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gJohnson's Russia List
13 September 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russia vows to pay debts, stick to reforms.
2. The Sunday Independent (UK): Steve Crawshaw, Russia teeters on edge
of hope. The Moscow shops are stuffed with luxury goods but the crowds
are reluctant to buy as Russia pins its future on men from the past.
3. New Republic: Masha Gessen, Moscow Postcard: De-pressed. The
collapse of Russia's banks won't just impoverish the oligarchs. It may
rob the nation of its one great democratic achievement: a free press.
4. Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy: Studio interview with Grigoriy Yavlinskiy
on Russian situation.
5. Argumenty i Fakty: Interview with Aleksandr Lebed, Governor of
Krasnoyarsk Territory, "Aleksandr Lebed: The Potato is More Important
6. BBC: Primakov's address to Duma.]
Russia vows to pay debts, stick to reforms
By Philippa Fletcher
MOSCOW, Sept 12 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin assured U.S. President
Bill Clinton on Saturday that Russia's new government would not stray from the
reform path despite a compromise with the Communist-led parliament.
New Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov issued a similarly soothing message to the
West, pledging to pay off the country's debts and vowing that it would never
be declared bankrupt.
Primakov was voted in on Friday after Yeltsin backed down in a standoff with
the State Duma lower house. Russian newspapers said the outcome marked a shift
away from presidential rule and had given the Duma a major role in shaping the
The Kremlin said Clinton had telephoned Yeltsin to ask him about the latest
events surrounding the formation of the government, which some Western
economists fear could bring a return to Soviet-style economic management.
``The Russian President underlined the stability of foreign policy, including
the mutually beneficial and equal partnership with the U.S., consistency in
reforms and the lack of any alternative to market-oriented policies,'' a
Primakov, formerly foreign minister, has also said reforms will continue and
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was quoted as saying he was sure the new premier
could move Russia forward.
``Primakov stands high in my estimation. He is certainly not the prototypical
reformer but he takes small steps in the right direction,'' Kohl said,
according to the text of an interview to be published in Sunday's Bild am
``I'm confident he can do it. I'm convinced Russia won't fall back into the
past,'' Kohl added.
Economic turmoil continues however, the new government has still to be formed
and the shakeup has weakened Yeltsin.
On Saturday he sacked his spokesman and foreign policy aide Sergei
Yastrzhembsky. Kremlin sources said he felt Yastrzhembsky had been disloyal
for trying to persuade him to appoint Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov -- a potential
rival -- as prime minister.
Yastrzhembsky told Interfax news agency his dismissal had not come as a
suprise. ``If one, two or more officials have to pay with their jobs for civil
peace and harmony within Russian society then it's not such a big price,'' it
cited him as saying.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said a planned meeting with Yeltsin next
week to discuss economic problems in the neighbouring states had been moved to
Moscow from Ukraine.
``We are interested in Russia's democratic transformation and the earliest
resolution of the political crisis,'' Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted
Kuchma as saying.
A new Russian cabinet will have to try to restore market confidence and ease
social tensions ahead of the winter. Many people have not been paid for
months, banks are crippled, shop shelves are half-empty and prices are rising.
Some Western economists have voiced concern monetary policy might be relaxed,
sparking runaway inflation. Western creditors fear there is still a risk of
further debt defaults.
However, Primakov, formerly foreign minister, said the new government was
already working to rescue Russia from bankruptcy.
``We shall pay all our debts,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying at
a meeting with leading Russian media representatives. ``Russia is not the kind
of country that will declare itself bankrupt and it will never become this.''
``The new government will see to this and it is already working in this
direction,'' he added....
The Sunday Independent (UK)
13 September 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia teeters on edge of hope
The Moscow shops are stuffed with luxury goods but the crowds are reluctant to
buy as Russia pins its future on men from the past. From Steve Crawshaw in
IN THE West, it might pass without comment as a vaguely upmarket shopping
centre, but in Moscow, the marbled Manege Square underground mall, laid out on
three floors just outside the Kremlin walls, remains an extraordinary
It houses everything from high-street retailers such as Mothercare, Next and
Benetton to glitzy boutiques and the super-expensive Versace. And while crowds
still throng the mall, few are ready to do much shopping, as Moscow reels from
the cataclysmic upheavals which have turned Russia upside down in recent
In a children's clothing shop, assistants sit around chatting, waiting for a
customer who might actually want to buy something. None does. "Before, we were
never off our feet," one said. "Now, at least we are learning how to relax."
Some visitors have themselves photographed in front of the huge neo-classical
statue at the centre of the mall. Others, such as Lidiya, 54, and her daughter
Natalya, who are visiting Moscow from the northern port of Arkhangelsk, simply
come to gaze. "For us, it is a museum," Natalya said.
