Yeltsin forms agency to oversee media Aim is to trumpet free-market reforms

December 27, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- President Boris N. Yeltsin, bolstering his positio against foes of free-market reform, created his own propaganda agency yesterday to oversee state-owned news media and named a controversial reformer to head it.

Mr. Yeltsin acted by decree five days after the conservative Supreme Soviet passed a law abolishing his power to form new agencies without its consent and a day after it adjourned for the year. Legal experts say the decree is valid because of a technicality: The law has not yet been published.

The decree set up a Russian Federal Information Center to ensure "the timely and broad dissemination of accurate and truthful information about the course of reform in Russia" and to "increase the role of the press, news agencies, television and radio in elucidating state policy."

Its formation reflects a view among designers of the year-old reform program that their efforts to free prices, sell off state property and integrate this former communist nation into the world economy are faltering in part because ordinary Russians do not understand them.

But former Communists who dominate the legislature denounced the decree, which subordinates the new agency to the president, as a step toward censorship that will provoke renewed feuding when the Supreme Soviet convenes Jan. 13 to discuss Russia's 1993 budget.

Equally surprising -- and infuriating to Mr. Yeltsin's opponents -- was the rehabilitation of his former information minister, Mikhail N. Poltoranin, who will head the agency.

A month ago, Mr. Poltoranin resigned to protect Mr. Yeltsin's government from defeat by the larger supreme parliament, the Congress of People's Deputies, which met in early December.

Unappeased, the Congress forced Mr. Yeltsin to abandon his reformist acting prime minister, Yegor T. Gaidar, and elected Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, a conservative oil industry manager, in Mr. Gaidar's place.

Yesterday's decree was part of an aggressive effort by Mr. Yeltsin to recover from that defeat and consolidate presidential power at the new prime minister's expense.

It gave Mr. Poltoranin, 54, a rank equivalent to first deputy prime minister, bolstering pro-reform forces in the new Cabinet that Mr. Chernomyrdin heads. Those forces also include four young economists from Mr. Gaidar's team, who were kept in the Cabinet last week at Mr. Yeltsin's insistence, and a fifth reformer, Boris S. Fyodorov, brought in to oversee their work.

"This is a very important political decision," Victor L. Sheinis, a pro-Yeltsin lawmaker, said of the decree. "It is a demonstration of force and determination to adhere to radical reform."

But Russian journalists, even those sympathetic to reform, expressed puzzlement over the new agency, which some said sounded suspiciously like a Soviet "ministry of truth."

A former journalist, Mr. Poltoranin has been a Yeltsin confidant since Mr. Yeltsin came to Moscow in the mid-1980s.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.