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1991 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Dr Kagalovski

Below is the text of Mr Major's joint doorstep interview with Dr Kagalovski, held in London on Wednesday 21st August 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

Dr Kagalovski [phon] and I have had a most useful and worthwhile meeting this morning. He spoke just before coming to see me to members of President Yeltsin's entourage in the Russian Parliament, as you know a debate is continuing there at this very moment.

Last night the Russian Parliament was not stormed, that is a hopeful sign, but I must say there are still many threatening signs about and nobody should overlook the possibility of non-Russian troops, Asian troops, actually being used to storm the Parliamentary building at a later time. I must say I believe that would be a fatal error and I hope that will not happen, it would be a very grave sign indeed if that were to happen. Throughout the whole of the Soviet Union, the White House. the Russian Parliament is the symbol of democracy at the moment and everybody here in the West will be looking to make sure that that symbol of democracy is not damaged.

We still wish to see the restoration of the legitimate government in the Soviet Union and I have made that very clear this morning to Dr Kagalovski in our discussions and we have arranged to remain in close touch over the next few days as necessary.

I will now invite him to say a few words to you and then Dr Kagalovski and then me if you wish will answer your questions.

DR KAGALOVSKI:

Good day. Today the fate of our country is being decided. It is very important to have the support of the world community and I would like to thank the government of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister, Mr Major. for his moral and political support of the legal government of Russia in their struggle against the junta that is trying to take power in our country and who are trying to set up an anti-peoples regime.

Thank you very much.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

I wonder if the Doctor could confirm reports we are getting, if he has that information, which is that Mr Boris Yeltsin has ordered the arrest of those hard-liners involved in the coup and that there are reports that some of the group of eight are trying to flee the country at the moment?

DR KAGALOVSKI:

I have no specific information on this.

QUESTION:

Does the Prime Minister care to comment on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have no corroboration to that at this stage.

QUESTION:

But is it your judgment that there is now disarray beyond doubt?

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think one can be clear about that yet, there are all sorts of signs, some of them are encouraging, some of them are less encouraging, we may know more in a few hours and I will comment then.

QUESTION:

These reports come from the Russian Federation parliament itself and Yeltsin addressing that parliament, they are quite firm that the committee of eight is driving out to Moscow airport is what Mr Yeltsin is suggesting. If it is correct you presumably welcome it?

PRIME MINISTER:

When and if we have confirmation I will comment on it, I will not keep you waiting for comments if we have the information but we do not have it yet. There are many stories coming through, some of them are capable of being confirmed, some are not. I do not wish to add to anything until I am certain of my facts.

QUESTION:

Would you say that the coup looks like it is on its last legs now?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I do not think you can say the coup is on its last legs. I said yesterday when we discussed the matter yesterday that I did not think that the success of the coup was a fait accompli. I think events subsequently have confirmed that. But the situation is still threatening and nobody should be certain the situation has ceased to be threatening until this matter has been properly resolved and legitimate government is back in charge in the Soviet Union. That has not yet happened, there are many twists and turns that may yet lie ahead of us, I think we must wait and see how those turn out.

QUESTION:

Even if Mr Gorbachev were to return, do you believe that he is irreversibly weakened and that perhaps Mr Yeltsin will be the man with whom the British government and other Western governments will be doing business in the months and years to come?

DR KAGALOVSKI:

I personally do not believe in the illness of President Gorbachev and I believe that once he is free to take charge of the country we will see what type of relations we will establish with him.

QUESTION:

Would you like to see Mr Yeltsin as the ultimate President of the Soviet Union given the clear support he has at home and given the fact that whatever happens Mr Gorbachev will have been shaken by this experience?

DR KAGALOVSKI:

I think that we must wait for comment until President Gorbachev is free and then we can discuss the relationship between the Union Republics.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, have you information suggesting that Asian troops are on the move?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a matter of concern that whilst I think there is a growing view in the Soviet Union that Russian-speaking troops would be reluctant to storm the Parliament, of course Asian troops not speaking Russian may not have quite the same reluctance. And I wish to raise the matter so that we can make it clear beyond any doubt to the group of eight that that would not be acceptable in any way and to ensure that they regard the parliamentary building as being inviolate, it is inviolate, the legitimate government should be restored and it should not be attacked in any way. I hope nobody thinks that that could remotely be made acceptable in London or in any other capital of the world.

QUESTION:

You are registering your support for the likes of Mr Yeltsin as democratically elected leaders, is there any more you can do and have you been asked this morning to do any more to support Mr Yeltsin and his colleagues?

PRIME MINISTER:

It has been made perfectly clear to us this morning that the importance of moral support, the broadcasts that have been made, the clear condemnation of the coup that has been unreserved from the whole of the free world is an immense help to those in the Soviet Union who are fighting for democracy and for freedom at the moment. There is no doubt that that support will continue, it will continue in the practical forms that were set out in the freezing of aid in the European Community, in the United States and Canada and elsewhere over recent days. Further measures may follow but I think it is premature to discuss those at the moment.

QUESTION:

Would it help if you were to now recognise the independence of the Baltic states to do more on a much more wider scale?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have always had contacts with the Baltic states and indeed the individual republics, but our primary concern at the moment are those I set out yesterday: to restore legitimate government to the Soviet Union; to see President Gorbachev free; to offer all the comfort and support we can to the people who have been directly elected and who have democratic legitimacy in the Soviet Union - that is our first concern and of course to avoid bloodshed, we are bending all our efforts to that at the moment.

QUESTION:

Is Mr Gorbachev free at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have no firm information on that, it does seem that representatives of the Russian republics, the Vice-President I think, the Prime Minister I think and possibly accompanied by Mr Kruchkev [phon], may be going to see President Gorbachev. We believe that is the case, I do not have final confirmation of that at the moment but we believe that may be the case, I hope so.

QUESTION:

Any hard new decisions to be taken at the special summit in The Hague?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will be consulting with our European partners during the course of today and tomorrow prior to the summit at The Hague but events are moving at such a pace at the moment I do not think I can offer you a clear view at the moment of what may be decided at The Hague later on this week.

QUESTION:

Dr Kagalovski, is there any more you would like to see the UK doing and indeed the UK's European partners?

DR KAGALOVSKI:

I believe that the strong position which the government of Great Britain has taken, that is the best step for the normalisation of the situation in our country and I thank the British government for taking such a strong moral and political position on the future of our country.