Move Over, Yeltsin

Taking charge of the economy, Chernomyrdin seizes the spotlight as Russia's second most powerful man

When Boris Yeltsin's 63rd birthday rolled around last Tuesday, a reporter was unable to resist asking Victor Chernomyrdin whether he had sprung any special surprises on his boss. "We presented him with a huge bouquet of flowers," Chernomyrdin solemnly intoned. "We doubt if he received a bigger one from anyone else. We knew we couldn't allow this. Ours was the best."

It was a statement of seemingly needless obsequiousness for the man who is, at the moment, the second most powerful leader in Russia and the main link between an increasingly lethargic and isolated President and an ever more . fractured...

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