This Date's Issues:
Johnson's Russia List
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27 March 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
The next JRL will be March 30.
1. Fred Weir on Yeltsin's selection of Sergei Kiriyenko for PM.
2. Reuters: Timothy Heritage, Yeltsin takes risks in bid to reassert
3. Reuters: Text of Yeltsin's radio address.
4. Jerry Hough: Yeltsin, Regions.
5. Commersant Daily: Andrei Bagrov, CHUBAIS DOES NOT NEED FREEDOM.
6. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Andrei Korbut, ARMY WAS UNHAPPY ABOUT
7. Tate Ulsaker: eXile purpose clarified.
8. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: Berezovsky the
9. Interfax: Yeltsin Not Aiming To Dissolve Duma - Governor.
10. Reuters: Adam Tanner, Russian inmates say prison life getting
11. Reuters: Ivan Rodin, Duma reluctant to let Yeltsin dissolve it.]
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 16:40:39 (MSK)
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir in Moscow
MOSCOW (HT Mar 27) -- President Boris Yeltsin on Friday
confirmed his choice of young liberal reformer Sergei Kiriyenko
as Russia's next Prime Minister and warned the Communist-led
parliament to ratify the appointment or face dissolution.
"Don't start a new spiral of confrontation," Mr. Yeltsin
warned parliamentarians in a letter urging them to approve the
new Prime Minister.
"I will be unyielding, and it is futile for you to oppose
this," he wrote. "I'm making no threats. I'm simply telling you
as President: save time, approve him quickly so we can get on
with the business of forming a new government."
Last Monday Mr. Yeltsin summarily fired his entire cabinet,
including veteran Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, free market
reform architect Anatoly Chubais and the powerful Interior
Minister, Anatoly Kulikov.
The President appointed Mr. Kiriyenko, a 35-year old
political unknown who previously served as Energy Minister, to be
acting Prime Minister in charge of creating a dynamic new
In a radio address Friday Mr. Yeltsin said the new cabinet,
to be headed by Mr. Kiriyenko, will be cut to half the
approximately 50 Ministers who served in the previous one.
Some old officials, such as Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev
and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, will remain. But most
government posts will be filled with new people, Mr. Yeltsin
"The plans are serious," he said. "That is what we need to
shake up reforms. The reforms have slowed down a little bit."
Mr. Kiriyenko's youth and inexperience should not count
against him, because he is a skilled politician who can work with
all sides of Russia's fractious political spectrum, Mr. Yeltsin
"Professionalism and energy aren't determined by the date of
birth," Mr Yeltsin said. "The essential thing is that a man knows
his job, has fresh ideas and unorthodox approaches and knows how
to reach his goals."
According to Russia's Constitution, Mr. Yeltsin must submit
his nomination for Prime Minister to the State Duma, Russia's
lower house of parliament, for approval.
But Mr. Yeltsin warned parliamentarians that if they reject
his candidate three times, the Duma can be dissolved.
"If you go in one circle and then another, then the third,
then disbandment will follow," Mr. Yeltsin said.
Parliamentary Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, a Communist, told
journalists that the Duma will probably confirm Mr. Kiriyenko's
appointment next week, despite widespread resentment of the
President's high-handed approach.
"I regret that the President didn't use the chance to hold
consultations with the legislature about the candidate and the
course," Mr. Seleznyov said. "The president once again showed
that he's an advocate of authoritarian methods."
Yeltsin takes risks in bid to reassert authority
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, March 27 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin's decision to replace
Russia's veteran prime minister with a young reformer is a potentially risky
move aimed at tightening his own grip on power, analysts said on Friday.
Yeltsin risks a confrontation with parliament after nominating Sergei
Kiriyenko, and many politicians question the merits of concentrating more
power in the hands of a president whose health and ability to rule are in
Liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky said Yeltsin had deliberately opted for a
weak and untested prime minister.
``This is a very dangerous game. It is a great risk because we do not
things will happen from now on. But you can already say one thing for sure --
political responsibility (for the government's actions) lies fully with the
Analysts said Yeltsin opted for Kiriyenko to replace Viktor Chernomyrdin, who
was sacked on Monday, because his lack of political experience made him an
unlikely presidential challenger and easier for the Kremlin leader to
Chernomyrdin no longer fitted that bill because he was being increasingly
talked about as a presidential hopeful, and his influence had been growing
rapidly at Yeltsin's expense.
``Yeltsin may seem deceptive and unpredictable but his actions are always
consistent with his overall determination to keep power,'' said political
analyst Pavel Felgengauer.
Yeltsin has without doubt reasserted his authority this week by removing his
entire cabinet. He also redressed the balance of forces around him, a game he
often plays to neutralise threats.
