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Johnson's Russia List
6 December 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Rule by decree fought in St.
2. Reuters: Some Russians eat dogs in crisis-MP.
3. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Leonid Krutakov, "An Overcoat Is the Price
of a Life: Was Galina Starovoytova Carrying 900 Thousand Dollars on
4. MSNBC: Carlota Zimmerman, Moscow: love among the ruble. Russians
get married despite the economic mayhem.
5. William Mandel: Comment on Grzegorz Kolodko's 15-point plan.
6. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Presidential Staff Said Favoring Kiriyenko
7. Washington Post: Two Men With Their Eyes on the Kremlin.
Weymouth interviews Luzhkov and Lebed).
8. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: IMF Stance on Lending to Russia Criticized.]
December 6, 1998
[for personal use only]
Rule by decree fought in St. Petersburg
By David Filipov
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Long before she died in a volley of automatic weapons
fire outside her St. Petersburg home, Galina Starovoitova predicted the
violent crime wave that has shocked this elegant 18th-century Baltic port.
Starovoitova knew that her city, known in the West as the ''Venice of the
North,'' both for its palace-lined canals and its tradition as Russia's most
progressive city, has a dark side as well. Some of the bloodiest and most
infamous turning points in Russian history took place here: the 1917 Bolshevik
Revolution; the beginning of Stalin's Great Terror purges in 1934.
Back in March, when Starovoitova, a prominent lawmaker and leader of Russia's
democracy movement, sized up the campaign for today's vote to elect a city
legislature, she saw another critical showdown ahead.
At stake, she believed, was whether real democracy had a chance of taking root
anywhere in Russia, or whether this country was doomed to be run by the
powerful, unaccountable, and criminally suspect political machines that have
taken control of local government throughout all nine time zones.
''There's going to be shooting here,'' Starovoitova concluded, and she was
right. On Nov. 20, two armed assailants fired three shots into her skull in
the stairwell outside her apartment. The assassination has not been explained,
but it capped off a spate of beatings, shootings and bombings, blatant vote-
buying, threats and thuggish shakedowns that have made this the dirtiest
election campaign Russia has seen.
As a result, the seemingly obscure local election has gripped the nation, amid
calls of concern that ''criminal elements'' are making a play for political
''Either we will have power that is dictated by certain people's private
interests, or we will have power that is under the control of society,'' said
Yury Kravtsov, former speaker of the St. Petersburg city legislature and an
ally of Starovoitova. ''We are fighting the battle for democracy in Russia.''
People here are toying with a new nickname for their city: Chicago on the Neva
River. Chicago in the 1920s had Al Capone. The city of Dostoyevsky, the Kirov
Ballet, and the Hermitage Museum is now the home of a reputed mobster named
''Kostya the Grave,'' the head of the vicious ''Cemetery Mafia'' that controls
the city's burial service and reportedly has close ties to the city
administration. Thirteen people connected with the city burial business have
been murdered in recent weeks, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported last
St. Petersburg has nightclub owner Sergei Shevchenko, a reputed crime boss and
candidate for one of the city legislature's 50 seats, who recently went on
television and gleefully announced, ''Of course I'm backed by criminal money,
I'm a bandit!''
One Shevchenko tactic has been to bus elderly voters to special polling
stations where pensioners and shut-ins are allowed to vote early. There,
groups of tough-looking young men tell them how to vote or else, then hand
them 20 rubles (worth $1) after the ballots are cast.
Shevchenko is not alone, either in his stated profession or in his choice of
campaign strategies. On Thursday, Russian television showed people lining up
to cast votes for cash at three separate early polling stations. Authorities
say there is a candidate with a criminal past or a shady present in each of
the 50 districts.
St. Petersburg has another crime syndicate, the Tambov clan, which controls
import and export operations in the port. Some observers here say the clan has
penetrated local law enforcement agencies, including the ''Big House,'' the
local headquarters of the Federal Security Service, the former KGB. This fact,
they say, renders meaningless the authorities' pledges to find the assailants
in Starovoitova's murder and dozens of other apparent contract killings.
"Law enforcement officers are not going to arrest themselves,'' one pro-
democracy legislator said. Starovoitova's allies have received anonymous calls
warning them that they will be ''sent after her'' if they don't ''quiet
''The way I see it, I have to survive until Sunday,'' said Leonid Romankov,
another Starovoitova ally and an incumbent. In an interview last week about
today's vote, he said, ''After that, win or lose, they no longer have a reason
to kill me.''
What makes joining a city legislative council, where the maximum monthly
salary is $445, something to kill, or die, for? For one thing, each member has
access to a personal slush fund worth $445,000 annually. Some legislators,
like Romankov, are known to use the money as it was intended: to repair
schools, kindergartens, and other public projects in their constituencies that
would otherwise never see funding.
