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Johnson's Russia List
12 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
I am going to be in Moscow for two weeks, April 24-May 6.
1. Reuters: Kiriyenko to renew drive for parliament approval.
2. Moscow Times editorial: Kiriyenko's Duma Talk Too Aloof.
3. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Zyuganov Scathing on Kiriyenko's
4. Interfax: Zyganov Alleges Plot For Yeltsin Third Presidential Term.
5. The Times (UK): Matthew Campbell, Nuclear fears on millennium bug
6. Leonid Dobrokhotov: Power Crisis in Russia.
7. Gunars Reinis: Latvia.
8. Russian Info&Business Center: RUSSIAN BALLET CONCERT.
9. George Bain: Black Sea Pipeline.
10. Interfax: Poll: 31 Percent of Russians Back Moscow Mayor for
11. Interfax: Poll: 41% of Russians Think Themselves Better Off at
12. Reuters: Russia PM-designate to make debut as puppet.
13. The Economist: Might Yuri Luzhkov Run Russia?
14. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, RUSSIANS SCRAPE BY ON SHRINKING
SUPPLY OF PATIENCE.]
Kiriyenko to renew drive for parliament approval
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, April 13 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin meets prime minister-
designate Sergei Kiriyenko on Monday to map out their next steps in
Kiriyenko's battle for parliamentary confirmation.
Although many analysts expect Kiriyenko to be confirmed in the end, the
35-year-old former energy minister still faces a difficult fight.
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia's Communists, said on Sunday he would
a legal challenge to Kiriyenko, arguing that the president cannot re-nominate
a candidate who has already been rejected.
The State Duma lower house of parliament voted down Kiriyenko on Friday.
Yeltsin immediately nominated him again. A second vote is scheduled by Friday.
The Duma has up to three chances to approve the president's choice for prime
minister before the constitution calls for new parliamentary elections.
Speaking on NTV, Zyuganov, whose party is the largest in the Duma, said he
would seek parliamentary approval on Tuesday for an appeal to the
Constitutional Court on whether Yeltsin could re-nominate Kiriyenko.
``He is afraid to present other candidates,'' Zyuganov told the weekly news
programme Itogi. ``There is no sense in voting again. It's against the
Yeltsin discarded Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on March 23 and asked
little-known Kiriyenko to take his place and inject new energy into economic
Yeltsin has told deputies Kiriyenko is the only choice and said he will
dissolve the chamber if it rejects him three times.
Despite Yeltsin's ultimatum and two rounds of negotiations with political
foes, Kiriyenko won only 143 votes in the Duma, well short of 226 he needed to
be confirmed, but better than expected for the first round.
Many experts believe Duma deputies are delaying approval to win more
concessions on the government's new programme.
``The longer this game goes on the better it is for the deputies,'' political
scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov told Russian public television on Sunday, adding
they would quickly lose the limelight after approving a candidate.
Yet both Duma deputies and outside observers say the fear of having to face
re-election a year and a half early will ultimately be enough to give
Kiriyenko a majority.
Further delays could be diplomatically awkward for Yeltsin, who is due to
informal talks with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on Saturday in
the Japanese coastal resort of Kawana. Yeltsin has already put off his visit
by a week.
Although Kiriyenko is new on the national stage, NTV surveyed 1,500 voters
nationwide and found 36 percent in favour of confirmation, only 18 per cent
Yeltsin also planned on Monday to meet the cosmonauts who manned the Russian
Mir space station over the past year as it struggled to stay in orbit after a
near-fatal collision with an unmanned supply ship.
April 11, 1998
EDITORIAL: Kiriyenko's Duma Talk Too Aloof
Sergei Kiriyenko made a respectable enough debut Friday at the State
Duma ahead of the vote on his candidacy as prime minister.
His program was economically responsible and realistic. He spoke much
more coherently than his predecessor Viktor Chernomyrdin ever did. And
he collected more votes than expected.
All indications are that his performance will be enough to secure his
confirmation as prime minister. The deputies do not want to risk
provoking Yeltsin into dissolving the Duma by rejecting his choice.
But Kiriyenko's speech in the parliament Friday was rather
The problem was not, as the communist opposition maintains, that he
failed to outline a fundamentally new approach to solving the country's
The government's basic economic settings are right. The country needs a
strong currency, a responsible budget and tighter control of state
Nor are Kiriyenko's youth and lack of experience in government the
problem. Quite the opposite. As a 35-year-old unknown, Kiriyenko is not
tied either to the sclerotic Soviet bureaucracy or to the new financial
oligarchies that discredited Chernomyrdin's government.
But what was desperately lacking in Kiriyenko's performance was anything
that spoke directly to the people. He failed as a politician.
