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Russian leaders win vote

The Russian government averted a political showdown Saturday when Parliament failed to gather the 226 votes needed to pass a vote of no confidence.

Had the measure passed, President Boris Yeltsin would have been forced either to dismiss his Cabinet or to dissolve the legislature and hold early elections.

Seconds after the voting ended, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin strode to the podium in what looked a little like a victory lap. Speaking ingratiatingly, though, he said the vote "has drawn a line through the crisis."

"Today, our common position, our compromise, has shown the whole country that the federal government is capable of making responsible decisions," he said.

Chernomyrdin has cast himself as a decisive leader seeking a peaceful end to the war in separatist Chechnya, attributed to Yeltsin's hawkish "power ministers," and he emerged from this latest crisis with his prestige enhanced.

Yeltsin had made it clear that if pushed, he would dissolve Parliament rather than dismiss his government. And many political factions seemed less than keen to give up their seats _ and privileges _ to run in early elections.

Saturday's results were by no means certain, though. To appease the restive and belligerent Parliament, Yeltsin on Friday accepted the resignation of three ministers associated with the Chechen war and the botched operation to free hostages taken by Chechens in southern Russia. He also dismissed the governor of the region where the hostage-taking occurred.

Yeltsin did not rid himself of his most unpopular adviser, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, but the last-minute sacrifice of three others gave members of Parliament a face-saving opportunity to back down from their first, non-binding vote of no confidence on June 21.

Saturday's vote of no confidence had the support of 193 deputies, with 117 against and 48 absentions. While many deputies and government officials expressed relief after the vote, plenty of other politicians expressed disappointment or outrage.

"Those who voted for no confidence a week ago and changed their minds today have lost face," said Sergei Glazyev, a leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, a nationalist faction of the opposition. "Many deputies trembled and gave in to the promises," he added, referring to hectic negotiations and concessions made by the government to crucial legislators before the vote.

Like other opposition members, Glazyev said he was not appeased by Yeltsin's ouster of his ministers of security, interior and nationalities.

Communists and ultranationalists, for example, had voted against the government for its economic reform policies, not its handling of the Chechen war.

While it was Yeltsin who dismissed advisers who had served him loyally, if not necessarily well, Chernomyrdin seemed to have reaped most of the rewards.

After stepping in and personally negotiating the safe release of the hostages last month on live television, Chernomyrdin was seen Saturday standing down Parliament. And he is unlikely to regret the departure of the ministers of interior and security, who were his rivals in the Kremlin.

Yeltsin has not announced his candidates for the vacant Cabinet posts. But Chernomyrdin is pressing ahead with peace talks, which resumed Saturday in Grozny, Chechnya's capital.

The Chechen delegation announced that rebels would unilaterally destroy some of their heavy weapons to show support for Chernomyrdin's policies.

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