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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Goes on Working Vacation

President Boris Yeltsin was on what aides called a working vacation Monday at his retreat northwest of Moscow amid reports he was postponing two trips scheduled for later this month.

Interfax, citing unnamed sources, said Yeltsin would put off a trip to India until the second half of the year and a visit to the separatist Russian republic of Chechnya to an unspecified time.

Yeltsin, 66, went to the government retreat in the Valdai region, 300 kilometers from the capital, on Sunday.

He had spent two weeks at a sanatorium outside Moscow being treated for a cold before returning to his suburban dacha home Dec. 24.

The Kremlin says Yeltsin will conduct meetings during his two-week stay, including one with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, much as he did during his stay at Valdai during the summer.

In his New Year's address Wednesday, broadcast 10 minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve, Yeltsin wished Russians a "successful and joyful" New Year and said that in 1997 Russia was "still learning along the way" to democracy.

"Our state has a millennium-long history," Yeltsin said. "However, the new, democratic Russia will be only seven years old in 1998. It is a time of school and studying for an individual."

"It is the same for a country that is gaining new experience on the road back to its dignified place in the world," he said.

Yeltsin asserted that in 1997, during which the government struggled to pay government workers and collect taxes, the country "became stronger and more confident in itself and its mission."

The broadcast showed him raising a toast with family members.

On Monday, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said the government had paid out an additional 3.2 trillion old rubles ($535.7 million) in its race to pay off wage arrears to government employees.

The figure was in 1997 rubles; the ruble lost three zeros as of Jan. 1, making the sum 3.2 billion rubles.

"The Central Bank and the Finance Ministry were working on a tough deadline during the night of Dec. 30-31," said Zadornov, adding that the money was enough to pay wage debts "in full."

He said that 30 of the 89 regions had failed to clear the debts on their own and needed more money from Moscow.

Earlier, the government said it had transferred 11.3 trillion old rubles to the regions as the government stretched to keep its promise to pay off debts by the first of the year. Zadornov said all debts would be paid in the next few days.