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Western Press Review: Russia's Political Waters Churn--Some More

  • Don Hill



Prague, 31 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Boris A. Berezovsky, businessman and one of Moscow's celebrated "new rich" has been appointed to the Number Two position in Russia's Security Council, the body from whose head General Alexander Lebed was severed earlier this month. The assignment has excited turmoil in the Russian government and comment in the Western press.

NEW YORK TIMES:'New Russians' have money, influence and want more

"In a move that enraged the Kremlin's enemies and bewildered even some close allies, one of Russia's richest businessmen and an important financial backer of President Boris Yeltsin's re-election campaign has been appointed deputy chief of the national Security Council," Alessandra Stanley writes in an analysis today.

She says: "The executive, Boris A. Berezovsky, a media mogul and rakish business tycoon, was appointed to join a council that has been reorganized since the dismissal of Alexander Lebed this month. A symbol of the cozy co-dependency of big business and the Kremlin, Berezovsky was an odd choice. His appointment, announced late Tuesday, set off yet another political storm in Moscow (yesterday), just as the president's men were trying to calm the waters after Lebed's tempestuous ouster."

Stanley writes: "Some Kremlin aides worry that his new prominence mainly will draw attention to the favoritism that veins decision-making at the top. 'It is so blatant that it looks bad,' said one aide.'But it's like all new Russians: They have the money, they have influence, and they always want more.' "

FINANCIAL TIMES: A transformation from car dealer to Kremlin boss

The writing team of Chrystia Freeland, John Thornhill and Andrew Gowers comment in today's edition of the British newspaper: "In his transformation from car dealer to Kremlin boss, Mr. Boris Berezovsky embodies the emergence of an exclusive group of bankers and businessmen as Russia's de facto government. The clique's members say their decision to take power is driven by a desire to ensure that Russia navigates the tricky path to a functioning market economy."

The commentary goes on, "Their opponents, from human rights campaigners to Communists, accuse the financiers of seeking to place the Kremlin under a closed oligarchy primarily concerned with furthering its own interests."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Chubais is accused of being an acting regent

In the paper today, Phil Reeves says in a news analysis from Moscow: "It is just what Boris Yeltsin and his aides need least -- a new brawl among Russia's fractious political barons while the country grapples with a financial crisis amid lingering uncertainty over the president's ill health." He writes: "The row, the latest in a series of political storms to sweep Moscow, centers on a decision by the Communist speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Gennady Seleznyov, to boycott the council as a protest over the appointment of a controversial millionaire industrialist and media mogul, Boris Berezoovsky, as deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council."

Reeves says: "The choice has caused an uproar, not least because Mr. Berezovsky has no experience as a top government official but is a close associate of Anatoly Chubais, the president's chief of staff, whose growing influence behind the throne has led to accusations that he has become an acting regent."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Berezovsky is the consummate insider

Alan Philps writes in a news analysis from Moscow in the paper today: "The Kremlin's plans for a political truce while President Yeltsin has heart surgery collapsed yesterday after it was announced that one of Russia's most controversial businessmen had been given a key post in the administration. Parliament and the Communist opposition were in uproar over the naming of Boris Berezovsky as deputy secretary of the Security Council." Philps says: "Mr. Berezovsky is the consummate insider, always one jump ahead of Kremlin intrigues."

WASHINGTON POST: Is treaty snafu related to Kremlin political turmoil?

On another facet of enigmatic Russian, Michael Dobbs analyzes today a seeming Kremlin diplomatic reversal. He writes: "Russia has backed away at the last moment from signing an agreement negotiated over the past three years with the United States that would permit the testing of some missile defense systems, U.S. officials said (yesterday). The surprise Russian decision to cancel a ceremony in Geneva (today) to sign the agreement on lower-speed regional missile defenses comes at a time of political turmoil in the Kremlin caused by the illness of President Boris Yeltsin. There was some speculation by bewildered U.S. officials that the two events could be linked."

Dobbs says: "The Clinton administration had laid great importance on the new agreement which, in the American view, would permit the testing of lower-velocity anti-missile defense systems, " and adds: "The purpose of the draft agreement was to clarify interpretation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which prohibits defenses against inter-continental ballistic missiles, but not against shorter-range theater missiles. The United States and Russia have been negotiating what systems can be developed and deployed legally under the treaty."

NEW YORK TIMES: U.S. officials are puzzled by the change in position

Steven Erlanger writes today: "Without a clear explanation to the United States, Russia has backed away from signing an agreement on non-strategic missile defenses allowed under the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, senior administration officials said (yesterday). The new Russian hesitation was first reported in "The Washington Times" on Wednesday. Administration officials said Wednesday that they were puzzled by the late change in a position that President Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin had agreed to last April, at their Moscow meeting, and that was confirmed on September 23 by Primakov to (U.S. Secretary of State Warren) Christopher. Christopher then called the agreement 'a milestone' in relations."
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