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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Siberia Governor Argues for Post

Valery Zubov, the embattled governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, said Thursday that he -- not General Alexander Lebed -- is the best person to run the Siberian region's economy and attract foreign investment.

Zubov is being challenged by Lebed in gubernatorial elections scheduled for April 26. The populist former paratrooper makes no secret of wanting to be elected president in 2000 and is widely thought to be eyeing the governor's job as a staging post for his bid on the presidency.

But continuity of leadership, not a part-time governor, is what the region needs, Zubov argued at a Moscow news conference Thursday.

"If I remain in my post, then economic growth will continue there, as it has been for three years now, and if there is a change, then it will be out of my hands," Zubov said.

Billing himself as a pragmatic economic manager, Zubov said attracting foreign investment "is not something you do in one month."

"I am the most suitable because it's obvious to everyone I am not aiming for any national office, and so there will be stability in the region, and their financial interests will be guaranteed," he said.

Zubov, a former economics professor and later deputy head of the regional administration, was named acting governor in 1993, when his predecessor resigned. He won the election by a wide margin three months later.

By most accounts, he faces a tough battle against the charismatic Lebed, who finished third in the first round of the 1996 presidential election. Zubov also faces Communist Pyotr Romanov and 12 other candidates. If no single candidate polls more than 50 percent, a runoff will be held.

Lebed, 48, has no prior ties to the region, save the fact that his younger brother, Alexei, is the governor of the neighboring republic of Khakassia.

The simple fact that Lebed chose Krasnoyarsk over other regions as his launching pad is an endorsement of the region's economic policies, Zubov said.

The race is shaping up as a clash of Moscow's warring financial clans, with Zubov thought to be supported by Moscow's Uneximbank and its head, Vladimir Potanin.

Uneximbank controls Norilsk Nickel, the metallurgical giant located in the far north of Krasnoyarsk region.

Lebed is widely believed to have the backing of rival tycoons Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky -- keen to oust Uneximbank from Norilsk Nickel -- as well as of the influential Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory.

The Moscow newspaper Kommersant has already written Zubov off, publishing a story under the headline "Head of Krasnoyarsk Region Will Lose Election."

The story said Zubov's fellow regional officials in the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, were already discussing who would take Zubov's place as vice speaker of the body.

Nikolai Petrov, who studies regional politics at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said the outcome is still in doubt, but he thinks Zubov has a better chance than Lebed, despite Lebed's bigger national reputation and undisputed charisma.

"General Lebed is a good, vivid, strong candidate," Petrov said, "but what is working against him is that everyone knows the region is for him not an end, but only a means."