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30 March 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Fred Weir on Yeltsin backing Chernomyrdin.
2. Nigel Gould-Davies: Constitutional provisions.
3. Peter Budzilovich: Re 2117 -Helmer, YELSTIN AND IVAN.
4. InterPress Service: Andrei Ivanov, POPULATION-RUSSIA: Free Market
Reform Sets The Wolves Loose.
5. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: YELTSIN DECREE STREAMLINES SECURITY
6. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: BATTLE LINES DRAWN OVER KIRIENKO...BUT COMMUNISTS
MAY EVENTUALLY SUPPORT HIM; YAVLINSKII SLAMS 'UNPREDICTABLE' AUTHORITIES;and PRESIDENT SUBMITS INCOME DECLARATION.
7. Reuters: Yeltsin Shifts Weight behind Chernomyrdin.
8. Interfax: Russian PM-Designate: No Old Faces In The Govt.
9. Interfax: Speaker: Duma Disbandment Very Likely.
10. The Economist editorial: The strange rage of Boris Yeltsin.
11. Paul Goble (RFE/RL): Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Troika
Summit's Unanimity Sends Shock Waves.
12. Reuters: Berezovsky Worried by Kiriyenko's Inexperience.
13. Washington Post: David Hoffman, All Work, No Pay Leaves Russians
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 13:54:14 (MSK)
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir in Moscow
MOSCOW (HT Mar 30) -- Boris Yeltsin indicated Monday that he
will not run for a third term as Russian president and will back
the deposed prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, to replace him
in elections slated for 2000.
But his support appeared tinged with irritation at the
increasingly open talk in the Russian and international press of
how the succession will be engineered.
"You speak about succession when it concerns kings," the
official ITAR-Tass agency quoted Mr. Yeltsin as saying. "Here
people make the choice. The people will choose the successor."
Mr. Yeltsin seemed to be trying to explain his baffling
decision a week ago to sack his entire government, including Mr.
Chernomyrdin, for political infighting and what he described as a
lack of ideas and energy.
At that time he said that Mr. Chernomyrdin should
concentrate on preparing for the next presidential elections
2000, but stopped short of giving explicit support.
Mr. Chernomyrdin, who had repeatedly denied any presidential
ambitions, went on TV several days later to stake his claim.
"I have taken the decision to run for president," Mr.
Chernomyrdin said. "I have discussed this with the president, and
he agreed with my position."
But Mr. Yeltsin seemed more angered than pleased by his
loyal former prime minister's announcement.
"When Chernomyrdin said that he had made the decision,
this is not quite so," Mr. Yeltsin said.
"It was I who made the decision, on the cabinet's dismissal,
meaning that he would assume the lead of the presidential
campaign of the year 2000."
Mr. Yeltsin has frequently hinted that he might seek a third
term of office, despite the fact that this is prohibited under
Russia's 1993 Constitution. A case currently before the
Constitutional Court will rule on whether Mr. Yeltsin's first
term should be discounted, since he was elected in 1991 in a
different country, the Soviet Union, under different laws.
Although his language was less than enthusiastic, Mr.
Yeltsin seemed to be saying Monday that he will not stand again,
and will back Mr. Chernomyrdin for the job.
"A strong leader of the campaign is needed, and since I will
not run, the team should be reinforced," Mr. Yeltsin said.
That does little to explain why the president summarily
fired Mr. Chernomyrdin last week, since holding power in
bureaucracy-bound Russia would appear to be the main source of
political strength at election time.
Mr. Yeltsin has nominated an obscure and relatively
inexperienced newcomer, 35-year old Sergei Kiriyenko, to take
over as prime minister.
The Russian parliament is due to examine Mr. Kiriyenko's
appointment Friday. The powerful Communist Party, which controls
half the legislature, has indicated it will not support him.
Date: Sun, 29 Mar 1998 20:48:37 -0500 (EST)
From: Nigel Gould-Davies <email@example.com>
Subject: constitutional provisions
The impending Duma vote on the confirmation of the acting chairman of the
government puts the spotlight on largely untested provisions of the
1993 constitution. There has been speculation that Yeltsin may have
proposed Kiriyenko in order to provoke a rejection that would allow him to
dissolve the Duma and call elections. In fact, according to Art. 111(4)
the President has no choice in the matter; he is obliged to call
elections. This means that the power to sack the government is a two-edged
sword: there may be circumstances where a president wishes to do so, but
fears fresh Duma elections would be politically detrimental (perhaps
because the opposition is strong). Since rejection of a proposed
replacement candidate for the chairmanship of the government would give
the Duma the opportunity to force elections, the president may thus be
forced to stick with a government he doesn't like (though he can still
sack individual ministers).
