08/26/1998 16:19:28 FOCUS-Yeltsin stays away from Kremlin in crisis
(Adds new Gromov quote, para 18)
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin
stayed away from the Kremlin on Wednesday as the rouble and
financial markets suffered sharp falls, and instead stayed at
his suburban dacha home, the Kremlin said.
"The president worked today in his suburban residence," said
Kremlin spokesman Alexei Gromov. "He sometimes works in the
Kremlin, he sometimes works at the suburban residence."
"It's far from every day that he comes to the Kremlin," he
Yeltsin, who holds the overwhelming balance of power under
the Russian constitution as well as the button to the country's
vast nuclear arsenal, returned to the Kremlin on Monday.
He came back from a five-week holiday amid a severe economic
crisis that led to a devaluation of the rouble and default on
some foreign debt.
Hours before coming back to the Kremlin he dismissed the
government of Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko and brought back
Viktor Chernomyrdin, whom he had fired in March.
The 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.
"The president is in full, constant contact with
Chernomyrdin and the leadership of his administration and he
receives all his information in a timely fashion," Gromov said.
"He is up to date on all events.
The Kremlin said Yeltsin spoke with Chernomyrdin on
Wednesday afternoon after the rouble had fallen by 41 percent
against the German mark. It said Yeltsin approved the acting
prime minister's efforts to form a new government.
Kremlin officials said Yeltsin's 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.
Asked whether Yeltsin understood the current crisis, former
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who has enjoyed a close
mentoring relationship with Yeltsin, said: "In general he
understands what is happening. But in details? I am not sure."
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
suspended morning trade in the rouble to bar further plunges in
the currency after a 10 percent loss on Tuesday.
Yeltsin's low profile unsettled some foreign markets and
fueled rumours that President Boris Yeltsin would be forced to
step down. "The press service categorically denies this and
declares that it is stupid," Gromov said.
He added Yeltsin's next scheduled meeting would be with
Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on Friday and that no
meetings had been scheduled for Thursday.