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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Battle Ready' Yeltsin Back at Work

Smiling and looking relaxed, President Boris Yeltsin returned to his Kremlin office Monday morning after a six-month absence, declaring that "I feel good" and "ready for battle."

Yeltsin, 65, who has spent all but a few days of his second term as president battling heart disease in hospitals and sanitoria, stepped unaided from his limousine at 9:40 a.m.

"I'm ready for battle. I am in a good mood. I feel good," said a slimmed Yeltsin, dressed in a fur hat and black overcoat. "My dear Russians, I missed you."

His movements appeared more fluid than in recent television appearances, and he grinned broadly into television cameras set up at the Kremlin's steps as he answered questions about his fitness and political resolve.

"Of course, my first task is to tackle salaries, pensions, the armed forces and a number of other things," he said.

But as the president returned to swers to any of the issues facing Russia," Communist opposition leader Gennady Zyuganov told a press conference.

"In the present situation, the Russian president should be working at least 15 hours a day, and Boris Yeltsin is incapable of doing that," said Zyuganov, who lost to Yeltsin by 10 million votes in the July election runoff.

The president's ex-Security Council secretary, Alexander Lebed -- who placed third in June's first-round vote -- told Ekho Moskvy radio that Yeltsin "is too ill to run the country. It is time for him to resign and go and rest."

Yeltsin last visited the Kremlin in late August, when he approved the final list of cabinet members and blasted Lebed for failing to find a peaceful solution to the Chechen war. Later Lebed was sacked.

The president then disappeared to cure what spokesmen called a "colossal weariness."

But in an unprecedented Sept. 5 television address, Yeltsin broke with a decades-old Kremlin tradition of secrecy about leaders' health to admit that his heart was in a bad state and that he had elected to have surgery to fix it.

A team of Russian doctors performed a six-hour quintuple-bypass operation on Nov. 5, with some of the world's top cardiologists following the procedure on closed-circuit television inside the Moscow hospital in case something went wrong.

Doctors pronounced the operation a success and said Yeltsin will be in working order for another decade, presuming he follows a proper diet and exercise regimen.

On what is effectively his first day in office since being reelected July 3, Yeltsin held a one-hour meeting with Chief of Staff Anatoly Chubais, spoke on the phone to British Prime Minister John Major and signed a decree approving a new Russian foreign passport.

He also chaired meetings of the security and defense councils, the Kremlin press service said, without going into details. Yeltsin was satisfied with "an increase in the volume of guaranteed loans provided by the British government," as well as the quality of work done by the administration in his absence, the Kremlin said.

On Tuesday, Yeltsin is scheduled to have his regular weekly meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and to chair a session of the emergency tax commission, or VChK.

Analysts said Monday that Yeltsin might use the VChK session to demonstrate he is taking charge again by whipping some middle-ranking officials into shape. (See story page 3.)

Russia was gripped by a series of job walkouts this month, with tens of thousands of teachers and doctors, and hundreds of thousands of coal miners demanding immediate delivery of months-old wage arrears.

And while the State Duma has passed the 1997 budget in two readings and is expected to approve it by the end of the year, several economists predict lackluster or no growth for next year.

In an article published in Tuesday's Izvestia, economist Andrei Illarionov warned Russia may soon catch the "Bulgarian disease," where inflation is approaching 250 percent.

Meanwhile, Lebed has kept alive discussion of Yeltsin's drinking habits, telling a German television station earlier last week that he had insiders' information the president is drinking alcohol against doctors' advice.

U.S. cardiologist Michael DeBakey, the senior adviser to Yeltsin's surgery, has told the president to take it easy with drink, limiting himself to a glass of wine with dinner. But DeBakey has also refuted reports that Yeltsin's liver is ravaged from years of alcohol abuse.

In an interview published earlier this month, DeBakey told The New York Times that Yeltsin's heart rate has returned to 75 percent of capacity, from about 30 percent recorded this summer.

On Monday, the BBC aired an interview in which DeBakey warned Yeltsin not to overexert himself in the coming two months. He also told Yeltsin not to join in vodka toasts during the New Year celebrations.

?A car bomb exploded down the street from President Boris Yeltsin's Moscow residence on Sunday, killing the driver and wounding a passenger, The Associated Press reported.

The bombing was not aimed at the president, said a police duty officer who refused to give his name. He said the two people inside the car were handling explosives when they accidentally went off.

Yeltsin was not believed to have been at the house at the time of the late afternoon blast, and it was unclear how close the explosion was to Yeltsin's residence at 3 Osenny Boulevard in western Moscow. The police duty officer said the car was parked on the same street near house No. 21.