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Johnson's Russia List
10 March 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
JRL will be on vacation for a couple days.
1. Fred Weir on labor protest.
2. AP: Russians Stage Varied Protests.
3. Reuters: Russian General Set for Political Battle.
4. IntellectualCapital.com: Richard Pipes, Russia's Latest
5. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: Tycoon's
6. Moscow Times: Andrei Piontkovsky, SEASON OF DISCONTENT:
Establishment Suffers From CIS Complex.
7. Pravda: Die Welt Voices Concern at Kiriyenko Scientology Link.
8. Reuters: Yeltsin says ready to hand over power peacefully.
9. Reuters: Sacked Russian PM hopes life begins at 60.
10. Reuters: Lack of government seen delaying Russian reforms.
11. Irish Times editorial: Latvia and Russia.
12. RIA Novosti: ACCORDING TO THE MVES DATA, UP TO 70% OF IMPORTED
PRODUCTS AT THE RUSSIAN MARKET IS OF LOW QUALITY.]
Date: Thu, 09 Apr 1998
By Fred Weir
MOSCOW (CP) -- Tamara Shumakova hasn't seen her wages in
4 months, doesn't expect to get paid anytime soon, but shows up
at her job in a bankrupt textile factory every morning because
she says there's nowhere else to go.
Except on Thursday, that is, when she made the 300-km
trip from her native city of Ivanovo to Moscow protest along with
thousands of other chronically upaid workers in front of Russia's
``I feel so hopeless, and I know no one cares about our
problems,'' says the greying, 53-year old loom operator.
``It's like falling down a bottomless hole. You can shout
or you can remain passive, but nothing will stop you from
In Russia's shrinking post-Soviet economy an estimated 20
per cent of workers go without income for months at a time,
particularly public sector employees and workers in bankrupt
Russian trade unions, who organized Thursday's nationwide
protests, say the debt totals 60-billion roubles (about
$10-billion US) and is growing larger by the month.
``The government is almost bankrupt, so it doesn't pay
its bills,'' says Gennady Khodokov, spokesman for the 50-million
member Federation of Independent Trade Unions.
``That sets a bad example for managers in private
industries, who feel they don't have to pay either. It's the
workers who are always left holding an empty bag,'' he says.
Shumakova says she survives by not paying her rent, or
utilities or any other debts. Her husband, a retired factory
worker, receives a small pension and the two of them grow
potatoes and vegetables on a plot of land they own near Ivanovo.
``We live somehow without money, but how long can this go
on?'' she says.
Thursday's demonstrations drew about 2-million workers in
900 centres across Russia. That was less than similar protests a
year earlier, although union leaders say the problem of wage
arrears has grown more acute.
``People have given up, they've become cynical,'' says
Nikolai Kondratyev, a 50-year old engineer from Krasnogorsk, an
industrial town near Moscow.
He tells a similar story about living a virtually
cashless existence, while turning up daily at his job in a local
``There are no other alternatives,'' he says. ``We go on
hoping the economy will turn around, the factory will revive and
we will be able to begin living normally again.
``But it's been several years, and things just keep
President Boris Yeltsin fired his entire government two
weeks ago, citing the chronic problem of wage and pension arrears
as one of the reasons.
The new prime minister-designate, Sergei Kiriyenko, who
faces a tough fight to be approved by parliament on Friday, has
promised to address the crisis soon.
``We should have the correct approach to this protest,''
Kiriyenko said Thursday. ``We can understand people, they are not
getting their wages and we are obliged to solve this problem.''
But protesters said they've heard that line many times
before, and see no reason to believe it this time.
``Russians are the world's most patient people,'' says
Oleg Chernovets, a 40-year old scientific researcher who says he
hasn't been paid in 6 months.
``We put up with things that cause revolutions in other
``But history tells you that even Russians have their
breaking point. If things get much worse, there will be a
revolution here too.''
Russians Stage Varied Protests
By MAURA REYNOLDS
April 9, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) - Workers marched for back wages, Communists for an end to Boris
Yeltsin's presidency and ultranationalists for a return to Russia's Soviet-era
might as hundreds of thousands took to the streets Thursday across Russia.
In rallies from Moscow to Vladivostok, Russians expressed their
dissatisfaction with life in their post-communist country.
``Soviet power - that's what the whole world needs,'' said Alexandra
Nenasheva, a 63-year-old retired janitor, wearing a pink wool coat with a
lapel pin showing Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. ``Yeltsin is a monster. Who
supports him? America, Israel, Germany.''
Nanasheva was one of thousands who protested in a cold rain outside Russia's
government headquarters - fewer than in previous years.
