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Johnson's Russia List
31 October 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Financial Times (UK): John Thornhill, PRIMAKOV: Russian sphinx
could be next president.
2. Argumenty i Fakty: Yavlinskiy Likely Premier Under Primakov Presidency.
3. Interfax: Yavlinskiy May Face Criminal Charges Over Corruption Claims.
4. The Wall Street Journal: Betsy McKay, Russian Elite Is Plotting A
5. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Russia to unveil rescue plan without the
blessing of international lenders.
6. Reuters: Russian PM says still has dialogue with IMF.
7. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Fuel crisis hits Russia
as winter bites hard.
8. Moscow Times: David McHugh, Communists Discuss Strategy for Elections.
9. Interfax: Minister: 'No Threat of Famine in Russia.'
10. Interfax: Primakov -- Government Not To Reverse Privatization Results.
11. Paris' Liberation: Communist Leader Zyuganov Questioned on Political
12. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Aleksandr Gamov, "Pal Palych Jokes Prescribed
13. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Russia's press puts price on kind
14. AP: Auto Fatalities Rise in Russia.]
Financial Times (UK)
31 October 1998
[for personal use only]
PRIMAKOV: Russian sphinx could be next president
John Thornhill on the character and career of the prime minister who could yet
emerge as Yeltsin's successor
With his V-neck jumpers, gold-buttoned blazers and owlish demeanour, Yevgeny
Primakov still gives the impression of being the aloof Oriental scholar he
once was. And when he reads political speeches off scraps of paper in a dull
monotone, he resembles the faceless Soviet-era apparatchik he later became.
But to the surprise of many, Russia's small, portly prime minister, who
celebrated his 69th birthday on Thursday, has emerged as the de facto ruler of
the biggest country in the world. Even more surprising, it is just possible
that he could emerge as Russia's next president as well.
This week, Oleg Sysuyev, deputy head of the presidential administration, said
that Boris Yeltsin had "no right" to distract himself with the day-to-day
management of the country and would hand over more responsibility to his prime
minister and government.
With Mr Yeltsin's political and physical health seemingly fading by the day,
Mr Primakov has already in effect taken over as Russia's acting president. He
has deputised for Mr Yeltsin at a summit meeting with European Union leaders
in Vienna. He might soon be doing so on a more permanent basis - in spite of
his insistence that he has no ambitions to take over the top job.
The official Kremlin line is that Mr Yeltsin will serve out the rest of his
term until the summer of 2000. He will spend his time revising the
constitution, and oversee the next presidential elections to ensure fair play.
But the presidential administration appears to be making contingency plans
just in case Mr Yeltsin does not survive that long. If he were to step down,
the constitution says the prime minister must temporarily assume the
presidency and organise elections within three months.
This would be Mr Primakov's task. In the process, the power that the incumbent
always has in Russia could yet help Mr Primakov emerge as the strongest
candidate in the succession race.
If that were to happen, it would be a big turn-around. Mr Primakov was
confirmed as prime minister by Russia's fractious parliament last month
precisely because he appeared to be no threat to other politicians'
presidential ambitions. Having often professed no intention to enter the next
presidential race, Mr Primakov was regarded as a safe compromise by those with
greater political aims.
But that calculation is changing as the shadows appear to lengthen over the
Yeltsin regime. Moscow newspapers have been outdoing each other to highlight
the physical frailty and erratic judgment of the 67-year-old president.
According to one account, Mr Yeltsin was so impressed by a report on Kosovo,
delivered by Igor Ivanov, that he recommended the official be appointed
foreign minister. It had clearly slipped Mr Yeltsin's mind that he had
appointed Mr Ivanov to that post two weeks before.
The veracity of such stories is hard to gauge. But, in a sense, it hardly
matters. The significance of the damaging press reports lies in the fact that
they are being published at all. If Mr Yeltsin were still in control, it is
presumed he would act to quash the pernicious rumours that have eroded his
By contrast, Mr Primakov has been getting rave reviews for his intellectual
capabilities, his 12-hour working days, and his grasp of intricate detail,
amending government documents with lengthy handwritten notes. Those concerned
about the health of a man older than the ailing Mr Yeltsin are told Mr
Primakov still swims several laps a week in the SVR (Foreign Intelligence
The signs of a looming presidential campaign are unmistakable. Mr Primakov has
been on a series of high-profile trips this week that have kept him on the
television screens every night. The prime minister is being presented as the
perfect compromise politician, who can ensure stability at a time of national
turmoil and economic crisis.
Alexei Levinson, a director of VTsIOM, a polling organisation, says Mr
Primakov is currently the most trusted politician in
Russia. He enjoys greater support than other likely presidential candidates,
such as Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow's hyper-active mayor, and Alexander Lebed, the
governor of Krasnoyarsk. By virtue of his office, Mr Primakov would also have
a huge head-start in any future presidential election campaign.
