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By Natalia Yefimova Staff Writer

Duma Deputies Call for Seleznyov's Head

The Moscow Times, March 25, 2002

In what would amount to opening a new front in its war on terrorism, the United States is considering sending 100 to 200 U.S. special operations soldiers to Georgia, adding to the U.S. helicopters and handful of advisers already in Tbilisi to help the Three top lawmakers called on the State Duma's procedures committee Friday to get the ball rolling for a vote on dismissing the chamber's speaker, Gennady Seleznyov. The move was one of several attacks against Seleznyov by fellow deputies over the past week, but politicians and analysts said the campaign to unseat the Communist speaker could prove successful only with the blessing of the Kremlin, which has thus far remained neutral on the issue.

The request submitted Friday was signed by the head of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction, Vladimir Pekhtin, the deputy leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction, Farida Gainullina, and the first deputy chief of the liberal Union of Right Forces (SPS) faction, Boris Nadezhdin, Interfax reported.

The idea of electing a new speaker was first floated Wednesday when the Duma voted 245-159 to strip Seleznyov of his deciding vote on the State Duma Council, the body that determines the chamber's agenda. That vote had been initiated by the pro-Kremlin centrist coalition that holds sway over the Duma's decision-making.

Speaking Saturday at the end of a four-day visit to Spain, Seleznyov called the campaign against him the result of a "political order" and said he intended to "uncover those who ordered it" upon his return to Moscow, Interfax reported. Seleznyov was due back in the capital Sunday but was to leave the following day for St. Petersburg, where he would remain until Friday, his spokesman Sergei Bukharov said.

Many liberal Duma deputies were critical of the anti-Seleznyov effort and speculated that the Unity-led centrist coalition, which played a key role in winning Seleznyov the speaker's seat, was now attempting to force a redistribution of top posts in the Duma. Most of the current committee chairmanships were doled out after the December 1999 parliamentary elections as part of a deal between the centrists and the Communists, which drew heated protest from the smaller liberal factions, SPS and Yabloko.

Sergei Ivanenko, first deputy head of the Yabloko faction, called the move to oust Seleznyov part of "the centrist deputies' offensive aimed at destroying the package deal on the chamber's top posts," Interfax reported.

Alexander Barannikov, deputy leader of the SPS faction, agreed that the centrists would demand some personnel changes, Interfax said. He speculated that Unity and its allies could be angling for two committees now controlled by the Communists -- on economic policy and on labor and social policy.

Under this scenario, it was not clear whether the centrists would be hoping to get the committee posts in exchange for agreeing in the end to keep Seleznyov in the speaker's post, or whether they would need to oust Seleznyov to claim the committee posts. One of the deputies publicly spearheading the attack against Seleznyov is Gennady Raikov, leader of the People's Deputy group.

Raikov has initiated an investigation by the Duma's procedures committee into an advisory council that operates under Seleznyov. Committee chief Oleg Kovalyov, a Unity member, said Friday that the advisory council uses "official Duma stationary to offer paid legal services to businessmen and other individuals" and the charge is 50 to 90 rubles a day, Interfax reported. Kovalyov could not be reached Friday for further

Seleznyov told reporters in Spain that he was not aware of the accusations. Both Yabloko's Ivanenko and Barannikov of SPS predicted that the moves to oust Seleznyov -- which will likely resume at the Duma's next plenary session on April 3 -- can work only with the Kremlin's backing.

"I think it won't be an easy task because Seleznyov is loyal to the Kremlin and it seems no one there is harboring plans to replace him," Barannikov said.

So far, the Kremlin has stayed on the sidelines of the conflict. President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Duma, Alexander Kotenkov, said Friday that replacing the speaker would destabilize the chamber's work but the decision "to elect and re-elect its speaker is exclusively the Duma's internal problem."

Political analyst Alexei Mukhin of the Center for Political Information said the campaign against Seleznyov could have been facilitated by factionalism within the Communist Party itself, where many consider Seleznyov a traitor. Mukhin said it was possible that the centrists, aware of this friction, have simply taken advantage of it.

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The Moscow Times, March 25, 2002

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