Although he spoke briefly of the need to address poverty and social
problems, he offered basically the same technocratic, economic sludge
that Chernomyrdin used to pump out on similar occasions.
Kiriyenko has repeated often that he is not setting out to make people
like him. This is fine if it means he will not make unfulfillable
promises and will not avoid tough decisions. Or if it means Kiriyenko is
not about to start positioning himself for upcoming presidential
But governments need to sell and explain their reforms. Rather than
opaque observations about the dire effects of the Asian financial crisis
and the drop in oil prices, Kiriyenko should have devoted the bulk of
his speech to what concerns most people.
Perhaps he could not promise much on issues like wage and pension
arrears, but he had a duty to explain his plans. He could have spoken
about the government's other priorities in social spending on education,
health and the military. Even the toughest fiscal plans have room for
After Chernomyrdin's boring Politburo-style lectures, Kiriyenko had the
opportunity to show Russians he understands what they care about. He is
still new to the job but so far he comes across as an isolated
Zyuganov Scathing on Kiriyenko's Inexperience
9 April 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Gennadiy Zyuganov by Zhanna Kasyanenko; date,
place not specified: "Gennadiy Zyuganov: What Did We Hear at the
Everyone was waiting impatiently for Zyuganov -- deputies from the
faction, journalists, and probably millions of people throughout the
country, who were hoping that he would make a truthful, completely
objective assessment of what went on behind closed doors at the roundtable.
We present our readers with our conversation with him, which was
recorded straight after Gennadiy Andreyevich came back from the important
meeting, a conversation on his first impressions of it.
[Kasyanenko] Gennadiy Andreyevich, let us tell readers about
everything as it happened. First of all, how did the actual roundtable
session go, who was there, and what did they say?
[Zyuganov] There were eight representatives of the Duma, the same
number from the Federation Council, two trade union leaders, and Kiriyenko
and Nemtsov from the government. The president himself led the meeting.
By and large, it was a fairly useful conversation, unpleasant in many
respects for the president; everyone was worried because they realize what
state the country is in. [passage omitted describing procedures, speeches
at roundtable session]
Addressing the participants in the roundtable, Kiriyenko merely
confirmed our opinion of him. He tried to use something from our program,
and said that an organ is needed which would be responsible for industrial
policy, a military commission is needed, and personal responsibility for
the results of work done is required. But all this sounded fairly general,
as though it was said for the sake of political propaganda. Even before
the roundtable was held, our specialists tried to establish this man's
working potential and possibilities, his understanding of problems and
situations. He has admitted openly that he has absolutely no knowledge of
the countryside, the military-industrial complex, or the financial sphere.
But excuse me, how then is he going to run the country? What kind of
foolhardiness has gripped this young man? After all, these are basic
sectors without which the economy cannot be boosted.
Summing up, Yeltsin said that positions have diverged and we cannot
drag things out, and he read his concluding remarks from a document, not
deviating by an iota from the previously prepared text, which made it clear
that Kiriyenko is the choice of the times, and on Friday everyone must vote
for him unanimously.
Whereas during the actual discussion he did demonstrate some kind of
readiness for dialogue and an ability to accept and assimilate various
viewpoints, at the end he nevertheless emphasized that everything has been
completely programmed, and there are to be no deviations!
We elaborated our stance at the Central Committee plenum, and now it
has to be defended consistently.
We will not support Kiriyenko's candidacy. If our program is accepted
and agreement is reached on forming a government on its basis, that will be
a different situation.
[Kasyanenko] Is the following situation possible: Kiriyenko steps
onto the Duma platform and says that he accepts the basic principles of the
opposition, and agrees that privatization was criminal, that production
must be developed, an active social program must be formed, and so on. Is
this possible, and what will you do in that case?
[Zyuganov] To be honest, I expected that to happen, and of course I
have counterarguments. But at the roundtable, documents were given out
which sustain, albeit in smoothed-over form, a stance that is completely
consonant with Gaydar's stance. I have no doubt that Kiriyenko will make
wonderful vows and promise everyone prosperity. Who will be deceived by
this today? Whom will the people trust? Someone nobody knows, someone who
cannot be held accountable for anything, who himself admits that he is not
in control of the most important issues of the country's economy? Why
should we entrust our program to him? So that he can simply compromise it?
No, we know that our program is the only one that can lead the country out
of the crisis, and we will insist on a government which can implement it.
