Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president, was known for his unpredictable nature and penchant for liquor. Many rumors about him being a drunkard floated, but was it all true?
In 1994, Boris Yeltsin was scheduled for a short visit to Ireland. The meeting didn’t happen because Yeltsin refused to leave his plane. Rumor has it that he was too drunk even to manage a flight of steps down the plane.
Yeltsin’s Visit to Ireland
On September 30, 1994, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin agreed to a brief stopover in Ireland after visiting the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly. The president arranged the short visit to meet with the former Taoiseach of Ireland, Albert Reynolds, to discuss the Northern Ireland peace process. Yeltsin’s flight was scheduled to land at Shannon airport.
Yeltsin’s visit was scheduled at noon, and the Irish government set up a fancy luncheon in the nearby Drumoland Castle. The accepting officials included the Irish Taoiseach, two prime ministers, several Teachta Dála, an Army guard of honor, the Russian Embassy delegation to Ireland and a military band.
When the announcement of the Russian plane landing in a few minutes was made, the dignitaries immediately assembled on the red carpet of the runway. Reynolds and the rest of the welcoming committee waited for the plane to land. They soon noticed that Yeltsin’s plane was circling the air, with no sign that it would land quickly.
After a full hour, the plane finally landed, but it took another fifteen minutes before the doors were opened. Once opened, Russian officials from the plane hurriedly discussed with the Irish as to what had occurred. And when an air hostess was finally instructed to come up the plane and present Mrs. Yeltsin with the welcome bouquet, it was made known that the Russian president had no intention of coming off the plane.
The news shocked everyone in the welcoming committee and was not made aware of the reason why. Taoiseach Reynolds, who rushed from Australia the prior evening into the early morning to meet Yeltsin, offered to board the plane and personally greet him but was told not to since the Russian president was still asleep. (Source: Independent)
Rumor on Yeltsin’s Actions
Reporters and news networks got wind of the unfortunate incident on the tarmac of Shannon Airport. At the time, speculation of why the Russian president did not proceed with the agreed meeting and did not leave his plane was because he had too much to drink. (Source: Irish Times)
Reynolds later recalls that he wasn’t advised that Yeltsin had one too many drinks, just that the president was slightly indisposed. But the media chose to read between the lines and speculate that the Russian president was too drunk even to manage a flight of steps, causing him to snub the Irish prime minister. (Source: Independent)
The explanation quickly countered the rumor by one of Yeltsin’s aides. Apparently, President Yeltsin suffered a suspected heart attack on his flight en route to Ireland from Washington. Yeltsin boarded the plane in Washington, already feeling ill. And by the time they reached Shannon Airport, his aides were frantically treating him.
Later accounts of some Irish officials present at the time did confess that the announcement of Yeltsin being indisposed was a euphemism for the fact that he may have been drinking on the flight. This misunderstanding and assumption, paired with Yeltsin’s known unpredictable reputation, gave way to the speculation. (Source: Irish Times)