Yeltsin loses another reformist minister

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - Sergei Shakhrai, a lawyer who helped Boris Yeltsin to deal with Russia's troublesome regions, resigned as Deputy Prime Minister yesterday in protest at losing his post as Nationalities Minister, writes Helen Womack. If his resignation is accepted, it means the loss of another reformer from the Russian cabinet, leaving only one young radical, the Privatisation Minister, Anatoly Chubais.

President Yeltsin on Monday named a Cossack, Nikolai Yegorov, to Mr Shakhrai's job of supervising ethnic relations in the vast Russian Federation. Mr Yegorov comes from Krasnodar, one of the few areas of the northern Caucasus which has remained peaceful.

Mr Yeltsin may want to use his experience on Chechnya, a Muslim region which has declared independence from Russia. The Chechens are a headache to the Russians, as they run a powerful mafia. Mr Shakhrai suggested there may be other reasons for his replacement. 'I would like to hope that the appointment of a new minister is not connected with my order for a financial inspection at the former State Committee for the Affairs of the North,' he said.

Mr Shakhrai said he did not intend to join the opposition, led by rebels such as the former vice-president, Alexander Rutskoi, who want Mr Yeltsin out of the Kremlin before a 1996 presidential poll.

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