"I think if Primakov decides to run for the presidency and can maintain a
minimal level of stability, then he would have an enormous advantage over
anybody else, including Luzhkov or Lebed. Quite apart from his specific
virtues, he would be the right man in the right place," Mr Levinson says.
All this comes as something of a shock to those politicians who initially
backed Mr Primakov as prime minister. Most assumed Mr Primakov was a perfect
prime ministerial candidate precisely because he did not harbour any
presidential ambitions. He was the ideal political eunuch.
But Mr Primakov has been a master of deception all his adult life. Some of his
former colleagues refer to him as the "sphinx". It is widely presumed Mr
Primakov worked as a KGB agent during his days as a Pravda correspondent in
Cairo in the late 1960s. From 1991-96, he headed the SVR, Russia's foreign
intelligence service, before proving his wiles as foreign minister.
Mr Primakov can be gregarious and genial. He can also be reserved and
restrained. He is a man who simultaneously projects the warmth of his
childhood in Soviet Georgia, while concealing the pain associated with the
premature death of his first wife and son as a result of congenital heart
To Russian liberals, Mr Primakov appears to be a decent, humane man, who was
one of the early supporters of President Mikhail Gorbachev's attempts to
liberalise the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. To nationalists, Mr Primakov is
the man who slaps backs with Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, and who
appointed Yuri Maslyukov, a leading Communist member of parliament, as first
deputy prime minister in charge of the economy.
There are, of course, many potential flaws preventing the neat transfer of
presidential power from Mr Yeltsin to Mr Primakov.
The first is that he really might not want the job. At this late stage in his
life, he might well consider there are better ways to spend his days than
wrestling with the intractable mess of the Russian economy. He is also
unlikely to relish the prospect of a gruelling election campaign.
The second is that Mr Yeltsin might yet stage another of his remarkable
recoveries - however improbable it may seem at present. Mr Yeltsin's
supporters believe he may be deliberately lying low to avoid the blame for
Russia's financial crisis and will emerge next spring to shake up his
government - and Mr Primakov - once again.
But the third, and perhaps most important, reason is that the economy may
simply slip out of Mr Primakov's control. His high ratings could be devastated
by a long, hard winter of wage delays, inflation, and economic decline.
Mr Primakov's desire to re-establish the authority of the state and create a
"socially-oriented market economy" are at odds with the near-total collapse of
the government as an institution. And the government's cupboard is almost
bare. Budget revenues are projected to amount to just 6 per cent of gross
domestic product in the fourth quarter - one of the lowest rates of tax
collection anywhere in the world.
Like many of those who have worked with Mr Primakov, Rair Simonyan, managing
director of the Moscow office of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, says the prime
minister should not be underestimated, even though he is confronted with the
same insurmountable problems that defeated three prime ministers before him.
"Primakov stood behind many of the liberal economic ideas in Russia. He has no
illusions about socialism as an economic system," Mr Simonyan says. "The
trouble is that he does not know the mechanism of transition to a free market
Yavlinskiy Likely Premier Under Primakov Presidency
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 941
October 27, 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Unattributed report in the "Rumor" column: "Yavlinskiy is being
sized up." Passages within slant lines published in boldface
There are rumors that members of the prime minister's staff team
(//Yuriy Zubakov, Robert Markaryan//) are after all working on a scenario
in which their boss will contest the presidential election. It also looks
as if the choice of [Yevgeniy] Primakov suits a number of "oligarchs" (such
as //Vladimir Gusinskiy//). They regard an alliance between Primakov and
[Yabloko movement leader] //Grigoriy Yavlinskiy// as ideal. The latter is
being assigned the role of the future president's prime minister.
Meanwhile Yavlinskiy himself is now being approached by a queue of
politicians who have found themselves on the "political sidelines."
Reports from the State Duma suggest that those who have sent their envoys
to the Yabloko leader include, for example, [leader of the Common Cause
movement] //Irina Khakamada// and [former First Deputy Prime Minister]
//Boris Nemtsov//. It is said that they even discussed the possibility of
becoming members of the [Yabloko] party. It will now come as no surprise
to Yabloko if they receive a message from former Prime Minister //Sergey
Kiriyenko// too - he is also said to be looking for a political roof as a
matter of urgency.
Yavlinskiy May Face Criminal Charges Over Corruption Claims
MOSCOW, Oct 28 (Interfax) -- Yabloko party leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy
may face criminal charges or libel cases if he does not present proof of
This is what Russian Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov had to say
about Yavlinskiy's interview to the Daily Telegraph accusing the government
If Yavlinskiy fails to substantiate the charges, the government or a
government official may file a libel case against him, he said.
