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Saturday, September 12, 1998 Published at 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK

World: Europe

Berezovsky talks to the BBC

Boris Berezovsky: Primakov a 'correct' choice, but Chernomyrdin is better

Multi-millionaire businessman and politician, Boris Berezovsky, is one of the most influential men in Russia. He recently spoke to the BBC's Tom de Waal about key political figures and why he thought there would be early presidential elections:

On Yevgeny Primakov

"First of all I consider that in the current situation Primakov is the right choice. Not the only one - I still consider that Chernomyrdin was a better choice, but nonetheless Primakov is a correct choice. He has come to be a compromise between very different political forces. That's very important and it was what Chernomyrdin lacked in order to become prime minister.

"But Chernomyrdin had another important quality. Without any doubt he was a reformer and without doubt he would not have retreated from the path of reform. In this regard, as far as Primakov is concerned there are more questions than answers.

On Boris Yeltsin

"I consider that there will be early presidential elections. I don't want to say exactly when but I think the elections in Russia will take place earlier than the year 2000.

"I can say absolutely nothing concerning the president's health - although there are of course external signs which show that the president is not full of strength.

"But I believe that the president committed serious mistakes in his appointments. The president did not create a powerful single group of reformers. So today we do not have a clear answer to the question: who for sure can continue reforms and at the same time be elected president. This situation was created by the president himself.

On Yury Luzhkov

"As far as Luzhkov is concerned, he is predictable and unfortunately I can confidently say he will lead Russia up a dead end. As a whole the picture in Moscow is benefiting reform.

"But as far as the political statements of Luzhkov are concerned, I have already commented on them - return Sevastopol to Russia, return Crimea to Russia. It's unrealistic and dangerous. It's dangerous to push society towards that kind of view.

On General Lebed

"My view is that Lebed is making strong progress. And if I supported him in Krasnoyarsk as an opponent of Luzhkov, because I considered it intolerable that there should be one centre of new power - at that time Luzhkov was becoming the only centre of new power - today I have corrected my position.

"I consider that although Lebed is unfortunately not completely predictable he is more and more moving in the direction of pushing Russia down a sensible path of reform.

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