MPs in fury at proposed Yeltsin deal: Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of Russia's parliament, is seriously weakened after deputies rebel against his accord with the President

THE INSURRECTION has begun to devour its own. Enraged by an invitation to sign its own death warrant, Russia's Congress of People's Deputies has turned, like a Frankenstein monster, on its creator.

Elected nearly three years ago under Communism, the Congress had until yesterday focused its anger on President Boris Yeltsin and his reforms, chipping away at his authority and savaging his policies.

But with 1,033 members and 14 different factions, the Congress was never a focused forum of opposition. It has delivered lopsided majorities against Mr Yeltsin, forced him to dump his prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, and revelled in its role under the constitution as the 'supreme organ of state authority'.

Its success in undermining Mr Yeltsin, though, depended to a large extent on the skill and cunning of its chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, a former professor who first came to prominence by defying the 1991 coup. After the putsch, though, an alliance with Mr Yeltsin turned into bitter rivarly.

Backed by a powerful parliamentary bureaucracy, Mr Khasbulatov turned the Congress and a smaller standing parliament, the Supreme Soviet, into a battering ram against radical free-market reform. His power sprang from his ability to impose a fragile order on parliament's feuding factions, imperiously cutting off debate, ramming through votes and dispensing favours.

Yesterday, though, he lost control. Congress rebelled and tried to sack him. He survived, as did President Yeltsin, but he is badly wounded. Hugely unpopular with the public and handicapped by his non-Russian origins as a Chechen, he has no power base outside parliament. His struggle with Mr Yeltsin, though tinged with bitter personal antagonism, was always rooted in a a deeper struggle between the legislature and executive. This struggle will rage on. But Mr Yeltsin was last night claiming victory.

The revolt against Mr Khasbulatov followed his announcement yesterday morning of a proposed deal to end a power struggle that has paralysed Russian government for months and raised the spectre of violent confrontation.

The deal, like an early pact in December, was worked out in all-night negotiations between Mr Khasbulatov, Mr Yeltsin, and the head of the Constitutional Court, Valery Zorkin. It called for elections in November and the abolition of Congress in favour of a smaller bi-cameral legislature. Anticipating trouble, Mr Kashbulatov ended a brief statement with a diffident call for debate: 'Now if you wish, we can exchange opinions.'

The Great Kremlin Palace erupted. A parade of deputies stalked to the podium to denouce the deal as treachery. 'Yesterday you said that Russia was fed up with us. Well, maybe,' fumed Vladimir Isakov, a leader of the conservative Agrarian faction. 'Excuse me but we are fed up with you.'

Finally, after months of quarrels over arcane points of constitutional law, the real issue is out in the open: it is survival. Mr Khasbulatov violated the one thing all Mr Yeltsin's opponents could agree on - the need to preserve their own positions.

In rebelling so angrily, deputies may have delayed their own extinction but they have not halted it. Without Mr Khasbulatov's firm hand, Congress risks splitting into raucous disarray. Nearly 90 per cent of its members are former Communist Party members but there is little to hold them together beyond a general dislike of reform. During the past three Congresses, two of them emergency sessions, conservatives have mustered solid majorities of around 650 votes. Mr Yeltsin's supporters can count on only 240.

But the conservatives are divided. The largest bloc, Russian Unity, has four separate factions, embracing neo-fascists, nationalists and state farm managers with no real interest other than stopping land reform. Their anger at Mr Khasbulatov has been brewing since December, when he reached his earlier deal with Mr Yeltsin. He later rejected the pact as the 'work of the devil'. Whether he can recover from yesterday's ordeal though seems less likely. The rage he directed so successfuly against Mr Yeltsin has been turned on him.

'The Congress is not a monster out to destroy everything,' said Mr Zorkin, before the current session. Mr Yeltsin was not convinced. After yesterday, Mr Khasbulatov may have his doubts too.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Manchester United's kit for the 2014/15 season
football
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
peopleNobel laureate was a powerful anti-Apartheid voice
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Comms / Digital Marketing Specialist

Not Specified: Recruitment Genius: An exciting and rewarding role exists for a...

Search Engine Optimisation/ SEO Executive

£25000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Electronics Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: My client are l...

Programme Planner

£30000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor