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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khasbulatov Turns Up Heat on Power Struggle

NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia - Ruslan Khasbulatov has stepped up his war of words with Boris Yeltsin as the parliament speaker's struggle with the president for control of Russia escalates.

Addressing scientists and scholars in the central Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Khasbulatov painted himself and the legislature in rosy colors while describing Yeltsin's cabinet as a reckless, destructive force.

"People who call themselves democrats are trying to create the power structure of a neototalitarian dictatorship", Khasbulatov declared. "Where are the reactionaries, and where are the nonreactionaries? "

"They say we have too much power. In truth we have very little", he added. "They also say we have blocked the process of reform. Last year we did not reject one law passed to us by this government of reformers, not even the awful ones".

Yeltsin gave a nationally televised speech Thursday in which he said that reforms were being held up because the legislature had too much power. But Khasbulatov said that hyperinflation and the drop in industrial output were the result of the cabinet's policies.

"It has had over a year and how are things working? Very badly", he said. "The government is answerable for economic policy and it totally disregards the strategic interest of the nation".

Yeltsin and Khasbulatov have been locked in a power struggle for months, in part because Russia's Soviet-era constitution poorly defines the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

The president wants to solve the impasse by eliminating the conservative-dominated Congress of People's Deputies, the powerful and unwieldy 1, 040-member superparliament that Khasbulatov also heads. But the speaker said that this would be a mistake.

"People see the Congress on television and think its full of crazy arguments, but most delegates are experienced and well informed", Khasbulatov said. "The Congress has a very healthy centrist bias. It is the only tool that can preserve political stability. We cannot talk of removing the Congress".

Despite his criticism of Yeltsin, Khasbulatov denied a suggestion from the audience that he himself wanted to be president.

"I never attempt impossible tasks", he said. "I do not want to be president. I want to be one of the people and nothing more".