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16 December 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Mikhail Gorbachev, From stagnation
to perestroika to chaos.
2. Gary Matthews: Ref JRL #1434/Dale Herspring on Lebed.
3. Glenys Babcock: Re Johnson's Russia List Christmas Wish-List.
4. Floriana Fossato (RFE/RL): Luzhkov-Supported Candidates Dominate
5. RIA Novosti: COMMUNISTS ALLEGE MUCH GARBLING IN MOSCOW DUMA POLLS.
6. Newsweek: Bill Powell, The Kremlin: Just How Sick Is Boris?
A sidelined president is the last thing Russia needs.
7. Time magazine: Paul Quinn-Judge, THE PERILS OF CATCHING COLD.
IF YELTSIN'S ILLNESS IS MORE SEVERE THAN THE KREMLIN ADMITS, RUSSIA'S
LONG-TERM HEALTH WILL BE UNCERTAIN.
8. Financial Times (UK): Chrystia Freeland, Russia: Chubais says it
'has weathered storm.'
9. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Even 'flat heads' prefer blondes.
10. AFP: Russian army bullies exact mounting toll on raw recruits.
11. Reuters: Supreme Court says tsar's bones to come to Moscow.
12. RIA Novosti: TAX COLLECTION IN RUSSIA IS PRACTICALLY UNCHANGED,
TOTALLING 10 TO 12 TRILLION ROUBLES A MONTH, ALEXANDER POCHINOK SAYS.
13. Voice of America: Michele Kelemen, YEARENDER: RUSSIA/YELTSIN'97.
14. Voice of Russia World Service: Center for Lessening Nuclear Danger
Marks 10th Anniversary.
15. BBC: Kazakh President opposes reduction in Russian language
16. Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Ekho Moskvy: Former Aide Says Colds
Yeltsin's 'Weak Spot.' (Filatov).]
December 14, 1997
[for personal use only]
Commentary: From stagnation to perestroika to chaos
By Mikhail Gorbachev
MOSCOW -- Before perestroika, Russia was at a dead end.
The country was in economic stagnation. Society was suffocating without
freedom. Russia had lost its chance to constructively influence world
Faced with a choice, we chose democracy. What we called "perestroika"
ensured the country's new breakthrough into the future. Perestroika
• A rejection of the Communist Party's monopoly on power and its
undivided sway over social and spiritual life.
• A liquidation of state monopoly on property and a turning of the
economy toward the interests of the people.
• Emancipation of economic initiative and recognition of private
• Real political freedoms.
• The fundamentals of parliamentarianism, the pluralism of opinions and
parties, freedom of speech and of conscience, and the right to leave the
• Public discussion and democratic choice of development and societal
• A foreign policy based on common sense, and not ideological
In only six years, considerable results were achieved. We put an end to
the orientation toward an irreconcilable battle with the West. It became
possible to stop the superpower arms race. And we put an end to the Cold
War. The country was suddenly open for normal contact with the outside
But the path of reform was taken in the midst of a fierce battle with
the Stalinist forces of the old order. The putsch in August 1991 dealt a
treacherous and irreparable blow to perestroika. The radical forces, by
taking advantage of the people's desire to reap the fruits of change,
Today Russia is extremely complicated and contradictory. Its prospects
are not yet clear. Contrary to what Russia's leadership says, Russia
actually has not yet made a choice. It is still at a fork in the road.
The policies of Boris Yeltsin's regime have turned out to be disastrous.
Industrial decline has surpassed any ever suffered in peacetime by a
civilized country. The plight of the population remains grave. Attempts
by the International Monetary Fund, the United States and Europe to aid
Russia's weakening economy have been too feeble.
Officialdom, largely corrupt, holds sway over the country. The
criminalization of society has reached dangerous proportions. The
citizens' personal safety and the security of their property are under
constant threat, as are their rights and freedoms.
Our mortality rate exceeds the birth rate by a factor of 1.6. A crass
mass culture is destroying national and spiritual values. The federal
power structures are decayed and helpless. The defense establishment is
The current regime has shown it is not the least bit capable of
rationally directing Russia's development.
How sad that this disastrous climate suits the 10 percent to 15 percent
of the population that has gotten rich on Yeltsin's reforms. But for a
country that is fast losing the characteristics of a normal, effective
state, this all could spell irreparable calamity.
What is there to hope for? What is to be done?
I believe that what is needed is a well-thought-out political strategy
on the state level. But this will become possible only if there is a
change in the regime.
A key move could be an orientation toward the creation of a social
state. While protecting the freedom of entrepreneurship, such a state
would take it upon itself to monitor the general welfare and offer a
social safety net to those who need it.
In spite of everything, I believe in Russia's future. The future
depends, first and foremost, on Russia itself. But the West will also
have to figure out whom it supports in Russia.
Isn't the West working to back those who are no longer capable of
conducting reform and, along with them, those who entirely reject reform
within the framework of democracy?
If Yeltsin's regime in Russia suits someone in the West, that, of
course, is a different story. But in such a case, they should know: For
most of the Russian population, it is unacceptable.
-- Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union before its
collapse in 1991, now heads the Gorbachev Foundation, a political think
tank in Moscow.
