This Date's Issues: 2515 • 2516
Johnson's Russia List
12 December 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: U.S. team thinks Yeltsin still in charge in Russia.
2. The Economist: Western man’s burden. Foreigners are becoming ever
more involved in trying to run Russia.
3. AP: Solzhenitsyn Turns 80, Snubs Russia.
4. Interfax: Mayor Luzhkov Criticizes US Economic Advisers For Crisis.
5. Itar-Tass: Yavlinskiy Presents Report to World Economic Forum.
6. Dale Herspring: What to do with the Russian Military?
7. AP: Russian Military Experiencing Decay.
8. Ariel Cohen: Galina Starovoitova Memorial Meeting at Heritage
Foundation in Washington DC.
9. John Varoli: Re The Poor State of Sociology.
10. Keith Darden: Kirienko Talk.
11. St. Petersburg Times: Brian Whitmore, Rare Gun Used by Deputy's
12. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Oleg Yuriyev,"Divide and Conquer: Russian
Laws Are Still Being Written In America."
13. Moscow Times: Julia Solovyova, 5 Years of Constitution Marked.
14. Reuters: World Bank gloomy on Russia economic outlook.
15. The Times (UK): Anna Blundy, Moscow sobered by bubbly crisis.]
U.S. team thinks Yeltsin still in charge in Russia
By Patrick Worsnip
MOSCOW, Dec 11 (Reuters) - A high-level U.S. mission concluded after talks
with Kremlin leaders that Boris Yeltsin ``remains very much the president'' of
Russia despite his health problems, senior U.S. officials said on Friday.
The officials, briefing reporters on condition they were not identified, said
two days of talks with Russia's new, more conservative government had failed
to resolve concerns over alleged Russian supplies of missile technology to
And they said the U.S. team was taking a wait-and-see attitude over whether
Russia's parliament would finally ratify the START-2 strategic arms treaty
with Washington, despite promises by Russian officials this would happen this
The mission, led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy
Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, visited Moscow to gauge the economic and
political course of the government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov,
appointed in September.
Primakov took over amid an economic crisis caused by a devaluation of the
rouble in August and a freeze on bond and loan repayments.
U.S. officials refused to be drawn on whether a budget approved by the Russian
cabinet on Thursday would persuade the International Monetary Fund to resume
loan instalments delayed over concerns Moscow may be backsliding on economic
The team did not see Yeltsin, who is resting at a residence near Moscow after
two weeks of hospital treatment for pneumonia, but met Primakov and Kremlin
chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha, who they said were in touch with the
president on policy issues.
``There was quite concrete evidence that President Yeltsin was very much on
the job, (and) remains very much the president of his country,'' one official
Washington has strongly backed Yeltsin since the Soviet Union collapsed in
1991, and has consistently played down the health problems that have plagued
him. In recent weeks, Primakov has assumed many of Yeltsin's traditional
The U.S. team heard ``categorical reaffirmation'' from the Russians that they
opposed the transfer of missile technology to Iran, which Washington calls a
``rogue state,'' but told Kremlin leaders that the problem persists, officials
The alleged transfer by private Russian companies ``remains a very real and
troublesome piece of unfinished business between the two governments,'' one
official said. ``We have some differences between us and we have some hard
work ahead of us.''
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov told the Americans on
Thursday that Moscow was willing to step up export controls on illicit
technology transfers, but first wanted to see proof they were taking place,
Russian news agencies said.
Despite a promise by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright in Brussels this week that START-2 would pass the Duma this
month after a five-year delay, U.S. officials in Moscow expressed caution.
``I'm certainly not making any firm predictions there,'' one said. ``We've
obviously been waiting for that for a very long time.'' Albright said on
Wednesday she hoped prompt ratification of the treaty would enable her to
launch a fresh set of strategic arms talks during a visit to Moscow in
U.S. officials said Summers and his staff still needed to analyse the Russian
budget, which Moscow-based experts say includes highly optimistic revenue
targets, but believed it was up to Moscow to win new loans from the IMF.
The Americans and Russians agreed that ``Russian economic policy was crucial
to the resolution of Russian debt issues,'' one official said, adding that the
U.S. team ``did not come to prescribe and did not come with a cheque-book.''
The IMF, worried by Russian plans to bail out struggling industries and banks
by printing new money, has called on Moscow to come up with a credible
economic plan that will include more vigorous tax-gathering.
December 12, 1998
[for personal use only]
Western man’s burden
M O S C O W
Foreigners are becoming ever more involved in trying to run Russia
WHEN a country habitually lacks people or governments capable of keeping
essential services going, outsiders sooner or later begin to fill the gap. One
word for this is colonisation. It is early days, but something of the kind may
be starting to happen in Russia.
