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YELTSIN LAUDS NEW POLITICAL REALITY IN RUSSIA

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President Boris Yeltsin told Russians Friday that although they have been through tough times, they have put communism behind them and are living in a "new political reality."

Yeltsin spoke at a Kremlin news conference broadcast live on nationwide television to mark Sunday's fourth anniversary of Russia's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. It is also the third anniversary of his election as president.He acknowledged some of the major problems facing Russians, calling crime the "scourge of Russia" and noting nearly half of all Russians now live near or below the poverty level.

Yeltsin said industrial production had dropped 26 percent in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 1993, but that inflation was at 8 percent in May, far lower than in January, when it topped 20 percent.

He said Russia has succeeded in dismantling the Soviet power structure. "A new political reality has been formed in this country," Yeltsin said. "The principle `All power to the Soviets' has become invalid."

He said extremist forces have been losing support and called it "an important result of the outgoing political year."

Russia has witnessed unusual political calm in the eight months since Yeltsin's decision last October to use tanks to subdue hard-liners opposed to his reforms.

Yeltsin said Russia needed this kind of calm for its economic reforms.

"We now have an opportunity to focus our efforts on creative activities, on alleviating economic and everyday problems of common people," he said.