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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diva Sings the Wrong Part in Krasnoyarsk

KRASNOYARSK, Western Siberia -- Russian pop icon Alla Pugachyova came to Siberia on Thursday to offer her diamond-strewn hand of support to the struggling re-election campaign of Krasnoyarsk Governor Valery Zubov.

Well, sort of.

Moments after strolling down the steps of her private jet, named "Alla," the diva delivered some heartbreaking news to the governor, who is up against Alexander Lebed in Sunday's gubernatorial election.

Pugachyova said she would vote for the retired general in the 2000 presidential elections.

"Honestly, Lebed is a bright star, just a wonderful person," Pugachyova said. "Only I wouldn't vote for him here, but in Moscow, not now, but later, when Lebed becomes a presidential candidate. There is too little space here for a man like him."

Zubov cupped his chin in the palm of his hand and sadly looked down at the tips of his shined shoes.

"I came to support the current governor, Valery Zubov," Pugachyova added reassuringly. Zubov nodded his head.

And so it goes for the governor of this economically troubled but resource-rich stretch of Siberia.

At the beginning of his re-election campaign, Zubov was running almost unchallenged. But his campaign hit bumpy ground the moment Lebed declared his intention in February to take over as leader of the Krasnoyarsk region.

Lebed won the first-round vote against Zubov last month 45 percent to 35 percent. The former paratrooper and Kremlin security adviser said he will run for president if he does well in Krasnoyarsk on Sunday.

The potential field to succeed President Boris Yeltsin is now in disarray, scattered with figures who have little country-wide support.

But voters in Krasnoyarsk have in past years reflected the nation's mood as a whole.

Lebed bills himself as the perennial outsider and his candidacy does not go down well with many Moscow politicians. So, either to hurt Lebed's presidential ambitions or to help them, stars bright and fading have in recent weeks flooded this remote land with their glare, hoping to sway voters.

And perhaps no star is bigger in Siberia than Pugachyova, who has embodied Russian pop music for the past three decades and is even mentioned on local television here as a potential presidential candidate herself.

"Oh, how can anyone think of such high posts when so many people can't even make ends meet," Pugachyova said, rolling her eyes at the television studio ceiling.

Whatever Pugachyova's own political ambitions may be, she did little to help those of the man she came -- at least in theory -- to support.

Her only public appearance with Zubov was to be in the box seats of the local Pushkin Theater, where the two were to sit through a Thursday evening performance of William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew."

But much to the chagrin of Zubov campaign aides, local journalists and a swarm of fans waiting with bouquets of flowers, Pugachyova did not show up.

"There has been a schedule change," a Zubov campaign worker named Sveta said after a 30-minute delay. "That's all I know."

A crowd of schoolchildren groaned and quietly shuffled away.

"It's so indecent to keep the actors waiting for so long," said an elderly woman with a pink rose wrapped in cellophane.

Zubov, who had earlier ridiculed Lebed for bringing in aging French movie heartthrob Alain Delon to help his own campaign last month, put a brave face on Pugachyova's less than stellar campaign performance.

"I know her, but I cannot say that we are friends," Zubov said at a news conference. "Pugachyova said she came here because she felt it was her civic duty. She came on her own. Nobody paid her."

Although this campaign has brought more famous names to Krasnoyarsk in one span than anyone here can remember, the influx seems to have done little good to the candidates themselves.

Before the first-round vote, Zubov stumped hand-in-hand with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. But regions where the two appeared together ended up voting for Lebed.

Instead of debating issues, Zubov and Lebed in recent days have spent much of their time arguing about the stars who came to help them.

"Delon came here without knowing our language, culture or even where Krasnoyarsk was," Zubov fumed Thursday.

As may have been expected, the Lebed camp also pounced on its chance to ridicule Zubov's efforts to rub shoulders with Pugachyova.

"She came here after being asked to do so by Luzhkov," said Lebed's press secretary Vladimir Yakushenko. "She's from Moscow, so she couldn't refuse the mayor's request. But who cares? Pugachyova said she would vote for Lebed."

In any event, the show in Siberia will go on, at least until Sunday.

Russian folk singer Lyudmila Zykina is scheduled to perform a special benefit concert Friday for Zubov in Norilsk, a Krasnoyarsk regional metals factory town above the Arctic Circle.