Moscow, 13 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Top Russian officials today conceded progress had been made with the West in talks on NATO expansion ahead of the upcoming Helsinki summit between the Russian and US presidents later this month.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin today said "constructive initiatives" had recently been put forward by NATO and Russia was ready to consider them.
Speaking at a meeting of Russia's Defence Council, Chernomyrdin however did not give any further details about the NATO initiatives. Chernomyrdin also once again reiterated Russia's opposition to the enlargement of the alliance.
Today's meeting of the Defense Council was called in preparation for the March 20 - 21 summit between Russia's President Boris Yeltsin and US President Bill Clinton. NATO expansion is expected to be the focus of discussions at the summit.
Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov is flying on Saturday to Washington to prepare for the summit. Primakov's spokesman Gennady Tarasov told a briefing today in Moscow that "on some questions there has been progress between Russia and NATO, but on other questions there has been no nearing of positions".
Moscow has consistently opposed NATO's planned expansion, maintaining that it poses a direct threat to Russian security.