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Johnson's Russia List
16 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Fred Weir on Duma and Kiriyenko nomination.
2. Adam Jones: Interview: "The New Breed of Russian Journalists."
3. Nezavisimayia Gazeta Editor-in-Chief on the Government Crisis in Russia.
4. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: HAS YELTSIN FALLEN OUT WITH
and KIRIENKO ORDERS INVESTIGATIONS INTO ALLEGATIONS OF POLICE BRUTALITY
5. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: COMMUNISTS IN A BIND; OFFICIALS DENY LATEST RUMOR
ABOUT YELTSIN'S HEALTH; DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA SUFFERS ANOTHER SPLIT;
DIVIDE HAS DEEP ROOTS.
6. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: DUMA WILL NOT BE DISSOLVED. Such is the opinion of
Sergei Shakhrai, the president's authorised spokesman in the Constitutional
7. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Alan Philps,Yeltsin attacks 'Kremlin
8. Reuters: Kiriyenko's Wife Says Stunned by Job Offer.
9. RIA Novosti: BORIS YELTSIN: I AM AS HEALTHY AS EVER.
10. AP: Yeltsin Acknowledges Hospital Visit.
11. Baltimore Sun: Will Englund, Moscow's into tough love again. Muscle:
recovered from the trauma of the Soviet collapse and is again shaking up
nations along its borders.
12. Los Angeles Times editorial: Untended Helm in Russia.
13. Rossiiskiye Vesti: THE CHERNOMYRDIN FACTOR.
14. RIA Novosti: RUSSIA'S READINESS TO OFFER ITS NUCLEAR UMBRELLA TO
EUROPE MAY BECOME A KEY ELEMENT OF EUROPEAN SECURITY, SAID GENNADY
15. Moscow Times editorial: Urals Protest Shows Cops' Weak Spot.]
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 12:24:13 (MSK)
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir in Moscow
MOSCOW (HT April 16) -- The stage is set for fresh showdown
Friday as the Kremlin's candidate for prime minister, Sergei
Kiriyenko, faces the Communist-led State Duma that rejected him a
week ago and seems set to do so again.
"Kiriyenko will not pass on Friday, and this signifies a
very serious Constitutional crisis in the country," says Andrei
Piontkowski, head of the independent Centre of Strategic Studies
"Russia has no government, there is confusion at the top and
the president is on a collision course with parliament that will
lead to the dissolution of the Duma."
The stakes are high in this second round of voting over the
35-year old Mr. Kiriyenko, whom critics accuse of being too young
and inexperienced to handle Russia's foundering ship of state.
According to Russia's Constitution, President Boris Yeltsin
must dissolve the parliament if it rejects his candidate for
prime minister 3 times, and call new elections.
The Communist Party, which controls almost half the Duma's
450 seats, has warned President Boris Yeltsin that it will not
support Mr. Kiriyenko and urged him to put forward another more
"We have already turned down Kiriyenko, because he is a
puppet not a real leader," says Vladimir Kalyagin, a leading
Communist parliamentarian. "If the President were willing to
compromise and nominate a credible figure, we could quickly end
The Communists have suggested putting forward a strong
regional leader, such as Yegor Stroyev, the Speaker of
parliament's upper house.
"Stroyev would be acceptable to all forces," says Mr.
Kalyagin. "We Communists would gladly support him because he's a
man of proven competence and credibility."
If the President dies or becomes incapacitated, the prime
minister is the only legal successor. In such a situation,
analysts say, Mr. Kiriyenko's weakness and inexperience could
"The President's actions lately have been erratic and crude,
and he seems unfit to govern at times," says Mr. Piontkowski.
"With no government in the country, and no strong successor on
the stage, we have a very bad scenario in the making."
In late March Mr. Yeltsin fired his entire cabinet,
including veteran prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, in what
many analysts believe was a purge to rid himself of rivals for
Mr. Yeltsin has said repeatedly that he will support Mr.
Kiriyenko to the bitter end, even if that means dissolving the
Duma and calling new elections that would very probably produce a
Communist victory at the polls.
"Yeltsin wants Kiriyenko because he's young, inoffensive and
has no power base of his own. Therefore he's no threat to
Yeltsin," says Igor Bunin, an analyst at the Centre for Political
"But Yeltsin has offended parliamentarians with his rude and
arrogant tactics, and now they are very angry. That's why this
situation is threatening to run out of control."
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 08:09:20 +0400
From: "Adam J. Jones" <email@example.com>
Subject: Interview: "The New Breed of Russian Journalists"
X-Comment: FSU Media list
I have posted an interview, I think a wide-ranging and entertaining
one, with the Russian TV journalist (and former Komsomolskaia Pravda
reporter) Dimitri Babich. The interview was conducted in Moscow last
summer and has just been published in the Langara Journalism Review
(Canada) under the title, "The New Breed of Russian Journalists."
