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Johnson's Russia List
18 January 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Yeltsin treatment to be based on medication, not surgery: doctors.
2. The Times (UK): Dr. Thomas Stuttaford, Heart treatment adds to risk of
3. Reuters: Martin Nesirky, ANALYSIS-Yeltsin has good cause to be
4. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: AS YELTSIN LIES IN THE HOSPITAL, ANALYSTS
WEIGH POSSIBLE SUCCESSORS and LUZHKOV AGAIN SUGGESTS YELTSIN IS TOO ILL TO
5. Thomas Greenan: Re Franchetti/Russian priests/3020.
6. Wallace Kaufman: Baikal debate as an example of misplaced priorities.
7. AP: Congressional Critic Forges Ties. (Rep. Curt Weldon and Russia).
8. Financial Times: Victoria Griffith and John Thornhill, INVESTIGATION:
Harvard dons face insider trading probe.
9. The Times (UK): Anna Blundy, 'Despite 70 years of theoretical equality,
the best a young Russian woman can hope for is a rich husband or a band of
10. AFP: Russia's fashion victims find it's no model profession.
11. Boston Globe: David Filipov, If only to Moscow's mayor, Yeltsin remains
12. Reuters: Ex-KGB Blames West for Iran Technology.
13. Financial Times: John Thornhill, RUSSIAN DEBT: IMF in high-stakes
14. Russia Today: Rod Pounsett, A Revolution of Empty Stomachs.]
Yeltsin treatment to be based on medication, not surgery: doctors
MOSCOW, Jan 18 (AFP) - Kremlin doctors advised Monday that President Boris
Yeltsin should undergo a course of drugs to counteract an acute stomach
ulcer, Interfax reported quoting presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin.
The prescription issued by doctors at the Central Clinical Hospital where
Yeltsin was hospitalised Sunday apparently ruled out for the time being the
possibility of surgery on the ulcer.
Yakushkin said that doctors, who convened Monday morning to consider how
to treat Yeltsin, considered the Kremlin chief's health satisfactory,
Following initial medical examinations on Sunday evening, doctors said
that the ulcer could be treated in two or three weeks without surgery,
Yeltsin's persistent health woes have raised increasing questions over
his fitness to govern. The Russian leader has yet to put in a day's work at
the Kremlin this year and was absent for long periods last year with
bronchitis, nervous exhaustion and pneumonia.
But Yeltsin has ruled out formally ceding his presidential powers to the
prime minister, who would assume Russia's leadership should Yeltsin become
The Times (UK)
18 January 1999
[for personal use only]
Heart treatment adds to risk of blood loss
By Dr. Thomas Stuttaford
THE bleeding from President Yeltsin's gastro-intestinal tract would have
caused considerable alarm. The President, because of his long history of
coronary heart disease, is presumably taking anticoagulants which will make
the bleeding much more dangerous, as it is less likely to stop naturally.
Even in an otherwise fit, and younger, patient the vomiting of blood,
whether fresh or partly digested so that it looks like coffee grounds, or
the passing of blood as black, sticky stools, denotes a medical emergency.
Patients who are bleeding are admitted to hospital, very often to intensive
The amount of blood lost, and its effect, is judged not only by blood
tests but after a general assessment of the patient's condition as denoted
by their mental state - are they confused or comatose? - pulse rate and
blood pressure. If in shock from the blood loss, a bleeding patient may
also be sweaty, faint and very weak.
When it was known that Mr Yeltsin was bleeding from his gastro-intestinal
tract, the immediate thought must have been that he might have oesophageal
varices - varicose veins at the bottom of the gullet. These varicosities
are not uncommon in heavy drinkers, and when they start bleeding it can be
Although the initial report is imprecise, and there is no mention of
where the ulcer is, they have presumably been excluded and the site of an
ulcer determined. Ulcers usually occur in the first part of the duodenum or
the lesser curvature of the stomach. Ulcers in the duodenum are never
malignant; those in the stomach may be.
Blood volume will be restored by transfusions but these will have to be
carefully, and not too quickly, delivered so that they do not cause undue
strain on the heart and circulation which is already weakened. The pulse
rate, blood pressure and the patient's intellectual state gives an
indication whether bleeding is continuing.
Most gastro-intestinal bleeding stops without an operation but, if it is
persistent or recurrent and the patient's condition deteriorates, surgery
is called for. Even if no surgery is necessary, the President will need to
take anti-ulcer drugs and will have to forswear alcohol for many weeks.
ANALYSIS-Yeltsin has good cause to be disappointed
By Martin Nesirky
MOSCOW, Jan 17 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin has good reason to be less
than thrilled to be spending his third consecutive January away from the
Kremlin through ill health.
The economy is wrecked and international financial aid on hold. Foreign
options are narrow, with a comeback visit to France now embarrassingly in the
balance. His domestic foes and even some erstwhile allies are wheeling
Two years ago it was pneumonia after heart surgery, last year it was a
respiratory infection. This time it is a bleeding stomach ulcer that has
yanked the 67-year-old Yeltsin out of commission and into hospital less than
three weeks into 1999.
