News

*97020401

RUSSIA: YELTSIN'S HEALTH AND 'THE BEST OUTCOME' IN CHECHNYA

(Foreign Media Reaction Daily Digest)

President Yeltsin's precarious health and the election of rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov as president of Chechnya Jan. 27 have kept Russia high on the list of foreign analysts' concerns in the past few weeks. The effect a 66-year-old president's recurring illnesses and a "paralyzed" government might have on Russia's course remained the principal fear among observers. Commentators believed that Mr. Yeltsin does not intend to step down and they wondered if this would condemn Russia to continuous "drift," to debilitating power struggles and to failure in coping with challenges in the international arena, such as NATO enlargement. The independent Manila Chronicle declared, "Nothing can solve the deadlock in Russia except a resolution one way or the other of Yeltsin's fitness to govern." And yet, mindful of Russia's previous history of strife absent a clear line of succession, writers also worried about a future without Mr. Yeltsin. Moscow's reformist Segodnya held, "Yeltsin simply must get well and never get sick again until every Russian learns to survive on his own.... Maybe then they will elect not a charismatic czar, but a competent president." Journalists were uneasy with reports last week that the Kremlin leader had canceled his meeting with European Union ministers in The Hague and with hints from Washington that his March summit with President Clinton might be postponed. The press therefore took some comfort in French President Chirac's positive assessment of Mr. Yeltsin's condition following their talks Feb. 2. British and Italian commentators judged that the visit served to "shake off doubts" about Mr. Yeltsin's capacity to carry out his presidential duties. Editorialists were relieved, also, by Mr. Yeltsin's lightning visit to the Kremlin, which helped foil the Jan. 22 attempt by the Communists in the Duma to oust him.

The media welcomed the Chechnya vote as "the best outcome" for Russia, since Mr. Maskhadov is widely seen as a "pragmatist" with whom the Kremlin can negotiate the republic's bid for independence. German national ARD-TV, for instance, described the Chechen rebel "as the best to lead the downtrodden country into a livable future." Analysts praised the poll as a "victory for democracy," with Moscow's reformist Izvestia admitting it was "the most democratic of all elections held in Russia in recent years." Editorialists, nevertheless, did not anticipate an easy path for Chechnya, given Moscow's reluctance to grant Grozny an independence coveted by other Russian autonomous regions and republics. Most opinion-makers stressed that other nations, unwilling to arouse Russia's ire, are unlikely to recognize Chechnya's independence, either. A straightforward view of the line the Kremlin will adopt on this issue came from Moscow's official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta: "A divorce takes two.... We are destined to live together." Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta of Moscow, on the other hand, sided with a solution often advanced by Chechen leaders: "Chechens...will remain in Russia, economically, and break away from her, politically." Beijing's official, Central Political and Legal Commission Legal Daily added, "The most realistic approach for Chechnya is to abandon the demand for independence and restore and develop its own economy as a member of the Russian Federation."
This survey is based on 74 reports from 20 countries, Jan. 16-Feb. 4.
EDITOR: Mildred Sola Neely

EUROPE

RUSSIA: "Yeltsin Must Get Well, Never Get Sick Again" Tatyana Malkina demanded in reformist Segodnya (2/1): "Boris Yeltsin simply must get well and never get sick again until every Russian learns to survive on his own, a habit to be learned early in his life. Maybe then they will elect not a charismatic czar, but a competent president."

"Government, Communists Fear Lebed"

Stepan Kiselyov said in reformist Izvestia (1/31): "That the left opposition and the government have increasingly been coming together is no news to any discerning analyst. They have been doing so for the simple reason that, together, they can more effectively act against their common enemy, Alexander Lebed.... Lebed spells the political death of Zyuganov and Co. and those in the Russian establishment whose income taxes alone are large enough to feed an army of hungry pensioners. Lebed is a threat to all of the political elite."

"Yeltsin: Burden"

Irina Antipova remarked on page one of reformist, youth Moskovskiy Komsomolets (1/31): "The sick Yeltsin is like a suitcase without a handle: You can't drop it, and you have no strength to carry it any more.... Anyone familiar with the president will tell you that, ailment or no ailment, he will never give up power by himself, even if hooked up to three intravenous feeders and an artificial lung."

"Moscow's Joy Premature?"

