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Russian Legislature Delays Vote On Impeachment of Boris Yeltsin

By Sharon LaFraniere
THE WASHINGTON POST -- MOSCOW

Russia’s lower house of parliament Monday put off a vote on whether to impeach President Boris Yeltsin, a victory for the president over his Communist foes.

Even though few expected that the State Duma would vote to impeach Yeltsin, the Kremlin wanted to avoid a debate. Political analysts said that Monday’s decision likely means an end to the Communist-led impeachment drive, unless a Kremlin scandal erupts, or Yeltsin fires Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov or Communist ministers in the Cabinet.

Communists are trying simply “to preserve this saber over the head of the president, without actually hoping to succeed,” said Igor Bunin, a political analyst.

The prosecutor general, whom Yeltsin is seeking to oust, has threatened to expose high-level corruption if he doesn’t keep his job, and Yeltsin has hinted that he may reshuffle the government yet again.

On Friday, Yeltsin said Primakov was “useful” for now but that the Cabinet “needs reinforcement.” His remarks provoked a flurry of speculation and warnings of more political instability.

Primakov appealed Saturday to the legislature to drop the impeachment proceedings, saying “such a political game is irresponsible and dangerous” and “could provoke a serious political crisis.”

Yeltsin asked the State Duma either to vote on impeachment or drop the issue, according to his spokesman, Dmitri Yakushkin.

Legislative leaders said impeachment will not be taken up again for at least a month. The Russian stock market reacted to the postponement with a slight rise.

The charges against Yeltsin include accusations of illegally conspiring to dissolve the Soviet Union in 1991; overthrowing the constitutional order and improperly using force against the elected parliament in 1993 and launching the ill-fated war against Chechen separatists from 1994 to 1996.