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Johnson's Russia List
30 November 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Russia Continues Coaxing IMF.
2. Financial Times: IMF: Experts called to rethink on Russia rescue.
3. Financial Times: IMF: How to save Russia. The IMF is host to a group of
experts at a brainstorming session in Washington today. John Thornhill outlines
what a briefing paper might say.
4. San Jose Mercury News: Gail Lapidus, Slain Russian symbolized human rights,
5. Reuters: Gareth Jones, FEATURE-Pelevin is ironic voice of new Russia.
6. New York Times: William Safire, What Russia Needs Now.
7. New York Times letter: Russia Loses a Voice. (Colton on
8. AFP: Sorry state of human rights in Russia.
9. Elena Gratcheva: Re Susan Eisenhower's SHARING BLAME FOR GALINA'S DEATH
10. SovEcon Ltd: Food aid for Russia seen as essential.]
Russia Continues Coaxing IMF
November 29, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's finance minister asked Sunday for a little empathy and
a lot of cash from the International Monetary Fund.
``Money is not the main thing we need from the IMF, although we need that
too,'' Mikhail Zadornov said, according to the Interfax news agency. ``We,
above all, expect understanding from the IMF, and a program to relieve
Russia's debt -- that is, $17.5 billion.''
Russia has been hoping the IMF would release the next installment of a $22.6
billion loan package frozen in August after the government effectively
devalued the ruble and defaulted on its foreign debt.
Those actions helped plunge the country into its worst financial crisis since
Government officials have taken various tacks in asking for the money. Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov tried exasperation on Saturday, when he complained
about the demands of ``young boys'' from the IMF, but said Russia would
grudgingly give in to them.
The IMF has demanded Russia adopt a budget that is acceptable to fund
officials before any more money is released.
Zadornov said he hoped the IMF would not only release the next loan
installment, but help Russia restructure its foreign debt -- and perhaps
persuade some creditors to let Russia off the hook.
``Without the consent of the IMF, creditors won't agree to defer, or possibly
partly write off, Russia's external debt,'' Zadornov said on Russian
television, according to Interfax.
Another government financial officer, Alexander Pochinok, was quoted as saying
Sunday that the draft 1999 budget assumes that Russia will receive the
remaining $17.5 billion in loans from the IMF, World Bank and Japan.
Pochinok also said the budget calls for a 2.75 percent deficit, projects
inflation at 30 percent for the year and assumes a relatively stable ruble,
the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
He said it also calls for increasing military salaries more than 60 percent as
of Jan. 1, and raising other government salaries in April. Most Russians have
lost roughly two-thirds of the value of their income since August, when the
ruble fell sharply against international currencies.
NOVEMBER 26 1998
[for personal use only]
IMF: Experts called to rethink on Russia rescue
By John Thornhill in Moscow and Stephen Fidler in Washington
The International Monetary Fund has invited about 20 Russia experts to a
"brainstorming session" on Monday to help rethink the policies it advocates
following the country's devastating financial crash in August.
The IMF, which has lent almost $19bn (£11.4bn) to Russia to support economic
reform, has been subjected to intense criticism in both Washington and Moscow
following the collapse of its assistance programme.
The Fund is withholding further funding to Russia until the government
clarifies its economic intentions, amid fears it might resort to large-scale
money printing. But relations with Russia will remain critical to the Fund's
credibility given that the country accounts for almost one-fifth of all
outstanding IMF loans.
Some economists fear that in the absence of further international financial
support, Russia may experience difficulties in making almost $5bn of
repayments to the IMF next year.
The meeting has been called by Stanley Fischer, the Fund's first deputy
managing director, and includes US, Russian, and European government
officials, academics and bankers with knowledge of the country. The Fund has
attempted to broaden its normal pool of advisers by inviting some prominent
critics of IMF policy, such as Padma Desai, a professor at Columbia
University, and Peter Reddaway, a Russia expert at Georgetown University.
An IMF spokesman said: "The purpose of the closed-door day-long meeting is for
a group of experts to stand back and assess what is the best policy for Russia
in the future, given the immense challenges it now faces."
The new Russian government, headed by Yevgeny Primakov, has been sharply
critical of the IMF's insistence on tough monetary and fiscal policies and
called for more lending to the "real economy". But senior ministers appear
keen to maintain good relations with the Fund in the hope of attracting
additional financial support.
Yuri Maslyukov, a former Communist parliamentarian and first deputy prime
minister in charge of the economy, said yesterday: "We view the IMF as a
partner of Russia and not as her opponent."
