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Johnson's Russia List
9 January 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Boston Globe: Colum Lynch, Russian envoy is appointed to key
2. Washington Post letter: Peter Reddaway, Russia: Where the West
Is Heading for a Fall.
3. Interfax: Officials View Impact of Possible Clinton Impeachment.
(Georgiy Arbatov and Sergey Karaganov).
4. AP: 5 Russian Banks Reported Insolvent.
5. Interfax: Russian Experts Says Ruble 'Psychologically Stable.'
6. AFP: Russians take up "taxi-driving" to make ends meet.
7. USIA Foreign Media Reaction: USSIA IN 'DIRE STRAITS,' 'SEARCHING
FOR ROLE IN THE WORLD.'
8. Interfax: Russian Constitutional Expert Queries Union With Belarus.
9. Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy: Constitutional Court Chief Defends
10. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Foreign Takeovers Feared in 'Third Privatization.'
11. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Yes, Katya, there is a Ded
12. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, Turning Away From The Moscow Press.
13. Itar-Tass: Stankevich Regrets Causing Friction Between Poland,
9 January 1999
[for personal use only]
Russian envoy is appointed to key UN post
US diplomatic foe joins inner circle
By Colum Lynch, Globe Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS - In a move that is likely to increase Russia's influence in
United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan has appointed a senior Russian
official - and former US Cold War adversary - to serve as his diplomatic
The appointment of Yuli M. Vorontsov, Russia's outgoing ambassador to
Washington, has generated anxiety among US officials, already upset with Annan
over leaks about US espionage in Iraq under UN auspices.
Vorontsov has been an adept diplomatic foe of Washington in Afghanistan and
during the end of the Cold War, emerging later as an adversary over
conflicting US-Russian policies in Iraq.
US officials reacted suspiciously to the appointment.
''This is the consummate survivor in the old Soviet system,'' a US official
who has tracked Vorontsov said yesterday. ''Whether that is the sort of person
we want in the United Nations Secretariat is a fair question.''
UN officials insisted yesterday that there is nothing unusual in the
Former US secretaries of state Cyrus Vance and James Baker have served as
diplomatic envoys for the United Nations from the Balkans to Western Sahara.
Many of Annan's current diplomatic trouble-shooters, including the current UN-
East Timor mediator, Jamsheed Marker of Pakistan, have previously served as
ambassador at UN headquarters in New York.
Vorontsov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations from 1990 to 1994, has
accepted the post for a token annual salary of $1. He will hold the rank of
undersecretary general, carrying out diplomatic missions for the UN chief.
''He's an old pro and he was at the UN for many years,'' the Amerian
said. ''So he is certainly qualified, but he's an old Soviet.''
Russian specialists say Vorontsov could actually be a conciliatory influence
for relations between the United States and the United Nations, which have
degenerated to their worst state since Annan came to office two years ago.
Vorontsov, a close ally of Russia's former spymaster, current Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov, has headed key Russian embassies in France, India, and
The arrival of Vorontsov will place within Annan's inner circle another
advocate of softening the UN's policy on Iraq.
Annan's closest advisers have already pressed the UN secretary general to
economic sanctions on Iraq and weaken the international weapons inspection
team responsible for ridding Iraq of its nuclear, chemical, and biological
Some observers say Vorontsov may prove useful to the United States, which is
seeking to smooth relations with Moscow over Washington's decision to launch
airstrikes against Iraq without Russian backing.
Jeffrey Laurenti, an analyst at the United Nations Association, said that
while Vorontsov often has clashed with the Americans in the past, he has also
worked with the UN during the most cooperative period of US-Russian relations.
He said that it may be advantageous to have Russia play a more active
conflict resolution, as long as it doesn't involve a part of the world where
Washington and Moscow are at loggerheads.
''Giving him an assignment in Iraq or Yugoslavia would be damaging to
Washington's trust,'' he said. ''But it is not an inherently bad thing to keep
the Russians engaged in a constructive way.''
Stephen Cohen, a Russian studies professor at New York University, said
Vorontsov is among the more pro-Western diplomats in the Russian Foreign
''The Russian Foreign Ministry is divided between those who are
the West,'' Cohen said. ''And there are those Russians who feel Russia's
destiny is in the West. Vorontsov would be among those people.''
January 9, 1999
Letter by Peter Reddaway
Russia: Where the West Is Heading for a Fall
At least where Russia is concerned, the Dec. 7 editorial "Escape From
Recession" lets off too lightly what it calls "the West's economic
establishment." It rightly criticizes the latter for its cookie-cutter advice
to client countries but suggests that the Thai and South Korean economies may
now be reviving, thanks in part to greater IMF flexibility.
Unfortunately, Russia emphatically is not "escaping from recession." Despite
its wealth of raw materials, it is falling into a deep depression.
The Russian people are tragic victims of:
(1) Their own government's venality.