The best example is when extreme danger is involved. Take Russia’s old and
badly managed nuclear weapons and nuclear-power plants. Westerners are already
heavily involved in keeping them safe. American money—$453m this year—pays for
monitoring gadgets at nuclear-weapons sites and for the conversion of bomb-
making material into a less dangerous form. Another $30m goes to help
scientists—potentially just as dangerous—who might take their skills to North
Korea or Iraq. The European Union is spending $104m on nuclear safety,
including two new centres to train some 1,000 monitors to keep tabs on
Russia’s nuclear material.
Other countries have programmes of their own. Norway is trying to salvage
clapped-out nuclear submarines off the Kola peninsula, in northern Russia.
Finland is spending around $3.3m on the Sosnovy Bor nuclear-power station
close to it, and is also paying for St Petersburg’s sewage, which slurps into
the Baltic, to be better treated before it does.
A growing legion of foreigners is involved in trying to help Russia in other
vital areas. Foreign doctors and nurses are trying, for instance, to stem the
spread of infectious diseases. Foreign policemen have become enmeshed in
fighting corruption. George Soros, an American philanthropist who outspends
most foreign governments in his do-gooding in Russia, supports 4,000 of
Russia’s best teachers, as well as such things as book-buying by public
libraries, stipends for scientists, public health, and retraining jobless army
Even in the most central function of government—law and order—foreigners,
albeit for commercial rather than for charitable reasons, are vitally
important. The best way to be safe in Russia is to hire a western security
company to guard your business and yourself; and to buy western insurance in
case that is not enough. True, the leg-work is usually sub-contracted to
Russians, including shadowy figures still on the state payroll. But it is the
foreign ingredient that makes such deals stick.
Where will it lead? The Russian state is withering away. Tax revenues, in
dollar terms, mean that Russia, with 29 times as many people, has a government
budget the same size as Finland’s. If the rouble falls further (and it slipped
10% last week), the comparison will be with Ireland.
The resulting hole is filled partly with sheer misery: children huddling
hungrily in unheated, lunchless schools, taught by an unpaid teacher with
tattered textbooks; epidemics of tuberculosis and AIDS; horrible leakages of
dangerous chemicals. Western aid helps a bit—a few billion dollars goes a lot
further than it used to—but is a mere blip on a vast, wretched, dangerous
It has become plain that Russia’s financial woes could last for many years.
That is prompting a big, uncomfortable, shift in western ideas about it.
Outside involvement, whether public or private, charitable or commercial, was
supposed to be temporary, as it has been in other post-communist countries.
Estonia, for instance, gratefully received western aid a few years ago, but
now no longer needs it; indeed, the Baltic states are now sending aid to
Russia. Few people thought in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, that
Russia would still barely be able to feed itself seven years later. But the
outlook has changed. “We are looking at a dependency culture which could last
a generation or more,” worries a senior western diplomat.
Both sides are going to find this increasingly irritating. Nordic countries,
for example, are already worrying that next winter, as in this one, they will
find their sleeves being tugged for fuel, food and medicine by local
governments in impoverished towns in Russia’s desperate far north. The more
Russia gets used to western welfare, the less incentive it will have to
replace it through its own native efforts. And as the central government seems
increasingly less worth helping directly, outsiders are looking more and more
to regional and local bigwigs with whom to make deals.
Many patriotic Russians do not like the sound of this. It is not only paranoid
nationalists who note that many managers in private western security firms are
former soldiers and intelligence people. Even quite sensible Russian
politicians fear that the West’s interest is to keep Russia as a place to
extract minerals from and sell consumer goods to, rather than helping it
become an industrial or agricultural power.
Most ordinary Russians do not yet seem to mind. They welcome the prospect of
prosperity and the rule of law, whoever helps to bring it. But this creeping
colonisation will have costs in terms of independence. Some historical
precedents are striking. In China, for example, foreign countries in the 19th
century took over key ports and ran them until the 1930s. When western
countries ran parts of Russia during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik
revolution of 1917, the result in Murmansk, for instance, was a local rouble
backed by sterling.
The idea of westerners coming in to help run Russian cities, or even whole
regions, still seems implausible. But already Russia’s outlying areas are
running themselves with less and less say-so from the centre. A law on mineral
concessions to foreigners is going through Russia’s Duma. Once western
companies are granted rights to exploit Russian minerals, questions of law and
order, and who should enforce them, are bound to follow.
It is imaginable that future investment might be conditional on customs-free
zones administered by outsiders. A Swiss company, SGS, one of a number
offering services to countries that do not trust their own officials, is on
the scene. “What seems unthinkable now may look quite pragmatic in a three
months’ time,” says Scott Blacklin, head of the American Chamber of Commerce
in Moscow. Is it surprising that western taxpayers and Russian nationalists
could both feel queasy?
