Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed Sworn In as Krasnoyarsk Chief




Alexander Lebed brought the Bible to his lips Friday and formally became the new governor of Krasnoyarsk, a vast Siberian territory that will serve the ambitious general as a broad springboard for the presidency.


Dressed in a black tuxedo and bowtie, Lebed emerged from a white Volga sedan with a bouquet of roses in his hand and a broad grin on his face as he rushed into a Krasnoyarsk theater for the posh inauguration ceremony.


"I swear to respect the constitution of the Russian Federation, the statutes and legislation of the region and the post of governor of Krasnoyarsk," said Lebed in a booming voice, a huge Russian flag painted on the stage's backdrop. After an awkward moment of silence, the crowd erupted in applause.


An eclectic mix of Russian pop stars and Western diplomats turned out for the former paratrooper general's big day. Singing diva Alla Pugachyova, powerful aluminum factory boss Anatoly Bykov, the city mayor and several State Duma deputies and regional bosses sat in the front rows.


Others who made a special visit to Siberia included Moscow banker Boris Jordan and even the nephew of former U.S. President George Bush, Fred, Interfax reported. Two U.S. Embassy first deputies were also present.


Boris Berezovsky, the tycoon who by most accounts financed a large part of Lebed's campaign but has since eased off in his support, had a brief closed-door meeting with Lebed on Friday morning.


Lebed trounced incumbent Governor Valery Zubov by almost 20 percentage points in a May 17 runoff election. The spectacular win against a pro-Kremlin candidate has set off alarm bells in President Boris Yeltsin's administration, which has not decided on a candidate to back in the 2000 presidential elections.


The general has said he will run for president if he manages to improve living conditions in Krasnoyarsk first.


Several analysts predict that Lebed's win will strain relations between Moscow and the provinces, where some governors are calling for greater autonomy from the center.


Lebed on Friday gave a taste of what might be in store for the Kremlin, saying at a post-inauguration news briefing that he will personally make sure Russia's regions get a larger share of the federal budget in future years.


"All the blood has flown to the head," Russian wire agencies quoted Lebed as saying. "I'm afraid the country might have a heart attack."


Yeltsin tried to play peacemaker Friday, stating at a meeting with regional bosses that they should have more autonomy but still cooperate with Moscow.


"You will still have to go by the path that we have determined together," Yeltsin said. His press secretary, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said Friday that the president would meet Lebed "sooner or later."


Analysts predict that Lebed's presence in the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament composed of regional leaders, will make the chamber much more vocal than before.


"Apparently, many heads of regions have been waiting for the emergence of a Federation Council leader who not only does not fear confrontation with the Kremlin, but actually cherishes it," wrote correspondent Alexei Tarasov in Izvestia's Friday evening edition. "Using Lebed, the governors will be trying to redistribute power for themselves and away from the federal authorities."