Hurd trip aims to woo Russia

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DOUGLAS Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, arrived in the Arctic city of Murmansk last night as part of a frenzy of bridge-building exercises with his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, designed to bring Russia into the structures of European security.

The visit to Mr Kozyrev's parliamentary constituency was part of Britain's attempt to take a lead in shaping Europe's relations with Russia.

Mr Hurd was also expected to announce tomorrow the Queen's formal acceptance of a standing invitation from President Boris Yeltsin to visit Russia. Sources said it would take place by autumn. The Prince of Wales, recently in Russia, was the most senior member of the British royal family to visit since before the Bolshevik Revolution. British royals were deeply shocked when the Bolsheviks murdered their Russian relatives in 1918 and refused all contact with the Soviet Union.

Yesterday British diplomats said Mr Hurd and Mr Kozyrev had achieved little progress on Russia's participation in Nato's Partnership for Peace scheme, which has stalled over Moscow's demand for a status superior to that of the rest of East Europe. They said no content had been given to the 'side salad' of documents underlining a special importance without agreeing to Russia's demands for a veto on Nato's activities in central and East Europe.

Mr Hurd, who will meet the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Moscow today and President Yeltsin tomorrow, is the first European Union minister to take up Mr Kozyrev's invitation to visit Murmansk. He recalled that it was the British who had constructed the railway lines which led to the foundation of the city in 1915. They were now making history again 'on something of a smaller scale, in that I am the first European Secretary to come to Murmansk'.

He underlined the importance of establishing partnerships between Russia and the three European organisations, Nato, the European Union, and the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, adding: 'They began by having to handle confrontations. Now they are handling agreements . . . Russia is a crucial part in this.'