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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gore Left Waiting As President Takes Break

Announcing at the last minute that he was going on a two-week vacation, President Boris Yeltsin on Monday unceremoniously ditched a planned morning meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Gore was informed less than an hour before the 10 a.m. meeting that Yeltsin would see him Tuesday instead.

The vice president's motorcade was already idling outside the President Hotel waiting for him to get in, while journalists, U.S. diplomats and White House staffers were expectantly in place at the Kremlin. Then came an official statement from the Kremlin: "President Boris Yeltsin has decided to take a short holiday ..."

The Kremlin press service -- denying suggestions that Yeltsin's health was failing -- said Yeltsin would receive Gore on Tuesday at Barvikha, a gov it [the meeting with Yeltsin] would be postponed until tomorrow," he said, according to Reuters. Asked to elaborate, Gore snapped, "I just gave you my comment."

Igor Ignatiyev, chief of the presidential press service, said Yeltsin was tired and felt this to be the "most convenient time for a short vacation" before the inauguration.

In remarks carried by Interfax, Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei Medvedev, elaborated that Monday was a particularly convenient time for a snap vacation "because the weather in the Moscow area is so good."

At a Kremlin press briefing, Medvedev said Yeltsin was under a lot of stress during the re-election campaign and, now with the need to form a new government, was being cantankerous with his doctors. Medvedev said Yeltsin has refused to even let them measure his blood pressure and has not had a real checkup since late last year, so he would be checked out by doctors at Barvikha.

But he added that Yeltsin is not sick, just tired.

"I see no serious grounds for these panicky statements that something has happened again," Medvedev told a Kremlin press briefing. "The president is tired, he is really very tired, and he just needs a good, proper rest."

Yeltsin has not been seen in public since a week before election day. His last public appearance was June 26 in Moscow at a graduation ceremony for military cadets, where he looked pale and had the same puffy swollen face that preceded his two heart attacks. Disappearing from view immediately afterward, Yeltsin skipped major campaign events and opted to vote not at his usual precinct but at Barvikha. He also stood up Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, doing so at the last minute, as with Gore.

Yeltsin has appeared in pre-recorded television addresses, in which he has looked slightly wooden and certainly a far cry from the energetic campaigner who criss-crossed Russia in May and June, dancing at rock concerts, descending into coal mines and playing Tatarstan's version of the Mexican pi–ata game.

On Friday, he was shown on national television giving an address to the Federal Security Service collegium, at which he appeared pale, disoriented, moved very slowly and slurred his speech.

As a breach of protocol, Monday's no-show was reminiscent of Yeltsin's failure in 1994 to descend from his plane during a scheduled meeting with Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds. Reynolds was left waiting on the runway for 20 minutes while Yeltsin's aides mustered up the courage to explain that the president was indisposed.

Back in Moscow, Yeltsin said, "I overslept."

If Monday's contretemps was less of a scandal than the Shannon Airport snub, U.S. officials nevertheless appeared unhappy that the meeting had been canceled at such short notice, particularly since Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin dined with Gore on Sunday night and could have warned him. Ignatiyev said the decision to cancel the meeting had been made Sunday night.

Nor can it have escaped the Americans' notice that while Yeltsin was too tired to meet the U.S. vice president, he was not too tired to launch yet another sweeping reform of his government, demoting his hardline chief of staff Nikolai Yegorov and custom-tailoring a new powerful position for prominent liberal Anatoly Chubais as chief of staff and top presidential aide.

Gore is in Moscow for a two-day session of a joint American-Russian commission he heads along with Chernomyrdin. The Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, as it is called, discusses economic and technological cooperation. The visits, alternating between Moscow and Washington, often are capped by a meeting with the host country's president.