Duma Rejects Yeltsin Choice

With Russia's economy foundering, the lower chamber of parliament voted Monday to reject Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister despite warnings that the situation was hurtling out of control.

It's the second time the Duma has rejected Chernomyrdin -- the choice of President Boris Yeltsin. It came after Yeltsin met with parliamentary leaders in hopes of ending the standoff over confirming a new government.

The State Duma voted 273-138 to reject Chernomyrdin after President Boris Yeltsin met with parliamentary leaders in a bid to break the standoff over confirming a new government.

"The economic crisis is gaining momentum with catastrophic speed," Chernomyrdin told lawmakers before the vote.

Russia has had an interim government for the past two weeks, while Chernomyrdin struggled to win confirmation from the opposition-dominated Duma and devoted little time to the economic crisis.

Yeltsin gets one more shot at nominating a prime minister. He can opt for Chernomyrdin again or select another candidate.

Russia's beleaguered markets received another jolt today when the ruble crashed again and Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin offered to resign.

Chernomyrdin warned that swift action was vital to try to stem the crisis and he appealed for an end to the political squabbling that has gripped the country. "We are all standing on the edge and no time is left for settling scores. We must begin acting," he said.

Both Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin met with the leaders of the parliamentary factions at the Kremlin, but the Communists and their allies insisted afterward they would again vote against Chernomyrdin.

"Our stance remains unchanged," Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov told reporters after consultations with Yeltsin.

"He doesn't even understand the program he has proposed," Zyuganov said of Chernomyrdin.

However, Yeltsin defended Chernomyrdin's candidacy and said he wouldn't nominate anyone else. Chernomyrdin held the post of premier for five years before being dismissed in March.

The president had suggested that the parliament confirm Chernomyrdin, and then assess his performance after a "trial period" of six to eight months.

If the Duma rejects the president's candidate on the third vote, then the constitution calls for the president to dissolve the Duma and call new elections within three months. Yeltsin would effectively rule by decree during the interim.