This Date's Issues:
Johnson's Russia List
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3 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Chronology of latest Russian government crisis.
2. Reuters: Yeltsin's choice for PM faces long wait.
3. Max Ranft: How Yeltsin Fired His Cabinet.
4. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Vasiliy Safronchuk, "What Duma Deputies
Must Think About. Boris Yeltsin's 18 Brumiere."
5. Moscow Times: Andrei Piontkovsky, SEASON OF DISCONTENT:
Private Drama Risks Leaving Political Void.
6. Rabochaya Tribuna: Kiriyenko Seen as Latest Scapegoat for Yeltsin.
7. Interfax: FSB Head--Political Extremism Rooted in Social Tension.
8. Robert Lyle (RFE/RL): Economy: Two Supporters Warn Russia.
9. Rabochaya Tribuna: START, Strategic Missile Funding Required.
10. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: Media Law Creates
11. AP: Russia Official Backs START II.
12. Newsweek: Owen Matthews, Her Father's Keeper. Yeltsin's daughter
is his closest confidante.
13. Reuters: Russia not keen on NATO mission in ministry.
14. Itar-Tass: Poll Shows Muscovites Views on Next President,
15. Interfax: Moscow Poll Shows 39% Support Dismissal of Russian
Chronology of latest Russian government crisis
MOSCOW, April 2 (Reuters) - Following is a brief chronology of the latest
Russian government crisis.
MONDAY, MARCH 23
President Boris Yeltsin dismisses veteran Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
and the entire government, saying he wants to preserve its reformist course
but needs a more dynamic team. Yeltsin initially says he will be the acting
Yeltsin singles out Chernomyrdin, reformist First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatoly Chubais and hardline Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, ensuring they
will not join a new cabinet.
Yeltsin later names the little-known energy minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, as
first deputy prime minister and acting prime minister, and orders him to form
a new government.
TUESDAY, MARCH 24
Kiriyenko meets Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin's chief-of-staff and the speakers of
both chambers of parliament. He says Yeltsin gave him a free hand to form the
government and a week, starting from March 23, to prepare initial proposals on
a cabinet team.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25
Kiriyenko meets Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who argues for a coalition
government and says he will not back any prime minister without a change in
economic policy. Lower house speaker Gennady Seleznyov, another Communist,
says Kiriyenko is too young and lacks experience.
Kiriyenko performs his first diplomatic duty, greeting German Chancellor
Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac on their arrival for a
"troika" summit with Yeltsin.
THURSDAY, MARCH 26
Yeltsin refuses to say if he will propose Kiriyenko to be the permanent new
prime minister. Seleznyov formally asks Yeltsin to propose another candidate.
FRIDAY, MARCH 27
Yeltsin formally names Kiriyenko as his choice for prime minister and warns
parliament's lower house, the Duma, he will dissolve it and call elections
unless it gives its approval.
Yeltsin says Kiriyenko must hit the ground running and make 1998 a year of
economic decisions and industrial growth in Russia. Seleznyov rejects
Yeltsin's "ultimatums" on dissolving the Duma but says Kiriyenko may be
approved on a first vote.
Duma plans to debate Kiriyenko appointment on Friday, April 3, satisfying a
one-week constitutional deadline for the debate.
SATURDAY, MARCH 28
Chernomyrdin announces he will run for president in 2000. Itar-Tass news
agency quotes a senior Kremlin source as saying the statement does not mean he
has gone into opposition to Yeltsin.
SUNDAY, MARCH 29
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov says his party will not back
as he is too young and inexperienced to take control of the nuclear arsenal if
Yeltsin were incapacitated.
MONDAY, MARCH 30
Yeltsin says he will not seek a new term in 2000 but stops short of saying
Chernomyrdin is his chosen successor.
TUESDAY, MARCH 31
The ruling council of the Duma lower house puts a resolution on Wednesday's
parliamentary agenda calling for Yeltsin to convene "round table" talks and
withdraw Kiriyenko's nomination.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1
Parliament ditches its call for Yeltsin to suspend Kiryenko after the Kremlin
says Yeltsin invited Seleznyov and Federation Council upper house speaker
Yegor Stroyev to talks on Thursday.
THURSDAY, APRIL 2
At the meeting with Seleznyov and Stroyev, Yeltsin agrees to convene "round
table" talks on Tuesday on forming a government.
He sends new letter to Duma nominating Kiriyenko again but effectively
extending the deadline for Duma debate by a week.
Tass quotes Zyuganov saying Communists will reject Kiriyenko in three
necessary. If Yeltsin's candidate is rejected three times, the constitution
stipulates new Duma elections.
