Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Yeltsin fires another
prime minister

Bullet The issue: President Yeltsin fired Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and replaced him with Vladimir Putin.

Bullet Our view: The action seems to be a response to the formation of an opposition coalition to seek power in the presidential election next year.

IN the eight years that have passed since the fall of communism, Russia has yet to undergo a peaceful, democratic transition of government. As President Boris Yeltsin approaches the end of his final term, completion of that ultimate test in elections scheduled for next summer is uncertain.

The recent coalition of forces opposed to the government and Yeltsin's firing of his cabinet in apparent response has brought tension to new heights.

Russia's economic problems seemed to be behind Yeltsin's previous abrupt changes in government. He replaced his relatively longtime prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, with young reformist Sergei Kiriyenko in March 1998.

Parliament rejected Yeltsin's attempt to reappoint Chernomyrdin to the post last August, and Yeltsin then appointed former Soviet spymaster Yevgeny Primakov. In May, Yeltsin sacked Primakov and appointed Sergei Stepashin, the former interior minister.

Stepashin is said to have been free of policy conflicts with his boss and performed adequately during his brief stewardship, except in one area: "Stepashin clearly failed to consolidate the pro-Yeltsin regime forces ahead of the parliamentary election (set for Dec. 19) and to show he could protect the interests of the family," according to Russian political analyst Boris Makarenko.

"The family" is Yeltsin's inner circle, consisting of daughter Tatyana Dyachenko, chief of staff Alexander Voloshin and financiers Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich.

Yeltsin's choice to replace Stepashin is security boss Vladimir Putin, a product of the Soviet-era KGB. Yeltsin declared Putin his preferred candidate in next summer's presidential election, but that endorsement may have little value.

Meanwhile, regional leaders have joined in forming a new political bloc in support of popular Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Primakov, also one of Russia's more popular figures, is expected to join the coalition.

At this point, Luzhkov appears to be the clear favorite to succeed Yeltsin next year, if the election is allowed to proceed. Any attempt by Yeltsin and the Russian oligarchy to interfere with that process would be a disastrous step backward.


Bullet The issue: A 26-year-old woman was shot to death by her boyfriend, who then killed himself, when she returned to fetch her belongings after a break-up.

Bullet Our view: The tragedy is a reminder that the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is when they attempt to end the relationship.

THE sad tale of 31-year-old Lionel Ortiz and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Candace Robino, demonstrates that emotions run highest in a troubled relationship when a break-up occurs.

On Aug. 3, Robino returned -- accompanied by her mother -- to the Salt Lake apartment that she shared with Ortiz. The couple had been living together for about eight months. "I think they broke up and she came to get her stuff," one of the couple's neighbors told a Star-Bulletin reporter.

Robino's mother called police, who found the bodies inside. A handgun was located near Ortiz, who apparently shot his girlfriend and then himself. Members of Robino's family told reporters that she been injured byOrtiz in the past, and he had threatened to kill himself and/or her if she ever left him.

The case shows that what domestic-violence experts say is true:

Bullet Leaving a relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim in an abusive situation.

Bullet A victim should not ask a friend or family member to accompany her to get personal belongings, especially if a firearm is on the premises or there is a history of threats. Instead, police should be called.

Bullet It is important to use experts such as domestic-violence agencies and police when planning exit strategies.

Kathryn Murray

KATHRYN and Arthur Murray's names were synonymous with ballroom dancing for decades before the Murrays retired and settled in Honolulu in 1968. Arthur started as a dance instructor in the 1920s and grew the business to 500 dance studios worldwide when they sold the franchise in 1952. He died in 1991.

Kathryn Murray married Arthur when she was 18 -- although he thought she was 20 -- and he was 29. As the dance studios prospered, she handled the accounts and correspondence and wrote training manuals for instructors.

She stepped into the spotlight as the hostess of a television show, "The Arthur Murray Party," which started in 1950 and ran for 11 years. The program featured celebrities demonstrating their dancing form.

Kathryn Murray, who died Friday at 92, was known in Hawaii as a gracious and vivacious hostess at the Murrays' frequent parties. A friend, Betty Perry, recalled, "They danced at their parties, always. She'd sing all the old songs." Another friend, Roderick McPhee, retired president of Punahou School, described her as "a great storyteller and a marvelous hostess."

The Murrays were well known for their financial contributions to local programs for health and the arts and for their collection of impressionist paintings. Kathryn Murray brightened the lives of many people.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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