Russia's March Toward Chaos

While Russia edged ever closer to the brink of disaster, it was brinkmanship as usual in the Russian Duma, reports CBS News Moscow Correspondent Richard Threlkeld.

Victor Chernomyrdin, President Boris Yeltsin's choice for prime minister, pleaded with the parliament to confirm him in office.

"Russia today is on the verge of political and economic breakdown," he said. But he offered no plan to pull the economy away from the edge. In fact, nobody here seems to have a plan.

The parliament rejected Chernomyrdin within minutes, by a margin of almost five to one.

The Kremlin immediately renominated Chernomyrdin, so there will be another vote next week. In the meantime, however, Russia remains in political limbo.

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Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the dominant Communist faction and the only man who could break this gridlock, told CBS News Monday that he will never vote to confirm Chernomyrdin, who he said does not have the guts to run the country.

"If the man's not capable of saving a sinking ship, why should I vote for him and get into the wreck myself?" Asked Zyuganov.

Yeltsin, who had only visited his office twice in the past two terrible weeks here, was at the Kremlin today. However, he did not appear in public.

The question now is how long it will take before the millions of unpaid Russians -- miners and doctors and teachers - take matters into their own hands.

A former general, Alexander Lebed, said Monday that the army -- which hasn't been paid in five months -- is in a "revolutionary mood."

Sources in the Kremlin described the mood tonight as "pure panic." It's a fear as old as Russia itself -- of disorder and chaos. A fear, in the words of Russia's beloved 18th-century poet, Alexander Pushkin of "a Russian
Revolt...senseless and merciless."

Reported by Richard Threlkeld
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