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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 20:42 GMT 21:42 UK

World: Europe

Yeltsin's man wins approval

Putin has won the Duma's approval - but will he keep Yeltsin's?

Russia's parliament has approved Vladimir Putin as the country's new prime minister, avoiding a showdown with President Boris Yeltsin.

The lower house, the State Duma, voted 233-84 to approve Mr Putin - a former KGB officer and security chief.

Russia crisis
Mr Putin had needed a simple majority of 226 votes. There were 17 abstentions.

Earlier, Mr Putin urged parliament to accept him as prime minister, vowing to help restore order to the country.

The BBC's Andrew Harding: "Some say Vladimir Putin has an impossible mission"
Mr Putin - President Yeltsin's latest choice in the post - said state institutions needed to be strengthened and the fight against crime stepped up.

"One of the main tasks is to secure calm and order in the country and to ensure ... fair and honest elections," he told the Duma.

Mr Yeltsin shocked the country last week by sacking his fourth government in 17 months.

He named Mr Putin as his new premier and said he wanted him to become president after Mr Yeltsin's term of office finished.

If the opposition-led parliament had rejected Mr Yeltsin's candidate three times, the president would have dissolved parliament.

Promise of stability

[ image:  ]
During meetings with regional governors and faction leaders, Mr Putin has promised to pursue much the same economic policies as his predecessor, Sergei Stepashin.

He will need to push a number of new bills through parliament, including next year's budget.

But he has other, more urgent tasks - including the crisis in Dagestan, where Islamic militants are battling Russian troops.

During his televised address, Mr Putin said Russia must do more to defend the rights of its citizens living abroad, including in the Soviet Republics, and vowed to continue the fight against terrorists.

Another priority is December's parliamentary election.

The BBC's Moscow Correspondent, Andrew Harding, says it is widely believed that Mr Putin has been hired by the Kremlin to break up an increasingly-powerful coalition of opposition leaders which has alarmed President Yeltsin.

There had been speculation that the Kremlin might use the turmoil in Dagestan as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency and cancelling the elections, but Mr Putin has ruled that out.

Former spy

The BBC's Robert Parsons reports on what he sees as President Yeltsin's dangerous game.
Mr Putin, 46, a former Russian security chief, is the fifth Russian prime minister in two years. He was appointed after his predecessor's abrupt sacking on 9 August.

He spent much of his life working for the Soviet-era security service, the KGB, before being appointed head of the Russian security service and then of the influential security council.

Mr Yeltsin says he wants Mr Putin to succeed him as president in next year's elections. Mr Putin says he will definitely stand for the post.

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