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CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List

Johnson's Russia List
 

 

May 20, 1998  
This Date's Issues: 2185 2186 

Johnson's Russia List
#2185
20 May 1998
davidjohnson@erols.com

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Adam Tanner, Russian markets calm as politics heat up.
2. Reuters: Russia Communists demand Yeltsin impeachment.
3. Reuters: Gareth Jones, Russian Duma delays START-2 debate to 
autumn.

4. Reuters: Is Lebed Win Springboard - or Cage? 
5. Obshchaya Gazeta: Yelena Dikun: "Under the Protection of Youths 
in Full Bloom: Who Works and Who Rules in the Kremlin."

6. Obshchaya Gazeta: Anatoliy Kostyukov: "An Oligarch Does Not Go 
Into Exile." (Yeltsin, Berezovskiy 'Row' Seen Bogus).

7. Iran News (Tehran): Paper Views Russian Attempts To Combat 
Islamism.

8. Journal of Commerce: Europe's real problem. (Russia).
9. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Russia's hated traffic police
set for an overhaul.

10. Reuters: Governor Lebed urges tax cut for Norilsk.]

********

#1
Russian markets calm as politics heat up
By Adam Tanner 
May 19, 1998

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's shaky financial markets calmed Tuesday after the
central bank raised interest rates to 18-month highs to bolster the ruble and
restore investor confidence. 

But Russian President Boris Yeltsin faced new political uncertainty as
influential Communists said they planned to try to begin impeachment
proceedings against him in parliament Wednesday in connection with protests by
desperate coal miners who have not been paid for months. 

The Communist-led parliament also dealt Yeltsin a diplomatic blow when the
State Duma (lower house), turning a deaf ear to Kremlin entreaties, decided
not to debate the 1993 START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty until September. 

Russia's financial markets suffered a sharp fall Monday amid fears prompted by
distant Indonesia, where political turmoil has laid bare Russia's own economic
vulnerability. 

Tuesday, the main index of Russia's once torrid stock market gained nearly 4
percent after a 12 percent fall Monday. 

Central bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin blamed ``Western speculators'' for
undermining the ruble and said Russia would review its links with foreign
financial institutions involved in selling ruble-denominated securities. 

``It is hard to imagine that a Western investment institute can be both an
adviser of the government helping to place Eurobonds and at the same time help
to ruin the government security and national currency markets,'' he told
reporters. 

The ruble, the relative stability of which is one of the Kremlin's main
successes, firmed slightly Tuesday to around 6.16 per dollar from about 6.18
Monday. 

Dubinin stressed that currency stability would remain a government priority
but added it had spent about $500 million in the past week shielding the ruble
from ``speculative attacks.'' 

Buttressing its defense of the ruble, the bank earlier Tuesday announced it
had raised two key interest rates to 50 percent from 30 percent, the highest
since December 1996. 

The move will give Russia more budgetary woes by making it more expensive for
the government to borrow money. 

``We are convinced that these actions, our actions in raising interest rates,
will one way or another be able to maintain stability on Russian financial
markets,'' the bank's deputy chairman, Alexander Potemkin, told NTV
television. 

He said he hoped the impact on ordinary Russians would be limited. But the
draconian measures are bound to choke Russia's already spluttering economic
recovery, dent business confidence and hamper the government's own efforts to
find money to pay off mounting wage arrears to public sector workers. 

Thousands of angry coal miners have been blocking railway lines -- the
country's main transportation arteries -- and staging hunger strikes to
protest arrears. 

********

#2
FOCUS-Russia Communists demand Yeltsin impeachment

MOSCOW, May 19 (Reuters) - Russian Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said on
Tuesday his party and its allies would demand that the lower house of
parliament launch impeachment procedures against President Boris Yeltsin on
Wednesday. 

Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky was quoted by Interfax news
agency as describing the Communist threat, issued during a series of protests
by unpaid coal miners across Russia, as a ``futile affair'' 

``We have listened to a report about the situation in mining regions and about
miners' appeals to the State Duma,'' Zyuganov told reporters after a meeting
of the Communist-led Popular Patriotic Forces of Russia bloc. 

Apart from the Communist Party, which has 134 deputies in the 450-seat Duma,
the bloc has other two parliamentary parties -- the People's Power of 42
deputies and the Agrarian group of 35 deputies. 

``They (miners) officially asked the three allied Duma parties to start
impeachment proceedings under the Constitution,'' Zyuganov said. ``Our faction
and our allies will formally sign the impeachment request tomorrow.'' 

Zyuganov said the Communists had prepared the text of an impeachment request
but did not give details. The Communists and their two allies, who control
more than 200 seats, need 150 deputies' signatures to prompt action. 

The Duma must vote by two-thirds to approve the demand and then send it to the
Constitutional Court and Supreme Court. 