Furthermore, Yavlinskiy may face slander charges in a criminal court,
From: "nikst" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russian Elite Is Plotting A Post-Yeltsin Future
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998
The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition -- October 30, 1998
Russian Elite Is Plotting A Post-Yeltsin Future
[for personal use only]
By BETSY MCKAY
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
MOSCOW -- Russia's political elite is plotting the future beyond an ailing,
humbled President Boris Yeltsin, who is scheduled Friday to leave a Moscow
sanitarium for a vacation on the Black Sea while his prime minister runs the
Russian media mock Mr. Yeltsin, would-be successors clamor for him to step
down, and even allies acknowledge he doesn't do much anymore. Opinion polls
put his approval rating at under 1%.
Yet, for all his political and physical infirmity, Mr. Yeltsin still plays a
vital role. By merely occupying the post of president, he fills a power
vacuum that is otherwise vast and dangerous. Russia is a monarchy with a
Day-to-day management is in the hands of Yevgeny Primakov, a former foreign
minister and one-time spymaster who turned 69 Thursday, making him two years
older than Mr. Yeltsin. He met with European Union leaders in Austria on
Tuesday, standing in for the ailing president, who rekindled fears over his
health by canceling at the last minute. Mr. Primakov has also supervised the
drafting of measures to combat Russia's deep economic crisis.
But Mr. Yeltsin has long been an absentee ruler. And he still retains,
though rarely deploys, the formidable powers vested in the Kremlin by
Russia's constitution. "He is fading into history, but he hasn't gone yet,"
says Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies. "The
Yeltsin era isn't over." And until it is, the powers granted by the
constitution remain beyond the reach of anyone else.
"On one hand, everyone is weary of Yeltsin," says Liliya Shevtsova, senior
associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a branch of the U.S.-based think
tank. "But on the other hand, if he steps down, there is the imminent danger
of a new dictatorship."
The Russian president enjoys immense powers under a constitution
custom-written five years ago to help Mr. Yeltsin entrench market reforms.
Once he leaves office, they could be used to consolidate the
authoritarian-style rule that some of his successors are feared to favor,
imperiling the political freedoms that are now Mr. Yeltsin's most solid
Mr. Yeltsin's last task as president, say aides, is to amend the
constitution to curb the Kremlin's powers, which include the authority to
dissolve the opposition-dominated parliament and rule by decree. The
president's deputy chief of staff, Oleg Sysuyev, said this week that Mr.
Yeltsin's main role now is "to turn over stable power to his successor."
President Yeltsin has for years lurched between bursts of activity and long
periods of inaction out of public view. The pattern has become particularly
pronounced since he launched a disastrous war in Chechnya in December 1994.
Observers also point out that Mr. Yeltsin, may purposely be distancing
himself from a government with whose policies he disagrees.
Mr. Yeltsin insists that he will serve out his term, which runs until 2000,
despite speculation in the Russian press that he suffers ailments ranging
from kidney problems to Alzheimer's disease. Aides and doctors deny the
rumors. Officially diagnosed with high blood pressure and extreme fatigue
following a bad cold, the president is resting for two weeks on doctors"
orders, and has not changed plans to meet with foreign leaders in November,
his spokesman said Thursday.
Still, the collapse of his country's financial system in August badly
wounded Mr. Yeltsin, both politically and psychologically. His hopes of an
economic success story were dashed when the crash of the ruble and a de
facto default on government debt forced him to dismiss a young reform
government that he had appointed only five months earlier. He was then
humiliated when parliament rejected his choice as prime minister and forced
him to accept Mr. Primakov, a compromise choice backed by the Communist
Aides and ministers who have seen him call him lonely and despondent.
Political opponents call for his early resignation. In a recent opinion
poll, 75% of Russians surveyed said they favor his removal from office,
though few show any sign of taking action to achieve this. Nationwide
rallies organized by the Communist Party and trade unions early this month
attracted scant support. "The philosophy of Yeltsin's Russia is gone," says
Andrei Kortunov, president of the Moscow Science Foundation, a political
think tank. "He sees that Russia won't recover in his lifetime, and that has
to be a very depressing feeling. He has lost his chance to rebuild this
Mr. Yeltsin's withdrawal would not be as worrisome if there were some
consensus on a successor. Russians have little enthusiasm for any of the
potential successors: Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Communist leader Gennady
Zyuganov, former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, liberal politician
Grigory Yavlinsky, and Alexander Lebed, the brusque former general who now
governs the vast Siberian province of Krasnoyarsk.
Mr. Primakov is also now touted as a contender, although he has always
denied having presidential ambitions.
Mr. Luzhkov, a leading contender, is now trying to build a center-left
political base with support from the Communists. He runs the Russian capital
like a taut ship. Mr. Lebed has little experience at the helm of anything
other than army units, and many Russians bristle at the idea of a military
"Yeltsin was rather soft," says Ms. Shevtsova of Carnegie. "He tolerated a
lot of freedom, but his constitution can be used as a very strong weapon
To prevent this, a broad spectrum of Russian politicians is now lobbying to
change the constitution. Everyone has proposals. All fear what would happen
to them should their political enemies end up in the Kremlin, says Mr.
