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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Good Sign: Yeltsin Rolls Up His Sleeves

President Boris Yeltsin's declaration at his Kremlin press conference that Russia's future depends less on its political battles than solving the day-to-day problems that are tearing at the heart and soul of the country is a welcome sign. Too often over the past two years, Yeltsin's efforts have been directed at retaining his hold on power instead of managing the transformation he began in 1992. Yeltsin's actions in launching Russia's landmark reforms also opened a Pandora's box of crime, corruption and economic hardship. Yeltsin himself mentioned the ills that plague Russia today -- a growing number of citizens under the poverty line, rampant organized crime that has penetrated deep into the structure of the state, resistance in the middle levels of government to restructuring the economy along market lines. That these problems have spread largely unchecked is not just the president's fault. Still, many were surprised that Yeltsin chose to devote the first half of 1994 to his domestic peace pact, having one more go at a political solution to his problems, leaving to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's government the pressing day-to-day matters. Yeltsin returned to the domestic scene with a spate of economic decrees in late May and on Friday gave several indications that he will play a more active role. While refraining from criticizing Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin lashed out at nearly everybody else. He attacked the government's nostalgia for the old state planning system and its tendency to harbor corrupt officials in its middle ranks. He then blamed the government's mistakes on Chernomyrdin's top lieutenant, Vladimir Kvasov, and promised a purge of all those who hold up reforms. Such a purge is long overdue. Police reported over 20,000 cases of bribetaking by officials last year. Official collusion allows organized crime gangs to operate almost unchecked in Russia's large cities, turning the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg into facsimiles of Al Capone's Chicago. True, talk of a purge in Russia carries with it many negative associations. But the main thrust of Yeltsin's promised crackdown seems aimed at the Gold Rush mentality that has produced thousands of cheats, and millions of cheated. Of course, none of this can be seen in the euphoric light in which we once saw Russia, when democracy was young and reforms were in full swing. But it is good to see Yeltsin trying to sort things out before any further disintegration. The president, however, has been known in the past to fade in and out of the domestic political scene. Here's hoping that Yeltsin can back his words this time with deeds.