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Sunday, May 16, 1999 Published at 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK

World: Europe

Yeltsin survives impeachment vote

The Communist Party has failed to get rid of the President

President Yeltsin has easily survived an attempt by Communist opponents in the lower house of the Russian parliament to unseat him.

Russia crisis
None of the five charges he faced in the Duma was supported by the 300 votes needed to move on to impeachment.

The BBC Correspondent in Moscow, Andrew Harding, says it is a crucial victory for the president.

The BBC's Andrew Harding: "Crucial victory for Yeltsin"
Of the five charges, it was only that of starting a war against Chechnya that was thought to have a hope of succeeding, but even that fell 17 votes short of the 300 needed.

Votes on the other four counts ranged between 238 and 263 in favour. Not all deputies were present in the Duma for the vote.

[ image:  ]
Communist and other hard-line deputies had predicted certain triumph after working for almost a year to impeach Mr Yeltsin.

But centrist and nationalist deputies apparently decided to back the president because of their greater opposition to the Communists.

Russia's acting Prime Minister Sergey Stepashin said the failure of the impeachment vote was a triumph of common sense: "A profound political crisis that could have worsened further has been overcome. Common sense has prevailed," he said.

The BBC's Robert Parsons: "The Communists tried to put a brave face on it"
But some Communist deputies responded with warnings the Duma was finished, saying Yeltsin could now move against the parliament. And others questioned the results.

"Without seeing the ballots we cannot acknowledge results of the vote," said Nikolai Kharitonov, head of the pro-Communist Agrarian faction.

[ image: Protesters for and against Yeltsin gathered outside the  Duma]
Protesters for and against Yeltsin gathered outside the Duma
Mr Yeltsin was said to be "relaxed" on hearing the news at his country residence some 100km (60 miles) from Moscow, after a routine medical examination at the Central Clinical Hospital.

His press secretary, Dmitriy Yakushkin, said Mr Yeltsin now wanted the Duma to return to normal legislative work.

He discussed the vote with his chief of staff Alexander Voloshin by telephone and said he would focus on forming a new government after sacking the old team, Mr Yakushkin added.

Fight over new prime minister

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

Parliament must decide next Wednesday whether to approve Sergei Stepashin as the new prime minister.

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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