Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Military Solution Hurts Russia's Democracy Effort Muscovites Now Worry about Costs of Victory If President's Power Is Unrestricted

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Military Solution Hurts Russia's Democracy Effort Muscovites Now Worry about Costs of Victory If President's Power Is Unrestricted

Article excerpt

IN the end, Russian democracy could only be saved by the armor and arms of the Russian Army.

That bitter irony now hangs as heavily over the Russian political scene as the black clouds of smoke that billowed out of the White House, Russia's marble parliament building. What future can Russian democracy have, many here now wonder, if it must depend on force to survive?

"We cannot speak about victory," says Alexander Golts, political commentator for Red Star, the Army daily. "We must speak about our great tragedy. Of course, the tragedy would have been a thousand times worse if those from the White House won. But after years of talking about the rule of law, again the use of force and military forces was the only instrument for solving political problems in this country."

There is no evidence of any great sympathy in Russia for the extreme Communists and Russian nationalists who were the shock troops of the White House. (Western and Muscovite reaction, Page 2; Yeltsin's reputed deal with the Army, Page 6.)

But some worry that the atmosphere of emergency rule may extend beyond just the days ahead. "The prospect of elections remains under question because military resistance, pockets of which might persist, is not very conducive to the democratic cause," Vitaly Tretiakov, editor of the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, wrote on Oct. 5.

The hint of a tougher posture on the part of the president toward all of his political opponents was also evident Oct. 5 in the decision to cancel a meeting of the Federation Council, a planned grouping of the heads of the administrations and legislatures of Russia's 88 regions. During the confrontation between President Boris Yeltsin and his parliamentary foes, the regions were a key battleground with many deciding either to oppose the president's decree dissolving parliament or to remain neutral.

The decision to call off the council meeting appears to have been taken following an Oct. 4 meeting between Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and regional leaders. "I believe they just have not understood what happened, namely that presidential authority has increased greatly," Nikolai Medvedev, the president's regional liaison, told the official Itar-Tass news agency on Oct. 5.

Mr. Yeltsin is reportedly pondering his next move, including possibly getting rid of the Federation Council. The government is also threatening sanctions against those regions that resisted the president, including suspending the regional councils and calling new elections. On Oct. 5, Yeltsin sacked the heads of two important Siberian regions, Novosibirsk and Amur, who led resistance to him in that part of the country.

Such tough action obscures the reality, confirmed by growing evidence, that even at the point Mr. Yeltsin imposed a state of emergency late Oct. …

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