Others have blatantly used the money for their own aims, like the legislator
who paid for a trip for his constituents to a Spanish hotel he owns, or the
legislator who apparently paid a local newspaper to run a flattering article
But the slush fund is chicken feed compared with the real prize, proximity to
local power, and with it, control over city spending, city construction
contracts, setting fees for city services. That explains why prominent
businessmen are willing to spend an average of $150,000 on their campaigns to
try to get in.
In most of Russia, local legislatures serve as rubber stamps for mayors and
governors, who have amassed czar-like powers and are accountable to no one.
Critics say this system has helped make Russia one of the most corrupt
countries in the world, by concentrating decisions on how to spend money in
the hands of a few executives. It has also made local elections a foregone
conclusion in most of Russia's 89 regions.
But St. Petersburg is different. Built on an uninhabited swamp by Peter the
Great to be his ''window to Europe,'' the city has often worked the other way,
as the conduit of Western ideas into Russia's traditionally byzantine and
The clash between these two forces has fueled the legend of St. Petersburg as
a city of eternal conflict that has inspired many of Russia's best writers.
In Soviet times, the city known then as Leningrad had the strongest dissident
The previous head of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, was one of the stars of
Russia's democratic movement when he came to power in 1991. But he gradually
became more autocratic and, his enemies say, more crooked. After he was
defeated in 1996 by his former deputy, Vladimir Yakovlev, Sobchak fled to
France to escape a corruption investigation.
In January, the city legislature passed a charter that contained checks and
balances similar to the US Constitution. The charter won praise among
democracy forces, but raised the ire of Yakovlev, who previously had enjoyed
the right to rule pretty much by decree.
Many of those orders decreed sweetheart deals to city insiders, according to
Kravtsov and other Yakovlev opponents.
Yakovlev, who raised a furor here by missing Starovoitova's funeral, is
campaigning hard to have the charter revoked. He denies allegation of
Strange things have happened to Yakovlev's opponents. Many of them have found
themselves running against a candidate with their same last name, or in some
cases, their exact full name.
One candidate, Oleg Sergeyev, has two opponents named ''Oleg Sergeyev.''
In a different district, Sergei Belyayev finally forced his double, one
Captain Sergei Belyayev of a local fishing fleet, to withdraw his candidacy
after admitting he had been paid $900 to run. Candidate Belyayev's relief was
shortlived: Soon after he was charged with corruption in what he says is a
political case to neutralize him.
Maybe, maybe not. It is hard to tell in murky St. Petersburg.
INTERVIEW-Some Russians eat dogs in crisis-MP
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Some people are eating dogs in Russia's economic
crisis but hunger and deaths can be avoided if authorities in Moscow and the
regions rally together, a parliamentary expert said on Friday.
Boris Misnik, chairman of the lower house of parliament's committee for the
North, said after his latest visit to remote regions that the situation was
tough but not impossible as winter set in.
``The situation is getting no better. It is very difficult in some regions,''
Misnik told Reuters in an interview, describing the worst-hit areas as
Kamchatka and Chukotka in Russia's Far East and the Siberian region of
Asked about media reports that some people had been forced to eat dogs, he
said: ``About the dogs, it is really true. I did not want to believe it. But
there are places in Yakutia where dogs would normally be running about but you
do not see them.''
He gave no more details but made clear such cases were rare and people were
doing their best to maintain their dignity as they try to survive the worst
economic crisis since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
On his latest trip this week to a remote area near Murmansk in northern
Russia, he said local people had guaranteed fuel supplies by trading the
salmon they had caught for diesel fuel at ``absolutely crazy'' financial
Other people, he said, had taken measures such as tearing up fences around
their homes to use as firewood and had developed a talent for making soups
from almost nothing.
``People are not dying...They are used to living in tough conditions and have
a historical memory of how to cope in extreme situations,'' he said, referring
to Russia's many hardships this centrury such as two world wars and famines.
Russia's frozen Arctic North and Far East always suffer in winter, giving
Misnik's committee an important role to play.
But the financial crisis that hit Russia in August has made matters even worse
this winter. Some regions failed to ship in vital fuel and food supplies
before temperatures plunged and seas froze, cutting large areas off for the
next few months.
The United States is set to provide Russia with a $600-million loan for food
as well as humanitarian aid, and Russia has requested food aid from the EU
estimated at $470 million to $480 million.
But Misnik said problems would remain even when foreign aid arrived because
there were huge problems and costs invovled in taking deliveries to the remote
areas most in need.
He said Russia must learn to cope with its own problems, and his committee
drew up an appeal to the government and regional leaders on Friday to improve
their response to the crisis.
``The country's leadership must change its strategy on the northern regions,
not look at them as the extremes of Russia but as essential territories,''
``All our economic wealth and material resources are here -- gas, oil, gold,
metals, diamonds. It must be understood that the economic futre of Russia in
in the north and these territories must not be abandoned.''
