Gorbachev Agrees to Cede Soviet Structures to Russia

Moving of Certain Entities Expected by Year End; Some Disputes Remain

By Elisabeth Rubinfien, Staff Reporter
The Wall Street Journal

December 18, 1991

Moscow -- President Mikhail Gorbachev quietly accepted the end of the Soviet Union, agreeing that by the new year all central government structures will cease to exist and the red Soviet flag will no longer fly over the Kremlin.

In two hours of discussions with Russian republic President Boris Yeltsin, the two leaders decided that part of the structures of the U.S.S.R., including the state bank, will come under Russian jurisdiction, while others will be abolished, according to the official Tass and independent Interfax news agencies.

Mr. Gorbachev's personal future remains unresolved. He hasn't formally resigned, although yesterday's decision seems to end his job as president of the nation. Both Mr. Yeltsin and Ukraine President Leonid Kravchuk have said there is no role for Mr. Gorbachev in the new commonwealth they founded with Byelorussia last week. Leaders of the republics that plan to join the commonwealth will meet Saturday in the Kazakh capital of Alma-Ata to sign their agreement.

Mr. Gorbachev left an opening for himself by saying he may attend the Alma-Ata meeting and in any case plans to send his views on key issues. The issues he will address include control of nuclear arms, the transfer of Union structures to Russia and the means to prevent an explosion of nationalist violence, according to Gorbachev spokesman Andrei Grachev.

"If it is a meeting of republic leaders, then Gorbachev, not being one of them, doesn't plan to attend it," said Mr. Grachev. However, he said, if it resembles a State Council meeting, Mr. Gorbachev "may participate in it." The State Council comprises republican leaders and Mr. Gorbachev, and for months has been trying to create a new union treaty that would preserve a central government while giving republics more autonomy.

Mr. Grachev also said the full transition period would be completed by mid-January. "After that, one can say one state is replacing another in history," he said, according to Tass.

Certain disputes remain unsettled.

The Soviet federal Parliament deputies spent the day debating their future. Russia had already recalled its representatives and said that the Parliament no longer exists following the founding of the new commonwealth. But Soviet deputies refused to accept this logic and decided the Parliament would continue to function until the commonwealth forms its own coordinating bodies.

Russia also said it would take over the Parliament's Kremlin property. But the chairman of the Parliament's upper house, Anuarbek Alimzhanov, said, "It is not only Russia who earned the property." Many Central Asian Parliament deputies also opposed Russia's unilateral declaration, and accused the Russian leadership of "negligence" toward Central Asia. "The meeting in Minsk gave us hope that the tension in the country can be eased," said Umtul Orozova of Kirgizia, according to Tass. "But today this hope cracked in the Russian White House," he said, referring to the Russian Parliament building.

Soviet Defense Minister Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, who Monday joined Mr. Yeltsin in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, further indicated that he is aligning with the new commonwealth. A senior U.S. official traveling with Mr. Baker to various republics said that Mr. Shaposhnikov expects to become the commander-in-chief of the commonwealth's armed forces, according to Reuters news agency. The official also said that Mr. Baker has been assured that the Soviet military will stay out of politics, alleviating some concern that the military might step in to take control as the U.S.S.R. disintegrates.

Meanwhile, one of the Soviet houses of Parliament passed an appeal asking Mr. Gorbachev to resign for apparently not caring about state issues. The deputies attacked the president for having taken the time to meet the German rock group Scorpions Sunday, while the nation is in a state of crisis. The rock group presented Mr. Gorbachev with 100,000 marks ($64,000) for Soviet charities.

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