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Russia: Chernomyrdin Says Country On Verge Of Collapse

Moscow, 31 August 1998 (RFE/RL) - Acting Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, speaking at his Duma confirmation hearing today, warned that Russia is on the verge of economic and political collapse. Chernomyrdin urged deputies to approve his candidacy and said only joint efforts can help the country overcome its current crisis. He distanced himself from the recently-dismissed government of Sergei Kiriyenko, saying the devaluation of the ruble was a mistake. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, speaking after Chernomyrdin, urged Duma deputies not to confirm Chernomyrdin. He said Chernomyrdin, who served as prime minister for five years, was responsible for Russia's current state.

During his speech, Chernomyrdin pledged to defend citizens' savings, promising additional measures within hours to ensure that no banks are allowed to default. He gave no further details on the measures.

Left-wing factions, which control the majority of seats in the Duma, have indicated they will not support Chernomyrdin. A tentative power-sharing agreement between parliament and President Boris Yeltsin fell through over the weekend, with both sides accusing each other of driving the country to the edge of ruin.

Meanwhile German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said today that he remains in constant telephone contact with other world leaders, but he does not consider it necessary to call an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized nations to discuss the on-going Russian financial crisis.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi made the proposal yesterday. Britain, which currently holds the G-7 chair, is considering calling a meeting of the G-7 group to discuss the Russian crisis, but says it first wants to see a new government formed in Moscow.

Also today in Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address that he does not expect Russia's economic troubles to have a direct impact on his country. He said Tbilisi has enough hard currency reserves to support the Georgian currency, the lari, and he said those who did not initially support Georgia's exit from the ruble zone could now appreciate the correctness of the decision.