Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin read the riot act to a gathering of lawmakers and executive officials from across his vast country Friday, ordering them to stop their local squabbles because they threaten to choke his reforms.
"The people will never forgive us if the hardships they are going through turn out to be in vain, if reforms fail to bring about positive results only because of disputes between the two branches of power, especially at the local level," Yeltsin said.He accused local officials of "weakening Russia's nascent statehood" by ignoring his decrees and government resolutions, of violating the constitution and Russian laws and of corruption. "As a result, the Russian Federation as a whole and its regions, and all Russian citizens have suffered considerable moral and material losses," Yeltsin said.
Yeltsin's reproach, at a first-of-a-kind meeting of legislative and executive leaders from across the country in the central Russian city of Cheboksary, brought to light the chaotic situation in local government across the country.
"Especially intolerable is the discord in the work of the representative and executive branches on all levels," Yeltsin said. "What previously seemed like a small glitch in the mechanism of state management can now become a serious obstacle in implementing the reforms."
The Russian president accused the regional legislatures and city councils of interfering in the everyday affairs of executive bodies and scolded mayors and chief administrators for assuming lawmaking powers.
Admitting that some of the blame was his because the new structure of local governments he introduced a year ago had failed, Yeltsin said that a new system had to be designed.
"We've staged an experiment and we've seen it didn't work well." he said. "There is a need now to start a reform of local self-government without delay."
Yeltsin, who won his popularity by battling corruption and privilege of the former Communist Party leadership, said that the new local officials were similarly abusing their authority.
Only 3 percent of the money local regions have earned has been used for food. Another 8 percent to 10 percent has gone to develop local industry. But all the rest has been used to pay for foreign travel, foreign cars, and "miscellaneous" expenses for the officials, Yeltsin said.