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PM Zubkov hauls ministers over the coals

New Prime Minister, Viktor Zubkov, has chaired his first full cabinet meeting, although for some it may prove to be their last. Mr Zubkov criticized some mebers of the cabinet and commented on their work or lack of it.

Meanwhile, the deadline is looming for him to name his new cabinet. Under Russian law, a newly-appointed premier has seven days to do so after taking up his position. Most of the ministers have continued in their posts since the government was dismissed last week.

But during Thursday’s cabinet meeting they came in for some blunt talk.

The Prime Minister raised the question of the situation on Sakhalin Island affected by the earthquake and stressed that the people there have not received money from the Reserve Fund and  state loans, despite the government's order.

Viktor Zubkov ordered one high ranking official from the government's office to go there personally and stay in Sakhalin until the people there get their money.

“You must take your business seriously. You must control seriously all the documents we adopt here,” the Prime Minister warned.

Viktor Zubkov also commented on the performance of acting Transport Minister Igor Levitin.

“The order to create a united administration of sea ports was given to you by the President two years ago. You postponed it to 2008. You cannot work this way. The order of the President of November 4, 2005, was to adopt necessary decisions to set borders on the territories of the sea ports. How come?”  the Prime Minister asked.

Viktor Zubkov called on the old government to get down to work and stressed that responsibility should lie with particular ministers.

“In a number or areas we have already managed to achieve some success, but in others work is at a standstill. I would like to remind you about our personal responsibility for finding solutions to problems. Everything must be done to improve living conditions of our citizens,” he said.

“For a man who has just turned sixty-six Viktor Zubkov is full of fire and full of demands. I expect half of the government to be gone,” RT political commentator Peter Lavelle noted.

“I’ve got an impression Mr Zubkov is not going to be a policy maker, but a policy implementer – deadlines are to be met, goals are to be achieved. I suppose this is one of the reasons he was chosen for his position by the President – Viktor Zubkov sounds like a ‘no nonsense’ guy”, Peter Lavelle added.

The changes in the government can to be announced on Thursday but not later than Friday.