By Avet Demourian, Associated Press Writer
(AP) - Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin was given the royal treatment at a brandy distillery in Armenia on Thursday, sampling from a barrel aged 100 years and having a vat of this year's vintage named after him.
Officials at the Yerevan Brandy Factory also showed Yeltsin he is worth his weight in the tawny liquor, putting him on a scale balanced by cases of brandy and presenting him with crates of bottles matching his weight at about 130 kilograms (286 pounds).
Yeltsin sipped and sniffed a glass poured from a barrel of 1902 Nairi brandy said to have been opened only twice before - once in 1979 and once this year to honor an anniversary of the distillery's purchase by France's Pernod Ricard. But Yeltsin did not drink much at the distillery, where he and his wife, Naina, also planted a fir tree.
At a news conference later in the day, the 71-year-old Yeltsin said, "I am in good shape" and added that he plans to visit all the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of former Soviet republics.
"I do not intend to return to big politics. I have done my share. Let Putin continue it," he said referring to Vladimir Putin, the chosen successor he named acting president when he stepped down unexpectedly on Dec. 31, 1999. Putin was then elected in March 2000.
Yeltsin may steer clear of big politics, but he now has a very big barrel of brandy with his name on it. A 420-liter (109-gallon) vat from this year's harvest bears a tablet saying "Boris Yeltsin" and has been pronounced his personal property. Yeltsin asked whether the gift was perhaps "overly regal" and asked that it be moved from its place next to a barrel named after Nikolai Ryzhkov, a Communist and former Soviet prime minister who was a political foe.