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19 March 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, PRIMAKOV IS CLEAN SHAVEN.
2. Reuters: U.S. urges Russia to implement ``host of reforms''
3. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Russians relish sex and video
4. Moscow Times editorial: Sex Scandals Could Be More Sordid.
5. The Times (UK) editorial: RUSSIA'S RING. Where a sex scandal video
is but one of the punches.
6. Roman Bouchouev: Note on Kagarlitsky "Last Chance for Rewrite"
7. Interfax: Former Minister Kokoshin Says Russia
8. AFP: Chernomyrdin: I Could Have Saved Russia.
9. Izvestia: Svetlana Babayeva, Senators Announce List Of Persons
Responsible For August 17 Events.
10. Moscow Times: Andrei Piontkovsky, SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Learning
The Lessons Of Chechnya.
11. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Spiritual Heritage Leader Aleksey Podberezkin
12. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Yuliya Kalinina, Gentlemen's Refuge.
(Leadership's Political Maneuvering Mocked)}
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
The Moscow Tribune, March 19, 1999
PRIMAKOV IS CLEAN SHAVEN
It's just as well Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov will appear
for his meetings in Washington next week clean-shaven.
A recent history of the human face came to the conclusion that, at
least in the earliest systems of human government, men with beards
did well, because it was thought they could negotiate better, conceal
their real feelings, and get away with telling more believable lies.
But since 1991 there have been few beards on the faces of Russian officials.
The goatee that former Central Bank chairman, Sergei Dubinin, used to display
never improved the credibility of his claims. The moustache on
the face of Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov hasn't made him more
believable either. It's a fitting symbol of the half-truths he's in the
habit of uttering.
The impoverishment of Russia's taxable income, the size of its debts,
the depth of its corruption, and the lack of political alternatives to
deal with the situation -- these are the topics which Primakov is bringing
to the table in Washington. He isn't going to hide them behind the false
beards that used to work so well, when President Boris Yeltsin and his
appointees, Yegor Gaidar, Victor Chernomyrdin, Anatoly Chubais, and Sergei
Kirienko, performed their negotiating tricks.
Until now, only German Chancellor Schroeder has acknowledged that
there can be no solution to Russia's income and debt problems without
political stability; and that only Primakov can deliver this. Of course,
the German price is that Primakov must continue to promise eventual
repayment of the massive Soviet-era debt. If that were forgiven, as most
Russian officials would like, it would impose an embarrassingly heavy burden
on Germany's banks and taxpayers.
The Clinton Administration has been trying hard to look in another direction,
ignoring German sensitivity on the debt question, and aiming instead
to use the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as leverage for
forcing Primakov out of office.
The problem with making IMF lending contingent on Russian "reform" -- the
wooliest fake-beard of them all -- is that Russian public opinion,
the balance of power in federal parliament and the regions, and the authority
of the state prosecutor and state auditing chamber have finally converged to
say one thing: no alternative Yeltsin or the Clinton Administration
can come up with is credible in the fight to rid Russia of corruption.
Primakov's growth in the polls has come from the perception that he's
not wearing a beard on this issue. So widespread is this perception
that he is capturing voters from the Communist column, from the Moscow
base of Mayor Luzhkov, from the intelligentsia that favours Grigory
Yavlinsky, and from law-and-order charismatics like General Lebed.
This support is powerful enough that, if it isn't checked, it would
likely sweep Primakov to election in the first round of the next presidential
The problem the Clinton Administration has been studying for weeks is how
Primakov has managed to achieve these political gains through a winter that
was forecast to be catastrophic economically -- without a single wheat
kernel or chicken-leg from the U.S. or Europe having arrived for
hungry Russians to feed on.
Even if Primakov assures the IMF that he will devote an even
larger share of revenues to paying the country's debts, at the expense
of the welfare and incomes of the voters, he's already demonstrated he
can enhance his popularity in a way none of his predecessors could.
The trick is simple. He has convinced Russians that he's clean, and that
he's determined to rid the economy of its dirt, starting at the top where
everyone has known all along it started.
Thus, Primakov has thrown the famous choice of 1996 back into the American
beards. If the tradeoff today is between corrupt leadership and economic
misery, does the Clinton Administration still favour corruption as it did
before? If it does, Primakov can reply that, so long as he is in charge,
Russians will put up with more IMF-ordered spending cuts, lower real
incomes, more cash for Russia's foreign creditors, in a word more misery;
because Primakov's clean-up campaign allows reason to believe the stealing
will slow down, and one day stop.
That's the message that was conveyed when the Procurator-General
Yury Skuratov reemerged this week, with a renewed mandate. The more obdurately
the Kremlin campaigns for his removal, the more it incriminates itself
What does this mean for Michel Camdessus, the little barber the Clinton
Administration employs at the IMF to give Primakov a haircut every month?
