People: Finnish President stumbles over drink slur

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Martti Ahtisaari of Finland does not have a drink problem. He denied on television that he had one, when he was asked about incidents in which he was reported to have stumbled or fallen at receptions. He would not comment on a party outside Helsinki - attended by Sweden's Prime Minister Carl Bildt - where he was reported to have fallen across a table. 'The President must attend all kinds of occasions. One must, and I think the nation can, differentiate between events of a private nature and official work,' he said.

In response to the President's appeal for privacy, no major Finnish morning newspapers carried the interview. But Finland's Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet cited Russian reports of Boris Yeltsin who appeared unsteady, as if under the influence of drink, on a visit to Germany. 'Yeltsin stumbles too,' the paper headed the story.

Mr Ahtisaari may become a familiar figure at European Union summits, which he plans to attend if Finland joins next year.

AS Boris Yeltsin sipped champagne, the photographer who shot one of the most famous pictures of the Second World War was back in Berlin last week to witness Russia's departure from Germany. As a lieutenant and war photojournalist, Yevgeny Khaldei followed the Red Army from June 1941 until the end of the war.

His most famous shot, taken on 2 May 1945, became the image that symbolised the ending of the war. With burned-out hulks of Berlin buildings in the background and smoke from street-fighting wafting near the top of the shot, a hunched-over Red Army soldier balances on a ledge on the Reichstag parliament building and struggles to raise the hammer- and-sickle Soviet flag.

'It was difficult to climb up there because the stairs were broken,' Mr Khaldei recalled. 'But I got up there using all possible means. It was slippery on the roof because there was blood on it.' Mr Khaldei insists the scene did not have to be repeated for the photograph. 'I took the picture at 7am and was on the plane to Moscow at 2pm,' he said. And he never received any royalties.

ISRAEL'S Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has been obliged to come clean about his attitude towards physical contact with other men, and in particular other political leaders. The daily Maariv asked him why he did not make a token effort to hug King Hussein of Jordan when he met him, but Mr Rabin will not even pay lip service to ancient Middle-Eastern customs. 'Look, I don't like to hug and kiss with political people,' he said. 'That's not new with me.'

(Photograph omitted)