Yeltsin's choice for PM faces long wait
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, April 3 (Reuters) - Russia faced at least a further week of political
suspense after President Boris Yeltsin and the communist-led parliament agreed
to delay Friday's planned vote on his candidate for prime minister.
Yeltsin gave the State Duma (lower house) an extra seven days to consider his
surprise nominee, the young and still untested former banker Sergei Kiriyenko.
The communist opposition had vowed to block Kiriyenko's appointment, saying
that at 35 he was unsuitable for the second top job in Russian politics, but
Yeltsin made clear he was standing by his choice.
``I would like you to take that seat as soon as possible,'' Yeltsin told
Kiriyenko on Thursday, pointing to an empty seat reserved for the prime
During talks with parliamentary leaders also attended by Kiriyenko, Yeltsin
said he was ready to listen to alternative proposals on who should be prime
minister after his sacking of veteran Viktor Chernomyrdin last week.
He also agreed to ``round-table'' talks next Tuesday with trade union chiefs,
regional representatives and parliamentary and government leaders.
Under the constitution, Yeltsin does not have to accept any proposals made at
the round-table talks and a government spokesman ruled out any coalition with
Parliamentary sources said the debate and vote on Kiriyenko's nomination,
originally due on Friday, might now not take place until April 10.
The delay became possible under constitutional rules after Yeltsin signed a
new request, due to be delivered to the Duma on Friday, asking it to confirm
Kiriyenko as premier. His original request would have expired on Friday.
Yeltsin's new move saved Kiriyenko from almost inevitable defeat at the first
hurdle and enabled the opposition to keep its options open a little longer.
If the Duma rejects Yeltsin's nominee or nominees in three votes it could
face dissolution and early parliamentary elections -- something both sides
want to avoid.
Kiriyenko had been due to brief deputies on his plans for Russia's
his address now seemed likely to be postponed until next week.
``I am 100 percent certain that Kiriyenko will not come to the Duma on
Friday,'' Oleg Morozov, head of the Russian Regions faction, told Reuters.
The prospect of prolonged political uncertainty is worrying economists and
international creditors who say it risks holding up painful but necessary
The price of Russian government debt fell on Thursday but, in a rare piece of
good news for the Kremlin, the International Monetary Fund in Washington said
it was on the verge of agreeing an economic programme with Moscow for 1998 and
This would pave the way for the next $670 million tranche under the IMF's
four-year, $9.2 billion programme with Russia.
Yeltsin, now 67 and apparently keen to go down in history as a leader who
changed Russian lives for the better, sacked Chernomyrdin's government out of
frustration with the pace of reforms.
Millions of Russians now have to wait months for their usually meagre wages
and many of them are set to join a day of national protests set for next
Thursday, the day before the Duma deadline for considering Kiriyenko's
The wage arrears stem largely from very poor tax collection, a problem
was due to address on Friday in his weekly radio broadcast to the nation.
Despite all the political and economic uncertainties, the Kremlin insisted
that Yeltsin's planned trip to Japan at the end of next week would go ahead on
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told Interfax news agency that
preparations for Yeltsin's informal talks with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro
Hashimoto were ``as of now (going ahead) strictly within the planned
Date: Thu, 02 Apr 1998
From: "Max Ranft" <MRANFT@basics.org>
Subject: How Yeltsin Fired His Cabinet
Dear Mr. Johnson,
You have circulated several articles about Yeltsin's recent firing of his
cabinet. At last, we have the truth. I cannot reveal my sources, but this
IS the "inside scoop."
April 2, 1998
Boris Yeltsin was relaxing at Gorky-9 one evening. As is his custom, he
had a few shots of vodka before sitting down to watch his favorite TV
program "Prosto Maria." After getting a bit sloshed, he decided to have a
cup of tea before turning in for bed. He plugged in his trusty samovar
which was sitting on a cabinet. Within minutes, his trusty samovar
shorted-out and created a small electrical fire. All of the decrees and
orders that he had signed that afternoon quickly caught flame. Instantly,
Boris Nikolaevich picked up his special phone and yelled to his first aide,
"Fire in the cabinet, fire in the cabinet!"
Now some of you may know the quality of the old Soviet phone system. You
can get a better line with two tin cans and a piece of string, and contrary
to popular belief, the Russian president's phone lines are no better. In
the interests of nationalism and pride, a more modern and western system
never replaced the old Soviet lines (they were going to go cellular but the
man in charge of mapping out the country was jailed for spying--another
story). So, it is not hard to believe that the president's aide could only
hear, "FIRE THE CABINET! FIRE THE CABINET!" (along with a lot of static
So the aide quickly followed Yeltsin's orders and the deed was done.
Rather than question Yeltsin or even reverse such an absurd command, the
presidential administration was forced to follow through with Yeltsin's
wishes. It would just look too silly to undue such a preposterous decree
as that one and who would ever take them seriously then?