Markov of the Institute of Political Studies. "The danger of having your
enemy in office is greater than the benefits you would gain if the president
were your friend," he argues. "You could lose your freedom and your life."
Several leading politicians, including Messrs. Lebed and Chernomyrdin, have
called for a reinsertion of the post of vice president, which Mr. Yeltsin
had brushed out of the charter after his own second in command, Alexander
Rutskoi, led a bloody uprising against him in 1993.
Mr. Yeltsin balked in June at the suggestion that he cede some of his
powers. In his weakened position now, though, he is ready to give them up to
preserve his legacy and win guarantees of security for himself and his
family once he is out of the Kremlin, observers say. Russian leaders have
never been treated kindly once they are out of power; Mr. Yeltsin bullied
Mikhail Gorbachev after the former Soviet leader left the Kremlin, stripping
him of his limousines and other perks.
-- Mark Whitehouse contributed to this article.
October 31, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia to unveil rescue plan without the blessing of international lenders
By David Filipov
MOSCOW - When Russia's leaders unveil their long-awaited plan to tackle their
country's economic crisis today, they will do so knowing international lenders
have refused to back the blueprint with much-needed cash.
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov - whom Kremlin aides acknowledge has replaced
ailing President Boris Yeltsin as Russia's de facto day-to-day leader - may
have been hoping for a multibillion-dollar boost from the International
Monetary Fund for Russia's empty coffers.
But the IMF, which has said it will not release new funds until it sees a
feasible plan, wrapped up talks in Moscow yesterday with no new agreement and
without setting a date for new talks. The IMF postponed a $4.3 billion payment
of a $22.6 billion rescue package after Russia allowed the ruble to devalue
and defaulted on $40 billion of its domestic debt in August, sending the
economy into a nosedive.
``While there was a common view on the desirable objectives for economic
policy through the end of next year, the necessary policy measures are still
under consideration,'' the IMF said. The statement said the IMF was ready to
return to Moscow later for further talks, and suggested Russia should draw up
a ``realistic budget'' for 1999.
The Primakov government was counting on the cash to help pay off wages that
were in arrears and late pensions, and also meet some $2.5 billion in foreign
debt payments by the end of the year. Cabinet officials have said the
government may need to resort to inflationary printing of money to pay its
Drafts of Primakov's plans have been leaked to the press, although an official
at the Economics Ministry said none of the plans that have been published are
the final draft.
``In reality, there is no plan, just a bunch of declarations,'' said the
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``It will soon be clear that
none of these measures are possible.''
Most of the documents leaked to the Russian press stipulate greater state
intervention in the economy, with tax breaks for industry, increased benefits
and social spending. Russian news agencies last night reported that the
program calls for stabilizing the ruble, restructuring Russia's domestic debts
and keeping inflation to within 20-30 percent annually.
The Interfax news agency said the IMF delegation had criticized the Primakov
plan for increasing spending without also increasing revenue.
The fund also criticized a plan to bail out 15 of the country's largest banks,
which found themselves short of funds when the ruble crashed in August. The
plan, which would classify banks in order to decide which were strongest and
deserved to be saved, would be susceptible to the kind of favoritism that
allowed Russia's poorly managed banks to grow in the first place. Interfax
said a similar criticism was made of heavy government involvement in
restructuring of industry.
Proponents of increased state involvement say the IMF has no right to
criticize Russia. Moscow's populist Mayor Yury Luzhkov, a potential candidate
to one day replace Yeltsin, lashed out at the IMF for supporting the previous
governments, whose dependence on high-yield, short-term treasury bills for
financing led to the August default.
``No one in the West did anything to stop the criminal actions of the Russian
government in forming financial pyramids,'' Luzhkov commented.
Few members of Primakov's government will sympathize with the IMF's call for
Russia to balance its budget by cutting federal spending.
After years of hardship in the name of market reforms, Russians are not likely
to approve of more belt-tightening or the IMF's appeal for cuts in the number
of federal employees and military servicemen.
The fund has also argued against the popular idea of reducing taxes - at least
until Russia does something about streamlining its system and improving
compliance. Tax collection fell off again in September, something not helped
by the willingness of the government's new tax inspector, Georgy Boos, to
accept barter payments instead of cash from big tax debtors like the gas
monopoly Gasprom, another practice frowned on by the IMF.
Inexplicably, Boos yesterday said the government had hauled in one-third more
taxes in October than in September, or $812 million compared with $581 million
last month. Boos said that was well over his October target of $593 million,
but he did not explain the surprising improvement.
More good news came from another top government official, Deputy Finance
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who said Russia has come to ``mutually acceptable''
terms with holders of the country's defaulted treasury debt, The Associated
Press reported. Kasyanov said he expected a final agreement next week.
Russia needs to reach a deal before Nov. 17, when its self-imposed three-month
debt moratorium is lifted, or else foreign banks may move to freeze the
accounts of Russian banks abroad.
