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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Threat to Impeach Yeltsin Fading

President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday defended his right to order a withdrawal of the last two Russian divisions from Chechnya, even as threats to impeach him over the issue at a special State Duma session Friday appeared to be fading away.


In a show of Yeltsin's resolve on the eve of a potentially raucous parliament debate, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told a news briefing that the president is ultimately responsible for deciding matters concerning Russia's territorial sovereignty.


"The president is the supreme military commander and is fully entitled to take decisions on the stationing and movement of troops," Yastrzhembsky said.


Opposition Duma deputies had labeled Yeltsin's decision to withdraw all Russian troops from the rebel republic as a full concession to Chechen independence, and several had threatened to introduce a motion to impeach the president.


The motion lost much of its firepower, however, when three Duma committees -- those covering defense, legislation and security -- all concluded Thursday that Yeltsin's decree kept to the word of both the Constitution and previous federal legislation.


The Duma also concluded that the agreement signed Nov. 23 between Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, which sets up a framework for future agreements on Chechnya, has no legal force.


But deputies will press ahead with a debate on a vote of no-confidence in the government. According to the Constitution, if the Duma votes no-confidence in the government twice within a three-month period, then the president must choose either to dismiss the government or dissolve the Duma.


Yeltsin's tough stance was highlighted by his refusal to send a personal representative to Friday's session; instead, he ordered deputies to be issued with the full set of agreements already reached with Chechnya, including the August cease-fire signed in Khasavyurt, calling for a troop withdrawal and a five-year moratorium on discussions of the republic's political status.


Opposition leader Gennady Zyuganov on Thursday added to his previous bitter attacks on Yeltsin's decision to quit Chechnya, but refused to confirm that his faction would support a vote of no-confidence.


"Today we are approaching a stage when the territorial disintegration of Russia is becoming a to blackball the government.


"The president is sick. Let him get better," Zyuganov said.


Meanwhile, doctors said Yeltsin, who is convalescing from heart surgery at the Barvikha sanitorium outside Moscow, is making a speedy recovery and may visit the Kremlin some time next week. Sergei Mironov, chief Kremlin physician, told reporters that Yeltsin "will be able to work at the Kremlin practically at his normal rhythm" by Dec. 15 or 20.


The president's decision on troop withdrawal earned much more favorable reviews from Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky. While saying he held Yeltsin personally responsible for starting the 21-month long war -- in which, by some estimates, 100,000 people were killed -- Yavlinsky berated the Duma opposition for using the demilitarization of Chechnya for political gain.


"We categorically oppose the generation of an atmosphere of hysteria around the process of normalizing the situation in Chechnya, the process of developing a dialogue and the negotiation process," Yavlinsky said.


He further accused Zyuganov of opportunism. Claiming the Communist leader holds weekly meetings with Chernomyrdin during which the two coordinate their policies, Yavlinsky said Zyuganov has long been aware of the decision to withdraw all troops from Chechnya.


Several political analysts agreed that Zyuganov's apparently tough stance on troop withdrawal is only a performance meant to appease the more radical elements of the left opposition.


Former presidential adviser Otto Latsis, writing in Friday's edition of Izvestia, said the opposition is in a state of flux over Yeltsin's exceptionally quick return to the political fray; expecting early elections, Zyuganov had placed the Communists in the role of the "most legitimate" opposition party.


"Now [Viktor] Anpilov or some other horseman may overtake Zyuganov on the home stretch," Latsis wrote, noting that Zyuganov must reposition himself to seem accessible to the more nationalist elements of his party.


"Most likely, it will all be nothing more than loud sound effects," Latsis wrote of the communist's threat to support a no-confidence vote.


Yury Korgunyuk, of the INDEM think tank, said that on a personal level, Zyuganov cannot stand conflict, "and would be glad to hug and make up with Chernomyrdin and even [presidential chief of staff Anatoly] Chubais," had his party let him.Until recently, Zyuganov had limited open altercation with the government because he was eyeing a future political alliance with Chernomyrdin, Korgunyuk said. Yeltsin's recovery is making Communists look further into the political future, he added.