Ailing Yeltsin Sheds Many of His Duties
Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Ailing Russian President Boris Yeltsin flew south for a Black Sea vacation leaving a Moscow where he is universally regarded as terminally ill, incapable of ever running the country again, and a fading, figurehead has-been.
NTV commercial television showed Mr. Yeltsin and his wife, Naina, walking to the plane, escorted by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, widely seen as his likely successor. Mr. Yeltsin, though pale, appeared to walk without difficulty and smiled.
A Kremlin spokesman did not say how long the president would stay at Sochi on the Black Sea, but said the vacation would not affect his plans to meet foreign leaders.
Oleg Sysuyev, Mr. Yeltsin's smooth-talking, articulate spokesman and deputy chief of staff, said in interviews with two British news organizations that the president would publicly restrict his powers early next year, probably in his annual State of the Nation speech scheduled for February.
He also said it was "unlikely" that the 67-year-old president would ever again visit schools, hospitals and factories while in office.
Mr. Sysuyev told Reuters news agency that holding the position of chief of state, with the sweeping powers Mr. Yeltsin granted himself in Russia's 1993 constitution, "does not mean that the president should follow government affairs on a daily basis."
"In contrast with earlier years, he will not be involved as actively with the day-to-day economic problems of the government," Mr. Sysuyev said.
"Earlier the president exercised far greater powers than are written in the constitution and took on far great responsibility. . . . [But] "he will no longer be as active in filling part of the government's responsibilities."
Those were admissions the politically canny, manipulative Mr. Yeltsin would never have made only a few months ago.
But Mr. Sysuyev acknowledged that Mr. Yeltsin realized political realities had dramatically and irretrievably changed. He told the London newspaper, the Financial Times, that the president "senses the current political situation very acutely. In these new political realities the president cannot remain as he was in 1996 and 1997."
"In 1997 many government decisions and actions had to go through a process of gaining the president's agreement. …