`Cardiovascular Tolstoy' who is Boris's best hope

The life of Boris Yeltsin, and the political fate of his troubled country, will soon rest in the nimble hands of a top Kremlin doctor and his 88- year-old mentor, an American super-star cardiologist. Less than a decade after the end of the Cold War, East and West will together fight to mend the heart of a Russian leader.

Dr Renat Akchurin once studied under Dr Michael DeBakey, and is still convinced that his teacher was the "Leo Tolstoy of cardiovascular surgery".

Dr DeBakey flew into Moscow yesterday for a meeting with Mr Yeltsin's surgeons to decide exactly when they will operate on the president's heart, which has four partially or totally blocked coronary arteries. Kremlin officials, who whisked the doctor away before he could talk to journalists, have not named a date, and may even keep it under wraps until the operation is complete.

Mr Yeltsin's heart illness has brought together two unusual medical men. Dr Akchurin, who will lead the operation, is one of a small team of surgeons that have cared for the Russian political elite since before the end of the Cold War.

As chance would have it, the president's powers, including control of the nuclear button, will be transferred to one of Dr Akchurin's former bypass patients, Russia's prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, for the duration of the operation. Last week a hale and hearty-looking Mr Chernomyrdin made a special appearance on television, first windsurfing and then playing an accordion.

Dr Akchurin's mentor, Dr DeBakey, is not expected to wield a scalpel. Apart from his unacknowledged role as an international monitor, whose presence should stifle any wild allegations of a plot if Mr Yeltsin dies, his main job is that of consultant.

No other cardiologist on the planet has more experience than Dr DeBakey. A workaholic who until recently thought nothing of an 18-hour day, he has operated on some 60,000 hearts, including those of European royals, Arab leaders and Hollywood stars.

As the Kremlin gears up for what may be one of the most nerve-wracking weeks in its history, its officials have been doing their best to appear unflurried.

But the most consistent source of reassurance has come from Dr DeBakey himself. He estimates at least a 96 per cent chance of success. No matter how good the odds, Russia and the world will wait with bated breath.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?