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Russia: Yeltsin Says Country Is Slowly Emerging From Crisis

Moscow, 23 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin said today the economic situation in the country is serious but that Russia has started to slowly emerge from its crisis. Yeltsin's comments come amid reports that the finance ministry expects annual inflation to top 100 percent this year.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said Yeltsin met with Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroyev to discuss payments of overdue wages, the government's anti-crisis program, and greater collaboration among the government, the Central Bank, and parliament.

The government continued talks today with a mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Few details of the meeting were available.

A $22.6 billion IMF loan package established before the crisis hit in mid-August was frozen last month.

In related news, Russian Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko admitted today that Moscow has what he called "an urgent problem in relations" with private Western banks (see "Russia: Debt Talks In London Deadlocked").

The ITAR-TASS news agency quotes Gerashchenko, who is in London for talks on Russian debts, as confirming that Russia has made offers to Western banks to divide its debts into several groups. He was also reported to have suggested new schedules and terms of payment for each group.

Two months ago (Aug. 17), Russia declared a moratorium on the repayment of 281 billion rubles in treasury bills. At the time, the T-bills were worth about $40 billion. But because of the recent decline of the ruble, they have been reduced to a value of no more than $16 billion.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin today played down concern over Yeltsin's health after an upcoming Vienna trip (Oct. 27) was shortened to a bare minimum. Yakushkin said there is nothing surprising about yesterday's announcement that Yeltsin will stay in the Austrian capital only one day and not two as originally planned.

Also today, the presidents of Moldova, Ukraine and Romania urged Russia to withdraw its troops from Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region.

The request was contained in a joint declaration released at the end of the presidents' summit in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau today.

The declaration expresses concern about the lack of real progress in settling the conflict in the separatist region. But the document does not recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Transdniester. The self-proclaimed Dniestr Republic broke away from Moldova in 1990 and declared independence the following year after the collapse of the USSR. Some 5,000 Russian troops currently remain in the region.