(2) Its acceptance since 1992 of consistently inappropriate advice (for
Russia) from, in particular, the IMF, the U.S. Treasury (which from 1996
seemingly overrode growing IMF doubts about the wisdom of Western policies)
and a couple of key academic advisers to these bodies.
(3) The Kremlin's acceptance of ever larger loans from the IMF and other
These and associated factors have precipitated developments that have cut
ruble's value by 70 percent since August, caused the government to default
massively on its bonds, forced officials to try to renegotiate its foreign
loans, dried up already-scarce foreign investment, thrown more millions of
Russians into poverty and despair and, steadily since 1992, reduced the
Russian state to a condition of chronic, all-around near-impotence.
The West will pay dearly for this, although something may yet be saved if it
quickly and fully acknowledges its role in the tragedy and tries to atone for
it. Blaming the Russians, as the Clinton administration has started to do, is
no good. Such denials will only provoke a faster growth of anti-Western and
anti-American feeling in Russia than is already occurring. We had better wake
up. If we don't, Russia could easily become a "rogue state" again, as it was
for 70 years under communism.
The writer is a professor of political science at George Washington
Officials View Impact of Possible Clinton Impeachment
Moscow, Jan 7 (Interfax) -- If US President Bill Clinton has to go, it
will be more difficult for Russia to obtain foreign loans, Georgiy Arbatov,
the honorary director of the Russian Institute for the Study of the United
States and Canada, has told Interfax.
"Our leaders will have to learn to count on their own means andfunds," he
The US Senate is considering impeaching Clinton on Thursday, January7.
If Clinton is impeached, Russian President Boris Yeltsin "will lose
one of his last remaining friends, a friend on whom he has always pinned
serious hopes," Arbatov said. "Good relations with the heads of the
world's major powers have allowed Yeltsin to hope that the friends will
rescue him no matter in what mire he might throw his country," he said.
If Clinton goes, "we should not expect an improvement of our relations
with the Americans, given that the present Congress is mainly Republican,"
Arbatov said. The present US parliament includes "rather conservative
people who may hardly be seen as our friends," he said.
"Clinton himself has not been a great pal of Russia's," Arbatov said.
"We may recall how silent he was when our parliament was being fired at and
how he insisted afterwards that Yeltsin stay in power," he said.
However, the head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies,
Sergey Karaganov, told Interfax that Russian-US relations might improve
following Clinton's possible resignation. US Vice President Albert Gore
has the reputation of a convinced advocate of cooperation with Russia,
"That is why it is unlikely that Clinton will be forced out of his
office because such a development may prove to be a change for the worse
for the Republicans," he said.
"The situation in Russia has already become very dangerous," Karaganov
said. "Clinton has become vulnerable to his opponents' criticism of his
foreign policy. There is nothing to criticize him for as far as domestic
policy is concerned. Therefore, one should not be surprised when Clinton
shows little flexibility in regard to relations with Russia."
Karaganov said he would not agree that personal relations between the
Russian and US presidents continued to have some significance for the
provision of loans to Russia. "The West previously believed that its
support for Yeltsin would guarantee Russian reforms and Russia's friendly
attitude. But the Yeltsin factor has lost its special significance
following the events of August 17," he said.
5 Russian Banks Reported Insolvent
January 9, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) -- Five of Russia's 10 largest banks are effectively insolvent,
the Interfax news agency reported Saturday.
The agency said the five banks were hit hard by the country's economic
and are no longer able to meet their debts to customers and creditors.
Before the crisis hit in August, Russian banks were known for risking their
money in highly speculative investments, including government treasury bills
that yielded extremely high rates of interest. The devaluation of the ruble
and the effective default on treasury bills left many banks deeply in debt.
The collapse has been disastrous for Russians with savings in the insolvent
banks. However, the vast majority of people are unaffected because they either
have no savings or have kept all their savings in cash due to their distrust
The banks named by Interfax as insolvent were Inkombank, SBS-Agro,
Rossiyskiy Kredit and Menatep. They were among the 10 largest banks, as
measured by assets, on Oct. 1, 1998, the news agency said.
Of the five largest banks that remain solvent, two are primarily state-owned
and one is owned by Russia's largest monopoly, the natural gas company
Gazprom, which is partly state-owned.
A fourth, the International Moscow Bank, is controlled by foreign lending
institutions, Interfax said.
Only one of the solvent banks, the International Industrial Bank, is
Russian private interests.
Russian Experts Says Ruble 'Psychologically Stable'
MOSCOW, Jan 7 (Interfax) -- The Russian ruble's exchange rate against
the U.S. dollar may rise and fall in 1999, which will depend on the Central
Bank's policy on the currency market and on the 1999 budget, head of the
Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange's analytical department Veniamin Simonov
said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Thursday.
He said that the draft 1999 budget, approved by the Duma in first
reading, will have to be brought in line with the ruble's real exchangerate.
