§ Mr. Llew Smith
To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Russia.
§ The Prime Minister
I visited Russia from 14 to 16 February as part of the regular practice of bilateral summits established by the partnership treaty which President Yeltsin and I signed in 1992. The Foreign Secretary accompanied me.
In Moscow I had talks with President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, and met a number of other Ministers, including Foreign Minister Kozyrev and Defence Minister Grachev. I talked to a cross-section of the newly elected parliamentarians. I also met British and Russian business men. I visited the city of Nizhny Novgorod, and announced new know-how fund projects.
President Yeltsin and I signed an agreement on the detargeting of nuclear missiles. We also agreed to hold military exercises, focused on peace-keeping, in the United Kingdom and Russia. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the Russian Foreign Minister signed agreements on double taxation and on cultural exchanges.
President Yeltsin and I agreed that we should build on the partnership between our two countries which is now based on shared democratic values. President Yeltsin has accepted my invitation to visit the United Kingdom this year. I have separately invited Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. I shall be recommending to Her Majesty the Queen that she should take up President Yeltsin's invitation to visit Russia.
An important purpose of my visit was to give practical and polital support to reform. President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin assured me that economic reform would continue. But they did not underestimate the scale of the task which they face. It was clear that difficult decisions lie ahead.
I discussed a range of international issues with President Yeltsin, including Bosnia. These discussions underlined how important it is to maintain a close political dialogue with Russia. I told President Yeltsin that I would support closer political consultation between the Group of Seven and Russia.