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Russia: Yeltsin Cuts Vacation And Meets With Stepashin

Moscow, 26 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin met this evening with Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin after returning to Moscow earlier in the day after cutting short a vacation on the Black Sea. Stepashin told RIA news agency before the meeting that he and Yeltsin would discuss a range of questions regarding the cabinet, which is still incomplete. The meeting comes after Russian NTV quoted government sources as saying Mikhail Zadornov, already named first deputy prime minister in the new cabinet, would also retain his job as finance minister.

The Kremlin could not immediately confirm the report, also carried by Interfax news agency. Yesterday, Yeltsin named Mikhail Kasyanov as finance minister.

Russian media reported today that Kasyanov would turn down the Finance Minstry and that Zadornov had threatened to resign if he could not hold on to his old job.

Kasyanov, attending debt talks in London, declined to comment on his plans when he flies back to Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russia's special Balkan envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, is holding talks on the Kosovo crisis tonight in Moscow with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and European Union envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

Chernomyrdin is expected to launch a new peace mission to Belgrade tomorrow.

Chernomyrdin aide Valentin Sergeyev said the talks with Talbott and Ahtisaari looked set to last into the night. No details of the discussions were given.

Earlier, Talbott said the U.S. remained firm in its demands that all Serbian forces withdraw from Kosovo and that NATO play a key role in any peacekeeping force sent to Kosovo following a settlement.

NATO strikes against Yugoslavia continued during daylight hours today, with attacks reported in Kosovo, other parts of Serbia, the Yugoslav partner republic of Montenegro, and along Kosovo's border with Albania.