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World - Europe

Communists lose battle to impeach Yeltsin



In recent television appearances, Yeltsin's speech has been somewhat slurred and his face puffy

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 ALSO:
Yeltsin action complicates Russian political front

 

May 15, 1999
Web posted at: 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia's parliament Saturday turned back a Communist-led attempt to impeach President Boris Yeltsin on five counts, including subjecting his people to genocide and illegally waging war in Chechnya.

None of the five charges against Yeltsin received the required 300 votes needed to start impeachment proceedings, Russian news media reported, citing sources in the state Duma.

The closest vote was on the charge dealing with Russia's war in the separatist province of Chechnya, which received 283 votes in favor. Votes on the other four counts ranged between 238 and 263 in favor, according to news reports.

The vote by the Duma, the lower house of parliament, was held with separate, colored paper ballots representing each charge.

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 chiefat 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.

Kremlin stumps for support

Lawmakers heard final arguments Saturday on whether to impeach Yeltsin amid signs the vote could be a close one.

The Duma spent two days debating the impeachment charges. A positive vote by a two-thirds majority on any one of the five charges would have started a complicated and lengthy process to remove Yeltsin from office.

The Kremlin reportedly wooed independent lawmakers and other centrists to vote against impeachment in a spate of last-minute jockeying for support. Many lawmakers feared Yeltsin would try to dissolve the Duma if it voted for impeachment.

Lawmakers had 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."

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.

Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty and Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Duma opens Yeltsin impeachment debate
May 13, 1999
Yeltsin action complicates Russian political front
May 12, 1999

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