``No one's keen to start the new year in hospital,'' Kremlin spokesman
Yakushkin said on television with studied understatement. ``I think Boris
Nikolayevich has those feelings.''
Doctors say he could be in hospital for up to three weeks.
Officials were swift to say stability was not under threat in Russia, a
disparate federation midway through a tough winter and deep in an economic
crisis that has jeopardised market reforms.
Political adversaries, not least the main opposition Communists, are
increasingly impatient. They say they want an active, visible president.
They are demanding he transfer key powers to Prime Minister Yevgeny
who already runs Russia day to day, or step down to allow an earlier than the
scheduled mid-2000 election.
``It could strengthen the argument for an early presidential election,''
prominent Communist Viktor Ilyukhin told Ekho Moskvy radio. ``It's no secret
the president's ill, and seriously ill.''
Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, arguably the strongest likely contender to
Yeltsin, appeared on Friday to call into doubt his fitness to continue in
``There is a question and we all see it,'' he said on television before
Yeltsin's latest ailment. ``It would be hypocrisy not to notice it and, in
noticing it, to keep silent.''
A long-time supporter of Yeltsin who has lately angered the Kremlin
appearing too hasty to step into his shoes, Luzhkov said it was up to Yeltsin
himself to announce whether he would stay on or call an early election.
Yeltsin has said he fully intends to see out his term.
Yakushkin and Primakov made clear there had been no transfer of security
powers away from the president and that he was in relatively good form, even
``No extraordinary situation has arisen in the country due to the
illness,'' Primakov told Itar-Tass news agency.
Interfax news agency quoted Yakushkin as saying a decision on whether to go
ahead with his planned visit to France on January 28-29 would be taken by
Yeltsin and French President Jacques Chirac.
If he cancels that state visit, as seems possible, it would be a major blow
for Russian foreign policy as well as for those in the Kremlin who have been
keen for Yeltsin to stage another of his famed comebacks.
Russia may be the world's second nuclear power but keenly feels it is
perceived to be punching below its weight.
Moscow has clearly homed in on France as a major Western power it can do
business with, not least because the two countries have similar views on Iraq.
Relations with Washington are strained over Russia's links with Iran and
policy towards Iraq. Britain, another of the five permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council, does not figure particularly large in
Moscow's plans for now.
Close friends Helmut Kohl of Germany and Japan's Ryutaro Hashimoto are no
longer in power. On the plus side, relations with China have thawed
considerably. Chinese President Jiang Zemin was in Moscow in November,
visiting Yeltsin in hospital the last time he was there.
Crucially, ties with Russia's main international creditor, the International
Monetary Fund, are tricky.
IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer indicated on Friday,
Russian economy chief Yuri Maslyukov had met IMF officials in Washington, that
the fund was disinclined to offer new loans because it was not satisfied with
the government's 1999 budget. An IMF mission is due in town on Wednesday.
This week looked set to be dominated by that visit and the fate of the
which faces its crucial second of four readings in the State Duma lower house
of parliament on Tuesday.
Once again, the spotlight has shifted when Russia can ill afford it.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
18 January 1999
AS YELTSIN LIES IN THE HOSPITAL, ANALYSTS WEIGH POSSIBLE SUCCESSORS. A
number of leading Russian political analysts weighed in yesterday about the
impact of Yeltsin's illness on the "correlation of forces" in Russia's high
politics. The heads of two private thinktanks--Igor Bunin, director of the
Center for Political Technologies, and Georgy Satarov, president of the
INDEM Foundation--said they believed that pre-term presidential elections
could benefit Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. But Sergei Karaganov, chairman of
the Council on Foreign Defense Policy, argued that Primakov would benefit
the most, even though the prime minister has repeatedly denied harboring
presidential ambitions. Karaganov said that the "degradation" of
presidential power was bringing "substantial harm" to Russia, leading to the
country's "dissolution" and the continuing decline of the economy.
Karaganov, who predicted that this year will be "extremely unstable" because
of weakness of presidential power, has called for Yeltsin's resignation
several times. Karaganov is a leading member of Russia's foreign policy
establishment and has worked closely with Primakov. Karaganov said, however,
that were presidential elections to take place in 2000, as scheduled, it
would be very difficult to convince Primakov, who is 68, to run because of
the heavy "physical and political load" the elections would entail. At the
same time, Karaganov indicated that the elections in 2000 are likely to be
canceled if the country is still mired in crisis (NTV, January 17).
A weekly presidential preference poll commissioned by NTV's "Itogi" and
conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation found this week that Communist
leader Gennady Zyuganov would win the first round of a presidential
election, garnering 20 percent of the vote. Luzhkov and Primakov would come
in second, each with 15 percent. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky would be
third, with 11 percent of the respondents, and Krasnoyarsk Governor
Aleksandr Lebed, fourth, with 8 percent. In a run-off, however, Primakov was
predicted to beat Zyuganov, 43 to 26, and any other rival (NTV, January 17).
