Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 186

Former President Boris Yeltsin has given interviews to two weekly publications, Ogonek and Argumenty I Fakty, timed to the publication of “A Presidential Marathon,” the third volume of his memoirs. Both publications also ran excerpts from the new book, and the website published extensive excerpts of interview and book excerpt in Ogonek. In the interview, Yeltsin said that Vladimir Putin’s “soldierly character” had led him to make a “final choice” in favor of Putin as his successor. “I searched for such a politician for a very long time, throughout all the final years of my presidency,” Yeltsin said. “And when I found [him], for me the most important political task became to help him stand up on his own two feet, to make a successful start.” Yeltsin said that Putin “became prime minister at a very difficult time for the country” and that “in a certain sense Putin saved the country from panic, from the threat of the Federation’s disintegration and from chaos in the government.” The former head of state also told Ogonek that at the time of the March 2000 elections, as now, there was no alternative to Putin, whom he called “a young, energetic, powerful politician who has proven with deeds his devotion to democracy and market reforms and simultaneously [his] devotion to state-patriotic traditions.” Indeed, Yeltsin fully endorsed Putin’s nationalist and statist orientation, saying that “as long as young Russian democrats do not become statists [gosudarstvenniky] and patriots by conviction, and not only in words, but in their hearts, they will achieve nothing, nothing worthwhile will come from them.” Yeltsin called the 2000 presidential elections “a huge historical step,” saying that they showed that it was impossible to “turn the country backward” or rob Russians of their basic rights and freedoms, “including the right to private property” (Russian agencies, October 5). It should be noted here that the English-language Moscow Times recently ran the results of six-month investigation which included evidence that Putin won the March 2000 election in the first round thanks to vote rigging. The paper concluded, however, that Putin would undoubtedly have won a second round against his main opponent, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.