Theoretically, a more prosperous economy could be on the way. It would keep
the shop assistants here a little busier, and give Natalya and Lidiya a
chance, but at the moment its prospects do not look good. The approval on
Friday of the former foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, as the new Prime
Minister went through almost smoothly, at least by Russian standards. But as
many questions remain as ever about where Russia is heading.
Yesterday's Russian headlines were divided. There was talk of Russia's "new
superman", and of "Primakov's triumph".The daily Kommersant talked more
wistfully of "the end of an epoch", while Komsomolskaya Pravda said the
government changes marked "time going backwards", with the return of
characters from "long-past days".
The charge is fair in the light of some of the appointments. Mr Primakov's
team includes the former Soviet central banker (and supporter of the 1991
coup) Viktor Gerashchenko, who actively stoked hyperinflation in the early
1990s, and is to chair the central bank again. Yuri Maslyukov, the Deputy
Prime Minister likely to take over the economy, is another reminder of the
past, having formerly run the Soviet state planning organisation, Gosplan.
Russia sometimes throws up the most unlikely heroes. But even with that
caveat, Mr Gerashchenko and Mr Maslyukov do not make a very likely dream team.
Anders Aslund, an economist closely associated with Russian economic reform
for many years, said the arrival of Mr Gerashchenko and Mr Maslyukov was
"absolutely awful, worse than anything in the past seven years".
Theoretically, the gross differences between rich and poor will be addressed
by the new government. In practice, Russia looks set to fall still further
into the morass.
At the huge open market near the Luzhniki stadium in western Moscow, the
collapse of the rouble and the economic panic stations of recent weeks have
had a typically dismal effect. The odd youngster whizzes past happily on a
brightly coloured skateboard while the women who stand at the entrance to the
market forlornly display a single leather jacket or a bunch of plastic bags
for sale. They are depressed or angry, or both. Many once had decent jobs, but
since the crisis began in earnest last month, even their market earnings are
sharply down. "We can't sell anything," one said.
The usual suspects are blamed for everything that has gone wrong. "It is all
the Jews. They run everything," another woman said, as her companions nodded
fiercely. There is a blanket rejection of all politicians, including even the
far-right Vladimir Zhirinovsky ("he's mad") and the Communist leader, Gennady
Zyuganov. "When you listen to them on TV, they all sound lovely," said one
lady. "But it's just a circus. They all just promise."
The daily Izvestia said the formation of the new government made it "possible
to beat down the flames of the political crisis that has flared up - but not
to put out the fire". It is hard to disagree. The Communists are still calling
for impichment of the President - so there can at least be a transatlantic
symmetry of politics, if not of prosperity. But the chances of a coherent and
workable economic policy being implemented seem slim.
Paradoxically, amid all the obvious pain of the not-quite market reforms that
Russia has introduced so far, and with all the chaos of recent weeks, there is
still loyalty to the idea of continued change - even among those who seem
steeped in pessimism. Many Russians over 40 reject everything that has
happened in recent years: they feel that there is no future, and give the
impression that they want to draw the blanket over their heads and wake up
back in the USSR. Younger Russians, even when they have no money and profess
no hope, continue to hint at belief in a different future.
At Patriarch's Ponds, a tree-lined square around a small lake, and one of
Moscow's few inner-city oases of tranquillity - young Muscovites gather
nightly to drink, chat and strum guitars. Few have anything good to say about
the changes that are taking place, but unlike their parents, none wants to
turn the clock back. Andrei, 24, feared that the "Russian swamp" would
continue to swallow up all attempts at change. But he and his friends
categorically rejected nostalgia for the sometimes more comfortable (and
certainly more predictable) Soviet world their parents grew up in. "There
would be nothing to strive for," he said flatly. Ira, a shop assistant who
(like so many millions in Russia today) has not been paid for months, was
bleak in her assessment of the current crisis and unenthusiastic about Mr
Like many of her compatriots, she had no expectations that things would get
better, yet she remained convinced that there could be no looking back. "I
don't find the charms that people talk about [in the old Soviet Union]," she
said. "It would be simpler to live like that - but I wouldn't want it. Now,
there's a dose of adrenalin. And something has to change."
From: "Masha Gessen" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 1998
Subject: Moscow Postcard: De-pressed
Following is the New Republic story, excepting some possible last-minute cuts.
The New Republic
September 28, 1998
[for personal use only]
MASHA GESSEN Moscow Postcard: De-pressed
The collapse of Russia's banks won't just impoverish the oligarchs. It may rob
the nation of its one great democratic achievement: a free press.
