from Moscow to Yekaterinburg. Rumors reported in Russia’s largest-circulation paper say the president suffers from depression, not respiratory problems, while The Economist speculates that a bored president may have feigned illness to avoid what would have been a tedious, desultory, and unproductive CIS talkathon. The Russian press now refers to Yeltsin’s leadership as a "virtual presidency."

The vacuum at the top focuses attention on the presidential succession. Elections will take place in 2000, or within 60 days of the president’s death or departure from office. A quick guide to the leading candidates follows: