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    "NO TRAGEDY," SAYS FIRED PREMIER

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    MOSCOW, February 25, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - "I'm going. Mr. Putin and I made a contract in January 2000. It has been fulfilled now," ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said to newsmen today-the day after President Vladimir Putin decreed his dismissal, and appointed Victor Khristenko acting Prime Minister.

    Cabinet dismissal was "almost planned," added Mr. Kasyanov- though he acknowledged that he had taken it as something of a thunderbolt. "Recent days accustomed me to rumours of impending dismissal- but I did not expect it a mere three weeks before a [presidential] election." "The thing may appear illogical- but then, there must be something behind it," he vaguely remarked.

    Mikhail Kasyanov keeps a stiff upper lip. "What happened was no personal tragedy to me. I am not knocked out," he said.

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