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Yeltsin Yields, Picks Former Spy Chief to Be Premier

Veteran diplomat Primakov is well known in West. A plus: He isn't identified with any of Russia's warring factions.

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By naming acting Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov as his new choice for prime minister yesterday, President Boris Yeltsin has made one of his biggest concessions to his Communist foes in his seven-year reign. But he also probably saved Russia from ruin.

Backing down on his first choice, Viktor Chernomyrdin, was a pragmatic act for Mr. Yeltsin, who realized that a candidate unacceptable to the Communists would prolong the political vacuum at a time of economic crisis, political analysts here say.

Despite Mr. Primakov's lack of economic expertise, he appears to be a wise compromise. He is loyal, independent of political factions, and could serve as a shield behind which a new Cabinet can tackle Russia's swift economic decline. And forming a government, whatever its policies, in itself will lend some stability. (US view of Primakov, Page 8.)

"It is not a surrender. It's a concession to reality and about preserving the status quo," says Boris Makarenko, an analyst at the Center of Political Technologies in Moscow. "Apparently Yeltsin decided that his regime and administration do not have adequate political and economic resources to dissolve the Duma [lower house of parliament]. This will stop the country short of a major political crisis."

Primakov met with European Union diplomats yesterday. The head of the EU delegation told Reuters that Primakov said he would continue Russia's reforms.

The announcement of Primakov as a compromise candidate drew a rare consensus across the political spectrum, with virtually every major politician commenting favorably. Foreign comment was generally favorable too. White House spokesman Mike McCurry said he expects the United States to have a "good and close" relationship with Primakov.


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