Babich is a fresh and articulate figure, and his comments may be
well-suited to undergraduate or graduate seminars on the post-Soviet
media. To access the interview directly, link to:
The Website is quite extensive, and includes my other scholarly
writings and research on the media and democracy -- though this "Media
Page" is still under construction. To access the site through its main
page, leave off <babich.htm> from the address just given.
Thanks to all on FSU Media who gave me such indispensable assistance
with my Moscow research last year -
Ph.D. Student, Dept. of Political Science
University of British Columbia
From: NDobrokhot <NDobrokhot@aol.com>
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 07:54:40 EDT
Subject: Goverment Crisis in Russia
Please post an attached article. I believe it might be of interest to
Nezavisimayia Gazeta Editor-in-Chief on the Government Crisis in Russia
[translation for personal use only]
Leonid Dobrokhotov' summary of the article by Vitaly Tretyakov at
Nezavisimayia on April 14, 1998 (http://www.glasnet.ru/ng/)
The whole Itogy analytical program by Evgeny Kiselyov on last Sunday (April
12) was quite interesting and dedicated to current government crisis in
Russia. It's basics was live discussion of the State Duma's four parties
groups leaders. Boris Yeltsin but not Kirienko, turned out to be major
"Hero" by Itogy.
Distinctive detail of this program: the leaders of four Duma's parties
groups smeared at each other actively and sometimes maliciously but they
did it, from one hand, just as a part of routine procedure and from another
- to camouflage their absolute unanimity in analyses of the current crisis.
This political unanimity is the most amazing phenomenon of the last two
weeks. First time for the last seven years the Parliament's absolute
majority by words of four major parties groups has evaluated current moment
absolutely identically. It manifested itself in the following:
1) The President was found guilty for the political crisis;
2) His politics was absolutely rejected practically in all it's aspects,
the country political management system and the selection of personal
policy changes included;
3) The absolute mistrust to Kremlin and personally to the President was shown;
4) The readiness was proclaimed to take upon themselves, another words,
upon the Parliament all responsibility for the power in the country in the
case of absolute necessity, if the presidential structures and
specifically, the President himself will continue their drive to,
practically, monarchist form of governing in the country. The soft version
of this readiness - let Duma's dissolution happen with following decisive
victory in new elections under practically unified banners.
Another words, for the first time the whole Duma, still in words, stands
practically solidly as absolute and principal opposition without compromise
to Yeltsin. The whole united oppositional parliamentary coalition did
emerged from Yabloko, Our Home is Russia, Communist and Liberal-Democratic
parties. It means that if the crisis will escalate further, if the
President will speed up his tough and irreconcilable position and in the
case of the real threat to multi-party system in the country, the potential
unity of this coalition may turn to be real one. In short, now we do have a
situation like it was in 1993.
Yeltsin will fell this challenge very clearly (but it's just an answer to
his own challenge to the society and practically - to all political forces
in the country). Using his favorite cliche he may decide to aggravate the
situation and to split the potential allies. To use forceful methods. It
would be catastrophic error for Russia and for Yeltsin himself because
behind of those four not very different positions - is not only Duma's
majority, but an absolute majority in the country also. It may be possible
to go through civil conflict and even through civil war (do we need it?),
but this time Kremlin will be the looser.
Tactical, compromise-style, "soft" split of the united opposition is
possible also. It will remove the jeopardy of civil conflict, but the
intensity of problem and more - the heart of it - will not be vanished.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
April 16, 1998
HAS YELTSIN FALLEN OUT WITH BEREZOVSKY? Reports from Moscow indicate that
President Boris Yeltsin has severed his ties with influential financier
Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky, who calls himself an adviser to Yeltsin's
chief-of-staff and is to close to Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, has
boasted that he was the person responsible for persuading Yeltsin to sack
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the rest of the cabinet. Perhaps
these boasts annoyed Yeltsin. According to other reports, Yeltsin has been
angered by Berezovsky's attempts to push his own candidates for prime
minister and other cabinet posts. According to two leading Russian
newspapers, Yeltsin got so angry with Berezovsky's efforts to undermine
Kirienko's candidacy that he telephoned the financier and told him that, if
he did not stop, he would be deported. (Kommersant-Daily, Komsomolskaya
pravda, April 15)
KIRIENKO ORDERS INVESTIGATIONS INTO ALLEGATIONS OF POLICE BRUTALITY IN
YEKATERINBURG. A top-level investigation has been launched in Yekaterinburg,
Russia's fourth largest city, where police and students clashed on April 14.
