Russian president Boris Yeltsin this morning delivered his first policy statement since being re-elected last July. In a long-postponed state of the nation address to the Russian parliament, Yeltsin promised sweeping changes to Russia’s system of government and economic management. At 25 minutes, the address was briefer than the 30 minutes that had been expected, but a BBC correspondent said Yeltsin looked confident and determined and showed no sign of frailty. (BBC World Service, March 6)
The president said that the country had stagnated during his illness and that the government had failed to cope with such pressing problems as the faltering economy and crime and corruption "at every level." "It is time to establish order," Yeltsin declared, "and I will make this happen." He vowed to establish order based "not on terror, not on force but on the rule of law." Yeltsin predicted a two percent rate of economic growth by the end of 1997 and called tax reform "the key economic task" that must be tackled this year. He said he would soon announce a cabinet reshuffle to bring in "competent and energetic" people. In a comment that will fuel speculation about the replacement of Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, Yeltsin said the state of the armed forces was a cause for particular concern. In other remarks, Yeltsin promised to make integration with Belarus a major focus of Russian policy and confirmed Moscow’s continuing opposition to NATO enlargement. He said he does not favor amending Russia’s constitution. (Itar-Tass, March 6)
Chubais Expected to Return to Government.