Yeltsin Seen as 'Clinical' Not 'Political' Problem
31 March 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vasiliy Safronchuk: "What Duma Deputies Must Think
About. Boris Yeltsin's 18 Brumiere"
In December 1851 Napoleon's nephew, Louis Bonaparte, who had been
elected president in 1848, carried out a coup d'etat, dissolving the
National Assembly, and a year later declared himself emperor. Marx
ironically called this coup "Louis Bonaparte's 18 Brumiere," by analogy
with his uncle's coup in November [Brumiere] 1899. [passage omitted on
Chernomyrdin's 25 March interview with Vremya, drawing parallels and citing
differences between Chernomyrdin and Kiriyenko]
I rarely agree with Yabloko leader G. Yavlinskiy, but in the Itogi
program 29 March he justly remarked that the problem is not Kiriyenko or
any other candidate for the post of government chairman. The problem is
the president. In order to change course, it is necessary to replace the
president. That is especially necessary in view of the fact that B.
Yeltsin's recent actions, his unpredictability, the inexplicability of his
actions, his darting from one extreme to the other, his openly czar-like
manners, represent a direct threat to Russia as a state. For our part we
will add that in a fit of unpredictable actions the president could, after
all, unexpectedly press the nuclear button. This is not a political, but a
clinical case. In such circumstances it is hardly expedient for the
opposition to give B. Yeltsin a pretext to dissolve the Duma. It is
necessary to unite all political forces in the Duma to impeach the
president and radically change course. Right now, who occupies the post of
government chairman and who is in his team has no significance.
The oligarchy and its mass media make out that a change of course
would mean the abolition of the market economy and a return to the
expenditure-driven economy and shortages of all and sundry. A vain attempt
to scare us, gentlemen! Quite the contrary. Only the restoration of state
regulation and planning within the limits dictated by the current world
level of the development of production forces and the international
division of labor will enable us to create a socialist market economy and
revive Russia as a great power. Only a firm government that enjoys the
support and trust of the people can effectively combat crime and
corruption, protect honest entrepreneurs from mafia extortion, and ensure
the collection of taxes and the timely issuing of pay, pensions, and
servicemen's monetary allowances.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
April 3, 1998
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Private Drama Risks Leaving Political Void
By Andrei Piontkovsky
Special to The Moscow Times
President Boris Yeltsin's official nomination to the State Duma of
Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister last Friday was no surprise. What was
unexpected was something else.
The president made rough, insulting and entirely unprovoked threats to
the Duma, promising to dissolve the lower house if it vetoed Kiriyenko's
candidature three times. Such a statement was politically
counterproductive. The deputies are well acquainted with the provisions
of the constitution, and need no reminding by the president. The
majority in the Duma are in a rather conformist mood and value their
deputy seats and privileges too highly to risk losing them.
But Yeltsin's threats, which were made even before the candidature of
the unknown Kiriyenko was discussed in the Duma, put the deputies,
especially those in the communist opposition, in a humiliating position.
After all, they must all think about saving their political face and
holding on to their electorate.
Besides, Yeltsin, as a politician, does not now have the right to risk
early elections. Their results could be catastrophic for the so-called
party of power, especially after the departure of Viktor Chernomyrdin
and inevitable disintegration of the Our Home is Russia Party.
It seems to me that once again Yeltsin's recent moves were driven not by
political calculations, but rather by impulsive emotional reactions. A
person for whom life and power are indivisible cannot at the bottom of
his heart but feel that his physical and intellectual resources are
fading. Trying to rid himself of this intolerable thought, he again and
again tries to demonstrate to himself and the country that he is still
tsar of Russia.
What is absolutely intolerable for him is the very idea that at some
moment he will have to give over power to a political successor. In his
perception, loss of power is political death, and political death is an
ultimate death. That is why he appointed a nobody, in the political
sense, as prime minister.
The personal drama of the aging president is pathetic. But it is also
threatening to the country because by defiantly rejecting the mere
thought of eventually leaving the political scene and refusing to groom
a successor, he is creating a political vacuum in the country. The party
of power is disintegrating before our very eyes. None of the players --
the president, the administration, the acting government and the
oligarchs -- has any clear-cut political strategy.
The communist opposition is in no better shape. Comrade Gennady Zyuganov
has been doing everything in his power to discredit the idea of a
center-left alternative to the Yeltsin regime. He recently presented his
shadow government. Whom do you think he appointed to the key economic
post? Dr. Sergei Glazyev, a former minister now close to the Communists,
or the last Soviet Gosplan chief, Yury Maslyukov? No. He chose Krasnodar
Governor Nikolai Kondratenko. The problem with Kondratenko is not that
he is a pathological anti-Semite. It could be, after all, just a
peculiar feature of his private behavior. The problem is that he bases
his day-to-day economic decisions in the Krasnodar region on the theory
of a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy. A Neanderthal as economics minister of a
great power at the end of the 20th century is really too much.