This week, Augusto Lopez-Claros, an economist at Lehman Brothers, the US
stockbroker, and former IMF resident representative in Moscow, suggested that
only a global lender of last resort could have supplied the massive infusions
of cash needed to restore market confidence in Russia in July. He said the
IMF's calls for fiscal adjustment had been like a doctor advising a heart
attack victim to go on a strict exercise regime when an immediate shot of
adrenalin was required.
"I would claim that we do not have the international financial framework in
place to prevent the recurrence of other such crises with potentially much
larger implications on a global scale," he said, in a speech in Moscow.
NOVEMBER 30 1998
[for personal use only]
IMF: How to save Russia
The IMF is host to a group of Russia experts at a brainstorming session in
Washington today. John Thornhill outlines what a briefing paper might say ...
If you have not already lain awake at night screaming about Russia, perhaps
you should start. The prospect of the biggest country in the world crashing
into economic disaster is rapidly developing from a remote possibility into a
real danger, with an appalling impact on the country's 150m suffering people,
and wholly unpredictable consequences for the rest of us.
Following the financial crash in August, 30 per cent of the population has
slipped below the official monthly subsistence level of Rbs552 ($30). Last
week, the Red Cross highlighted the "silent disasters" occurring in many
outlying regions of Russia, such as Chukotka, where the average life
expectancy has plummeted to just 34 years since the break-up of the Soviet
Already, Russia has defaulted on its domestic debt, cutting itself off from
the main means of financing its budget deficit and wiping out billions of
dollars of foreign investors' money and domestic bankers' assets. Last week,
the government entered into discussions to reschedule the Soviet-era debts it
inherited. Unless it moves urgently to raise additional tax revenues, there is
even a risk next year that it might default on its post-1992 eurobonds and
$5bn of principal and interest repayments to the International Monetary Fund
and World Bank.
That would not only spell disaster for Russia, by cutting it off from
international finance for years to come, but would also represent a calamity
for the fund, which has one-fifth of its outstanding loans committed to
Russia. A default would create enormous cashflow problems for the IMF and
severely limit its capacity to support other member countries.
Just imagine what mayhem Republicans in the US would make out of such a
development in the run-up to the presidential elections.
There are signs that the Russian government is beginning to understand the
seriousness of the danger. Yevgeny Primakov may not be Washington's idea of a
model reformer, but he is perhaps the best prime minister Russia could wish
for in the current circumstances. His main advantage is that he knows how to
speak to parliament and build a consensus in a way no other prime minister has
been able to do since 1991.
Mr Primakov may be the only Russian prime minister who could persuade the
Communist-dominated parliament to adopt a tough budget. Cut off from external
finance, the government needs to perform the seemingly impossible and run a
sizeable primary budget surplus - unless it is to resort to printing money on
a large scale.
There does seem to be a growing consensus in Moscow that the fiscal situation
lies at the root of all Russia's troubles. In a discussion at the Carnegie
Moscow Centre last week, Yevgeny Yasin, the former economics minister, said:
"If we do not solve the problem of the budget, we will not be able to solve
any other problem."
This view attracted no dissent at the meeting, in spite of the presence of
several left-leaning economists opposed to Mr Yasin's liberal economic stance.
But drawing up a tough budget will be the easy part; implementing it is a
wholly different challenge, as has been proved by the bitter experience of the
past few years. The Russian government's attempts to keep its budget deficit
under control have resulted in perverse and cruel outcomes, such as the build-
up of massive payment arrears. Bluntly, the government has been able to keep
spending under control only by failing to pay teachers and doctors their wages
and pensions. Not only is this a humanitarian crime but it has also fatally
undermined popular support for "market reforms".
As is to be expected, the Russian government is putting the IMF under enormous
pressure to resume its lending programme on similar conditions to before. As
ever, there is an implicit threat involved: unless you provide the money, the
argument runs, we will be forced to print it.
But it is perhaps time to stop the charade that the IMF pretends to help and
the Russian government pretends to reform.
We must acknowledge the extent of the fund's impotence. The lesson of the past
few years is that the IMF cannot control the implementation of the Russian
budget, no matter how much the international community might like it to. The
fund was not designed to micro-manage other countries' economies. It does not
have the skills, the experience, or the desire to do so. It should not
trespass so far into the sovereignty of other nations as to dictate precisely
how the government spends its money. Any such attempt would result in a
fearful political backlash.
But the international community, if not the IMF, could still make one enormous
contribution to Russian reform: not so much the Grand Bargain that was
envisaged in 1991 as a Little Promise. In return for the Russian parliament
passing a fair and reasonable tax code, the G7 leading industrialised
countries could offer to help fund, train and equip an efficient tax service
to raise the revenue needed to rebuild the Russian state.
Tax officials should be recruited from the best universities and paid well to
remove the temptation of corruption. They should have the computers to
establish a national tax register and the power to take on the criminal
organisations that control so many economic choke-points.
