President Mikhail S. Gorbachev Friday denied he was hungry for power and told members of the new Congress that he is in no danger of being removed from office or assassinated.
Also Friday, Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov told the final session of the Congress of People's Deputies the Soviet Union has a foreign debt of nearly $52 billion. It was the first time the debt figure was officially disclosed.He said the amount of the debt explains why the government should not borrow more from Western sources to import more consumer goods.
Gorbachev was reacting to criticism from some deputies that for one man to be both president of the Congress and Communist Party chief makes him too powerful. "I categorically reject the hints" that "I am trying to concentrate power in my own hands," he said.
And acknowledging persistent rumors he said he heard from deputies, Gorbachev told the Congress there was "no danger of a coup or anything like that."
"Let's end these rumors" he told the nationally broadcast session. "In four years I have already died seven times, and my family was killed three times."
Gorbachev told the 2,250 deputies that the Congress "can be considered the biggest event in the history of the Soviet state."
The two-week session marked the first time in seven decades the Kremlin has permitted open debate by popularly elected representatives, and it produced outspoken criticism of the leadership.