Russia, Yeltsin await impeachment vote results
May 15, 1999
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian lawmakers voted Saturday on five impeachment charges against President Boris Yeltsin.
The vote by the lower house of parliament, the state Duma, was held with separate, colored paper ballots representing each charge. Results are expected shortly.
Just before the vote, Yeltsin went to Moscow for a routine medical check-up at Central Clinical Hospital, then returned to his country residence in Rus, the Kremlin announced. A spokeswoman released no further details.
Yeltsin has a history of ill health -- including heart problems, ulcers and pneumonia -- and has spent long spells out of the public eye during his second term, which ends next year.
"Yeltsin personifies evil in Russia," growled Communist Party chief at the start of a three-hour acrimonious debate in the chamber.
Anti-Yeltsin protesters outside whistled and waved placards -- one showing the president about to be beaten on the bare behind with a Soviet army belt.
Lawmakers heard final arguments Saturday on whether to impeach Yeltsin amid signs the vote could be a close one.
The Duma has debated the impeachment charges for the past two days. A positive vote by a two-thirds majority on any one of the five charges would start a complicated and lengthy process to remove Yeltsin from office.
There was last-minute jockeying for support, with the Kremlin reportedly wooing independent lawmakers and other centrists to vote against impeachment. Many lawmakers fear Yeltsin may try to dissolve the Duma if it votes for impeachment.
Lawmakers predicted the impeachment measure with the best chance of succeeding was the charge accusing Yeltsin of starting the 1994-96 Chechen war. Fighting in Chechnya killed thousands of men and failed to clearly accomplish its goal of preventing the breakaway region from seceding.
"Today, the Russian president is practically incapacitated, and today, the Russian president is the main obstacle preventing Russia from straightening its back and arising from its knees," Communist Viktor Ilyukhin told the chamber. "Every day the country is ruled by Boris Yeltsin brings new serious trouble for Russia."
Gennady Seleznyov, speaker of the Duma, claimed at least 312 members of the chamber would vote to impeach Yeltsin on the Chechen count; 300 votes are needed for impeachment.
Yeltsin also is accused of destroying the Soviet Union; selling out Russia to the West; illegally dissolving parliament in 1993; and waging genocide against the Russian nation with his economic and social policies.
Hundreds of mostly elderly Communists, waving red banners and shouting anti-Yeltsin slogans, demonstrated Saturday outside the Duma building in central Moscow. The mood inside was somber and tense, with deputies discussing the vote and Yeltsin's possible reaction.
On Friday, lawmakers argued and shouted over whether to impeach Yeltsin after the Kremlin warned that his removal would have dire consequences.
During Friday's session, Nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose party backs Yeltsin, repeatedly lost his temper. Zhirinovsky said the president must not be impeached, because NATO's airstrikes against Yugoslavia are also a threat to Russia.
Most witnesses expected to take part in the proceeding failed to appear Friday. Pro-impeachment lawmakers had hoped to bolster their case with testimony from prominent political figures, such as Mikhail Gorbachev.
An aide to Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, said he received a telegram which invited him to the proceeding. But the telegram gave no indication that Gorbachev was expected to be a witness, the aide said, and therefore, he did not attend.
Until Yeltsin's decision to fire compromise Prime Minister on Wednesday, most parliamentary experts believed that the Duma had little chance to secure the needed 300 votes for any of the charges. But Duma outrage over Primakov's sacking made the vote hard to predict.
Legal experts believe there is little chance the impeachment proceding could be taken to the end even if the Duma backs one or more of the charges. Impeachment, under Russia's 1993 constitution, is a vaguely shaped, multi-stage process that also involves the country's two top courts and the Federation Council, the parliament's upper house.
Duma opens Yeltsin impeachment debate
RUSLINE - Russian Internet Directory
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