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Monday, September 14, 1998 Published at 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK

World: Europe

Primakov promises reforms with 'social conscience'

Primakov says he wants to protect Russians from mass poverty

The new Russian Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, has said his economic policies will take account of the social welfare of ordinary people.

Russia crisis
In his first major interview since being approved as premier Mr Primakov reaffirmed that market reforms would continue, but said the stark divide between rich and poor was not right.

"It must be a socially oriented economy," Mr Primakov told NTV commercial television.

"There should be no awful discrepancy under which the majority of the people live below the poverty line. We cannot allow this. No capitalist country allows it. At least they try. In this regard we need certain corrections which will be made," Mr Primakov said.

He said economic development should include the creation of jobs and the payment of wages.

"No return" to Soviet ideology

Mr Primakov also dismissed allegations leading reformers that the appointment of a communist, Yuri Maslyukov, as his first deputy prime minister meant a return to Soviet ideology.

[ image: Yuri Maslyukov: Former Soviet planning minister]
Yuri Maslyukov: Former Soviet planning minister
"Maslyukov will not be carrying out policies dictated to him by the Communist Party," Mr Primakov said.

Mr Maslyukov, who formerly headed the Soviet state planning agency, will be the top economic official in the new government.

Two former government members, Yegor Gaidar and Boris Nemtsov, said earlier that the country was changing economic course.

"The Communist Party is the governing party now," Mr Nemtsov said in an interview earlier.

Mr Gaidar was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was hard to say how long the "government of communists" would take to "destroy elements of a free market economy in Russia."

G7 meets on Russia

Mr Primakov - former foreign minister and a widely respected career diplomat - was voted in on Friday after Yeltsin backed down in a stand-off with the lower house of parliament, the Duma.

Officials of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations are meeting Russian officials in London later on Monday to discuss the country's problems.

The G7 - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - has made it clear that further economic aid depends on Russia sticking to the path of reforms.

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