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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Events Bode Ill for Yeltsin Peace Pact

If President Boris Yeltsin has his way and his domestic peace accord is signed and implemented this week, then most of what took place in the world of Moscow politics Tuesday could never happen again. Yeltsin has said he wants his Pact on Social Accord to eliminate what he sees as the major obstacles to Russia's revival: fruitless debate in parliament, politically motivated protests by labor unions, and violent demonstrations by the opposition. On Tuesday, all three were in evidence within a small area of Moscow. Inside the former Comecon building the State Duma postponed for the third time a badly needed law that would activate Russia's highest court. Opposition legislators refused to vote, breaking the quorum. Across the street at the White House, defense industry workers picketed the government building and threatened a nationwide strike. Behind the White House, followers of the Working Russia group mourned comrades killed during last fall's parliamentary uprising and vowed to hold a May Day demonstration that many believe will turn violent as it did last year. Yeltsin's peace accord, which is to be signed by political parties, unions and regional leaders at a Kremlin ceremony Thursday, aims to prevent such agitation. But signs are emerging that the accord will attract few players who count. Five of the Duma's nine factions have said they will not sign. The leader of a sixth, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said Tuesday on national television that he might sign the document, but that it would have little effect. Labor unions, wary of a stipulation requiring them not to call for changes in the budget, are unlikely to sign. And the leaders of Working Russia and other radical opposition groups are effectively ruled out by an article requiring that they lay down their arms. Moreover, Yeltsin has in the past week diluted the pact to attract the maximum number of signatories, removing vaguely worded threats against participants who violate the agreement. This has left even supporters wondering what impact the document can have. "I don't know what it will achieve," said legislator Ella Pamfilova, usually a firm supporter of the president. Pamfilova's faction, Russia's Choice, announced Tuesday that it might not sign the pact in protest against a concession to attract the leaders of Russia's 21 ethically defined republics. After meeting the republican leaders, Yeltsin removed an article stipulating that they bring their constitutions in line with the new Russian charter. Much of Yeltsin's rhetoric this year has favored strengthening the Russian state at the expense of the republics. But the republican leaders, who have lobbied successfully for special economic privileges in the past, apparently made the change a precondition for their approval of the peace pact. Russia's Choice reacted sharply to the concession, saying in a statement that it would not sign the pact if the original text were not reinstated. More bad news for Yeltsin came in a poll released Monday showing that the his popularity was at an all-time low. Only 19 percent of Russians approve of how Yeltsin does his job, according to a poll of 3,776 people nationwide by the Russian Center for Public Opinion and Market Research, AP reported Monday. Yeltsin's previous low was 25 percent last September.