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St Petersburg's mayor has lost power narrowly to a former deputy of his, Vladimir Yakovlev, in municipal elections. Some political observers are interpreting the defeat of Anatoly Sobchak, an old Yeltsin ally, as a sign that opinion polls are underestimating anti-Yeltsin sentiment in the Russian population.

Mr Sobchak himself argued that the race was a trial for the presidential elections on 16 June. The setback comes as Mr Yeltsin's star appears to have been rapidly rising, at the expense of Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of a Communist-nationalist bloc. A new survey shows the incumbent has alarmingly high "negative" ratings: 39 per cent said they would not vote for him in any circumstances.