(RTR, Itar-Tass, April 15) Police launched a baton charge against a crowd of
some 2,500 students who were demonstrating in the center of the city against
the government's plans to introduce tuition fees for higher education.
Russian TV showed footage of police beating male and female students with
truncheons. (NTV, April 14) At least fourteen students were injured. One
policeman received a serious head wound. The police said they were forced to
take action as the demonstration was threatening to get out of control.
Acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko deplored the police action. He has
ordered acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who initially expressed
approval of the police action, to hold an inquiry into the incident. Student
demonstrations held in other Russian cities the same day passed off
peacefully. (Itar-Tass, April 14)
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 73 Part I, 16 April 1998
COMMUNISTS IN A BIND. Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov repeated during a 15 April press conference that
the Communist Duma faction will oppose Kirienko's
confirmation on 17 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
He also said the Duma has called for an emergency session of
the Federation Council to be convened in order to persuade
Yeltsin to alter his choice of prime minister. However,
"Izvestiya" on 16 April published a letter to Zyuganov from
Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev and Volgograd Oblast
Governor Nikolai Maksyuta, who argued that Kirienko should
be confirmed for the sake of political stability. (Tuleev
supported Zyuganov's 1996 presidential bid, and Maksyuta was
elected governor later that year with Communist backing.)
According to Zyuganov, it was appeals from regional leaders
that persuaded some Communist deputies to support the 1998
budget in the fourth and final reading (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 March 1998). LB
OFFICIALS DENY LATEST RUMOR ABOUT YELTSIN'S HEALTH.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 15 April
vigorously denied a rumor that Yeltsin had again been taken
to hospital, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yastrzhembskii
said Yeltsin was spending the day at his residence outside
Moscow, adding that the president's doctors say his upcoming
trip to Japan will not adversely affect his health. Acting
Prime Minister Kirienko also denied the rumor, saying he
spoke to Yeltsin many times by telephone on 14 and 15 April
and can confirm that his health is robust. Citing unnamed
Kremlin sources, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 16 April
that the rumor about Yeltsin was first reported by the
Otkrytoe Radio station and a little-known radio station
attached to the news agency NSN. Otkrytoe Radio is rumored
to be financed by Gazprom, and NSN is reportedly financed by
the bank SBS-Agro. LB
DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA SUFFERS ANOTHER SPLIT. The three co-
leaders of the party and movement Democratic Russia--Lev
Ponomarev, Gleb Yakunin, and Duma deputy Galina
Starovoitova--have decided to pursue separate political
paths. At a congress in Moscow on 11-12 April, Ponomarev and
Yakunin announced that they are quitting the Democratic
Russia party, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April. They
have asked Starovoitova to resign from the Democratic Russia
movement. Ponomarev told the newspaper that the movement
will join "the democratic opposition camp, whereas
Starovoitova wants to be loyal to the authorities" and
cooperate with Our Home Is Russia and Yegor Gaidar's party,
Russia's Democratic Choice. Starovoitova told the newspaper
last month that Democratic Russia was divided between a
"liberal wing" (her supporters) and a "more left-leaning" or
social-democratic wing. After the April congress, she told
"Kommersant-Daily" that Ponomarev and Yakunin had trouble
accepting a woman as party leader. LB
DIVIDE HAS DEEP ROOTS. Democratic Russia played an important
role in bringing Yeltsin to power and was one of Russia's
most influential political movements of the early 1990s, but
it suffered many defections after the collapse of the Soviet
Union, as members could not agree on a political agenda. In
particular, members have disagreed on economic policies and
on whether to continue to support Yeltsin as the number of
veteran Democratic Russia activists in the president's
circle has declined. During the campaign before the December
1995 Duma elections, the movement threw its support behind
Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko movement--the democratic
opposition. However, a sizable group within Democratic
Russia favored an alliance with Gaidar's party, which
opposed the war in Chechnya but otherwise backed Yeltsin. LB
>From RIA Novosti
April 16, 1998
DUMA WILL NOT BE DISSOLVED
Such is the opinion of Sergei Shakhrai, the president's
authorised spokesman in the Constitutional Court
By Yekaterina GRAFCHIKOVA
"There can be no dissolution of the State Duma," said the
president's authorised spokesman in the Constitutional Court
Sergei Shakhrai at a briefing in Interfax. Only if the Russian
parliament rejects Sergei Kiriyenko, Boris Yeltsin's nominee to
the post of the government's chairman, three times, the
president will have the right to sign a decree on the
dissolution of the Duma and fix the date for the new elections
within three months. According to Shakhrai, elections to the
Duma, the Russian parliament, might be held on September 27 or
October 11. "It would be inhuman to fix the date of elections
in July since in summer the people must have an opportunity to
forget about politics," he said. However, if the Duma is
dissolved nevertheless, the same situation may arise as in
Article 111 of the Constitution obliges the State Duma to
consider the candidacy for the prime minister's chair within a
week since the date of his nomination as candidate, i.e., until
April 17. If the deputies refuse to consider Kiriyenko's
candidacy, then, according to Shakhrai, the president is
entitled to consider it rejected for the second time and may
again submit his candidacy to the Duma. He also noted that even
if the deputies send their request to the Constitutional Court,
this does not relieve them of their duty to consider
Kiriyenko's candidacy. "An address to the Constitutional Court
does not terminate the operation of constitutional norms and
gives no reasons to violate Article 111 of the Constitution,"
he said. The thing is that on April 15, the State Duma adopted
the decision to send a request to the Constitutional Court on
whether the president can repeatedly offer the State Duma one
and the same candidate for prime minister. However, by April
17, the Constitutional Court will not be able to examine it
since at present it is busy considering the request of Murtaza
Rakhimov, president of Bashkortostan.