If the courts find the accusations applicable, the Federation Council upper
house must approve the document by a two-thirds majority for the president to
be impeached. 

The Communists have only once tried to launch impeachment proceedings but
failed to rally enough support in the Duma to pass even the initial stages. 

The Kremlin was quick to shrug off the threat of another impeachment attempt. 

``Some deputies who couldn't find a better use for themselves are trying to
fish in muddy waters,'' Interfax quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying. 

Thousands of desperate coal miners, unpaid for months, have launched protest
actions against Russia blocking railways and running hunger strikes. 

The miners, who initially raised only economic demands, at the later stages
started demanding Yeltsin's resignation. 

********

#3
FOCUS-Russian Duma delays START-2 debate to autumn
By Gareth Jones 

MOSCOW, May 19 (Reuters) - Russia's lower house of parliament, in a move
certain to irritate President Boris Yeltsin, decided on Tuesday not to debate
ratification of the START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty until September. 

Yeltsin has been urging the State Duma to ratify the 1993 treaty as soon as
possible to clear the way for new arms reduction talks with the United States
and a summit meeting with President Bill Clinton. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said tensions in South Asia
following India's series of underground nuclear weapons tests last week
highlighted the need for more arms control. 

``We assume that the next meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents
should produce a strong decision, perhaps even a breakthrough in the field of
nuclear disarmament,'' he told a briefing. ``This was highlighted by the
recent aggravation of tensions in the South Asian subcontinent.'' 

But Alexei Mitrofanov, chairman of the Duma's geopolitics committee, told
reporters that parliamentary business managers had decided the START-2 debate
could not take place before the summer recess in mid-July. 

Washington has already ratified the treaty, which would cut the two countries'
deployed nuclear warheads by up to two thirds from about 6,000 each to no more
than 3,500 each by 2007. 

The Communist opposition-dominated Duma has been dragging its feet on
ratification, saying Russia's security concerns and the price of demolishing
missiles should be reviewed following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Kremlin aides had been talking about a summit with Clinton this summer, but
both sides have agreed there is no point in a meeting, the first for more than
a year, without START-2 ratified. 

On Tuesday the Kremlin declined to comment on the Duma's decision but said
planned talks about START-2 between Yeltsin, Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko
and the speakers of Russia's two chambers of parliament would take place on
Thursday. 

The so-called Big Four of the president, prime minister and the leaders of the
Duma and Federation Council upper house is an advisory body occasionally
convened by Yeltsin. 

On Monday Yeltsin's chief spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said the president
would strongly push for a swift parliamentary ratification of the START-2
treaty at the talks. 

``It's not the president who needs the START-2 ratification, it's Russia which
needs it,'' Yastrzhembsky said. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Rakhmanin said that until START-2 passage new arms
control agreements were not possible. 

``Naturally, it is impossible to move forward on START-3 without the
ratification of START-2,'' he said. ``So we hope that the question of
ratification of START-2 will be resolved within a reasonable period of time
before the summit.'' 

********

#4
Is Lebed Win Springboard - or Cage? 
May 19, 1998

MOSCOW -- (Reuters) Victory in a closely scrutinized Russian regional 
election has given unruly reserve general Aleksander Lebed a 
solid power base to challenge the Kremlin establishment in the next 
presidential election in 2000. 

But the 48-year-old enfant terrible of Russian politics could find his 
new job as governor of the vast resource-rich Siberian region of 
Krasnoyarsk a golden cage rather than a valuable springboard. 

"The result of the Krasnoyarsk election is unquestionably a signal to 
the president and the government," Itar-Tass news agency quoted 
Alexander Shokhin, leader of the pro-government Our Home is Russia 
parliamentary party, as saying. 

"But if Lebed wants to make it in the year 2000 he has to act 
cautiously." 

The gruff paratroop commander beat Kremlin-backed candidate Valery Zubov 
by nearly 20 percentage points in Sunday's runoff vote, widely seen as a 
primary for the presidential election and given commensurate attention 
by President Boris Yeltsin's reformist team and the opposition Communist 
Party. 

Political analysts attributed Lebed's comeback-kid win to growing public 
disillusionment with federal and regional authorities, both plagued by 
torpor and corruption. 

"It was a protest vote, if you wish," Andrei Kortunov, the head of the 
Russian Science Foundation think tank, told Reuters. "People aren't 
happy with the liberals but they don't want to back Communists either. 
So they are looking for a third power." 

Yet analysts and politicians varied widely on the practical impact 
Lebed's victory over incumbent governor Zubov could have on Russia's -- 
and the general's -- future. 

The influential Communists, who had backed Zubov as a lesser evil, 
described Lebed's win as a "misfortune" for Russia. 

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov hinted Lebed could follow in the steps 
of Yeltsin, who rose to power in the late 1980s amid discontent with the 
half-hearted reform policies of the then Soviet leadership. 