Dmitry Kamyshev concluded in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (1/31): "Moscow's hopes for an accord with the new Chechen leaders may prove vain after all, and so too may Maskhadov's hopes for peace inside Chechnya. Even if Maskhadov, as a private person, does not mind Chechnya continuing as part of Russia--which is unlikely--as a president, he can't but consider the opinions of many of his fellow-countrymen to whom refusing independence is treachery. If he were to choose between unity inside his country and good relations with Moscow, he would hardly pick the latter."

"We Are Destined To Live Together"

Official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (1/30) front-paged this comment by Tatyana Shutova: "Most Russian politicians agree that the pragmatic Maskhadov is the best choice as far as prospects for mutually acceptable relations between Chechnya and the federal center are concerned.... The time of militant slogans is over. Chechnya has changed now, and so too has Russia.... Chechen leaders never weary of repeating, 'We are apart, politically, but together, economically.' But that is impossible. You can't separate politics from the economy. Yet you can divide authority and responsibility. No one is going to recognize Chechnya retroactively, which means there will be no compensation. A divorce takes two. This is how it was in the case of Algeria and France, and this is how it was in the case of England and Northern Ireland. It must be understood that nobody, besides Chechnya, needs Chechnya.... We are destined to live together. We need time to cool off, shed ire, and let our eyes dry up."

"Chance To Solve Chechen Issue"

Valery Yakov filed from Grozny for reformist Izvestia (1/30): "Hopefully, Chechnya will avoid Afghanistan's fate, namely, being split into several parts controlled by irreconcilable field commanders. But that will in large measure depend not only on Basayev and Maskhadov's diplomatic skills but actions by the unpredictable Moscow. Russian politicians have a real chance to address the Chechen problem in a proper way. Chechnya now has a genuinely popular leader, one that has been chosen by its people, not by the Russian army. He is ready for a dialogue, provided it is based on respect and does not grow into another brief, passionate romance of which the fickle Kremlin has had several of late."

"Victory For Kremlin"

Lev Bruni said in reformist Segodnya (1/29): "Chechnya's choice has obviously coincided with Moscow's, which can, and indeed must, be viewed as the biggest success of the Kremlin's Chechen policy."

"Russia To Become Economic Donor"

The chief editor of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1/29), Vitaly Tretyakov, judged on page one: "Chechens are certain to pick a path that is best for them--they will remain in Russia, economically, and break away from her, politically. This means that Russia will become an economic donor so as later to gain ground in the Chechen economy and recover what she has had to invest in it or lose everything in the end. Up to now, Moscow has only been able to lose, making the Russian taxpayer to pay for whatever has been lost. That does not apply to Moscow's Chechen problem alone. Moscow lacks a concept of national interests, foreign and domestic policy."

"Most Democratic Election In Russia"

Valery Yakov reported from Grozny for reformist Izvestia (1/29): "It is possible that a 'parade of electoral promises' in Chechnya will make way for a 'parade of protests.' Sadly, the Russian leadership may join that chorus of protesters. Certain politicians, following the election from their comfortable chairs in Moscow--at a safe distance--have already begun trumpeting about illegitimacy. Being that far away, they could not see that the Chechen election, for all its minor faults, was the most democratic of all elections held in Russia in recent years."

"Whoever Wins, Chechnya Will Leave Russia"

Pyotr Karapetyan remarked on page one of centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (1/28), "When election passions subside the role played in Chechnya by the OSCE mission led by Tim Guldimann will undoubtedly be objectively assessed. It is hard to imagine that any member of that mission, should a problem similar to that of Chechnya arise in his own country, would approach it with the same standards that were used in Russia. They shut their eyes not only to the murder of doctors in Novye Atagi (and other crimes) but also to the fact that one of the official candidates for vice president of Chechnya was personally indicted of kidnapping people, the fact that elections in Chechnya are being held in violation of the Russian constitution (surely, the OSCE does not yet consider that Chechnya has seceded from Russia) and the fact that in a discriminatory move the Chechen authorities effectively denied the constitutional right to vote to tens of thousands of refugees from Chechnya.... Be that as it may, the elections have been held. But whoever wins, the main outcome of the election is predetermined: Through its new president, Chechnya will insist on leaving Russia."

"On His Last Legs?"

Tatyana Malkina stressed on page one of reformist Segodnya (1/28), "So, for the first time Boris Yeltsin has to acknowledge his own frailty to the whole world (which is watching him with bated breath). Apparently, the president's doctors have canceled the spirit's victory over flesh by explaining to Boris Yeltsin that 'air flights' now may disable him in the future. The drama which may befall anyone who has worked in a hazardous job after 65 and had serious heart surgery may cause colossal ideological and even political damage because the person in this case happens to be Boris Yeltsin.

"First, a new wave of increasingly difficult-to-deny rumors about the president's health is sure to arise.... Second, even those voters who wish him well will be startled to learn that the person they voted for is, after all, on his last legs. It will take some effort to make them change their minds, if indeed, such an effort will be still required."

"Yeltsin's Ailment Impedes Reform"

Stepan Kiselyov wrote in reformist Izvestia (1/23): "Obviously, this country will not stand another presidential election. Yet there is a growing awareness both among the opposition and in the government that the president's ailment impedes economic reform, making it impossible to run the country effectively on a day-to-day basis.... Russia cannot forever follow Boris Yeltsin along the Kremlin-residence-hospital route. Many agree that the Constitution needs to be reviewed.... Modern medicine can make sure that Yeltsin lasts another four years, but this is hardly acceptable for ambitious politicians who have set their sights on the presidential chair."

"Searching For Yeltsin's Successor"

Tatyana Koshkareva held on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1/21): "As this nation has resigned itself to Yeltsin being incapacitated, the entire political elite is out looking for his successor.... A sick president has become not just part of the Russian political scene but a symbol of a period of powerlessness in this country.... Over the past few weeks, it has been a good form for self-respecting politicians to dissociate themselves publicly from the powers that be.... Boris Yeltsin has been written off by both the left opposition and loyalists.... The palace guard has virtually betrayed the still living president."

GERMANY: "A Double Miracle"

Klaus Bednarz commented on national ARD-TV's late evening newscast "Tagesthemen" (1/28): "The elections in Chechnya represent a double miracle. The first one is that they took place at all and happened without incidents. The second miracle is the fact that, with Maskhadov, a man was elected who, according to the majority of observers, is the best to lead the downtrodden country into a livable future. But the problems are clearly visible.

"It would be an illusion to expect effective material assistance from Boris Yeltsin.... As surprising as it may sound, it is appropriate to call upon the Bonn government for help. Helmut Kohl transferred billions to Boris Yeltsin with which, in the end, the war in Chechnya was financed, too."

"Maskhadov's Win Best Outcome For Russia"

Peter Josef Bock observed in a commentary on regional radio station Norddeutscher Rundfunk of Hamburg and regional radio station Suedwestfunk of Baden-Baden (1/29): "For the political leadership in Moscow, the pragmatic Maskhadov is the best outcome of the elections, even though he was responsible for Moscow's bitter defeat. Future Russian- Chechen relations will now decisively depend on the health of the current Russian president and of possible new elections. For the time being, Maskhadov can demand Chechnya's independence, but he is unable to enforce it. And at international level, no state can currently risk provoking Moscow by recognizing Chechnya."

"A Speedy Recovery, Or Resignation"

Helmut Herles observed in an editorial in centrist General- Anzeiger of Bonn (1/24), "Czars, presidents and secretary- generals come and go, but the great Russian people continue to exist. They have just embarked on the difficult path to democracy and a socially tolerable market economy which have by no means been accomplished yet. In order to achieve this, a healthy president would be necessary, but Yeltsin's illnesses have long since become a political affair. This is why we wish him a speedy recovery--or his resignation. The assumption that Yeltsin is the lesser evil can, in the long run, not be the basis for his support. On the other hand, the Communists, who want to oust him now, are also political parties. The suffering of Russia is mainly based on the things for which the Communists since Lenin and Stalin were responsible. They are really the last ones who should act as Yeltsin's or the people's physicians. They do not want to help, they want to hurt."

"Not Much Will Happen Until They Decide In Moscow Who Will Follow Yeltsin"

Stefan Avenarius noted in an editorial in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/23), "There is no doubt that Boris Yeltsin can hardly really react any more. His bypass operation and his pneumonia in addition to his alcohol misuse--the condition of the Russian president is no state secret. But it is not as easy as the Communist group had thought as it would be to oust him.... They were certainly aware of the fact that the Constitution does not provide for an ouster for health reasons before they created the storm in the parliamentary tea cup.

