This Date's Issues: 3058•
Johnson's Russia List
18 February 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Guardian: James Meek and Jamie Wilson, Russians look to Iron Lady
for their economic salvation.
2. Fred Weir on government investigation of communists.
3. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, A TALE OF 2 CITIES ON RUSSIAN BORDER.
4. Reuters: Rubin-Russia needs sensible reforms, work with IMF.
5. Reuters: PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit Russian c.bank.
6. Moscow Times: Oksana Yablokova, Group to Help Deal With GAI.
7. Moscow Tribune: Dmitry Polikarpov, Political Accord in Doubt.
8. Sobesednik: Kalugin on High-Profile Murders, KGB.
9. Reuters: Ukraine hails Russian ratification of key pact.
10. Reuters: Russian agriculture faces funding squeeze.
11. AFP: Pentagon Delegation to Discuss Y2K in Russia.
12. Interfax: Zyuganov Sees Liberalism, Extremism as Dangers for Russia.
13. PBS The Newshour: Simon Marks, AN AILING PRESIDENT.
14. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: INCOME UNDERREPORTING HIDES ONE-FIFTH OF RUSSIAN
ECONOMY and RUSSIA BECOMING A WORLD LEADER IN SPREAD OF AIDS.]
17 February 1999
[for personal use only]
Russians look to Iron Lady for their economic salvation
By James Meek in Moscow and Jamie Wilson
Since August the Russian rouble has crashed to a quarter of its value, a
third of the population is thought to be earning less than the minimum
subsistence level and there are reports of starvation in the north.
But if a new political party has its way the Russian people will soon be
embracing Margaret Thatcher as the country's saviour.
Later this month 'The Conservative Party - Thatcher-ites of Russia' will
emerge based, according to their manifesto, 'on the economic and political
philosophy known as Thatcherism'.
The Thatcherites claim to have 4,000 members already, with branches
planned in 20 cities across Russia. The party will be launched in St
Petersburg later this month with a poster campaign dedicated to the Iron Lady.
The proto-party can be found on its nascent website,
www.thatcherists.ru, which opens with a home page dominated by a photograph
of Lady Thatcher dressed in the Order of the Garter, with suitably regal
Speaking last night from the party's Moscow hub, acting secretary Alexei
Yatsev said he had never seen the baroness in the flesh, but had been
instantly impressed when he saw her on television visiting the Soviet Union.
'When I watched her meeting our experts I understood that this woman had
very good logic - simple, male logic,' he said.
'When Thatcher came to power in the 1970s there wasn't a very good
economic situation,' said Mr Yatsev, 42, a small publisher from the
southern city of Voronezh. 'There was inflation. As she herself writes,
there was even a threat of hyperinflation. So it was very similar to Russia
According to Ruslan Fedorovsky, the UK representative and member of the
board of Conservative Party - Thatcherites of Russia, a number of party
policies mirror those of the Iron Lady. 'We are strongly in favour of the
Union,' Mr Fedorovsky said. 'We feel that Russia should not be split just
like Thatcher thinks Britain should not be split.'
The party's star recruit so far is Sir Alfred Sherman, who headed
Baroness Thatcher's Centre for Policy Studies. The Thatcherites of Russia
literature describes Sir Alfred as an 'Engels' of Thatcherism and have
invited the aging sage to speak at the launch of the party in St Petersburg
What was the most important lesson that the Thatcherites of Russia could
learn? 'That you must be bold and not just stick to economics,' Sir Alfred
said. 'It will take years before they develop their personality. You can't
expect a party in Russia to come out fully formed like Minerva from Zeus'
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999
From: "Fred Weir" <email@example.com>
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir in Moscow
MOSCOW (HT Feb 18) - Communist leaders say the Russian government is trying
to blackmail them into subservience with an investigation into the party's
alleged illegal political activities.
"This is an attempt to start a witch hunt, undertaken by executive powers
and Boris Yeltsin's camp," Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading Communist
parliamentarian said after the Justice Ministry announced a probe of the
A Communist spokesman said the investigation is actually a form of
pressure on the party to force it to sign a "political peace" deal being
promoted by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
"This is a provocation, aimed at forcing us into submission," said
Andrei Phillipov, deputy head of the party's international department. "It
will never work."
Mr. Primakov has been trying to convince President Yeltsin and Russia's
fractious parliamentary leaders to agree to abstain from political conflict
until the next round of elections. He hopes a period of stability will give
him time to consolidate his government's power and carry out a wide-ranging
The Communists, Russia's largest political party and the biggest bloc in
parliament, have set a heavy price in return for their co-operation. Among
other things, they demand a sweeping redistribution of authority to give
parliament many powers now concentrated in the Kremlin.
"It is very curious that the Justice Ministry should open this case
against the Communists just when negotiations over the peace deal are taking
place," says Sergei Tarasenko, an analyst with the independent Fund for
Political Realism in Moscow.
