This Date's Issues: 3234•
Johnson's Russia List
11 April 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Greg Myre, New Russian Scandal Targets Yeltsin.
2. AP: Russia Patriarch Wants Bombing Halt.
3. New York Times: Celestine Bohlen, The Holiday: Uneasiness Shadowing
Orthodox Easter Celebration.
4. Matthew Rendall: Russia & Kosovo: Why McFaul is wrong; why Celestine
Bohlen is right.
5. Brian Humphreys: Moscow Times/Aeroflot tickets.
6. The Times (UK): Anna Blundy, Yeltsin delivers threat to key rival.
7. Mayak Radio Network: Gorbachev Comments on Balkans Issue.
8. The Guardian (UK): James Meek, Yeltsin panics as impeachment threat
9. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Poll Shows Ratings in Event of Duma April
10. Moscow Times: WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Surveying the Field in the
11. Baltimore Sun: Kathy Lally, Aid recipient Russia sends supply convoy
to friend, Yugoslavia.
12. Interfax: Half of Russians Would Not Welcome Communist Comeback.]
New Russian Scandal Targets Yeltsin
April 10, 1999
By GREG MYRE
MOSCOW (AP) -- Secret sex videos. Hints of Kremlin corruption. Money
laundering allegations. A presidential impeachment debate.
Russia is once again ensnarled in a messy political soap opera, and this time
Boris Yeltsin's weakened administration is battling on several fronts to
preserve the president's eroding authority from an emboldened group of rivals.
Most of the allegations involve high-level corruption, which has bedeviled
Russian efforts to build a democracy and a market economy. The media reports
it, parliament debates it, and ordinary citizens curse it. But few are ever
punished, producing a deep cynicism toward the political and business elite.
Will there be a different outcome this time?
``Russia has had a lot of political scandals that haven't amounted to much,
but I think the outcome could be different this time,'' said political
analyst Viktor Kremenyuk. ``The days of Mr. Yeltsin are numbered, and this
time his troubles might evolve into something that could end his rule.''
Yeltsin slapped down such threats in the past, but now, with his fragile
health and barely a year left in his term, his opponents believe they have
enough ammunition to attack the president head-on.
The president has not been accused of corruption, but he does face an April
15 impeachment debate in the Communist-led parliament. Yeltsin is favored to
win this fight, though it's likely to chip away at his stature, already
diminished by his frequent illnesses and long absences from the Kremlin.
Yeltsin is used to such confrontations with the Communists. But the man who
makes his blood boil these days is Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov.
Skuratov offered to resign back in February and seemed headed for political
oblivion until he began leveling a series of potentially explosive
Skuratov, who has been investigating possible bribe-taking in the Kremlin,
announced that Russia's Central Bank hid billions of dollars in an obscure
account on Britain's Channel Islands. And this past week his office ordered
the arrest of two leading business tycoons, Boris Berezovsky and Alexander
Smolensky, both closely linked to the Kremlin.
``Skuratov has compiled enough evidence to cause a lot of trouble,'' said
Yeltsin has sought to oust Skuratov, but the clumsy efforts have only
highlighted the president's weakness and heightened suspicions the Kremlin is
trying to cover up wrongdoing.
When state television aired a video that appeared to star Skuratov having sex
with two women, few expected the film to boost Skuratov's standing. But
that's exactly what happened.
The move was seen as a crude, ham-handed attempt to drive him from office,
with the orders presumably coming from the upper ranks of the government.
Yeltsin has suspended Skuratov, but only parliament can dismiss him. Last
month, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to keep him on the job. They are
expected to take up the question again on April 21, and if they reinstate him
once more -- the most likely scenario -- it will be another blow to the
``Everyone knew how powerful Yeltsin was in the past, and very few dared to
take him on,'' said Ivan Safrantchouk, a political analyst at the Center for
Policy Studies. ``Now people know he is vulnerable and they are willing to
test the limits.''
The two business leaders, Berezovsky and Smolensky, whose fortunes were built
through close Kremlin contacts, also find their positions imperiled.
The brash Berezovsky previously boasted of his access to Yeltsin's family.
Now he appears abandoned, fair game for his many enemies.
Though he has a sprawling business empire to manage, Berezovsky sought
Kremlin access through low-paying government posts. Yeltsin hired and fired
him twice in the past two years, most recently in March, and now apparently
sees the controversial Berezovsky as a liability.
Berezovsky says the charges against him are part of a political vendetta, but
acknowledges that he can't expect much help from the president.
``At the moment, President Yeltsin is losing power and the opposition is
gaining ground,'' Berezovsky said in Paris.
Berezovsky said he plans to return to Russia to fight the charges that he was
behind the illegal transfer of $250 million from Russia's largest airline,
Aeroflot, to the Swiss company Andava. Smolensky is also abroad, recovering
from an illness in Austria.
``The hunting season is on for the oligarchs,'' said Kremenyuk, the analyst.
``The country has tremendous economic problems and they are obvious targets.''
The business elite did not use their fortunes to invest in Russia and
restructure the economy, ``they just pumped their money abroad, and as a
result, people see them as the enemy,'' Kremenyuk added.
Russia Patriarch Wants Bombing Halt
April 10, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of Russia's Orthodox Church renewed calls Saturday
for NATO to halt its bombing campaign on Yugoslavia during Orthodox Easter.
Patriarch Alexy II urged Russians to ``look jointly for ways to solve Russian
and international problems.''
``This unique, God-given opportunity to break the vicious circle of violence
should not be lost,'' Alexy said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
NATO says it won't stop the air assault on Yugoslavia during Sunday's
For his part, President Boris Yeltsin expressed his appreciation for the
Russian Orthodox Church's ``indefatigable work for the moral revival of the
``This holiday symbolizes the triumph of life, joy and the victory of good
over evil,'' Yeltsin said in his message, also cited by ITAR-Tass. ``I am
glad it is again celebrated so widely in our country.''
New York Times
11 April 1999
[for personal use only]
The Holiday: Uneasiness Shadowing Orthodox Easter Celebration
By CELESTINE BOHLEN
MOSCOW -- As Orthodox Christians from Moscow to Belgrade, from Athens to
Bucharest, start celebrating Easter at midnight services Saturday night, the
usual joy of this most sacred of holidays has been tinged with feelings of
unease, grief, fear and anger over the continuing conflict in Yugoslavia,
home of their Orthodox brethren, the Serbs.
Not only church leaders, but also politicians from predominantly Orthodox
countries have appealed for an Easter cease-fire, on the ground and from the
air. The latest was a telephone call Friday night to NATO General-Secretary
Javier Solana by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, a supporter of NATO
policy who asked that NATO warplanes stop their bombing on a day of "great
spiritual significance" for Orthodox Christians.
In Athens Friday, anti-NATO demonstrators joined traditional Good Friday
processions, with vociferous calls for a halt to the bombing. And in Russia,
Aleksei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, in recent remarks, questioned
the morality of those who would continue to bomb on Easter Day.
"If they carry on bombing over Orthodox Easter, what kind of Christians are
they?" he asked, in a statement aired on the Voice of Russia radio station on
April 6. "They are not Christians, they are barbarians."
In a televised address Friday night, the patriarch called on both NATO and
Yugoslav leaders to end "the vicious cycle of violence" and appealed for calm
in Russia itself, where the war in the Balkans has added a note of
belligerence to the national political debate.
For many Orthodox Christians, the latest war in Yugoslavia has posed a deep
moral dilemma, as they struggle between concern for their fellow Orthodox
Serbs now living under NATO attack and disgust with Serbian policies in the
predominantly Albanian province of Kosovo.
"It has to affect the joy of the day," said the Rev. Daniel Hubiak, an
American parish priest at an Orthodox church in Moscow. "All of this only
points to the message in one of our readings today. 'Do not put your trust in
princes, in sons of men.' Christ is our only hope, and in the final analysis,
He is the one who is going to judge all of this."
Almost all Orthodox church leaders have joined in calls to end the violence
in Yugoslavia, just as Pope John Paul II and other Christian leaders led an
appeal for a cease-fire last Sunday, when the rest of the Christian world
"Clearly the religious leadership of the Christian churches, without
or overt coordination, has been calling for roughly the same thing, for a
cessation of the violence, not just a pause," said the Rev. Leonid Kiskovsky,
ecumenical officer of the Orthodox Church of America.
In Bulgaria, where the Orthodox church has been split by a dispute between
rival patriarchs, the church's voice been relatively muted. But in a
newspaper aligned with the Bulgarian Socialist Party, a recent front page
showed a picture of Christ on the cross under attack by Stealth bombers,
beneath a headline that read "Their Easter."
In Greece, a NATO member with an overwhelmingly Orthodox population, the
government of Prime Minister Costas Simitis has also appealed for an Easter
cease-fire, most recently during a visit to Athens by a top State Department
official, Strobe Talbott.
With the Greek Orthodox Church in the lead, Greek popular opinion has been
generally critical of the NATO campaign, fueled in part by sympathy for the
Serbs and by lingering resentments against the United States.
In a traditional Easter message distributed by the Serbian Orthodox Church,
the theological message of Christ's resurrection was followed by a
last-minute addition, a paragraph accusing NATO of causing the catastrophe
that has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes.
The mood in one Belgrade church this morning was one of unease and anger,
said the Rev. Radomir Rakic in a telephone interview. "We would not like this
Easter to be like the Easter of 1941, when the Nazis bombed Belgrade, or
Easter 1944 when the Allies bombed at the end of the war," he said.
"We were celebrating the liturgy this morning when believe me or not, as I
was reading the Gospel at about 9:25, just when I was reading the Easter
Greeting of the Angel at the Tomb, 'Rejoice, He is not here,' at that very
same moment, we could hear the air raid siren," said Rakic. "And I thought,
my good God, we are listening to the happiness of these words, and to the
alarm, at the same time. But when the all-clear signal was sounded, we didn't
hear it, because we were deep in prayer."
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999
From: Matthew Rendall <email@example.com>
Subject: Russia & Kosovo: Why McFaul is wrong; why Celestine Bohlen is
Michael McFaul's claim (NYT/JRL 3232) that Evgenii Primakov's
mediation in Kosovo would probably come at the price of new IMF loans makes
no sense at all. Why should Primakov have to be paid off to help resolve
the Kosovo crisis in a manner acceptable to Russia, raising his country's
political stature and winning major political kudos for himself all at the
same time? And if he was willing to go to Belgrade before over U.S.
opposition, why would he demand additional incentives now?
Some of McFaul's other objections to a Primakov mission are just as
flimsy. "In raising a peace initiative now, Primakov also would strengthen
Russia's hand in Eastern Europe." What exactly does this mean? Obviously
not that Poland or Hungary will clamor to reenter the Russian sphere of
influence. That Moscow's clout will grow in Serbia? Possibly. But even
if so, so what? Russian tanks are hardly going to roll back into the
region. This anxiety about the spread of Moscow's influence to the
backwaters of the world made little sense during the cold war; it is
certainly needless now.
McFaul also warns that Primakov's intervention could make it harder
to expand NATO--presumably he means Romania and Bulgaria. Setting aside
the question of whether they belong in NATO at all--which they don't--how
exactly would this happen? What's the causal mechanism? Rather than
impeding NATO expansion, a "stronger Russian hand in Eastern
Europe"--whatever that means-- would more likely drive Bulgaria and Romania
into NATO's corner, and make NATO more eager to receive them. But this
seems rather far fetched. Most likely, a Primakov mission would have
little effect on NATO expansion.
And then we are told that a Primakov mission "could even help to
unravel the alliance altogether." In heaven's name, how? Is NATO really
so loosely knit that it can be torn up by a Russian prime minister's
mission to the Balkans? To worry about the effects of Primakov's mission
on the alliance while in the same breath remarking that ground troops will
probably have to be sent to fight the Serbs is remarkable.
After this Celeste Wallander's commentary comes like a breath of
fresh air. She and Dale Herspring are right that Moscow's pique is due
more to being bypassed than to 19th-century style Panslavism Yet as
Celestine Bohlen's excellent piece in last Sunday's New York Times pointed
out, it's not just anger at NATO's disregard or ex-superpower snit.
Throughout the 1990s, Russia's press has presented a fundamentally
different view of the Balkan conflicts than has the West's. Nationalist
papers present the Serbs as victims, while centrist and liberal papers
argue that all sides are to blame. In the case of Bosnia--where the Croats
were as much aggressors as the Serbs--the claim that the West was singling
out the Serbs for punishment had real bite. Asked why Russia had found
itself at odds with the rest of the world over Bosnia, Andrei Kozyrev said
in 1995 that "[t]o a considerable extent...it came about because of the
mass media....[I]t is extraordinarily difficult to work in such
circumstances, because the Serb position is always understood by our side
in one way or another, as it were, whereas it is never understood by the
Today, the West sees Serbs as oppressors; the Russians see the KLA
as terrorists. One side's misdeeds may outweigh the other's, but as used
to be the case with Israel and the PLO, it is not a cut and dry case.
