Yeltsin praised for G7 success

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The Independent Online
BORIS YELTSIN was praised yesterday by Russian economists for doing better than Mikhail Gorbachev in extracting financial aid and confidence for his radical economic reforms from the Western industrial nations. But his conservative opponents accused him of selling out, and Muscovites in the street said what they always say: 'What difference will it make to poor old me?'

Mr Yeltsin was almost assured of a good report from independent economists for his performance at the Group of Seven meeting in Munich because the International Monetary Fund had agreed in advance to recommend he should receive the first dollars 1bn ( pounds 52m) of a dollars 24bn credit and aid package. He got that and more - a pledge by Britain to unlock a dollars 500m export cover package.

Mr Yeltsin's demand that Russia be allowed to defer its foreign debt payments was also given full marks.

The conservatives jumped on the fact that Mr Yeltsin had linked debt deferral to a 'debt- for-equity' swap, in which Western creditors would get a stake in Russia's industries or natural resources in return for a more relaxed debt repayment. The conservative newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya said the G7 was bent on exploiting Russia's natural wealth. The relationship with the G7 was that of rider and horse 'where the horse is Russia - a cheap source of raw materials and labour'.

Even so, the conservatives will find it difficult to fault Mr Yeltsin's performance in the short term. All Russians know they need help in making the transition to the market economy, and most, according to the polls, are still willing to follow Mr Yelstin's programme.

The Russian Constitutional Court, hearing arguments from Communists that Mr Yeltsin's ban on their activities was unconstitutional, yesterday rejected an argument from the Communists that the court had no legal grounds for investigating the constitutionality of the former Soviet Communist Party. The court is considering two appeals: the Communist case and a counter-plea from the Yeltsin camp that the party itself was unconstitutional.