Republic Leaders to Back Yeltsin on New Constitution, Aide Says

<i> From a Times Staff Writer</i>

With Boris N. Yeltsin and his foes hastily marshaling forces for next week’s showdown on a new constitution, an aide claimed Wednesday that the president won key backing from a conclave of leaders of ethnic minorities.

But the leaders of Russia’s semiautonomous republics, who are trying to bargain for as much power and influence as they can get in the Russia to come, put nothing in writing. Some made it clear that they will not give Yeltsin carte blanche.

There is now less than a week and a half left before Yeltsin convenes his assembly June 5 in the Kremlin, with the goal being approval of the draft constitution Yeltsin wants for his country.


Further stirring the country’s troubled political waters, some of Yeltsin’s Communist enemies announced plans to hold their own “constitutional conference” in Moscow next week.

The leaders of the 21 ethnic homelands--often backward, little-known places like Mordovia or Chuvashia--supported Yeltsin’s proposal for the special assembly, Yeltsin’s press secretary, Vyacheslav V. Kostikov, said. Kostikov said a majority also supported Yeltsin’s draft but want it reworked to take into account a rival proposal from a committee of Russia’s Congress of People’s Deputies.

The 2 1/2-hour meeting was a “serious victory for the president,” Kostikov said.

However, in a final document, the republic leaders did not state explicitly that they had endorsed Yeltsin’s draft text, the Interfax news agency said.