Solzhenitsyn Turns 80, Snubs Russia
December 11, 1998
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) -- President Boris Yeltsin tried to honor literary giant Alexander
Solzhenitsyn on his 80th birthday Friday, but the veteran of the Soviet gulags
refused Russia's highest cultural award.
Solzhenitsyn, a longtime critic of Yeltsin, thanked the president but said:
``In today's conditions, when people are starving and striking just to get
their wages, I cannot accept this award.''
``Maybe, maybe, in a long, long time, when Russia overcomes its insurmountable
problems, my sons may be able to accept such an award,'' he said at a Moscow
performance of the play ``Sharashka,'' based on an adaptation of his novel
``The First Circle.''
Yeltsin granted Solzhenitsyn the Order of St. Andrew for ``outstanding service
to the fatherland and great contributions to world literature,'' presidential
spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin told reporters.
Yeltsin's deputy chief of staff, Oleg Sysuyev, told Russia's ORT television
station that the writer had the right to decline the award. But it is the
president's duty to ``honor such an outstanding person on his birthday,''
Solzhenitsyn did accept an award from the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian
news agencies reported.
He is the author of such renowned works as ``One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich'' and the three-volume ``The Gulag Archipelago,'' which chronicled
the atrocities in the Soviet prison camps.
The reclusive Solzhenitsyn attended a party Thursday night at the Swedish
Embassy for Nobel laureates and chatted amicably with former Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev, a man he criticized in the past.
Solzhenitsyn was held in prison camps for eight years, and he turned his
experiences into his life's work, winning him international fame. Soviet
authorities exiled him in 1974 and he lived in seclusion in Vermont before
returning to post-Soviet Russia in 1994.
He has continued writing and makes occasional speeches, but his influence has
waned since the 1960s and 1970s, when he was one of the best-known opponents
of the Soviet system.
Mayor Luzhkov Criticizes US Economic Advisers For Crisis
Moscow, Dec 8 (Interfax-Moscow) -- Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, now
visiting Germany, has criticized U.S. economic advisers of the Russian
government and placed part of the blame for his country's current economic
mess on them.
"For a long time we used the advice of American economic experts," he
said on the Deutsche Welle radio station on Tuesday [8 December]. "The
results are evident and don't satisfy me," he said.
The recommendations "undermined our economic potential and cannot
serve as a foundation for advancing or transforming the economy," he said.
"I am familiar with the century long experience of Germany in
advancing cooperative societies and agriculture, the experience of
organizing industry and overcoming the post-war crisis," Luzhkov said.
He said he does not want to contrast "two political systems -- the
United States and Germany," and added that "there is no political
connotation" in his words. "These are objective business- like evaluations
of what happened and what we failed to use," Luzhkov said.
Yavlinskiy Presents Report to World Economic Forum
MOSCOW, December 5 (Itar-Tass) - Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, leader of the
Russian political movement Yabloko, made a report at the World Economic
Forum in Moscow on Saturday on "the political view on Russia today." In the
report, he presented his view point on problems facing the country and
analysed the goverment activities in the reforms implementation over the
past six years.
According to Yavlinskiy, the main goal now is to restore confidence in
government in order to implement the reforms for the sake of all the
Russians, but not in the interests of separate "oligarchic circles."
In Yavlinskiy's view, the income tax for the population should be
lowered to 10 per cent, and the tax on extra high incomes to 15 per cent.
On the whole, all the taxes for producers should not exceed 20 per cent,
and the number of such taxes should stand at four to five.
With such a considerable part of barter in current payments -- 82 per
cent -- a more tax burden is unthinkable, he believes.
The Yabloko leader also dwelt on the population's confidence in the
authorities. It is the most evident when the question is the one of the
population's investing of savings. According to various assessments, the
population has up to 46 billion dollars on hands, however, nobody intends
to make investments into Russia's economy.
Yavlinskiy believes the problem may be settled if to admit
international financial institutions to the Russian financial market. In
two to three years of their active work, the institutions could form a
rather high level of confidence of the population in investing on the
whole, he thinks.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 )
From: Dale R Herspring <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: What to do with the Russian Military?
I realize that my views are not shared by everyone, but in the debate over
what we can or should do vis-a-vis the Russian military, I come out on the
side of those who believe that we can and should reach out. I say this
not for some humanitarian reason, although that is not a bad reason.
I say it because I believe it is in our interest.
In suggesting we should do something, I speak as one who has spent a life
time working with and studying this military. I know personally how
frustrating it can be to deal with Russian/Soviet military officers.
