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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Has Tests, Tass Says

COMBINED REPORTS


President Boris Yeltsin, dogged by health scares, has had a series of medical tests and a course of "preventative" treatment and needs rest, Itar-Tass quoted a highly placed Kremlin source as saying Monday.


The report followed a promise by Yeltsin's chief spokesman of a new era of Kremlin openness about the president's health during a television interview broadcast Sunday.


Yeltsin was shown briefly on television Monday, looking relaxed and smiling in a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.


The pictures of Yeltsin, shown briefly on ORT Russian Public Television's evening news, was his first television appearance since Aug. 22 and followed renewed speculation about his health.


The Itar-Tass report who suffered two minor heart attacks last year, is ill again.


But the president, 65, has more or less disappeared from the public eye since late June. He made an appearance Aug. 9 at his inauguration for a second term in office and has been seen a couple of times on television.


Itar-Tass quoted the source as saying that Yeltsin felt "all right" and that the main thing for him was to rest.


However presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, 42, who took up his present post just last month, told Russian Television's "Zerkalo" current affairs program there was a new policy of openness on Yeltsin's health.


He admitted that it took time to break Soviet-era taboos over the health of Kremlin leaders. But it was "normal and natural" for the media and the public to be informed and the Kremlin press office had taken the initiative in announcing last week that Yeltsin's wife, Naina, had been operated on for a kidney complaint, Yastrzhembsky said.


"It was not fortuitous and I would be very glad if this became the rule," he said in the interview recorded Friday.


"This subject is a normal and natural one to be discussed, but within the limits of privacy and medical ethics."


He was asked why the president, hardly seen in public for over two months, had not met his personal envoy to Chechnya, Alexander Lebed. The lack of contact in recent weeks has fueled speculation that Yeltsin is ill or not in control of policy.


Yastrzhembsky said that "not a single day" had passed in which Yeltsin was not fully in control of the situation in Chechnya and actively took part in preparing the proposals which Lebed announced Saturday that led to a deal with the separatists.


But the spokesman insisted that Yeltsin, who aides say has been on holiday since last Monday at his Rus residence 100 kilometers northeast of Moscow, should be allowed to rest.


"The president must have the right to take a break and the president must have room for maneuver. I think that we cannot refuse him that," Yastrzhembsky said.


Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that presidential aides had deliberately misled journalists about the Yeltsin's poor state of health.


In one instance on the weekend before the final vote of the Russian election, Yeltsin had canceled his Kremlin appearances and retreated to Barvikha, a government resort for the elite in a village outside Moscow. His then-press secretary, Sergei Medvedev, said he was in "good form" but added that Yeltsin had lost his voice.


But according to The Washington Post report, which quoted a political source in the Russian government, the reality was different.


A campaign camera crew visiting Barvikha that weekend to tape Yeltsin's pre-election address to the nation found the president pale and weak, the paper said.


He was breathing heavily. He could barely get through the speech, which had to be taped three times. One of those who saw Yeltsin told colleagues in Moscow a few hours later: "The grandfather is in bad shape."


According to the report, the videotape from Barvikha was heavily edited before it was broadcast July 1, and the "grandfather" went on to win re-election two days later.


On the day of the second round of voting, July 3, Yeltsin cast his ballot at a polling place in Barvikha. No journalist was present, but Kremlin video teams captured the moment. Yeltsin was seen standing, and at one point, he flashed his familiar wry smile.


However, according to The Washington Post, videotape of the event was edited to delete the presence of two white-coated doctors standing nearby. The doctors would have been a clue that something was amiss -- a clue that the Kremlin did not want Russians to have on election day.


Should Yeltsin die or be incapacitated, the constitution provides that he would be temporarily followed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and that elections would be held within three months.


It is known Yeltsin has heart disease, for which he was twice hospitalized last year. Official reports on Yeltsin have described coronary artery disease, the most common heart ailment -- and most common cause of death -- in both the United States and Russia. Yeltsin apparently suffers from a partially blocked artery that brings blood to the heart, and may also suffer from diseased heart valves.


According to official reports, Yeltsin's second attack last year, in October, was more severe than the first.


There is widespread speculation that Yeltsin needs heart surgery, but it is not known whether he is willing to undergo it, or what other risks he may face, and he has never discussed it publicly. However, he did announce recently that he would not go abroad, a statement that came on the heels of a Time magazine report that Yeltsin might have heart surgery in Switzerland.


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