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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin On the Mend, But Media Ignore Story




President Boris Yeltsin was in "satisfactory" condition Thursday, the Kremlin said, but whether anyone was paying much attention to the state of the president's health was another matter.


Yeltsin's political opponents in the past have used every ailment to call for him to step down. But when he was hospitalized Sunday with a bleeding ulcer, they hardly made a peep.


The lack of interest shows that a sidelined, ailing president suits all political forces in the country just fine for now, analysts said.


"Early elections can be very dangerous for all political forces who want to take part in the next parliamentary and presidential elections," said Yevgeny Volk, head of the Heritage Foundation's Moscow office. "Most politicians understand that they by all means have to avoid situations in which early elections can be possible."


Parliamentary elections are due in December of this year and presidential elections in 2000.


Although the country's major newspapers initially gave full front-page coverage to the president's latest affliction, by Thursday their reports were down to a few paragraphs buried inside.


Russians, it seems, have gotten used to Yeltsin being away from the Kremlin for long periods of time, while leaving Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in charge of running the country.


"The fact that our president normally works just three hours a week is no news to anybody," said political analyst Sergei Markov. "He brilliantly copes with just two things: He guards the presidential post and decides who to put in charge of the country."


Markov said that Yeltsin's absence from day-to-day politics is a stabilizing factor and guarantees political stability in the country. Even when Yeltsin recovers and returns to his office in the Kremlin, few expect him to play any major role.


"He might shake up his Cabinet slightly this spring, but on the whole, his duties will probably be just ceremonial," Volk said.


Yeltsin's doctors decided Wednesday that he did not need surgery because his ulcer was responding to treatment and starting to heal.


"The president's treatment continues ... his condition is satisfactory and his temperature and blood pressure are normal," a Kremlin spokeswoman quoted Yeltsin's press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin as saying Thursday.


"There is no need for an operation as of now and there is hope that one can be avoided," she said, adding that Yeltsin had no meetings with officials on Thursday. Chief Kremlin doctor Sergei Mironov has said that Yeltsin would need up to three weeks in the hospital and would not be allowed to fly for up to three months.