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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Makes Comeback in Ireland

APYeltsin cheering for Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova against Australian Alicia Molik at the French Open in June.
Twelve years after an embarrassing layover at Dublin's Shannon Airport, a sprightly Boris Yeltsin returned to Ireland last week to hear a bit of traditional music, go fishing and, naturally, sample the local spirits.

Locals said the former president, known during the 1990s for his drinking binges, was in top form, catching a few fish from a yacht while cruising the waters off the scenic Country Clare.

The trip came two months after Yeltsin, 75, was spotted at the French Open in Paris. Yeltsin has been something of a globetrotter since stepping down in late 1999. He broke his leg during a visit to Italy in September.

William O'Callaghan, the skipper of the 14-meter yacht rented by Yeltsin for his fishing expedition, said Wednesday that his VIP guest needed help keeping his balance on the water but was not drunk.

"He has difficulty in walking. He's gone pretty feeble," O'Callaghan said. He dismissed Irish press reports that Yeltsin had been left incapacitated by alcohol. "If you're not used to going on a small boat, especially in the Atlantic, you definitely need someone to hold onto."

Still, the 10-person entourage did manage to drain 3 liters of Jameson's Irish Whiskey, Darren McNamara, the chef at the Inis Oir Hotel, said Wednesday.

The hotel is on the smallest of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. Yeltsin visited the island Friday, the second day of the three-day trip.

"He was a little tipsy going out, but he was in great form, all smiles," McNamara said. "He stopped to watch the music, saluted everyone, and shuffled off out the door."

After the boat trip, Yeltsin had to be helped onto a waiting minibus by two aides as he waved to and smiled at reporters, the Irish Independent reported earlier this week.

Yeltsin stayed at the five-star Dromoland Castle in Country Clare, the hotel where Ireland's then-prime minister, Albert Reynolds, had planned to host a lavish reception for the Russian leader in 1994.

Although it was never confirmed, it was widely reported at the time that vodka prevented Yeltsin from disembarking his airplane and meeting Reynolds, who was accompanied to the tarmac by government ministers, members of the parliament and a military band.

The Irish officials were told the president was too ill to see them. Yeltsin faced heart trouble and other ailments during his tenure as Russia's first post-communist leader.