Illness-Plagued Yeltsin Marks 66th Birthday With Quiet Celebration

<i> From Reuters</i>

Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, weakened by pneumonia and pressed by political foes to give up power, celebrated his 66th birthday quietly Saturday in the company of close family and selected associates.

Itar-Tass news agency said the president, who is recuperating at his residence outside Moscow, invited only two officials to his birthday dinner: Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin and Chief of Staff Anatoly B. Chubais.

Tass said Chernomyrdin, fresh from the Swiss resort of Davos, where he took part in the World Economic Forum, went to the dinner straight from the airport with a “huge bouquet and a personal gift” for Yeltsin, which he kept secret.

Yeltsin, whose heart problems, quintuple bypass surgery in November and double pneumonia in January have kept him away from the Kremlin most of the time since his reelection in July, is now having a hard time proving that he is still fit to rule Russia.


Moscow Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov, who along with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexi II congratulated Yeltsin earlier in the day, said that he had found the president physically weakened but alert, active and committed to returning to work.

“The president looked like anyone who had undergone a complicated heart operation and pneumonia, who is not fully fit,” Interfax news agency quoted Luzhkov as saying after the visit. “But the president is quite active, and, judging by the speed of his mind and the depth of his thought, he is the same president we all used to know.”