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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Rutskoi, Harsh Side Comes to The Fore

There have been two Alexander Rutskois: one, in 1992, was the reasonable conservative's choice for president who headed the centrist Civic Union bloc; the other emerged last autumn, carrying a gun, consorting with fascists and brooking no compromise.


In an aggressive interview to the communist newspaper Pravda on Tuesday, the former vice president made it clear he plans in the future to keep his uncompromising persona of last October.


President Boris Yeltsin and his team, according to Rutskoi, are "crooks, political rogues and nouveaux riches, people who have destroyed the Soviet Union, spilled the blood of the country, destroyed the economy and the army, humiliated a great nation."


His ferocious language signaled that he has conclusively aligned himself with the hardline opposition to the president, belying the conclusion of economist Grigory Yavlinsky last September that the vice president was a decent man who fell hostage to extremists in the White House.


Once a key player in Russian's political center, Rutskoi, 46, is now more commonly seen with the fringe groups with whom he defended the former Supreme Soviet's building.


Yeltsin has drafted a peace accord which sets out the ground rules for a truce with the opposition and calls on its signatories to refrain from using the autumn's events as political ammunition. The plan has won the backing of Ivan Rybkin, the parliament speaker and a moderate conservative. But Rutskoi rejected the idea outright in Pravda.


"In no way can there be agreement, particularly with those people who do not even have the moral right to speak about it after they have trampled on and degraded the dignity of the country," he said.


Rutskoi's press secretary, Andrei Fyodorov, said in a telephone interview that the violence last autumn and Rutskoi's subsequent incarceration in Lefortovo prison had been a watershed for his boss.


Sunday, Rutskoi launched an emotional onslaught on Yeltsin after laying a wreath for the victims of last October.


He said it was those who fired on the White House, not the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity party of Alexander Barkashov, who should be called "fascists."


"Can we reach an agreement with murderers?" Rutskoi said.


He also again strongly hinted in Pravda that he intended to run for the presidency when elections are held, probably in 1996.


"Today, to leave politics would be a betrayal, a betrayal above all of those people who believed in me," Rutskoi said. He added that "changing the authorities according to the law" was his immediate priority.


Fyodorov insisted that his boss was still a "centrist" saying only that the opposition's "spectrum has become broader." He said that Rutskoi had trodden a "long road" from the day of his joint election with Yeltsin in June 1991, but that his convictions had stayed basically the same.


But Rutskoi lost contact with former centrist allies who did not take sides in last fall's confrontation.


Rybkin, who helped get the White House leaders released from prison under a parliament amnesty, rebuked Rutskoi last month for giving too many interviews and told him to spend more time writing his memoirs.


Before 1991 Rutskoi was best known as the Russian pilot in the Afghan war who was shot down twice and survived both times. Then Yeltsin asked him to be his running-mate after the mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, had turned down his offer.


His break with Yeltsin began in 1992. Rutskoi helped found the centrist alliance Civic Union and distanced himself from Yeltsin's support for quick economic reform.


The breach with Yeltsin became terminal when Yeltsin declared "special rule" on Russian television in March last year and Rutskoi publicly denounced him.


Last September, when Yeltsin dissolved the Supreme Soviet, Rutskoi openly joined forces with the then parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov. He was declared president inside the besieged parliament building and became de facto leader of the resistance to Yeltsin.


On Oct. 4 Rutskoi was imprisoned after appealing to hardline demonstrators to go and "take" the Ostankino television center the day before.


He confirmed to Pravda on Tuesday that he had made the appeal, but said he had not wanted violence.