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At least on paper, the Russian Federation is a constitutional democracy with the legal possibility of impeaching the President. There were three attempts to remove Yeltsin from office and Wikipedia states that

President Putin is now also facing possible impeachment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_in_Russia (current revisions)

Apart from this statement I have neither read anything about the chances of such a procedure to be initiated nor its predicted success.

Could the reason be that in today's Russia anyone who publicly pursues an impeachment procedure would face serious threats? Or would there simply never be a majority to make it succeed?

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  • 19
    I do want to note that your quoted section has no source in the article and could legitimately be propaganda.
    – uberhaxed
    Mar 19 at 11:55
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    There were three attempts to remove Yeltsin from office - 1993 Russian constitutional crisis was more than an attempt - Yeltsin was de facto impeached and used military force to remain in power. The constitution was subsequently changed to give more power to the president. This was largely supported by the west, since anti-Yeltsin forces were mainly pro-Communist. Mar 19 at 14:32
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    Your comment can be the answer... essentially whoever has control over the people with guns gets to change the rules. And, of course, Putin can invent reasons why can't be removed from presidency by simply firing everyone in the line of succession.
    – wrod
    Mar 19 at 14:55
  • Is there some way that this question isn't calling for speculation about future events, which is not acceptable here because it cannot have a factual answer?
    – Stuart F
    Mar 19 at 23:18
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    While it's true that this question can be understood as speculation about future events, I originally intended it to be an analysis of the current situation.
    – ipped
    Mar 20 at 7:30

5 Answers 5

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Russian Parliament is fully controlled by Putin's United Russia party, so I can imagine it happening only if it becomes someone else's party. Even then he would probably declare martial law due to military conflict. So this does not seem plausible at this point.

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    The main opposition parties in parliament suport the cause of the government at the moment as well.
    – convert
    Mar 19 at 12:50
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    It's still theoretically possible for the party to oust its own. And are you saying that the constitution allow impeachment to be avoided through martial law, or are you saying that Putin would use martial law to stop the constitution from being implemented? Mar 21 at 4:50
  • This is a sufficient condition. The two attempts to impeach Trump show that it is not necessary: Controlling as little as one-third of the parliament is sufficient to reject impeachment in the U.S. and controlling half is a super comfortable cushion. Many countries have similar provisions for impeachment.
    – PatrickT
    Mar 22 at 5:18
  • @convert "The main opposition parties"... we have no opposition parties, it's pseudo-opposition (Putin hamsters), but we have 2(now 0) oppositionists: Navalny (15 years jail) and Nemcov Boris (killed in 2015)
    – Aarnihauta
    Mar 23 at 10:24
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Putin can be impeached by a parliamentary decision. It would take 300 parliamentary votes out of 450 to impeach him.

However, the only anti-war party left in Russia only has 15 seats. This party survived by being moderate rather than openly anti-Putin, and by being too small and new to constitute an actual threat. Most of the other opposition parties have been outlawed, disbanded, or disenfranchised from access to the elections.

The electoral results do not align with the population's views. Polls report a support rate for military actions between 58% and 70%. Note that the majority of this percentage comes from population above the retirement age, with a 90%+ support rate there. They rely on TV for their information, which is controlled by the state.

Working-age urban population offers little support for the war. However, the level of opposition is nowhere near sufficient for a regime change. Unlike Vietnam, it's more of a "we support the goals, but not the use of force to achieve them" sentiment.

As detailed polls show, 43% of Russians oppose military action that would lead to reuniting Ukraine with Russia, with 36% for it. However, when the question is put differently, in terms of threats from former Soviet countries or NATO expansion, 50% are open to the use of force in such a scenario.

How does this divided public opinion turn into 97% parliamentary support, then? It has to do with restrictions on who can get nominated in the elections. And when dissent happens among the executive branch, pre-selected to support Putin, it isn't always easy to voice.