"Threatening to ban Russia's largest political party is definitely not
the road to peace. Whether you like the Communists or not, they do represent
almost a third of the electorate," he says.
Under Russia's Constitution it is illegal for a political party to
establish its cells in factories and firms. This is to prevent the Soviet-era
situation where Communist Party cells in workplaces represented an extra
layer of state control over workers.
The Justice Ministry charges that the Communist Party is re-creating its
network of workplace cells around the country. If the claim is proven is
court, the party could be banned under Russian legislation.
The Communists deny the charges, and say they will take the matter to the
Constitutional Court to defend their right to organize grass-roots political
"The Soviet state no longer exists, so there are no workplace cells of
the Soviet type any longer," says Mr. Phillipov. "But if a person is a worker
and a Communist, and wants to associate politically with other workers, that
cannot be against the law."
17 February 1999
[for personal use only]
A TALE OF 2 CITIES ON RUSSIAN BORDER
By Colin McMahon
IVANGOROD, Russia -- The people of Ivangorod did not really need more
schooling on the realities of the free market. Towns and small cities across
Russia have borne the brunt of the post-Soviet economic collapse, and
Ivangorod has its share of impoverished pensioners, unpaid salaries and
crumbling social services.
Yet that's just what the New Year brought this town of 12,000 on Russia's
northwest frontier. Courtesy of their almost religiously free-market neighbors
across the Narva River in Estonia, Ivangorod was dealt another cruel lesson
that old ties and former glories do not pay the bills.
Fed up with Ivangorod's refusal to pay for water that the city of Narva,
Estonia, had been supplying for years, the Estonians turned off the tap on
Jan. 2. Ivangorod woke up dry, thirsty and even more woeful than usual.
What's happening in Ivangorod not only shows how far Russia has fallen
the rest of the world, it tells how desperate many Russians feel and, in the
wake of last year's ruble devaluation and economic plunge, how dimly they view
Ivangorod and Narva used to be, as some Russians like to say about the
days, one big family. Narva was always larger--its population is 74,000--and
Ivangorod was administered by a different regional government. Yet in daily
life, the two were like city and suburb. They shared bus and train service, a
heating plant and water and sewage treatment.
Now about all they share are regrets.
When Estonia gained full independence in 1991, its borders remained much the
same as when it was one of the Soviet Socialist Republics.
So with the Narva River the dividing line, Narva took most everything worth
taking. Factories, stores, the waterworks, the train station--all those things
and more went to Estonia. Ivangorod got its standard Soviet-issue apartment
buildings, a post office, some food shops and a cafe, but not much else.
The town has never recovered. More capital has gone out of Russia in the
than has come in, and what investment does arrive rarely lands in the towns
and small cities of the provinces. Money does not come to places like
Given this history, some Ivangorod residents were offended when Narva cut
the water. Others were jealous.
"Life is a lot better there," said Valery Fyodorov, a 48-year-old pipe layer
who tries to support a wife and two children on the equivalent of about $42 a
month. "Their economy is better. The streets are cleaner. There are jobs. It's
apparent that the people live like Westerners."
Then Fyodorov delivered the toughest indictment one can hear in
toughest one could hear in a nation where patriotism still runs deep: If given
the chance to walk across the bridge to Estonia and not come back, Fyodorov
said he would.
"In an instant I'd give up my Russian citizenship. With pleasure."
That opportunity is unlikely to be offered Fyodorov and his neighbors any
soon. Even Yuri Gordeyev understands that.
Gordeyev, a 55-year-old captain's mate and something of an Ivangorod gadfly,
is well known in town, even well liked, it would seem, by the way people greet
him on the street. Yet he is poison to the town government.
Last March, Gordeyev circulated a petition asking that Ivangorod be
secede from the Russian Federation and become part of Estonia. Officials
derided the petition as the publicity stunt of a troublemaker, but more than
500 people signed it.
"It won't happen," Gordeyev said. "There is no reason that Narva would
merge with us. . . . But I told the mayor that if things did not improve and
they ever did decide to give us Estonian citizenship, 99 percent of the people
here would go."
Gordeyev's assessment of Estonia's wishes was accurate. Narva Mayor Ants
Liimets said his people believe that about 10 miles of Russian land on the
other side of the river rightfully belongs to Estonia.
Yet in 1991, the Estonians considered the risk of armed conflict with Russia
over the land, thought, "War over Ivangorod?" and decided to accept the old
"We're looking at bringing into Narva some nearby communities on this
the river," Liimets said. "But Ivangorod? Thanks, but no thanks."
Liimets said Narva gave Russia plenty of chances to pay its water bills,
with interest and penalties now total nearly $1.5 million. But Narva's
residents, he said, got sick of subsidizing their neighbors.
"We live in a market economy now," Liimets said. "It's the same as a
store won't sell you anything without payment. We were ready to give Ivangorod
water. We were ready to treat the sewage. Only they have to pay for it."
