Surviving Yeltsin's 'Cold'

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Russia has developed an immunity to the colds of Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin. Once, Moscow's political machinery would freeze up every time Yeltsin sneezed. Now, in a sure sign of the ailing president's ebbing power, the capital is just ignoring his latest health problems. "Even if Yeltsin were forced out due to illness, that would no longer make a difference to Russia's political direction," says TIME Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge. "The currency markets indicated today that they don't care, and Yeltsin's approval rating now stands at 2 percent, compared with an 89 percent disapproval rating." Physically and politically enfeebled, Yeltsin has relinquished control of much of his government, but that doesn't mean there's been any progress or decisive action on the economy. "The problem now isn't that Boris Yeltsin is irrelevant," says Quinn-Judge. "The problem is that the current government is immobile. Despite being in power a month, they haven't actually done anything nor made clear what they plan to do. All discussion about this government remains theoretical."