Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 187

During an official visit to Uzbekistan on October 11, Yeltsin canceled two welcoming ceremonies–leaving Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin to explain that the head of state had caught a cold during a “difficult flight” from Moscow and to add that “[n]othing extraordinary ha[d] happened.” Yeltsin reportedly looked pale and unsteady on arriving in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. At one point, he had to be supported by Uzbek President Islam Karimov (Russian agencies, October 12). Last week, during a Kremlin ceremony introducing the top officers of the Russian armed forces and other power ministries, Yeltsin appeared somewhat unsteady and slurred his speech.

Naina Yeltsin, the president’s wife, said in an interview published last week that her husband’s health was “fine,” adding that she was afraid to discuss the issue in detail for fear that what she said would be “distorted.” Mrs. Yeltsin said that the head of state “undergoes regular check-ups” (Argumenty i fakty, no. 41, October 1998). Meanwhile Mikhail Vinogradov, head of the Moscow-based International Center for Psychophysiology, told the British newspaper “The Daily Telegraph” that he believed Yeltsin was suffering from progressive senile dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, and called on the president to undergo a mental examination supervised by Russia’s Constitutional Court. Another leading specialist interviewed by the paper called Vinogradov’s comments “very unethical and discourteous,” given that Vinogradov had not personally examined Yeltsin (The Daily Telegraph, October 9).

“Itogi,” the influential weekly news analysis program on NTV television, devoted a segment Sunday night to the question of whether Yeltsin should step down. The program also presented data from a poll carried out this past week by the Public Opinion Fund, a leading Russian polling organization. It found that 2 percent of Russians polled trust Yeltsin, while 89 percent do not. Sixty-six percent of the respondents said they would not vote for Yeltsin under any circumstances.