• ACI Russia

08/23/1998 11:37:38 Yeltsin returning to work facing calls to resign

By Andrei Khalip

MOSCOW, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin

returns to his Kremlin desk on Monday after more than a month on

holiday to face a deepening economic crisis that has prompted

opponents to demand his resignation.

He will meet his prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, on Monday

to discuss the outlook, Interfax news agency said on Sunday.

"The situation is heated beyond the limit and it depends

only on actions by Boris Yeltsin," the influential Kommersant

Daily newspaper said in its Saturday edition.

While Yeltsin has been away, Russia's stock market has sunk

and treasury bill yields -- the return investors demand for

lending money to the government -- have soared.

The managing body of the State Duma or lower house of

parliament will meet on Monday to consider a Communist-proposed

motion of no confidence in Kiriyenko's government.

It will also decide the agenda of the chamber's

extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, when deputies are to debate

the government's recent steps to combat the crisis and consider

some long-proposed austerity bills.

Russia is also due to unveil a debt restructuring plan on

Monday, converting an estimated $40 billion worth of short-term

debt into longer-term paper. Despite official denials, foreign

investors fear the plan will favour Russians at their expense.

At an extraordinary meeting on Friday, the Duma lashed out

at the government, which last Monday announced a de facto

devaluation of the rouble and what many analysts said amounted

to a debt default in a bid to shore up the financial system.

The Communists, the strongest party in the Duma, insist that

a coalition cabinet of "national trust" should be set up.

The chamber also approved a resolution recommending that

Yeltsin resign voluntarily. Opponents now say renewal and change

can be achieved only if Yeltsin steps aside.

A Duma commission reviewing charges against Yeltsin under a

Communist-proposed impeachment bid will also meet on Monday. It

is all but impossible to impeach the president under Russia's

constitution, approved under Yeltsin's rule.

But Yegor Stroyev, speaker of the upper house of parliament,

threw his weight behind Yeltsin and Kiriyenko on Saturday,

dismissing calls for them to resign.

"We've had enough state coups," he said. "We must learn to

reach constructive agreements."

The Federation Council, as the upper house is known, holds

its own special session on the crisis on Friday. It is made up

of regional leaders and so gives Russia's 89 regions a chance to

express their views.

Russian newspapers on Saturday said that trust in Yeltsin

was at a low ebb after months of crisis.

"Today the president's political weight has just about

reached a minimum and the reserves of trust in him among his

opponents have practically run out," Kommersant said, adding

that the leftist opposition might try to take the power.

"Will we wake up in the same country on Monday? The

president must give an answer," it said.

Foreign leaders are worried that the financial problems

could spark concerted labour or social unrest in Russia and that

the crisis could have a knock-on effect on other countries'


German Chancellor Helmut Kohl discussed the situation with

Yeltsin by telephone on Saturday and French President Jacques

Chirac had a telephone conversation with him on Thursday.

The European Union urged Russia on Saturday to stick to its

policy of economic reform and implement fully a package of

measures agreed with the International Monetary Fund, which

threw Russia a multi-billion-dollar lifeline last month.

Apart from dealing with domestic problems this week, Yeltsin

will hold talks with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong on

Tuesday, and with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on Friday.

Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton are to meet for a

summit on September 1 and 2.

Yeltsin began his holiday in the northern Karelia region on

July 18, but then moved to the Valday lakeland in the Novgorod

region on August 4. He also spent several days in his two

residences outside Moscow.

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