"Aleksander Lebed is heading for power in the same way Boris Yeltsin 
did, on a wave of protest against a weak Mikhail Gorbachev," Zyuganov 
told NTV commercial television. 

Lebed won prominence in 1992 when his paratroops stopped bloodshed in 
Moldova's breakaway Dnestr region, which was locked in fighting between 
government troops and separatist forces. 

He came third on a law-and-order ticket in the first round of the 1996 
presidential poll and then backed Yeltsin in the runoff vote, helping 
the Kremlin leader to win a new term. 

During a short spell as the secretary of Yeltsin's Security Council, 
Lebed struck a peace deal with the rebel region of Chechnya but soon 
stormed out of the Kremlin team, blaming its members for intriguing at 
the expense of national interests. 

Yeltsin said Lebed had been too ambitious. 

Throughout his Krasnoyarsk electoral campaign Lebed, who has no strong 
political background, said his ultimate aim was the Kremlin seat in 
2000, although he was careful as voting day approached to say 
Krasnoyarsk would have his attention for now. 

A regional governor -- there are 89 regions in the Russian Federation -- 
automatically wins a seat at the high table, the influential Federation 
Council or upper chamber of parliament. 

That, and strong financial and administrative levers, should make a 
provincial post the right weapon for a Kremlin crusade. 

But many analysts believe the sword is double-edged. 

While power undoubtedly goes with the job, it is a long way from Moscow. 
It is also unclear that Lebed will be able to improve the region, which 
has three million inhabitants but is four times the size of France, 
sufficiently to convince the rest of Russia that he can repeat the trick 
for them. 

"I have serious doubts he can do the business," said one senior Western 
diplomat. 

Crucially, there is no guarantee that backers from the all-important 
financial groups will latch on to Lebed in 2000. 

On the eve of Sunday's election he admitted his performance in 
Krasnoyarsk would be crucial for his presidential chances. 

"I don't know whether I want to be president or not. It will depend on 
how I manage here," he said. "I don't know how much time it will 
require." 

Ruling a potentially unstable region, dogged by huge wage arrears, 
industrial decline and social problems, demands cooperation between the 
governor and the federal government, which can use carrots and sticks to 
influence him. 

Most analysts doubt Lebed's ability to solve problems in his newly-won 
region in the same resolute way he stopped conflicts in Moldova and 
Chechnya. Some predict his popularity could soon start to wane. 

Nonetheless Lebed remains a political threat for the Kremlin and the 
Communists, a potential vote-splitter and vote-grabber in the 
unpredictable backwaters of the world's biggest country. 

Yet, at least for now, the Kremlin may find Lebed more manageable than 
in his previous role as a political freelancer with few obligations and 
no responsibilities. 

Russian media have drawn a parallel between Lebed and another military 
man turned politician, general Aleksander Rutskoi, who was elected 
vice-president on a ticket with Yeltsin in 1991. He then joined a 
hardline Moscow mutiny against his chief in 1993 and spent several 
months in prison. 

"I am not a rebel and will cooperate with Yeltsin wholeheartedly," 
Rutskoi said immediately after winning the governorship in the central 
Kursk region in 1996 to become an orderly member of the political elite 
club. 

Another former rebel, Vasily Starodubtsev, who had joined a coup against 
Gorbachev in 1991 and now quietly governs the Tula region, said Yeltsin 
could hope for a new alliance with Lebed like the one they had in 1996. 

"History repeats itself," Starodubtsev told Interfax news agency. "One 
should not overdramatize the situation in Krasnoyarsk." 

********

#5
Yeltsin's 'Favoritism' Tendency Examined 

Obshchaya Gazeta
23-29 April 1998 
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Yelena Dikun: "Under the Protection of Youths in
Full Bloom: Who Works and Who Rules in the Kremlin"

Of all the institutions of power, Boris Yeltsin prefers the
oldest one--the institution of favoritism. He has been known for
this trait in the past too, but as he grew older, his attachment to
the form of ruling through "beloved" has progressed to the point of
malady.

The Younger You Are, the More I Love You

Today, Yeltsin is surrounded by people whose status is insured
only by the President's benevolence. It is no longer possible to
imagine among his confidantes people like Gaydar, Burbulis,
Soskovets, or Shakhray--anyone with a party or professional
corporation behind them, anyone with independent political standing
or clout, anyone with his own power ambitions. People like that are
unreliable as favorites and therefore are no longer selected as
cohorts. Anatoliy Chubays, who worked as the President's chief of
staff so devotedly that it earned him the label of "regent," was
Yeltsin's last personnel selection mistake. Despite all
Berezovskiy's efforts, he is not allowed into the "inner circle"--it
is better to keep the banker with puppetmaster ambitions at a
distance. On the other hand, Kiriyenko--a boy "without kith or kin"
who has nobody and nothing behind him--is an ideal candidate for
favorite.
Sergey Kiriyenko is also ideal in another respect. According
to Kremlin administration staff, who privately briefed the Obshchaya
Gazeta commentator, the aging President clearly has a weakness for
young cadres. Since 1996 his staff has become noticeably younger--
the average age of the President's current cohorts is slightly over
40. Yeltsin remembers very well the depressing sight of mumbling
Brezhnev surrounded by equally old men and is trying to create for
himself the more attractive image of a patriarch surrounded by
talented and loving young people. Duma leaders, proposing to replace
Kiriyenko with Stroyev or Luzhkov, probably had no idea how deeply
they hurt the President's sense of esthetics.