Moscow--Last month, an optimist, acknowledging the many blunders and
horrors, could at least say this in defense of post-Soviet Russia:
Economically, the ruble was stable. Socially, the press was vibrant and
free. And, politically, the country had held the semblance of democratic
elections. As we all now know, accomplishment number one is only a memory.
Less well understood, however, is the threat that the currency crisis poses
to accomplishment number two_and, by extension, to accomplishment number
three. For, while a country's banks going belly up is never a good thing,
it is far worse when those banks happen to own virtually all of that
country's independent media.
The story of how Russia got a free press begins six years ago with another
economic crisis. During the perestroika period, starting in 1988,
when the press was allowed to print more or less anything, press runs
skyrocketed. Then, in 1992, prime minister Yegor Gaidar lifted Russia's
price controls, unleashing hyperinflation. Newsstand prices skyrocketed and
subscription schemes started hemorrhaging money. Press runs dropped from
millions to mere tens of thousands, dailies turned into weeklies and
weeklies turned into occasionals, and it looked like the country's infant
free media would suffocate in their crib. Business came to the rescue. Led
by Vladimir Gusinsky, the
president of Most-Bank, who financed a new daily newspaper and a television
channel, the new super-rich who would come to be known as oligarchs started
acquiring and launching publications. (Disclosure statement: I work for
Itogi, a newsweekly owned by Most-Media, the holding over which
Gusinsky now presides_this is only relevant, of course, if Itogi
still exists when this article is printed.)
The business money funded a media boom. By this summer, Moscow had
nineteen daily newspapers with a combined press run of approximately 8.4
million--circulation was comparable to the early 1990s, but the number of
titles was much greater. In addition, Moscow boasted about a dozen
political weeklies and a swollen selection of lifestyle magazines,
including Russian editions of <I>Cosmopolitan<I>, <I>Elle<I>, <I>Marie
Claire<I>, <I>Harper's Bazaar<I>, <I>L'officiel<I>, <I>Geo<I>, <I>Men's
Health<I> and, as of this month, <I>Vogue<I>. The publications were
constantly competing for staff, since even a city as big as Moscow cannot
produce enough journalists to feed this many publications. As a result,
average journalist salaries grew out of control, reaching, at the high end
for reporters, as much as $8,000 a month, or about 50 times the city
average_and about 500 times the legal minimum.
Not everything was perfect, of course. The bulk of the media were
controlled by seven business giants, who increasingly used their press to
fight their battles. They used their press to attack one another, as they
did last year during a mogul battle over the privatization auction of a
communications company, and they acquired more and more different
publications to demonstrate how influential--and potentially useful or
harmful to politicians--they were. Observers, President Boris Yeltsin
himself, have lamented this ownership system. But over time it became
painfully clear that without big business most publications would not
exist. Last year, for example, the editorial team of the daily
<I>Izvestiya<I> rebelled against its owners, Uneximbank and the oil giant
Lukoil, and walked out intending to launch an independent newspaper--but,
as it turned out, the only way they could raise the money was to sign on
with another tycoon, Boris Brezovsky. Earlier this year, the last
independent holdout, the publishing house Kommersant, was put up for sale:
it could no longer survive on its own.
The only exception to oligarch-ownership have been a few tabloids whose
press runs of over a million, distributed primarily to newsstands, covered
their low production costs. But with the ruble losing about 30 percent of
its value a day during the past weeks, these proud independents have been
hit first and hardest: by the time distributors deliver the money from
newsstand sales, it can no longer pay for printing. Phones at two of the
largest tabloids in Moscow have gone dead. Word has it that the weekly
<I>Megapolis-Express<I> (press run 800,000) is closing and the city's most
popular daily, <I>Moskovsky Komsomolets<I> (press run 1,053,000) has
offered 70 percent of its staff unpaid leave.
Ironically, publications that were losing money before the crisis are
still plodding along, pushed by business empires determined to maintain
their influence as long as possible. Uneximbank, run by the mogul Vladimir
Potanin, even resuscitated a daily that it had shut down in July.
Unfortunately for journalists, printing and distribution costs seem to be
the only ones the oligarchs are willing to cover. "Are you getting paid?" a
press secretary asked me at a recent press briefing, apparently using
state-of-emergency rules of propriety. "I think so," I responded.
"<I>Izvestiya<I> staff isn't," she informed me. "Which is a shame, because
my husband works there."
Many publications have already taken the axe to journalists' inflated
salaries. The country's largest daily, Uneximbank-owned <I>Komsomolskaya
Pravda<I> (press run 1.4 million, with 3 million on Fridays), has cut pay
by more than half. Other publications, including the Russian edition of
<I>Paris Match<I>, have told staff they are on indefinite unpaid leave.
