Yeltsin returns to the sick list

ON THE advice of his doctors - and also, it seems, a world-famous cellist - President Boris Yeltsin has cancelled his engagements for the week to recover from his third bout of illness in a year, writes Phil Reeves.

Doctors yesterday told him to remain in his residence outside Moscow, where he is being treated for a "heavy cold and bad cough which could lead to complications", an aide said. The President's illnesses invariably attract headlines worldwide, largely because of the suspicion the Kremlin is covering up a more serious condition, as it used to in Soviet times.

By yesterday afternoon, unlike the case with previous illnesses, no television pictures of the President had been released. To counter this, his press service provided relatively detailed accounts of his ailment, issuing a statement saying the doctors felt he should cancel engagements "to avoid complications to the bronchial tubes and lungs". Yeltsin-watchers search for signs that his heart is playing up, that he is drinking again, or has had a stroke. However, other factors could also be in play. Mr Yeltsin, 67, has long had a habit of disappearing, ill and depressed, usually, after a flurry of activity. He has also recently shown signs of being confused. This time, Rostropovich, the cellist and conductor, has claimed credit for persuading him to stay at home convalescing. Rostropovich visited Mr Yeltsin on Sunday and said he had "absolutely no worries" about the President's health. "There was no end to our delight when we saw him robust and braced-up."

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