MOSCOW, JUNE 26 -- Russian leader Boris Yeltsin said today that the Soviet Communist Party leadership is considering postponement of a critical party congress scheduled to begin July 2, adding that a delay "might be a good idea."
KGB chief and party Politburo member Vladimir Kryuchkov, however, told CBS News at a reception at the Bolshoi Theater tonight that "the congress will happen on July 2 -- there is no question about that, so far as I know."
Yeltsin, as well as other party sources, say the leadership has been disturbed by the increasingly strident conservative opposition to reform by provincial party leaders. Yeltsin said the conservatives, emboldened by their full-throated attacks on Gorbachev at a Russian party conference last week, favor going ahead with the congress now but that reformists want to "somehow stabilize the political atmosphere."
Yeltsin, who is also a member of the party's policy-making Central Committee, said the question of when to hold the congress "was not yet decided." Party sources said a meeting of the full Central Committee is likely at the end of the week, and Yeltsin said "there will be quite a struggle there" over the question of a postponement.
Estonian television and the republic's official news service carried reports Monday that the party's ideology chief, Vadim Medvedev, had phoned the Communist leadership there and said a postponement until September was under consideration.
A Soviet journalist with one of the Central Committee's main publications said the party leaders are considering holding part of the congress next week and then resuming the session later in the year,
Speaking at a news conference here, Yeltsin said that postponement might be appropriate because the atmosphere within the party has become so chaotic in recent months. He said the 28th Party Congress will be the party's "last chance" to reform itself radically or lose entirely the trust of the people. If the party does not undergo radical reform, Yeltsin said, he will probably suspend his membership or possibly even quit entirely.
Yeltsin, who was elected president of the Russian republic last month, said that when he forms the republic's government he will select several ministers who are not Communist Party members. Such a government would be Russia's first multi-party leadership in 72 years.
Yeltsin also said that two of the country's leading reform advocates, Moscow Mayor Gavril Popov and Leningrad Mayor Anatoli Sobchak, would be members of the new Russian cabinet. Yeltsin said the Russian legislature has already laid the groundwork for independent political and economic relations with the Baltic republics and with Svoiet Kazakhstan, Moldavia, the Ukraine and Byelorussia in free itslef of Moscow's traditional central control. He also said that he and leaders of the other Soviet republics now have security guards who are not under the authority of the KGB.
The ideological divisions within the party range from social democrats on the "left," such as the Democratic Platform group, to orthodox Marxist-Leninists on the "right" who charge that Gorbachev has betrayed the principles of the Bolshevik Revolution.
A party congress is empowered to elect a new Central Commttee and rewrite the party's political platform, and the last congress, in 1986, endorsed Gorbachev's perestroika reforms. Gorbachev moved up this year's congress to July with the express purpose of intensifying reform of the party in a period when it is losing nearly all its prestige.
Gorbachev said Saturday that he would continue as both Soviet president and general secretary of the party. Yeltsin said he thinks Gorbachev should relinquish his party post, because not only "does he not have enough time for the party," but he also runs the risk "of creating a cult of personality" by holding too much power.