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World - Europe

Yeltsin fires prime minister on eve of impeachment hearings

Yeltsin announces he has fired his prime minister

Watch Yeltsin's announcement (in Russian)
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May 12, 1999
Web posted at: 10:54 a.m. EDT (1454 GMT)

In this story:

Impeachment proceedings continue


MOSCOW (CNN) -- Claiming Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had done little to improve Russia's ailing economy, President Boris Yeltsin fired him Wednesday -- the day before the communist-led State Duma was to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.

The decision, Yeltsin said, was "a difficult but necessary one."

"We are just treading water," he said. "The economy is not working. What we need is a clever breakthrough, not just prudence."

Yeltsin named his interior minister, Sergei Stepashin, to serve as acting prime minister, and submitted Stepashin's name to the legislature for approval as the permanent prime minister. Stepashin, a longtime Yeltsin ally, also heads Russia's police forces and internal security units.

Primakov, 69, was a compromise choice for prime minister last September when the Duma rejected three other Yeltsin candidates.

Reports in Russia indicated that the Duma planned to appeal the dismissal. Lawmakers called an emergency session, scheduled for Friday, to discuss the situation.

The president said during his address that Primakov had given his support to Stepashin.

Primakov, speaking at a final meeting of the Cabinet, said that the government had "done our job as we could, professionally, and I believe it has been good."

Impeachment proceedings continue

The lower chamber of parliament is to begin impeachment hearings on Thursday against Yeltsin. The president had indicated he might remove Primakov or other senior government ministers to hit back at the Communist-dominated Duma, where Primakov had strong support.

Yeltsin can make three nominations for premier. If they are all rejected by the Duma, the president can then dissolve Parliament and call new elections within three months. Yeltsin would govern by decree with a temporary prime minister during that period.

Primakov had urged the leaders of parliamentary factions Wednesday to drop the impeachment motion and said Yeltsin must serve out his term, which ends next summer.

"I told them point blank: We are categorically against impeachment," Primakov said. "Impeachment doesn't go into the channel of achieving... stability."

Gennady Zyuganov, who heads the Communist faction in the Duma, insisted Tuesday that the impeachment hearings would go ahead. He dodged journalists' questions when asked if he was confident of success.

"What Yeltsin is doing is a political default which will be followed by an economic default," Zyuganov said.

Yeltsin faces five impeachment charges, including instigating the 1991 Soviet Union collapse, improperly using force against hard-line lawmakers in 1993, launching the botched 1994-96 war in Chechnya, ruining the nation's military and waging genocide against the Russian people by pursuing economic policies that impoverished the country.

The charge on Chechnya is the only one with a reasonable chance of attracting enough votes to be approved.

Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed this report.

Russian Duma schedules debate on ousting Yeltsin
May 11, 1999
Yeltsin says Russia "will spare no effort" to end war in Yugoslavia
May 9, 1999
Russian rivals set sights on presidency
October 11, 1998

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