Yeltsin Reflects on Drinking, Lewinsky Scandal

ByABC News
October 8, 2000, 12:35 PM

N E W  Y O R K, Oct. 8 -- Boris Yeltsin says in his new memoir that he wasdrunk when he grabbed the baton and began conducting a militaryorchestra in Berlin in 1994, but that he now limits himself to aglass of wine a day on doctors orders.

In Midnight Diaries, called The Presidential Marathon inits Russian edition, Yeltsin writes that he nearly postponedRussias 1996 presidential elections and that he picked VladimirPutin as his heir apparent because he was looking for a strong,determined general like the ones he read about in books when he wasyoung.

Confronting reports of his drinking, Yeltsin writes: Fairlyearly on, I concluded that alcohol was the only means to quicklyget rid of stress.

In 1994, when he conducted the military orchestra, Yeltsin said,I snapped.

Conducting Himself Poorly

I remember that the weight would lift after a few shotglasses, he writes. And in that sense of lightness, I felt asif I could conduct an orchestra.

After that incident, a group of my aides wrote me a lettersaying that my behavior and impromptu remarks were harming me andall our mutual work. ... None of them was able to help me.

I walked along the beach in Sochi and realized that I had togo on living. I had to regain my strength. Gradually I came tomyself.

In Moscow on Saturday, Yeltsin attended a book release ceremonyswarming with Russias political elite. Putin, who was celebratinghis 48th birthday elsewhere, did not attend.

In an interview broadcast on state-controlled ORT television andtimed to coincide with the release, Yeltsin took fullresponsibility for the bloodshed in breakaway Chechnya but defendedthe rest of his tumultuous tenure, including his abrupt decision toresign.

I Had to Resign

It was only for Russias sake that I made that step. A newpresident was needed. I had to resign, he said.

Yeltsin, whose ailing health marred his last years in office,often appeared puzzled during the interview and his breathing wasslightly labored. Seated at home in a sweater, he punctuated hisspeech with a few of his trademark, raised-eyebrow grins.