Yeltsin Cancels Talks With Gore For `Vacation`By David Hoffman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, July 15 1996; Page A14
President Boris Yeltsin abruptly canceled a planned meeting today with Vice President Gore and has gone on vacation for two weeks, a presidential spokesman said.
The cancellation raised concerns about the Russian leader's flagging health, but Igor Ignatyev, chief of the presidential press service, said Yeltsin was not ailing.
"He's okay," Ignatyev told reporters who had gathered at the Kremlin for the scheduled meeting.
Ignatyev said Yeltsin would take two weeks vacation at a government health resort in Barvikha, seven miles northwest of Moscow. Last year Yeltsin, 65, recuperated there after two episodes of heart trouble and also retreated there in the week before the July 3 runoff election.
Gore met yesterday with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to begin three days of talks on economic reforms and the expansion of NATO.
Gore would have been the first foreign visitor to talk with Yeltsin since his victory in the July 3 runoff election.
On his departure from Washington, Gore called on Yeltsin to restore the cease-fire in the secessionist republic of Chechnya and to halt a Russian offensive against two Chechen villages that killed more than 45 civilians last week. Yeltsin had been silent about the renewed fighting despite his pre-election promise to end the war.
It is highly unusual, despite Yeltsin's frequent disappearancec from public view, to cancel such a high-level meeting on such short notice.
Well-informed Russian sources have said recently that Yeltsin suffered a breakdown from exhaustion and emotional disress the weekend before the runoff election. While he has been seen on Kremlin videotapes, he has made only brief public appearances since then.
Gore and Chernomyrdin co-chair a bilateral commission set up to handle a variety of issues involving the United States and Russia. In the past two years it has revealed signs of the first major strains in the post-Soviet "honeymoon" period.
Defense Secretary William J. Perry, a member of Gore's team in Moscow, met with Russia's acting defense minister, Mikhail Kolesnikov. Russia's Tass news agency said they agreed that U.S.-Russian military cooperation should be equal and mutually advantageous.