After Blow to Yeltsin, Russian Hard-Liners List Next Targets as President Considers Options, Including Early Elections, Opponents Take Aim at Economic Reforms and Media

By Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

After Blow to Yeltsin, Russian Hard-Liners List Next Targets as President Considers Options, Including Early Elections, Opponents Take Aim at Economic Reforms and Media


Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE brutal struggle for power between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and conservative foes in parliament continues amid growing confusion over where the lines of authority and legitimacy are drawn.

The four-day emergency meeting of the Congress of People's Deputies ended Saturday with the president badly battered, his efforts at compromise spurned, and his powers weakened.

"The fight is not finished; it is only beginning," declares Ilya Konstantinov, the most unyielding member of the hard-line axis of Communists and extreme Russian nationalists.

With grim determination, the bearded head of the National Salvation Front lists his next targets: to seize control of the influential state-controlled television and mass media organizations; to oust the head of Russia's privatization program, the most important bastion of the economic reformers; and to take over the public prosecutor's office.

The final target is clear: Boris Yeltsin. "We don't speak of impeachment today," says Mr. Konstantinov, "but the more Yeltsin escalates the confrontation, the closer the question of impeachment comes."

The hard-liners show little fear of the much-discussed threat of a state of emergency with the backing of the Army and security agencies, the former KGB. "If Yeltsin seriously had support in the enforcement ministries, he would not have talked with the Congress," Konstantinov says.

For many Yeltsin supporters among the democrats, the president's angry walkout Friday from the Congress was an act of weakness, not strength. Each impulsive move, as happened when the Congress met last December, gives the hard-liners an opening.

"Now we are witnessing a political retreat," explains Vladimir Lysenko, head of the Republican Party, one of the factions in the democratic movement. "There are two paths - either a slow political retreat, a flexible political game with a hope to stop it without letting it grow into an armed putsch, or such cavalry charges by {Yeltsin} as we witnessed here and at the previous Congress. If he is not toppled directly after such moves, it will take place in the next few months."

At least for now, the dominant voice among Mr. Yeltsin's advisers is that of the moderates, men such as Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vice Premiers Vladimir Shumeiko and Sergei Shakrai. They clearly oppose an authoritarian move by the president.

"There is an arbiter over both the president and the Congress - that is the people," says Mr. Shakrai, who also serves as Yeltsin's legal adviser. "There are only two legal means to resolve the crisis - a referendum or early elections. It is better to go to the polls than to take to the streets."

But Yeltsin's announced plans to go ahead with a referendum to decide whether there should be a presidential or parliamentary state is widely viewed as a hopeless tactic. The forces which blocked Yeltsin at the Congress, especially their supporters among the regional parliaments and the republics that make up the Russian federation, will surely try to obstruct the conduct of a vote. "In this case, the president will find himself on the brink of resignation," says Lysenko. …

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