Yeltsin, new premier reportedly OK 'reform course'

December 21, 1992|By New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- President Boris N. Yeltsin, who rushed home from China to shore up his control over the formation of a new government, agreed with his new prime minister yesterday that the "core" of the last Cabinet of Westernized, free-market economists would remain in office, a spokesman for Mr. Yeltsin said.

After several hours of talks yesterday involving Mr. Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin and Vladimir Shumeiko, the first deputy prime minister, Mr. Yeltsin's spokesman announced, "The basic current team will be preserved."

"The government of the Russian Federation maintains loyalty to the idea of transition to a market economy and intends to continue the reform course," Vyacheslav Kostikov, Mr. Yeltsin's spokesman, told the Itar-Tass news agency. "As far as the composition of the Cabinet is concerned, the basic current team will be preserved."

But Mr. Kostikov provided no names or details. The new government is expected to be announced tomorrow.

The victory was important for the self-described "master" of Russian politics. Mr. Yeltsin felt that he needed to reassert mastery over his executive branch and recommit himself publicly to market reforms after a serious defeat in Russia's Parliament, which was elected before the demise of the Soviet Union a year ago.

Despite his promises to keep Yegor T. Gaidar, 36, the architect of Russia's difficult effort to dismantle 70 years of Communist centralized planning, Mr. Yeltsin abandoned his acting prime minister last week in the face of parliamentary opposition.

Apparently to buy some peace and time, he named Mr. Chernomyrdin, 54, who had been energy minister under both Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the former Soviet president, and Mr. Gaidar.

Mr. Chernomyrdin, who had no visible political ambitions, was easily confirmed by legislators, who understood him to be a "practical manager and administrator" with long experience in the gas industry and an intimate knowledge of the distorted economic system communism left behind.

Mr. Chernomyrdin's first statements, repeated many times since, promised a continuation of economic reform, although with "better management" and more care for "our suffering population." But his definition of "economic reform" seems closer to that of the last Soviet administrations under Mr. Gorbachev.

Mr. Chernomyrdin spoke of providing more support to heavy industry and decried the idea of "a nation of shopkeepers," saying Russia needed "a market, not a bazaar."

But he encouraged Mr. Gaidar's ministers to remain in their posts, while saying there would inevitably be some changes in personnel.

While in Beijing, Mr. Yeltsin said that Mr. Chernomyrdin could replace "three, four or five individuals" of a Cabinet of 30 members but that "the core of Gaidar's reformers must not under any circumstances be pulled apart."

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