Business leaders mock Yeltsin price-drop claim Entrepreneurs say they don't see it

April 16, 1993|By Newsday

MOSCOW -- Russian business leaders mocked President Boris Yeltsin today when he told them inflation has fallen steadily since the start of the year.

Many of the 4,000 delegates to a meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs laughed out loud when Mr. Yeltsin said monthly inflation had sunk from 27 percent in January to 17 percent in March.

"I don't understand," said a bemused Mr. Yeltsin, who is campaigning for support ahead of an April 25 referendum on who will rule the country.

Union Chairman Arkady Volsky called the delegates to order but later attacked the government's economic reforms, which many industrialists say have brought factories and enterprises to the brink of bankruptcy.

Entrepreneurs say they see no sign of a fall in the growth of prices and warn the country is threatened by hyper-inflation.

Meanwhile, Russia's in-your-face politics grew even more combative as Mr. Yeltsin moved to rein in his rebellious vice president by stripping him of perks and power.

Mr. Yeltsin also declared yesterday that he would ignore the ground rules established by his parliamentary opponents for the make-or-break national referendum April 25 and proclaim his own rules on how many votes were needed to approve the four questions on the ballot.

Mr. Yeltsin's latest moves against Vice President Alexander Rutskoi came one day after he suggested that Mr. Rutskoi should resign because of the vice president's mounting criticisms of Mr. Yeltsin's program of rapid transformation to a market economy.

Yesterday, the president told a group of supporters that he intended to remove Mr. Rutskoi in a few days from one of his few posts with any real authority, that of supervisor of the country's agricultural reform program, the Interfax news agency reported.

He also ordered Mr. Rutskoi stripped of his chauffeur-driven Mercedes limousine, his personal government doctor and most of his bodyguards, the Interfax and Itar-Tass agencies reported, quoting Rutskoi aide Andrei Fyodorov.

Mr. Yeltsin's press office at first denied any knowledge of those actions. But the president's chief spokesman, Vyacheslav JTC Kostikov, later issued a statement saying that Mr. Rutskoi's perks were merely being brought down to a "reasonable level."

Mr. Rutskoi, who has said he would resist any efforts to force him to resign, fired back in a long article in the pro-communist newspaper Pravda, attacking virtually every aspect of Mr. Yeltsin's economic policies, which he said had brought the country's farm sector to the brink of collapse.

"The democratic reformers have stepped into the abyss of the market with their eyes closed, dragging behind them the people of Russia," Mr. Rutskoi wrote.

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