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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Skips 1st Meeting

President Boris Yeltsin failed to show up for his first planned Kremlin meeting of 1999 on Thursday but his spokesman said the veteran leader was feeling fine and working at a residence outside Moscow.

Dmitry Yakushkin said Yeltsin had canceled Kremlin meetings scheduled for Thursday and Friday but declined to give a reason for the unexpected changes.

"The president's schedule is the president's schedule," he said. "The schedule has changed, and that's it."

Yeltsin had been due to return to the Kremlin on Thursday for the first time since the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Asked about the state of the 67-year-old president's health, Yakushkin said: "He feels fine."

The spokesman declined to say how Yeltsin had reacted to U.S. sanctions against Moscow over alleged nuclear and missile aid to Iran. Yeltsin spent long periods out of view last year and suffered from a range of ailments, most recently pneumonia, that forced him to cancel trips or meetings just as the country was plunging into its worst economic crisis since communism ended.

The spokesman said Yeltsin was working at his favored Gorki-9 residence near Moscow on Thursday. Russian officials say the residence has been equipped to enable Yeltsin to work and communicate as if he were in his Kremlin office.

The Kremlin chief's last appearance was Friday when he was shown on Russian television meeting his chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha at another residence. The president looked relatively well but moved stiffly.

Earlier Thursday, Interfax quoted Yakushkin as saying preparations were continuing for Yeltsin's trip to France on January 28 and 29. The news agency said Yeltsin would probably speak by telephone with French leaders soon. That trip is to be his first abroad since he was forced to cut short a visit to Central Asia three months ago after nearly collapsing in Uzbekistan.

After that visit, Kremlin officials made it known Yeltsin was likely to travel abroad or outside Moscow only rarely in the remaining 18 months of his presidency, and he has delegated most of the responsibility for day-to-day affairs to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

But Kremlin sources say Primakov and Bordyuzha have given Yeltsin pep talks to persuade him to travel again as a way of proving, yet again, that he is not a lame duck.