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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies Call On President To Resign

The State Duma on Friday seized on a special session requested by Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko to heap abuse on his government and call for him and President Boris Yeltsin to resign, with even Yeltsin's usual allies joining in.

By a vote of 245-32, the deputies in parliament's lower house passed a resolution that "recommends" Yeltsin step down in the wake of Monday's ruble devaluation and government debt default. The measure carries only rhetorical force.

Yeltsin, appearing publicly for the first time since his government let the ruble fall, dismissed the Duma's move as "routine procedures."

"Such a thing could happen in our country, but people seem to forget that there already is a president," Yeltsin said upon arriving in Murmansk to review naval exercises.

His face showed signs of puffiness and he appeared to have trouble hearing the questions of reporters who met him at the airport, Reuters reported. The president devoted most of his comments, shown on the television evening news, to criticizing the U.S. strikes against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan.

The special Duma session was requested by the government to consider tax measures aimed at strengthening its rickety finances, a major cause of the devaluation and government debt default. The International Monetary Fund has pressed Russia to take such steps as a condition for getting continued disbursements of the $22.6 billion in emergency loans granted in July.

But the deputies showed no inclination to talk about taxes. They spent the entire session roasting the government and the IMF, whom some leftist politicians blame for pushing Russia into austerity moves they say hurt ordinary people.

"This bitter soup that Russia must now swallow was brewed in the kitchen of the IMF," said Agrarian Party leader Nikolai Kharitonov, sponsor of the resolution calling on Yeltsin to resign.

"We are in a new situation that has brought Russia to the edge of the abyss," said Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. "It is not the ruble that has lost its value, but the Russian Federation."

He said the Duma would push forward with an effort to impeach Yeltsin. The constitution, which favors presidential power, makes it unlikely that will succeed, however.

Zyuganov also raised the possibility of a no-confidence vote that could lead to new elections or dismissal of the government, saying he had the 90 signatures necessary to start the procedure and would present them to the Duma leadership council.

The Communists have made similar initiatives before only to back down, fearing for their own prospects in early elections.

While the Communists call for Yeltsin to resign on almost a weekly basis, what was new Friday was the willingness of centrist parties such as Russia's Regions and Our Home Is Russia to join in demanding ministers' heads.

Our Home Is Russia faction leader Alexander Shokhin lined up with Zyuganov, saying "I share Gennady Andreyevich's opinion that we ... have no government." While opposing Yeltsin's resignation, Shokhin said the president should hold consultations with the various parties about replacing Kiriyenko.

Shokhin said he would favor the return of Kiriyenko's predecessor, Viktor Chernomyrdin, fired by Yeltsin on March 23.

Liberal Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky said he had "total lack of confidence in the government and the president," but said the Duma and Chernomyrdin also bore responsibility for the country's financial state.

"All the budgets and all the foreign borrowing were approved here by a majority of the State Duma," he said. "We ought not to forget this."

Kiriyenko, joined by Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin, said the government had taken drastic but necessary steps. He vowed to move ahead with additional measures by decree if the Duma refuses to act on legislation.

"We had to take measures to protect the banking system and prevent the outflow of capital," Kiriyenko said. "The decision was tough and difficult, but it was thought through."

The prime minister, who usually sticks to economic issues when addressing the deputies, this time took a political jab at the opposition, saying they weren't ready to take over even if they had the chance.

"Let's be frank: There is no political force in the country willing to take upon itself the responsibility for the economic crisis," said Kiriyenko, raising his voice to be heard over a chorus of deputies' catcalls.

Zadornov warned that the government, which has relied on heavy foreign and domestic borrowing to finance large deficits, will be cut off from foreign lenders for at least a year and must now fall back on its own resources.

The government was considering unspecified new controls "on the movement of capital and hard currency operations" in response to the crisis, the finance minister said.

He said the deputies, "having looked truth in the face should return to these issues and pass measures that enable the government to meet its obligations."

The motion for Yeltsin to resign was criticized by some deputies for merely recommending the president quit -- a move that has no constitutional force whatsoever.

But ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky said, "We can make recommendations to anyone we want. We could recommend [U.S. President Bill] Clinton resign for bombing Afghanistan."

The Duma has scheduled a session Tuesday and possibly Wednesday to take up the revenue-raising and economic legislation. In sessions in June and July, the deputies showed little willingness to raise taxes, rejecting most substantial measures, though they did approve a 5 percent regional sales tax favored by provincial officials.