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Yeltsin Presents New Public Image

June 19, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ A Russian lawmaker has formally asked the nation’s top investigator to look into whether President Boris Yeltsin has been replaced by a double, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Deputy Alexander Saly said the president’s appearance and actions have seemed suspicious since his 1996 re-election, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

``The difference between the pre-election Yeltsin and the post-election Yeltsin simply jumps out at you,″ the paper quoted Saly as saying.

Since his second inauguration, Yeltsin has fired most of his old staffers and installed new ones, the Communist Party deputy, was quoted as saying.

Yeltsin used to hide his left hand, which is missing two fingers, but now displays it freely, Saly said.

And, Saly suggested, Yeltsin’s daughter has become the president’s official ``image″ maker _ to advise the ``new″ Yeltsin how to walk and talk like the original, the newspaper said.

Saly, a member of the lower house of parliament’s committee on elections, said he has backing within his party but acknowledged that the support from the leadership has not been particularly vocal.

The newspaper did not say when Saly filed the request, or whether the investigator, the general procurator, has responded.

No one answered the telephone at Saly’s parliament office late Thursday. A duty officer at the general procurator’s office said he had no information about the report.

``Of course there are more than a few people in this world who see flying saucers every day, who contact the spirit world, who try to catch ghosts in their hands,″ the paper editorialized. ``But usually, they are not deputies in the State Duma who write legislation and take part in the country’s political life.″

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