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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Something's Fishy on Yeltsin's Holiday

PETROZAVODSK, Northwest Russia -- When President Boris Yeltsin arrived in a Karelian lakeside village for his two-month fishing vacation, his entourage included his wife, his daughter, a big security detail -- and about 10,000 fish.


Yeltsin arrived Monday for a holiday at the town of Shuya on Lake Ukshe, about 30 kilometers north of Petrozavodsk.


Russian media have billed the trip as a working-fishing vacation. Although Yeltsin was never known before as a big fisherman, Russian media reports have him doing spectacularly well -- thanks apparently to the Karelian Fisheries Commission.


"We were told by the [Petrozavodsk] city administration to make sure [Yeltsin] had a good time, and that's what we're doing," said a commissioner with the fisheries commission in a telephone interview. "There are probably an extra 10,000 fish that were specially stocked for the president."


The commissioner, who did not want his name used, added that Yeltsin will have little competition for nibbles because the lake -- one of the most popular fishing holes in the lake-dotted Petrozavodsk region -- will be off limits to other Monday, though she said some of them were "very small." On Wednesday, the Petrozavodsk daily newspaper Severny Kurier, citing "sources on the presidential security team who requested anonymity," reported that Yeltsin caught another 30.


"According to die-hard fishermen, that is probably a record for Lake Ukshe," the paper wrote.


Sergei Kulikayev, the reporter from Severny Kurier assigned to cover the Yeltsin visit, complained that the angler's angle was the only one local journalists were allowed to pursue.


"The only reporters allowed near him are from Interfax and RTR television; we have to rely on what they say," he fumed.


"All we can talk about is the same old stuff you talked about in the old days: what the president is wearing, how nice the weather was when he arrived, and then its his motorcade with 20 or more cars blocking the streets for hours."


With a population of 250,000, Petrozavodsk is the largest city in sparsely populated Karelia, and so locals are used to feeling like big cosmopolitan fish in a small provincial pond.


But since the arrival Monday of Yeltsin -- or "the tsar," as some locals not-so-affectionately refer to him -- city residents feel more like fish out of water. They complain about "snobby" out-of-town journalists, fancy black limousines and traffic jams.


"We haven't seen a thing but a lot of black cars rolling around," muttered Yana Alekseyeva, who runs a food kiosk near the Petrozavodsk train station.


"People like you, with cameras and notebooks, from the big city keep asking us about [Yeltsin] as if we should be charmed the president would come here. You know, we were here before 'the tsar' came."


And it is bound to get worse for the locals. On Saturday and Sunday, Yeltsin is scheduled to host Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. "Current international issues and bilateral ties will be discussed," the Kremlin press service said. More fishing is also expected.


On Tuesday, Yeltsin hosted First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov for a working meeting.


Naina Yeltsin was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying the president was pleased with his vacation, although she so far has forbidden him to play tennis -- his favorite sport before his heart surgery last fall.