News / Africa

    Ethiopian PM Meles on 'Sick Leave'

    Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
    x
    Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
    Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
    VOA News
    Ethiopia says Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is taking "sick leave" but will remain in power while he deals with an unspecified illness.

    Government spokesman Bereket Simon briefed reporters Thursday in Addis Ababa, following media reports that the Ethiopian leader was critically ill at Saint Luc Hospital in Brussels, Belgium.

    Bereket specifically denied reports on Ethiopian dissident websites that Meles has brain cancer. The spokesman did not identify the prime minister's illness or say where he is being treated, but said he is in "good and stable condition" and remains in charge of the government.

    A government statement said Mr. Meles' sick leave was prescribed by his doctor, and noted he will resume work when he recuperates.  


    Meles Zenawi

    • Born May 8, 1955 in Adwa, northern Ethiopia
    • Suspended studies in 1974 to join Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front, TPLF
    • Chairman of TPLF and Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front since 1989
    • Led EPRDF rebels to seize power in 1991 and became president
    • Prime minister since being elected in 1995
    • Serves as African Union spokesperson on climate change
    • Praised for helping lift Ethiopia out of poverty after civil war
    • Criticized for silencing all forms of dissent
    • Known as ally with U.S. against terrorism
    Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn told VOA the press conference signals a "significant health issue."

    "You wouldn’t make a statement like that - that is so open-ended - unless the problem is significant" Shinn said. He noted he has no information about the prime minister's health.

    He added that Meles is the kind of leader who plans ahead. And if he is ill, he says the 57-year-old prime minister likely has a plan in place.

    "I'd be willing to bet very good money that he has been planning some way to deal with this issue in order to ensure some kind of reasonable succession of government in Ethiopia," said Shinn.

    Meles has led Ethiopia for more than 20 years, since taking power in a 1991 coup. He has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and did not attend an African Union summit last Saturday and Sunday in the Ethiopian capital.

    In an interview with VOA, Sibhat Nega of Ethiopia's ruling party said Meles is in better shape than reported.

    "I can tell you for sure that there is no undesirable eventuality regarding his health," he said. "I am 100 percent sure that he's recovering health-wise, and he will be back to his official duty in a number of days."


    Nega's statements are consistent with those of government officials, who said Wednesday the prime minister is sick, but not gravely ill.

    Nega, who is a friend of the prime minister's, said the government has been functioning normally during Meles' absence, insisting that the "system does not depend on one person."

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: shergaz from DC from: USA
    July 19, 2012 9:23 PM
    We Wish complte recovery to the HE. PM .Meles Zenawi.
    Stop wishing instablity to Ethiopia, please.
    In Response

    by: Fatuma from: SWeatherland
    July 25, 2012 10:16 AM
    Moreover nobody is benefited from death and disablity of any person.
    In Response

    by: fatuma from: Sweatherland
    July 25, 2012 10:14 AM
    I wish fast recovery for our primnister as a person he has his owen weakness but we can`t say he is eveil , any leader can make mistake and also all past Ethiopian leaders do mistake why meles`s mistake is exagurated ?

    by: King T from: kingT@hotmail.com
    July 19, 2012 5:18 PM
    It is good for one man to die if it is going to mean freedom and human rights for 80 million people. I hope and pray for a smooth transition to a truly elected leader if the cancer is malignant and the prime minster is going to die in a few months.

    by: KA, Addis from: Addis Ababa
    July 19, 2012 4:34 PM
    Our brave leader, Meles, I am very confident that you will be back to your office very soon. We love you so much. Our country wants to see your remarkable achievements. We have many plans to be achieved with your best leadership. The future will be bright with your leadership. You will be recovered from your illness. I know very well that leading the poor country is a very tough task and you suffered a lot. Your sickness is the result of the burden. We all positive thinkers appreciate the best results of your success since 1991. Our country will eradicate poverty once and for all very soon. I wish you all the best once again!!!
    In Response

    by: Abeba from NC
    July 20, 2012 10:52 PM
    Meles you did amazing job to our country and we wish you all the best and hope you feel better soon back to your beloved country, and office, we the real ethiopians love you to death, God Bless.....
    In Response

    by: kassahun from: addis Ababa
    July 20, 2012 4:21 AM
    Dear our prim minster Melese hope you will recover soon and come back your loved country and finished your very good plan which are very crucial for our country. Poverty will be is a history for Ethiopia by your wonderful leading we appreciate your leadership style. I want to say some for those enemy of Ethiopia Melese will recover from his illness come to home near future.
    In Response

    by: linthy from: ethiopia
    July 20, 2012 3:23 AM
    that's right because, ,meles zenawi is going to be okayy!!! and Ethiopia people loves him. he is a great leader! wish him all the best!


