Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 186

British prime minister Tony Blair completed a brief, one-day visit to Moscow yesterday — his first official trip to Russia as prime minister — that focused more on rhetoric than on substance. In remarks to reporters, Blair and Boris Yeltsin showered each other with praise. The Russian president spoke enthusiastically of having initiated a "personal friendship" with Blair and of the British leader’s vigor and energy as a politician. Blair, in turn, called Yeltsin "one of the most dynamic and one of the strongest" leaders in the world. In remarks upon his arrival in Moscow Blair had said that he viewed the establishment of close working relations with Yeltsin as the primary purpose of his visit.

On the substantive side, the two countries signed a crime-fighting agreement during a meeting between Blair and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. It calls for expanded bilateral cooperation in dealing with organized crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and is a follow-up to an agreement signed this past summer during a Moscow visit by British foreign secretary Robin Cook. The agreement comes as Moscow is subjected to increasing criticism from abroad over the burgeoning strength of Russian organized crime groups. The Russian side also handed over to Blair a first batch of copies of personal documents of British soldiers captured by Germany during World War II and held in Soviet archives.

More generally, Blair and Yeltsin were reported to have discussed bilateral cooperation, particularly in the area of economics and trade. According to Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Sir Andrew Wood, Blair hoped during his visit to promote expanded British investment in the Russian economy as well as greater cooperation in the defense and security areas. He said that Britain now occupies second place behind the U.S. in terms of volume of investment in Russia. (Russian and Western agencies, October 6)

Russia Signs Debt Deal with London Club.