Russian President Boris Yeltsin called Friday for a vote of no-confidence in the Soviet government, the creation of an "extraordinary anti-crisis committee" and food help from the West.
"We should give up our pride and appeal to the developed countries from the West to help us with food," Yeltsin dramatically told the Supreme Soviet.In a hard-hitting 15-minute speech, which followed a 90-minute tirade against the republics by Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin called for "deep decentralization" and said that the reform process had practically stopped.
The two leaders' confrontation in the Supreme Soviet, which filled the galleries with an overflow crowd of journalists and diplomats, showed the contrast between the two rivals.
Gorbachev was vague calling for consolidation to bring the country out of its crisis.
Yeltsin, on the other hand, was specific and brief. He called for parliament to vote no-confidence in the government of Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov, blaming it for sabotaging a 500-day plan for a market economy.
He asked for the establishment of an "extraordinary anti-crisis" commission made up of representatives of all 15 republics.
Such a commission, he said, would create new structures of economic and political power, and they would delegate limited powers to the central government.
Finally, Yeltsin suggested giving Gorbachev two weeks to consult with this commission.
To overcome the paralysis in food supplies, Yeltsin said food should be rationed, strategic reserves should be released to the population and appeals be sent to the West.
"The center is creating confrontation with the republics, especially Russia," Yeltsin said.
"The economic and political crisis has reached its limits. The reforms have stopped and we are seeing a retrenchment.
"The center has become a destabilizing, braking factor," he said, charging that the central government was controlled by old Communist Party apparatchiks.
Clearly upstaged, Gorbachev called for rapid conclusion of a new Union Treaty with the republics to bring the country out of crisis and a moratorium of all republican decisions that could affect the conclusion of such a compact.
Such an accord would spell out the powers of the center and the republics and replace the 1922 pact that set up the Soviet Union.
Both Yeltsin and Gorbachev interpreted the crisis as a breakdown in relations between the 15 republics and the central government. Yeltsin blamed the bureaucrats in the central ministries for stifling any reform.
But Gorbachev blamed the republics for sabotaging the government's moderate market reform, for failing to carry out laws and for what he called selfish economic autonomy leading to an economic and political crisis.
"They balk at nothing . . . make the most blatant attempts to discredit" the government's organs of power, he said.
Gorbachev told the delegates that there would be cadre changes in the highest ranks of the Soviet military and called on the press to stop defaming the army.
"No more defensive action, it is high time to launch an offensive," the Soviet president said.
He said he would in the near-future take measures to improve the authority and quality of the armed forces and improve conditions for military men and their families.
Gorbachev said he would annul all decisions by the republics that prejudice the military, specifically in the secession-bent Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where the army is derided as "occupiers."
Gorbachev, whose approval rating sank this month to 21 percent, denied that he lacked a plan to handle the current crisis.
"There is a plan, it just has to be carried out," Gorbachev said.
The Soviet president also criticized "speculation being spread in the country about imminent hunger and lack of fuel for the winter."
He said there was enough food in the country to meet reasonable needs and blamed shortages on problems with discipline with supplies.
He said the way to extricate the country out of its crisis situation is through the consolidation of fresh forces who support perestroika.
Yeltsin has said that he asked Gorbachev on Sunday to form a government of national unity in which Russia would name the prime minister, a move which in effect would likely remove Ryzhkov.
Gorbachev was forced to address the Supreme Soviet when legislators on Wednesday rebelled by tossing out the agenda and voting to hold the special session.
The lawmakers charged it was futile to go on passing laws that were being disregarded by the other republics and even some cities.
Yeltsin and Gorbachev, both 59, set up a joint panel in August to develop a plan to move the country to a market economy based on Yeltsin's 500-day program, but Gorbachev later opted for a more moderate approach and Yeltsin charged betrayal.