His action has prompted Yavlinsky and others to speculate that the
president is still considering running for a third term in presidential
elections due in the year 2000.
But Yeltsin's critics and allies alike question the merits of him staying in
power so long.
His absence from work for a week earlier this month with a respiratory
infection, and the apparent confusion which overtook him at least once at an
international summit this week, raise questions about his ability to rule.
Yeltsin seemed to think he was at a news conference on Thursday when he saw
reporters at the start of talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French
President Jacques Chirac. An aide had to tell him the news conference was not
due till later.
Business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who has close links with Yeltsin's family
and with his chief of staff, said the Kremlin leader retains sharp political
skills despite his poor health following a quintuple heart bypass in November
But he said Yeltsin's bad health put more responsibility in the hands of the
prime minister, and questioned whether Kiriyenko had enough experience to play
that role immediately.
``I think that in the near future Kiriyenko can't carry out his political
functions. That is bad because the president's health prevents him from doing
active political work every day,'' Berezovsky told reporters on Friday.
``You know, Chernomyrdin had been bearing a big part of the president's
political load recently...Who will fill that (political) vacuum which really
exists at the moment? It is hard to answer that question.''
At 35, Kiriyenko's political experience is limited to four months as fuel and
energy minister and about eight months as a deputy minister. He has won a
reputation as an effective technocrat who is fully behind market reforms.
Yeltsin is evidently banking on him being independent of the powerful
financial groups, known as oligarchies, which are trying to wield political
influence in Russia.
``Kiriyenko is what they call a technocrat, an expert in management. He is a
man who is not linked today with any parties or movements,'' Yeltsin said in a
radio address on Friday.
Chernomyrdin, by contrast, had apparently won strong backing in business
circles, enjoyed close ties with the influential natural gas monopoly Gazprom,
which he formerly headed, and leads a centrist political movement.
Some analysts say Berezovksy had a hand in Chernomyrdin's sacking and wanted
him replaced by a long-serving Yeltsin ally, Ivan Rybkin. Kremlin sources said
Yeltsin rejected Rybkin partly to thwart the apparent bid by Berezovsky to win
Kiriyenko now needs the approval of the State Duma, the lower house of
parliament. Yeltsin made clear he is gearing up for battle with opposition
deputies by saying he would dissolve the chamber if it rejects his young
Most analysts say neither the communists nor Yeltsin want to dissolve the
Duma, and note that they have agreed to compromise when similar showdowns
loomed in the past.
``There is probably going to be some noise, there are probably going to be
some threats, but he (Kiriyenko) will get through,'' said Eric Fine, a Russian
In one telling moment on Friday, Yeltsin made clear he was looking further
ahead than the next battle with the Duma. Pointing to a portrait of himself,
he told Kiriyenko: ``Don't knock it off the wall until 2000.''
Text of Yeltsin's radio address
MOSCOW, March 27 (Reuters) - Following is the text of President Boris
Yeltsin's radio address on Friday after naming Sergei Kiriyenko as his
candidate for prime minister.
Translation by Reuters.
Society, journalists and politicians are most worried today by the dismissal
of the government. Of course this event was far from routine. That is what I
want to talk about.
Newspapers and television have offered all sorts of versions of the dismissal
of (former prime minister) Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin. Many tried to see
in my words something that was not there. That was pointless. I said exactly
what I thought.
I want to thank Viktor Stepanovich once again. Nearly six years we worked
together. We overcame more than one crisis together, shoulder to shoulder. And
I never had even a shadow of doubt that he was a reliable and loyal comrade-
Serving more than five years as the head of the government is a serious term.
If it's not a world record, it must be close. Taking into account the
complexity and scale of our economic reforms, each year is worth two, as they
say in the North.
I asked Viktor Stepanovich to concentrate on preparing for elections in 2000
-- I mean the presidential elections. His huge experience and ability to work
with people will be an asset in this work. I am sure he will do a great deal
yet for Russia.
I have ordered Sergei Vladilenovich Kiriyenko to carry out the duties of
minister. I will propose his candidacy to the State Duma as well.
Kiriyenko is a new man in the corridors of power. We invited him to join the
government only a year ago. In December he became fuel and energy minister,
and in this position has shown his very best side. Colleagues speak highly of
his business and personal qualities
Kiriyenko is what they call a technocrat, an expert in management. He is
who is not linked today with any (political) parties or movements. At the same
time he is capable of conducting dialogue with anyone, he's ready to listen to
the opinions of different sides.
Some say: 'He's too young, he lacks experience of life. It's too early
to rise that high.'
I categorically disagree. Professionalism and stamina aren't defined by your
date of birth. I will tell you frankly -- I became manager of a major factory
in Sverdlovsk when I was 28. I think that helped me a lot.