"Article 111 of the Russian Federation's Constitution
provides for an opportunity to the president to offer different
candidates and, at the same time, juridically gives him the
possibility to insist on one candidate," Shakhrai explains.
"The way out is obvious: the State Duma must make its decision
clear on the candidates, or a candidate, offered by the
president." He stressed that the change of date of the
Friday's Duma meeting to consider Kiriyenko's candidacy for
prime minister is impossible even if the Duma turns to the
Constitutional Court with its request.
"I think that a purely Russian version will take place -
Sergei Kiriyenko will be appointed prime minister and the State
Duma will not be dissolved," Shakhrai said in conclusion.
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
16 April 1998
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin attacks 'Kremlin family' advisers' intrigue
By Alan Philps in Moscow
RUSSIA'S political crisis has caused a rift between President Yeltsin
and the "Kremlin family", the circle of advisers who play a growing role in
running the country.
According to several Moscow newspapers, Mr Yeltsin has delivered a
bitter attack on the financier, media magnate and political fixer Boris
Berezovsky, who is considered one of the most influential men in modern
Russia. The attack was so intemperate that the president's chief of staff,
Valentin Yumashev, and Sergei Yastrzhembsky, his spokesman, hurriedly
ordered that no word should leak out.
According to the business newspaper Kommersant, the president was so
incensed at Mr Berezovsky's "intrigues" that he threatened to deport him in
the manner of a Soviet-era dissident. The diatribe was launched on Monday
during a Kremlin meeting to decorate Russian cosmonauts. After the usual
speech of congratulation, Mr Yeltsin launched off the cuff into politics.
Mr Berezovsky, who estimates himself to be worth £2 billion, is part of
the "Kremlin family" surrounding the increasingly unpredictable Mr Yeltsin.
Members include the president's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and Mr Yumashev,
a former journalist. The financier has given a spate of interviews, forming
the impression that he is pulling the strings in the Kremlin. He calls
himself an adviser to Mr Yumashev. Russian newspapers are less respectful,
saying Mr Berezovsky has the presidential family in his pocket.
What seems to have angered the president most are reports that Mr
Berezovsky is lobbying secretly against his choice for prime minister, the
inexperienced Sergei Kiriyenko. He is said to favour a candidate more
amenable to his plans to buy up a soon-to-be-privatised Russian oil
company. The "Kremlin family" has been in the political spotlight since the
purge of the government on March 23. Critics argue that, in the absence of
a political heavyweight as prime minister, all power lies among a few
Mr Berezovsky, a mathematician who made a fortune from car dealing, has
boasted that he raised the money to fund Mr Yeltsin's re-election in 1996
and believes that Russia's money men should have the right tell the
government what to do in the economy.
Kiriyenko's Wife Says Stunned by Job Offer
15 April 1998
MOSCOW -- (Reuters) President Boris Yeltsin's nomination of Sergei
Kiriyenko as Russian prime minister was so unexpected that when friends
called up to congratulate his wife, she thought they were talking about
their daughter's birthday.
"It was the same day we were celebrating our daughter's birthday. The
house was full of children, noise, it was a racket," Maria Kiriyenko said
in an interview in the latest edition of the magazine Profil.
"All of a sudden people started calling me up with congratulations. I
thought they were talking about the birthday," she said.
