DETROIT–Russia's economic woes continued Tuesday, when a belligerent Boris Yeltsin was forcibly ejected from a Detroit-area check-cashing service after his attempt to cash a $375 personal check drawn on a Moscow bank was denied.
"[Yeltsin] came in here around 10 p.m., looking to cash a check," said Duane Simmons, night manager of the Mack Avenue Check 'N' Cash where the incident occurred. "So while he's filling out the forms, I check the list we have taped up behind the register, and guess what? The guy's name is there under both Boris Yeltsin and Yeltsin, Boris. And they're both underlined about five times, because, apparently, he owes like $4.3 billion in overdue loans to the International Monetary Fund. So I had to tell him no."
According to witnesses, Yeltsin refused to leave the window, insisting that his check was good. Over the course of the 10-minute conversation that ensued, the Russian president became increasingly hostile toward Simmons, verbally abusing him for not accepting the $375 check, which he claimed was backed by, alternately, Russian grain futures, the United Nations and his boss at Moscow Video Rental. When Simmons suggested that Yeltsin try another check-cashing service in the area, the Russian president became enraged, pounding on the bulletproof glass and threatening to deploy nuclear missiles to the store.
At that point, Simmons called security guard Dale Hobson for assistance.
"When I got there, the guy's face was bright red, and he was pointing at Duane and shouting in what sounded like Russian," Hobson said of Yeltsin. "He had already knocked over a cardboard phone-card display and was trying to tear one of the chained-up ballpoint pens from the counter."
Hobson escorted the irate Yeltsin out of the store, informing him that if he touched the store window, stood in the doorway or even walked past on the sidewalk, it would be considered trespassing, and the police would be called.
The Russian president left the area, but he returned approximately 30 minutes later with a check he claimed was for less money. Simmons, who was still at the counter, refused to let Yeltsin into the store or look at the check.
"He said, 'Please, I apologize greatly. My people need this money,'" Simmons said. "So I was like, 'Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you fired [former minister of international financial negotiations] Anatoli Chubais, sucka.'"
Yeltsin then loitered in the parking lot for another hour, approaching numerous Check 'N' Cash customers, none of whom would take the check inside.
"I could have called the police, but I felt sorry for the old man," Simmons said. "A lot of those guys on the 'do not accept' list are in legal trouble for other stuff, like failure to pay child support. I didn't want to cause any more trouble for him."
No charges were filed against Yeltsin.
News of the check refusal swept quickly through Russian political circles, providing fuel for Yeltsin's many adversaries in parliament.
"Once again, President Yeltsin has proven himself to be an incompetent, ineffectual leader whose misguided plan for Western-style economic reform is doomed," said Gennadi Seleznyov, leader of the Duma's sizable anti-Yeltsin communist faction. "If not for Yeltsin and his disastrous privatization policies, Russia could have easily gotten that check cashed."
Even acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, second in command to Yeltsin, expressed a lack of surprise over the incident. "I told Boris not to go when that Simmons guy was working," Chernomyrdin said. "That guy's a real hard-ass. That fat red-headed girl on the day shift never checks the list."
Yeltsin was unavailable for comment.