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  • I'm not sure about opposing the war thing. As per Junemann's sociology, even in (the cosmopolitain) Moscow, the supporting majority is there across all social groups.
    – alamar
    Mar 19 at 16:52
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    @alamar Considering how biased Russia's polling is, I consider the less-pro-Putin figures to be likely closer to the truth than vice versa. The specific information cited in the linked poll is that most Russians support military action against direct threats or NATO expansion, but oppose military action to "reunite Ukraine with Russia".
    – HK-51
    Mar 19 at 16:58
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    I'm not sure if you can compare figures of those who can put people to do polling on the ground with those who can only do it online.
    – alamar
    Mar 19 at 17:14
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    "Unlike Vietnam, it's more of a "we support the goals, but not the use of force to achieve them" sentiment." You think people opposed both the means and the ends of the Vietnam War? Mar 21 at 4:52
  • Don't underestimate the power of brain-washing. If you were to survey Russians the day after Putin's fall from grace (assuming), you'd get a huge swing against Putin, not just because people would be free to express themselves, but simply because many people are followers. I suspect the opinion of as many as 50% of people anywhere in the world is to go with the flow.
    – PatrickT
    Mar 22 at 5:22
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It's possible in principle. Source.

Article 93 provides the guidelines for the impeachment process. In order for Putin to be impeached, there would have to be charges of “high treason or another grave crime.” Then charges would be brought by the country’s legislative branch, the State Duma. Next, these charges would have to be confirmed and concluded by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation “on the presence of the elements of crime in the actions” of the president. Then, the country’s Constitution Court would have to confirm and conclude “that the rules of the advancing charges were observed.”

The Council of the Federation then makes the decision whether to impeach the president. It has three months to do so, or the “charges against the President shall be regarded as rejected.”

It looks like most of the Russian government (not to mention population) is behind Putin though, so it's unlikely to happen.

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    I would take polls from Russia with a grain of salt - you never know who is really on the other end of the phone and if the answers are going to be used against you.
    – corsiKa
    Mar 20 at 21:52
  • @corsiKa that possibility - that the poll results are inaccurate - is explicitly addressed in the link.
    – Allure
    Mar 20 at 23:44
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    Initiating war is not "high treason" or even a crime, or all US presidents would be in jail. According to the quote you've provided, article 93 wouldn't do anything to Putin. You may consider Russian attack on Ukraine is inmoral, unjust or whatever, but I don't see how it could be qualified as high treason to Russia according to russian laws.
    – Rekesoft
    Mar 21 at 9:04
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    @Rekesoft the question isn't whether Putin can be impeached for invading Ukraine however. It's about whether Putin can be impeached in general.
    – Allure
    Mar 21 at 9:06
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    @Allure Right. But you could add that comment to answer, methinks. Mention that article 93 is generally aplicable, but not in the Ukraine war case.
    – Rekesoft
    Mar 21 at 9:10
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Even if assume for a moment that the Russian parliament does decide to impeach Putin, we have to keep in mind that de jure and de facto powers are very different in Russia. Case in point: in 1993 the Russian Parliament tried to impeach Boris Yeltsin after he attempted to dismiss the Parliament, which he had no power to do according to the Constitution at the time. In order to consolidate his power, Yeltsin ordered the military to siege the Russian Parliament building (White House) and tanks opened fire on the upper floors to force the Parliament members to evacuate. In the aftermath, Yeltsin was able to push through a new pro-President Constitution via referendum.

Was it legal for the President to dismiss the Parliament and then use tanks when he didn't get his way? Probably not. Did it matter to Yeltsin's power? Not at all, he still maintained his grip on Russia's government and would've probably stayed President for life if it wasn't for his poor physical health. Notably Yeltsin was considering to declare a state of emergency before the 1996 Presidential election, so he clearly wasn't happy to give up the reins without a fight.

