Yeltsin announces poll for upper house

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BORIS YELTSIN announced yesterday that elections to a new, upper house of parliament would be held simultaneously with elections to the lower house which will replace the legislature he dissolved last month.

President Yeltsin issued a decree announcing the additional vote for 12 December as he left for Japan on a two-day official visit, his first trip outside Russia since troops put down the rebellion started by members of the parliament last week.

The announcement that the new house would be elected by popular vote appeared to be another move in Mr Yeltsin's rush to neutralise the regional and local soviets, or councils, many of which backed the hardline deputies who rebelled against him.

One proposition for the second house had been that it be made up of regional soviet leaders. Yesterday's decree said the new Federation Council would consist of two deputies from each of Russia's 88 regions or autonomous republics.

The lower house of 450 members will be renamed the State Duma, as it was under the tsars.

With a state of emergency and a night-time curfew going into their second week in Moscow, Mr Yeltsin said the situation was under control as he left for Tokyo. About 100 people are in detention for last week's armed uprising, including the two main instigators, Alexander Rutskoi, the former Vice-President, and Ruslan Khasbulatov, the chairman of parliament.

Mr Yeltsin said at Vnukovo airport that the rebel leaders 'are now locked up in a mighty fortress (the Lefortovo security prison) from which no one has escaped'. He added that he was leaving without any qualms since 'beyond any doubt, the situation is under control'.

On Saturday, Mr Yeltsin issued another decree setting up a commission to reform the regional councils. Earlier, he had suggested that they should dissolve themselves as a prelude to new local elections.

The far-eastern Khabarovsk region yesterday complied by suspending all local soviets. In the Black Sea resort of Sochi, deputies of the city soviet turned up to find their offices had been sealed, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

As security authorities reported a dwindling number of curfew violations, military engineers cleaning up the White House, attacked by tank forces loyal to Mr Yeltsin last week, said they had defused two mines, indicating that its defenders had booby-trapped the building.

While little violent crime was reported, gunfire was heard in southern Moscow on Sunday just before the midnight curfew came into force.

In the centre of town, the state of emergency is enforced mainly by grey-uniformed militiamen carrying AK-47 assault rifles. On the main junctions near the city's outskirts, however, the Omon security force deploys armoured personnel carriers topped with machine-guns.

(Photograph omitted)