From: email@example.com (Gary Matthews)
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 19:18:18 -0500
Subject: Ref JRL #1434/Dale Herspring on Lebed
I believe Dale is quite on target re Lebed. Yup,
a blunt fellow, for sure, but, after all, Russian times are blunt
times. We've all seen what role "luck" plays in politics and careers,
and it just could be that Lebed will luck out if his bluntness and
populist appeal happen to coincide with a Yeltsin collapse, whether
health or political in nature. As with the junkers of yore,
salonfaehigkeit can follow investiture...
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 21:07:33 -0500 (EST)
From: Glenys Babcock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Johnson's Russia List Christmas Wish-List
Dear Fellow JRL Subscribers,
Over the past couple of years, I have used the djohnson list extensively.
I have greatly appreciated its
comprehensiveness coverage of issues and breadth of sources. Of course, the
list is perhaps most
interesting in its use of modern technology to be an international forum for
It is astonishing that David Johnson provides this extraordinary service
for us all without pay. In
fact, he *cannot* be paid due to copyright laws.
Given the extraordinary service David provides, I encourage you to make
David's Christmas Wish come true
and contribute to his Laptop Fund. I'm sure that cheques of $25 or
more--above and beyond the annual
subscription fee--would quickly add up to the cost of the much-needed laptop
After all, it's in our interest to keep David working over the holidays!
Glenys Babcock, Director
The Titan Group for Public Policy Analysis
62 Sparkhall Avenue tel: (416) 465-4936
Toronto, Ontario fax: (416) 778-6142
CANADA M4K 1G8 email: email@example.com
Russia: Luzhkov-Supported Candidates Dominate Moscow Election
By Floriana Fossato
Moscow, 15 December 1997 (RFE/RL) - The lady was so elegantly attired
she looked as if she had just left a formal party. And she certainly
looked out of place in a deserted polling station in southern Moscow on
a Sunday evening.
She refused to tell our correspondent her name, but said she had come
"straight from the supermarket," after listening to one of the messages
broadcast to shoppers, reminding Muscovites to come to the polls and
elect a new Moscow City legislature (called the City Duma).
"I was furious," said the woman, who added that she did not pay much
attention to the tons of leaflets advising Moscow residents how to vote
that had appeared in mailboxes in the past weeks. But she said that, in
her opinion, propaganda messages broadcast in supermarkets "telling
clients to go and fulfill their electoral duty, are just too much from
(Moscow Mayor Yuri) Luzhkov's side. So I came to vote for a candidate
who has not been supported by Luzhkov."
However, the elegant lady turned out to be part of only a tiny minority
of voters. Data made public by Moscow's Electoral Commission today
showed that candidates supported by Luzhkov dominated yesterday's
election. The commission said that only some 30 percent of the
registered voters went to the polls.
More than 350 candidates competed for 35 seats in the City Duma, elected
for the second time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Analysts say
that 27 seats went to candidates mentioned by some of the Russian
capital's papers as Luzhkov loyalists.
According to Russian regulations, a 25 percent minimum level is needed
for the poll to be valid. Electoral officials blamed the freezing
weather in the Russian capital for the low turnout, saying that the
registered temperature, hitting minus 20 degrees Celsius, played a role
even bigger than voter apathy.
The previous City Duma was elected in 1993. That vote went almost
unnoticed, as it coincided with the election of the national lower house
of parliament (called the State Duma). Observers have said that the
previous Moscow Duma proved to be largely a rubber-stamp, approving laws
initiated and supported by Luzhkov.
This electoral campaign has been closely observed by analysts, because,
for the first time, lists backed by political personalities, who are in
opposition to the powerful and populist Moscow mayor, seemed to have a
chance to enter the Moscow Duma. However, none of the candidates
belonging to the pro-Communist bloc "My Moscow," and to the list of
Luzhkov's most prominent opponent, State Duma deputy Nikolai Gonchar,
obtained a seat in the new Moscow Duma. "My Moscow" had 24 candidates in
the running and "Gonchar's Bloc" had 32.
Most of the democratic blocs campaigned as Luzhkov supporters. The most
prominent democratic bloc was the "United Democratic Forces." The bloc
was made up of representatives of "Democratic Choice of Russia" (led by
Yegor Gaidar), "Yabloko" (led by Grigory Yavlinsky) and "Our Home is
Russia" (led by Viktor Chernomyrdin). Sixteen members of the bloc were
elected -- 12 of them had Luzhkov's support during the electoral
According to observers, a cooperative legislature is essential for
Luzhkov -- a populist who has huge personal influence in the city -- to
continue to strengthen his popularity and power. Despite his repeated
denials, Luzhkov is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in
next election, scheduled for the year 2000.
Analysts had said that an unfriendly Moscow Duma could have tried to
undermine Luzhkov and his ambitious building plans, which, in recent
years, have transformed Moscow. The Moscow region is the Federation's
most properous, with about two-thirds of the overall investment in
Russia concentrated in its capital.
The daily "Kommersant" last week had said that "if some open opponents
of Luzhkov would make it to the Moscow Duma...this would be the first
blow to Luzhkov on his own ground as absolute master of the city."
However, the paper forecasted that the Moscow legislature election would
be a "vote of confidence in Luzhkov."
