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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ligachev blasts Yeltsin as hardliners plan Congress

Yegor Ligachev, longtime adversary of Russian President Boris Yeltsin,

vowed Wednesday to try to revive the Soviet Union.

Calling himself a "realist, not a conservative", the former politburo member spewed out attacks on Yeltsin's market-oriented reforms.

"Everything is going from worse to worse", Ligachev said. "Yeltsin makes empty talk that things will get better in six months, but, even in a year, it will only get worse. Deputies should fulfill the demand of the people to keep the Soviet Union".

Ligachev's comments came after a meeting of communist hardliners who gathered to announce their intent to reconvene the former Soviet Congress of People's Deputies next week in the Kremlin.

The group, which calls itself the "United Opposition" to Yeltsin's government, includes violently right-wing deputies, journalists, trade unionists and writers. They will try to recreate the Soviet Congress despite a government ban on the meeting, set for March 17 - the first anniversary of a referendum that registered a majority of voters in favor of preserving the Soviet Union.

"We are all different with different attitudes and opinions, but we are united under common slogans", said hardline leader Sergei Baburin. "Our people are surrounded by lies because of the politicians. Now we will start our conference".

But, it turned out, not all of the different groups jammed into the meeting room even supported the "United Opposition".

In fact, the first speaker from the audience got up to state that his group, Christian Rebirth, does not support the opposition and did not sign its declaration because it is a religious, not political group.

About 100 people crammed into a small room in the old Writers Union building to hear the emotion-packed speeches of Baburin, Sergei Ampilov, a leader of the banned Russian Communist Party, and others. Sometimes, supporters would cheer Baburin's impassioned tirades against Yeltsin, and his quixotic desire to reunite what he calls "the Fatherland".

When asked to clarify what he meant by "the Fatherland", Baburin said:

"The Fatherland was first broken in February 1917. The Soviet Union can not be separated. It's an illusion".

When pressed, he added that even Poland and Finland, part of pre-1917 Russia, could once again be part of a new Soviet Union - "on a voluntary basis".

Yet even such hardline organizers of the communist revival attempt do not expect a strong showing at the 2, 240 member Congress. "We don't expect a quorum", Baburin said. "But it will be a Congress of Hope".

While support for the "United Opposition" may not be strong, thousands of hungry people, particularly pensioners, may come to demonstrate outside the Kremlin on March 17.

In the past, hardline demonstrations have been relatively peaceful. However, at the last demonstration, held Feb. 23, there were some clashes with police troops.

Reformist Mayor Gavriil Popov has warned that such demonstrations could lead to more bloodshed and are an attempt by "the Communist Party to return to power". However, his stiff tirade against the March 17 protest served only to propel the crowd into hurling insults at the authorities.

One General Vladimir Nagibin, apparently upset with Popov's treatment of veterans, denounced the mayor as a "liar and moral terrorist".

In his warning Tuesday, Popov said that the mayor's office could not legally forbid the rally unless the Russian parliament took urgent measures to stop it. But bis sharp words led to a clash with Supreme Soviet chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, who said he would remove Popov if necessary.

"There are those in the Russian leadership, particularly in the Supreme Soviet, who are counting on washing their hands of this and shifting all the 'dirty' obligations of defending the Russian government onto the Moscow mayor's office", Popov said.

At a press conference Thursday, Khasbulatov said, "The way we raised Popov to power, the same way we can quickly remove him". Khasbulatov reiterated the government's position on the planned Congress.

"To try to resurrect the Soviet Union and the Congress and elect a head of state is simply nonsense", he said.