[Kasyanenko] Do you not think that if Kiriyenko does get the
premiership then he will become one of the main contenders in the
[Zyuganov] What is more, we all know that Yeltsin is in the habit of
falling ill frequently, he is susceptible to colds, particularly in
critical situations. If he is premier, Kiriyenko will automatically become
the head of state, the nuclear briefcase will be transferred to him, he
will be authorized to take the most important decisions. But he has no
support, no one among the people stands behind him -- neither a party nor a
major movement. He himself is young and inexperienced. I have warned
openly that in that case some macho guys may join his cabinet and push him
out. A gang will start running the country. That is one of the dangers of
appointing to the premiership an unknown, inexperienced person who is
utterly without merit [bespomoshchnyy]. There will be no one in our
country to come to his defense. And it is not least for that reason too
that our moral right before the people prevents us from approving this
Zyganov Alleges Plot For Yeltsin Third Presidential Term
Interfax in English
8 April 1998
Communist Party of Russia Chairman Gennadiy Zyuganov has said he is
aware of "some scenario mulled by painstakers in the Kremlin" in order to
keep President Boris Yeltsin in power by holding early Presidential
elections in 1999. This "merely criminal" plan includes "provoking
dismissal of the State Duma, postpone Parliamentary elections in 1999 for a
later date next year, explaining the move by financial difficulties, and
hold them along with early Presidential elections in 1999 in order to try
to keep Yeltsin President for another term," Zyuganov told a news
conference Wednesday. He said the plan should be halted at its very
The roundtable between Government officials and Parliament deputies
Tuesday did not provide an answer to the main question, which is the need
to change policy, Zyuganov said. "Mr. Yeltsin sidestepped this question
and declined to discuss it," he added. Zyuganov said he was skeptical about
the theses of acting Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko's program given out
during the roundtable meeting. He said these theses had been written by
Former Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar, Yevgeniy Yasin, and other
officials and economists who "have shown already that they are unable to
cope with any of the serious problems facing the country."
Kiriyenko's possible approval as the Prime Minister poses "a threat to
Russia's security," Zyuganov said. "Mr. Yeltsin's health is not at its
best," he said. He said he did not discount the possibility that the Prime
Minister might assume the functions of the Head of State at some point.
"It is easy to guess what this will end in. A small group of resolute guys
will come, drive Kiriyenko out of office, and run not only the country but
also its nuclear potential," Zyuganov said.
The Communist faction will not support Kiriyenko's possible
appointment as Prime Minister, he said. "It would be better if he stepped
down by himself," Zyuganov added. He denied the Wednesday allegation by
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia,
that Presidential decrees to dissolve the Duma and disband the Communist
Party had been prepared. "Disbandment of the Communist Party may only be a
dream of a provocateur or a simple mind. Ideas are the only weapon against
other ideas. Our homemade democrats have no ideas. They have a manger and
a squabble around it," Zyuganov said. He also said the allegation was
another "fantasy by Zhirinovsky. Zhirinovsky's true face is clear to all
Russia," Zyuganov said. The LDPR collected almost 24 percent of the vote
in the first elections for the State Duma, but now the party "is suffering
a complete defeat" in all regions, he said.
The Times (UK)
April 12, 1998
[for personal use only]
Nuclear fears on millennium bug in Russia
by Matthew Campbell
WESTERN intelligence is warning of possible nuclear "meltdown" in the
former Soviet bloc as a result of the so-called millennium bug. This is
expected to cripple computers worldwide at midnight on December 31,
Intelligence sources say some of the 65 Soviet-made civilian nuclear
power plants scattered across the former Warsaw Pact countries could
malfunction as their computers fall victim to the "Y2K" (year 2000)
glitch that makes them interpret the 00 date as 1900 instead of 2000.
America, Britain and France have been quick to see the dangers. But
anxieties about Russian nuclear safety, branded on global memory by the
1986 Chernobyl disaster, have not been diminished by Moscow's assurances
that the problem is "under control". An intelligence source said:
"Russia's nuclear industry is in desperate straits. Throw in Y2K and you
could have a giant Chernobyl on your hands."
It emerged last week that William Daley, America's commerce secretary,
is to host an international millennium bug conference this year,
indicating the seriousness with which the Clinton administration views
the problem. Nuclear safety is bound to be an important item on the
Al Gore, the vice-president, also raised Y2K at a recent meeting with
Viktor Chernomyrdin, the former Russian prime minister.
In a recent circular to all American power plants, the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission warned that "control room display systems,
radiation monitoring and emergency response" are particularly at risk.
"The Y2K problem is urgent because it has a fixed, non-negotiable
deadline," it concluded. "This matter requires priority attention
because of the limited time remaining to assess the magnitude of the
Even if the Russian government heeds the warnings, it may not have
enough computer experts to go round. Russia has 29 civilian nuclear
reactors, 11 of which are models similar to the one that exploded at
Chernobyl, in Ukraine, releasing 200 times as much radioactivity as the
atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Other former Soviet bloc
countries have 36 more reactors. Western experts believe many are
One problem is that eastern Europe relies more on nuclear power than the
West. Ukraine has promised to close Chernobyl by 2000 but is threatening
to change its mind if western loans for two more reactors are not
forthcoming. The West has delayed, fearing the money may go into corrupt
officials' Swiss bank accounts. There are also concerns about Ukraine's
ability to service its debt.
