IN a speech Oct. 27, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced plans to ban a newly formed political opposition front of former Communists and extremist nationalists.
President Yeltsin told a meeting of senior officials of the Foreign Ministry that the National Salvation Front, which held its founding meeting Oct. 24, was illegal and unconstitutional, according to the official Itar-Tass news agency.
"The Front calls for the overthrow of the lawful authorities, destabilizes society, and sets people against each other," Yeltsin said. "This is impermissible and urgent measures must be taken."
However, no specific decree or law has yet been drawn up, the head of the president's press service, Anatoly Krasikov, told the Monitor. "The president, as a citizen, was discussing the ways of preserving democracy," he said. The issue might be discussed at a scheduled Oct. 28 meeting of the president's Security Council, the most powerful inner decisionmaking body in the Yeltsin administration, the official said.
The move against the most hard-line opposition to the government comes at a time of rising political tensions. Yeltsin has squared off against the Parliament for going ahead, over his objections, with a meeting of the country's supreme legislature on Dec. 1. The National Salvation Front, whose members include numerous members of the Parliament, plans to use that meeting as an occasion to seek the resignation of Yeltsin and his Cabinet and the formation of a "national salvation cabinet."
The Front claims a membership of 50,000, according to its chairman, parliamentarian Ilya Konstantinov. He told the independent Interfax news agency that the Front would press for abandoning the radical market reforms of the Yeltsin government, returning to state-controlled prices and government control over industrial and agricultural enterprises. While the Front plans to hold mass meetings, strikes, and demonstrations to press its views, Mr. Konstantinov also said they would act through parliamentary me ans.
YELTSIN and his close allies in the government however have depicted the group, which includes many hard-line Communists and neo-fascists, as a force akin to those who attempted the putsch in August 1991. "This is a terrible threat, but the West is yet unaware of it," Yeltsin said, urging the Foreign Ministry to explain this danger through its embassies abroad.
Yeltsin also vowed to continue the government's reform policies despite the growing criticism and calls for formation of a coalition government that would slow the reform pace.
"I consider it my high priority task to defend the policy of transformations in Russia and ensure its progress," he said. He attacked the decision to convene a December meeting of the Congress of Peoples Deputies as a "purely confrontational [decision] intended to boost another turn in the spiral of political struggle between the two branches of power."
The opposition in the Parliament to the government comes not only from the Front but also from the centrist Civic Union, a four-party alliance that includes the lobby of factory directors led by former Gorbachev aide Arkady Volsky. They claim to support reforms but seek a shift away from "shock therapy" approaches. The Civic Union has been calling for the ouster of a number of ministers, aides of reform chief and Acting Premier Yegor Gaidar.
"The change of government is unavoidable," wrote Vitaly Tretyakov, editor in chief of the respected Nezavisimaya Gazeta, in an article Oct. 27. "Consequently the government should be changed as soon as possible and on the president's initiative. A new government should be a coalition," Mr. Tretyakov said.
Prime Minister Gaidar told reporters Oct. 24 that he had the full backing of the President. Yeltsin, in a meeting with American financiers Oct. 26, said that changes in the Cabinet are possible, but in the meeting with the Foreign Ministry he made it clear that those changes would not include Gaidar or the foreign minister, both targets of conservative attack.