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Yeltsin Ally Kohl Receives Russian Opposition Figure

March 9, 1995

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Chancellor Helmut Kohl met Thursday with one of Boris Yeltsin’s political opponents but denied he was distancing himself from the Russian president.

Grigory Yavlinsky, an economist and the leading reform candidate for the Russian presidential election next year, was the first of Yeltsin’s opponents to be received by Kohl.

``It’s quite normal for a German leader to meet with representatives of different democratic positions in Russia,″ said Kohl’s spokesman, Thomas Mund.

Yavlinsky said Kohl’s main interest during their one-hour talk was ``whether Russia is turning into a banana republic and how that trend could be reversed.″

Kohl has been Yeltsin’s top Western ally. He was quick to defend Russia’s crackdown on Chechnya but more recently has grown critical of the military campaign in the southern republic.

Yavlinsky interpreted his visit as a sign ``the West is gradually coming to see that reformers were right to criticize Yeltsin’s failure to promote democracy and a market economy.″

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