The Interior Ministry estimated that the crowd numbered 15,000, according to
the ITAR-Tass news agency, but many journalists and other observers thought
the number was closer to a few thousand.
Russian public television estimated about 1 million took part in Thursday's
protests, far less than organizers had predicted. The Interior Ministry said
permits were granted for about 900 rallies nationwide.
In Moscow, separate protests by unions, Communists and ultranationalists
converged on the White House, the main government building on the banks of the
``Dear comrades, what we need is Soviet power,'' said Viktor Anpilov, head of
the radical Russian Labor movement. ``There's no sense in all this
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov drew cheers from the crowd when he called
for Yeltsin's resignation and the ouster of his Cabinet, including the
president's nominee for premier, Sergei Kiriyenko, whose confirmation vote is
scheduled for Friday.
``We demand a normal government,'' Zyuganov said. ``We will not vote for Mr.
In the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, a planned rally of 10,000 people drew
an estimated 3,000 participants who marched under red Communist flags to the
town's central square. Factories and plants in the town stopped work for two
In Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, thousands of marchers shut
down the main boulevard, Nevsky Prospekt, and rallied in front of the Winter
Palace under a banner reading ``For labor, wages and social guarantees.''
Yeltsin's spokesman said the president was keeping a close eye on the
protests, and pledged that the government was already working on a solution to
the problem of unpaid wages and pensions.
``We understand people,'' said Kiriyenko, the acting prime minister, after
convening a panel on the issue. ``They are not getting their wages and we are
obliged to solve this problem.''
The government has had great difficulty paying wages and pensions in recent
years, largely because it has had trouble collecting taxes and other revenue.
While it claimed to have solved the problem in January, many workers say the
problem has returned.
Kiriyenko acknowledged as much after holding a meeting with Mikhail Shmakov,
leader of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions.
``Last year, we paid the debts but we didn't eliminate the mechanism that
causes them,'' he said. ``If we don't do that, the problem will come back
again and again.''
Currently, the government estimates that workers are owed nearly $10 billion
in back wages, of which about $1.6 billion is owed by the government.
Russian General Set for Political Battle
April 8, 1998
MOSCOW -- (Reuters) Gen. Andrei Nikolayev attentively studied a string of
freshly-made sausages before murmuring his approval to a delighted factory
For the vote-catching visit in southern Moscow, Nikolayev wore a white coat.
Women workers giggled in embarrassment when they recognized the man they had
only seen before dressed in his military uniform on television.
The ambitious former border guards chief, who quit his high profile post in
December, contests an election in the Moscow region of Orekhovo-Borisovo on
Sunday which is intended to launch him on a new career in politics.
This is not just another general who has stepped out of his military uniform
and into a smart suit to dabble in politics in the Duma, the lower house of
Although Nikolayev is a novice as a public politician, his name is already
being floated as a potential presidential candidate or future prime minister.
He is often asked whether he sees the Duma merely as a launchpad to greater
"This is not an interim step, although it could create the basis for taking
other serious decisions," Nikolayev told reporters on Tuesday.
Pledging to defend the interests of voters if elected, he said: "The region
shares the problems of the whole of Moscow and the whole of Russia -- people's
social welfare, education, ecology. The people want decisions from the
Nikolayev Fits the Bill in Modern Russian Politics
The 48-year-old general deflects questions about his plans but leaves no
he has set his sights high in entering the race for a seat vacated by Irina
Khakamada, a liberal who now has a role in the Russian government.
Nikolayev's star billing stems largely from the impression that he fits the
bill of what Russia needs at this stage of its development after the collapse
of the Soviet Union in 1991.
His military background enables him to project the image of an honest man of
action and discipline, qualities admired by Russians long used to being ruled
by a firm hand.
He is running as an independent in Orekhovo-Borisovo, a residential suburb
478,000 voters, and portrays himself as free of any links with the financial
groups disliked by ordinary Russians and accused by the Kremlin of interfering
Nikolayev also gained potentially invaluable experience of the inner workings
of the Kremlin as the border guards chief, a sensitive job in a country where
unrest has frequently simmered on its edges in the past few years.
He has also enjoyed lavish attention from the media, a huge asset signaling
powerful financial barons who control much of the media welcome his appearance
on the political scene even though they have not directly backed him.
When Yeltsin sacked long-serving Victor Chernomyrdin as prime minister last
month, Nikolayev's name was mentioned frequently in speculation about who
might be the next premier.
"He seems for now to have no team of image-makers or money," Georgy Bovt,
political editor of the Segodnya newspaper, wrote in an article discussing
whether Nikolaeyev could be a "dark horse' in a presidential election due in
the year 2000.
