Moscow mayor says he'll quit post

December 16, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- Citing policy disputes with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, the controversial mayor of Moscow announced his imminent resignation yesterday in a reflection of the mounting opposition to the Yeltsin government's impending economic reforms.

"I can't work under conditions in which I can't fulfill what I promised to my voters," Mayor Gavriil Popov said.

"I didn't come here to hold on to my seat and sit in a fancy office and drive lovely cars," the 55-year-old economist said. "I took on certain obligations in the elections. I should fulfill them. If I can't do that, my obligation and duty are to step down."

Mr. Popov's announcement at a congress of the Democratic Reform Movement, the popular coalition led by Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, showed the increasing dissent over many of Mr. Yeltsin's moves among the very bloc of liberal parties that constitute some of his main support.

The movement, wrapping up a two-day congress, adopted a resolution saying it would support democracy but at the same time criticize "the inconsistency, incompleteness and slowness of political and economic reforms."

Mr. Popov, one of the original perestroika-era figures to launch the battle against Communist ideology and power structures, called on the movement's members to go even further and become a full-fledged opposition movement standing against the Yeltsin government.

"If we created a genuine democratic opposition, that would be a qualitatively new step in the development of our country and our democracy," he told the congress.

During his campaign, Mr. Popov promised widespread privatization, and last month, in a policy move that directly affects nearly every Muscovite, he decreed that the city's housing, formally almost entirely state-owned, be given away to its residents free of charge.

A property tax, the amount not yet specified, was to be imposed later.

But Mr. Popov's plan does not jibe with the privatization plans of the Russian federation government and also has run into resistance in the Moscow City Council, where many deputies support a more complex program that involves fewer giveaways.

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