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Russia's unpopular prosecutor general resigns under pressure Yeltsin seeks to improve image as elections near


MOSCOW -- Seeking to polish his administration's tarnished image as parliamentary elections approach, President Boris N. Yeltsin rid himself yesterday of his acting prosecutor general, Aleksei N. Ilyushenko, who resigned under pressure.

Mr. Ilyushenko, 38, a Yeltsin loyalist, alienated democrats and liberals in Russia by his attempts to prosecute the privately owned television network NTV. NTV's coverage of the war in Chechnya has been highly critical of the government.

"The president considers this a civil act which reflects the moral spirit and sense of political responsibility developing in the new state apparatus," Mr. Yeltsin's press spokesman, Sergei K. Medvedev, said of Mr. Ilyushenko's offer to resign.

Mr. Ilyushenko won international attention -- and mockery -- when he began legal proceedings against the producers of a popular satirical puppet show broadcast by NTV, saying that the show's depictions of Mr. Yeltsin and other high officials were "insulting."

As the equivalent of the U.S. attorney general, Mr. Ilyushenko was in charge of fighting crime, and he was widely blamed for his office's inability to stanch corruption and mob violence or solve such sensational murders as the assassination of the popular television personality Vladislav Listyev, who was killed in April.

But it was press reports about the involvement of his wife and other family members with a small car dealership that mysteriously won a lucrative license to export Russian oil that sealed Mr. Ilyushenko's fate.

The press accounts suggested that Mr. Ilyushenko had used his high office -- and contacts deep in the Kremlin -- to enrich himself and his friends.

Mr. Yeltsin nominated Mr. Ilyushenko to be prosecutor general in February 1994, but parliament twice refused to confirm him, and he carried on in the job on an acting basis.

JTC He was appointed by Mr. Yeltsin to replace Aleksei Kasannik, who resigned in protest over pressure from Mr. Yeltsin to override a general amnesty voted by parliament in 1994, which set free, among others, the leaders of the October 1993 parliamentary insurrection against Mr. Yeltsin.

If Mr. Yeltsin hoped to win points for forcing out the unpopular Mr. Ilyushenko, he did not appease his critics on the right or left.

Yegor T. Gaidar, the leader of the democratic party Russia's Choice, and the Communist leader Gennadi A. Zyuganov dismissed the move as too little, too late.

The Kremlin said yesterday that Mr. Ilyushenko's deputy, Oleg Gaidanov, would fill his post temporarily.

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