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World - Europe

Russian Duma confirms Putin as prime minister

Putin
Putin addresses the Duma on Monday

 ALSO:
Russia vows stronger efforts to end Dagestan crisis

Yeltsin says feels fine, heart 'working like clock'
iconMESSAGE BOARD:
Russia's future

VIDEO
CNN's Steve Harrigan explains the vote and what lies ahead for Russia
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

Faces crisis in Dagestan

August 16, 1999
Web posted at: 10:25 a.m. EDT (1425 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Vladimir Putin took his seat as prime minister Monday after Russia's Duma voted overwhelmingly to confirm him as President Boris Yeltsin's latest choice to head the government.

The former spy and security chief became Russia's fifth premier in the past 17 months, by a 233-to-84 vote.

Seventeen Duma members abstained. Putin needed 226 votes in the 450-seat, Communist-dominated chamber for confirmation.

Before the vote, Putin delivered a terse speech to the Russian legislators, telling the Duma that ensuring law and order would be his top priority.

"None of the tasks can be carried out without installing elementary order in the country," Putin said.

Government ministers, Putin said, would remain largely the same.

Putin said other items on his agenda would be strengthening Russia's armed forces, improving the military industrial complex, continuing economic reforms aimed at improving the quality of life for all Russians, and ensuring "fair and honest" parliamentary elections in December.

Putin also said the government is using "very harsh measures against the terrorists" in Dagestan to end the guerrilla insurgency there.

Yeltsin: No state of emergency over Dagestan

The vote came amid upheaval in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan. Yeltsin on Monday ruled out imposing a state of emergency in Russia in connection with the Dagestan conflict, which represents the first major challenge Putin faces as prime minister.

"There will be tough measures in the North Caucasus and we will restore order there in Dagestan and other regions," Russian news agencies quoted Yeltsin as saying. "But once again, I state it firmly as president -- there will be no state of emergency."

Yeltsin spoke after 10 days of fighting between federal forces and Islamic rebels in Dagestan.

Critics loudly criticized Yeltsin's unexpected sacking of Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin just after Stepashin returned from a trip to Dagestan. But most Duma members were reluctant to challenge Yeltsin on the issue, fearing that he would exercise his constitutional right to disband parliament if they reject his prime minister choice three times.

Yeltsin defended his choice on Monday, saying that Putin, previously head of the KGB-successor agency the Federal Security Service, was the ideal choice to handle the Caucasus crisis.

Yeltsin, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, has also declared Putin his choice to succeed him in next year's presidential election.

Correspondents Steve Harrigan, Mike Hanna andReuters contributed to this report.



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August 9, 1999

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