The question remains: Why have the Western and Russia media had
such different takes on the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo? To some extent
it may indeed reflect national traditions or geopolitical interests (Bohlen
notes the influence of Russian government statements on the press), but a
study of the process of news coverage could be very interesting. A
journalist I interviewed in 1994 told me that nearly all Russian
correspondents writing about Bosnia were based in Belgrade. This would
inevitably affect reporting.
These differences in news coverage complicate international
cooperation in resolving crises like Kosovo. One answer may be to try to
narrow the differences through international exchanges, and encouraging
common journalistic standards. Any measures that support more objective
news coverage should make consensus more likely. And the spread of global
news carriers such as CNN also contributes to a common view of crises, if
not always a more objective one.
Nevertheless, press coverage still varies from country to country.
So do prejudices, interests and politics. There is no guarantee that the
United States and the other powers will always see eye to eye. Such cases
call for restraint. It is hard to imagine a durable and cooperative world
order in which some great powers intervene all over the world over the
bitter objections of others. In the nuclear age, their priority should be
not to fall out among themselves. If Washington wants to save lives, it
can start by raising its foreign aid spending as a percentage of GNP to the
level of Scandinavia's. Let it spend its treasure on UNICEF. It has the
added advantage of not requiring blood.
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999
From: "Brian Humphreys" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Moscow Times/Aeroflot tickets
TO ALL JRL READERS:
In JRL 3230 Robert McIntyre writes: "Aeroflot tickets that I have bought in
Moscow last year and as recently as 3 March 1999 ("$254.84 = 5,869.00
ARMENIAN DRAM") using US Visa and Mastercard credit cards are charged
in Armenian Dram. Is this a skimming tactic or is there a plausible
explanation for this?"
We at the Moscow Times are trying to find out. If you have had a similar
experience with purchases made in Russia on credit cards issued by Western
banks, please contact Brian Humphreys at (095) 937-3399, or by e-mail at
email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Times (UK)
April 10 1999
[for personal use only
Yeltsin delivers threat to key rival
FROM ANNA BLUNDY IN MOSCOW
PRESIDENT YELTSIN has told Yevgeni Primakov, the Prime Minister, to ensure
that the Duma does not vote to impeach him on April 15 or face the sack,
Russian press reports said.
The threat came as part of a dramatic political comeback by Mr Yeltsin
yesterday amid talk that he may be about to get rid of the Prime Minister.
Mr Yeltsin faces a potential Communist-inspired impeachment vote in the Duma
later next week on five charges, including the destruction of the Soviet
Union and the use of force in Chechnya. Russian analysts speculate that he
may remove key communists from the Government, a step that may precipitate Mr
But the presidential pressure on the Prime Minister may be working. The
Government issued a statement this week, stating: "The Prime Minister and the
Government of the Russian Federation are categorically opposed to the
impeachment of President Boris Yeltsin."
This is unlikely to be enough to sway the Duma and, if Mr Yeltsin wishes to
remain in power, he will have to pull off some spectacular manoeuvres before
"In the present situation, Primakov is useful to us. We will have to see what
comes next," Mr Yeltsin told a meeting of regional leaders yesterday, in what
was apparently a statement of support.
Mr Primakov, whose relations with Mr Yeltsin have soured as a power struggle
intensifies before parliamentary elections later this year, was away sick
yesterday, leaving the President to resume his position at Russia's helm.
The Kommersant Daily newspaper believes that the current Kremlin machinations
must surely spell the end for the Prime Minister. Mr Primakov must be getting
"a clear signal . . . that he might be sacked from his job and to prevent
that happening he must get down to the job of persuading Duma deputies to
abandon impeachment plans".
Yuri Maslyukov, the First Deputy Prime Minister, and Gennadi Kulik, the
Deputy Prime Minister, have been touted as likely candidates for the sack if
the President wants to curtail communist influence in the Government.
Earlier Mr Yeltsin met Viktor Chernomyrdin but denied that he had any
intention of reinstating him as Prime Minister. Mr Chernomyrdin failed to win
parliamentary approval in August and was replaced by Mr Primakov, the
Several weeks ago Mr Yeltsin held a hospital meeting with Grigori Yavlinsky,
the leader of the Yabloko party and a potential candidate for Prime Minister.
