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Russia: Yeltsin Returns To Kremlin

Moscow, 23 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin returned to work at the Kremlin today following nearly a half-year absence caused by a heart condition.

Yeltsin told waiting journalists that he has recovered from his heart bypass surgery and is looking forward to resuming his full duties. Yeltsin's doctors had recommended a gradual return to work, but on Friday, the Russian President said he planned to take swift action on key issues including unpaid wages and pensions, the Chechen peace process and reforming the Russian military.

Yeltsin promised Russians today that "the coming year will be better for Russia." But opposition Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said today that Yeltsin cannot cope with the workload he should be handling as president.

Zyuganov said the Communist Party will try to get the constitution changed to reduce the president's powers. Yesterday, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed called on Yeltsin to step down.

Also today, Yeltsin spoke on the phone with British Prime Minister John Major. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said the two leaders agreed to meet in person in Russia early next year. He said the date would be decided by diplomats from the two countries later.