LUZHKOV AGAIN SUGGESTS YELTSIN IS TOO ILL TO RULE. Anticipating Yeltsin's
latest illness, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov criticized Yeltsin on January 15
for not fulfilling his duties, saying that Russia "should have an active
president" and was having "big problems" as a result. Luzhkov said that if a
leader has persistent health problems which prevent him from doing his job,
he must make "an appropriate decision" (Russian agencies, January 15).
Luzhkov made similar comments last fall. Presidential spokesman Dmitri
Yakushkin said yesterday that while Yeltsin was aware of all such comments
from Russian politicians and the Duma opposition, the president "remembers"
Luzhkov's above all. Yakushkin said such comments do not enhance "stability"
in Russian society.
The bad blood between Luzhkov and Yeltsin, who were formerly close allies,
apparently played a role in Yeltsin's decision last week (January 12) to put
his new chief of staff, Nikolai Bordyuzha, in charge of the Kremlin's
"household affairs" directorate, headed by Pavel Borodin, a long-time ally
and confidante of the president. One magazine reported today that Yeltsin's
inner circle--including his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, had decided to clip
Borodin's wings because of his increasingly close relations with Luzhkov.
According to this version, Borodin is perhaps emerging as the second-most
likely successor to Yeltsin, after Luzhkov. The Kremlin "household affairs"
directorate, which Borodin runs, is made up of hundreds of businesses, along
with property such as resorts, clinics, hotels, cars, dachas and even an
airline company--"Rossiya," serving government officials--along with other
real estate throughout Russia and around the world. Much of the property,
reportedly worth billions of dollars, previously belonged to the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union, but was nationalized and handed over to the
Kremlin administration in 1991. In an interview aired last night, Borodin
denied press reports that his directorate controlled property used by the
Yeltsin family, and said it was both an "absolutely transparent"
organization and "profitable" (NTV, January 17). While Borodin said the
directorate is not funded out of the federal budget, and is governed by
federal laws, Boris Federov, Russia's former finance minister, said back in
1994 that maintaining the state-supported clinics, resorts and other
property cost US$1 billion a year. The Kremlin is also rumored to use dachas
and other property as "incentives" to change the minds of wavering Duma
deputies during key votes. Last April, at the height of the battle in the
Duma over the confirmation of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister, Yeltsin had
said Borodin would "address the questions" of deputies following the vote
(Russian agencies, January 18).
From: "Thomas Anthony Greenan" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re Mark Franchetti: Russian priests get rich on back of big business
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999
The article: "Russian priests get rich on back of big business" (JRL
#3020, Sunday Times 17/1/99) is puzzling. We are told that a Fr. Alexei
Novikov "now spends his weekends at a dacha in an affluent Moscow suburb".
Most surprising, since the weekend is just the time at which the duties of
Christian priests, including Russian Orthodox, tend to be concentrated.
(For that matter, dachas are generally situated in the countryside outside
town, not in the suburbs.) Does Fr. Alexei absent himself from the Sunday
Liturgy and Saturday Vespers? If he does, what do his congregation have to
say? We know that he has a congregation, since, apparently, they have taken
exception to his choice of automobile - the white Mercedes, we are told,
had to be replaced by a Volga, presumably black. Does Fr. Alexei take his
pager (mobile phone?) only to weekday "prayer-services" when he happens to
be in town?
These are a few of the questions posed by Mark Franchettis somewhat
implausible case-study. They lead to a further query: what are his
sources? I deduce from the article that he is not a parishioner of Fr.
Alexei Novikov and therefore has no direct knowledge of the circumstances
he describes. Has he copied the report from the Russian press?
What is worrying is that this example is extrapolated to illustrate a
serious point. The title too is misleading. When the Patriarch Alexy II of
Moscow reproved rich, comfort-loving clergy, this was just part of an
address lasting over four hours, given to the Moscow clergy at the Moscow
Diocesan Assembly on 23 December 1998 (Moscow Times 25/12/98, JRL #2533,
27/12/98, "Patriarch criticizes rich priests", a fuller account in
"Russkaya mysl", 7-13/1/99). Condemning this "baleful infuence of the
spirit of the times on a "certain part" of the clergy, who strive to
imitate the life-style of the new Russians," flaunting their foreign cars
and mobile phones in front of their impoverished flocks, he in no way
suggests that this is the general rule. (Incidentally, all the Moscow
priests I know, personally or by repute, are poor.)
The Patriarchs appeal to the clergy to undertake more social and
charitable work was pursued further in his Christmas eve message (JRL
3005, 6/1/99, Piper: Russia calls for help), in which he speaks movingly
of the sufferings of the Russian people and calls on people of good will
to alleviate their poverty. At a time when, according to the Patriarchs
figures (quoted by Mark Franchetti), half the Russian population are
living below the poverty line, it is unfortunate that his article should
lump together the church, corruption and humanitarian aid, giving the
impression, perhaps unintentionally, that humanitarian aid is inevitably
sold for profit. Some of us are working to send aid to Russia (in my case
in the St. Gregorys Foundation, England, but there are others doing
equally valuable work, such as the Cameron Foundation, Scotland, Aide aux
croyants, France). The distribution of clothing is carried out by honest
people, Russian clergy and laity, who are all getting poorer. None of our
aid is sold. But we do have tremendous difficulties getting it past the
bureaucrats of the Russian customs; anything that reinforces the view that
humanitarian aid = corruption can only add to our difficulties and to
those of the poorest 50% of Russians we are trying to help.
