Yeltsin signals further cabinet changes soon

 

PRESIDENT Yeltsin, smarting from the Communist revival in last month's parliamentary elections as well as from the attack by Chechen gunmen on the southern Russian town of Kizlyar, yesterday promised cabinet changes.

However, he gave no clear indication of the extent of the proposed reshuffle, although he has already signalled that he may sack security force off whom he fiercely criticised for allowing the Chechen raid to take place.

Speaking during a ceremony presenting the new Foreign Minister, Mr Yevgeny Primakov, he said he could not name, the ministers who would be dismissed until he had spoken to them. But asked if there would be major changes, he said. "I would think so - you journalists aren't always wrong."

Mr Primakov, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service and a Middle East expert, was appointed to replace Mr Andrei Kozyrev, who designed last week to take up a seat in parliament. The former minister had faced tough criticism that Russian policy had become too pro western.

"The change of the foreign minister does not mean a change in the basic principles of Russia's foreign policy," Itar Tass news agency quoted Mr Yeltsin as saying. "They are defined not by ministers' personalities but by the country's interests of state," he said, adding that Russia's future and the pace and effect of reform depended on how relations between Russia and the world turned out.

A Yeltsin decree confirmed the departure of a minister without portfolio and his privatisation chief who both wanted to take up seats in the lower house of parliament. He also moved the Transport Minister, Mr Vitaly Yefimov, to an unspecified job.

The Prime Minister, Mr Viktor Chernomyrdin, said separately that a reshuffle was needed to improve the work of the government.

"There will be further changes, everything flows everything changes," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Chernomyrdin said the changes would not be linked to the December 17th election, in which Communists won more seats than his centrist movement.

Three ministers, including Mr Kozyrev, have already left the government to take up seats in parliament, but other changes have long been expected.

Mr Yeltsin asked Mr Chernomyrdin last week to root out "saboteurs" at the economy minis try. His tough language was reminiscent of Soviet days and cast in doubt the future of the Economy Minister, Mr Yevgeny Yasin, although Mr Yasin has denied he is being fired.