Yeltsin hands out 30 pounds to every Russian

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The Independent Online
ON THE anniversary of the failed August coup, Boris Yeltsin declared last night that a cheque for 10,000 roubles ( pounds 30), which all Russian citizens would receive from the government in October, was their 'ticket to the free market economy'. They could buy shares in state firms, put it in the bank or sell it to their friends.

In a television address markedly bereft of rhetoric, President Yeltsin thanked the Russian people for their patience and tolerance in the face of the hardships resulting from price rises and the uncertainties of the second Russian revolution, and assured them they had taken the 'first steps to a normal civilised life'. The reforms would continue, he promised.

Reading faultlessly from a text and appearing very much in command, Mr Yeltsin said of the momentous changes throughout the last year: 'It's natural that it's not been smooth for us quite often . . . if this could have been done by a decree from me I would have done it a year ago, but such things only happen in fairy tales.'

In January, when the first price rises hit, he said, 'we were pressed to the wall and there were doubts that we could stand it'.

If people had faltered then it would not have been possible to go through with the reforms 'but it soon became clear that Russia not only has a mighty past, but also a great future . . . we shall raise Russia again and put life into it'. He admitted it had been a rough ride. 'We have been through a year of primary education in the market economy,' he said. 'There have been disappointments as well as victories. We were thrown into the water without knowing how to swim, but we didn't drown.'

He said the government hand-out, which is half a month's salary for Mr Yeltsin and more than four months' salary for the average Russian, was intended to help launch people's involvement in property ownership. 'We need millions of private owners, not a bunch of millionaires,' said the Russian leader. 'We would have given more if we could, but we just calculated the price of state property (which he put at 1.4tr roubles) and divided it by the population . . . if we can afford another cheque we will give it to you.'

In an effort to offset complaints from workers in state enterprises whose wages have fallen well below the salaries now paid to workers in the private sector, Mr Yeltsin also announced the government would increase state workers' wages by one and a half times in industrial enterprises, education and the arts.

Outside the Russian parliament - the White House on the banks of the Moskva where thousands barricaded Mr Yeltsin in for three nights last August as the hardline putschists tried, and failed, to grab back power - there was a carnival atmosphere with bands and a barrage balloon, as three days of celebrations began.

MOSCOW - Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi has urged severe measures to save Russia's economy from collapse, Reuter reports.

In the weekly magazine Moscow News he repeated calls for imposition of an 'economic state of emergency', an ill-defined special regime enforcing industrial deliveries and limiting rights to strike. Mr Rutskoi said that industrial and economic production were falling unchecked by the government.