Yeltsin is rumored to be seriously ill President fails to appear, revives health issue days before the runoff election

July 01, 1996|By COX NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW -- With rumors bubbling that he might be seriously ill, President Boris N. Yeltsin canceled a scheduled appearance yesterday at an a Moscow outdoor festival and remained in seclusion, reportedly at his country dacha.

Yeltsin sought to reassure voters about his health in an interview with Interfax news agency.

"Every day I have been working with my campaign headquarters, holding consultations with allies, negotiating the composition and structure of the future government," the president said.

But Yeltsin did not appear in public, and Interfax did not make clear whether it had interviewed him in person or in a written exchange.

With the runoff election scheduled Wednesday and his lead in pre-election polls slipping in recent days, the 65-year-old Yeltsin has not announced any campaign plans for today -- the last day that campaigning is permitted under Russian election rules.

Kremlin aides reportedly have been drafting an election-eve speech that Yeltsin could deliver today if health permits.

In contrast to his robust and resilient campaign style leading up to the June 16 first round of voting, Yeltsin looked puffy-faced and exhausted a week ago in his last campaign trip to the Polish border. Since then, he has virtually disappeared from television.

Yeltsin canceled two weekend campaign trips, but a Kremlin spokesman said the president would attend an outdoor party organized by Moskovsky Komsomolets, the irreverent pro-Yeltsin Moscow newspaper that has the largest circulation in the country.

But Yeltsin was not among the hundreds of guests who showed up on a warm, sunny afternoon for yesterday's festival.

The revival of the health issue has been a stroke of luck for Communist candidate Gennady A. Zyuganov, 52, who has run a lethargic campaign after trailing Yeltsin 35 percent to 32 percent in the first round.

"If we're just talking about laryngitis, then there would be no reason to cancel meetings with officials," Zyuganov said.

Pub Date: 7/01/96

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