Valya, Serezha, Tanya

The trio of Yeltsin's current favorites are Valentin Yumashev,
Sergey Yastrzhembovskiy, and Tatyana Dyachenko. All three fully meet
the requirements set for people in this role. They love the master,
are not independent political figures, and do not step ahead of the
boss. And, as fit for the role, possess influence far beyond their
modest position in the table of ranks.
Of Valentin Yumashev's predecessors, the man closest to
Yeltsin was the President's first chief of staff, Yuriy Petrov. But
even he, despite an old friendship going back to Sverdlovsk days,
did not have as much power as Yumashev has acquired. Chubays, who
has done a lot for Yumashev's career surge, probably could not
imagine that a speechwriter, who used to show up in the Kremlin in
jeans and an oversized sweater, would turn into such a skillful
apparatchik. Valentin Borisovich quickly learned not only to wear a
tie but also many of the functions usually reserved for the head of
state.
For instance, the chief of staff increasingly frequently
substitutes for the President in official contacts with the highest
state officials. Since the President cannot keep up with the
schedule of meetings with heads of very important ministries and
agencies, the waiting line of bureaucrats has moved from his
reception room to that of Yumashev--one can see here deputy prime
ministers, enforcement ministers, and heads of special services. The
former prime minister was the only exception: When it came to
Chernomyrdin, Yumashev himself went to visit him. The chief of staff
quite frequently represents the President in contacts with Federal
Assembly house speakers and federal court chairmen.
Sergey Yastrzhembovskiy, another of Yeltsin's favorites, is
also considered Chubays's protege. Nobody thinks of this as a sad
mishap, however. One would not wish the role of interpreter of the
Russian President's words and thoughts upon one's worst enemy.
Yastrzhembovskiy handles this with a virtuoso flair and extricates
himself from the most absurd situations with dignity. The press
patronized by Sergey Vladimirovich has long stopped writing anything
good about his boss, but nevertheless the press secretary manages to
maintain even-handed diplomatic relations with all journalists, for
which he is repaid with reciprocal consideration.
The press secretary firmly established himself as a favorite
in the summer of 1997. While during the vacation in Shuyskaya Chupa
the President was assisted, in keeping with protocol, by Yuriy
Yarov, Boris Nikolayevich had already invited Yastrzhembovskiy to
Volzhskiy Utes, and apparently the President came to like his
company.
Unlike favorites of the past, who quarreled among themselves,
Yumashev and Yastrzhembovskiy get along fine. Both in the office and
on the court (they make a good tennis pair) they call one another
Valya and Serezha. They have extended this informal interpersonal
style to the "coalition's" third member--Tanya, that is, Tatyana
Borisovna Dyachenko.
Tatyana Borisovna made it to the circle of the President's
favorites by birth right. We hear that her entry into the circle of
political whiz kids was not smooth, but eventually she became so
comfortable with it that rumors started to circulate of her alleged
plans to make an independent political career--for starters, for
instance, get elected to the Duma from Yekaterinburg. The facts do
not support this rumor, however. Tatyana Borisovna is interested in
political service solely as a service to her father. Our Kremlin
sources maintain that Dyachenko's influence on important
decisionmaking usually is exaggerated: Boris Nikolayevich is not too
inclined to rely on his daughter's authority. For her father, her
main value as an "image adviser" lies in something else: His own
relative on the staff is a guarantee that everything is quiet in the
Kremlin and at Staraya Square. Naturally, she is somewhat feared
among the staff, who try to "give her a wide berth."
Tatyana Borisovna brings a healthy female pragmatism to the
trio's work, and brings the male strategists back down to earth from
the clouds. We heard, for instance, about the following incident. On
a visit to St. Petersburg the President all of a sudden proclaimed
Pushkin's birthday an official national holiday from now on. The
staff immediately ran to their calendars: Thank God, in the next two
years the new holiday falls on Saturday and Sunday, so there will be
no need to give citizens a day off. Only Tatyana Borisovna, who
still has not separated herself from the ordinary people, remembered
that in such cases the day off is usually moved to Friday or
Monday--one should read the Labor Code occasionally.
In addition to the "first troika"--Yumashev, Yastrzhembovskiy,
Dyachenko--Kremlin pundits identify a "second-echelon troika." It
consists of Yumashev's deputy Yuriy Yarov, called a "nurse" behind
his back (he is usually on duty with the President in the hospital
or vacation), Yumashev's other deputy Mikhail Komissar, and Security
Council Secretary Andrey Kokoshin. Victoriya Mitina's attempt to
make it to this team so far have been unsuccessful. Unlike the
"first troika," the people in the second circle are not a team and
keep to themselves.

