Yeltsin Goes on TV to Seek Russians’ Support
Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, delaying a broadcast of the soap opera “Santa Barbara” for reasons of state, went on the air Thursday evening to ask the Russian people to support his call for a timeout in the nation’s political struggle.
“Russia, all of us are fed up with tension and confrontation,” Yeltsin said in a brief televised address. “We need a breathing space. . . . We have too much to do to waste time and effort on fruitless battles with each other.”
In a nutshell, Yeltsin’s scheme, made public two days ago, would require Russia’s legislature, the Supreme Soviet, to stop functioning as a quasi-government in some areas and hand control of the Central Bank, Pension Fund, State Property Fund and several other institutions that play a crucial economic role to Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin’s Cabinet.
The bank--and consequently Russia’s money supply--now ultimately answers to lawmakers. This arrangement, key economists complain, allows deputies to undermine market reforms by printing oodles of rubles with which to subsidize state-run businesses.
Yeltsin said he will stop interfering in the work of the far more conservative and anti-market legislature as his share of the bargain. Envoys from the executive and legislative branches are supposed to develop a mutually satisfactory power-sharing deal that can remain in place until a new Russian constitution is adopted, he said.
“I want to stress again that these negotiations are neither a trade-off nor a deal behind the people’s back,” Yeltsin, who spoke from the suburban Moscow villa where he began a winter break on Monday, reassured Russians in the taped message broadcast after the 8 p.m. news. “The key task of these negotiations is to create, at last, conditions for stability.”
Yeltsin remarked during the 16-minute speech that he had not yet received full-dress proposals endorsed by the Supreme Soviet’s leadership. Chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov had been expected to address lawmakers Thursday and reveal a counteroffer, but instead he left Moscow as previously scheduled for a meeting of regional leaders in Siberia.
Yeltsin warned that he will make good on his threat to proceed with a nationwide referendum in April if a compromise ending the crisis of power cannot be reached with the legislature.
“It is well known where the root of the tension is,” said Yeltsin. " . . . It is this unquenchable striving (by the Supreme Soviet and legislative organs at lower levels) to replace all and everything: the government and the president and the judicial organs--to stand over them, but not be responsible for anything.”