Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Says Autonomy Threatens Federation

President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday urged his home region of Sverdlovsk to suspend a decision upgrading its status to that of a republic, warning that the Urals region had embarked on a "dangerous and unacceptable" road.


On the eve of his departure for the summit meeting in Tokyo of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, Yeltsin issued a statement through his spokesman that said that Sverdlovsk's change of status could transform Russia into a "confederation".


Reported by Itar-Tass, the stateMENT echoed fears increasingly heard among Russians that their country - a federation that spans nine time zones and includes more than 100 different nationalities - could share the fate of the Soviet Union, which disintegrated in December 1991.


The statement asked Sverdlovsk and the Vologda region, which has also promoted itself to republican status, to wait with implementing their decisions until after the Constitutional Assembly in Moscow has resolved the question of what rights Russia's 21 republics and 68 regions should enjoy.


The regions have become increasingly disgruntled during negotiations at the Assembly, as the ethnically defined republics have demanded special political and economic rights in exchange for signing a new constitution for Russia.


Small republics such as oil-rich Tatarstan already have legislatures, constitutions and national flags that are not available to the regions, as well as special economic rights that reduce the share of revenues they are obliged to turn over to Moscow.


In his statement, Yeltsin did not attack Sverdlovsk or Vologda for their decisions, blaming the republics instead.


"The situation emerging in several regions and territories is to a great extent a reaction to persistent actions of those republican leaders who insist on expanding the status of the republics", the statement said.


The Assembly is due to reconvene next Monday, but it remains unclear whether Yeltsin will succeed in getting both categories of the Russian Federation's 89 parts to agree to a new draft charter. Without that unified support, Yeltsin is likely to face a difficult period as he tries to push the draft through a reluctant legislature.


Interfax on Tuesday reported that the president had postponed a vacation scheduled to begin after his return from the G-7 summit this weekend until Aug. 1, suggesting that Yeltsin expects the going to be tough for the next few weeks. Yeltsin's office would not confirm the report, however.


In parliament Tuesday, Yeltsin's supporters battled to keep the political initiative in the process of adopting a constitution that will soon be faced if the assembly should succeed in approving a draft. Nine pro-Yeltsin deputies began gathering signatures to call a session of the Congress of People's Deputies on July 20, with a discussion of the constitution topping its agenda. They need the support of over 200 legislators - one-fifth of the 1, 033 members of the Congress - to convene the mainly conservative legislature.