Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Wraps Up 2nd Straight Week in Office




Boris Yeltsin's second reasonably full workweek in a row ended Friday with the president meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der in the Kremlin, then hurrying to Patriarch Alexy II's residence to award Alexy Russia's highest civil honor.


It was a day that typified the ailing Yeltsin's recent role in Russian politics - mostly ceremonial activity coupled with an important-sounding but slightly inaccurate statement.


This time, Yeltsin said that he had extracted a promise from the German government to resolve claims on behalf of Russians deported to work as forced laborers in German factories and homes during World War II.


Yeltsin said Schr?der had agreed to "resolve the issue on the government level."


But the chancellor had to clarify, saying that government work on the issue was finished and that it was up to individual companies to pay up. Twelve German companies last week announced the creation of a fund worth 3 billion Deutsche marks ($1.7 billion) to compensate their war-era forced laborers.


Yeltsin then departed for 70th birthday ceremonies for Alexy, where he gave the patriarch the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew.


Yeltsin, who is recovering after a two-week hospital stay for a bleeding ulcer, showed up in the Kremlin three days this week. Coupled with a five-day workweek last week, it was the most extended period of work by the president in at least six months.


Slowed by health troubles and a shattering political reversal after the Aug. 17 ruble collapse, he had become a largely absentee president, spending most of his time either in the hospital or at his suburban dachas.


But recently he appears to have been stung by the rising status of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who is recognized by most observers as Russia's paramount leader. Last week he made an unexpected one-day dash to Jordan for the funeral of King Hussein on Monday, upstaging the Arabic-speaking prime minister. Then he appeared in the Kremlin each working day.


The Jordan trip, however, only underlined Yeltsin's struggle to avoid being shelved, since he left the funeral early and was briefly supported by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as he made his way toward his limousine.


He also may have wished to confound Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who just days earlier had repeated criticism that "in two years the president hasn't worked a single full week in the Kremlin."


This week, he stayed away from the office Monday, citing doctor's orders to stay out of Moscow for fear of the flu epidemic that, according to Kremlin spokesmen, had felled a few of Yeltsin's top aides.


On Thursday, he was obviously friskier, egging on reporters to ask him a question, then stating forcefully he had told U.S. President Bill Clinton that Russia "would not allow" NATO to bomb Yugoslavia over Kosovo. The remark caused some confusion, since U.S. officials said Clinton had not spoken to Yeltsin in recent days, while Kremlin officials were quoted by news services as saying a message had been sent Wednesday.


In any case, Yeltsin's statement represented long-standing Russian views the White House was certainly aware of.


It was his first exchange with the news media since he visited a Moscow school with Clinton during a summit Sept. 1.


Still, the mostly ceremonial nature of his role was underscored by an agreement to resolve a dispute with Ruslan Aushev, the leader of the southern republic of Ingushetia who had tried to hold a referendum against the Kremlin's wishes. It was Kremlin chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha who signed the deal Friday as Yeltsin was appearing with Schr?der.