The age of ministers who will work in the new government is not a decisive
factor. There are good ministers at 30 as well as at 70. What is important is
that a person should know his job, have fresh ideas and unconventional
approaches. He should be able to achieve set goals firmly and decisively.
Of course, Kiriyenko will need help, especially early on -- his rise has been
very rapid. But I have no doubt he will definitely get help and support in the
government and the presidential administration, and of course from myself. I
also hope he will find backing among the deputies and (regional) governors.
I have already warned Kiriyenko: there is no time to warm up. Social
which have not been solved must be tackled immediately. We must not allow wage
arrears to pile up.
This year must be a year of economic decisions, a year of growth in Russian
industry. We have set out such a task and it must be fulfilled.
Decisive steps are needed everywhere, in military as well as administrative
reform. New approaches are needed in work with federal ministers, in contacts
with regional leaders.
The public health system, education and culture need special care. That means
Sergei Vladilenovich Kiriyenko takes over a difficult job. He will have scope
for showing his talents and skills. I believe that he will cope.
Thank you for your attention."
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998
From: "Jerry F. Hough" <email@example.com>
Subject: Yeltsin; Regions
How one yearns to be a historian. We cannot believe a word the
president says, and Mikheev and others are right that we can't believe a
word of the rumors. Musocovites don't know earlier. When I talked at
length in 1993 with Yury Petrov, a long-time close aide of Yeltsin from
Sverdlovsk onwards, he said that Yeltsin listened intently, but never
gave the slightest clue whether he agreed or not, that that was his
style. Gennady Burbulis said that he engaged in give-and-take with
Yeltsin in his days of power, but that is surely one of the reasons that
Yeltsin reports in his memoirs that Burbulis presumed.
Clearly Yeltsin's instinct would be to remove any potential
successor and dare the Duma to have confrontation. Our judgments must
be based on two factors. One is whether he is just functioning on
instinct, with his mind wandering back to glory days, or is he the
functioning thinker Mikheev assumes The second, if the latter, is how
he sees the current situation.
Our judgments too depend on such a view of the situation. Is a
currency crisis looming that will have a major negative impact?
Are the more relaxed public opinion results the product of a real quiet
improvement in the economy, including the better harvest? Or were they
the result of one-time payment of arrears that Yeltsin couldn't afford?
If the latter, what will be the response to a currency and financial
crisis? One would think that speculation about a military coup or its
unlikelihood should be tied to these scenarios. Our speculation about
Yeltsin's motivation should be tied to our assumptions about how he sees
Paul Goble has been writing a lot about the regions. I don't
always agree with his concrete analysis, but it seems to me that he is
right in his emphasis. I have just been doing some runs out of a 1997
youth data conducted by Susan Goodrich Lehmann and myself, the surveys
financed by the MacArthur Foundation and the National Council on Soviet and
East European Affairs and sponsored by the Brookings Institution. One of
the surveys was a 3800-respondent national sample, divided more or less
equally between those 17-18, 24-25, and 31-32 year olds, in order to see
value evolution among those 17-18 in 1983, 1991, and today. The other was
a 14,000-respondent survey done in 16 republican capitals of Russia, done
in the classroom of the senior class with many of the same questions, but
a large language and nationality section.
I have a long article in the current Post-Soviet Geography and
Economy out of this data, focussing on the differences between the
oblasts and the republics in Europe and the (shall we say) peculiar
election results in the Moslem and Buddhist republics and Mordovia in
1996 (but the very normal results in the Christian republics other than
Mordovia.) Susan Lehmann will have an article in the next issue or two
looking at the differences in religious belief of young Russians in the
oblasts and the republics and of young Russians in Christian and Moslem
For a book chapter, I have just looked at a question, "What is
your rodina (Motherland)?" We also asked it in our 1993, 1995, and 1996
3800-respondent election studies and hence can compare results over
time. The respondents were given three choices: USSR, Rossiia, and your
oblast or republic. The results were (ethnic Russians only):
USSR Russia Obl or Dont
Dec 1993 28.3% 55.9% 11.8% 3.9%
Dec. 1995 33.8% 41.2% 21.1% 4.0%
June 1996 28.5% 46.9% 21.9% 2.7%
24 to 32 Year Olds (Ethnic Russians Only)
Dec 1993 25.4% 56.9% 15.0% 2.7%
Dec. 1995 25.0% 46.0% 22.8% 6.2%
June 1996 19.7% 49.8% 28.2% 2.3%
March 1997 16.3% 43.5% 36.1% 4.0%
17 and 18 Year Olds (Ethnic Russians Only)
1997 Oblasts 9.3% 48.7% 38.2% 3.8%
1997 Repub Caps 6.7% 46.9% 34.8% 11.6%
The data suggest that the 1996 blip upwards was probably a
function of the presidential election and the trend is consistent. The
idenitification of those over 50 with the USSR increased from 1993 to
1996, but the decline in the younger groups is very persistent. But it
is astonishing that the identification with Russia has been steadily
declining among the young and most astonishing of all that over one-third
of the Russian high school seniors in the capitals of the non-Russian
republics identify with that republic instead of Russia. It is as
true or more true in the southern Muslim republics as the others. These
are same 17-18 year olds in oblasts and republics who think by more than a
3:1 margin that the West is trying to weaken Russia with its economic advice.