    by: Ethiopia from: Ethiopia
    July 19, 2012 3:47 PM
    Hiding cowardly under their women's skirts and wishing fatal illness on Meles Zenawi is the only option left to Ethiopia haters...Pathetic!

    by: Tibebu from: Toronto
    July 19, 2012 2:43 PM
    Hope he never, EVER recovers. We Ethiopians are tired of him and his whole TPLF bandas. Meles and Company never stood for our people and our country and never will. This is the beginning of the end for TPLF. It is the wish of 95% of Ethiopians to see you DIE soon and 99% of us wish you DIE like Gaddafi. You will go down in History as the worst Ethiopian Dictator, worse than Mengistu and will always be the darling of Eritrea as their liberator. Go to HELL Meles.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous from: Africa
    August 11, 2012 7:40 PM
    We tried to unite fellow Ethiopians like this and to conquer hatred, poverty, enmity, injustices, disbelief in God and unity, but they do not want to, whether in Emperor Haileselassie, Col. Mengistu or this time around of PM Meless. Because unity is the only guarantee for success in everything and you do not need the media and the Government to permit you to unite for a purpose, to do good, as you can do it from your individual self to your area, the nation to the region, continent and the world, as God has created us all, even the animals, plants, minerals to live together in harmony and not fight like animals, day in and day out. You do not need to be rich or educated or employed or a believer in God for that matter to be united with another fellow human being, animals do with their species.
    And if I can help you still to achieve that, talk and unite about 100 people that you know and let them do the same and let me know of your result, instead of wasting your time in cursing and wishing the death of another human being which will not give you life for yourself or others, in any case. I don’t know the PM in person or a friend, but the very thought of many of you to curse, hate and revenge against him, is wrong. If you have a better solution, then do it with others in a positive way and not negatively. Life is full of happiness and is precious than to waste our time, energy and thoughts cursing and wishing death and evil to others, no matter how bitter we are and we are hurt in the past. Change the negative to the positive and you will be healed in the process when you start building unity among the human family, start from yourself and family today, no matter how it is difficult.

    Lovingly your fellow human being, happened to be Ethiopian, but it was not my choice, as no one chose to be born this tribe, race, colour or nation or religion, we all happen to acquire it.
    Sorry to be open with you, perhaps you may wake up in it and make our Ethiopia the envy of Africa and the world through our unity and not divisions, poverty, hunger, tribal, religious and denominational differences, and fighting between and among ourselves, instead of our enemies of tribalism, poverty, unemployment and hatreds one to the other, that we can solve through unity within 1, 2 or 3 day conferences that you can make between and among yourselves, and then once a year all of us. If you only believe in One True God/Ande Amlak/Wahid Allah/Teko Wakeyo, etc in all vernacular languages, for One Human Family, One Uniting Faith, Equality between all people and justice for all, then you have a New Ethiopia of One People, One Family and of One VISION.
    When we say African Union, United Nation, how can we fail to say Ethiopian Union/Unity, that even the future Eritreans would be one, as we are one in history, culture, religion, colour, economy, boundary, etc with Africa Unity/One, the World Unity/One, is this not everyone’s dream?

    Let us know your reaction to this through email: newethiopiaonefamily@yahoo.co.uk
    In Response

    by: Anonymous from: Africa
    August 11, 2012 7:39 PM
    By Anonymous on August 6, 2012 2:23 PM ET
    06 August 2012

    What would inspire your tomorrow, but your positive lifestyle of today?

    0O0000000OOhhhh ! My Dears, dears, fellow Ethiopians, how bitter are you to hate your fellow Ethiopian and wish the death of your PM, whether you like it or not? It is what you deserve that you have, no more and no less. Some are even mentioning the name of God/Allah to punish him with death and that he goes to hell. Which Ethiopian character, culture or tradition are you following while both the Holy Bible and Holy Quran teach “Selam”, peace and “love thy enemy” while he is not your enemy? I wish those who claim to be believers in God, are poor, injustice made on them or on their relative or are unemployed, men and women, young and old, create unity among and between themselves to do better than what they think is not done to them or others, as “der biaber, ambessa yaser” is true now as it was in the past. The story who lost his brother and as a result how he and his father and others are suffering to date is saddening, but you cannot bring him back if the PM dies.
    You/others were praying for the death of Emperor Haileselassie, he died and what did you/they get? You were praying for the death of Colonel Mengistu, he left the country for you/others, but what did you gain? Now you are blaming and cursing and wishing death for PM Melesse and some even say he is already dead, then what do you/they gain? You will not be rich or get employment or will not bring back the dead or the unjustly treated to what you want them to be. The only difference you can make is if you are creating unity to do better with other fellow humans is the only guarantee for success, say if you invite about 100 people you know for unity, they in turn each one of the unite other 100 Ethiopians each, then we have true unity for our children and grandchildren and not complaining all the time. To rule 82 million people is not easy but through unity we can administer each other, starting from the individual, growing into groups, then at mender/town/city, regional, national, continental and international levels, as globalization is not a dream but a reality, we are all One Human Family, under One Amlak/God/Allah/Wakeyo, etc.



