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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Who is running Russia?

Mr Yeltsin's radical solution for constitutional rivalry in 1993...

By Russian Affairs Analyst, Stephen Dalziel

Constitutional crises are nothing new in post-Soviet Russia.

[ image: Safe footing: President Yeltsin has given little leadership since 1996]
Safe footing: President Yeltsin has given little leadership since 1996
In the most infamous to date, in October 1993, President Boris Yeltsin chose a radical solution to settle his dispute with parliament - he called up tanks to shell the parliament building, blasting his opponents out.

On that occasion, Russia came the closest it has been to serious civil conflict since the revolution of 1917 and subsequent civil war.

But with yet another sacking of a prime minster, the fourth in 18 months, Russia agaion appears to be increasingly without any firm leadership or direction.

Although constitutionally President Yeltsin is the man in charge of the country, there have long been doubts over his health which have led many to conclude that he is running the country in name only.

[ image: Primakov: Just one of many casualties]
Primakov: Just one of many casualties
Earlier this year his radical pronouncements on the war in Yugoslavia were subsequently corrected by ministers and advisers.

When he sacked Yevgeny Primakov and his government in May, many observers concluded that Mr Yeltsin had finally lost touch with reality.

Tension mounted in the days following the sacking of Primakov when deputies in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, attempting to impeach Mr Yeltsin, a move which ended in humiliation for the Communists who control the legislature.

Ultimately, Mr Yeltsin has given the country little leadership since his July 1996 re-election and has only appeared to exercise his power by returning from illnesses of varying degrees of severity to sack ministers and officials.

These actions have paralysed Russia's body politic since anyone bold enough to make a decision in the President's absence knows that they may well pay for it with their job.

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