Yeltsin sweeps away his opposition Curfew, censors send a message

MOSCOW — MOSCOW -- A day after destroying his opposition in parliament, President Boris N. Yeltsin moved harshly yesterday to eliminate his enemies in every quarter.

He toughened the curfew, dissolved local councils, banned demonstrations and censored the press in a fashion so reminiscent of Russian authoritarianism that doubts arose whether free elections he has called for December would be possible.


The message was that he was not going to repeat the mistake of conciliation many now think opened the way to the bloody confrontation that swept Moscow on Sunday and Monday.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow quoted Mr. Yeltsin as saying that he would not repeat the mistakes of August 1991 -- when the "euphoria of victory" fostered a tolerance that only served to help those working to restore the old regime.


The defense minister, Pavel Grachev, vowed that Russia would not disintegrate into another Yugoslavia or Lebanon.

The government said that the 24 hours of fighting in Moscow, from Sunday night to Monday night, had left 150 dead by preliminary count. That included 29 soldiers and militia members killed while storming the parliament building known as the White House.

At least 421 people were hospitalized, the Moscow Medical Board said.

Police said they detained 1,500 people around the White House on Monday evening, later releasing most of them.

The gunfire that had shattered the city for two days fell silent yesterday. Army tanks began to withdraw, and the city of 9 million began returning to its normal routine.

Leaders of the rebellion, including Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of the Congress of People's Deputies, and former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, were in the KGB's Lefortovo Prison.

Two extremist legislators, Ilya Konstantinov and Viktor Anpilov, had eluded capture and were being sought, the government said.

The president's allies cast the parliamentary revolt against him as an act of betrayal so enormous that only stern measures could ensure the protection of democracy here.


They were indeed stern -- and they provoked immediate criticism.

Newspapers suspended

The eight newspapers that Mr. Yeltsin suspended Monday, including Pravda, did not appear yesterday. Mr. Luzhkov said they would not appear again until the state prosecutor had investigated their role in the rebellion.

Newspapers that did publish yesterday found themselves subject to censorship. One paper, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, will appear this morning with four large blank spaces -- where the censor yanked articles.

Television, already firmly in Mr. Yeltsin's control, nevertheless reflected the changes. An investigative news program called "600 Seconds" was suspended because its star, Alexander Nevzorov, was ardently in favor of the parliament. It was not unprecedented -- "600 Seconds" had been suspended three times in its five-year history.

Mr. Yeltsin fired the chief prosecutor, Valentin Stepankov, who had been on friendly terms with parliament and who had also been widely criticized for his handling of the case against the plotters of the 1991 coup attempt.


He was replaced by Alexei Kazannik of Omsk.

Mr. Yeltsin also dismissed the chiefs of the Novosibirsk and Amur regions for failing to support him.

And the average citizen also felt the pressure of Mr. Yeltsin's mood.

Police established checkpoints to screen all travelers coming into and out of Moscow. Patrols were set up around the city to enforce the 11 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew, which many Muscovites had not taken seriously when it was imposed Monday night.

Mayor Luzhkov announced that members of the destroyed parliament would lose their free Moscow apartments.

"They have no more business in Moscow. It's time for them to go home," he said.


In a particularly chilling reminder of the old Stalinist ways, Mr. Luzhkov also called on Muscovites to inform on any of their neighbors suspected of living in Moscow without a government permit.

The Moscow City Council and the local district councils in the city's neighborhoods were dissolved. They had been hotbeds of support for the parliament.

It was also reported yesterday that opposition members of the Moscow City Council had been arrested in their offices Sunday evening.

And a group calling itself the Public Committee of Russia's Democratic Organizations circulated an unsigned appeal -- carried by both Itar-Tass and Interfax news agencies -- calling for the dissolution of all pro-Communist and pro-fascist political parties, the banning of their publications, the disbanding of the Constitutional Court and the closure of the Lenin Museum in Moscow, among other things.

Elections' credibility in doubt

Nikolai Travkin, one of the more thoughtful and moderate members of the opposition who stayed far away from the White House during the long standoff and subsequent battles, said last night that Mr. Yeltsin's moves against his hard-line foes would be counterproductive.


The hard-liners won't be able to participate in the coming elections, which means they won't have a legitimate outlet, Mr. Travkin said. The likely result, he said, is that they will turn to illegitimate means of action.

"These elections won't be democratic ones," he said. "It's impossible to prepare presidential elections in such conditions."

Vasiliy Lipitsky, who conceded yesterday that his Civic Union may have been fatally compromised by its past links to Mr. Rutskoi, said he feared that Mr. Yeltsin would "yield to the temptation to eliminate all opposition."

"It's a question of the future of democracy," he said.

Another moderate, Alexander Vladislavlev, said: "Simply put, there has to be an opposition."

Some were not much surprised by Mr. Yeltsin's authoritarian impulses.


One Moscow journalist who wished to remain anonymous said it was important to understand that Mr. Yeltsin spent nearly all his life in a Communist world and is unable to break out of the old ways.

But he went on to point out that it may be premature to speak of democratic values anyway.

"What you see on the tree right now are not the buds of a new democracy," he said. "We're still dealing with the yellowing leaves of the old regime."