President may be sicker than first admitted

YELTSIN ON THE BRINK

PHIL REEVES HELEN WOMACK

Moscow

Aides to Boris Yeltsin yesterday struck a distinctly cautious note over his medical condition, raising fears that the Russian President's heart ailment is worse than they originally admitted, and strengthening doubts about his ability to remain in the Kremlin's top job for much longer.

His staff confirmed that he will not be hosting a conference in Moscow next Tuesday between the presidents of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia - delivering a blow to his plans to use the summit to bolster his flagging popularity at home and his international standing.

Mr Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei Medvedev, said the 64-year-old president would be under close medical supervision for more than five weeks, further damaging his chances of working behind the scenes to support moderate pro-reform candidates in December's parliamentary elections. But he said the Russian leader, who is in hospital after his second bout of heart trouble in less than four months, had not at any point lost consciousness, and was under "active but not intensive therapy". He was being visited only by doctors, guards and members of his family.

Although he will probably be out of action for some time, the Kremlin continued to emphasise that Mr Yeltsin was still in charge. Mr Medvedev accused his political enemies of trying to exploit his illness, adding: "This is not just speculation. I have already observed it, but Yeltsin's boxer's instincts will come to the fore." He also revealed that Mr Yeltsin has the suitcase containing the so-called nuclear-launch button with him.

The Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who under the Russian constitution would take over until an election was held if Mr Yeltsin was incapacitated, was deliberately nonchalant when accosted on his way to a routine economic conference. "He's okay, he's okay, he's okay," he said, under siege from the media.

Mr Yeltsin was taken by helicopter on Thursday from a country residence to Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital, two days after arriving home from a gruelling four-day trip to France and the United States. Aides said he was exhausted towards the end of his trip, and had suffered a recurrence of the heart ailment, ischaemia.

Reporters were not invited to see his return home, spawning yet another conspiracy theory about the real state of his health, which the Kremlin has sought to cover up in the past - along with evidence of his heavy drinking. The popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, which has a reputation for sensationalism, yesterday noted that television viewers were shown a picture of a cheerful Mr Yeltsin emerging from a plane and setting foot on wet tarmac. "It wasn't raining that day, either in Moscow or the Moscow region," said the paper, "maybe it was just a little local rain at the airport."

Another conspiracy theory was launched yesterday by the ultra-nationalist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who announced, in a typically outrageous remark, that enemy spies were responsible for Mr Yeltsin's relapse. "These are the intrigues of the foreign special intelligence services," he said, "Clinton needs a victory in the next election and if Yeltsin stays president of Russia, Clinton will lose the election. This is the dirty world of politics when people are killed so that another man on the other side of the world could again become a president."

But on the streets of Moscow, news of Mr Yeltsin's condition continued to be greeted by widespread indifference. Grigory Livshits, a former engineer who now drives a taxi, said he would feel sorry if he died - but added: "I wouldn't be voting for him again anyway."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago