Yeltsin under fire from hardliners

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A chorus of protests from Russian hardliners yesterday made it clear that President Boris Yeltsin faces intense pressure over policies they say would victimise their Serbian brethren, writes Annika Savill.

At the same time the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, threatened to pull all peace-keepers out of Croatia unless its forces withdrew from areas they have occupied in the past month. Lord Owen, the EC envoy, said peace talks between Croats and Serbs would resume next week. Before the arrival in Moscow of Reginald Bartholomew, Mr Clinton's new envoy to the Vance-Owen peace effort, militant nationalists made clear they would not support their government's attempt at forging a joint policy with the US over Bosnia. 'One can only hope that the Foreign Ministry is waking up. But honestly speaking, the previous one-sided anti-Serbian and anti-Russian position of the Foreign Ministry gives little grounds for hope,' said Vladimir Isakov, a hardline parliamentarian.

The dilemma of the Russian government reflects the fact that while it is under pressure at home, it is anxious to retain some semblance of global power by playing a role in the peace talks. The Foreign Ministry gave a cautious welcome to the US decision this week to join the Owen-Vance peace process but seeks increased pressure on the Serbs. Vitaly Churkin, whom Russia has proposed as its own envoy, claimed the US plan came after 'intensive consultations' with Moscow.