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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khasbulatov Accused of Despotism

Legislators sympathetic to Russia's President have accused parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov of using dictatorial tactics to eliminate his rivals, after a third parliamentary committee chairman was removed from his post last week.

On Sunday, more than 50 pro-Yeltsin legislators issued a statement accusing Khasbulatov of running the legislature in the same despotic style as Josef Stalin.

"Attempts by people's deputies to simply express their own opinion are suppressed in the best traditions of the father of the peoples'", said the statement, carried by Itar-Tass.

In the past two months, Khasbulatov has isolated his rebellious deputy speaker, disbanded three parliamentary committees and threatened to do the same to two others, all led by lawmakers who have vocally opposed the Speaker's views.

Some lawmakers saw these moves as a campaign to reduce the influence of 10 leading moderate legislators who signed a statement last month criticizing Khasbulatov for his opposition to Yeltsin and calling for greater cooperation with the Constitutional Assembly.

"A witch hunt has begun in the Supreme Soviet", said Alexander Pochinok, the chairman of the budget committee who has recently become a leading critic of the speaker.

Last week Khasbulatov forced through a motion reorganizing parliament's legislative committee into two new subcommittees, in the process removing its chairman, moderate lawmaker Mikhail Mityukov.

Khasbulatov is also rumored to be considering calling for a report on another signee of the statement, Sergei Stepashin, who chairs the committee on defense and security, with the purpose of removing him.

After winning an April 25 referendum on confidence in his rule, Yeltsin convened the Constitutional Assembly on June 5 to draft a new constitution for Russia that would give him greater powers at the expense of the conservative-dominated legislature.

Khasbulatov contends that Yeltsin's proposed constitution would create a dictatorship and holds that only the legislature has the right to adopt a new charter. The speaker has used his considerable power to impose his will in the parliament.

Last week's motion to disband the legislative committee failed to pass twice. Then Khasbulatov told deputies that if they did not "make the right decision", he would put the question to the next session of the Congress of People's Deputies. He then put the motion up for a third vote, and it passed.

Konstantin Zlobin, Khasbulatov's spokesman, said Monday that the vote on the legislative committee had not been "political revenge".

"It was not a decision of the chairman, but the Supreme Soviet", Zlobin said in a telephone interview.

Khasbulatov's critics point to similar reorganizations, supported by the speaker, of the parliamentary committees on economic reform and on mass media, each of which had been led by a Yeltsin supporter.

Deputy speaker Nikolai Ryabov, a former Khasbulatov ally, said the speaker "has thrown off the mask of democrat he has been wearing and has begun to impose his personal dictatorship".