President Mikhail S. Gorbachev proposed emergency steps Tuesday that he said were meant to prevent destabilization, including a moratorium on strikes, rallies and demonstrations.
Gorbachev's stringent new proposals came as a huge coal miners strike entered its sixth week, workers in Byelorussia staged a warning strike, and the parliament in Georgia declared independence for the republic.Presidential spokesman Vitaly Ignatenko said Gorbachev announced the "anti-crisis" proposals at a meeting of the Federation Council, which is made up of the leaders of the 15 Soviet republics.
Ignatenko said the meeting was called to discuss the results of last month's national referendum on preserving the union.
He said Gorbachev proposed adoption of laws to strengthen law and order, and that "appropriate instructions have been given to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R."
Ignatenko said in addition to the moratorium on rallies, strikes and demonstrations, the measures included a halt to "other political actions that might destabilize the political situation in the country."
"We face the danger of economic collapse, with all the consequences," the spokesman quoted Gorbachev as saying. "The danger is real."
It was unclear whether the moratorium would be voluntary or mandatory. Ignatenko said details of the proposals would be made public later in the week.
Gorbachev's spokesman described the measures as meant to "preserve the Soviet state . . . according to the concept that was approved during the referendum."
The March 17 referendum, calling for a "renewed federation of sovereign republics," was approved by 76 percent of the voters in the nine republics that participated.
Gorbachev told the council, which comprises republic and regional leaders, that it was necessary to sign a Union Treaty as soon as possible.
In recent days, thousands of workers at more than 50 factories across the country have joined in the walkout by an estimated 300,000 of the nation's 1.2 million coal miners. The miners have called on Gorbachev to step down.
In the Byelorussian capital, Minsk, the official news agency Tass said workers at several manufacturing plants participated in a warning strike Tuesday, but it did not provide the number of sites idled.
The growing labor unrest, exacerbated by drastic price increases, threatens to hobble the Soviet economy.
Gorbachev has watched his popularity plummet as the Soviet economy has faltered in the shift to a market-based system. Ordinary citizens are beset by high prices and chronic shortages of everyday items, high inflation, black marketeering, corruption and bureaucracy.
A poll published today indicated that 56 percent of the people had no confidence in the government and only 6 percent of the 2,093 respondents expressed full confidence in Gorbachev's leadership.