"That's odd," said Alexei Pankin, editor of the journalism review
<I>Sreda<I>, upon hearing the news from me. "Just last night I was having
drinks with some Kommersant people_and they were saying that since they are
not getting paid, they'd probably go work for <I>Paris Match<I>."
The oligarch-free Kommersant empire, which hadn't found a buyer before
trouble hit, consists of one daily, three weeklies and two lifestyle
monthlies. Of these, the only money-maker is <I>Dengi<I>, or <I>Money<I>, a
personal-investment magazine. Since the subject has recently been rendered
moot, the publishing house appears about to collapse.
The longest holdouts will probably be weekly and monthly magazines, many
of which live off advertising. Still, it is unlikely they will survive for
long. Because Russia does not have quality full-color-printing facilities,
all Russian magazines print abroad, primarily in Finland. This, of course,
requires hard currency, which is practically unobtainable these days. In
addition, some of these publications kept their reserves in the
high-yielding short-term government bonds whose collapse precipitated the
current crisis. Finally, even if they weather the next few months, they are
unlikely to continue making money off advertising, since their readers can
no longer afford wide-screen televisions, Hugo Boss suits and Omega
watches. An executive with the Russian Advertisers Association estimates
that next year's total spending by all advertisers in Russia will equal
approximately $10 million, compared to over $2 billion this year and $1.8
billion in 1997. Perhaps sensing black days ahead, Russian <I>Vogue<I>,
inopportunely launched last week, canceled its celebrity launch party (it
did, however, go ahead with a party for journalists, who have grown ever
more appreciative of free food).
Russian television, for its part, is divided between the state, which owns
two channels and part of a third, Boris Berezovsky, majority shareholder in
a nominally state-owned channel, Vladimir Gusinsky, who owns one channel
and a satellite network, and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who runs one
channel. With the state going bankrupt and taking the oligarchs with it,
the only remaining potential source of revenue is advertising. But
advertising agencies have already started shutting their doors. One friend
who worked at a TV-advertising production company told me she'd found
another job, on a feature film about a heroic tax policeman. The film is
produced by the tax police, which apparently wants to improve its image.
Still, with jobs and businesses dropping like flies, the tax police is
unlikely to have a lot of vacancies.
"There is no way most of this media will survive," says Alexei Pankin. His
own magazine, which is published on EU money, cannot afford to bring its
next installment of grant money into the country, since if he puts it into
a Russian bank, it will likely not release it. "We are all going to have to
start living in accordance with our means. One, two, maybe three daily
newspapers, state television_that's what we'll have."
That will mean a much weaker free press. Like other institutions of the
Russian democracy, this one was imperfect. It wasn't heard as much as it
should have been--most notably, when Russian newspapers and privately owned
television were exposing the atrocities perpetrated in Chechnya, the
government turned a deaf ear. On the other hand, the new media proved how
influential they could be when they committed themselves to the cause of
Yeltsin's reelection in 1996 and succeeded in selling him again to a weary
public. It wasn't a striking exercise in journalistic ethics or
impartiality, but it was an impressive show of force--the force that
probably prevented a communist comeback. And as competition between
publications increased in the following two years, so did the diversity of
perspectives they presented. These days another war is starting in the
south of Russia, in Dagestan, a republic that borders Chechnya, but
national media no longer have the resources to cover it. Their swan song
will likely be the coverage of the current political crisis. Which makes
the current power struggle the last one presented from at least a few
different points of view. The next one will be filtered through the
impoverished prism of state television and one or two surviving newspapers.
That does not bode well for the third accomplishment of Russian democracy,
its electoral system.
Yavlinskiy Interviewed on Russian Situation
Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy
8 September 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Studio interview with Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, Yabloko faction
leader, by Aleksey Venediktov -- live
[Venediktov] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, the country is virtually paralysed
and popular debates include whether we should first be tackling political
tasks or governmental tasks, whether we should be establishing an effective
government, and whether the officials who are now acting should start
managing the situation. What is your view?
[Yavlinskiy] First of all, I want to say that we should not be making
any large pronouncements about a paralysis, and so on. [passage omitted:
coments on wage arrears]
As for action, I have believed, as I believe now, that the Acting
Prime Minister should be sitting in the Kremlin now and taking decisions
every minute. He does not need anything else, no additional or special
powers. All these issues could be tackled in the future. What is needed
today is simply to take steps: Step number one, two, and three. Steps
should have been taken. This should have been done over the past three
weeks. For example, the decision on the investors -- when we refused to
pay them off -- should have been re-examined. The most important thing is
that they needed to tackle the issue of people's savings, but not in the
manner they have done -- by saying that the savings would stay -- but the
next day when the savings were transferred to the savings bank and half of
them were gone. They should have tackled the question of compensation and
introduced an emergency budget. They should have shown the will to do
something instead of lurching from one faction leader to another and
holding absolutely crazy and pointless meetings and voting in an attempt to
persuade them to do something.
