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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CampaignSizzles inFinal Days

As the presidential campaign entered its final week Monday, a supremely confident Boris Yeltsin predicted he would win a decisive first-round victory June 16, while his communist rival accused the president of having the mark of Satan.


"Only in the first round, there will not be a second round," Yeltsin said, predicting victory on arrival Monday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, the next-to-last stop on his final campaign swing.


Yeltsin made the same prediction during a television interview aired Sunday evening.


"I have optimistic figures," Yeltsin told NTV's "Itogi" program, adding that these numbers were backed up by his intuition. He said he had told his aides they could think about a second round -- which will take place if no Alexander Lebed, Yeltsin, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal Grigory Yavlinsky saturating the peak hours around the evening newscasts.


But Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov may have had his last hurrah Saturday with a surreal pep rally at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, where hot dogs were on sale but a brisker business was done in copies of the anti-Semitic fabrication, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


The Congress of the People's Patriotic Bloc, as the event was officially known, was a spooky affair, particularly when Zyuganov in a deadly serious tone accused Yeltsin of being an agent of Satan. Quoting the Bible, Zyuganov said, "Let's remember what was predicted in the Apocalypse: The devil has sent two beasts from hell. The first has a mark on his head. The second has a mark on his hand."


Such eerie talk clearly excited the audience once it realized Zyuganov was alluding to Mikhail Gorbachev, who has a large birthmark on his forehead, and Yeltsin, who blew off two fingers as a child while playing with a hand grenade.


And as they day went on, things got stranger.


A marching band came out, complete with cute girls in rich blue jackets with tails and form-fitting white tights. Next came a parade of younger voters in white "Youth for Zyuganov" T-shirts.


Aman Tuleyev, a presidential candidate, announced he would step aside June 12 in favor of Zyuganov, to roars of approval. Zyuganov told the crowd that "Satan is oozing from his cave" and that the concentration camp was first invented by the British during the Boer Wars and would not be revived by his administration.


Suddenly the stadium was filled with Orthodox Church bells. Three large gold tapestries fashioned in the style of church icons were carried out, brushing alongside red-and-white banners that read "Working Ryazan" or "U.S.S.R." The bells pealed, and the crowd of elderly Communists and dimpled majorettes in spandex applauded wildly.


None of this high communist theater made the evening news.


What did make the headlines were further charges by Kremlin officials that the communists are planning to overturn the election results by charging the government with vote fraud.


On Saturday, Nezavisimaya Gazeta published a document detailing a scenario of communist destabilization surrounding the elections.


According to the scenario, supporters of Zyuganov, in the wake of his defeat at the polls, would launch a campaign to discredit the results and establish a rival government in pro-communist regions. This would lead to civil war and an eventual communist seizure of power.


The document stated the communists have formed armed groups and developed "rather firm positions within the army leadership" in certain units and "in the special services in the center and the regions."


"All allegations of this kind are a 100 percent provocation aimed at destabilizing the country," Zyuganov told reporters Monday, Interfax reported. Last week, he warned that if he were robbed of a victory, millions of his supporters would take to the streets in protest.


For his part, Yeltsin, in his interview with "Itogi," said he was on the lookout for trouble from the Zyuganov camp.


"Judging by the way the communists are acting, there may be some trouble," he said. "When your opponent loses confidence -- and he is losing confidence -- you can expect him to be to try to shake up the situation. We need to be ready for this."


Yeltsin aide Georgy Satarov, who last month charged the communists with planning an "illegitimate seizure of power" if their candidate should lose, again on Monday attacked the Zyuganov campaign's plan to carry out a parallel vote count that could be used to claim the results are invalid.


He said that in response, the Yeltsin campaign plans to send "young students" to monitor the vote, particularly in rural communist strongholds.


Yeltsin campaign manager Sergei Filatov called the recent statements by Zyuganov and other communist leaders "threats of mass unrest," saying "the authorities are preparing themselves for that," but that the Yeltsin team wants to prevent this "by political means."


Even accounting for the mudslinging and media bias, analysts saw the Zyuganov campaign as faltering in the final stretch.


Yury Korgunyuk of the Center for Applied Political Studies said the communists seemed confused and dejected.


"It appears they've done everything they can," he said. "Zyuganov started campaigning too early, and now there's not much left to do."


He added that Zyuganov has run "a normal campaign" which has kept his core supporters happy but has failed to attract new voters.


Communist Party press secretary Mikhail Molodtsov dismissed suggestions that sitting in Moscow would provide the campaign an anti-climactic finish. "I don't think it matters," he said. "Zyuganov isn't going to disappear."