The Russian political scene is becoming dangerously empty. Who will
Kiriyenko Seen as Latest Scapegoat for Yeltsin
28 March 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Natalya Kuzina: "President Gambling on Young People Again"
The candidate for the post of prime minister has already settled into
Viktor Chernomyrdin's office. And it cannot be ruled out that he had no
particular reason to delay the move. The president wants to work with him,
and has sent a clearly worded letter to the State Duma -- "to give its
consent as the Constitution requires...." The covering commentary for
journalists was also unambiguous -- he must be confirmed, without waiting
for the State Duma to be dissolved. Yeltsin has also formulated his
expectations from the candidate for premier very aphoristically -- it is
necessary "to shake up the reforms." The shake-up will be in conformity
with the previous program of 12 government priorities and with the age
requirement that is being introduced for ministers.
Bureaucrats will hardly like the first step made by the candidate for
premier: After Kiriyenko's meeting with Yeltsin it was decided that the
government apparatus should be reduced by half and not by by 20 people as
had been expected.
The [Soviet] commissar-style pace of Kiriyenko's arrival in power does
not guarantee him the State Duma's prompt approval. Not all deputies may
like Sergey Vladilenovich's overcautious approach. For example, the future
premier has adopted his mother's surname instead of that of his father, a
Jew by nationality, although he was a student of his father's -- a
philosophy professor at the Nizhniy Novgorod Water Transport Engineers
Institute. His rapid rise along [Communist] party lines started at the
institute, when the young reformer joined the party, and continued at the
Nizhniy Novgorod Krasnoye Sormovo Plant, although not as an engineer but as
secretary of the Komsomol [Communist Youth League] organization. With the
coming of perestroyka the future young reformer was drawn to commerce. He
achieved certain successes in that sphere: He gained experience in the
cooperatives, and then as a bank board member and president of an oil
All this experience will undoubtedly prove useful for the candidate
for premier and will help him avoid equally difficult hurdles in the
country's economic life.
But at the moment the political scientists are still speculating: Why
has the president decided to entrust the running of a vast country to a
little known individual who has not yet proved himself in either politics
or economics? The president is taking a huge risk. No, not really. He
has taken risks before -- just recall how adamantly Boris Yeltsin supported
Gaydar, Grachev, Yerin, Chubays.... And what came of it? It was not the
president who resigned. All the mistakes were blamed on his proteges. Is
not this the role that is being assigned to Sergey Kiriyenko too?
FSB Head--Political Extremism Rooted in Social Tension
MOSCOW, March 31 (Interfax) -- Political extremism in Russia is rooted
in unsolved social problems, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director
Nikolay Kovalyov on Tuesday [31 March] said at a conference on
constitutional measures to deal with political extremism.
He said a uniform definition of political extremism must be formulated
in order to combat this dangerous phenomenon. One of the indicators of
political extremism, he said, is the availability of extreme leftist or
extreme rightist political organizations whose goal is to accomplish an
armed coup and seize power by force.
"An analysis of manifestations of political extremism has revealed
some of its tendencies, including a merger of political extremism with
organized crime for attaining common goals, such as the seizure of power
and redistribution of property," Kovalyov said.
Organized crime uses political extremism to commit economic crimes,
while political extremists use organized crime to consolidate their
economic foundations, he said.
He said that the political extremists were becoming increasingly
well-organized and that their number was growing, all of which represented
a dangerous tendency. "The establishment of illegal armed formations,
security services and self-defense units by some of the extremist movements
increases the political extremists' potential for violence," Kovalyov
He said that the radical rightist and leftist ideology is widely
supported by the younger generation. "Extremist parties and movements
recruit supporters from among young people," he added.
In recent years, leftist extremists have blown up a monument to
Nicholas II in Mytishchi outside Moscow and attempted to blast the monument
to Peter the Great in Moscow. "The stage of intimidation is followed by
the stage of terrorism," the FSB director noted.
Kovalyov said that efficient measures to combat political extremism
must be worked out and that the activity of all authoritative bodies to
combat political extremism must be coordinated.
Economy: Two Supporters Warn Russia
By Robert Lyle
Washington, 2 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russia got similar sharp warnings
from two of the most respected and influential figures in global finance
-- the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the top global
finance official at the U.S. Treasury.
IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus and U.S. Deputy Treasury
Secretary Lawrence Summers Wednesday chose the annual conference of the
U.S.-Russia Business Council in Washington to voice their concerns --
not about Russia's inflation rate or budget deficit, but about its basic
Summers, formerly the World Bank's chief economist, says Russia has
actually had success with macroeconomic policies -- keeping inflation
low, beginning to resume growth, and preventing the shock-waves from the
Asian financial crisis from seriously damaging the Russian economy.
But, he said, Moscow must begin to speak to the crucial questions of
what type of capitalism it wants to build. It is not enough just to say
adopt market systems because the world is so changed from the days when
America, for example, developed its system.
Markets are important, but they are not enough, said Summers. The
central challenge is to make government a constructive force in the
economy and society, he said, a force that can deliver what markets
alone cannot -- law enforcement and what is broadly refered to as the
intangible infrastructure of a market economy.
It is a particular irony, said Summers, that the challenge for Russia,
is no longer to make government weaker but to make government stronger
so that it can perform the crucial functions of an effective state.
On the other hand, he said, Russia cannot look to the famous Asian
approach of government's closely intertwined on a personal basis with
the leaders of business and commercial finance.
In fact, said Summers, one of the real dangers Russia now faces is the
same kind of "crony capitalism" that helped cause the Asian financial
crisis. "The dangers of an emphasis on insider interests, on
relationship-driven finance, rather than law-driven finance, can only
increase when a country lacks, as in the case of Russia, most of the
other universal fundamentals that the Asian economies enjoyed for so
long," he said.
In short, said Summers, there can be "no worse news to come out of
Russia than that, after years of throwing off one defunct economic
model, it was on the verge of entrenching another questionable one."
Russia may have passed a point of no return, he said, but the crucial
question is whether it will adopt a healthier, more transparent, better
functioning market system than it has been building.
The IMF's Camdessus says that when he met with Russian President Boris
Yeltsin and then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin last month, he
warned them of the "similarities" between the "crony capitalism" that
got the East Asian countries into difficulties and what is happening in
Camdessus said he told them that "persistent macroeconomic problems,
underlying weaknesses in the banking sector, a lack of transparency in
the relationship between corporate banks and government -- all of that
has left the Asian countries in a very vulnerable situation, very
similar to the one in which you (Russia) are now."
The IMF head said the Russian leaders "didn't reject" his assertion of
the dangerous similarities between the "incestuous relationships between
the chaebols (Korean closely held family conglomerates) and the
prevailing relations among oligarchy members" in Russia.
Russia is better on one very significant point, however, said Camdessus
-- it has a central bank which has done a good job in stabilizing the
economy and stabilizing the exchange markets.
But "be careful," Camdessus said he warned Yeltsin, "it is neither
feasible nor desirable to rely on monetary policy alone for any extended
period of time."
Camdessus's warning on deficiencies on fiscal policy, weakness in the
banking sector and the pervasiveness of crony capitalism in Russia may
not have fallen on completely deaf ears.
Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Yuli Vorontsov, told the conference
that Yeltsin moved to change the government because of the need for a
renewed commitment to reforms and a streamlined, invigorated government
to implement them. "It is not a change of a flight plan, it is a change
of the crew in the cockpit," he said. "The huge plane called Russia is
staying the course, but gaining altitude," he said.
START, Strategic Missile Funding Required
28 March 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vladimir Ostrovskiy: "Warning: The Missiles Are Begging
When Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, the present CINC, Strategic
Missile Troops, tossed out to the court of public opinion that 62 percent
of missiles already have exhausted the warranty period and that combat
command and control systems are being operated 71 percent beyond the
limits of service life, many marveled at the chief missileman"s
But it turns out that it is not quite a matter of his boldness. It is
no secret that Boris Yeltsin also has taken personal control over the
defense establishment and missiles—he demanded in his order that at
least 3.5 percent of GDP be spent on all this. Everything turned out as
always in practice: the military did not receive R17 billion.
So just what is happening in the Missile Troops? We are permitted to
have 300 Topol RS-12M mobile missiles under the START II Treaty. They are
stationed at old bases. Russia has the right to place just as many missiles
at new bases as well. Does this mean we will build another 7-10 new bases
and spend colossal amounts of money? The CINC makes a helpless gesture...
The motivation is as follows. We now have 6,680 nuclear warheads under
the START I Treaty, but by 2001 this number also will be reduced.
Expensive. It requires R700 billion, which of course do not exist. It is
necessary to place 450 missiles in service by 2005 to maintain parity. Will
our defense establishment be able to cope with this?
The fact is that only one plant with such an area of specialization
remains in Russia as of today, and that one is "half dead." The present 55
percent funding will permit squeezing at the very most 10-15 missiles out
of it a year.
Strictly speaking, everything rests on funding, which those same
Americans realize full well and are playing for an increase.
