Yeltsin to oppose draft union treaty substitute plan to give Russia primacy

November 27, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin, angered by what he sees as an attempt by the Soviet government to preserve its powers over the independence-minded republics, will oppose the draft treaty that establishes the constitutional basis for a new state, his deputy prime minister said yesterday.

Instead, Mr. Yeltsin will propose his own plan, concentrating power in the republic governments -- and, effectively, putting his Russian Federation, as the largest and richest republic, in control of the country.

Gennady E. Burbulis, Russia's first deputy prime minister, said the Russian leader objected strongly to the treaty proposed by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev Monday when Mr. Yeltsin found new elements in the draft and violations by the central government of previous agreements to reduce its bureaucracy.

Mr. Yeltsin, challenging Mr. Gorbachev at the meeting Monday of seven republic leaders, had "insisted that it is impermissible to solve the crucial problems of transforming the state structures of the former [Soviet] Union in the fashion it is being now," Mr. Burbulis told Russian legislators.

Although Mr. Burbulis provided no details of Mr. Yeltsin's constitutional plan, saying only that he had worked out his own draft for the union treaty, the Russian leader had sought greater powers for his republic during the sharp debate Monday, and, from the changes published yesterday for the accord, appeared to have won concessions on several important points.

Among Mr. Yeltsin's gains:

* An effective veto for Russia in the Council of the Republics, one of the two houses of the new legislature where a republic will be able to request voting by consensus.

* The clear right for a republic to revoke national legislation on its territory.

* A veto over republics that join the new union later.

* A vice president who cannot succeed an incapacitated president, a move intended to foil another coup attempt and to bar the country's top post to a Central Asian vice president.

But what Mr. Yeltsin wanted, and failed to get, was a true philosophical reorientation of the treaty, making clear the paramount standing of the republics within the new union and casting the central government in the role of a coordinator

among them.

Mr. Yeltsin, meeting yesterday with the provincial representatives he has appointed to implement his policies across the country, declared his intent to proceed at an accelerated pace in transforming the economy with radical reforms.

With control of roughly two-thirds of Soviet industry, agriculture and finance, Russia can act while the central government remains paralyzed, Mr. Yeltsin argued, and the economic changes will speed the process of political change.

While Mr. Yeltsin had promised the other republic leaders Monday to inform them of his actions, Mr. Burbulis said that the Russian president intended to act through unilateral decrees, which he hoped would allow him to transform 74 years of socialism into a free-market economy within the next year.

A list of more than 70 new decrees, outlining the Yeltsin economic program, will be given to the Russian Supreme Soviet, the republic's legislature, this week, and Mr. Burbulis said that Mr. Yeltsin would ask for its immediate endorsement of the program.

Mr. Yeltsin's moves drew a warning yesterday from Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk, who said that he was simply turning the Russian Federation into a new central government, and, thus, undermining his declared goal of sovereign republics free to follow their own course.

Without the Ukraine, the proposed Union of Sovereign States would essentially unite Russia and neighboring Byelarus with five poor and largely Muslim republics in Central Asia, and Mr. Yeltsin's present maneuvers reflect in part Russians' mounting concern about the character and the cost to them of the new state.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported a Soviet spokesman as saying that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to come to Moscow for talks on preventing an escalation of ethnic fighting that has killed hundreds of people.

Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian and Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov were to meet today with Mr. Gorbachev and leaders of other republics, presidential spokesman Andrei Grachev said.

Underlining the conflict, Azerbaijan's parliament voted yesterday to seize control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave of 190,000 is surrounded by Azerbaijan. Previously, Nagorno-Karabakh had autonomous status.

Azerbaijani lawmakers also created a National Unity Council and temporarily transferred all legislative powers to it, the Assa-Irada news agency reported from Baku, the Azerbaijani capital.

More than 800 people have died and hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled in three years of fighting between predominantly Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

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