Instead, Russia has rushed into use a new pumping station in Ivangorod.
Gleaming it is not, partly because it was built in less than three months. But
it is supplying about 70 percent of Ivangorod's water needs.
There are still outages and rationing. For example, no one has water from
midnight to 6 a.m. ("Who needs water when they are sleeping?" said Ivangorod's
new mayor, Anatoly Potopov.)
But officials say that once two more wells are dug this spring, those
will wash away.
"Everything here is Russian made," Potopov boasted at the pumping station.
Asked from what region of Russia the pumps came, he said, "Ukraine." It took
him a few minutes to realize the mistake, if not to fully accept that Ukraine
is, in fact, an independent country.
Still, Narva is no longer treating Ivangorod's sewage, and while the Russian
town is planning to build a treatment plant, its opening is not around the
For now, Ivangorod is pumping its raw sewage directly into the river that
separates it from its neighbor.
Rubin-Russia needs sensible reforms, work with IMF
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Russia needs a sound and sensible program of
economic reforms and needs a deal with the International Monetary Fund to open
the door to other types of aid, U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said
Rubin, asked if the Group of Seven industrialized countries would take
unilateral action to support Russia at a meeting planned for this weekend,
said the IMF was the key to future aid.
"Everything key to Russia is working through with the IMF a sensible and
program and a once that happens, that can be the basis with which the Paris
Club and others can function," Rubin told a news conference, referring to the
Paris Club of creditor states.
The IMF froze lending to Russia last year after the government defaulted on
some debt and devalued the rouble. The two sides have been talking for months
about the terms for a resumption of lending, but no agreement has yet been
PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit Russian c.bank
LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the world's
"Big Five" accountancy firms, said on Wednesday it had been appointed as
auditor for the Central Bank of Russia.
The move follows pressure from the International Monetary Fund for the
appointment of a leading Western auditing company, PwC said in a statement.
Coopers & Lybrand and Deloitte & Touche carried out the work in the early
1990s before being replaced by a Russian auditor.
Executive partner for Eastern Europe, Andrew Warren, said PwC's brief was to
carry out a straghtforward audit, reporting to the State Duma lower house
which ratified its appointment last week.
A series of charges have been levelled against Russia's central bank
including wrong use of a Jersey-based company, Fimaco, to manage the country's
reserves. Central bank officials have rejected the allegations.
PwC has a leading position as an auditor of central banks around the globe.
Other clients include the Bank of England, Bundesbank, European Central Bank
and U.S. Federal Reserve.
February 18, 1999
Group to Help Deal With GAI
By Oksana Yablokova
Hopeful organizers of a new drivers association called on Russia's motorists
Wednesday to band together to protect themselves from the disliked and
notoriously corrupt traffic police.
Founders of the Society for the Protection of Drivers' Rights said they will
set up a hot line to provide lawyers for members fed up with stressful and
humiliating encounters with the traffic cops, or GAI.
President Igor Yudin told journalists at a news conference that he
agreements with a dozen lawyers willing to resolve disputes between drivers
But he made it clear that victory in open warfare with the bribe-hungry
with their white batons was not something the group intended.
"Fighting them is like fighting against nature," he said.
One obstacle may be drivers themselves, who generally prefer paying a
having their license confiscated.
The movement organizers see their goal in helping Russian drivers to deal
traffic police and contributing to order on the country's sometimes-anarchic
roads by educating children on road safety, Yudin said at the news conference.
They also plan on calling the Moscow city authorities to fix roads, Yudin
The movement at this time claims only a few members but Yudin hopes to
into the all-Russian union, which will help drivers all over the country.
Details like membership dues aren't worked out yet.
In April the organizers hope to hold a congress where they hope to invite
delegates from different regions of Russia.
Yudin, a businessman with what he called a trafficpolice-related background,
hinted he hopes his connections will make it easier for his movement to help
the oppressed, but said it's not connected to any government structure.
17 February 1999
Political Accord in Doubt
By Dmitry Polikarpov
The agreement on political accord between President Boris Yeltsin, the
government and the parliament may face serious changes during debate set for
this week, a high-ranking lower house official said last Thursday.
"If everything goes normally, the text of the document can be drafted next
week and submitted to both chambers of the parliament," Duma speaker Gennady
Seleznyov was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.
But Seleznyov warned that "difficulties are expected in the talks" without
giving further details.
The Duma legislators, government officials and representatives of the
president will meet on Monday to draft a compromise version of the peace pact,
aimed at avoiding political tension in the run up to the 1999 Duma elections
and the presidential race next year.
The agreement will ban Yeltsin from dissolving the parliament and the
government, while in exchange legislators will annul impeachment proceedings
against the president.