Camdessus is incapable of dealing with the policy choices Primakov has now
put on the table. It will be much easier for Camdessus to go along with a
scheme of debt deferment, debt sharing, and rescheduling. That could be
dressed up to look like it's a new IMF loan. But the Clinton Administration
and the IMF don't want to give Primakov a presidential endorsement yet --
so long as there is still time for Yeltsin to find an alternative.
In fact, if new IMF, World Bank and Japanese funds are agreed, they aren't
likely to add up to more than Primakov has promised to pay back to the IMF
Every dollar Primakov nets over the $4.7 billion Russia should repay the
IMF this year will be a contribution to his election in Yeltsin's place. Every
dollar that falls short of that figure is an inducement to Yeltsin to
U.S. urges Russia to implement ``host of reforms''
WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday urged Russia to
press ahead with a ``host of reforms'' to revive its ailing economy, and the
International Monetary Fund played down the idea Moscow would get additional
But Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said in an interview broadcast on
Thursday that if the IMF failed to help Russia, ``we will live through a very
``This would certainly weaken the government ... so should that happen, we
would need to go out of our mind to find this money somewhere else,'' Primakov
told ``NBC Nightly News.''
An IMF spokesman, responding to comments from Moscow officials that a new
lending deal could be ready by early next month, said he could give no dates
for talks to end. ``We cannot yet predict when an agreement will be reached,''
Russia, the IMF's largest single borrower, is desperate for a new injection of
cash from the international lender to enable it to pay billions of dollars of
debts, including some $4.8 billion due to the fund this year.
But the IMF is worried about the course of economic reforms and about Russia's
decision to slash the rate of its easy-to-collect value-added tax (sales tax).
U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin made clear on Thursday that he shared
``If Russia is going to have a successful economy, there are going to have to
be a whole host of reforms that provide the framework for a market economy,''
Rubin told an appropriations subcommittee at the U.S. House of
Russia promised to implement a string of economic reforms when it agreed to a
$22 billion international rescue deal with the IMF in 1998.
But the Russian parliament balked at some of the IMF demands, and the central
bank spent the first $4.8 billion instalment of the loan in a matter of weeks
in a futile attempt to defend the country's currency, the rouble.
Bowing to market pressure, it then devalued the rouble and defaulted on some
domestic debts, prompting the IMF to halt payments from the loan.
Rubin defended the rescue deal for Russia as a ``reasonable judgment'' at the
time it was signed, although he admitted it was not possible to say exactly
what had happened to the IMF's initial $4.8 billion payment.
``This was the right risk for the world's taxpayers,'' he said, nothing that
full-scale instability in Russia could have created problems around the world.
``It was a decision to provide support for the then government in the belief
that ... it was worth taking a chance.''
Asked about Russia's future prospects, Rubin said: ``If Russia destabilises,
the costs to the United States are going to be vastly greater than anything we
can possibly think of. ... We have to hope that they can continue to wallow
Russian Finance Ministry officials said on Thursday the differences between
Russia and the IMF were narrowing and an agreement could be reached by early
Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said the IMF, which has a mission working in
Moscow this week, was no longer insisting on a primary budget surplus
(excluding debt servicing) of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product.
The IMF declined to comment on details of the talks between the two sides.
Primakov is set for further discussions with IMF officials in Washington next
The Independent (UK)
19 March 1999
[for personal use only]
Russians relish sex and video 'skandal'
By Phil Reeves in Moscow
RUSSIANS relish political "skandals" more than any other blood sport, and the
latest to surface in the feral world of Moscow politics is a classic.
The chief exhibit is a secretly recorded videotape, which purports to show the
country's top prosecutor cavorting with two young women.
Such scenes ought to be a fatal blot on the curriculum vitae of one of
Russia's most senior officials. As Prosecutor General, Yuri Skuratov is in the
front line of law enforcement, a medal-bedecked warrior in the battle against
That is not how it turned out. In the early hours yesterday, a clip of the
film was screened on a national television station. There was no sign of the
spotless military uniform that Mr Skuratov, 46, is fond of wearing. Instead
the portly stud was seen in a pair of underpants.
The screening came as the prosecutor was confident that his job was secure,
for the first time since being forced into offering his resignation six weeks
ago. Only hours earlier, he had strode out of the Federation Council,
parliament's upper house, after it voted to refuse to accept his decision to
The council, made up of powerful regional leaders, was shown the videotape
before the vote, but decided that what the prosecutor may have done within the
walls of someone else's bedroom was his own business.
