Yeltsin reveals the secrets of his final years in the Kremlin

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Boris Yeltsin told his speechwriters at the end of last year that he was not happy with what they had written for him to deliver to the Russian people in his New Year television address.

Boris Yeltsin told his speechwriters at the end of last year that he was not happy with what they had written for him to deliver to the Russian people in his New Year television address.

"I don't like the text," he told his aides. "We'll have to make another recording." Dismayed, but used to his idiosyncrasies, they had no idea he was about to resign as president. "I could not explain to these nice efficient people the reason for my unexpected caprice," Mr Yelt-sin says with some relish in his new book, to be published in Russia next week. "Thank God, it didn't cause surprise but just a bit of grief. They were used to my character, impromptu actions and surprises."

His resignation was an extraordinarily well-kept secret. When he made his address, Mr Yeltsin had the satisfaction of astonishing Russia and the world by abruptly handing power to Vladimir Putin, who had just emerged from obscurity.

Mr Yeltsin has now produced an account of his last years in the Kremlin and his search for a new Russian leader to whom he could turn over power. The Presidential Marathon is, judging by its first chapter, published yesterday in Argumenty I Fakty magazine, sentimental, bombastic and misleading even by the standards of the memoirs of other statesmen.

There are snippets of humour. Just after Mr Yeltsin resigned, President Bill Clinton, who once compared the Russian politician to Abraham Lincoln, called him in his car as he returned to the Kremlin. Mr Yeltsin told him to call back later.

Going by the excerpt published so far, Mr Yeltsin is unlikely to reveal much about the bombs that killed 300 people in Moscow and other Russian cities or the launching of the invasion of Chechnya, which were central to Mr Putin's succession.

Given that Mr Yeltsin was supported by just 2 per cent of the Russian population a few months before he resigned, the real story of his last months in power would be fascinating.

He was an extraordinarily able politician right to the end but little of this is evident in this strange volume.

Comments