President Mikhail S. Gorbachev moved Friday to limit political rallies in the capital, stripping the radical-dominated Moscow City Council of the right to authorize them and giving control to the far more conservative Council of Ministers.
The move is likely to bring the Soviet leader into conflict with the city council, which elected radical economist Gavrill K. Popov as mayor Friday. In the national Parliament, Popov is a leader of the interregional deputies group, which has often clashed with Gorbachev.
Popov, 54, is a short, plump, soft-spoken man of Greek ancestry who against all odds has become a popular hero. His election was ensured by support from the Democratic Russia bloc of progressives that dominates the new Mossoviet, or city council.
A Communist Party member, Popov is also active in the Democratic Platform Reform group within the party. That faction has been fiercely attacked by Gorbachev and the party establishment, and several of its leaders have either been expelled from the party or quit voluntarily.
Popov said he intends to stay in the party for now, implying that he will not quit before the 28th Party Congress, at which the party is expected to define its role in the Soviet Union's new multi-party politics.
Gorbachev's order requiring approval of the Council of Ministers, the executive arm of the national government, for rallies inside Moscow's Garden Ring, an inner-ring road, came just three days after he was sharply criticized at a rally outside the Kremlin. That rally was not only authorized but attended by about 200 Mossoviet deputies.