While this may appear to be a refreshing example of Russian liberalism, the
reality is less attractive. The Prosecutor General's survival revealed only
that the upper house was intent on humbling the sick and meddling Boris
Yeltsin. The President wanted the Prosecutor General out; the council, which
has the final word, was having none of it. So it delivered Mr Yeltsin's second
defeat by parliament in just over six months, providing further evidence of
his wasted political sinews.
There is another issue. Russia's regional heavyweights in the Federation
Council have plenty of their own skeletons. They doubtless hope for the same
generosity from the Prosecutor General that they have accorded him. Mr
Skuratov's fight against crime will now be tougher still.
Not that he was making much headway. His term has been marked by a failure to
crack any high-profile cases - neither the murder of the television executive
Vladislav Listyev, nor that of Dmitri Kholodov, an investigative journalist
blown up by a briefcase bomb, nor that of the democratic parliamentarian,
Galina Staravoitova, gunned down in St Petersburg last year.
Mr Skuratov disagrees. This week he portrayed himself as a victim of his own
intrepid labours. Complaining of "illegal bugging" and "interference with
private life", he linked his attempted ouster with sensitive operations by his
department. It has been looking at how Russia's Central Bank transferred
foreign reserves into a Jersey account, and into the activities of the tycoon
But before he can pursue these matters, Mr Skuratov must fend off a counter-
attack by a wounded Mr Yeltsin, who has launched a Security Council inquiry
into his conduct.
But one case looks likely to forge ahead. Mr Skuratov's office yesterday said
it mightprosecute the RTR channel, which screened the offending clip. The
channel had "jeopardised the Prosecutor General".
March 19, 1999
EDITORIAL: Sex Scandals Could Be More Sordid
Some might criticize the airing on national television of a video of a man who
looks like Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov climbing naked into bed with two
young women. How low has Russian democracy sunk into sleaze!
Such a thing could never happen in the advanced Western democracies, they say.
They are perhaps right. Russia still has much to learn from the more developed
democracies of the West, where sexual sleaze and prudish witch hunts are
handled much more thoroughly.
The Russian public has been offered only the briefest of glimpses of vital
material that could tar Skuratov's name for life. Was it him, and what was he
up to in that bed?
Apart from one showing of the video on RTR television, the public has been
denied its right to analyze the evidence. Skuratov's sex antics are for sale
on street corners, and snippets have been posted unofficially on the Internet
- but where is the official confirmation that it is all true?
Russia should look to the United States, that great bastion of democracy with
its checks and balances and its fearlessly independent media, for lessons on
good sex scandals.
A special prosecutor appointed by the U.S. Congress answered for the quality
and authenticity of compromising materials gathered about President Bill
Clinton's sexual peccadilloes.
And Congress itself made sure the message got out. It put that special
prosecutor's thoroughly documented report onto the Internet - cigars, semen
stains and all. The media also helped to ensure we knew all the facts and
How outrageous that the Russian people are starved of the crucial and
titillating information they need.
Russia sorely needs it's own Kenneth Starr to sort exhaustively through all
this dirty linen and wash it in public.
However, if Russia has much to learn from the developed democracies, she also
has something to teach.
The Russian sex scandals have an unreconstructed maleness about them which has
been lost in the cosmopolitan West - none of this furtive oral sex in a
closet. Russian politicians who are being spied upon are having sex for hours,
and are doing so in beds. And whether the case is Skuratov or former Justice
Minister Valentin Kovalyov - he of the gangland banya frolic - it's always two
women, or more.
Russia has far to go in documenting and publicizing its sexual sleaze; but in
the West, the sordid details could be more ... sordid. As to which side has
higher standards of public morality in this domain, it is a dead heat.
The Times (UK)
March 19 1999
LEADING ARTICLE (editorial)
Where a sex scandal video is but one of the punches
Shadow-boxing, that favoured game of Russia's politicians when their
president is too weak to keep them under control, has got out of hand. This
time, for once, it may draw real blood.
A <timfgnrus03001.html?1124027>pornographic keyhole video shown on
television yesterday - revealing Russia's ex-prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, in
bed with two women - was unremarkable in itself in a country where dirty
tricks long ago replaced policy inititiatives. Before he mysteriously
resigned six weeks ago, Mr Skuratov had dug enough dirt on his own rivals,
including the business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, to make a counter-attack
The latest infighting could deal sickly President Yeltsin a blow from which
he no longer has the strength to recover. For the past eight years, Mr
Yeltsin's one tactic for retaining supreme power has been to keep
underlings at each others' throats. Periodically, he steps in as referee,
knocks heads together, and fires anyone powerful enough to be a personal
threat. This time, however, Mr Skuratov's supporters have mustered enough
courage to take on the President himself.
