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Political Winds Blowing In Old St. Petersburg

  • Brian Whitmore



St. Petersburg, March 28 (RFE/RL) - The political season definitely has opened in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

Start with the Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev. He said yesterday that he intends to run against Mayor Anatoly Sobchak in gubernatorial elections set May 19. He said he has so notified Sobchak.

In response to journalists' questions, Yakovlev said that under the circumstances he wouldn't blame the mayor for firing him.

He charged that Sobchak speaks of democratic principles, but fails to act on them. In his own venture into democratic politics, Yakovlev, said he wrote the mayor that he valued his time so far in the city government because, as he put it, "I have been able to see its many weak points." The deputy mayor said that he won't be surprised if the mayor now sets out to blame his deputy for many of the city's ills.

Yakovlev said as governor - the title given to the city's top post under a new election law - he would seek to unify the city government and that of the Leningrad Oblast (region) to facilitate development and road building. He said he would seek to establish credit banks in each city district to assist urban development.

His supporters claim that Yakovlev is on the way to being St Petersburg's Lushkov. Yuri Lushkov is the powerful current mayor of Moscow.

At a different political level, a candidate for Russia's presidential election, Svyatalav Fyodorov, held a press conference in St. Petersburg. He told journalists that he is in negotiations with fellow candidates, liberal economist Grigory Yavlinsky and General Alexander Lebed, over who should be the single candidate of a third force alliance to be announced shortly before the June national presidential election. The choice would oppose the front runners, incumbent Boris Yeltsin and communist Gennadi Zyuganov.

Fyodorov, a well-known eye surgeon, displayed a keen interest in matters technological. He said he is focusing his campaign on the development of new technology. Without that, he said, Russia can not compete. Asked if he would support and endorse another candidate with a better chance for victory, he said that even a cosmonaut needs a co-pilot. Asked which government post he ask for if he stepped down in favor of another candidate, he responded that he was disinterested in power. He put it this way: "I want to make peoples' lives better."
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