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Western Press Review: Bickering In Russia; Politicking In United States

  • Don Hill

Prague, 17 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary concentrates on alleged plots in the Kremlin, and on presidential campaign maneuvers in the United States.

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Security forces were on alert in major cities

Alan Philps in Moscow says in a news analysis today: "The ambitious General Aleksandr Lebed, who has set his mind on succeeding the ailing Boris Yeltsin, was fighting for his political life last night after he was accused of plotting a 'creeping coup' to seize power. As the general came under attack in a media campaign inspired at high level, it was announced that security forces had been put on alert in major cities, supposedly to prevent acts of terrorism by Chechen separatists."

WASHINGTON POST: Yeltsin's top aides are oblivious to his appeal for cooperation

David Hoffman writes in a news analysis from Moscow today: "One day after President Boris Yeltsin appealed to his security chiefs to silence their squabbling, they were back at each others' throats again (yesterday) as Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov accused Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed of plotting to seize power while Yeltsin is ill."

Hoffman says: "The latest public brawl underscored how remote Yeltsin has become from the wide-open power struggle that has erupted in his absence. Yeltsin's doctors said (yesterday) that his heart surgery is now scheduled for mid-November. While he rests at a government resort house outside of Moscow, however, his top security aides are slinging mud back and forth, oblivious to Yeltsin's appeal, issued Tuesday morning, for cooperation."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Kremlin infighting is a rare spectacle for many Russians

Uli Schmetzer writes from Moscow in an analysis: "Finger-pointing in the Kremlin melodrama over who is supposedly abusing power and conspiring to run the country continued (yesterday) with a new twist. In the latest episode, the interior minister accused security chief Aleksandr Lebed of preparing 'a creeping coup' by creating his own armed force to take over while President Boris Yeltsin awaits heart surgery."

She writes: "Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who has been delegated some of the president's powers, appears unable to control the infighting. It has been a rare spectacle for many Russians, accustomed for decades to only curt official bulletins from behind the formidable Kremlin walls."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kulikov aired his accusations as William Perry flew to Moscow

Vanora Bennett in Moscow writes in an analysis in today's edition: "A Russian Cabinet minister on (yesterday) struck the fiercest blow yet in the protracted Kremlin power struggle, accusing flamboyant security chief Aleksandr I. Lebed of plotting to seize power by force while President Boris N. Yeltsin awaits heart bypass surgery. With the 65-year-old Yeltsin's future ability to rule increasingly in doubt as doctors prepare him for an operation, tentatively scheduled for later this year, a clutch of would-be presidents have begun squabbling over the succession."

Bennett says: "Kulikov aired his startling accusations as U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry flew to Moscow for a visit intended to persuade the Russian parliament to ratify the START-2 treaty, which would slash the number of strategic nuclear warheads to one-third of Cold War levels. But overshadowing the American's visit, Kulikov asserted that Lebed had secret plans to create a 50,000-strong elite force, 'the Russian Legion,' to 'localize political and armed confrontation and destroy the leaders of political, separatist and other organizations.'"

NEW YORK TIMES: Chubais wants to turn Russia's government into a disciplined state

Moscow bureau chief Michael R. Gordon writes in a news analysis in today's Times: "Deep inside the Kremlin, Anatoly B. Chubais is plotting how to carry out the next stage of Russia's democratic revolution. In a few months, Chubais, 41, the chief of staff, has gone from political oblivion to become one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in the Russian government.

"Now the ardently pro-capitalist Chubais says he is striving to turn Russia's sometimes rudderless government -- which has become all the more fractious since President Boris Yeltsin became ill -- into a disciplined state. To advance economic reforms, Chubais asserts, the Kremlin needs to be sure that unpopular presidential decrees are actually carried out, that top officials do not attack their own government's policies and that the government's decisions are respected."

Says Gordon: "Those are fighting words to Chubais' rivals, who worry that it means broader powers for the new chief of staff."

NEW YORK TIMES: Even the stoic Russian people have a limit

The paper editorializes today: "In recent weeks Boris Yeltsin has faithfully followed the advice of his physicians to rest his damaged heart before surgery later this year. But the Russian president was forced to break his public silence the other day by a growing economic and political threat that may prove more important to the stability of Russia than Yeltsin's health. Millions of Russian workers employed by the state have not been paid their wages or pensions for months because the government is collecting only a fraction of the tax revenues it is due.

"With worker anger rising and work stoppages spreading, Yeltsin announced in a national radio address that he was establishing a special commission to crack down on tax dodgers."

The Times concluded: "Russians are a stoic people, and they have endured worse than a few months without pay. But even their patience can be exhausted. Yeltsin and his government will test the limit if they fail to put the Russian tax system in order."

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Bob Dole swept aside restraint and launched an assault on Clinton

In the United States, Philip J. Trounstine wrote yesterday in a news analysis from the presidential campaign trail: "In a prelude to (last night's) final presidential debate and a portent of his closing campaign strategy, Bob Dole on Tuesday swept aside restraint and launched a formal, scathing assault on President Clinton's integrity, veracity and 'ethical failures.' Dole's toughest indictment of Clinton yet coupled with an escalation of rhetoric on affirmative action and illegal immigration -- issues he has largely ignored but which some advisers consider key to a late bid to win California and thereby the White House."

LONDON GUARDIAN: The real problem with the campaign is the candidate

In today's edition, Martin Walker and Jonathan Freedland comment from Washington: "Bob Dole has had trouble with his staff ever since he sacked his two campaign aides in the 1968 primaries." The writers say: "This time round has not been much better. The Republican presidential candidate is on his third team of campaign advisers after two bruising purges."

They comment: "The real trouble with the campaign is the candidate. Mr. Dole's advisers have blundered but they have been advising an abysmal candidate."