Misnik, a liberal whose Yabloko party backs Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov
but opposed his predecessor, said matters were not helped by a lack of cash.
The government had handed over only about 60 percent of the 2.64 billion
roubles promised to the committee at the start of 1998.
The rouble's plunge since August also means that, even if received in full,
that amount would now be worth only about $130 million -- much less than at
the start of the year.
``And I don't expect the figure will be any higher in the draft budget for
next year,'' Misnik said.
Starovoytova Possibly Killed for Cash
November 27, 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Leonid Krutakov article: "An Overcoat Is the Price of a Life: Was
Galina Starovoytova Carrying 900 Thousand Dollars on Her Person?"
The uproar over the killing of Starovoytova is gradually fading away.
The bare facts remain: Galina Vasliyevna [Starovoytova] was killed in her
own entryway, and killed according to all the rules of the criminal genre,
with a precisely-aimed shot to the head.
It is still early to draw conclusions about the motives for the crime,
but some curious information has already begun to appear....
As an anonymous source in the state security organs told Moskovskiy
Komsomolets, Starovoytova brought 900 thousand dollars in cash with her to
St. Petersburg on that fatal day. In an overcoat. The money was intended to
carry out active pre-election measures, including in the local press.
Naturally, the money was not found at the scene of the crime.
When your correspondent suggested to a high-placed special services
officer that it was a political killing, he launched into a tirade:
"In reality, there has not yet been one truly political killing in
Russia. There have been provocations, but so far no one has solved his
political problems by means of this barbaric method. Recall the killing of
Listyev: There was so much noise at the time, but when it became clear how
much money there was behind it all, everything quieted down.
"Sobchak created a 'feeding trough' for municipal
legislators in St. Petersburg -- in the form of a yearly
800-thousand-dollar fund for each deputy. This money attracts a lot of
people. Why, even the character of the killing itself testifies to its
purely criminal footprint. Politicians are killed at mass rallies, not in
Sincerely, Moskovskiy Komsomolets does not have even the slightest
desire to detract from Starovoytova's dignity: She was a truly
selfless person, and she was carrying the money (if in fact she was doing
so) not for herself but for electoral needs. Whose fault is it that, as a
result of "democratic" reforms in our country, even the
"nightingales" of liberalism do not sing for free? In this
sense, strange as it may seem, Sergey Yushenkov was right when he said at
the funeral that Starovoytova "died so that the laws of civilization,
rather than criminal law, will rule in our country."
Moscow: love among the ruble
Russians get married despite the economic mayhem
Victims of Russia's economic downturn, Katya and Misha decided to get
married nonetheless, despite Katya's unemployment and Misha's pay cut.
By Carlota Zimmerman
MOSCOW — As Moscow leaders ponder the socio-economic virtual reality of
the country’s burning ruble, Russians continue doing what comes naturally —
falling in love and planning one of the most bizarre events in traditional
Russian life: a wedding.
Misha’s salary was cut by a third, while Katya lost her job altogether.
But the two never hesitated in their plans to get married.
GOT 12 HOURS and several million brain cells to kill? How about a taste
for mayonnaise-and-aspic-encased foodstuffs? Been waiting for that
opportunity to drink yourself blind to a soundtrack of Greatest Soviet
Classics as performed on the accordion? Good, because Mikhail and Yekaterina
are getting married and you’re invited.
Mikhail Morgachev, 26, is one of my boyfriend Sergei’s best friends.
Growing up in a small northern Russian town, they detonated homemade bombs
together, thus cementing a life-long friendship not known for its maturity.
Thus when Misha (short for Mikhail) decided to marry 20-year old
Yekaterina (Katya) Chepaskina, he asked Sergei to be his svidatel, or
witness, at the civil ceremony. I knew we were in for trouble when Sergei,
deeply touched by his friend’s request, responded by buying Misha the
Russian version of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex ... But
Were Afraid to Ask.”
Misha is a computer systems administrator at a Moscow bank, where he met
Katya, a university student majoring in economics. They decided to wed this
past June, before the latest economic crisis hit. The market downturn hit
the couple hard. Misha’s salary was cut by a third, while Katya lost her job
altogether. But asked if they had ever hesitated in their plans, Misha
shrugged: “We decided there was no point in waiting. You have to keep on
I woke up cursing the unnatural idea of matrimony, wishing that everyone
could just live happily and without ceremony in sin. For some reason, I was
strangely unmoved about the idea of spending the next 12 hours celebrating a
wedding. However, Serge informed me that I was getting off easy; he’s been
to weddings which last 3-5 days!
This is especially common in provincial Russia, where the entire village
will be invited to drink up to impending cirrhosis. I can’t think of
anyone’s wedding I could bear celebrating over the course of almost a week,
including my own. I had also been duly warned about the Russian propensity
for fist-fighting and general violence at weddings, when future in-laws meet
over several gallons of vodka. In fact, there is even a Soviet film in which
the groom is killed at his own wedding. It was probably a mercy killing.
