WASHINGTON, D.C.: In a move to stay on top of an increasingly unstable political situation in Russia, Secretary of State Warren Christopher will meet Russian leaders next month, and again in March, in anticipation of a Clinton-Yeltsin summit in April. Christopher will fly to Helsinki on February 9 for talks with new foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, a hardliner who recently replaced reformer Andrei Kozyrev. TIME's Bruce Nelan reports that a series of similar retrenchments on Yeltsin's part has "many people in Washington very worried about the course Yeltsin seems to be taking. Though some at State believe he is trying to play a political game before the elections, many also think that he may actually be abandoning reforms." The appointment of Primakov has special resonance. "Primakov didn't have a very savory reputation around Washington, even before he was head of the KGB," explains Nelan. "Most people here think he had links to the KGB his whole life. And as a Middle East specialist, he is also the one who formed alliances with Syria and Iraq and other radical muslim states and was trying until the last moment to work out a deal for his buddy Saddam Hussein. These meetings will be very important."