Then and Now

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The Independent Online
1996: A Russian surgeon, Rinat Akchurin, tells ABC News in the United States that President Boris Yeltsin suffered a heart attack in late June or early July this year. Since the Kremlin had never admitted this, and since Mr Yeltsin went on to contest and win the presidential election later in July, there is anger in Russia that the electorate was deceived, and it is suggested that a man unfit to govern is ruling the country.

1966: With the publication of the diaries of Lord Moran, personal physician to Winston Churchill, details are revealed for the first time of a stroke the Prime Minister suffered in 1953, the gravity of which was kept from the public at the time. On 24 June that year, Churchill slumped in his chair following an official dinner with the Italian Prime Minister. Although Lord Moran immediately suspected a stroke (Churchill had already suffered one, in 1949, which was also kept secret), a press statement issued two days later simply said that the Prime Minister needed rest and planned to "lighten his duties for at least a month". In fact Churchill was incapacitated - "I am a hulk, only breathing and excreting", he told Moran. The news was withheld in part because Churchill's most likely heir, Sir Anthony Eden, was at that time undergoing an operation and it was felt the truth would cause instability and perhaps cheat Eden of the succession. In part, though, it was Churchill's own determination to cling on. "Circumstances may convince me of my indispensability," he joked, and somehow they did. Moran wrote: "This is not an acute illness from which he may recover completely. He will never again be the same man he was before the stroke, because the clot in the artery has cut off some of the blood which went to his brain and was the ultimate source of all his activities. He is really living on a volcano, and he may get another stroke at any time." Churchill never recovered his zest for work but his staff and colleagues covered for him. He continued in office for almost two years, retiring in April 1955.