Gennady Burbulis, the President's state secretary, said Russian leaders were discussing the imposition of emergency rule.
Mr Burbulis and Alexander Shokhin, a deputy prime minister, also indicated that Mr Yeltsin might attempt to postpone a meeting of the highest legislature, the Congress of People's Deputies, scheduled for 1 December. The Congress, which has more than 1,000 members and is even more conservative than the 252- member Supreme Soviet, is expected to launch a full-scale assault on Mr Yeltsin's reformist government and to seek sweeping restrictions on the President's personal powers.
'We must think over the following questions: Who needs this Congress? What decisions will it adopt and what will their consequences be for the course of our reforms?' Mr Burbulis said. He added that it was necessary 'not to allow the opposition to rally together in its openly revanchist endeavours'.
Mr Yeltsin has thrown down the gauntlet to his enemies this week by banning the National Salvation Front, a newly formed coalition of military, Communist and ultra-nationalist hardliners, and by outlawing a shadowy 5,000- strong security service that was loyal to one of his chief rivals, the Speaker of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov. In an interview with the liberal weekly Argumenty i Fakty, the President suggested that he was contemplating further action to shore up his power. 'God knows, I have taken many steps to accommodate the Supreme Soviet,' he said, 'but it has become conservative, and it appears useless in most cases to expect from it any steps aimed at radical reforms.'
Both the Supreme Soviet and the Congress are filled with former Communists elected more than two years ago under old Soviet rules. Voting patterns in the Supreme Soviet show that only 20 per cent of deputies regularly support Mr Yeltsin, while 35 per cent regularly oppose him.
A survey released yesterday by the independent polling centre Mnenie (Opinion) indicated that Mr Yeltsin was still Russia's most popular politician, with a 67 per cent approval rating. Only 22 per cent wanted him to resign, compared with 49 per cent who wanted Mr Khasbulatov to quit.
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