Putin aides say he's unbeatable in Russian vote

Staff keeps publicity going for acting president

January 03, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW -- A top aide to Russia's acting president, Vladimir V. Putin, said yesterday that it is all but impossible for Putin to lose the presidential election tentatively set for March. No one seemed to disagree.

After cramming his first two days as acting president with campaign-style speeches, news conferences, a trip to a war zone and a chat with President Clinton, Putin kept away from cameras.

But his staff kept the publicity going, suggesting in a news briefing that Putin is so confident of victory in March that he will do little traditional campaigning.

"I don't think Putin will run any special election campaign as he will have to combine the duties of president and prime minister," said Igor Shabdurasulov, the first deputy chief of the staff.

Although he said he was reluctant to make political forecasts, Shabdurasulov said it was unrealistic to believe that anyone could defeat Putin.

It will be better if Putin wins an outright majority in the first round of voting, he said, because a runoff election would only "waste time."

The Kremlin had been working hard to establish just such an air of invincibility about Putin even before President Boris N. Yeltsin shocked the nation Friday by resigning and handing Putin the job of running the country. But for once, the optimism seems justified, even though political lives here are as often measured in months as in years.

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