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Russian crisis Friday, 24 April, 1998, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
The debate that saved Kiriyenko
duma
Tensions ran high - and tempers frayed
In the crucial debate that led to the confirmation of President Yeltsin's choice of prime minister, the young reformer appealed directly to the deputies for their support.

It was Sergei Kiriyenko's third and last chance - and all the delegates knew that a failure to endorse him could lead to the dissolution of parliament.

The ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky joined other parties in withdrawing his opposition at the last minute, adding spice to the debate when he threatened to punch another delegate.

Mr Kiriyenko kicked off the debate by outlining his programme of reforms.

To read the translation of his opening remarks, click here.

He also appealed to left-wingers in the house by talking about the new government efforts to alleviate the situation of miners, one of the main grievances of the critics.

"As regards miners' problems, a special meeting was held yesterday between the president and representatives of mining industries. The government has already drawn up an integrated plan of measures designed to stabilise the situation," he said.

But the Communist Party was not to be swayed. Its leader showed he was willing to risk the dissolution of parliament, and with it his seats, by continuing to oppose Mr Kiriyenko.

Zyuganov risked his seat by continuing his opposition
"Our decision is absolutely clear. We will not vote for Kiriyenko's candidacy," Gennadi Zyuganov said.

They were joined by the liberal Yabloko Party, who attacked Mr Yeltsin's choice from the other end of the political spectrum.

"The appointment of such a prime minister as this marks a new low in the crisis of a weak government, a weak, authoritarian president, and a helpless Duma," its leader Gregory Yavlinsky said.

Most of the other factions, however, indicated they would vote for Mr Kiriyenko - albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

This included Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who responded with a physical threat to Mr Yavlinsky's suggestion that his party had been bribed to vote against Mr Kiriyenko last time.

Mr Zhirinovsky told him: "Mr Yavlinsky, I could go up to you and put one with all my might in your nasty, obnoxious face for what you have just said, so that you go running to the American Embassy to get your injury certified."

The Agrarian Party and the Popular Party also decided to back Mr Kiriyenko at the last minute.

In what may have been a crucial development in determining the final results, the Communists narrowly lost their motion to have an open ballot.

According to the BBC Moscow Correspondent, Allan Little, the secret ballot allowed the Communist delegates to break ranks with their leader and back Mr Kiriyenko in an effort to hold on to their seats.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News
Mr Kiriyenko's address to the Duma - in Russian (2' 10")
BBC News
Zhirinovsky threatens to punch Mr Yavlinsky - in Russian - (36")
See also:

24 Apr 98 | Russian crisis
24 Apr 98 | Russian crisis
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