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Russia: Yeltsin Plans Military Reform With Defense Minister

Sochi, Russia; 3 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin held talks on military reform with Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi today. Talks focused on plans to form a unified command for Russia's strategic nuclear forces. Sergeyev is Yeltsin's first official visitor in Sochi since the President was ordered by his doctors to recuperate from what the Kremlin called exhaustion last week.

Sergeyev said that Yeltsin "is paying constant attention to the reorganization of the armed forces despite the country's economic difficulties."

Interfax news agency said Yeltsin and Sergeyev were also due to discuss a timetable for introducing a new inter-continental ballistic missile, the Topol-M, into the Russian arsenal.

Earlier in Moscow, Viktor Ilyukhin, communist chairman of parliament's security committee, said the government must guarantee it will replace two missile types which are to be deactivated under the START-2 arms reduction accord with the U.S. Ilyukhin said that unless the Topol-M missiles are introduced within two years of dismantling the older missiles, he is "not convinced" the START-2 treaty will be ratified by parliament.

Also today, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov sent his Emergency Situations Minister, Sergei Shoigu, to the Far Eastern Kamchatka peninsula in response to pleas for help in tackling an energy crisis there. A fuel shortage has left Kamchatka, already suffering sub-zero temperatures, with electricity for only four hours a day.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the Russian Finance Ministry has transferred about $6.4 million worth of rubles to the Central Bank since early September for the redemption of Treasury bills held by private investors.

The Kremlin is in the midst of talks with foreign holders of its defaulted treasury bonds. Russia wants to restructure the $17 billion government debt by replacing it with longer term, dollar-denominated bonds. Earlier today, Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Russia met all its foreign debt commitments in October. He did not specify the amount.

The head of Russia's State Tax Service, Georgy Boos, said today in Moscow that tax collections rose sharply last month. Boos told reporters that an estimated 12.2 billion rubles ($785 million) was collected in October, compared to just 6.5 billion rubles ($420 million) the month before.

Boos said one quarter of tax collections came from the gas monopoly Gazprom.