Russian PM says still has dialogue with IMF
MOSCOW, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said on
Saturday he was still in dialogue with the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
even though it had rejected his economic plans.
Primakov, whose cabinet earlier approved a series of measures to end a deep
economic crisis, said his country was still hoping for support from the
international financial body.
``As far as the IMF is concerned, there is, I consider, a dialogue,'' Primakov
told a news conference.
The IMF has not approved the plan. An IMF mission left Moscow on Friday
without agreeing to the handover of more credits, which Russia vitally needs.
``There were comments (by the IMF on the plan), some of which one can agree
with and some of which, from my point of view, we cannnot agree with,''
He said some of the criticisms contradicted remarks, particularly about state
intervention and on micro-economic steps, made earlier by IMF chief Michel
The series of measures proposed under the government's plan significantly
increase the state's role in the economy.
News agency Interfax earlier quoted a government expert as saying the IMF had
said the plan was a step backwards from the formation of a market economy.
Primakov insisted his government could fulfil its plans without new IMF funds.
"Russia will not in any circumstance fall to its knees, everyone should be
firmly aware of that,'' he said.
He added, however, that it would be easier to ``remain on our feet'' if Russia
got more funds.
``We count on IMF support, and we hope we will get support in restructuring
our debts,'' Primakov added.
Russia and the IMF mission ended 10 days of talks on Friday without reaching
an agreement to release further loans. Another mission is expected in Moscow
Russia hoped to unlock a $4.3 billion tranche of international bailout loans
worth a total $22.6 billion to fulfil its obligations to foreign creditors.
Russia faces around $17 billion in external debt payments which fall due in
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
31 October 1998
[for personal use only]
Fuel crisis hits Russia as winter bites hard
By Marcus Warren in Moscow
RUSSIA is making contingency plans to evacuate people from the wilds of the
east and the Arctic north amid fears that this winter will be even harsher
Heavy icing means river and sea transport to remote regions will be suspended
from tomorrow, the traditional start of winter. It is already too late to
deliver fuel to some outlying towns and villages. For the first time in
decades, several regions are suffering severe fuel shortages and cannot afford
to heat homes.
In the Soviet era, even in the harshest of winter environments, cheap fuel and
triple-glazed windows kept Russians warm. Russia is the world's third largest
oil producer, and by far its largest producer of gas. However, the near
economic collapse and new payment methods have plunged what was a reliable if
imperfect fuel delivery system into chaos.
One senior official from Russia's Ministry of Fuel and Energy said: "We have
enough fuel. It's just that people on the ground do not have the money to
deliver or pay for it."
The regional assembly in the remote Pacific peninsula of Kamchatka, 7,500
miles east of Moscow, appealed to the United Nations yesterday for
humanitarian aid - not food or medicine but fuel. Locals "are on the verge of
dying from cold", the assembly warned. Schools, nurseries and hospitals were
about to close because of power shortages and there was no petrol to transport
firewood, the only fuel in plentiful supply, it said.
Villagers in the far north of Kamchatka were shown on Russian television this
week cooking cauldrons of soup and porridge on wood fires in the snow in front
of modern blocks of flats.
The government identified 12 regions where the situation was "critical" as
long ago as August.
October 31, 1998
Communists Discuss Strategy for Elections
By David McHugh
Meeting to plan for parliamentary and presidential elections, Communist
leaders on Friday downplayed a possible grand alliance with Moscow's business-
friendly Mayor Yury Luzhkov in favor of existing ties with fellow leftists.
Party leader Gennady Zyuganov left the door open to working with forces
outside the leftist-nationalist National Patriotic Union. The Communists were
willing, he said, to talk "with all the most influential people, including
regional leaders and mayors of the biggest cities, including the mayor of the
But the emphasis at the plenum, held behind closed doors at a horticultural
research institute on a muddy side street in south Moscow, was on working
within the existing coalition of socialist and hard-line nationalist groups.
"We've already got a left-center bloc, it's called the National Patriotic
Union," Zyuganov said in response to questions about a possible alliance.
"It's working effectively and actively, and it will work even better."
The meeting approved a motion that the Communists field their own party list
in the 1999 parliamentary elections, rather than combining with allies. The
Communists voted to repeat their 1995 strategy of cooperating with smaller
leftist parties in the single-mandate districts to avoid dividing the left
They said the left must back only one candidate in the 2000 presidential
campaign - but again mentioned only cooperation with National Patriotic Union
allies. Zyuganov was the 1996 Communist presidential nominee, losing to
President Boris Yeltsin.
Missing was talk of the broad left-center alliance discussed by Zyuganov and
Luzhkov, who favors capitalism with heavy state involvement and social welfare
spending. While a coalition would theoretically broaden the appeal of both
forces, it would also offend Communist purists who already consider Zyuganov
too ready to compromise.
Luzhkov came in for indirect criticism for his recent alliance with Vladimir
Shumeiko, Yeltsin's former deputy prime minister.