One hope would be that fair taxation would result in more accountable
political representation: the Russian public is more likely to complain about
the government misspending their own money than someone else's.
The tax authorities have already got the message. They have been encouraging
citizens to pay their taxes by plastering Moscow with posters declaring:
"Nobody can help Russia apart from we ourselves."
The international community has been helping the Russian "oligarchy" to help
themselves for far too long. Maybe it is time to start helping the tax
authorities to help the people instead.
San Jose Mercury News
November 29, 1998
[for personal use only]
Slain Russian symbolized human rights, nation's hope
BY GAIL W. LAPIDUS
Russia scholar Gail W. Lapidus (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior
fellow at the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and
a professor emeritus in political science at UC-Berkeley. She wrote this
article for Perspective.
THE BRUTAL assassination of liberal Russian parliamentarian Galina
Starovoitova in the stairwell of her St. Petersburg apartment has deprived
Russia of one of its most ardent and uncompromising defenders of democracy,
human rights and the rule of law.
Her death Nov. 19 sent shock waves across the Russian political spectrum, as
many saw in it the sinister hand of Communist and nationalist enemies. Its
evocation of the 1922 murder of Walter Rathenau, the foreign minister of the
Weimar Republic whom reactionaries blamed for Germany's military defeat and
lost empire, has brought to the fore once again the specter of a ``Weimar
Russia'' -- a fragile democracy now facing the potential for extremist
takeover. For the thousands who thronged to her funeral last week or mourned
in private, she was not only a beloved political figure, a mother and a
grandmother, but also a symbol of so many of the hopes once associated with
I came to know Galina well in the course of her transformation from budding
ethnographer to political activist to leading public figure. We first met in
the repressive environment of what was then Leningrad, where close ties
between American scholars and their Soviet counterparts were tightly
controlled. Still, we were drawn together by a common interest in the fate of
national minorities in the Soviet system.
Trained as an ethnographer and sociologist, Galina became in the late 1980s an
ardent defender of the struggle by Karabakh Armenians to escape Azerbaijani
control. She was embraced as a heroine in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, and
in the first quasi-free elections under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989, she won an
astonishing write-in victory to become a deputy from Armenia to the Congress
of People's Deputies.
Together with Nobel-winning dissident Andrei Sakharov, with whom she shared a
passionate commitment to human rights for both individuals and groups, she
fought for the expansion of civil and political rights, multiparty elections
and greater freedom and equality for the many nations of the Soviet Union.
Initially a supporter of perestroika, but soon disappointed by the timidity of
the reforms and the continuing power of the Communist Party establishment,
Galina became a leading figure in the democratic opposition. She challenged
Gorbachev's assertions that the Soviet people had made a definitive and final
choice on behalf of socialism in 1917, asking why her grandmother -- who
probably never even voted -- should have the power to determine her future.
While Gorbachev argued that the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. would tear asunder
the natural unity of its peoples, she argued that the Soviet Union was an
unnatural state, an empire founded on violence.
She went on to play a key role in the birth of the political party that helped
elect Boris Yeltsin in 1991. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, she
served as his chief adviser on nationality problems in the early months of the
new Russian government.
I was struck time and again by Galina's extraordinary courage in seeking to
open the window to new ideas and principles. She challenged, dramatically and
unconventionally, deeply held Soviet assumptions and stereotypes -- as when
she launched, and won, a libel suit against the Communist Party newspaper
Pravda in 1990, or when she created an uproar in the Congress of People's
Deputies by displaying a Russian flag in defiance of the Soviet hammer and
Although she was not overtly a feminist, many of her actions -- and indeed her
entire political career -- also challenged conventional stereotypes about the
``proper'' role of women. On one occasion, she shocked the defense
establishment by announcing her availability for the position of defense
minister, a post never held by a civilian, not to mention a woman.
In 1996, she attempted to run for the presidency but was disqualified on
technical grounds. More recently, she proposed that instead of fighting the
enlargement of NATO, Russia would be better served by joining it.
As she fought for her ideals, Galina disarmed her opponents with grace and
wit, never losing her temper or her poise despite the most vindictive
provocations. She demolished opponents with an incisive retort and a smile.
Galina struggled to balance her political ambitions and strategic skills with
her uncompromising defense of important principles, for which she risked
antagonizing many former allies and supporters. She became a harsh critic of
Yeltsin's brutal military campaign in Chechnya. And she publicly attacked
efforts by Moscow's mayor, presidential front-runner Yurii Luzhkov, to
persecute and expel people of Caucasian nationality from the capital.