Successors Need Not Be in a Hurry

The influence of Yeltsin's current favorites on state affairs
is incomparably greater than his former "trusted men" possessed. One
has to be quite ignorant about Yeltsin, however, to believe that the
"grandpa" has completely retired. Of course, he is no longer able to
work full-time, but "working" and "ruling" are not synonymous. The
President has delegated the work--that is, administrative routine--
to his trusted entourage, but he still holds the strings to
everything that involves his personal power (which is, first and
foremost, control over the top layer of bureaucracy). Yumashev and
Yastrzhembovskiy may put together a list of recommended candidates
and "prepare the ground," and Dyachenko may "put in a word," but so
far the President does not allow anyone to come to him with a
prepared decision on personnel appointments--this is an
impermissible impertinence.
One should give Boris Nikolayevich's current favorites their
due--they sense the limits of the permissible better than their
predecessors did. Unlike Chubays or Korzhakov, they make an effort
to stay in the shadows, not to strike up unofficial relationships
with anyone who is not a member of the "inner circle," and not to
have outside interests. Yumashev, for instance, is on friendly terms
with Berezovskiy, but this is a legitimate, approved relationship
maintained in the interests of the master. For the reason of the
same interest, Yumashev and Yastrzhembovskiy try at every
opportunity to diminish their role in the inner circle--which,
naturally, works in their favor.
Having, out of necessity, limited the realm of his personal
power to control over the state apparat, Yeltsin protects this "last
inch" more jealously than he did in his best years. Apparently he
made the decision to fire Chernomyrdin as early as 26 February,
after the expanded meetings of the government, where he expected to
hear repentant speeches instead of a report on achievements. He left
this meeting in great ire, angry even at not having been brought a
glass of water for some half-hour when he had a cough attack.
Three weeks passed, however, before Yeltsin decided to share
his plan with Yumashev and Yastrzhembovskiy. Still fearing that they
would not keep their mouths shut and that the intended victims would
be warned one day before the signing of the edict. Such
hypertrophied suspiciousness indicates that Yeltsin is not inclined
to fully trust even his most reliable arms bearers. "Apparently,
lust for power does not go away with age," remarked one of our
Kremlin consultants. "Boris Nikolayevich will firmly hold on to the
throne until his last breath. His successors need not be in a
hurry."

*******

#6
Yeltsin, Berezovskiy 'Row' Seen Bogus 

Obshchaya Gazeta
23-29 April 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Anatoliy Kostyukov: "An Oligarch Does Not Go Into Exile"

