Kiriyenko Pleads His Case

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MOSCOW: Call it good Kremlin, bad Kremlin. The last time Boris Yeltsin addressed parliament about passing tax reforms, he threatened to dissolve it. Friday, beleaguered prime minister Sergei Kiriyenko tried a softer sell: He appealed to its good nature. "The financial market has practically ceased to exist," Kiriyenko said. "Social tension is growing in society, which naturally is not helpful to stabilization." Kiriyenko pleaded with the recalcitrant Duma to speed passage of a series of new tax laws that Russia needs to get a desperately needed multibillion-dollar bailout from the IMF.

But the hard-liners and Communists that dominate the lower house, unhappy with Yeltsinís presidency and loath to impose new taxes on Russians who already wait months for their paychecks, canít be counted on to hurry on their presidentís behalf. Meanwhile, Yeltsin, who has been courting French and German leaders for additional financial assistance, is facing a new and potentially crushing round of bond payments that are coming due in July. As Russiaís Central Bank spends mightily to support the ruble and court foreign investors, Yeltsinís best argument with the IMF may be his country's sincere desperation.