From: Leonid N. Dobrokhotov (http://firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat, 11 April 1998
Subject: Power Crisis in Russia
Would you be so kind to publish the following article from Time Daily: April
13, 1998 (http://www.time.com) and my commentary:
MOSCOW: When rhetoric develops a life of its own, all political bets are off.
Conventional wisdom has held that Russia's opposition would go through the
motions of rejecting Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister once, or even
twice, but would back down before Yeltsin called new elections. Problem is,
says TIME Moscow correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich, "no one expected the
vengeance with which the opposition today tried to dump this young fellow."
Not only did Sergey Kiriyenko fall 80 voters short of confirmation, the
opposition mounted a court challange against his renomination by Yeltsin. "In
these situations, people can become hostage to its own propaganda," says
Zarakhovich. "The opposition may have gone further down this road than they
had intended to". While dissolving the legislature has been Yeltsin's trump
card, "the opposition may be confident enough of winning new elections to
fight all the way," says Zarakhovich. "All this in Russia, where emotions can
easily take over rationally laid plans"
- Tony Karon
This is a brilliant TIME's piece but please consider only two clarifications:
First, if to speak of "hostages to its own propaganda" there are exectly those
western reporters who have published already the hundreds of pieces with
claims that the Russian opposition was "afraid" of the future elections.
Believe me everything is just vice versa. Secondly, if to speak about Russia,
"where emotions can easily take over rationaly laid plans" , this is
absolutely true, but in this case concernes Boris Yeltsin with all his as
Richard Pipes said antics, and unpredictable statements, actions and
Now let me try to translate for JRL readers the piece from Ivan Rodin's
Nezavisimayia Gazeta article on April 4, 1998:
"...Concerning the early elections. As communists stronly believes, Kremlin
doesn't want them to happen because, the first, it hasn't money for it, and
secondly, because it knows in advance that those elections will be lost.
Opposition, from another hand, is ready for those elections - and such claims
by Gennady Zuyganov are not propaganda declarations at all. As Nezavisimayia
Gazeta's correspondent managet to find, up to the end of this month
communists, who are ready to post sole election list, will coordinate all the
candidates names in it with the partners".
Date: Sat, 11 Apr 1998 11:02:51 -0800
From: Inara Reinis <email@example.com>
Subject: JRL 2136 #6 Latvia, Sabirjan Kurmayev
In the very first sentence we meet “Latvian apartheid”. It is in the
public records, open to everyone, that each year there are thousands of
Latvian-Russian marriages in Latvia. Now I have not seen it, I have no
names , but rumor has it that the newlyweds sleep in the same bedroom.
Haying started with this puts the rest of Mr. Kurmayev’s article in
suspicion. Is it agit-prop (a primitive form of spin) or an attempt to
It should be no surprise that there are several versions of history.
For example, the treatment of the 1812 war used to be quite different in
US and Canadian textbooks. Having lived under three occupations as well
as a citizen in two free countries, I know of five versions firsthand.
It is a no-brainer that all five nor even any two can not be right. A
more difficult decision is whether one or none are true. That is often a
Since one can not personally witness the complete history of even a
single village, one must give credence to sources other than personal
experience. Which ones ? The only guides I know are two:
What is the past record of truthfulness of the source, and
Does the source have an ax to grind.
Sources can be divided into organizations and individuals. Institutions
publish and broadcast, they have a long record and are relatively easy
to judge. When rumor has it tha Yeltsin is seriously ill and Moscow
radio says he has a cold, you know exactly what to believe. A total
Individuals are another matter. What do we know about Mr. Kurmayev, a
non-public figure ? Other than what he wrote in JRL. So we are forced to
attempt to “read” him from that scant source. We could misread him,
but have no other source. Here goes:
# He is a Russian, as indicated by name
# Has lived in Latvia for an unknown period
# His version of history closely follows the institutional Russian
The first two items tell little or nothing. The third a little more. We
know that people in the Soviet Union were, through no fault of theirs,
exposed to a relentless indoctrination in the Soviet version of history
and were given no chance to verify or hear another viewpoint. Over 50
years this had a remarkable effect even on people who had reasons for
disbelief and tried to resist indoctrination. Some of my friends and
relatives have absorbed parts of that indoctrination and have certain
beliefs and attitudes that can not be objectively supported. Only slowly
are these fading as alternative sources of information become available.
Keep in mind that these are people who were subjugated by an alien
regime and never accepted the regime nor its ideology. But there is hope
and the people are shedding this “baggage”.
