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Monday, September 7, 1998 Published at 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK

World: Europe

Chernomyrdin warns Russia 'near precipice'

Russians are feeling the economic pinch

BBC World Television is providing coverage of the Duma vote throughout the afternoon.

Click here to watch

Russia crisis

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley: Communists say they want a prime minister who the people trust
Russia's acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has told the Communist Party-dominated Duma that the country is "near the precipice" as politicians debate his appointment.

As the crucial debate got under way in the lower house of parliament, the communists, the largest block, maintained that they would reject Mr Chernomyrdin's appointment for a second time.

[ image: Yeltsin still stands behind Chernomyrdin]
Yeltsin still stands behind Chernomyrdin
Earlier, President Boris Yeltsin has appealed to the Duma to back his candidate for a six-to-eight-month trial period.

But despite last-minute talks in the Kremlin, the communists rejected the president's proposal and said they would reject Mr Chernomyrdin.

They proposed several alternatives, including Moscow's popular mayor, Yuri Luzhkov and the acting Foreign Minister, Yevgenny Primakov.

Robert Parsons in Moscow: "This morning's meeting produced no breakthroughs"
Speaking to the Duma as the debate got underway, Mr Chernomyrdin said the senseless confrontation between different branches of government must stop.

"We are near the precipice," he warned. "We are counting in hours."

[ image: Yeltsin and parliamentary leaders failed to reach consensus]
Yeltsin and parliamentary leaders failed to reach consensus
In the first vote a week ago, the Duma overwhelmingly rejected Mr Chernomyrdin.

The BBC Moscow correspondent Robert Parsons says Monday's vote is likely to be much closer than last week's, but much will depend on whether it is a secret or an open ballot.

If Mr Chernomyrdin is defeated, President Yeltsin will have to decide whether to submit his name for a third vote.

Under Russia's Constitution, a third defeat would entitle President Yeltsin to dissolve parliament and to call fresh elections.

Central bank chief resigns

Only hours before the critical debate, the chairman of the Russian Central Bank, Sergey Dubinin, tendered his resignation.

[ image: Chairman of the Central Bank, Sergei Dubinin, offered to resign]
Chairman of the Central Bank, Sergei Dubinin, offered to resign
Mr Dubinin offered his resignation after weeks of financial turmoil, for which he has been criticised by the Duma, particularly for his role in devaluing the rouble last month.

He said that one of the main reasons for his resignation was that the Duma had "shelved" important banking legislation, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

But BBC Moscow correspondents say that the resignation may be linked to attempts by Mr Yeltsin to enlist Communist support for the Chernomyrdin vote.

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