Furthermore, dissolution of the Duma only occurs when it "thrice rejects
candidates" for the chairmanship. It is not clear from the text of the
constitution alone whether the president must find three different
candidates, or can present the same individual more than once. The only
precedent is Chernomyrdin's appointment in December 1992, under the
Finally, a curiosity: the Duma can also be dissolved before its term
expires if it expresses no confidence in the government. Here, though,
dissolution is not automatic --the president can decide instead to form a
new government. The details vary according to whether the confidence
motion is proposed by the Duma or the government chairman (compare Art.
117(3) and (4)). But while in the latter case the constitution states that
the president may dissolve the Duma and call new elections, in the former
it merely states that he may "dissolve the State Duma", with no mention of
elections to follow. Unless I've missed something, this is a drafting
error. Incidentally, I'd be very grateful for any information about how
the constitution was written --please email me directly, as I'll be away
for a month and off this list.
Date: Sun, 29 Mar 1998
From: "Peter N. Budzilovich" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: 2117 -Helmer, YELSTIN AND IVAN
It's amazing how people who have no idea of Russian history try to
find parallels while talking about present times! To wit: John Helmer's
presentation of historical "facts" on Tzar Ivan IV (the Terrible).
In 1533, when, according to Mr. Helmer, Ivan IV "fell dangerously
ill," the Tzar was three years old, in care of his mother. He might have
fallen ill, but I don't know of any records to this effect. What is
certain, that he could not make any arrangements mentioned by Mr. Helmer
since he became the Tzar in January of 1547. The incident Mr. Helmer is
talking about happened in 1553. The significance of this incident is not
clear from Mr. Helmer's recital. In fact, one wonders why he mentions it
at all. The point is that Ivan's boyars, even the most trusted ones,
hesitated to swear their allegiance. Finally, what all this has to do
with another Ivan's son who died almost 30 years later? Just to enable
Mr. Helmer to cite a "parallel" that does not exist and write a catchy
I will not comment on Mr. Helmer's speculations on the meaning of
Yeltsin's actions -- his guess is as good as anyone else's. I'll say
only this -- Mr. Yeltsin acts this way because he has to and he knows
his circumstances much better that an army of journalists who see less
than the proverbial tip of an iceberg. And if he does what he does, he
must have very good reasons for doing it.
But I'd like to comment on Tzar Ivan's nickname -- "the Terrible."
This is wrong (no fault of Mr. Helmer) in spite of the fact that it is
widely accepted in the West. The term "terrible," translated into
Russian, would be "uzhasnyi," not "groznyi," as Ivan was called. Thus
the proper nickname should be "stern."
In the future, I'll gladly check historical facts for you (on
Russia), should you feel like using them again.
>From InterPress Service
Title: POPULATION-RUSSIA: Free Market Reform Sets The Wolves Loose
By Andrei Ivanov
MOSCOW, Mar 26 (IPS) - Economic reforms in Russia are having a
deadly knock-on effect on the isolated indigenous peoples of north-
east Siberia -- where cuts in funds for official wolf culls have
allowed the wolf population to ravage the region's reindeer stock.
The plague of wolves has cut the reindeer population in Anadyr in
north east Siberia from 500,000 to 150,000 -- threatening the
livelihood of thousands of indigenous people.
''If the situation goes on like this, the animals, which feed and
clothe the indigenous population, will find themselves on the
verge of extinction,'' warns Yuri Zhulin, a Chukotka local
There are over 500 reindeer farms in the Chukotka Autonomous
Area. In the past year alone, tundra dwellers lost about 30,000
deer to tundra fires, winter ice conditions and wolves. Over
12,000 reindeer were killed by wolves alone in 1997, and 10,000
more killed in Chukotka this year.
Packs of wolves attacked the reindeer in front of herdsmen who
were powerless to prevent the slaughter, says Zhulin, who blames
officials supposed to organise wolf culls. ''Wolves have taken
over the countryside because the authorities have not regulated
their population for the last three years,'' he says.
Chukotka Governor Alexander Nazarov has now declared 1998 the
year to fight the wolf menace, and a hunting squad is being
formed. Another problem for the herders is that the region's wild
deer, numbering about 200,000, often lure domestic deer into
joining them as they migrate across Chukotka.
Ten years ago there were huge reindeer herds in the Chukchi
Autonomous region, neighbouring Alaska. Now there are probably 25
per cent left, says Yelena Montada, a Chukchi from Pevek who works
with L'auravetlan Information Centre in Moscow.
The centre, run by indigenous organisations, aims to give
indigenous grassroots representatives from the Russian North,
Siberia and the Far East skills for human rights activism and to
serve as an information bridge to Western organisations.
Reindeer herding is not only a traditional activity of the inland
Chukchi, it is also their traditional way of life, but it is
rapidly dying, warns Montada.
Geologists and miners have destroyed huge territories of reindeer
pastures, and their negligence often causes wild fires that
destroy lichen -- the main food source for the reindeer. Like
every one else trapped in the cycle of cash flow problems that
plague normal business in Russia, the herders and the traders who
buy their reindeer skins and meat cannot pay their bills.
''The herders face chronic non-payment problems and because of
the incredible poverty, indigenous communities are becoming
socially unstable,'' Montada says.