In the weeks before her death, Galina had been particularly outspoken in her
condemnation of the viciously anti-Semitic statements of Russian
parliamentarian Albert Makashov, and of the refusal of Communist members of
the Duma to censure him. She had urged that he be stripped of his
parliamentary immunity and prosecuted under Russian laws that forbid
incitement of ethnic hatred.
As her political visibility grew, so did her opportunities to travel abroad
and to make the acquaintance of growing numbers of Western scholars and
political figures. She was a lively participant in a great variety of
conferences and seminars, offering insightful judgments about the latest
developments in Russia while expanding her familiarity with Western ideas. She
served as an important bridge between these milieus and was increasingly at
home in both.
Galina's political activities never extinguished her scholarly interests or
her overriding concern with issues of nationalism and identity. She visited
Berkeley and Stanford on numerous occasions, talking well into the night with
students and faculty in unforgettable discussions that ranged far and wide
over Russian and international politics.
The question to which she returned repeatedly, a question made all the more
urgent by the violent ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet Union and
Yugoslavia, was how the international community should handle the problem of
national self-determination and how to balance it with the territorial
integrity of states. In one of her final publications, she sought to lay out a
set of conditions under which movements for self-determination might be
granted ``moral legitimacy.''
In the course of her political career, Galina had acquired many enemies. She
was the embodiment of all the liberal ideas that are now in retreat across
Russia -- political pluralism, a market economy, a pro-Western orientation.
And she was a particular target of the Communist nationalist opposition, which
blames reformers like her for the loss of empire.
Indeed, her fatal trip to St. Petersburg was connected to her efforts to build
a like-minded coalition of reformers, known as the Northern Capital movement,
to attack crime and corruption and to unseat the Communist governor in
Galina's murder is the sixth of a Duma deputy since 1993 and follows a series
of high-profile killings, virtually all of which remain unsolved. This shift
to assassination as a weapon of political struggle, and an effort to
intimidate and silence political opponents, is a dangerous watershed in
Russian politics. It represents a breakdown of the norms of a civilized
society and a frightening escalation in the level of lawlessness already all
too widespread in Russian life.
An ailing Yeltsin, announcing that he was ``deeply outraged'' by Galina's
murder, has dispatched the interior minister to take charge of the
investigation. But the close ties between prominent political figures and
organized crime, particularly in St. Petersburg, have created deep suspicions
that Russian law enforcement agencies are either thoroughly incompetent or
deeply complicitous. The investigation will be watched closely as an important
test of the government's commitment to defending Russia's all-too-fragile
democratic institutions and the rule of law.
Galina herself might have applied a different test: How this murder will
affect the behavior of other political actors in the bitter power struggles
that dominate the Russian scene, and whether it will intimidate or galvanize
those committed to liberal reforms.
That will determine whether the freedoms to which she devoted her life will be
preserved or extended.
FEATURE-Pelevin is ironic voice of new Russia
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, Nov 30 (Reuters) - He has a literary agent in New York, he
communicates with fans through the Internet and spices up his stories with
allusions to drugs and Eastern mysticism.
Viktor Pelevin is a far cry from the bearded patriarchs of classical Russian
literature but, at 36, he is being hailed as the authoritative voice of
Russia's post-perestroika generation trying to make sense of the chaos and
absurdity of modern life.
His books, which tackle themes often strictly taboo in Soviet times in an
original, witty and subversive way, have been translated into more than a
The New Yorker magazine has described him as ``one of Europe's best young
novelists'' and critics have compared him with Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller,
author of ``Catch-22.''
But Pelevin, who speaks fluent English and travels widely, acknowledges that
his distinctive, surrealist vision is firmly rooted in the experiences of his
own mad, sad country.
``If you want to live a normal life, Russia is the worst place on the
planet,'' Pelevin told Reuters in an interview.
``But if you are a writer, if you're interested in this,'' he said, pointing
to his head, ``it is the best.''
NOTHING IS QUITE WHAT IT SEEMS IN PELEVIN'S WORLD
The ambiguous, mutable nature of reality and of personal identity is at the
heart of his writing.
``Just imagine, the Soviet Union was for us the most stable thing in the
universe. It could never change,'' Pelevin said.
``Then it all fell apart and we discovered that identity can be lost. You
build another identity and that too gets cancelled out. You lose your life
savings or whatever, you have to start again from the beginning,'' he said.
In Pelevin's world, nothing is sacred or off-limits and nothing is ever quite
what it seems.
``The Life of Insects,'' for example, is set in a Soviet Black Sea holiday
resort where the characters -- crooks, mystics, dope-heads and prostitutes --
exist simultaneously as insects and as human beings, like the trio of mosquito
racketeers Sam, Arnold and Arthur who suck the blood of their ``clients.''