However, the hostile stance taken by the Communist Party (KPRF) Duma faction
and the Yabloko liberal group may become a serious obstacle for reaching an
agreement over the draft's final version. KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov said
earlier this week that the leftist forces will not approve the agreement
unless the Cabinet abandons its current course of economic and political
"A national truce should be based on a good new socioeconomic policy, rather
than an agreement between top officials in power," Zyuganov said.
"If the president resigned of his own free will, it would be one thing,
he is not prepared to do so, giving guarantees is pointless," he added.
Yeltsin himself has also warned that he will not voluntary reduce his
constitutional powers to gradually transform Russia into a parliamentary
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov put forward his surprise initiative last
in what analysts described as the premier's attempt to secure his top
government post until the next presidential elections.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said that Yeltsin finally
truce initiative just hours before Primakov met with Duma leaders on
Following two hours of negotiations in the lower chamber Seleznyov and
Primakov informed the media that a preliminary agreement on the political pact
"All the factions understand that we need political agreement and social
stability so that our economic problems may be solved," Seleznyov said.
"The Communist Party also agreed with the idea of such an agreement,"
Seleznyov said. Primakov described the discussion as "very fruitful."
However, Zyuganov later on Wednesday ruled out acceptance of the current
proposal which he said would mean "acting in the tragicomedies staged by
He refused to abandon the Communists' plan to discuss in both chambers of
parliament the five impeachment articles under preparation against Yeltsin,
together with several key amendments to the constitution which will delegate
some of the presidential powers to the Duma and the Federation Council.
Zyuganov has made several public statements seriously criticizing what he
called Yeltsin's "inability to control the situation in the country and his
Zyuganov also said that Yeltsin "went to beg money from Clinton and Chirac,"
in a reference to the president's trip to Jordan for the funeral of King
"He has not even got enough money to pay his own personal bodyguard, let
the miners," Zyuganov said.
In response, the Justice Ministry earlier this week urged the Prosecutor
General to launch an inquiry into Zyuganov's "insulting" comments.
Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko group, who have always been hostile to Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov's economic strategy, said that the pact will not
solve the ongoing economic and political crisis.
Sergei Ivanenko, Yabloko's deputy chairman, described the accord as "a
useless, rather than harmful document." However, Ivanenko warned that Yabloko
may still support the draft in order to boost constitutional reform in Russia.
Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of the leftist People's Power group in the Duma,
the private NTV television station that the Duma leaders were unlikely to
approve the accord without introducing serious amendments.
"Primakov is sufficiently intelligent and a good diplomat, and he
very well that such questions must be resolved through compromise. We cannot
accept 100 percent the viewpoint we have received from the president," Ryzhkov
Kalugin on High-Profile Murders, KGB
Sobesednik, No 2
January 1, 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Telephone interview with Oleg Kalugin by Kirill Litmanov; date not
given: "Were I To Give the Names of Former Agents, There Would Be Carnage
Washington--Oleg Kalugin is an amazing man. Talking about the once
superpowerful Kryuchkov, he says that the latter created worldwide publicity
for him, for
which he thanks the KGB boss profusely. Recalling the traitor Artamonov, he
says that the
latter, although sentenced to execution, gave way under the stress on his way
where the sentence was to have been put into effect, and died--from acute
The general calls Sergey Baburin a "son of a bitch," but is not as yet
to come to Russia to
say this to the vice speaker of the Duma, who is the father of a large family,
to his face. He is
fearfully exasperated by the Monica Lewinsky business, but he is not, all the
America. A total enigma, not a man. And if we recall how many questions for
which he could
theoretically provide an answer, if if's and and's..., it is clear that there
is nothing clear
concerning Kalugin. If only Russian politicians, about whom our hero says,
that just about half of them are canned agents or are past their sell-by date,
were as closed-mouthed as he is.
'I'll Live Longer in America'
[Sobesednik] Oleg Danilovich, what sort of specialist do you consider
[Kalugin] One in the field of public relations.
[Sobesednik] Is it not boring for you today being a businessman after
intelligence, in which you were
the youngest general of the KGB since the war and where work is altogether
[Kalugin] Business also has its romance, and my knowledge has come in very
handy here even--I now,
like before, have to establish connections, persuade people. But I have
changed terribly here.
[Sobesednik] That is, the General Kalugin who was known to many people is no
more, it may be said?
[Kalugin] No, but the new Kalugin is not divorced from the old one. In
addition, the fact that I once
worked in the KGB is regarded here more as a curiosity, making me additionally
About 10 years ago I was seen, of course, as the devil incarnate, now,
no consequence, they find it amusing.
[Sobesednik] But it would not be entirely amusing were you to decide to come
to Moscow. The local
situation would probably give you a heart attack: it happens frequently with
people of your former profession.
[Kalugin] Precisely! And the tragic business of Galina Starovoytova (I was a
sympathizer of hers)
has shown once again that Russia today is an unsafe country. And, then, what
would I be offered
there? Precisely nothing. Here I am needed. And this not only makes life
attractive, it even prolongs it, as it were.
