Last reformer quits Yeltsin cabinet

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AFTER 10 days of wavering, Boris Fyodorov left Russia's government yesterday, accusing 'red industrialists' of staging an 'economic coup d'etat' against free-market reform.

The departure of the Finance Minister, 35, removes the last enthusiastic reformer from a cabinet dominated by cautious factory directors and ex-Soviet apparatchiks.

'The lifeless and illiterate ideology of state planning dooms the country to collapse,' said Mr Fyodorov. He has been locked out of the Kremlin and had his official phone line cut after a bitter struggle over the fate of a bold reform plan launched two years ago with the abolition of price controls but rebuffed by a majority of voters last month.

Interfax news agency reported last night that the most senior of Mr Fyodorov's deputies, Sergei Dubinin, had been named as acting Finance Minister. That suggested, at least, some continuity.

However, Mr Fyodorov accused the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, of engineering an 'about-turn in policy,' and ministers of causing 'colossal harm'. A former head of the state gas monopoly, Mr Chernomyrdin denies dumping reform, but last week declared the era of 'market romanticism' over.

His trusted lieutenant, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, yesterday added a bit of flesh to a skeletal economic strategy with a speech promising more money to the Collegium of the State Building Committee. That is the kind of spending Mr Fyodorov has tried to block, warning that inflation, down to 12 per cent last month but rising sharply, will surge towards the hyperinflation threshold of 50 per cent a month.

'An economic coup is taking place in the country,' Mr Fyodorov said after Mr Yeltsin declined his terms for staying on. 'The threat of a social explosion is moving from the realm of theory to the realm of reality.' His main demand was the dismissal of Viktor Gerashchenko as chairman of Russia's spendthrift Central Bank.