Russian Crisis: Former empire gives backing

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The Independent Online
KIEV (Reuter) - The leaders of Ukraine and Belarus supported President Boris Yeltsin yesterday and urged their own people to guard against extremist attempts to seize power.

Leaders of nearly all former Soviet republics unequivocally backed Mr Yeltsin, including some who had hesitated earlier in Russia's protracted government crisis.

The presidents of six republics issued a joint statement denouncing the armed revolt by deposed parliamentary leaders and said they backed Mr Yeltsin and the Russian people. They included the leaders of Kazakhstan and Armenia, who were only lukewarm in their endorsement of Mr Yeltsin when he dissolved parliament last month.

'Blood has been spilt in Moscow and those guilty of this have placed themselves outside the law,' read the statement signed by the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

'I'm for a democratic Russia, where the imperialistic flag will never be raised,' Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk said in a television interview. 'In Ukraine, a significant number of people want to return to the Soviet Union and the former regime. But we also have an extreme (nationalist) right which loves Ukraine so much it is ready to strangle it in its embrace.'

In Minsk, the Belarussian President, Stanislau Shushkevich, said he could not rule out an insurrection similar to the Moscow uprising. 'The people of Belarus will despise those who try to instigate conflict,' he told journalists.

The Georgian leader, Eduard Shevardnadze, who last week accused Russia of orchestrating an armed separatist rebellion in his homeland's Abkhazian region, said his people viewed Mr Yeltsin's victory as their own.

Only the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia were reticent, expressing alarm at instability and the continued presence of Russian troops on their territory.