Indeed, the country needs a government and a prime minister. A scheme
for resolving this issue has been suggested. It could be resolved
literally at one go and in one day, as soon as the President submits such a
decision. Today's problem is that the President is not tackling this
[Venediktov] Let us talk about the President then. So you think he is
the main obstacle to settling the government crisis?
[Yavlinskiy] We have a totally authoritarian constitution at the
moment -- in other words, a constitution under which all rights and all
powers are concentrated in the President. If he does not focus on certain
issues, they remain completely unaddressed. This decision to put
Chernomyrdin forward, it was obvious that this was incorrect because he
would not be approved. Without getting into what this was all thought up
for, once it became clear that it would not work, he needed quickly to take
other decisions that would not stop him being President, but in the current
situation he has simply paralysed the entire political and economic
process. That is a real problem.
[Venediktov] [passage omitted: preamble to next question] What is your
attitude to the impeachment procedure and to the accusations that your
faction are putting forward? Do you not you feel that, right now, the
State Duma will just use the impeachment not as an impeachment but to block
the dissolution of the Duma?
[Yavlinskiy] I can only talk about our position on part of the
impeachment. We think that of all the issues under discussion as part of
the impeachment, only one is really serious, and that is the one connected
with the war in Chechnya. [passage omitted: Chechnya cost thousands of
lives, and must not be repeated]
If this whole issue will be examined and put forward in a juridically
correct manner, this will be a very good reason for us to support an
impeachment if the question arises. We will not agree to any illegitimate
uses for the impeachment -- as self-defense or out of spite -- because,
despite the crisis and the difficult situation, specific juridical
procedures cannot be used as combat weapons. [passage omitted: reiterates
[Venediktov] So if it comes up, Yabloko will vote for charges being
pressed over Chechnya?
[Yavlinskiy] I think so. [passage omitted: a power vacuum is no worse
than the counterproductive government decisions that were being made
earlier, and it is vital to observe the constitution]
[Venediktov] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, under the constitution, the
President has the right to dissolve the Duma if the prime minister-
designate is rejected for a third time. Is your faction, your movement,
ready for elections under these crisis conditions? Does it think it will
be possible to hold parliamentary elections? It is possible under the
[Yavlinskiy] We cannot see any good coming from the dissolution of the
Duma, but if elections are called we will definitely take part in them. We
are ready for elections, because we assumed a long time ago that events
could lead to this. But I have to call on those who today are acting as the
government -- and by the way it is acting in its full complement -- because
today we need to think about how to defend the majority of the population
from uncontrollable price rises. We need immediately to lower excise duty
rates on essentials, immediately to lower tax rates for enterprises trading
in domestic goods. We need to collect a critical amount in foreign
currency in order to buy up and import medical and essential goods, because
the lives of very many people are simply depending on this. Over the past
six years the proportion of imports has become very important. You need to
remember that shipments that might seem small in size, if they are halted,
can bring production at huge enterprises to a standstill, and massive
unemployment will follow. Somebody needs to deal with these problems.
[Venediktov] But the elections...
[Yavlinskiy, interrupting] If Chernomyrdin went on television every
evening and simply said what he had done during the day, what decisions he
had made, I think that would be a lot more useful than going back and forth
among politicians trying to persuade them of something. [passage omitted:
Yavlinskiy reiterates point; calls for emergency budget to include these
points and address the human aspect of reforms; break for news]
[Venediktov] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, we just heard on the news that
both speakers of the Federal Assembly -- Seleznev, of the Communists, and
Stroyev, who once belonged to Russia is Our Home, have supported the
candidate you proposed: Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov. [passage
omitted: there are many potential candidates] Why did you propose Primakov
for prime minister?
[Yavlinskiy] [words indistinct] Yevgeniy Maksimovich Primakov has a
few advantages at the moment. His political authority is sufficiently high
to influence the power-wielding structures, to be able to pass through the
State Duma on the first attempt. On the other hand, he is not a member of
any party, not tied to any political forces. He is well-known and has
authority overseas, and one very important factor at the moment is that he
does not wish to take part in presidential elections, meaning he will be
open and relaxed about political events, and will not be thinking about the
egotistical interests of a president but about how to sort things out and
realistically to stabilize the economy and the country. [passage omitted:
Primakov is also preferable because he is not a businessman and will not
therefore be unpopular with the public]
Primakov will be a political prime minister and, of course, he will
have a first deputy to be responsible for the economy, who will deal with
parliament on this issue.
