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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President to Force Elections in Autumn Yeltsin: If Parliament Won't Call Vote, I Will

President Boris Yeltsin vowed Thursday to solve Russia's political stalemate by holding new parliamentary elections this fall even if legislators oppose such a vote.

"One of the main ways out of this severe confrontation between two political powers is new parliamentary elections, and they will definitely be held this fall", Yeltsin told a conference on the mass media. "If parliament itself does not take this decision, then the president will".

Parliament shot back with preliminary approval for constitutional changes giving the Supreme Soviet the right to fire key cabinet appointments, and to veto executive decisions. If approved at a scheduled November session of the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's highest legislature, the changes could reduce the president to a figurehead.

Legislators also passed a resolution forcing the president to nominate for parliamentary approval appointments to the four "power ministries" - defense, security, interior and foreign affairs - within a month of any vacancies. The move, which takes effect immediately, will first be put into practice in Yeltsin's naming of a replacement for Viktor Barannikov, who was sacked as security minister last month.

Yeltsin, making his first major speech in Moscow in a month after infrequent appearances over the past month that fueled rumors of ill health, said he was well and ready to fight parliamentary opposition.

The president said he would refuse to sign parliament's recent budget which included a staggering 23 trillion ruble ($23 billion) deficit, commenting that it would lead to the "destruction of the ruble and the undermining of the Russian state".

"I have signed an order telling the government to work according to presidential budget directives", he said.

Yeltsin made no reference to the possibility of a simultaneous presidential election along with the parliamentary vote, a tactic which many presidential aides feel would be the only way to get parliament to accept elections before 1995 when they are next scheduled.

A poll released Thursday by the Public Opinion Foundation showed that if elections were held today, only 19 percent of Russians would give their votes to Yeltsin. The same poll said that 12 percent would vote for Rutskoi. Yeltsin also said he would strenuously fight parliament's efforts to slow down his program to turn over state property to citizens. On Tuesday, Yeltsin issued a third decree on privatization after the conservative parliament voted to annul the previous two presidential decrees.

In an evening television address, parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov called Yeltsin's remarks a "threat" but muted his response.

"We at the Supreme Soviet will not answer these provocations", he said in subdued remarks. "We will continue our work peacefully for the people and for our great country".

With a few jokes and his trademark smile, Yeltsin accused his opponents in parliament and elsewhere of spreading false information about his health to create political instability. Some of these rumors say the president, who is 62, will only live a few more months and is now reliant on a few close advisers and bodyguards to run the government.

"Anyone can cry out 'fire' in an atomic power plant, and similarly, anyone can phone and say 'the president is ill'", Yeltsin said, referring to press reports on his health.

Prompted by an aide, Yeltsin quipped: "Perhaps it was Khasbulatov who called".

The president hinted that his other most prominent rival, Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, who says he has suitcases of papers proving wrongdoing among Yeltsin aides, is himself corrupt.

"It is no secret that the evil of corruption is deep inside government, parliament and executive bodies, and even among those who carry compromising documents", Yeltsin said.

Standing beside Vladimir Shumeiko, the first deputy prime minister, and Mikhail Poltoranin, the head of the president's Federal Information Center, both of whom are currently being investigated for corruption, Yeltsin pledged that he will deal sternly with all wrongdoing.

Yeltsin explained his absence from public eye of late as a period of "artillery preparations" before conclusive "serious battles" in September.

How Yeltsin would bring about new elections and usher in what he hopes will be a new, more cooperative parliament in the future was not clear from his remarks. Legislators alone have the constitutional right to call early elections.

Yeltsin's supporters believe that only a new parliament will approve the president's proposed new constitution, which he says is needed for reforms to continue.

But Yeltsin's camp on Thursday appeared divided over how to overcome lawmaker's resistance to early elections.

Gavriil Popov, who represents the radical wing of Yeltsin's allies, supported the idea of holding a referendum on new elections. In the event of a "Yes" vote, Yeltsin should use this to dismiss the current legislature with a decree, he said.

But Sergei Stankevich, a presidential political adviser who represents the moderate wing of Yeltsin's camp, said Yeltsin should consider holding early presidential elections as well.