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Russian Shakeup (Int'l Edition)


International -- International Outlook: GLOBAL WRAPUP

RUSSIAN SHAKEUP (int'l edition)

Russian President Boris Yeltsin seems ready to sacrifice part of his Cabinet in exchange for votes in the presidential election on June 16. After trailing badly in the polls, Yeltsin has nosed ahead of his chief rival, Communist Gennady A. Zyuganov, by about eight percentage points. But nine other candidates are vying in the first round, and Yeltsin needs some of their backers to beat Zyuganov. In a bid for broader support, he is almost certain to oust his Defense Minister, General Pavel S. Grachev, a hawk who urged the ill-fated invasion of Chechnya in December, 1994.

By firing Grachev, Yeltsin could draw antiwar votes from Grigory A. Yavlinsky, a rival liberal now in third place. Yeltsin is expected to replace Grachev with General Boris V. Gromov, who oversaw the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and wants a peaceful end to the Chechen war.

The shakeup could go deeper. "We should replace, maybe, the greater part of the government team," Yeltsin said on May 19. The defense complex wants Yeltsin to dump Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, who is from the energy sector. The military blames him for cutting defense output while favoring raw-materials enterprises.

One clue that Yeltsin may fire Chernomyrdin is his team's decision to give Rem I. Vyakhirev, chief of gas monopoly Gazprom, an additional job as head of Sibneft, Russia's fifth-largest oil company. Vyakhirev may be persuaded to give up his Gazprom post, clearing the way for Chernomyrdin to return to a cushy job as head of the company.EDITED BY JOHN PEARSON By Patricia Kranz in Moscow


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