was actually capable of running.

After winning a key vote last week, Mr. Yeltsin now will give up the prime minister's post as a gesture of confidence in his own continuing strength, rather than as a political concession.

In remarks to leaders of the parliament's factions, he also said he would announce changes today in the makeup of his Cabinet. The substance of what Mr. Yeltsin said was reported by several deputies.

Mr. Yeltsin was elected Russia's president in June. In November he appointed himself prime minister after the Russian Congress, then meeting for the fifth time, was unable to agree on anyone else.

He held both posts through a period of sharp price increases brought on by the end of government subsidies. And his popularity probably shielded the government from the kind of severe criticism that many expected.

The Congress was elected before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Polls suggest that its popularity slid to new lows during the current session, its sixth, though most polls measured opinion only in Moscow. The session, which has been extended twice, now is due to close today.

Yesterday the Congress rather grandly "recognized" the Commonwealth of Independent States, set up by Mr. Yeltsin and the other republics' presidents in December. The vote was 548 to 158, with 136 abstaining (and about 200 deputies not even present).

One group of deputies -- from the Russia, Fatherland, Agrarian Union and Communists of Russia factions -- said they would not oppose the commonwealth but would still seek the restoration of the old Soviet Union.

With Mr. Yeltsin seemingly invulnerable, another group, the Civil Society faction, trained their sights on his underlings.

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