Boris Yeltsin, looking more isolated than ever, underwent a second day of sanatorium treatment for exhaustion on Wednesday, and one of his top aides said the president no longer had day-to-day control of Russia.
The Kremlin said the 67-year-old leader, who has a history of poor health and had heart bypass surgery two years ago, was still at the Barvikha medical center west of Moscow, and plans for a holiday to recuperate further had yet to be finalized."He's receiving the same kind of treatment you'd receive in any sanatorium," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin told Itar-Tass news agency. "Everything is going according to plan."
That phrase may well ring hollow to many, not least because Kremlin officials had said Yeltsin would probably leave Moscow for a holiday on Wednesday. Kremlin sources now say doctors have yet to decide but are toying with the idea of sending him to the balmier climes of the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
While Yeltsin recovers from what doctors say is asthenia - fatigue and high blood pressure - stemming from an earlier bout of bronchitis, opposition figures and allies have become more outspoken about his plight at a time of deep economic crisis.
For many, including Kremlin staff, the preoccupation seems to be to ensure an orderly transition.
"The government is now fully responsible for the economy," Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff Oleg Sysuyev said Wednesday.
"The most important task for the president is to turn over stable power to his successor. He no longer has the right to be distracted by day-to-day issues."
He said Yeltsin would serve out his elected term to mid-2000 overseeing constitutional reform.
Russia's constitution was made to order for Yeltsin in 1993 after parliament attempted a rebellion, and it guarantees the president extremely broad powers.
Although Yeltsin's grip on the executive may be slipping, he still jealously guards his control over Russia's nuclear arsenal and the so-called power ministers: defense, foreign affairs, the interior and the intelligence services.