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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Votes Away From Public Eye

A throng of journalists from all over the world packed into the courtyard of President Boris Yeltsin's polling station in Moscow's Krylatskoye region early Wednesday, having been informed by the president's press service that he would cast his ballot there as he had in the first round of voting on June 16.


Cameras at the ready, journalists waited for over two hours before Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, voting at the same polling station, finally broke the news -- Yeltsin had already voted, in the village of Barvikha outside Moscow where he keeps a dacha.


The prime minister flatly denied that the unexpected change of venue was caused by illness. "Everything is normal. Do not worry. It does not happen in a country like this that there could be any nuances here," he said.


After a series of no-shows and cancelled appointments by Yeltsin during the final days of the election campaign, there has been speculation that Yeltsin might be suffering another attack of the heart illness that struck twice last year. But Chernomyrdin and others again insisted Wednesday that the president had simply lost his voice after a cold.


"The president is working, he is healthy and he is governing. I do not see any questions here," Chernomyrdin said, explaining that Yeltsin had chosen to vote in Barvikha because "it was simply more convenient for him."


Yeltsin, smiling but looking pale and moving slowly, was filmed at the Barvikha polling station by his own Kremlin photographer. The tape was shown on all Russian television stations throughout the day.


Yeltsin's press spokesman Sergei Medvedev said Yeltsin had in the last six months "fulfilled his plan for meeting with the press by 120 percent, and I think you must look here to find the reason why he did not come here for such a crowd of journalists."


Suspicions that the press might have been intentionally led on a wild goose chase were at least partially confirmed by Medvedev, who said he had learned of the change of venue only Wednesday morning, "although the absentee ballots were obtained yesterday," suggesting that Yeltsin's decision to vote in Barvikha had been made as early as Tuesday.


When asked point-blank why the press had been brought to the Krylatskoye polling station in buses provided by the presidential press service and left waiting without word until after Yeltsin had already voted, Medvedev turned away and laughed quietly.


In addition to Yeltsin, the Krylatskoye polling station serves a number of Russia's heavy-hitting politicians. First to arrive Wednesday was the trio of Alexander Korzhakov, Yeltsin's former bodyguard, ex-Federal Security Service chief Mikhail Barsukov and Russian Sports Minister Shamil Tarpishchev. Last time around, Korzhakov and Barsukov had accompanied Yeltsin to the vote. He sacked both two weeks ago.


Former acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar turned up after Chernomyrdin's departure. And last but not least came Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who became exasperated when asked of Yeltsin's health. "Let the man recuperate," he said.