Under the START III Treaty they propose that each party have
2,000-2,500 warheads and are extremely unwilling to agree to any Russian
counterproposals to "disarm a little": they begrudge cutting up their own
missiles, especially sea-launched ones, and wish to see how the destitute
Russians will replace the remainder of their quota with birch stumps. The
fact is that the maximum Russia can allow itself today is 1,500. I think it
is unnecessary to remind people once again about the state of the Russian
The only thing remaining is to do our utmost to convert quantity into
quality, and specifically to uparm the troops with the newest systems of
the third millennium, Topol-M. The Army must get two Topol regiments
annually up to 2001. This pleasure will cost another 3.7 billion new
But it is impossible today to solve the problem of state security by
efforts of nuclear deterrence alone. Conventional precision weapons, which
are constantly being improved, as well as the likelihood of U.S.
operational deployment of an ABM defense system represent a serious danger
for the nuclear complexes.
The processes going on in the RF Armed Forces are especially
depressing against the background of an intensive upgrading of arms. For
example, around half of the 26 Russian nuclear powered submarines are
obsolete and will be let out "to pasture" [pushcheny "na sholki"], as the
sailors say, in the next seven years. The number of warheads on the
remaining submarines will be reduced by three-fourths due to the end of
warranty operating periods of the missile complexes. The military have no
choice: either take the missiles off alert status or extend the operating
period of munitions from 11 to 18 years by directive, pinning hopes on the
Russian notion that "with luck it will pass." I think it is unnecessary to
explain what that is fraught with.
Things also are no better in the third component of the nuclear triad,
the Air Force. Because of the absence of spare parts and the worn-out state
of the aircraft fleet, no more than 55 percent of the aircraft are
combat-ready today. The situation in fighter aviation is simply disastrous:
only five (!) out of one hundred aircraft can be considered serviceable.
And so by 2003 we can count on no more than 1,000 warheads, if of
course the government does not locate funds to repair Russia"s fairly
worn-out nuclear "umbrella."
April 3, 1998
MEDIA WATCH: Media Law Creates Hassles
By Leonid Bershidsky
Special to The Moscow Times
It is difficult in this day and age to regulate the media; in fact, it
seems the media to a lare extent regulate what's going on in modern
societies. But try telling that to the State Duma.
An attempt is under way in the lower house to set new rules for the
media, which have raised many hackles among human rights activists. Of
course, the new Mass Media Bill, introduced by members of the Duma's
Information and Communications Committee, has only gone through its
first reading, it will still be amended and President Boris Yeltsin is
highly unlikely to sign it anyway. But it's interesting to look at
merely as an example of how some people with retrograde views and little
understanding of the news business try to make rules -- and fail
miserably because they are so far behind the times.
The first reading of the mass media bill took place in January.
Immediately , the computer community started raising hell in its own
quiet way -- the bill says any and all Internet pages are media and need
to be registered as such, meaning serious costs and legal obligations
for those who maintain the pages. Naturally, if the bill ever comes into
effect in this form, Russian web pages will just flock offshore. That's
a hassle no one needs, and a lot of pages might close as a result.
The Moscow Times, for its part, did not raise hell on its own behalf,
though it should have: The current version of the bill seems to be
specifically aimed at closing down this newspaper.
According to the bill, no company can publish anything if it is more
than 10 percent foreign-owned or if more than a third of its management
are foreign nationals. No Russian law is complete without about 1,000
loopholes, and a Russian-language publication run by a foreign company
-- say, my newspaper, Kapital -- could bypass the rules if the foreign
publisher officially transferred the publishing rights to the editorial
office and financed the publication through a Russian-registered
company. The Moscow Times, however, would not be able to go down this
path because its management is predominantly foreign. Of course, the
paper could hire 20 bums and give them all management titles. Then the
law would be powerless against The Moscow Times, too.
Would the new rules hinder the arrival on the Russian market of such
publishing titans as Bertelsmann? Of course not. With Bertelsmann's
resources, it will easily beat any rule laid down by the intellectually
challenged legislators. Would the rules stop foreign publishers such as
Burda and The Moscow Times' parent company, Independent Media, from
operating? It would be naive to imagine so. As in the case of the
Internet, the new law would just create more hassle.
The bill also sets out to break the hold of Russian banks and industrial
groups on most of the national media. But the likes of Uneximbank, MOST
Bank or Gazprom would not so much as hiccup as a result of the new
rules. According to the bill, no company that holds a monopoly on its
market, no bank, financial group or association of banks can own a
broadcast license, publish a newspaper or magazine or own controlling
interest in a media outlet.
