Vital Signs

Lebed in Siberia

"The situation in Krasnoyarsk," opined Communist Party (CPRF) boss Gennadi Zyuganov, "is reminiscent of Germany in the 1930's." Fascism, claimed the national Bolshevik boss, who should know a thing or two about the subject, is threatening Russia, incubating in a Siberian womb. He was not alone in making such dubious charges. In fact, in the days leading up to the April 26 gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Kray, a vast, mineral-rich region stretching from the Arctic to the Chinese border, a flock of the Moscow political and financial elite's leading songbirds descended on the unsuspecting—and long-suffering—inhabitants of the kray, chirping their praises of the well-connected incumbent, Valeri Zubov (local representative of what Russians call the "party of power"), and damning his opponent, a much-decorated former general of Airborne Troops, Aleksandr Lebed. The flock included Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who, as the boss-in-chief of Russia's equivalent of Tammany Hall, sees Lebed as an "extremist." Luzhkov intends to poach on Lebed's populist-nationalist electoral field come the presidential elections in 2000, and he will be one of the big losers if the Lebed juggernaut continues to roll in the direction of Moscow.

At times it seemed as if Zubov had turned over the campaign to the folks who really run things and who appear to be hysterical at the prospect of Lebed...

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