Anxiety as Yeltsin quits Kremlin for unlikely holiday

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - President Boris Yeltsin, dogged by reports of physical and political ill-health, left Moscow yesterday for an unannounced holiday on the Black Sea, adding to an impression of erratic and fragile leadership in the Kremlin, writes Andrew Higgins.

Mr Yeltsin did little to assuage anxiety with an odd message. 'I can say that no explosions are expected in the country, so I am flying off without any concern,' he was quoted as saying before leaving for two weeks in Sochi. The timing is curious; the Russian resort is cold now and shunned by all but the most hardy holidaymaker.

Mr Yeltsin, 63, has a long history of retiring from view for extended periods but has absented himself even more often this year. Illnesses ascribed to him by Russian media and political enemies range from cancers, including a brain tumour, to chronic alcoholism. None has been proved.