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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Says Putin Rejected Succession Offer at First

Former President Boris Yeltsin said that his successor Vladimir Putin had been slow to accept his offer to take the helm, according to an interview published Tuesday.

Putin, then prime minister, became acting president on Dec. 31, 1999, when Yeltsin abruptly stepped down. With his opponents paralyzed by Yeltsin's early resignation, Putin easily won the March 2000 election.

Yeltsin told Moskovskiye Novosti that Putin had initially rejected his offer to succeed him, but accepted it when he repeated the proposal two weeks later. "I'm giving you a hard fate," Yeltsin recalled telling Putin.

Yeltsin said he had sought no privileges for himself from his successor. "I haven't asked for anything," he said.

Many media outlets have speculated that Yeltsin had picked Putin because he was confident of his loyalty and received firm assurances that neither he nor members of his inner circle would be persecuted.

Yeltsin said in the interview that he has never regretted naming Putin his successor and added that they had no "disagreements on principles."

Yeltsin did publicly criticize one of Putin's moves -- his decision to restore the Soviet-era anthem, albeit with new words. He refused to discuss Putin's specific action in the interview. "I tell him what I like and what I don't like in person," Yeltsin said. "Opposite opinions must exist in the society. I told Vladimir Vladimirovich that, too," Yeltsin added in what sounded like a veiled rebuke.

Many of Putin's opponents accuse him of stifling critical media and other dissent -- claims the president firmly denies.

Yeltsin also said in the interview that former Chinese President Jiang Zemin had told him that he had drawn inspiration from Yeltsin's action when he decided to step down. "He told me: 'I liked your action very much. I also decided to resign early,'" Yeltsin said.