Yet no bank holds a broadcast license even now and no bank directly
publishes a newspaper. Some banks own controlling interest in
publications -- as Uneximbank does in Izvestia, for example -- but that
situation can be easily changed by the creation of media holdings like
MOST Media and Gazprom Media. It is these holdings that control
publications, and banks or companies only own a stake in the holdings.
The parent companies can also control the holdings through intermediary
firms, easily beating the bill's provisions.
To understand why the bill is so ridiculously full of holes, it might be
useful to look at the list of members of the Information and
Communications Committee. Five out of 14 committee members are
Communists and three, including the committee head, are members of
Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultranationalist party. Few of the committee
members have ever worked in the national media.
Now committee staffers say the bill may be amended and the articles on
computers and foreign publishers are likely to be scrapped. But there
will be plenty of ridiculous changes left. The bill says the editor of a
media outlet must be picked by its journalists. The Duma deputies think
they can turn newspapers into elected democracies with a stroke of a
pen. Or consider the provision that quotes from official speeches must
not be taken out of context. That'll be a hard one for courts to mull
One just hopes Yeltsin's advisers will have enough sense to recommend
that he veto the bill even if some of the most offensive provisions are
Russia Official Backs START II
April 2, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's foreign minister on Thursday joined the government's
campaign to persuade reluctant lawmakers to ratify the START II arms control
``It is in the interests of Russia (and) in the interests of world peace,''
Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was quoted as saying by Russian news
The treaty, signed by President Boris Yeltsin and President Clinton in 1993,
would cut the strategic nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia in
half by the year 2003.
The U.S. Senate ratified it in 1996, but Russia's lower house of parliament,
the State Duma, so far has refused to give its approval.
Ratification is necessary ``to continue the process of reducing strategic
offensive weapons,'' Primakov was quoted as saying.
April 6, 1998
[for personal use only]
Her Father's Keeper
Yeltsin's daughter is his closest confidante
By Owen Matthews
In Boris Yeltsin's quicksand Kremlin, ministers and advisers rise and fall,
but Tatyana Dyachenko is always on solid ground. The president's younger
daughter is his nurse, nanny and most trusted counselor. Two years ago, she
helped him come back from the politically dead (his standing in the polls had
sunk to single digits) to score an improbable victory in Russia's presidential
election. After his heart trouble took him out of action for months at a time,
he appointed her to an official post as "presidential adviser," with a salary
and an office in the Kremlin. Tatyana, 37, doesn't set policy or make up
Yeltsin's mind for him. But she controls access to her father (who calls her
"Tanya") and advises him on personnel matters, often telling him what others
lack the opportunity or the courage to say. On Russian television last year,
she told an interviewer: "There are some unpleasant things the president needs
to be told that are better said by me."
She probably played only a minor role in last week's government shake-up.
According to her friends, Dyachenko shared her father's view that the prime
minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, was becoming entirely too presidential. Tatyana
doesn't shrink from high-level firings. The turning point of the 1996
presidential campaign came when she helped persuade her father to sack several
Kremlin hard-liners, including his unpopular chief bodyguard and drinking
buddy, Aleksandr Korzhakov, who reportedly wanted Yeltsin to cancel the
election. Later Dyachenko endured a whispering campaign by political enemies,
who spread untruthful rumors that she was having an affair with Anatoly
Chubais, Yeltsin's top economic reformer at the time.
Trained as a mathematician, Dyachenko is methodical, rational and calm--a
sharp contrast to her willful and capricious father. Only four years ago, she
was tracking missile trajectories at the Salyut space center and looking after
her husband, Aleksei, an aerospace engineer, and her son from a previous
marriage, Boris, now 16, Yeltsin's favorite grandson and namesake. Then, in
the re-election crisis of 1996, she became her father's unofficial image
manager, dressing him for the campaign in a cuddly sweater and ordering his
security guards to take off their sunglasses so they wouldn't look so
thuggish. Now young Boris has been packed off to a fancy boarding school in
Britain while his mother works full time deciding who gets to see the man she
addresses as "Papa." The president seems to respect her judgment about
personnel. Aleksandr Lebed, the popular former general who worked for Yeltsin
and then was fired, says resentfully: "Tatyana has set up a very clever
scenario: 'Only trust the people I trust'."
Dyachenko performs another critical function in Yeltsin's administration:
she's a one-woman anti-alcohol police force, constantly trying to make sure
her father stays away from his beloved vodka. That's one reason she has become
a familiar sight on the president's trips abroad; in the past he used foreign
excursions as an excuse to go on a bender. And since he is still extremely
frail, she makes sure he follows his doctors' orders and gets plenty of rest.
Yeltsin appears to accept her ministrations--believing, evidently, that
Daughter Knows Best.
