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RUSSIA ECONOMIC OUTLOOK 'ENCOURAGING'

Russia's battered economy is still "very fragile" but should begin turning around this year, Russia's prime minister told a special Cabinet meeting Friday.

"For the first time in recent years, the economy is starting the year with encouraging results," Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said in a 40-minute address in the Kremlin's chandeliered Marble Hall.

Chernomyrdin pointed to slowing inflation and a slowing of the decline in the domestic production as evidence of positive changes that were "still very fragile."

President Boris N. Yeltsin had called the session to review efforts to stabilize the economy.

Inflation fell to 11 percent for February from 15 percent in January, Chernomyrdin said. At February's rate, annual inflation still would top 250 percent. The government's goal is to bring it down to 1 percent per month by December to encourage investment and pave the way for growth beginning in 1997.

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