• ACI Russia

08/24/1998 18:05:42 FOCUS-Nemtsov leaves government, expresses doubts

(Adds fresh quotes, background)

By Adam Tanner

MOSCOW, Aug 24 (Reuters) - One of the stars of the Russian

government flickered out on Monday when prominent reformer Boris

Nemtsov said he would not join the new cabinet being formed by

acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The curly-haired, telegenic deputy prime minister said he

was leaving because he thought Chernomyrdin would be unlikely to

solve the country's severe economic problems.

"All the serious problems -- first of all bringing order to

the economy, normalising the situation with financial-industrial

or so-called oligarchs' groups -- all these issues are unlikely

to find a solution from the Chernomyrdin government," Nemtsov,

38, told Russian Television. "In this situation there is no

sense for me to be a part of it."

Earlier he said he had already told President Boris Yeltsin.

"I decided to resign today. I appealed to the president with

this request," he told a press conference.

Yeltsin abruptly sacked Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko and

his entire government on Sunday and put Chernomyrdin, whom he

had dismissed in March for not doing enough for reform, back at

the helm.

"It is all too difficult to carry out any reforms...in the

conditions of such an ugly market, where competition is

non-existent, monopolies are rampant, where rules are few,"

Nemtsov said. His leaving would also help give Chernomyrdin a

chance to form a government "of his own", he said.

Yeltsin summoned Nemtsov in March 1997 from the Nizhny

Novgorod region, where he was governor. They seemed to forge a

close relationship, almost like father and son, and some

analysts saw Nemtsov as a possible presidential successor.

But Nemtsov, once dubbed the "golden boy of Russian reform",

saw his star lose some of its shine of late. At one point he

lost the title of first deputy premier, and later he was

stripped of the important energy portfolio.

Bowing out of the scene now may prove politically shrewd in

the long term however. Chernomyrdin is unlikely to assemble a

government as pro-reform -- and thus as in tune with Nemtsov's

own beliefs -- as the one led by Nemtsov's close friend and

former protege Kiriyenko.

Kiriyenko also came to Moscow from Nizhny Novgorod and was

for a time subordinate to Nemtsov at the energy ministry. On

Sunday night, after the announcement of their sacking, the two

friends stepped out of the government headquarters together to

chat with striking coal miners.

Nemtsov said on Monday he would not oppose Yeltsin.

"The president is in a very difficult situation and it would

be the height of cowardliness and impoliteness if people who

were with him since 1990 turned their backs on him at this

difficult time," he said.

But he said he though the Kiriyenko government had been

treated unfairly harshly. "To judge a government that was in

power for less than a year is absurd."

"There is a great Byzantine element left in Russian

politics. There is intrigue there. But I cannot judge how big an

intrigue it is. I never took part in it," he said.

Nemtsov said he did not know what he would do next.


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