Mr Skuratov has boxed clever by hinting that he is being picked on by a
broad grouping of the wealthy pro-market politicians whom leftwingers, and
ordinary Russians, love to hate. His claim that they include corrupt
government ministers, ex-ministers and Central Bank officials was enough in
itself to unite the disparate forces of the Left behind him. After months
of uneasy truce behind which politicians quietly pursued individual
ambitions and vendettas, Russian politics has again become home to a
broad, hostile grouping of leftists on the warpath.
When, on Wednesday, Mr Skuratov openly defied the President by saying he
planned to stay in his job, he found powerful allies. Unexpectedly, he was
backed by the Federation Council which is made up of regional governors who
usually obey the President's every whim. They refused to accept Mr
Skuratov's resignation. Simultaneously, the Communist-dominated State Duma
is planning its annual impeachment attempt.
Russia's elite is in bad shape to fight off a surprise challenge. Weeks of
rumours that Mr Yeltsin was planning to sack his centrist Prime Minister,
the Soviet-era grandee Yevgeni Primakov, were denied this week by both
President and Prime Minister. But Mr Primakov's fate may yet be sealed if
debt negotiations with the IMF next week go badly. There is continuing
uncertainty over whether the unpredictable President might anyway shed a
few left-wing ministers. From his bed, where he is recovering from a
bleeding stomach ulcer, Mr Yeltsin has kept Russia guessing as to whom he
will favour next, firing Mr Berezovsky from one post, flirting with the
liberal economist Grigori Yavlinsky and Yegor Stroyev, Speaker of the
Federation Council and Anatoli Chubais, cheerleader for the pro-reform
faction, but making no binding commitments.
Mr Yeltsin's presidency is in endgame. At best, he has 15 months left in
the Kremlin. Ill health makes it uncertain whether he will survive even
that long. Russia's economy is in a mess and its relations with the West at
a low ebb. As new conflict looms, the two strongest outside presidential
contenders, Moscow's Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the Governor of Krasnoyarsk,
Aleksandr Lebed, are waiting quietly outside the ring to see how this
week's fight shapes up.
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999
From: Roman Bouchouev <firstname.lastname@example.org> (
Subject: Note on Kagarlitsky "Last Chance for Rewrite"
Stagnation in Parenthesis
In regard of Mr. Kagarlitsky comment in Moscow Times "Last Chance for
Rewrite" (JRL #3086), with all respect to his experience and academy
position I anticipate that the abolition of direct presidential
elections in Russia will lead to abolition of direct elections of
governors, rayon chefs, city majors and thus once again to political
The power elite in Russia will use an opportunity to elect a convenient
president that will not anymore have a slightest feeling of representing
a russian folk. This will be mapped in regions. The candidates that
should represent the people in legislature will be introduced to the
passive electorate by the integrated power elite as well.
I admire mr. Kagarlitskys efforts to condemn autocracy, but I think that
it should be striven not through giving up the direct elections
altogether, but through adjusting the constitution to a better balance
of power between a direct elected president and direct elected Duma.
Russian people had paid a monstrous pries for a chance to directly and
democratically participate in political process. It may not show its
benefits now, but I believe it would be unjust and it would be a
historical mistake to return to so called delegated forms.
With all bad and good sides of Mr. Yeltsin he at least has a
personality. It is to the possibility of a rise of a new cult of "a
younger and more aggressive autocrat" that should be given no chance.
But democracy should be preserved and developed. If there is a chance
that such a ruler could be elected than he should be striped down of
powers, so he can not do the bad things. No country is save from
autocratic dictatorship. But the people should be trusted. They should
feel the responsibility for themselves and for the world. The absorption
of power by the Duma or by the upper house is not a right way. We all
remember the puppet like pathetic figures of the Brezhnew times. The
only chance for a head of the state to actualy feel the responsobility
for the people is to be directly elected.
Former Minister Kokoshin Says Russia 'Compteitive'
Moscow, Mar 15 (Interfax) -- Andrey Kokoshin, a
key figure in the Fatherland political movement and a former deputy
defense minister, has said Russia is quite competitive on many world
markets. He also said that an active national industrial and
technological policy emphasizing information and aerospace technologies
is a necessary element of economic reforms in Russia. The press service
of Fatherland told Interfax on Monday [15 March] that Kokoshin had spoken
in Washington at an annual session of the trilateral commission of
businessmen and politicians from the United States, Western Europe and
Japan. Kokoshin said that Russia is sufficiently competitive on the world
markets of aerospace products, laser technologies, computer software and
high-frequency electronics. He said Russia will actively promote its
output, in some cases together with Western and Japanese corporations who
are ready for equal and mutually beneficial cooperation. "Russia does not
intend to remain on the sidelines of the global development of industry
and high-tech services," Kokoshin said.
