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Yeltsin picks young reformer for top economic, Cabinet job

Published Oct. 1, 2005

Looking for fresh faces to revive his government, President Boris Yeltsin selected a young reform-minded governor Monday for a top Cabinet spot and put him in charge of several key economic sectors.

Boris Nemtsov, 37, was named first deputy prime minister and will handle social welfare policy and the restructuring of government monopolies such as natural gas and electricity, Yeltsin said.

With Russia facing an array of economic and social problems, Yeltsin ordered a sweeping government shakeup last week. He carried out the promised changes Monday, cutting several ministries and naming a series of new Cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin remains in his job, with two high-profile deputies: Nemtsov, and Anatoly Chubais, 41, who will hold the title of first deputy prime minister as well as finance minister.

Both are committed to free-market reforms, and Yeltsin hopes the pair will provide the new government with clear direction on economic policy. The outgoing administration was plagued by infighting that stalled reforms and contributed to Russia's economic stagnation.

"The two first deputy prime ministers _ Chubais and Nemtsov _ must create a young, new team together with Chernomyrdin," Yeltsin said.

Yeltsin pledged to announce the revamped government before he headed to Helsinki, Finland, for a two-day summit with President Clinton beginning Thursday.

Nemtsov has won praise as a dynamic governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region near Moscow, turning the territory into a laboratory for economic reforms.

The area has been used for a variety of pilot projects with the World Bank and other international institutions on privatization and enterprise reforms.

Yeltsin told Nemtsov he chose him because "you have experience and authority. You're fresh, you're not from Moscow, not one from the worn-out deck."

Returning to Nizhny Novgorod on Monday from Moscow, Nemtsov told reporters one of his first acts would be to require government officials to ride in Russian-made cars instead of imported models.

"All officials should ride domestic cars," he said. "That will be one of our first decisions. We've had enough of riding around in Mercedes and Rolls Royces."

Until Monday, Yeltsin had insisted the Cabinet would have only one first deputy prime minister, Chubais. However, after a week of negotiations, it appeared there would be two first deputies to Chernomyrdin. That could mitigate the public's dislike of Chubais, whom they blame for allowing well-connected people to enrich themselves during Russia's privatization campaign.