Fearing political disarray, Yeltsin rushes to Moscow President in fight over role in reforms

December 20, 1992|By New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- Cutting short a trip to China, President Boris N. Yeltsin rushed back to Moscow yesterday, adding new drama to a rapidly developing fight for influence over Russia's new prime minister and the next stage of the country's economic reforms.

Speaking to reporters upon his return, Mr. Yeltsin said his presence was necessary to "start the formation of a new government immediately." He said he planned to meet today with Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, the new prime minister.

When Mr. Yeltsin announced that he was leaving Beijing, he said he needed to "restore order" and protect the liberal, market-oriented ministers in his government.

His decision to leave China after two days of a three-day trip was clearly timed for its dramatic rather than its practical effects. Mr. Chernomyrdin returned to Moscow only yesterday evening from a visit to Kazakhstan. Coming from Mr. Yeltsin, a politician for whom surprise is a common tool for recapturing the initiative, the sudden return caused little more than a tremor among local students of the political scene.

But the announcement was another reminder of the country's uneasy political balance, a year after the demise of the Soviet Union and in the immediate aftermath of a two-week session of the Congress of People's Deputies that served as a stage for belligerent attacks not only on the old government of Yegor T. Gaidar, but also on Mr. Yeltsin.

Mr. Yeltsin repeated yesterday his determination "to keep the main core" of the former government led by Mr. Gaidar, the economist and architect of Russia's economic reforms.

Mr. Gaidar was dropped from his post by Yeltsin last week, as the price of a tenuous peace with an increasingly aggressive conservative opposition.

In his stead, Mr. Yeltsin nominated Mr. Chernomyrdin, 54, a Soviet-era technocrat whose views are closer to those of Russia's cautious state industrial managers.

In returning home abruptly, Mr. Yeltsin's main goal seemed to be restoration of his damaged political authority.

"Someone has started fighting for portfolios too early, to pull the government apart," he told reporters Friday night in Beijing. "So the master must return to restore order."

Mr. Volsky later denounced the Izvestia article as disinformation.

In Beijing, the Chinese government played down Mr. Yeltsin's sudden departure, and declared the visit a success. After two days of official talks in Beijing, Mr. Yeltsin's change in plans forced a cancellation of a visit to Shenzhen, a southern city that has a showcase of market reforms.

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