[Venediktov] Do you mean yourself?
[Yavlinskiy] No, I do not mean myself, I can tell you that for
certain. We have not had any talks with Primakov and we have not even
discussed any decisions on filling this position with him. It is just that
if we are to have any prospects today, to have even the slightest political
stability, we need to take this opportunity, however slight -- meaning we
do not have many people of the requisite calibre, with unaligned political
authority and, at the same time, acceptable as a presidential nominee. He
can be supported and not removed every two months, and allowed to talk both
with the whole world and with the whole country. This is a rare event: we
have this person, and we need to take the opportunity. [passage omitted:
neutral figure as prime minister is in the interests of all parties;
Primakov is unlikely to confirm or deny anything about his candidacy until
it has been declared by Yeltsin; people need to be reassured that the
government will now act responsibly; Yeltsin's time has passed but nobody
can force him to go]
It is difficult to work as prime minister, or as anybody, when you can
be fired and you will find out about it first from Ekho Moskvy. Why do you
think all politicians like to listen to Ekho Moskvy? Because all
politicians know that that is where they will first find out that they have
[Venediktov] [passage omitted: preamble to next question] What do
you think are the chances of mass disorder that will turn the political
situation into reminiscent of 1993?
[Yavlinskiy] I would not recommend anyone to make that sort of
prediction in Russia. And predictions of that kind can only be made by
people a long way away, who have never seen anything of the sort
themselves, and do not really understand how these things can end up. I
hope people will understand that actions of this kind will not solve a
single problem. They will make everything worse, they can take it further,
to the very brink, but after any demonstrations there will inevitably be
talks, decisions, agreement of positions -- in other words, any war ends in
negotiations, and people in Russia have enough experience to know that it
is better to clear this abyss in a single step, or to begin negotiations to
settle the issue right away. These settlements are under way, and people
can see how various political forces are attempting to defend their
positions. Today the President is thinking about what other candidates for
prime minister to put forward. That shows that it is working. But simple
provocative actions of this kind will lead to very serious and perhaps even
irreversible consequences for a lot of people. I really do not recommend
going down that road.
Lebed Tells Russian Paper Trouble Ahead, Army on Brink
Argumenty i Fakty
September 1998 (signed to press 8 Sept)
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Aleksandr Lebed, Governor of Krasnoyarsk
Territory, by Dmitriy Makarov; place and date not given: "Aleksandr
Lebed: The Potato is More Important Than Politics"
In the chaos of the current financial and economic crisis the number
of individuals with a political future is decreasing all the time. One man
with a future is General Lebed, the Governor of Krasnoyarsk Territory.
[Makarov] Aleksandr Ivanovich, what made the upper house of
parliament back Viktor Stepanovich [Chernomyrdin] [as prime minister]?
[Lebed] The Federation Council's decision was a very pragmatic one.
Our food market is 60 percent dependent on imports. If in the next few
days we fail to sort out the ruble exchange rate against the dollar, the
shops will empty and we will be faced with a winter of hunger.
I myself do not believe that Chernomyrdin will be able to bring about
radical improvement in the economic situation while Yeltsin is around, but
that is not the point at the moment. What we must do today is stop
[Makarov] What have you personally done as governor to save
Krasnoyarsk Territory from food riots?
[Lebed] My situation is quite novel. In the three months since I
became governor I have received only 4 percent of the sum due to me from
the central authorities. I am grateful to the federal government. It is
teaching me to live within my means and be totally self-reliant. For many
months now the Territory administration has been living "from hand to
mouth." When evening comes a couple of thousand rubles is often all that
remains in the coffers. The good peasant has more than that in his pocket.
Nonetheless, things are not all that bad. Agreements have been signed
with heads of administrations in towns and districts. Agreements have been
signed, or are being prepared for signing, with the largest taxpayers.
Somehow we are finding the money. We have just paid the teachers. All the
children are back at school. The communications workers are now beingpaid.
[Makarov] If the central authorities are only giving you 4 percent of
the funds the Territory needs would you not be better off keeping some of
the tax you owe them?
[Lebed] My main reason for going to Krasnoyarsk was my desire to
prevent Russia from falling apart. If a huge region like Krasnoyarsk
Territory officially refuses to pay its taxes that would be a sign to
everyone else that it is "every man for himself." So I try to manage as
best I can.[Makarov] Are there governors or presidents in the upper house of
parliament who would like to leave Russia?
