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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

nemtsov denies presidental ambitions

First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, the man many believe is among the strongest contenders to succeed President Boris Yeltsin in 2000, told a classroom of Moscow 12th-graders Monday that he is not interested in the Kremlin's top job.

"If I was burning with desire to become president, then I would have been better off staying in the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, well away from the Moscow squabbles and from the tough responsibilities that I now have," he said on a visit to School No. 1078.

Nemtsov was governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, regarded as a major incubator for Russian economic reforms, before he was drafted into the federal Cabinet last March. At the time, Yeltsin hinted that Nemtsov, who turns 38 next month, could be his heir apparent.

Denying any aspirations for the presidency is standard procedure among Russia's most ambitious politicians. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, widely believed to be preparing a presidential campaign, has repeatedly said he has no plans to run. Yeltsin also has denied suggestions that he might try to get around a constitutional two-term limit.

But their denials have only provoked storms of speculation about their plans.

Nemtsov's one-time mentor, Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, broke the mold last week by openly announcing that he would bid for the presidency.

Nemtsov said Monday that Yavlinsky should join the Cabinet.

"More than once, I have invited his people into the government, but to my deep regret they refused," he was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass.

"I think if you have abilities you should use them and not stand on the sidelines watching how the government is doing," he added.

Nemtsov was speaking to the students at School No. 1078 as part of a campaign by Yeltsin to have senior government officials keep in touch with the country's schools.