Their rudness, brashness, and demanding nature are all too familiar to me.
At the same time, I have also been deeply impressed by their
professionalism. I can still remember standing on the bridge of the
Ustinov at 0500 watching them bring one of the biggest ships in the
Russian fleet up to the pier -- and kissing it gently -- without the aid
of tugs. I have also watched them perform in the field -- good soldiers
who know their job.
It also became clear to me early on that Russian military officers have
traditionally lived a much more isolated life than is the case with our
own military. I immediately noticed a greater sense of ease on
the part of Russian and Soviet military officers in speaking with American
military/naval officers than when dealing with their own civlians. I
can't count the number of times I was taken aside (when in uniform) and
told something that "only a person in uniform would understand." I don't
want to idealize this relationship, just to note that for Russian officers
the military to military contacts are important -- even if they often
sabotage them through their own pride or incompetence.
While we can all disagree on just how bad the situation is within the
Russian military (I tend to be among those who think it is very bad), it
is clear that help is needed. With this in mind, I would not propose
"buying" the Russian military. However, I think the idea of
providing MREs to help feed the Russian Army is a good one.
There are, of course, a number of problems. First, their is the question
of pride. Will the Russian army accept what amounts to a handout? I am
not sure. Second, there is the obvious problem of corruption. The armed
forces appear to be as corrupt as the rest of the country. What
guarantee is there that some 0-7 or 0-6 won't just pocket the MREs and the
resultant money? There is none. To make such a proposal work, we would
have to have some kind of intrusive measures to guarantee that the troops
were getting the needed food.
What is there to gain? First, anything that contributes to stability --
especially among that sector of the populace/polity with the more
dangerous toys seems to me to be in our interest. Second, the Russian
military is down -- every Russian officer knows that better than we do.
It will be years before it reemerges as an effective fighting force --
maybe decades. But the fact is that it will happen. When that day comes,
I think it would be in our interest to have a legacy of having tried to
help. In this regard, I am reminded of what General Joerg Schoenbohm said
when he was assigned to Kommando Ost with the task of incorporating the
former East German military into the Bundeswehr. And keep in mind that
there were many in Bonn who wanted to assign anything even remotely
related to the NVA to the ash-heap of history. "We come not as victors to
the vanquished. Rather, we come as Germans to Germans." In fact,
Schoenbohm's actions in the former GDR showed that he meant what he said.
If we hope to avoid having our grandchilden -- or children (I have two who
are military officers) from having to face a hostile Russian officer corps
seeking vengence for past wrongs (even if more perceived than real), it is
in our interest to hold out the hand of cooperation and assistance, even
if in the end it is rejected. Telling the Russians that they can go to
Hell is a self-fulfilling prophpecy. They are already in Hell, and
leaving them there without the kind of gesture the US military is capable
of will only breed resentment and hatred; something that serves no one's
Russian Military Experiencing Decay
December 11, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) -- At least 30 percent of Russia's weapons are no longer fit for
combat and over 70 percent of the ships in its navy need repairs, the defense
minister said Friday,
The report highlighted the moribund state of Russia's cash-strapped and
The situation is especially alarming in the air force, where only one-third of
its aircraft can now fly, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev told parliament's
lower house, the State Duma.
Inadequate repairs and a lack of training have contributed to an increasing
number of military aircraft crashes. Earlier this week, an Su-27 fighter jet
crashed in the Far East, killing its pilot.
``The state of airfields continues to deteriorate and the potential to defend
the nation's airspace has substantially decreased,'' Sergeyev said in his
The military modernization program has been crippled by the government's
severe cash shortage.
So far this year, the armed forces haven't received a ``single new nuclear
submarine, tank, combat plane, helicopter or cannon,'' Sergeyev said.
As a result, only 28 percent of all military hardware in the armed forces
inventories are of modern design, he said. He did not explain what weapons the
military considers state-of-the-art.
In the Strategic Missile Force, 60 percent of missiles on combat duty have
already served twice their service time, Sergeyev told the lawmakers.
The military periodically test-fires the missiles to check their condition and
insists they remain combat-ready.
Sergeyev and other military leaders have urged parliament to speed up the
long-stalled ratification of the START II arms reduction treaty with the
United States. The move would allow Russia to reduce its stockpiles and save
money for new weapons.
However, Communists who dominate the Duma together with their hard-line allies
have balked at ratification, claiming the treaty would hurt Russia's security.
No date for the ratification debate has been set yet, despite strong pressure
from the government.
From: "Ariel Cohen" <email@example.com>
Subject: Galina Starovoitova Memorial Meeting
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998
The Heritage Foundation will hold a memorial event for Galina Starovoitova
Thursday, December 17, at noon. Enclosed please find an announcement for the
memorial meeting. I will very much appreciate if you could post it on the
list, so those of us who are in the DC area can attend.
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO A HERITAGE MEMORIAL EVENT ON
THE ASSASSINATION OF GALINA STAROVOITOVA AND THE FUTURE
OF RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY
Senior Policy Analyst, Russian and Eurasian Studies,
The Heritage Foundation
Chairman, Center for Political and Strategic Studies
Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies
Center, The Heritage Foundation
FATHER VICTOR POTAPOV
Rector, Rusian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Editor, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe
THE HON. CURT WELDON (R-PA)
United States House of Representatives
"The strike against Galina Starovoitova was a strike
against Russian democracy. She was a symbol. Now that the symbol has been
cut down, other democrats in Russia are calling upon the West to put
pressure on Prime Minister Primakov's government to prosecute communists and
Nazi-style ultra-nationalists for the criminal offenses they commit.
Tomorrow may be too late. Russian democrats and their friends in the West
are demanding that the Russian government fight organized crime - and find
Ariel Cohen, "A Strike Against Russian Democracy," The Washington
Times, November 24, 1998
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1998
12 noon - 1:30 p.m.
THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION'S LEHRMAN AUDITORIUM
214 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE, NE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
PLEASE CALL PAUL LOVE AT (202) 675-1752
OR SEND YOUR E-MAIL TO: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our web site at: http://www.heritage.org
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998
From: John Varoli <email@example.com>
Organization: The St Petersburg Times
Subject: Re: The Poor State of Sociology
Bravo on running the Financial Times article, "RUSSIA: Poor fail to get
relief from dachas," in JRL 2513.
It was a fine example of the pitiful state of sociological research on
life in Russia.
In a country as large as Russia, it's truly disturbing that some social
scientists draw conclusions about the whole country based on research in
a mere four cities.
And even worse, they draw those conclusions based on short interviews,
when in fact such research requires at least months, if not years, of
Indeed, from years of research, visiting numerous rural and urban
settlements throughout the European part of Russia, I conclude that most
Russians are returning to their peasants origins and survive in large
part thanks to their plot of land, or that of some member of their
Many also have odd jobs on the side to supplement income, but such
opportunities occur irregularly.
Most Russians are making ends meet, but it is mostly hand to mouth, and
little is left over for savings, and few can be sure of what tomorrow
And putting the situation into historical context...
While there was stability in poverty during the Soviet period--- when
the country's economy worked primarily for the needs of the defense
sector, and food and other consumer goods were scarce--- most Russians
still only survived thanks to their plot of land.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998
From: Keith Darden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Kirienko Talk
Dear JRL readers,
As one who attended Kirienko's speech at Harvard, I would like to
reinforce the Jamestown Monitor's critical assessment of his
performance. My own reaction, and that of others I spoke to (all
Russian-speakers), was no different from that of the Monitor
correspondent. I would even say that the Monitor was being a bit
diplomatic in its criticism of the former Prime Minister. Kirienko came
across as evasive, disturbingly uninformed, and (forgive me)
unintelligent -- a man capable of little more than repeating a single
mantra about the need for a "realistic" budget. "We need to start with
a realistic budget" or "we need consensus" were his answers to the few
questions that he took on directly. But Kirienko never stated what such
a budget would entail, where cuts would be made, or how he would cope
with the political consequences of cutting the budget. When asked by a
member of the audience what Russia should do about its problems in the
agricultural sector, he responded that he did not know much about the
agricultural sphere(!). Perhaps other observers will correct me, but I
even detected a degree of derision in his response -- as if being a
specialist on agriculture was somehow beneath him. I, and others that I
know, were quite disgusted with him. Technocratic hubris is bad
enough. But technocratic hubris coming from someone who failed to grasp
vital economic matters, and glossed over his ignorance with a few
well-placed jokes, was intolerable. The Jamestown Monitor should be
praised for revealing Kirienko's failings. I hope that others will
Sure, the jokes were amusing, and I laughed along with the rest of the
audience. But Russia isn't funny anymore. It doesn't need comedians,
and the West shouldn't be supporting one.
St. Petersburg Times
December 11, 1998
Rare Gun Used by Deputy's Assassins
By Brian Whitmore
Weapons similar to the internal silencer-equipped gun used to assassinate
federal lawmaker Galina Starovoitova are extremely rare and are used most
often for covert military operations, U.S. small-arms experts have said.