Sergei Kiriyenko missed the birthday party on March 23 because Yeltsin
unexpectedly sacked his long-serving prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin and
the entire Cabinet and named his little-known energy minister, just 35, to
fill the job.
Kiriyenko still has not won parliament's confirmation after failing to
muster enough votes last week. He faces the second of possibly three votes
on Friday. If parliament rejects him three times Yeltsin dissolves it and
calls an early election.
Maria Kiriyenko, a doctor who has not worked since the family moved to
Moscow last year, said that after the initial shock, she began worrying
about her husband's health.
"I know that when Sergei begins something new, he goes into such
overdrive that he practically has no time for rest, sleep or food," she
told the magazine. "Much more on the mark were those who called up to offer
Kiriyenko met his future wife when both were in high school and he
quickly became strongly attracted to her.
"I recall that when we were still in school he told me 'You will be my
wife' and I replied 'Never in my life will I become your wife,'" she said
in the interview.
They married at age 19 when Leonid Brezhnev was still leading the Soviet
Union in what is now called the era of stagnation. They have an
eight-year-old daughter and teenage son.
According to his wife, Kiriyenko wants to have more children, but
working in the government has left him little time at home.
"He really misses the children. He sees them only on Sunday," she told
Profil. "Our daughter recently asked: 'Mama, is papa on a business trip?'"
The wife described her husband as an ambitious, hard-working person
realistic about the challenges ahead.
"He loves life and wants to succeed in everything," she said. "If he
thinks he is capable of something he does it. If he has his doubts, then he
just won't take it on."
"He is a realist. He once said you can't live well immediately. To live
well you have to work at it." ( (c) 1998 Reuters)
BORIS YELTSIN: I AM AS HEALTHY AS EVER
By RIA Novosti corr.
MOSCOW, APRIL 16, RIA NOVOSTI - Russian President Boris
Yeltsin today personally denied rumours about his illness,
circulated on Wednesday by some mass media.
"Again a routine question is being asked: the President may
have fallen ill. I want to say that every one should remain
calm. I am as healthy as ever", the head of state said before
meeting in the Kremlin Valentin Yumashev, head of presidential
administration, and his deputies Alexander Livshits and Sergei
According to Yeltsin, the source of the rumours was a
certain "western journalist" who saw the head of state being
driven to the Central Clinical Hospital.
"Yes, I needed changing a crown on my tooth and I dropped
in for about 30 minutes," said the President, noting that his
"illness" was attributed to this fact. "Isn't funny?" remarked
Yeltsin Acknowledges Hospital Visit
April 16, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) -- President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged today that he made a
quick visit to the Kremlin hospital, but said it was simply to have a crown
on a tooth replaced.
Yeltsin was out of public sight Wednesday and there were rumors and
unconfirmed reports that he was again ill and had been readmitted to a
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky on Wednesday called the
reports ``absolute nonsense,'' but made no mention of Yeltsin's visit to
the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, also known as the Kremlin hospital.
Yeltsin appeared on Russia's ORT television today and said he visited
his dentist Wednesday and was fine.
``A routine question is being asked once again: The president might be
sick? Somebody saw something somewhere,'' Yeltsin said, explaining that he
was seen by a foreign journalist while venturing into the hospital.
``Yes, I had to be there for 30 minutes to change a (tooth) crown. And
everybody immediately starts saying that the president is sick. Isn't that
funny? I'm as healthy as never before,'' insisted Yeltsin.
Yeltsin, 67, underwent heart bypass surgery in November 1996, and two
months later came down with pneumonia. He was hospitalized with a bad cold
for two weeks last December and fell sick last month with a respiratory
Yeltsin has resumed a busy schedule after each illness and has made
clear he intends to serve out his second term, which expires in 2000.
16 April 1998
[for personal use only]
Sun Journal: Moscow's into tough love again
Muscle: Russia has recovered from the trauma of the Soviet collapse and is
again shaking up the small nations along its borders.
By Will Englund
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW -- Small countries that border Russia have never been in an enviable
position, and when Moscow starts to throw its weight around it means just
one thing: trouble.
Trouble came to Georgia in February, and to Latvia and Norway in March.
A new assertiveness is stirring in Russia, and the neighbors better watch out.
"Russia was disoriented for several years, and it had very little
respect for itself," says Dmitri Trenin, an analyst with the Carnegie
Moscow Center. "That can't go on forever."
And it hasn't. Self-confidence is blooming in Russia's political elite,
and, fractious as it may be on domestic issues, there is very little
dissent when Russia is seen to be standing up for itself abroad.