Saturday morning, and we’re driving halfway across Moscow to pick up the
groom and his family. Mikhail meets us in a tux and tails. Outside Katya’s
building, Mikhail, Sergei and Pavel, a friend-cum-master of ceremonies, were
greeted by a group of women, including the bride’s svidetelnitsa, or
witness. What followed was a highly complicated tradition of games that the
groom, or if he fails, his witness, must complete before they can see the
bride. Once upon a time, in pre-revolutionary Russia, these games had actual
significance, but now, as with so many other things in Russia, the meaning
has gone, but the song remains the same.
PENNIES FOR A BRIDE
Mikhail, Sergei and Pavel were first made to pay 200 rubles (a few cents)
to enter the building. Once inside, the stakes were raised and included
identifying birth dates chalked on stairwells, reciting and singing love
poetry and songs, and choosing the sugared water among three cups of sweet,
bitter and salty water — which symbolize the character of their married
life. Inside the apartment, the bride was waiting. The process, called
vykup, or ransom, can, depending on the difficulty of the challenges, last
for several hours.
Finally, Misha and Katya were as one. We rushed forward to congratulate
them, suffocating the the newlyweds in bouquets.
Now, having brought our bride, we were on our way to ZAGS, the Russian
equivalent of a town hall, where births weddings and deaths are registered.
Misha and Katya’s brisk civil ceremony took place at Moscow’s Wedding Palace #1.
FREEDOM OF CEREMONY
Even though today Russians can have religious weddings (prohibited
during the Soviet era), a preliminary civil ceremony at ZAGS is still
legally mandatory, and, it seems for many people, enough. The ceremony was
definitely a learning experience, a mixture of flowery platitudes and
bureaucracy: as with everything else in Russia, don’t even think of getting
married without your passport.
I did enjoy, however, the live jazz band playing “Girl From Impanema”
during the wedding.
Finally, Misha and Katya were as one. We rushed forward to congratulate
them, suffocating the the newlyweds in bouquets. Now married, the day was
half done: hallelujah. On to Park Pobedy (Victory Park, a World War II
memorial) for the traditional post-wedding champagne-drenched romp, after
which we raced to the restaurant for eight more hours of fun.
Since Sergei was the best man, we couldn’t leave until all the little
old ladies with purple hair had left; until the last party game had been
played; until the last meat course was choked down; until the last slice of
wedding cake was “auctioned” off; until basically even Katya and Misha were
wondering if and when this wedding would ever end.
Sometime later, much later, driving home in a stupor of vodka and thick
salad, Sergei’s father casually asked us if there would be more celebrating
the next day. Silence, like the tomb, enveloped those words.
E-mail your congratulations to Katya and Misha:
Date: Fri, 04 Dec 1998
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (William Mandel)
Subject: Comment on Kolodko
WILLIAM MANDEL ON KOLODKO
Grzegorz Kolodko's 15-point plan deserves attention in Moscow because of
his contribution to Poland's recovery. Having myself responded in 1993 to
a Russian Academy of Sciences' circular inquiry to Sovietologists with
proposals that, read from the standpoint of today's reality, would have
prevented the present crisis [for a page of direct-quote excerpts, e-mail
me at email@example.com], I offer the following critique of
Along with much that is valuable or deserving at least of thoughtful
consideration, there are shortcomings that range from the cultural to the
simple geographic. Although all Poles know more about Russia than all but
a handful of Americans, all Poles, including Kolodko, are affected in
their thinking by their country's long history of relations with Russia
and by their own national mind-set.
Poles were more determined than the people of any other
Communist-governed country to adhere to private agriculture even under
that rule, and were successful in doing so. Russia's peasants, whom we
were assured for decades, by Dr. Pipes and others, were just dying to get
out of collectives, have been more resistant to the restoration of
capitalism than any other section of the population. So Kolodko's
proposal for self-sufficiency in food supply based on private-sector
production is simply not politically realstic. Moreover, the collective
and state farms of the Soviet Union enabled its people to attain a
3,000-calorie daily diet decades ago. Feed grains were ultimately
imported to make it possible to add meat to a food basket from which it
had been lacking for most of the population in both tsasrist and Soviet
times. Therefore, with respect to the structure of agriculture as with
much else in Kolodko's prescription, Russia will have to base its
solutions on its own traditions.
Kolodko bases a great deal of his program on foreign trade and upon
openness of the Russian economy to both foreign goods and foreign
investment, including majority ownership. For Poland it worked. But China
has also been successful in its move away from Marxist socialism, yet its
solutions have been in some ways fundamentally different from Poland's.