Starovoitova was shot three times and killed on the night of Nov. 20 as
she ascended the stairs to her apartment at 91 Canal Griboedova. Her press
secretary, Ruslan Linkov, survived the attack despite being shot in the head
In the days following the killing, much attention was paid to the weapons
used - later identified as a Croatian-made Agran-2000 long-barrel pistol
with an internal silencer and a Berretta Gardone handgun. Initially, Russian
media reported the main weapon - the Agran-2000 - as being American-made,
although it has since been established by media, citing law enforcement
sources, as being produced in Croatia.
During the civil wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, Croatia
distinguished itself as a major production center for small arms, weapons
experts said. Weapons with internal silencers, which fire more slowly than
normal weapons, are used in covert operations where velocity can be
sacrificed in favor of stealth.
Small-arms experts also say that weapons with internal silencers are
extremely rare - with production runs of each model tending to be under
1,000 units - and are used almost exclusively in military covert operations.
"Weapons with internal silencers are very rare. Rare enough to ask
interesting questions about the person who is using them," said David Isby,
of the Institute for Research on Small Weapons in International Society, a
Washington-based think tank. Isby said that such weapons are usually
reserved for people involved in "special" - meaning covert - military
"Your average thug or even someone in the mafia wouldn't have access to
such a weapon unless he was very well-connected to the special services,"
said Isby, estimating that fewer than a thousand such weapons are in
circulation. Isby added that since 1991, the Russian military has also been
showing two similar weapons, the MSP double-barreled pistol and the PSS-Vul
- both of which have internal silencers.
Walter Minton, a weapons consultant who served in the U.S. Army Special
Forces, agreed, calling the Argon-2000 an "assassination-type weapon most
often used in special operations." He added the caveat, however, that given
Russia's post-Soviet black market for weapons, it is theoretically possible
for organized crime groups to get their hands on any weapon.
"The black market for weapons in the former Soviet Union is huge and mafia
groups can get their hands on virtually anything," he said.
But regardless of the weapon's availability, Minton raised questions about
its desirability, saying the technology for the Argon-2000 "is not
overwhelmingly new." Minton added that there are probably very few of that
particular weapon in existence. "Five hundred guns of that type would be a
lot of damn guns."
Recent press reports have suggested that Starovoitova's assassination was
more likely the work of political extremist groups than organized crime
organizations. For example, a report last week in the newspaper Moskovsky
Komsomolets suggested that the assassination was not as professionally
conducted as previously believed. Citing anonymous law enforcement sources,
the newspaper reported that the assassins used "sloppy firearms."
Moreover, St. Petersburg businessman Ruslan Kolyak, whom the authorities
earlier announced they are seeking for questioning, told NTV that the St.
Petersburg criminal world had nothing to do with Starovoitova's death.
Kolyak is widely believed to have ties to organized crime, Radio Liberty
On Saturday, Kommersant Daily reported that Moscow's Anti-Organized Crime
Task Force arrested a former policeman, Mikhail Lazaryev, in connection with
a clandestine armory in the Moscow suburb of Naro-Fominsk. The paper, citing
law enforcement sources, wrote that the Agran-2000 that killed Starovoitova
could have come from that armory. The paper also reported that an anonymous
letter found at the site implied that several members of the militant
left-wing opposition, including Communist lawmaker Albert Ma ka shov,
Vladislav Acha lov and Stanislav Terekhov, were tied to the arms cache.
Those three were among the leaders of the parliamentary opposition to
President Boris Yeltsin during his bloody confrontation with the old Russian
parliament in October 1993. Ma ka shov led an armed attack on the Ostankino
television studio in Moscow and recently clashed politically with Sta ro voi
to va in the State Duma after she tried to have him censured for making
anti-Semitic remarks at a public rally in October.
Recent comments by Starovoitova aide Linkov also tend to support the
extremist political theory. Linkov said that when the assassins began
shooting, one of them said "dabit' gadinu," which roughly translates as
"squash the filth."
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said he was "certain" that the crime
would be solved, although investigators have announced no major
breakthroughs in the case and the police and prosecutors have steadfastly
refused to comment for the record.
IMF Said To 'Censor' Russian Legislation
26 November 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Oleg Yuriyev: "Divide and Conquer: Russian Laws
Are Still Being Written In America"
Moskovskiy Komsomolets has obtained an extremely interesting
document. It is a letter from the IMF's Moscow representative
Michael Carter to the Russian Government.
We can draw a simple conclusion: All new Russian laws are
still carefully censored by the IMF.
Presently, the State Duma is conducting hearings on the very
important Law "On State Supplies in the Russian Federation." It has
already received unprecedented unanimous approval in its first
reading in early November.
However, it is not the issue under discussion. As soon as the
deputies completed their deliberations, the IMF immediately
intervened by informing the Russian Government that "it would be
better if the hearings on it (the legislation--ed.) stopped today."
