Chubais sacked as finance chief

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The Independent Online
President Boris Yeltsin dismissed Anatoly Chubais as Finance Minister yesterday in a largely symbolic move to appease the opposition and end a scandal plaguing the government. Mr Chubais, the top economic policymaker, will retain his more influential post as a Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Yeltsin named Mikhail Zadornov, the parliamentary budget committee chief, as the new Finance Minister.

Critics say $90,000 (pounds 56,000) paid to Mr Chubais and other officials for helping on a yet-to-be-written book were bribes. They deny any wrongdoing over the advances from a publisher affiliated with a bank that won recent privatisation auctions of state property. The Communist opposition called for Mr Chubais's dismissal from all posts but Mr Yeltsin, who fired or demoted three other officials, insisted on retaining the man he considers essential to Russia's reform efforts.

He stripped his First Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov, of his portfolio as Fuel and Energy Minister and appointed the Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, in his place. The Privatisation Minister, Maxim Boiko, was fired.

Mr Chubais and Mr Nemtsov were prime movers behind efforts to reform the economy. Mr Yeltsin also named Tatyana Mitina, his campaign adviser during last summer's election, as deputy head of the presidential administration. She will replace Alexander Kazakov, who was dismissed over the scandal. The moves appeared to break the deadlock over next year's budget, to be debated today by parliament's lower house, the State Duma.

Earlier, the majority Communists and other hardliners demanded Mr Chubais's removal as a condition for passing the budget. They agreed to drop the linkage but the Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, said his faction would vote against the budget. He said more work was needed on the budget, given Mr Zadornov's appointment and continuing changes in tax laws.

Without Communist support, the budget is unlikely to be passed. Rejection of it, a key element of the recovery program, would be a serious blow to the Kremlin. Mr Zadornov, 34, accepted Mr Yeltsin's offer and quit the liberal opposition Yabloko party, but the changes are unlikely to end the book scandal. AP - Moscow