Yeltsin In Beijing:
No Lectures, We're Nuclear
The St. Petersburg Times - Top Story
Combined Reports

BEIJING - President Boris Yeltsin, in a stunning outburst, reminded U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday that Russia possessed a "full nuclear arsenal" and would not be lectured on its military assault on Chechnya.
Swiftly after Yeltsin's comments in Beijing, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin scrambled to issue an assurance that Moscow and Washington enjoyed "very good relations."
But Clinton poked back at Yeltsin, saying he was obliged to speak out against a Russian offensive he believed was wrong.
"Yesterday, Clinton permitted himself to put pressure on Russia," Yeltsin, speaking with his trademark slow, deliberate growl, said before sitting down to talks with China's second-ranked leader, Li Peng.
"It seems he has for a minute, for a second, for half a minute, forgotten what Russia is, that Russia has a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. He has forgotten about that. Therefore he decided to flex his muscles, as they say," Yeltsin said.
The comments were shown on television repeatedly in Moscow on Thursday.
Yeltsin was greeted with a bear hug from Chinese President Jiang Zemin after arriving in Beijing looking pale and drawn following a bout of pneumonia that put him in the hospital.
But he appeared buoyed by strong support from Jiang for the Chechnya assault. China is alone among major world powers in backing the campaign, which has driven 200,000 people from their homes.
Putin told reporters in Moscow: "I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have very good relations with the United States. We have very good relations with the leadership of the United States.
"I would consider it absolutely incorrect to produce the impression that some kind of period of cooling off of relations between Russian and the United States has begun or is beginning."
On Monday, Clinton rebuked Moscow for its ultimatum to civilians in Grozny to flee or be killed, saying Russia would "pay a heavy price" through a loss of international prestige and by alienating investors.
Clinton's comments were his strongest condemnation yet of Russia's nine-week-old offensive against Moslem separatists.
Asked to react to Yeltsin's reminder that Russia was a nuclear power, Clinton said: "I haven't forgotten that. You know, I didn't think he'd forgotten America was a great power when he disagreed with what I did in Kosovo."
Yeltsin accused Clinton of trying to dictate to Russia, and said he and Jiang would never let that happen.
"I want to tell Clinton through you that he should not forget what kind of a world he lives in. No one person has and no one will dictate to the whole world how to live, how to labor, rest and so on," he said. "No and again no. A multipolar world - that is the basis for everything.
"That's what we've agreed on with Jiang Zemin, the president of the People's Republic of China. We will dictate, and not he alone."
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters in Beijing that Jiang backed Moscow's aims in Chechnya.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue confirmed that China "understands and supports the efforts made by Russia in safeguarding national unity and territorial integrity.'' She said Russia "has tried to avoid civilian losses."
China too faces separatist threats, most seriously from Moslems in its remote western region of Xinjiang. It is adamantly opposed to international intervention that is not sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
"It's of particular importance for Russia, given its isolation in the international community over Chechnya, to brandish its good relations with China," a Western diplomat said.
Russia under Yeltsin has developed increasingly warm relations with China, even though Western diplomats say they are divided by deep-seated mistrust that would prevent them forging an anti-U.S. front.
On Thursday, Jiang and Yeltsin sipped what appeared to be white wine to toast the formal signing of agreements demarcating common borders that have been a source of friction for centuries.
"From this moment, we no longer have any border problems," Ivanov said.
Arriving in Beijing, Yeltsin looked pale. Arm-in-arm with his wife, Naina, he leaned heavily on the rails of the stairs while leaving his plane.
Jiang, who studied car production in Moscow 44 years ago, greeted Yeltsin in Russian, calling him an "old friend.''
Yeltsin's schedule this week was as provocative as it was busy. On Wednesday he triggered separatist rumblings from powerful Russian regional leaders by signing a unification treaty in Moscow with his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, which is ultimately designed to create a single Russian-Belarussian state.
The treaty was signed on the eighth anniversary of the breakup of the Soviet Union.
(Reuters, AP, SPT)


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