It attached a strong argument for such action: "The adoption of such
legislation could impede the provision of further financial aid on
behalf of the World Bank."
In other words, the Americans offered Yevgeniy Primakov a
simple choice: Either he refrains from adopting a law on natural gas
supply in Russia or we will not see new international loans. It
certainly sounds like blackmail. Or a bribe, depending on yourpreferences.
However, if it seems impossible to derail the entire
legislation, it might be possible to strike out the most important
component--the reason it was drafted in the first place. That is
why the IMF representative's letter further lists fifteen (!)
articles of the legislation that need to be removed altogether or"corrected."
What is specifically opposed by the IMF? For example, the
Fund does not like the fact that any new natural gas deposit in
Russia could be bought out by the federal government and converted
into state property. It is unheard of for a Fund's representative
to present arguments on who owns the mineral deposits inRussia?!
Furthermore, the legislation stipulates that gas supplies to
new users (please read villages and settlements in remote rural
areas) should be financed from the federal budget. This is logical
in principle: "New users" are regular taxpayers who have a right to
receive crumbs of civilization from the government's table in return
for their hard-earned cash. On the contrary, according to the IMF,
natural gas should be supplied to Russian citizens "only on the
basis of complete reimbursement of expenses." You should pay up if
you do not want to cook your borscht over firewood.
For your information: The installation of one kilometer of gas
pipeline costs approximately $10,000 even in Moscow Oblast with its
relatively well-developed infrastructure. Here people still have
the possibility of selling two and a half tractors and all their
chickens and pigs in order to pay for 100 meters of pipeline, but
what is left for residents of Chita Oblast to do when the nearest
substation is located 150 kilometers away through forest?...
According to the conditions set forth by the IMF, it is clear that
such people will never see natural gas in their homes.
Such cruelty expressed by the Fund would seem surprising, but
everything becomes clear when we recall its recent demands from the
Russian authorities to drastically reduce expenditures by the
Pension Fund, i.e., deprive our senior citizens of their lastkopek.
However, there is a more global reason why the IMF is trying
to rewrite the "gas legislation." Our newspaper has already
reported that the Americans are certainly concerned at the
unification of European countries in a joint economic entity and the
introduction of the new European currency, the euro, which is an
obvious competitor to the dollar. In the meantime, the EU's
integrity largely depends on supplies of environmentally clean fuel
from Russia. In other words, Europe is stuck tight on our gas
needle. Therefore, the endless efforts by the US to demolish the
gas complex of the Russian Federation are not surprising.
Times are changing. Governments are changing as well. The
"young reformers" who accepted any "recommendations" from the
Americans in exchange for credits and in the end ruined everything
they could ruin have stepped aside to secondary positions.
Presently, new people are running the White House. While the IMF is
still trying to impose on us their rules of the game, since there is
no money in the Russian treasury, as in the past.
The reaction of Yevgeniy Primakov to the instruction (or
should we say dictation?) is still unknown.
December 12, 1998
5 Years of Constitution Marked
By Julia Solovyova
Russia marks the fifth anniversary of the passage of its post-Soviet
constitution on Saturday and will celebrate by taking Monday off from school
Federal and city government offices will be closed Monday, as will schools,
but many stores will be open for business. Sberbank also said that its branch
offices will be open Monday.
While many ordinary Russians will relish the chance to play in the snow or get
together with friends, few will give much thought to the much maligned
document approved in a national referendum on Dec. 12, 1993.
In recent months, the Constitution has come under attack from communists and
others who say it gives the president too much power and should be changed.
The approach of Saturday's holiday gave the Constitution's supporters and
detractors an occasion to state their case.
Gennady Seleznyov, a moderate Communist and speaker of the State Duma,
parliament's lower house, said Friday that the Russian Constitution was "far
from perfect" and should be amended.
"We have every opportunity to express our respect for the Constitution and
start amending it extensively by reducing presidential powers and stepping up
Cabinet powers and the controlling functions of parliament," he was quoted as
saying by Interfax.
But Yegor Stroyev, who chairs the upper house of parliament, defended the
Constitution by saying it served as a "stabilizing factor" after the breakup
of the Soviet Union. Despite its many flaws, it provided a solid basis for
creating laws that meet international legal standards, Itar-Tass quoted him as
President Boris Yeltsin has accepted the need for constitutional changes, but
the head of the internal policy department at the presidential administration,
Andrei Loginov, said it was too soon to amend the Constitution.
It needs to remain unchanged for at least seven years to start being
effective, Interfax reported him as saying on Thursday.
Sergei Filatov, who headed Yeltsin's administration in 1993 when the
Constitution was drawn up, denied that the national charter gives the
president virtually authoritarian powers.
