The President has lost it, claims Yeltsin's former chief-of-staff

Boris Yeltsin is "remote from reality" and the country is being run by his chief-of-staff and his daughter, according to a former top official from the Kremlin. Nikolai Yegorov has warned that the country faces a worse crisis than in the run-up to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

Mr Yegorov's remarkably trenchant views will be taken seriously because, until recently, he was Mr Yeltsin's chief-of-staff. The job is now occupied by Anatoly Chubais, who has emerged as the power behind the throne during Mr Yeltsin's illness, working closely with the President's youngest daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko.

In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Mr Yegorov yesterday added his voice to the groundswell of suspicion that Mr Yeltsin, who is preparing for a heart bypass operation, is not in control, despite his edited television appearances, official meetings, and the release of a host of presidential decrees organised by his aides in the hope of convincing the world he is in charge.

"He is remote from reality," Mr Yegorov said. "He does not know what is happening with Russia." Place a problem before the President, and he would become "irritated" and wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible. His staff therefore avoided discussing anything unpleasant, he said.

His attack comes as the Yeltsin administration is grappling with a host of problems, including widespread strikes over unpaid wages - including in nuclear plants - a disillusioned electorate, endemic corruption and tax evasion, and an angry army, which has seen its resources slashed and fears pending reforms.

Asked about the future, Mr Yegorov said: "Everything is very shaky. And it is very alarming. Some people compare the present situation with that in 1917 - the same feeling that nobody is running the country, the same growth of dissatisfaction from the bottom up, the same destructive lack of principle on the part of the intellectual sections of society and the same Rasputin-type intrigues around the head of state." But, he added: "I think that it was easier in 1917."

Mr Yegorov, who was dismissed in July, had some particularly tart observations about his successor, Mr Chubais. He claimed that anyone who does not belong to his circle has been removed from positions of power in the Kremlin.

"He does not know Russia well" but he treats the country "as if it were some sort of putty" - to be shaped however he wants, said Mr Yegorov. Nor is he kind about Ms Dyachenko's role during the elections. "She kept intervening in matters that had nothing to do with the family," he said.

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