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Russia: Yeltsin Tells TV Audience Of His Planned Heart Surgery

Moscow, 5 September 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin said tonight in a television interview that Russian doctors have recommended that he have an operation on his heart.

Yeltsin, speaking slowly, said in the interview shown on NTV commercial television that he wanted a society based on truth and not hiding anything, as was common in the past.

Speculation that Yeltsin is ill and requires medical surgery has increased recently. The Russian leader has hardly been seen in public since his re-election in July. He was hospitalized twice with heart problems last year.

Until today, aides have constantly denied that he was ill again, saying Yeltsin was suffering from colossal fatigue after his re-election campaign and needed time to rest.

Yeltsin said today that he had undergone routine medical checks which revealed that there was a problem with his heart.

He said the operation was likely to take place later this month in the Moscow Cardiological Centre.

There is no word on the exact nature of the surgery. But Yeltsin said that doctors told him he either had to have an operation or adopt a more passive lifestyle.

A videotape of Yeltsin meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin earlier this week showed the president looking thinner and somewhat stiff.

The Russian constitution stipulates the Prime Minister assumes responsibilities if the president is incapacited or dies. New elections must be called after three months.