Luzhkov openly called on citizens to refrain from voting for Gonchar and
other opponents. Some city papers, including the official paper of the
Moscow city government, "Tverskaya 13," which is distributed free of
charge across the capital, published a "Mayor's list" of candidates. The
popular daily "Moskovsky Komsomolets," an independent publication that
is friendly to Luzhkov, published a similar list, under the headline
"Moskovsky Komsomolets votes for Luzhkov's team."
During the electoral campaign and at the eve of the vote, a flood of
leaflets against Luzhkov's opponents, particularly Gonchar and the
leader of the Moscow party organization of "Russia's Democratic Choice,"
Arkady Murashev, turned up in voters' mailboxes. The city government
denied responsibility for the leaflets, but the Electoral Commission
promised an investigation.
COMMUNISTS ALLEGE MUCH GARBLING IN MOSCOW DUMA POLLS
MOSCOW, DECEMBER 15, RIA NOVOSTI'S ALEXANDRA UTKINA - Anton
Vassilchenko, member of the patriotic bloc "My Moscow",
candidate to Moscow Duma deputies and the press-service chief of
the Communist Party's Moscow department, alleges there was much
garbling at the Moscow Duma polls yesterday. In his words, "My
Moscow" is now busy analysing the results and violations of the
voting so as to determine further action.
According to the results of the elections, the bloc
suffered a defeat: none of its representatives has gained a seat
in the Moscow Duma.
Asked by RIA, Vassilchenko said that "people despaired to
think that elections can change their life for the better". It
is in this way that he explained the unhappy outcome of the
elections for the Communists. "The political set-up today is
such that polls cannot change anything. Evidence of this is the
low attendance at the past elections, with no young people seen
at the polling stations at all," he said.
December 22, 1997
[for personal use only]
International/The Kremlin: Just How Sick Is Boris?
A sidelined president is the last thing Russia needs
By Bill Powell
It so happens," Boris Yeltsin said last month, "that winter is nearly a
natural calamity in Russia. Every year it is as if it hits us like a bolt from
the blue, the same problems all over again.''
This winter it's worse. Russia's government is bankrupt, completely
dependent upon foreign aid. Its capital markets, recently among the world's
most buoyant, are crumbling. Nervous about possible bank failures, Russians
are beginning to dump rubles in favor of dollars. And top officials have been
weakened by infighting and scandal. As the snows blanket Moscow, it is obvious
that the country's stability remains unhealthily dependent upon one man. One
who, it is painfully clear, may not be up to the stresses of a brutal job.
For eight years, Boris Yeltsin has been an actuarial accident waiting to
happen. The average life span of the Russian male is 58, and the country's
president is now 66. So when he gets sick, as he did last week, everyone else
gets nervous. In announcing that Yeltsin had checked into a sanitarium in
Barvikha, just outside Moscow, the Kremlin insisted that he was suffering from
a cold that had worsened into an acute viral infection. But the government has
a long and undistinguished history of not telling the truth when it comes to
Boris Yeltsin's true condition. And last Thursday, The Washington Post, citing
two anonymous sources, reported that Yeltsin in fact was suffering from heart
trouble again; one called it "very serious." A source close to the Kremlin
told NEWSWEEK that part of the problem was heart-related, but that "it's not
serious; that is, not life threatening."
Yeltsin's admission to the rest home came after a surreal diplomatic trip
to Sweden the week before. At one point, while speaking in Stockholm, he
plainly thought he was in Finland. He also made a reference to Japan as a
nuclear power (it's anything but) and made out-of-the-blue proposals to
sharply reduce Russia's military and nuclear forces that were immediately
countermanded by startled generals. By the time he returned home, Moscow was
ablaze with rumors about Yeltsin's fitness. They were fueled by the fact that
Renat Akchurin, the surgeon who performed Yeltsin's bypass a year ago, went
along on the trip. (The Kremlin said that he only wanted to see his patient in
action one year after the bypass.) Journalists traveling with Yeltsin were
reassured about his health. " 'He's just tired' was the message we got," said
one last week.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky laughed off the question
about Yeltsin's health: "I have long forgotten about his health problems," he
said. Just 36 hours later, Yeltsin was ordered to bed. On Thursday the
president's office released a soundless video of his meeting with an aide in
Barvikha. The 30-second image of a weak Yeltsin shuffling unsteadily wasn't
Yeltsin's timing couldn't be worse. Last week, the International Monetary
Fund agreed to a $700 million loan installment for Russia. But few believe the
next steps in Russia's economic development can take place without Yeltsin's
riding herd from the top. His key deputy, Anatoly Chubais, has been badly
wounded by a recent conflict-of-interest scandal. One potential successor,
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, once a prodigy, is young and
untested. And it's never been entirely clear just how committed to further
economic reform Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is. (Should Yeltsin die or
have to step down, Chernomyrdin would take over for three months before new
elections were held.)
Foreign investors, who began fleeing Russia's equity and debt markets last
month as emerging markets everywhere plunged, won't return if Yeltsin is
incapacitated. Political uncertainty would also deter desperately needed
longer-term investment. "Nine months ago," said a U.S. executive in Moscow
last week, "you could build a case around Russia that said Yeltsin was in
charge after his heart operation. He had a potentially dynamic successor in
Nemtsov; Chubais was keeping everyone focused, and it was full speed ahead.
Now... who the hell knows?" Winter is here, and the calamities, natural or
not, may have only begun.
