Ailing Yeltsin Makes Televised Appearance He Says ‘I’M Not Feeling Bad,’ But Prime Minister Has Taken Over Some Tasks
A fragile President Boris Yeltsin was shown briefly on Russian television Friday in his first public appearance since he was hospitalized with severe heart trouble nine days ago.
Wearing a blue track suit and speaking with a slight slur, Yeltsin, 64, sat stiffly in an armchair across from Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin at the Central Clinical Hospital. “Subjectively speaking,” Yeltsin said slowly, “I’m not feeling bad now.”
After the meeting, which was taped and edited for broadcast, Chernomyrdin said he had taken over some of the president’s decision-making tasks and was “coordinating” the actions of the ministries of defense, interior and security.
“The president has to be partly relieved of these duties in order to give him a better chance to recover,” Chernomyrdin said. “But of course we seek the president’s advice on all key questions.”
Friday’s meeting was Chernomyrdin’s first visit to the president’s bedside since Yeltsin took ill, and it was the first time the government had directly addressed how Yeltsin was handling his duties since being taken to the hospital. His doctors say he will have to remain in the hospital for several weeks.
If Yeltsin were seriously incapacitated or if he died, Chernomyrdin would take over and would have to call presidential elections within three months.
In the first days after he was hospitalized, Yeltsin was seen only by his wife, Naina, and his top aide, Viktor V. Ilyushin, who spoke gloomily about the president’s appearance but gave few details about his condition or his work capacity. Yeltsin was also hospitalized in July for a similar attack of “myocardial ischemia,” a shortage of oxygenated blood to the heart, and did not return to work for four weeks.
The president’s press office reported Friday that in their meeting Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin discussed the parliamentary elections, scheduled for Dec. 17.
And the Kremlin appeared to be trying to smooth over widespread fury over a recent decision by the Russian Central Election Commission to ban the nation’s leading liberal party and a top opposition group from the December elections over minor technical errors.
“They underlined the need for all participants in the pre-election struggle to observe generally accepted norms,” the statement said.
Chernomyrdin, who heads his own competing party, the centrist Our House Russia, had previously joined other political leaders in deploring the election commission’s decision.
It now appears likely that the banned parties will be allowed to take part after all. The Russian Supreme Court Friday overruled the Central Electoral Commission’s ban on the nationalist party Derzhava, headed by Alexander V. Rutskoi. Rutskoi was Yeltsin’s vice president when he led an armed parliamentary rebellion against the government in 1993.
Political experts in Moscow predicted that the court would also order the reinstatement of Yabloko, which is led by one of the country’s best-known and most popular democratic politicians, Grigory A. Yavlinsky.
Yavlinsky has mostly benefited from the election commission’s gaffe.
“It’s not Yabloko alone we are defending,” he said Friday after the ruling, “but the elections themselves and democratic procedure.”