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Russia: Government Names New Tax Director Amid Collection Woes

Moscow, 29 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - The Russian government today named a new director of the country's tax service after news that tax collection was down this month. The new director, Georgy Boos, is a parliamentary deputy with the centrist "Our Home is Russia" faction. Poor tax collection is widely seen as a key factor behind Russia's deep financial crisis. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said today that Russia had collected only half of its planned revenues for this month.

Boos has no previous record working with for the government. He replaces Boris Fyodorov, who was dismissed by President Boris Yeltsin yesterday.

According to ITAR-TASS, Primakov plans to hold talks with some of the country's biggest tax dodgers. Primakov also met with regional leaders today. Some have threatened to withhold taxes they owe the federal government, and they want the government to give them more power.

Primakov suggested the regions work on restructuring the tax system. But he ruled out non-payment of taxes.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov will present an anti-crisis plan on Thursday. No details on the plan were released.

Also, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov tried to calm foreign investors today. Some of them have criticized the government for favoring Russian banks as it tries to clear up its massive debts. Zadornov said there will be no discrimination.

In addition to poor tax collection and controversy over debt repayments, the country's wage arrears continue to be a problem. Reuters news agency today said Russia's military officers and soldiers are jamming a new telephone hotline set up to answer their questions about wage arrears. Colonel Vyacheslav Rashevsky of the Defence Ministry's financial department said today that there are many callers and that the phone "practically never stops ringing."

Similar hotlines are being run by the eight regional military districts and four navy fleets. More than a million men and women serve in Russia's armed forces and most have not been paid since May. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said yesterday the government had paid two months of arrears.