Chernomyrdin: I Could Have Saved Russia
MOSCOW, Mar. 18, 1999 -- (Agence France Presse) President Boris Yeltsin
doomed Russia to financial chaos by dismissing Victor Chernomyrdin as
prime minister a year ago. At least that is how Chernomyrdin sees it.
Default, devaluation, inflation, investment collapse, tense relations with
the International Monetary Fund... it could have been avoided if only
Yeltsin had not rocked the boat by sacking him, Chernomyrdin said
"The dismissal of the government in March last year was a mistake by the
president," said Chernomyrdin, who still has the ear of the current
premier, Yevgeny Primakov, and liaises between the government and the IMF.
"If the government had not been fired there would have been no Aug. 17, no
earthquake, there would have been no ruble collapse," he told journalists.
"There would not have been such ill-thought-through decisions.
"Of course now they try to blame previous governments."
Chernomyrdin rued the fact that his achievements -- a stable ruble, growing
foreign investment, low inflation, job creation -- had been undone since
He said Primakov's government must change its tone -- not to mention a few
of its members -- to persuade the IMF to resume the kind of financial
support which could stave off economic perdition.
Chernomyrdin last week visited Washington and talked with top IMF and US
He deplored in particular recent sharp Russian criticism of Western
financial institutions which appeared to have jeopardized Russia's chance
of securing vital loans.
"We need loans which have been written into the budget, yet it is we who
have started the accusations, as if it is we who are giving and not we who
need the loans," the burly ex-premier fulminated.
"They will not give it to savages who cannot speak in an acceptable
language," he warned.
Chernomyrdin remains chairman of his Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement
which intends to compete in the legislative elections later this year.
Once Yeltsin's designated heir-apparent to succeed him, Chernomyrdin has
fallen so far from grace that he is rarely mentioned now as a presidential
possibility any more.
Senators Announce List Of Persons Responsible For August 17 Events
By Svetlana Babayeva
Seven months after the August 17, 1998, crisis members of the Federation
Council yesterday, March 17, heard a report prepared by a commission
investigating that crisis. IZVESTIA reports that as is seen from the
commission's findings and a speech by its chairman Valentina Pivnenko "the
main culprits" are Sergei Kiriyenko, Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubais, Boris
Fyodorov, Sergei Dubinin and Mikhail Zadornov.
The commission came to the conclusion that [those responsible for the
crisis] made decisions [that provoked it] "in gross violation of accepted
procedures." They had not been coordinated with government departments, nor
had they been discussed at government meetings. According to the
commission, sensitive information concerning those decisions became
available to "persons interested in its commercial use," including
foreigners. Pivnenko's report hints that Chubais and Gaidar were
responsible for the leaks but it contains no facts confirming their
The commission felt that as a result of the August 17 decisions Russia
lost credibility in the eyes of investors and the banking system broke down
(it lost an estimated 100 to 150 billion rubles). Besides, the banking
system lost credibility in the eyes of the population. The commission
described the freezing of bank deposits as "a direct violation of Article
35 of the Constitution."
The commission asked the Senators to call on the President and Government
to take measures so that "persons who took part in preparations for and
adoption of the August 17 decisions" could be barred from "all posts in the
civil service and organizations with a share of state property." On the
whole the Senators agreed with the commission's findings.
March 18, 1999
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Learning The Lessons Of Chechnya
By Andrei Piontkovsky
For three days, while the president and the head of his administration were in
the Central Clinical Hospital and the prime minister was in Sochi, General
Sergei Stepashin appeared to hold the highest political power in the country.
And he exercised it from the studios of NTV television, where he made his
statement about "destroying the terrorists' bases and camps with pinpoint
attacks." To the host's natural question, "So it's war?" Stepashin apparently
did not think a simple confirmation sufficient. He answered with a rhetorical
question: "And the severed ears of boys - that's not war?" raising further
still the degree of hysteria. I do not understand which severed ears he was
talking about. Perhaps, due to some kind of strange characteristic of the
memory, he had recalled the disgusting broadcasts on ORT during the Chechen
war, when people in Russian military uniforms proudly displayed the severed
ears of imprisoned and murdered Chechens. The authors of the programs
presented their heroes as models for the Russian soldier.
Fortunately, it recently became clear that most of Russia's politicians and
generals took away more lessons from the Chechen war than one of its main
culprits - Stepashin. The president, the prime minister and the patriarch all
pronounced many fair and wise words about a military solution to the conflict
being impermissible, on the value of human life, on how one must not lump
together bandits and the Chechen people, etc.
How short on such words these same people were five years ago. Then, those who
uttered them were called filth and traitors. If they had been listened to
then, tens of thousands of human lives would have been saved.