'The Security Services Are Behind the High-Profile Assassinations'
[Sobesednik] In Russia it is mainly being shortened, and your former
colleagues are having an active hand in this, it would seem.
[Kalugin] I have no doubt that the many of the assassinations of prominent
Russian businessmen and
politicians, Starovoytova in particular, have been carried out by
professionals. And who
could be such a professional here? Only those with special or military
training. Subtract all
that is superfluous, and you are left with the security services: it is people
who worked and
continue to work there who are, I am sure, behind the high-profile
[Sobesednik] Are you sure that anything at all may be expected of your
[Kalugin] Yes. But I began my criticism of the KGB in the times of Kryuchkov
and his team, and it was
quite frightening for me then also. Have we been given intelligent life to
live on the lookout
in a doghole? That's not my nature. And I'm afraid of nothing today either.
[Sobesednik] Not even the hard-nosed Baburin and Zhirinovskiy?
[Kalugin] What have I to fear from these KGB stooges? Aleksandr Yakovlev's
memoirs will be coming
out in Russia soon, incidentally. He describes in one chapter there an episode
Kryuchkov went to Gorbachev to report on the formation of a new party, the
LDPR: we have picked a
good man, it was said. Baburin is an old KGB agent, a provocateur from the
Fifth Omsk Directorate--what can be said about them?
[Sobesednik] And I would like not to have to say this but I have to--they
both in the saddle, not the least important people in the Duma.
[Kalugin] And here in Russia, which is now called democratic, you can see
is in the saddle--former KGB officers or agents at every step.
[Sobesednik] Excuse me, all of them?
[Kalugin] Of course--from the prime minister and the president's chief of
staff on down. And were
this the KGB with a new face, what is more, but the old things are the same:
the generation that
lived through those times and adapted to the new ones, but would feel far more
at ease under the old system of power.
'I'll Give No One Up, Even Under Torture'
[Sobesednik] Is Yavlinskiy also a former undercover agent? His father worked
in the security authorities.
[Kalugin] No, Yavlinskiy is a decent person.
[Kalugin] No. And what's being an agent or not being an agent got to do with
it? This is not the issue. A
KGB agent also could be an outstanding individual, just like the officer. But
example, he is a son of a bitch--he has remained what he always was.
[Sobesednik] And Yevgeniy Kiselev, who also has been accused of
with the security authorities, what sort of son is he?
[Kalugin] Let's leave Kiselev on Korzhakov's conscience. If I have named
former KGB agents,
it has been only those that are today doing Russia harm. I knew hundreds of
people, but would you
remember if only the third person whom I exposed? I was never a supporter of
the publication of
lists--this is dangerous for our society. I am, after all, a citizen of
Russia, and it is not a
matter of indifference to me whether there is carnage here or not. And
people's eyes would
simply pop out of their sockets from shock were I to say who formerly was who.
But I never will--even under torture.
Ukraine hails Russian ratification of key pact
By Pavel Polityuk
KIEV, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on Wednesday
welcomed Russia's ratification of a controversial friendship treaty and said
Moscow's concerns about the future of Russia's big naval base in Ukraine could
soon be cleared.
``I feel deep satisfaction with the fact that forces which aim at developing
relations of friendship, trust and mutual respect prevailed in Russia and in
Ukraine,'' Kuchma told Russia's ORT public television.
Russia's Federation Council upper house of parliament on Wednesday ratified
the bilateral treaty, but decided that it will come into effect only after
Ukraine ratifies three separate treaties on the Russian Black Sea Fleet based
in the Crimean Peninsula.
Russian nationalists have repeatedly questioned Ukraine's rights over the
predominantly Russian-populated Crimea, a former Russian province formally
signed over to Ukraine in the 1950s by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Of particular concern to some politicians, notably Moscow Mayor and
presidential hopeful Yuri Luzhkov, is the status of the Crimean town of
Sevastopol, home to the once-proud Soviet Black Sea Fleet.
Ukrainian and Russian prime ministers have already signed the three separate
treaties on the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet, which cleared the way for the
broader friendship treaty.
They allow Russia to rent some Crimean bases and keep its share of the fleet
there. The fleet itself was split between the two countries after the Soviet
Union broke up in 1991.
``I think that it won't take long for the Ukrainian parliament to ratify the
treaties accompanying the pact,'' Kuchma said.
But nationalist factions in the Ukrainian parliament say the agreements
contradict the Ukrainian constitution, which does not allow foreign military
bases on the ex-Soviet state's territory.
Some deputies protested at the conditions, saying they made the approval of
the friendship treaty meaningless.
