In TV interview, Yeltsin tells Gorbachev to resign ZTC

February 20, 1991|By Vladimir Klimenko | Vladimir Klimenko,Special to The Sun

MOSCOW --- Russian Federation leader Boris N. Yelsin called for Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorvachev's immediate resignation in a sensational live television broadcast yesterday.

His comments, the sharpest confrontation yet in a growing rift between proponents of republican autonomy and the Kremlin, came at the end of a testy 40-minute question-and-answer session with Sergei Lomakin, an anchorman with the nightly news broadcast "Vremya."

"I call upon Gorbachev to resign immediately," Mr. Yeltsin said, charging that Mr. Gorbachev had misled the public about his commitment to perestroika and instead had amassed dictatorial powers for himself.

Mr. Yeltsin said his own greatest mistake was to have placed too much trust in Mr. Gorbachev's sincerity. "Initially I was encouraged and tried to work with him several times," he said. "But afterward I saw that all of our meetings had the same result."

The Russian leader said that Mr. Gorbachev had lost his mandate to rule by abusing the public trust.

"After giving people hope, he proceeded to destroy it," Mr. Yeltsin charged. Popular support for Mr. Gorbachev has fallen markedly as a result of the Kremlin's crackdown on the republics, harsher media control and a widely unpopular monetary reform that depleted people's cash reserves and froze savings accounts.

Mr. Yeltsin predicted that people's lives would not improve under the central leadership in its present form. He called for a radical economic reform that would free prices while maintaining a price freeze on essential commodities. He said that state subsidies on certain goods could soften the effect of price increases on low-income households until a stable market was developed.

Mr. Yeltsin ridiculed official contentions that the state would compensate citizens with subsidies and wage increases for the corresponding decline in their purchasing power.

"A 100 percent compensation is impossible," he said. "Why lie to the people? Even an 80 percent compensation isn't going to happen.

"In the meantime, any turn for the better was impossible given the constant deception coming from the central authorities."

The remark was a veiled reference to the fact that the main nightly news program, "Vremya" has practically eliminated alternative viewpoints from its broadcasts.

Mr. Yeltsin took advantage of being televised live to repeat his old charge about Mr. Gorbachev's authoritarian streak.

"In 1987 I stated that dictatorial ambitions are part of Gorbachev's character," he said.

Mr. Yeltsin's remarks generally won him praise from liberal political figures.

"He took a radical, decisive stance that showed people that he has his own ideas and program," said Galina Starovoitova, a deputy in Russia's Supreme Soviet. "He also made it clear that he has no illusions about Gorbachev's reforms being democratic."

There was no immediate official reaction to Mr. Yeltsin's remarks.

"Vremya" made no mention of the Yeltsin interview during its regularly scheduled broadcast an hour and a half later.

The Russian leader's remarks are not likely to go unnoticed. Conservatives have taken increasingly frequent broadsides at him.

A scandal erupted at yesterday's session in the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet when legislators learned that Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev had circulated an anonymous letter accusing Mr. Yeltsin of being a drunkard. Members of the military establishment have been spearheading a campaign against liberal politicians.

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