''The herders are giving away their reindeer for a bottle of
vodka. Regional and local administrations refuse to see and
understand how critical the situation is. As a result,
overwhelming despair is spreading, leading to apathy and
Young people do not want to stay in the tundra or small
communities where there is no money. ''They move to a bigger
villages or towns, but are unable to fit into those communities,
begin to drink and lose any desire and ability to work.''
The herders' life is dismal with barely any food except reindeer
meat, no equipment, and no candles. ''The old people are waiting
for the end of their lives with the bitter feeling that there is
no one to pass on their knowledge, their way of life.''
There is an increase in birth defects, while suicides and alcohol
related accidents are the major cause of death for those aged 30
to 35. Montada blames what she describes as ''the perverted and
ugly Russian version of a market economy'' for the destruction of
the Chukotka population.
She says the federal government has an obligation to make sure
that people get paid and that conditions improve. She says there
must be strict control over the import and sale of alcohol in
''The Chukchi people, as all peoples, want to live in dignity.''
But Chukotka is not the only northern area facing these problems.
Wolves are also causing havoc in the Koryak Autonomous Area in
the Kamchatka Peninsula. The population has increased from 150 to
800 in recent years and last year killed 10,000 reindeer.
The death toll for January alone this year was 1,100. Shortage of
funds is making proper control impossible. In Magadan Oblast, most
of the local deer farms have been broken up.
Even in North Evenk district, one of the least affected areas,
the deer stock totalled only 22,000 heads in January, down 35,000
on the normal figure, according to Magadan deputy governor
He blames low living standards, the declining quality of
veterinary services, and the increasing wolf population. In 1997,
wolves killed some 4,500 in the region.
According to Joachim Otto Habeck of the Evenki Society enviromnet
group, although the Evenk Autonomous Region is still relatively
unspoilt, the food and supply situation has deteriorated
considerably over the last 10 years. He blames this on Soviet
policy over the decades before the collapse of the USSR.
''On the one hand, a relatively good infrastructure was developed
in the region, but on the other, the Evenks were gradually
alienated from their traditional way of life as a consequence of
the Russian policy of forcing people to give up their nomadic life
and settle permanently in one area.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union the development of the
region's infrastructure was halted and very soon the lack of new
investment led to its collapse.'' Over 60 years of sedentary life
had destroyed self sufficiency and made the indigenous people
''Now that they have become used to living in villages they are
no longer able to feed themselves,'' he says. Since public
transport is no longer subsidised by the Russian Government
travelling to the towns (Tura, Baykit and Vanavara) has become too
expensive for the inhabitants of the smaller settlements.
Some of the villages are up to 200 kilometres apart and
travelling by air, ship or sled (which may take several days) are
the only means of transport.
Those entitled to unemployment or social security benefits do not
register as the relevant offices are too far away. ''These people
usually live from the food they receive from relatives and the
inhabitants of the village where they live, but this type of
`social security system' can only work as long as the entire
community has enough spare food to supply those who depend on
He recalls that during the winter of 1994/95 the community of
Surinda had to depend on the concentrated feed used for their
cattle to escape famine.
The food market of the region is currently in the hands of
private enterprises and little joint-stock companies. As bigger
ships can only access the region in June most goods have to come
The basic foodstuffs of the region are bread and vodka. ''In fact
the production of reindeer meat could contribute to a better
supply for these regions if only there were a better
infrastructure,'' says Habeck.
But because reindeer breeding requires a mobile lifestyle it now
has a poor image. ''This is especially deplorable as reindeer
herding constitutes a very ecological form of land use,'' he
But the environmental situation in the north east can only get
worse, with Russia's Energy and Fuel Ministry expecting the oil
and gas industries to move from Western to Eastern Siberia.
Licenses have already been issued in seven cases.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
30 March 1998
YELTSIN DECREE STREAMLINES SECURITY COUNCIL. The shake-up of Russia's
defense and security establishment continued over the weekend, as Russian
President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on March 28 streamlining and
reorganizing the country's powerful Security Council. According to a Council
source, Yeltsin has ordered that Council staff be cut to no more than 200
persons. The number of department chiefs and higher officials will likewise
be cut, from some twenty-one to just ten. Despite the reductions, the
Council is also to incorporate some staffers from Russia's former Defense
Council and State Military Inspectorate. The Security Council has been
granted the right to requisition up to seventy army and Interior Ministry
officers. (Xinhua, Russian agencies, March 28)
This weekend's action would appear to continue the Kremlin's recent efforts
to consolidate Russia's security structures--in this case, those
subordinated directly to the president's office. On March 2, Yeltsin named
the civilian defense intellectual Andrei Kokoshin to the post of Security
Council secretary. At that time, he also merged the two bodies then overseen
by Kokoshin--the Russian Defense Council and the State Military
Inspectorate--into the Security Council. The latest decree appears to be
aimed at finalizing that merger and integrating into the Security Council's
structures both the functions and some of the personnel of the State
Military Inspectorate and the Defense Council. The Inspectorate will
reportedly survive as a separate office under the Security Council. The
Defense Council, which for over a year had responsibilities for drawing up
Russia's military reform program, has been abolished.