How much more difficult and time consuming it will be for Russians,
since it was their regime and ideology. Their version of history. The
Zhirinovskys and Luzhkovs are not helping. Zhirinovsky will never
change. Luzhkov will change when it is politically advantageous to him.
The Russian people will have to lead him, he will only mislead them. The
process of unlearning has started, particularly among the young, both in
Latvia and Russia. The 300,000 plus Russians who are citizens of Latvia
(Mr. Kurmayev notwithstanding , their citizenship was never revoked) are
doing their part to help the 500,000 who never were Latvian citizens to
shed their “baggage”. Many of the later are currently eligible to apply,
but only a small percentage have done so. To paraphrase the wise old
cowboy: You can lead a Russian to the naturalization office, but you can
not make him apply for citizenship.
While the process is dragging ahead, we have stated our respective
versions of history, we can compare them, note the discrepancies and
try to get a little closer to the real history. We should not fall in
the traps set by the Zhirinovskys and Luzhkovs, who think it in their
interest to inflame passions by using terms such as apartheid, genocide,
massive violations of human rights, humiliation of Russian speakers,
etc. I know, you know, and the world knows it is not happening in
present day Latvia.
Come and see for yourself. Welcome!
Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 16:48:04 -0700
From: Russian Info&Business Center <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Please, post!
Could you please post another message for me.
May, 17th, Sunday
RUSSIAN BALLET CONCERT
Event for music and dance lovers!
Featuring Ludmila SEMENYAKA,
Prima Ballerina from Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
International Ballet Theater, USA
Location: French Embassy, 4101Reservuar Rd., N.W.
Time: 6:00 pm
Format: Concert, Reception to follow the concert
Art exhibit and sale Mikhail Shemyakin's artworks
Note: Tickets available by reservation only,
at 202-546-2103, fax 202-546-3275
From: George Bain <Gfbain@aol.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 11:05:36 EDT
This may interest you for a JRL. The Black Sea is to be the location of an
undersea pipeline being promoted by Rusia and Turkey. But the Black Sea has an
underlying zone/layer of hydrogen sulfide gas, deadly to humans, in great
quantities. Disturbance of this layer could cause a great didaster/problem.
The following - edit as you wish to retain the substance - CONSTRUCTION OF
UNDERSEA PIPELINE TO TURKEY TO BEGIN IN MAY:
Yuri Kuznichenkov, director of the Giprospetsgaz research institute in St
Petersburg, said on April 2 that the construction of a gas pipeline under
the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey would begin next month. Speaking at a
presentation of the pipeline project in Krasnodar, he stated that a tender
for a compressor station at the start point of the pipeline, on the Russian
Black Sea coast, had already been called. One U.S. and one French company
have submitted bids, and Interfax, citing reports from sources, named one
of the potential investors as General Electric.
Kuznichenkov said that Gazprom, which will use and operate the pipeline,
would probably call another tender to find a supplier of pipes. He
explained that Gazprom has to find a foreign supplier since no Russian
company was capable of producing the pipes that would be used on the
underwater portion of the pipeline.
The line will be built in three sections. The first land portion will cross
373 km of Russian territory from Izobilnoye to Dzhugba, while the second
land portion will cross more than 440 km of Turkish territory from Samsun
to Ankara. The underwater section will follow a 396-km route from Dzhugba
A member of Gazprom's executive board told Interfax that the company plans
to obtain loans from several foreign banks to finance construction. The
pipeline is scheduled to be finished by the summer of 2000, when Gazprom
will send a first shipment of 500 million cubic meters of gas through the
pipe under an agreement with the Turkish government.
Kuznichenkov said that the pipeline would ensure that Gazprom would be able
to increase deliveries to Turkey to 60 billion cubic meters by the year
2010. (This would put the Russian company in the position of supplying half
of Turkey's gas imports.) He also said that the pipe would allow Gazprom to
supply the Turkish market "without middlemen." The company currently pipes
gas to Turkey via Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria. (With information
from Interfax, Apr 2 '98.)"
NO envirronmental studies related specifically to this project have been done
or, I think, contemplated. A paper by LNNeretin and II Volkov "On the
vertical distribution of hydrogen sulfide in deep waters of the Black Sea" pub
by PPShirshov Institute of Oceanography, Russian Academy of Sciences,Vol 35
#1,Aug 1995 (Russ ed Jan-Feb 1995) points to some of the problems. George
Poll: 31 Percent of Russians Back Moscow Mayor for Premier
Moscow, April 9 (Interfax) -- About a third of Russians, 31%, believe
that Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov would fill the Russian prime minister's
office with more credibility than other candidates, according to a poll
conducted by the Public Opinion Fund on March 28. The poll involved 1,500
respondents in both urban and rural areas.
The respondents were presented with a list of ten politicians of which
they could pick no more than three candidates they thought would make the
best prime minister.
