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Russia: Yeltsin Gives National Radio Address

Moscow, 28 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin today spoke of the need to begin reforms of the country's armed forces.

In a brief national radio address, Yeltsin said the reforms would include cuts in the number of troops and the creation of a professional army.

Russia's current force is based on conscription. Yeltsin has said he will replace it with a professional force by the year 2000.

Yeltsin's address comes amid reports of a Cabinet reshuffle. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov was among those singled out for criticism by Yeltsin this week. Rodionov has campaigned bitterly for more funding for the army, saying it is in a catastrophic state.

Turning to the government's 1997 budget, Yeltsin said it was unrealistic by projecting high revenue targets. Yeltsin said he doubts all the money can be collected. But the president said he had agreed to sign the budget into law this week to avoid more political instability.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin today instructed the Russian government to take steps toward abolishing the death penalty.