Shumeiko signed a political pact Monday with the Union for Popular Rule and
Labor headed by State Duma Deputy Andrei Nikolayev. Nikolayev's union is a
stalking-horse for Luzhkov's presidential campaign.
"As far as Nikolayev goes, I'd like to give him a piece of strictly comradely
advice," Zyuganov said. Making deals with Yeltsin supporters, he said, means
"there will be only confusion from this bloc."
The Communists also kept up their drumbeat of criticism of Yeltsin. Zyuganov
scoffed at Yeltsin's departure for a vacation in Sochi, saying that Yeltsin
had spent most of his second term on vacation. "No one gets that kind of
vacation," Zyuganov said. "It's so obvious that he's too sick to work that it
no longer requires comment."
Yeltsin, 67, had quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery in November 1996 and
has taken time off several times since then because of respiratory infections.
Doctors say he is in a weakened condition after recovering from bronchitis.
The meeting was also marked by critical statements about Zyuganov's leadership
from Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, a leader of the no-compromise wing of the
party. Interfax, not citing a source, reported that Ilyukhin said "the party's
leadership has ... placed itself under the thumb of President Yeltsin and the
Zyuganov, while demanding that the president resign, has tacitly cooperated
with several Cabinets appointed by Yeltsin, including the current one, which
has several Communist-backed ministers.
Minister: 'No Threat of Famine in Russia'
MOSCOW, Oct 29 (Interfax) - There is no threat of famine in Russia,
Food and Agriculture Minister Viktor Semenov told a news conference at
Interfax Thursday."We see no reason for food shortages," he said.
The present media campaign on food issues is just an attempt to create
some advantages for imported foodstuffs in Russia, Semenov said.
Russia has stocked up "rather well" on key foodstuffs, including
potatoes, sugar, vegetable oil and vegetables. Russia has enough grain to
meet its basic needs, but it should create a reserve fund, Semenov said.
Only 14 of Russia's 89 regions may become "active grain vendors" after
this year's harvesting, he said. Twenty-two regions are suffering from
grain shortages.Some 100 million Russians are growing their own potatoes and
vegetables, Semenov said. About 50 million Russians are raising their own
cattle, he said.
The private sector in agriculture accounts for up to 90% of the total
output of potatoes, 76% of vegetables, 55% of meat and 47% of milk, Semenov
said. "This is a serious stabilizing factor."
The Russian government is "searching for reserves" to stabilize
poultry and pig-raising farms, Semenov said. The measures will allow the
production of an additional 250,000-300,000 tonnes of meat in the near
future and push imported meat aside from the Russian market, he said.
Primakov -- Government Not To Reverse Privatization Results
SARANSK, Oct 28 (Interfax-Eurasia) -- Russian Prime Minister Yevgeniy
Primakov has repeated that his government will not reverse the results of
Cancellation of the results of the entire process would undermine the
nation, he told a conference of the Greater Volga association in Saransk,
Mordovia, on Wednesday.
He said the auction for a stake in Svyazinvest holding was cancelled
because "the price is too unrealistic and it is unprofitable for the
government to sell the stake for nothing."
"I understand that privatization should also have a fiscal purpose,
but it should not be the only one or the most important one," Primakovsaid.
He said the State Property Ministry had been instructed by the
government to report doubtful privatization deals to prosecutor's offices.
Evidently there will be several scandalous cases and they will be followed
through to the end, he said.
Speaking of accelerated bankruptcy and the sale of "still breathing"
companies, Primakov said such forms as leasing and management tenders were
preferable. "They should really be contests, not the presentation of
trustee posts to graduates of dental or similar schools," he said.
First a company should be raised to its feet and only afterwards
should the form of its ownership be decided, he said.
Zyuganov Questioned on Political Scene
Paris Liberation in French
29 October 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with leader of the Russian Communist Party Gennadiy
Zyuganov by Veronique Soule in Moscow; date not given: "Russian
Communist Party Leader Zyuganov Explains His Policy: 'It Would Be
Better for the Country if Yeltsin Resigned'"
[Soule] Yeltsin, who is sick, is now in the background. With this in
mind, what do you favor: the creation of a post of vice-president or
resignation pure and simple?
[Zyuganov] Yeltsin has not been working since his re-election (in June
1996 -- Liberation editor's note). He is incapable of doing so and
everyone knows it. His press secretaries tell so many lies that people are
making jokes about it. In Russia there is a power vacuum which is
condemning the government to instability. For a long time now we have been
proposing that the Constitution be amended with a view to filling this
vacuum and balancing up the various domains of government. In particular
the president must be under an obligation to undergo medical examinations
at the parliament's request. In addition, some kind of mechanism should be
established to monitor the president. As for his departure, there are two
possibilities: dismissal or voluntary retirement. For the country and
those people close to Yeltsin it would be better if he resigned. Yeltsin
is a degenerate drunkard. He is no longer capable of deciding anything at
all. What is more, we have initiated proceedings [which have little
prospect of success -- Liberation editor's note] in the Duma to secure his
[Soule] Would it be enough for a post of vice-president to be
[Zyuganov] We are going to insist that Yeltsin goes, because he is the
prime factor destroying our country. For the last six months he has
withdrawn to the forest (his country residences) and we are told that he
"is working on documents." That is an affront to common sense; meanwhile
the country is experiencing a disaster. In actual fact it is the
institution of president that should be changed.