China's non-convertible currency policy has essentially saved it from the
Asian flu. Because its Communist Party has had brains enough to become
non-Communist without saying so, it has been able to remain in power to
manage an enormously successful transition, measured in economic growth
rate. True, Zyuganov's party is also non-Communist despite its name, but
it is not in power and cannot hope for more than a major role in a
coalition. So China cannot be copied any more than Poland.
For Poland foreign trade at all times is essential. For Russia it is
not. Stalin built the world's second-largest industrial economy without a
convertible currency while foreign trade, even with its growth after the
great oil and gas discoveries subsequent to his death, never represented
a fraction of the proportion of GDP that it does today. Russia's
stupendous size, plus the consequences of the superb, far-sighted policy
of geological education and exploration pursued by the Soviets from the
earliest years, means that it could live with autarchy if it had to in
order to maintain political and financial independence while rebuilding
industry to the point at which it can stand up in quality to imports in
an open market. Japan, virtually lacking in natural resources, took
advantage of its leverage as a U.S. ally and unassailable base off the
Asian mainland to refuse to back away from protection of its own industry
till it could take on the world. Of course, the U.S. earlier also
practiced protectionism for the better part of a century. Free trade is
something one advocates when one can beat the other guy in his own
stadium, and not before. That's what is called a level playing field.
Kolodko looks to the World Bank to provide Russia with capital in some
spheres, while commercial banks and investors would do so in others. But
there are 200 billion dollars of Russian money that its crooks have taken
abroad. That money can be recovered. The preferable method is by
political and legal action such as that which is being used successfully
to pry the property of Hitler's victims loose from Swiss banks, museums,
and private individuals. Russia has just won goodwill in this direction
by providing a list of art stolen by the Nazis as part of the Holocaust
to a 44-nation conference. The U.S. undersecretary of state who organized
the conference said the Russian papers "will provide significant leads to
identifying stolen assets." That language may be expected to be quoted by
attorneys representing Russia to define ownership of funds abroad and
property assets purchased therewith by the oligarchs.
If the legal approach alone were regarded as too slow, the kidnapping
and related techniques used by the CIA and FBI, KGB, Mossad and similar
branches of various governments are also available. Not nice. Neither is
the fate to which tens of millions of Russians have been condemned by the
crooks who stole their patrimony. Mr. Primakov knows about such methods
from his stint as head of the security agency. And he knows about
something so much a part of Washington's practices that we have developed
a word for it: deniability.
The foregoing has not been a systematic presentation of a course of
action, such as Kolodko offered. On the contrary it has, if anything,
been an attempt to demonstrate that, in Russia's present condition, no
such thing is possible. Its actions have to be cobbled together, muddled
through. But the one thing one can be faily certain of is that, contrary
to the policies of the past seven years, those that emerge will put
Russia's interests first. So there is little chance that Kolodko's
Brzezinski-like notion of integrating Russia's regions with neighboring
countries, today meaning, as far as those to the West are concerned, to
the latter's advantage and Moscow's disadvantage, will be carried out.
Americans know of Russia's dominance of Poland during precisely the span
of existence of the United States. Russians know of Poland's attempts to
dominate Russia, not entirely unsuccessful, in earlier centuries,
particularly the first Time of Troubles.
I have not the slightest doubt that Dr. Kolodko desires the very best
for the Russian people. But it is a Eurocentric best. That, to my mind,
would be a little better for Russians than the policy of the past seven
years, designed to serve its sponsors' notion of the interests of the
United States. It is not, however, what Russia needs and has the educated
population, the prospected resources, and the
third-quarter-of-the-20th-century level of industry to build on.
Presidential Staff Said Favoring Kiriyenko as Heir
3 December 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vasiliy Ustyuzhanin under the "Party Building"
rubric: "No Longer a Child but Still a Prodigy. Attempts Are
Made To Groom Former Premier for Russian Presidency. But He Is
Tending To Cling to Luzhkov"
It is still not clear which election will happen in Russia first --
parliamentary or presidential. Under the Constitution, a new Duma should be
elected first -- in December 1999. And six months later -- a new
president. But God alone knows how things will work out in reality.
Boris Yeltsin is now agonizingly contemplating in the hospital
atmosphere to whom to hand over power. He can hardly find a better
successor than Yevgeniy Primakov (one of the old "gang") over the stretch
of time still available. The president's family shares this opinion.
However, according to our own information, plans to push former
Premier Sergey Kiriyenko for the presidency are being contemplated in real
earnest in Kremlin circles. The Kremlin dreamers' logic is as follows.
After a period of Primakov's socialist government it will inevitably be
necessary to turn right, toward liberalism. That reqiuires a decent
center-right leader. Hopes for [NDR leader] Chernomyrdin are slim.
[Yabloko leader] Yavlinskiy is uncontrollable. [Former First Premier]
Chubays, notwithstanding his administrative talents, is a lost cause.
So who remains? On whom else should they gamble? Kiriyenko.
