Domestic crises overshadow Yeltsin's party

G7 nuclear summit: President's agenda sidelined by IMF threats and Chechen flare-up

The workmen had barely finished hanging out the coloured flags on the streets of Moscow when the fizz went out of Boris Yeltsin's party, a get-together of the top seven industrial powers which is supposed to be about nuclear safety but which was yesterday dominated by a host of other crises.

The Russian president's plan to use the meeting as a stage on which to demonstrate his international stature to a sceptical electorate was fast falling flat last night as a fierce domestic row broke out over Chechnya, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) threatened to postpone payments in a $10bn loan.

The summit's agenda - what to do about the world's ageing power stations, lethal radioactive dumps, and poorly guarded fissile materials - was also sidelined by the tragedy in Lebanon, which produced a flurry of statements from the assembled leaders, calling for a ceasefire. Both Mr Yeltsin and President Bill Clinton dispatched their envoys to the region, while John Major - in between calling for an end to the ban on British beef - called for an "interim ceasefire" as a first step to peace.

Like a recurring fever, the Chechen war flared up again when the Communist- dominated lower house of parliament summoned Pavel Grachev, the Russian defence minister, to explain the death of at least 53 federal troops in a Chechen ambush on Tuesday - in a war that Mr Yeltsin claims has ended. The general offered to quit, prompting speculation that he is about to be fired, although his move was more of a gesture, as the president is the only official empowered to accept his resignation.

And Mr Yeltsin, in an unusual move, vowed to punish the responsible commanders. "The military leadership is to blame," he said. It was a rare attack on the military hardliners, and comes amid growing reports that they have been withholding information about the continuing hostilities in Chechnya.

Mr Yeltsin's problems were compounded still further by rumblings from the IMF that it may withhold at least one installation of the $10bn (pounds 6.5bn) loan it recently agreed to make to Russia, allowing the government to pay long-delayed wages and pensions.

An official said that the fund was "concerned by signs that Russia may be backing away from reforms". It was a clear warning that payments may be stopped if Russia fails to meet the strict fiscal conditions laid down by the IMF.

None of this fits into the plan that Mr Yeltsin must have had in mind when he invited the G7 to Moscow nearly a year ago. Yesterday, as the media gathered for the weekend meeting on a warm spring day, he said he was "fighting fit, despite his difficulties". But he seemed to have a surplus of the latter.

The G7 leaders, who last night attended at a lavish banquet in the Kremlin marking the summit's opening, have come to Moscow to discuss nuclear safety and security, but it is also a demonstration of Western support for Mr Yeltsin before June's presidential elections. They are keen to prevent a victory by the resurgent Communists, whom they believe could stop Russia's reforms dead in their tracks.

They are, however, usually careful not to admit as much in public. Asked whether he supported Mr Yeltsin's efforts to win a second term, Mr Major yesterday replied: "That is a matter for the Russian people. It would be impertinent for me to express a preference. We do have a strong view that the reform process is very important and wish to see it proceeding."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable