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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Most Liberals Desert Yeltsin on Chechnya

Most of the democratic movement is deserting President Boris Yeltsin after his order to send troops to the separatist republic of Chechnya, a decision one Kremlin aide believes could revive his bitter power struggle with the legislature.


The invasion of Chechnya has made strange bedfellows among the country's top politicians, with liberal supporters moving into opposition and nationalist opponents supporting the move.


In an emergency session Tuesday, the State Duma declared an amnesty for Chechen fighters who lay down their arms. It also called for continued peace talks to find a political solution to the crisis without resorting to force.


But while the Duma, the lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling the government's actions "unsatisfactory," it failed to offer an alternative course of action. Parliament's liberals were more forthright.


Yegor Gaidar, the leader of Russia's largest reformist party, said in an interview on the current affairs program "Itogi" that the democrats must do all they can to prevent an assault on Grozny.


"If this button is pressed we will, with absolute certainty, see the collapse of democratic institutions in Russia within a few months," Gaidar warned.


Emil Pain, a member of Yeltsin's advisory council, told a briefing in the Kremlin that the decision to send troops to Chechnya could restart his dangerous feud with the legislature that ended in bloodshed in October 1993.


"We are moving toward confrontation between a large number of deputies, on one side, and the executive branch, on the other," said Pain. "The consequences may be really grave -- namely, another round of conflict, which threatens to result in Russia's disintegration."


In further demonstration of the chasm that has opened between Yeltsin and many of his former allies, special government telephone lines were cut Sunday in the office of Sergei Yushenkov, the chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee and a leading critic of the Kremlin's Chechnya policy.


"Yeltsin no longer listens to us. He does not need our advice, so it's time to move into opposition," he said.


Several reformists condemned Yeltsin for not speaking publicly on Chechnya.


Yeltsin, who had an operation on his nose, Saturday, was described as never having lost touch with the situation.


But the president has yet to address the nation directly, an omission that liberal legislator Grigory Yavlinsky cited as "proof of his political irresponsibility."


The only prominent democrats to rally around Yeltsin were his foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, who left the parliamentary faction Russia's Choice in protest at Gaidar's statements, and former finance minister Boris Fyodorov.


Fyodorov, who now heads a small Duma faction, and two fellow deputies said in a statement they "support decisive action to save Russian statehood and order -- although all this should have been done three years ago."


Kozyrev took an especially harsh line. He told Itar-Tass that "if there is no disarmament in Chechnya, the Russian state will be forced to use as much force as the imposition of order demands."


Kozyrev's implacable foes, extreme nationalists Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Sergei Baburin and Alexander Nevzorov, said the president was justified in using force to bring a rebel territory back to heel.


However they tried to distance themselves from Yeltsin, if not from his policy, saying Chechnya's attempt at secession was ultimately the president's fault.


Outspoken general Alexander Lebed, who is strongly backed by the opposition, also spoke against military involvement in Chechnya. Lebed told Interfax he was categorically against an "armed campaign against the Moslem world" -- and that "snivellers, untrained kids" had been sent to Chechnya.


About 5,000 people took part in a demonstration in Pushkin Square in central Moscow on Monday. Communists waving red flags stood at one end of the square, by Pushkin's statue. The liberals, carrying the Russian tricolor, stood at the other. Political commentator Otto Latsis wrote on the front page of Wednesday's Izvestia that "most of us did not want this," and urged an 11th-hour peaceful settlement of the crisis.


However, another liberal daily, Segodnya, said in its Wednesday edition that it might be too late for Yeltsin to back out of using force.


"Losses from the operation will probably be measured in hundreds of dead and thousands of wounded," the newspaper wrote. "But retreating can at this point could turn out to be even more costly."By Thomas de Waal


and Leonid Bershidsky


THE MOSCOW TIMES


Most of the democratic movement is deserting President Boris Yeltsin after his order to send troops to the separatist republic of Chechnya, a decision one Kremlin aide believes could revive his bitter power struggle with the legislature.


The invasion of Chechnya has made strange bedfellows among the country's top politicians, with liberal supporters moving into opposition and nationalist opponents supporting the move.


In an emergency session Tuesday, the State Duma declared an amnesty for Chechen fighters who lay down their arms. It also called for continued peace talks to find a political solution to the crisis without resorting to force.


But while the Duma, the lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling the government's actions "unsatisfactory," it failed to offer an alternative course of action. Parliament's liberals were more forthright.


Yegor Gaidar, the leader of Russia's largest reformist party, said in an interview on the current affairs program "Itogi" that the democrats must do all they can to prevent an assault on Grozny.


"If this button is pressed we will, with absolute certainty, see the collapse of democratic institutions in Russia within a few months," Gaidar warned.


Emil Pain, a member of Yeltsin's advisory council, told a briefing in the Kremlin that the decision to send troops to Chechnya could restart his dangerous feud with the legislature that ended in bloodshed in October 1993.


"We are moving toward confrontation between a large number of deputies, on one side, and the executive branch, on the other," said Pain. "The consequences may be really grave -- namely, another round of conflict, which threatens to result in Russia's disintegration."


In further demonstration of the chasm that has opened between Yeltsin and many of his former allies, special government telephone lines were cut Sunday in the office of Sergei Yushenkov, the chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee and a leading critic of the Kremlin's Chechnya policy.


"Yeltsin no longer listens to us. He does not need our advice, so it's time to move into opposition," he said.


Several reformists condemned Yeltsin for not speaking publicly on Chechnya.


Yeltsin, who had an operation on his nose, Saturday, was described as never having lost touch with the situation.


But the president has yet to address the nation directly, an omission that liberal legislator Grigory Yavlinsky cited as "proof of his political irresponsibility."


The only prominent democrats to rally around Yeltsin were his foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, who left the parliamentary faction Russia's Choice in protest at Gaidar's statements, and former finance minister Boris Fyodorov.


Fyodorov, who now heads a small Duma faction, and two fellow deputies said in a statement they "support decisive action to save Russian statehood and order -- although all this should have been done three years ago."


Kozyrev took an especially harsh line. He told Itar-Tass that "if there is no disarmament in Chechnya, the Russian state will be forced to use as much force as the imposition of order demands."


Kozyrev's implacable foes, extreme nationalists Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Sergei Baburin and Alexander Nevzorov, said the president was justified in using force to bring a rebel territory back to heel.


However they tried to distance themselves from Yeltsin, if not from his policy, saying Chechnya's attempt at secession was ultimately the president's fault.


Outspoken general Alexander Lebed, who is strongly backed by the opposition, also spoke against military involvement in Chechnya. Lebed told Interfax he was categorically against an "armed campaign against the Moslem world" -- and that "snivellers, untrained kids" had been sent to Chechnya.


About 5,000 people took part in a demonstration in Pushkin Square in central Moscow on Monday. Communists waving red flags stood at one end of the square, by Pushkin's statue. The liberals, carrying the Russian tricolor, stood at the other. Political commentator Otto Latsis wrote on the front page of Wednesday's Izvestia that "most of us did not want this," and urged an 11th-hour peaceful settlement of the crisis.


However, another liberal daily, Segodnya, said in its Wednesday edition that it might be too late for Yeltsin to back out of using force.


"Losses from the operation will probably be measured in hundreds of dead and thousands of wounded," the newspaper wrote. "But retreating can at this point could turn out to be even more costly."