In his opinion, the budget may be re-calculated on the basis of the
23-25 rubles/$1 exchange rate "which can be considered satisfactory for
1999,", not 21.5 rubles/$1.
He said that since a crisis erupted last August, no more falls of the
rubles had been registered and that no sharp rises in the U.S. dollar had
been observed. "Credit for this must be given to the Central Bank which was
increasing the money supply gradually," Simonov said.
He said that the U.S. dollar increased sharply against the ruble on
January 5 and 6, as an unmet demand on banks' deals with internal clients,
including the population, had cropped up over the holiday period. "On the
first working days this demand burst out onto the market, causing the U.S.
dollar to rise," he said.
He said the Russian currency market was "psychologically stable."
"Participants are not expecting any cardinal political changes that may
wash away market relations. The market is therefore rather calm," he said.
Russians take up "taxi-driving" to make ends meet
SAINT PETERSBURG, Jan 9 (AFP) - Sergei became an unofficial "taxi-driver" five
years ago to make ends meet, and for him and for many other hard-up Russians,
their car is now their only source of income.
Sergei spent all of New Year's Eve at the wheel of his car, plying the
of Saint Petersburg looking for fares. "Here in Russia, hitchhiking in the
traditional sense, where someone gives you a free lift, does not exist," he
"If you make a thumbs up sign on the side of the road, it means you are
prepared to pay."
Many professional chauffeurs employed by companies and government ministries
make extra cash by using their vehicles as "taxis" when they are off duty.
"Since the financial crisis in August, there has only been myself and my car
to rely on," said Vladimir, 49, who has lost his job.
In one night, an unlicensed taxi driver in Saint Petersburg can earn between
100 and 150 rubles (five and seven dollars, four and six euros) -- fares being
higher at night than during the day.
Often drivers stop on the off chance to pick up passengers along their usual
route home or at bus stops, outside hotels or restaurants. The cost of a ride
with them is always cheaper than in a real taxi.
Anatoly, 32, who owns a Ford Scorpio, takes paying passengers just "to
petrol", but for Alexei Fyodorov, 50, his "taxi" business is what keeps him
and his family from going hungry.
His ramshackle Moskovich "feeds the whole family," he said.
A few years ago during the Soviet era, Fyodorov, who is a qualified
had no money problems. "My salary was very high and my wife did not work," he
"Today, the forge has closed down and the skilled workers are all out of
jobs," he said.
But moonlighting as a taxi-driver is not without its dangers too.
official statistics, such drivers run the highest risk of being attacked and
Alexei, who was the victim of a hold-up a year ago, said that today he was
more careful whom he let into his car.
Nowadays, "every driver has something to defend himself with, a gun or a
baton," he said.
Foreign Media Reaction
January 8, 1999
RUSSIA IN 'DIRE STRAITS,' 'SEARCHING FOR ROLE IN THE WORLD'
The increasingly desperate situation in Russia--marked by ongoing
uncertainty about the fate the economy, President Yeltsin, and Prime
Minister Primakov's government--continued to garner moderate comment from
media outlets in Europe, East and South Asia and Latin America. Papers,
primarily in Moscow, speculated on whether Western officials who visited
the Russian capital last month, including IMF Managing Director Michel
Camdessus and Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, would have any
impact on Russia's economic forecast. More broadly, a cross-section of
papers offered their prescriptions for what the West should and should not
do to prevent Russia from sinking deeper into debt. The "power vacuum"
created by President Yeltsin's obvious "detachment" and "erratic" behavior
remained a major worry for many. In recent weeks, editorials from Russia
and elsewhere, while principally focused on the country's internal
troubles, reflected a new concern: Russia's growing resentment of its
diminished stature in the world, particularly vis-a-vis the U.S., its
former superpower rival, and Moscow's efforts of late--misguided and
alarming according to some--to regain lost prestige and reassert itself as
a world player. Many viewed these efforts--which include proposing a
strategic alliance with India and China, announcing a plan to reunite with
Belarus to build, according to one pundit, "a new Pan-Slavic state," and
deciding to freeze consideration of START II ratification--as reactions by
Moscow officials to perceived affronts by the West, the most salient one
being, in their view, the U.S. and UK giving short shrift to Moscow's
objections to the recent airstrikes against Iraq. Following are key themes:
RUSSIA BESET BY POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY, ECONOMIC WOES: Without exception,
pundits saw President Yeltsin as a political liability and "a source of
instability," and concurred with a BBC commentator's observation that
Yeltsin's "occasional bursts of energy and lucidity cannot hide
his...detachment from the realities of daily government." Opinion varied on
the question of what the West should do, if anything, to bail Russia out of
its economic crisis. Most Moscow writers were skeptical of both their
government's ability to formulate a credible economic policy and the West's
readiness to help, with one daily contending that "Primakov's chances of
convincing [the IMF] to renew financing for Russia are nil." A majority of
papers outside of Russia echoed the view of a Danish writer that "the
Russians must solve their own problems.... The one problem the West should
give them assistance with is the dismantling of their nuclear weapons, as
they pose a threat, not only to Russia, but to the whole world."
