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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zyuganov Calls for Russian 'Salvation'

Just days before Boris Yeltsin is expected to undergo heart surgery, the president's opponents Thursday were already discounting the importance of the operation's outcome and demanding that they share in instituting a salvation plan for Russia.

Describing Russia as a ship out of fuel, out of control and beyond the powers of Yeltsin to handle regardless of his bypass surgery, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called on the government to sit down with opposition leaders to figure out how to "save the country."

The contrast with the ailing Yeltsin was stark Thursday.

While Zyuganov launched a new book and announced he would be visiting a children's school Friday as if he were running for president, Yeltsin failed to record a fourth in his weekly series of radio addresses to the nation on advice from his doctors.

"This decision was made directly by the president himself," said Kremlin spokesman Sergei Telepnyov. "Doctors said he needed to rest before surgery, and the president has decided it would be best to follow their advice."

Yeltsin has recorded three such five-minute adresses, which have been aired Friday mornings on a state-run radio station.

On Monday, the Kremlin announced that Yeltsin had called off all business-related appointments as part of the "final stage" of preparations for an open heart surgery, tenta days." DeBakey, 88, who examined Yeltsin in late September, also said the president is highly sensitive to public reports on his health.

"When I arrived [in September], it was doom and gloom. The opposition was crying out that he should resign. They had him with one foot in the grave," DeBakey told The Washington Post. "When I gave an upbeat report, this pleased him greatly."

At the time, DeBakey said Yeltsin did not look like a sick man at all.

Zyuganov, however, was unimpressed by all the attention being devoted to Yeltsin's upcoming operation.

"The atmosphere in the near future does not at all depend on how the operation turns out, how long the president will be recovering," the Communist Party leader said at press conference to launch his new book, "Russia -- My Motherland: The Ideology of State Patriotism."

"The question is altogether different: In whatever condition he is in, he is incapable of guiding the ship, which has no fuel, in whose deck house each person is trying to seize the helm from the other, where laws are not applied, and where ... regions begin dictating their conditions."

The only way to stop the country's precipitous downward slide, Zyuganov said, was for top political leaders, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov and Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroyev, to work with the opposition.

"The question is whether Chernomyrdin, Stroyev, Seleznyov, leaders of major parties and statesmen will have enough courage to sit down together to work out a program of action to save the country," said Zyuganov.

Those three men are members of a "consultative council" recently set up by Yeltsin to coordinate policy on fundamental issues facing the country.

The council's fourth member is presidential Chief of Staff Anatoly Chubais, who is filling in for the president while Yeltsin is ill. The council is reportedly scheduled to hold its first meeting Friday.

The council, however, already ran into trouble Wednesday, when Seleznyov, a member of the Duma's Communist faction, said he would suspend his membership after businessman Boris Berezovsky was named deputy secretary of the Security Council.

Seleznyov called for the resignation of Chubais, who is widely believed to have been behind Berezovsky's appointment.

Interfax quoted an unnamed official on the council Thursday as saying that more appointments were coming, and that they would include some "surprising candidates, at first glance." These would include a "well-known diplomat" who would handle Russia's relations with NATO.

There was some media speculation Thursday that the appointments would include former acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar and former foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev. Gaidar, when asked to comment, said he would not accept the job if offered it.

Andrei Podberyozkin, leader of the Spiritual Heritage movement and one of Zyuganov's top advisers, said Thursday that the opposition nevertheless wants continued dialogue with the government.

Podberyozkin -- who supported plans for coalition rule before last Summer's presidential elections -- also said in a newspaper interview last week that the opposition shared Chubais' aim to bring the regions under tighter central control. On Thursday, however, in the wake of the Berezovsky appointment, he showed little inclination to cooperate with the chief of staff.

"We have received a lot of calls from the regions in the last couple of days, and people are extremely against Chubais," Podberyozkin said. "He's very unpopular even in business circles."

Reactions to the Berezovsky appointment continued to reverberate Thursday. Pavel Voshchanov, formerly Yeltsin's press secretary, saw it as part of a power play launched by Chubais after last summer's presidential vote.

"A covert political coup has taken place in Russia since the presidential election," he wrote in the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. "All power is now concentrated in the hands of representatives of the clan headed by Anatoly Chubais."

An analysis in Commersant Daily on Thursday attributed highly Byzantine motives to the Berezovsky appointment. It said Chubais took the step to enrage the Communist-dominated Duma so that it would force the resignation of the prime minister, leaving the post open for Chubais.

Yeltsin appeared to be truly cut off from all the maneuvering and speculation Thursday.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a long-time friend of the Russian president, said Thursday he would be making a brief stop at the airport in Moscow this weekend to consult with Chernomyrdin about Yeltsin's health, although he would not be visiting the hospital.

A German Embassy spokesman in Moscow confirmed a brief meeting would take place Saturday at Vnukovo airport, where Kohl's plane will stop to refuel on his return from a tour of Asia.