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Will This Man Rule Russia?

Russia's political crisis deepened again on Thursday.

Aides to President Boris Yeltsin tried to re-open negotiations on a power-sharing deal that would allow him to stay in office. But Yeltsin's communist foes are still threatening to impeach him.


Among those predicting the president's downfall, and jockeying for position to succeed him, is Alexander Lebed, the popular former army general and now regional governor.

CBS News Moscow Correspondent Richard Threlkeld talked with Lebed:

General Lebed lived up to his reputation for plain speaking on Thursday when we asked him what will happen if the political gridlock in Russia persists.

"The current regime will fall. Not in 72 hours, like in 1991, but in 24 hours," Ledbed said. "The people are not simply angry anymore. They are deeply and silently furious."

Threlkeld: You know the army as well as anyone in Russia. What is the mood of the army?

"No one has ever humiliated the army like Yeltsin has. The Tsar's army was well fed and received their pay. Today, the army is starving," the general said.

Lebed predicted Yeltsin will have to resign soon. "Two months, tops," he said. Even if it's against Yeltsin's will.

"Yeltsin thinks he's the Tsar. He lives in a fantasy world. He wakes up from time to time and does what his aides tell him to do," Ledbed added.

Threlkeld: Is there a peaceful way out of the economic and political difficulties, or are we going to see another bloody chapter in Russia's history?

"Of course there is a peaceful way out. But we need a powerful strong-willed person leading the country," the general said.

Threlkeld: Should America and the West be afraid of a powerful and strong-willed former general running Russia?

"No," Ledbed replied. "After all, General Eisenhower led America, didn't he? If I feel the demand, I do see myself as the next president."

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