Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Petersburg Boosting Yeltsin Bloc Russian Opposition, Anti-Reform Parties Maintain Lead Nationally

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Petersburg Boosting Yeltsin Bloc Russian Opposition, Anti-Reform Parties Maintain Lead Nationally

Article excerpt

Election returns from St. Petersburg, released Thursday, gave a boost to supporters of President Boris Yeltsin.

Officials continue to sift through millions of paper ballots cast Sunday in Russia's parliamentary election. They said there was no reason to suspect any widespread vote-rigging.

In St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, the main pro-Yeltsin bloc, Russia's Choice, captured 25 percent of the vote. Second was a reform group led by Grigory Yavlinsky with 19 percent. The group of ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky was third with 18 percent.

Nationally, Zhirinovsky's party led with 23 percent, Russia's Choice was second with 15 percent, and the Communist Party had 13 percent.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin fired a top aide and the head of state television Thursday, apparently blaming them for Zhirinovsky's strong showing.

In other developments:

Vice President Al Gore signed space and investment accords with Russia in a ceremony in Moscow designed to show that political tumult would not stymie Russia's reforms or friendship with the West.

Russia's Security Ministry urged prosecutors to investigate Zhirinovsky for his inflammatory statements. Russian law forbids speech aimed at inciting "ethnic or racial enmity or strife." Zhirinovsky has been called anti-Semitic, and he peppers his speeches with digs at dark-skinned people from the southern republics of the former Soviet Union.

Two former top Soviet leaders charged with plotting the 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev have been elected to Russia's new Parliament.

Both men were arrested immediately after the coup to oust Gorbachev, the former Soviet president. Together, they spent months in prison before their trial began in April; it is still in progress.

Zhirinovsky raised the issue of ballot box-stuffing on Sunday. "If the elections are absolutely free, we'll get up to 50 percent," he said then. "If there is partial cheating, then 25 percent.

"If they use everything to the maximum to cheat everywhere they can, then 10 percent. …

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