But he added: "The 'dark horse' factor is directly dependent above all
how tired or annoyed voters are with the traditional elite...It is an
incontrovertible fact that the ordinary Russian is now tired of the elite."
Rivals Protest against "Unfair Advantage"
The publicity Nikolayev has enjoyed has angered his rivals in a star-studded
field including former defense minister Igor Rodionov, former prime minister
Ivan Silayev, extreme leftist Stanislav Terekhov, and businessman Vyacheslav
Rodionov, Terekhov and another candidate, Lev Ubozhko, said on Tuesday they
were pulling out of the election and urged voters to boycott it because of
alleged media bias and what they call Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov's favoritism
Nikolayev has denied any violation of electoral laws. He also denies
any favoritism from Luzhkov, despite saying on Tuesday: "We have similar views
on many things."
Luzhkov's support stems partly from Nikolayev's reputation as an honest man
who gets things done and does not let bureaucracy get in his way.
It may also be encouraged by Nikolayev's avowed intention to group together
deputies representing Moscow constituencies in the Duma and form what would
amount to a lobby group.
Apart from this statement of intent if he is elected, and opinion polls
he will be, Nikolayev has said little about his political leanings and
He says he plans to stay independent, but various political groups have made
clear they would welcome him with open arms.
Entering a Political Minefield
Nikolayev has good reason to tread carefully as he enters Russian politics.
Generals making the transformation before him have found it to be a
Aleksander Lebed made it as far as the Kremlin when Yeltsin appointed him as
his security aide after the tough-talking general finished third in the
presidential election in 1996.
But he was ousted four months later for failing to hide his presidential
ambitions and now faces a make-or-break battle to become a regional
governor in Siberia later this month.
Lebed has suffered from having no major political party behind him and from a
lack of financial backing. His political and economic programs seem hazy, and
his personal ambition and lust for power never far from the surface.
Nikolayev shuns Lebed's thunderous bluster but also lacks his charisma. He
comes across as a more circumspect man but his ambition is also hard to hide.
His resignation as border guards chief in December remains a mystery. Some
reports said he went before he was pushed, others said that he quit in protest
of plans to reorganize his troops.
The uncertainty about his future plans and program make it hard to place
Russian politics, a factor which could open his path to glory or risk leaving
him as isolated as Lebed.
Russia's Latest Political Ordeal
by Richard Pipes
April 9, 1998
In my most recent column, "Yeltsin's Antics," I called attention to the
whimsical way Russia's president runs the government, routinely
dismissing and appointing ministers without apparent cause. I suggested
that one of the reasons he did so was "to create the impression of
immense power, to convince the country that he represents the 'strong
hand' that Russians admire."
The president's prerogative
Soon afterward, Yeltsin gave greater weight to that suggestion when in
one fell swoop he fired the entire Cabinet, from the prime minister
down. It was an extraordinarily irresponsible action, the only
explanation for which is the president's desire to demonstrate he is
boss. This hypothesis is supported by three items of evidence.
One is the person Yeltsin chose to succeed Victor Chernomyrdin as prime
minister. Chernomyrdin is a rather bland bureaucrat but a man of
considerable administrative experience. His hand-picked successor,
Sergei Kiriyenko, is a 35-year-old with only seven months of government
service. One suspects that Yeltsin chose him to prove he can appoint as
head of government anyone he pleases.
Secondly, Kiriyenko has pledged to continue Chernomyrdin's reformist
policies, which means Yeltsin did not place him in charge because he
wanted the government to pursue a different course. In justifying his
nomination, Yeltsin said Kiriyenko does not belong to any political
party or movement, which indicates that he wants the prime minister to
be fully dependent on him. Chernomyrdin, by contrast, is closely
connected to the "Our Home Russia" party and has made no secret of his
Thirdly, immediately upon dismissing the Cabinet, Yeltsin re-appointed
as "acting" ministers four of its highly influential members: Evgenii
Primakov to head the Foreign Ministry, Igor Sergeyev to run Defense,
Mikhail Zadornov to be in charge of finance and Sergei Stepashin, once
of the KGB, to head the Ministry of the Interior. This indicates that
the purge was not complete but selective.
Dealing with the Duma
The Duma at once declared itself in opposition to Kiriyenko: All Duma
parties except that headed by Vladimir Zhirinovskii have announced that
they will reject Kiriyenko's candidacy. On this issue the communists,
nationalists and liberals are at one. They object to Kiriyenko because
he is too young and too inexperienced to head the administration of a
country as large and complex as Russia. An additional argument against
him is that in the event Yeltsin became physically incapacitated,
Kiriyenko, as prime minister, would assume interim presidential powers
for which he has no qualifications.
