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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For 'Optimistic' Yeltsin It's Business as Usual

An "optimistic" Boris Yeltsin is working from his hospital room, sticking to a no-salt diet and planning to resume his normal schedule next week, the Kremlin said Thursday.


The message of business as usual, despite the president's heart trouble, was underscored by the announcement that Yeltsin's No. 2, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, left Moscow on a trip to Siberia on Thursday night.


Yeltsin spoke to Chernomyrdin by telephone Thursday evening and was briefed on results of a Cabinet meeting and other topics, news agencies reported.


The 64-year-old president was rushed to the Central Clinical Hospital on Tuesday after suffering chest pains. Symptoms described by the Kremlin indicate he probably has a form of heart disease called unstable angina, in which narrowing of arteries diminishes the blood supply to the heart.


Aides say Yeltsin is expected to remain in the hospital until Monday. Parliament speaker Ivan Rybkin said Yeltsin plans to meet Tuesday with leaders of the lower house of parliament, the Interfax news agency reported.


Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said Yeltsin was signing documents and maintaining "regular links with his aides and top state officials."


He said Yeltsin was in good condition and had a good appetite.


"Boris Nikolayevich feels optimistic and asked his aides not to change his work schedule for next week," he said.


"According to Yeltsin's doctors, their patient slept well during the night and got up as usual at 7 a.m."


Doctors have made no public comment themselves on the president's condition. That and a long history of hushing up the illnesses of Kremlin leaders have left some Russians skeptical of the government accounts.


"In this country of instability, there is a general disbelief in official information," Alexander Minkin wrote in the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets.


"People are nervous and have many questions. If he has recuperated so quickly, then why hasn't even a single TV journalist been able to see the president after his heart trouble -- at least for the sake of the nation's peace of mind?"


Chernomyrdin, who would replace Yeltsin if the president were unable to serve, was to leave for Yakutsk, in eastern Siberia, for a working visit lasting until Saturday, reports said. Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin talked Thursday evening about that trip, a Cabinet meeting Thursday, economic measures by the Central Bank and peace talks in breakaway Chechnya, Interfax and Itar-Tass reported.


Yeltsin's illness and recent plunge in popularity have cast doubts on whether he will seek reelection when his five-year term expires next June.


"If the ... heart disease doesn't have consequences for Yeltsin as president, that doesn't mean it won't hurt Yeltsin as a possible contestant in the 1996 presidential race," the weekly Obshchaya Gazeta said.


"One doesn't have to be a doctor to remember how vigorous Boris Nikolayevich looked four years ago and, comparing this unforgettable image with today's reality, to imagine what kind of leader we might see on television sometime in the year 2000."