TYPE=WORLD OPINION ROUNDUP
TITLE=WORLD OPINION ROUNDUP: MORE CAUCASUS TROUBLE AND
ANOTHER PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW
INTRO: Another budding civil war in an Islamic
republic in southern Russia's Caucasus region and yet
another swing of the revolving door at the Kremlin
that brings in a new prime minister in Moscow
highlight global press comment this week.
We get a sampling of newspapers' reaction to the
latest developments in Russia now from ______________
who has arrived with this week's World Opinion
TEXT: Boris Yeltsin fired his prime minister Sergei
Stepashin on Monday and replaced him with another
former, high ranking K-G-B official from St.
Petersburg, Vladimir Putin. The move, the fourth such
change in the past 18 months, came against a backdrop
of new reports of insurgent fighting, and even a claim
of independence for Dagestan, a mountainous region of
southern Russia, bordering both the Caspian Sea and
another province that became an internal policy
debacle for Russia -- Chechnya.
Editorial writers in Europe reacted with skepticism
when Russia's new premier-designate, Vladimir Putin,
suggested that the situation in Dagestan "would be
back to normal" within the "space of two weeks." They
noted similar remarks about Russia's relations with
first Afghanistan and later, Chechnya, where revolts
took considerably longer to quell.
Some Russian dailies in Moscow editorially worried
about the outbreak of "civil war in the Caucasus," and
feared that Russia's "indecisive and incompetent
federal forces" --their words -- would be "poor
protection for the corruption-weakened Russia."
As for the latest in a revolving-door cycle of Prime
Ministers itself, many papers seemed to think Mr.
Yeltsin's action was opportunistic, designed to help
him retain political power in the run-up to next
year's presidential elections, and give him a larger
role in choosing his successor.
With that background, let us plunge into the world's
press, going first to Moscow, where Izvestiya ran this
front-page commentary, noting:
VOICE: Weak as never before, President Boris
Yeltsin, it seems, has decided to bet on crude
force. With [Mr.] Putin in the premier's office
and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Yeltsin urging
stability in the country, the influence of the
"force ministries" will grow infinitely. And so
will the influence of the government's staff.
TEXT: Across town, Moskovskii Komsomolets was clearly
upset, running this open letter to the President.
VOICE: ... By sacking Mr. Stepashin without
explaining your reasons, you violated a voter's
right which, while not being written in the
Basic Law, is natural in a democracy. It is the
right to know.
TEXT: In yet another commentary, Slovo fretted about
the trouble in Dagestan.
VOICE: Forming self-defense groups and arming
the local population, which does not trust the
local authorities to protect it from bandits, is
the biggest threat to federalism in Russia. We
may end up with a civil war in the Caucasus.
This is exactly what the separatists are after.
TEXT: Quickly to Western Europe, where in London,
England's venerable Times newspaper notes:
VOICE: Islamic rebels in the republic of
Dagestan declared the region an independent
Islamic state yesterday, sending shock waves
throughout Russia. Russia's greater fear is the
"Afghanization" of the Caucasus, where radical
rebels could impose a Taleban-style regime ...
It is the first challenge for Vladimir Putin,
the Russian prime minister-designate.
TEXT: The Daily Telegraph, focusing on the change in
prime ministers, says:
VOICE: By firing the Russian government, Boris
Yeltsin is position his forces for next year's
presidential election. The departure of Sergei
Stepashin marks no change of direction. What
distinguishes the new man, Vladimir Putin, is
his anointing as Mr. Yeltsin's preferred
successor. ... The electoral battle now being
joined could transform Russia's relations with
the West. In that struggle, Mr. Putin is more
likely to be a puppet than a puller of strings.
TEXT: An assessment from London's Daily Telegraph.
From the business community, the Financial Times
VOICE: Boris Yeltsin's habit of firing his
prime ministers is making Russian politics look
TEXT: Across the channel, there was this gloomy
assessment of the latest cabinet shuffle from Les
Echos in Paris.
VOICE: [President] Yeltsin's capacity to
destroy can be compared to his loneliness and
declining health: It is impressive
TEXT: From Germany's financial capital, The
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is fretting about the
latest bulletins from the Caucasus:
VOICE: A driving force behind the rebels in
Dagestan are fanatical Muslim rebels from the
Arab world who support their Muslim brothers ...
wherever they consider it appropriate. For more
than 20 years, these "Afghans" ... have been
troubling the entire Muslim world. The rebels
have now proclaimed an independent state ... and
have announced a "holy war" against the Russians
... But this is not what the majority of
Dagestan Muslims want.
TEXT: From Germany's re-established national capital,
Berlin, Die Welt comments:
VOICE: Those who are searching for a trace of
credibility in the policy of the Russian
president will not find it any more. ... If the
parliamentarians approve [Mr.] Putin, their
credibility will suffer, since they voted with a
broad majority for [Mr.] Stepashin. But
credibility is no longer an issue in Russia...
TEXT: A view from Belgium comes in this comment from
Le Soir, in Brussels.
VOICE: ...Vladimir Putin does not have a lot
of experience. And it is no surprise either
that, forgetting that those events were taking
place in the Caucasus, he was foolish enough to
declare "the situation in Dagestan would be back
to normal within a week and a half to two
weeks." What is surprising is that Vladimir
Putin, the former boss of the secret service,
did not draw the lesson from the war in
TEXT: Belgium's Le Soir. Now to Zagreb, where
Croatia's big daily Vjesnik brings in the economic
factor of the Caspian sea region, as it suggests:
VOICE: There is no doubt that the armed
conflict in Dagestan is not only a war for
territories and an Islamic state, but above all
a war for the oil-rich Caspian Sea. ... It is
not only about suppressing separatism, but also
about protecting the pipeline...
TEXT: Now to Riga, Latvia - a country occupied by the
old Soviet Union - where we hear from Diena:
VOICE: [Mr.] Putin at this time does not look
like a politician who would satisfy the majority
of the political elite.
TEXT: And in another city well known for monitoring
Russian affairs, the Finnish capital Helsinki,
Helsingin Sanomat notes:
VOICE: Boris Yeltsin is getting to be as
unpopular as [Mr.] Gorbachev was during the
final days of the Soviet Union.
TEXT: To the Far East, and a Japanese reaction from
Tokyo's huge daily Asahi:
VOICE: It seems that more and more security or
political police officials have assumed key
positions close to the president. If [Mr.]
Yeltsin should rely on those security officials
-- many of whom may be currying favor with him,
instead of other government policy planners --
he can hardly revitalize his government.
TEXT: From nearby South Korea, Seoul's Chosun Ilbo
VOICE: Hit by yet another surprising move by
its president, Russia is now back in a state of
TEXT: And out in the Pacific, Manila's Philippine
VOICE: Mr. Yeltsin [has] ... appointed as his
new prime minister the boss of the Federal
Security Service, the no-less-powerful successor
of the former, hated, terrorizing K-G-B -- in
short, an enforcer and spook [slang for spy].
TEXT: And lastly, from a former Soviet ally, Vietnam,
where Hanoi's Lao Dong has some sympathy for the
VOICE: In a certain respect, Mr. Yeltsin's
decision is a wise one. Better than anyone
else, he is well aware that only with particular
understanding of security can one administer
Russia, which is regarded as a "rogue horse."
Only such a person can win cooperation and
respect (though with reluctance) from opposition
TEXT: On that note from one of Vietnam's leading
dailies we conclude this sampling of global comment on
the latest events in Russia.
12-Aug-1999 16:16 PM EDT (12-Aug-1999 2016 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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