President Mikhail S. Gorbachev endorsed the formation of a separate Communist Party in the Soviet Union's biggest republic but warned Tuesday of friction between national leaders and those in the Russian republic.
"I view the Russian Communist Party as part of the Soviet Communist Party. And I sharply disagree with those who seek the salvation of Russia in withdrawing from the Soviet Union," he said in a nationally televised address.The champion of that movement is the newly elected president of the Russian Federation, Boris N. Yeltsin, who sat near Gorbachev on the dais. Yeltsin, a former Gorbachev confidant, has become one of his harshest critics.
The Russian party session, which opened in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, is viewed as a bellwether of the watershed 28th Congress of the national Communist Party, due to start July 2.
Russia, with more than half of the Soviet population and three-quarters of its territory, is home to 58 percent of the country's more than 18 million Communist Party members.
The delegates voted 2,607 to 61, with 16 abstentions, to adopt the agenda proposed by Gorbachev to consider the formation of the Russian party and to debate the proposed platform of the national congress and not to discuss their own platform.
Of the 15 Soviet republics, only Russia has not had its own party, in large part because Russians have controlled the national and regional parties.
Gorbachev is seeking to steer the conference on a centrist course between radicals who want to hasten steps toward a market economy and conservatives who want to slow the reforms.
He defended his cautious economic and political reforms and resisted efforts by radicals to open a debate on Russian sovereignty.
"Already we hear the opinion that perestroika has worsened the situation in the country," he said, citing accusations that the reforms had lowered living standards and raised tensions among ethnic groups.
But he said domestic restructuring "is hampered by an ossified and conservative public consciousness that was formed during decades of totalitarian ideology."
Although Gorbachev acted as chairman of Tuesday's session, he was not among the candidates considered likely to be elected as first secretary, or leader, of the new party.
Those in the running were the Soviet premier, Nikolai Ryzhkov; Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin; Yuri Mananenkov, a secretary of the national party; said Andrei Girenko, another national party secretary.