"This means that their motion in the Duma was pure theater to discredit Yeltsin. They wanted to show the Russians and the world how sick and incapable to act the man at the top is. New elections should be the only alternative. But one thing should be kept in mind. Until the petty successors in Moscow have not made up their mind on who should succeed Yeltsin, not too much will happen in Moscow. Instead, all sides involved continue to govern according to the best Kremlin tradition: The czar is almost dead, but as long as he is able to stand upright, everything remains as it is."

"Let Us Hope That It Is Not Another October Revolution"

Right-of-center Augsburger Allgemeine (1/23) warned, "Russia is currently experiencing an incredibly difficult transition stage: A developing democracy is mixing with anarchist tendencies. Some developments exceed the limits, and everything has not yet been completed, but Russia is and continues to remain a giant in whose wellbeing we must be very well interested. After the October revolution, there was once before a phase of anarchy, and it was followed by decades of brutal dictatorship. Let us hope that the chaos of today is not followed by an ice-cold order."

BRITAIN: "Yeltsin Back In Limelight"

The independent Financial Times noted (2/3): "Yeltsin yesterday sought to reassert himself as Russian president by holding a three-hour summit with France's President Chirac. Chirac said after the discussion that he was 'impressed by the speed' of Yeltsin's recovery.... The Kremlin is hoping the testimonial will help Mr. Yeltsin shake off doubts about his health."

"De Facto Chechen Independence?"

The centrist Independent pointed out (1/29): "The shrewd commander who helped lead Chechnya in its war against Russia has claimed outright victory. Mr. Maskhadov made it clear that he wanted Chechen independence to be recognized by the rest of the world--including its old enemies in Moscow.... Although Russia may dismiss Chechen cries of independence as wishful thinking, it will convince nobody. Its troops, civil servants and security services have withdrawn, leaving the Chechens to try to carve out a life among the wreckage. There is about as much sense of a federal presence in this Islamic republic as there is alcohol in the market place: None.

"The question is what, if anything, Moscow will do?"

"Concern Mounts For Yeltsin's Health"

In the view of the conservative Times (1/28), "The Kremlin has insisted throughout the latest illness that the country is functioning normally, despite the absence of its leader, who, it said, is making a slow but steady recovery.... Nevertheless, the decision to cancel the visit to Holland, the first foreign trip planned by the president in nearly a year, played straight into the hands of his rivals, who have been calling on him to resign or at least to amend the constitution and allow a transfer of some powers to parliament."

"Russia Drifts Under 'Sick Man' Yeltsin"

In editorial comment, the independent Financial Times said (1/28): "Boris Yeltsin is clearly a very sick man.... Already the country is drifting. There is a sense of paralysis in the government, and despair in the population at the corruption and abuse of power in the coterie of new capitalists surrounding the sick president. If Mr. Yeltsin remains out of action for weeks, if not months, vital decisions will not be taken. Most important are the negotiations on future relations between Russia and an enlarged NATO: Only the president can finalize the terms....

"If Mr. Yeltsin can return to full fitness, it would be splendid. But that looks ever less likely. Rather, it is already beginning to look depressingly like the last years of Leonid Brezhnev."

"Vote Sign Yeltsin Losing Credibility As Leader"

The attempt in the Duma to force Yeltsin out of office prompted this conclusion by the independent Financial Times (1/23): "The vote was a strong sign that Mr. Yeltsin is swiftly losing his credibility as a leader."

FRANCE: "Chechens Have Shown Their Democratic Maturity"

Right-of-center Les Echos (1/29) said: "Moscow had threatened to break diplomatic relations with any nation that recognized the Chechen Republic's independence.... The Chechens have shown their democratic maturity.... Russia's position will now depend on Yeltsin's health. Were he to disappear, Chechnya could once again become a major subject of debate among the candidates to succeed him."

"The Victory Of Democracy"

According to Jean-Claude Kiefer in regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace (1/29): "Maskhadov's victory is also the victory of democracy.... It was made possible because Russia respected, to the letter, the agreement signed by General Lebed.... But this victory raises other issues, such as the question of real independence for Chechnya as opposed to autonomy, and in Russia the question of Lebed's image, the man who is victim of his own success."

