The leader of the pro-government "Russia is Our Home" faction yesterday indirectly criticized the Russian Foreign Ministry for its uncritical support of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. Sergei Belyaev, who had just returned from a working visit to Belgrade, also criticized authorities there for their failure to recognize the results of local elections held on November 17. Belyaev proposed that deputies from "Our Home" might serve as intermediaries in the ongoing stand-off between the government and demonstrators angered by the nullification of those election results. According to Belyaev, Moscow’s official position of "non-interference" could weaken traditional ties between the two "Slavic countries" and might also diminish Russia’s influence in Serbia. The Duma deputy said he intended to write a letter to President Boris Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov setting out his views on this issue. (Interfax, January 13)
Moscow has consistently backed Milosevic at international forums on a host of issues, and its policy of "non-interference" in the current conflict is aimed at blocking efforts by the West to pressure authorities in Belgrade into accepting the results of the local elections. That stance has provoked criticism of Primakov by Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, who on December 16 accused the Russian minister of "insulting democratic Serbia" and of backing "the last Communist dictator in Europe." (Itar-Tass, December 16)
In his remarks yesterday Belyaev suggested that Moscow also needs to play a role in easing neighboring Bulgaria’s domestic political crisis. There, the governing Bulgarian Socialist party is engaged in its own stand-off with hostile demonstrators. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday that Moscow found the situation in Bulgaria all the more disturbing because it involved a "government that has been friendly toward us." A Russian academic and Balkan expert suggested, also yesterday, that the demonstrations in both Serbia and Bulgaria had been instigated by the West as part of a broader plan to eliminate Russian influence in the Balkans. (Interfax, January 13)
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