Tony Greenan Department of Russian & Department of French University of
From: "Wallace Kaufman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Baikal debate as an example of misplaced priorities
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999
At the end of Paul Fiondella’s rebuttal to a claim that Lake Baikal has been
immune to industrial pollution, he writes, "Siberians are not happy either
with the internecine quarrels that riddle the various Western NGO's divvying
up the environmental aid dollars nor with the lack of progress being made to
protect their Lake by their own Russian ‘democrats.’" The problem of how
environmental aid dollars are divvied up is much larger than the Baikal
debate. The huge amounts of money and NGO attention to Baikal illustrates
how easily a politically sexy water rescue misdirects environmental aid
Both the Aral Sea and Lake Baikal have been magnets for hundreds of millions
of dollars in foreign aid, not to mention time and resources of NGOs making
films, writing songs, and sending tearful delegations. If any of the major
funding sources (World Bank, USAID, EBRD, UN, Asian Development Bank, Soros,
etc) have documented that lavishing environmental spending on these highly
publicized projects is more important than a host of other problems, they
have not published the comparisons so far as I know.
I have not made hard data comparisons either, but I have traveled widely in
the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. I can suggest a number of
problems that are probably much more important for health and the
environment than either Baikal or the Aral Sea, and which receive a tiny
fraction of the funds and attention. I suggest someone with the expertise
give priority ranking to: nuclear wastes in the Russian arctic, contaminants
in major Siberian rivers draining into the Arctic (Omolon, Lena, Irtysh,
Kolyma, Yenisey, Ob), extraction wastes from gold, diamonds, oil, and other
metals, overgrazing of steppe and Asian pastoral environments, emissions
from coal fired power and heating plants, and drinking water contamination.
Many of these problems unfortunately do not have the media appeal that both
environmental groups and aid donors thrive on for raising funds and
publicizing their programs. They do not have a Baikal seal or the Aral Sea’s
camels browsing around boats rusting in desert sands. Environmentalists in
NGOs as well as in major donor organizations are too easily seduced by water
and animals with big sad eyes.
I am not suggesting that either the Aral Sea or Baikal be abandoned. Nor am
I ignoring the fact that some attention has been paid to nuclear waste
dumping and polluted rivers. I am suggesting that it’s time to recognize
that even the pro and con debate about Baikal is an example of how attention
is focused by sentiment and not science, reason or economics. I am
suggesting it is time to maximize the social and environmental returns on
money and expertise applied to environmental problems.
All Over the Globe, Almaty, Kazakhstan
PO Box 1387
Pittsboro, NC 27312 USA
Tel: 919 542 4072
Fax: 919 542 1731
e mail: email@example.com
Congressional Critic Forges Ties
By Anick Jesdanun
January 18, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) -- One of Russia's fiercest congressional critics doubles
as a friend of the former Soviet republic, laboring quietly behind the
scenes to foster better relationships between the House and its counterpart
Rep. Curt Weldon, whose interest in Russia started in high school, has
traveled there 17 times. For the most part, the Pennsylvania Republican has
been known for criticism, not sympathy, for the Russians.
As chairman of the House Armed Services research and development
subcommittee, he has frequently criticized Russian military secrecy and
called for increased spending on missile defense systems designed to
protect U.S. cities against nuclear launches from Russia and other countries.
But away from the television cameras and the heat of debate, Weldon
plays the role of friend as well as critic.
``Russians respect strength, consistency and candor,'' he said in a
recent interview. ``I'm tough on proliferation and call them when they are
(wrong), but they also understand and know I want Russia to succeed.''
A congressional task force that Weldon co-chairs with Rep. Steny Hoyer,
D-Md., made a second visit to Russia last month as part of his mission to
improve ties with members of the Duma, the lower house of parliament.
That role grew out of Weldon's desire to supplement talks between
President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Weldon said he wants
Russia to have a working multi-branch government like that of the United
``We have to strengthen the institution of the Duma for Russia to
succeed,'' he said. ``They need to have a strong parliament.''
Herman Pirchner Jr. of the private American Foreign Policy Council,
which monitors the former Soviet republics, said Weldon ``puts himself in a
rather unique position, in that somehow he can speak very bluntly about
those things where there are differences, yet he's accepted because he's
accepted as a person.''
It helps that Weldon speaks Russian, though not fluently. He has also
distributed more than 1,000 business cards with his name, title and House
office printed in Russian on one side, which Weldon said signals his
willingness to meet Russians halfway.
