Yeltsin’s Rule Assailed by His Vice President : Russia: The former general blasts the administration as a mix of incompetence and raging political ambition.
In the biggest crack yet to appear in Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin’s government, Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi on Wednesday blasted the Yeltsin administration as a frightening mix of incompetence and raging political ambition.
“The White House,” Rutskoi said, referring to the towering Russian government building, “has become a place of intrigues. And no one knows anymore where we’re going and what our goal is.
“Everything is sliding into an abyss: the economy, finances and the main thing--the people’s faith,” he told the prestigious Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper) in an interview in which he savaged almost every aspect of the Russian government’s performance.
The vice president’s dissenting voice signaled a serious rift growing in Yeltsin’s team, even as he focuses on the urgent tasks of reforming the economy and creating the new Commonwealth of Independent States among former Soviet republics.
Although the Soviet Union’s final demise and its replacement by the new commonwealth are now accepted facts, a campaign by members of the old Soviet Parliament has now reportedly gathered enough signatures to convene the 2,250-member Congress of People’s Deputies one last time. The session could be used to develop “a serious approach to the formation of the new commonwealth,” deputy Vladimir Samarin, one of the campaign’s initiators, told the Interfax news agency.
The Council of the Republics, one chamber of the smaller, working Soviet legislature, approved the commonwealth’s establishment at its session Wednesday, hailing it as “a real guarantee for overcoming the present acute political and economic crisis.”
With the remains of the Soviet government expected to close down by January, possibly as early as New Year’s Day, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s future political role remains unclear. Gorbachev said in televised interviews on Wednesday that he plans to continue in politics.
But Yeltsin told Italian television that, on the contrary, he doubts that Gorbachev would play a role in the commonwealth structures.
“I told him that when the month of December ends, everything ends,” Yeltsin said. “It’s useless for someone with his past to lose himself in secondary tasks.”
But in criticism eerily reminiscent of the complaints that plagued Gorbachev’s government, Vice President Rutskoi warned: “There is no power and no democracy now in Russia . . . (only) utter powerlessness, chaos and anarchy.”
Rutskoi, 44, a former bomber pilot and Soviet major general who broke from the Communist Party earlier this year with a large moderate faction known as “Communists for Democracy,” has lashed out at aspects of Yeltsin’s programs before, but never in such an overarching attack.
Although Rutskoi was clearly motivated in part by personal frustration--his attempts at assuming any real power and defined jobs have been repeatedly blocked--his criticism also appeared to herald growing opposition to Yeltsin’s government. It could swell dramatically after price increases take effect as scheduled Jan. 2.
Rutskoi questioned the basic plan for Yeltsin’s reforms, which free most prices from state control--fueling an instant bout of super-inflation--before selling off masses of state-owned factories and stores. According to Rutskoi, instead of introducing healthy market-economy mechanisms, “we have entered anarchy, and we have entered not entrepreneurship but speculation.”
The whole style of Yeltsin’s government, the vice president said, is unproductive, focused as it is on the mass issuance of presidential decrees that end up--much like Gorbachev’s--largely ignored. “Russia resembles a bureau for producing decrees,” he said. “Since he was elected, the president has issued 270 decrees.”
Yegor Gaidar, Yeltsin’s overseer of the economy, paid little heed to Rutskoi’s criticism when asked about it at a press conference on Wednesday. He said with reserve that he thought Yeltsin would disagree. “The president has quite decisively settled on the need to take the risk of tough but necessary measures,” Gaidar said.
As for Rutskoi’s accusations of political intrigues in the White House, Gaidar said that Yeltsin, who takes full responsibility for the reforms and who appointed himself prime minister to carry them out, “has no reason to play political games.”
But Rutskoi has clearly fallen victim to the political maneuvering that has kept him distant from Yeltsin since their joint triumph in Russian elections in June.
Profile: Alexander V. Rutskoi
Russian Federation Vice President
Career highlights: Highly decorated former air force general, hero of Afghan war. Shot down and captured by Afghan rebels. A reformed Communist, joined Boris N. Yeltsin’s electoral slate to pacify hostile Communist Party and military blocs. During August coup, appealed to Soviet armed forces to disobey hard-liners and flew to Crimea with a group of armed loyalists to rescue Mikhail S. Gorbachev.