Yeltsin threatens parliamentary foes with political war: President rails against 'bastion of reaction'

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN said yesterday he was going to launch political war on his opponents in the Soviet-era parliament this autumn. Addressing reporters on the second anniversary of the failed hardline coup, he said it was painful to see the White House (parliament), which Muscovites defended against tanks in 1991, turned into a 'bastion of reaction'. The only way out was to force pre-term parliamentary elections.

Despite the pro-reform vote in April's referendum, the assembly was blocking change, the President said. 'Only one conclusion can be drawn - the activity of parliament has become anti-people in character and is increasingly threatening Russia's security. It shames Russia before the whole world . . . The only solution is elections. We must throw off the chains of the old political monopoly.'

The parliamentary Speaker, Ruslan Khasbulatov, who helped Mr Yeltsin to thwart the coup attempt but who has since become his main rival, retorted: 'There will be no early elections this autumn.'

Strictly speaking, a poll before the expiry of parliament's five-year mandate in 1995 would require the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment, something it is most unlikely to do, as this would end the political careers of most of the present MPs.

Mr Yeltsin acknowledged that they would almost certainly refuse to face the judgement of the electors but he said legal experts had helped him to work out a plan of action in the event of attempts to defy him. 'It is written down on paper but I don't think it is worth talking about it now,' he said, disclosing only that the month of September would be one of 'battle', while October would see the main developments.

He hastened to add that by 'battle' he meant political struggle and he had no intention of bringing in the army to help him.

He said the elections would be lively: 'Business people are convinced that the politicians are hampering them. They will want to take part and be involved. The new parliament will be very businesslike and intelligent and will help Russia and her reforms.'

Some newspaper commentators have suggested that in order to persuade parliament to break the continuing political deadlock, Mr Yeltsin should also volunteer to stand for re- election, although he is not as far through his term of office as the MPs. But the president did not discuss this idea yesterday. Since Mr Yeltsin has failed to build fully on his April referendum victory and especially since a botched money reform earlier this summer, the Russian press has been speculating about the Kremlin leader's political competence and the state of his health. Yesterday he looked well, although he walked a little stiffly.

He described his typical week as beginning with a full meeting of his staff on Monday morning and ending with an 'analytical day' on Saturday.

Mr Yeltsin said he always made time for sport: 'On Tuesday I played 14 games of tennis. Let those who have doubts about my health try playing 14 games of tennis.'

Asked what he thought his main mistakes had been and whether he felt the time since the coup had been wasted, he insisted that no opportunities had been missed and that Russia was a completely different country from two years ago. But he admitted that he had erred by not calling elections to a new parliament straight after the putsch. 'It took us two years to get to this and we should have done it immediately.'

Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi yesterday rejected allegations that he was linked to a secret Swiss bank account into which millions of dollars had been smuggled out of Russia, Reuter reports. He said that he would take legal steps to defend his honour: 'All the so-called facts concerning my complicity in illegal actions . . . are lies and deliberate falsehoods. As a citizen of Russia, I will take steps through the courts to defend my honour and dignity.'

The allegations against Mr Rutskoi were made on Wednesday by a Kremlin commission investigating high- level corruption.