MOSCOW (REUTER) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin met on Thursday the Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov. Yeltsin, 66, has been recovering from pneumonia at a residence outside Moscow and doctors say he needs at least another 10 days to shake off the illness. He has held some meetings in the Kremlin and several in the secluded Gorky-9 residence where he has been staying since he left hospital on January 20. Kulikov said that President Boris Yeltsin had given him "carte blanche" to crack down on economic crime in Russia. Kulikov, speaking after meeting Yeltsin in the Kremlin, told the Interfax news agency he would undertake "very tough work within the framework of existing legislation to raise the effectiveness of the struggle with economic crime". During their 40-minute meeting, Yeltsin and Kulikov also discussed measures to improve the work of the Interior Ministry, the customs service and the tax police, Interfax said. Economic crimes, including fraud and tax evasion, cost the Russian state billions of dollars every year and are a major reason for chronic delays in the payment of wages and pensions. Yeltsin appointed Kulikov a deputy prime minister on Monday, giving him responsibility for coordinating the fight against organised crime and control of tax police operations. Kulikov told Interfax the president was "in good working form" and had showed a firm grasp of the problems facing his ministry.
The more a Russian drinks, the more likely he or she is to support President Boris Yeltsin, according to an opinion poll published in the communist opposition newspaper Pravda-5. The newspaper said its poll questioned 2,404 people and showed that those who drank alcohol every day were 50 percent more likely to back Yeltsin than those who did not. Abstainers or those who drank rarely were more likely to be proud of the Soviet years, and less likely to seek further economic reforms, the paper said. Yeltsin himself has long been viewed as a man who enjoyed his vodka, but Kremlin aides say he does not have a drinking problem. U.S. cardiologist Michael DeBakey, a consultant during Yeltsin's open heart surgery, said he had seen no evidence of alcoholism when he examined the Russian president.