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Sunday, May 17, 1998 Published at 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK

World: Europe

High hopes for Lebed
image: [ Lebed has been ambigous about his presidential ambitions ]
Lebed has been ambigous about his presidential ambitions

Voting has ended in the run-off for the governorship of the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, with preliminary results indicating a victory for the onetime paratroop general and former security chief, Alexander Lebed.

BBC Moscow Correspondent Robert Parsons assesses Lebed's chances (1' 25")
If he does win it will have been against the entire Moscow political establishment, which closed ranks in an attempt to stop him.

Mr Lebed, who is critical of both the present government and the Communist Party, would also have a poweful springboard to launch a campaign for the presidency in the year 2000.

[ image: Lebed's campaigning has been successful in the past]
Lebed's campaigning has been successful in the past
Russian television said as many as 70% of electors in the vast Krasnoyarsk region had voted by the time polling stations closed at 11 pm.

Although Mr Lebed lagged far behind in opinion polls at the beginning of his campaign, he managed to win 45% of the votes in the first round of elections last month, well ahead of his rival, the incumbent governor, Valery Zubov.

Lebed's presidential plans

Mr Lebed has reiterated he will only run for president in the elections due to be held in the year 2000 if he manages to help Krasnoyarsk prosper.

Lebed says 'it will be pointless to dream of the presidency' if he fails Krasnoyarsk - in Russian - (2' 33")
On Friday Mr Lebed was ambiguous about his plans to run as president, saying that he put the welfare of the Krasnoyarsk region above the presidential race.

"I will first try to raise Krasnoyarsk Territory, and I don't know how long it will take," he told Russian Ekho Moskvy radio.

To read the full English translation of Mr Lebed's interview on Friday, click here.

The Krasnoyarsk position

Mr Lebed, who came third to President Boris Yeltsin in the 1996 election, would control almost 15% of Russia's territory and have a seat in the upper House of Parliament if he won.

[ image: Mr Zubov was always a popular governor]
Mr Zubov was always a popular governor
Krasnoyarsk is a region four times the size of France, with vast natural resources and a population of about 3 million, many of them unhappy about the changes the post-Soviet economy has forced on them.

The current governor is an economic reformer who has uneasy relations with Communists, but needs their support if he is to have any chance of wining the runoff.

Although he was endorsed by the national Communist Party and its leader, Gennady Zyuganov, local Communist leaders have shunned him, urging their followers - who make up a substantial voting bloc - to vote for nobody.

A man of the people?

Mr Lebed, 48, portrays himself as an honest, straight-talking patriot. But his opponents say he is a dangerous populist and nationalist.

Mr Lebed was a paratroop general with the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

But he first came to public attention in 1992 when he halted ethnic fighting in Moldova as commander of the Russian forces there.

He scored a further triumph four years later when - as President Yeltsin's security chief - he brokered the peace accord in Chechnya.

Mr Yeltsin recruited him after he won a surprising 15% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election.

But he was too ambitious for Mr Yeltsin, who sacked him shortly afterwards.

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