With Owen Matthews in Moscow
December 22, 1997
[for personal use only]
THE PERILS OF CATCHING COLD
IF YELTSIN'S ILLNESS IS MORE SEVERE THAN THE KREMLIN ADMITS, RUSSIA'S
LONG-TERM HEALTH WILL BE UNCERTAIN
BY PAUL QUINN-JUDGE /MOSCOW
Boris Yeltsin just has a cold, says the Kremlin. (Colds are dangerous in
Russia. Leonid Brezhnev had a "cold" and it turned out he was gravely
ill, addicted to sedatives and barely functional; Konstantin Chernenko
had a "cold" and vanished behind Kremlin walls; Yuri Andropov had a
"cold" and was dead in weeks.) Well, maybe flu. (Last time Yeltsin
admitted to "flu" it was really pneumonia, and he was out of action for
two months.) But there's no cause for alarm, officials claimed last
week: the President will keep working while he is resting for 10 or 12
days in the sanatorium that is conveniently located next to his suburban
residence. This little respiratory infection, they say, is merely the
unlucky result of the President's failure to wear a hat during a visit
Maybe. The Kremlin has a credibility problem when it comes to
presidential health. The first time officials announced Yeltsin had a
head cold, while he was running for re-election in the summer of 1996,
it turned out to be a loose synonym for a near fatal heart attack. For
the rest of the year, he was prostrate and the country was paralyzed. A
multiple-bypass operation in November 1996 seemed to bring a miracle
recovery. Then two months later, Yeltsin came down with another
"cold"--this time, his aides said, the result of a post-sauna chill.
This cold quickly metamorphosed into pneumonia and two more months of
anxiety, political stagnation and fruitless discussion about the
At 66, Yeltsin remains the pivotal figure in Russian politics. He rules
by arbitrating among competing factions in his own administration and by
intimidating the opposition-controlled Duma when necessary. When ill
health prevents him from performing these functions, the country stalls
Even before aides acknowledged the flu last week, concern was growing
about Yeltsin's obvious fatigue and occasionally erratic behavior. The
surgeon who operated on him now travels with him but insists that the
president's heart is doing well.
Yeltsin's conduct during recent state visits to Sweden and China was at
times unnerving. He looked tired. His actions were eccentric. Some of
his startling proposals, like deep cuts in strategic missiles and
troops, were swiftly explained away as the musings of a statesman. Yet
even his own staff fretted over other bizarre pronouncements. During a
very successful trip to China, Yeltsin's hosts politely urged him to
stay. Impossible, he replied, according to reporters present: "I have
food for only two days." A person who works closely with the
presidential team feared that polls would start picking up signals that
people think, as he put it, "the president can't think straight."
If Yeltsin's illness proves more severe than the Kremlin has admitted,
uncertainty about the entire nation's immediate and long-term health
will quickly kick in. Voices will be raised calling for the presidential
succession to be clarified; at the moment the only mechanism is
essentially for the president to declare himself incapable of governing.
Yeltsin's closest aides will circle the wagons around him, forward
movement in politics and economic change will come to a halt, and the
debilitating struggle to succeed Yeltsin will gather force.
Financial Times (UK)
16 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Russia: Chubais says it 'has weathered storm'
By Chrystia Freeland in Moscow
The Russian economy has weathered the recent global financial crisis and
is set to begin growing next year, Anatoly Chubais, first deputy prime
minister, predicted yesterday.
However, Mikhail Zadornov, the recently appointed finance minister,
admitted the recent turmoil on world markets would dramatically increase
the cost of debt-servicing.
Mr Chubais' upbeat assessment coincided with official assurances that
President Boris Yeltsin was making a strong recovery from the cold which
has kept him out of the Kremlin for five days, prompting speculation he
could be suffering from more serious health problems.
Mr Chubais insisted Mr Yeltsin was firmly in charge. "He is very much
present," he said. "Not a single major issue can be resolved without a
preliminary discussion with the president."
On the economy, Mr Chubais said 2 per cent growth in GDP next year was a
realistic target. "I think it is feasible, given we seem to be emerging
from the financial crisis."
The foreign exchange, government treasury bill and stock markets
appeared to be recovering after several weeks of uncertainty.
Because of their rebound, Mr Chubais declared, Russia would not need to
take the $2bn loan from four western banks which he had begun to
negotiate earlier this month.
Mr Chubais also forecast Russia might ultimately reap more good than
harm from the international financial turbulence. "Russia could emerge
from the stock exchange and financial crises in the world with some
gains, thanks to the redistribution of world financial resources."
But Russia's long-suffering citizens, who have endured nearly a decade
of painful market reforms with no clear reward, are unlikely to be
easily convinced. Kremlin promises of an economic upswing have been made
and broken with painful consistency over the past three years.
Mr Zadornov, admitted that higher interest rates would push up the
government's cost of borrowing, estimating that debt servicing costs in
January and February would be equal to the sum the state had budgeted
for all of next year.
He said the government was trying to negotiate changes in the draft 1998
budget and shift from expensive domestic borrowing to cheaper foreign
December 15, 1997
Even 'flat heads' prefer blondes
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
PERM, Russia -- Even more so than in North America or Western Europe,
airline passengers in the former Soviet Union tend to be male.
I was, therefore, struck by the dazzling beauty of two women preparing
at 6:30 in the morning to board one of the two daily flights to Moscow
from Perm in the Urals.
