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If `Reform' Is A Dirty Word, `Privatization' Is Downright Filthy

The program is under fire from all sides in Russia

Until recently, there was little question that Russia's privatization program has been one of President Boris Yeltsin's biggest successes. By the end of 1995, Yeltsin and his aides could congratulate themselves on pushing 70% of the Russian economy into private hands.

But privatization has suddenly become a big liability. Everyone from blue-collar workers to top industrialists is taking aim at the program. The main charge is that it has enriched the government's cronies, particularly bankers who got lucrative stakes in big companies in exchange for small loans. Some of the critics are powerful figures who haven't yet benefited from privatization and want a shot at the state's wealth.