Mongolian Healer Says He Can Cure Yeltsin

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia -- Mention the word "Ischemia" and Davaagin Yondon, Mongolia's legendary traditional healer, howls with laughter. For the man who "cured" Buryat President Leonid Potapov of heart disease and now wants to treat Boris Yeltsin, nothing could be funnier than the "desperate" diagnoses of Western doctors.


"Yeltsin does not have 'ischemia,' he has been misdiagnosed, his doctors are grabbing at reeds," said Yondon, 60, who announced last Friday that he had applied to the Russian government for permission to treat the ailing Russian president.


"If he does not see me, he will not be treated by anyone with an understanding of his illness."


Yondon, a Buddhist who practices what he calls "traditional Tibetan and Mongolian medicine," has with his Friday announcement entered into a public relations game centered on a type of medical blackmail. He claims to know what is wrong with Yeltsin, whose illness he says he has studied from reading news reports and observing him on television, but refuses to disclose his conclusions until he is granted access to the president.


In Mongolia, where Western science has not yet completely usurped Eastern traditions, Yondon is a well-known and respected medicine man. In his 40 years of practice he has treated some 10,000 Mongolians, mainly for stress, head injuries, heart troubles and even hangovers. His fees vary according to the means of his patients, but a short visit can cost as little as 4,000 tugriks (about $10).


Humming Buddhist prayers as he works out of his small, spare apartment in downtown Ulan Bator, Yondon treats his patients by applying pressure with his fingers, usually in the temple and neck areas.


Local Russian doctors who have seen him work say his technique is not wholly unscientific, and that much of what he does is similar to the accepted Korean science of acu-pressure.


Though he claims to have been invited to dozens of countries to treat well-known officials and artists, Yondon's most high-profile case to date was the treatment of Potapov in June.


The Buryat President, an ethnic Russian, had been suffering from heart problems when Yondon was recommended to him by a Buryat aide. The healer took a train in to Ulan-Ude to gave him a course of treatment, and though he refuses to reveal what he actually did for Potapov, he apparently left his patient satisfied.


Two weeks after seeing Yondon, Potapov told the Mongolian state newspaper Ardyn Erkh that he was feeling "much better" and that he was "completely satisfied with his treatment." Mongol newspapers have since described Potapov as "almost cured."


Despite the Potapov success story, Russian government spokesmen in Ulan Bator are doubtful that Yondon, who applied in writing Oct. 3 to the embassy with his request, will get the interview he seeks with Yeltsin.


"We've passed on his request to the presidential administration in Moscow," said an embassy press spokesman Friday.


Yondon, for his part, is undeterred. "President Yeltsin is still a very strong man, a very virile man, who needs only to be put in the hands of a responsible physician," he said. "I am that physician. Sooner or later, he will come to me."





"But, you know," he added, laughing, "it often takes a while to get an answer here in Mongolia."