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Gorbachev fumes over eviction from Moscow foundation

Mikhail Gorbachev, who once led a superpower, was locked out of his own office Thursday and reduced to standing on the steps outside and shaking his fists in anger and frustration.

He accused President Boris Yeltsin of treating him like a spy and of evicting him from the offices of the Gorbachev Fund, his think tank, out of political spite.

When he ran the Soviet Union as the Communist Party's general secretary, Gorbachev once fired Yeltsin as Moscow party boss. Since the Soviet Union collapsed and Yeltsin became president of Russia, Gorbachev has been humbled by a series of blows.

Yeltsin has stripped Gorbachev of his luxury apartment, his limousine and his Black Sea dacha, and his passport has been lifted.

On Wednesday Yeltsin ordered all property of the Gorbachev Fund taken over by a new government academy that will train specialists in banking and finance.

"He has sealed off the building and locked out its employees in a country that the leaders say is democratic," Gorbachev said as he stood in front of a police cordon, shaking his fists in the air.

He called the eviction "pressure to make sure Gorbachev knows his place."

The action came days after Yeltsin criticized Gorbachev for refusing to testify in a trial on the fate of the Communist Party.

"They've sent the police and surrounded us as if the fund were a spy nest," Gorbachev said. The storage and accounting rooms were occupied, he said, "as if they're going to find gold bullion and discover millions of dollars and caches of weapons there."

Gorbachev took over as head of the fund this year. Under his leadership, it had continued to work out of the five-building complex in northern Moscow where its operations began.

The offices formerly were Communist Party property and became government property with the collapse of the Communist regime. The complex was transferred to Gorbachev with Yeltsin's agreement.

Gorbachev will be allowed to rent about 3,300 square feet at a former Communist Party country estate the fund had used for guest housing.

Yeltsin and Gorbachev apparently had reached a truce after the Soviet Union collapsed and Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president. But they fell out again when Gorbachev began criticizing Yeltsin's policies.

"Yesterday, I said that the president is incapable of doing his job," Gorbachev said Thursday. "As you can see, he has shown what he is capable of. He has sealed off the building and locked out its employees in a country that the leaders say is democratic."

Last week, the government denied Gorbachev permission to leave the country because he has refused to testify in the trial weighing the legality of Yeltsin's ban of the Communist Party.

"I would not say anything even if I were led there in handcuffs," Gorbachev, who has called the trial a "farce," said in August.

Yeltsin's office issued a statement saying reports that the travel ban violated human and civil rights were groundless. It quoted a Russian law stating that citizens are not to be allowed out of the country "if they have not fulfilled obligations to the state."

The fund responded to the ban with a statement saying, "The first president of the U.S.S.R. has become the first political refusenik of Russia." The term "refusenik" was applied to Soviet Jews denied permission by the Kremlin to emigrate.

Although Gorbachev remains prominent in the West, he is unpopular and plays little role in his homeland. He is blamed by hard-liners for the fall of the Soviet Union, by democrats for not pushing reforms hard and fast enough, and by millions for ethnic violence throughout the former republics.

_ Information from the New York Times was used in this report.