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Aide Says Yeltsin Will Not Back Down At All to Russian Congress

By Margaret Shapiro
The Washington Post

MOSCOW

A spokesman for President Boris Yeltsin said Monday the Russian leader would "resolutely" resist efforts by Russia's conservative Congress to roll back economic and democratic reforms, and he left open the possibility that Yeltsin might declare presidential rule.

Spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov said Yeltsin was still assessing the political and constitutional damage caused by last week's meeting of the Congress of People's Deputies, in which Yeltsin was repeatedly rebuffed and humiliated. But he said the president was unlikely to leave things as they stand.

Kostikov's declarations appeared to be part of a strategy to muster public and international support, restore the shine to Yeltsin's much tarnished image as a political fighter, while frightening his opponents with the possibility of some sort of dramatic response.

"There is no easy decision because to let everything stay as it is means to let the communist explosion which took place at the Congress spread across Russia," Kostikov said in a televised interview. "I think Boris Nikoleyevich Yeltsin intends to act as resolutely as he showed himself capable of acting in the fatal days of August 1991."

Yeltsin was then the key opponent to a failed hard-line Communist coup against Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. The Russian president stood atop a tank in defiance and brought thousands of Moscovites into the street to protest.

Yeltsin's aides have repeatedly suggested that the Russian leader might be forced to declare presidential rule to protect his reforms and his beleaguered presidency. Under Russian law, Yeltsin could declare presidential rule essentially by suspending the constitution and ruling by edict. He could dissolve the Congress but would not necessarily do so, as his powers would supercede those of the parliament. Meanwhile, the army would technically remain under his control.

It is unclear, however, whether the army and police would back such a move and whether Yeltsin, Russia's first democratically elected president, would be willing to be beholden to these forces.

Last week, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, at Yeltsin's behest, contacted President Clinton and other world leaders to sound them out about how they would react if Yeltsin were forced to take emergency measures to fend off the Congress, Russia's parliament.

It is not known how Clinton responded, but Secretary of State Warren Christopher recently told Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev that the United States would not take a stand in advance on any action Yeltsin would take. Both Clinton and Kohl have been calling for a speeded-up aid package to Russia to help bolster Yeltsin.