Russia is on the brink of catastrophe and could slip into civil war unless President Yeltsin and his communist opponent Gennady Zyuganov, agree a level of political consensus before the June elections, leading academics have warned.
Gennedy Osipov, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, physicist Boris Raushenbakh, who worked on the Soviet space programme, and two other top scientists, say the only way to maintain Russia's unity and viability is an agreement between the two leading presidential candidates promising not to persecute one another's followers after the elections.
The four Moscow academics, including Dmitry Lvov and Nikita Moiseyev, made their appeal in an open letter to the Russian news agency Interfax, entitled: "Conciliation in the name of Russia".
The academics urged President Yeltsin and Mr Zyuganov to make clear statements now that, should they come to power, they will "maintain the democratic gains of the people and not persecute their political opponents and those who think differently from them".
The leaders should, "reject the idea of political revenge and violent methods of solving political and economic problems, and encourage the creation of a government of national conciliation," the letter stated.
Failure to find a measure of political compromise could lead to the vitriol of the election campaign spilling over into "one part of society violently forcing another to live in a way of which they are incapable," the academics wrote.
They fear the country could slip into civil war.