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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Heart Surgeon Says Health Played Role in Resignation

A Russian heart surgeon familiar with Boris Yeltsin's medical problems says he believes the former president's poor health was a factor in his decision to resign.

Yevgeny Chazov, who is head of the cardiology center where Yeltsin underwent heart surgery in 1996, painted a picture that contrasted with Yeltsin's own explanation of why he resigned. Yeltsin has denied he stepped own for health reasons.

"I think the poor state of his health, especially last year, played a role in his resignation," Chazov, seated at his office desk in a doctor's white coat, told private NTV television in an interview over the Russian Orthodox Christmas holidays last week.

He said Yeltsin's decision had nothing to do with the multiple bypass operation he underwent just over three years ago at his Russian Cardiology Center in Moscow.

But he added, "I think it was clear to anyone, not only a doctor or academic, how often the president visited the Central Clinical Hospital [for health checks and treatment], how often he was away. It all showed how critical the process was."

Chazov said Yeltsin's decision must have been difficult because he loved power.

"I have seen many patients, but Yeltsin is very attached to power," Chazov said. "He is a person who cannot live without power. So I can imagine how difficult it was for him psychologically to make the decision to resign."

Yeltsin, 68, said in his resignation speech on Dec. 31 that he was resigning to make way for a strong person and a new generation.

"I am leaving," Yeltsin said in his televised address. "I am not leaving because of my health, but because of all the problems taken together. A new generation is taking my place, a generation of those who can do more and do it better."

NTV said Chazov had compared Yeltsin, at the end of his eight years in the Kremlin, to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev - whom he also treated.

Brezhnev's poor health and wobbly appearance made him the subject of many jokes.

Chazov compared acting President Vladimir Putin, a former officer in the KGB security police, to Soviet leader Yury Andropov.

Andropov was in charge of the KGB before he became Soviet leader in November 1982.

"I knew Yury Andropov very well," he said. "For me, he was a very interesting person. I consider him to be a model for a head of state. So Putin's style reminds me of Andropov."