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Russia: Yeltsin Names Another Reformer To Cabinet

Moscow, 17 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin today continued working to form a new Russian government.

This morning Yeltsin offered a post of a First Deputy Prime Minister to Boris Nemtsov, the liberal governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region. Yeltsin said that Nemtzov is to handle social issues and relations with the Russian regions. The president was reported to say that Nemtsov accepted the offer. He is expected to hold a press conference in the regional capital tonight.

Political observers say that the appointment was a further sign of Yeltsin's determination to boost stalled economic reforms. Earlier this month the president ordered a major government reshuffle, complaining that Russia's pressing economic and social problems were being neglected..

Nemtsov is one of the most influential reformist Russian regional leaders. He has been credited with having turned the Nizhny Novgorod region into a showcase for economic reforms.

Last week Yeltsin appointed Anatoly Chubais, another noted reformer and close personal aide, as a First Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the economy.

The Russian press agencies reported today Yeltsin saying that Nemtsov and Chubais should form a new, young government team "from scratch." Yeltsin was also reported saying that all cabinet candidates would be agreed with Nemtsov and Chubais.

But Yeltsin was reported he have also said that both men are to remain in close and constant contact with him in conducting their work. No other appointments have been made public. Yeltsin is expected to complete the work on government's composition before leaving for Helsinki on Wednesday for a summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

It is not clear yet how Nemtsov's appointment could influence the balance of power among top Russian officials. Both Nemtsov and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin have been mentioned at times as as possible presidential candidates in the next election in the year 2000.

NTV television reported yesterday that forming the government is difficult. State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov said this suggest disagreements between Chubais and Chernomyrdin over the pace and the scope of possible reforms.

Many Russians believe the privatization reforms initiated earlier by Chubais have prompted widespread corruption, making it possible for a small group of bankers and industrialists to gain wealth and political influence at the expense of the public.

But former prime minister and liberal economist Yegor Gaidar, generally regarded as the "father" of economic reforms, defended Chubais in a recent interview with RFE/RL by saying that the privatization reforms have been necessary. Today, Gaidar also welcomed Nemtsov's appointment and said his work in the Nizhny Novgorod region gives hope he will be able to deal with the problems in other Russian regions as well.

The reactions among State Duma legislators on the appointment were mixed. The chairman of the Duma's Foreign affairs committee, Vladimir Lukin, told RFE/RL that he had doubts about the cooperation between Chubais, Nemtsov and Chernomyrdin. Lukin said that each of them has own political ambitions and called the new government troika a "menage a trois."

And an opposition Duma deputy, Gennady Kulik said Nemtsov would be making a mistake by accepting Yeltsin's offer. Kulik then added that Nemtsov risks ruining the good reputation he has in the Russian regions because he would be joining a fundamentally corrupt government.