Soviet parliament asks for bans on protests, strikes

March 22, 1991|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- The Soviet parliament asked national and Moscow authorities yesterday to ban demonstrations scheduled for next week's opening of the Russian Federation Congress of People's Deputies, when a major rally in support of Russian leader Boris N. Yeltsin is planned.

The Supreme Soviet also decided to appeal to all local soviets, or governing councils, to declare a moratorium on political strikes and demonstrations until the economy is stabilized. Miners at about one-fourth of the country's 600 coal mines are striking, many of them demanding the resignation of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the dissolution of the Soviet parliament.

The parliament's moves came after deputies applauded the official announcement that 76 percent of citizens voting in Sunday's referendum backed preservation of the Soviet Union.

They said work should be accelerated on completing and signing a new union treaty as the basis of a renewed U.S.S.R.

Despite an official boycott of the referendum in six of the 15 republics, the total pro-union vote totaled 112 million, or 58 percent of all eligible voters in the country, said Anatoly I. Lukyanov, chairman of the Supreme Soviet. Two million of the votes came from army base and factory polling places set up by Moscow loyalists, mostly Russians, in the six boycotting republics, officials said.

Mr. Lukyanov asserted in a televised interview that the vote amounted to an endorsement of the Soviet leadership and parliamentand, "let's be frank, the position of the president." That claim is controversial, since Mr. Gorbachev's ratings in opinion polls are very low.

The parliament adopted a resolution noting that in accordance with the Soviet law on referendums, the result of the vote is "final and mandatory on all Soviet territory."

But neither Mr. Lukyanov nor other officials explained precisely what legal force the referendum could have or what made it more than an expensive opinion poll.

Critics saw the referendum as a propaganda exercise that Mr. Gorbachev could use to justify tough action against rebellious republics and their supporters in Russia, chief among them Mr. Yeltsin.

Many of them, Mr. Yeltsin included, said they favored the existence of a union, but not necessarily the "soviet" and "socialist" union named in the convoluted referendum question.

A majority of Russian Federation voters -- 70 percent -- approved of a separate ballot in favor of creating a directly elected president for the republic. If the post is created by the Russian congress, as expected, Mr. Yeltsin is expected to be the leading candidate. He now holds the top post in the Russian Federation, but he was elected by the parliament, not the people.

Arriving in Leningrad last night for a visit, Mr. Yeltsin said that he would run for president but noted that he expected competition.

The main demonstration set for Moscow next week has been called by the reformist coalition Democratic Russia in support of Mr. Yeltsin. But a group of conservative deputies also has called a counterdemonstration against Mr. Yeltsin and the idea of an elected president.

Vitaly Doguzhiev, first deputy Soviet prime minster, said the possibility of two simultaneous demonstrations "creates an explosive situation with unpredictable consequences."

The rally issue is likely to become part of an ongoing struggle between the elected reformers who run Moscow and the union government. Mr. Gorbachev once tried to ban all demonstrations in central Moscow, but he was told he could not do so under the law.

Now he is pushing for a law that would strip elected local officials of most of their control over such events as rallies.

The planned pro-Yeltsin rally was set after Communists in the Russian parliament made it clear they would try to unseat him at the congress.

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