In the short story ``Hermit and Six-Toes'' two chickens ponder the meaning of
life from their poultry farm perspective and hope to escape Judgment Day by
exercise and fasting.
The heroine of ``Vera Pavlova's Ninth Dream,'' a public lavatory attendant,
dabbles in idealistic philosophy and her solipsism brings dire consequences.
LATEST NOVEL A SUCCESS BUT ESTABLISHMENT WARY
His most ambitious novel to date, ``Chapayev and Nothingness'' has sold about
200,000 copies in Russia since 1996 -- the kind of sales more often associated
here with steamy potboilers.
The success of this, as of his other stories, belies the often-heard claims
that today's Russians have lost their taste for literature or are simply too
busy or tired trying to survive the country's deep and seemingly endless
The French translation of ``Chapayev'' has also won enthusiastic reviews.
Faber and Faber is due to publish it in English next year under the title
``The Clay Machinegun.''
``Chapayev'' centres on a poet called Pytor Pustota (which in Russian means
Nothingness) serving in the Russian Civil War in 1919 with the famous
historical commander Vasily Chapayev, but he is also a patient in a mental
hospital in modern Moscow.
The novel is a lyrical, ironic meditation on the nature of reality, passing
constantly between past and present and between different levels of
At one stage, a group of 1990s ``new Russian'' bandits wolfing down
hallucinogenic mushrooms land themselves in a Dantesque vision of hell where
they are observed by Pyotr and his Civil War-era comrades.
The novel's anarchic humour and mystical flavour have prompted comparisons
with Mikhail Bulgakov's cult classic ``The Master and Margarita,'' which
Pelevin himself regards as the greatest Russian novel of the 20th Century.
But ``Chapayev'' did not impress Russia's crusty literary establishment, which
had earlier awarded Pelevin the Little Booker prize for his ``Blue Lantern''
collection of short stories.
The exclusion of ``Chapayev'' -- easily the most popular novel in Russia in
1997 -- from last year's Booker Prize shortlist sparked a furore that was even
``The exclusion of 'Chapayev and Nothingness' enraged everybody except the
judges,'' mused the London Times newspaper.
PELEVIN SHUNS CROWD, PRACTISES ZEN
Pelevin has taken the snub in his stride.
``One Booker judge said 'Chapayev' was a virus designed to destroy Russia's
cultural memory. After that it sold 25,000 copies in one week,'' he laughed.
``The older critics hate me because I am not trying to get a flat out of the
state or to join the Writers' Union,'' he said, referring to the conformism
and clique mentality which disfigured Russian literary life in Soviet times
and which still lingers.
``I have never been part of the literary kolkhoz,'' he said.
Despite his popularity, especially among the young, Pelevin is by nature a
loner who prefers to avoid the public glare and whose idea of relaxation is
spending a few weeks in a South Korean Buddhist monastery meditating before a
``It is terrible to be a public person. I think writers should avoid becoming
products themselves,'' said Pelevin, whose main contact with his readers is
via the Internet where fans can also download his entire works.
Now Pelevin, who is tall with dark, short-cropped hair, is busy completing a
new novel about a copywriter whose job is to adjust Western advertising
slogans for ``the Russian mentality.''
PELEVIN WRITES FOR FUN, DISAVOWS ANY DEEP MESSAGE
Pelevin is matter-of-fact about his motives for writing and has little
patience with readers seeking deep, hidden meanings in his work.
``I write for fun. I have no message, no mission. A writer's only mission is
to survive,'' he said.
This sounds almost revolutionary in Russia, which has always taken its
writers, and their ``message,'' very seriously.
Under both the tsars and Communists, Russian writers suffered prison, firing
squad, labour camps and exile. From Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, they have often been seen as imparting immutable truths to a
But Pelevin grew up in a rather different Russia, albeit one with its own
share of brutality, injustice and confusion.
``It is idiocy to say I have some sort of message. I just want to share the
fun I get from writing,'' said Pelevin, who also sprinkles his conversation
with jokes and anecdotes.
Pelevin tries to steer clear of politics but shares his compatriots'
scepticism about what has passed for liberal reform in the seven years since
the fall of Soviet communism.
``The problem in Russia is not of Communists versus liberals. The place is
entirely criminalised from top to bottom,'' he said.
Asked about his own politics, he grinned.
``I put myself left of right of centre.''
New York Times
November 26, 1998
[for personal use only]
ESSAY/By WILLIAM SAFIRE
What Russia Needs Now
WASHINGTON -- During the spring primary elections in Chicago in 1928,
candidates were machine-gunned and bombs at polling places terrorized voters.
