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Former Russia Presidential Candidate Leaves Behind Long Record of Public Service - 2002-04-28

Former Russian presidential candidate Alexander Lebed has died in a helicopter crash that killed seven people in central Siberia. The 52-year-old Lebed was once considered a possible successor to former President Boris Yeltsin and had a long record of public service.

Alexander Lebed died in a hospital soon after the helicopter he was riding in crashed in poor weather. Officials say the helicopter hit an electric power line near the city of Abakan, more than 3,000 kilometers east of Moscow.

Mr. Lebed was a tough-talking former Army general who finished third in the 1996 presidential elections, and was credited with ending the first war in Chechnya that same year. At first he was on good terms with former President Yeltsin, who won the election after bringing Mr. Lebed into the Kremlin to lead the powerful Security Council.

From that position Mr. Lebed negotiated with Chechen leaders, who said he was one of the few Russians they felt they could trust. Mr. Lebed also helped bring an end to fighting in the former Soviet republic of Moldova in 1992.

A veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Mr. Lebed said he knew the horrors of war, and that it was necessary to end the conflict in the Chechnya. A cease-fire agreement was signed in August 1996. But Mr. Lebed was abruptly fired after he sharply criticized other Kremlin policies. Years later the Chechen conflict flared anew, and it continues today.

Mr. Lebed faded from the national scene, and in 1998 was elected governor of the vast Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia.