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Lebed Gambit Paid Off for Yeltsin

Chekalovsky, Moscow region, July 4 (RFE/RL) -- Despite the decline of the Moscow Region military town of Chekalovsky during his rule, President Boris Yeltsin won big there yesterday. The main reason seemed to be his alliance with retired General Alexander Lebed.

Early returns showed more than 70 percent of Chekalovsky's 14,000 votes going to Yeltsin. That exceeded by far his national margin over Communist rival Gennady Zyuganov.

Many the uniformed residents of the town acknowledge that their living standard has deteriorated since President Yeltsin started directing a political and economic transformation five years ago. But still they chose him over Zyuganov.

"As they say, I chose freedom," said Lieutenant Alexei Batalov, echoing one of the slogans repeated by Russia's news media during the campaign in the second round of the presidential elections. In the first round on June 16, he said, he had voted for Lebed.

Back then Yeltsin scored more than 40 per cent of Chekalovsky votes, Lebed won about 25 per cent, and Zyuganov came in well behind. at most of polling stations, not only in Chekalovsky but also in two other military towns of Novy Gorodok and Bakhchivandzhi 35 km northeast of Moscow.

One can only estimate the military vote in Russia because most armed services members cast their ballots at the same open polling stations as civilians. However, at nearly one hundred stations where only military servicemen voted on June 16, Lebed placed highest, with about 49 per cent of the vote.