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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Rails Against Mystery Candidate




In a rambling comment that left more questions than answers, President Boris Yeltsin said he opposes someone in upcoming elections - but asked people to guess who that might be.


Common sense would suggest Yeltsin was talking about Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov or the Communists led by Gennady Zyuganov - or both. But it was difficult to tell what the president had in mind, though he might simply be making bold statements to reassert himself after being sidelined for months due to illness and political reversals.


"Let's be frank, there's someone I don't want to see in the Duma - we won't name names, God forbid," Yeltsin said after a meeting with the heads of Russia's main television channels. "But we don't want to see them in the Duma for the sake of Russia and its future. We can't allow Russia to turn around, to go back."


As for presidential elections, Yeltsin, who by law cannot run again, said, "Of course, we will to the extent of our possibilities officially try to see that the future president is one worthy of Russia."


Luzhkov, who is marshaling his forces for a run for president in 2000, registered his new political movement, Otechestvo, or Fatherland, in time to take part in 1999 parliamentary elections. A former Yeltsin ally, Luzhkov has made statements aimed at undermining Yeltsin and implying he's no longer fit to rule. The Communists are the leading opposition group and dominate the State Duma, or lower house of parliament.


The setting - a meeting with broadcasters - might have been significant since both Luzhkov and the Communists have been putting pressure on television channels, with the Communists demanding oversight over state TV and Luzhkov pushing to bankrupt government-controlled ORT, with which he has been at odds. Luzhkov has his own television channel, TV Center.


Yeltsin said he would not permit censorship. "For my part I guarantee that there will be no censorship or demands from above. This has never once been and never will be."


TV stations played a crucial role in Yeltsin's 1996 re-election, ignoring his Communist opponent, Zyuganov.


After being knocked out of action for most of the fall by political reverses and illness that put him in the hospital for two weeks, Yeltsin has been more active in the past few days. But his political standing has fallen sharply, and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov is considered the country's day-to-day leader although Yeltsin retains vast powers on paper.


Despite appearing confused at some public appearances, Yeltsin says there is nothing seriously wrong with him and that he will serve until the end of his term in 2000.


One political analyst, Yevgeny Volk of the Heritage Foundation, compared Yeltsin to a medved-shatun - a bear that is awakened prematurely during hibernation and roams the forest behaving unpredictably. "Speaking so indefinitely and vaguely, it's more ridiculous than serious," Volk said. "Such indefinite threats are a sign of weakness."


Yeltsin doesn't like the Communists and Luzhkov, "but his leverage to prevent them from getting into the Duma is very limited," Volk said.