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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Calls For Assault on 'Criminal Filth'

Malevich's Art: Who Owns It?Proclaiming that a "new political reality" has dawned in Russia, President Boris Yeltsin on Friday announced a fresh offensive to boost the economy and fight organized crime. A confident-looking Yeltsin told a Kremlin press conference that he would put the Kremlin's stamp on a wide range of policies, promising to protect consumers and end the country's industrial decline and ordering his security ministers to take personal charge of ridding the country of "criminal filth." Yeltsin's take-charge attitude was accompanied by a call for a purge of the government which he said was unwieldy and riddled with corruption. But he denied reports that he was thinking of replacing Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. While Yeltsin's words were clearly intended to reassure Russians worrying that the country was spinning out of control in a spiral of crime, corruption and economic hardship, he promised no quick-fix measures. "The problem is that it is impossible to resolve this by some emergency, one-time measures," Yeltsin said. "Only political liars and adventurists can promise paradise next week." Yeltsin said Viktor Yerin, the Interior Minister and Sergei Stepashin, the head of the Federal Counterintelligence Service should be "personally responsible" for implementing a federal program adopted this week to fight crime, which he called "the scourge of Russia." Yeltsin also weighed into the dispute over the defense spending in the 193.3 trillion ruble ($99 billion) draft budget given preliminary approval by the lower house on Wednesday. Military officials say the 40.6 trillion rubles allotted to the defense sector is dangerously inadequate. While pledging to help the armed forces with funds from outside the budget, Yeltsin also told military leaders to make further cuts in the 3-million-strong armed forces and reduce orders for military equipment. "The army should be more active in cutting the number of servicemen," he said. "I cannot understand their indecision. We cannot, society today cannot maintain a 3-million-strong army. We cannot." Yeltsin said that all the elements were in place for political stability in Russia following the adoption of a new constitution and the signing of his Pact on Social Accord in April. "A new political reality has taken shape in Russia," Yeltsin told the nationally televised gathering, held in honor of the fourth anniversary of Russia's declaration of sovereignty on June 12, 1990. "The principle of 'all power to the Soviets' has ended." While "extremist forces have grown weaker," he said the mainstream opposition had taken on "civilized forms of political struggle," in contrast to the violent political battles that marked 1993. With the peace pact in place, Yeltsin said he would concentrate on the economy, announcing a package of decrees that he called a "frontal offensive to push ahead reforms." He said he had signed decrees aimed at improving Russia's housing market and erecting new regulations to rein in wide scale fraud on the country's fledgling securities market. Yeltsin said that the authorities' main tasks were to contain inflation and to halt the fall in industrial output. He said that inflation should fall to 6-7 percent this month and the decline in production should be halted in July. Output in June was 26 percent lower than at the same time last year. The new decrees were a fresh sign that, six months after delegating most economic responsibilities to Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin is impatient with the way the government is handling the economy. Yeltsin criticized the government as a whole for having a "bias towards a planned economy" and had especially sharp words for Vladimir Kvasov, Chernomyrdin's top lieutenant and the powerful head of the government administration. Yeltsin condemned "corruption in the middle echelons" of government and said: "I have already told Chernomyrdin we need a serious purge of the apparatus. Beginning with Kvasov, they have taken on too many people. It will take us a long time to sort this out." But the president denied reports that he was planning to replace Chernomyrdin with his former Security Council chief, the industrialist leader Yury Skokov. "There have never been any questions about his work in general," Yeltsin said of his prime minister. "I will not sacrifice Chernomyrdin." Chernomyrdin, arriving in Moscow after a week-long health trip to Germany, said the reports were a sign of "meanness," Reuters reported. The June 12 holiday is also the third anniversary of Yeltsin's election as Russian president and is the date, two years hence, when his term expires and the next presidential elections are due. Yeltsin made it plain that he planned to serve out his term, saying "I'm not planning to quit till 1996," but, in line with recent remarks he has made, did not comment on whether he intended to run for a second term. Looking relaxed and healthy, Yeltsin joked with the assembled journalists. Asked if he had changed in the last three years Yeltsin, 63, said that he asked his wife the same question every week and reckoned the answer was no. "The only way I'm changing is I'm getting older," he said.