    In Response

    by: Ananymous from: Africa
    August 11, 2012 7:34 PM
    Annonymous - 11 August 2012
    I have posted the following on 06 August 2012, but not surprisingly no one has responded positively anything about it, which proves that we are only for destructive criticism and not constructive to bring a better successful contribution for the improvement of the socio-economic problem of our people. May I again urge, encourage and inspire you to organize and report back to us after forming Associations of (1) The Poor People (2) The Unemployed, (3) The Homelsess (4) The Landless , (5) The Tela/Tej/Arekie Sellers (6) Setegna Adariwoch (7) Pensioners (8) The Elderly (9) The Handicapped/Venerables (10) The Minorities (11) The Deprived of Justice, (12) The Schooling Deprived (13) The Clinic Deprived (14) The Street Children (15) The Windows/ers, (16) The Job Creation Financing, (17) Other Deprived People Associations, etc Who Wish to Get Rid of Their Real/Imaginer Problems, and you would discover much sooner that such would be the problems of the past, through unity of purpose and vision and universal participation to make our beloved country a model four own happinesses, satisfactions and model for Africa and the world, in a very shorter period of time, without being only proud of our being a free country and people for over 3000 years, let’s be free from poverty, unemployment, injustices and the like, but equality before the law and God and justice for all. We could be a force of service to each other to reckon with.
    Let’s hear you reactions, comment and success stories of the above and the following through email: newethiopiaonefamily@yahoo.co.uk
    In Response

    by: linthy from: addis ababa
    July 20, 2012 3:31 AM
    WE ALL ETHIOPIAN PIC LOVER WISH YOU TO GO TO HELL! YOU HAVE RABSH BRAIN! GO GET CHECKED UP! I THINK YOU HAVE A PROBLEM
    THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LIKE YOU NEVER IMPROVE YOUR MIND. OTHERWISE WE HAVE FREEDOM, THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS WHO ETHIOPIA ARE. AND THERE WAS NOTHING WHEN FACIEST MANGSTU, WAS IN ETHIOPIA.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 1:13 AM
    go to hell tibebu.....................he wiil be back

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 2:22 PM
    He is most likely going to die..do not believe what you read..then the Americans will take over this country like they are trying to do with many African nations
    In Response

    by: Sidetegnaw from: USA
    July 19, 2012 5:21 PM
    Mr Nut head, fake ministry of information Bereket Simon..the Ethiopian people have the right to know the truth about their BRUTAL leader. His recent picture says it all ...have you heard a picture worth than a thousand words..yeah tell the truth idiot

    by: African leader from: AU
    July 19, 2012 12:27 PM
    Meles Zenawi may have DIED.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 6:45 AM
    we all Ethiopians need our respected leader his excellency prime minister Meles Zenawi he done all what he can do to his poor country and he still doing his best not finished yet. u those the barking dogs anti- government ,the future is bright with our hero and genius prime minister meles zenawi. He will come soon to his place just number of days. he is recovering. Just stop barking.

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 7:30 AM
    I wish him well. This man is bigger than life. This mass of complex and confused and yet uniquelly hospitable and resilient people of great Ethiopia need a man like him to keep it together. And I wish the statement that 'the system doesn't depend on one man is true'. How I wish this is so!!! Can this ever be possible? It is possible when the populace is informed and taught rather than incited to violent uprising.
    In Response

    by: LINTHY from: ethiopia
    July 20, 2012 3:34 AM
    You Better Hang your self.

