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Wednesday, November 18, 1998 Published at 18:39 GMT

World: Europe

Yeltsin concern over break-away republic

Yeltsin: Concerned about autonomy demands

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has ordered a special meeting of the Security Council after the south-eastern republic of Kalmykia demanded greater autonomy.

The BBC's Robert Parsons in Moscow: Secessionist wave - "nightmare that haunts Russia's central leadership"
Russian news agencies say the meeting would consider ways of ensuring that the republic sticks to the constitution.

The dispute began after the President of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, threatened to withhold taxes from Moscow and demanded more powers of self-rule.

The leader of the traditionally Buddhist republic said he might seek "associate membership" of the Russian Federation.

Mr Yeltsin's press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin said: "(The president) regrets very much that in the current difficult socio-economic conditions such statements create a very bad context and a very bad background," Mr Yakushin said.

"(It) sheds doubt on political stability in the country."

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Gennady Seleznyov, Communist speaker of the lower house of parliament, the Duma, said the Kalmykian comments were "no joke, and should be treated accordingly", Russian news agencies reported.

No money from Moscow

Correspondents say tension has been growing between Moscow and local administrators since the collapse of the rouble exacerbated Russia's budgetary problems.

Kalmykia, which lies to the north-west of the Caspian Sea, is a poor agricultural region with more than 300,000 inhabitants, many of Mongol origin.

Describing itself as the only Buddhist nation in Europe, it is one of 32 autonomous ethnic republics among Russia's 89 regions.

In an interview on Russia's ORT television, President Ilyumzhinov said: "For some months money has not been allocated to the Republic of Kalmykia.

"So Kalmykia has found itself de facto outside the Russian Federation."

"We are ready to consider becoming an associate member of the Russian Federation, staying within the limits of the Russian Federation's borders but excluding Kalmykia's budget from the Russian Federation budget."

The 36-year-old millionaire leader says he will stand for the Russian presidency in 2000.

He is already the controversial president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and is currently bidding to head the governing body of Russian soccer.

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