Luzhkov was followed on the final list by leader of the Yabloko
movement Grigoriy Yavlinskiy with 29% and acting First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov with 23%.
In addition, 19% of respondents opted for Kemerovo region Governor
Aman Tuleyev, 13% for acting Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko, 9% for
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroyev, 6% for acting Deputy Prime
Minister Ivan Rybkin, 4% for financial tycoon Boris Berezovskiy, 2% for
Central Bank Chairman Sergey Dubinin and 1% for Saratov region Governor
Tuleyev was named as the best candidate for the prime minister mainly
by Communist supporters, or those who expressed support for Communist Party
leader Gennadiy Zyuganov at the next presidential elections (32%).
Supporters of former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed would like the office of prime minister to be filled by Luzhkov (34%)
or Yavlinskiy (32%).
Supporters of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also prefer
Supporters of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia [LDPR] leader
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy opted for Nemtsov (30%). LDPR supporters showed the
least preference for Luzhkov (15%).
Kiriyenko was mainly backed by supporters of Chernomyrdin and Nemtsov
(24% in each group).
Poll: 41% of Russians Think Themselves Better Off at Home
Moscow, April 9 (Interfax) -- Some 41% of Russians interviewed in late
March said that as Russian-speakers they are better off in Russia per se
than in any of the other 14 republics which comprised the Soviet Union.
However, 28% said they were unable to assess the quality of life of
Russians living in other former Soviet republics, according to the
nationwide survey of 1,500 Russians taken by the Public Opinion Fund.
Nine percent of the respondents singled out Belarus as a better
country for Russians, 7% cited either Lithuania or Estonia, while 6% cited
either Latvia or Ukraine.
Some 23% of respondents said life for Russian-speakers is worse in all
former Soviet republics other than Russia. Just 3% cited a former republic
other than Russia where it was better to live.
Russians living in Latvia are worse off than in their homeland,
according to 19%. Another 17% cited Lithuania, 12% Tajikistan, Kazakhstan
or Estonia, and 11% - Ukraine.
None of the former Soviet republics guarantee equality between the
ethnic and Russian populations, 29% said. One third (33%) said they did
Rights of Russians living in Latvia are violated, said 46% of those
polled. Forty percent said rights of Russians were violated in Lithuania,
32% in Estonia and 9% in Kazakhstan.
Belarus best observes the rights of its Russian population, according
to 24%. Some 17% cited Ukraine in this respect and 6% - Kazakhstan.
The Public Opinion Fund surveyed 1,500 Russians in late March.
Russia PM-designate to make debut as puppet
MOSCOW, April 10 (Reuters) - Sergei Kiriyenko may have yet to convince
Russia's parliament that he is the right candidate for prime minister but he
has convinced the nation's leading political satire programme that he is
worthy of a lampoon.
On Friday the State Duma lower house rejected Kiriyenko but President Boris
Yeltsin immediately renominated him and a second vote must be held by next
The producers of ``Kukly,'' NTV commercial television's weekly comedy
featuring life-size puppets of political leaders, were at first reluctant to
add the bespectacled, balding Kiriyenko, 35, to their repertoire.
Deputies might still reject him, triggering an early parliamentary election.
And the puppets are expensive, which each custom-made latex figure costing
But since its debut in 1994 'Kukly' has become adept at interpreting the
murky and unpredictable world of Russian politics, and it took director
Vassily Grigoryev less than a week to decide that Kiriyenko was important
enough to make fun of.
Saturday's show will feature a brand-new Kiriyenko puppet helping President
Boris Yeltsin to pay his taxes. Russia's tax deadline was April 1 and Yeltsin
has pledged to get tough with tax dodgers.
April 12, 1998
[for personal use only]
Might Yuri Luzhkov Run Russia?
>From mayor’s nest to the Kremlin?
M O S C O W
Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s mayor, now leads the race for Russia’s presidency
A SHORT temper, a sharp tongue and an obsession with mundane detail have
made Yuri Luzhkov a highly effective mayor of Moscow. But are those the
qualities most needed in a president of Russia? Russians may soon have a
chance to find out. It is touch and go whether the ailing incumbent,
Boris Yeltsin, will reach the end of his term in 2000. And whereas Mr
Luzhkov still refuses to acknowledge himself as a presidential
candidate, he ranks among the top two or three by anybody else’s
reckoning. His rivals are the Communist Party boss, Gennady Zyuganov;
and Alexander Lebed, a nationalist ex-general.
Mr Luzhkov’s potent mix of populism and pragmatism won him almost 90% of
the vote in the Moscow mayoral election of 1996. Other regional leaders
admire him. Some were urging this week that he be made prime minister.