All the vehicles except one arriving in the snowy darkness at the
magnificently dreary Perm Airport that morning were battered Ladas and
Volgas. The exception was an imposing black Ford Expedition with dark
windows. The monster rig which pulled up beside the clapped-out Soviet
cars was driven by a man with the brushcut that is the hairstyle of
choice for Russia's gangster elite. With the "flat head," as Exile!, a
Moscow English language tabloid likes to call such thugs, was a woman
done up in the Marilyn Monroe style.
By that I mean her hair was dyed platinum blonde, her lipstick was a
saucy red, her face a chalky white and her figure voluptuous (at least
as far as I could divine beneath the fine sable coat she had draped
casually over her shoulders).
Before the moll went through the communist-inspired document nonsense
which is still required before every Russian domestic flight, the flat
head, who wasn't travelling, took her aside. With his body slightly
turned away from me, but not so much that I wouldn't notice or be
impressed by how rich and important he was, the flat head handed his
woman a stack of new $100 U.S. notes. She didn't count the money before
tucking it into her alligator skin handbag, but as the wad was nearly an
inch thick my best guess was that it was worth somewhere between $5,000
After a kiss that seemed more grateful than romantic, the woman, whose
neck was festooned with pearls, presented her internal Russian passport
to a pair of stern-faced cops, gave her handbag over for inspection, for
she had no other luggage with her, and entered the crowded waiting room.
As she did this her paramour returned to the Expedition and whatever
happy business it was in tumbledown Perm that permitted him to be so
As I went into the waiting room, which was full of men in track suits
and shoddy winter coats, all of them carrying prodigious amounts of hand
luggage and reeking of the previous night's vodka and beer, I saw the
platinum-haired woman being offered a seat. Looking past this act of
gallantry, I set eyes on the other woman. Even more exquisitely dressed
and, apparently, a natural blonde, she stood off by herself against a
wall. A tall, cool, ethereal siren, she seemed to be announcing: "None
of you would dare talk to me."
Took the challenge
There was time to kill because the ground crew was still brushing snow
off the wings and fuselage of the tired old Aeroflot Tupolev which was
to whisk us to the bright lights of Moscow. So I took up the second
woman's unspoken challenge.
All eyes in the hall were on me as I strode up to her and asked if,
perchance, she spoke English. She shocked me and everyone else in the
hall by smiling warmly before answering.
"Yes, I do. I used to live in New York," she said. "How may I help
I stammered something about how the flight looked as if it would be
leaving a little bit late and then asked the obvious: Was she, too,
going to Moscow?
"I am, but I'm actually on my way to Helsinki to pick up a Jeep Grand
Cherokee that I'm having shipped in from America," she replied. "I'll be
driving it back to Perm before going to New York for a few days next
week to do some shopping."
With Russia's crushing car taxes, a new Grand Cherokee costs about
US$80,000. From what I had seen, Perm, like much of the Russian outback,
was in dire straits. How could she afford such a luxury?
"Well, my husband is a biznizman," she said.
"You mean, he's in the mafia?" I asked.
"Oh, you crush my Russian soul. How could you say such a terribly cruel
thing?" she said, wincing. "My husband only sells furniture."
After a brief pause during which I cursed myself for being so
mean-spirited and cynical, the woman smiled warmly again and continued
talking. "Of course my husband is in the mafia," she said.
Rhyming off the names of almost every leading public figure in Russia,
she declared that they, too, were criminals.
"How else is there to survive in this country today? Tell me, what
other choice do we have?"
Russian army bullies exact mounting toll on raw recruits
MOSCOW, Dec 14 (AFP) - Alexei Atlanov suspected a cover-up when an army
officer told him his son Volodya, 19, had poisoned himself and the family
were denied access to the medical records.
Atlanov's suspicions were confirmed when he was prevented from approaching
the body in the morgue.
"Even from a distance of 10 metres (yards) we could see that his ribcage
was broken. We also saw a dent in his head. It was clear he had been
murdered," said Atlanov, 54.
To add insult to injury, the parents were not allowed to see the body
when the army delivered their son's coffin to their home.
Volodya had joined the grim statistics of peacetime deaths in the Russian
army from assault, suicide, accidents, illnesses and even starvation, which
rose to at least 3,900 this year, according to the independent Committee of
The committee rejects the official defence ministry figure of 2,000
deaths in Russia's cash-strapped and demoralised army.
"Our figure is based on the real letters and documents brought to us by
the parents of the dead soldiers," said Veronika Marchenko, head of the
"Our information is more objective than the defence ministry's."
According to the committee, the practice of "dyedovshchina" -- systematic
bullying of raw recruits -- accounts for more than 70 percent of deaths in
the Russian army.
The humiliations inflicted on new conscripts by older soldiers lead not
only to deaths from assault but in many cases to psychological damage and
"It's very difficult to tackle this problem. It's very difficult to
conduct a criminal investigation in the army, because platoon-level
commanders are not interested in providing full information and try to cover
up the real cause of death," Marchenko said.
Andrei, 19, was beaten up and gang-raped by five of his fellow soldiers
when he was serving in the Volgograd area in southern Russia.
But his commanders advised him not to appeal to military prosecutors, and
he was transferred to another unit.
