Russians Elect 'The Pustule'

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The face of Russian reform has a new blemish -- a pustule, in fact. The country's third-largest city, Nizhni Novgorod, yesterday elected as its mayor Andrei Klimentyev -- a multimillionaire known in the underworld as "The Pustule. Klimentyev has done two jail terms for fraud, and currently faces a number of other criminal charges.

The vote reflects the exasperation of ordinary Russians, says TIME Moscow correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich. "People find no security from legitimate authority, so they seek it from mafia dons -- after all, mafia dons pay their debts and their salaries; public officials don't. The people see this hoodlum as a Robin Hood."

The Pustule's election might not be so embarrassing for Boris Yeltsin's government if it hadn't happened in Nizhni Novgorod. Moscow has long proclaimed the city a showcase of Russia's reform program.