According to the constitution, the Duma has three chances to approve or
reject the candidate for prime minister. If it rejects him three
consecutive times, Yeltsin has the right to dissolve the Duma and call
for new elections.
In recent days, both sides have shown a desire to come to terms. At
Yeltsin's invitation, Duma deputies have attended a roundtable
discussion with the government, at which they voiced their concerns.
Yeltsin, for his part, has expressed a willingness to consider their
opinions. But he stands firm on Kiriyenko.
The Duma is scheduled to vote on the issue on Friday, April 10, and the
likelihood is that sooner or later, it will relent. The reason: In new
parliamentary elections, the Communists and Nationalists are not
expected to do as well as before, which spells for many of their
deputies the loss of valuable perquisites. Confirmation of Kiriyenko
would defuse the crisis created by Yeltsin's erratic action.
But the fundamental problem would remain: Democratic Russia still lacks
a democratic mindset and a president capable of governing
Richard Pipes is a professor of history and has previously served as
director of Russian studies at Harvard University. He is a contributing
editor of IntellectualCapital.com.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
April 10, 1998
MEDIA WATCH: Tycoon's Trojan-Horse Gifts
By Leonid Bershidsky
In a recent television interview, acting Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko
said he was "psychologically prepared" for pressure from Russia's
tycoons. He said he already knew in what form the pressure would be
likely to come: "First comes a cautious offer of 'help.' It gets
rejected, and the next day some newspaper changes its tone." Kiriyenko
said that had already happened to him.
Even Kiriyenko's opponents in the parliament recognize that he is an
intelligent man. It did not take him long to see how the tycoons use the
media as both a carrot and a stick. Nobody would dare offer a new acting
prime minister an outright bribe, so what is offered is assistance in
bolstering his image and thus easing his approval by the parliament.
This week, the daily Russky Telegraf said in a front-page story that
Kiriyenko has been forced to accept such help. According to Andrei
Serov, a special public relations headquarters has been set up in the
Kremlin on Yeltsin's orders to turn Kiriyenko, an unknown provincial
banker and oilman, into a more or less popular public figure. Serov
reports that the campaign is run by Yeltsin's chief of staff Valentin
Yumashev, Yeltsin's daughter and chief imagemaker Tatyana Dyachenko,
Interfax news agency owner Mikhail Komissar, government spokesman Igor
Shabdurasulov and NTV president Oleg Dobrodeyev.
"When such a powerful group of people offered Kiriyenko help in the form
of coordinating the media under their control to ... create a positive
image for the young politician, he simply could not refuse," Serov
writes. "It is no easier for Kiriyenko to control the headquarters than
to refuse its services, so he is forced to accept their Trojan-horse
Serov's point is that NTV, owned by Vladimir Gusinsky's MOST Media, and
news organizations controlled by Boris Berezovsky -- who is close to
Yumashev and Dyachenko -- profess to be helping Kiriyenko, while in fact
they are ruining his image. If Kiriyenko is approved by the State Duma,
the "imagemakers" will "present him with a bill for PR services; if he
is not, they will merely try to push a candidate they like better than
Kiriyenko -- for example, acting Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin."
There is some substance to the claim that Gusinsky's and Berezovsky's
media are trying to hurt Kiriyenko. On March 25, Berezovsky's Noviye
Izvestia accused the acting prime minister of having engaged in shady
financial dealings as manager of a bank and oil company in Nizhny
Novgorod. The paper said that instead of paying his Norsi Oil company's
debts, he channeled the company's profits into the Garantiya Bank that
he ran. It accuses him of pocketing the profits from the bank's
operations with the money and paying Norsi creditors, including the
State Pension Fund, with promissory notes.
On April 2, Gusinsky's daily Segodnya published a front-page article on
Kiriyenko's purported connection to the Scientology sect. Reports that
he had taken courses with Scientologists in Nizhny Novgorod were first
published in the German paper Berliner Zeitung and then in Pravda. While
the Segodnya writer, Georgy Bovt, makes a show of his even-handedness,
saying that the reports were mere attempts to undermine the acting prime
minister, he copiously quotes faxes supposedly sent by the Church of
Scientology's Russian branch in support of Kiriyenko.
From Berezovsky's comments to Western media, one can easily see how the
magnate is voting for Kiriyenko withone hand and trying to hurt him with
the other. In an interview with The Financial Times on March 25, he said
Kiriyenko as prime minister "is indubitably better than what we had
until today." But at a breakfast with foreign journalists just two days
later, he described Kiriyenko as a weak figure, saying, "[Former Prime
Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin had been bearing a big part of the
president's political load recently. ... Who will fill that vacuum which
really exists at the moment?"
