Muscovites Offer Prayers For President's Recovery

At Kazan Cathedral on Red Square, Muscovites of all generations were praying for President Boris Yeltsin's health on the day of his coronary bypass surgery.

"We talked about it at work and we all decided to pray for Yeltsin," said a sixth-grade teacher who had brought her students downtown for a trip to the theater and afterward brought them to the cathedral. "The kids prayed, too."

With that, the students gathered around her nodded in affirmation.

Meanwhile an elderly couple spoke as if nothing less than a prayer for the president should be expected from a good citizen. "Of course we prayed to the Lord God for Yeltsin -- for our president," said the husband.

"We prayed for Yeltsin -- God grant him good health," said a woman coming out of the church with her husband and two small children. "I'm sick of all this [craziness]. We need stability, and for that, we need him back in shape."

"That's what we voted for," her husband added. "We voted for stability."

Not everyone emerging from the cathedral had been thinking of Yeltsin. A man and woman in their 20s simply looked amused and bemused when asked if they had prayed for the president.

But even among those who had come to church for other reasons, there was strong feeling for the president.

"I was praying for other people, honestly, but I do want him to be alive and well," said a clean-cut middle-aged man named Vyacheslav Grigoryevich. "I agree with all these protests -- people should live better, there are families to support, children to be fed. To make things better, I think we need to integrate with the West. And for that, we need a healthy Yeltsin."

However, for one of the protesters who had made her way into the church, praying for Yeltsin's health so he could save the country was a bit too indirect. She decided to get right to the point.

"I was praying for work -- for wages," she said.