Yeltsin rejects bloodshed, top minister tells Clinton

September 30, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia's foreign minister told President Clinton yesterday that Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin would resort to violence only if provoked and had no intention of storming the parliament building.

"No storming of the [parliament building] is planned," Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev told Mr. Clinton in Washington, a senior U.S. official related.

Relaying a message from Mr. Yeltsin to the U.S. president, the foreign minister said the Russian president wanted to "reiterate his firm decision to avoid bloodshed or any use of force as much as possible unless attacked," the U.S. official said.

The message coincided with a new report from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that essentially supported Mr. Kozyrev's statements. It said Mr. Yeltsin "has no plans for force and will employ force only if provoked," the official said in a briefing at the White House.

Rather than imposing an ultimatum for Mr. Yeltsin's opponents to quit the parliament building, the embassy report said that the Russian president intended to use persuasion and to negotiate with his opponents on what happens next.

The assurances calmed growing nervousness within the U.S. government over events in Moscow.

"The operative consideration in President Yeltsin's mind is finding a way out of this crisis that avoids bloodshed," the senior U.S. official said.

However, he also said that if Mr. Yeltsin's opponents initiate violence, "the Russian authorities clearly have contingency plans to deal with that if that should arise."

President Clinton, who earlier yesterday had reiterated his unswerving support for Mr. Yeltsin, praised him during the meeting with Mr. Kozyrev as standing "on the right side of history."

The foreign minister, speaking to reporters later, complained that the occupants of the parliament, which Mr. Yeltsin has dissolved, were "desperately looking for" a provocation.

"They need someone hurt from their side," he said.

The White House used the occasion of Mr. Kozyrev's visit for an all-out display of support for Mr. Yeltsin that contrasted sharply with Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher's reserved and cautious statements earlier in the day following his own meeting with the foreign minister.

President Clinton came out swinging in behalf of the Russian president, insisting that Mr. Yeltsin had kept the peace in Moscow despite "very, very difficult, intense circumstances."

"If there were a lot of people armed in there and he was worried about civil disorder and unrest and people being shot when you're in charge of a government, your first obligation is to try to keep the peace and keep order," Mr. Clinton said.

By contrast, Mr. Christopher, after the earlier meeting at the Russian mission in Manhattan, withheld any expression of satisfaction with Mr. Kozyrev's assurances that Russia intended to deal with the crisis without force.

Instead, Mr. Christopher just reiterated the Russian's statements to him without comment, and a senior aide said later that he remained concerned about the situation.

At the Washington meeting, Mr. Kozyrev also disclaimed any intention to carry out a new "Monroe doctrine" involving newly independent states on Russia's periphery.

Russia's assertion of its own sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union has caused wide speculation about new imperial ambitions.

These weren't totally put to rest Tuesday by Mr. Kozyrev's speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he staked out out peacemaking within the former Soviet Union as Russia's job alone.

Mr. Clinton stressed to Mr. Kozyrev that Russian peacekeeping efforts should "respect the territorial integrity" of surrounding states, a senior official said.

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