Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 116

Lebed told journalists yesterday that he would be meeting today with Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov. It is not clear what the two men will discuss, since Lebed has, as he put it yesterday, "already chosen my path and started a new job." (NTV, June 18) Lebed dismissed warnings issued by Zyuganov and the communist chairman of the Duma Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, that Yeltsin would use and discard Lebed in the same way that he used and discarded another popular general, former vice-president Aleksandr Rutskoi.

But Lebed is certainly playing a dangerous game for the highest possible stakes. His entry onto the Yeltsin team means he would be well placed either to run for the presidency in the year 2000, when the next elections should take place, or before that should Yeltsin not complete his term. (The Russian Constitution stipulates that, should the president die in office, the prime minister takes over his powers for a three-month period at the end of which an election must be held.) Should Yeltsin try to outmaneuver Lebed, the retired general would gain the underdog aura that in the past made Yeltsin himself so popular with the electorate. Observers have praised the skill and determination with which Yeltsin has reinvented himself in the past six months, but Lebed too has revealed an enormous ability to learn and has undergone a rapid transformation since he entered politics only a year ago.

Yeltsin Victory Still Far from Certain.