Yeltsin, Gore Meet Outside Moscow; Yeltsin Appears Healthy
MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin joked and talked animatedly with Al Gore today, a day after his abrupt cancelation of a meeting with the U.S. vice president gave rise to renewed speculation about his health.
The 65-year-old Yeltsin looked stiff but healthy at the start of a 45-minute meeting with Gore at the government health resort at Barvikha, seven miles northwest of Moscow, where he is on a two-week vacation.
It was Yeltsin’s first appearance before foreign news media since he fell ill last month with what officials described as a bad cold.
Gore greeted Yeltsin by congratulating him on his July 3 re-election and jokingly complimented the Russian president on his dancing at a campaign rock concert.
Yeltsin, speaking slowly but clearly, responded that the victory was one for all Russians, and that during a campaign one can learn even more difficult feats than dancing.
Neither Gore nor Yeltsin made any comment after the talks.
The vice president earlier said he planned to bring Yeltsin a stern message of disapproval from Washington over the Kremlin’s latest military offensive in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.
Gore came to Moscow on Saturday with much of the U.S. Cabinet for the biannual meeting of a commission headed by him and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, which works on economic and technological issues.
During some previous visits, Gore has met briefly with Yeltsin.
Yeltsin’s postponement of the meeting Monday and sudden announcement that he was going on vacation at the resort where he was treated for heart trouble last year led to renewed worries about his shaky health.
Aides said Yeltsin was ``very tired″ but not sick.
The decision to go on vacation comes on the heels of a string of no-shows.
Yeltsin began missing appointments near the end of his energetic re-election campaign. Since late last month, he has appeared only in state television footage and carefully scripted Kremlin events, where he moves stiffly and carefully, but speaks forcefully and smiles.
Yeltsin’s chief spokesman, Sergei Medvedev, said Monday that Yeltsin was exhausted from the campaign and continuing to work hard, even on vacation, on setting up a new government. He said Yeltsin wanted to get some rest before his Aug. 9 inauguration.
``I see no serious grounds for panicky assertions that something serious has occurred, that something is once again wrong with Yeltsin’s health,″ Medvedev said.
``The president’s tired. He’s really very tired, and he just needs a good, proper rest. He has not gotten sick.″
Yeltsin has a long history of health problems, including two serious bouts of heart trouble last year. He also suffers from back trouble and an admitted weakness for drinking binges. Aides said he caught a bad cold at the end of the campaign; he was unable even to make it to his scheduled voting booth on election day.
Yeltsin has not had a real checkup since late last year, Medvedev said, and has refused in recent weeks even to get his blood pressure measured.
``It’s very difficult for the doctors,″ Medvedev said.
The president’s health is especially important in Russia because he wields wide powers and because the country’s post-Soviet political system is so new and untested. By law, Chernomyrdin would take over if anything happened to Yeltsin.
On Monday, as if to prove that Yeltsin was still at work, the Kremlin disclosed an important appointment that won praise from reformers. Yeltsin named 41-year-old Anatoly Chubais, a prominent liberal and top campaign strategist, to replace hard-liner Nikolai Yegorov as chief of staff.
Chubais, who had overseen the unpopular push to sell state property to private owners, had been ousted in an anti-reform sweep in January.
Gore said little publicly about his missed meeting with Yeltsin.
Speculation about Yeltsin’s health also surrounded Gore’s visit in December 1994, shortly after Yeltsin had retreated from public view for what aides said was nose surgery. Gore was one of his first outside visitors.
Gore and Chernomyrdin opened the two-day session of their commission on Monday, and work continued today.