MOSCOW -- After months of criticizing Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev as a virtual dictator, the leader of the Russian republic, Boris N. Yeltsin, said yesterday that Mr. Gorbachev is in fact "an ally" of the democratic movement.
Mr. Yeltsin said that by signing an agreement with nine of the 15 Soviet republics calling for a major power shift from the center to the constituents, Mr. Gorbachev had demonstrated that he "today is clear ly in favor of reforms, which is very important and which makes him our ally."
The statement by Mr. Yeltsin, reported by the independent Interfax news agency, is a significant turnaround in the often tempestuous relationship between the two formerly close political allies, who have contested one another bitterly over the pace and style of change in the Soviet Union's difficult path toward a more democratic political and economic system.
Earlier this year, Mr. Yeltsin rallied anti-Gorbachev forces by calling for the Soviet leader's resignation, accusing him of abandoning the original guiding principles and goals of his democratization and economic restructuring programs.
Mr. Yeltsin acknowledged that his relationship with Mr. Gorbachev had been strained, but he said that such a "personal question" should not be allowed to "overshadow the fact that we are the leaders of two state structures: Russia and the Union" and that "unless we combine our efforts, the union may just fall to pieces."