Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Confident Of Victory In Vote

BRUSSELS - With only four days to go to Russia's crucial vote. President Boris Yeltsin on Wednesday declared himself optimistic of winning his people's support for a controversial draft constitution next Sunday.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels where he was due to sign a new cooperation deal with the European Community, the Kremlin leader said: "Our people have common sense and I am sure. . . that since they are smart they will, most importantly, vote for the constitution".

The Kremlin leader, who appeared in a relaxed mood as he stood alongside Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, said he had told Belgian leaders whom he had met: "I am an optimist".

His upbeat comments about the draft charter, which goes to a referendum Dec. 12 at the same time as parliamentary elections, contrasted with furious efforts back in Moscow by his aides to make sure the poll did not go against him.

Yeltsin signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with Belgium which he described effusively as the most important accord between the two countries in 280 years. The agreement updates bilateral relations and introduces new areas of cooperation including science, space, the environment and the fight against drugs and terrorism, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

But the signing of another pact on the return of archives to Belgium was canceled because of legal snags.

"They will not be able to sign as foreseen today, but it is a question of days or weeks at the latest", the spokesman said. "There are legal problems but they have nothing to do with the substance of the agreement".

The archives agreement will involve Russia returning to Belgium about 20, 000 dossiers, mainly concerning national defense, that were taken by the Nazis to Berlin and then taken to Moscow by the Red Army after the end of World War II.

The spokesman said that Belgium and Russia had also discussed the return of Belgian art works that had been taken by the Nazis to Berlin, and subsequently went to Russia. There was no agreement yet, he said.

With a proposed new partnership accord with the EC still elusive, the Russians were due on Thursday to sign simply a "declaration of intent".

This declaration summarizes the main points of the new partnership under which Russia will be granted easier trade conditions for goods and services as an "economy in transition".

But a source close to the negotiations said the full accord was still held up mainly because of a banking decree issued by Yeltsin which has severely restricted the operations of foreign banks in Russia.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization meanwhile opened up a potential point of discord with the Russian delegation when alliance defense ministers softened their stand toward Eastern European nations seeking membership.

This seemed likely to upset a scheduled meeting on Thursday between Yeltsin - who has said any expansion of the Western alliance would isolate his country - and NATO secretary general, Manfred Worner.

Yeltsin's meetings with the Europeans were certain to be dominated by prospects for stability and democracy inside Russia after the Dec. 12 elections.

The draft constitution, for which Yeltsin is seeking a "yes" vote on Sunday, would give him sweeping powers at the expense of parliament, making him the most powerful leader in Europe.

But most Western powers, in spite of harboring misgivings over Yeltsin's autocratic style, argue that Yeltsin's blueprint will at least ensure a stable legal framework for the country and underpin Russia's democratic development.

EC leaders, however, would welcome any fresh pledges by Yeltsin that he will stick to democratic values and not abuse the powers that a new constitution might give him.