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Russia: Yeltsin Fires Cabinet; Will Form New Government By April

Moscow, 23 March 1998 (RFE/RL) - President Boris Yeltsin is expected to form a new government by April 10, the eve of his visit to Japan, says Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky. Yeltsin dismissed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his cabinet earlier today. Yastrzhembsky also announced the appointment of Fuels and Energy Minister Sergei Kiriyenko as First Deputy Prime Minister to carry out, for the time being, the prime minister's functions. He indicated Yeltsin will call on Kiriyenko to form the new government.

Yeltsin, in a televised address explaining his dismissal of Chernomyrdin and the cabinet today, said Russia needs a new, decisive and vigorous team able to achieve real, tangible results. Yeltsin said the cabinet should concentrate more on concrete economic and social matters and engage less in politics.

Chernomyrdin, who was prime minister for more than five years, said that Russia is not experiencing a governmental crisis. Rather, he says, Yeltsin's dismissal of the entire cabinet is "a natural process of power renovating itself." He says "the authorities will not allow any departures from the course of reforms," adding that the rules of the game for business...will remain stable, though they will be improved.

At a news conference, Yastrzhembsky says it is still too early to speak about the composition of a government, adding that the new lineup will be submitted to the State Duma for approval. Yastrzhembsky says foreign policy will not undergo any changes. The Kremlin spokesman says Boris Nemtsov will continue to perform the duties of First Deputy Prime Minister, pending the formation of a new government. But he declined to say whether Nemtsov will be offered the same post in a new cabinet.

Meanwhile, international reaction to the government sackings has been low-key. U.S. President Bill Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto both said that the political shakeup will not affect relations between their countries and Russia.

In the financial world, Moscow stock exchange prices initially fell today, but later began a rally. The Moscow money market closed. Internationally, the Yeltsin move slightly depressed share prices on the Frankfurt stock exchange, and the dollar rose.