Bloodshed is possible, Yeltsin warns his foes Russian Parliament stands firm

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MOSCOW -- Tough, dramatic warnings about the threat of violence came out of the Kremlin late yesterday as Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin seemed to be trying to force a quick resolution to his two-day standoff with the Parliament.

Mr. Yeltsin's goal, by all appearances, was to sweep aside his opposition through political and psychological pressure; any other option appeared too dangerous.

Both sides held fast to their positions, with Mr. Yeltsin insisting he had dissolved Parliament and Parliament insisting that the vice president, Alexander Rutskoi, was now president. With little prospect of willing compromise evident, each side tried to frighten the other with the prospect of civil war.

"The problem now is nerves," said Andrei Fyodorov, a spokesman for Mr. Rutskoi. "Who will make the first mistake?"

Ominously, two people were reported killed last night in a scuffle outside a military headquarters; by early today,there were no indications the violence would escalate.

Mr. Yeltsin's government declared that it was prepared to meet any armed confrontation that might be launched by the defiant deputies from their headquarters in the Parliament building, also known as the White House.

It decried the distribution of "dangerous weapons" at the White House to "extremists, persons without a definite place of residence, people with psychological problems, criminals and members of Mafia-style groups."

It said it had "sufficient means at its disposal to react adequately and promptly to any acts of provocation."

And, from their stronghold, members of the legislature issued their own warnings.

"We should begin a campaign of civil disobedience," said Sergei Baburin, an arch-conservative from Siberia, "and ignore all the resolutions of the ex-president and his government. We should arrest ex-President Yeltsin and put him on trial."

Either Parliament will win, he said, or democracy will end in Russia. "And blood will be shed," he said, "the blood of the deputies and those outside on the street who support us. Because we will not surrender."

Mr. Yeltsin tried to make surrender look sweet to those of his foes motivated more by an attachment to the deputy's way of life than to ideology. He said if the deputies in the legislature followed his orders and went home, they would get their pay and perquisites for the next year.

He tried to make defeat look inevitable -- telephones and electric power to the White House were cut off yesterday, and emergency power ran the lights.

Last night, the chairman of the Parliament, Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, convened a special session of a stripped-down Congress of People's Deputies, ordinarily a 1,000-member body that meets only a few times a year.

They met at 10 p.m. for an all-night session -- after changing the quorum rules because far fewer than half the members showed up. Mr. Khasbulatov planned to use the Congress, which under the Constitution has more power than the standing Supreme Soviet, to strike back at Mr. Yeltsin.

'We can make a mess'

But the legislators can only act by doing damage, as Mr. Khasbulatov himself conceded.

"We will stop transport from remote places to the center," he said. "We can make a mess of the economy. We have unlimited possibilities."

He said that local councils in 80 of Russia's 88 regions were supporting the Parliament, and he planned to continue rallying opposition to the Kremlin.

Sympathetic local administrations, Mr. Khasbulatov said, would cut off tax payments to the central government.

Right now, said one of the few democratic members of the Congress who chose to appear there last night, Parliament can do little more than debate.

"To reach a compromise you need the political will for it," said Mikhail Mitukov. "Now we are in a situation where the law is on the side of whoever has the power. The next few days will show which side will take the upper hand."

Today, Russia still has two presidents, two Cabinets, two organizations claiming to be the legitimate government. Though Mr. Yeltsin clearly has the upper hand, the invective has been so strong that it has become increasingly difficult to imagine a way for the drama to end.

Yesterday, one of the members of a presidential advisory council, Leonid Smirnyagin, said Mr. Yeltsin had to score a "convincing victory" before the weekend or the regions of this vast country will start seriously turning away from Moscow.

For instance, the president of Yakutia, Mikhail Nikolayev, was in Moscow this week not to choose sides but to secure food and fuel credits from the government so that the many riverside villages in his republic can stock up on supplies before the waters freeze over.

If he -- and his regional counterparts -- discover that the government is too tied up in a power struggle to take care of his needs, that will only spell a further weakening of Moscow's influence in Russia, and of Mr. Yeltsin's.

And, from Mr. Yeltsin's point of view, there's another danger in allowing the standoff with Mr. Rutskoi and Parliament to go on too long. If Mr. Yeltsin cannot establish himself as the victor, more and more people slightly inclined toward Mr. Rutskoi in politics and in the armed forces are likely to come to his side. Then the problem will be harder to solve and considerably more dangerous.

Mr. Yeltsin, who this week set new parliamentary elections for December, yesterday decreed that presidential elections would be held next June, a year early.

The Parliament has put forward an election plan of its own, by which a presidential vote would be held first, to be followed later by balloting for a new Congress.

'Shame and bitterness'

Mr. Khasbulatov said he might be willing to consider an alternate plan suggested by Valeri Zorkin, chairman of the Constitutional Court, to have simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections sometime next winter.

"But there is only one compromise," he said defiantly. "How should the president be punished -- the former president, that is.

"Now he is citizen Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin. He has turned from a very active party member to a daring democrat and then a small dictator. I myself feel shame and bitterness over this for him and the entire country."

It was against comments like this that Mr. Yeltsin's supporters began raising the possibility of armed confrontation.

Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, last night called for "prompt and stiff" measures to confiscate the arms that have been distributed outside the White House.

"The deputies are craving for bloodshed," he said.

Mr. Khasbulatov retorted that "military confrontation" should be avoided and any violence would be caused by the Yeltsin camp.

"If there is bloodshed," he said, "it is on their consciences."

So far, the paving stones are still neatly stacked alongside the White House, as yet unthrown.

Mr. Yeltsin's side could well be trying to stir up tensions so as to unnerve his parliamentary foes and thereby avoid violence.

But they seem to have set for themselves a quick deadline -- perhaps just another day or two. After that, the jitters really set in.

SITUATION AT A GLANCE

President Boris N. Yeltsin called for presidential elections June 12, two years ahead of schedule.

Mr. Yeltsin ordered Interior Ministry police to "secure" publisafety after accusing his political opponents of distributing dozens of automatic weapons to anti-Yeltsin demonstrators outside the Parliament building.

Signs of weakening in the opposition front multiplied. Threleading lawmakers, including the heads of the defense and security committee and budget and finance committee, resigned their parliamentary posts.

Deputies convened Parliament in defiance of Mr. Yeltsin anvoted to confirm earlier decisions by the smaller standing legislature to impeach him and name Vice President Alexander Rutskoi acting president.

Mr. Rutskoi said he would not run for president in futurelections. Over past months, he had said he would run against Mr. Yeltsin in any future election.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev accused Mr. Yeltsiof planning to rig December's parliamentary elections.

Unidentified gunmen tried to storm the Moscow headquarters othe commonwealth military command, killing one police officer and badly beating a second before being repulsed. A woman was killed by a stray bullet.

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