Someone once said that the price the country paid for Viktor Chernomyrdin's
economic education was enormous. But even more horrible was the price the
country paid for our "political elite" to realize the simple truth that there
is no military solution to the Chechen problem.
Unfortunately the elite has not reached an understanding of its responsibility
for what is now taking place in Chechnya. Of course, there is no justification
for bandits who seize hostages there. But, given that, we do not have the
right to forget several things that are obvious, but unpleasant for us to
We are the ones who bombed Chechnya back to the Stone Age, who placed it under
an economic blockade and created a situation in which thousands of armed
people have no work whatsoever.
We also had a hand in creating the slave market in Chechnya. Boris Berezovsky
was reportedly the first to start paying millions of dollars to kidnappers.
These kidnapping bands are truly international: They include Chechens and
Ossetians and Russians. Not long ago we learned how two officers of the
Russian army's Buinaksk brigade sold into slavery their own soldiers, who
after several months were miraculously freed by Berezovsky and Deputy Interior
Minister Vladimir Rushailo.
The problem of prisoners of war and hostages became insoluble when, following
the Khasavyurt peace agreement, it became clear that we could not return a
single prisoner. Not one of the more than 1,500 Chechens detained at
roadblocks who disappeared into filtration camps. By the way, some of those
camps during the war were under the supervision of the military commander of
Grozny - an Interior Ministry general named Gennady Shpigun.
Spiritual Heritage Leader Aleksey Podberezkin Interviewed
13 March 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Aleksey Podberezkin, State Duma deputy and chairman of
the Spiritual Heritage movement, by Vasiliy Ustyuzhanin; place and date
not given: "Countless People Like Berezovskiy Emerge When the Authorities
[Ustyuzhanin] Aleksey Ivanovich, you have publicly
declared that you are not a member of the Communist Party. On the other
hand, you are a member of the CPRF [Communist Party of the Russian
Federation] faction in the Duma and offer it intellectual support.
[Podberezkin] There is nothing strange in this. Spiritual Heritage is a
politically, organizationally, ideologically, and materially autonomous
movement. Some of our views coincide with the Communists' program
provisions. Even though we are, so to say, more liberal and more free in
our views. Because, if for no other reason, we are not a rigidly
structured organization with harsh discipline. After all, politics means
not only confrontation but also compromise.
[Ustyuzhanin] Compromise with people like Makashov -- is this fitting for an
intelligent person, a thinking liberal?
[Podberezkin] The Communist Party is not made up only of people like Makashov.
has far more people with a modern way of thinking, who are sickened by
anti-Semitism and nationalism. Albert Makashov is a distorting mirror, in
which it is better not to look.
[Ustyuzhanin] Nonetheless, Zyuganov has not taken you along for the new
parliamentary elections. He has suggested that you form your own column
of enlightened patriots.
[Podberezkin] The point is not that there is no need for liberal patriots.
are normal election campaign tactics in expectation of success. And we
are quite likely to contest the elections autonomously. Thank God, we
have gathered enough strength for this over the years. We already have
more than 380 branches across the country. By summer the number of the
movement's supporters will be in excess of 0.5 million.
[Ustyuzhanin] Should the left wing, on the basis of election campaign tactics,
support the government now? After all, all of the cabinet's failures will
be blamed on the Communists.
[Podberezkin] Tell me, who else is there to support? All these attempts to
overthrow Primakov only destabilize the situation. If this happens, the
government will not be functioning for three months. And even longer in
actual fact. Until the ministers are confirmed, until they are fully
briefed. Never mind the apparatuses. Just a single day of non-functioning
will form huge gaps. Let me cite the example of the thwarting of
shipments to the north. People were freezing and living without money not
because of deliberate actions by some ill-wishers but simply because
there was nobody to sign papers in August and September while the whole
painful process of confirming the cabinet was under way.
[Ustyuzhanin] But Primakov has not accomplished any miracles, and it is
clear that he will not accomplish any. Even Luzhkov is claiming that
Yevgeniy Maksimovich and his team have not lived up to expectations.
[Podberezkin] Yes, Primakov has not accomplished any economic miracles. But
was expecting them? But executive discipline has been tightened up
somewhat. A little less is being stolen, a little less is being taken
abroad. And the production decline trend came to a halt already in
December. Very few people are saying it today, but back in August and
September of last year there were ominous forecasts that the government
would collapse in January-March. As you can see, it has not collapsed.
And Primakov will ultimately reach agreement with the IMF.
Now he is most consistently and most harshly criticized by those who
need a public undoing before the election.
[Ustyuzhanin] Let us turn to the elections. What is happening here? According
your forecasts, who, which political force will be celebrating in
December and who will be wiping off the tears of defeat?