Of course, Russky Telegraf, owned by Uneximbank, is eager to alert
Kiriyenko to what it sees as a clear double-cross by Unexim's rivals.
Unexim has already made a head start with Kiriyenko -- his economic
plans have been drafted by reformers such as Anatoly Chubais, who until
recently was a powerful Unexim ally in the government. Now Unexim is
warning Kiriyenko not to get tied up with its foes.
If Kiriyenko wants to keep his independence, as he vowed to do in
several of his interviews, he has to be extremely careful as he performs
his balancing act. Media in the hands of tycoons can build up an
up-and-coming politician, but they can also clobber him to political
April 10, 1998
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Establishment Suffers From CIS Complex
By Andrei Piontkovsky
The president's latest illness justified postponing the planned
Commonwealth of Independent States summit, which was doomed to fail just
as the previous meeting in Chisinau, Moldova, had.
It was not that one or several presidents refused to come to Moscow last
month. Rather, the CIS is undergoing a deep conceptual crisis, which was
already evident at the summit last October. It is no longer possible to
hide the opposing positions between Moscow and its partners on the
purpose of the CIS. Our neighbors have pursued entirely concrete and
pragmatic aims -- to use the CIS as an instrument for a civilized
divorce while preserving optimal economic relations with their former
metropolitan center. As for Moscow, one gets the impression that it did
not know what it wanted from its former lesser brothers.
The way Moscow has behaved is reminiscent of an elderly, hysterical
woman w ho tries either with threats and scandals or with generous gifts
to restore her former admirers. A typical example of such hysterics was
an extensive article published a year ago in Nezavisimaya Gazeta called,
"CIS: The Start or End of History."
The article spoke of "forcing Ukraine into friendship" and
"destabilizing the Caucasus as a means of preserving Russian influence
in this region." This was repeated in many versions by officials and
"intellectuals" from the Council on Foreign and Military Policies.
These people have not understood or learned anything since Chisinau. The
proof is a recent article by Nezavisimaya Gazeta's editor, Vitaly
Tretyakov, called "Something Worries Me About the CIS."
The article is in its own way a case study of the geo-psychological
complexes of the Moscow political establishment.
Tretyakov is very disturbed by the "geopolitical betrayal" and "deep
stupidity of our state." He divides the CIS countries into the pure and
impure. The pure countries include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia,
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which "desire real union with Russia." The
pure countries should part with the impure ones, imposing the "harshest,
most selfish conditions on the part of the new union, including harsh
solutions to border problems."
Aside from the war between the pure and impure that would inevitably
result from "harsh solutions to border problems," the trouble with a
small union à la Tretyakov is that it would produce a level of
schizophrenia that is even more absurd than in the current CIS. This has
been brilliantly demonstrated for the past few years by the Belarussian
President Alexander Lukashenko. Like the majority of little-educated
20th century dictators, he is a spontaneous psychoanalyst. He has a fine
feel for the kinds of sweet integrational words needed to arouse the
erogenous zones of the collective subconscious of the Russian political
But as Lukashenko recently explained during the currency crisis, he does
not offer his services for free. Russia must pay billions in imaginary
debts to Belarus for his professional caresses. For the same empty
chatter "about a real union," we shall have to pay Armenia with absolute
support in its military conflict in the Caucasus; Tajikistan with
maintenance of its bankrupt state; Kazakhstan with ignorance of the
problems of the Russian population there; and so on. Isn't this too high
a price to pay for the geopolitical pleasures of Mr. Tretyakov.
Die Welt Voices Concern at Kiriyenko Scientology Link
7 April 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Report by Aleksandr Mikhaylov: "Die Welt: 'Situation Is
Certainly Not Innocuous.' German Journalists Continue Investigating
Berlin -- The FRG mass media are continuing to discuss widely the
possibility that Russia's acting prime minister belongs to the totalitarian
"Scientology" sect. After Berliner Zeitung, another major German newspaper
-- Die Welt -- is conducting its own investigation. Manfred Quiring, its
own correspondent, reports from Moscow that he met with Russian Government
spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov, who confirmed indirectly that Kiriyenko did,
after all, attend a seminar at the Hubbard College in Nizhniy Novgorod. At
the same time Shabdurasulov expressed doubt that the study course "included
any religious questions or the fundamentals of Hubbard's teaching."
