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'Bloodiest autocrat since Stalin'

In some of the strongest language of the Russian election campaign, Grigory Yavlinsky, the liberal economist, has accused Boris Yeltsin of having the "bloodiest autocratic regime since the Second World War", when Stalin was in power, writes Phil Reeves.

His barrage of criticism is further evidence that efforts to make a pre-election pact with Mr Yeltsin have come to nought, not least because of Mr Yavlinsky's demand that he fire his Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Mr Yavlinksy, leader of the Yabloko party, is battling on alone, after also rejecting the notion of an alliance with Gennady Zyuganov's Communist- nationalist bloc.

His attack on Mr Yeltsin appears to be part of a strategy to attract the vote of democrats disenchanted with the President's blunt methods.

He said the pace of violence in Russia had been steadily growing from the hardline pro-Soviet coup in August 1991 to the revolt against Yeltsin in October 1993 and the conflict in Chechnya.

"Three people died in August 1991, two hundred were killed in October 1993 and 30,000 died in the Chechen war. How many people might die in 1997 if the regime survives - millions?" he asked. He also warned of the risk that the vote will be rigged.