Psychic tunes in Yeltsin to divine rumors of impending coup

March 23, 1994|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- Rumors about an impending coup have been crackling across the country like an electrical storm, causing such intense static that yesterday a famous psychic felt compelled to send out some special brain waves.

Vladimir Trufanov, psychic and healer, had no easy task. The center of the rumors, President Boris N. Yeltsin, was vacationing on the Black Sea, separated from the psychic by 1,100 miles and a very negative force field.

Mr. Trufanov thought hard and soon reported that he had "remotely checked the body of Boris Nikolayevich and found out that there are no grounds for concern." (The coup plotters planned to use Mr. Yeltsin's poor health as a pretext to take over the presidency, according to many of the rumors.)

With an oddly punctuated sigh of relief, the official Itar-Tass news agency headlined its report on Mr. Trufanov's mission like this: "Psychic says Yeltsin's Health Is O'Kay."

In the ever-shifting landscape of Russian political life, coup rumors are constant. Sometimes they even come true, as in the coup of August 1991, which was heralded by swarms of rumors, and which began with deputies to Mikhail S. Gorbachev announcing that they had to step in because the Soviet president's health had suddenly failed while he was vacationing on the Black Sea.

The latest rumors, however, have been particularly persistent and peculiar, beginning a few days after Mr. Yeltsin left March 14 for his Black Sea vacation in Sochi.

The details were put forth in a Friday newspaper article, which quoted a memo that said a coup would begin with a television announcement that Mr. Yeltsin, 63, was too ill to govern.

The prime minister, Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, would then take over the government, aided by Moscow's mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg N. Soskovets and the chief of the army's general staff, Mikhail Kolesnikov.

Most people scoffed at such talk. There was too much snow on the roads, they said. The tanks could never get past all the skidding cars.

But the rumors grew, despite repeated denials.

Even Alexander Rutskoi, the former vice president who actually tried to overthrow Mr. Yeltsin in October, denied everything.

Mr. Rutskoi, looking rather presidential himself, had shaved the beard that he grew in jail and was wearing a very nice suit as he strolled around an agricultural exhibit yesterday shaking hands with well-wishers.

"It's all strongly overdramatized to divert people's attention [from a bad economic situation]," he said. "It is all a farce and bunch of lies. No one ever planned any coup."

Mr. Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, asserted that the president was vigorous and working hard in Sochi, offering as evidence his signing of 81 decrees and presidential directives while on vacation.

A spokesman for the Russian prosecutor's office said that an investigation had begun into the coup article published by Obshchaya Gazeta. The spokesman said that charges would be brought against the newspaper if the information turned out to be false, according to Itar-Tass.

And if the article turned out to be true? Presumably, everyone would wait to see who won.

Even the confident Mr. Trufanov was advising prudence. He suggested, just in case, that Mr. Yeltsin and other officials put a few psychics on the payroll to "protect their aura from energy attacks and other negative influence."

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