As is well known, the acting premier has categorically denied even
that he had contacts with the totalitarian sect and has called the
corresponding articles in the German and Russian press "nonsense" and an
"April fool's joke." While talking with its Moscow correspondent, the
newspaper writes, I. Shabdurasulov maintained that Kiriyenko no longer has
any links with the sect, regarding it as "pointless" to somehow link this
issue to the upcoming Duma vote on the acting premier's candidacy.
However, Die Welt believes that the situation is certainly not
innocuous. Yevgeniy Volkov, senior lecturer in psychology at Nizhniy
Novgorod University, has backed up his previous allegations with documents
indicating that Kiriyenko, while he was president of the Garantiya Bank,
sent his staffers to study at the Hubbard College, paying for the courses
out of bank funds under the "Expenditure" heading.
Manfred Quiring asked Professor Aleksandr Dvorkin, a Russian Orthodox
Church expert on totalitarian sects, to comment on Shabdurasulov's
statement. Dvorkin demanded that Kiriyenko explain himself clearly and
unequivocally. "This person must provide complete and exhaustive
information as to whether he attended a so- called auditing course at the
Hubbard College," Dvorkin said. "This procedure constitutes a public
confession during which the seminar participants are required to give a
detailed account of their personality and details of their biography,
including the raciest details. These confessions are usually taped. I
know of cases where such intimate information has been used for blackmail.
Therefore it is in the interests of Kiriyenko himself to speak about
everything as fully and truthfully as possible." The German journalist
cites a fact which makes many Europeans feel uncomfortable: "Under certain
circumstances," according to the Russian Constitution, Kiriyenko could
become for at least three months the head of a state with 150 million
people and a supreme commander in chief with almost 6,000 nuclear warheads
at his disposal.
Die Welt writes that Hubbard Colleges are today operating not only in
Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod but also in Perm, Yekaterinburg, Novgorod, and
a number of Siberian cities. The German public is particularly concerned
about the sect's heightened interest in the Russian military-industrial
complex. Thus the Perm Hubbard College, for example, is on the territory
of the local motor building complex, which produces military output.
"Scientologists" in Yekaterinburg have made themselves at home in a
building of the optical instrument plant, which is also part of the Russian
The world's largest "Scientology" center is in Moscow. It employs 150
staffers. It sells more than 1,000 books each week on "dianetics" -- the
teaching of L. Ron Hubbard. Pointing out that the "Scientology" sect's
popularity in Russia is largely a result of the population's low level of
information, the German newspaper reports that intentional or unintentional
lobbyists for this U.S. totalitarian structure have included very
well-known Russian politicians who have been and are surrounded by numerous
assistants and experts. They have included, in particular, Sergey
Stepashin, former head of the Federal Security Service and now leader of
the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who had quite a few kind words to say
about L. Ron Hubbard when the latter's book was being distributed openly
and for free in the Duma in 1993. Many quotes from Hubbard, albeit without
attribution, featured in speeches and articles by former Russian Vice
President Aleksandr Rutskoy.
Yeltsin says ready to hand over power peacefully
MOSCOW, April 9 (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin pinned a medal on
discarded prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin on Thursday with a passing remark
about the transfer of power to a new head of state in two years' time.
As with other enigmatic comments since he launched a big government shake-up
last month, he stopped short of a full endorsement for his long-serving number
two's declared intention to run in the year 2000 presidential election.
Yeltsin, 67, has sent a series of conflicting signals about his long-term
intentions. The dismissal of Chernomyrdin, till then assumed to be his
favoured successor, started speculation he might seek a third term, although
it is unclear whether the constitution allows it.
Yeltsin appeared on Thursday at Chernomyrdin's 60th birthday party, a lavish
affair attended by the cream of Russia's political world, to decorate him with
the eight-pointed star and a red ribbon of the Order for Services to the
Fatherland, Second Class.
The order's First Class is reserved for the president, and Yeltsin, seen on
television, described the honour's significance for himself:
``When your term expires in 2000, be so kind as to peacefully hand over this
symbol of power to the newly-elected president without a fight,'' he said.
``That will indeed be done.''
FOCUS-Sacked Russian PM hopes life begins at 60
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, April 9 (Reuters) - For Viktor Chernomyrdin, life is beginning again
The veteran Russian politician celebrated his birthday on Thursday with less
fanfare and fewer presents than he would have expected before his shock
dismissal as prime minister by President Boris Yeltsin on March 23.
But Chernomyrdin's announcement, days after his sacking, that he plans to run
for the presidency has given him a new lease on life.
He still rambles in public. He admits he may never have charisma. But
Chernomyrdin is trying to reinvent himself, and ensured he kept himself in the
public eye on his birthday by receiving VIP guests and inviting in the Russian
``We will be meeting again and will be working together again,'' Chernomyrdin
assured reporters, clearly thinking about his political future.
