MOSCOW — Amid warnings of Russia's possible breakup, President Boris N. Yeltsin's chief foe Tuesday rejected an 11th-hour offer designed to curtail their fight for political supremacy on the eve of an emergency session of Parliament.
"This is not something to be taken seriously," Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, the country's most powerful legislator, said of Yeltsin's two-page draft "law on power."
Yeltsin, fighting off a mounting conservative challenge to his policies, has said he will present his blueprint for redefining the functions and powers of the executive and legislative branches to the Congress of People's Deputies when it convenes today. The session inside the Kremlin is expected to last two days.
Meeting Tuesday night with deputies from a broad swath of political creeds, a tough-talking Yeltsin stressed that the No. 1 task before them is to work "peacefully, without a brawl."
The 1,041-seat Parliament, a Soviet-era creation dominated by former Communists but subject to wild mood swings, has only two items on its agenda:
* The possible cancellation of an April 11 referendum on the shape of the future government. The vote was scheduled at the last session in December, which was punctuated by fisticuffs.
* Whether Russia's leaders, Yeltsin included, have violated the constitution.
At a news conference, some leaders of the pro-Communist Russian Unity bloc made no secret of their desire to add a third agenda item--Yeltsin's impeachment.
"We say the head must be replaced," Deputy Sergei N. Baburin said.
Other Russian Unity officials, however, demurred, saying neither Parliament nor society is ready for such a drastic step.
Russia's smaller standing legislature, the Supreme Soviet, summoned the Congress last Friday after it and Khasbulatov, its pipe-smoking chairman, failed during three months of often acerbic wrangling to reach a compromise with Yeltsin that would end the institutional gridlock paralyzing Russia's move from socialism to a market-oriented economy.
The uncertainty is scaring away massive Western investment.
On Tuesday, prompted by Khasbulatov, the conservative-dominated Supreme Soviet rubbed in its opposition to Yeltsin even further by refusing to endorse the questions that the president wants to ask Russian voters if he and lawmakers cannot cut a deal--including whether they favor establishing a presidential form of government.
Meanwhile, meeting at a glittering high-rise hotel once frequented by Communist barons, the heads of Russia's powerful semiautonomous republics warned Yeltsin that the protracted struggle for power in Moscow is threatening the very survival of this huge, multiethnic country.
"If what is happening in the center spreads to the provinces, then without a doubt Russia will cease to exist as a unified state," the Interfax news agency quoted Akhsarbek Galazov, leader of the small ethnic enclave of North Ossetia on the northern slope of the Caucasus, as saying.
The republic leaders urged Yeltsin to drop the idea of holding the April vote and declare a moratorium on all referendums for two years, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
Yeltsin has expressed his intention to secure a compromise that would turn the office of president into that of a full-fledged chief executive.
As things now stand, the Congress, which met for the first time in 1990, possesses the right under Russia's much-amended Soviet-era constitution "to resolve any issue under the sun," First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir F. Shumeiko has complained.
Details of Yeltsin's new "law on power" were not made public, but a key clause of a previous proposal was to transfer control of the Central Bank from the Supreme Soviet to the executive, so the government of Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin could apply brakes to the huge issuance of rubles that is fueling inflation and undermining market-oriented reforms.
Russia's Congress of People's Deputies voted last December to hold a referendum as part of a master plan for shaping a post-Soviet constitutional order. President Boris N. Yeltsin has since used the referendum as a sword over the heads of conservative lawmakers in an effort to secure a compromise that would turn the office of president into that of a full-fledged chief executive. Influential legislator Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, a conservative foe of Yeltsin's, rejected the president's plan for redefining powers and could lead a move to cancel the referendum at a Congress session set for today.