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Russian Leftist Parties Pledge Support For Zyuganov

Moscow, March 4 (RFE/RL) -- Representatives from a broad range of leftist Russian political parties today created a "National-Patriotic Union" to support Communist presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov.

Our Moscow correspondent quotes Communist Party representatives as saying that at least eight pro-Communist parties have signed an agreement supporting Zyuganov as a candidate for the June elections.

The party "Power to the People," led by former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, and the hard-line Agrarian party of Mikhail Lapshin are among those which have joined the new union.

Zyuganov has called for a revision of Yeltsin's ambitious privatization program that has put huge portions of state property into private hands. The program has created a class of wealthy businessmen which has drawn the resentment of workers.

Today's move follows a weekend rally of democracy forces in Moscow which urged support for President Boris Yeltsin.

The demonstrators expressed hope that two of Russia's best-known reformers, Yegor Gaidar and Grigory Yavlinsky, would soon join their ranks. Gaidar, a former acting prime minister, broke with Yeltsin after the decision to send troops into Chechnya. He has not said yet whom he intends to back in the presidential electoions but has expressed similar wishes for the pro-reformists to unite.

Yavlinsky has categorically ruled out any cooperation with Yeltsin and is running for the presidency himself.