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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Reassures on Yeltsin's Health

Eager to dispel speculation that President Boris Yeltsin is seriously ill, a Kremlin spokesman said Monday that a delegation of government officials including First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov will visit the president at his secluded resort in northwest Russia.

The delegation will fly to Valdai on Tuesday to meet with Yeltsin, 66, who is in the second week of a vacation that directly followed a two-week hospital stay to treat what the Kremlin has described as a bad cold.

"A small landing force will be delivered to Valdai by helicopter tomorrow," spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said at a news briefing.

"We expect to bring back photographs and video material in order to meet the curiosity of the public and some journalists who are becoming jittery because they haven't seen the president for some time," Yastrzhembsky said.

The president has not appeared in public or met with any of his top aides so far this year.

Yeltsin last traveled abroad in November when he visited Sweden, where the Kremlin says Yeltsin caught a bad cold. Yeltsin spent two weeks recovering in a sanatorium in December, and left Moscow for a two-week vacation beginning Jan. 4. Yeltsin is due to return to his Kremlin desk Feb. 19.

Yastrzhembsky announced Monday that Yeltsin plans to visit Italy from Feb. 9 to 11 and meet Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.

The Russian president first met the pontiff in December 1991, just days before the Soviet Union's official collapse. Relations between the two hit a snag last year, when the pope protested Russian legislation that would have excluded Catholicism as one of the major religions recognized by the state.

Citing renewed violence in the North Caucasus, Yastrzhembsky also confirmed Yeltsin will not be traveling to Chechnya as originally planned for this month. Yastrzhembsky also said Yeltsin this month will chair a session of the so-called Big Four -- himself, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and heads of the two chambers of parliament.