Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 99

The speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, Yegor Stroyev, said yesterday that he and Gennady Seleznev, the speaker of Russia’s lower house, had agreed to speed up parliamentary ratification of the START II nuclear disarmament treaty. The agreement to step up the proceedings on the treaty reportedly came at the behest of President Boris Yeltsin during yesterday’s “Big Four” meeting in Moscow. (Itar-Tass, May 21)

Aleksei Mitrofanov, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Part and the Head of the Duma’s geopolitics committee, had announced on May 19 that closed door hearings by the Duma on the treaty, scheduled for June 9, had been postponed until September. His announcement followed statements by the heads of the Communist and the Liberal Democratic Parties indicating that the chances for quick ratification of the START II treaty by the Duma were slim. (See Monitor, May 19-20) It remains unclear now whether the June 9 hearings will go forward as originally scheduled.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on May 20, another Russian lawmaker dismissed Mitrofanov’s postponement announcement. Duma First Deputy Chairman Vladimir Ryzhkov said that the postponement had not been agreed to by the Duma as a whole. He said that the hearings, which will include testimony by Defense and Foreign Ministry representatives, will indeed take place next month. But Ryzhkov also suggested that ratification was no sure thing. He said that he had made clear in his consultations with U.S. lawmakers that Russian parliamentarians are still likely to link ratification to a host of other contentious issues, including NATO enlargement or a decision by the United States to impose sanctions on Russian companies. (Itar-Tass, May 20)