Even if it passes, mustering 300 votes, the Chechnya- related charge - that of illegally launching the 1994 war - is still likely to die in its infancy.
The next stage is a ruling by the supreme court,which comprises members who are nominated by the President and confirmed by parliament's upper house of parliament. Leaving aside suspicions that the court is biased towards the Kremlin, it seems likely to throw out the Chechnya issue on purely legal grounds, as the constitutional court has already ruled no offence was committed. If that happens, the impeachment process would end.
If the Duma, as expected, refuses three times to confirm Sergei Stepashin - or any other nominee - and impeachment proceedings also fizzle out, the chamber must be dissolved. Mr Yeltsin could then appoint a prime minister, without parliamentary approval, and rule by decree until elections are held. If this happens, the way could be open for a return as premier of Viktor Chernomydin, the little-loved gas baron Mr Yeltsin has tried to groom as a successor. Parliament rejected his nomination last year, and would see his appointment as a declaration of war.
It makes little sense in a country that desperately needs political calm. But, in his present pugilistic form, that consideration is unlikely to deter Mr Yeltsin.Reuse content