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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rutskoi: 'Nobody Is in Charge of Anything'

In his first public appearance since his release from prison last month, a bellicose Alexander Rutskoi insisted Tuesday that he was still vice president, accused President Boris Yeltsin of banditry and called the acting public prosecutor a crook.

Talking to reporters at the vast, Soviet-era Exhibition of Economic Achievement in northeast Moscow, Rutskoi said that anarchy, not democracy, held sway in Russia today.

"Nobody is in charge of anything, nobody bears responsibility for anything," declared Rutskoi, 46, who was released from prison Feb. 26 along with other leaders of the October uprising against Yeltsin.

Rutskoi's appearance followed his confirmation over the weekend in an interview with a Japanese news agency that he intends to run for the presidency. The disclosure was widely expected after the former Afghan war hero lent his support to a new opposition bloc, Accord for Russia, that was formed last week.

Although he has been warned by Yeltsin that any attempt to destabilize the situation will result in his immediate rearrest, and with nerves on edge in Russia due to rumors about the vacationing president's health and fears of a new coup attempt, Rutskoi was outspoken in his criticism of the country's leadership.

By defaulting on its debts to industries, causing delays in salary payments, he said, the government is guilty of "banditry in the purest form, a government racket."

Rutskoi rejected recent attempts by government supporters and moderate opposition leaders to end the political stand-off that has paralyzed the country for over a year.

"With whom are we to find agreement?" the former vice president railed. "With those who robbed and wrecked the government? With those who shot at the parliament? Are we supposed to find agreement with "What are we supposed to agree about? For what cause?" he continued, looking grim but confident, his ruddy face free of the beard he grew in prison.

Rutskoi called the rumors of an impending coup a farce, but said he hoped it would not happen.

"It's all overdramatized on purpose to distract attention," he asserted. "Nobody ever planned any coup.

"The coup," he added, apparently referring to the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet and his own ouster, "has already been completed."

Although his tour of the exhibition grounds smacked of a campaign appearance, Rutskoi said it was too early to talk about presidential elections, which are not due until 1996. But in an interview with the Kyodo News Service over the weekend, he said he was ready to run if "objectively the country needs me as a leader.

"I have enough force and experience to conduct an election campaign and to be at the head of the state," Kyodo quoted Rutskoi as saying in the interview.

Rutskoi added that he was forming "a powerful and united Social Patriotic Front" that would support him in the elections, and that he will closely cooperate with the Communist Party. The bloc he joined last week includes Yeltsin critics like the outspoken nationalist Sergei Baburin and former Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin.

Rutskoi, who ran on Yeltsin's ticket in the last Russian presidential elections in June 1991 but switched sides last year, accused the president of hoodwinking the nation and the world community.

"Those who supported law and order have turned out to be criminals and those who shot innocent people remain, in the eyes of the world community, reformers," he said in the Kyodo interview, which was conducted by mail.

Rutskoi, who exhorted his followers to storm the Ostankino television center on Oct. 3 as the White House rebellion turned bloody, surrendered the following day and was jailed on charges of inciting riots. But although he was stripped of his post by Yeltsin, he insisted Tuesday that he was still legally vice president.

"If you agree with what happened and consider it legal, the coup d'etat, then I am a former vice president. But if you consider it illegal, and it was illegal," he added, "then it turns out that I am vice president."

He also lashed out at Yeltsin's candidate for the post of public prosecutor, Alexei Ilyushenko, who last year accused Rutskoi of corruption.

"They appointed a crook as public prosecutor, who should be put in prison for falsifying documents," Rutskoi declared.

Once inside the exhibition hall, Rutskoi took a tour of the Russian farm and food-processing equipment on display, much of it produced by defense plants trying to convert to civilian production. Basking in the attention of a crowd of journalists and curious exhibition staff, Rutskoi sipped a soft drink made of potatoes and weighed himself.

Viktor Sugrubov, an official of the State Committee for Defense Industries who eagerly showed Rutskoi around, told The Moscow Times that Rutskoi had come on his own initiative, repeating a visit he made as vice president in charge of agricultural reforms last year.