"Everything stated in the Constitution provides opportunities to build a
democratic, lawful ... state," Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted him as saying in
Friday's edition. "But real life is much more complicated," Filatov added,
arguing that the recent economic crisis has undermined its achievements in
improving human rights.
The 1993 Constitution, which was written right after Yeltsin suppressed his
opponents in the Soviet-era parliament, replaced the 1977 charter written
World Bank gloomy on Russia economic outlook
By Janet Guttsman
WASHINGTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - A senior World Bank official gave a set of
gloomy forecasts for Russia's economy on Friday, including a "soft landing" of
a 10 to 15 percent additional drop in output followed by a period of
But the downside could be "quite severe" if crisis-hit Russia failed to solve
its fiscal and financial problems or to reschedule debts and win new
international cash, World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn told a conference
"There could be a soft landing -- medium-term stagnation after a further drop
in output of 10 or 15 percent -- and they might then find a way of muddling
through, particularly if they can maintain a competitive exchange rate, and
they could regain momentum over the next 5 or 10 years, he said.
"But on the downside, if hyperinflation is not avoided, if total default on
all debts were to be part of an extreme response, a much more severe decline
could be imagined."
Economists usually use the term "soft landing" to refer to slower growth rates
and not to outright recession. The Russian economy, however, has been
contracting for years and Western experts see few signs of a turnaround in the
Linn, responsible for Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, also offered
a somewhat more optimistic third scenario -- a slow recovery in economic
But he said this depended on an upswing in commodity prices, the success of an
international rescue package for Brazil and on Russia's government solving its
Russia has long been struggling to collect enough taxes to meet its budget
plans. Its funding problems were compounded this year by falling oil prices
and higher interest rates on its foreign and domestic debt.
The government, stretched to the limit, responded by devaluing the rouble and
defaulting on some debts, moves which sent shock waves through the world
The International Monetary Fund responded by halting its multi-billion dollar
lending program to Russia. Linn said a new IMF lending deal would be a
precondition for resuming payouts on some World Bank loans -- those linked to
broad structural reforms.
"There will be no disbursement of already committed adjustment loans unless
there is a fund package," Linn told reporters after the seminar, which was
organized by Germany's Konrad Adenauer Stiftung foundation.
Linn said the adjustment lending was part of the World Bank's existing $11.5
billion in commitments to Russia. But only half this money had been paid out,
and the outstanding sum included $1.9 billion for structural adjustment.
"There's a lot of money on the shelf that is ready for disbursement, if Russia
wants to utilize the resources," Linn said. "The main constraint is the
willingness and ability of the government to move forward. It will take a long
time and the risk of failure is high."
Russia's economic problems have also hit other countries in the region and
Linn said the international community had agreed on Friday to offer $200
million to help six former Soviet republics hurt by the turmoil.
He said Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the Caucasus, Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan in Central Asia and Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and
Romania, would receive the money next year, provided economic policies were
The money would cover half the six countries' estimated balance of payments
shortfall due to Russia's economic crisis.
Linn said the World Bank and IMF would contribute some $50 million apiece. The
remainder would come from the Asian Development Bank and from bilateral donors
including Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States and the European
The Times (UK)
12 December 1998
[for personal use only]
Moscow sobered by bubbly crisis
FROM ANNA BLUNDY IN MOSCOW
MOSCOW is suffering a crisis. No, not the economy. A champagne crisis. While
the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok declares a state of emergency as 500
blocks of flats remain without heat, Moscow has been thrown into a panic over
speculation there may not be enough champagne to celebrate the new year.
Rough estimates suggest that Muscovites need eight million bottles of
champagne during the festive season. This means a fairly generous helping per
person since the city's population is ten million, and of those, some at least
are under-age or teetotal.
Also, champagne is considered a woman's drink. Real men drink vodka. As
Russians say: "There is no such thing as an ugly woman, but there is such a
thing as too little vodka."
The Russians have been making champagne in large quantities since Soviet
times, but there remains controversy over whether they are allowed to call it
champagne since it does not come from the Champagne region of France.
"If the city had placed their order with us in time, we wouldn't have a
problem," the administration of Moscow's Champagne Wines factory told Segodnya
If both the main regional producers - Champagne Wines and Cornet - work to
full capacity for the next three weeks, they will still only provide around 40
per cent of the champagne required.
Moscow food department officials are incensed that producers have agreed to
contracts outside the city "at such a difficult time for the capital", and are
putting pressure on the factories to default on regional orders. The factories
estimate that they will be able to produce five million bottles by the new
year. But, of those, 20 per cent are destined for the regions.
Russian champagne sells at 150 roubles (£4.60) a bottle. "Many Muscovites will
find their New Year celebration quite costly," Segodnya says.
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