The precise number of staff affected by this latest measure is unclear. In a
lesser staff reduction carried out this past February, the Security Council
was said to have lost twenty-five people, leaving it with a total of 182.
(Itar-Tass, February 13) The State Military Inspectorate, meanwhile, which
was created only last year, was slated at that time to receive a staff of
about 100. (Kommersant-Daily, September 4, 1997) However, the agency never
seemed really to get up and running. It is unclear how many staffers it ever
took on. The Defense Council, created with much fanfare in July 1996 as a
political and administrative counterweight to a Security Council then
overseen by Aleksandr Lebed, was reported to have had a staff of just over
fifty persons. (Itar-Tass, July 25, 1996)
Yeltsin's decree underscores once against the considerable authority that
has--in formal terms at least--been conferred on the Security Council. In
addition to advising the president on threats to Russia's security, the
Security Council will apparently play a major role, inherited from the
Defense Council, in advancing Russia's ambitious military reform efforts.
These efforts, it is worth noting, are to extend beyond the regular armed
forces to include Russia's various other "power structures"--including the
military forces that are subordinated to the Interior Ministry. At the time
of its creation, the State Military Inspectorate was given responsibility
for monitoring the implementation of military reform measures. Its major
task in fact was to ensure that all of Russia's "power" ministries operated
lawfully, particularly with regard to the proper use of government funding.
(Kommersant-Daily, September 4, 1997) Such anti-corruption responsibilities
will presumably also fall to the Security Council.
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 61 Part I, 30 March 1998
BATTLE LINES DRAWN OVER KIRIENKO... President Boris Yeltsin
predicted on 30 March that the State Duma will confirm Sergei Kirienko as
prime minister, Russian news agencies reported. The Duma is expected to
consider the nomination on 3 April. Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov told Interfax and NTV on 29 March that his party will not back
Kirienko, who, Zyuganov said, lacks the experience needed for the job. Yeltsin
on 27 March had warned Duma deputies not to provoke a "confrontation" by
refusing to confirm Kirienko. But Zyuganov charged that the president himself
has provoked a confrontation by nominating a new premier without consulting
either parliamentary or regional representatives. Meanwhile, Kirienko told
NTV on 29 March that he will not name cabinet appointments before the
Duma votes on his candidacy. But he said there will be "more than a few new
names" in the new government. LB
...BUT COMMUNISTS MAY EVENTUALLY SUPPORT HIM. Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a prominent member of the Communist Party,
expressed disappointment on 27 March that Yeltsin spurned calls for
consultations before nominating Kirienko, ITAR-TASS reported. He said
Yeltsin "once again demonstrated his attachment to an authoritarian type of
leadership." But Seleznev stressed that the lower house will not give Yeltsin
constitutional grounds to dissolve the Duma by rejecting his choice for prime
minister three times. Meanwhile, Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin told
ITAR-TASS on 27 March that the Duma may support Kirienko's nomination
on the third try and that members of the Communist faction may vote
"according to their personal convictions." Podberezkin is considered a close
Zyuganov adviser. His remarks suggest that the vote on Kirienko will resemble
the votes on the 1998 budget, in which the Communist leadership rejected the
document but a significant minority of Communists cast ballots in favor. LB
YAVLINSKII SLAMS 'UNPREDICTABLE' AUTHORITIES. Yabloko
leader Grigorii Yavlinskii has expressed concern about the increasing
"unpredictability" of the Russian authorities, which, he charged, is
and is fostering political instability. In interviews with RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau and NTV on 29 March, Yavlinskii noted that Yeltsin fired the
government last week without explaining why he decided to dismiss Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais,
and others. According to Yavlinskii, the president also demonstrated that he
lacked an action plan that had been well thought out: first, Yeltsin had
would become acting prime minister himself and then hours later, he appointed
Kirienko to that post. Yavlinskii said he has nothing personal against
but added that the Yabloko faction sees "no grounds" to support Kirienko's
confirmation since neither the composition of the new government nor new
policies have been announced. LB
PRESIDENT SUBMITS INCOME DECLARATION. The presidential
press service announced on 28 March that Yeltsin has declared his 1997
income at 1.95 million new rubles ($320,000), Russian news agencies
reported. According to the president's income declaration, Yeltsin's earnings
came from his salary, royalties from his second set of memoirs (published in
1994), and interest on Russian bank accounts. The president listed the same
property holdings he declared last year, including a dacha and plot of land
outside Moscow and a BMW automobile. Government and Kremlin officials
are required to disclose their income and property holdings, but critics
income declarations bear little relation to reality (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10
March 1998). LB
Yeltsin Shifts Weight behind Chernomyrdin
30 March 1998
MOSCOW -- President Boris Yeltsin appeared to give his blessing on Monday
to a bid to succeed him in the year 2000 by Victor Chernomyrdin, the man
the Kremlin chief sacked as prime minister a week ago.