Traumatised by the experience, Andrei deserted from the army, and he is
now suffering from depression in a Moscow clinic.
Bullying even blights elite military units, and is reported to be
especially rife among the Kremlin guards.
Sergei, 18, has just begun his service in an elite Kremlin unit, and told
AFP: "Soldiers who have served for a year or more beat us up every night."
"We work by day, then all night we are beaten. It's their way of trying
to make us respect them more."
But Sergei added: "I just have to suffer one year, then I'll become a
'dyed' (senior soldier) and get my revenge," he said.
An officer serving with the Moscow military prosecutors said: "Every year
the level of education in the army is getting lower."
"Corruption has reached a level where people only serve if they cannot
afford to bribe somebody in a local army recruitment office. About 15
percent of the current draft have criminal connections," he said.
According to Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, 10 years ago only 8.3
percent of conscripts did not complete secondary education, but today the
figure is close to 50 percent.
Although the defence ministry insists that the mortality rate in the army
is declining annually, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers disputes that claim.
Colonel Vladimir Sergeyev, serving at an army recruitment office,
complained that the army was "unable to re-educate people in just one year,
and it's very difficult to tackle bullying when commanders go unpaid for
The Russian government plans to slash troop strength by 500,000 to 1.2
million by the end of 1998, abolish conscription and create an efficient,
mobile, professional army.
However, many military experts say that target is highly ambitious, and
the army will be struggling to finance such a major reform.
According to official figures, some 500 Russian officers committed
suicide in 1996, chiefly because of financial hardship.
Supreme Court says tsar's bones to come to Moscow
MOSCOW, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Russia's Supreme Court on Monday overturned a ban
by a regional court on transferring to Moscow the remains of the country's
last tsar and his family, who were murdered by Bolsheviks in 1918.
The decision, which is legally binding, opens the way for a final round of
tests to establish the authenticity of the bones.
Last month the Sverdlovsk regional court blocked the transfer of the bones
from the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, saying they could be just as easily
examined on site and were too fragile for the long train journey to Moscow.
Shortly afterwards the court allowed some of the bones to be transferred to
the capital for tests. These are expected to be completed on January 15 and
researchers will deliver a report to the government the same day.
Sverdlovsk region governor, Eduard Rossel, who is based in Yekaterinburg
Tsar Nicholas II and his family were shot, wants to bury their remains in the
But Moscow, which has just finished rebuilding Russia's biggest
the old imperial capital St Petersburg, where other Romanov tsars are buried,
also claim they are the right resting place of Nicholas, who abdicated in
President Boris Yeltsin -- who was Communist Party boss of Yekaterinburg in
Soviet times -- is expected to decide next year on when and where to bury the
The bones of Nicholas, Empress Alexandra, their children and four servants
were dug up near Yekaterinburg in 1991.
After extensive DNA tests in Russia and abroad, including on Britain's Prince
Philip, scientists declared that these are the remains of the imperial family.
However the Russian Orthodox Church questioned their findings, putting off a
decision on whether to canonise the last tsar and delaying plans for a
TAX COLLECTION IN RUSSIA IS PRACTICALLY UNCHANGED,
TOTALLING 10 TO 12 TRILLION ROUBLES A MONTH, ALEXANDER
MOSCOW, December 15. (From RIA Novosti correspondent Sergei
Melnikov). The collection of taxes in Russia is not on the
decline, as some people at times allege; it practically remains
unchanged, head of the State Tax Service of the Russian
Federation Alexander Pochinok said at today's press conference
on questions of taxation, which was held by the Working Centre
of Economic Reform under the auspices of the Russian government.
According to him, the picture is warped up by the mutual
offsets, which differ greatly from real money. When the offsets
are repealed from January 1, 1998, it will become clear that
taxes are steadily collected at 10 to 12 trillion roubles a
month, with some growth in December in view of the "tightening
of the screws."
At present, tax load level is 40% to 42% for normally
operating enterprises. If one considers the arrears of payments
by enterprises financed from the Federal budget, then the state
takes away more than half of gross product from the
budget-financed enterprises, and this is too much, Pochinok
pointed out. Therefore, taxation should be built up in the
sectors, where there are arrears, but not in the sphere of
production, he thinks.
Commenting on the resolutions of the recent meeting of the
extraordinary commission on tax collection, he emphasised that
"no one closed down the enterprises" mentioned at the meeting.
This holds true of the Omsk and Angarsk oil refineries and
Sibneft Company. They are not sold in parts; the property
complexes as a whole are placed under arrest. This means that
tax bodies are to make a study of the balance-sheets of the
enterprise in an attempt to understand what it actually owns.
Pochinok expressed confidence that matters won't reach the
lengths of auctioning the industrial enterprises.
The head of the State Tax Service pointed out that delay
with the adoption of a tax code has already spelled losses for
the budget. What is held up is the repeal of tax preferences for
VAT and tax on profits, and taxes on private individuals.
Taxation shall not apply to casinos and lotteries, contrary to
what one would like to see, and this list may be continued. All
this leads to direct losses for the budget to the tune of 2.5 to
3 trillion roubles a month.
According to Pochinok's forecast, on the basis of the
results of 1997, there will be nearly 1,500 "very rich" people
in Russia with incomes of 5 billion roubles and more a year.
