Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 125

In the course of an official visit late last week to Russia’s Far Eastern Khabarovsk region, State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev took the opportunity to sound off on several key foreign policy issues. Two of them are of some importance to the people of the region. The Russian lawmaker dismissed, for example, reports and rumors that the federal authorities are planning any sort of handover of the four South Kuril Islands to Japan. Seleznev said that there were no grounds for such speculation because “the Russian constitution clearly defines such actions as inadmissible” and because the State Duma would not permit any violation of Russia’s territorial integrity.

In the same vein, Seleznev said that Russia would refuse to hand over several islands in the Amur River near Khabarovsk claimed by China. That dispute grows out of an effort by Russia and China to officially demarcate their Far Eastern border. Some politicians in Russia’s Far East have accused the Kremlin of making territorial concessions to China as one means of securing better relations between Moscow and Beijing. The issue has been a source of some irritation between the two countries. In another remark unlikely to be appreciated in China, Seleznev expressed alarm over what he described as a massive influx of Chinese–and Koreans–settling illegally in Russia’s Far East. Seleznev called the phenomenon “creeping territorial expansion” by the countries involved. (Russian agencies, June 6)

Finally, Seleznev used his Khabarovsk trip to take another swipe at the START II treaty. The Duma speaker said that NATO’s enlargement is forcing Russia to make amendments to the treaty and that ratification of it by the Duma is therefore not imminent. He also repeated an earlier criticism of U.S. President Bill Clinton for Washington’s decision to link scheduling of the next Russian-U.S. summit to ratification by the Russian Duma of START II. (Itar-Tass, June 26)