Desperate to prevent political violence in the November election, the head of
the Crime Commission went to the city's most powerful gangster, Al Capone, to
plead for help.
Capone, amused and flattered, delivered. With his cooperation, all known local
gunmen of his and rival gangs were rounded up on Election Eve. Violence was
suspended long enough for peaceful citizens to vote; "not one election fraud,"
marveled the anti-crime chief at the display of Capone's power.
In Russia today, organized gangs of criminals are gunning down reform
candidates, honest officeholders and political journalists. The country is out
of the Government's control, and nowhere is political crime more violent than
in St. Petersburg, heart of Russia's democratic reform.
In the run-up to local elections, Galina Starovoitova, Russia's leading female
advocate of democracy, was murdered by a pair of assassins. Weapons made in
America and Italy were left at the scene. Her press aide, also shot, was able
to call police and is under heavy guard as a witness.
The funeral this week brought together the splintered reformers for the first
time since the murder last year of St. Petersburg's Deputy Mayor. Former Prime
Minister Yegor Gaidar stood with the Yabloko Party leader, Grigory Yavlinsky,
to hear their onetime ally Anatoly Chubais hurl defiance at the intimidators.
The newspaper Izvestia charged that "not one high-profile contract killing has
been solved. Nazis, multiplying like plague-ridden rats, encounter no rebuke."
Another paper, Trud, published a list of unsolved murders beneath the headline
"Under personal control of the President" -- deriding Boris Yeltsin's usual
assumption of command followed by no action.
The F.S.B. (formerly the K.G.B.) is supposedly investigating. But the oligarch
Boris Berezovsky, surrounded by former F.S.B. goons, charged recently that the
F.S.B. had ordered his murder; that organization counter-charged that the
former goons now around Berezovsky had been involved in contract killings.
Yeltsin -- always dying, never dead -- has all but abdicated rule to Yevgeny
Primakov. That Prime Minister cannot be bothered with political crime; he is
too busy denouncing America and Britain for daring to threaten Saddam Hussein,
and sending new reactors and technicians to help Iran become a nuclear power
despite feeble Clinton protests. (That's the old spymaster's way of thanking
the U.S. for supplying thousands of tons of free grain to starving Russians
How can we help the embattled reformers in Russia? Certainly not by pouring
more monetary aid down its banking system's drain. In Washington this week,
Vladimir Gusinsky, a media baron supporting democrats in next year's Duma
elections, denied that Russia's nouveau riche spirited some $66 billion out of
the country in the last four years. But not even an oligarch thinks an
infusion of Western money would fix the anarchy in which assassins thrive.
Without condescension, we should offer to share with the Russians our
experience in combating organized crime. Our Federal agents and big-city cops
know how mafias corrupt officials, and are wise to the latest computer
techniques in moving hot money to foreign fronts. Some even remember how to
induce rival gangs to "go to the mattresses" and destroy each other.
The point to make to those Russian cops struggling to be honest is that only a
few generations ago America had to break the underworld triangle of corrupt
politicians, thieving financiers and thugs for hire. We learned how to slice
through cozy arrangements by using an elite force recruited outside the
In 1929, at the behest of a Chicago publisher, the newly elected President,
Herbert Hoover, sent in a team of agents to break up Capone's violent
Eliot Ness of Cleveland headed an incorruptible force of a dozen
"untouchables." They nailed Capone not for his murders but on a white-collar
charge of Federal income tax evasion. He died in jail -- "nutty as a
fruitcake," as a gangland visitor reported.
What happened in Chicago 70 years ago can happen in St. Petersburg with
Russian "untouchables." It begins with presidential will.
New York Times
November 29, 1998
Russia Loses a Voice
To the Editor:
Re William Safire's column of Nov. 26, "What Russia Needs Now":
Galina V. Starovoitova, who was murdered in St. Petersburg on Nov. 20, was a
central figure in the democratic transformation of the Soviet Union and of
It may not be well known that she was a member of the international community
of scholars of Russia. She visited American universities, including Harvard,
on many occasions and had many friends here.
Politically, she was a survivor of an earlier and gentler age in Russian
affairs. Even within the liberal opposition, she was a controversial and, at
times, divisive figure. Stubbornly sticking to her convictions, she was not
disposed to compromise.
I have no idea who ended her life or for what reason. If the recent record is
any indication, we may never find out.
What we know, though, is that her death removes one of the dwindling number of
liberal and humane voices in Russian politics and culture.
TIMOTHY J. COLTON
Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 26, 1998
The writer is director of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard
Sorry state of human rights in Russia
MOSCOW, Nov 30 (AFP) - The assassination of Russia's foremost democracy
activist Galina Starovoytova has thrown the spotlight on a litany of human
rights abuses in the country, against which she tirelessly campaigned.
