How’s Yeltsin? It’s Anybody’s Guess

President Boris Yeltsin has a mild heart ailment and is in the hospital for observation. No, wait - the Russian leader had a heart attack. Sorry, Yeltsin is feeling just fine.

Somebody call a Kremlinologist.

In a series of apparently conflicting disclosures Tuesday, recalling the disinformation practices of the Soviet era, Yeltsin revealed he had suffered a heart attack July 10, even as his aides said all was well with the president.

And then there is the matter of an apparently fake photograph.

A week after being hospitalized with what initially was described as a common heart ailment called ischemia, Yeltsin emerged from his hospital seclusion Tuesday looking rosy and animated, only to tell a television interviewer that he had had a full-blown heart attack.

It was Yeltsin’s first public appearance since July 11, and it came amid allegations that an official photograph claiming to show him recuperating in his hospital room last week actually had been taken during a vacation in April.

NBC News was the first to point out similarities between television footage taken of Yeltsin during a spring vacation and a picture issued Friday purporting to show him in Moscow’s central clinic. Everything in the photo appears identical to the April footage.

So, despite the Russian leader’s vigorous appearance in Tuesday’s television interview, the apparent photographic deception only intensified concerns here about Yeltsin’s health, his grip on power and his vulnerability to Kremlin machinations.

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