Non-Russians face Yeltsin clampdown

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IN A MOVE aimed primarily at citizens of former Soviet republics, Boris Yeltsin yesterday introduced tougher immigration controls and new rules on the employment of foreigners in Russia. The President's decree was likely to please the ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who did surprisingly well in parliamentary elections this week after arguing that Russia should act more aggressively in defence of its own interests.

The decree called for immigration checks on all Russia's borders and ordered officials to be more thorough in checking papers and probing asylum applications. Since foreigners from outside the former Soviet Union need visas to enter Russia anyway, he clearly had in mind citizens from the so-called 'near abroad', some of whom have fled wars in their own republics. But the requirement that firms employing foreigners obtain work permits for them looks as if it might apply to Western companies as well as local businesses, some of them Mafia-controlled, which bring in outside labour.

Although Mr Yeltsin has said he remains committed to the course of reform, we may expect more government policy and personnel changes, either to pre-empt demands from Mr Zhirinovsky or to woo Communists into an alliance with reformers against the far-right. More election results trickled in yesterday showing the new parliament was likely to have three blocs - reformers, conservatives and nationalists - with independents holding the balance of power.

The reformist cabinet, which had expected to get a largely sympathetic parliament, met yesterday for the first time since the election and approved a draft privatisation programme for 1994. Few details were released beyond a Tass report that regions were to be more involved in privatisation.

Zhirinovsky profile, page 16