68, Russian president, fired Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, 47, and the entire cabinet in August. It was the fourth time in 17 months that Yeltsin had ousted Russia's government. He named Vladimir Putin, the head of the Federal Security Service, as prime minister. Stepashin had been in office since May, when he replaced Yevgeny M. Primakov, who held the position for only eight months and had allegedly been plotting a Communist resurgence.
On New Year's Eve, Yeltsin resigned as president and named Putin acting president. He will continue to serve as prime minister. Presidential elections, originally scheduled for June, have been moved up to March. Observers speculated that Yeltsin's resignation was intended to solidify Putin's lead in the presidential campaign.