But the remarks, at a televised Kremlin welcoming ceremony for U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, were vague and Yeltsin flatly refused to say
he was naming a successor.
In his first remarks since the ex-premier surprisingly launched his
candidacy on Saturday, Yeltsin said he himself would not seek a third term
and described Chernomyrdin as a "strong leader" who should head the campaign.
Mildly chiding Chernomyrdin for giving any impression his removal from
office last Monday was voluntary, Yeltsin told reporters: "I took the
decision on the removal of the government. But at the same time, having in
mind that he (Chernomyrdin) will head the presidential campaign for the
"We need a strong leader for that. And considering that I, as it were,
am not taking part in the elections, we need reinforcements."
He added that he expected parliament to approve Sergei Kiriyenko, his
35-year-old prime minister-designate, in a vote scheduled for Friday. There
is considerable parliamentary opposition, however.
Yeltsin said Russia was a democracy and there was no question of him
simply appointing a successor.
"It's not right for us to think about successors. Kings have successors.
But we don't. The people choose," Yeltsin, in evidently good spirits, told
reporters at the Kremlin.
"According to the constitution, every citizen over the age of 18 has the
right to stand for office. It's up to them."
Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky was quoted by RIA news
agency as saying Yeltsin had approved Chernomyrdin's decision to run for
office and his declaration on Saturday had come as no surprise to the
Russian PM-Designate: No Old Faces In The Govt
MOSCOW, March 30 (Interfax) - Acting Prime Minister *Sergei Kiriyenko*
promised in an NTV interview Sunday a thorough overhaul of the government.
Asked by the anchor if Russians will see the same faces and names in the
government, he said: "No, they won't."
An economic program of the new government will be drafted the next week,
"There is no list [of new ministers] to bargain on [with Duma
parliamentary groups]," he said. Decisions on the formation of the
government are up to the president, Kiriyenko said.
If the Duma approves his nomination, a list of new ministers will be
made public fairly soon, he said.
Former Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais cannot chair
the Unified Energy System Board because he has left the civil service,
"There is nothing personal in this, but in an organizations where 51% of
the stock is owned by the state, the board of directors must be dominated
by state officials and its chairman must be a state appointee," he said.
"My firm conviction is that the state must manage its property very
closely," Kiriyenko said.
"The government and I must carry through the president's policy of
maintaining economic stability and continuity," he said.
Kiriyenko said he greatly respected former Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin with whom he had gotten along quite well in the government.
In another TV interview he said he was a technocrat and would engage in
politics only as long as this was essential to tackle economic tasks.
"I am aware of the fact that the prime minister cannot, unfortunately,
be a technocrat alone. So I will be a political figure to the extent this
is needed to reach the objectives set by the president," Kiriyenko said.
He did not think that the government had to be independent from the
president who is the core of the power system in the country. "If the
government becomes independent of him, the country is in trouble,"
The government's economic program being drafted now will cover a period
of no longer than two years, until the next presidential elections, he
said. Kiriyenko understood that it could not bear fruit immediately.
"I know full well that the government should make fast and effective
decisions whose results will be felt faster than in 18 to 24 months. I am
not sure how long I can stay prime minister and not very troubled by this,"
In relations with people he is a pragmatist who will not confuse
friendship and business, Kiriyenko said. The desire to do one's job, or,
speaking in lofty terms, serve Russia or the region, well and
professionalism are his chief criteria in selecting people, he said.
Asked about his relations with caretaker Russian First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov, Kiriyenko said: "Nemtsov and I have indeed been
friends for a long time and our friendship does not depend on who is
subordinated to whom."
Speaker: Duma Disbandment Very Likely
MOSCOW, March 30 (Interfax) - Duma Chairman *Gennady Seleznyov* does not
rule out the possibility of the Duma rejecting the nomination of Sergei
Kiriyenko for prime minister, followed by a dissolution of parliament and
He made it clear in a TV-Center interview Sunday that this scenario was
"The Duma is predictable today. The president can deal with it and we
have proved this on numerous occasions," Seleznyov said. He recalled that
the president and parliamentary group leaders had reached an understanding
under which the president would sign the Federal Government Bill, following
which the Duma would pass three presidential amendments to the document.
That bargain worked, Seleznyov said.
March 28-April 3, 1998
[for personal use only]
The strange rage of Boris Yeltsin
EVEN as Kremlin upheavals go, this week’s events are difficult to read.
Having sacked his entire government, is Russia’s president, Boris Yeltsin,
now weaker or stronger? And why did he do it? Who is really calling the
shots? Will the next prime minister, when he emerges, be a powerful
political player in his own right, or a mere patsy for one of the powerful
business cliques that vie to run Russia? Who will now be best placed to
make a bid for Mr Yeltsin’s job in 2000, assuming he lives out his term of
office? Above all, will this latest shake-up do Russia any good?
