Yeltsin confirms decision to relinquish reins of power

He has said it, and contradicted it, before. But the announcement by Boris Yeltsin that he does not intend to run for a third term is his strongest denial to date, and suggests that the ageing president may now recognise that his time in the Kremlin is limited.

Mr Yeltsin, who is 67 tomorrow, said yesterday that he would not be standing in 2000 and, in a remark that could only spring from the lips of a leader unencumbered by party, declared that he had chosen his successor. "I now face one problem - when to announce it," he told Tass news agency. "Even the candidate does not know. He may dream about it but he does not know."

His critics will quote this as evidence that the president - who is given to erratic comments - is riding roughshod over the ballot box, but he was probably referring to the establishment's candidate in the next elections rather than the next president. The leading contenders are thought to be the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov.

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