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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Signs Trade Accords With Finnish Leader

President Boris Yeltsin and his Finnish counterpart Martti Ahtisaari met in the Kremlin on Thursday and presided over the signing of three documents aimed at furthering bilateral trade.

They also declared that territorial disputes between the two countries should be removed from the agenda of mutual ties.

"Russia and Finland do not and will not have territorial claims on one another,'' Yeltsin told Ahtisaari, according to Interfax.

"This is not a decision taken by some closed [Communist] Politburo, it is a statement we are making right in front of you,'' he added.

Ahtisaari, speaking to students of Moscow's prestigious International Relations Institute, said he agreed with the Russian leader that the issue of returning the Karelian territories, which the Soviet Union seized from Finland before World War II, would not be discussed.

The Finnish media are unlikely to drop the "Karelian issue'' but it must not impair bilateral relations, Interfax quoted Ahtisaari as saying.

Yeltsin told reporters that trade between Russia and Finland has already increased since the two leaders met last July in Karelia. Overall in 1997, Russian-Finnish trade is reported up 24 percent.

"[Mikhail] Fradkov, the minister for external economic relations, understood that his fate depended on it,'' Yeltsin joked.

As Yeltsin and Ahtisaari looked on, Russian and Finnish officials signed two documents regarding two Finnish loans to Russia worth dollars 200 million each, including one to finance several projects.

They also signed a protocol on Russian companies' commitment to measures aimed at preserving fish stocks in Lake Inari in northwestern Finland. The Paa River originates from the lake and flows into Norway and Russia; there are five Russian hydroelectric stations on the river, Itar-Tass said.

Under the protocol, Russia's Kolenergo company is to supply electric power to Finland until 2005.

Yeltsin assured Ahtisaari that his government had followed through on his pledge last summer to improve conditions for tourism on Russian islands in the Gulf of Finland.

He also highly appraised his country's relations with Finland and said there are no real problems between them -- echoing a declaration he has made at the end of numerous recent bilateral meetings.

Russia, he said, "wants to be friends with everybody.''

Speaking to reporters after the Kremlin meeting, Yeltsin urged Estonia to "follow the path taken by Lithuania in strengthening relations with Russia," Russian news agencies reported.

Yeltsin recalled that during a visit to Moscow by Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas last month, "we discussed a number of issues, and settled the problems of the border and the Russian-speaking population [in Lithuania].

"If the Estonian president wants to follow the same path I extend my hand to him," Yeltsin said.