After Boris Yeltsin: A Mayor or a General?

Article excerpt

They are top contenders to succeed the ailing president. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov turned Moscow into a brightly lit metropolis, but he must win over other Russians. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, an Afghan-war hero who is governor of the province of Krasnoyarsk, plays the outsider. The two squared off last week in blunt interviews with Newsweek's Lally Weymouth. Luzhkov met Weymouth in the vast and ornate Red Room in Moscow's city hall. Excerpts:

YURI LUZHKOV

Weymouth: Are you running for president?

Luzhkov: I don't stop people from thinking what they want to think. But I have not announced my desire to run. Such announcements may come if I see the candidates are weak.

Will President Yeltsin's health allow him to serve out his term?

I am not a doctor. There are times he has problems. He has to determine if he is capable of running the state effectively. Only the president can answer your question.

What is the significance of the death of Galina Starovoitova, the prominent liberal politician recently slain in St. Petersburg?

The death of any person is a tragedy. She was a big political personality with a good vision of the problems of the state.

Should the Communist Party be shut down because of the failure of its leader to denounce the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Gen. Albert Makashov, one of its prominent members?

It would not be democratic to shut down the party based on a statement--even the wildest one--made by one communist deputy. I really regret the fact that the Communist Party did not find the strength to denounce the wild anti-Semitism of General Makashov.

You have formed a new party, "Fatherland," saying you'd take the best ideas from the left and the right. What does your party stand for?

Our principle is that we have to workthe capitalist way and distribute the results of this work according to socialist principles. I believe in: the market economy, a social safety net, democracy andfree elections. We are not left or right.

Reportedly, you've been negotiating with communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. What are the results?

[There will be] no coalition with Zyuganov.

What about with Liberal Party leader Grigory Yavlinsky?

No coalitions with the extreme right like Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar have ever been planned. As for Yavlinsky, we are personal friends, and I respect his party's positions. We have mutual consultations.

What's your appraisal of the job Prime Minister Primakov is doing?

He's trying. Some call the government a leftist government, but the [supposedly] leftist government is adopting a rightist tax code.

You have not yet allowed real-estate sales. What is your view of private property?

We're not selling land yet. We conduct privatizations based on the real value of the property, unlike Mr. Chubais, who conducted them based on the basis of his political goals. When he saw there were no buyers, he gave away the properties for almost nothing.

What about the U.S.-Russian relationship? Has Russia moved away from America?

I don't remember any actions that show Russia has moved away from America. America, which controls the IMF, has made a lot of mistakes. The International Monetary Fund has treated Russia as a small country that needs help. …