Papers Slam President for His Actions

Russian newspapers criticized President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday for sacking Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, saying he was motivated by his own lust for power and sometimes irrational instincts.

Several newspapers also said Yeltsin's poor health in recent years was a motivation in appointing loyal ally Sergei Stepashin, a police and security veteran, as acting new prime minister.

"Boris Yeltsin is persistently trying to save political face," Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. "This is becoming ever more difficult."

It added: "Illness takes its toll and it is fairly difficult to hide its influence. In such a case the best means become the hard presidential fist unleashed over the head of either the government or the State Duma."

Obshchaya Gazeta also highlighted health concerns about Yeltsin.

"The country is again following with fear the unstable gait of its president," the paper said. "He is behaving like a person surrounded only by enemies, treachery and betrayal."

The headline of the mainstream Segodnya asked: "A presidential mistake?"

"By sacking Yevgeny Primakov, the president took what may have been the most unpopular decision of his career," it said. "He is alone as never before [to say nothing of his worsened health]."

Many newspapers noted the complex political situation as the Duma, parliament's lower house, began impeachment debates Thursday.

"Boris Yeltsin has again complicated the political situation to the extreme," the newspaper Kommersant wrote.

"Most of Kommersant's Kremlin sources recognize the possibility of the situation developing into a violent scenario and confirmed that 'the president will react adequately to any anti-constitutional actions.'"

Sporadic protests were held across Russia on Thursday after the Communist Party called for nationwide demonstrations against Yeltsin's sacking of the government.

In the Pacific port of Vladivostok, dozens of people demonstrated with a signed petition in support of Primakov's sacked government. The Primorye region Communist Party said parliament should take steps to reinstate Primakov and encouraged people to show their dissatisfaction with Yeltsin's move.

Protests also were held in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

In St. Petersburg, Communists put off demonstrations to wait to see how the impeachment debate developed.