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  •   Yeltsin Returns to Hospital for Ulcer

    By Daniel Williams
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Sunday, February 28, 1999; Page A25

    MOSCOW, Feb. 27—President Boris Yeltsin was hospitalized again today for a bleeding ulcer that had sidelined him for several weeks in January and earlier this month.

    Doctors quickly announced that the relapse posed "no threat to the president's life," and said he would not need surgery. An operation would be risky for Yeltsin, whose health has been fragile since he had heart surgery in late 1996. Yeltsin's spokesman, Dmitri Yakushkin, said the president will remain in the hospital for at least "a few days."

    Just last Wednesday, Yakushkin declared Yeltsin, 68, had recovered from his ulcer. But the president began to feel ill Friday, after attending a meeting of former Soviet republics grouped in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Tests showed slight internal bleeding, and doctors decided to treat him with new medicines at the Central Clinical Hospital.

    "We issued recommendations that [his] purely routine, professional workload be reduced somewhat in the next few days," said Sergei Mironov, the president's physician. "His condition is absolutely stable, but . . . we recommended a stay in the hospital."

    Recently, Yeltsin has made several moves to show that he is able and politically in charge -- appearances at his Kremlin office, meetings with foreign dignitaries, dismissals of an official here and there, a trip to Jordan for King Hussein's funeral. Mironov blamed the Jordan trip for "much psychological and physical stress."

    The relatively high level of activity was meant in part to counter suggestions that he step down, or at least retreat to a purely ceremonial role. Today's setback comes amid maneuvering to strip Yeltsin of his main presidential powers -- the right to fire the prime minister and dismiss parliament. A similar proposal earlier this year by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov led to a spate of reports that the two were at odds.

    Last week, in a televised appearance, the pair tried to put to rest rumors of a feud. "There are two firm positions," Yeltsin said. "My position: I work until the elections in the year 2000. The position of the prime minister: He works as prime minister until the presidential elections."

    Standing next to him, Primakov said people should stop speculating about him taking over. "I am sick of these rumors running in the newspapers," he said.

    Today, Primakov departed for a planned, 10-day vacation at Sochi on the Black Sea, saying Yeltsin insisted he go. Primakov's spokesman said he would not cut short the holiday.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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