During the December trip to Russia, the congressional group met with
leaders of Russia's key political parties, including the Duma's speaker,
Gennady Seleznyov. The group also met with Russian administration
officials, but not with Yeltsin directly.
The Russian legislators have come to Washington twice and plan a third
visit this spring. Weldon's chief of staff, Doug Ritter, is separately
organizing workshops to train the Duma's staff on parliamentary procedures.
Between formal trips, legislators communicate by e-mail, telephone and
letter. Some also make informal visits to the other country's capital.
In the mid-1980s, with the Cold War still on, Weldon brought low-level
Soviet political leaders to his ``very conservative, very Republican''
suburban Philadelphia district as part of an exchange program.
He said judges leaving the county courthouse were shocked to find Soviet
flags flying in honor of the visitors.
Lately, Weldon's group has been trying to help Russia develop a middle
class by making low-interest mortgages available. To do so, such concepts
as land ownership need to be written into law, Weldon said. U.S. approval
is still needed to set up a joint commission to oversee the financing
Baker Spring, senior defense analyst with the conservative Heritage
Foundation, said that while formal diplomacy can only be conducted by
senior officials, the legislative contacts do help each side gain
understanding of the other.
And while the countries may disagree from time to time, Spring said,
individuals can still get along. Weldon and his colleagues are on a
first-name basis with their Duma counterparts.
``Although it might not be appreciated at the time, the best friends are
people who are frank and honest,'' Spring said.
Weldon, 51, said he decided to study Russian in high school because he
grew up at a time of frequent drills simulating a nuclear attack.
``I grew up wondering, `Are these people that bad, or is it we don't
understand who they are?''' he said.
18 January 1999
[for personal use only]
INVESTIGATION: Harvard dons face insider trading probe
By Victoria Griffith in Boston and John Thornhill in Moscow
Harvard University has confirmed that federal investigators are
targeting its economists in a probe into possible insider trading in the
Russian security markets.
Insider trading is not illegal in Russia, but the economists may have
violated US law if they used federal money for personal gain in the early
The investigators are considering allegations that Harvard economist
Professor Jonathan Hay and his girlfriend Elizabeth Hebert, a manager of a
Moscow-based mutual fund, purchased Russian bonds based on information Prof
Hay had gained through his employment as a consultant with the Russian
It is thought Professor Andrei Shleifer's wife, Nancy Zimmerman, may
also be involved in the investigation.
Prof Shleifer did not return press calls by the time this story was
filed. But both he and Prof Hay have denied any wrongdoing, saying they
were the innocent victims of a political turf war in Moscow. Harvard fired
Prof Hay over a year ago when details of the scandal began to surface.
Prof Shleifer, an economist who specialises in hostile takeovers and the
stock market, remains at Harvard.
Both Prof Shleifer and Prof Hay worked for Harvard's Institute for
International Development (HIID), a think tank established in the 1960s.
HIID subcontracts consulting work from agencies such as the World Bank,
the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations
to countries in economic transition.
Directed by famous Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, HIID has dispensed
advice to over a dozen economies, including Bolivia, Poland and Mongolia.
The institute prohibits employees from buying securities in countries
where they are providing consulting services. In the early 1990s, Prof
Shleifer and Prof Hay were in charge of HIID's Russian operations. Prof
Shleifer directed the consulting business from the US while Prof Hay ran
the Moscow office.
In June 1997, the USAID office cancelled the final $14m of its $57m
contract in Russia after it accused the institute of using its influence
Russian nationalists accused HIID of interfering in domestic politics by
supporting westernising reformers and even claimed the institute was a CIA
HIID provided important logistical support for Anatoly Chubais, who held
a series of senior ministerial posts in the mid-1990s and spearheaded
Russia's mass privatisation drive.
Prof Hay also worked closely with Russia's federal securities commission
- modelled on the us securities and exchange commission - attempting to
create open, US-style capital markets.
But the Federal Securities Commission became involved in a heated
dispute with the central bank over which agency should be Russia's chief
Mr Chubais also came under fierce fire from his political opponents, who
claimed his privatisation programme had simply handed over control of
valuable state assets to insiders at knock-down prices.
The Times (UK)
January 18, 1999
[for personal use only]
'Despite 70 years of theoretical equality, the best a young Russian woman
can hope for is a rich husband or a band of wealthy clients'
By Anna Blundy
I was standing in the Slavyanskaya hotel last week waiting to get some
dollars out of the bank. The Slavyanskaya looks like a flashy modern hotel
anywhere in the world, except that the lobby is always overflowing with
spectacularly beautiful prostitutes in furs and high-heeled boots, clacking
past thuggish men in leather jackets who are forever slumped smoking in the
In front of me in the queue was a tall, thin, slightly Asiatic-looking
woman of about 20 wearing very tight PVC trousers, Emma Peel boots and a
cream silk blouse. She carried a Chanel bag and had big pearls in her ears.
"Look, there must be money on it. He says he paid it in last week. Try the
Visa," she was saying urgently in Russian. Next to her was a short, old,
worried Frenchman, staring at the remaining cards in his wallet. "Pas
possible," he would mutter to her and she would reply in faltering French.
