• ACI Russia

08/26/1998 09:30:08 Where's Yeltsin? The Kremlin can't say

By Adam Tanner

MOSCOW, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Several presidential aides said

they did not know whether Russian President Boris Yeltsin

intended to work in the Kremlin or not on Wednesday as the

Russian rouble and markets continued steady falls.

"We only have information that the president is working, but

we are not saying where he is working. We don't know," said

spokeswoman Darya Plokhova. "So far, he has no meetings planned

for today."

Yeltsin returned to the Kremlin on Monday after taking a

five-week holiday amid a severe economic crisis that saw an

effective rouble devaluation and default on some foreign debt.

Hours before coming back to work he dismissed the government

of Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko and brought back Viktor

Chernomyrdin, whom he had fired in March.

His actions provoked a wave of new criticism of the erratic

Yeltsin, who has a history of heart problems and admitted in his

memoirs that he occasionally suffers from depression.

Other Kremlin officials said that although they could not

immediately say what Yeltsin was doing, his health -- a cause of

concern since he underwent heart surgery and then caught

pneumonia in the autumn and winter of 1996-97 -- was fine.

"He had meetings all of yesterday, meeting with ambassadors,

with the Vietnamese premier," said Viktor Vershin, deputy to

Yeltsin's chief of staff. "I think all is normal. There is no

cause for concern."

Yeltsin has periodically disappeared from public view for

weeks at a time during his presidency which began in 1991. But

his erratic behaviour and lapses of concentration have sparked

growing criticism during the current crisis.

During his meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong

on Tuesday Yeltsin dismissed fears about his health.

"Now everything is fine," he said.

The Vietnamese leader said Yeltsin looked "younger than in

photographs," to which a smiling Yeltsin replied that the fault

lay with the photographers, not his health.

Economic turmoil continued on Wednesday as the central bank

voided morning trade in the rouble to bar further plunges in the

currency after a 10 percent loss on Tuesday.

"What do you think the president should be doing -- rushing

to the MICEX currency exchange?" asked Vladislav Andreyev, an

aide in the president's chancellery who also did not know what

Yeltsin was up to on Wednesday.

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