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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Premier Called Yeltsin's Heir

Boris Yeltsin's former bodyguard and confidant said Tuesday the Russian president had asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin several times to be his successor but his loyal ally had refused.

In an interview with the weekly magazine Profil, Alexander Korzhakov, who was sacked in June 1996, added a new twist to the long-running drama over whether Yeltsin will seek a third term in 2000 or, if he does not, who he wants to be his heir.

Asked if it was true that Yeltsin had asked Chernomyrdin to succeed him and the prime minister had refused, Korzhakov said, "Absolutely right -- even in my time [in the Kremlin]."

Yeltsin, 67, seemed last month to rule out running in the election due in 2000. He has also said he knows who he wants to succeed him, although he has not even told that person yet.

But Kremlin aides say Yeltsin's decision may not be final. They are awaiting a Constitutional Court ruling on whether he is able to seek another term.

The 1993 constitution limits a president to two terms, but some experts say Yeltsin is still serving his first term under those regulations because the Soviet constitution was in force when he was first elected in 1991.

Korzhakov, now a member of parliament, was widely touted as Russia's second most powerful man after a decade at Yeltsin's side, and he probably knew his boss better than any other official.

His comments about the president are tinged with bitterness after his abrupt dismissal in a scandal over election campaign funding.

But his remarks give more credibility to the view that Chernomyrdin, a 59-year-old former gas industry chief, has established himself as the president's first choice.