ITALY: "Restoring Credibility To Yeltsin?"

Enrico Franceschini filed from Moscow in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (2/3): "If Chirac's mission to Moscow was meant to restore a minimum of credibility to Yeltsin in the wake of the recent wave of pessimistic reports about his health condition, that goal has been achieved."

"White House Signals On Clinton-Yeltsin Summit"

A report from Moscow in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/28) noted: "For the first time the White House has indicated that the March summit between Yeltsin and Clinton may be postponed. The White House will be able to get a better idea on the possible date of the summit after the meeting between Al Gore and Chernomyrdin which will be held in Washington from February 6 to 8. Among those who insist that Yeltsin cannot return to govern is Alexander Lebed...who, according to polls, is in the front runner if the president resigns.... Debate on constitutional reform is taking place, with some people favoring a change that allows Yeltsin's men to keep power in their hands."

"Czar Boris Confounds The Duma"

Fabrizio Dragosei filed from Moscow in centrist, top- circulation Corriere della Sera (1/23): "Once again, the Duma avoided at the last minute a clash with President Yeltsin during a confused session which rather served to strengthen the national image of the sick czar. The Communists' efforts to make the Duma approve the removal of Yeltsin for health reasons failed, in part because, in an astute surprise move, Yeltsin went to work for a few minutes to meet with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, with the aim of showing that he is in `full control' of the government.... Czar Boris, in sum, has overcome another difficult moment. The real issue now is whether he will really succeed in regaining the reins of power."

"The Moscow Rivals"

An editorial in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica held (1/21): "In the past, U.S. administrations had always been very careful not to irritate the man in charge at the Kremlin.... This time instead the State Department has not shown the slightest embarrassment over the presence of Alexander Lebed in Washington, creating the suspicion that he was welcome. Similar treatment was shown to Lebed a few days ago by the German political and economic world, during Lebed's first visit to Germany, i.e. to a country which in the last few years has done all it can to appear as the best friend of Boris Yeltsin. The impression is that America and Europe are anxious to establish good relations with the `new man' in Moscow and that, like many Russians, they deem unavoidable, if not imminent, a change of the guard at the Kremlin."

BELGIUM: "Yeltsin Does Not Plan To Step Down"

On the occasion of Yeltsin's 66th birthday, foreign affairs writer Ludwig De Vocht stressed in financial Financieel- Economische Tijd (2/1): "The image that some are sketching of Yeltsin as an old, rather senile czar with dishonest counselors around him is a myth. Some members of Yeltsin's entourage may have a 'hidden agenda' but when the president feels threatened in his position of power, he strikes back unrelentingly.... Yeltsin, who always describes himself as a stubborn man, does not plan to step down at the age of 66.... Whether he is physically capable of doing that is another question."

"Will Chechnya Go The Way Of Afghanistan?"

In independent Le Soir (1/28), Pol Mathil commented, "Chechnya represents, after Afghanistan, the second withdrawal of the Russian army from a territory which it occupied following a military setback. There is, however, a major difference. Afghanistan was a foreign country, the presence there of the Soviet army was completely without justification. Moscow's intervention was cynically imperialist. Chechnya, on the other hand, was part of the Russian Federation, and in the eyes of Moscow...and of the rest of the world, the Russian army was legally at home there. The second observation is that the very fact that the election took place already represents a success.... The Afghan example suggests prudence: It was after the Soviets' departure that the 'real' war, tribal and religious, began among Afghans. It caused more deaths and destruction than Moscow's military intervention. Is Chechnya heading for similar developments?"

"Moscow Will Certainly Be The Loser In Chechnya"

Under the headline above, foreign affairs writer Frank Schloemer insisted in independent De Morgen (1/28): "Before the final outcome is known, there is one certainty: Moscow will be the loser--no matter who wins the elections in the Caucasus.... (Prime Minister) Chernomyrdin's recent statement that the Kremlin is willing to cooperate with any legally elected Chechen president is not important. Moscow simply does not have an option--except that it could start the war again. But this seems quite unlikely as the Russian army was overly humiliated in recent years in the Caucasian republic. On the other hand, Moscow cannot simply let the Chechens go because it would thus create a precedent. Many minorities in the greater Russia would view it as an incentive to start their own 'Chechen war.'"

