The government has paid off its debt in back salaries to the armed forces and will pay students their stipends within days, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov told President Boris Yeltsin Monday.

Since his appointment nearly three weeks ago, Primakov has stressed that paying salaries and pensions is his government's first priority as it grapples with Russia's grave economic crisis.According to estimates published in the Kommersant earlier this month, Russia owed a total of $2.4 billion in back salaries and social payments. Of that sum, $233 million was owed to the military.

Primakov's meeting with Yeltsin also focused on efforts to wrap up formation of the new Cabinet - a painful process that has stretched into a third week as 10 Cabinet seats remain unfilled.

Boris Fyodorov, a strong proponent of market-oriented reform, was dismissed from his posts of acting deputy prime minister and tax chief, as was Acting Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, Russian news agencies reported.

Farid Gazizullin was appointed head of the committee for state property management, the agency in charge of privatization, Interfax, said.

Alexander Shokhin, a centrist who was named to the key post of deputy prime minister in charge of financial policy, resigned from the Cabinet on Friday after just 10 days on the job.

He said he was quitting to protest the reappointment of Mikhail Zad-ornov as finance minister. Shokhin held Zadornov responsible for the previous Cabinet's decision Aug. 17 to devalue the ruble and freeze domestic debt - a controversial move that many blame for fueling Russia's crisis.

Zadornov, a liberal reformer, defended himself over the weekend, saying the former government had few viable alternatives.