[Lebed] I do not think so. The reason for that is very simple. The
collapse of the Soviet Union left hardly anybody better off. Apart perhaps
from the Baltic republics. But they were well off before, too. Things
were no better for the other republics after the "divorce." If Russia
"crashes" now, things will be bad for the whole world. President Clinton
himself confirmed this to us at the Moscow summit.
[Makarov] The Communists are now talking about the need for a
government of "national trust."
[Lebed] I do not understand what those words mean. The factions in
the Duma fight like cats and dogs. Do we really want that sort of thing in
the government as well?
[Makarov] Why was the nationwide protest set for October when the
situation in society is deteriorating every day?
[Lebed] Because at the moment ordinary people have to think about
how to get through the winter. They have to dig potatoes, chop wood,
pickle cabbages. All of that will be finished by October and people will
have time for politics. I assure you that there will be a very serious and
composed protest. The Trans-Siberian railway will be blocked in 22 places
at once on 6 October. This protest will be organized by the independent
miners' union, but I think there will be others joining in as well.
[Makarov] What is your forecast for the near future?
[Lebed] If the President tries to dissolve the Duma because it fails
to approve Chernomyrdin as Prime Minister the people will rush to defend
the Duma, not because they have any particular love for the Duma but just
because they dislike the President even more. Later they will turn on the
Duma as well. It will be like in the French revolution when first
parliament chopped off the king's head and later those in parliament had
their heads cut off too.
[Makarov] You are seen as a tough guy. What will happen if you come
to power? Will you be a Pinochet and shoot anyone who gets in your way?
[Lebed] Let us get a few things straight. I am in favor of tough
economic measures. The whole of the economic system we have at the moment
is defective. I am not going to tell you my plan. I will simply say that
it involves putting the tax and freight tariff systems to rights. We need
an amnesty for capital. According to various estimates we have between
$240 billion and $600 billion abroad. I also know how to get it back.
[Makarov] You are thought to be tipped for prime minister. Can you
tell us who the ministers in your government would be?
[Lebed] While Yeltsin remains I will never hold any post because I do
not want to.
[Makarov] Your name is constantly linked with that of [tycoon Boris]
[Lebed] There was a time in Russia when everything that happened was
said to be down to Trotskiy. This role has now been taken on by
Berezovskiy. No matter what happens in the country, everybody sees "the
hand of Berezovskiy" behind it.
[Makarov] Could one say that you and Berezovskiy are politicalpartners?
[Lebed] One could say that he is one of my political partners. He has
very specific interests in Russia: Aeroflot, LogoVAZ, shares in Russian
public TV. So of course he wants to preserve the state. And, without
exception, anyone who wants to see a single indivisible Russia preserved
intact is of interest to me.
[Makarov] Of late there has been more and more talk of a possiblemilitary
[Lebed] The acting Prime Minister said in his address to the
Federation Council [on 4 September] that there was talk about soldiers in
some units only being fed twice a day. The army is on the brink of
exploding. All it would take is for blood to be shed somewhere in Russia
and immediately all sorts of armed gang leaders and field commanders
wanting to take over the Kremlin will appear. Two people with submachine
guns will always persuade 100 wise men.
[Makarov] But are you not dabbling in the military coup game?
[Lebed] I imagine it would take so much work to eradicate the
consequences of any such coup that it would be better not to start one.
September 12, 1998
Primakov's address to Duma
Yevgeny Primakov: Russia in danger of breaking up
The following are excerpts of Yevgeny Primakov's address to the Russian lower
house of parliament, the Duma, before the crucial vote on Friday, broadcast
live on Russian TV:
Mr Chairman, deputies! Only yesterday - and please believe me that this was
done not after some hide-and-seek game but after lengthy pondering and after
all the pros and cons had been considered - only yesterday I agreed to my
nomination for the prime minister's post, for the post of chairman of the
Incidentally, in so doing I was guided by just one thing - the need to
consolidate society, to ensure that we find correct ways out of the serious
crisis in which we have found ourselves.
Therefore, it would be incorrect - and you would probably also consider me a
light-minded person - if I have drafted, just in one day, a comprehensive
programme outlining all the procedures for getting out of the crisis and for
the country's movement into the future.
I have not set myself such a task and I know that you would hardly demand
today that I should have done this.
Nonetheless, I would like to point out some principles which, as a matter of
fact, show my credo, as far as some issues are concerned, and, if you vote in
my favour, I will rely on these principles in my work.