It is believed that Boris Abramovich Berezovskiy likes
intricate schemes, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, simple ones. There
was recently a falling out between them, it is said, on these
grounds. "Why are you supporting Lebed," Boris Nikolayevich angrily
inquired. Boris Abramovich was about to explain, but Boris
Nikolayevich continued to get angry and before hanging up allegedly
threatened Berezovskiy with deportation.
The confidential conversation of the two Borises immediately
became known to the world. And it was leaked, what is more, not by
just anybody but by Yeltsin himself. After this, Berezovskiy spoke
and gave his version of the telephone dialogue--it differed
noticeably from Yeltsin's both in vocabulary and in intonation. This
and also the subsequent actions of Boris Abramovich and his
television company have prompted the thought that the profaned
oligarch has not been deterred by the prospect of repeating the
exile fate of Trotskiy. That is, the President's scolding has not
broken his spirit and has not disrupted his plan to ensure the
"continuity of power," to which Boris Abramovich is today devoting
virtually all his labor and days.
On the one hand, this could testify to the phenomenal
intrepidity of the television magnate (or his inordinate
effrontery). But, on the other, it could very well be that the two
Borises are taking the public for a ride. In other words, the
telephone dressing-down was a routine "Byzantine stunt" prepared for
leaking and the subsequent befuddlement. Recourse is had to such
tricks when it is necessary to muddy the waters, confuse opponents,
and spoil others' game.
In actual fact, the program of the use of Aleksandr Lebed for
pulling away the electorates of Zyuganov and Luzhkov and,
consequently, for weakening their positions in the forthcoming
presidential contest could not have been news that was totally
unexpected for Boris Nikolayevich coming from the loyal Boris
Abramovich. In addition, this scheme is just one of the scenarios of
the playing of the "Lebed factor" devised in the administration.
What, indeed, was the reason for the sudden anger?
Theoretically, the reason could have been Berezovskiy's
increased public activity. Boris Abramovich is popularizing himself
all too insistently as presidential confessor, the principal Kremlin
puppetmaster, and arbiter of the entire political history of the new
Russia. What president would like this?
In addition, Berezovskiy's premature concern for the future
elections could have instilled in Yeltsin suspicions as to the true
motives behind his activism. Is Boris Abramovich really driven by
party interests or is he in a hurry to make a little money? The
election campaign is, after all, splendid business: Dollars are
shipped out in boxes and are distributed without receipts. If this
work is begun as early as possible, it is possible first to earn
some money on the "uncorking" of Lebed, then, on turning him into
dust, and there could be time for milking all candidates in
turn.
All these considerations could in principle have disturbed the
lively mind of the President. But not to such an extent that they
made him threaten a friend of the family with banishment to foreign
climes! And, in addition, go public with this quarrel. It would have
been far simpler to have ordered Chief of Staff Yumashev to have
dropped the immodest Berezovskiy from the ranks of his advisers and
to have henceforward prevented him coming closer to the Kremlin than
firing range. Simple, quiet, and effective.
But no, the private conversation was elevated to the category
of significant political incidents. The President simply had to
disclose this to the cosmonauts, who had turned up at just the right
moment. What have cosmonauts got to do with this? Nothing. What
difference does it make who transmits the right news--just as long
as it is transmitted. To whom? For what?
There is in the scheme of the "continuity of power" traced out
by Berezovskiy a fragment that is extremely inconvenient for
Yeltsin. There figures on a par with Zyuganov and Lebed among the
unacceptable candidates for Boris Nikolayevich's successor Yuriy
Luzhkov. Were Berezovskiy an intriguer in private practice, the
mayor of Moscow could have just ignored this. But it is well known
that Boris Abramovich is an adviser to the President's chief of
staff and by no means an outsider in this circle. In this case
Luzhkov is free to perceive Berezovskiy's attacks as a contract
action and is entitled to ask the client: For what reason? This is
all the more appropriate in that Luzhkov has not spoken about
participation in the presidential elections.
According to our information, Yuriy Mikhaylovich's puzzled
question reached the President's ears. Yeltsin sized up the
awkwardness of the situation: He has no reason to damage relations
with Luzhkov. Now, note: The leak concerning the President's chat
with the cosmonauts was obtained first by the mayor of Moscow's
press office. That is, it "flowed" to the right place. The maneuver
was simplicity itself: Rather than fall out with Luzhkov, tell the
cosmonauts that the scoundrel Berezovskiy had gotten a dressing-down
from the President. Boris Abramovich would be none the worse off,
and for Yuriy Mikhaylovich it would be balm for his wounds.
In common parlance this is called addling the brains. Not the
most attractive occupation. But in present-day Russia this is called
politics. In any event, we have no other politics. Reality has
taught us that when listening to a top official that we should keep
a close watch on the expression of his eyes, and when reading
official texts, trust only the gaps between the lines. A thought
uttered by the highest person so often proves to be a lie that this
has ceased to annoy. Intentional "dis," the mutual dishing out of
compromising material, blackmail, hypocritical oaths--this, it
seems, is as necessary as oxygen there, at the top.
Of course, were the authorities concerned from morning till
night with the problems of the people subject to them, they would
have no time for these amusements. But what can people of power
happily detached from society do? They are simply condemned to self-
preoccupation, finding pleasure in the art of mutual
extermination.

*********

#7
Iran: Paper Views Russian Attempts To Combat Islamism 

Iran News (Tehran)
10 May 1998
Editorial: "Shaky Alliance"