Arbitrary justice, growing anti-Semitism, inadequate social security,
overcrowded prisons packed with tubercular inmates... Activists paint a grim
picture of a troubled country with scant respect for the basic dignities for
which the slain parliamentarian crusaded.
And in a bitterly ironic twist, observers fear that the weak justice system
and generalised corruption which so riled Starovoytova will conspire to hamper
efforts to solve her murder. The police have a feeble record in such cases.
"The state is very weak and poor," said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the
Helsinki Human Rights Watch group in Moscow. "The professionals left the
justice system for commercial companies, and the judiciary is unable to cope
with crime because criminals have penetrated the top rungs of power."
"It has become very dangerous to be a human rights activist here," Alexeyeva
added. "Rights are violated in every branch of life, the prisons, the army,
the budget, race relations."
Starovoytova, who was gunned down 10 days ago outside her home in St.
Petersburg, had long championed the cause of democracy and justice in Russia,
regularly bemoaning that genuine freedom was for many a myth.
Seven years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia still has a handful
of 'political prisoners,' most of whom stood up to the authorities on various
issues and were jailed on flimsy and fabricated evidence, Alexeyeva said.
There is Aldaf Galeyev, a radio journalist from Ufa who was jailed allegedly
for broadcasts not to the taste of the regional governor. There is Grigory
Pasko, a naval captain in Vladivostok who has been held in jail for a year
awaiting trial on charges of espionage.
There is Alexander Nikitin, an ecologist held in jail for 10 months in 1996
who finally came to trial last month after prosecutors had spent almost three
years trying to find charges to pin on him. Nikitin was accused of leaking
state secrets in his probe into the hazards of Russian nuclear submarines.
Those held in Russian jails meanwhile are exposed to another catalogue of
rights abuses: overcrowded cells, tuberculosis spreadly rapidly and a food
allocation of less than two cents a day per prisoner.
Prisoners are not the only victims of the poverty of the state. Public sector
workers, pensioners, single mothers, destitute children, all go for months if
not years without seeing benefit payments.
Problems of race meanwhile have simmered ever since the Soviet Union broke up,
leaving Russia with a colourful mix of minorities who often face
discrimination, rights observers say.
"If you have a Caucasian appearance you face trouble in Moscow, for example,"
Alexeyeva says, "Police look out for them, stop them to check their documents
and often arrest them and hold them for several days for no apparent reason.
"This violates the Constitution which says that everybody can move and live
everywhere freely," she added.
For example Alvira originally comes from Azerbaijan but moved to Moscow to be
with her husband in 1990. For nigh on a decade the authorities have refused to
give her the official registration papers.
"Without registration I am nothing in Moscow because I have no job and cant
earn money," she said. "I have kept asking them for years but they refused for
no apparent reason.
Though Russia's Jewish population has yet to suffer such indignities, the
current vogue for anti-Semitism has shocked observers. Parliament's failure to
censure one of its number for shocking anti-Semitic outbursts testified to the
weakness of the authorities to stand up for minority peoples and religions,
Another underprotected group are the estimated 3,000 army conscripts killed
each year as a result of hazing.
"This indicator is not going down year to year," said Tatiana Maricheva, the
head of the Mothers Rights foundation, which looks out for abuse of soldier
rights. "The state doesnt want to conduct the reforms in the army while the
defence ministry is only interested in concealing what is going on."
From: "Elena Gratcheva" <email@example.com>
Subject: Susan Eisenhower's "SHARING BLAME FOR GALINA'S DEATH "/JRL2494
Date: Sun, 29 Nov 1998
In your article you suggested that the assassination of Galina
Starovoitova "could be some kind of a turning point".
It could indeed. It could signify the beginning of the era of unchallenged
political control of Russia by the organized crime. Just consider how the
organized crime achieved the control over the Russian economy:
First, in 1988-1990 it started with wide-spread criminal racket against
small businesses ("cooperatives"). The reports on brutal tortures of
kidnapped entrepreneurs were a permanent feature in the Russian Press at
that time. In 1991, the Mafia started to move on medium-sized businesses.
In late 1992, the kidnapping of my husband who then controlled the largest
commercial bank in the country became their first attack on a major
business, the test of their power. The test proved to them - and to the
country as a whole - that such attacks can be done with impunity and that
the government would not interfere (other than key officials would request
and receive their share of the criminal proceeds). I described this story at
www.konanykhine.com. After this test, the contract assassinations and
kidnapping of bankers and key businessmen became everyday occurrence in
Russia. As you know, hardly any of these hundreds assassinations has ever
been thoroughly investigated or solved.