I do not take the data to show the likelihood of the breakup of
Russia, but of a huge voting group, bigger among the young than the old,
who can be mobilized. Analysis shows a relationship between the
identification with general political attitudes. although even the 17-18
year old ethnic Russians in the oblasts who identified with Russia
distrusted Yeltsin by a 53 to 39 percent margin, compared
with 71 to 26 percent for USSR and 61 to 30 percent for Oblast.
23 percent of the 17 and 18 year Russian identifiers thought Russia was
on a correct course, and 56 percent an incorrect one, while USSR
identifiers thought it was on an incorrect course by a 75 percent to 10
percent margin and 17 and 18 year old oblast identifiers thought it was
on an incorrect course by a 70 to 13 percent margin.
Why must it be someone who is really anti-American who mobilizes the
anti-Moscow, Moscow-is-screwing-Mother-Russia, feeling rather than
someone who is basically congenial to us? Why must we support hopeless
candidates like Yavlinsky or Nemtsov? There are few cases so clearly in
which the best is the enemy of the good and when the proverb about the
road to hell seems so appropriate. One hopes that Mikheev is right,
that Yeltsin is listening to a range of views and that there are people
on the reform side (maybe our old friends like Primakov, Kokoshin, and
Lukin) who are suggesting that there are a range of options and that 1998
is not 1993 in more senses than one, including how the young look at things.
>From RIA Novosti
March 26, 1998
CHUBAIS DOES NOT NEED FREEDOM
By Andrei BAGROV
According to rumours in the presidential administration
Anatoly Chubais may return to public service as Boris Yeltsin's
advisor. Strange as this might seem, but Chubais's intention to
head the RAO Unified Energy Systems, or UES, is regarded as the
most convincing proof of this information.
The decision concerning Chubais's nomination to the top
post in RAO UES is to be made in ten days. An extraordinary
meeting of UES stockholders, which is scheduled for April 4, is
to elect a new board of directors. The government's list of
contenders is headed by Chubais.
The former First Vice-Premier can only take this post
after he urgently settles certain formalities. The thing is
that the government owns 52.7% of the company's stock and is
entitled to at least eight seats in the 15-man board of
directors. After recent high-profile scandals in the UES the
government declared that the situation would not change and at
least half of its directors would represent exceptionally state
interests. The company's operations management is exercised by
the chairman of its board with whom the government concludes a
special contract. At the same time, no official may head the
company's administration in keeping with the federal law on
So, Chubais whose election is regarded as a practically
settled matter has two ways. The optimal solution, including
for the man himself, would be his nomination as the chairman of
the board of the RAO UES. Practice (in particular the history
of signing a contract between the government and GAZPROM
Chairman Rem Vyakhirev) shows that this may take more than a
month. Neither Chubais nor the government can afford it at
The second and more realistic solution was prepared when
Chubais was still a First Vice-Premier. The government proposed
his candidacy to the post of chairman of the board of
directors, and it is more likely than not that it would be
approved by the April meeting of stockholders. But then Chubais
must be a public servant. This means that he has to restore his
relations with the government also on a contractual basis.
The way out is a return to public service. This is easy:
ex-Security Council secretary Boris Berezovsky has managed to
become a deputy to presidential chief of staff Valentin
Yumashev. Of key importance is Yeltsin's consent. Judging by
information obtained in the White House, Chubais's decision to
become one of the RAO UES leaders has been supported by the
President. In addition, if Chubais follows the second way, he
will not only solve legal problems but also retain his
political reputation: it is a much higher honour to be an
advisor to President Yeltsin than to anyone else.
