Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev Resigns
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, a leading advocate of strong ties with the West and Boris Yeltsin’s longest-serving minister, resigned today, a presidential spokesman said.
Kozyrev, who had been under tremendous pressure for months from hard-liners and Yeltsin himself, had to choose between remaining foreign minister and taking the parliamentary seat he won in Dec. 17 elections. Russian law does not allow government officials to serve simultaneously in parliament.
The 44-year-old diplomat was on vacation at a resort outside Moscow and could not immediately be reached for comment. Pyotr Tarasov, a presidential press spokesman, said that Yeltsin had accepted Kozyrev’s resignation.
Kozyrev has long been a target of Communists and nationalists, who won the most votes in the election to the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, and his departure would be a victory for hard-liners.
The departure of Kozyrev could strengthen a growing nationalist streak in Russia’s relations with the West, which have worsened in the past several years after a warm period following the end of the Cold War.
Yeltsin said last week that Russia needed to pay more attention to its eastern neighbors, and a centerpiece of his foreign travels planned for this year is a trip to China scheduled for March.
Kozyrev’s resignation had been expected. Yeltsin had indicated he intended to make changes in his Cabinet as a result of the hard-line victory in parliamentary elections.
The president had signaled in October that he planned to fire Kozyrev, but then changed his mind ahead of a trip to Paris and a summit with President Clinton.
At the time, Yeltsin said he was dissatisfied with Kozyrev’s work and confirmed he was looking for a replacement.
Over the past several months, Yeltsin has taken over much of Kozyrev’s portfolio and late last month formed a new Foreign Policy Council that answers directly to the president.
Kozyrev was appointed Russia’s foreign minister in 1990 when it was still part of the Soviet Union. After the Soviet collapse a year later, he embraced the radical reformers then in power.
Soon Kozyrev found himself under attack by hard-liners in parliament and elsewhere who accused him and Yeltsin’s government of serving foreign interests and selling Russia out to the West.
Kozyrev’s response came on Dec. 14, 1992, when he stunned delegates to a 51-nation Stockholm meeting with an aggressive speech that used Cold War terms to describe the war in the former Yugoslavia and pitted the West against ``mighty Russia.″
He retracted that speech 30 minutes later, saying he was only trying to dramatize what would happen if the West failed to support Russian reforms and reformers lost power in Moscow.
Recently, Yeltsin has started to tune in to public criticism of economic reforms and the demise of Russia’s superpower status by adopting a more assertive and nationalist foreign policy, pushing Kozyrev away.
Several names have been suggested as a replacement for Kozyrev, including career diplomats Igor Ivanov and Vitaly Churkin as well as Dmitry Ryurikov, Yeltsin’s top foreign policy adviser in the Kremlin. Other candidates reportedly include Ivan Rybkin, speaker of the outgoing Duma, and Vladimir Shumeiko, the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.