HUNGARY: "Time Travel"

Very conservative Uj Magyarorszag (2/4) concluded about Yeltsin's birthday, "In any event, the average citizen feels as if he were on a time travel, back to the age of Soviet gerontocracy. The atmosphere of uncertainty has penetrated the Russian capital. Obviously, keeping the president in power at any price is in the interest of his closest colleagues, led by Anatoly Chubais, who is considered the regent by many. A sudden change in power would be welcome neither by the many governors/senators of the upper house, nor by a considerable part of the current economic elite. The intentions of the Communist and radical nationalist MPs of the lower house (Duma) are completely different: They are fed up with the official tales on Yeltsin's health, and later this week, after several failed attempts, the issue of the president's removal will again rise. This can only give strength to Yeltsin's adversaries, of whom it is still Lebed, badmouthed with gusto by the political establishment and power media, who has the most chances to take over."

"Chechens' Position Strengthened"

Conservative Magyar Nemzet concluded (1/28), "The elections considerably strengthen the position of the Chechens: From now on Moscow will have to negotiate with separatists leaders formerly treated as terrorists as the democratically elected representatives of Chechen society. The war did a lot of damage to Russia's reputation and it cost millions of dollars, too. At the moment Moscow can choose between two alternatives: It can either annul the election referring to the obvious illegalities involved but risking the outburst of further fighting or it can, though very unwillingly, accept whatever results the election will have."

SPAIN: "Impeccable Elections Expressing Will Of The People"

Expert in Russian affairs Francisco Eguiagaray wrote (2/2) for conservative ABC: "After the withdrawal of the Russians, crime, looting and murder have soared not only among Russians unable to flee but among Chechens themselves. This explains the triumph of Maskhadov (as a symbol of discipline). The picture that emerges is that the elections were impeccable and that they expressed the will of a united people. It is useless to claim that the Chechens...are just clans, with a common language, who are always ready to plunder and revolt against power or among themselves.... Maskhadov has stated clearly: It is now a problem of international recognition."

"Russia's Plight"

Readers of liberal El Pais (1/31) saw this editorial: "Russia finds itself in an openly precarious institutional situation...because the legal holder of power is in no physical condition to attend to his endless duties...and strict constitutional measures leave Yeltsin without any provisional transfer of power whenever he decides he is not capable of performing his duties.... Any initiative to curtail presidential powers must come from Yeltsin himself with the help of the constitutional tribunal's magistrates."

"Chechen Common Sense"

Conservative ABC's editorial said (1/29), "The overwhelming majority of votes for Maskhadov...honors the common sense of the Chechen people in trusting the most prudent of the candidates to become the legitimate leader of the country."

"Time To Recognize Chechnya, Later On"

In an editorial, liberal El Pais (1/29) said, "With the August peace accord, Moscow appeared to consider the possible independence of Chechnya as a lesser evil. However, the various interpretations of this peace accord raise serious doubts about a true return to peace. It will be very hard for Russia to accept the creation of an Islamic state on its borders. Neither will it be easy for Grozny. In addition to the country's complicated geography, Chechnya's energy needs makes it extremely dependent on Russia. Chechens...have voted massively and the vote appears to have been clean. Maskhadov has shown that he is seeking reconciliation abroad and domestically. If the election's results are confirmed, the international community must accept them. There will be time to recognize the country, as such, later on."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

JAPAN: "The Fall Of The 'Russian Empire?'"

An editorial in liberal Tokyo Shimbun said (1/31), "The peaceful presidential election in Chechnya means that moves toward independence will soon start there. We hope Chechnya's moves toward independence will be peaceful because what happens there will have tremendous influence on other ethnic minorities in Russia.... If and when the Chechen independence movement begins in earnest, it will undoubtedly spur Tatarstan and other ethnic republics to seek independence. Moreover, such moves will likely prompt such autonomous regions as the Russian far east and Siberia to sever their political and economic ties with Russia. This may lead to the beginning of the fall of the 'Russian Empire.'"

