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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Lacks Votes on Yeltsin's Health

The State Duma fell just five votes short Thursday of requiring President Boris Yeltsin to undergo a full medical examination and then submit the report to parliament's lower house.

The proposal was supported by 221 deputies, while 56 deputies voted against it, and there was one abstention.

"It is not a secret to anyone anymore that Yeltsin has reached an age when he is constantly in need of medical help," said Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the Duma's security committee and a hardline Communist, who put the bill forward.

"Now his health is having a worrying effect on his ability to work," Ilyukhin said at the Duma hearing Thursday.

Ilyukhin told deputies he had consulted with five medical experts, all of whom had come to the same conclusion: In his current condition, Yeltsin is unfit to the run the country.

"If he cannot fulfill his responsibilities as laid out in the Constitution, he must have those responsibilities cut short," Ilyukhin said.

However, even if the bill had passed Thursday it would have had little chance of becoming law. It would still have had to be approved by the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, and then it would have had to be sent to Yeltsin himself to be signed into law. He would likely have vetoed it.

Stanislav Zherbrovsky, a deputy for the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic faction, harshly criticized the bill, calling it a political rather than a legal document.

"[Ilyukhin] has put forward this bill not in the interests of the government but in the interests of himself," Zherbrovsky said, adding that it looked like a thinly disguised attempt to boost support for a Communist candidate in the next presidential elections.

Nevertheless, he said his faction would support the bill. The Communists and their left-wing allies in the Duma, including the Agrarians and the Popular Rule faction, also said they would support the bill, but some of the deputies expressed doubts, which probably accounted for the shortfall in votes.

"It looks as though Yeltsin is forever going to be under investigation," said Vladimir Grigoriadi, a deputy from the Popular Rule faction.

Both the Our Home Is Russia and Yabloko factions were vehemently opposed to the bill, saying they would not sink to the level of vindictiveness.

"This bill violates the president's rights as a person," said Oleg Gonzharov of Our Home Is Russia. "When [former French President Fran?ois] Mitterrand was ill, no one in his government asked him for his medical records. Only the Russian government stoops this low."

Yeltsin, 67, has suffered from heart disease in the past and underwent a quintuple bypass operation exactly two years ago. On Thursday, he was recovering from what doctors have diagnosed as asthenia, or general fatigue, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Although he has canceled all official meetings for the near future, he spoke Thursday to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov about pressing economic and political problems, including the latest anti-crisis program, a spokesman said.

To coincide with the second anniversary of Yeltsin's surgery, the independent NTV channel broadcast a 50-minute program about his heart.

The program included interviews with former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, former presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, former Kremlin security chief Alexander Korzhakov, head surgeon Renat Akchurin and Yeltsin's wife, Naina.

Far from criticizing the president, the program showed his human side, and Yeltsin came across as the victim of a terrible misfortune.

"When the operation was over, he just wanted to go back to work straight away," Naina Yeltsin told the interviewer. "He couldn't bear to be told to stay in bed. He was used to making all the decisions himself. He must have been a very difficult patient."