Rutskoi takes another slap in face Vice president barred from office

September 07, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- First they took away his official Mercedes-Benz limo, bodyguards and personal physician. Then his chairmanship government panels on agrarian reform and corruption, and his right to receive visitors in the Kremlin.

At 9:45 a.m. yesterday, the second-highest elected official in Russia, Alexander V. Rutskoi, suffered the latest humiliation of his power struggle with President Boris N. Yeltsin: Kremlin security guards stopped the vice president at the door of his own office and turned him away.

If that weren't enough, the special government phone lines to Mr. Rutskoi's country home and his car suddenly went dead.

Mr. Rutskoi, a 45-year-old air force major general and Afghan war hero, was Mr. Yeltsin's hand-picked running mate in Russia's first democratic presidential election in 1991. Today he is a leading critic of Mr. Yeltsin's free-market reforms and his nearest political rival in popularity.

Since accusing Mr. Yeltsin last March of acting like a dictator, Mr. Rutskoi has seen his own power and his perks fall away. Immune from outright dismissal and unwilling to quit, he has announced his own presidential ambitions and launched a crusade to have several presidential aides prosecuted on embezzlement charges.

In return, a commission headed by Mr. Yeltsin's justice minister accused Mr. Rutskoi last month of taking a $3 million kickback from a Swiss company to facilitate a contract to export baby food to Russia.

Mr. Yeltsin announced last Wednesday that he was "suspending" Mr. Rutskoi from official duties pending the outcome of that case. Mr. Rutskoi stormed out of the Kremlin and over to a meeting of opposition lawmakers in the Supreme Soviet. The latest action against him is "a full-scale state coup," he declared.

The lawmakers appealed to Prosecutor General Valentin G. Stepankov, a Rutskoi ally who was appointed by the Supreme Soviet, to investigate the legality of the lockout.

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