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Russia: Reform Is New Cabinet's Top Priority

Moscow, 18 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin says broadening and accelerating economic and social reforms will be the top priority of his reshuffled cabinet.

Interfax news agency quotes Chernomyrdin as saying the situation in Russia must be changed for the better quickly.

Over the past two weeks President Boris Yeltsin has drafted several young liberals into prominent cabinet positions in an effort to energize Russia's flagging economic reform process.

Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky says Yeltsin hopes the new cabinet will work together to normalize the situation in the country, especially in the social sphere.

Chernomyrdin presented the new finance minister Anatoly Chubais to the finance ministry staff today and said the ministry would have to give urgent attention to the issue of unpaid wages and pensions.

Interfax quotes Chernomyrdin as saying today that former finance minister Aleksandr Livshits will be in charge of economic issues in his new capacity as deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin's administration.

Meanwhile, Russia's Communists today sharply criticized the government reshuffle. Interfax quotes communist Viktor Ilyukhin, security committee chairman in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, called the new government team "incompetent" and "consisting of people with large aspirations to power but little preparation." Ilyukhin says there could be a no-confidence vote soon in the State Duma.