RUSSIAN President Boris Yeltsin last night bit the hand that fed him.

Leaving the royal yacht Britannia after saying farewell to the Queen

who had entertained him to a banquet, he was asked as he wove his way

down the red carpet back to dry land how he had enjoyed the meal.

''Russian food is better,'' he replied. It seems that the royal taste

of Scotland provided by the Queen had not appealed to him.

The first course was Glamis salmon -- the fish had been caught on the

royal estates on the River Dee -- and the second course was roast saddle

of Balmoral venison.

The Queen was said to have wanted to give her Russian guests food from

her Scottish estates.

She did not have much luck either with the food served at the

reception given to the guests not invited to dinner.

One of them, leaning over Britannia's rail waiting for the Royal

Marine band to Beat Retreat, was asked about the food. ''You won't envy

us. We get better food at home,'' he said.

But it was otherwise sweetness and light as the Queen in a tiara, her

ballgown covered by a long, black, floor-length fur coat, said goodbye

and fireworks erupted behind the Britannia.

She arrives in Finland today where she will have tea with the

President before returning to London. Manchester may not be such a nice

place in the Queen's opinion but clearly Scottish food is regarded in

much the same way by President Yeltsin.

Earlier yesterday, the Quenn and President Yeltsin marked the new

relationship between Britain and Russia by laying wreaths at the

memorial in the Piskarevskoye cemetery, in which many of the 650,000

people who died during the siege of Leningrad, which lasted for three

years until January 1944, are buried.

The sun shone on the mass graves lightly scattered with snow as the

Queen and President, preceded by goose-stepping Russian soldiers

carrying his wreath of red and white flowers and ratings from HMS

Glasgow carrying her wreath of poppies, walked slowly between the long

line of graves.

To their right lay the graves in which the civilians are buried, to

the left those in which lie the Russian soldiers who defended the city

against the Germans.

It is a long walk which ends at a statue of a woman representing the


They watched as their wreaths were placed at the foot of the plinth on

which the statue stands and the band played the national anthems of both

countries. It was a solemn moment and a moving one.

However, all was not solemnity. After the wreath-laying ceremony was

over, the Queen and the President walked behind the statue where

veterans from the Russian army and British veterans of the Arctic

convoys, wearing their medals, were lined up.

There was one Scot, Mr Hugh Noble, 70, an Aberdonian, who made a trip

to Murmansk in 1943 on Fort Bellingham, a liberty ship. Once had been

enough, he said. Mr Noble was wearing Highland dress and his kilt was a

Hunting Mackintosh.

''You are Scottish,'' said the Queen, spotting him in the line-up. Mr

Noble said he was and told her the weather was like a summer's day in

Aberdeen. ''A bit colder,'' said the Queen, who was wearing her mink

coat and, most unusually, a pair of black Avenger-style boots which went

above the knee and had platform soles.

The veterans did not appear affected by the bitter cold and had left

their coats behind. All was revealed later. They had come well equipped

with hip flasks full of whisky. Asked what they intended to do when they

go to Murmansk this weekend for further celebrations, they chorused:

''Vodka, vodka, vodka''.

Earlier, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the cathedral of

Saints Peter and Paul where all the tsars from Peter the Great to

Alexander III, father of Nicholas II, the last Romanov, are buried.

The Russians are planning to bury the remains of Nicholas II and his

family, executed by the communists in 1917, somewhere in the cathedral

next year.

The Queen was told this but asked no questions about their plans and

neither she nor the Duke will return for that ceremony. It is even

doubtful whether a member of the royal family will be present despite

the fact Nicholas II was a relation. It is a question which has haunted

this visit.

The Queen was interested, however, in the tombs of Peter the Great and

of Alexander III. Yesterday she was not at her most animated, although

the palace insisted this had nothing to do with the reaction in Britain

to her remarks made on Wednesday about Manchester being not such a nice

place. ''Not even a minor distraction,'' was how an official put it.

The visit to St Petersburg has been marked by the fact that at last

she is managing to meet the Russian people. The crowds have been larger

than in Moscow and when she and the Duke toured the Hermitage Museum

housed in the Winter Palace, school parties and groups of tourists were

going round at the same time.

The museum's director, Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, said the Duke had

been particularly interested in Catherine the Great's carriage, a gilt

affair of considerable splendour, and had pointed out details of its

construction to the Queen. Being frequent carriage travellers, they are

obviously experts on suspension.

He said the Queen had been delighted to find on display some

watercolours by British and Russian artists she had given as a present

to Mr Klim Voroshilov, chairman of the Supreme Soviet, when he visited

London in 1956.

The palace said she had given them to Mr Bulganin and Mr Kruschev when

they visited London.

When she left, she was presented with two volumes of a new history of

the contents of the Hermitage published in London. She also signed the

visitors book.

They was a slight hiccup when Russian television crews told the Duke,

who was watching her, to get out of their way. However, he obliged and

also signed the book. The last person to sign it was former US president

Jimmy Carter who was here in September.

The Queen's state visit had come at the right time, Foreign Secretary

Douglas Hurd said last night in a BBC television interview recorded

after the wreath-laying ceremony at the cemetery. He said we had just

seen the old partnership of the war years.

''Now there is a new partnership of businessmen, of expert

professional people, and also governments. The kind of conversations

John Major had with Mr Yeltsin at Chequers and the kind I had yesterday

in Moscow would have been inconceivable even a couple of years ago. From

now on they are going to be normal.''