Voice of America
INTRO: RUSSIAN PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN IS ENDING THE YEAR MUCH
AS HE BEGAN IT -- HE IS SPENDING (HAS SPENT) NEARLY TWO WEEKS IN
A SANATORIUM AS HEALTH CONCERNS PERSIST. BUT FOR MOST OF 1997 HE
WAS ACTIVE, TRAVELLING BOTH WITHIN RUSSIA AND ABROAD, SHOWING HE
IS FIRMLY IN CONTROL. MOSCOW CORRESPONDENT MICHELE KELEMEN
REPORTS LOOKS BACK AT THE RUSSIAN LEADER'S YEAR.
TEXT: PRESIDENT YELTSIN CULTIVATED HIS IMAGE OF A FATHERLY
FIGURE THIS YEAR, TAKING TRIPS TO THE RUSSIAN PROVINCES AND
MAKING RADIO ADDRESSES IN AN EFFORT TO CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE.
HE HAS BECOME WHAT SOME ARE CALLING A SUPREME ARBITER OF RUSSIAN
POLITICS. OTHERS REFER TO HIM AS A MODERN-DAY TSAR.
ONE-YEAR AGO, HE WAS HIDDEN FROM PUBLIC VIEW AFTER UNDERGOING
HEART SURGERY AND BATTLING PNEUMONIA. IT WAS NOT UNTIL FEBRUARY
HE WAS BACK IN OFFICE FULL TIME.
IN MARCH, HE COMPLETED HIS COMEBACK WITH A POWERFUL STATE OF THE
NATION ADDRESS. HE VOWED TO RESTORE ORDER IN THE GOVERNMENT AND
PRESS AHEAD WITH REFORMS.
/// YELTSIN ACT, ESTABLISH AND FADE ///
MR. YELTSIN SAID -- I AM NOT PLEASED WITH THE GOVERNMENT. THE
EXECUTIVE BRANCH HAS TURNED OUT TO BE INCAPABLE OF WORKING
WITHOUT THE PRESIDENT SHOUTING AT IT. HE SAID -- MOST OF THE
PROMISES THAT WERE GIVEN TO PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY CONCERNING SOCIAL
MATTERS, HAVE NOT BEEN FULFILLED.
TO SHOW THE WORLD HE WAS SERIOUS ABOUT REFORMS, MR. YELTSIN
PROMOTED THOSE HE REFERRED TO AS THE YOUNG REFORMERS IN HIS
GOVERNMENT. ANATOLY CHUBAIS AND BORIS NEMSTOV WERE NAMED FIRST
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTERS.
FOR MONTHS, MR. YELTSIN THREW HIS SUPPORT BEHIND THE REFORMIST
TEAM, BACKING THEM WHEN THEY CAME UNDER FIRE OVER THE
PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM. BUT WHEN ANATOLY CHUBAIS WAS CAUGHT IN A
SCANDAL OVER A LUCRATIVE BOOK DEAL, MR. YELTSIN CHANGED HIS TONE.
HE STRIPPED THE YOUNG REFORMER OF HIS POST OF FINANCE MINISTER.
NIKOLAI PETROV OF THE MOSCOW CARNEGIE CENTER SAYS MR. YELTSIN HAS
ALWAYS BEEN EFFECTIVE THIS BALANCING ACT.
/// PETROV ///
HE IS A BRILLIANT POLITICIAN IN THE SENSE THAT ALL THE
TIME HE IS VERY EFFECTIVE IN KEEPING HIS POWER AND
PLAYING WITH DIFFERENT PLAYERS. HE REPLACES SOME OF
THEM AND INVITES OTHERS -- ALL THE TIME KEEPING A KIND
OF DYNAMIC BALANCE AROUND HIM.
// OPT // EVEN IF IT SEEMS THAT THERE IS ONE GROUP
CONTROLLING MR. YELTSIN ENTIRELY THE NEXT DAY HE
REPLACES THEM. HE IS TRYING NOT TO PERMIT ANY GROUP OR
ANY ONE PERSON FROM BECOMING VERY INFLUENTIAL -- OR GIVE
ANYONE THE IMPRESSION THAT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR POLITICAL
PLAYERS TO SURVIVE WITHOUT MR. YELTSIN. SO HE IS
STAYING ABOVE. ALL THE TIME IT IS EVIDENT THAT THIS
PYRAMID OF POWER EXISTS BECAUSE MR. YELTSIN IS AT THE
TOP OF THIS PYRAMID. // END OPT //
/// END ACT ///
MR. PETROV SAYS PERHAPS THAT IS ALSO WHY THE PRESIDENT HINTED
SEVERAL TIMES THIS YEAR HE MIGHT FIND A WAY TO RUN FOR A THIRD
TERM IN OFFICE. MEMBERS OF MR. YELTSIN'S TEAM HAVE STAYED SILENT
ABOUT THEIR POSSIBLE PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS.
PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S RELATIONSHIP WITH PARLIAMENT ALSO CHANGED
DRAMATICALLY IN 1997. AFTER REFUSING FOR MANY MONTHS TO ADDRESS
LAWMAKERS IN THE OPPOSITION-DOMINATED LOWER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT,
MR. YELTSIN MADE SEVERAL PERSONAL APPEALS TO THEM TO PASS
IMPORTANT LEGISLATION. POLITICAL ANALYST SERGEI KOLMAKOV SAYS
THE PRESIDENT WAS THINKING ABOUT HIS IMAGE.