    GO TO HELL!
    In Response

    by: Hanna Haile from: Adama
    July 20, 2012 3:05 AM
    I wish for him health better because he is essential for this country I am very confident that you will be back to your office too soon you don't die until you see your huge dream.
    I'm not satisfy live this country when Meles zenawi die by this condition!!!!
    I hope God cure your health!
    In Response

    by: alemayehu from: addis ababa
    July 19, 2012 2:09 PM
    Hoped he died. I am still hoping.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 1:58 PM
    I wish him recovery for the sake of Ethiopia. I know GOD is there for every one in the world but we need our respected P.M MELES ZENAWE. Atleast we don't have to forget what he has done to our country with his followers; which none of the past Ethiopian leaders couldn't do. He tried to clear the narrow tribal differences between us which is still pulling us back. Though there are some mistakes from some senior members of his party, he is not them.

    by: Ashenafi from: AA
    July 19, 2012 7:06 AM
    Wish swift recovery for the PM
    In Response

    by: Leencoo!!! from: Ethiopia, AA
    July 25, 2012 10:13 AM
    He is a evilness man doesn't belong to this world, yes he is divided people by religion, race.etc. I hope God take him and all of his dogs and the people of Ethiopia get brake and peace. I think his sickness was the results of Abebe Gelawu’s shout to him in Alferd Regan Assembely, Washington DC. Meles must be asked for genocide even if recovery from his illness, he and his dogs like bereket simon, and the like will bee asked for what they did in the past 20 years!! We lost many professors, Doctors, talented students......................................his dogs have murdered so many Ethiopian people........... One day ethiopia will be free, please don't bother there are many educated people for ethiopia, I don't bother for illitrate meles zenawi illness! You boolshit ladys and men those appreciating him for his dictorship it was okky for you but not for majority of ethiopian people,
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 20, 2012 8:15 AM
    Wish him and praying to God for his quick recovery.
    In Response

    by: kk from: africa
    July 20, 2012 6:26 AM
    We need the peace of Ethiopia. Stop and think what will happen, if we are disintegrated, we must see things in every angle. The best way is to negotiate, discuss having objectives of achieving peace instead of different personal motives at the back. Think for all people of the country, specially the poor who suffers every time in power struggles wars. Certain people come to power in the name of people, but in reality nothing comes good for the people. Let us think for the poor people of Ethiopia and let it be our agenda.
    In Response

    by: tina from: hawassa
    July 20, 2012 4:30 AM
    our p.m Meles Zenawi is one of the person who I love so much specifically. now I always pray for his health. he is a good leader. during our dark period(Durg) every one go to the other country to servive but meles remain in his country to fight for our todays fredom. now we can meke many good things by supporting him not humelating him. coz every one of us are not perfect.
    In Response

    by: Rahel Abate from: Egypt
    July 20, 2012 3:26 AM
    Being a believer in God,I have never wished any one to be harmed let alone to die.However,after I lost my father and younger brother who had been brutally murdered by TPLF gangs,I have always been wishing for this gang leader to get his punishment. I am happy that this cruel,mericiles, brutual dictator,evil man is now suffering and marching to his ultimate death.
    In Response

    by: Albasa from: washington metro
    July 19, 2012 10:28 PM
    I hope Meles the evil suffers for more months before he is dead. The day for this evil killer and a murderer of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians is numbered. The best educated and trained Ethiopians were killed, put in prison or chased them out of their country with the exception of his savage and dirty Tigrean tribe. This dirty and savage Tigreans looted every part of the country for over 20 years and turned the rest of the country into a barren land. I was hoping Meles will suffer in the hand of Ethiopians worse than his identical brother Gaddafi. But, God could not wait until Ethiopians are ready; so he decided to take him out faster. Meles, burn in hell.
    In Response

    by: federica from: ethiopia
    July 19, 2012 3:29 PM
    i'll pray meles is gonna feel good because he's the heart of ethiopia withiut him there will be a war
    In Response

    by: Almaz from: Addis Ababa
    July 19, 2012 3:13 PM
    I wish him swift recover. Let the mercy of God be upon him. He is not evil. He did his best for the betterment of the country. No one is perfect. 'Kebero be sew ej yamir, siyizut yadenagir'!!!
    In Response

    by: Dambibiyaa
    July 19, 2012 2:52 PM
    Genocide Watch has accused Meles of genocide. For years Human Rights Watch has accused him of human rights abuses. AI has many other organizations have done the same. From this earth I wish one persons death. Years of State department’s Country Reports show he has been abusing human rights. For sake of millions I wish him death for ever fire and suffering deserving for evil leader
    In Response

    by: k from: us
    July 19, 2012 2:17 PM
    wish him well. Any one does not deserve to be ill. God Bless
    In Response

    by: Tesfu from: addis
    July 19, 2012 1:06 PM
    HE is an evil man doesn't belong to this world.yes he is divided people by religion, race.etc. I hope God take him and around him those his dogs. all of them. and the people of Ethiopia get brake and peace.
    In Response

    by: peter from: addis
    July 19, 2012 11:50 AM
    i wish him swift recovery,he has worked day and night for this country the whole of his life him.i want him to be alive so that he could see the fruits of his labor.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 19, 2012 10:31 AM
    For the integrity and freedom of Ethiopia and Ethiopians I wish him to end today!!!!!
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.