The woman became more frantic with each refused card and the man was
getting visibly older, more jowelly and shorter. The teller rolled her eyes
at me and smirked. The woman with the pearl earrings burst into tears and
the man riffled through the few dollar bills he had in his pocket and
looked at her pleadingly.
Still, by now the Frenchman is back at home in Toulouse with his wife
and the prostitute has probably earned more than enough money to make up
for her loss. She is rich beyond any of the wild dreams she may have had in
her Soviet childhood and, much though Western women may despise or pity
her, she is almost certainly envied by her female contemporaries and by
some staggering proportion of schoolgirls (some 50 per cent of whom told a
poll in the early 1990s that they would like to become hard-currency
Prostitution of course existed under Communism, but since the
perestroika years it has turned into the number one career choice for all
the country's tall, thin and striking young women. Although technically
illegal, the girls are paying their protection to everyone from the
concierge to the police.
In any other country these women would all be successful models, but in
Russia only a very few are chosen by the burgeoning agencies and the
process is tedious for women who, while they are waiting, can easily make
enough to support their families for years to come. The hotel prostitutes
are considered lucky because they have been born with something to sell.
Wandering around Moscow, foreigners are always amazed at the number of
attractive and well-groomed women pottering about the shops. This is
because, despite 70 years of theoretical equality, the best a young Russian
woman can hope for today is a rich husband or a large band of wealthy
clients. These increasingly rare beasts are not lured in by wit,
independence and good career prospects, but by the old chestnuts of
lingerie, long hair and a winning pout.
In Russia the best educated most cultured women are the poorest. Concert
violinists drive taxis at night, teachers have not received their pay in
months, those scientists who have not moved to California are desperately
growing potatoes at their dachas. Of course, there are businesswomen here
and a fair number of young female professionals, but mostly they are of the
The most ordinary and least feminine-looking of women still squeezes
herself into a short skirt, dyes her hair blonde and teeters around all
winter in high heels simply because that is what women are supposed to do.
It is taken for granted by men and women that females are for looking at
and giving flowers to.
Russian men are always baffled by the rebuffs they receive from foreign
women, for they believe that to pay a woman a compliment (this can often
take the form of gross lechery) is simply obligatory in polite society.
"She was hideous. I just didn't want to be rude," you hear them say,
offended and confused. In a country trying to feed itself for the winter,
feminism is still very much a luxury item.
Russia's fashion victims find it's no model profession
MOSCOW, Jan 13 (AFP) - It's a far cry from the glamour and gloss of the
western supermodel scene.
Exotic shoots, four figure fees, regular royalties, catwalks in Paris,
Milan, New York ... it's all alien to the Russian would-be Kate Moss, who
is more likely to inhabit a world closer to pimps, prostitutes and
pornography than paparazzi.
Russia's modelling world is a dark and dangerous demimonde even for the
top exponents, who command modest royalties and enjoy barely regular work.
Further down the career ladder are the hapless rank and file for whom
modelling is a hobby which has to be supplemented with more prosaic endeavour.
"The problem is that the number of models, male or female, is much
bigger than the amount of work out there," said Alexei, 20, a model for the
Red Star model agency. "It makes people dependent on agencies which can
treat them like dogs."
In short, modelling is a buyer's market with some 20 big agencies
controlling the work -- and most of the models -- and dispensing with legal
niceties like contracts and royalties.
Take Sergei Petrov, for example. This top Russian model is an instantly
recognisable figure as the face behind the television ad for Stimorol
chewing gum. But the fees he commands for fashion shows and shoots would be
spare change for his western counterparts.
"Even before last year's financial crisis, I never got more than 150
dollars for one fashion show, while in Europe models like me get several
thousand," he said.
Petrov, 29, pays 150 dollars a month for a modest Moscow flat and gets
around by metro, surprising ordinary Russians who expect to see their stars
enjoying a somewhat more glamorous lifestyle.
"One girl asked me for an autograph and asked why I used the metro,"
Petrov admitted. "She said she expected people like me to drive luxurious
limousines and wear gold chains."
Petrov was too embarrassed to admit that he has not even saved enough to
buy a car.
In general the situation for women is easier for men, but the collapse
of Russian advertising following last year's financial crisis has meant
there is even less work going around.
"Even top models can enjoy modelling just as their hobby," said hair
stylist Aleftina Ignatyeva. "They have to have another source of money,
such as a husband or prostitution."
Andrei Fomin, organiser of Russia's annual Dress of the Year
competition, said that before the financial crisis, top models would make
150 dollars for a catwalk outing, but that has now dropped to 50 dollars.
"It is the lowest fee in Europe," Fomin said. "That is why girls cannot
be free in their private life. They are forced to have someone or something
else to support them financially."
Yelena, 19, a promising model for the Grekoff agency, says that her
generation have to be prepared to use their bodies as more than just
mannequins to get by.
