Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 218

President Boris Yeltsin remained in the hospital today, where he was being treated for pneumonia. The Russian head of state kept his scheduled meeting yesterday with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and Russia’s television channels showed a brief soundless fragment of Yeltsin shaking hands with the Chinese president. The meeting reportedly lasted less than forty minutes. Yeltsin was taken to the Central Clinical Hospital over the weekend with a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 Celsius). Presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said yesterday that Yeltsin’s fever had abated somewhat, but that the president would stay in the hospital “as long as he needs to fully recover” (Russian agencies, November 22-23; Moscow Times, November 24).

Yeltsin’s latest hospitalization has increased discussions about possible pre-term presidential elections. Yesterday, Aleksandr Shokhin, head of the Russia is Our Home faction in the State Duma, proposed that both parliamentary elections, scheduled for December 1999, and presidential elections, set for the year 2000, be moved up to September 1999. Others in the Duma, including the body’s speaker, Gennady Seleznev, were against the idea (Russian agencies, November 23). One Kremlin official, meanwhile, appeared to be signaling the possibility of early elections and setting up Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov as the heir apparent. In an interview Sunday (November 22) with the RIA Novosti news agency, Oleg Sysuev, first deputy head of the presidential administration, noted that the Russian constitution designates the prime minister as the person to step in if the president is unable to fulfill his functions. Primakov should be viewed as a presidential candidate, Sysuev said. “This makes us all keep him in mind as a person who should take upon himself presidential powers if the situation persists.” Sysuev apparently forced presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin on Monday publicly to rule out any possibility of early elections (Russian agencies, November 22-23). One newspaper reported today that some Kremlin officials are actively considering the possibility of re-introducing the post of vice president, which was abolished in 1993 (Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 24). In his public statements, Primakov has consistently said he does not want to become president.