Yeltsin taken to hospital after complaining of flu; Kremlin denies president will have heart surgery


MOSCOW -- Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin was taken to the Central Clinical Hospital yesterday morning suffering from what his press secretary described as the flu accompanied by a high fever.

Dmitri Yakushkin, the Kremlin press secretary, said Yeltsin, 68, had not felt well Friday but refused to go into the hospital until yesterday. Yakushkin said the president would stay in the hospital for at least two days.

Yeltsin, now less than a year away from finishing his second four-year term in office, has been in poor health for years.

In 1996 he underwent multiple bypass heart surgery, and he has also suffered from acute back pain, several bouts of pneumonia and, earlier this year, a bleeding ulcer, for which he was hospitalized.

These ailments have complicated a fitful work schedule. Yeltsin has sometimes stayed out of public view for weeks at a time. In recent weeks, as Russian troops moved into the breakaway region of Chechnya, Yeltsin has again kept a low profile, although Kremlin aides have reported that he was holding regular meetings with top government officials up through the end of last week.

He has not made any public appearances for more than a week. In the early phase of the 1994-1996 war against Chechnya, Yeltsin also remained out of sight, as he underwent what Kremlin aides said was an operation on his nose.

On Friday, Yakushkin suggested that the president might soon be ready for a vacation. "Undoubtedly, it is very hard to work in such a rhythm, taking into account his age and other factors," Yakushkin was quoted as saying. Yesterday, Yakushkin said the flu would not prevent Yeltsin from watching a televised soccer match last night between Russia and Ukraine, fierce rivals in the playoffs for the European championship in 2000.

With presidential elections scheduled for June, Yeltsin and his political advisers have been waging a behind-the-scenes struggle to take control of the succession. In August, Yeltsin designated Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin -- his fourth prime minister in the last year and half -- as his preferred heir, and in the same televised address, he said he intended to become Russia's first leader to hand over power in a democratic transition.

Yesterday, Yakushkin rejected as "nonsense" reports that Yeltsin was going to Germany for heart surgery this month.

Pub Date: 10/10/99

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