A part from that, the advent of Primakov as president would mean an end
to the state careers of many (if not the majority!) of the current holders
of seats in the Kremlin and on Staraya Ploshchad, because Primakov will
bring along his own team for which seats will have to be vacated.
Kiriyenko is not expected to bring forth such a natural disaster. And
serenity of bureaucratic hearts is a very important factor in the
opportunistic, short-term palace considerations as to whom to support and
whom to hold in check.
Information to the effect that Kiriyenko held talks with [Moscow
Mayor] Yuriy Luzhkov on the creation of a political alliance was an
unpleasant surprise for the Kremlin. At any rate, chief Kremlin
party-builder and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Staff Oleg Sysuyev had
been totally unaware of it. Luzhkov will not turn over the leadership of
his bloc to Kiriyenko -- no way, even though he quite likes the former
prime minister. And the mayor's inner circle will not permit a change of
figures -- they all united under the sign of the popular [Luzhkov] cap and
not under some dubious "child prodigy."
So it is most likely that nothing will come out of the Kremlin
project. At any rate, not in 2000. But the Luzhkov-Kiriyenko alliance is
perfectly workable for the parliamentary elections. Kiriyenko as speaker
(in the event that the Fatherland movement wins) could become a strong
support in the Duma for President Luzhkov. Precisely this tandem could
turn Russia away from the imminent leftist aberration.
But what will actually happen, and how? Given the current random
Brownian motion of political figures I will not be surprised if, by the
fall of 1999, when the parliamentary election campaign is officially
launched, Kiriyenko will have joined forces with [Krasnoyarsk Governor
Aleksandr] Lebed. Or Lebed with Kiriyenko. Or [CPRF leader] Zyuganov with
Luzhkov. Or Luzhkov with Yavlinskiy. And so forth ad infinitum.
Let us say cautiously: So far the party building in Russia has an
unstable trend toward self-regulation.
When This Issue Was Being Prepared for Press
According to Komsomolskaya Pravda's information, on Friday, 4 December
the NDR [Russia Is Our Home] faction with its leader A. Shokhin at the
head, intends to meet with Chief of the Russian Federation Presidential
Staff V. Yumashev. One of the goals of the meeting is to probe the
Kremlin's current attitude to NDR.
On the eve of the meeting with V. Yumashev, Aleksandr Shokhin said
that NDR does not currently have any fundamental differences with Luzhkov's
Fatherland. The NDR leader also said that he intends, in the near future,
to discuss "scenarios for joint actions" not only with Yu. Luzhkov, but
also with G. Yavlinskiy and, possibly, with A. Lebed.
December 6, 1998
[for personal use only]
Q & A
Two Men With Their Eyes on the Kremlin
Who will succeed Boris Yeltsin as Russia's president? That question has taken
on new urgency in recent weeks, as Yeltsin's health seems increasingly
fragile. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and retired army general Alexander Lebed
would be considered front-runners if an election were held today. Last week,
both men gave separate interviews to Lally Weymouth, a Newsweek contributing
editor and Washington Post columnist. Excerpts follow:
The interview with Luzhkov took place in a grand red room in Moscow's City
Hall. He is regarded as a can-do mayor who has helped transform Moscow from a
dingy city into a brightly lit metropolis since taking office in 1992, but
could he persuade Russians outside Moscow to vote for him?
Q Are you running for president?
A I don't stop people from thinking what they want to think. But I have not
announced my desire to run. Such announcements may come if I see the
candidates are weak.
Q Will President Yeltsin's health allow him to serve out his term?
A I am not a doctor. There are times he has problems. He has to determine if
he is capable of running the state effectively. Only the president can answer
Q What is the significance of the death of Galina Starovoitova [a liberal
politician recently slain in St. Petersburg]?
A The death of any person is a tragedy. She was a big political personality
with a good vision of the problems of the state.
Q Should the Communist Party be shut down because of the failure of its leader
to denounce the antisemitic rhetoric of one of its prominent members [Gen.
A It would not be democratic to shut down the party based on a statement--even
the wildest one--made by one Communist deputy. But I really regret the fact
that the Communist Party did not find the strength to denounce the wild
antisemitism of General Makashov.
Q You have formed a new party, 'Fatherland,' saying you'd take the best ideas
from the left and the right. What does your party stand for?
A Our principle is that we have to work the capitalist way and distribute the
results of this work according to socialist principles. I believe in: 1) the
market economy; 2) a social safety net; 3) democracy and free elections. We
are not left or right.
Q Reportedly, you've been negotiating with Communist leader [Gennady]
Zyuganov. What are the results?
A [There will be] no coalition with Zyuganov.
Q What about with liberal party leader Grigory Yavlinsky?
A No coalitions with the extreme right like Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar
have ever been planned. As for Yavlinsky, we are personal friends, and I
respect his party's positions.
