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Yeltsin Appeals to People for Support

President Boris Yeltsin, facing an impeachment threat from the Congress of People's Deputies, appealed directly to the people of Russia for support Thursday and said that he would not back down from his plan to hold a nationwide vote of confidence in his presidency.

In an address aired on Commonwealth television, Yeltsin urged deputies arriving in Moscow for an emergency session of the Congress to find the strength necessary to avoid sending the nation into deeper crisis.

"Remember If the Congress makes historically erroneous decisions, it will plunge the people into an abyss of confrontation", he said, speaking at 9: 40 P. M. after the evening news.

The Congress, which convenes Friday morning, has been called to discuss Yeltsin's announcement of special measures to resolve the intense power struggle over who should rule Russia.

Parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, who has been on the offensive against Yeltsin ail week, backed down Thursday and said he did not support impeaching the president.

"I am not a supporter of impeachment", he told reporters in the wings of parliament Thursday afternoon. "Impeachment is an extreme measure. I don't think that among all the possible measures we should immediately talk about the most extreme one".

But in a television interview aired one hour before Yeltsin's on Thursday evening, Khasbulatov again sharply criticized the president for putting himself "above the Constitution".

"This has frightened society and forced the deputies to remember their constitutional obligations", he said.

The Supreme Soviet voted to convene the Congress, Russia's highest legislature, after the Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that Yeltsin's plan for rule by decree, announced in a television address last Saturday, violated the Constitution on several counts.

If the Congress decides that Yeltsin is in breach of the Constitution, it could, by a two-thirds majority vote, impeach him. But even the president's opponents concede that getting the required 689 out of 1, 033 votes necessary for impeachment would be difficult.

As delegates poured into Moscow from the farthest comers of Russia, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev flew home from Washington to offer his support to the embattled president, who has received the firm backing of the leaders of the Western world as the crisis here has escalated.

In an interview with Interfax, Kozyrev said that a special ministerial meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations would be held in mid-April in Tokyo to discuss emergency aid to Russia.

Although parliament was quiet Thursday, political maneuvering continued throughout the day.

Yeltsin held talks with Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, although details of their discussion were not available. If impeachment were to proceed, the vice president -- who has spoken out strongly against the chief executive over the last week -- would theoretically take over from Yeltsin.

Sergei Shakhrai, a presidential aide, told reporters that the powerful secretary of Yeltsin's Security Council, Yury Skokov, might step down, but this could not be confirmed. Skokov, along with Rutskoi, Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin and Public Prosecutor Valentin Stepankov, distanced themselves from the president immediately after he announced that he intended to impose "special rule".

Yeltsin, who has sent a message to parliament saying that he would ignore any impeachment order, is expected to address the Congress on Friday, according to Russian Television.

In his evening speech, a stem-looking Yeltsin reproached the Constitutional Court for its ruling, which was based on his Saturday television address, and not the decree itself, which he issued in a softened form Wednesday. The decree bears no mention of the "special rule" the president described in his address.

"One of the scenarios for overthrowing the president has been brought to life", said Yeltsin, who appeared far more sure of himself than he did Saturday night. "This is being done in the deputie's hands, behind the back of Russia's citizens and constituents".

Khasbulatov, while less bellicose than usual, said the only thing that could break the impasse would be if the president went before the Congress and declared he had been wrong.

He said the president was heading down a dangerous path of "monopolism of power" and attacked Yeltsin for forging a Russian foreign policy far too beholden to Western interests.

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