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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aide Says Yeltsin Will Soon Leave Hospital

President Boris Yeltsin is chafing at his hospital regime and should be back at work "in the near future," a top Kremlin aide said Tuesday.

The president, hospitalized with pneumonia since Nov. 22, could be discharged "any time now because the signals coming from the Central Clinical Hospital say that doctors have a hard time keeping him in the hospital," first deputy chief of staff Oleg Sysuyev said at a news conference.

The Kremlin is at pains to portray Yeltsin as fulfilling at least minimal duties despite his weakened condition. His frequent illnesses have raised questions about his ability to govern until the end of his term in 2000.

Yeltsin talked by phone with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov about the visit of Michel Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund. The politically sidelined president, Sysuyev said, still has an important role to play in the government.

"It is precisely the president who can, through his position and his political role, aid the stability of the situation in Russia," the aide said.

"It is precisely he who can steer us away from political opportunism and the inflammation of antagonism in society."

Sysuyev's remarks supported early statements that indicate the Kremlin administration sees Yeltsin's role as that of an ultimate guarantor of basic freedoms and national unity - leaving day-to-day governance to Primakov.

For instance, Sysuyev suggested the Kremlin would oppose any effort to restore the death penalty - hinted at by Primakov in a weekend speech on a proposed crackdown on crime.

On Tuesday, presidential human rights adviser Vladimir Kartashkin said that Russia would probably end its moratorium on the death penalty.

Suspending the death penalty was a condition of Russia's entry into the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights group. The government says no one has been executed in Russia since August 1996.

Sysuyev also said the Kremlin was putting together a committee to discuss changes to Russia's Constitution and other legislation defining relations between the federal government and the often independent-minded regions.

"This body will develop proposals on the rules that regulate the life and activities of our state," he said. "There are many blank spots there. And it hardly makes sense to talk only about the defects of the Constitution."

The Communist opposition, however, is pressing for constitutional changes that would write Yeltsin's reduced role into law.

There were signs Tuesday that one contender to succeed Yeltsin, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, was losing his base of support to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Chernomyrdin's party, Our Home Is Russia, is flirting with Luzhkov about a possible alliance for Duma elections in 1999. Our Home's parliamentary leader, Alexander Shokhin, said he would meet with Luzhkov later this week.

And another prominent Our Home member, Saratov region Governor Dmitry Ayatskov, mentioned Primakov or Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov as possible leaders of Our Home in upcoming elections - not Chernomyrdin, who he suggested should step down as leader.

"Chernomyrdin must understand that his rating is falling," Ayatskov said.