Fyodorov attempt to save budget reforms

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MOSCOW - Boris Fyodorov, Russia's leading monetarist, is to see President Boris Yeltsin today in a last-ditch attempt to save a strict budgetary policy which has hurt citizens but kept the country from the evil of hyperinflation, Helen Womack reports.

'I will tell the President that he's at a crucial point of deciding which policies he wants to pursue,' Mr Fyodorov said in a weekend interview with Sky News. 'The consequences of slackening the pace of reform . . . will mean hyperinflation, falling standards of living, no savings, no investment.'

Last week Mr Fyodorov appeared to slam the door for good on a new cabinet of slow-track reformers which he was invited to join in the capacity of finance minister. He was angry that the added authority he had enjoyed as a deputy prime minister was not being renewed and made clear he did not want to report to more conservative politicians.

However, on Saturday he said there was a 1,000-one chance he might stay in government. He had not been formally dismissed, he noted, and a deputy premiership remained vacant. Mr Yeltsin's spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, has also said the new cabinet is not completely cut and dried and there could be further manoeuvring.

The architect of Russia's market reforms, Yegor Gaidar, is unlikely to go back on his decision last week to leave the government and concentrate on his career in the new parliament. But if Mr Fyodorov were to stay in office, this would go some way towards calming anxiety in Western financial circles that Russia is about to embark on a public spending spree it cannot afford. Mr Yeltsin is under pressure to raise state subsidies from hardline MPs who attracted votes from citizens worn down by hardship.

Sitting in a cabinet with Anatoly Chubais, the Privatisation Minister, as the only other radical reformer, however, would not be easy for Mr Fyodorov, who is respected in the West because of banking experience gained in London. Last week he said he could not possibly work with either the Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko or with Alexander Zaveryukha, a conservative agriculture specialist.