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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK

World: Europe

Raisa Gorbachev treated for leukaemia

The Gorbachevs are staying in Germany during the treatment

Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, is being treated for acute leukaemia at a hospital in Germany.

Doctors at Muenster University Clinic say she is in a very weak condition and undergoing chemotherapy.

Hospital spokesman Dr Karl Rahn said it was not clear how long the treament would take.

Mr Gorbachev is staying with his wife at the hospital, and has rented hotel facilities for himself, his daughter and grandchildren to be near Mrs Gorbachev, according to a local newspaper.

Mrs Gorbachev, a former philosophy teacher, was the only wife of a Soviet leader in recent times to become a public figure.

A local newspaper reported that the Gorbachevs requested treatment for her condition specifically in Germany.

Popular couple

[ image: Mrs Gorbachev accompanied her husband on a visit to the UK in 1991]
Mrs Gorbachev accompanied her husband on a visit to the UK in 1991
The Gorbachevs are very popular in Germany, where many see the former Soviet leader's Perestroika policies as leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent unification of the country.

According to Mr Gorbachev's office, though, a German clinic was chosen because of its relative proximity to Russia.

The illness was detected in Russia on 22 July, Mr Gorbachev's spokesman said said, and on the same day the former Soviet leader asked US President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to grant his wife medical treatment.

Both leaders immediately offered the best clinics their countries had to offer.

The Gorbachevs arrived in Muenster on 26 July.

Mr Gorbachev has repeatedly blamed his wife's ill health on the "suffering" and "stress" caused by the failed putsch in August 1991 when Communist hardliners tried to remove him from power.

The couple were detained for three days in their official holiday retreat in Foros, on the Crimean coast.

Mr Gorbachev resigned his post in December that year as the Soviet Union disintegrated into its constituent republics.

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