MOSCOW (Reuter)Alexander Lebed–former security chief and would-be president–warned Saturday that Russia’s current leadership would try to whip up trouble in conflict zones to distract attention from the country’s social ills.
"Russia has reached a dead end and the authorities will be forced to seek an external enemy or powerful distraction," Interfax news agency quoted Lebed as saying during a trip to the city of Chelyabinsk in the Ural mountains.
Lebed said one possible distraction would be reviving conflicts in former Soviet trouble-spots like Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region or in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Lebed–a charismatic former soldier who makes no secret of his desire to succeed President Boris Yeltsin–repeated his warning that Russia was falling apart and needed a new leader.
"The president is incapable (of working)… He does not rule the country. Russia is about to fall apart. That is why in a choice between a country of 150 million and the president–I choose the country," he told NTV commercial television.
Lebed–who came a strong third in last summer’s presidential contest–served briefly as secretary of the policy-making Security Council before Yeltsin sacked him for insubordination.
"I am stubborn–I shall come back," said Lebed–who has recently made well-publicized trips to France and the United States.
He told Interfax he expected "several heads (in the government) to roll" next week after Yeltsin’s annual address to parliament. Yeltsin has made clear he wants a government reshuffle soon to help defuse rising social tensions over unpaid wages and pensions and a continuing economic slump.