FORMER SUPERPOWER CHAFES AT REDUCED STATUS: A Moscow weekly observed,
"How the White House treated the Kremlin during the Iraq crisis is stark
testimony that Russia's chips have fallen low in world politics." A few
papers, however, warned against "underestimating Moscow," holding that, in
light of Russia's recent actions, "caution about its plans is...justified."
Brussels's independent Catholic De Standaard concluded that Moscow is
sending a "clear signal...[that] it does not intend to give in and is
looking...for allies," and that, as a consequence of Iraq, there is a
"consensus in Russian political circles on two issues: Russia must restore
its political status in the world and it must rebuild its military
This survey is based on 39 reports from 16 countries, December 2 - January 8.
EDITOR: Katherine Starr
RUSSIA IN 'DIRE STRAITS,' 'SEARCHING FOR ROLE IN THE WORLD'
RUSSIA: "START II Favors U.S."
According to the deputy chairman of the Duma's defense committee, Mikhail
Musatov, in centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda (1/6): "Implementing START II
will lead to an absolute nuclear diktat in U.S.-Russian relations, which
may result in Russia's total nuclear disarmament. The Americans will have a
manifold preponderance in missiles and nuclear weapons, whether or not we
ratify this treaty, but START II will sharply increase the fighting
capability of the U.S. strategic offensive weapons, and its ratification
will insure that America will reorient itself to securing a disarming
nuclear strike potential."
"Reform Must Go On, But Trust In Yeltsin Ruined"
Aleksandr Bovin said in reformist Izvestiya (12/31): "It is clear now that
monetarist and neo-liberal abstractions do not work in post-Soviet society.
At least they do not work in their 'pure' form, unadapted to the Russian
reality. Reformers have discredited reform, which is not to say that we
should give it up. We should continue reform without monetarist
extravagances and neo-liberal illusions.... Public trust in the president's
creative powers and his state machine has been ruined. He says a firm 'no'
to a return to the past. That's true. He stands on guard of two basic
freedoms--freedom of expression and freedom of choice. That's true, too.
But he is incapable of making headway. He does not know where to go. He can
still surprise people. He is still a player, but he is an 'apparatus,' not
political player. He picks his palace guards from menials, not associates,
thereby isolating himself from the country, the people, and the future."
"Moscow's Cyprus Lesson Damaging"
Sergei Guly wrote in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (12/31): "The leadership of
the Cyprus's Greek community has its reasons, including strictly internal
ones, to refuse to deploy Russian S-300 air defense missiles in its
country. What matters to Moscow is how much this is due to pressure from
the United States, the EU and Turkey.... The way the Cyprus lesson is
likely be taken in the world is: Ask 'the seniors' for permission before
making a deal with the Russians."
"How White House Treated The Kremlin"
Reformist weekly Itogi (12/29) published this commentary by Leonid Velekhov
and Sergei Strokan: "How the White House treated the Kremlin during the
Iraq crisis in December is stark testimony that Russia's chips have fallen
low in world politics. Moscow, judging by its reaction, is greatly
demoralized, unable to formulate a constructive reply."
"START II: Fate Uncertain"
First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov wrote on page one of reformist
Izvestiya (12/16): "The START II treaty's fate in the State Duma seems
uncertain in many respects. That, in large measure, is due to the fact that
information about the condition and prospects of Russia's strategic nuclear
forces is scant and distorted.... Since 1993 President Clinton has
repeatedly declared himself in favor of this treaty.... But this cannot go
on forever. The upcoming election campaign in the United States may take
attention away from strategic arms control. Therefore, it is appropriate
that Russia should ratify and enact START II right now. This would make it
possible to quickly draft and conclude a new treaty, START III, within the
parameters that have been agreed already and to reliably ensure Russia's
military security, while keeping its defense expenditures reasonable and
"U.S. Wants Russia To Follow Economic Laws"
Dmitry Gornostayev wrote on the front page of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(12/15) about a visit to Moscow by an American delegation led by Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott: "The Americans have made it clear that
it is in their interests that Moscow should abide by strict economic rules.
This way it can hope to have its debts restructured. The Americans are
ready to help. But we have to meet certain conditions. A hidden diktat has
been replaced with a bargain of sorts, and the current (Russian) government
seems to have accepted it in principle, based on reality and Russia's
interests.... Moscow and Washington see eye to eye on that."