Answers to most of these questions cannot yet be given with certainty. But
the sad answer to the last one is: probably not. Like a groggy but
bloody-minded boxer swaying on his feet, Mr Yeltsin has succeeded in
rocking Russia and the world with a sudden flurry of desperate punches—but
with little sense of where he is aiming. Worse for Russia, there is no
obvious champion poised to climb into the ring, don his gloves and fight on
for reform. With Mr Yeltsin, health permitting, determined to hang on to
his tarnished presidential title for another two years, these are
time-wasting and worrying days.
This is, of course, not the first time that Mr Yeltsin has found himself
almost on the ropes. And a more hopeful set of possibilities may yet
emerge. The flooring of his whole government may come to be seen as a
clever way of fending off the Duma, dominated as it is by Communists and
quasi-fascists, as it was readying itself for a show-down with the ailing
forces of change. Some promising, reform-minded new ministers may duly step
up, along with a prime minister far more persuasive, energetic and daring
than the grey, stodgy Viktor Chernomyrdin, the gas-rich apparatchik who has
just been bundled out of office. Two undoubted reformers, Boris Nemtsov and
Grigory Yavlinsky, plus a brace of regional governors, have been mooted as
candidates to lead a new government. Perhaps Sergei Kiriyenko, the
bespectacled political novice whom Mr Yeltsin catapulted from the energy
ministry into Mr Chernomyrdin’s seat as a stop-gap, might prove a tough and
adept promoter of reform.
Besides, the latest economic indicators are not bad. Russia has ridden out
the East Asian financial crisis quite well so far. Wage arrears, though
still too large, are far smaller than they were a year ago. The rouble is
steady, inflation is under control and foreign investment is up. Nine years
of economic shrinkage have been followed by growth, albeit minimal. This
year the economy, not counting its burgeoning “black” side, could grow by
as much as 3%, say the optimists. More Russians, not just the greedy new
rich, may at last begin to feel better off. The new Duma that is to be
elected at the end of 1999 might turn out to be less obstructive than the
present one. And in 2000, Russians might pick, as their new president, a
liberal-minded reformer after all.
But this is Russia, and this week’s events may herald a much bleaker
scenario. It may take weeks of grinding, legislation-blocking negotiation
before a new government is in place. The Duma can reject three prime
ministers in a row before a general election has to follow. It may well
rebuff any candidate Mr Yeltsin proposes who is likely to run far or fast
with reform. If uncertainty hits tax collection, the IMF may delay new
loans. Foreign investment may dry up. Capital may flee the country once
more. The Communists and their chauvinistic allies may outmanoeuvre the
reformers. If Gennady Zyuganov, the dreary has-been who now tops the
opinion polls, were to be replaced as Communist boss by a more spirited
alternative, the chances of an anti-reform coalition taking over at the
next election would soar. Russia might then slither swiftly backwards
towards xenophobic trouble-making and economic squalor, its new-found
Meanwhile, Latin America, circa 1980, beckons
Between these best and worst scenarios for Russia, following the latest
Yeltsin-induced dramas, lies a third less-than-uplifting prospect: that of
a crony capitalism of the sort that Latin America has fought hard to shed
these past 20 years, in which Russia’s rough-hewn democracy comes and goes,
while clusters of law-despising monied interests (perhaps—heaven forbid,
especially in Russia—backed by men with beetle brows and gold epaulettes)
call the shots behind the scenes. Many Russian politicians are already far
too beholden to coteries of scheming tycoons, who, thanks partly to the
coarse system of privatisation used a few years ago, have been the biggest
beneficiaries of Russia’s chaotic switch to the market. Mr Yeltsin’s
sack-the-government tactics smack of a deal provoked by such shadowy
figures, who do not want Russia’s new capitalists to be held accountable
for their actions or their deals to be made transparent.
It was often said that enlightened self-interest would push Russia’s robber
barons, like their American counterparts in the last century, into seeing
the merits of a properly enforceable legal framework to regulate both
business and politics. To date, this hopeful comparison has fallen down
because Russians lack that heritage of civic faith that tinged the mind of
even the most rapacious of America’s tycoons.
That is where the president should come in. Russia’s institutions being
worryingly weak and the powers of its president frighteningly strong, it is
vital that the man in charge is beholden to neither demagogues nor
billionaires. He also needs the words and the vision to explain to an
increasingly cynical electorate what lies beyond this decade of dreadful
post-communist trauma. Unfortunately, as age, vodka and the wooziness of
barely diluted power get the better of him, Mr Yeltsin is utterly failing
to do this part of his job. It would still be best, on balance, if he sees
out his term of office, for fear of what might otherwise all too easily
follow. But Mr Yeltsin risks becoming a tragic figure. Once a Titan,
rightly lauded for helping to pull down one of the world’s most evil
regimes, he now seems to lurch, disaster-prone, from one fit of bad temper
to the next. Poor Russia.
