Yeltsin to Government: You're Fired

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MOSCOW: What a way to start your week back at work. "In accordance with Articles 83 and 177 of the constitution of the Russian Federation, I announce the dismissal of the government," President Yeltsin told a shocked country in a televised address Monday. It was his first full day at the Kremlin since recovering from a cold Friday -- and whenever he recuperates, Yeltsin likes nothing more than a show of strength.

The surprise announcement appears to be a warning to those in the corridors of power who have begun suggesting that Yeltsin stand down when his term expires in 2000. “This is his way of striking back, reminding everybody exactly who is in power,” says TIME Moscow Bureau Chief Paul Quinn-Judge.

“But Yeltsin may have a problem -- he has little physical or mental stamina, and his announcement today was the longest he’d been seen in public for weeks. If he’s unable to find the energy to maintain his tight control, this could be his last hurrah.”

If so, it was vintage Yeltsin -- impulsive, authoritarian and shamelessly political.