Konstantin Levin reported in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily
(12/11) about a high-ranking U.S. delegation that visited Moscow in
December: "The Americans must have felt better yesterday, informed that the
Russian government and the leaders of most factions in the Duma had agreed
on a stringent budget for 1999. Moreover, most MPs have consented to ratify
START II. The treaty has been less menacing to the Russian military
industrial complex, since the arrival of new Topol-M ballistic missiles.
So, the Americans must be satisfied--they have gotten everything they
Yelena Sveshnikova said in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (12/11): "All
previous and future budget battles may in fact prove useless. The
consolidated financial statement presented by the finance ministry has a
little note saying that the amounts necessary to service the foreign debts
are not included in the calculations. This means that all figures in the
current draft budget for 1999 are nothing other than an optimistic forecast."
Yulia Ulyanova commented on page one of reformist Segodnya (12/11): "No
doubt, the epithets (stringent, honest, mobilizing, optimal, a prelude to
an improvement) Primakov used to describe the budget are absolutely
correct, because the beginning of budget drafting--the forecast for this
country's socio-economic development in the next year--is infinitely
optimistic. So much so that [the budget's] major provisions, rather than
being forecasts per se, sound more like political goals or, better still, a
Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/11) front-paged the opinion by Milana
Davydova and Vladislav Kuzmichev: "The federal draft budget does not appear
workable and is likely to remain an instrument meant for political battles.
It is rigid all right, but its being 'honest,' in large measure, depends on
luck. The draft budget is a very risky venture."
"Ordinary People No Longer Trust Authority"
Aleksandr Batygin said on page one of official government Rosssiyskaya
Gazeta (12/9): " A wave of political extremism, crime and separatism has
swept Russia, with ordinary people no longer trusting the authorities. The
presidential administration is responsible for that. A desire to quit,
laxity and depression have prevailed in the Kremlin corridors of power....
We need a strict order and a strong and respected government. It must be
clear to all by now that Yeltsin will remain president, not to be written
off by anyone. At least not until the year 2000."
"Plan Incites No Confidence"
Reformist Segodnya (12/5) front-paged this comment about a World Economic
Forum meeting in Moscow, where Prime Minister Primakov and other cabinet
members spoke about their anti-crisis plan: "Deputy Minister of the Economy
Andrei Svinarenko cheerfully assured that the situation (in Russia) will
continue to deteriorate roughly until the middle of next year, when
anti-crisis measures by the government and Central Bank are expected to
take effect. While other statements make you unsure about how feasible and
appropriate the proposed actions are, the one by the Deputy Minister of the
Economy sounds absolutely truthful."
"Betwixt And Between"
Nikolai Yefimovich and Yevgeny Anisimov remarked on IMF chief Michel
Camdessus's visit to Moscow in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya
Pravda (12/4): "They won't break off with us--that would make Russia
totally isolated from world markets and have grave consequences. That is,
they won't let us die, but you wouldn't call this life either."
Otto Latsis stated in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (12/3): "With the kind of
attitude toward expenditures, particularly 'support' for industrial and
agricultural producers, that has been mentioned by First Deputy Premier
[Maslyukov], his promise to keep inflation down to 30 percent sounds
ridiculous. He would look great at 300. Just as ridiculous, in light of
that policy, is his speculation about a social reorientation of the market
"Government Unsure What To Do"
Yelizaveta Osetinskaya remarked in reformist Segodnya (12/3): "The
government does not seem quite sure what to do. So it hems and haws,
refusing to talk publicly about the 1999 budget parameters."
"Just A Nice Trip"
Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta front-paged a comment by Marina Volkova and
Vladislav Kuzmichev on Michel Camdessus's visit to Moscow (12/3): "It was
just a nice trip involving an exotic cold winter, talks with high-ranking
officials, and a safe return to Washington. Camdessus has seen for himself
that Moscow is still standing."
"No Way Primakov Can Prevail On Camdessus"
Yelena Sveshnikova noted in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (12/2): "Most
experts agree that Primakov's chances of convincing Michel Camdessus to
renew financing for Russia are nil."
"Don't Expect Much"
According to Marina Volkova and Vladislav Kuzmichev on page one of centrist
Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/2): "Little is to be expected from the IMF's Michel
Camdessus. His visit is a favor to Yevgeny Primakov, who personally invited
him to Moscow, rather than an attempt to learn first-hand about Russia's
economic problems.... Using the scare of an imminent disaster may prove
effective if only because the world community would hate to face a new
"Nobody Wishes Russia Ill"
Svetlana Babayeva, reporting about the IMF-held brain-storming session on
Russia in Washington on November 30th, remarked on page one of reformist
Izvestiya (12/2): "There's no ill will harbored against Russia, nor is
there money coming its way."
Russian Constitutional Expert Queries Union With Belarus
MOSCOW, Jan 7 (Interfax) -- Chairman of the Russian Constitutional
Court Marat Baglay, in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station
Thursday said that "the legal aspect" of Russian-Belarusian unification
into one state is "the most difficult one."
