President Yeltsin met yesterday with Marat Baglai, newly-elected chairman of Russia’s Constitutional Court. Yeltsin told Baglai that "in no circumstances" should there be any talk about amending Russia’s 1993 constitution, and called for an end to debate over the topic. "Unfortunately," Yeltsin said, "even the Constitutional Court has some judges who criticize the constitution. This is inadmissible. They should respect the constitution." (NTV, Itar-Tass, February 24) Baglai is not believed to have been Yeltsin’s first choice for the post, but the Russian president must have been pleased with the views he has been expressing since his election. Baglai told a TV interview over the weekend that he considers it "untimely and inexpedient" to amend the Russia constitution at the present time. (Russian Radio, February 20; NTV, February 22) These remarks are not academic; they are part of a highly-charged political debate over Yeltsin’s future role.
The Duma is actively engaged in drafting a constitutional amendment that would specify how a president incapacitated by sickness should be replaced. Its Legislation Committee has turned down a confrontational draft submitted by Yeltsin’s chief parliamentary opponent, Communist deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, but is instead considering a draft worked out by nationalists Sergei Baburin and Stanislav Govorukhin. Yeltsin warned on Sunday that he will take unspecified retaliatory measures against the Duma if it persists in its attempts to remove him from office. (Itar-Tass, February 24) Yeltsin will need to be sure he can depend on the Constitutional Court if he intends to clash with parliament.
Progress in NATO-Russia Talks?