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Saturday, May 15, 1999 Published at 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK

World: Europe

Yeltsin survives impeachment bid

Communist supporters shout anti-Yeltsin slogans outside the Duma

Members of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, have failed to impeach President Boris Yeltsin.

Russia crisis
The number of votes failed to reach the 300 needed for the impeachment process to develop in any of the five charges.

A BBC correspondent in Moscow says it is a crucial victory for the president.

His Communist opponents had been optimistic of support for at least one of the charges, which blamed him for starting the war in Chechnya.

BBC Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding: "This was a crucial victory for Yeltsin"
The 1994-96 campaign against the breakaway republic left thousands of Russian soldiers dead and failed to prevent Chechnya from seceding.

On the second day of debate on Friday, Yeltsin opponents and supporters jeered and shouted at each other over charges that the president committed treason, genocide and murder.

[ image:  ]
Most witnesses, including the former Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, refused to attend.

But the president won the support of the ultra-nationalist leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who said impeachment would play into the hands of Russia's Nato enemies.

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

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

The upper chamber, which is made up of regional governors, scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday to discuss the political crisis.

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.

Fight over new prime minister

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.

[ image:  ]
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.

If MPs reject him three times then the Parliament should be dissolved and new elections held; that could trigger an ugly constitutional struggle between President and Parliament.

Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding: "The impeachment debate is turning into a scrappy affair"
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.

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