Moscow, 7 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Reports from Moscow say Russian President Boris Yeltsin has appointed his chief of staff, Anatoly Chubais, as first deputy Prime Minister. Chubais, an ally of Yeltsin, is expected to be in charge of reforms in Russia's troubled economy.
In his state-of-the-nation address yesterday Yeltsin said a government reshuffle was coming within days. Top Russian government officials had refused to confirm widespread speculation that Chubais would be moving into the government as first deputy prime minister.
Yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that Chubais should be given a Cabinet post in an upcoming reshuffle. Chernomyrdin told a news conference that Chubais is "a great, high-class specialist" who would "only be a good thing" for the government.
Meanwhile, a prominent Russian reformer today said his liberal bloc had rejected offers to join a new government.
Economist Grigory Yavlinsky told a news conference that his Yabloko faction in Parliament would join the government only if economic policy were changed radically. Interfax quotes Yavlinsky as saying that the government however plans to stick to the same economic strategy that "led us into the current blind alley."
Yavlinsky also said that according to government plans Chernomyrdin would remain in office and Chubais would be called in as first deputy prime minister in charge of economic reform.