A group of hard-line lawmakers have accused President Mikhail S. Gorbachev of turning the Soviet Union into a "beggar country" and demanded a halt to international aid, news reports said Saturday.
But a Moscow city official said half a million people in the capital urgently need such aid because of the worsening economy.A right-wing faction of the Supreme Soviet legislature's Centrist Bloc met Friday with Ivan Laptev, chairman of one of the two chambers in the parliament.
According to the independent news agency Interfax, Gorbachev came under heavy criticism for his policies, including allowing international aid to alleviate severe shortages of food and medicine.
Interfax, which interviewed Laptev afterward, said the hard-liners accused Gorbachev "of presenting the Soviet Union as a beggar country" and said foreign aid must be rejected at once.
The lawmakers making the criticism were not identified by name.
Vladimir Voronin, a Centrist Bloc member and organizer of the meeting, claimed the group had millions of followers, but Interfax said other leaders who spoke at the meeting mentioned much smaller numbers of supporters.
Laptev told Interfax he rejected the criticism of Gorbachev as unjustified, but said he would report details of the meeting to the Soviet leader.
The meeting was closed to reporters and other details of the debate on international aid were not available.
Hundreds of tons of food and medicine have been arriving in Moscow in recent weeks from the United States, Germany, Italy, Israel, Britain, Switzerland and elsewhere. Much of the donations have come from private groups.
Deputy Moscow Mayor Sergei Stankevich said Saturday that a charity headquarters had been established to coordinate distribution of aid to the needy in the capital, a city of about 9 million people.
About 1.2 million of those are classified as low-income, and about 500,000 of them need aid urgently, Stankevich said.
All major cities, including Moscow and Leningrad, are in desparate need of international donations of food and medicine as winter approaches, he said at a news conference.
"The cities won't be able to survive without it, at least until spring," he said.