Yeltsin Seizes Chance to Purge Political Enemies

Article excerpt

AS burly riot police, red carnations in their hands, black leather boots on their feet, buried their dead yesterday, President Boris Yeltsin extended his blitz on conservative opponents, closing down Russia's highest court, forcing out a leading trade union leader, and announcing plans to downgrade the Lenin mausoleum.

Flags flew at half mast across the country yesterday, declared an official day of mourning for more than 170 people killed in an armed uprising that spilled more blood in Moscow than the 1917 revolution.

The new death-toll includes 49 bodies retrieved from the White House, pounded into submission on Monday by T-80 tanks and hundreds of soldiers called in to to supress what Mr Yeltsin condemns as a "Communist-fascist rebellion". Mr Yeltsin has moved rapidly since Monday to banish all remnants of the old Soviet order. He signed a decree yesterday suspending the Constitutional Court, which had frequently sided with his political enemies. "When the risk of civil war grew, the court did nothing," it read. The court enraged Mr Yeltsin by insisting that Russia's 1978 constitution must be respected. The court chairman, Valery Zorkin, was forced to resign on Wednesday.

Igor Klochkov, chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and a critic of Mr Yeltsin's radical free-market reforms, stepped down yesterday. There have even been suggestions from some of Mr Yeltsin's more radical supporters that the Russian Patriarch, Alexei II, should consider his position after failed attempts to mediate between parliament and president.

A day after the withdrawal of honour guards from Lenin's tomb in Red Square, officials announced yesterday that the Guard Post No 1, responsible for the mausoleum for some 60 years, would soon be abolished. In its place will be a new ceremonial unit near the eternal flame in the Kremlin Wall. …