So Russia leans hard on Georgia over Caspian Sea oil pipeline routes,
and over Georgia's friendliness to the West. Russian troops are stationed
on Georgian soil; the breakaway region of Abkhazia enjoys Russian
protection; fugitives wanted in connection with assassination attempts on
Georgia President Eduard A. Shevardnadze are harbored on Russian territory.
Russia leans hard on Latvia over treatment of its ethnic Russian
minority, but also over oil-transit routes and Latvia's friendliness to the
The Latvians hand Moscow a stick to beat them with by breaking up a
demonstration of Russian pensioners and then allowing a reunion of Waffen
SS veterans to proceed in Riga with the heads of the army and parliament in
attendance. Russia threatens economic sanctions -- and may in fact have
already imposed them, in practice if not as an expression of official policy.
Russia can't lean on Norway, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, for its friendliness to the West, but some in Moscow have
accused Norway of making trouble as a proxy for another Western country:
the United States.
When a Norwegian foundation was looking into Russian dumping of nuclear
wastes in waters adjacent to both countries two years ago, authorities here
arrested a retired Russian naval officer working for the foundation and
charged him with treason.
Norway arrested the captain of a Russian ship and charged him with
smuggling drugs; the Russian Foreign Ministry somewhat dubiously claimed
that the Norwegians had tried to recruit him as a spy. Last month Russia
and Norway each expelled a handful of diplomats for espionage.
Relations with Norway are hardly as tense as those with Georgia and
Latvia, which Russians at times just barely manage to address as sovereign
nations, rather than former provinces.
But a visit by the Norwegian prime minister this spring was called off,
and the anti-NATO committee of the Russian parliament has been actively
promoting itself as a wellspring of indignation over Norway's perfidy.
Recent Russian belligerence has at times seemed out of proportion to the
stakes involved. For instance, politicians have been lining up to see who
can more fervently denounce Latvia over its treatment of ethnic Russians,
most of whom are ineligible for Latvian citizenship.
But that's an issue that goes back more than seven years, and is
complicated by the inconvenient fact that most Russians in Latvia don't
want citizenship there. Why has it suddenly flared up again, with
demonstrations in Moscow and a unanimous press denouncing the Latvians?
"The Russian political class is a bunch of cynical people," says Trenin.
"They don't care so much about their brothers in other republics. This is
about Russia more than Latvia."
Who can make the most noise in defense of the motherland? So far, it's
been Yuri Luzhkov. As mayor of Moscow he might be thought to have better
things to worry about, but as a likely contender for the presidency in the
year 2000 he needs to establish his national credentials outside the capital.
Politicians and analysts in Georgia and Latvia see the hand of Yevgeny
M. Primakov, Russia's foreign minister, in Moscow's new assertiveness.
Primakov, a KGB veteran who was appointed two years ago, strikes many as a
throwback to the old Soviet ways.
Vladimir Averchev, a member of parliament with the generally liberal
Yabloko bloc, says it's more complicated than that.
A new and different Russia is emerging, he says, and is pursuing a
foreign policy based on its national interests, rather than on ideology.
Primakov may bring a Soviet style, but with him are many younger
politicians and business leaders who do not disagree with the approach.
"Some conflicts are inevitable," Averchev concludes.
And is a tougher foreign policy successful?
In Latvia, in the short run at least, Russia has come out well ahead. It
has once more brought attention to the citizenship problem. The head of the
Latvian armed forces was fired, and, after bombs were set off outside
Riga's only synagogue and the Russian Embassy, so was the city's police chief.
More concretely, the Italian foreign minister came to Moscow last week,
met with Primakov and declared that Latvia's application for admission to
the European Union was not likely to be acted upon until the rights of
ethnic minorities are guaranteed.
And for the first time, says Trenin, Russian diplomacy has succeeded in
isolating one of the three Baltic nations. President Guntis Ulmanis
conceded that Latvia had to do some very serious repair work to its
In Georgia the game is more subtle, and that doesn't always play to
Moscow's strong points. There are no emotional issues there that grab the
attention of ordinary Russians.
Intervention in the conflict in Abkhazia is a delicate matter, because
Russia cannot afford to be seen promoting any sort of national
dismemberment, for fear there could be a backlash here in the form of
The most recent assassination attempt on Shevardnadze in February
infuriated the Georgians because it was clear that the operation had been
planned in Russia. In March, Russia rounded up some fugitives from the
previous attempt on Shevardnadze's life (in 1995) and handed them over to
It was, says Averchev, a concession to Shevardnadze, a former Soviet
foreign minister, and an attempt to shore up those politicians in Georgia
who argue for friendlier relations with Russia.
