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Russia: Primakov Praises Duma's Approval Of Budget

Moscow, 5 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov says that by approving the 1999 budget, the Russian parliament has shown political support and opened new opportunities for his government. The lower house -- the State Duma -- earlier today overwhelmingly approved the budget in a final reading. Primakov, addressing the deputies, said the quick approval of the financial bill is a sign that he has ended the constant feuding with the Communist-dominated chamber.

Primakov also said his government in the future will be guided by four principles: "stability, unity, a healthy and strong federalism, and Russian national pride." And he said his government will aim most of all at supporting domestic industries, which he said will lead Russia to economic recovery.

The budget calls for revenues equivalent to $20 billion and spending of $28 billion. Some Russian economists -- as well as IMF experts -- have criticized its economic forecasts as unrealistic. An IMF mission leaves Moscow tomorrow without making any new promises for releasing IMF funds.

After addressing the Duma, Primakov chaired a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss measures against growing nationalist and religious extremism. In a related development, Moscow prosecutors today launched a criminal case against a far-right Russian leader whose militant supporters rallied last weekend in Moscow.

Itar-Tass says Aleksander Barkashov -- the leader of the Russian National Unity (RNE) -- is accused of threatening city officials. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of up to five years.

Several hundred far-right militants -- sporting black uniforms, swastika-like armbands and giving a Nazi-like salute -- marched last Sunday through parts of Moscow. Barkashov himself last year made threatening remarks against Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov after Moscow authorities denied the RNE permission to hold its congress in the capital. Luzhkov at the time tried to get prosecutors to open criminal proceedings against Barkashov but the prosecutor rejected the case.

Russian authorities pledged greater efforts in the fight against political extremism in the wake of the neo-Nazis' weekend march in Moscow.

Meanwhile, details from former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov's report of his investigation into activities of the Russian Central Bank finally emerged yesterday. According to the report, the bank allowed a tiny offshore firm in the Channel Island of Jersey to manage roughly $50 billion of its currency reserves over five years and to charge allegedly illegal commissions, Interfax reported.

In addition, the report said that bank officials sold federal property, such as real estate and cars, without the permission of the State Property Fund and used official bank credit cards with monthly credit limits of $5,000-$15,000 to purchase personal items.

The bank also used 600 million rubles ($25 million at the current exchange rate) from its 1997 profits for a special social fund for employees. The "Moscow Times" on January 5 quoted an anonymous Central Bank official as saying that "current accusations may be based on unprofessional conclusions."