. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Nizhny, Zyuganov Tells Tale of Yeltsin Plot

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Central Russia -- Russia, unbeknownst to most of its citizens, was on the brink of a dictatorship two months ago, Gennady Zyuganov said Sunday, as he campaigned for election as president in the country's third largest city.


Zyuganov, the Communist Party candidate for June's presidential polls, said that crack soldiers had seized the State Duma under the pretext of a bomb scare, while President Boris Yeltsin and his cabinet were arguing over a plan to crush all opposition to his rule.


"The Duma was taken over by special forces and held for 24 hours on March 17. No one was allowed in. President Yeltsin had his ministers meet, and he laid three decrees on the table: to disperse the Duma, to declare a state of emergency and to cancel the elections," Zyuganov told local businessmen in Nizhny Novgorod.


"All of the ministers except one said no [to the plan]," Zyuganov continued. "A first minister said such a step would turn the country into one giant Chechnya. A second minister said the army would never follow such orders."


In the face of these and other ministers' protests, Yeltsin was forced to back down and the troops were bankers, and then one of Yeltsin's closest advisers, chief of Kremlin security Alexander Korzhakov, stated publicly earlier this month that the elections should be postponed.


Korzhakov was dressed down in public by an angry Yeltsin last week for those remarks, but Zyuganov was apparently unconvinced.


Sunday's detailed account of the events of March 17 was a first for the communist candidate. He offered no other details, but the Communist Party's press secretary, Mikhail Molodtsov, said Zyuganov's account of that day was based on "reports from those close to the ministers" that the party recently obtained.


"There was no bomb," Molodtsov said of the March 17 bomb scare.


Nizhny Novgorod was the first stop in a five-city, five-day campaign tour by Zyuganov of the Russian heartland by train and bus. Although Nizhny Novgorod is neck and neck with Novosibirsk for the title of Russia's third-largest city -- both are home to 1.4 million people -- for Muscovites, it remains a provincial town.


In addition to the March coup-that-almost-was, Zyuganov chose the provinces to reveal other secrets. For example, he said the government of former prime minster Yegor Gaidar had supplied Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev with 200 military airplanes and 130 tanks early in his reign.


He also told locals that "every fourth family in Moscow" participated in the Communist Party's May 9 Victory Day parade there, and he announced that one of his deputies had been traveling in Chechnya and had met with "everyone involved," including Dudayev before his death, to discuss peace terms.


"My assistant has been everywhere [in Chechnya]. He'd knock on doors and say, 'I'm from the Communist Party.' They'd say, 'Come in, we have no quarrel with you.' He has met with all of the field commanders and with the current leadership," Zyuganov said. "And with Dudayev, too."


At noon, about 2,500 people turned out on a sunny and breezy day to hear Zyuganov speak from a platform built against the brown brick wall of Nizhny Novgorod's kremlin, which sits on an embankment high above the Volga.


The crowd carried what today's Communist Party might call politically correct banners: There were no pictures of Stalin or Lenin, and only the tames and blandest of slogans. "Yeltsin has deceived us, we will choose Zyuganov!" or "For the sake of the Fatherland, we will make the correct choice. For the salvation of industry, culture and education, we will vote for Zyuganov!"


But Zyuganov was a bit more fiery. Standing at a microphone with one hand in his pants pocket, he won loudest applause by promising, "the first thing we will do is to give back all that was taken away from women and children." He went on to bemoan "these made-up borders between Russia, Belarus and Ukraine that we used to cross easily," and to rebuke angrily those who have called for removing Lenin from the Red Square mausoleum.


Critics of Zyuganov slipped into the crowd to raise a typical-looking red banner with a slogan in white letters. But the message was: "Zyuganov, tell us the truth about the maximum program!"


That referred to a comment by prominent Communist Party member and Duma deputy Valentin Varennikov, to the effect that the party had a secret plan he called the "maximum program," as well as the published "minimum" one.


But the banner quickly disappeared without a trace, and no one in the crowd seemed to have noticed its arrival or departure.


Russia's Supreme Court on Sunday turned down an appeal from presidential challenger Vyacheslav Ushakov, leaving the final number of candidates competing in the race for the presidency at 11.


The court rejected the appeal of entrepreneur Ushakov, who argued against an earlier decision by the Central Election Commission, Itar-Tass said.


The commission refused to register Ushakov since it doubted the validity of some among the 1 million voter signatures collected by the candidate and required for registration.


Besides Ushakov, those rejected by the election commission and later by the Supreme Court include businessman Artyom Tarasov and politicians Galina Starovoitova, Vladimir Podoprigora and Lev Ubozhko.


The final 11 candidates competing in the June 16 vote are:


Incumbent President


Boris Yeltsin


Communist leader


Gennady Zyuganov


Ultranationalist


Vladimir Zhirinovsky


Liberal economist


Grigory Yavlinsky


Retired General


Alexander Lebed


Surgeon Svyatoslav Fyodorov


Former Soviet president


Mikhail Gorbachev


Nationalist and former weightlifting champion


Yury Vlasov


Businessman


Vladimir Bryntsalov


Businessman Martin Shakkum


Regional governor of the Kemerovo district Aman Tuleyev