MOSCOW -- Foreign Trade Minister Pyotr Aven, a reform ally of ousted premier Yegor Gaidar, resigned Tuesday to become the second liberal minister to quit since conservative Viktor Chernomyrdin was named prime minister last week.
Aven gave no reason for the decision to resign, his press secretary Pavel Karikov said.
Close Gaidar associates expressed fears for the future of Russia's market reforms after Chernomyrdin, an old-style industrial manager and former Soviet gas industry boss, was named head of government last week. There had been rumors of an impending collective resignation by leading reformist ministers.
Chernomyrdin promised Sunday there would be no major Cabinet reshuffles and has expressed his ongoing commitment to the market reform course initiated by Gaidar.
Aven's move followed Monday's departure of Social Protection Minister Ella Panfilova, the only woman in the Cabinet and another loyal member of the Gaidar team.
When Russian President Boris Yeltsin dropped Gaidar under intense pressure from conservative lawmakers at Russia's super-parliament, the Congress of People's Deputies, Panfilova was seen fleeing the Kremlin in tears.
Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers Tuesday passed a law that marks a major compromise in the ongoing tug of war between Parliament and Yeltsin over who controls the government.
The law on the government enshrines a compromise reached between the president and legislators at the Congress, which this month tried to snatch important constitutional powers away from Yeltsin.
The original law would have given legislators the right to hold parliamentary hearings on most ministerial appointments, denying Yeltsin the right he enjoys under existing law to form the Cabinet without legislative interference.
Yeltsin vetoed the law, saying it violated Russia's Constitution, and attempts by Congress to amend the Constitution and bring it in line with the government law failed.
The law that passed Tuesday says Yeltsin must seek parliamentary approval of his choice of prime minister, as well as the defense, interior, security and foreign ministers. All other appointments remain under Yeltsin's control.
Lawmakers adopted three of the six Yeltsin amendments to the law, including one giving the president sole right to dismiss his prime minister. In the earlier version of the law, that would require parliament's consent.
The president's amendments were presented to lawmakers by Chernomyrdin, who later held talks with Parliament leaders on the future lineup of the government, according to the independent Russian news agency Interfax.
Preliminary reports say key members of the Gaidar team, including privatization czar Anatoly Chubais and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Saltykov, will remain in Chernomyrdin's Cabinet.
The departure of Aven is a big blow to the radical reformist wing of the government. Aven was partly responsible for liberalizing Russia's foreign trade and for attempts to make the ruble a fully convertible currency.
He was recently involved in intense shuttle diplomacy on deferring Russia's foreign debt repayments. Debt deferrment has saved Russia an estimated $18 billion this year.
Aven also took part in talks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on procuring Western credits that have this year brought $15 billion in financial support to the ailing Russian economy.
Meanwhile, the architect of Russia's market reforms Gaidar was named Tuesday to head a government consultative council on economic reform, according to the Russian state news agency Itar-tass.
The council, which includes several well-known free market economists closely associated with Gaidar, will examine economic reform proposals and research projects.
Yeltsin earlier appointed Gaidar head of a new Institute for Economic Problems of the Transitional Period and named him presidential economic adviser.