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Russia: Yeltsin, Kiriyenko Discuss Nomination Speech As Unpaid Workers Rally

Moscow, 9 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin met Prime Minister-designate Sergei Kiriyenko today and discussed the "tone" of Kiriyenko's planned nomination address to the Duma tomorrow. Earlier in the day Kiriyenko said he would meet representatives of Russia's trade unions today to discuss unpaid wages for thousands of workers across the country. Kiriyenko spoke as tens of thousands of workers joined nationwide rallies today.

Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, noting continued opposition to Kiriyenko's nomination, said the Kremlin wanted to overcome the political crisis quickly in order to tackle Russia's economic and social problems, including wage arrears.

Yastrzhembsky called tomorrow an important day for Kiriyenko, the Duma and the whole country.

But opposition to Kiriyenko's nomination showed no sign of easing in the Duma today, where many regard the 35-year-old former banker as too young and inexperienced to head a government. Several lawmakers, including the Duma's deputy speaker, Vladimir Ryzhkov, said that Kiriyenko had little chance of getting the chamber's support tomorrow.

The Communists, the biggest party in the State Duma, said they would not even take part in the vote as a mark of protest against Yeltsin's nomination. The boycott announcement was made by Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov at a meeting in Moscow today.

Zyuganov also said the Duma would consider an appeal to the constitutional court next Wednesday challenging Yeltsin's right to stick to the same candidate.

Yeltsin can dissolve the legislature and call new elections if his nominee is rejected three times by the Duma.

Kiriyenko won praise from visiting Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev today, who said the Russian government should be headed by a young man who can "give reforms a push."

In the televised remarks earlier today, Kiriyenko said the government should not pretend that it is oblivious to today's protests by unpaid workers. He said the demonstrators are right to protest over their unpaid wages and that the government has a duty to resolve the matter. Russia's RTR television reports that the government is expected to plan measures today to prevent more wage arrears from accumulating.

Itar-Tass reports that about 70,000 people in Russia's far eastern Primorye region joined a trade union protest today against unpaid wages. But estimates from the Pacific port city of Vladivostok and the western coal mining region of Kuzbass say turnout for the protests was far less than predicted by union leaders.