Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 64

The State Duma yesterday voted down a motion to ask Russia’s Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the December 31, 1999 decree signed by Vladimir Putin which gave Boris Yeltsin immunity from prosecution following his resignation as Russian president. The motion, which was put forward by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), lost by a vote of 144 to 136, with 27 abstentions, with members of the Unity party and other pro-Kremlin deputies voting against. The KPRF can send its own request to the Constitutional Court if it is backed by ninety Duma deputies. While those who voted in favor of the measure were primarily KPRF faction members, eight members of the Fatherland-All Russia coalition, including its leader, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, also did so (Moscow Times, March 30).

The New Year’s Eve decree granting Yeltsin immunity from prosecution was Putin’s first as acting head of state. Yesterday, just prior to the vote, Vladimir Lukin, a Duma deputy speaker and a member of the Yabloko faction, said that immunity guarantees for former presidents were necessary for the time being. Lukin, who voted against the KPRF initiative, said that while “theoretically” no one should be higher than the law, “certain conditions” had to be created to guarantee the “continuity” and “constitutionality” of the transfer of executive power.

Lukin also said that the KPRF had probably put forward the measure challenging Putin’s decree granting Yeltsin immunity out of “inertia” (Russian agencies, March 29). Indeed, the KPRF leadership, as usual, probably calculated that the motion would be a good way to raise the opposition flag for the anti-Yeltsin faithful without provoking consequences, and that it would provide good cover for future cooperation with the Putin government. KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov came in a distant second in last Sunday’s presidential election.