"Chechnya's Independence Should Be Recognized"

An editorial under the headline above ran in conservative Sankei (1/29), "We place hopeful expectations on Russian noninterference as a sign that Moscow will respect the will of the Chechen people expressed in the election. While reflecting on the fact that its refusal to recognize the election of the late Chechen President Dudayev in October 1991 was a major cause of the 21-month civil war, Russia should begin sincere talks with the new Chechen president and avoid the recurrence of a bloody civil war.... Chechens, who believe they scored a victory over Russia in the civil war will, without doubt, become more inclined to seek independence.... Yeltsin, who has a health problem and has been in a rivalry with former security chief Lebed, should be more broad-minded to ensure peace in Chechnya."

CHINA: "Chechnya Should Abandon Its Demand For Independence"

Sun Taihui offered this advice in official, Central Political and Legal Commission Legal Daily (Fazhi Ribao, 1/31), "The most realistic approach for Chechnya is to abandon the demand for independence and restore and develop its own economy as a member of the Russian Federation. But can the Chechens do so? On this issue, the new government may be able to devise an approach to resolving Chechnya's status that would be mutually acceptable to the two parties."

"Elections Not Solution To Chechnya Crisis"

Ju Mengjun told readers of official, Communist Party People's Daily Overseas Edition (Renmin Ribao Hai Wai Ban, 1/28), "The issue of who will become president of the Chechen Republic involves not only relations with the Russian federal authorities, but will also have an impact on prospects for regional peace. The election is an important step in restoring normalcy to the Chechen region, but it is not, in itself, a solution to the Chechen crisis. None of the contenders for the presidency... has said he would abandon Chechen independence. If a hardliner from the Chechen... armed forces becomes president, the antagonism between the Chechens and the Russian federal authorities will be further exacerbated. Some agreements previously reached may not be implemented.... No matter what the election produces, the Chechen crisis will remain one of the Russian government's most difficult problems."

INDONESIA: "Yeltsin's Health Problems Escalate Russian Political Tension"

Leading, independent Kompas maintained (1/21) in an editorial, "The speculation and intrigue sparked by President Yeltsin's ill health will increase the tension in Russia's political atmosphere.... The current tensions highlight demands for a new, far-sighted leader, in prime health who will be able to overcome Russia's problems."

PHILIPPINES: "Maskhadov Must Convince World About Chechen Freedom"

An editorial in the independent Manila Times (2/2) said, "Something was overlooked in the elections. The minority Russian-speaking populace, the Orthodox Christians, were disenfranchised, having been driven out of the region during the 21 months of fighting.... The day Maskhadov declared himself the Chechen president...he also asserted Chechen independence. He has to convince the world about Chechen freedom. Muslim countries may warm up to his declaration.... But recognition can raise concern among countries beset by Islamic-based movements that are crying persecution and calling for secession."

"Needed: A Solution On Yeltsin's Fitness To Govern"

Former ambassador to Europe J. V. Cruz wrote in his column in the independent Manila Chronicle (1/22): "Nothing can solve the deadlock in Russia except a resolution one way or the other of Yeltsin's fitness to govern--either he must discharge his responsibilities in full or he must give way. The past months' pattern of drift, uncertainty and deception cannot continue."

SOUTH KOREA: "Yeltsin's Poor Health Leaves Russian Politics In The Dark"

Pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (1/23) commented, "Yeltsin's persistent health problems have left Moscow brimming with speculation. There are three scenarios being discussed on how the situation will unfold. The first one concerns the likelihood of Yeltsin continuing his presidential duty while sick. This possibility is viewed with skepticism because Russians fear it would intensify internal power struggles among his top aides. The result would be a deeply confused government and a dismal economy. This is what Russia seems to abhor the most. The second scenario is that Russia may want to restore its monarchic system, a prospect favored by top business groups who believe it would stabilize Russia's economy. Thirdly, Russia may try to reduce presidential prerogatives."

THAILAND: "The Longer Yeltsin Stays Away From Kremlin"

Largest-circulation Thai Rath's Jupiter commented (1/26), "The chaotic state of Russian politics seems perennial, partly due to President Yeltsin's chronic illness and his unwillingness to relinquish power.... Although the Communists and other opposition members in the Duma could join forces and easily pass a resolution to purge Yeltsin, such an action would not be legally binding under the current Russian constitution, which does not provide for the removal of a president on health grounds.... The longer Yeltsin is kept away from the Kremlin, the deeper the political vacuum, the more intensified the political infighting, and the weaker his government.... Deeper apathy toward the Russian leadership will eventually lead to a popular crisis of faith."

