U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright arrived in Moscow yesterday, her sixth stop on a nine-country around-the-world trip. But few details were available of her talks with Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin earlier in the day or of a long consultation she held with her Russian counterpart, Yevgeny Primakov, last evening. Albright, who is to meet with Russian president Boris Yeltsin today, also spoke at a Russian Orthodox monastery yesterday with Patriarch Aleksy II. In an exchange with newsmen following her meetings with Chernomyrdin and Primakov, Albright declined to describe their reaction to a new package of incentives that NATO hopes will facilitate the signing of a political agreement with Russia and Moscow’s acquiescence to NATO enlargement. The dearth of information on yesterday’s talks is the result, presumably, of a request by Moscow. A similar policy of silence was observed following NATO secretary general Javier Solana’s own January 20 consultations with Primakov, a measure that NATO sources indicated had been insisted upon by the Kremlin.
Russian officials reportedly remain intractable on the issue of NATO’s enlargement. German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel, who held talks in Moscow on February 19, said afterward that he had found no softening in Russia’s tone and that "everyone I have met has shown resistance to NATO enlargement." That same message was conveyed yesterday by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky and Russian Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky. Yastrzhembsky said that Russia would remain opposed to enlargement regardless of the outcome of its negotiations with the Western alliance, while Berezovsky complained that NATO’s plans are forcing Russia to react aggressively and that the Kremlin should sign no political agreement unless it confers veto power upon Russia. Albright is scheduled to meet with Boris Yeltsin today.
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