FOCUS-Russian agriculture faces funding squeeze
By Aleksandras Budrys
MOSCOW, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Russia's agriculture sector, plagued by a lack of
funds, will have to mobilise all available resources to meet the challenges of
the year ahead, Food and Agriculture Minister Viktor Semyonov said on
"The budget allocates only 9.3 billion roubles for agriculture and
which is woefully inadequate, but we will have to live with it," Semyonov told
He said Russia expected a grain deficit of up to seven million tonnes this
year and would have to buy grain from abroad or turn to foreign countries for
"This year we expect to harvest around 68 million tonnes, but our
show that this will not be enough. Our requirement will be between 73 and 75
million tonnes," Semyonov said.
"If the harvest turns out to be low then the government will have to
its currency reserves or turn to developed countries for humanitarian aid,
which will be accompanied by new political demands."
Russia last year harvested just 47.8 million tonnes of grain, the lowest
in over 40 years, and is now awaiting the first shipments of food aid from the
United States and the European Union to see it through the resulting supply
Semyonov painted a grim picture of preparations for this year's harvest.
He said the area ploughed for winter plantings had been 12 percent down on
last year, with winter sowing down four percent.
As a result of last year's drought, soil in some regions was dry and
sowing this year, while in others soil humidity was dangerously low.
He added that three million hectares, or about a quarter of the total area
sown, would produce no winter crops at all through winter kill losses and
would have to be replanted.
"It means the volume of work during the spring sowing campaign will increase
Russia also faced a shortage of 1.2 million tonnes of seed. It had only 8.2
million tonnes in stock, and 9.4 million were needed for spring sowing.
Semyonov said the ministry expected to cover almost half of the deficit by
purchasing seeds from domestic producers and allocating federal grain
reserves, but he did not say where the rest would come from.
"The situation is extremely difficult. By August 1, by the most optimistic
forecast, we will have a carry-over reserve of one million tonnes of grain.
But this is a very optimistic forecast."
Last week Deputy Agriculture Minister Vladimir Alginin said Russia would
around nine million tonnes as a carry-over reserve for the period between July
and September, when the 1999 harvest would become available.
He said Russia expected to get around three million tonnes of grain in
humanitarian aid but still faced a deficit of six million tonnes.
Semyonov said Russia was also facing a deficit of feed grain but was
negotiating additional supplies from Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Hungary in
exchange for gas and mineral fertiliser.
Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik suggested to the meeting that state
should compile data on the possibility of increasing the area to be sown this
year by the middle of March.
"We will have to make a most thorough investigation in order to guarantee
there is no idle plot of land," Kulik said.
Pentagon Delegation to Discuss Y2K in Russia
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 1999 -- (Agence France Presse) A Pentagon delegation
headed to Moscow Tuesday for talks on the year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem
with the Russian military as well as other defense issues, Pentagon spokesman
Kenneth Bacon said.
The Pentagon has offered to cooperate with the Russians on the Y2K problem,
amid U.S. concerns that Russia's nuclear command and control systems could be
vulnerable to the so-called millennium bug.
Washington has proposed sharing missile early warning data with Moscow as
way to counter misunderstandings that could arise from computer failures when
the year 2000 rolls in.
Bacon said the delegation led by Ted Warner, assistant secretary of defense
for strategy and requirements, will hold talks on U.S.-Russian military
relations while in Moscow, including the Y2K issue.
It also will join in meetings in Moscow of a U.S.-Russian Strategic
Group headed on the U.S. side by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott,
which also will take up Y2K problem.
Zyuganov Sees Liberalism, Extremism as Dangers for Russia
MOSCOW, Feb 14 (Interfax) -- Russian Communist Party leader
Gennadiy Zyuganov has said that there are two dangers facing Russia today:
revenge-seekers" and right- wing radicals, such as in the Russian National
Unity (RNE) movement led by Aleksandr Barkashov.
In a television interview Sunday, Zyuganov said the proliferation of fascism
"is largely imaginary." He said that liberals and national extremists in
Russia are working together in many ways.
"These two radical wings merged into one in 1996. They unreservedly backed
Yeltsin (at the
presidential elections in 1996, when Boris Yeltsin was re-elected for a second
communist leader said on Independent NTV company's Itogi (Results) program.
In regard to RNE, Zyuganov said that by marching under Nazi-like banners,
insult "all of us, insult the 30 million citizens who struggled with fascism,
What distinguishes fascism is its "ferocious hatred for communism... Open
recent RNE newspaper issues and you will see that they pour most of their
hostility on the communists, on those who honestly and courageously fought
against fascism." Zyuganov added that the communists not only condemn RNE's
actions but consider RNE "insulting and totally unacceptable."
AN AILING PRESIDENT
February 15, 1999
Russian President Boris Yeltsin is not only battling poor health but he is
also fighting possible impeachment. Special Correspondent Simon Marks
reports from Moscow on Russia's ailing leader and the future of its
SIMON MARKS: It isn't only in Washington that the talk this winter
has been of impeachment. In Moscow, impeachment hearings are underway in
the Russian parliament, where communist leaders are making dramatic claims
about President Boris Yeltsin's rule -- their objective, unlikely to be
achieved since the Yeltsin-controlled court must rule on the
constitutionality of proceedings: To remove the president from power.
