Seven Parliament members, including Moscow's deputy mayor, quit the Communist Party in a quickening exodus, and Mikhail Gorbachev intensified his drive to turn the country into a union of sovereign states with a market economy.
Some 86,000 people quit the party in the first three months of 1990, and defections have increased since the 28th Communist Party Congress ended last week.The seven deputies Wednesday issued a joint declaration of their decision to defect, disregarding Gorbachev's statement to the gathering that he holds "in contempt" those who desert the party now.
"Some democratic provisions included in the decisions of the 28th Soviet Communist Party Congress do not change the conservative trends in the party," said the declaration.
Moscow Deputy Mayor Sergei Stankevich followed his boss, Mayor Gavriil Popov, into the ranks of former party members, making the country's biggest metropolis a city now run by non-Communists.
Mikhail Bocharov, also a member of the Russian Federation's Parliament and the chief aide to the giant republic's president, Boris Yeltsin, also emulated his boss by quitting the party.
Yeltsin's dramatic defection at the party congress led the stampede.
Vladimir Tikhonov, head of the cooperatives' union of semi-private businesses, also turned in his party card Wednesday, apparently convinced the party is not the vehicle to promote market enterprises.
Gorbachev, faced with declarations of sovereignty by seven Soviet republics this year, ordered a speedup of a new pact to give the republics vastly more independence in a revamped Soviet federation.
"We are in the process of working out a new all-union treaty, which according to the conception of President Gorbachev should be a treaty of sovereign states," Gorbachev spokesman Arkady Maslennikov told a news conference.
Maslennikov confirmed a report by the independent Interfax news service that the 17-member Presidential Council will meet Friday to discuss the draft treaty and accelerated economic reforms.
Interfax said the Soviet Parliament will convene in August, a month ahead of schedule, to discuss the new national contract with the 15 republics and a package of proposals for a transition to a market economy.
The market proposal would be the third economic plan in less than a year presented by Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov, the man now in position to be the fall guy should reforms fail.