SOUTH ASIA

BANGLADESH: "We Welcome Dialogue Between Chechnya, Russia"

The conservative New Nation's editorial held (1/31), "Russian government officials and politicians, including the Communist leadership, have voiced the hope for a constructive dialogue with Chechen President-elect Aslan Maskhadov. We welcome the move for dialogue from both the Russian and Chechen sides on the ultimate political status of Chechnya. We believe that such a dialogue will help establish a durable peace in the Chechen-Russian relationship leading to mutual cooperation for the common benefit of the two peoples."

INDIA: "King Lear In The Kremlin"

An op-ed page article by columnist Arun Mohanty in the centrist Telegraph from Calcutta concluded (1/16): "As President Boris Yeltsin recovers...the power struggle in the Kremlin is getting more intense. One key player who has lost out, at least for the time being, is Alexander Lebed.... Chubais, Russia's present strongman...for all practical purposes...is the acting president and runs the country, while the government headed by Chernomyrdin seems to be a body looking after the economic management and subordinate to the chief of presidential staff.... The ailing Yeltsin, by sacking his most rusted friends at Chubais's insistence, has turned into a Russian version of King Lear."

IRAN: "Lasting Peace In Chechnya Will Benefit Moscow"

An editorial in the pro-Hashemi Rafsanjani, pro- pragmatists, English-language Tehran Times (1/27) welcomed the poll in Chechnya and called on Russia to help the Chechens build their economy and reconstruct their republic. "In order to ensure a lasting peace and stability in the Caucasus republic and the region, all of the parties concerned should try their utmost to guarantee a fair poll," said the paper. "A lasting peace in Chechnya will not only benefit Moscow but other regional countries as well."

SRI LANKA: "Russia Is Drifting"

Jayatilleke de Silva said in the English-language, government-owned Daily News (1/28): "Russia is drifting without leadership, without direction.... Whatever way Yeltsin finds to get out off the present crisis his days in the Kremlin seem to be numbered and Russia is set to undergo a period of instability and turmoil endangering peace and stability in Europe, in particular.... In Washington, Lebed said he wanted to have an inauguration on the same lines as that of President Clinton. Whether the west would be able to replace the man in the Kremlin with Lebed in the not too distant future is yet too early to predict."

AFRICA

NIGERIA: "An Ailing President Is The Least Russia Needs Right Now"

Kaduna's pro-government, independently-owned weekly Democrat commented (2/2), "A seriously ailing president is the least Russia needs right now. If the once superpower nation is not to relapse into visible decay, then there is every need to pay attention to the quality of its leadership. Yeltsin does not now fit into the shoes of a credible and dependable leader.... His health has deteriorated significantly and there is nothing he can personally do about that. To date, Russia is the only country that has the clout; the military clout to check the hegemonic rule of a single power. Yeltsin should have the courage to sacrifice personal interest in the national interest. That is the hallmark of statesmanship. And Russia, right now, much more than ever before, needs a statesman of unrivalled stature."

LATIN AMERICA

ARGENTINA: "The New Fight For Power In Russia"

Julio Crespo, international columnist of daily-of-record La Nacion (2/2), commented: "Observers and the majority of the public within and outside of Russia believe that Boris Yeltsin will not be able to hold his job for much longer. But neither the president...nor the members of his inner circle are willing to admit it.... Yeltsin continues to reappear periodically, and although his physical appearance seems to be weaker, his gestures are always a reassurance of authority."

"Russia's Mortgaged Political Future"

Araceli Viceconti, international columnist of leading Clarin (1/26), commented, "With the passing days, Russia's political future seems to be more and more mortgaged.... The Kremlin...maintains its old policy of converting convalescence into mere colds. But this strategy...seems to wear out.... With a convalescent Yeltsin, the race for the position as head of state is already underway. Among others, Lebed, Chernomyrdin, Chubais...Luzkhov, and the former Communist candidate...Zyuganov, await their turn. Everything seems to indicate, though, that their ambitions must wait and uncertainty will last for some time. Those who know (Yeltsin) well feel that only an extreme relapse can lead him to giving up his only known ideology: power."

##

For more information, please contact:

U.S. Information Agency
Office of Public Liaison
Telephone: (202) 619-4355

2/4/97

# # # .