The Moscow headquarters of his centrist Our Home is Russia political
where he received his birthday visitors, was awash with bouquets of flowers.
Officials said more than 300 people had come to congratulate Chernomyrdin
p.m. (1000 GMT), including Acting Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko. Alexiy II,
Patriarch of Russia's Orthodox Church, visited him at home to wish him happy
Yeltsin was expected to attend a big birthday banquet later in the day.
Elsewhere in Russia, tens of thousands of ordinary people were trudging the
streets to protest against the huge wage arrears that piled up under
Chernomyrdin and the hardships they endured under the markets reforms he
One in four people said in an opinion poll quoted by Interfax news agency
they could not think of any positive qualities in Chernomyrdin as a
That is an indication of the uphill struggle he faces to win the next
presidential election, due in the year 2000.
A stolid, dour leader, Chernomyrdin spent most of his time as prime minister
in Yeltsin's shadow. One of his first independent steps after his dismissal
was to canvass support among business leaders and seek their advice on his
Boris Berezovsky, one of the country's most powerful tycoons and a friend of
Yeltsin's family, said he had seen a ``different'' Chernomyrdin when he met
him a few days after his removal, and urged business leaders this week to back
That is a birthday present Chernomyrdin may accept gladly. Berezovsky was one
of seven major financiers who helped steer Yeltsin to victory in the
presidential election in 1996, and such support could be invaluable for
Chernomyrdin in 2000.
Since his dismissal, Chernomyrdin has set about shaking up Our Home, which
could be a vital platform for his campaign. But the party has always owed much
of its support to the fact that its leader was prime minister, and now it
Chernomyrdin told party leaders two weeks ago that Our Home needed a radical
overhaul, but his speech was long and rambling, like most of his addresses as
prime minister. He is working on the problem, a major obstacle to his
``Charisma is something with which one is born. But image is something that
can be improved. In short, it is necessary to start doing this work,'' he said
in an interview shown on Sunday.
As prime minister, Chernomyrdin had the benefit of influence over regional
leaders and governors whose support could help win votes in the provinces.
In a sign that their support has waned, the Kommersant Daily newspaper said
that since his sacking, some regional chiefs had abandoned birthday
celebrations planned for Chernomyrdin and industrial directors had scrapped
plans to give him lavish gifts.
Some politicians have written Chernomyrdin off completely. Others say much
depends on whether Yeltsin grudgingly backs his candidacy, a prospect that is
unlikely now but could become realistic if no more suitable candidate comes
Yeltsin, as usual, is keeping his cards close to his chest. A birthday visit
to Chernomyrdin would at least signal that the president has not burned all
his bridges with his old ally.
Chernomyrdin was doing his best not to let questions about his future spoil
``The table will be laid, and not only one,'' Itar-Tass news agency
as saying. ``Vodka will be drunk, and not only one glass.''
Lack of government seen delaying Russian reforms
By Peter Henderson
MOSCOW, April 9 (Reuters) - Russia needs to get a new reform team in place
quickly or face losing a year before it can make key changes to attract
foreign investors, U.S. businessmen said on Thursday.
American Chamber of Commerce members said reform measures including Russia's
long-awaited tax code, which would clean up contradictory legislation faced by
taxpayers, were at risk despite a clear government mandate for reforms.
"If there is not a strong government which is able to take the reform case to
the Duma in a timely fashion, and there is not a lot of time, then we run the
risk of losing an entire year or longer in that process," Chamber president
Scott Blacklin told a news conference. "And that would have an effect."
The slowdown would most affect the passage of the tax code, which can only
come into effect at the beginning of a calendar year.
Acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov has said the bill, if not passed by
autumn, will be put off for over two years as the 1999 budget and
parliamentary and presidential elections take front stage.
Blacklin said businesses faced up to 180 different taxes in some regions of
Russia, many of them under contradictory legislation.
Peter Charow, vice president of commercial development at Amoco Eurasia, a
subsidiary of U.S. oil major Amoco, said prime minister designate Sergei
Kiriyenko would be good for the economy if approved by the State Duma lower
house of parliament.
"I suspect what it will mean is an acceleration of the reform process," he
The Duma was to consider Kiriyenko on Friday but was not expected immediately
to confirm him as head of government. President Boris Yeltsin fired his old
government on March 23, calling for more energetic leaders to boost the
The businessmen praised reforms achieved so far, especially a government
decision in March aiming at bringing Russian accounting standards for major
businesses in line with international standards within two years. But they
said much remained to be done.