Sidelined most of the year. VIKTOR ILUKHIN, Communist Party: (speaking
through interpreter) From 1992 to 1997, the population of Russia fell by
4.2 million people. We connect that directly with the president's
socioeconomic policies with massive delays, paying pensions and salaries,
massive unemployment, food shortages, and a fall in agriculture production.
This is an inhumane policy pursued by the president, aimed at killing the
people in the Russian Federation.
SIMON MARKS: Dramatic accusations apart, the would-be impeachers also say
President Yeltsin is simply no longer up to the job. Sidelined
most of this year by what his doctors call a burst ulcer, and still
recovering from open-heart surgery two years ago, the Russian public have
only seen him in snatched snippets of video footage screened on the
country's nightly news. The Kremlin-released clips are always mute. Yeltsin
aides even suppressed the sound that accompanied Yeltsin's birthday
celebration. The president's biggest gamble, his visit to Amman to attend
King Hussein's funeral, was an alarming failure. After what Jordanian
officials say was a medical alert on the scene, Boris Yeltsin returned to
Russia without even paying his last respects before the Jordanian leader's
coffin. The next day, president Yeltsin was back in the Kremlin in what was
interpreted by local political observers as a move aimed at proving he's
still in charge. (Speaking Russian) but when Yeltsin's voice is heard by
the nation, and the last time was on New Year's Eve, he speaks in vague
generalities about the economic catastrophe that has ravaged his nation.
BORIS YELTSIN: (speaking through interpreter) What can I
say, the year was not an easy one for the country, for many of you, and
also for me, but New Year's Eve means new hope, new dreams, and new plans.
SIMON MARKS: But August's economic collapse, when Russia defaulted on its
international debt, has shattered Moscow's dreams and plans. In a glitzy,
new underground shopping mall built beneath the Kremlin's walls, it feels
as though there are more shattered stores than shoppers. The mall was once
upheld as a vision of Moscow's future, but today, with the ruble worth 300%
less than its pre-crisis value, Russia's banks are teetering on the brink
of collapse. As the remaining businesses here struggle to survive, the mall
looks like a white elephant, a mirage depicting a prosperity that proves
OLGA FYODOROVA, Clothing Store Manager: (speaking through interpreter) You
know, business has fallen a lot. Sales are down by 30%, and we expect them
to fall by 50%.
SIMON MARKS: Olga Fyodorova manages the Benetton store in
the mall. She's worked here for a year, and wonders how much longer she'll
be able to do so.
OLGA FYODOROVA: (speaking through interpreter) Many stores are closing
because they can't survive the crisis. Rent is very expensive in this
complex. There are far fewer customers now, and their buying abilities have
dropped as well. So stores don't survive. They go bankrupt and close.
SIMON MARKS: Others put a brave face on it. In the mall's Cuban cigar store
where once Russia's nouveau riche stood in line for stogies, the owner
hopes for rosier times.
ROMAN MOGILEVSKY, Cigar Store Director: (speaking through interpreter) I
think that if the management lowers the rent, everyone will come back. The
crisis can't last forever. Sooner or later, everything will return to normal.
SIMON MARKS: What's bad for the mall is bad for its
architect -- the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov. Even though the next
presidential election is still more than a year away, he's one of several
politicians here jockeying for position in case the unstable economy or the
president's fragile health forces an early vote. Polls show that he's
currently one of the front-runners in the race to succeed Boris Yeltsin,
but in light of the economic crisis now affecting even Moscow, analysts say
he may be running a race against time.
LILYA SHESTSOVA: Moscow miracle is fading, and everybody understands that
after August financial collapse, Moscow is without its safety net and
Moscow miracle is really becoming, you know, a shadow.
SIMON MARKS: So he needs the elections to be held now?
LILYA SHESTSOVA: He needs elections as soon as possible. That's why he's
trying to push Yeltsin out.
SIMON MARKS: Trying to push Yeltsin out is a new strategy for the mayor.
Until a few weeks ago, he was pledging loyalty to the ailing Russian
leader. Now he wants Yeltsin to go, and allow the year 2000 elections to
take place ahead of schedule.
YURI LUZHKOV, Mayor, Moscow: (speaking through interpreter) The issue
definitely exists, and everybody can see it. It would be hypocritical not
to notice it or to keep silent about its existence, but the constitution
and ethical principles demand that the president must take the decision by
himself. I think he should realize it and announce it.
SIMON MARKS: Luzhkov's frustration is shared by another
leading political figure, this one thousands of miles from Moscow. In the
Siberian wastes of Krasnoyarsk, the local governor wants to be president.
