Yeltsin soothes fears of violence

Click to follow
PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin, attending a farewell ceremony for a riot policeman fatally injured in May Day clashes with Communist hardliners, assured Russians yesterday that they need not fear a repetition of the violence when the country celebrates the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany tomorrow. 'Don't be afraid, I will be there,' Mr Yeltsin told a war veteran who said he was worried about further unrest.

Mr Yeltsin was among thousands of policemen, army officers and ordinary people who came to the Interior Ministry House of Culture in central Moscow to file past the coffin of Vladimir Tolokneyev. The 25-year- old father of a baby daughter was crushed by a truck commandeered by rioters on 1 May and died in hospital on Wednesday without having regained consciousness.

Notable for their absence from the ceremony were the leaders of the Soviet-era parliament, who have criticised the authorities' handling of May Day, when demonstrators were prevented from reaching Red Square. Instead, the deputies, led by the parliamentary chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, spent the day discussing a new constitution for Russia.

In a television address on Thursday, Mr Yeltsin said their deliberations would be not only irrelevant but unlawful, since in April's referendum the people had given him a mandate while expressing dissatisfaction with the assembly. Parliamentary elections should be held by the autumn, declared the President, who has proposed a new constitution of his own.

Leaders of the extreme National Salvation Front, whose supporters threw stones and used metal bars and chains against the police on May Day, say they will hold a procession to Red Square tomorrow despite a ban on city-centre marches.