Despite swarming rumors of resignations and firings, Russia's new prime minister signaled Tuesday that he plans to keep on almost all of the reformist Cabinet he inherited, saying that he foresees "no sharp changes" in personnel.
By Tuesday evening, the deadline for Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin to announce his new Cabinet, only the foreign trade chief was definitely quitting the young team that has engineered the last year of Russian economic reforms.
President Boris N. Yeltsin, who holds the actual power to appoint the Cabinet that Chernomyrdin picks, was reportedly down with a slight cold and stayed at his country residence for revolving-door meetings with ministers. But he appeared to be getting along well with Chernomyrdin, and a final announcement of Russia's new Cabinet is expected today.
Already, fears were diminishing that Chernomyrdin would sweep out the bright, radical economists left him by his predecessor, Yegor T. Gaidar, in a prelude to trying to reverse the painful reforms that have moved Russia toward a free-market system.
"We have found consent," Chernomyrdin said of his talks with Yeltsin, who has declared his determination to retain Gaidar's team.
Because of Yeltsin's cold and a similar ailment afflicting Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Commonwealth of Independent States summit scheduled for Friday was postponed until late January, Russia's Foreign Ministry announced. Ten of the former Soviet republics, bound together in a loose framework, had planned to adopt a charter and discuss economic ties.
Yeltsin also canceled a Thursday meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, despite lingering Russian-Ukrainian tension.
But he felt well enough, a spokesman said, to keep dealing with domestic affairs. Of the 31 ministers in the Cabinet, Chernomyrdin reportedly had not fired anyone. Social Affairs Minister Ella Pamfilova, the only woman minister, resigned Monday. But it was unclear whether Yeltsin has agreed to let her go.
Foreign Trade Minister Pyotr Aven, often accused of kowtowing to the West and failing to clean up corruption, quit Tuesday. Aven, who represented Russia in trade talks with Western countries, "preferred resignation to humiliation," an aide said, according to the Interfax news agency.
But all other members of the Gaidar inner circle, along with other key ministers, appeared to have agreed to keep serving, according to leaks from the meetings.