Boris Yeltsin, speaking on the heels of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's departure for Japan, said the country does not need a chief executive and that his own Russian federation should begin to act on the world stage.
"The Russian republic should enter the world arena," Yeltsin, nominal president of the Russian federation, said Sunday over the republic's radio. "It enjoys trust, and this trust should be used for starting a dialogue with other states of Europe and the world."Yeltsin announced he was going to France for a visit and would address the European Parliament, putting teeth into his declaration that the Russian republic should have an international voice because it has half the population and three-fourths of the territory of the Soviet Union and the bulk of Soviet oil, coal, natural gas, gold and timber.
Gorbachev was barely in the air on an eight-hour flight to Khabarvosk en route to Japan for a vital state visit when Yeltsin issued his latest bold challenge to Gorbachev to make way for the growing might of the Soviet republics.
Yeltsin's long shadow has already intruded on Gorbachev's foreign policy. Yeltsin said this month that Russia also should have a say on any deal that Gorbachev might make on returning the four Kurile islands to Japan where a figure of $26 billion has been mentioned as the selling price.
Yeltsin, who in February called for Gorbachev to resign and then urged democratic forces to "declare war" on the Soviet president, said Sunday that the emerging power of the Soviet republics has made Gorbachev's executive presidency redundant.
"What is needed is independent republics and a mini-center serving as a coordinator," Yeltsin said. "If needed, a president for such sovereign states in the union must be just a president-coordinator, or he is not needed at all."
In further potential problems for Gorbachev, the official Tass agency said a plenum of the Central Commitee of the Communist Party will be held April 24. Gorbachev, head of the party as its general-secretary, might have to face calls for his resignation as party boss at the forum.