Spy chief takes over from Kozyrev

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The Independent Online

Europe Editor

President Boris Yeltsin yesterday named Yevgeny Primakov, the head of Russia's foreign intelligence service, as his new Foreign Minister.

Mr Primakov, 66, replaces Andrei Kozyrev, who resigned last week following years of criticism of his pro-Western policies from the nationalist and Communist opposition.

Mr Primakov is an experienced specialist in foreign affairs, and in the Soviet era held senior positions in the Communist Party and academic world. As Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms led to the collapse of Communism, Mr Primakov, far from abandoning the party, rose in 1989 to the post of a candidate member of the Politburo.

Mr Primakov's chief area of expertise is the Arab world, especially Egypt. He became a familiar face to Western television viewers in 1990 and 1991, when he was Mr Gorbachev's special envoy to the Gulf, charged with the task of averting war between the West and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

After the failed Communist putsch of August 1991, Mr Gorbachev appointed Mr Primakov to run the foreign intelligence service of the former KGB. The fact that Mr Yeltsin kept Mr Primakov in this job after the demise of the Soviet Union suggests he valued his knowledge of the world and intelligence matters.

Mr Yeltsin's staff said last week that Mr Kozyrev's departure would not change Russia's foreign policy. Under Russia's constitution the President plays the most important part in fashioning foreign policy. However, Mr Primakov does not have the pro-Western profile of Mr Kozyrev. His appointment may soothe critics of the President's foreign policy in the Russian parliament. Mr Primakov can be expected to support Mr Yeltsin's efforts to prevent the expansion of Nato into Central and Eastern Europe and to continue improving relations with China, one of Russia's diplomatic successes.

Mr Primakov was born inKiev, the capital of Ukraine. He joined the Communist Party in 1959 and was a columnist from 1962 to 1970 on the Asia and Africa desk of the party newspaper, Pravda.

He held two prestigious academic posts in the 1970s and 1980s, as director of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow and as head of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. It was not until 1989 that he entered the Communist Party's policy-making Central Committee.

The major event of his time as chief of the espionage service was the revelation that Russia had recruited a CIA spy, Aldrich Ames, viewed widely as one of the most harmful double agents in US history.