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Troika Summit's Unanimity Sends Shock
By Paul Goble
Washington, 30 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Boris Yeltsin's claim that he and the
leaders of France and Germany are in complete agreement about the future of
Europe has sent shock waves through the countries situated in the zone
between these three great powers.
Following an informal summit outside Moscow with French President
Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl last Thursday, Yeltsin
said that the three leaders had "agreed on all points. There are no 'blank
While Yeltsin went on to suggest that this accord pointed the way toward
a multi-polar world, one in which no country would suffer, many states
lying between NATO and the European Union in the West and Russia in the
East drew a different conclusion.
The countries of this zone -- sometimes called "gray" because of its
lack of clear definition -- have suffered when Russia and the West have
disagreed. But they have also suffered when Russia and the West have agreed
-- especially if when the agreement is about them.
And that possibility appeared to be very much in evidence at this
summit outside of Moscow. Following Yeltsin's claim of complete unanimity,
Kohl took the occasion to adopt a very hard line toward Latvia, a country
with which Moscow has been having difficulties.
Condemning a recent march by Latvian veterans of the World War II-era
Waffen SS, Kohl noted that the European Union would evaluate applicant
countries according to their human rights record and also according to
their relations with their neighbors.
According to the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass, which gave extensive
play to Kohl's remarks, the French president said that he fully agreed with
the German chancellor on this point.
No one could fault any of the three leaders for being concerned about
the human rights records of countries seeking to join Western institutions,
but there are three reasons why their comments last week have troubled some
First, despite Yeltsin's claims, Kohl's comments, and Chirac's apparent
agreement, most international agencies and observers have found Latvia to
be in compliance with the generally accepted human rights norms.
Russian claims to the contrary, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's
suggestion on Friday that the Russian government should use all means
"short of force" to defend the rights of ethnic Russians in Latvia are one
But German and French acquiescence with these Russian claims are quite
another, and not surprisingly troubling to governments and peoples who
remember past occasions when Western leaders have deferred to Russian
demands with respect to their fate.
Second, Kohl's assertion that the European Union will evaluate applicant
countries in terms of the quality of their relations with their neighbors
enhances Moscow's ability to influence not only Eastern Europe but Western
Europe as well.
On the one hand, Moscow can use its power to define the nature of these
relationships as a threat to extract concessions from its neighbors. If
they do not do what Russia wants, Moscow will say that relations are bad
and limit their chances of entering the West.
And on the other, by accepting this Russian claim, West European
countries like Germany and France are in effect accepting the notion that
Russia should have an effective veto over just how far east Western
institutions should be allowed to move.
And third, Kohl's remarks and Chirac's agreement quickly led to reports
that the three summit participants had agreed that the Baltic states as
well as perhaps other East European countries should not be allowed to join
So widespread were such reports that ITAR-Tass even queried Paris on
them. An anonymous senior official in the French president's office said
that Chirac had not taken a position on Baltic membership in NATO in Moscow
because those countries are not yet candidates.
But if his words on that point were likely to be reassuring to the
Balts, another remark by this unnamed French official seems likely to have
an opposite and broader effect.
The official suggested that the Moscow meeting demonstrated that Paris
has dropped its historical policy of using "Russia as a counterweight
against Germany and vice-versa."
A belief that France was still pursuing that approach has animated the
foreign policies of many countries in Eastern Europe. And some of them have
assumed that their best course is to play off France against Germany and
both against Russia.
But if this latest statement from Paris is correct, then their hopes in
this regard have been misplaced. And they may now have to reassess their
relationships not only with these three powers but with others as well.
To the extent that happens, the "troika" summit, as much of the Russian and
European press insisted on calling it, may prove to be a turning point, one
in which the absence of "blank spots" may lead to a darkening of a "gray
Berezovsky Worried by Kiriyenko's Inexperience
27 March 1998
MOSCOW -- (Reuters) Influential Russian business tycoon Boris Berezovsky
said on Friday political inexperience would be a big hindrance for Sergei
Kiriyenko, nominated by President Boris Yeltsin to be prime minister.
But he praised the 35-year-old technocrat's reformist credentials and
said he could eventually become a successful leader if he wins
Berezovsky, who has a vast business empire and close ties with Yeltsin's
family, has been widely attributed with having a hand in the removal of
Victor Chernomyrdin as prime minister on Monday, but he denies playing any
role in his dismissal.
"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 over
"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."
Despite concerns about Kiriyenko's lack of political experience,
Berezovsky described the former fuel and energy minister as the new kind of
person -- brought up in times of transition to a market economy -- whom
"He is an absolutely new type...His personality has to a serious extent
been shaped in that time (of changes) and that is a positive thing," he
said. "I think that if he takes a balanced position, he could be successful."
Berezovsky said Kiriyenko was likely to win parliamentary approval,
which he needs to take office, because deputies did not want to risk
Yeltsin dissolving the chamber. He does so if his candidate is rejected
He said the new government must work out a clear program and ensure the
Russian people understood its aims. The previous Cabinet had failed to do
this and paid the price.
