Russian foreign minister is fired after long ordeal Dismissal of pro-reformist underlines hawkish trend

January 06, 1996|By LOS ANGLES TIMES

MOSCOW -- The long humiliation of Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev culminated yesterday in a presidential decree announcing his dismissal and fresh slights against the diplomat who once personified the democratic promise of a new Russia.

President Boris N. Yeltsin's decision to sack his longest-serving Cabinet minister underscored a hawkish trend that has pervaded Kremlin relations with the West, as Russians' commitment to reform weakens from a protracted and painful transition.

A decree from Mr. Yeltsin announced Mr. Kozyrev's resignation without the customary notation that the action was at the minister's request, and it contained no words of praise or thanks for more than two decades of diplomatic service.

"The West doesn't have to brace itself for a sharp hard-line turn in Russian foreign policy," said Alexander A. Konovalov, a senior analyst with the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow. "But it should be afraid of the consequences of its own mistakes in almost totally ignoring Russian national interests and a deep lack of understanding of the processes under way in Russia."

Mr. Kozyrev, 44, was the longest-serving member of the Cabinet, taking office over a year before the end of the Soviet Union.

A gregarious polyglot who was more popular abroad than in his own country, Mr. Kozyrev had increasingly become Mr. Yeltsin's scapegoat for diplomatic failures and a magnet for nationalist accusations that the country was being subordinated to Cold War-era adversaries.

No replacement has been named for the top diplomatic job. Presidential press secretary Sergei K. Medvedev suggested that the search for a successor may take some time.

However, Mr. Yeltsin diluted the influence of the Foreign Ministry last week by announcing that he was taking over responsibility for foreign affairs with the creation of a presidential Foreign Policy Council.

Mr. Kozyrev's long-expected departure was announced by the Interfax news agency as a resignation prompted by his parliamentary election last month. Russian law forbids simultaneous service in the executive and legislative branches.

But the quasi-official Tass news agency cast Mr. Kozyrev's departure as a "dismissal," and Mr. Medvedev made clear that he had been fired.

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