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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Split Duma Fails to Curb Yeltsin

The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, mired in internal political feuding, made little headway Friday on attempts to curb President Boris Yeltsin's powers and halt the crackdown in Chechnya.

The chamber threw out draft laws from the reformist Russia's Choice bloc, which would have forbidden the president to use the army inside the country except against an outside invader. Another defeated proposal would have stopped budget resources from being used on the military operation.

It also threw out a proposal obliging the army to publish the names of dead and missing soldiers.

The only draft the chamber accepted in a first reading was put forward by centrist deputy Alexander Piskunov. It amends the law On Defense to read that the president must sign a decree before the armed forces can be used "to carry out tasks for which they were not designated," and then have the decree confirmed by parliament's upper house, the Federation Council.

The Duma also started discussing a series of amendments to the constitution, which would give the Duma more leverage over the president. They did not vote on the amendments.

The tone of Friday's debate suggested most of the chamber was more hostile to the democrats than to Yeltsin.

The Duma passed a cautious motion, agreed by almost all factions, which calls on Yeltsin and the government to take "exhaustive measures to stop military action on the territory of the Chechen republic and to create the conditions for a political settlement of the conflict."

The Duma has passed similar motions before to no effect. Its speaker, Ivan Rybkin, now a permanent member of Yeltsin's Security Council, has been accused by deputies of supporting the campaign and keeping them in the dark.

Lev Ponomaryov, who sponsored the debate on Chechnya, said Yeltsin had "betrayed" his former allies and many in the opposition were now befriending the government.

Ilya Konstantinov, who spent five months in jail for being one of the leaders of the White House rebellion against Yeltsin, said he was pleased by the direction the wind was blowing.

"The situation in Chechnya is a fault line down which a new political shift is occurring," Konstantinov said with satisfaction. "New political forces are forming. It's hard to say what the political scene will look like in the spring, but it's clear that it will be fundamentally different from what we're used to."

But he said he would never support Yeltsin, who "was not a communist, not a democrat and will never be a patriot."

"The main thing which is influencing the military action in Chechnya is a growing anti-war movement," Ponomaryov said.