Yeltsin's new ally reveals his darker side
Friday 28 June 1996
With less than a week before the run-off which will determine whether he stays in the Kremlin, Boris Yeltsin may rue the speedy way he lavished power on Alexander Lebed in the hope of winning over the former general's supporters. Mr Lebed is showing signs of being a liability.
Yesterday, while addressing a meeting of Cossacks, he said Russian religious sects, including Mormons, were "mould and scum" which had been "artificially brought into our country with the purpose of perverting, corrupting, and ultimately breaking up our state".
Such "foul sects", he continued, must be outlawed because they posed "a direct threat to Russia's security". The country must defend its "established, traditional religions" - namely, Russian Orthodoxy, Islam and Buddhism. Noticeably, he omitted Judaism.
Such intolerance from a leading politician would have caused an outcry in the West. But in Russia such views, especially among the nationalists Lebed was addressing, are not thought remarkable
Yet, even if he was playing politics - sounding off in the hope of winning votes - Mr Lebed was guilty of bad tactics. If Mr Yeltsin is to beat the Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, he needs to attract the votes of 5.5 million people who voted for the liberal economist Grigory Yavlinksy in the first round. Mr Lebed, a moderate on most other fronts, yesterday gave them a good reason not to bother voting at all.
His unpredictability and political inexperience is undoubtedly worrying the Kremlin, and raises the possibility that his wings will be clipped after the election. It may help explain why Mr Yeltsin's energetic campaign appears to be ending in a whimper. The President was to have been on a trip yesterday, but he decided to remain in Moscow; mindful, no doubt, of the need to keep an eye on his protege.
Yesterday's performance was not Mr Lebed's first bout of excitable behaviour since becoming the secretary of the Security Council. Last week he accused five generals of plotting a coup after the firing of the Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev. He subsequently toned down the allegations - although four of the officers were sacked. Whatever the truth of the matter, this is scarcely the kind of indecision one would expect from a security chief at his level.
This and other episodes may be part of a larger development; as the presidential race draws to a close, the Kremlin is moving closer towards Mr Zyuganov's camp. Mr Lebed yesterday supported the idea of a coalition government - an idea, albeit different in form, first suggested by the Communist leader.
And, after vilifying the Communists for months, Mr Yeltsin said he was "ready for dialogue and co-operation with all those for whom the fate of Russia is a top priority", including "honest Communists".
The question is whether this is just vote-seeking posturing, or whether they will really work in unison after polling day.
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
Antonio Martin shooting: Black teenager may have tried to ambush patrolman, says police officer's lawyer
Orphan kangaroos spend Christmas without their parents
Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
New route to Mars could make manned mission much cheaper and easier
Isis 'did not shoot down Jordan war plane' before capturing pilot, says US
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...