The 52-year-old magnate, whose empire led by the LogoVAZ trading company
has made him a multi-millionaire and given him immense influence, dismissed
suggestions that he had used his influence in the Kremlin to oust
Some analysts have suggested he was upset by the terms set by the
government last week for a sale of most of the state's stake in the Rosneft
oil company, which he would like to buy.
"I played no direct role in the events. Nothing was planned (by me)," he
He said he had seen a "different Chernomyrdin" when they met for talks
on Thursday and praised the former prime minister, implying he might yet be
able to run for president.
Berezovsky is one of seven major businessmen who helped bankroll
Yeltsin's re-election campaign in 1996 and was later appointed deputy
secretary of Russia's Security Council.
He lost that post last November and is now an adviser to Valentin
Yumashev, Yeltsin's Kremlin chief of staff.
This, and his friendship with Yeltsin's daughter and image-maker Tatyana
Dyachenko, gives him access to the Kremlin and a means of getting his ideas
across to the president.
"The leading role (in Yeltsin's entourage) is played by Yumashev,"
Berezovsky said. "He is a very important interface between the president
and the world."
Berezovsky believes business leaders such as himself should have a say
in the running of the country, a position that put him at odds with sacked
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais.
He said he plans to dedicate his time to politics in what he presents as
a crusade to guarantee Russia's interests but which critics says is to
protect his business interests.
"I think big business is a basic prop for today's powers-that-be," he
said but added that does not plan to run for any office.
He said he was worried reformists have no obvious leader but hoped that
could be rectified.
"I'm sure that before the presidential election new figures will come
29 March 1998
[for personal use only]
All Work, No Pay Leaves Russians Feeling Helpless
By David Hoffman
POLYSAEVO, Russia—In the village next to the coal mine, among the wives
of the miners, anger and bitterness smoldered. For more than two years,
their husbands had not been paid. When the director of the Kuznetskaya
coal mine drove up for a meeting on Jan. 27, they sprang into action.
Alexander Ternovikh, the director, summoned his top engineers and
specialists into his office. He closed the doors. They were back-to-back
doors that form a sort of air lock, common to offices built in Soviet
times. The women jammed tables and chairs into them.
Ternovikh could not get out. He was a hostage.
For five days, the women and their husbands held Ternovikh captive in
his office. They demanded back pay, insisting he could leave only in
handcuffs. It was a spark of protest that grabbed attention across the
sullen, depressed Kuzbass, a region of southwestern Siberia rich in
Today, however, Ternovikh is free. And the miners are still waiting for
their wages. So are a lot of other people in Russia. Despite the
government's promises, millions of Russian workers -- nurses, teachers,
doctors and others -- are paid only after months of delay.
President Boris Yeltsin told his new prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko on
Friday that the government must focus on paying wage arrears. The
Russian economy is snared in a web of nonpayments and stuck in
demonetization, which means that instead of cash, barter has become
Despite flashes of anger and frustration, few Russian workers have
resorted to seizing their bosses. Humiliation and pain are endured
without mass revolt.
Today, even those who seized Ternovikh are beset by feelings of
helplessness, passivity, immobility and fear, according to interviews
with miners, their families, their union leaders and local politicians
The revolt at Kuznetskaya points to a fundamentally important yet still
puzzling aspect of Russia's transition to a free-market democracy: A
yawning gap separates people and their leaders.
The basic institutions of a civil society -- the channels by which
people make their complaints known -- are nonexistent, weak or
subservient. Channels banished or neutered in Soviet times -- such as
the press, labor unions and the church -- have just begun to function
independently in the new Russian democracy.
In the coal mines, the unions might be the channel for protest, but even
the independent unions born during the strikes of the late 1980s remain
"My task is to defend my miners," said Alexander Kazakov, a regional
union leader who lacks a strike fund to support his rank and file if
they walk off the job. "But we don't have power. Power is money. I can't
demand they go on strike if the family has no money.
"The state feels we are weak, and takes advantage of our weakness," he
said. "Russian miners have a deep distrust of all union leaders. If you
create a solidarity fund, they say the money will vanish into the sand.
Our disorganization and lack of trust means we can't get anyone to
It was here in the Kuzbass that miners first jolted the last Soviet
leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. On July 10, 1989, they found there was no
soap to wash up after work. The sit-down they started unleashed a
massive strike. The miners were a catalyst for change.
But today their militancy is gone, and so is their enthusiasm for
post-Soviet Russia. Gennady Zakharov, 60, recently sat writing in a
ledger before a night shift at the Komsomolets mine near here. In a room
thick with blue smoke the workers conversed in dour tones. They said
their monthly pay is about $100.
"If we do something, they will send us to jail and free the managers,"
Zakharov said. "There is no money to leave. Who has a place to go? Who
can afford to leave? If we go on strike, the mine will close and we will
be out of work sooner.".....