93/09/21 Press Conference on Situation in Russia (Washington, D.C)  Return to: Index of 1993 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

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93/09/21 Press Conference on Situation in Russia
Office of the Spokesman

                         PRESS CONFERENCE
                       SITUATION IN RUSSIA

                         Washington, D.C.
                        September 21, 1993

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Good afternoon.  From the first days of our 
Administration, President Clinton has strongly supported political and 
economic reform in Russia and President Yeltsin's personal leadership of 
that process.

In today's speech to the Russian people, President Yeltsin set forth his 
plan for new parliamentary elections as a means of resolving the 
political impasse that has blocked reform and impeded constitutional 

Just as we did at the time of the April referendum, the Clinton 
Administration supports President Yeltsin and his program for democratic 

We believe that the Russian people should have the right to determine 
the political future of their country at the ballot box.  We urge 
Russian leaders at all levels to work together in a democratic process 
that maintains peace and stability while fully respecting civil 
liberties and individual human rights.

President Clinton has just spoken by telephone with President Yeltsin to 
assure him of our strong support and to seek assurances that the 
elections will be free and fair.

I've just come from a meeting with the Speaker of the House and other 
members of Congress.  I stressed the importance of rapid Congressional 
action to complete the enactment of the pending program of support for 
Russian reform.  By acting decisively at this critical juncture, we can 
help democracy and market reform take root in Russia.

Support for Russian reform at this time is an investment in the national 
security of the United States and the prosperity of the American people.  
We will be guided by that principle as we assess the events of coming 

Now I'll be glad to take a few questions.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, do you feel that what Boris Yeltsin has done 
is, in fact, consistent with the Constitution, or is it beyond -- far 
beyond -- what the Constitution has outlined in --

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I'm not going to get into a discussion of 
Russian constitutional or legal principles today.  That will be up to 
the Russian people at the time they have an opportunity to vote in early 

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, how do you distinguish between the actions 
President Yeltsin has announced today -- and it's not clear whether they 
will actually take place -- and the actions of other world leaders who 
have initiated coups on their own in which democratic processes that 
were already existent had been cast aside in favor of a scheme set up by 
the leader?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, there are some important distinctions, 
Ralph.  First, President Yeltsin is the freely elected President of 
Russia.  Second, he proposed a referendum in April.  The referendum was 
strongly backed by the Russian people; and I remind you that that 
referendum called for free elections -- early elections -- and I think 
he has now moved to carry out the promise, really, that was contained in 
that referendum.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, did you have any advance warning that 
President Yeltsin was going to take this move?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We had only about an hour's advance warning.  He 
called in our Ambassador and other Ambassadors in Moscow and gave them 
that much advance warning.  

I must say, the impasse between the Parliament and President Yeltsin was 
quite apparent over the last several days; and now that we see this 
action today, looking back over the events of the last week or two, it 
brings into focus some things that were said at the time.  But as far as 
advance warning, we had only an hour or so advance warning.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, can President Yeltsin assume that he would 
continue to have your backing if he were forced to take any military 
action against his opponents?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  When President Clinton called today and talked 
with President Yeltsin, he really had two purposes: First, to give him 
expressions of support, and also ask for assurances that the elections 
would be conducted in a free and fully democratic way.  He gave that 
support and he got the reassurances he asked for.  I think that is the 
reflection of the commitment that President Yeltsin has to move forward 
in the democratic way that the referendum was conducted and he intends 
to conduct these elections.

QUESTION:  Did he say that he would not take any military action in the 
period between now and the election?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I really don't have anything further for you on 
that.  I've had a briefing on the conversation, but I think I'd ask you 
to contact the White House if they're prepared to give you further 
details than I have.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, what's your understanding of what's going on 
on the ground in Moscow?  Is President Yeltsin's hold on authority in 
any danger?  What do you know about what the military is doing?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We have no indication of any abnormal or unusual 
movements.  The Ministry of Defense has announced that they're going to 
maintain a position of strict neutrality.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that the Russian people have the 
right to determine their political future at the ballot box.  Consistent 
with that principle, do you believe that President Yeltsin should offer 
himself up for election, and if not, why not?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I think President Yeltsin will not make himself 
an exception in any respect.  My understanding is that he expects the 
new Parliament that's elected to call for Presidential elections, and 
he'll stand for election as a candidate in those elections if he so 
chooses.  He does not, I think, ask for any special exception or special 
treatment for himself.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, what does this do to the aid package which is 
now nearing completion before the Senate?  Would you support 
conditioning that in some way on Yeltsin's remaining the President?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Not at all.  I think that aid package should go 
forward.  I think the reasons are even stronger than they were before 
this announcement for the Congress to complete the enactment of this aid 

Thank you very much.


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