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Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK

World: Europe

Yeltsin impeachment debate in uproar

Gen. Albert Makashov and fellow Communist plotting the president's downfall

The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, has ended a second day of the impeachment debate on President Boris Yeltsin amid angry scenes and chaos.

Russia crisis
Yeltsin opponents and supporters jeered and shouted at each other over charges that the president committed treason, genocide and murder.

Most witnesses, including the former Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, refused to attend.

BBC Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding: "The impeachment debate is turning into a muddle, scrappy affair"
A final list of who will be called will be decided later on Friday.

The first day of debate, Thursday, was surprisingly calm. Saturday is the last day set aside for debate.

If any one of the five charges are supported, impeachment proceedings could start against Mr Yeltsin, possibly leading to his removal from office.

The Communist speaker of the Duma, Gennady Selznyov, said he expected the charge that Mr Yeltsin started the war in Chechnya would succeed.

[ image:  ]
Mr Yeltsin also faces a fierce fight with parliament over a new prime minister to replace Yevgeny Primakov. Mr Primakov and his entire government were controversially sacked by the president on Wednesday.

Parliament must decide next week whether or not to approve Sergei Stepashin as the new prime minister, but the vote is too close to call.

The Communists and their allies, who dominate the assembly, say Mr Yeltsin has overseen the moral and economic degeneration of Russia.

One senior Communist said during Thursday's hearing that Russia was "writhing in its death throes" and rebirth could begin only with the president's removal.

Vote on Saturday

A vote on the impeachment charges is scheduled to take place when the debate ends.

BBC Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding: "Russian MP's have spent the day trading insults and attacking President Yeltsin"
If the Duma backs at least one of the charges against Mr Yeltsin, the debate then has to go through the country's top two courts and the upper house of parliament, where the president has more support.

According to the constitution, the upper house of parliament has to make its decision within three months of the charges being levied.

Alan Russo, Director of the Moscow office of the Carnegie Foundation, says the constitution is so geared towards supporting the president it is highly unlikely that the Constitutional Court or the Supreme Court would support the Duma.

Russian Affairs Analyst Stephen Dalziel: "Yeltsin could have violated constitution on Chechnya"
"It looks very much like the Communists in the Duma are attempting to simply bloody Yeltsin's nose before his departure from office," he said.

There has been speculation in the Russian media that Mr Yeltsin might consider using force against his opponents if the Duma votes for impeachment and rejects his candidate for Prime Minister, Sergei Stepashin, three times.

[ image:  ]
Three votes against Mr Yeltsin's choice would oblige him, under the constitution, to dissolve parliament.

Correspondents say that could trigger a constitutional crisis with Mr Yeltsin trying to dissolve the parliament and MPs insisting he cannot. The last time that happened, in 1993, Mr Yeltsin sent troops to storm the parliament.

But Mr Yeltsin's spokesman, Dmitry Yakushkin, told Interfax news agency on Thursday that Mr Yeltsin viewed proposals to disband the Duma as negative, calling it an "unfavourable option".

Russia's former deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov: "Impeachment in Russia is very complicated"
He said Mr Yeltsin expected the Duma to continue its legislative work.

The hearing shook financial markets, with the rouble dipping below 26 to the dollar, compared with 24.95 on Wednesday.

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