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Russia/NATO: Yeltsin Aide Criticizes Solana Tour

Moscow, 11 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - A top aide to Russian President Boris Yeltsin has criticized NATO Secretary General Javier Solana's current tour of several former Soviet republics.

Dimitri Ryurikov, foreign affairs adviser to Yeltsin, told reporters today that Solana's tour demonstrates what he called the "tough position" NATO has towards its expansion plans.

Solana, who visited Moldova yesterday, is in Georgia today for meetings with top officials on NATO's expansion plans. He is scheduled to travel to Azerbaijan and Armenia later this week.

Ryurikov said Solana's tour is designed to show members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that NATO is open to their joining the alliance.

NATO is expected to invite Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to begin membership negotiations this summer. It is not expected to extend invitations to any former Soviet republics at that time. A charter outlining relations between NATO and Russia is being negotiated now ahead of the first wave of expansion.

Ryurikov strongly criticized NATO for denying Russia a right of veto over European security issues, saying the decision was "unfair and wrong".

Ryurikov also said that NATO's drive to expand eastward was isolating Russia from joint decision-making on European security matters.