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Western Press Review: From Lebed To Unpaid Taxes, Russia Is Roiled

  • Don Hill
  • Katarzyna Wysocka

Prague, 24 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentators turned their word processors to Russia today to speculate whether the recently-fired Aleksandr Lebed had intended to seize power and whether the government will wrest tax revenues from reluctant corporate citizens.

LE FIGARO: Russia is entering a zone of turbulence

Moscow correspondent Irina de Chikoff writes in today's edition of the French newspaper: "Once again Russia seems to be entering a zone of turbulence. The dismissal of Aleksandr Lebed, who has been accused by the interior minister of plotting a coup d1�tat, has opened a new period of troubles in Russia. Government power seeks to contain the problem, but fails to dam the flood of the people's discontent. Demonstrations are planned for November 5 to protest against salary delays which affect millions of angry citizens."

Aleksandr Lebed

THE LONDON GUARDIAN: Lebed may be prosecuted

A news analysis in the British paper said that "Lebed May Be Prosecuted." The newspaper continues: "The bitter power struggle between President Boris Yeltsin's clique of advisers and his ousted security chief General Aleksandr Lebed took a turn for the worse yesterday as the Interior Ministry handed prosecutors documents which it said proved that the general was preparing to seize power. General Lebed has ridiculed these claims but as a man who has lost his place in the president's administration and no longer holds a parliamentary seat, he has no immunity from prosecution."

LONDON TIMES: Papers confirmed every word of accusations

Richard Beeston writes in his analysis today from Moscow that: "Russian prosecutors have reportedly received documentary evidence showing that Aleksandr Lebed, the sacked national security adviser, was plotting to overthrow the government by force. According to Interior Ministry sources quoted by Itar-Tass last night, the papers 'confirmed every word' of accusations made last week by Anatoli Kulikov, the interior minister, whose charges ultimately led to General Lebed's dismissal."

Beeston goes on: "It was not immediately clear last night if the announcement from the Interior Ministry was the parting shot in the war of words between the two generals, or whether the authorities do really intend to try to prosecute General Lebed, whose popularity continues to rise." Beeston writes: "In spite of his denials, there is concern in the Kremlin that his sacking, combined with the general disgruntlement in the armed forces, could presage some sort of armed insurrection."


LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Secret police have a new campaign.

Turning from Lebed to finances, Alan Philps writes today: "The Kremlin has raised the specter of the communist secret police with a new campaign to force Russian industrialists to pay their taxes and stave off economic crisis this winter. The Provisional Emergency Commission for Strengthening Fiscal and Budget Discipline is charged with compelling large companies to pay millions of dollars they owe to the state in unpaid taxes."

Philps says: "The arrival of the commission has alarmed former giant state enterprises, who are the biggest nonpayers. There are also fears that this body will become a permanent fixture of the new Russian state. Some opposition politicians see it as the backbone of a new financial dictatorship which will ensure that the country's wealth remains under state control and is not used to undermine the Kremlin's control of political life and the media."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Companies fight back against government's new approach

In today1s analysis Chrystia Freeland and John Thornhill write: "Russian companies threatened with bankruptcy for not paying taxes attacked the government yesterday for its tough new approach, as Moscow's budget wars intensified. The enterprises on the government's blacklist, which includes some of the most famous names in Russian industry, accused the Kremlin of everything from suffocating the country's economy with taxes to simple accounting errors. But the government, which yesterday told four companies to pay overdue taxes or face bankruptcy, was unbowed, telling parliament that tax collection was the Number One priority."

DIE WELT: 30 to 60 percent of taxes go unpaid

In an analysis today in the German newspaper, Stephan Kaufmann writes: "The Russian state is hardly able to estimate its income, because 30 to 60 percent of the taxes it assesses simply go unpaid." Kaumann continues: "Toleration of fiscal fraud is probably the state's biggest means of subsidizing enterprises. The German Institute for Economic Research sees a link between unpaid taxes and the outstanding obligations of Moscow to the enterprises. In other words, the state doesn't pay a lot of his bills." Kaufmann concludes: "Russia's path to a market economy inexorably leads through an essential reorganization of finances, which unprofitable enterprises won't survive."