How Sick is Yeltsin?

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MOSCOW: When Boris Yeltsin sneezes, Russia’s political system faces a crippling cold, according to TIME’s Moscow Bureau Chief Paul Quinn-Judge. President Yeltsin was hospitalized Wednesday for what aides described as an “acute respiratory viral infection that developed out of a cold,” and will spend at least 10 days at a clinic outside Moscow.

Says Quinn-Judge: “The last time we were told the president had a respiratory infection — in January of this year — he was extremely ill for two months. The political process was paralyzed for two months and there was a lot of nasty political infighting and even talk of succession.”

It’s too soon to say whether his current bout of illness is cause for alarm: “This time we could get off lightly, but nobody knows,” says Quinn-Judge. “Yeltsin’s administration provides very little information about the president’s health.”