MOSCOW — Russia's wrenchingly painful economic reforms got a nod of approval Wednesday from the International Monetary Fund, but thousands of ordinary Russians, angry and confused, denounced the "sellout" of their country to the West by a government of "state criminals."
A leader of the Communists in the Russian legislature announced that his parliamentary faction would soon try to ram through its own socialist-style program of privatization--handing the keys of state-owned factories to their employees.
Meanwhile, President Boris N. Yeltsin took a rare stroll outside the Kremlin, across Red Square to the shopping thoroughfare of Tverskaya Street, to press the flesh and plug his economic goals, including a pending fire sale of state property.
"There will be bread," a finger-jabbing Yeltsin reassured one Muscovite in a brief videotaped segment shown on the evening television news. The TV showed little else, perhaps because some of the exchanges with frazzled shoppers were very heated.
IMF Deputy Director Richard Erb, who held top-level meetings with the government and Central Bank amid reports of divisive tensions inside Russia's leadership, emerged praising the officials' "self-confidence" and evident commitment to free-market principles.
"I think it is clear to the Central Bank and to the government that there is no return, that this is a process that is under way, and that it must continue," Erb told a news conference.
Moscow now seethes with rumors of disputes between the government, led by Acting Prime Minister Yegor T. Gaidar, and Viktor V. Gerashchenko's Central Bank. A faction of industrial leaders is plugging for new, inflation-fueling loans to help them meet their payrolls and pay off their bills. Gerashchenko is reportedly on their side, Gaidar opposed.
"During my last visit in December, it was not possible to visit the Central Bank at all," Erb said. "Now, I engaged in a series of discussions with Central Bank and ministerial representatives together in a very good and positive environment."
Under black umbrellas and faded Soviet flags, more than 3,000 Russians appalled by the results of nearly eight months of Yeltsin's market reforms braved a chilly, driving rain to mark the first anniversary of the banning of the Communist Party, gathering at the end of the work day outside the entrance to Gorky Park.
Gennady B. Titov, 52, an engineer who lost his job at a furniture-making plant because of hard times, was among them. "I can't stand idly by while the colonization of my country by America and its friends begins," Titov, gripping the staff of a large Soviet flag, said as the rain streamed down his glasses. "I've ended up making less than a cleaning woman; you find that normal?"
Boris M. Gunko, a leader of the Russian Communist Workers Party, told the rally, sponsored by the "Working Russia" movement, that one year of Yeltsin's presidency has been almost as calamitous for Russia as four years of Nazi occupation or three centuries under the Tatar yoke.
Protesters carried hand-lettered placards reading "Fascism Will Not Pass!" and "Down With the Capitalist Ministers." A public address system played scratchy recordings of Red Army marches, and the entrance arch to the park was festooned with a red banner bearing the lyrics of one of the Stalinist era's most stirring patriotic hymns, "Arise, Enormous Country!"
"State criminals who have committed state crimes sit in the armchairs of power," Sazhi Umalatova, a hard-line member of the former Soviet parliament, told the soaked crowd. "Today's task is to prevent the so-called privatization program that has been thought up by our anti-popular government. It's our land, and yours too!"
Vladimir B. Isakov, a Communist deputy in the Russian Parliament, said the privatization program Yeltsin announced last week was no better than "a swindle."
When the Russian Parliament reopens Sept. 19, Isakov said, "the opposition is going to submit a bill so that work collectives can become the owners of their workplace."
Under Yeltsin's plan, every Russian is to get a 10,000-ruble (about $61) voucher he can use starting Dec. 1 to purchase a chunk of a state-owned factory or other business. The Communists' alternative, for a Marxist purist, would have the virtue of placing productive power in the hands of the workers alone.
On Aug. 6, the IMF approved $1.04 billion in credits for Russia, the first major transfusion of multilateral Western aid for Yeltsin's government. Erb said that by September or October, the IMF would be reassessing Russia's economic policies and progress and deciding on further credits for 1993.
According to the IMF deputy director, the official announcement that prices rose only by 7.5% in July may show that the risk of hyper-inflation is ebbing, "although one month does not make a trend."