Gavriil Popov, who resigned as Moscow mayor Friday, warned Wednesday that democrats were losing the battle for influence over Russian President Boris Yeltsin, while Yeltsin denied rumors his most progressive ministers were about to resign.
"Democratic forces are being plundered . . . and meanwhile conservative forces are consolidating," Popov told reporters, explaining he was leaving City Hall to campaign for more radical reforms on a national level.Yeltsin recently added three controversial new deputy prime ministers to the cabinet of Yegor Gaidar, architect of Russia's "shock therapy" market reforms. Critics say the changes threaten the very future of the reforms.
But Yeltsin said the new appointments did not signify a shift in reform strategy. "All the deputies gave their word they are for the reforms . . . and will not allow any split in Gaidar's government team," he told reporters.
Yeltsin denied rumors that he was planning to fire Gaidar.
Popov said democrats were too complacent about the threat from conservatives who he said were gaining the upper hand in Russian politics.
"The pressure on the president from democratic forces is completely inadequate," he warned.
The three new cabinet appointments are seen as signaling a slowdown in the pace of reform. Georgy Khizha, in charge of industry, is a key figure from Russia's vast military-industrial complex. Viktor Chernomyrdin, in charge of energy, was once a Soviet gas industry minister and is said to favor state monopolies on strategic branches of the Russian economy.
The third addition to the Gaidar team, Vladimir Shumeiko, who used to be deputy speaker of the Russian Parliament and is popular with lawmakers and ministers alike, will help improve the severely strained relations between government and parliament.