[Soule] Are you satisfied with the initial measures taken by Prime
[Zyuganov] He did not have the opportunity to form the government that
was required. The main ministries (Finance, Fiscal Affairs) which are
responsible for bringing in revenue that is vital to our country are in the
hands of the very people who caused the crisis. Chubays himself (the
leading reformer) is head of the National Electricity Company. All the
same, this government is more pragmatic than its predecessors. At least it
is talking to the people in terms that are understandable. However, it must
resolve four questions as soon as possible and time is running short: It
must take control of the key sources of income (the so-called "natural
monopolies," namely gas, oil, gold, and so on); establish councils for
monitoring public television broadcasts -- compared with the Kremlin,
Ostankino (the headquarters of the leading, semi-public broadcaster ORT
[expansion unknown] -- Liberation editor's note) remains a citadel of
liberalism; ensure that the people come through the winter; and finally
combat corruption and crime.
[Soule] All the same, the Communist Yuriy Masliukov is the
second-ranking politician. Is this not proof of the government's Leftist
[Zyuganov] No. This government is neither Right, nor Left. It is
pragmatic. In fact it is simply the Primakov cabinet. Only time will tell
which policies it pursues. If it is a left-wing government, then this will
emerge in time.[Soule] Ultimately, do you support it or not?
[Zyuganov] No. Our tactic is very simple. Everything that is done
for the good of the people, to relaunch Russian industry, promote a
renaissance of our culture and morality, we will support. But if the
government reverts to its past policy, we will prove to be very
[Soule] Yuriy Luzhkov, the ruler of Moscow, has launched his
presidential campaign and is proposing to lead a Center-Left alliance. Are
you prepared to engage in such an alliance?
[Zyuganov] The Right has just endured a terrible failure. To have a
stable political system we must unite the Center and the Left. We are
engaging in dialogue with all those in the Center: the mayors and regional
governors. Accordingly we are also in dialogue with the mayor of Moscow.
What remains to be seen is what each party can contribute to such an
alliance and decide who will lead it.
[Soule] So you are not opposed to it?
[Zyuganov] The broader the coalition, the more closely it will be
based on the authority of the local leaders working on the ground, and the
more realistic its platform will be. According to me this coalition is the
only way of overcoming the crisis in a democratic fashion. For I am not
ruling out the possibility of attempts being made to destabilize the
country by extremists on both the Left and the Right.
[Soule] Will you be a candidate in the year 2000 presidential election?
[Zyuganov] I am the most popular of all the politicians. We have the
most powerful and best-organized party. We have also created a
parliamentary bloc numbering 200 deputies. So objectively speaking we have
everything we need to do well in the elections -- at municipal,
parliamentary, and presidential level.
[Soule] So you will stand as a candidate?
[Zyuganov] That is something for the party Congress to decide.
[Soule] Last March you voted against the investitures of the Liberal
politician Kiriyenko. Was that because you feared a dissolution of theDuma?
[Zyuganov] Several members of our party actually voted for Kiriyenko
and were disciplined as a result. Kiriyenko's election was a mistake. He
spoke better than his predecessor (Chernomyrdin -- Liberation editor's
note), but that is all. He caused the market structures to explode,
[destroying] everything that Chubays and his cronies had tried to build up.
Chernomyrdin and Kiriyenko effectively transformed Russia into a gigantic
casino. At the time of Kiriyenko's investiture, fearing a dissolution [of
the Duma] was not an issue. What mattered was to prevent the total
paralysis of the government which could have triggered a territorial
rupturing of the country.
[Soule] In the West you [the Communist Party] are often described as
the party of nostalgia. Does that bother you?
[Zyuganov] The West is often wrong. We are a modern party that is
rooted in science and has experience at the international level. Everyone
-- both here in Russia and abroad -- must reckon with us.
[Soule] All the same, you have not disowned the crimes of the past.
[Zyuganov] Where the Stalinist era is concerned, everything done in
violation of the laws [in force at the time] was denounced in the 1950's
(after Stalin's death -- Liberation editor's note). But take Yeltsin: he is
repressing an entire country. He had sworn that private property was
sacred. But what actually happened is that people's bank accounts have
been taken from them and they are not being paid their salaries. He goes
on about human rights but does not even grant the right to live.