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Uzbek counterpart Islam
Karimov agreed in Moscow on Wednesday [6 May] to start a joint campaign
against Islamic fundamentalism. This event, together with a telephone
conversation between Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmanov and Yeltsin,
has forged a regional troika to fight Islamic fundamentalism. The
formation of this regional troika coincides with reports of sentencing of a
number of people in Tajikistan convicted of involvement in Islamic
activities. Moreover, the Kremlin's Spokesman Sergey Yastrzhembskiy has
voiced concerns over Islamic activities in the autonomous republics of
Dagestan and Chechnya.
These events strengthen the belief that the issue of Islamic
activities cannot be considered as only Russia's and Uzbekistan's concern. 
In view of the lukewarm ties between Moscow and Tashkent, the issue has to
be analysed within the context of political necessities which have helped
the promotion of the two countries' cooperation. However, the developments
in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which gained further momentum when the
"Big Game" in the Caspian Sea started, are against the interests of both
Russia and Uzbekistan.
Regarding Russia, it should be noted that the attempts made by the
Azerbaijan Republic, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan to find routes, other
than Novovorossiesk port, to transport their oil and gas to Europe means a
diminished Russian presence and influence in these countries which Kremlin
considers to be its own backyard. Moscow does not want to see any third
party getting involved in any activities in these areas.
The same policy was adopted by certain Russian political circles
vis-a-vis the construction of the Turkmenistan-Iran gas pipeline. It is
amidst all these developments that Russia is trying to use its
security-military power, or what is left of it in the wake of the
disintegration of the Soviet Union, to form a kind of regional grouping
against an imaginary enemy. Through such a grouping, Moscow is trying to
secure Russia's interests, thereby preventing any increase in Washington's
presence and influence in the region, especially in the Caspian Sea area.
On the other hand, Russians intend to use the threat of Islamism to
frighten the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus and keep them in
the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which is Russia's domain of
control. However, this is done at a time when cooperation between CIS
members is on the wane and, therefore, the very existence of CIS itself is
faltering. As far as Uzbekistan's position is concerned, it must be noted
that Tashkent's attempts to lead the Central Asian countries is now
overshadowed by Kazakhstan which is being paid a lot of attention by the
West because of its rich energy resources.
Furthermore, cold relations between Washington and Tashkent, caused
mainly by Uzbekistan's poor human rights record, has prevented this Central
Asian republic from playing a significant role as an American ally. In
this connection, another issue that has to be taken into consideration is
Tashkent's concerns over the potential ethnic unrest in eastern Uzbekistan
by a small Tajik community which is under suppression by the central
government.
Keeping all these factors in mind, can anyone talk of establishing
peace and security in the region with the cooperation of Russia, Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan? Taking into consideration the reluctance of these
countries to participate in regional crisis management, the logical answer
to this question is "No."

*******

#8
Journal of Commerce
18 May 1998
[for personal use only]
Europe's real problem

A self-indulgent, back-slapping summit between the United States and the 
European Union in London today will grab more than its share of 
headlines. By contrast, a much more important summit between the EU and 
Russia, held on the margins of last weekend's G-8 gathering, received 
little notice. Yet the second event is immeasurably more important than 
today's stage-managed gathering.

To be sure, President Clinton and his European hosts have cause to 
celebrate. The U.S. economy grows stronger by the quarter. The economies 
of key EU countries also are gathering speed, promising a successful 
launch of the single currency, the euro, next January.

But instead of focusing on the giant across the Atlantic, the EU should 
concentrate on the behemoth on its eastern flank. It doesn't make sense 
for European officials to spend more time dealing with America, which 
isn't a problem, than with Russia, which is.

Dealing with Washington is more rewarding, since the United States is 
the EU's biggest trade and investment partner. But it's a relationship 
that can take care of itself, trade spats notwithstanding. By contrast, 
Russia is in a league of its own. Over time, it has the potential to 
stumble into a crisis that will make Asia's financial turmoil, the riots 
in Indonesia and the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan look 
like local difficulties.

The West got a nasty reminder of the endemic instability in Russia last 
month when President Boris Yeltsin summarily sacked his entire Cabinet 
and chose an unknown bureaucrat to be his prime minister.

The crisis over, the West looked elsewhere. But while Washington can 
afford to take a detached view of events in faraway Moscow, the EU 
cannot. It shares a 600-mile border with Russia. It is negotiating 
membership terms with a former Soviet republic, Estonia, and with three 
ex-Kremlin satellites, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. It has 
promised eventual membership to Latvia and Lithuania and the rest of 
Central and Eastern Europe. That will leave Russia out in the cold -- a 
dangerous destination for a politically unstable, economically backward 
nuclear power.

The United States has done its bit to assuage Russia's fears of 
exclusion, principally by giving Moscow a say in issues of European 
security to counterbalance NATO's eastward expansion. Now it's up to the 
EU to bring Russia into the global economy. As Russia's biggest trading 
partner and top customer for its massive gas exports, the EU is much 
better equipped than the United States for the task.

The EU has made some progress, notably through a Partnership and 
Co-operation Agreement that strengthens commercial and cultural ties 
with Russia. It also has eased entry for Russian exports and holds out 
the prospect of a free-trade zone.

On the ground, however, relations between Brussels and Moscow have 
bogged down in squabbles over Russian carpet imports and EU dumping 
duties on the few basic exports it can sell in Europe, such as steel 
pipes and fertilizers.

In a potentially significant move, the EU recently dropped Russia from 
its list of state-controlled economies, making it more difficult to make 
dumping charges by European firms stick. Moscow has played down the EU 
move, claiming it will make it even more difficult for Russian companies 
to prove they are acting according to free-market principles. The 
Russians haven't helped their cause by gratuitously insulting the EU.

But the EU has to grin and bear it, cajoling Russia to hasten economic 
reform and championing its bid for membership in the World Trade 
Organization. It should also encourage European firms to be less 
risk-averse to Russia: The United States tops the list of private 
investors in the country. The Russians themselves could take an 
initiative, perhaps decoupling the ruble from the dollar and pegging it 
to the euro.