The Russian constitution has provisions envisioning the possibility of
creating inter-state entities, as well as the joining of the Russian
Federation by a state as a constituent member of the federation, he said.
However, Belarus, a sovereign state which has a constitution and elected
authoritative bodies of its own, "will hardly want to become a constituent
member of the Russian Federation," he said.
Baglay said that if Russia and Belarus merge into one state a single
constitution will have to be adopted.
He said that the Belarusian and Russian leaders "have not yet
approached the unification problem in earnest." "It's a thing of the
future, at best, near future," Baglay said. He added that he welcomed the
idea of Russian-Belarusian integration.
He said that the Constitutional Court would start considering the
Duma's inquiry into ways of interpreting the constitutional provisions
dealing with the early termination of the presidential powers, at the end
of January. The Constitutional Court, he said, is to interpret Article 92
which envisions early termination of the presidential powers on the grounds
of the president's sustained inability to perform duties for health
reasons. The deputies would like to know "how this can be actually done,"
He said that the decisions of the Constitutional Court and of district
courts are not properly implemented, which is partially due to the
authorities' reluctance to implement objected decisions, as well as
financial problems and other objective reasons.
Assessing the current constitution, he said that "there are no
loopholes" in it. He added that the Russian constitution was adopted after
the world experience had been carefully studied. "One can say with
confidence that our constitution excels all other constitutions in the
volume of civil rights and liberties," he said.
Baglay said that all controversy about the constitution is over the
organization of authority which is reflected in the constitution with due
account taken of the Russian conditions.
Constitutional Court Chief Defends Russian Constitution
Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy
January 7, 1999
In spite of all the calls by Russian politicians for a redistribution
of powers between the authorities and for relevant amendments to the
Constitution, the main law of the country is very well-balanced,
Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglay thinks.
In an interview with our radio station, he reiterated that the
Constitution was adopted after virtually the entire world experience had
[Begin Baglay recording] There are no holes in the Constitution. It is
quite a well-balanced document. Let us not forget that it was adopted by
us after almost all the constitutions of the world had been studied, almost
all of them.
Of course, there are provisions reflecting purely Russian conditions.
Disputes are possible there -- whether there is some imbalance in favor of
the presidential power or whether parliament has insufficient powers.
However, the main institutions do not attract very hard criticism. For
example, I would like to highlight the fact that the first two chapters of
the Constitution are not criticized by anybody at all, although they
contain the most important provisions -- rights and freedoms, the basis of
constitutional rule. Nobody criticizes that, because, in the volume of
civil rights and freedoms, our Constitution is the best in the world at the
moment. [end recording]
[Announcer] Marat Baglay also said that an application from the State
Duma on terminating the president's powers will be considered by the
Constitutional Court at the end of January or soon afterwards.
Foreign Takeovers Feared in 'Third Privatization'
January 6, 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Unattributed report: "From Shares-for-Loans Privatization to
Apparently the coming year will be the beginning of the third
redivision of ownership, essentially the third privatization revolution.
As you will recall, the first was associated with voucherization and
flotation and the second with shares-for-loans auctions, when three years
ago the choicest domestic enterprises were sold virtually for a song at
shares-for-loans auctions to the newly emerged Russian oligarchs. In the
hope that the latter would be able (using their own money, of course) to
make them competitive and enter the world market. Now there is a third
revolution.Having had their fill, as the saying goes, of autonomy, having run
even bigger debts than before, including for wages, and not having taken
the giants of domestic industry into the world market, the oligarchs made a
request to come back under their sovereign's wing. With the transfer of a
controlling block of shares. The aim was extremely simple: Whatever
happens, the state was supposed to say that it would help not only to
remove the looming threat of bankruptcy but also to get them out of debt.
The next thing you know, better times would be around the corner. But such
hopes were not destined to be realized.
The state has no money for such charity: Only meager aid for
military-industrial complex enterprises is planned in the 1999 budget. The
rest will be granted a deferment on debts owed on loans issued for shares.
But few will be able to scramble out of the quagmire on their own. It is
therefore not hard to figure out the future train of events: New auctions
are inevitable, this time of controlling blocks which have been transferred
to the authorities for arrears. Of course, emphasis will be put by no
means on attracting homegrown oligarchs but on attracting foreign business
sharks. And they will decide the eventual fate of the giants of the Soviet
At any rate, the first steps in this direction have already been taken
-- enterprises which we are talking about on this page have already "been
sold" to the state, which in a suitable case could use them to settle their
9 January 1999
[for personal use only]
Yes, Katya, there is a Ded Moroz
'Grandpa Frost' can make miracles, blizzards in Russia
By David Filipov
THE DED MOROZ RESIDENCE, Russia - Outside the sauna room of the rustic wood
cabin deep in the snowbound northern Russian forest, Maxim Schukin took a swig
of sweet Moldovan wine and reflected upon the daunting task before him.
