Four days after President Boris Yeltsin voiced his support for an international convention that would outlaw anti-personnel landmines, Russian newspapers yesterday were full of arguments as to why Russia should not make such a commitment any time soon. Writers in Izvestia suggested that Yeltsin’s announcement was "nothing more than a fine gesture made for the benefit of Jacques Chirac," Yeltsin’s host in Strasbourg. In what was certainly an understatement, they said that his statement had produced "a slight shock in the Defense Ministry."
Nezavisimaya gazeta was more specific. It quoted an unnamed high-ranking officer as saying that Yeltsin’s announcement was nothing more than pure "populism," and that it violated Russian national interests. The author noted that Russia has a stockpile of at least 60 million mines and that it would be very expensive to destroy them in the timeframe required by the convention. He argued, furthermore, that both nuclear installations and long stretches of Russia’s borders — including the administrative border with Chechnya — are protected by such mines and that there is no readily available alternative. The newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta charged, similarly, that "the complete and immediate renunciation of such mines will seriously impair this country’s security." Its writer added that "any lieutenant knows that anti-tank mines should always be beefed up by anti-personnel mines." This use of anti-personnel mines to protect anti-tank mines was one of the exceptions that the U.S. tried unsuccessfully to have included in the convention. (Russian media, October 14)
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