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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zyuganov Seeks TV Debate, Yeltsin Sends Refusal

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov outlined his response to calls from Russia's leading businessmen for a compromise deal with President Boris Yeltsin, giving the terms of a possible agreement Thursday and calling Friday for a televised "discussion" between the two front-runners.

Yeltsin meanwhile strengthened his rejection of suggestions made since the publication of the businessmen's appeal that he should postpone the June presidential vote, giving his chief bodyguard a public dressing down for floating the idea.

Speaking Thursday at an opposition rally marking Victory Day, Zyuganov said that for its part of a deal, the Communist Party would guarantee a host of rights, including freedom of speech, and would prevent persecution of the current political leadership. But he said the other side of the deal was that Yeltsin must promise to respect the results of the June 16 vote.

Zyuganov was referring to ideas in last month's so-called "letter of the 13," an appeal from 13 of Russia's top businessmen. They warned that the elections, whatever their outcome, could lead to civil war and called for a deal between the two main candidates before the June 16 polls.

On Friday, the Communist Party's press service disseminated a letter sent from Zyuganov to Yeltsin, dated Wednesday, in which the Communist leader called on the president to meet on live television for an "open discussion, without aides and consultants."

Zyuganov proposed that each candidate would give his views "on the main problems of the country, the paths of its development, the means of bringing Russia out of its current dangerous condition." Such a meeting, wrote Zyuganov, would help citizens to "make their choice independently in this decisive moment."

Yeltsin, however, has apparently rejected Zyuganov's invitation. Izvestia, in its Sunday edition, quoted the president as answering: "I was a communist for 30 years and heard so much of that demagogy that today, given my democratic world view, I can no longer endure that demagogy."

Yeltsin also turned his attention to Alexander Korzhakov, head of the presidential security service, who responded to the "letter of the 13" call by saying the elections should be put off for the sake of stability.

Yeltsin has already once disavowed the suggestion of his chief bodyguard and warned him to stay out of politics.

But upon his arrival in Volgograd on Thursday, Yeltsin made a more humiliating attack on Korzhakov, saying the security chief had no right to weigh in on political issues. "If there are any arguments I will fire him immediately and then there won't be any arguments," he said on NTV television as Korzhakov stood impassively next to him.

Signatories of the "letter of the 13" also met Wednesday with Alexander Lebed, another candidate for June's presidential elections. Lebed appeared to support some of the businessmen's ideas. "The main task is not to allow a military confrontation" following the elections, Lebed told reporters after the meeting.

But Lebed was eager to dismiss any speculation that his meeting with the businessmen could be a forerunner for a deal between him and the group. "They didn't buy me -- I am not for sale," he said.

Lebed was short on the substance of the two-hour, closed-door meeting, but said there was total agreement to resist any "unconstitutional" measures in the run-up to the elections

He called on all candidates "to accept any possible outcome of the elections," and said that "further consultations, perhaps even negotiations," are needed to reach agreement on this.

Among the participants from the initiative group in Wednesday's meeting were several of Russia's most prominent bankers -- Mikhail Khodorkovsky of Bank Menatep, Alexander Smolensky of the Stolichny Savings Bank, Vladimir Gusinsky of Most Bank, as well as the group's unofficial spokesman Boris Berezovsky, head of the Logovaz group.

Berezovsky, speaking on behalf of the group, did not wish to give any clear-cut answer to the question of a possible postponement of the elections.

"We are against illegal solutions," he said, but left the door open for continued talks about "all issues" among the presidential candidates.