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Russia: Yeltsin Gives New Government Greater Powers

Moscow, 5 May 1998 (RFE/RL) - President Boris Yeltsin said today that the new Russian government will have greater powers and be able to make decisions without channelling them through the presidency. From now on, Yeltsin said, the government will take responsibility for its decisions, and this "will raise its accountability to the president and the country."

Yeltsin, shown on Russian television, said that under former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, "all decisions of the government used to go through" the presidential administration.

Yeltsin met today with Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko to finalize the line-up of the new government. Yeltsin, speaking before the meeting, said the cabinet will have a tighter structure with fewer ministries, and that its administration will be halved. He also said the 35-year-old Kiriyenko was likely to be "the oldest" among new appointees.

After the meeting, Yeltsin said the formation of the government had been completed but that some candidates for cabinet posts must still undergo scrutiny.

Also today Russia became the last member country of the 40-nation Council of Europe to join the organization's human rights convention. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, handing ratification documents to the Strasbourg-based Council, said the step removed the last vestiges of the Cold War.

Under the human rights convention, Russian citizens can now sue their government before the European court of human rights. Russia is also now entitled to name a judge to the Strasbourg-based court.