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Yeltsin Gets Construction Post; Demotion but Not Political Exile

November 19, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Boris N. Yeltsin, who was ousted as Communist Party chief of Moscow last week, was named Wednesday as first deputy chairman of the State Construction Committee, with the government rank of minister.

The official news agency Tass, reporting Yeltsin's new job, said he was appointed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet after his nomination by the Council of Ministers.

Western analysts said the appointment represents a demotion for the ally of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev but falls far short of political exile in, say, Siberia. Despite his limited rehabilitation, Yeltsin apparently is losing his candidate, or non-voting, seat in the Politburo.

Although his new job is a government and not a party position, Yeltsin could make use of his background as a construction engineer in coordinating building throughout the Soviet Union. It will allow him to remain in Moscow and work on solutions to the Soviet Union's perpetual housing shortage and seemingly endless delays in industrial construction.

It remains to be seen if that will satisfy his supporters, who feel that he was sacrificed to more conservative forces in the Politburo and Central Committee.

Yeltsin, 56, was reported hospitalized with a "heart crisis" after his fall from power. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that he had been in the hospital for several days but there was no "great concern" over his condition.

He was dropped as the head of the Moscow party and city government after making a dramatic charge last Oct. 21 that leading party organs were slowing the pace of Gorbachev's reform program.

At the time, reportedly after clashing sharply with the Politburo's second-ranking member, Yegor K. Ligachev, Yeltsin offered to resign. Less than two weeks later, Gorbachev led an attack against him for "political immaturity" and Moscow party leaders, accusing him of trying to split the Politburo, stripped him of his job.

His assignment to the construction job would effectively remove him from party leadership. But in view of Gorbachev's severe criticism, he might have been dropped from membership in the 300-member party Central Committee as well.

Before coming to Moscow as part of Gorbachev's new team of middle-aged managers, Yeltsin was the party leader in the Urals' city of Sverdlosk. Earlier, he had worked in the construction industry where he earned a reputation as a tough-talking, no-nonsense executive.

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