>From RIA Novosti
March 27, 1998
ARMY WAS UNHAPPY ABOUT GOVERNMENT
The principal reason for the tension was the nonfulfilment
of the wage payment pledges
By Andrei KORBUT
In the conditions of growing opposition sentiment in
society, the role of the power agencies, called upon to maintain
stability and the observance of constitutional norms in the
state, inevitably increases. It is quite obvious that at such
moments the attitude of the national leaders to the forces must
be most attentive and cautious. Yet in the last half of the year
the Russian government went for a direct confrontation with the
This conclusion can be drawn from an analysis of the latest
actions of the government with respect to the military. One of
its documents, signed by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly
Chubais, permitted electricity-generating plants in connection
with the indebtedness of troop units to cut off even strategic
facilities from supply. A few days ago because of a cutoff of the
mains a command and staff exercise in the 8th Army Corps of the
North Caucasian Military District, near Volgograd, was paralysed
for 12 hours. In some districts (the Far Eastern, Transbaikalian
and Siberian) troop control was decentralised on account of the
disconnection of the telephone networks for nonpayment of money.
Nonpayment of the debts for electricity have led to the fact that
the early warning stations located in Kazakhstan and Belarus are
not operating. A vicious circle arose - the government was
demanding that the Defence Ministry pay off the debts for
electricity and other services, but was allocating almost no
money for these purposes.
It is clear that this attitude of the authorities to the
army caused the counteraction of the Defence Ministry leadership.
And this counteraction was becoming ever more conscious and
evoking response among many representatives of the legislative
power, regional leaders and opposition movements. For example,
the participants of the conference held on March 18 at the Moscow
government's initiative on the problems of the defence industry
spoke of the need to strengthen the defence capability of the
country and its defence industry sector. The demand to pay off
the debts to the armed forces will be pressed by the participants
of the Movement in Support of the Army, who at the end of March
and the beginning of April intend to start an indefinite
all-Russia action of protest. Some officers' meetings and wives'
councils (in the Siberian, Moscow, Volga and other military
districts) of units to be disbanded have already joined this
Meanwhile the military leaders themselves defended the
interests of the army before authority. At a meeting on current
affairs in the government on March 17, Deputy Defence Minister
Nikolai Mikhailov demanded the prohibition of the practice of
cutting off military facilities from power supply. On March 11
Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev and his deputy for troop
billeting, Alexander Kosovan, presented serious complaints about
the slow realisation of army property to the senior officials of
the State Property Ministry, nearly all of whom were present that
day at the Collegium meeting of the Defence Ministry.
The military leaders also struggled with the advocates of
reducing the privileges for officers and praporshchiks. It is
known that the government planned by April 15 to issue a document
abolishing pension additions and a number of other privileges for
cadre servicemen, as well as to reduce the size of compensation
on taking a leave of absence. The minister does not agree with
this and in a number of letters to the government asked not to do
so. However the lobbyists from the Ministry of Finance were
relentless. Here both the Duma and the Federation Council became
good allies for the Defence Ministry by recently approving for a
second time the package of military laws considerably enhancing
the social protectedness of officers and praporshchiks.
The Defence Ministry people were also dissatisfied with the
actual level of troop financing. In spite of the President's
directions to liquidate the arrears to the army, even the sums
due to the officers and praporshchiks as their pay and
compensation are still not being paid on time. The lump-sum
pecuniary reward, or the so called thirteenth salary, by the
results of 1997, for example, has been paid to almost nobody in
the Armed Forces yet. There remains a very considerable debt to
the career servicemen in compensation (more than 7 trillion
roubles) for food rations. Obviously, understanding the
complexity of the social situation in the forces and striving to
maintain its own prestige in the officers' corps, the Defence
Ministry decided not to conceal the fact of how the state is
financing the Armed Forces. By an order of Chief of the General
Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, reports are weekly being published in the
mass media on the amount of financial resources the government
has allocated to the Armed Forces and where these funds have been
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 16:15:08 +0300
From: Tate Ulsaker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: eXile purpose clarified
Please let me make this point.
Regarding eXile, why is it that it takes an expat to get it right?
Garfiled Reynolds, Matt Bivens, and Peter Mahoney live here. I mean really
live here, not in a hotel, or at McDonnald's. Their experience allows them
to see the trees within the forrest where they live. America's journalists
cannot see the trees, refuse to see the forrest, and they seem to want to
shut off all possibilities for personal growth that such an experience can
I empathise with our American journalists. I understand that they cannot
fight their culture. A culture that squeezes the individual right out of a
person. Most of us expats are the same kind of people, but a few of us
have come here to escape the tightening hands of establishment-think from
around our necks. Of course the only natural reaction we can expect from
those most noisy of our pandering press is to strike at the source that
causes pain. Hey, I understand. I heard rumors that eXile speared me too
in thier newest issue. I don't even know these guys, never met them. The
reaction is real, but we have to look deeper than that folks!
