Yeltsin to have heart surgery


PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin put an end to rumours about his state of health yesterday with an announcement that he will undergo heart surgery, probably at the end of this month.

"During a check up, doctors discovered heart disease. The doctors, our doctors, recommended either an operation or a passive workload," Mr Yeltsin (65) said in an interview broadcast on NTV private television.

"Passive work has never suited me. .. Therefore, it is better for me to have an operation and get back fully to normal," he said.

Mr Yeltsin, who had two heart attacks last year and has been virtually out of sight for weeks, said he was already preparing for the operation at the same time as taking his holiday outside Moscow.

Looking puffy and stiff, Mr Yeltsin was sitting and spoke in a slow voice, often with gaps lasting several seconds between words.

The interview, transmitted by the state RIA television agency, was apparently filmed at his elite Zavidovo residence 90 kilometres north west of the capital. Mr Yeltsin stressed he would undergo the operation in Russia.

"Our cardiological centre is capable of doing these kinds of operations. I think that the president should have the operation in his homeland. I hope for support of the Russian people," he said.

There was no immediate confirmation of exactly what kind of procedure he would undergo, or how long the President would be away from the Kremlin.

A Kremlin spokesman said it "will be less serious than a bypass". He also said that the procedure would take place at the Chazov government heart centre in Moscow.

Doctors said Mr Yeltsin was almost certain to have an artificial tube inserted in his chest to help blood reach the heart. Dr Nikita Usan, a Moscow heart specialist, said: "Normally this would be a by pass. I don't know what they can mean by less serious than a bypass."

RTR television estimated that Mr Yeltsin would need two months' convalescence in the best of circumstances.

Tomorrow Mr Yeltsin is to meet the German Chancellor, Dr Helmut Kohl.

Time magazine said it had obtained a copy of a medical report issued just before the Russian presidential elections which called for "urgent measures" to improve Mr Yeltsin's health.

. President Clinton was concerned by the reports, and the US embassy in Moscow was seeking further details, a White House spokesman said.