Communist candidate challenges Yeltsin to a debate
Russian president campaigns in St. Petersburg
June 13, 1996
Web posted at: 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Boris Yeltsin's closest opponent in Sunday's presidential election withdrew from one debate Thursday and challenged the Russian leader to another one.
There was no immediate response from Yeltsin, who took his campaign to St. Petersburg for a rally and a visit to a shipbuilding yard. 183K map of Russia
In Moscow, all the Russian presidential candidates were invited to participate in a nationally televised debate organized by the Interfax News Agency. Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev already had declined and, on Thursday, Communist Gennady Zyuganov also pulled out.
Only four candidates, all of them considered unlikely to play a major role in the elections, showed up for the debate.
Zyuganov said, in effect, that if Yeltsin did not participate, there was no need for him to do so. Zyuganov then challenged Yeltsin to debate him on Friday, two days before the voting.
"I am addressing you not as the president of Russia, but as a candidate, as an equal before the law and the voters," Zyuganov said in a letter addressed to Yeltsin.
Zyuganov said he wanted the debate "not to criticize each other's positions of the past and present, but so that we can expound our views on Russia's future development in greater depth."
Yeltsin, who leads in opinion polls after trailing Zyuganov badly a few months ago, has turned down previous debate invitations. Zyuganov Thursday downplayed the polls, calling them unreliable; he predicted a victory.
He promises to try to restore the Soviet Union as well as the Communist-era social safety net and greater state control of the economy.
Tuleyev formally dropped
In other developments:
- Alexander Lebed, the popular former Russian Army general, said Thursday he is closing in on the front runners. "I am in third place," Lebed told CNN, "but I haven't lost hope for second place."
- The Central Electoral Commission officially scratched the name of Aman Tuleyev off the presidential ballot. Tuleyev, a Siberian Communist leader, announced he was withdrawing in favor of Zyuganov. The decision leaves 10 names on the presidential ballot for Sunday's vote.
- Presidential candidate Vladimir Bryntsalov, a wealthy businessman and member of parliament, distributed a certificate saying he has had a full physical and mental examination and was found to be healthy. Some members of parliament had questioned his mental heath. Bryntsalov said he had been examined by doctors at the diagnosis center of Russia's Defense Ministry.
- Although most Russians vote on Sunday, ballots already have been cast by residents of the Yamal peninsula which juts into the Arctic Ocean. In their attempt to make sure Russians in all 11 of the country's time zones vote, election officials brought ballots to the remote northern region by helicopter.
Pivotal Elections: Russia
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