Many businessmen and economists say Russia is now starting to improve the
business environment through microeconomic structural reform, having largely
finished the process of stabilising the macroeconomy.
But Blacklin said a law on foreign direct investment working its way through
parliament had provisions which would actually drive away investors.
"It is impossible for a corporate manager to measure the risk here except
very approximate way," he said. Managers had a tough time convincing home
offices that limited funds should be used in Russia instead of other markets.
The foreign investment bill, which has passed one reading in the Duma and is
being amended, would introduce new strictures that domestic investors would
Businessmen said that a dialogue between Russian government officials and
foreign businessmted over the next 10 years.
9 April 1998
Latvia and Russia
The occupation of the Baltic nations by the Soviet Union following the
Stalin-Hitler pact has been justly and frequently condemned. Sympathy for
the plight of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians has been widespread in the
rest of Europe. Recent events in Latvia, however, have served to change
Despite their difficulties and sufferings under Soviet domination,
Latvians have no reason to be proud of their participation in the Waffen SS
and other even more pernicious pro-Nazi organisations in the second World
War. The instrumental role played by Latvians in founding the USSR is,
understandably, no longer celebrated, and the role of Latvians who fought
under the swastika should similarly be dispensed with. While the right to
parade through the streets cannot, and should not, be denied even to SS
veterans, participation in such marches by high state officials, as happened
recently in Riga, is reprehensible.
The governments of Germany and France have lodged protests. The President
of the United States has deplored the bombing of Riga's only synagogue
shortly after the infamous march. The Italian foreign minister, Mr Lamberto
Dini, has warned Latvia that it is pushing its proposed membership of the
European Union into the distant future.
The EU has already played a valuable part in helping to resolve ethnic
tensions in Estonia which, like its neighbour, has a large Russian-speaking
minority. Progress in providing naturalisation rights for "non-citizens" had
been a key condition for both countries in their moves towards membership.
Estonia's progress in this direction, along with its striking economic
achievements, have gained it a place among the five countries to start
negotiations with Brussels this year.
Latvians were disappointed at being left out of that group but the recent
actions in Riga can serve only to put that country's accession date back
even further. More dangerously, the march, the bombs at the synagogue and
near the Russian embassy, as well as the manhandling by police of elderly
Russian-speaking protesters, has aroused passions in Latvia's giant
neighbour. All shades of Russian opinion, including democratic politicians,
President Yeltsin, communists and extreme right-wing groups, have been
incensed by the events.
Calls for the imposition of economic sanctions have been made in more
moderate Russian political circles while extremist groups have urged the use
of violence. Sensible Russians will have nothing to do with the use of force
on this issue. Apart from the moral aversion of the average citizen to
military action, the memories of Chechnya are still vivid. But economic
sanctions could make life even more difficult for those elderly ethnic
Russians who have been demonstrating for better pension rights.
If there is to be a solution to the current spate of problems, it most
probably lies in the ideas put forward by Latvia's president, Mr Guntis
Ulmanis, who has attempted to insert a modicum of reality into the
emotionally-charged debate which currently rages in his country. Geography,
Mr Ulmanis sensibly states, cannot be changed. Latvia simply cannot ignore a
huge neighbour which is its largest trading partner. More importantly it
cannot afford the luxury of goading the Russians into irresponsible actions.
ACCORDING TO THE MVES DATA, UP TO 70% OF IMPORTED PRODUCTS
AT THE RUSSIAN MARKET IS OF LOW QUALITY
MOSCOW, APRIL 9. /FROM RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT ALEXANDER IVASHCHENKO/--
Up to 70% of all imported products at the domestic market has a low
quality. A RIA Novosti correspondent was told
about this in the department of many-sided economic ties of the Ministry
of Foreign Economic Relations (MVES). Experts believe that
the problem of low quality of imports can aggravate after
Russia's joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).
According to conditions of joining the
WTO, Russia should open its market to imported goods on a wide scale,
reducing the import tariffs at that, the experts point out. The experts
are sure that after Russia joins the WTO, 90% of imported goods
to Russia will be of low quality.
In the connection the ministry works out a complex of measures to control
the quality of imported goods. This work will be done by the state trade
inspectorate, which is part of the ministry's structure.
From February this year, joint bilateral consultations with the
countries members of the World Trade Organization are being conducted
concerning the mutual access of goods to the markets. The question on the
reduction of import tariffs is one of the main questions at these consultations.
Besides, the reduction of import tariffs is part of the Extended Facility
Program of the International Monetary Fund for 1998. The IMF has the status of
observer in the WTO.