"You have to sleep with somebody, one of the people who decide if you
will get work or not," she said, adding that she has to work as a
prostitute occasionally to get together enough money to pay the bills. "I
am not alone. Almost all models in Russia are forced to do the same."
18 January 1999
[for personal use only]
If only to Moscow's mayor, Yeltsin remains relevant
By David Filipov
MOSCOW - Everything you need to know about what President Boris N.
Yeltsin's latest illness means for Russia, you can find out from the
reaction of two guys named Yury.
One is Yury Belov, a Moscow construction worker. Informed that Yeltsin
was rushed to the hospital yesterday with what the Kremlin said was a
bleeding ulcer, Belov responded with only mild surprise.
''I thought he was already in the hospital,'' Belov said of the Russian
president. It is not hard to see why. Since his reelection in 1996,
Yeltsin, 67, has been hospitalized at least five times. He has spent much
of the rest of the time convalescing in one of his several suburban
Belov was probably speaking for most Russians when he asked,
rhetorically: ''Does it matter what Yeltsin does?''
The Russian president gave up day-to-day affairs to his prime minister,
Yevgeny M. Primakov, during his last ailment, a bout with pneumonia less
than two months ago. Nearly everyone outside the Kremlin openly
acknowledges that ''the Yeltsin presidency'' has faded to a constitutional
formality and that real power in Russia lies with Primakov.
But then there is the other Yury: Moscow's powerful mayor, Yury M.
Luzhkov, a potential contender in the next presidential election, scheduled
Luzhkov, who takes credit for Moscow's post-Communist economic revival,
is one of a handful of Russian politicians who could win the race. But most
analysts say his chances would be better if the vote were held sooner,
before Russia's financial crisis takes its toll on Moscow's economic
Once a loyal ally, Luzhkov has begun hinting that Yeltsin should step
down. He most recently made the suggestion on Saturday, the day before
Yeltsin was hospitalized and two days after the president unexpectedly
canceled all his meetings.
''There is a problem of early presidential elections,'' Luzhkov told
reporters. ''We all know it exists. It would be hypocrisy to keep ignoring
it or to spot it and keep silent about it. The president should weigh the
situation thoroughly and inform the Russian people of his decision.''
Such statements indicate Yeltsin's ulcer will cause headaches for aides
who have been trying to create a new image for him.
The idea has been to portray Yeltsin as too busy with weighty problems
to have time for the mundane business of running Russia. Yeltsin, they
said, was tackling the problem of ensuring the continuity of Russia's
economic and political reforms. Yeltsin would be ''hard at work on
documents,'' emerging to hear occasional reports from his ministers, or to
meet with world leaders.
With Yeltsin again in the hospital, the new image is in trouble. A trip
to France set for Jan. 28 is in jeopardy.
But the real question is whether, and how, Yeltsin will answer the
thinly veiled challenge of the second Yury. And only then will the answer
to the question of the first Yury be ''yes.''
Ex-KGB Blames West for Iran Technology
MOSCOW, Jan. 18, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia's FSB national security service
said in a newspaper interview published on Monday that Iran possessed
Western equipment which could be used to build missiles.
The United States placed sanctions on three Russian scientific
institutes last week and threatened further action, accusing Russia of
providing aid to Iran's missile and nuclear weapons programs.
But FSB spokesman Aleksander Zdanovich told the Segodnya daily newspaper
that Washington had provided no evidence to back up its accusations.
He said Iranian scientists had been trained in the United States,
Canada, Germany and France, and that Iran possessed equipment made in
Germany, Japan and Switzerland which could be used to make missiles.
He did not say how or when Tehran had acquired the equipment.
Russian officials and commentators have mostly expressed outrage at the
U.S. decision to invoke sanctions against the Russian institutes without
offering any evidence.
But Yevgeny Kiselyov, host of the influential weekly television news
program Itogi, said late on Sunday that it was unreasonable of Russia to
expect the United States to disclose its intelligence sources.
18 January 1999
[for personal use only]
RUSSIAN DEBT: IMF in high-stakes financial game
By John Thornhill in Moscow
The International Monetary Fund is being drawn into a high-stakes game
of financial brinkmanship with the Russian government as a Fund mission
arrives in Moscow on Wednesday to review the country's economic plans.
Yevgeny Primakov, Russia's prime minister, vowed at the weekend Russia
would strive to honour the billions of dollars of external debt obligations
which fall due this year in spite of the country's deepening financial crisis.
"Russia will make the maximum effort to pay back our debts. We cannot
declare ourselves bankrupt," he said.
But the government's ability to service its foreign obligations depends
upon it restructuring its Soviet-era debts for a second time and winning
further support from the IMF. And in the past few days the Fund has made it
clear it will not disburse more money to Moscow until the government
toughens up its financial plans.
Unless Russia reaches a deal with the IMF it may be forced into a
full-scale default on its external debts. Russia is already technically in
default on $30bn of restructured Soviet-era debt owed to the London Club of
Some economists fear Russia is even in danger of defaulting on the $5bn
of principal and interest it owes to the IMF and World Bank unless these
institutions in effect agree to "roll over" their loans.