The job was thrown open on March 23rd when Mr Yeltsin sacked Viktor
Chernomyrdin and put in an obscure former energy minister, Sergei
Kiriyenko, as his acting replacement.
But Mr Luzhkov might well spurn the prime minister’s post even if
offered it. He behaves already as though he were a national leader
second in stature only to Mr Yeltsin. And unlike his possible rivals for
the presidency, Mr Luzhkov has the luxury of contemplating his options
from a position of absolute strength. Prime ministers and party leaders
can always, it seems, be sacked. But nobody can take Moscow away from
Mr Luzhkov’s office on Tverskaya Street may well be the best power base
in Russia, after the Kremlin. It commands the country’s sole
concentration of big wealth. Two-thirds of foreign investment into
Russia, and four-fifths of all Russian capital, comes to rest in Moscow.
Incomes are two to three times the Russian average. Tax revenues per
person are seven times the average. With 6% of the national population,
Moscow produces 13% of Russian GDP—and the city’s big black economy
means its share of national wealth is probably higher still.
The city government has huge economic clout. Much of it derives from an
inspired refusal by Mr Luzhkov, soon after he took the mayor’s job in
1992, to go along with federal schemes to privatise state assets. He won
from Mr Yeltsin an opt-out which, in effect, gave the city government
ownership of all federal property on its territory, and a free hand in
disposing of it. The city government has set itself up as shareholder or
partner in at least 200 big firms ranging from car making to fast food.
It has a share in most big property developments. Businessmen grumble,
but they play along. For all its crime and corruption and bureaucracy,
Moscow has by far the best-developed infrastructure in Russia, and a
government that understands roughly how laws and markets work.
Moscow’s banks and traders would put up the money for a Luzhkov
presidential campaign. The mayor is in the process of sorting out the
other basic need: friendly media. Last summer he had the city government
set up a television channel, Centre Television, which is supposed to
cover the whole country by the end of 1998. In March he launched a
twice-weekly national newspaper, Rossiya, which is due to go daily. This
access to Moscow’s resources makes Mr Luzhkov perhaps the least beholden
of any prospective candidate to the “oligarchy” of tycoons who paid for
Mr Yeltsin’s re-election in 1996, and who may well back Mr Chernomyrdin
There are, of course, always the voters to think about. Conventional
wisdom holds that provincial Russians hate Moscow because they think it
sucks up the national wealth and leaves them poor. But Mr Luzhkov has
been careful to build alliances with provincial leaders. He heads an
informal group of ten rich regions which lobbies the federal government.
He strikes well-publicised trade and aid deals with poor regions. He has
backed at least a dozen winning candidates in recent regional elections,
including Vladimir Yakovlev, mayor of Russia’s second city, St
Petersburg. So he has lots of favours to be called in across Russia; and
regional bosses have ways of swinging the local vote, come polling day.
Mr Luzhkov will have a compelling platform. He will be able to point to
Moscow’s prosperity, inviting the rest of Russia to emulate it, not envy
it. He will be able to promise Russia what he has given Moscow: strong,
top-down leadership, and gradual market reforms.
So far, so good. But Mr Luzhkov also has a strong nationalist streak
which—to foreigners—will make his candidacy look much less lovable.
Russia, he thinks, should be tougher with countries of the former Soviet
Union. Last month he joined a picket line outside the Latvian embassy in
Moscow, accusing Latvia of “genocide” towards its Russian minority.
Repeatedly, he has urged Ukraine to hand the Crimean peninsula back to
Russia. He has backed Alexander Lukashenka, the near-dictatorial
president of Belarus, in the latter’s goal of a new “union” between
Russia and Belarus.
Perhaps Mr Luzhkov would become more diplomatic once in power. But his
arrival in the Kremlin would be a nervous time for Russia’s neighbours.
A short temper becomes much more worrying when its owner has a large
army at his disposal.
April 12, 1998
[for personal use only]
RUSSIANS SCRAPE BY ON SHRINKING SUPPLY OF PATIENCE
WITH PAYDAYS A DISTANT MEMORY, THE PLIGHT OF BOLSHOY KAMEN'S ONCE-PROUD
SUBMARINE WORKERS SHOWS A NATION IN RAGE, DESPAIR.
By Colin McMahon, Tribune Foreign Correspondent.
BOLSHOY KAMEN, Russia
The litany of woe is so long and bleak in this once-proud town that a co-
worker's suicide slips the mind of Olga Skripko.
She is talking about life--or just existence--at the Zvezda Zavod, the Star
Factory. Once a vital cog in the powerful Soviet military machine, the
facility for repairing and maintaining Russia's nuclear submarines now
sputters along without heat, without supplies, without respect.
