Mikhail S. Gorbachev tightened Kremlin control over Moscow on Tuesday by ordering the Interior Ministry to take charge of law enforcement. Defiant supporters of Gorbachev's chief rival vowed to hold a banned rally.
Organizers of Thursday's planned demonstration in support of Russian republic leader Boris N. Yeltsin also called Tuesday for Gorbachev to resign. But organizers said they would try not to provoke authorities during their march.Gorbachev, the Soviet president and Communist Party chief, ordered the Interior Ministry to assume police powers in Moscow. The official news agency Tass said the decree - which named First Deputy Interior Minister Ivan Shilov to head law enforcement in the city - was intended to ensure order.
It was not clear if Gorbachev's order meant Interior Ministry forces would work in parallel or replace police supervised by Moscow city officials.
However, the order did present two possible conflicts: between Interior Ministry forces and demonstrators and between Interior Ministry forces and Moscow police. Gorba-chev's decree also was certain to intensify jurisdictional disputes between national and local authorities that have hampered the battle against crime and the introduction of economic reforms.
Also Tuesday, the Soviet legislature ordered a two-month suspension in a coal miners' strike that has drastically reduced coal production and forced some steel mills to close. Tass did not say how lawmakers would enforce the suspension. There was no immediate comment from miners.
On Monday night, Gorbachev's Cabinet ordered the Interior Ministry, KGB and other security agencies to prevent gatherings on Moscow streets from March 26 to April 15. The order's stated intent is to prevent unrest during the Russian parliament session that begins Thursday, during which hard-liners intend to call for a no-confidence vote against Yeltsin.
Democratic Russia, an anti-communist opposition coalition, has planned a huge rally for Thursday and already had received approval from the Moscow City Council, which is controlled by pro-democracy forces. Democratic Russia decided at a meeting Monday night to proceed with the protest, said a leader of the group, Mikhail Schneider.
Organizers said they expect up to 1 million people to attend Thursday's demonstration, more than the 500,000 who rallied March 10 in favor of Yeltsin in the country's biggest demonstration since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
Some activists said they feared the ban could lead to violence.