Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 11

President Boris Yeltsin was taken to the Central Clinical Hospital yesterday, where he was diagnosed with an acute bleeding stomach ulcer. In a late night interview with Yevgeny Kiselev, host of “Itogi,” NTV television’s weekly news analysis program, presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said that Yeltsin’s doctors had told him the president’s condition was “stable.” Yakushkin said he had spoken to Yeltsin by telephone later yesterday, and that while the president was disappointed at having to cancel his work and meetings which had been scheduled for this week, he was nonetheless in a “cheerful” mood. Yakushkin said the Kremlin doctors would decide how long Yeltsin would have to stay in the hospital, and whether surgery would be necessary. Medical sources cited by Russian news agencies yesterday said that Yeltsin’s condition might keep him in the hospital for as long as three weeks. Yakushkin indicated that Yeltsin’s official visit to France, set for January 28, might have to be canceled. Yeltsin spent weeks in the hospital at the end of last year after coming down with pneumonia in November. He failed to appear in the Kremlin last week for his first scheduled day of work after Russia’s winter holiday.

Yakushkin told NTV that there was no possibility that Yeltsin would temporarily transfer his powers to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov during this hospital stay. The Russian constitution stipulates such a transfer if the head of state is unable to carry out his functions. Yakushkin said that Yeltsin is in fact doing so fully (NTV, Russian agencies, January 17). Some of Yeltsin’s opponents, however, called for such a transfer of powers. Gennady Seleznev, speaker of the State Duma and a leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), said yesterday that Yeltsin should sign a decree transferring direct control over the “power structures”–meaning the army, law enforcement and intelligence agencies–along with the foreign ministry, to Primakov. Seleznev predicted that Yeltsin would be in the hospital for a long time. Viktor Ilyukhin, head of the Duma’s security committee and a member of the KPRF’s radical wing, said Yeltsin’s latest illness “could strengthen the argument” for early presidential elections, adding that it was “no secret” that Yeltsin is “seriously ill.” For his part, Primakov said there was no “extraordinary” situation in the country related to Yeltsin’s illness, and that he was in “constant contact” with the president (Russian agencies, January 17).