Yeltsin berates his cabinet for ineptitude

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - President Boris Yeltsin sternly chastised his government yesterday for failing to contain the revolt by conservative hardliners last month, and blamed the cabinet for ineptitude in addressing Russia's most urgent political and economic needs.

The President, in his first wide-ranging policy statement since the parliament-led rebellion was crushed on 4 October, also called for tough new emergency measures to counter potential new 'political terrorism' in the country. 'It must be admitted that we underestimated this danger and showed unforgivable complacency,' Mr Yeltsin told a cabinet meeting which was also attended by about 50 other leading political figures and regional officials.

He criticised law enforcement bodies for allowing armed groups which backed the parliament to operate 'in the open' and made clear his view that the government had mishandled the rebellion as it gathered force over two weeks.

'We now need emergency measures - political, legal and organisational - to curb political terrorism,' Mr Yeltsin said. He added that those responsible for the bloodshed last month would be 'prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law'.

Mr Yeltsin's remarks, reported by Russian news media, also strongly attacked the current 'slack pace' of reform and stressed that government inattention to the basic social needs of the average Russian had helped fuel the rebellion.

In a thinly veiled criticism of the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, the President said that he often received draft decrees which were at 'glaring variance' with the law and which 'push authorities to act arbitrarily'.

During the two-week state of emergency that followed the crushing of the revolt, Mr Chernomyrdin sent Mr Yeltsin a decree for signing that called in particular for the television studios and broadcast-time allotted to the legislature to be given to the government. Mr Yeltsin rejected the decree then and said yesterday he was worried that, with central-government control over local administrations now 'virtually non-existent . . . some officials have acquired a taste for the state of emergency'.

Mr Chernomyrdin stated separately that he did not intend to be a candidate in next month's legislative elections and that he was 'little interested' in who would be named to head a new government, Interfax news agency reported.

Even as Mr Yeltsin spoke, indications of fresh challenges to his leadership continued to emerge from politicians and political groups around the country. The Communist daily Pravda reappeared yesterday after a month-long ban and promised to maintain its 'leftist' opposition to Mr Yeltsin.