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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Says Yeltsin Can't Fulfill His Duties




Boris Yeltsin has yet to make an appearance in the Kremlin this year, and Moscow's powerful mayor on Friday sharply criticized the president, saying he hasn't been fulfilling all his duties.


"Russia, as a presidential republic, should have an active president," Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said. "We are having problems today."


Luzhkov was a Yeltsin supporter for years, but he has begun taking jabs at the Russian leader, who has been sidelined by illnesses in recent months and has said almost nothing about the country's economic crisis, which hit five months ago.


"If the role of the head of state weakens, this affects the economy and government affairs," Luzhkov said. He made his remarks to Swedish television in advance of a visit to Sweden, and his comments were reported by Russian news agencies.


Luzhkov has not yet said whether he will enter next year's presidential race, but he is regarded as one of the leading contenders.


He kept up his attack against Yeltsin during a meeting with French journalists later Friday, saying that their previously friendly relations had "cooled."


Luzhkov said he continues to respect Yeltsin, and hopes their relations will improve, but repeated his statement of last fall that he said might have vexed the president. He said then that Yeltsin should voluntarily resign if he had a serious illness.


"If perpetual and long-time health problems appear, a corresponding decision must be made," the mayor said Friday.


Yeltsin, 67, insists his health is fine and says he will serve out his term, which lasts until the middle of 2000.


Russia celebrates several holidays at the beginning of the year, and many businesses and government offices are closed for days at a time.


Nonetheless, Yeltsin's extended absence from the Kremlin is again raising questions about his fitness to govern. Yeltsin had planned Kremlin meetings for Thursday and Friday, but abruptly canceled them and has remained at his country residence, Gorki-9.


Yeltsin's aides say the president is in good health and is working daily at Gorky-9, a secluded, wooded retreat just west of Moscow.


Yeltsin's chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha said the president stays on top of all economic developments in the country and is in regular consultation with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who handles day-to-day affairs.


"The president and prime minister have so many things to discuss that they don't always have time to get through all of them," Bordyuzha told Russian news agencies. Yeltsin, meanwhile, spoke by telephone Friday with the presidents of France and Finland.


Yeltsin spoke with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss details of his planned visit to Paris on Jan. 28-29, Interfax reported.


The trip will be Yeltsin's first journey abroad since October, when he cut short a visit to Central Asia because of illness. He was later hospitalized for two weeks with pneumonia.


Yeltsin also spoke with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and the Russian leader said he planned to visit Finland at some point this year, the Interfax news agency reported.