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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Out for 3 Weeks, Doctor Says

Boris Yeltsin reportedly has double pneumonia and his senior doctor said Friday that the president will remain hospitalized for up to five days and will need three weeks to recuperate before returning to work.


Friday's revelations put a more serious cast on the 65-year-old president's illness than the Kremlin has hitherto acknowledged.


After examining the Yeltsin at the Central Clinical Hospital, Kremlin physician Sergei Mironov told ORT Russian Public Television that the president needs to spend another "four or five days" in care.


"To speak honestly we have not reached a decisive breakthrough but there is far less crackling and he is breathing with greater ease," Mironov told a press conference earlier in the day.


Yeltsin will then need three weeks to recuperate before he can return to work in the Kremlin, the doctor added. On Friday, the president's plans for foreign travel and domestic engagements were already being significantly altered.


While the precise nature of Yeltsin's pneumonia remained uncertain Friday, a report on Ekho Moskvy radio suggested that it is relatively serious.


Quoting an unspecified doctor treating Yeltsin at the hospital, Ekho Moskvy reported that the president was suffering from a swelling on both lungs, a pneumonia of "medium gravity."


Mironov indirectly acknowledged another Ekho Moskvy radio report, released Friday morning, that Yeltsin had been diagnosed with an unspecified illness as early as last weekend, but then ignored doctors' advice to go back to the hospital because he feared the move's political consequences.


"The man had just recovered from one very serious problem when a second one appeared," Mironov said. "I can understand [his reaction] as a person, but as a doctor I have another position."


He said Yeltsin, who was rushed to the hospital Wednesday evening after spending two days in a country residence, reportedly with a cold, should have been hospitalized days before.


"He should have been brought here a few days earlier and we proposed this," Mironov said.


Ekho Moskvy reported that Yeltsin was examined at the hospital Sunday, one day after meeting German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who himself has said Yeltsin was visibly ill during the one day summit. The radio station said that despite doctors' orders, Yeltsin went on to chair a Cabinet session on NATO expansion Monday.


That morning Yeltsin appeared languid and somewhat removed. He canceled all future engagements Monday afternoon, and no images of the president have appeared since.


The Kremlin press service declined to comment on the Ekho Moskvy story.


Even now, Mironov said, Yeltsin is none too pleased to be back inside a hospital. "Of course this is depressing him, of course his mood is not a very happy one but I see no reason for particular pessimism," Mironov said.


No visitors are permitted to see the president, and Yeltsin is allowed to work on the "most urgent" documents only. But Mironov once again stressed the illness is unrelated to the Nov. 5 quintuple-bypass operation.


Since returning to the Kremlin on Dec. 23 after spending much of his second term as president battling a heart ailment, Yeltsin rushed into a series of Cabinet meetings, made a New Year's eve appearance at a central Moscow toy store and welcomed visits from two foreign dignitaries.


Even after Yeltsin's rehospitalization, the Kremlin has painted a picture of an involved president, reporting that he spent Friday morning on the phone with major foreign leaders.


But the illness has taken its toll. The first change in the president's packed schedule came when the Jan. 17 summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States was postponed until the end of January. The official explanation, broadcast on the ORT "Vremya" newscast, said Russia asked the meeting be delayed because Uzbek president Islam Karimov had a previous commitment to travel abroad.


Also off the schedule is an early February trip to The Hague, where Yeltsin was to represent Russia at a session of the European Union, ORT reported.


While Russia's press and media have reacted with pessimism to Yeltsin's latest health setback, the world community has been supportive. On Friday, U.S. President Bill Clinton sent a "get well soon" message to Yeltsin and Germany's Kohl said he saw no reason why Yeltsin should step down for health reasons, Reuters reported.


Some Moscow politicians continued to disagree Friday. Deposed security chief and presidential hopeful Alexander Lebed attacked his former boss for a third day running.


The former paratroop general told a meeting of his newly formed election vehicle -- the Russian National Republican Party -- that the nation should feel sorry for its incapacitated ruler.


"Like good Christians, we can sympathize," Lebed said. "A personal drama of a family is turning into a tragedy for the whole nation."


But Lebed, the nation's leader in public opinion polls, then repeated his earlier calls for Yeltsin to resign.A challenge to the president's authority also came from the historically timid upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council. Its chairman, Yegor Stroyev, said Friday that the Constitution should be amended to let the council have a say in key Cabinet appointments.


"What are we afraid of?" Stroyev was quoted by Interfax as saying. "One way or the other it will come to this, if not today then tomorrow."


At the moment, most cabinet appointments are the sole prerogative of the president, through his chosen prime minister.


Until last fall, the Federation Council had been little more than a rubber stamp body composed of Yeltsin appointees and locally selected legislative leaders. But the series of 52 gubernatorial elections that started last year have begun to change the council's outlook.