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
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.