Q What do you think of Western ownership of [Russian] banks, industry, oil and
A Any foreigner can buy a plant and use it 100 percent as his own property.
Q What's your appaisal of the job Prime Minister [Yevgeny] Primakov is doing?
A He's trying. Some call the government leftist, but the [supposedly] leftist
government is adopting a rightist tax code.
Q What about the U.S.-Russia relationship? Has Russia moved away from America?
A I don't remember any actions that show Russia has moved away from America.
America, which controls the IMF, has made a lot of mistakes. The International
Monetary Fund has treated Russia as a small country that needs help. But
Russia has a totally different system, and [IMF] recommendations about
privatization and tight money were a mistake.
Q But do you believe the IMF needs to show more flexibility with Russia?
A There should be a totally different philosophy of assistance if we want
Russia to be a calm country with a working economy. Haven't the last six years
shown us that [the policy] has been a failure?
Q Critics say that a lot of aid to Russia was wasted--that a lot of it all
ended up in Swiss banks. Do you agree?
A I don't think it all went through dirty hands back to Western banks. A lot
was "eaten up." It was not invested into new jobs or new production. This
money did not teach Russia to produce its own products.
Q How much press freedom would you allow if you become president?
A I say: Write or broadcast whatever you want but don't slander me. If you do
slander me, I will take you to court, and I will win. I have done so 42 times.
Q Why hasn't one murder of a senior politician or journalist been solved?
A This is a very difficult issue. I would say that there is more criminal
activity due to the failures of the economic reforms. There are commercial-
related killings and political killings.
Q Can't you put an end to it?
A They do arrest people. Maybe our law enforcement agencies lack experience.
Q Do you think that antisemitism and fascism are on the rise?
A These phenomena had subsided, but now both have increased in everyday life.
Q You appear to be on a collision course, politically, with [retired army
general Alexander] Lebed. How do you assess him as a potential rival?
A I don't face General Lebed in any political situations. General Lebed is now
governor of the Krasnoyarsk region. It's a difficult job for him because he is
a general and this job requires a lot of economic knowledge. I wish him
Q Americans are very frustrated about the role Russia plays in trying to get
the sanctions on Iraq lifted. Do you favor lifting sanctions?
A I don't want Iraq to be an aggressive state or to develop nuclear or
chemical weapons. We should oppose any actions Iraq may be undertaking [to
develop such weapons] by all methods in the U.N. Charter. If measures are
taken beyond the framework of the U.N., Russia has the right to voice its
point of view.
I don't understand why the bombing of Kosovo was planned. Almost all European
countries have similar interethnic problems--Spain, England, Ireland and
Turkey. Yugoslavia was selected because there is an internal conflict with the
Albanian diaspora. A decision was made [by the United States] to conduct
unplanned actions that exceed the limit of reason.
Q Did you think the Soviet Union was an evil empire?
A Of course. I worked on strengthening that evil empire. I had quite top-level
positions in the old world. For many years I was the head of a big scientific
production company and then I worked in the Chemical Ministry. Of course, I
saw what was going on. I didn't like everything--far from everything.
Lebed, who negotiated the peace in Chechnya, is now governor of the
Krasnoyarsk province. He was interviewed in a small office in Russia's upper
house of parliament and laid out his views of his country's economic and
Q Are you thinking of running for president?
A Nobody announced an election campaign yet, [and] I'm not going to
participate in all these indecent actions like the mayor of Moscow [Yuri
Q What indecent actions?
A [Luzhkov is] developing an election campaign while the president [Boris
Yeltsin] is still alive--the same president to whom he swore he would be
faithful. When elections are announced, I will make up my mind. If I am needed
and there are resources [available], I might participate. But I'm not going to
announce it now.
Q Do you think that Russia needs a strong man as a leader?
A Only a strong man--we've already had enough weak ones.
Q You have spoken of the decay of the Russian military and the problem this
poses to Russia. How serious is this problem and is there a risk that Russia
can lose control over its strategic forces?
A There are historical analogies--the dissolution of the Russian army in 1917
was one of the reasons for the February and October revolutions. A great
number of armed people were pushed out on the streets and not given any
housing, jobs or future. It is very dangerous.
Q Are you saying that with soldiers not being paid, social unrest could be the
A I'm saying about 80 percent of the country's population is poor. They either
don't have jobs, or do not get paid for their work, or get so little that
they're ashamed to bring the money home. The situation reminds one of the
situation in Germany after the Versailles treaty. Lumpen [poor people] make
good material for the revolution. They follow orders easily--even fascist
Q What is the significance of the death of Galina Starovoitova? Is it a
turning point for Russia?
A Starovoitova's murder doesn't make sense. She was a woman, a mother, a
grandmother and a state Duma [parliament] deputy, who reached the peak of her
fame in '89 and '90. In 1998, she had no hope to rise higher. There was an
American shotgun left at the scene of the crime, and a Beretta, one of the
most expensive pistols in the world. It means the killers weren't your run-of-
the-mill Soviet killers but rich killers. That means somebody needed to
destabilize the country and they made a decision to do this.
