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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Fans Rumors Of Liberal Coalition

President Boris Yeltsin on the weekend kept alive speculation that he might cut a deal with rival liberal candidates ahead of June's presidential polls, hinting that he is considering a major government reshuffle.

"We could perhaps replace the greater part of the government team," Itar-Tass quoted Yeltsin as saying in an interview with Omsk television Sunday.

"Why don't we take on board people from other political movements? Why not take, for example, all the interesting ideas proposed by [liberal economist Grigory] Yavlinsky? Or those of other candidates?"

Yeltsin was speaking during a campaign trip to the Siberian cities of Omsk and Vorkuta, where he also reaffirmed his intention to visit the war-ravaged republic of Chechnya before the June 16 polls, although he said there were plans afoot to assassinate him during the visit.

There have been several reports in the media about a possible deal between Yeltsin and Yavlinsky, under which the Yabloko leader was said to be considering withdrawing his own candidacy in return for a senior cabinet post, possibly that of prime minister.

The two men have met twice in the Kremlin over the last few days. At the second meeting last Friday Yavlinsky handed the president a letter setting out his conditions for cooperation. This included the replacement of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, his first deputy Oleg Soskovets, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and presidential chief-of-staff Nikolai Yegorov.

But Yavlinsky, speaking on NTV television Sunday, denied he had sought or been offered a government post at the talks. "I made it clear that I had no intention of withdrawing my candidacy," he said.

Former presidential chief-of staff Sergei Filatov, who now heads Yeltsin's campaign support committee, told a congress of the Russia's Democratic Choice party in Moscow Saturday that it was now unlikely that Yeltsin would be able to form a coalition with Yavlinsky.

Filatov told the congress, which issued a declaration of support for Yeltsin, that supporters of the president should not be complacent, as Yeltsin's maximum ratings "in the best region of Russia" was only 35 to 40 percent.

"This is not enough for victory," Interfax quoted Filatov as saying.

An opinion poll carried out by the RAMIR/Gallup organization for NTV, the results of which were shown on the Itogi program Sunday, showed Yeltsin leading Zyuganov by 32 percent to 25 percent, a gain of three points in the past week against the Communist candidate whose rating remained unchanged.

Those results were similar to a The Moscow Times/CNN poll released last Friday which placed current support for Yeltsin at 27.7 percent against 19.3 percent for Zyuganov.

However, a separate forecast carried out by a special institute under the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs put Zyuganov well in the lead, predicting that he would win 22 to 25 million votes on June 16 compared with 8 to 12 million for Yeltsin.

The institute's chairman, Andrei Neshchadin, told Interfax that most opinion polls failed to take into account the views of the majority of Russians living in small towns and rural areas and therefore gave a distorted picture. But he did not explain the basis for his forecast, which was not an opinion poll.

While in Omsk, Yeltsin reaffirmed his intention to visit Chechnya.

"I know an assassination attempt has been planned against me," Interfax quoted Yeltsin as saying. "But I will go to Chechnya because peace must be established there."

Yeltsin gave no indication of when his proposed visit would take place.

This week the president, 65, is due to continue the intensive tour of the provinces that started earlier this month, making trips north to Arkhangelsk and the Arctic mining city of Vorkuta.