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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Drops By Kremlin

Striking a compromise with his anxious doctors, President Boris Yeltsin worked for three hours Tuesday in the Kremlin before retreating to the sanatorium where he took up residence two weeks ago with a bad cold.

The 66-year-old Kremlin chief made his first visit to Moscow since falling ill Dec. 10 at a vital time for his government. A flurry of end-of-the-year negotiations are under way to deal with pressing issues such as tax collection, the 1998 budget and a compromise over legislation that would allow farmers to buy and sell land.

Eager to dispel rumors that his reported cold is really a far more serious illness, Yeltsin made a big show of returning to work Tuesday. But his doctors, fearing a relapse, urged Yeltsin to stay in their care through the end of the week.

"The president spent about three hours at the Kremlin today. Now he is back at Barvikha," Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told journalists, referring to Yeltsin's suburban sanatorium. "This was the compromise we reached."

Yeltsin is expected to make brief daily visits to the Kremlin as he prepares for a tough meeting Friday with bureaucrats who have fought for years over whether Russian farmers should be allowed to buy plots of land.

On Wednesday, Yeltsin will anxiously follow proceedings in the State Duma, where deputies will debate the 1998 draft budget in its second hearing.

Except for footage of a fleet of Mercedes limousines storming through the Kremlin's gates, the presidential press service issued no television footage of Yeltsin at work.

But Yastrzhembsky carefully played up the image of a workaholic president, saying Yeltsin feels much more at ease inside the Kremlin walls than in quiet Barvikha.

"The best medicine for the president is returning to work," Yastrzhembsky said.

Just as last year, when he was recuperating from multiple-bypass heart surgery, Yeltsin will spend New Year's Day with his family at the Gorky-9 dacha outside the capital. Yeltsin might then take a two-week vacation, although plans have not yet been set, Yastrzhembsky said.

Despite suffering three heart attacks and double pneumonia in the past 15 months, Yeltsin likes to project an image of an iron-tough ruler who pushes his government aides to perform.Taking up the cue, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced Tuesday that the Kremlin is about to transfer federal budget money to the regions so that a backlog of wage arrears to state employees is paid by Jan. 1 as promised.

Besides finding money to pay teachers and doctors, the Kremlin is also busy pushing reluctant legislators to pass the 1998 draft budget. It won't happen before the end of 1997 as had been hoped, but deputies did agree to hold the second of four required budget hearings Wednesday.

"There are no obstacles, besides political ones, to adopting the budget in its second hearing before the end of 1997," said Alexander Shokhin, who heads the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction.

"Most likely, the budget will pass," said Duma budget subcommittee chairwoman Oksana Dmitriyeva. She said deputies have been satisfied by the latest round of negotiations that doubled federal aid to the agricultural sector and boosted funding to the regions.

The budget's chances dipped, however, on news Tuesday that flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky is boycotting the Duma. Furthermore, the Communists, as expected, came out against the draft Tuesday, although their decision is non-binding and leftist deputies may vote Wednesday as they see fit.

Members of Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party announced they were going on vacation and had no plans to show up to work until next year. Despite their rhetoric, the 51-strong faction has a strong pro-Kremlin voting record.

Should he overcome the budget hurdle Wednesday, Yeltsin will be faced with another test Friday when he chairs the first meeting of a so-called round table meeting of 25 ministers and parliament leaders.

The meetings are supposed to give the Kremlin and its foes a chance to negotiate deals on contentious legislation, but no one has put the theory into practice yet.

On the agenda for Friday is the land code. The Kremlin and leftist legislators have been fighting for years over the terms of land sales in Russia. Yeltsin has repeatedly vetoed Communist-sponsored drafts of legislation banning the sale of land to farmers.

Kremlin watchers said the two sides may strike a land-code compromise in which each of Russia's 89 regions would be allowed to set up its own terms on farm sales while an intra-governmental committee continues to iron out details of a uniform code.