But Russian aggressiveness mostly serves to strengthen anti-Moscow
nationalists. The same is true to some extent in Latvia. In both Tbilisi
and Riga politicians argue that Russia's goal is a negative one -- to
create instability in their countries and thereby drive away Western
interest. It's not a policy likely to win many friends.
A foreign policy adviser to Shevardnadze, Gela Charkviani, asks why
Russia doesn't try to win influence through business and trade instead of
through bullying with sanctions and army bases.
The answer to that, says Trenin, is that Russia cannot compete
economically with other countries. The day will come, he says, "when the
ruble is more effective than the rifle."
But don't look for that to happen any time soon.
Los Angeles Times
April 16, 1998
Untended Helm in Russia
President Boris Yeltsin will try again Friday to win confirmation of
Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister, the first step toward restoring the
government Russia has lacked since Yeltsin summarily fired his entire
Cabinet on March 23. If the Duma, dominated by Communists and
ultranationalists, again rejects the relatively inexperienced Kiriyenko,
then Yeltsin will have one more chance to put the man he insists is his
only candidate into the country's top appointive job. Under the
constitution a third rejection would permit Yeltsin to call new legislative
elections. That threat alone probably assures that in the end Yeltsin will
win this test of wills.
It could ease some of the fears of uncertainty and drift that were given
fresh currency when Yeltsin dumped Viktor Chernomyrdin, his prime minister
for five years, and dissolved the government. But having a functioning
administration would still leave plenty of concern. A key worry is Yeltsin
himself and his increasingly bizarre behavior. The toll taken by the years,
the recurrent illnesses and the legendary boozing can no longer be
disguised. Yeltsin is known to function effectively for only a few hours a
day, at best. At times, even in public appearances, the man in charge of
Russia's still huge nuclear arsenal seems unsure where he is or what he's
Yeltsin's presidency has two more years, and time is slipping away for
consolidating the economic reforms and bulking up the institutions that are
the best hopes for a stable and internationally responsible Russia. The era
of reform has shown that Russia possesses the talent for guiding change. It
has also shown that powerful reactionary forces continue to threaten
The economic growth that is the surest counterweight to demagogic
populist appeals depends to no small extent on winning help and support
from outside. But if reform lags, if political uncertainties increase,
Western investors will seek more secure opportunities elsewhere and Western
governments will be likely to draw back. Russia's greatest need is for
steady and predictably rational leadership. At the moment, none is in sight.
>From RIA Novosti
April 15, 1998
THE CHERNOMYRDIN FACTOR
In firing premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, the
President effectively kicked off the 2000
presidential election campaign. Yet the move does not
seem to be strategically premeditated. An early start
of the election marathon can be seen as a side
The Cabinet's dismissal has awakened society and political
parties from their hibernation: the Duma was suddenly faced
with the threat of dissolution, and the nation has started
watching the news with renewed interest.
The current legislation says that the next regular
elections to the lower house should be announced in a little
over a year from now, to be held in December 1999. They will be
followed in six months by the presidential elections.
The campaigning thus shifts into high gear well ahead of
schedule, and the formation of a new Cabinet has the tinge of
an election campaign already underway.
Political tensions may cool down a bit in the summer, only
to soon heat up again. The traditional Left offensive will
march to election slogans in the fall. After that, we will have
no respite until the very end of the century and the
Who is going to succeed Yeltsin? Who will run for the
presidency to be backed up by the mighty government machinery
from top to bottom and the economic elite that has formed under
Yeltsin? These questions are buzzing.
Last week, all of the leading TV channels broadcast
reports from Chernomyrdin's 60th birthday party. The President
addressed the former premier with a 15-minute speech.
Yeltsin tends to be inconsistent in his sympathies and
everything can change before the year 2000. However, such
happenings should not be underestimated in Russia, where
political rituals have long been traditionally important.
Addressing the party, Yeltsin did not mention
Chernomyrdin's intention to run for president, but the
President's silence on the key matter may be seen as tacit
support in light of his other pronouncements.
Notwithstanding the expectations of the many pessimistic
watchers, Chernomyrdin is not a dead political 'lion.' He has
sufficient reasons to count on the support of various
The former premier is close to the industrialists from
among the former Red directors in many industries, in
particular, the fuel and energy industry. He is capable of
enlisting the support of the young, yet already highly
influential financial elite. He has good connections in the
provinces. Most importantly, almost all of the governors act
favourably towards him.
Chernomyrdin is the leader of a mighty socio-political
movement and has a faction in Russia's parliament.
Chernomyrdin is one of the few aspirants for the highest
executive position who has absolutely no problem getting the
money to keep his election campaign going at a good rate.
