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DATE=8/12/1999 TYPE=WORLD OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=WORLD OPINION ROUNDUP: MORE CAUCASUS TROUBLE AND ANOTHER PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW NUMBER=6-11421 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 CONTENT= 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 Roundup. 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 sniffs: VOICE: Boris Yeltsin's habit of firing his prime ministers is making Russian politics look farcical. 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. ///OPT /// 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 Chechnya. 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 notes: VOICE: Hit by yet another surprising move by its president, Russia is now back in a state of confusion. TEXT: And out in the Pacific, Manila's Philippine Star frets: 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 cabinet shuffle. 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 parties. TEXT: On that note from one of Vietnam's leading dailies we conclude this sampling of global comment on the latest events in Russia. NEB/ANG/WTW 12-Aug-1999 16:16 PM EDT (12-Aug-1999 2016 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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