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Press Review: Russia Struggles; Bosnia Writhes

By Don Hill and Michael Jeffress

Prague, July 11 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian Electoral Commission certified Tuesday President Boris Yeltsin's reelection, but the formation of Yeltsin's post-election administration is still in tortuous process. The Western press looks on. Some commentary focuses also on Bosnia, especially on allegations that terrible war crimes were committed there, and on fears that the crimes may go unpunished.

Walter Russell Mead is a presidential fellow at the World Policy Institute. He commented yesterday in the Los Angeles Times on developments in Russia: "The stable, democratic prosperity so many Russians dream of will remain nothing more than a dream as. . . Yeltsin begins his second term. . . . The tight wall of secrecy around Yeltsin, and the fevered rumors outside it, only underline that Russia's government is still far from anything that West European or North American societies would recognize as a democracy. A Kremlin camarilla of courtiers and sinister generals surrounds an aging, unsteady president and sometimes rules Russia in his name."

In today's London Times, Thomas de Waal writes from Moscow: "President Yeltsin announced that there would be 'serious corrections' in Russian economic policy in a televised speech yesterday. . . . The unexpected announcement. . . could presage new promises of support for Russian industry. . . . It is important for Mr. Yeltsin to ride out the rest of the year without a crash in the rouble or a banking crisis."

In an analysis today in The New York Times, Moscow Bureau Chief Michael Specter writes: "Less than a week after. . . , Yeltsin won reelection promising to end the devastating war in Chechnya, Russian forces (yesterday) carried out their fiercest attack in months on the secessionist southern region. . . . Even skeptics in Russia assumed the war could finally end after Yeltsin choose the nation's most famous and outspoken critic of the conflict, Alexander Lebed, a retired general, as his chief military and security official. But during his short tenure, Lebed has already begun to vacillate on peace terms. . . . It was the brutal war itself that (during the campaign ups and downs) convinced many people that a Yeltsin victory was impossible this year. "

The German newspaper Die Tageszeitung says in an editorial today: "Russian President Boris Yeltsin has no time for a break. The election is over and he is fighting once again the self-proclaimed bearers of peace in the Caucasus, once again on Chechen terrain. . . . At least 40 are dead and countless numbers have fled in fear. Hopes of peace still lie in the East and West, but nothing has changed. The horrible scenario replays in the minds of the people -- Russians bombing towns and rebels threatening, each blaming each other for the conflict. . . . New security head Alexander Lebed changed overnight from hopeful to hardliner, a typical case of decrease in thought."

Alan Philps writes from Moscow in The London Daily Telegraph: "A week after Boris Yeltsin's triumphant reelection. . . , his grip on the country seems confused, with a resumption of the war in Chechnya and Kremlin, factions openly fighting for position in his next administration. . . . With question marks hanging over who really is responsible for the Kremlin's security, rumors have been flying around the Moscow political elite that Mr. Yeltsin's disgraced bodyguard will make a comeback."

The London Daily Telegraph says today in an editorial: "The uncovering near Srebrenica of bodies with tattered clothes and decaying flesh is grimly opportune. For their discovery coincides with the anniversary today of the most infamous event in post-war Europe -- the fall of othe Muslim enclave, declared a 'safe area' by the United Nations, to the Bosnian Serbs. . . . Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander, appears to have played an active part in this operation, with the suppport of Radovan Karadzic, the civilian leader. . . . Behind their machinations looms the figure of (Serbia President) Slobodan Milosevic, architect of the drive for a Greater Serbia."

Today's London Independent says in an editorial: "Today we commemorate an anniversary of terrible, unmitigated shame. . . . The fall of Srebrenica and the messacre that followed were an abdication of responsibility by the international community -- made worse by the fact that government leaders knew that they could not fulfill the promises that they so blithely had made. . . . The phrase (safe haven) sound hollow now; it sounded hollow then. . . . If Britain and other Western countries fail, even now to admit their shared responsibility for what went wrong, then it seems certain that equally hideous events lie ahead."

Youssef M. Ibrahim writes today from London in The New York Times: "Representatives of the five-nation contact group on Bosnia met here (today) to discuss what to do about the continued power of the Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, and Gen. Ratko Mladic, the military commander -- both of whom have been indicted for war crimes and, under the Dayton peace accord, are supposed to be arrested. . . . Many diplomats say that ousting Karadzic is now urgent because of his ability to subvert national elections, scheduled for September. . . . Some Western officials have said that it would suffice for now if Karadzic is removed from power, even if he is not brought to trial. (A) communique issued here reflected that view."

Also in The New York Times today, Marlise Simons at The Hague comments: "Radovan Karadzic may appear no closer to surrendering real power or to giving himself up to NATO forces. But the Bosnian Serb leader does seem to be preparing to confront charges that he is a war criminal by appointing lawyers to represent him at the war crimes tribunal here. It is too early to say whether this is a sign that Karadzic is feeling vulnerable as Western pressure mounts or whether this is a fresh attempt to mislead the international community about his intentions. But Karadzic has been forming a legal defense team that includes two American lawyers who say they plan to challenge the tribunal's procedures as biased and unfair."

William Pfaff says today in a commentary in the International Herald Tribune: "The contempt with which Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic continue to treat the international community and the West's governments is thoroughly deserved. . . . Nearly all those officials determined to achieve what their governments professed to want in ex-Yugoslavia have failed, each betrayed by the authorities he or she served, which did not intend that its words be taken seriously."