But Chernomyrdin is not without a flaw. His weak points
are his image and a degree of responsibility for the old
But a lot of money is known to be a great way to improve
one's image, while bearing responsibility for something should
not be overestimated in Russia. Take Yeltsin, for instance, who
won the 1996 presidential election at the height of the Chechen
The only thing that may thwart Chernomyrdin's presidential
ambitions is the President's active resistance to the former
If Yeltsin chooses to use the monstrous administrative
machinery against Chernomyrdin, he will stand no chance. But
to do this, Yeltsin has to have a motive and a stronger
Yeltsin alone can be such a candidate.
If Yeltsin goes back on his public promises and runs for
re-election, he will certainly outplay Chernomyrdin. One can
hardly imagine a heftier reason.
What we are seeing may be the former premier's masterly
politicking, the President's will, or a quirk of fate. But the
reality is that Yeltsin is increasingly torn between two
choices: either go to the end and run for re-election or name
the recently dismissed premier as his successor.
Yeltsin is an experienced politician and has to be aware
that the alternative is natural. Judging by his pronouncements
at Chernomyrdin's birthday party, Yeltsin is arranging this.
RUSSIA'S READINESS TO OFFER ITS NUCLEAR UMBRELLA TO
EUROPE MAY BECOME A KEY ELEMENT OF EUROPEAN
SECURITY, SAID GENNADY SELEZNEV
MOSCOW, APRIL 16 - RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT SERGEI
RYABIKIN. Russia's readiness to offer Europe its nuclear
umbrella may become a key element of European security, said
Chairman of the State Duma Gennady Seleznev at the
representative international conference of parliamentarians "New
Architecture of European and NATO Security" which opened in the
Russian parliament today.
Seleznev said that discussions of Europe's new structure
may prove more important than NATO's eastward enlargement. In
this connection the State Duma speaker expressed a number of
proposals including, in particular, creation of a European
security system with Russia's participation. This will make it
possible to rid Europe of excessive economic outlays, said
Seleznev. Apart from that, this would create prerequisites for
opposing threats to Europe coming from newly forming centres of
force, ensuring independence from the USA, as well as closer
cooperation with Russia and the CIS countries.
The unification of armaments and creation of mixed-manned
units, the joint use of the infra-structure and provision of
Russian test ranges and training sites for joint exercises could
become an important factor, said Seleznev. The latter has a
special economic and ecological aspect. Europe is
over-populated and short of major testing grounds, while there
is sufficient land on Russia's territory which could be used for
large-scale exercises and shooting ranges.
April 16, 1998
EDITORIAL: Urals Protest Shows Cops' Weak Spot
The ugly scenes of the dispersal of a student protest in the Urals city
of Yekaterinburg broadcast on Russian television this week highlight a
fundamental problem in the police force.
Boisterous students with innocuous demands about living standards who
threw snowballs and a few bottles provoked police to what looks like an
Although police are now claiming they were in imminent danger and four
officers were hospitalized, the footage on NTV television showed a
different story. Police went in with truncheons and reportedly an armored
personnel carrier to break up the protest.
Anyone who has been to a soccer game or a rock concert here knows that
Russian police are not very good at dealing with large crowds. Police
usually treat big assemblies as a potentially violent mob that can only be
controlled by a huge police presence, intimidation and even force. The
police have apparently not shifted their mind-set from Soviet days, when
the spontaneity of unregimented street gatherings was seen as an affront to
For instance, police at last year's celebrations of Moscow's 850th
anniversary were an intrusive presence and had no plan on how to direct the
crowds around the city.
Public protest meetings, which obviously have a much greater potential
for conflict, only exacerbate the problem. Rather than regarding
demonstrations as a necessary and normal part of democracy, police turn out
prepared for any explosive eventuality.
The country's top politicians, including acting Prime Minister Sergei
Kiriyenko, have all jumped to respond to the Yekaterinburg protests. They
should draw the obvious lesson that police need more training to assess the
level of force required and the tactics to adopt for dealing with public
Apparently, little progress has been made in this direction since the
events of Oct. 3, 1993, when police, by failing to deal professionally with
street protests led by the opposition, contributed to the total breakdown
of authority and the confrontation around the White House. Lacking
leadership, police just melted away.
Incidentally, the Yekaterinburg protests also underline the hypocrisy of
Russia's criticism of Latvia for the force it used to disperse a protest of
predominantly ethnic Russian pensioners in the capital, Riga, on March 3.
While Russia's complaints about treatment of Russian minorities may be
justified in other respects, the Latvians' conduct in regard to that
particular protest seems quite restrained compared to the overkill by
Russian police on their own citizens in the Urals.
In both cases, bad policing -- not some conspiracy against ethnic
Russians or students -- was mostly to blame.