/// KOLMAKOV ///
AS EVERY PRESIDENT OF THE SECOND TERM -- NOW HE IS
THINKING MORE AND MORE ABOUT HIS ROLE IN HISTORY, ABOUT
HIS ROLE IN WORLD HISTORY. HE IS TRYING TO FULFILL SOME
THINGS THAT ARE MOST ESSENTIAL FOR HIM. NOWADAYS ONE OF
THESE TASKS IS TO ORGANIZE A PROCESS OF TRANSITION OF
POWER AND I THINK HE IS VERY WORRIED ABOUT THAT.
SECOND, OF COURSE, HE IS TRYING DURING HIS TERM OF
POWER, TO ACHIEVE SOME CONCRETE RESULTS IN ECONOMIC
/// END ACT ///
THE PRESIDENT OFTEN SPOKE OF THE NEED TO COMPROMISE WITH
LAWMAKERS, BUT MR. KOLMAKOV AND OTHER ANALYSTS SAY THE DUMA HAS
NOT BEEN MUCH OF AN OPPOSITION FORCE. MR. KOLMAKOV, OF THE
RESEARCH ORGANIZATION "FUND POLITKA", NOTES THE PRESIDENT'S
POWERS ARE VAST.
/// KOLMAKOV ACT TWO ///
OF COURSE IT IS DECLARED IN CONSTITUTION THE PRINCIPLE
OF DIVISION OF POWER. CHECKS AND BALANCES BETWEEN
LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL. BUT THE PRESIDENT IS PUT ABOVE
ALL OF THESE BRANCHES OF POWER. HE IS A KIND OF
ARBITER, AND FROM THAT POINT OF VIEW MANY COMMENTATORS
COMPARED THE SCOPE OF POWER GIVEN TO THE PRESIDENT TO
THE SAME RESPONSIBLITES GIVEN TO THE TSAR.
/// END KOLMAKOV ACT ///
PRESIDENT YELTSIN SEEMED COMFORTABLE WITH THAT ROLE, EVEN
REFERRING TO HIMSELF AS BORIS THE FIRST AS HE TOURED PROVINCIAL
ON THE FOREIGN POLICY FRONT, THE RUSSIAN LEADER KEPT HIS AIDES
SCRAMBLING, MAKING UN-EXPECTED FOREIGN POLICY ANNOUNCEMENTS
DURING TRIPS ABROAD. HE SPOKE ABOUT NUCLEAR AND MILITARY CUTS,
CONFUSED SWEDEN WITH FINLAND AND CALLED GERMANY AND JAPAN NUCLEAR
POWERS. RUSSIANS APPEARED UNDISTURBED BY HIS BEHAVIOR, PERHAPS
BECAUSE MR. YELTSIN HAS KEPT THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE
COUNTRY UNDER CONTROL.
Center for Lessening Nuclear Danger Marks 10th Anniversary
Voice of Russia World Service
December 12, 1997
Commentary by Yuliya Zheglova; from the "News and Views"
The Russian Scientific Center for the Lessening of Nuclear Dangers
marks its 10th anniversary next Sunday [14 December]. It was founded under
an agreement between the Presidents of the former USSR and United States.
[passage omitted: on history and current activities of the center]
In the 10 years an effective system of international control of
agreements and disarmament has been created, and the Moscow Center for the
Lessening of Nuclear Dangers has become one of its key elements. Here is
what the head of the center, General Vyacheslav Romanov, has to say in this
[Begin Romanov recording in Russian, with superimposed English
translation] We have done a lot of work. To sum it up, we have prevented
violations of treaty obligations with Russia and thus reaffirmed its
prestige of a great power. At the same time, we effectively controlled the
fulfillment of agreements by other countries. For example, latest
inspections revealed an almost ideal order in conventional armaments and
Armed Forces. The system has been shaped, General Romanov, the head of the
Russian Center for the Lessening of Nuclear Dangers, stated. We annually
analyze our work and sum up its results and we are convinced that the
system is quite effective.
Kazakh President opposes reduction in Russian language teaching
December 15, 1997
The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is reported to have
strongly opposed attempts to cut back on the teaching of the Russian
language in republic.
An Itar-Tass news agency report of a meeting concerning the transfer of
the Kazakh capital from Almaty to Akmola, said that Mr Nazarbayev urged
young people in Kazakhstan to gain a good command of the Kazakh, Russian
and English languages to enable Kazakhstan to act as a multicultural
bridge between Europe, Asia and the Moslem world.
He said the introduction of Kazakh as the state language should be done
At the televised inaugaration ceremony in Almaty Mr Nazarbayev said the
national identity should be realised.
The Uzbek and Kyrgiz presidents also attended the ceremony.
Former Aide Says Colds Yeltsin's 'Weak Spot'
Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Ekho Moskvy
12 December 1997
Nobody, not even the president, is safe from colds, the former head of
the president's administration, Sergey Filatov, said live on Ekho Moskvy
radio when commenting on the worsening of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's
He said "Boris Nikolayevich has a weak spot -- colds," so it is no
surprise that "illness has knocked over" the president, Filatov said. He
said "nobody can protect themselves all the time" from colds.