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Russia: Maslyukov Calls For Cut In Nuclear Arms

Moscow, 6 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov said today that Russia can no longer afford to maintain thousands of nuclear warheads and needs a program to streamline and modernize its strategic forces.

In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, he said that Soviet-era weaponry is fast becoming obsolete, and Russia must press on with START-2, START-3, and other arms limitation treaties with the United States to preserve the nuclear balance.

Under the 1993 U.S.-Russian START-2 accord, still awaiting ratification by Russia's Communist-led parliament, both countries agreed to cut the number of their nuclear warheads from about 6,000 each to no more than 3,500 each by 2007. But Maslyukov said, in fact, that Russia will only be able to afford several hundred nuclear warheads -- at most -- by that date.

Maslyukov, who is Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's first deputy with responsibility for economic affairs, said the government and parliament should jointly agree to a program for re-arming the strategic nuclear forces.

Maslyukov, a Communist, formerly worked in the Soviet military-industrial complex and was the last chairman of the Soviet central planning agency, Gosplan.

In other news, RIA Novosti news agency today quoted First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov as saying Primakov will outline anti-crisis measures on television tonight to inform Russians about his cabinet's plans to pull the country out of its deep economic crisis.

Primakov's press secretary, Igor Shchegolev, told ITAR-TASS that Primakov will also talk about country-wide popular protests scheduled for tomorrow. He is to report on his cabinet's efforts to pay off a backlog of wage and pension arrears that are fueling popular dissatisfaction with the government and with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Organizers claim that millions of people will come out into the streets tomorrow to demand Yeltsin's resignation.