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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Hospitalized With Viral Infection




President Boris Yeltsin has developed an acute respiratory infection and was hospitalized Wednesday for up to 12 days of treatment at a sanatorium near Moscow, a Kremlin official said.


Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin caught a cold last week while in Sweden and doctors, fearing it could turn into something more serious, advised the president to rest.


"In the wake of a cold, the president has developed a respiratory virus infection, and doctors do not exclude that it may turn into flu," Yastrzhembsky said. "Consequently, they recommended the president stay in a sanatorium."


Despite official reassurances that Yeltsin, 66, is not seriously ill, reaction to the news served as a reminder of how much almost everything in Russian politics ultimately depends on him.


An important round-table meeting between ministers and parliamentarians scheduled for Thursday was canceled, and the stock market fell, with the Moscow Times Index down 6.3 percent. The round-table meeting was intended to seek resolution of a logjam over whether to allow private sales of land.


The president underscored his central role last week with a dramatic surprise speech to parliament that convinced reluctant opposition deputies to pass the 1998 draft budget in its first reading.


The hospitalization adds another chapter to an already long list of Yeltsin's health problems.


He has suffered three heart attacks and underwent a quintuple heart bypass operation in November 1996. Slowed in his recovery by double pneumonia in January, Yeltsin appeared to have made a strong comeback this fall, traveling extensively in Russia and abroad.


Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin was not confined to bed, but because his temperature is slightly above the normal 37 degrees Celsius, doctors advised Yeltsin against taking walks outdoors.


RTR television showed early morning footage of a motorcade taking Yeltsin from his Gorky-9 residence to the nearby Barvikha sanatorium, where the president spent a month last year preparing for heart surgery.


Yeltsin was last shown on television Tuesday chairing a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and heads of the two chambers of parliament. His voice seemed raspy, but otherwise Yeltsin looked well.


Quick to dispel suggestions Yeltsin has lost touch with state affairs, Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin has a pile of work-related documents with him at Barvikha, and regularly speaks to aides by telephone.


Kremlin officials said similar things while Yeltsin was recovering from heart surgery. Many observers, however, say Yeltsin was almost completely removed from day-to-day government business during the nearly nine-month absence from the Kremlin that kicked off his second term.


Until last fall, when Yeltsin went on national television to admit he needed a heart operation, the health of Kremlin leaders had been generally treated as a state secret.


The Kremlin had on several previous occasions reported Yeltsin was suffering from a cold or the flu, only to admit later that the president had suffered from more serious illnesses.


On one such occasion, Yeltsin disappeared from view just days before his July 3, 1996, re-election. The Kremlin first said he had a cold and was "monumentally tired." Months later, his heart surgeon Rinat Akchurin revealed that Yeltsin had suffered a heart attack.


With the threat of a Communist comeback averted and political life in Russia more calm, the Kremlin gradually become more candid about Yeltsin's health, revealing details about the condition of his heart after surgery. Last month, on the one-year anniversary of Yeltsin's operation, Akchurin said he had "no concerns" about the president's health.


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


The Kremlin and liberal parliamentarians have been fighting for years over terms of land sales in Russia. Yeltsin has repeatedly vetoed Communist-sponsored drafts of legislation banning the sale of land to farmers.


The State Duma is also trying to win a greater say over Kremlin appointments in the Cabinet. But compromise there seems farther off, as Yeltsin steadfastly refuses to cede his powers to parliament.


"Yeltsin is prepared to reach any compromise with the opposition, as long as he does not have to cede an inch of power to them," said Wednesday's issue of the Kommersant Daily newspaper.


The round-table discussion has not been rescheduled.