Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Returns Suddenly To Work




President Boris Yeltsin wrapped up his vacation in the Black Sea resort of Sochi a week earlier than expected and returned to Moscow for a much heralded meeting with the Japanese prime minister.


A Kremlin spokesman declined to comment Monday on why the president suddenly came back to the capital Sunday afternoon. Yeltsin has previously interrupted vacations unexpectedly.


In addition to preparing for the meeting Thursday with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, where the two leaders plan to tackle the dispute over the Kuril Islands, Yeltsin may have wanted to show his detractors that he is still in charge.


"Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] feels fine and his mood is good. He has paid a great deal of attention to the latest news and taken it very much to heart," the president's press secretary, Dmitry Yakushkin, said Sunday on Ekho Moskvy radio.


Yeltsin was last seen Saturday during a televised address to the nation on the 81st anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Looking pale and speaking slowly, he lashed out at his communist opponents, who have called for his ouster.


Yeltsin had canceled a state visit to Austria and flown to Sochi on Oct. 30 for what was expected to be a two-week stay at the presidential Bocharov Ruchei residence. The Kremlin said he was recuperating from exhaustion following a bout with bronchitis.


Since his return to Moscow, Yeltsin has been staying at his country residence, Rus, Interfax quoted an official from his press service as saying Monday.


A presidential spokesman stressed the importance of the meeting with Obuchi, which had previously been pushed back a day because of Yeltsin's health problems.


But despite a thawing of Cold War hostilities between Russia and Japan, the two countries are unlikely to forge a long-awaited peace treaty formally ending World War II this week because of the dispute over the four islands in the Sea of Japan, analysts said Monday.


"Unless both sides come to some sort of compromise, there will be no peace treaty," said Pavel Kandel, a foreign policy analyst at the Institute of Europe.


The Soviet army seized the Kuril Islands near Sakhalin at the end of World War II. Their total area is not more than 10,000 square kilometers, but the surrounding waters are rich fishing grounds.Moscow and Tokyo have been cagey about their proposals for the future of the islands, but media reports in both countries have been rife with speculation. Some suggest that Russia plans to lease the islands back to the Japanese for a period of, say, 99 years, in much the same way as China leased Hong Kong to the British.


Others have suggested that Russia may be prepared to confer a "special status" on the islands, whereby they would enjoy joint sovereignty.


Japanese newspapers have reported that Tokyo will propose drawing a border demarcation line running through the northernmost islands, allowing Japan to regain control in three of them and share rule with Russia in the fourth.


Akio Kavato, Japan's envoy to Russia, said he expected that "Russia will meet Japan halfway on its proposals on border delimitation across the fourth Kuril island," Interfax reported.


But Alexander Kennaway, an analyst at Britain's Conflict Studies Research Centre, said Russia is unlikely to compromise.


"Given the Far East's dreadful economic state, the sensible thing would be for Russia to negotiate some sort of fiscal deal with the Japanese over the Kurils," he said. "But for emotional and historical reasons, the Russians are not prepared to surrender something they consider their own."


Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov was quoted by the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta last week as saying the Kuril Islands "must not be small change" in the peace treaty between Russia and Japan.


The islands belong to Russia's Sakhalin region and their jurisdiction is not disputable, he said.


Obuchi is to arrive in Moscow on Wednesday evening. He is to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Thursday morning before beginning talks with Yeltsin. Later Thursday, Obuchi is to be awarded the title of honorary professor at Moscow State University. He is to depart on Friday.


Although Yeltsin's foreign engagements have been kept to a minimum in light of his recent illness, his November schedule includes meetings with German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Italian President Luigi Scalfaro, his spokesman said.


Yeltsin is sending Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in his place to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 17-18. Russia, along with Peru and Vietnam, is formerly joining APEC at this year's annual gathering, pushing the membership to 21 countries.