Ailing Raisa treated in West

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RAISA GORBACHEV, the glittering first lady during the last days of the Soviet Union, is seriously ill in hospital in Germany, her husband's spokesman said yesterday. Mikhail Gorbachev was at his wife's bedside in Munster, Germany, where she arrived on Monday for medical tests after deciding to be treated abroad.

Quoting Mr Gorbachev, the Russian media said that the 67-year-old Mrs Gorbachev has "a serious blood disorder".

Pavel Palazchenko, a spokesman for the former president, said that her illness was "serious", but that doctors were hopeful that it could be completely cured.

"A specialist from Munster was brought in at their request for a consultation in Moscow, and in consultation with the Russian doctors they decided the best way would be to take the patient to Germany where that doctor practises," he said.

Mrs Gorbachev's illness is likely to attract more attention in the West, where she remains an admired celebrity, than in Russia, where she is little liked. The Russian media paid scant attention to her condition yesterday; it was not mentioned in mid-afternoon news bulletins.

Like her husband, who polled less than 1 per cent in the 1996 elections, her name conjures up unhappy memories among many Russians of the break- up of the Soviet empire. She has also been regarded as extravagant and overly glamorous - allegations rarely made against her quieter successor, Naina Yeltsin.

Since her husband left office in 1991, she has kept a low profile in Russia, although she and her husband have travelled widely overseas.

n President Boris Yeltsin fired his deputy chief of staff, Sergei Zverev, for criticising his administration yesterday. Mr Zverev later said that the Kremlin was considering an emergency rule that would postpone December's parliamentary elections and the presidential vote next summer.