MOSCOW, JUNE 9 -- Boris Yeltsin, the newly elected president of the Russian republic, pledged in an interview broadcast today to pursue economic reforms that would not lower living standards and said he would appeal to voters if conservatives blocked his plan.
Yeltsin called for a grace period of two to three years to rescue the stricken economy of the Soviet Union's largest republic and specifically appealed to discontented coal miners not to stage a strike that could cause a "conflagration."
Yeltsin, a vocal opponent of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, criticized the national government's five-year plan to establish a market-based economy involving steep price increases for food and other goods.
"That is the fundamental difference. In their program everything is heaped on the shoulders of the people, while in ours that is not the case," he said in the television interview.
"By using different economic levers we can ensure that people's standards of living do not fall and indeed should rise in time."
But he said the predominantly conservative congress of the Russian republic, by far the largest and most influential of the 15 Soviet republics, was "unstable" and could complicate the introduction of radical changes.
"If there is ever a critical point where understanding cannot be reached, then I will go to the people," Yeltsin said.
Yeltsin, elected president of the Russian republic two weeks ago despite a campaign by Gorbachev in favor of his opponent, dismissed claims that he had no specific economic program.
"We need two years to stabilize the situation and in the third we will see some improvement," Yeltsin said. "But this unquestionably depends on your own desire to create the local conditions necessary for the program to be implemented. I would simply ask you to make this grace period clear and to trust us."
The government program, presented to the Soviet legislature last month by Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, has come under fierce criticism.
The proposed price increases, including a phased threefold rise in bread prices beginning next month, sparked panic buying in Moscow and other cities. The plan is due to be reexamined by Soviet deputies next week and changes are widely expected.
Yeltsin urged coal miners, who staged a national strike last year, to show restraint despite general recognition that an agreement to improve their living and working conditions had not been fulfilled.
"They should now nevertheless refrain from anything that would destabilize the situation in the Russian Federation even more," he said. "It is so tense now that any spark, any rash action anywhere or even a rash word, could create quite simply a conflagration."
Miners from the Arctic coalfield of Vorkuta were shown on television saying a strike could be called at a meeting scheduled for Sunday.