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Russian leader survives vote

Russia's prime minister presented Parliament on Thursday with his most ambitious economic reform plan yet _ and then survived a key vote of confidence in his government.

The failure of the no-confidence motion in the State Duma, Parliament's lower house, should ease pressure on President Boris Yeltsin to shake up the Cabinet, which has come under increasing attack in recent weeks because of rising inflation.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told lawmakers that instead of retreating from market reforms, Russia must push them through faster. The ex-Soviet bureaucrat, who in January declared that "the period of market romanticism has ended," sounded an entirely different theme Thursday.

"The moderate-tough fiscal policy which we have been conducting until now has exhausted its possibilities," Chernomyrdin said.

He promised a "decisive breakthrough" if the government can rein in spending and substantially cut the budget deficit.

The centerpiece of his reforms is the 1995 budget, which Parliament must approve. It calls for cutting the deficit to 7.8 percent of gross domestic product, down from 8.8 percent expected this year, and reducing inflation to about 2 percent by the end of 1995, compared with this year's projected 8 percent.

Chernomyrdin said he would not abandon his fight against inflation by coddling struggling industrial lobbies with more cash. A realistic 1995 budget was required to "close all doors back into the swamp of depression," he said.

Tens of thousands of workers across the country rallied Thursday to protest a lack of jobs and the government's failure to pay many wages.

The opposition accuses the government of failing to control crime or protect living standards. The one-day collapse of the ruble on Oct. 11 brought a new round of inflation, worry and criticism of the government.

The Duma voted 194-54 in favor of the no-confidence measure, with 55 abstentions. That was 32 votes short of the majority needed for it to pass the 450-seat body.

Many lawmakers were absent, and many pro-reform lawmakers, who say Chernomyrdin has not gone far enough toward a market economy, abstained.

The Communists and the small Democratic Party called for the no-confidence vote.

"This government is unable to do Russia any good, and we need to not only replace the government but the president too," said Communist faction leader Gennady Zyuganov.