Rutskoi hopes to forge an opposition movement
WHEN the leaders of the October uprising against President Boris Yeltsin were freed in February under an amnesty declared by the new Russian legislature, Alexander Rutskoi emerged from prison a seemingly defeated man. Mr. Rutskoi, a former Afghan war hero and President Yeltsin's running mate in the 1991 presidential polls, appeared to have reached the end of his political career.
But a mere three months later, he bounced back, scoring a political triumph by being reelected head of the Free Russia Party, a party that had been at odds with him at the time of the uprising.
And now, following a period of relative quiet, Rutskoi is at it again. Last week, healthy and clean-shaven (the tangled beard from his prison days replaced by a moustache), Rutskoi returned to public life as head of the new, rightist Derzhava (Power) Party. At his first news conference since his release, he announced that he still considers himself vice president and that he will run for president in June 1996. ``When the democratic press questions me about my health, I answer them in a few words,'' the former hero, whose plane was shot down twice over Afghanistan, told reporters. ``Don't get your hopes up.''
Mr. Yeltsin appears capable of keeping his grip on power until the new elections. But a slew of presidential hopefuls have begun to emerge from the shadows - some of whom are the most vociferous opponents of his reform policies.
Potential contenders include ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who along with Rutskoi has demanded earlier elections; Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov; reform economist Grigory Yavlinsky; and possibly Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed, head of Russia's 14th Army in Moldova.
Yeltsin has refrained from endorsing any candidate, but last week he hinted that Boris Nemstov, the reformist mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, was ready to serve as Russia's next leader.
Rutskoi, who wants his party to be the foundation of an opposition movement against Yeltsin, earlier this year joined a political bloc with other anti-reformers, such as Communist Party leader Mr. Zyuganov and radical nationalist Sergei Baburin.
But now he says uniting the opposition is useless. ``The opposition should have a single leader, a program, and a shadow Cabinet, while members of the present opposition cannot resolve a single question together,'' he told the Echo Moskvy radio station on Monday.