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Russia: Yeltsin Makes Wages For Armed Forces A Top Priority

Moscow, 1 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin met today with key government officials and outlined top priorities for the coming months. He said the government should pay wage arrears to servicemen within two to three months. Yeltsin reportedly listed support for domestic industries, health care, and payment of back wages to civil employees as other key tasks.

Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. Valentin Yumashev, head of the presidential administration, also took part in the meeting at a state residence outside Moscow.

Yeltsin today also replaced Mikhail Kislyuk, the governor of Siberia's Kemerovo region, with Aman Tuleyev, minister for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) affairs. Kislyuk was appointed to the post in 1991. All other regions have elected governors and Kemerovo is scheduled to elect one in October. Chubais last week blasted Kemerovo authorities for inadequate tax collection.

Another item reportedly on the agenda was the situation in Russia's Far East region, hit by a severe energy crisis. Nemtsov is quoted as saying the situation in the region was "under control".

Meanwhile, Itar-Tass reports that some 400 workers of a nuclear submarine servicing plant blocked the trans-Siberian railway in Russia's Far East today for two hours demanding unpaid wages.

Rail traffic was stopped during the blockade at Amursky Zaliv (Amur Bay) station, some 35 kilometers north of Vladivostok.

Workers of the Zvezda plant say they have not been paid for 10 months. Police in riot gear tried to prevent protesters from blocking the rails. Reuters television showed protesters breaking through police ranks but there are no reports of major clashes or injuries.

Workers lifted the railway blockade after Viktor Kondratov, Yeltsin's special representative in the Far East region, pledged the wage arrears would be paid.