"Russia in danger of breaking up"
First, I believe that the government which is to be formed must now pay
special attention to Russia's unity. This issue is far from theoretical at the
moment and far from hypothetical, if you want. We are facing a most serious
danger, the most serious danger that our country will split into separate
At the same time, it is not a question of introducing and strengthening
federalism. Yes, this really is a great achievement of ours and we should do
everything we can so that the republics and Regions and other areas have the
chance to act independently on all issues on which they are able to act
independently, within the framework of the constitution and the framework of
For this reason, obviously, if I am confirmed, we will bring a number of
governors into the government presidium, who will be involved in the
government as members of the presidium. These will be most senior officials
within the government.
At the same time, I want to say quite definitely that there is not and will
not be any nod in the direction of, or support for, any trend towards
destroying the hierarchy, towards weakening central leadership, towards
ignoring central leadership.
The toughest measures will be taken in this regard, the toughest measures.
There can be no talk and will be no talk of any measures aimed against the
peoples, as has been the case in the past. But leaders who do not abide by the
constitution and the law must be held accountable for this.
"We must pursue reforms"
Next, the economy. Talking about these issues, some people rather misrepresent
me here, saying that I am a long way removed from the economy.
This is not the case. I was elected academician in the department of economics
20 years ago. I was head of the Institute of World Economics, a member of the
presidium of the Academy of Sciences and a secretary-academician in the
department of world economics and international relations. So I know a thing
or two in this sphere.
I would like to say that, of course, without preparing for a, so to speak,
keynote speech, I am still, naturally and retrospectively, continuing to
observe what is going on today and will try to follow closely what will happen
tomorrow, like anyone else present in this hall.
What do I want to say? The first thing, of course, is that it is necessary to
carry out reforms. Without carrying out reforms there is no way out of this
And, of course, in order to carry out reforms, it was necessary to create a
banking and financial infrastructure and it was necessary to carry out
financial stabilization on a macro level, but that could not, and must not be,
an end in itself.
This must lead to a bridge towards the development of a national economy. A
bridge to the development of industry.
"The state must intervene"
And now, if you vote for me as chairman of the government, we shall continue
to pursue this policy. We must not destroy the financial or credit system
which has been created, but use it for the development of industry, and for
the development of the national economy. At the same time, we must rectify
these mistakes and shortcomings.
They must be rectified, otherwise we cannot progress. We can, and we must,
receive loans, especially if the rate suits us, so to speak, if they are cheap
and if they reflect our interests.
But we cannot continue injecting these loans as an addictive drug. We must
have our own sources of finance which should serve as the main resource for
the development of our economy...
The state must intervene and regulate many of the processes taking place in
the economy. This would not mean a return to the system of command
administration, far from it.
But the state must do this. After all, nobody accused the United States, for
example, when President Roosevelt introduced elements of state regulation in
the economy after the Great Depression.
Do we prefer to reproduce the sort of wild capitalism which we had before, or
use the experience already gained by mankind?
"No return to Cold War"
A few words about foreign policy. The foreign policy of our state should be
predictable. It should remain democratic. It should remain dialectical in the
sense that it protects the national interests and protects them fairly firmly,
while at the same time doing all it can to avoid entering into confrontation
with other states.
We do not need confrontation and we do not need a return to the Cold War, a
rebound to the Cold War, and there won't be one. We will do everything to
prevent it from happening, but, at the same time, we will staunchly defend the
interests of the state.
Maslyukov to be first deputy premier
The next point, the formation of a cabinet. I would like to say straight away
that I have proposed Yuri Dmitriyevich Maslyukov for the post of first deputy
chairman of the government - and my proposal was accepted by President Boris
Nikolayevich Yeltsin - if, so to speak, this government is elected.
I have known this man for a long time. I know him to be a thoroughly decent,
honourable, intelligent person and a good professional. I think he will do
well in the job.
No role for party interests
I would, however, like to talk about one principle according to which the
government must be formed. Yes, representatives of different parties can be
members of the government - sorry, I made a mistake - not representatives of
different parties, but people who may have, as it were, specific convictions.
If they join the government, however, they must come in only as professionals
and must work in that government as members of a single team. And no
influence, much less any orders, from the organisations they belonged to, and
will belong to, would be acceptable to the government.
As good professionals, they will and must do their work, and we hope that they
will be of very great use. We need unity. Our society needs unity in order to
come out of this very serious crisis.
This unity is also needed to strengthen discipline. Strengthening discipline
is one of the main issues now. We must renounce the disorder that currently
exists. It exists in the state apparatus, in the government, in the
administration and in other places. We must be resolved to renounce it.
Unity is necessary to ensure the functioning of the government. I thank the
president for backing my candidacy and effectively for putting me forward. At
the same time, I realise that without the Duma's resolute support - I want to
stress the word resolute - the government will not be able to work.
Therefore, I would like to urge you, if the Duma does not give its support and
if you are not inclined to give your resolute support to the government, do
not vote for me. Thank you.