A good Doctor will tell us that the symptom is not the disease, but an
indication that the disease exists. Symptoms cannot be cured, but they
serve as a warning of a much greater danger approaching, that if not cured,
will lead to illness or possibly death. Tiabbi and Ames serve our sickly
society well to remind its supporters that establishment-think is an
encroaching disease on American journalism. Like every other aspect of
American franchise and fraternity business, there are those who play, those
who rebel, and those who leave:
1) For those who play the game, we have Tiabbi and Ames. Underdogs who
take after them and drag them down into their own personal hell for the
rest of us to read. Some stikes are deserved, others are undeserved. Such
is the game THEY play.
2) Some people rebel. Counter-culture in America is, among other things,
producing a hot-bed music scene that is full of rebels of our culture.
They will not accept the loss of individuality as a replacement for dignity
that is so often facsimilied into a the panderingest of players as a
3) Finally, we have the ones who leave for greener pastures. You can read
about us in eXile, or you can choose to stay out of the forrest. No problem.
Director of Operations C.I.S.
+7 (812) 252-2266 Phone / Fax
March 27, 1998
MEDIA WATCH: Berezovsky the Spin Doctor
By Leonid Bershidsky
Not everything that glitters is pure gold, a Russian proverb says. The
adage is something to keep in mind when reading the abundant speculation
that tycoon Boris Berezovsky brought about the recent abrupt ouster of
the entire Cabinet.
Berezovsky was almost the first person of any importance to comment on
the government's downfall. While others were stunned, trying to get
their bearings after President Boris Yeltsin's surprise move, Berezovsky
showered praise on the presidential decision, which, he said, was all
but prepared well beforehand.
Berezovsky scored a brilliant coup with his remarks. Pundits, searching
desperately for an explanation of Yeltsin's sudden fit of ire with the
government, suddenly realized that Berezovsky had just come back from
Switzerland, as if especially to be in Moscow to supervise the firings,
and that he had only the previous day given a lengthy television
interview, in which he called former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
"unelectable" in the 2000 presidential race.
"Berezovsky came back from Switzerland and [First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatoly] Chubais was fired the next day," wrote my fellow Moscow Times
columnist Yulia Latynina. The daily Moskovsky Komsomolets came out with
a cartoon depicting Berezovsky as a devil hovering over Yeltsin's left
shoulder, prompting him to sack the government. Likewise, such diverse
papers as Pravda and Segodnya linked Berezovsky to the sackings.
The foreign press picked up on this analysis. "An influential cabal
played a decisive role in preparing the removal of Chernomyrdin and
Chubais," Richard Beeston wrote in The Times, pointing to Berezovsky,
Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and presidential Chief of Staff
Valentin Yumashev. Berezovsky, with characteristic false modesty, told
the Financial Times that his views and Yeltsin's on the Chernomyrdin
government had "happily coincided."
There is one major problem with the Berezovsky conspiracy theory that
seems to elude the numerous analysts and journalists who have accepted
it as gospel truth in recent days. What really came out of the
government firing was a triumph for dismissed Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov, a sworn enemy of Berezovsky and all he stands for.
Nemtsov's friend from Nizhny Novgorod, Sergei Kiriyenko, became acting
prime minister and has a decent chance of being approved for the full
job by the State Duma.
All right, those who buy the Berezovsky theory say Kiriyenko, as fuel
and energy minister, helped him pull off the merger between the oil
companies Sibneft and Yukos. But then there was no reason for Kiriyenko
to resist the deal.
Now, Kiriyenko is using rhetoric that must give Berezovsky the creeps.
In a recent interview, he repeated word for word Chubais' thesis that
the government's role is to establish clear-cut business rules that will
be the same for one and all. Chubais used to add to that that it was
Berezovsky who was opposed to these rules.
Kiriyenko and Nemtsov have also assured the public that no privatization
rules will be changed in the near future, in particular not the terms of
the Rosneft oil company sell-off. Berezovsky has lobbied for major
changes in these rules.
If Berezovsky indeed engineered the government reshuffle, he shot
himself in the foot. His adversaries are triumphing and Yeltsin seems to
want them to keep running the government.
Yeltsin hates being pushed around. Even if he took Berezovsky's advice
into account, he did what he and no one else saw fit to do in the end.
Berezovsky is a virtuoso spin doctor and a master of bombast. People
tend to believe everything he says about his influence merely because he
is the most talkative of Russia's super-rich. Other "oligarchs", like
Uneximbank chief Vladimir Potanin, keep to themselves. Berezovsky
provides insights into what makes the "oligarchy" tick (it was, after
all, his famous "seven bankers" interview with the Financial Times in
1996 that set off all the talk about tycoons running Russia in the first
There was no way to check whether what he said in the interview was
true. There is no way to check if Berezovsky was involved in the
Cabinet's firing. Simply his saying he was is proof enough for people
who otherwise consider him an unscrupulous businessman who has cut many
corners to become a billionaire.
