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Moscow Times
April 28, 1999 
Stepashin Wins in Cabinet Shuffle 
By Valeria Korchagina
Staff Writer

President Boris Yeltsin promoted his loyal Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin to first deputy prime minister Tuesday, a move seen as an attempt
by the president to increase his power over Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov's government. 

Stepashin replaces Vadim Gustov, who was dismissed suddenly Tuesday. 

In his new post, Stepashin will be responsible for the conduct of elections
and relations with Russia's regions, while continuing to fulfill his duties
as Russia's top policeman, presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said. 

"The president thinks that his principal task is to conduct clean and honest
elections." Yakushkin said. 

Gustov's dismissal was the first reshuffle of high-ranking Cabinet members
since the appointment of the Primakov government in September. 

Some suggested it was a gentle warning to the State Duma, parliament's lower
house, which is due to vote on Yeltsin's impeachment on May 12. 

"It is a demonstration on Yeltsin's part. And the dismissal is a clear sign
to Duma that further more drastic dismissals can follow," said Andrei
Ryabov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center. 

Effectively, Stepashin's power in the government is second only to
Primakov's. The only Cabinet member of similar rank is First Deputy Prime
Minister Yury Maslyukov, a Communist who has the support of the
Communist-led Duma. 

Gustov, who has played a low-key role in the government, was considered the
most expendable of Primakov's deputies. Yet analysts said his dismissal
appeared to change the balance of power in the government slightly in
Yeltsin's favor. 

Stepashin, 47, said he met with Yeltsin on Tuesday to discuss the
appointment and the president was "particularly concerned with the upcoming
elections and specifically with ways to prevent criminals getting into
power," Interfax reported. 

Relations with the regions, Yakushkin said, will be an especially important
task in the light of the election later this year to the Duma. "Regional
leaders are planning to play a serious role in them," the Kremlin spokesman
said. 

Relations with the regions was one of the vaguely defined areas under
Gustov's care, as well as Russia's youth and the remote north. 

To Gustov, a former governor of the Leningrad region, his dismissal came as
a shock. He also met Tuesday with Yeltsin and "there was no talk about
dismissal," Gustov was quoted by Interfax as saying. 

Immediately after Yeltsin issued his decree appointing Stepashin, Primakov
called an emergency meeting of his deputies. Primakov, who also met Tuesday
with the president, had been told of the change in his government ahead of
time, the government press office said. 

Speculations of a Cabinet shuffle have been floating around with various
degrees of intensity for a number of weeks. When asked whether there will be
further changes, Yakushkin said that "questions concerning staff in the
government have always been Yeltsin's prerogative." 

Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute for Political Studies, said
Yeltsin was likely unhappy with Gustov's work on building good relations
with regional leaders. 

"It was Gustov who allowed regional governors to unite into political blocs.
And now it is simple - you did a bad job, got your "F" and it's now time to
leave," Markov said. 

Illustrating Markov's point, Yeltsin spoke Tuesday with two of the most
influential regional leaders, who recently have formed political movements
joined by numerous other heads of Russia's regions and aimed at
participating in parliamentary and possibly presidential elections. 

Yeltsin met with Samara region Governor Konstantin Titov and telephoned
Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiyev, the president's spokesman said. 

The appointment of Stepashin also could be seen as a slap at Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov, who has been courting both regional leaders and their new
blocs. 

Stepashin's appointment came the day after he was down in southern Russia
stepping up security measures on the Chechen border. 

The interior minister has been Yeltsin's ally for many years. Stepashin
supported the president during the October 1993 confrontation with the
Supreme Soviet when Yeltsin used tanks to dislodge rebellious deputies
barricaded in the White House. 

In 1995, Stepashin lost his job as head of the Federal Security Service
after a hostage crisis in southern Russia staged by Chechen rebels. 

He returned to the government in 1997 when he was appointed justice
minister, and last year he moved to the Interior Ministry. 

Gustov was invited to join Primakov's new government in September and quit
his post as governor of the Leningrad region to do so. Although elected as
an independent candidate, he enjoyed the support of the Communist Party and
thus was a convenient candidate to join the government after the August 1998
financial crisis. 

Gustov, 50, said that he was planning to remain in the political arena and
would run for office, although he did not specify which one. 

********
>From today's Johnson's Russia List.
Andrew Jameson
Chair, Russian Committee, ALL 
Languages and Professional Development
1 Brook Street, Lancaster LA1 1SL UK
Tel: 01524 32371  (+44 1524 32371)



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