Parliament, Yeltsin try to tighten grips President appears to have advantage A CRISIS IN RUSSIA

September 23, 1993|By Kathy Lally and Will Englund | Kathy Lally and Will Englund,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- Russia's legislature scrambled to organize a parallel government yesterday as President Boris N. Yeltsin serenely tightened the reins of authority from the Kremlin.

Most important, Mr. Yeltsin appeared to have the support -- or a promise not to interfere -- from the military and security forces.

The threat of disturbances and even bloodshed, so plausible after Mr. Yeltsin's decision to dissolve the Communist-era parliament and call for the election of a new legislature, faded in the light of normalcy yesterday. The greatest unrest was in the halls of parliament.

"We of course would not want and do not intend to use any violent methods," Mr. Yeltsin said after hopping out of his car to greet passers-by on a busy Moscow square. "We want everything to go peacefully, without bloodshed, that is our main task."

The president had just met with the ministers who control the country's troops and guns. He casually showed off their support by strolling with them along Pushkin Square.

Mr. Yeltsin's government stood behind him, world leaders offered their support and vast Russia, in its calm, appeared to acquiesce.

Some unusually strong rhetoric came from Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, only a weak Yeltsin supporter when he was appointed last December.

Yesterday, he offered the president impassioned backing. He likened parliament to a cancer that could only be removed by "surgery." "Conservative treatment had proved to be fruitless," he said.

Mr. Yeltsin dissolved the parliament -- led by his bitter rival Ruslan I. Khasbulatov -- in an effort to resolve the crisis that has paralyzed governance of this huge nation for over a year. The fractious parliament, which has fought every Yeltsin initiative for months, saw no reason to stop fighting yesterday.

They had already voted to impeach Mr. Yeltsin and had installed Vice President Alexander Rutskoi as president of Russia. Mr. Rutskoi quickly appointed his own Cabinet and reportedly spent yesterday in the parliament building, telephoning regional leaders in an effort to line up support.

Rutskoi seeks support

At one point he urged on a crowd of supporters outside parliament that briefly numbered about 5,000 before dwindling to about 1,000.

"The state is in danger," he said. "Resolute actions are needed. This clique is not going to go away easily because they understand they will have to answer to the people and to justice."

But while Mr. Yeltsin displayed his nonchalance yesterday, the parliament was trying to find someone to take its orders -- with little success.

Mr. Khasbulatov, for example, called for nationwide strikes, but everyone kept going to work.

Col. Gen. Vyacheslav Achalov, Mr. Rutskoi's defense minister, appealed to the military to defend the parliament with their service weapons. Only a few low-ranking officers were seen around the parliament, however, and they said they were acting on their own.

Mr. Yeltsin's defense minister, Gen. Pavel Grachev, declared his support for the president and directed his officers and men to disobey any orders that came from the parliament.

He said the army would not get involved in the political struggle, unless bloodshed forces it to take a role.

Naming of general faulted

The parliament's designation of General Achalov as defense minister was seen as an example of the kind of judgment that tends to drive people into the Yeltsin camp. The general's reputation rests on his record as Soviet commander in Lithuania during the bloody assault on the Vilnius television tower on Jan. 13, 1990, that left more than a dozen killed.

A year later he served in Georgia, where he quickly became a loathed figure. "He's a hothead," Levan Chedlidze, security councilor at the Georgian Embassy here, said yesterday.

Yesterday, Mr. Yeltsin ordered General Achalov expelled from the army.

Army avoiding conflict

Viktor Alksnis, a retired Army colonel and now a legislator who advocates restoring the Soviet Union, explained, "The Army wants to avoid these politics. And Yeltsin has no interest in shedding blood."

In another apparently futile act, the parliament also passed a law essentially making it illegal to support Mr. Yeltsin politically and another law taking the media under its control.

The Supreme Soviet -- a small working parliament -- is now trying to assemble a quorum of its larger body, the Congress of People's Deputies, to take further action against Mr. Yeltsin.

Small groups of deputies were arriving throughout the day, often coming right from the airport with their carry-on bags still in hand. Some said hotels were unwilling to give them rooms.

"I'm looking for a floor to sleep on here," said a downcast deputy from Chuvash as he paced a hallway of the parliament building.

Backing in rural areas

Some legislators yesterday already were claiming support from several provincial areas.

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