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Russia: Yeltsin Returns To Kremlin; Minister's Powers Expanded

Moscow, 4 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly returned to the Kremlin today for working meetings as his spokesman announced that Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov had been given expanded powers.

Presidential Spokesman Sergei Yasterzhembsky told reporters that Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the director of the Federal Security Service, Nikolai Kovalyov.

He said Chernomyrdin briefed Yeltsin on his recent discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. They also discussed Chernomyrdin's upcoming meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore in Washington.

Kovalyov and Yeltsin discussed the fight against crime and terrorism. According to Yasterzhembsky, Kovalyov said Western intelligence services are stepping up their activity in Russia. Kovalyov said Russian authorities uncovered 11 Western spies over the past six months.

Yeltsin's return to the Kremlin comes as his spokesman announced that Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov had been appointed deputy prime minister in charge of the tax police, the economic security department and the customs service. However, Kulikov will retain his post as Interior Minister.

Yasterzhembsky said Kulikov's new powers would enable law enforcement agencies to consolidate their work in the fight against organized crime.

Kulikov was seen as a hawk during Russia's military intervention in Chechnya. He played an important role in the ousting of former Security Council chief Alexander Lebed.

Two weeks ago Yeltsin was released from hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia. Since then, he has remained at his residence outside Moscow, returning to the Kremlin sporadically for meetings. His renewed illness comes after he underwent heart bypass surgery in November.