The EU economy is booming and the euro looks set for a dream debut. Just 
as important, Russia's economy is growing for the first time in years. 
There has never been a better time for Brussels and Moscow to act. 

*******

#9
The Independent (UK)
20 May 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia's hated traffic police set for an overhaul
By Phil Reeves in Moscow 

IT IS a selling job that would stretch the spinning skills of the 
slickest international advertising agency. Russia is trying to overhaul 
the image of the nation's most hated official - the traffic policeman. 

The newly appointed Interior Minister, Sergei Stepashin, has embarked on 
a mission to clean up the profoundly corrupt GAI, the State Automobile 
Inspectorate, whose portly, swift-fingered, cops have come to symbolise 
official venality in the eyes of many Russians. 

He has launched a public relations campaign to eradicate the force's 
widespread reputation as little more than a club for licensed highway 
robbers, and to adorn it with a "human face". 

Thus, later today the GAI's most senior officer, Vladimir Fedorov, will 
spend several hours answering questions and complaints telephoned in by 
the readers of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. 

The GAI's paramilitary iron-grey uniforms are being replaced with new 
outfits whose cheerful colours - bright lemon in some cases - will shine 
out against the monotonic hues of the Russian winter or a summer 
downpour. And the number of women in the force is being increased. 

Nor is that all. The organisation is also likely to have a new name. 
Tacitly acknowledging that, to Russian ears, "GAI" (pronounced Guy-ee) 
has about as many positive connotations as the word "Mafia", officials 
have come up with a solemn, mouth-cluttering acronym: GIBDD - State 
Inspectorate for the Safety of Road Traffic. 

The task facing Mr Stepashin and his aides is formidable. The force 
founded under Stalin in 1936 as an offshoot of the NKVD security 
apparatus is universally loathed and for good reason. Though far from 
angelic behind a wheel, Russia's motorists are continuously harassed by 
GAI officers, who do not need any reason in order to flag them down. It 
is not uncommon for a driver in Moscow to be pulled over several times 
in one journey by officers, known as "gaishniki", who stand at most big 
junctions. 

Bribery is not so much the exception as the rule. The average traffic 
policeman receives a mere $120 (75) a month - and that's often paid 
late. Back-handers, as in many areas of Russian life, have become a form 
of income supplement. 

Motorists often reinforce the practice, as they would rather pay bribes 
than go through the time-consuming process of recovering confiscated 
papers. So widespread is corruption that some drivers no longer bother 
acquiring licences or documents, preferring to slip a bundle of roubles 
to any officer who is lucky enough to catch them. 

The police's notoriety has spawned both its own micro- industry, china 
figures of traffic cops waving their batons have appeared in the shops. 
Stories abound of the GAI's skulduggery - from the officer who was 
harried off the streets of Moscow by his colleagues because he tried to 
be honest, to the cop who pulled over a car, announced he was tired of 
inventing reasons for imposing fines, but demanded a pay-off anyway. 

Nor is the general level of fear and loathing helped by the occasional 
appearance on the streets of conmen wearing police uniforms who flag 
down vehicles for imaginary offences and pocket the proceeds. Although 
official efforts to clean up the force have so far failed, the 
authorities have not ignored the problem. The force's spokesman said 
yesterday that last year prosecutions were brought against 4,000 GAI 
employees, of whom more than half work on the streets. Of these, 470 
were later fired. 

The statistics are only the tip of an iceberg. It is hardly surprising, 
then, that Russians are less than optimistic that the clean-up will 
work. "Only time will tell," said the newspaper Kommersant earlier this 
month, "But, for now, the idea of a GAI with a human face belongs to the 
realms of fantasy". 

********

#10
Governor Lebed urges tax cut for Norilsk

MOSCOW, May 19 (Reuters) - Alexander Lebed, the newly elected governor of
Krasnoyarsk region, was quoted as saying on Tuesday that the federal
government should give Norilsk Nickel a two-year tax holiday to help ease the
city's social problems. 

``The wisest decision, which would not require treasury funding, would be to
free AO Norilsky Kombinat from paying federal taxes for a couple of years,''
Lebed, who was elected governor of the region which includes Norilsk on
Sunday, told the newspaper Kommersant Daily. 

He said the money saved could be used to help pensioners and the unemployed to
leave the Arctic city of Norilsk, which exists purely to serve the metals
combine, and to help improve the lot of local people. 

As regional governor, Lebed has no power to waive federal tax demands on local
companies. Norilsk said earlier this year it received $700 million from the
government to move up to 70,000 people away from its dependent city to a
better climate. 

Norilsk, Russia's leading metals concern, is a major producer of nickel,
copper, cobalt and platinum group metals.

*******



 

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