Yeltsin insists he is in control: President warns defiant opponents of jailing if they stir up trouble

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AS supporters wrung their hands in despair, coal-miners went on strike and foes fresh from prison returned to the attack, President Boris Yeltsin made a halting attempt yesterday to reassert his authority, declaring, through a spokesman: 'I am fully in control of the socio-political situation.'

He also warned that former vice-president Alexander Rutskoi, the deposed parliamentary speaker, Ruslan Khasbulatov, and other opponents arrested after last October's bloodshed in Moscow and released on Saturday, would be thrown back in prison immediately if they stir up trouble.

Mr Yeltsin's remarks were made, according to his spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, during a meeting yesterday with Ivan Rybkin, chairman of the State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament which last week voted a sweeping amnesty of political figures involved in violent opposition. Mr Rybkin tried to calm fear of new political eruptions: 'There will be no coups, no civil war.'

The furore over amnesty distracted attention from Russia's restive coal-miners, who once considered themselves Mr Yeltsin's most loyal allies but are now near open revolt. They staged a one-day warning strike, covering some 80 per cent of Russian pits. Many have not been paid for three months or more.

Mr Yeltsin, dogged in recent months by ill-health and, according to some accounts, serious depression, has yet to comment in public on an amnesty covering leaders of the 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, last October's uprising and a riot in Moscow's Gagarin Square on May Day. He had been due to appear on television on Monday but cancelled.

His spokesman said the President stressed during his meeting with Mr Rybkin that acceptance of the amnesty was 'an acknowledgement of guilt in committing criminal acts'. But there is little, if any, legal basis for this. Those released have strongly denied any admission of guilt.

In an interview with Sovietskaya Rossiya newspaper, Mr Khasbulatov disavowed politics but said of Mr Yeltsin: 'He is doomed. He will bear responsibility for (Defence Minister Pavel) Grachev with tanks . . . Their trial is still ahead.' He added defiantly, 'Remember the President has staged a coup d'etat' and mocked Mr Yeltsin for adopting many of the nationalist and conservative themes raised by the old parliament.

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