MOSCOW — The Soviet Foreign Ministry today labeled as "wild hearsay" reports that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev is ill and said he will be returning to the Soviet capital and public life "soon."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Pyadyshev said at a news conference that Gorbachev is on his annual 30-day holiday "in the south of the country" and quickly added that he is in excellent health.
Gorbachev has not been seen in public since Aug. 7 when he met with a group of U.S. schoolteachers in the Kremlin. Rumors of assassination plots and illness swept the West.
"We consider all that is being propagated by certain media in the West as wild hearsay. This hearsay is meant in a spirit of ill will toward the Soviet state and the Soviet people," Pyadyshev said.
Food Poisoning Rumored
The West German newspaper Bild reported this week that Gorbachev was severely ill and could possibly have been the victim of a plot that included poisoning his food.
It was the second time in three days that Pyadyshev said the rumors were false and he appeared annoyed at the constant questioning about Gorbachev's health.
"All this has been trumped up. The rumors about his illness set afloat in the West are a fiction of unscrupulous journalists," he snapped.
"He is feeling very fine. He is excellent. There has never been any hint of illness," he said.
"The secretary general is now having a vacation in the south of the country. Like any Soviet citizen he has the legal right to have a vacation," he said, adding the normal holiday time for a member of the Soviet Politburo is 30 days--about the same as a Soviet factory worker.
'Case of the Poison Pirogi'
The rumors have led some diplomats and journalists to light-heartedly dub the situation as "the case of the poison pirogi." A pirogi is a small Russian turnover usually stuffed with meat or mashed potatoes.
Last year the Soviet leader took his vacation in the Crimea and diplomats believe he is there again this year.
Pyadyshev blamed a break with tradition for the rumors surrounding Gorbachev.
He said the Soviet press normally announces when the country's leader goes on holiday and when he returns but this time, "We did not feel the need for this certain ritual."