Yeltsin given clean bill of health

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As officials scrambled to deny plotting a coup, Russia's Prime Minister, the Kremlin's chief of staff and a psychic yesterday pronounced President Boris Yeltsin in excellent health and pleaded for a halt to one of the more bizarre episodes of Russian political intrigue, Andrew Higgins writes from Moscow. Mr Yeltsin has been on an unscheduled holiday since last Monday, the latest in a series of absences that have fuelled tales of treachery by friends and skulduggery by foes.

In another development, the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, said the International Monetary Fund would grant Russia a delayed dollars 1.5bn ( pounds 1bn) loan but did not say if conditions had been attached.