Berezovsky is an exciting character, yet I would rather rely on the
principle of looking for the perpetrator on the basis of which suspect
the crime benefited. The government reshuffle did not benefit
Berezovsky. Theref ore, he either made his play and lost, or simply was
Yeltsin Not Aiming To Dissolve Duma - Governor
MOSCOW, March 27 (Interfax) - President *Boris Yeltsin* is not aiming to
dissolve the Duma by inviting it to approve Sergei Kiriyenko as prime
minister, governor of Samara region and head of the Federation Council
Budget Committee Konstantin Titov told Interfax Friday.
He felt the Duma would approve Kiriyenko.
"It will approve him not because it is scared by the president but
because it has to. So probably the president should not have made the
proposal in the form of an ultimatum," Titov said.
He said deputies will accept Yeltsin's proposal for the same reason as
they earlier passed the 1998 budget - in order to make the government
responsible for failures in the economy and use the circumstance in the
FEATURE - Russian inmates say prison life getting better
By Adam Tanner
MEDYN, Russia, March 27 (Reuters) - Murderer and thief Viktor Kolganov,
sitting on a bunk bed in the room he shares with about 40 other men, says life
in Russian prisons is no longer the brutal ordeal of Soviet times.
``Conditions are day and night compared to what they were,'' said Kolganov,
who served 11 years for murder in the 1980s and returned to jail last year
after a robbery conviction.
``It used to be hard back then. In the pre-trial detention centres they used
to feed us just once a day. Now everyone eats three times daily.''
Other repeat offenders interviewed during a tour of Medyn Prison --
as the toughest of three categories in the Russian penal system -- agreed that
life for inmates is slowly becoming less harsh.
Prison life is still certainly tough. About 70,000 to 80,000 -- nearly 10
percent of inmates -- suffer from tuberculosis and are usually confined to
special prisons. Some complain of inadequate facilities with prisons unable to
afford enough medicine.
Not all the Medyn prisoners interviewed within range of guards said
were improving. Some felt they were at the mercy of capricious prison
authorities who decided which security regime to place them in despite court
The Russian government has promised continued improvements. By June
expected to hand prison administration to the civilian Justice Ministry, which
has pledged to reach European penal standards in the coming years.
``Things are changing for the better. My mother died and they let me go home
for seven days,'' said Grigory Nikonov, a 32-year-old convicted thief who wore
a blue prison-issue jacket with his name tag on front.
Short term passes which allow inmates to attend a relative's funeral or go on
a short holiday are becoming more common at Medyn, a four-hour drive south of
Moscow. Warden Alexander Zhuravlov said 80 of 941 prisoners earned temporary
freedom last year.
A 29-year prison administration veteran who wears a green police uniform
adorned with three stars reflecting his rank of colonel, Zhuralov said the
authorities were trying to make prison more humane, but huge changes were
``It's realistic to speak of reaching European standards only if there are
improvements for those in freedom, for pensioners, for workers,'' he said.
``Without such changes it would be unfair to vastly improve conditions in
By allowing Reuters to visit the facility, police authorities showed a
openness about prison conditions. Just last year an Interior Ministry official
told a reporter he could visit a prison -- if he committed a crime.
CONDITIONS MAY DEPEND ON STAFF
The ministry chose to show off Medyn. Some experts say prison conditions in
remote regions like Siberia are much worse.
Diederik Lohman, head of Human Rights Watch's Moscow office, said recent
visits to tuberculosis, female and juvenile prison colonies showed conditions
depended a lot on the warders.
``The impression that we got was of severe hardship in say material terms,''
he said. ``We also found that in a lot of cases the prison doctors, the prison
personnel, they seem to care about the prisoners they have in the colony.''
At Medyn, as in most of Russia's penal system, prisoners live in crowded
barracks rather than barred cells. They are allowed a small locker of
possessions, and some of the barracks are allowed to keep a cat.
Up to 80 men live in the barrack rooms of Russia's 731 penal colonies, but 20
to 25 per room is the average for the country's more than 700,000 convicted
prisoners, Interior Ministry officials say.
Television, watched from rows of wooden benches, is one of few diversions. At
Medyn a satellite dish, paid for by prisoners' wages, delivers an expanded
number of channels.
Prisoners, many of them young criminals who tried to get rich illegally
sometimes lawless atmosphere of Russia's new capitalism, pass the hours
playing cards and backgammon or slowly puffing on cigarettes in hazy
With boredom one of the great demons of prison life, many say they want to
work in the prison's metal products factory. Nationally, more than 80 percent
of Russian prisoners work.
Snippets of sharp metal wire and various tools lying around suggest Medyn's
plant would be ideal for a revolt-minded prisoner. But officials say they have
the situation under control, and even murderers wander freely across the plant
TWENTY ANGRY MEN
Twenty prisoners deemed especially dangerous are not allowed to work and are
kept inside for most of the day, banned from receiving packages from home or
When a visitor came to the barracks accompanied by half a dozen guards, the
prisoners gathered round and complained angrily about their lot.
``Why should the prison have the right to put us in a tougher facility? It
should be a court that decides,'' said murderer Sergei Medvedev, 36, who has a
gold tooth and keeps a pack of Western cigarettes in his top pocket.
Alexei Yevseyev, 27, complained he had tuberculosis and was not allowed fresh
air. Prison officials have given him his own room in the special security
area, but say he has already largely recovered and needs only observation, not
From their windows the men confined to the ``strict'' ward can see the snow-
covered prison yard surrounded by buildings adorned with Soviet-era slogans,
including ``No to atomic explosions!''
``Remember your time here is temporary. Prepare yourself for honest life in
freedom,'' another sign reads.
Yet even confined barracks are better than many of Russia's detention
where eight prisoners awaiting trial may be crowded into space meant for two.
The human rights group Amnesty International last year described such
overcrowding as ``amounting to torture.''
``This is a Russian paradox. They have not gone to trial but they are living
in worse conditions than those already sentenced,'' said Vyacheslav Bubnov, a
deputy head of the Interior Ministry division overseeing prisons in Moscow.
Added Lohman of Human Rights Watch:
``We do get complaints about ill treatment in colonies for the convicted as
well but they are far less frequent than complaints about torture in pre-trial
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
In the guards' mess hall, many of the men who patrol the prison armed only
with a truncheon and radio wonder what will happen to them when the Justice
Ministry takes control.
The 300 staff -- who live in a community directly opposite the prison, wired
with a emergency alarm system -- worry about job security and what will happen
to their military rank.
``We have many doubts about how things will be,'' said Zhuravlov. ``Will
things get worse, will there be firings?''
The government is still working out details of the latest prison reform, but
officials and prisoners alike agree major changes will be slow in taking
``How can they create better conditions if they don't have the money? It
doesn't matter if they are the Ministry of Justice of the Interior Ministry,''
one inmate said.
FOCUS-Duma reluctant to let Yeltsin dissolve it
By Ivan Rodin
MOSCOW, March 27 (Reuters) - The head of parliament's lower house said on
Friday deputies were likely to consider the nomination of Sergei Kiriyenko as
Russia's new prime minister next Friday and suggested he may be approved at
the first vote.
President Boris Yeltsin, who named Kiriyenko as the new premier earlier on
Friday, warned the State Duma he was ready to dissolve the chamber if it
rejects his candidate three times.
``Perhaps we can confirm him at the first attempt,'' the speaker, Gennady
Seleznyov, told reporters.
Itar-Tass quoted Yeltsin as saying: ``I'm not trying to frighten anyone. I'm
just saying as president: save time. Confirm him quickly. And if you (reject
him) once, twice, three times, then the fourth time means dissolution.''
Seleznyov urged Yeltsin to take back his threats but indicated the Duma was
reluctant to go too far in its defiance.
``We are not scared by ultimatums and the president should know this,'' he
said. ``I say this definitely, we will give the president no constitutional
grounds to dissolve the Duma.''
The meeting of the Duma managers must still decide formally when to hold
debates on Kiriyenko's nomination. But next Friday is the deadline by which
the Communist-dominated chamber has to make up its mind.
Kiriyenko, who met the head of the liberal Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky,
soon after being nominated, said he would not disclose the cabinet line-up
before the Duma confirms him.
``There is no point talking about personalities before the prime minister's
candidacy is formally approved,'' he said.
Yavlinsky, who controls 45 seats in the 450-seat Duma and cherishes hopes of
becoming prime minister himself, stopped short of offering outright support
for Kiriyenko and suggested that the new premier might be a temporary
``It is quite possible that Kiriyenko will be used as a transitional figure,''
he told reporters after the meeting.
``One can suggest that the last thing the president needs now is a strong
political figure of the premier,'' he said.
Sources in Yavlinsky's party said that Kiriyenko had not made any offers to
their boss to join the government.
The Communists, who control the single biggest faction in the Duma with 138
seats, said they would finally decide their position towards Kiriyenko next
``Today's decision was not unexpected,'' deputy party leader Valentin Kuptsov
``It showed Yeltsin's nature, his inability to listen to partners. He should
have held consultations with parliament first.''
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who met Kiriyenko on Thursday, said he was
not impressed by the young reformer and demanded the Kremlin change its
economic and political course.
But Zyuganov also made clear the Communists were not ready to take their
defiance too far to allow Yeltsin to dissolve the Duma.