Meanwhile the workers, or at least those who stay on, try to scrape by
"It's such a difficult situation that people are pushed to take desperate
steps," said Skripko, an engineer who has put in nearly 25 years at the
factory across from the Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok on Ussuriysky
Bay. "We are sitting all the time on a powder keg."
The plight of Bolshoy Kamen's workers is the plight of many Russians. As
much as a fifth of the nation's labor force does not get paid on time, labor
officials say. Some workers, like those at the Star Factory, have gone more
than a year without a paycheck.
This failure across public and private enterprises, which has plagued
Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, is the most vexing issue
for the government of President Boris Yeltsin and his prime minister-
designate, Sergei Kiriyenko.
Last week hundreds of thousands of people waged mini-strikes or took to the
streets in protest across Russia to plead for their salaries and, in many
cases, to demand Yeltsin's head. Though smaller than organizers had hoped, the
demonstrations tapped into the disgust that many Russians feel toward the
nation's economic reforms.
They also tapped into the fear that life holds no promise of getting better
any time soon, no matter what the Kremlin and the macroeconomic statistics
Labor leaders estimate that as much as $9.6 billion in wages remains
unpaid, about 15 percent of which is owed to federal workers. It appears
things may get yworse before they get better.
"The situation in the social sphere is critical," Kiriyenko told Russia's
lower house of parliament Friday, hours before the deputies rejected his
nomination as premier and set up a second vote likely to be held this week.
"The government's two main achievements in 1997--paying off pensions and
public-sector employees--are in danger of falling apart."
With oil revenues falling because of slumping prices worldwide and rising
interest rates forcing Russia to pay more to service its debt, Kiriyenko's
mission to restore people's salaries, and by extension their hope, is becoming
Yet many people, paychecks or not, have no choice but to remain on the job.
Some stay for food and housing subsidies, or for medical care, even if the
medicines often have run out.
Then there is the logic used in Bolshoy Kamen:
"What else is there to do?" Skripko said. "There is no other work.
Skripko, a top manager at the Star Factory, said the cash-strapped Defense
Ministry shows little concern for what goes on at one of Russia's two repair
houses for nuclear submarines. The work force has shrunk to about 4,500 from
12,000 in Soviet days. Supplies are so scarce that two years ago workers had
to pitch in to buy things to keep the plant going. That was before the
government stopped paying them.
Perhaps most troubling is that the factory has gone for long stretches
without heat. Last week, when temperatures in the Primorsky Territory hovered
at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the factory's administrative buildings were
like coolers; people kept their hats on and coats zipped as they walked the
In midwinter, Skripko said, temperatures can plummet to the teens in the
Viktor Sidorenko, an atomic energy specialist at the Kurchatovsky Institute
in Moscow, said the danger in such a situation is not directly to machine but
"From the point of view of the nuclear technology, the safety neither
increases or decreases," Sidorenko said. "But it's simply impossible for a man
to be working in such an atmosphere. He will do a bad job and make mistakes.
The energy shortages and shutoffs in Bolshoy Kamen and across Primorsky
Territory are difficult to fathom in cause and in scope.
The territory is rich in coal and other natural resources, yet the regional
government insists that it can't pay for basic services. The governor and the
mayor of Vladivostok are locked in a personal and political war in which money
disappears and charges of corruption fly wantonly even as their constituents
huddle in freezing apartments. Sometimes there is hot water, sometimes there
is cold water, sometimes there is none. Sometimes the lights go out.
In Pogranichny, near the Chinese border, the power failed while a woman was
giving birth at a local hospital. She bled to death. In Vladivostok, more than
1,500 residents of an apartment complex spent the winter without heat (or
running water after the pipes froze) because of a dispute over pricing.
On Russky Island a few miles off Vladivostok, fuel and food supplies
started running out after the ferry service linking the island to the mainland
And in Bolshoy Kamen, people who once considered themselves members of the
same big family, respected engineers and skilled workers, fight over food
supplies that the government provides-- but only with the understanding that
the people will have to pay for the food when their salaries come through.
"Things happen here now that never would have happened before," Skripko
She recalled, after some jogging of her memory, a suicide by a co-worker
who said he could not stand to see his family go hungry. Many of the men have
gone to Vladivostok or Nakhodka, where they spend weekdays looking for odd
jobs and nights sleeping in the corner of a room they share with others in the
Families subsist on what they can grow on the plots of their dachas or
bring home from the factory lunch.
Privately, regional officials admit to fears that something could go
horribly wrong with the factory. Maybe a worker's mistake, maybe sabotage,
maybe theft of nuclear material. At one protest an engineer warned that if he
knew how to cause an accident-- and he said he did--then other workers knew as
The mood is ugly in Bolshoy Kamen. Last year workers blocked the Trans-
Siberian Railroad during a protest in which they burned Yeltsin in effigy. At
the time their wages were eight months behind; now they are 13 months late.