Moscow, May 8 (RFE/RL) - The Russian Communist Party is threatening legal action against President Boris Yeltsin to block his courting of military votes in his re-election campaign.
Mikhail Surkov, a member of the party's presidium and deputy chief
of the Duma's Defense Committee, yesterday said the Communists will file an inquiry with both the Constitutional Court and the Central Electoral Commission.
Surkov told RFE/RL that "some of our comrades plan to call for Yeltsin's withdrawal."
Opposition candidate for president, Gennady Zyuganov, is leader of
the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), and generally
runs ahead of Yeltsin in opinion polls in what is widely regarded as
effectively a two-way race.
Surkov talked to RFE/RL in Moscow after a press conference in which he laid out Zyuganov's proposals for military reorganization. He said that Yeltsin "intentionally is violating" laws forbidding political activity within military units.
Russian defense forces comprise 1.7-million ppotential voters - with 4.5-million family members.
Surkov said that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and the chief of
the Defense Ministry's Propaganda and Drill Directorate, Sergei
Zdorikov, both Yeltsin appointees, have ordered a veiled campaign for
Yeltsin throughout the armed forces. Surkov is himself a former staff
member of the Propaganda and Drill Directorate.
While visiting the central Russian city of Yaroslavl last week,
Yeltsin openly campaigned at a local military academy. After the
academy expressed support for his presidential candidacy, Yeltsin
pledged to transfer the equivalent of two-million dollars to the
A senior commander yesterday publicly declared support for Yeltsin.
Leontii Kuznetsov, chief of the Moscow Military District, told
reporters that Yeltsin has led the country through difficult times.
As Kuznetsov put it: "Now, when it's clear that Russia is coming out
of crisis, somebody else wants to capitalize on it."
The Defense Ministry's press service Tuesday denied that the armed
forces have failed to remain politically neutral. Asked about illegal
military politicking, spokesman Ivan Skrylnik said, "There is nothing
of the kind."
Vladimir Titov, aide to presidential candidate General Alexander
Lebed, told RFE/RL that illegitimate pressure on the military acts to the advantage of Yetsin's opponents. He said that military and other voters have proved in the recent past that they opt for the opposition when pressed too hard to vote for what Titov called "the so-called party of power's candidate."
In the last Duma elections, military voters overwhelming favored
Communist, ultra-nationalist or other opposition candidates.
Last week, Surkov announced that Zyuganov plans to set up a
special Defense Council to ensure control over the Defense, Foreign
and Interior Ministries, the Security Service, and other power ministries.
Surkov called for a single body chaired, as he put it, "by
the president himself," to oversee and ensure order in everything,
from Chechnya to conscription, from food supplies to national
security and defense industry matters.