[Podberezkin] It is not just parliamentary and presidential elections, but
elections of governors and legislative organs of power that lie ahead.
According to my estimates, they will decisively change the balance of
forces in the political spectrum and this, in its own turn, will lead to
a change of the country's cadre elite. As a matter of fact, the question
now is not whether the left-wing patriotic section will win or not. It
will win in one form or another.
The question is who will be numerically stronger. Anpilovites or
Zyuganovites, theoretically speaking. I am not ideologizing the
situation, I am simply talking about trends.
Do you know what the radicals' problem is? They use slogans as their
weapons. But running the country needs complex work, professionalism, the
ability to listen and heed, to seek compromise with whoever possible. It
is, therefore, important that professionals come to power.
People of the new generation must come to power. After all, Primakov is
essentially the best of the departing generation. If this generation
holds out and stabilizes the situation, it will be replaced by a new wave
of fresh 40-year olds and the country will develop calmly.
[Ustyuzhanin] Whom specifically do you have in mind?
[Podberezkin] Potanin, for example. He has some very sensible pragmatic ideas
which are not very widely known. For example, he took 3,500 families out
of Norilsk, resettled them, bought them apartments. Now the combine's
production facilities are being modernized. There is colossal need for
[Ustyuzhanin] Is corruption not hindering all these processes?
[Podberezkin] I recall that, in February 1993, the president ordered Vice
President Rutskoy to hold an event devoted to the struggle against corruption.
I organized it, I wrote a report for it. Thousands of generals and
prosecutors gathered in the Kremlin Palace. You name him, he was there.
It was evident, however, that this would not produce anything because
nobody could have cared less, all they had to do was play the ideological
card and forget all about it the next day.
Public opinion is in a different mood now and, consequently, the state
institutions are tightening executive discipline. Everyone needs this,
including entrepreneurs. If the state is weak, even a strong entrepreneur
is unable to do anything there. When the authorities are weak, you do not
get people like the Morozovs, the Ryabushinskiys, and the Tretyakovs
[eminent 19th century families of Russian businessmen and entrepreneurs].
But you get countless people like Berezovskiy.
Leadership's Political Maneuvering Mocked
15 March 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Yuliya Kalinina: "Gentlemen's Refuge"
The Russian rulers had a single road in life, and
they followed it one after another with the confident stride of gentlemen
of good fortune, chanting in time with their steps: Central Clinic, here
I come, Central Clinic, here I come.
The Central Clinic was their safe and final refuge. It was refuge from
investigation; it was a place to hide from public obloquy and
presidential wrath. Thieves, swindlers, spies, libertines, schemers,
fraudsters, overenterprising officials, and doltish wrongdoers would
assemble there, and sometimes genuinely sick rulers would even meet up.
The Central Clinic would accept anyone in its embrace and give succor to
as many refugees as needed it.
The rulers loved their Central Clinic and cherished it more than life
itself. But for the Clinic they would have had nowhere to go when things
got difficult, so everyone knew that it in principle you could dispense
with jail and begging bowl, but the Central Clinic -- never.
In connection with International Women's Day the Kremlin rulers fought
the bold Russian fight in two areas. First, they fought the demon
Berezovskiy; second, the communists, brazenly gathering strength.
They fared badly as far as the communists were concerned, because the
communists pressed forward, victoriously singing the anthem to the Soviet
Union which they had legislatively revived. The battle against the demon
was more successful, although they were unable to finally take the
serpent to task -- battered and grazed, he continued to wriggle and dodge
the brave blows. The Kremlin staff's nerve eventually gave and, shaken,
it leaked its wishful thinking to the press, saying that the demon was
finished and that the president had dismissed him.
Fanfares in honor of the victors continued for approximately two hours,
whereupon it turned out that the president had no right to dismiss the
demon, because it was not he who had hired him but all the heads of the
CIS put together.
The heads, of course, took umbrage at this despotism. The president, who
had barely emerged from the Central Clinic of late, had to phone round
and explain to them that they had misunderstood. That he did not like. As
a result the Kremlin chief of staff, who is also Security Council
secretary and a general of border guards, did not feel too good and took
refuge in the Central Clinic -- to recover from the losses he had
sustained and take a break from demons.
All it needed was to put the premier and the speakers of both chambers
in the Central Clinic and you could have held a full meeting of the
Security Council there on the evergreen Chechen issue, which once again
faced the rulers during the festival in all its verdancy and luxuriance.
Suspicion fell on the Ukrainians. It was thought that they had blabbed to the
Chechen leadership, disclosing a carefully concealed military secret --
in Ukrainian "shpigun" means "spy."
