The Independent on Sunday has established that the Yeltsin administration used a Swiss engineering company, Mabetex, based in Lugano, as an intermediary in the purchase of the boats, which cost around pounds 300,000 on the water. Mabetex has been carrying out extensive repair work in the Kremlin.
Although the Russian military is desperately underfunded, the government sent an Antonov cargo aircraft to fly the vessels from Marseilles to St Petersburg, where their unloading was supervised by 200 soldiers.
Both boats, which were delivered in June, were built at Oundle in Northamptonshire by Fairline,regarded as the BMW of European boat-building. The 40ft Phantom and the 29ft Targa were bought from a French dealer by the Swiss on behalf of the Russians.
Sources say the smaller of the two boats was taken to a lake near Petrozavodsk, 100 miles from the Finnish border, where President Yeltsin has a country residence. The other is said to be destined for Sochi on the Black Sea, where government officials - including Mr Yeltsin and the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin - gather for holidays.
The only similarity Mr Yeltsin has with Russia's most famous boat- lover, Peter the Great, is that he, too, enjoys Tsar-like powers.
Focus, page 20