Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gorbachev Defies Russian Court Conflict with Constitutional Court Is His Latest Skirmish with Yeltsin Government

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gorbachev Defies Russian Court Conflict with Constitutional Court Is His Latest Skirmish with Yeltsin Government

Article excerpt

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, once the most powerful man in the now defunct Soviet Union, asks the world to view him as a victim of political repression.

This supposed twist of fate is the result of a decision by the Russian government last Friday to bar Mr. Gorbachev from leaving the country until he complies with a demand to testify before the Constitutional Court. The court summoned him as a witness in its landmark case on whether to uphold Russian President Boris Yeltsin's ban of the Soviet Communist Party, which Gorbachev once headed.

In response to this ban, Gorbachev has wrapped himself in the garb of a human rights dissident, even evoking the title attached to Jews and other dissidents barred exit from the Soviet Union.

"The first {and last} Soviet president has been turned into the first political `refusenik' of Russia," Gorbachev's press office declared Oct. 3.

Gorbachev's spat with the court is only the latest in a series of public skirmishes with Yeltsin and his government. The former Soviet leader, who was ousted from office last December as the Soviet Union crumbled, no longer conceals his opposition to Yeltsin, nor his desire to make a political comeback.

When the court summoned him to testify, Gorbachev publicly dismissed the proceedings as a political show. He directed this not only at the president's representatives, who seek the approval of the ban, but also at the former Communists who are suing for its reversal.

The former Communists, too, have been eager to have Gorbachev testify, in part to force him to acknowledge responsibility for the collapse of the country and the party.

In his open letter issued Sept. 29, Gorbachev directed most of his fire at the Yeltsin government for using the anti-Communist trial to distract the public from his failed economic reforms.

"The other side {Yeltsin's}, losing social support and looking for a scapegoat, puts our history in the dock to prove the party was unconstitutional," he said. …

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