On learning the truth, the stunned Chechen leadership disagreed about
the Russian police general who had provocatively carried such a candid
surname around enemy territory. The general was taken hostage just in
case. This perfidious act of violence made an indelible impression on
Russian police minister Stepashin. He was infuriated and promised the
Chechens that he would launch precision bombing strikes at their gunmen's
The North Caucasus Military District started to prepare airfields for
the arrival of heavy bombers. There were rumors that front-line
"Tochka-U" missile launchers had been stationed on the borders with
Chechnya, which, if properly targeted, would apparently make precision
strikes. The Chechens then cranked up their "Grad" rocket launchers and
brought them up to the same border, but on the other side. The Grad
launchers were considered to be obsolete weapons, so no matter how well
they were targeted they were unable to make precision strikes, but they
were capable of blanketing large areas of old Cossack land with artillery
fire in an instant.
The situation deteriorated. To appease Minister Stepashin it was decided
to hold a Security Council session, which through common efforts was
scheduled for Tuesday. Right away it transpired that, although the
president and the Security Council secretary were already in the Central
Clinic, the premier was still in Sochi, while the two speakers were at
large, and there was no way to get them together aside from forcible
But they were in no hurry to be hospitalized -- neither the premier nor
the speakers were in such dire straits as to take refuge in the Central
Clinic. This was something reserved for the direst emergency, so, on
second thoughts, the Security Council was canceled and a simple
government session scheduled instead, thus giving the premier the task of
The premier had one vulnerable spot. He could not stand it when he was
criticized by the media and nasty things were said about him and he was
totally unable to disguise this weakness. He would begin every public
speech by grumbling and railing at fanatical journalists for writing all
the wrong things. There was only one way to please him -- write nothing
at all and say nothing either about him or about the government -- but
the premier had not yet been able to achieve this. He did not have
Powers were of general concern at that time. Particularly the president's
powers. There were so many of them that the democratic camp was seriously
worried, believing, not without reason, that the next Russian president
would be a communist, not a democrat. A communist president caused them
instinctive anxiety. They had to be thinking right now about how to
change the Constitution to insure that a future communist president had
far fewer powers than the current democratic one.
The leader of democratic Yabloko, who was secretly invited to visit the
ailing sovereign at the Central Clinic, tried to explain to the president
the vital need for such measures. But thanks to the out-of-control
president's staff, leaking right, left, and center, the public
nonetheless heard of the mysterious visit, and journalists spent the
whole day concocting the most fantastic theories about the Yabloko leader
-- even suggesting that the president had offered him the job of vice
premier or premier of his ill-starred government, which does not even
know how to get credit from the IMF.
In fact, the president had offered nothing, of course. He was seriously
ill and was entirely focused on himself and his illness, so all his
meetings, telephone calls, and other actions were merely flashes of the
half-forgotten instincts of a failing ruler.
But there really was a force operating against the premier, which
certainly had something to do with the unvanquished demon, against whom
both the premier and the Kremlin staff were united in battle despite
mutual discontent and internal differences. This force suddenly wrote in
the demon's newspaper that the current premier's days could more or less
be considered numbered and that they were going to wheel in the excitable
Minister Stepashin or the slippery speaker Seleznev. The forecast was
intended to be a provocation, of course, but speaker Seleznev took the
bait and right away began to adopt, in relation to Minister Stepashin,
the attitude of a jealous, sneering rival, trying his best to hit him
where it hurts. OK, he said, there was some sense in Minister Stepashin's
menacing appeal to the Chechen gunmen, but why did he not show it first
to us, the people's deputies, before presenting it to the general public?
Meanwhile, the public was marveling at the latest leak from a nervous Kremlin
staff, again setting about exorcising demons. The leak insisted that the
demon had himself resigned, so the problem with the CIS heads was
resolved. And even the Georgian president, on hearing about it, said that
if that was what the demon himself wants, who would oppose it? -- let him go.
Fanfares in honor of the victors were again played for a couple of hours,
whereupon the demon, who had just given a lecture in America to
Americans, announced that he had not resigned and did not intend to
resign. The Georgian president was taken aback. A nervous staff blushed
and was desperately flustered, not knowing how to play down the
clumsiness and not lose face, while the Central Clinic flung open its
doors in expectation of new patients.
But on this occasion the doors were subsequently used not for entering,
but for leaving. Having recuperated, the general prosecutor returned,
rested and fresh, to his job. Unlike the demon, he had actually resigned
a month before and had even received the president's blessing, but his
resignation was not approved by the senators. He himself said that he had
returned to work to prepare as well as he could to report to the
Maybe that was actually the case. At any rate, the Kremlin staff admitted
that it did not know why the general prosecutor had returned and it did
not provide any leak of any value on the subject. It was preparing for a
final showdown with the demon, planned for the next week, which promised
to be much more entertaining and dazzling than last.