Since no businessman in Russia could feel safe from becoming the next
victim, by the end of 1994 they unconditionally accepted the dictate of what
came to be called as the Russian Mafia. The FBI then reported that 70 to 80
percent of the Russian businesses were controlled by the organized crime.
The Mafia gained the unchallenged control over the economy.
The criminal takeover of the political power appears to be following the
very same pattern. First, widely reported pressure on honest local
politicians, judges, and journalists; numerous assassinations in different
cities across Russia. Than, moving the political terror up to the next
level, organized crime started to target medium-level officials, among them
the six assassinated members of the Russian Parliament. Now - the
assassination which will become the final impunity test on the
assassinations of major politicians.
Its previous record suggests that the Russia will flunk the test. The
investigation can become just another forever-dragging-never-solved
investigation of high profile assassinations in Russia. I personally think
that FSB is likely to arrest someone who has nothing to do with the murder
to vent the public anger and to crush the victim they will select from their
list of "people to railroad". (My husband and I discussed the reasons for
the complacency of the Russian government with the criminal control in the
article which can be found at http://www.konanykhine.com/mafiocracy.htm.) In
any case, the obvious fact will be for every Russian politician to learn:
any politician in the country can be murdered with impunity and it does not
cost much. The only implication: all politicians in Russia will
unconditionally accept the dictate of the Russian Mafia which will have
unchallenged political power in the country.
The Russian Mafiocracy now consists not only of thugs, goons, and
racketeers, but also of legions of businessmen and politicians who have
accepted and employed criminal methods and/or associated themselves with
organized criminal groups. Indeed, a politician who hires assassin(s) to
murder his opponent cannot be perceived to be anything other than a criminal
and a part of the Mafiocracy.
As to your suggestion that, "Perhaps [death of Galina Starovoitova] will
catalyze democratic forces", I doubt it. There are few true democrats left
in Russia, they are lost against the army of demagogues who are motivated
solely by greed and other self-interest and simply employ the democratic
rhetoric to get elected or appointed. "Young reformers" like Chubais became
the godfathers of the Russian Mafiocracy while enriching themselves and
trying to stay in power for as long as they could or to became oligarchs
upon leaving the government.
AGROKHLEB - Food aid for Russia seen as essential
The following is a direct contribution from SovEcon Ltd, an independent
research organisation specialising in agricultural production and trade in the
former Soviet Union.
MOSCOW, Nov 27 - Timely deliveries of foodstuffs from abroad under
humanitarian assistance programmes to Russia have become the only hope of
averting a food supply crisis.
Russia's regular food supply problems have been significantly complicated this
year by the financial crisis, the worst harvest in a generation and what is
expected to be a severe winter.
The preliminary figure for the 1998 grain harvest, at 49 million tonnes, is
about 40 million tonnes below last year's figure and is the lowest grain
harvest since 1953.
Closing stocks from the 1997 harvest, estimated at 26 million tonnes as of
July 1, should mitigate the effect of the crop failure somewhat.
However, even taking into account the fall in demand for grain for animal
feed, owing to the continued decline in livestock inventories, total grain
requirements in 1998/99 will amount to 74 million tonnes.
This implies that, in the absence of foreign trade, domestic demand will
consume all available supplies, leaving Russia to begin the 1999/2000 crop
year with virtually no stocks.
Since the harvest begins only in August, that would effectively make for a
six-week gap in supplies.
The effect of the poor harvest has been compounded by the wider economic
crisis. Many grain traders have been unable to undertake normal operations as
their bank accounts have been frozen due to the banking crisis.
Payments virtually ceased altogether between August 17 and the end of
September. At the same time, with prices rising and the financial system in
crisis, sellers are insisting on full pre-payment.
The August rouble devaluation has also prompted those holding such stocks to
export them -- September's wheat exports of 190,000 tonnes was the highest
one-month total in the 1990s.
At the same time, sharp rises in the rouble prices of imports will bring about
a fall in imports of wheat and flour.
Wheat imports in September fell to 55,000 tonnes. Third-quarter imports of
wheat and flour fell to 301,000 and 40,000 tonnes respectively, from 570,000
and 92,000 tonnes in July-September 1997.
The combination of the financial crisis and a poor harvest has led to a sharp
deterioration in the opportunities for mobilising grain supplies to meet
domestic requirements until the 1999 harvest begins.
The biggest problems concern supplies to federal consumers, including the army
and some 1 million people in prison. Federal bodies lack the funds for grain
procurements, while private trading companies are finding it difficult to
supply grain because of their own financial problems.
Western states, for their part, have commercial as well as humanitarian
motives for offering food aid. Western agricultural exporters are anxious to
remain in the Russian market, especially given both U.S. and European Union
food grain stocks are rising.