Can he bring smiles to the faces of dozens of children and touch the
their parents, every day? Can he instill a little hope, good cheer, and
national pride in a land where both are in woefully short supply?
And while he's at it, can he help reverse the fortunes of a poverty-stricken
lumber town and turn it into a national tourist attraction?
It all becomes possible when Schukin, a twenty-something emergency-room
anesthesiologist, puts on his white cotton beard, red cape, and hat - and
becomes Ded Moroz, Russia's eight-century-old scion of winter.
Ded Moroz, Russian for ''Grandpa Frost,'' is equal parts Snow Czar and
Santa Claus, capable of making blizzards and miracles. And Schukin, Russia's
''official'' Ded Moroz, plays the part convincingly.
While the Western St. Nick has ridden his reindeer back to the North Pole
until next Christmas, Ded Moroz (pronounced, incongruously for English
speakers, ''Dead Morose'') still has been working. Wednesday was the Russian
Orthodox Christmas, and that meant another trainload of kids entertained at
Ded Moroz's log cabin a few miles outside of Veliky Ustyug, a picturesque
village perched at the confluence of three rivers in the dense taiga forest
500 miles northeast of Moscow.
Next week Russians celebrate the Orthodox New Year, and that should bring
youthful tourists and their parents to this remote place in search of winter
Why will they come all the way out here? Because this year, Veliky Ustyug,
with a little prodding by a powerful Moscow politician and a bit of inventive
rewriting of local legends, has declared itself the official hometown of Ded
Moroz. Local entrepreneurs have turned a children's summer camp into Ded
Moroz's official residence. And Schukin, a budding actor and a master
sportsman, has become Russia's official Ded Moroz.
On a crisp, snowy afternoon Sunday, two days after the New Year's holiday
Russians exchange gifts, Ded Moroz hit the streets of Veliky Ustyug
(pronounced ''Veh-LEE-key OO-stoog'') to greet children and grownups. He
thrilled the (adult) kitchen workers at the town's only restaurant with a
visit. He kept visitors warm with an impromptu sing-along under a Christmas
tree, then finished it all off with a raucous sled party at The Ded Moroz
''I've done well today!'' Ded Moroz boomed in his wintry baritone. He gulped
down another mouthful of wine, smiled wearily, and headed into the official
Ded Moroz Residence sauna. ''Would that tomorrow be the same!''
The idea of turning Veliky Ustyug into a Russian Santa's village belongs to
Moscow Mayor Yury M. Luzhkov, a presidential hopeful who thrives on populist
campaigns to stoke national pride.
In recent years, some Russians have expressed regret over the Westernization
of their winter holidays, and especially the intrusion of the roly-poly Santa
preferred by Western advertisers over the more angular Ded Moroz. Russians
point out that Santa merely brings gifts, while Ded Moroz actually makes
winter happen, too. Make Santa mad, and you get coal in your stocking. Cross
Ded Moroz, and he'll freeze you.
''You don't want to mess with Ded Moroz!'' said Ded Moroz.
Sensing a new chance to make political capital, Luzhkov last month announced
that Ded Moroz was not to be confused with the Western Santa from the North
Pole or Finnish Lapland, but a ''real Russian'' who came from Veliky Ustyug.
Authorities in Veliky Ustyug set up a company, Ded Moroz Inc., and set about
creating a legend that placed Grandpa Frost's arrival in Russia at Veliky
Ustyug in 1148, a year after the town was founded. A sign reading ''Welcome to
Ded Moroz's Homeland'' went up on the outskirts of town. Last week, local
police issued a large, kitschy version of the internal passport all Russians
are required to carry listing Veliky Ustyug as Ded Moroz's official residence.
Alas, Santa intruded here as well. The red-suited, white-bearded
the document's ''photograph'' - in fact a cheap printout of a computer graphic
- is holding a piece of paper that says, in English, ''Santa's List.''
''You can imagine how upset I was,'' said Ded Moroz. ''But what can you do?
These days it's best to carry a document.''
This is a sentiment shared by anyone who has traveled the road from
Veliky Ustyug. The highway is lined with checkpoints manned by gray-clad
traffic police who routinely stop vehicles to make sure drivers' papers are in
order. They represent only one of the obstacles faced by the tourist who would
drive the icy, pot-holed trail through the taiga.
Getting here by train is not much easier - the ride from Moscow takes 24
hours. There are no direct flights.
The locals say Veliky Ustyug's isolation is what saved its marvelous
18th-century churches from destruction by the Bolsheviks after the 1917
Once, thousands of tourists would visit Veliky Ustyug, not just for the
architecture, but for its famous crafts - silver jewelry, shoes, and
intricately carved wooden furniture.
