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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin's Bypass Said to Be Imminent

President Boris Yeltsin will undergo heart bypass surgery within the next few days, possibly as early as Tuesday, Kremlin and medical sources said Monday.

A team of Kremlin doctors, assisted by American cardiologist Michael DeBakey, examined Yeltsin on Monday at Barvikha, a sanatorium near Moscow where the president has been preparing for surgery since early October.

According to presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the group concluded "that the optimal performance of all of the patient's organs and bodily functions make it possible to conduct the operation with a high level of certainty and confidence."

"The operation itself can be carried out in the next few days," Interfax quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying.

Agence France Presse reported Monday evening that the operation was scheduled for Tuesday, quoting unnamed Now that everyone is back from holiday jaunts around the world, airfares are low. Those who held off on a vacation during the season's most popular (and most expensive) time would be wise to take a couple of weeks to travel now.

If you've never visited St. Petersburg, or regularly do business there, you might want to consider using it as the springboard for your international getaway. There are some great deals that depart from St. Petersburg -- often much cheaper than fares from Moscow.

The reason, according to Alison Bush, the manager of American Express in St. Petersburg (812-119-6009), is that it is more difficult for airlines to fill their planes from Russia's second city.

"There aren't as many expatriates living in St. Petersburg so the airlines are doing really good deals to attract them. Moscow is one of the most profitable routes left in the world," said Bush, speaking from St. Petersburg. "Here, airlines have to be more competitive. Also, the Russians here don't seem to have the spending capacity they have in Moscow. People seem to be more cost conscious here."

Of course, the savings are usually not great enough to warrant flying to St. Petersburg just to save some money. One-way flights there cost about $116 on Aeroflot, so most of your savings will be eaten up with that, and then you have to consider the hassle factor. But if you've been wanting to visit the Hermitage or you have some business in the elegant city anyway, it could be wise to look into flights originating there.

Bush, who used to work at American Express' Moscow office, said trips to Helsinki and London are cheaper from St. Petersburg because it is closer to those cities than Moscow. But she added that other good deals on far-off destinations can also be found.

A round-trip ticket to Berlin from St. Petersburg on Aeroflot is $263. To fly to Berlin from Moscow would cost $449, Bush said. It's also much cheaper to fly to Prague from St. Petersburg -- $218 round trip -- compared to $438 from Moscow. A round-trip ticket to Paris on Aeroflot out of St. Petersburg costs $357 compared with $594 from Moscow.

Bush added, however, that there can be setbacks when you travel out of St. Petersburg. Planes don't depart as often and a lot of flights stop in Helsinki rather than going nonstop.

Some airlines, like Iberia (921-9293), which flies round-trip out of Moscow to Japan ($1,500) and Madrid ($825) four times a week, do not fly out of St. Petersburg at all.

Gulia Zaripova, of the Intouraero travel agency (250-7238) compared some international airfares out of Moscow with those from St. Petersburg. To fly from Moscow to Paris, Intouraero can get you a ticket for $470. From St. Petersburg the ticket they offer is substantially less -- $332. But with other fares, the difference between starting points is not so great. Intouraero can book a ticket from Moscow to Berlin for $250 or from St. Petersburg to Berlin for $236. They also have a great deal on Aeroflot from Moscow to New York for $552. The difference when flying out of St. Petersburg is only $11 less.

If you decide to go the St. Petersburg route, there are several ways to get there and many lodging options. Through Smart Travel (233-1765), you can travel to St. Petersburg by first-class, midnight train Friday, stay in the Hotel Moskva, with breakfast, theater tickets and tours for $300, including a return train ticket that gets you back in Moscow on Monday morning.

In St. Petersburg, other lodging options include the Hotelship Peterhof (812-119-8888), a Swiss-Russian joint venture. This hotel is a ship docked on the Neva River in the center of St. Petersburg. Prices range from $80 for a single room to $190 for a double deluxe. There's a restaurant overlooking the Neva, a nightclub, a fitness center, sauna and a beauty salon.

Don't want to spend much and don't need privacy? Then the St. Petersburg Hostel (812-329-8018) is your choice at $12 a night for a dorm room shared with between two and five strangers.

And if you're the opposite kind of person, you can stay at the Grand Hotel Europe (812-329-6000), a five-star palace where they'll provide transportation to and from the airport or train station, early check-in Saturday and late check-out Sunday, breakfast both days and a city tour for $296 double occupancy. This offer lasts though Feb. 25.

If you have no desire or intention of travelling to St. Petersburg just to get somewhere else, there are some good winter escapes out of Moscow. Griphon Travel (243-2395) offers a week in Hurghada on the Red Sea in Egypt with airfare and four-star lodging for $485, or a four-day shopping tour to Istanbul, including airfare and allowance for 40 kilos of whatever you buy there. If you stay in a three-star hotel it's $250. If you want to splurge on a four-star hotel, it's $280.

Good deals right now from Shipra Travel (438-5756): Fly Moscow to New York for $625 on Aeroflot, or also on the same airline to Prague round-trip for $280. And from Super Nova Travel (292-3019), there are weekend tours to Budapest. Stay in the five-star Kempinsky hotel for two nights with breakfast and airfare for $535. Or spend a week on a Cyprus beach -- the Limassol resort for $837 for a five-star hotel, $575 for three stars.

Promotions galore: Two airlines have promotional fares to the United States. You can book them through Super Nova. Fly to New York from Moscow on Finnair until Feb. 14 for $633 (restrictions apply) or take Delta to the same destination for $660 through March 31 (again, there are restrictions.) On the same Delta promotion, flights from Moscow to Los Angeles start at $759.