MOSCOW — Kremlin guards under orders from President Boris N. Yeltsin stopped journalists from meeting hard-line Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi on Friday, the latest twist in a cold war between the two men.
Reporters and camera teams invited to an unprecedented briefing with Rutskoi gathered at the appointed hour at the Kremlin's Spassky Gate. But guards said they could admit no one.
"The vice president is sitting in his office and awaiting you," Rutskoi aide Andrei Fyodorov said in an impromptu news conference under the Spassky clock tower, at the edge of Red Square.
"Unfortunately we are obliged to state that the head of the president's administration and the commandant of the Moscow Kremlin have forbidden the press access to the Kremlin for a meeting with the vice president."
The scene highlighted an increasingly bitter squabble between Yeltsin and Rutskoi, who was his running mate in Russia's first democratic elections in June, 1991.
Rutskoi, a conservative Russian nationalist picked by Yeltsin to balance the ticket, moved from attacking Yeltsin's economic reforms into open rebellion against the president earlier this year and threw in his lot with the opposition.
He openly campaigned against Yeltsin in the April 25 referendum in which Yeltsin won a vote of confidence. Under the existing constitution, Yeltsin cannot fire him but has done his best to push him into political limbo.
After the referendum Yeltsin announced he had lost confidence in Rutskoi and dismissed him from all his major posts, including responsibility for reforming agriculture and fighting crime.