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Western Press Review: Bad News From Bosnia; Worse News From Russia

  • Don Hill



Prague, 13 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Just when it seemed that news from Russia -- murder, corruption, tax-dodging, and chaos in the armed forces -- couldn't get worse, a new horror emerged. An environmental report says that sturgeon, the shining, silvery river denizens whose eggs are called caviar, are on the verge of extinction. Russia's many-sided predicament attracts Western commentary. Commentators also examine renewed violence in Bosnia.

BOSTON GLOBE: Russians are tired of revolutionary posturing

The paper editorialized yesterday: "Certain historical figures, it is said, incarnate the spirit of their time. Boris Yeltsin, erratic as he might be, continues to give a rather good imitation of just such a figure. No sooner had the Russian president come out of anesthesia after his quintuple heart bypass operation than he issued a decree liquidating the most sacrosanct holiday on the old Bolshevik calendar. There could not have been a more flamboyant display of Yeltsin's recaptured vitality. With a flourish of his pen, the man who had five years before dissolved the Soviet Union celebrated his new lease on life by renaming Revolution Day."

The Globe concluded: "Yeltsin's own need, once his heart has healed, is to go beyond the naming of holidays and do the hard work of balancing the state's budget, collecting taxes and paying wages. Like Americans, but in a much more operatic atmosphere, Russians are tired of revolutionary posturing. Like James Joyce's creation, Stephen Dedalus, Yeltsin's subjects have come to regard history as a nightmare from which they are trying to awake."

TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL: The fatalism of the Russian people is good and bad

In a commentary in yesterday's edition, Moscow correspondent Geoffrey York wrote: "For five years now, Western journalists have been waiting for a social explosion in Russia. Every autumn, as another winter approaches, there are grim predictions of unrest, rebellion, hunger and violence. The great Russian masses, however, are as stoic and resilient as ever. They grumble unhappily, but they find ways to survive, as they have for centuries."

York writes: "The fatalism of the Russian people is both good and bad. It creates the stability that allows Russia to survive its wrenching economic reforms. But it also creates a climate of indifference to corruption and abuses of power;" and adds: "Over the past five years, Russia has acquired the superficial trappings of democracy. The country's psychology, however, is much slower to change."

TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL: Tatum's killer almost certain to remain free

In a news analysis yesterday, York wrote on a different topic: "It was just another contract murder in Russia, one of the 450 carried out this year. But something was different. The dead man was (Paul Tatum), the best-known U.S. investor in Russia, one of the earliest and most aggressive of the Western businessmen who had arrived in this country in the dying days of communism. Mr. Tatum was killed only a few hundred meters from the luxury hotel that he had helped to establish. With his Russian partners, he had founded the Radisson-Slavjanskaya in a bold $65-million deal in 1990."

York wrote: "Mr. Tatum's partner in the hotel was the Moscow city government. With an ownership stake in every major real-estate development in the city, the Moscow government is one of the toughest and most powerful corporations in Russia -- and a nasty enemy when it is crossed. Last year, after a dispute with Mr. Tatum, the city decided to squeeze him out. He fought back."

The Canadian journalist wrote: "The Tatum case has sparked an international uproar. The U.S. State Department has demanded a full investigation. Russia's interior minister, Anatoly Kulikov, has promised to take personal control of it. Yet everybody knows that the killer is almost certain to remain free. Of the 450 contract killings in Russia this year, 10 per cent have been solved. Of the 560 last year, 11 per cent were solved."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: The Russian army's disintegration is a real danger

The paper carries a news analysis today by Tony Barber in Moscow. Barber writes: "Russia's defense minister, General Igor Rodionov, warned yesterday that the armed forces were in such chaos that the stability of the Russian state itself might soon come under threat."

Barber says: "His remarks were among the most stark assessments of the condition of the armed forces that any top-ranking general has made since Mr. Yeltsin won reelection in July. Aleksandr Lebed, the president's recently sacked (secretary of the national Security Council) warned during his brief spell in office that the armed forces might mutiny, but General Rodionov made clear that the real danger lay not in a rebellion but in the army's disintegration. The view is shared by Western intelligence services and defense analysts."

LONDON TIMES: The caviar is disappearing

The paper views with alarm today in an editorial: "Caviar was always the supreme irony of Soviet Russia. When the shop counters were bare, the queues unending, and even the simplest provisions rationed, caviar, the delicacy that was a byword in the capitalist word for conspicuous consumption and a champagne lifestyle, was freely available."

The Times says: "But as Russia turns capitalist, the caviar is disappearing. The Caspian Sea sturgeon that provided the elixir of the czars are rapidly being hunted to extinction." The editorial concludes: "Soon caviar, pricing itself beyond the reach of even the most ostentatious hostess, will be no more than a memory of a delicacy savored and lost."

WASHINGTON POST: Muslims and Serbs exchange gunfire

A news analysis from Sarajevo in today's paper by John Pomfret says: "Bands of Muslims and Serbs traded gunfire (yesterday) in Bosnia's worst clash since the Dayton peace deal as hundreds of Muslim refugees tried to return to their old village in Serb-held territory."

Pomfret writes: "The fighting between the villages of Celic, in Muslim territory, and Koraj, occupied by the Serbs, underscored the fragility of the peace agreement reached at Dayton, Ohio, nearly a year ago. It erupted just as NATO leaders and Western powers are considering whether and how to extend NATO's mandate in Bosnia to keep a shaky peace.

NEW YORK TIMES: Serbian leaders want to retain control



Also from Sarajevo, Mike O'Connor writes in an analysis: "Even though Russian and American forces that intervened in the area to stop fighting the previous day were watching through the night, at least scores each of Muslims and Serbs were able to enter the separation zone with automatic weapons, and there were reports that rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were used in the fighting."

He writes: "The two days of conflict grew out of one of the most volatile issues in the tenuous Bosnian peace, the right of people displaced by the war to return to their homes. But Serbian leaders seem intent on keeping a monopoly over areas they now control."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Clinton should hold Milosevic accountable

On another Bosnia issue says today in an editorial: "Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic dismissed indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic on Saturday, just days after she and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic received visits from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck."

The Journal says: "Unless Mr. Milosevic can use his influence to make the Mladic dismissal stick, there will be no reason to believe he now is acting in good faith. He won't do so, indeed, unless given no alternative." The editorial concludes: "(U.S. President Bill) Clinton should hold Mr. Milosevic accountable for seeing that Mr. Mladic is not only out of power but in the hands of the War Crimes Tribunal (at The Hague)."
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