Russian president Boris Yeltsin has told the governor of Primorsky krai, on Russia’s Pacific coast, that he must henceforth clear with the Foreign Ministry any statements he makes concerning Russia’s border with China. (Radio Russia, January 6) Russia is cozying up to China and Yeltsin does not want Nazdratenko rocking the boat. However, it is doubtful whether the governor will pay any attention: the border issue is a useful vote-getter for Nazdratenko, who runs his Far Eastern region virtually as a personal fiefdom.
Since the conclusion of the Sino-Soviet border treaty in 1991, Russia has regulated almost all of its border disputes with China. But border demarcation has been delayed by Nazdratenko’s challenge to the projected transfer to China by Primorsky krai of 1,500 hectares of territory formerly claimed by Russia. Nazdratenko says this is valuable forest and hunting land and that, if it goes to China, Russia will lose vital control over river transport. The upper house of the Russian parliament weighed in on Nazdratenko’s side last month, when a Federation Council working group declared that the 1991 treaty harmed Russia’s geostrategic and economic interests not only in Primorsky krai but also in Chita oblast and Khabarovsk krai, where territory is also due to ceded to China. (Itar-Tass, 17 December 1996) The authoritarian Nazdratenko is unlikely to heed Yeltsin’s latest warning. He has had several run-ins with the Kremlin over the past year, and has emerged victorious in each instance. A territorial dispute is too valuable a means of rallying local support for him to give it up easily.
"Red Belt" City Restores Soviet System.