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Year After Failed Revolt, Outlook Brighter for Yeltsin : Russia: Economic indicators are up, bickering is down. But the president may be his own worst enemy.

October 05, 1994|SONNI EFRON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOSCOW — A year ago, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin huddled inside the Kremlin trying to rouse his generals to quash an armed revolt by his Communist and nationalist foes.

On Tuesday, a rosy-cheeked and triumphant Yeltsin spent the anniversary of last October's rebellion basking in the political calm that has settled over Moscow this fall.

While several thousand demonstrators marched past the restored Russian White House to mourn the 143 people killed in last year's strife and to denounce Yeltsin as a "murderer" and an "alcoholic swine," most Muscovites ignored them.

At a news conference in the Kremlin, Yeltsin laid out his plan for building "a new Russia, a Russia without malice, bloodshed and deceit." The opposition, he said, is no longer dangerous.

"A second October Revolution did not take place," Yeltsin said. "A catastrophe was prevented. This happened because Russians have learned to tell the truth from lies."

Yeltsin had plenty to brag about after returning from a visit to the United States with $2 billion of trade and investment agreements, plus an agreement to speed up the timetable for dismantling the Russian and American nuclear arsenals.

A brace of positive economic statistics released Tuesday bolstered the president's case. Inflation rose to 7.7% in September, up from 4% in August but below the double-digit mark for the seventh consecutive month. In a sign that industrial production is stabilizing, output rose 2% in August.

The number of Russians living in poverty fell slightly, from 20.5% of the population last year to 18% in 1994, the Russian Labor Ministry announced. Poverty is defined as a monthly income of less than $23.

"Household savings have begun to pick up," Yeltsin said. "The inflationary expectations of both consumers and producers have markedly declined. In other words, the first results (of reform) are already evident."

Along with the improving economy, Yeltsin can also take cheer from a distinct drop in the level of political bickering. When the Russian Parliament comes back into session today, it is liable to cause Yeltsin fewer headaches than the U.S. Congress will give President Clinton.

Yeltsin has promised to send 40 bills to Parliament, including a long-promised overhaul of Russia's wildly irrational tax code. He said the leaders of both houses of Parliament have already agreed to a new presidential decree that strengthens the president's control over Russia's unruly regions by allowing him to appoint key provincial leaders.

With his enemies in retreat, the main threat to Yeltsin today may be Yeltsin himself.

The Russian press has been having a field day with Yeltsin for failing to get out of his state airplane Friday for a scheduled meeting with the Irish prime minister at Ireland's Shannon Airport. And critics have once again begun sarcastic public discussions of the presidential drinking habits.

Yeltsin said he simply overslept Friday and his security guards refused to allow aides to wake him up in time for the meeting. The president said he slept little during the Washington summit and was tired after an 18-hour flight from Seattle.

That explanation did not satisfy the Russian press, which noted that the flight from Seattle to western Ireland should not take more than 12 hours.

"Where were they flying for 17 to 18 hours? Were they flying via the South Pole?" asked the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

The newspaper Pravda called Yeltsin's explanation "clumsy." Although the newspaper, which had been shut down by the government last year for supporting the hard-line revolt, did not dare directly accuse the president of being too drunk to appear in public, it quoted the Times of London as saying that vodka might be to blame for "the fiasco at Shannon."

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