Yeltsin claims modest triumphs

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AFTER three Augusts of turmoil - a putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev, rage at the reform of Yegor Gaidar and a declaration of war against parliament by Boris Yeltsin - Russia's leaders yesterday claimed two modest triumphs: Russia has stopped falling apart and has escaped hyperinflation.

In an interview with the newspaper Trud, President Yeltsin said: 'The danger of the break up of Russia is past.' But while the secessionist fever that gripped Tatarstan, much of Siberia and Mr Yeltsin's region of Sverdlovsk has subsided, Moscow has not lured back the Chechen republic in the northern Caucasus. Sergei Shakhrai, a deputy prime minister, yesterday compared Russia's dilemma over the Chechen republic, led to an independence that Moscow refuses to recognise by a former Soviet bomber pilot, to that of the United States, if confronted by a breakaway regime in Utah.

At a separate press conference in Moscow, the Economy Minister, Alexander Shokhin, said: 'We are not yet the most peaceable society around, but the situation in the country is returning to normalcy.' Mr Shokhin is one of only two senior figures left in office from the radical government named by Mr Yeltsin immediately after the collapse of the August 1991 putsch.

Mr Shokhin, who is also a deputy prime minister, said Russia would keep its target of inflation under 10 per cent a month for the rest of the year and could halve this rate in 1995. The inflation rate has been in single digits since March. But autumn is the most dangerous period for the economy, as credits doled out to farmers and factories during spring and summer begin to make themselves felt in prices.

This year is no exception, with inflation expected to rise next month - though nowhere near the hyperinflation threshold of 50 per cent. But the government must still break a massive payments log- jam that has paralysed the flow of money between enterprises.

The establishment of a special committee headed by Oleg Soskovets, one of the most conservative members of the cabinet, had stirred fears of a flood of new subsidised cash to favoured industries. Mr Shokhin, however, insisted the Commission of Repayments and Settlements would not fuel another inflationary surge.

(Photograph omitted)