But General Alexander Lebed is also battling to preserve his political
viability. The man who placed third in the last presidential election then
threw his support behind Boris Yeltsin in exchange for a brief spell in
government hopes the governorship of this vast Siberian region would propel
him to the presidency. Instead, analysts say his time in office here has
been a disaster, with even his wealthy supporters saying he's proved
incapable of putting his ideas into practice.
LILYA SHESTSOVA: I think that Lebed is guilty himself, first of all. He
paid no respect to Krasnoyarsk's audience. He paid no respect to
Krasnoyarsk's groups of influence. So people in Krasnoyarsk are tired, are
fed up with this, you know, governor ghost. So I don't think that he has
any chances to be re-elected in Krasnoyarsk.
SIMON MARKS: And this toughing-talking admirer of Chile's General Pinochet
seems to realize his chances are slipping away. At a recent televised
meeting in Krasnoyarsk, he boiled over with frustration, threatening
violence towards those failing to do things his way.
GENERAL ALEXANDER LEBED, Governor, Krasnoyarsk: (speaking through
interpreter) I'm sick and tired of being tolerant. I've been tolerant for
six months. Now I'm going to break spines.
SIMON MARKS: While Alexander Lebed and Yuri Luzhkov are in
a hurry for elections to occur, plenty of other political actors here are
not. Yeltsin aides boldly say their principle strategy now is to keep the
president alive through the year 2000, giving them a chance to find an
acceptable replacement. Fearing for their positions, they want Boris
Yeltsin to run out the clock. One man running for the presidency, who needs
time to build his support, is the former Prime Minister, Viktor
Chernomyrdin. For five years, he worked with Boris Yeltsin on a daily basis
until Yeltsin fired him after Chernomyrdin seemed to have presidential
ambitions of his own. Today, from the offices of the political party he
heads in Moscow, the former prime minister says the president is focused on
daily affairs, even if he isn't active.
VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN, Former Russian Prime Minister: (speaking through
interpreter) I've worked there, and it's hard when the president isn't
around. There are lots of questions that need to be solved by the
president, and he needs to be aware of everything. But based on my
experience, there is also always the opportunity to speak with him, no
matter what condition he's in. There's always a chance to call him or visit
him and get his advice, although it puts extra pressure on everyone else.
SIMON MARKS: Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov is the latest figure here to
carry Boris Yeltsin's water. The cunning Soviet-era bureaucrat has been in
day-to-day control of Russia since September. And in the last few weeks,
he's started to flex his muscles. He's tried to negotiate a truce with
those wanting to impeach the president, but was slapped down by Yeltsin for
negotiating away presidential powers. He's ordered raids on businesses
controlled by Boris Berezovsky, a close friend and business associate of
the Yeltsin family. And Pimakov has used the surrounding intrigue to
advance his own claim on the presidency. Russian newspapers speculate that
Primakov's position is now at risk, but one of his predecessors doesn't
VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN: (speaking through interpreter)
I think there is absolutely no danger of him being fired. He's doing
absolutely the right thing. He has little time. Real steps are needed; real
results are needed: Making pension and salary payment, reviving production.
Can you imagine how much he has to do?
LILYA SHESTSOVA: Yeltsin is accustomed to pocket government, to pocket --
you know, to pocket prime minister. And of course, any initiative on the
part of his prime minister offends Yeltsin. Of course, Yeltsin will be
thinking how to strike back, and he probably would strike back, diminishing
Primakov's power. But Primakov is strong because Primakov has possibility
to wait. And sometimes those who wait in Russia, they win.
SIMON MARKS: But what spoils will the victor win? In Moscow today, there is
a new bridge connecting the two sides of the city. It was designed to serve
as a link to a new, striving Russian capital, the city of gleaming spires,
fast cars and big business. But with no funds left to complete the project,
construction has slowed to a crawl. The dreams of prosperity that once
burned so brightly here have given way to a cold reality tinged by
political gridlock and economic collapse.
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 33, Part I, 17 February 1999
INCOME UNDERREPORTING HIDES ONE-FIFTH OF RUSSIAN ECONOMY.
About one-fifth of Russia's economy operates in the
"shadows," with businesses concealing or underreporting their
income in order to avoid taxes, according to the State
Statistic Committee's estimates, Interfax reported on 15
February. The amount of income hidden varies by season and
across sectors, with unreported agricultural income rising in
the summer and the fall. The trade sector conceals 60 percent
of its income, compared with 10-11 percent in industry. JAC
RUSSIA BECOMING A WORLD LEADER IN SPREAD OF AIDS. Russia is
experiencing one of the world's most rapid spread of AIDS,
Vadim Pokrovskii told Interfax on 16 February. The number of
registered HIV carriers tripled in 1997 and doubled in 1998
to 10,483, he said. Almost one-tenth of these are living in
Moscow, where only about 100 of Russia's AIDS patients
receive proper treatment. According to Pokrovskii, the
standard multi-drug treatment offered in the West costs from
$9,000 to $22,000 a year and is therefore out of reach of
most Russian patients. JAC
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library