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Yeltsin Accuses Congress of Trying to Restore Communist Power

March 15, 1993

MOSCOW (AP) _ Boris Yeltsin’s press secretary on Monday accused Russia’s Congress of trying to restore Communist rule and starting an ″open confrontation″ with the president.

The statement by Vyacheslav Kostikov came amid concern in Russia and the West that Yeltsin might dissolve the Congress and impose some form of presidential rule.

Yeltsin has pledged to abide by the constitution, but he has been pushed into a corner by the Congress of People’s Deputies, dominated by former Communists elected before the Soviet Union’s collapse.

During a four-day session that ended Saturday, the 1,033-member Congress sharply curbed Yeltsin’s authority and canceled his plan for a nationwide referendum on whether the president or parliament should have supreme power.

Kostikov said Yeltsin was ″deeply worried by the threat looming over democracy and reforms,″ and was ″examining the scale of political damage inflicted″ by the Congress.

″His general assessments and decisions will be revealed within the next few days,″ Kostikov said.

Yeltsin is expected to give a televised speech, but no date has been announced.

Presidential aides said last week that one of his options would be to call a plebiscite - essentially a public opinion poll - asking voters if they want a ″presidential republic.″ The results of the vote could be used to justify disbanding the Congress or calling new elections.

Yeltsin also could appeal to the Constitutional Court to overrule the Congress and allow a binding referendum. Some pro-Yeltsin lawmakers already have filed such an appeal.

Western aid, debt relief and an upcoming summit with President Clinton could bolster Yeltsin’s public standing, but are unlikely to sway hard-liners in Congress.

″In denying the people’s right to express its will in a referendum, the Congress has taken the path of violating the Constitution and of open confrontation with the legally elected president of Russia,″ Kostikov said in a formal statement from the Kremlin.

He added that the Congress had upset the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, ″threatening the structure of the state and public order in the country.″

The apparent goal of the Congress, he said, is to ″roll back the democratic victories of August 1991,″ when a failed coup accelerated the fall of communism, and return to a Communist-style authoritarian system.

Yeltsin had proposed a referendum to resolve the struggle for power with the parliament, led by speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov.

Khasbulatov’s spokesman, Konstantin Zlobin, said Monday the parliament - not the president - was acting strictly within the constitution and protecting the country’s democratic gains.

Zlobin called Kostikov’s statement ″completely incorrect.″ It reflects ″the dissatisfaction of a circle close to the president″ with the Congress’ efforts to ″significantly narrow their opportunities for a legal coverup of their destructive activities,″ Zlobin said.

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