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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zyuganov Initiates Battle of'98 Budget

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov fired off his first salvo in the impending battle over the government's 1998 draft budget Monday, calling the plan "destructive."

But Zyuganov did not rule out the possibility of cutting a deal with the government. The support of his faction, the biggest in the State Duma, is crucial if the budget is to pass.

Speaking as the Duma, parliament's lower house, prepares to reconvene after its summer vacation, Zyuganov said: "The first acquaintance with the government's draft budget for 1998 shows that the government will continue to pursue its destructive policy, which is absolutely inadmissable."

The draft budget slashes expenditures except for a handful of priority programs. Government ministers have hailed the budget, saying that for the first time expenditure has been set at realistic levels.

But a fight is expected in parliament. The Duma has nixed previous austerity measures, and the regional leaders who sit in the Federation Council object to proposed cuts in financial aid to the regions.

Legislators are due to start debating the document in early October.

President Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to meet with Duma leaders Tuesday, and the forthcoming budget debate is expected to be a main topic of their discussions.

Zyuganov dismissed those talks as a ploy by the government to make it appear that the opinions of deputies are being taken seriously. "These maneuvers lack one thing -- the wish to change the current mercenary and destructive course," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Nevertheless, the Communist leader signaled that his position was flexible. He stopped short of pledging to vote against the budget, saying members of his faction had not yet made up their minds.

"The time for gathering around a negotiating table and discussing the situation has not been lost yet," he said.