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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Back To Kremlin After Long Absence

President Boris Yeltsin returned to work at the Kremlin on Tuesday, ending a three-week vacation at a government health resort just three days prior to his inauguration for a second term.

Yeltsin's arrival back at the Kremlin coincided with a new rebel offensive in the Chechen capital of Grozny and a bomb explosion near a Moscow highway regularly used by top government officials. The blast took place three minutes before Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's car drove by.

Yeltsin, who had been resting in the Barvikha health resort outside Moscow since mid-July, met Tuesday with Chernomyrdin, who kept to his normal schedule despite the bomb incident.

The president, who suffered two heart attacks last year, disappeared from public view just prior to the July 3 presidential run-off.

Aides have denied that the president is seriously ill but they admit he is very tired and say he will go back on vacation for two months after the inauguration scheduled for Friday.

However, inauguration organizers have yet to decide on a final format for the ceremony, fueling speculation that the 65-year-old president's shaky health is hampering preparations for the event.

Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin focused during their meeting Yeltsin also approved Chernomyrdin's plan to restructure the government, the presidential press service said. Chernomyrdin said Tuesday he was planning to slim down the government to make it more effective.

Yeltsin is expected to nominate Chernomyrdin on Friday to continue in the prime minister's post, and the State Duma will hold a special session the following day to discuss the nomination.

If approved, Chernomyrdin would then form a new government. The cabinet held its last meeting in its current form Tuesday focusing on the 1997 budget and economic performance so far this year.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, or KPRF, will make a decision on whether to back Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister on the evening of Aug. 8, one of its leaders told Interfax on Tuesday.

Yeltsin also met Tuesday with Alexander Lebed, his national security tsar, to discuss the situation in Chechnya, and with Anatoly Chubais, his chief of staff. Yeltsin and Chubais discussed the restructuring of the presidential administration and issues related to the Aug. 9 inauguration, Interfax reported.

Tuesday's bomb incident took place at 8:50 a.m., about 30 meters off Rublyevskoye Shosse on the western outskirts of the Russian capital. The car carrying Chernomyrdin to work was approximately two kilometers away at the time of the blast, according to a spokesman for the city of Moscow police. No one was injured in the explosion.

While some police sources were quoted early Tuesday as saying the blast might have been caused by a defective gas pipeline, a spokesman for the Moscow branch of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said in a telephone interview late Tuesday that it was the result of an explosive device containing the equivalent of 200 to 250 grams of TNT.

Early reports of the blast described it as "powerful," but Interfax later quoted security officials as saying that it was unlikely to have seriously damaged passing vehicles.

The motives for the bombing remain unclear.

The Moscow FSB spokesman ruled out the possibility that the blast was aimed at Chernomyrdin, as did a source close to the prime minister quoted by the Itar-Tass.

Alexander Shokhin, first deputy speaker of the State Duma, called the bombing an attempt to "psychologically pressure" Chernomyrdin on the eve of his reconfirmation by the State Duma.

He told Interfax that he did not rule out a Chechen link to the bombing attack, but then added he was "not in a position to speak definitely about it."

Interfax quoted another governmental source as saying that those behind the blast were trying "to create tension in the Russian capital."

Russia's security and defense ministries will meet Wednesday to discuss anti-terrorist measures in Moscow, Interfax quoted "well-informed sources" as saying. Lebed is expected to take part.

Meanwhile, top communist party officials met in Moscow on Tuesday, and party leader Gennady Zyuganov told reporters that they had discussed the issue of Communist participation in the next government.

Interfax quoted Zyuganov as saying that the party had decided it would likely not accept an invitation to join the government. A delegation of KPRF officials met with Chernomyrdin last week.

Commenting on Tuesday's bomb incident, Zyuganov said that "terrorism in Russia has become a logical continuation of the authorities governing the country."

Zyuganov also denied splits within the Communist movement, saying it is becoming "stronger and better organized."

For his part, Valentin Kuptsov, Zyuganov's deputy, said the party would need "new approaches and evaluations" which will be worked out through "a large-scale debate on the what the party should be and how it should treat its allies and political opponents."

Aman Tuleyev, head of the legislative assembly in the Siberian region of Kemerova and a key Zyuganov ally, told Interfax the Communist party must become "the major core" of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia, the opposition's new umbrella organization, which will hold its founding congress Wednesday.

Tuleyev said that if the new union can coordinate work to nominate candidates for this fall's regional elections, it could win about 80 percent of the governorships, mayoral posts and legislative assembly chairmanships which will be up for grabs.

Oleg Shenin, leader of the splinter Soviet Communist Party, told the news agency that Zyuganov is the natural leader of the new group.