Yeltsin Pledges Action Against 'Neo-Bolsheviks' : Russia: He plans whirlwind moves on inflation and a new constitution to safeguard reforms.


President Boris N. Yeltsin, vowing tougher action against the "neo-Bolsheviks" he said are ready to spill more blood to oust him, told Russia on Thursday night that he is unleashing a whirlwind of new policies to safeguard his reforms and sweep away remnants of the Soviet past.

Declaring that last month's referendum proved people "truly want to see radical change," Yeltsin outlined in a televised speech wide-ranging actions he plans soon. They include slamming the brakes on rampant inflation, ordering a purge in government ranks and his becoming, in effect, Russia's top cop.

Most important in the political long run is the 62-year-old president's firm decision, reiterated Thursday, to forge ahead with his plan to quickly give Russia a new constitution and governmental institutions, a course bitterly opposed by the conservative-led Parliament and his other enemies.

In his most detailed public statement since the April 25 referendum, a sober-voiced but emphatic Yeltsin thanked voters for the more than 58% majority he won on ballot question No. 1: "Do you trust . . . Yeltsin?"

"People have realized and have sensed the main thing: Russia can embark on the road of resurgence only through reforms, no matter how hard they may be," he said.

His press secretary, Vyacheslav V. Kostikov, said Yeltsin's speech "marks the beginning of the epoch of a new tactical program. . . ." But it was often tantalizingly short on details.

Rocked last Saturday by the worst political violence in recent memory, an apprehensive Moscow is heading for another holiday weekend. The 48th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany will be observed Sunday, and Moscow officials fear the occasion will be used by anti-reform groups to foment disorder.

"We will not allow a civil war," Yeltsin reassured the country.

He blamed the May Day street brawl, in which a riot policeman was fatally crushed by a truck, on die-hard opponents of change and the conservative-dominated Parliament.

Police officer Vladimir Tolokneyev's tragic death, Yeltsin said, was a warning that "we should not relax for a minute."

"The neo-Bolsheviks are again ready to sacrifice the people, to plunge the country into an abyss of violence and chaos in order to seize power," he said.

Yeltsin said he feels empowered by the referendum to take "more resolute action" to protect his policies, but he did not give details.

"I cannot guess what concrete steps the president will take," said Ilya V. Konstantinov, leader of the rabid anti-reform National Salvation Front and an organizer of last Saturday's protest. "I think we will just have to wait and see."

In one of the few passages where Yeltsin allowed a flicker of emotion to show, the president slowly explained that he has stripped Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi of his duties as overseer of agriculture and the government's war on crime because he had become a turncoat.

"During preparations for the referendum, the vice president actually became one of the leaders of the opponents of the reforms," Yeltsin said. "I have lost my trust in Rutskoi."

Rutskoi, a former Afghanistan war fighter pilot who retains his office but none of his past duties, had accused many officials in the Russian government of corruption.

Yeltsin said Thursday he would personally assume the chairmanship of the intergovernmental anti-crime commission and promised to get to the bottom of rumors and accusations of official malfeasance.

Contending that voters showed they want "an end to the lack of power, to the permanent tough resistance to reforms," Yeltsin vowed to move full speed ahead with a blueprint, whose legality is questioned by many, for a new constitution.

The plan calls for replacing the current Congress of People's Deputies with a smaller two-chamber legislature and making the presidency powerful enough to dissolve the legislature.

Last week, Yeltsin distributed a draft text of a new constitution to leaders of Russia's provinces, republics and largest cities. They have until May 20 to ponder it, and then a "constitutional conference" will be held for representatives from throughout Russia, the president said Thursday.

Intentionally steering a collision course, Yeltsin's most influential foe, Parliament Chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, called a meeting of Parliament's Constitutional Commission for today. Yeltsin denounced that move as illegal.

"I must remind you that the president of Russia is the chairman of the Constitutional Commission," Yeltsin told his television audience. "And I will take the decision to convene the Constitutional Commission when the need arises."

Obscure at first glance, the fight over constitutional niceties is really about who will wield power in Russia. A proposed draft by commission secretary Oleg G. Rumyantsev would give Yeltsin fewer powers; he could not, for example, call a referendum.

But how Yeltsin gets the document he wants made into the law of the land is an unanswered riddle.

"A new constitution can be adopted only in compliance with the constitution currently in force," Boris N. Lazarev, head of the department of constitutional law at Moscow's Institute of State and Law, said. "And according to the present law, this can only be done by the Congress."

Yet it is the 1,033-member Congress, created by Soviet-era legislation in 1990, that Yeltsin wants to eliminate as a hotbed of opposition to him and his policies.

Mocking the power base of his foes, Yeltsin called the April 25 results "a big political defeat for the legislative organs of Russia."

Reassuring ordinary people that he has their material interests at heart, Yeltsin vowed "the most decisive measures" to form a "socially oriented market economy." He said that fighting inflation, which was 16% in April, will be the first priority.

Yeltsin also said he is demanding that Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin and presidential prefects throughout the country act to weed out bureaucrats who slack off or oppose the reforms.

His opponents, meanwhile, kept up a drumbeat of criticism. Khasbulatov told a session of the Supreme Soviet, the standing legislature drawn from Congress' ranks, that police action on May Day signaled "a general tendency toward autocracy."

The anti-reform Union of Officers announced plans to hold a march Sunday of World War II veterans despite a specific ban from Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov.

Group chairman Lt. Col. Stanislav Terekhov told reporters the march will be open to anyone seeking to take part in a "peaceful" demonstration.

In another development, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court, which is now trying 12 former Kremlin officials on charges that they tried to overthrow Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in August, 1991, said it does not have enough information yet to justify taking three of the men back into custody for their alleged roles on May Day.

The prosecutor general's office had demanded Wednesday that former KGB Chairman Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, former Soviet Parliament Chairman Anatoly I. Lukyanov and former Soviet Vice President Gennady I. Yanayev, all free on their own recognizance, be thrown back in jail for allegedly trying to "destabilize society."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World