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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President: I Must Run To Stop Red Revanche

YEKATERINBURG, Ural Mountains -- A defiant and confident President Boris Yeltsin declared Thursday that he will run for re-election on June 16, saying that to do otherwise would be an irresponsible and unjustifiable error.

In a speech to some 1,500 local officials and representatives in his home city of Yekaterinburg, Yeltsin, 65, listed the achievements of his five years in office and said he must finish the job because there was no guarantee Communist rivals would not try to turn back the clock, sparking civil war.

"Can I really in this situation take no part in the presidential elections? I have asked myself this question time and time again. But while there is still the threat of conflict between Reds and Whites, my human and civic duty, my duty as a politician who stood at the front of reform, is to bring about the consolidation of all the healthy forces of society," he said.

"My withdrawal from participation in the elections would be an irresponsible step and an unjustifiable error ... I am sure I can lead the country out of despair, alarm and uncertainty."

Looking fit and clearly in good humor, although his voice sounded painfully hoarse, Yeltsin gave an hour-long address peppered with quips and asides that drew laughter and applause and assured his listeners that, despite the hardships Zyuganov its candidate in Moscow on Thursday.

Yeltsin said that one of his major priorities was to resolve the problem of salary arrears and pledged to pay back the estimated $2.8 billion owed to workers by March. "I can tell you that the arrears problem will be solved in March. I did not say July, although that would be a lot easier, but March. And the problem will not be dealt with temporarily, but fully and permanently," he said, without giving any explanation as to where the money would come from.

Addressing a similar grievance, he said measures would be taken during the coming year to index the savings held in Sberbank accounts that were rendered worthless by the hyperinflation of 1992 and 1993. "We will do all we can to return to people, especially the old, what they earned in the course of their lives," he said. (Story, Page 12.)

He said the last five years had been a period of upheaval, in which mistakes were made, but that there had also been solid achievements.

An entirely new market infrastructure had been formed, with a new generation of bankers, financiers and service industry workers, he said. The ruble had stabilized, and inflation had been brought under control.

"The country was on the verge of starvation. How quickly we forget the huge lines for bread, sugar and other produce in 1991. They formed every evening, with people burning bonfires all night to keep warm," he said.

A major achievement had been the elimination of political oppression and the establishment of a free press, he said. "For the first time in decades, there are no political prisoners in Russia. No one is thrown into camps, banished from the country, or deprived of citizenship for their political, religious or ideological convictions."

Turning to the war in Chechnya, he said it was vital to bring an end to the crisis in the shortest possible time. But advocates of radical measures such as the immediate withdrawal of troops or the pursuit of a scorched-earth policy provided no solution to the problem. At the same time, the peace process was gaining strength, he said, with a new feeling of reconciliation among the Chechen people and the gradual restoration of normal life, government and infrastructure.

For the country as a whole, he said it was vital to continue along the course it was now following, although not "at any cost." He added there were still no guarantees that reforms were irreversible.

He said there was a serious risk that the country could fall under the dogmas of the opposition leaders who still believed that they could turn history back.

But, he expressed disappointment with the democratic leaders. "They include bright, clever and sincere people, who have still not acquired enough political experience. I am not sure that they could withstand the pressure of our recent past," he said.

Yeltsin said Russia stood at a crossroads, with those on the right trying to pursue reform at any price, while extremists on the left threatened to wipe out everything that had been achieved. "We cannot allow ourselves to repeat the tragic mistake of 1917," he said.

"On June 16, we are faced with a choice, not simply for the president, but for our future, the fate of Russia."