Yeltsin Wins by Four Votes : Gorbachev Says He’s Worried by Archrival’s New Post : Soviet Chief, Wife Arrive in Canada
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said today he is “somewhat worried” about the election of his political archrival Boris N. Yeltsin as president of the Russian Federation--the Soviet Union’s biggest republic.
“I am somewhat worried about the situation at the Peoples Congress of Deputies, which was a kind of face-off, confrontation that affects the solution of issues,” Gorbachev told reporters shortly after his arrival in Canada for summit meetings here and in Washington.
Gorbachev, beset by domestic strife of all sorts as he left on his summit swing, learned he had acquired yet one more problem--the election of Yeltsin as chief of the vast Russian republic--even as he flew toward the West.
The Soviet leader paused to give his first public reaction outside the residence of Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Reporters peppered him with questions on the news of Yeltsin, who was elected Russia’s president by Parliament in a landslide over a Communist establishment candidate backed by Gorbachev.
“There was a need for cooperation and working together--instead there was a confrontation,” Gorbachev said of Yeltsin’s elevation.
In what appeared to be a veiled warning to Yeltsin, a radical populist and a fierce critic of Gorbachev’s economic and social reforms, the Soviet president accused his antagonist of shifting positions on key subjects and added:
“If he is playing a game, then we may be in for difficult times. Life is richer than any teacher.”
Apparently referring to the turmoil now besetting the Soviet Union in the form of panic food-buying in anticipation of economic reforms, renewed ethnic strife in Armenia and the breakaway independence drive among Baltic republics, Gorbachev said his country needed a settling-down period.
“The most important challenge we now face is for consolidation,” he said.
He and Yeltsin once were close political allies but the Soviet party hierarchy, with Gorbachev’s blessing, fired Yeltsin from his power-base position as Moscow party chief about two years ago when it was felt his calls for radical reforms and new leadership had gone too far.
He has since made a dramatic comeback.
Earlier, Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, stepped down from their Ilyushin 62 aircraft, passing between two red-coated, ramrod straight Royal Canadian Mounted policemen to be greeted by Gov. Gen. Ray Hnatyshn and Mulroney.
“This is a time of dramatic change in the world,” Gorbachev said, noting that he and the prime minister would cover a wide range of subjects, including developments in Europe and the Arctic.
“It is our hope that this Soviet-Canadian summit will bring us to a new level of cooperation,” said Gorbachev, who looked a bit drawn and haggard after his long flight.
Wednesday is to feature a wreath-laying ceremony at the national War Memorial followed by a meeting with Mulroney. A brief news conference with Mulroney is to precede Gorbachev’s departure for Washington.