Yeltsin expresses doubts about Gorbachev's plan

November 20, 1990|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- Russian Federation leader Boris N. Yeltsin said yesterday that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's plan to take control of the government along with republican representatives will not solve the country's problems and could deepen its political crisis.

"The president's proposals are aimed at strengthening the center," Mr. Yeltsin said, according to the Interfax news service. "It appears that he can get along without consulting the sovereign republics -- but that is already impossible. Russia, at least, will not accept it."

Mr. Yeltsin made his remarks in Kiev, where he and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kravchuk, signed a 10-year economic and political agreement between the two largest Soviet republics that bypassed the Kremlin and underscored Mr. Gorbachev's increasing isolation.

The Russian leader said he wanted to study Mr. Gorbachev's proposals further and did not rule out some form of cooperation. And Mr. Kravchuk, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, called the plan "encouraging" and said he didn't believe it infringed republican sovereignty.

But Mr. Yeltsin's reaction -- and his revelation that the republics were not consulted about the plan -- are extremely damaging to the Soviet president's still rather vague government shake-up scheme.

Under heavy fire from republican leaders for clinging to the unpopular government of Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, Mr. Gorbachev Saturday won the parliament's approval for taking direct charge of management of the government. He said a Security Council (with unspecified duties), a law-enforcement oversight body and a system of local presidential representatives would all be created under the president's office to strengthen executive power.

At the same time, Mr. Gorbachev said real power would be given to the Federation Council, whose members are the leaders of the 15 Soviet republics -- or as many as agree to participate. A Gorbachev aide, Georgy Shakhnazarov, explained that while "the last word will be the president's," the Federation Council will be expected to sign off on all decisions affecting republican interests.

Mr. Ryzhkov's fate was not clear. Mr. Shakhnazarov said the prime minister's post was being eliminated, but he and others indicated Mr. Ryzhkov may get a job, possibly a newly created vice-presidential post.

A usually reliable Soviet source said yesterday that Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze was likely to take a top post in the reorganized government. Yevgeny M. Primakov, who recently toured world capitals as Mr. Gorbachev's Middle East envoy, is expected to replace Mr. Shevardnadze, the source said.

Whatever the ultimate makeup of the Soviet government proposed by Mr. Gorbachev and approved by the parliament, it would be crippled from the start by the resistance or non-participation of Mr. Yeltsin. The Russian leader is by far the most popular Soviet politician, and many political observers here consider it a serious tactical error that Mr. Gorbachev did not share the revamping plan with him in advance.

"There are some aspects that worry me. It seems that the suggestions of all the leaders of the sovereign republics were discarded. This is very distressing," Mr. Yeltsin said, according to Interfax.

"I am even convinced that all this [the Gorbachev plan] will not improve the situation in the country, but will make things worse," he said.

Mr. Kravchuk, the Ukrainian leader, said that despite the still undefined powers of the Federation Council, the Gorbachev plan has promise.

"If we test everything, work out a mechanism and fulfill adopted decisions, all of us, not just the president, it will be good. I don't think implementation of this program will infringe the sovereignty of the republics," he said, according to Interfax.

The treaty between Russia and the Ukraine, which together account for two out of every three Soviet citizens, is the latest of several direct, republic-to-republic agreements skirting Moscow's control.

Mr. Gorbachev is pushing for rapid drafting and signing by the republics of a union treaty as the basis for a renewed "union of sovereign states." But the three Baltic republics and Georgia have said they will not sign any union treaty, and several other republics have expressed doubts.

Mr. Yeltsin has expressed doubts that a union treaty can be signed in the near future and has called instead for a purely economic union, bolstered by bilateral agreements between republics like that signed yesterday.

Mr. Yeltsin and Mr. Kravchuk signed a separate statement demanding that the Soviet parliament respect the state sovereignty of the Russian Federation and the Ukraine.

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