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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ruled by Heart, Led by Nose

With the peace talks in Grozny apparently on the brink of success, it is appropriate that President Boris Yeltsin is marking the end of the war, as he began it, with a spell in hospital.


One can only hope, for the sake of the unfortunate inhabitants of Chechnya, that his heart will have a more benign effect on his policies than his nose.


You will recall, of course, that the last time the presidential motorcade was seen gliding through the gates of the Central Clinical Hospital, was back in December, when Yeltsin required urgent treatment for an inflamed septum, a condition so serious that it kept him confined within its walls for some two weeks, and so sudden that he scarcely had time to sign the order sending troops into Chechnya before dropping from public view.


We heard virtually nothing more about the presidential nose: how it was responding to treatment, what sort of treatment it was getting or even what the cause of the ailment was.


The nose itself, when shown on television a few days later during a special session of the Security Council held inside the hospital, looked its usual rather spongy self.


At a second appearance, still inside the hospital, occasioned by a bedside visit by U.S. Vice President Al Gore, again the nose seemed none the worse for its experience -- no redder than usual, nor bearing any scars or discernible swelling.


This time around, the presidential team has been far more forthcoming. Every few hours we are given an update.


Indeed the speed with which we were initially informed about the president's ailment had seasoned Kremlin watchers reeling, only to be swept off their feet altogether by the subsequent deluge of information.


Right from the start we were told it was an acute heart condition -- none of the usual stuff about a slight cold (maybe that would have drawn too much attention to the nose again). In no time at all we were being told about his pulse rate, his EKG, the state of his arteries, the pains in his chest. In fact, the details were coming in so fast, we scarcely had time to speculate.


And just when we were getting into the "What if?" kind of question, which would have allowed all sorts of indulgence into the "worst-case scenario," the Kremlin outmaneuvered us once again.


Yeltsin was feeling better, they told us. He was taking calls, signing documents, having visitors, eating -- if not drinking -- normally.


Now this was a class act, glasnost in the real sense. And there can be no turning back. Any senior politician slipping into the Kremlyovka to have his hemorrhoids soothed or prostate tweaked had better be ready to have all the details splashed across the evening television news. With graphics.


The irony is that no matter how open you are, someone is always going to find a conspiracy. The current theory going around is that the reason we are being told so much about the state of Yeltsin's heart, is that he is not actually being treated for a heart condition at all, but for something far worse, or more reprehensible.


Thus does Moskovsky Komsomolets find it deeply suspicious that Yeltsin's early morning rush to the hospital should have come the very next day after the birthday of his chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, an occasion which followed no less an event than the fourth anniversary of Yeltsin's presidency.


Of course, we can all imagine what happens when the president has something to celebrate. And just in case we can't, the paper reminds us about that unfortunate occasion when Yeltsin slept through a stopover in Ireland and missed a meeting with the prime minister.


And if that is not suspicious enough, the skeptics argue, why did he not cancel his forthcoming visit to Norway?


For something as serious as his heart condition -- we are of course all experts on ischemia by now, even if we had not heard of it before Tuesday -- surely the president would have been prescribed a period of rest and recuperation? Surely he would not be going back to work?


Maybe I'm just gullible, but I'll buy the heart story. Fool that I am, I think it is perfectly reasonable that Yeltsin had pains in his chest, went to the hospital for tests, was diagnosed as suffering from a minor heart problem and is now feeling better.


But if he sleeps through his stay in Oslo next week, I'll eat my words.