Conventional wisdom says that we learn from history and should not make the
same mistakes twice. In this context I should like to quote Leonov (a
Soviet writer in the 1920's and eulogist of the revolutionary struggle --
Liberation editor's note): "The past is only behind you when you are in
the grave." Those people who are seeking to efface history are imbeciles.
In conclusion, I have a great respect for the French people, who are
industrious and talented. In actual fact I believe there is more socialism
in France than in Yeltsin's Russia.
Yeltsin Asks To Be 'Back on His Feet Within 12 Days'
29 October 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Report by Aleksandr Gamov under the "Bulletin" rubric: "Pal
Palych Jokes Prescribed for Yeltsin"
On recommendation by the council of physicians, Boris Yeltsin was
yesterday due to be transferred from his "working" residence at Gorki-9 to
the "medical" residence at Barvikha. It is equipped with modern diagnostic
instruments. According to information from the medical center of the
Presidential Administration of Affairs, B.N. [Yeltsin] has assigned a task
of state importance to the physicians treating him: To get him back on his
feet within 12 days.
A source at the Presidential Staff reported that Yeltsin's "forced
deportation" from Gorki to Barvikha is a very onerous procedure. Several
very sophisticated tricks have been devised in order to ensure that the
head of state does not unintentionally flee back to the Kremlin wearing his
The range of "powerful sedatives" also includes the Kremlin's famous
joker -- the president's Administrator of Affairs [Pavel Pavlovich -- Pal
Palych] Borodin. According to rumors from the Presidential Staff, the
convivial clown Pal Palych has already put together a package of fresh
jokes, including some about Yeltsin himself, with which B.N. will be
treated in the breaks between [medical] procedures and work with documents.
This combination -- Borodin is a real joker, indeed! -- could have a
favorable effect on the president's health.
Medicinal Joke Told to Boris Nikolayevich by Pal Palych a Few Days
Late evening. Moscow's ring road. A KamAZ truck is speeding along, a
Zaporozhets is trying to overtake it. Suddenly the Zaporozhets crashes
into the KamAZ. The car is totaled. Zyuganov is pulled out of the
Zaporozhets with a bump on his forehead: "Comrades, I have no driving
permit, I am still learning to drive, I thought I'd get by him." Yeltsin
emerges from the KamAZ cab, unhurt and in one piece, and says: "Get by my
ass, I've been driving for almost 40 years!"
The Independent (UK)
31 October 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia's press puts price on kind words
By Phil Reeves in Moscow
Russia's biggest selling newspaper is offering to publish written-to-order
articles for politicians, throwing a public spotlight for the first time on an
ugly form of cheque-book journalism secretly practised in Moscow's newsrooms.
Less than eight years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, efforts to
create an honest and vibrant media have been undermined by a scam known as
"zakazukha", in which journalists pen favourable articles in return for cash.
But now the racket has been thrust into the open by the respected Argumenty i
Facty weekly which has openly begun soliciting politicians to pay for
advertising dressed up as news. It has announced plans to set up a subsidiary
to provide image-making services to candidates in elections, offering a money-
back guarantee if clients do not win. Pieces would be published under a column
called "Elections", and separated from other news.
However, the paper has admitted that it will not always be possible to
distinguish these articles from other coverage.
Auto Fatalities Rise in Russia
October 31, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) -- More than 20,000 people died in car accidents in Russia during
the first nine months of this year, authorities say, up nearly 4 percent from
the same period last year.
An Interior Ministry spokesman, Alexander Peshkov, on Friday blamed the
situation largely on a sharp increase in auto ownership.
Until recently, very few Russians owned cars. Now, there are 200 cars for
every 1,000 people in Russia, according to Peshkov, with the numbers growing
rapidly every day.
There were 117,749 accidents during the first nine months of the year. In
addition to the 20,500 fatalities, there were 133,000 people injured, the
Interior Ministry said.
There were 41,967 auto deaths last year in the United States, which has many
times the number of cars and drivers.
Five Percent of Russians Approve of Yeltsin's Work
MOSCOW, Oct 28 (Interfax) -- Only 5% of Russians approve of President
Boris Yeltsin's work and 93% disapprove of it now, compared to 7% and 90%
at the end of September.
The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center polled 1,608 Russians
from various parts of the country October 23-26. Those who were undecided
make up the difference between the sum of the responses and 100%.
Russian Prime Minister Yevgeniy Primakov's performance is approved by
50% compared to 47% last month, and his disapproval rates were 31% and 24%,
respectively.Duma Chairman Gennadiy Seleznev is doing a fine job, 32% say now
compared to 35% a month ago, while 45% (36%) disapprove of him.
Twenty-two percent (28%) approved of Federation Council Chairman Yegor
Stroyev's work, while 51% (39%) did not.
The people polled were asked whether the government had improved its
performance since the appointment of Primakov.
Some 50% said that this government was doing no better than the
previous one. This view was shared by 43% in September.
Nearly a quarter, 24% (33%), said that the government's performance
has been improving.