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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Meets Rival, Misses Navy Celebration

President Boris Yeltsin on Sunday met one of his rivals for the presidency, liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky in the Kremlin, in what appeared to be the latest bid to form an alliance of democratic forces to ensure victory over the communists in the coming presidential elections.


But if Yeltsin was busy behind the scenes, he failed to appear Sunday at a Red Square parade marking the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy, which notably was attended by the Communist Party's presidential candidate, Gennady Zyuganov.


Speaking at the parade, Interfax quoted Zyuganov as saying he too might soon be meeting with Yeltsin.


In an interview on NTV's "Itogi" news program Sunday night, Yavlinsky said that in the course of a 2 1/4 hour meeting he and Yeltsin had skirted around the idea of a deal to cooperate on the presidential elections.


Yavlinsky said he told Yeltsin he had serious policy differences with him on the war in Chechnya, human rights and the economy. He told Yeltsin that the only sign that his concerns were understood would be to enact "serious but not fundamental" changes in the government.


Yavlinsky said there was no question of his removing his candidacy for president before the first round of voting, but he appeared to leave open the question of what might happen in the second round. Yavlinsky said it was up to Yeltsin to request another meeting before the elections.


According to Yabloko officials, negotiations between Yeltsin and Yavlinsky have been going on behind the scenes for several weeks. Last month, the Yabloko No. 2, Vladimir Lukin, hinted at a lunch with American businessmen that Yavlinsky could back Yeltsin to prevent a communist victory, provided certain conditions were met.


For the time being, however, Yavlinsky's public efforts are geared toward forming a so-called "Third Force" to challenge both Yeltsin and Zyuganov, with fellow candidates retired General Alexander Lebed and eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fyodorov. The three are due to announce their choice of a joint candidate May 15, although many analysts have expressed doubts about the likelihood of either Yavlinsky or Lebed stepping down.


Yeltsin met Thursday with Lebed, whose visit to the Kremlin was accompanied by widespread speculation that president would offer Lebed the post of Defense Minister in exchange for his support. This was dismissed, however, by Lebed, who came out of the talks saying that he had neither accepted nor been offered anything by the president.


Sunday's parade was attended by bemedalled veterans and schoolchildren bearing huge swathes of blue material to simulate waves, as well as by another presidential candidate, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. He too said he expected to be invited for talks with Yeltsin. "If I am invited, I will certainly accept the invitation," Interfax quoted Zhirinovsky as saying.


But there has so far been no word from the Kremlin on any planned meetings with either Zyuganov or Zhirinovsky.


The political intrigue has been further thickened by an appeal published in the press on April 27 from 13 of the country's top businessmen for a compromise between Yeltsin and Zyuganov to avert the possibility of the country sliding into chaos and civil war in the wake of the elections.


Last week Yeltsin's top economic adviser Alexander Livshits appeared to endorse the idea, which he described as "balanced."


In an interview with Pravda published Sunday, Zyuganov reiterated a warning that the government was planning to postpone the elections, because it was afraid of losing them.


His remarks coincided with the publication in the British newspaper The Observer of comments by Yeltsin's security chief and close confidant Alexander Korzhakov, who called for the postponement of the polls to prevent instability.


Yeltsin has no public engagements until Thursday, when he travels to Volgograd in south Russia to attend Victory Day celebrations. He is then due to travel to Znamensk, a military city and test center for warplanes and missiles, before going on to the Volga delta city of Astrakhan for an election rally on Saturday.


There have been no further details of his planned visit to Chechnya, which he said last week would take place in the middle of the month to press forward his proposals for three-way negotiations between the rebel field commanders, members of the Moscow-backed government in Grozny and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's special commission for Chechnya.