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Monday, September 14, 1998 Published at 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK

World: Europe

Berezovsky predicts Russian election

Boris Berezovsky believes President Yeltsin may not last long

The influential Russian businessman-turned-politician Boris Berezovsky has predicted early presidential elections in Russia.

Boris Berezovsky talks to the BBC
In a BBC interview, he said two men were currently the front-runners to win the poll.

And he clearly expressed a preference for former general Alexander Lebed, now governor of Krasnoyarsk Region in Siberia, over the other contender he named, Yury Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow.

'Decisive moment approaching'

"As far as Luzhkov is concerned, he is predictable and unfortunately I can confidently say he will lead Russia up a dead end _ My view is that Lebed is making strong progress," he said.

And Mr Berezovsky - who controls some of Russia's most lucrative businesses, including its main television channels - believes the moment of decision for Russia is approaching fast.

Basing his comments on the recent political upheavals, he said Boris Yeltsin was no longer consistent and reliable as president, and predicted that he would soon step down.

"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?"

Mr Berezovsky welcomed the appointment of Yevgeny Primakov as prime minister, while still expressing concern over his lack of commitment to reform.

He said: "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."

Mr Berezovsky had been backing Mr Chernomyrdin as the presidential heir, but after the Duma vote rejecting Mr Chernomyrdin's prime ministerial candidacy, he says this is 'now in doubt'.

The BBC's regional reporter, Tom de Waal, says Russia's big business is on the alert for a presidential election next year, and the battle-lines seem to be drawn in Mr Lebed's favour.

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