Amid warnings of civil war after the June presidential elections, President Boris Yeltsin might try to offer his opponents top government posts if they abandon the race. Or he may try to postpone the elections altogether.
Yeltsin's influential personal security chief, Gen. Alexander Korzhakov, said in an interview published Sunday that he favors postponing the June 16 vote because it could prompt violence."If we have the elections there is no way of avoiding a fight," he told The Observer newspaper of London. "A lot of influential people are in favor of postponement and I'm in favor of it too because we need stability."
Korzhakov told the Interfax news agency Sunday that the views were his own, not Yeltsin's. But while Yeltsin has denied that he wants the vote postponed, the idea might be too tempting to ignore.
Independent polls show Yeltsin running neck-and-neck with his Communist rival, Gennady Zyuganov, who is taking advantage of popular discontent with painful market reforms, political disarray and the war in Chechnya.
But reliable sources say secret Kremlin-commissioned polls indicate a Zyuganov landslide.
The idea of postponing the vote would be based on recent Kor-zha-kov-style warnings that elections in deeply polarized Russia could only bring civil war, regardless of who wins.
The first appeal was issued last month by 13 leading businessmen, who urged Yeltsin and Zyuganov to seek "serious mutual concessions." That was followed by similar appeals from the Cossacks' Union; one of Yeltsin's challengers, Alexander Lebed; and others.
Korzhakov suggested a deal was possible with the Communists, an indication that Yeltsin could offer them government posts.
So far, Zyuganov has shown little willingness for compromise, let alone postponing the election. Still, he met with the worried businessmen and held negotiations last week with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
While he insisted Sunday that Yeltsin "must be accountable for his actions and face re-election," he did not exclude a meeting with the president soon.
On Sunday, Yeltsin met with another rival, economist Grigory Yavlinsky, who denied any deals were struck during their more than two hours of talks.
Yavlinsky said he advised Yeltsin to make major changes in his Cabinet and presidential staff but said he has no plans to join Yeltsin's team or remove his own name from the ballot.
"I was asked what I want, and I answered that I want to win the elections," Yavlinsky said Sunday night on the independent television station NTV.
However, the presidential press service said they discussed a possible uniting of democratic-minded candidates to prevent a political and economic setback in Russia.
Yavlinsky is an informal leader of a group of centrist candidates that includes Lebed and eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fyodorov. The three have been negotiating to unite behind one of them.
Yeltsin, concerned that the group would split his support base, has already met with Lebed, a retired general who quit the army over a conflict with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev.
There were suggestions that Yeltsin was considering making Lebed defense minister in exchange for his withdrawal from the race.