President Boris Yeltsin signaled Tuesday that he would keep some key Cabinet members in place, while Russians questioned whether his sudden and sweeping government shake-up would help or hurt the nation.

At a Kremlin meeting, Yeltsin made a point of praising the ministers of foreign affairs and defense, who were fired along with the rest of the Cabinet on Monday. Spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said the president appears likely to retain them, as well as the "lion's share" of the rest.The top figure ousted, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, said goodbye to his staff in an emotional farewell meeting Tuesday.

"Six years have flown by like one day," he said in a trembling voice, according to the Interfax news agency. He thanked his colleagues, saying they had helped lay the foundation for Russia's future.

Chernomyrdin, who turns 60 next month, said he had no intention of retiring from politics.

"I feel that I can do a great deal and I will do this," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, broadcast footage of Yeltsin at the Kremlin showed him keeping up the pressure on his aides - threatening anyone who fails to heed his decrees with quick dismissal.

"We must create an environment in which everyone knows and feels that a failure to fulfill orders means death," Yeltsin said, frowning sternly. "You will have to immediately submit your resignation."

In Rome, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended Boris Yeltsin's right to fire his entire cabinet and said the Russian leader was "in charge."