MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin ousted Russia's air force chief today, shedding an official who had been under fire since a military cargo plane slammed into an apartment building last month.

Gen. Pyotr Deinekin submitted his resignation last month after reaching the military's retirement age of 60, but Yeltsin had the option of extending his tenure.

However, after the crash of the An-124 transport plane in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which killed at least 68 people, it was clear the president had no interest in retaining Deinekin.

The president appointed Gen. Anatoly Kornukov, commander of air defense forces in the Moscow region, as Deinekin's replacement, the presidential press service said today.

While there has been no official statement on the cause of the plane crash, investigators have discovered that three of the aircraft's four engines stalled seconds after takeoff. Substandard fuel or computer failure have been named as the most likely reasons.

Kornukov, 55, began his career as a fighter pilot after graduating from the Chernihov air force academy in 1964 and rose through the ranks to become Moscow air defense chief in 1991.