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Hard-Liners Use Discontent on Prices to Put Pressure on Yeltsin

February 7, 1992

MOSCOW (AP) _ A loose coalition of die-hard communists and Russian nationalists, riding a wave of public anger over recent price rises, is putting mounting pressure on Boris Yeltsin’s government.

The hard-line forces are stepping up their public campaign this weekend, holding a Congress of Patriotic Forces in Moscow on Saturday and a march through the capital on Sunday.

Increasingly, they are coalescing around Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, a hero of the Afghanistan war who lately has aimed one broadside after another at Yeltsin.

Yeltsin chose Rutskoi as his running mate last year, despite their divergent views, to appeal to voters in the military and former Communist Party.

Since Rutskoi has gone on the offensive in recent months, the Russian president has stripped him of most official duties and isolated him from power. But Rutskoi, who was popularly elected, retains his vice presidential office and a small staff.

Russian television reported Friday that Rutskoi would give the keynote address to the Congress of Patriotic Forces, which will be held at the 2,500- seat Rossiya Cinema House, the country’s largest movie theater.

But vice presidential aides said Rutskoi was hospitalized with a back problem and might not attend.

Yeltsin supporters have called for a counter-demonstration on Sunday and are symbolically replaying the August coup by urging ″democratic forces″ to form a ″human shield″ around the Russian Parliament building.

Some newspapers have warned that a confrontation between the pro- and anti- Yeltsin demonstrators could turn violent. But a heavy police contingent is expected to help separate the two sides.

Konstantin Pankratov, a leader of the hard-line Revival Party, predicted tens of thousands of people would march with empty saucepans and signs protesting Yeltsin’s removal of price controls last month.

Pankratov told The Associated Press that the Russian president ″has completely destroyed the Soviet Union. Now he is destroying the Russian Federation.″

Since the Communist Party was disbanded after the coup, hard-liners have splintered into several dozen tiny political groups, none of which appears to have more than a few hundred members.

The goal of Saturday’s Congress of Patriotic Forces is to meld a unified opposition from these strange bedfellows, ranging from orthodox Marxists to monarchists.

Pankratov’s Revival Party, for example, supports privatization of land, housing and industry. Most of the neo-communist groups adamantly oppose it. The only binding thread is opposition to Yeltsin’s course of rapid free market reforms and breakup of the former Soviet empire.

The Sovietskaya Rossiya (Soviet Russia) newspaper, which has emerged as the mouthpiece of the neo-communist movement, on Friday carried articles accusing Yeltsin’s government of giving away Russian territory to neighboring states and handing over the economy to ″a clan of mafia bourgeoisie that government documents call ’entrepreneurs.‴

Yeltsin’s top aide, Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Burbulis, said in an interview published by the labor newspaper Trud (Labor) that ″communist structures are making attempts to restore themselves, and the harder reforms go, the more active their attempts will be.″

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