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Rutskoi Says He’s Ready To Lead Opposition To Yeltsin

April 26, 1994

MOSCOW (AP) _ Just as Boris Yeltsin makes a final push for political peace with his treaty of Civic Accord, one of the leaders of last fall’s armed rebellion is appealing for the president’s opponents to unite.

Former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi made the announcement Sunday night on the weekly ″Itogi″ (Summary) telecast.

It came at a critical moment, just four days before Yeltsin is scheduled to sign a political truce with some opponents and a week before die-hard Communists take to the streets for their May Day rally.

The upper house of Russia’s new parliament agreed Monday to sign the political truce, but the lower house was divided over the proposal.

Yeltsin plans to sign the Civic Accord in the Kremlin on Thursday even if his opponents refuse to show up. He has attached great significance to the document, aimed at preventing a repetition of the political violence that took more than 140 lives last October.

Critics, however, say the nine-page accord is a meaningless declaration.

Rutskoi was jailed Oct. 4, the day Yeltsin sent tanks and troops to blast his armed opponents out of the Russian White House. The 46-year-old former fighter pilot and Afghanistan war hero was released in February, along with other Yeltsin opponents, under a parliamentary amnesty.

Since then he has shaved the heavy beard he grew in jail, put on weight and kept a low profile. On Sunday, he told TV interviewer Yevgeny Kiselyov that he was ready to unite all opposition groups ″who will not let themselves be muzzled″ by the Civic Accord.

Rutskoi is widely viewed as a potential candidate in 1996 presidential elections. But it appears unlikely he will get clear support from extreme nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who also harbors presidential ambitions.

At least one hard-line leader who was recently freed from jail was quick to support Rutskoi. Ilya Konstantinov said Monday he would back Rutskoi if the former vice president ″takes on himself the heavy labor of consolidating various branches of the opposition, putting a stop to ideological disagreements and leaders’ ambitions,″ the Interfax news agency reported.

Yeltsin professes to be unconcerned about Rutskoi.

″Rutskoi cannot rise again as a politician,″ the president said in an interview with Newsweek magazine published Monday. ″He will hamper us in minor things, but that’s all he can do. People will not accept him, and he himself, psychologically, is not a man who stands firmly on his feet.″

According to a poll released Monday, Yeltsin’s popularity has sagged to an all-time low, with only 19 percent of Russians approving of how he does his job and 79 percent disapproving.

The Russian Center for Public Opinion and Market Research (VCIOM) said it surveyed 3,776 people nationwide, by telephone and in person, between March 3 and April 4.

Yeltsin’s highest approval rating in a VCIOM poll was 39 percent in October, after he ordered tanks and troops to attack parliament.

The Communist Party decided at a weekend convention not to sign the Civic Accord, and Zhirinovsky reportedly has said his Liberal Democratic Party would sign only if Yeltsin replaces six Cabinet members.

One reformist lawmaker, Grigory Yavlinsky, also has said he will not sign the accord. Yavlinsky, an economist, has ridiculed the document as an empty declaration of ″love.″

Presidential aides say Yeltsin hopes to obtain about 150 signatures from leaders of political parties, trade unions, social groups and coalitions.

The pact says all sides will renounce violence, keep order at demonstrations, abstain from politically motivated strikes, avoid inflammatory actions and refrain from calls for early presidential or parliamentary elections.

Yeltsin aide Sergei Filatov said Monday the treaty was amended after last week’s meetings with parliamentary leaders. A ban on proposing constitutional amendments was dropped, as were sanctions against those refusing to sign the accord.

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