President Boris Yeltsin said Monday that next month's presidential election will be held on schedule and chided a top aide for suggesting that it be postponed.
Yeltsin moved quickly to quash doubts about his commitment to democracy after his personal security chief and close confidant, Gen. Alexander Korzhakov, suggested Sunday that the June 16 balloting be put off to avoid "new bloodshed."Politicians from liberals to hard-liners denounced Korzhakov's comments as a self-serving tactic that showed Yeltsin's government fears it will lose the election to Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov if it is held on time.
"I trust in the wisdom of Russian voters," Yeltsin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. "That's why elections will be held in the time determined by the constitution."
The president, who has promised numerous times that the election will be held on time, said he told Korzhakov "not to meddle in politics and not to make such statements any more."
But he made it clear that he does not think Korzhakov's fears are misplaced, emphasizing that "several people, not only Korzhakov, believe that Zyuganov's victory would be the beginning of a civil war."
One of Yeltsin's main tactics during an aggressive campaign has been to raise a "red scare" with voters, portraying the Communists as capable of inflicting fatal damage on the nation's political and market reforms.
Last month, 13 top Russian bankers called on Yeltsin and Zyuganov to seek "serious mutual concessions," saying they feared the public's political division could lead to civil unrest.
Korzhakov said in an interview published Sunday in The Observer newspaper of London that "If we have the elections, there is no way of avoiding a fight. A lot of influential people are in favor of postponement, and I'm in favor of it too, because we need stability."