But like many small Russian towns, Veliky Ustyug has suffered a huge drop in
living standards after communism. In fact, before Schukin became Ded Moroz, he
hadn't been paid at his day job since August, except for a $5 end-of-year
In this town, the only business that has thrived is the huge lumber concern,
Lespromkhoz, and that is only by stripping forests to sell timber abroad at
such a rate that soon there will be no trees left, townspeople fear.
''But if they don't sell all the timber they can, we will starve,'' says
Yevgeny Udachin, who works in the lumber industry.
Udachin's wife, Tatyana, is director of the Ded Moroz Residence. She hopes
that tourism can lift the town out of the doldrums. Last weekend, the place
was alive with adult tourists who had braved the bad roads and slow trains to
see Ded Moroz.
Ded Moroz, meanwhile, was out of the sauna reading his letters. Russian post
offices have agreed to send all mail addressed to Ded Moroz to Veliky Ustyug.
The letters come in every day, and many are representative of the times. ''A
bike for me,'' writes 7-year-old Sveta, ''and my Grandma's pension on time.''
''Please give me a new father,'' writes 4-year-old Masha. '' Preferably a
healthy blond who doesn't drink.''
But now and then Ded Moroz gets a message that makes him smile.
''Ded Moroz, I know you exist,'' writes 17-year-old Katya. ''Because
nothing wrong in believing in good things.''
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Turning Away From The Moscow Press
By Paul Goble
Washington, 8 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russians outside of Moscow are reading
ever fewer newspapers than they did in the past. But when they do, they
increasingly are turning to the local and regional press rather than to papers
published in the Russian capital, a shift certain to affect not only the
regions but the country as a whole.
In the regions, this shift from national publications to local ones means
regional officials frequently are able to control the press more easily than
can the authorities in Moscow, precisely because they can and do act without
much outside oversight.
Not only does that reduce the flow of information to people in the
the power of the media to serve as a watchdog over the behavior of local
officials, but it also and perhaps more importantly means that readers may
come to adopt the perspective of local officials on many issues, including
those of national import.
And in Russia as a whole, this shift means that the central press is
be ever less influential in promoting national identity and debate. And it
also suggests that the central press will thus be ever less important as a
guide to developments in the country as a whole or as an indication of the
thinking of the Russian people.
Just how dramatic this shift has been is suggested in research by British
scholar Graeme P. Herd. In a monograph recently published in Great Britain, he
noted that during Soviet times, national publications dominated the print
Thus, in 1990, for example, national publications accounted for 71
the total circulation, with local papers occupying only a 29 percent share.
But in 1998, these figures were nearly reversed: National publications
accounted for only 30 percent of the total, while local publications
represented 70 percent of the total.
On the one hand, this represents a turning away from the increasingly
expensive press to television and radio. In some parts of the Russian
Federation, for instance, there is only one copy of a national newspaper daily
for every 1,000 residents, a figure that means there are only two or three
copies of local ones.
But on the other, it marks the further fragmentation of what many Russians
call their "information space." In Soviet times, the press gave Russians a
union-wide perspective on developments, one that encouraged them to think of
the USSR as a whole as "theirs" and that limited their ability to organize a
Now, with the press providing an increasingly local perspective, it is
a similar effect but from the other direction: It is causing ever more
Russians outside of the capital to think about the interests of a territory
smaller than the country as a whole, something regional leaders are quick to
Indeed, this pattern is very much on view inside Moscow, itself
region rather than simply the capital of the country. There, Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov has sponsored his own newspaper and called for subsidies to a
television channel which broadcasts local news.
While he calls his newspaper "Russia" and thus appears to be trying to
national audience, in fact, Luzhkov's media offering reflects his views and
those of his region rather than the country as a whole. Thus, it too both
reflects and promotes the fragmentation of the country's information space.
Overcoming this fragmentation in the media will not be easy, but unless
addressed, Russia like other large countries may see a decline in shared views
about what constitutes the national interest or even the nation. And that
psychological shift seems certain to make politics in Russia more rather than
less difficult in the future.
Stankevich Regrets Causing Friction Between Poland, Russia
Warsaw, January 7 (Itar-Tass) -- A former Russian presidential aide,
who has been accused of corruption in Russia and granted asylum in Poland,
said he regretted that his case had caused political friction between the
Sergey Stankevich said on Thursday [7 January] that Russia's problems
lay in the sphere of relations between people and not on the state level,
so they should not influence relations between countries.
On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticised Warsaw for
granting political asylum to Stankevich.
"Warsaw should know it very well that in Russia, as a democratic and
law-governed state, citizens are not persecuted for political reasons,"
"Attempts by certain circles in Poland to add a political hue to this
criminal case and the absence of legal justification to the decision of the
Polish authorities cause serious doubt about their readiness for
cooperation in the sphere of law enforcement between the two countries,"
Stankevich was accused of taking a 10-thousand-dollar bribe in 1992
for organising a concert in Moscow's Red Square.