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Russia: Yeltsin Fires Top Aides In Brief Kremlin Appearance

Moscow, 7 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- After a fortnight's hospitalization with pneumonia, Russian President Boris Yeltsin today made a brief, but eventful, appearance in the Kremlin. During three hours in his office, Yeltsin dismissed the influential chief of his administration office, Valentin Yumashev, and three of Yumashev's deputies, Yuri Yarov, Mikhail Komissar and Yevgeny Savastyanov.

Yeltsin's spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin later told journalists that the president returned to the hospital after his Kremlin visit. Yakushkin said that Yeltsin would remain hospitalized until he finished prescribed medical treatment for pneumonia.

Analysts in Moscow interpreted Yeltsin's move as a strengthening of the government's security agencies. To replace the fired Yumashev, Yeltsin appointed Nikolai Bordyuzha, the secretary of the Presidential Security Council. Yakushkin said that Bordyuzha, will now serve in both posts. He was chief of Russia's Border Guards before his appointment to the Security Council earlier this year.

The three deputy posts for the moment remain vacant. Russia's NTV commercial television quoted Oleg Sysuev, a deputy chief of the presidential administration who kept his post, as saying that the reshuffle is likely to continue.

Yeltsin today also took personal control of the Justice Ministry and tax police --two important government agencies previously under the control of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. He also retains personal oversight over the security ministries.

Yakushkin said that, before acting, Yeltsin analyzed the work of his administration as well as of the Security Council and other related agencies. Yeltsin concluded, his spokesman said, that the administration's recent work lacked coordination and had failed to stem political extremism and corruption:

"He (Yeltsin) considers the main problem to be corruption, economic crime and separatism. He felt the current cabinet has moved away from these issues."

Yakushkin also told journalists that the latest Kremlin reshuffle, in his words, "was taken in order to strengthen Presidential power." Yeltsin, he added, intends to do everything he can to preserve political stability and social peace until 2000, when the next presidential election is scheduled.

Some analysts noted that Yeltsin has made a habit out of ending frequent periods of absence for health reasons with bursts of activity, highlighted by personnel reshuffles. Viktor Chernomyrdin said that Yeltsin had acted in his usual style, showing everybody that, in Chernomyrdin's words, "he intends to serve out his term until the year 2000." In March, Yeltsin abruptly fired Chernomyrdin, a long-serving Russian former prime minister.

In recent months, after a string of health problems and his failure to stem post-Communist Russia's worst political and economic crisis, Yeltsin appeared to be transferring most of his day-to-day duties to Primakov. This had emboldened some Russian commentators to dismiss Yeltsin as politically unimportant.

But the daily Vremya-MN, in an article signed by Editor-in-Chief Vladimir Gurevich, warned today that it is too early to rule out Yeltsin.