RUSSIA'S power struggle resumed yesterday as President Boris Yeltsin began acting on his victory in Sunday's referendum, and his hardline opponents started sniping at him again. In the most dramatic development, Mr Yeltsin announced he was taking personal charge of efforts to combat corruption, stripping his disloyal deputy, Alexander Rutskoi, of that responsibility.
Mr Yeltsin, who won 58 per cent in the vote of confidence in his leadership, called his advisers for a strategy meeting and afterwards his spokesman said the Vice-President had lost his position as head of the Interdepartmental Committee on Crime and Corruption: 'Rutskoi is hanging in a political vacuum.'
The Soviet-era parliament did not agree, and invited Mr Rutskoi, who is making no secret of his ambition to replace the President, to expand on the corruption charges against government ministers which he had made in the pre-referendum campaign. Mr Yeltsin is stuck with Mr Rutskoi as vice-president, since they were elected on a joint ticket in 1991.
Mr Yeltsin has yet to comment publicly on the outcome of the referendum, but his supporters have made clear he believes he has a mandate to press on with reform. On Tuesday he said Bosnia's Serbs could expect no comfort from Russia if they continued to resist international peace efforts. He also issued a decree preventing re-formation of Communist Party cells in factories. And yesterday demonstrations in Red Square were banned, to prevent hardliners fomenting trouble during the 1 May public holiday.
The assembly quickly hit back: Mr Yeltsin's arch-rival, the parliamentary chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, accused the Russian leader and President Bill Clinton of having struck a secret deal on Yugoslavia and the legislature launched a new debate on this sensitive area of Moscow's foreign policy. The parliament also defied Mr Yeltsin and gave the green light for the establishment of its own security service beyond the control of the Interior Ministry.
The assembly also suspended a Yeltsin decree reinstating the sacked president of the troubled Mordovia region, prompting Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Shakhrai, to say: 'If things go on like this, it will be possible to say that the legislative authority ignores the results of the referendum.'
New Russians, page 28
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