Russian lawmakers backed down Friday from their confrontation with President Boris Yeltsin by killing a proposal to start impeachment proceedings.
Instead, the parliament demanded that Yeltsin fire his “power ministers” - those in charge of the army and security forces - for their handling of a hostage crisis and the war in secessionist Chechnya.
Some lawmakers hope a compromise on the Cabinet posts will avert a showdown with Yeltsin when parliament holds another no-confidence vote in his government July 1.
On Thursday, Yeltsin all but doomed the lower house of parliament to being disbanded unless the largely hostile State Duma makes an about-face and votes confidence in his government.
Yeltsin rejected a no-confidence vote passed Wednesday - the first ever in his government - and his prime minister ordered a second vote to be taken within 10 days. A second no-confidence vote would give Yeltsin authority to disband parliament and call new elections.
Although many lawmakers were defiant, saying they welcomed early elections, there were signs some might be satisfied by a Cabinet shakeup. The power ministers’ performance is to be discussed next week at a meeting of Yeltsin’s Security Council.
“If the president follows the parliament’s advice to dismiss the power ministers, the second vote of no-confidence in July might not take place,” reformist lawmaker Irina Khakamada told the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Lawmakers voted unanimously to form a conciliation commission to work with Yeltsin on Cabinet changes.
The impeachment measure, brought by the Communist Party, fell 54 votes short of the 226 needed to get on the agenda.
Even some of the president’s sharpest critics spoke against it. Vladimir Isakov, an influential hard-liner, warned his colleagues against “making a political mess that will lead to a really explosive situation.”
Yeltsin disbanded the previous parliament during a protracted power struggle in 1993, then turned tanks and guns on its rioting defenders.
Centrist lawmaker Vladimir Lukin dismissed impeachment as “groundless” and called it “an extremist proposal that undermines the political system.”
The president and the ministers in charge of the army and security forces have been accused of bungling the war in Chechnya, which has killed thousands of people, and the response to a related hostage crisis in southern Russia.
Chechen gunmen held 2,000 people hostage in the city of Budyonnovsk for nearly a week before fleeing back to Chechnya on Tuesday. More than 120 people died in their surprise attack on the town and in subsequent assaults by Russian forces.