On Friday, Stanley Fischer, the Fund's first deputy managing director,
delivered a bleak assessment of the Russian economy, pressing the
government to take urgent steps to cut spending and raise additional
revenue to get its finances under control.
He criticised Russia's draft 1999 budget as "neither sufficiently
ambitious, nor realistic" and urged the government to target a primary
budget surplus (before interest payments) of 3 per cent to 4 per cent of
gross domestic product.
"There is an immediate need for fiscal action. I'm speaking unusually
bluntly for an IMF official," he said.
However, Yuri Maslyukov, the first deputy prime minister in charge of
the economy, who held talks with IMF officials in Washington last week,
rejected many of the Fund's criticisms.
"We have tried to do everything to show the realism of our economic
policy and of our numbers in the 1999 budget," he said, "but we have not
achieved 100 per cent success everywhere. The conclusion we can make is
that it is essential to continue our work."
On paper, the 1999 budget is the toughest financial plan drawn up by any
post-Soviet Russian government. But the IMF has questioned many assumptions
on which it is based.
Some economists think the government will only be able to meet its
nominal revenue targets by allowing inflation to climb far higher than the
30 per cent annual target pencilled into the budget. The IMF has also
criticised government plans to cut VAT rates to 15 per cent.
The IMF, which has lent $19bn to Russia to support economic reform,
never reschedules its loans.
Jan. 18, 1998
A Revolution of Empty Stomachs
By Rod Pounsett
Kremlin spin doctors will no doubt attempt to capitalize on the news
that Moscow is no longer the most expensive city in Europe for foreigners.
And according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Russia as a whole has
toppled from being third most expensive country in the world to 88th. This
may be construed as encouraging news for expatriates, those trying to
attract new business to Russia and the country's tourist industry. But it
will not do much to alter harsh realities for the estimated 73 million
ordinary Russians, according to the Red Cross, now living below the poverty
For instance, rents for Westernized Moscow apartments have fallen by as
much as 30 percent since the ruble crisis caused a mass exodus of the
foreign business community and formerly high dollar wage earning Russians
lost their jobs. An apartment offered at $1,500 a month at the end of last
summer can now be snapped up for $1,000 or less. Prices for foreigners have
fallen even further in St. Petersburg, which is now 115th in the world table.
But for Russian pensioners trying to exist on under $20 a month, or
those families that have not seen any sort of wage packet for almost a
year, these figures are meaningless.
In fact, it is hard to imagine how people manage to survive, especially
considering the rapidly increasing prices for essentials such as basic food
items. And with food imports cut to almost nil and the severe winter
shortages of domestic produce, the problems have been exacerbated by
unscrupulous exploitation of supply and demand.
Yes, a lot of Russians, especially in the rural areas, do have the
ability to grow some food for themselves -- that is, if they can afford
seeds, fertilizers and transport costs to get to their small holdings. And
there is the prospect of reasonable amounts of humanitarian aid from the
West this winter, provided the system allows the produce to reach the needy
without corrupt officials and criminals hijacking it en route. But the fact
remains that a lot of Russians are having a hard time making ends meet.
In relative terms, it is marginally easier for people living outside the
capital. General prices in the regions can be up to 30 percent lower than
in Moscow. But that only means very little goes a little bit further.
To get things in perspective, it is worth looking at the cost of items
for an average shopping basket of supplies based on current Moscow region
prices. Remembering that a pensioner couple will have an income of about
$35 a month and a family of four on state support no more than $100, out of
which they also have to pay for utilities and other household costs, not to
mention nonstate provided medicines and some school supplies if they have
young children. University students do get some minimal extra assistance,
but not much.
This list takes into account the normal Russian diet.
Price per pound (unless otherwise stated)
Beet root $0.06
Low-grade frozen fish $0.90
10 eggs $0.28
Bread (loaf) $0.17
Milk (pint) $0.25
Cooking oil (pint) $0.80
Fruit juice (pint) $0.60
Water (pint) $0.24
Baby food (packets, two-week supply) $4.30
Detergent (Western brands) $0.76
Detergent (Russian brands) $0.38
Toilet soap (bar) $0.10
Toothpaste (250 grams - Western brands) $0.95
Toothpaste (250 grams - Russian brands) $0.40
Prices calculated using a ruble exchange rate of about 21 to the dollar.
A couple I know in Moscow with two young children, both of whom have
lost their jobs in the recent crisis, tell me they are having to survive on
$2 a day for food after all other costs have been taken into account. They
try to buy some meat or fish a couple of times a week for the children, but
sweets or ice cream are very rare treats.
It is hard for them to understand they are not living in a Third World
country. Despite the current economic crisis Russia has to be considered a
developed nation. But how, they ask themselves, can Russia afford to spend
billions of rubles developing things like the state-of-the-art new MiG
fighter jet rolled out in public for the first time last week when their
children are on near starvation rations?
Napoleon reminded us that armies march on their stomachs. The Russian
government might be warned that revolutions can begin with empty ones.