Yeltsin rings in New Year on note of reform
Monday 01 January 1996
President Boris Yeltsin, fighting to keep his job after the Communists made big gains in parliamentary elections, urged Russians in a New Year message to stay the course of economic reform and not allow the political clock to be turned back in 1996.
"It is in Russia's national interests to develop democracy, to strengthen law and order and to continue economic reforms," Mr Yeltsin told guests at a New Year reception in the Kremlin. "This is the path determined by global development. If we try to abandon it, we will find ourselves in a dead end again. The year 1996 should not become a year of new shocks and reverse movement."
The Russian leader returned last week to his Kremlin office from the sanatorium where he had been convalescing after his heart attack in October. Extracts from the New Year speech were broadcast to the nation on television.
Last year has not been a good one for Mr Yeltsin. It began with fierce fighting in Chechnya, and yesterday security forces were on alert in case of renewed tension in the Caucasian region on the first anniversary of the storming of Grozny by Russian tanks.
The conflict, which Mr Yeltsin has called the biggest disappointment of his presidency, took a heavy toll on his health as he suffered two heart attacks last year. Despite this, the 64-year-old Kremlin leader appears to be gearing up to run in presidential elections set for June. However, he has said he will wait until February before announcing his final intentions.
The pugnacious Mr Yeltsin is likely to be spurred on to fight for a second term by the success of Communists and nationalists in the parliamentary elections on 17 December. Final results released last week showed that the Communists, who have promised to strengthen state control over the economy and hold a referendum on restoring the Soviet Union, will hold 157 of the 450 seats in the Duma.
The government party, Our Home is Russia, will be the second biggest group in parliament with 55 seats. But right behind with 51 are the extreme nationalists of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a presidential candidate who is demanding cabinet places in any government reshuffle. President Yeltsin, who has far more power than the assembly, has resisted this, and Viktor Chernomyrdin has remained Prime Minister. Russians know they cannot afford to be apathetic in 1996, which will be a political watershed for the country.
Politics receded into the background yesterday as Muscovites queued at the last minute to buy fir trees and presents to put under them. The Orthodox Church has made a comeback, and Christmas is now celebrated in Russia on 6 and 7 January. But the secular New Year holiday, with Father Frost and the Snow Maiden who keeps him sober on his gift- giving rounds, is still favourite.
The Russians have also adopted the Chinese system of identifying the passing years with a cycle of animals; 1996 is the Year of the Rat. "Let's just hope we don't get a rat in the Kremlin," said one Muscovite, queuing outside a kiosk to buy a rubber rat for his son.
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 3 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ferguson decision: Tea Party website mocks Michael Brown's family over T-shirt typo
Michael Brown shooting: Ten things we know – or know better – now the Ferguson grand jury's work is over
Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
Derren Brown on the disappointment of coming out: 'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...
£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...
£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...