Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 119

On June 19, the State Duma voted overwhelmingly to set up a parliamentary commission to examine charges brought against President Boris Yeltsin by the 215 parliamentarians who earlier signed an appeal for his impeachment. Only Vladimir Zhirinovsky, unpredictable as ever, voted against. (RTR, June 19) The all-party, fifteen-member commission, to be chaired by Communist deputy Vadim Filimonov, must now decide whether there are grounds for treason or other serious crimes. If it decides there are, and if its recommendation is supported by at least two-thirds of the Duma’s 450 deputies, plus the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, then the Federation Council can impeach the president by that same two-thirds majority.

The president’s representative to parliament, Aleksandr Kotenkov, protested that the Duma set no time limit on the commission’s investigation. The omission seems deliberate, however. Given the complexity of the procedures involved, the president is highly unlikely to be impeached. Nor, many suspect, does parliament really hope to impeach him. Its main motive is to head off any attempt by Yeltsin to dissolve the Duma. (According to the constitution, the Duma may not be dissolved while impeachment charges are pending.)

The move to impeach has attracted strong support from eighty coal miners from the Arctic town of Vorkuta who are picketing the Russian government building in Moscow. (Russian agencies, June 19) Their leader, Aleksandr Sergeev, said the miners had backed reforms since their inception and supported Yeltsin’s reelection in 1996. They have, however, finally lost patience with the government and are now calling for fresh presidential elections. (Financial Times, June 12) They are likely be disappointed when they realize that many Duma members are more interested in securing their own government positions than in getting rid of Yeltsin. Nor has the impeachment campaign satisfied the Communist Party’s small but vocal radical wing. On June 20, a meeting of the party’s Central Committee heard Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin call on the party leadership not to stop at cumbersome measures such as impeachment. The party, Ilyukhin declared, had the right to use any means, “including illegal ones,” to rid Russia of the present regime. (RTR, June 20) The minister of justice said he would investigate Ilyukhin’s call. (ORT, June 1998)