As of 2022, Putin's grip on Russia is much stronger than Yeltsin's as there's no longer any opposition parties in Parliament, all independent journalists have been jailed or exiled, the media is uniformly under his control, etc. If the Parliament takes any action it would only happen because Putin's inner circle and his generals decide to get rid of him - and at that point it wouldn't matter in the slightest if such an impeachment is Constitutional or not. For a good example, see the removal of Yanukovich from power - you could argue that it went against the Ukrainian constitution at the time, but the Constitution is just a piece of paper. Real power is wielded by men with guns and if men with guns want you ousted as President, this will happen regardless of the legal situation.

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  • Notably Yeltsin was planning to declare a state of emergency if he lost the 1996 Presidential election This doesn't appear to be in the cited source.
    – Allure
    Mar 22 at 2:19
  • @Allure it does: “ There may well be pressures on Yeltsin to make just such a move. The hard-liners around him are widely thought to believe, with some justification, that Yeltsin has little chance of winning any future elections. They may hope to preserve their grasp on power through a state of emergency.” Mar 22 at 4:16
  • @Allure there’s also interviews in Russian with Yeltsins former associates which confirm that he was seriously considering it. Obviously it never happened but the option was out on the table. Chubays convinced Yeltsin to try and win the 1996 election via a powerful election campaign, as a representative of the “liberal” block. The “armed forces” block was instead pushing him to declare a state of emergency and not risk defeat in elections. Mar 22 at 4:17
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    They may hope to preserve their grasp on power through a state of emergency this is not the same as "they will do it", which is what your answer implies. Same goes for all quotes in your other comment - none of them say Yeltsin was planning to do it, only that he was considering it, that some factions wanted him to do it, etc.
    – Allure
    Mar 22 at 4:26
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    Maybe, but the assertion in the answer is still Yeltsin was planning to declare a state of emergency if he lost the 1996 Presidential election, and this is still not backed up by any of the quotes you've given since they are all hypotheticals. Sorry, but I am downvoting the answer.
    – Allure
    Mar 22 at 4:36
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“Kremlin political intrigues are comparable to a bulldog fight under a rug. An outsider only hears the growling, and when he sees the bones fly out from beneath it is obvious who won.” (Winston Churchill).

The difference between 1990s and the last decade that in 1990s Russia had a democracy (sort of), and now the regime is almost entirely autocratic. Even officially, governors are no elected but appointed, a part of Putun's vertical power. For crying out loud, he even changed Russian constitution to suit him! According to the existing constitution, he was no eligible for presidential elections, due to term limits. So he changed the Constitution, which was easy enough because he has full control of the Duma and of the public media, declared that his prior presidential terms are irrelevant, and got himself elected to "the 1st term under the new Constitution." In a situation like this a democratic impeachment is impossible.

However, that leaves a possibility of, ahem, impeachment via internal power struggle within Russian government. The "bulldog" fight that Churchill mentioned. Putin pissed off royally one of his primary power bases, the oligarchs who cumulatively lost over $80 billon. His other power base, the FSB, are pragmatic and self-serving. Duma, the Russian Parliament, is controlled by Putin's party, but that crowd is not known for their loyalty. Those who yesterday voted for war tomorrow may be those who always voted for peace. It's 1984 there.

What we may be witnessing quite soon is an emergence of a new winner of the bulldog fight, most likely one of Putin's closest allies. The blame for the war would be contributed solely to Putin personally. And those who clamored the loudest will be the ones blaming him and denying ever supporting him.

Putin indeed may loose power, but, as it almost always happened in Russia, by the palace intrigue rather than a popular vote. The subsequent popular vote will follow, of course, but merely for the purpose of legitimizing.

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  • Agree with all you said, but a perspective on the Oligarchs: Due to the various crises in Russia, many Russians have a "win today, lose tomorrow" attitude. The Oligarchs may be similar and not take their losses as seriously as western ultra-rich would. They'll get it back eventually, make more money, buy another yacht.
    – Tom
    Mar 22 at 4:53

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