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The Russian presidential campaign in brief

MOSCOW -- The Russian presidential campaign unofficially began Dec. 17, when the polls closed in the parliamentary elections. The vote was a warning to President Boris Yeltsin: The Communists had won more than 22 percent of the vote, and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) had placed second with 11 percent, beating out Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his pro-Yeltsin Our Home is Russia party, which won just over 10 percent. Economist Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko group was next with under 7 percent of the nationwide vote. All other parties finished shy of the 5 percent needed to secure seats in the State Duma, most notably former Gen. Alexander Lebed's Congress of Russian Communities. Yeltsin's popularity was at a nadir of about 6 percent at the time. His reputation had been devastated by the war in Chechnya and his credibility as a candidate marred by his ill health. He was still recovering from heart trouble as the parliamentary results rolled in, but the campaign kicked in immediately.

Dec. 20: Convalescing Yeltsin plays down Communist parliamentary showing; Chernomyrdin adds Kremlin will make no concessions to the Communist victory. 'Changes, shifts, sackings -- nothing of that sort will happen.' Dec. 28: Lebed says he will seek presidency despite his party's poor showing in the parliamentary elections and a split in the party over presidential plans: 'I am in my 46th year and I make decisions by myself.' Dec. 29: Yeltsin returns to work in Kremlin. Jan. 5: Yeltsin removes Andrei Kozyrev, the foreign minister who was hated by the opposition. Four days later he names a more conservative Yevgeny Primakov to the post. Jan. 15: Russian forces launch assault on hostage-holding Chechen rebels in Pervomaiskoye, killing hostages and suffering heavy losses while failing to kill or capture dozens of rebels. Yeltsin's lieutenants disgraced, his record further darkened. Jan. 16: Yeltsin fires Anatoly Chubais, architect of the crooked Russian privatization program and perhaps the man most hated by Communists. Feb. 1: Coal miners nationwide strike over unpaid wages and uncertain future; some call for government ouster. Yeltsin ends strike the next day with a promise of $2.2 billion, the first in a series of populist spending pledges. Feb. 5: Former Yeltsin spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov tells of a increasingly ill-informed and vain leader abandoning democracy, says power is Yeltsin's 'ideology, his friend, his concubine, his lover, his passion.' Feb. 8: Chernomyrdin denies long-standing rumors he will seek presidency, saying Yeltsin has his 'complete and unconditional support. ' Feb. 15: In his hometown of Yekaterinburg, Yeltsin announces he will seek a second term, saying 'the people want me to run a second time.' Communist party nominates leader Gennady Zyuganov as its candidate. Feb. 22: In another Western vote of support for Yeltsin, International Monetary Fund director Michel Camdessus OKs $10.2 billion loan for Russia. Feb. 23: In state of the nation address, Yeltsin defends reforms but criticizes government for making them too painful and promises to soften the blow. Zyuganov says message copied straight from his own plans. Feb. 24: Zyuganov becomes first candidate to gather 1 million signatures necessary for registration as candidate. March 15: Communist-led Parliament votes to nullify 1991 accords creating Commonwealth of Independent States and destroying the Soviet Union, leading to dust-up with Yeltsin in which the president emerges victorious as foreign leaders condemn Communist initiative. March 18: Zyuganov claims Yeltsin plotting to dissolve Parliament in response to Soviet Union revival declaration. March 20: Yeltsin vaults from fifth to second place in a poll by a respected organization, with 14 percent to Zyuganov's 19 percent. March 31: Yeltsin declares Chechnya cease-fire and lays out peace plan, but fighting continues. April 2: Continuing successful campaign to steal the fire from Communist Soviet revival hopes, Yeltsin signs treaty creating a Community of Sovereign States with Belarus. April 3: Yeltsin turns in 1 million signatures to election commission amid reports his staff paid for some of them. April 11: Grigory Yavlinsky, Yeltsin's reformist rival in the race, calls on incumbent to withdraw. April 16: Seventeen candidates turn in signatures and register by deadline. Eleven approved: Boris Yeltsin, Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Grigory Yavlinsky, Alexander Lebed, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Bryntsalov, Yrri Vlasov, Aman Tuleyev and Martin Shakkum. April 19: Yeltsin hosts Group of Seven leaders for nuclear safety and security summit aimed at boosting his image as a world leader. April 21: Staying on for bilateral summit, U.S. President Bill Clinton supports Yeltsin on Chechnya and other issues. Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev is reported killed in a Russian missile attack. April 23: For the first time, a poll puts Yeltsin ahead of Zyuganov, but by less than 1 percentage point. April 24: Lebed announces his candidacy and says the so-called Third Force, a putative alternative to Yeltsin and Zyuganov that includes Lebed, Yavlinsky and Fyodorov, will choose a single candidate. It fails to do so. April 25: Gorbachev hit in the head by a disgruntled, jobless man, in an attack the former Soviet leader calls a professional assassination attempt. April 27: A group of influential businessmen warn of the danger of civil war after the election and call obliquely for its cancellation. May 1: Shadowy Yeltsin bodyguard Alexander Korzhakov calls for indefinite postponement of election. Yeltsin plunges into crowd at May Day celebration, heralding a campaign marked by miraculous return to his populist political style. May 6: In scandal widely viewed as a bid to show Yeltsin's Russia has teeth, security ministry announces several British diplomats will be expelled as spies. May 12: Yeltsin announces he and Yavlinsky have joined forces, but Yavlinsky denies it. The two do not form alliance during campaign. May 16: Yeltsin signs a raft of populist decrees, including one calling for gradual end of death penalty and one phasing out conscription by 2000. May 18: Poll gives Yeltsin an eight point lead over Zyuganov; many journalists and analysts are convinced Yeltsin will win. Yeltsin says he is ready to form 'broad coalition' to accommodate reformist foes and oppose Communists. A day later he hints at Kremlin shake-up. May 27: Yeltsin meets with Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in the Kremlin; Russians and rebels sign cease-fire agreement and peace plan. May 28: Yeltsin travels to Chechnya for first time in 18-month-old war. May 30: Top presidential political adviser Georgy Satarov says Communists are planning to seize power by force if they lose election. June 4: Communists charge election will be fraudulent. Top Zyuganov aide Viktor Ilyukhin says: 'Yeltsin will be appointed, not elected.' June 5: In failed bid to broaden his support, Zyuganov offers Lebed, Yavlinsky and Fyodorov posts in his government if they join forces against Yeltsin. June 9: Yeltsin predicts he will win election in first round. June 10: Russian and Chechen negotiators sign deal to stop fighting, withdraw troops and cancel local elections, but Kremlin breaks agreement by allowing local elections to be held. June 11: Bomb blast in Moscow subway car kills four; Yeltsin condemns explosion as a 'terrorist act aimed at disrupting the upcoming elections.' June 16: First round of election held. Yeltsin wins 35 percent of the vote to Zyuganov's 32, forcing a runoff. Lebed garners 15 percent, turning him into kingmaker. June 18: Yeltsin immediately jockeys for position in runoff, hiring Lebed as top national security adviser and Security Council secretary and firing unpopular Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. June 19: Yeltsin announces he will skip Group of Seven summit to concentrate on campaign. Zyuganov courts Lebed despite his appointment to Kremlin team, saying he will be offered a 'good post' if Communist wins runoff. June 20: Yeltsin continues astounding Kremlin shake-up, firing four top hard-liners amid rumors they were plotting to turn aside democracy by preventing election from being held. June 21: Communist-led Parliament rejects bill to increase turnout by opening polls four extra hours on election day. High turnout would help Yeltsin; low turnout would help Zyuganov. June 22: Lebed begins to make waves, calling for broader powers and warning Russia faces 'financial collapse' in the fall. June 24: Zyuganov seeks to increase support by offering liberal rivals and members of Yeltsin team posts in coalition government if elected. June25: Yeltsin fires seven top generals, allies of the ousted Grachev. June 26: Zyuganov accuses Yeltsin of illegal campaign tactics and hints he may reject announced results of vote. June 28: Yeltsin looks tired and unwell in television appearance engineered to soothe fears sparked by his sudden two-day disappearance from public eye. June 29: Zyuganov says ailing president 'unfit to run the country.' July 1: On last day of campaign, Yeltsin urges Russians to 'vote for the new Russia,' but appears wooden and slow in televised speech.

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