Q What is your attitude toward the U.S.? Are Russia and the U.S. disengaging?
A I've always believed that in the beginning of the 1990s, the U.S. sincerely
started helping the new leadership in Russia. But they did it in the American
way. You have a different mentality, and you can't transplant your experience
to another country without taking into account its traditions. As a result, a
sad picture emerged. In Russia, there are American investments and Russian
thieves who, under the guise of democratic rhetoric, started stealing this
money. Consequently, America has been blamed for all the unsuccessful reforms.
Everyone was held responsible except the thieves. As a result, the majority of
Russians are convinced that since the U.S. [couldn't] win the Cold War, it
conducted an economic diversion and robbed our country.
Q Don't they blame Russia's own reformers?
A No, they think Russia's reformers worked on the American recipe. It's as if
the Russian reformers are simply fools.
Q If the reforms fail, is there a third way?
A Yes, there is.
Q What is it?
A I won't answer such questions until I have executive power.
Q Do you think Yeltsin may resign before the end of his term?
A It's possible.
Q How do you see the command and control of nuclear weapons?
A I'm governor of Krasnoyarsk. The direction of the nuclear forces is not
included in my responsibilities.
Q Is there is a lot of resentment against Moscow in the rest of Russia?
A Why should they like Moscow? Eighty-four percent of all the country's
banking assets are in the capital and the rest of the country suffers from a
lack of blood supply?
Q How do you think [Prime Minister Yevgeny] Primakov is doing?
A He works as prime minister.
Q Is he doing a good job?
A It's hard to say. He hasn't had enough time to do anything bad.
IMF Stance on Lending to Russia Criticized
3 December 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Commentary by Aleksandr Velichenkov and Tatyana Konishcheva
under the "IMF-Russia" rubric: "Idolize Your Debtors"
Russia cannot complain of a lack of attention from representatives of
international financial organizations in recent days. World Bank President
James Wolfensohn flew back to Washington only recently, and was at once
succeeded by an IMF special mission, which finished its work last week.
And now IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus is personally here inMoscow.
As is well known, the government's priority measures (the anticrisis
program) prompted IMF criticism. The Fund thinks that Russia is not
fulfilling its recommendations. However, in our view, the IMF's own
position is vulnerable. In June this year, at a time when it was clear to
any economist that no financial injections would save the ruble from
devaluation, the IMF granted Russia $4.3 billion -- moreover, from its own
last resources. This money played no role, but simply disappeared without
trace from government and Central Bank accounts a month later.
Now, however, when, in the general opinion, including that of even the
government's fiercest critics, the best draft budget in all the years of
reforms has been prepared -- and will, moreover, be complemented by an
extremely substantive tax reform (something for which the Fund itself had
earlier campaigned), the IMF suggests that it is inappropriate to give us
new credits. To put it plainly, in the summer they shared with us their
last crust, but now, having increased their assets by almost $100 billion,
they cannot agree to give us even $6 billion-$8 billion for 1999. A
strange, clearly inverted sort of logic.
Incidentally, it is not only here in Russia that this opinion
prevails. The IMF's recent actions are being energetically criticized by a
whole series of Western experts and economists, including some who in the
past worked for the Fund itself in Russia. They have recently been
unexpectedly joined by the famous G. Soros. If news agencies are to be
believed, he has written an as yet unpublished book in which is he not
particularly complimentary about the IMF.
The IMF is undoubtedly our main hope, but not our last resort. Russia
has a whole series of credit lines opened by the World Bank, the topicality
of which has fallen considerably since 17 August. The second and third
tranches ($1.2 billion) of the Structural Adjustment Loan (SAL-3), the
second third tranches of the coal loan (SECAL-2) [Sector Adjustment Loan],
worth $200 million, the Social Protection Adjustment Loan (SPAL), worth
$250 million, and other loans have not been utilized to this day.
But this money has already been allocated. And no one can forbid us
from asking the World Bank to "redirect" these funds toward goals that have
become more urgent right now -- first and foremost, toward servicing the
The World Bank's position has always been close to that of the IMF,
although the procedure for collaborating with borrowers differed
substantially. Unfortunately, in a certain sense a critical moment has now
arrived in relations between Russia and international financial
organizations. Extremely authoritative people in Russia, including in the
government, are directly accusing the IMF, claiming that following its
recommendations led us into today's situation. If neither the IMF nor the
World Bank can find any possibility of accommodating us on the question of
payments on external debts in 1999, the theme of a "conspiracy by world
imperialism" will acquire a new edge as a slogan for the communist
opposition. And articles in the Financial Times accusing Russia of having
already defaulted on its external debts are producing the opposite effect
-- rejection and isolationism.