FOCUS-Russia not keen on NATO mission in ministry
By Martin Nesirky
MOSCOW, April 2 (Reuters) - Already up in arms about NATO enlargement, Russia
faces a fresh challenge -- how to keep Western military officers out of its
On Wednesday the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation told its military
committee chairman, General Klaus Naumann, to negotiate setting up a military
liaison mission at the Russian ministry and General Staff headquarters in
``It's an important political gesture for the Russians to show they accept
reciprocity on this and we wouldn't want them to drag their feet,'' said a
But the head of the ministry's International Military Cooperation Department,
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, told Reuters that Russia's landmark agreement
with NATO did not specify where the alliance's representative office should
``At the moment, Russia and NATO are determining the conditions for this
presence,'' Ivashov said in his written replies to questions. ``After this
question has been resolved the practical aspects of opening a NATO
representative office in Russia will be decided.''
The Founding Act between NATO and Russia -- signed in Paris last May not long
before the 16-nation alliance decided to enlarge to embrace some of Moscow's
Soviet-era allies -- provides for a Russian mission to the Western
Russia was swift to set up shop, with Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin, an
experienced peacekeeping commander, as its military representative and
diplomat Sergei Kislyak as its permanent diplomatic representative.
The NATO source said there were a dozen Russian officers at NATO HQ in
Brussels, and a Russian military liaison just a few offices away from NATO's
Supreme Commander Europe, General Wesley Clark, at his SHAPE offices in Mons,
Ivashov said Russia's mission comprised 11 ``highly qualified specialists in
the field of military cooperation.'' He said he was not aware of any of them
being refused accreditation by NATO.
On NATO's rights in Russia, the Founding Act is vague.
It simply says: ``NATO retains the possibility of establishing an appropriate
presence in Moscow, the modalities of which remain to be determined.''
``Obviously it is politically sensitive because while NATO is an
organisation, the Moscow Defence Ministry and General Staff HQ is the sanctum
of sanctums,'' the source said.
``We don't want to get into the cosmic top-secret control room,'' the source
told Reuters in Brussels, but neither did the alliance want a hut ``at the
bottom end of the car park.''
Another NATO source said that at a recent NATO-Russia council meeting,
had said Russia was waiting to hear the alliance's proposals.
It was unclear what shape Naumann's proposals would take, but he clearly will
not be pushing against an open door at the Defence Ministry, a huge white
building in the centre of Moscow. Russia remains unhappy about NATO's eastward
Ivashov said Moscow was keen to see evidence of a ``constructive, serious
approach.'' One of the trickiest areas was establishing trust and
transparency, he said.
The second NATO source said the alliance would ideally like to establish a
stand-alone civilian office in Moscow and perhaps then merge it with any
military mission. For now, NATO has a liaison officer who works out of the
German embassy in Moscow.
Poll Shows Muscovites Views on Next President, Chernomyrdin
MOSCOW, March 29 (Itar-Tass) -- An express-poll held in downtown
Moscow after former premier Viktor Chernomyrdin's Saturday announcement of
his intention to run for Russian presidency in the 2000 elections reveled
that the bulk of voters are yet undecided about the candidate to vote for.
Over a half of the 35 respondents (12 women and 23 men, all aged from
20 to 50) said they are "almost certain" to vote for Viktor Chernomyrdin if
he takes part in round-offs with Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov or
The majority of the polled said they were positive about the former
premier and 18 said that he had been dismissed "unfairly." Four said they
are antipathetic towards Chernomyrdin, as they are towards former first
vice premier Anatoliy Chubays.
Half of the polled said Chernomyrdin will have good chances in the
forthcoming presidential elections "if he is backed by regional elite and
Russia's leading businesses."
Two respondents spoke in favour of "young vice-speaker Vladimir
Ryzhkov" as a candidate from the Our Home Is Russia party.
Participants in the poll also said they had expected Chernomyrdin to
make this announcement because "he is not a man to entirely disappear after
Moscow Poll Shows 39% Support Dismissal of Russian Cabinet
Moscow, March 31 (Interfax) -- Over one third (39%) of Moscovites
support Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decision to dismiss the Cabinet
of Ministers. Another 16% are against the decision, while 11% of the
respondents said Yeltsin himself should resign.
Some 34% of Moscovites expressed doubt.
The All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies polled 829 people
living in Moscow last week.
Asked about the future prime minister, 18% of Moscovites said they
would choose leader of the reformist Yabloko party Grigoriy YavlinskIy.
Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov was cited by 13% of those polled.
Eight percent of the respondents favor Yeltsin's nominee Sergey
Kiriyenko as prime minister.
Should Yeltsin dissolve the Duma if it rejects Yeltsin's candidates
three times, 41% of the respondents would oppose the move.
However, 39% of Moscovites would support this decision. Twenty
percent said they did not know.