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Russia: Mikhail Zadornov Replaces Chubais As Finance Minister

Prague, 20 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The appointment of Mikhail Zadornov as Russia's new finance minister brings a dynamic young reformer into the forefront of President Boris Yeltsin's economic team.

The Kremlin announced Zadornov's appointment today to replace Anatoly Chubais, who lost that post over a scandal concerning payments for a book on privatization. However Chubais, who is seen as the driving force of reform, retains his post as first deputy prime minister.

Zadornov, 34, is a trained economist who has been serving as chairman of the State Duma's committee for Budget, Taxes, Banks and Finances. Noted for his keen analytical mind, he has been involved in the economic reform effort since even before the breakup of the Soviet Union. He was a co-author of the market-oriented "500 days" program of the Gorbachev era, which was designed to revive and streamline the economy. As such, he took part in drafting the first Soviet package of legislative acts on the privatization of state property.

From 1991 to 1993 Zadornov was an active member of the Council of the Economic and Political Studies Center. He contributed to the center's best known projects, including creation of the treaty on the economic union of the republics of the USSR. He became a parliamentary deputy in 1993, and soon rose to be chairman of the important budget committee.

His appointment as finance minister has already been broadly welcomed. Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov expressed approval of the appointment, while Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov described it as "a good decision".

One note of strong disapproval however came from Zadornov's own party in the parliament, the Yabloko movement. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky announced that Yabloko had not approved of Zadornov's decision to accept a government post, and that Zadornov had therefore withdrawn from the party. A session of Yabloko's central council last night decided that it was not suitable for Yabloko members to join the government because the movement does not agree with government policies.

Foreign investors had been nervous that the controversy surrounding Chubais might topple him completely and therefore have negative implications for continued reform in Russia. Initial reaction among market experts in Moscow was one of relief that Chubais remains in the government, though his influence is seen to have been weakened.

Analysts' first reaction to Zadornov's appointment has been one of approval, as they note his track record as a man who works for positive change. His background in the Duma is seen as possibly helping smooth relations between the government and the legislature at a time when the Yeltsin team is pressing plans for vital budget and tax reforms.