Rutskoi declares his presidential ambitions

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ONLY FIVE days before a referendum to decide Boris Yeltsin's future, his vice-president, Alexander Rutskoi, yesterday declared himself ready to run for the presidency should Mr Yeltsin be forced to resign, writes Andrew Higgins.

Mr Rutskoi, a former Hero of the Soviet Union, has been in open opposition to the President for a month but it is the first time he has made public his presidential ambitions. 'I am not going to surrender. I have enough strength. I fully understand the situation and, without any doubt, I will put forward my candidacy,' he said in remarks published yesterday in Moskovskaya Pravda.

Mr Rutskoi, who ran as vice-president with Mr Yeltsin in 1991, has become the main rallying point for a fractious but increasingly powerful opposition embracing former Communists, hardline nationalists and moderate conservatives anxious about the chaos and crime engendered by free-market reform.