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Russia: Primakov Political Truce To Undergo Changes

Moscow, 12 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A draft political truce involving the Kremlin, government and parliament appears set to undergo substantial changes after a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and parliamentary leaders.

The two-hour meeting (Feb. 10) in the State Duma resulted in a decision to set up a working group to draw up a plan for amending the truce. The group meets Monday in an inaugural session.

Most observers now believe the original truce proposal by Primakov last month will not be approved in its initial form. Instead, some Duma leaders have indicated they will insist on changing the constitution as part of any truce.

Former Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov, now head of the centrist Our Home is Russia group in the Duma, told RFE/RL's Russian service after the meeting that "every merchant displayed his goods" and that it was agreed that negotiations would start immediately.

Ryzhkov said most factions -- including his own -- are seeking changes in the constitution.

Primakov, who had earlier opposed changes to the constitution, said before the meeting that "now it appears we should think about it." He described the meeting as "very fruitful."

Primakov's original truce was intended to provide stability ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in December 1999 and June 2000. Under the proposal, President Boris Yeltsin would not disband the Duma or sack the cabinet if parliament agreed not to topple the government or to seek Yeltsin's impeachment. The proposal also included a draft bill that would give Yeltsin full immunity from prosecution after his term ends in mid-2000 and a seat in the parliament's upper chamber. Ryzhkov told RFE/RL that this draft is not now under discussion.

The original plan drew sharp criticism from all sides and marked the first open rift between Yeltsin and Primakov. Analysts said Primakov was attempting to strengthen his own position while sidelining the ailing president.

According to Ryzhkov, four main points are now under discussion.

"First, the sides would not propose changes to the constitution without consultations. Second, the president would not dismiss the government without consulting parliament. Third, there would be changes to Russia's electoral legislation. And last, the Duma would approve immediately all draft laws proposed by the government concerning anti-crisis measures."

Primakov's proposal appeared to be running into trouble last week in a meeting of the Security Council, a presidential advisory body. The Kremlin said Yeltsin -- who is keen to show he is still a key force in Russian politics -- had agreed in principle only to consult parliament before sacking the government.

This week, the Communist faction that dominates the Duma then demanded that Yeltsin should be sidelined completely. Duma leaders said they would not agree with Security Council decisions.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov also called for rewriting the constitution and effectively reversing many post-Soviet political reforms. He is demanding the re-nationalization of property and a cutback in presidential powers.

Zyuganov also repeated his calls for constitutional amendments that would abolish nationwide presidential elections. He said the elections, including gubernatorial ones, "have by now become too much of a burden for the country."