Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Yeltsin faces uncertain future
Communist demonstrators demand removal of Boris Yeltsin
Russia's parliament has been hearing details of impeachment charges being brought against President Boris Yeltsin, at the start of a debate on whether to try to remove him from office.
A crowd of Communist supporters gathered outside parliament urging MPs in the State Duma - the lower house of parliament - to get rid Mr Yeltsin.
The Communists and their allies, who dominate the Duma, accuse Mr Yeltsin of overseeing the moral and economic degeneration of Russia, and have drawn up five specific charges against him.
But BBC Moscow Correspondent Robert Parsons says only one charge is likely to stick - that Mr Yeltsin was to blame for the disastrous war against Chechen separatists.
Voting is unlikely to take place before Saturday.
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.
"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.
Catch-22 for parliament
According to the Russian constitution, a new prime minister cannot take office without the consent of parliament.
To make matters more complicated, parliament cannot be dissolved while impeachment proceedings are pending against the president.
Popular prime minister
The opposition-dominated Russian parliament passed a vote urging Mr Yeltsin's to "immediately stop carrying out his official duties and resign" after the prime minister's sacking.
Parliament had already decided to start impeachment proceedings against the president before the sacking.
Mr Yeltsin appointed an ally, Sergei Stepashin, as acting prime minister - the fourth in just over a year.
One of Mr Yeltsin's key allies during the Chechen war, Mr Stepashin now heads the country's police forces, and is a former head of the security service.
The president elevated him to the post of first deputy prime minister last week.
The Duma will consider Mr Stepashin for prime minister on Wednesday.