But yesterday Yabloko pledged to vote for impeaching the President.
Gorbachev Comments on Balkans Issue
Mayak Radio Network
7 April 1999
[translation for personal use only
The former USSR president, Mikhail Gorbachev, was
interviewed on the "Political Olympus" programme broadcast by Russian
radio Mayak at 1530 gmt on 7th April.
The first question from the programme presenter, Yuriy Semenov, was
about Gorbachev's attitude towards the Balkans crisis and the situation
in Europe in general.
"I believe that what is happening in Europe is very alarming and, I
would say, even dangerous," Gorbachev said. He then recalled his personal
contribution towards the signing of the Vienna agreement and the Paris
Charter in 1990 that were intended to consolidate European security. But
the situation has changed radically since the collapse of the USSR, he
said. NATO began expanding "and hence all the new dividing lines and new
suspicions. Generally speaking, all this venture is very dangerous", he
said. "The USA lost a partner. It developed the winner's complex. It has
become dizzy from success and the Americans themselves understand this.
Did you notice that 50 per cent of the Americans do not support these
military actions? And this dizziness gives way to misconceptions,
blunders and miscalculations in politics," Gorbachev said.
As regards the events in Yugoslavia, he admitted that President
Milosevic was to blame for a number of serious mistakes "but now that the
whole of Yugoslavia is being subjected to bomb attacks, everyone is
suffering - Albanians, Serbs and all those who live there".
To the presenter's question on whether he approves of Russia's official
stance on the Balkans crisis, Gorbachev said: "I support as much as I can
the idea that our potential should be used to the maximum - despite the
fact that our economy is weak and the situation is difficult, we have
huge prestige and diplomatic experience. Therefore, I am in favour of
this conflict being settled by diplomatic means. The bombings must be
stopped and Russia must be prevented from being dragged into the military
conflict. This would be dangerous for everyone - for Europe and for the
As regards his personal contribution towards solving the Yugoslav
crisis, Gorbachev said he turned to the world mass media to make his
opinion on the Balkans crisis widely known. Further elaborating on his
views on the issue he said: "This is a big mistake. International laws
have been violated. This is nothing else but an act of brigandage."
"Generally speaking, this is an attempt to destroy the whole system of
international procedures and impose a new world order on us, where the
Americans would exercise their hegemony. But this is Utopia and nobody
will accept this. And this can be seen now. Generally speaking, we should
help the Americans get out of that mess because they are dragging all of
Gorbachev pointed out the importance of stepping up the role of the United
Nations organization and said that he had proposed that a group of Nobel
Prize winners be set up at the UN. He said he was preparing the first
meeting of 10 Nobel Prize winners, scheduled to take place in Rome in
mid-April, to discuss the Balkans crisis. "But I would like to say that
Russian politicians, the Russian authorities could have turned to
Gorbachev and used his potential, but you know the situation," he said.
Replying to listeners' questions, Gorbachev admitted that he had made
mistakes but dismissed the accusations that he was to blame for the
disintegration of the USSR.
As regards the situation inside the country, Gorbachev described the
authorities' promises to build prosperous Russia in several years' time
as an adventure. "I heard the president's [state-of-the-nation] address
and I should say that I was disappointed. It looks as if he does not know
the country and as if he lost contact with it," Gorbachev said. "He
[Yeltsin] expressed his support for the Primakov government, and it is
very important that he should stick to this stance. We need the Primakov
government in order to retain stability and hold all [parliamentary and
presidential] elections." Gorbachev then urged both the president and the
opposition to act only within the framework of the constitution.
Gorbachev said he would like to see Primakov in the post of the country's
president. "He is a very mature and experienced person with a broad
outlook, he is self-possessed and he does not yield to panic attacks. If
the government copes with the task of maintaining stability throughout
the election period, I think he will deserve the right [to become
president], despite the fact that he always says no and does not want to
join the presidential election campaign. He would be a suitable person.
And, next to him, there would be a prime minister - an active person and
experienced manager who knows his job. This could be [Moscow mayor] Yuriy
Mikhaylovich Luzhkov or somebody else."
As regards his attitude towards Yuriy Skuratov, who was recently
dismissed from the post of prosecutor-general by a presidential decree,
Gorbachev said Skuratov should continue to stay in office despite the
pressure exerted on him by the authorities. "In this respect, I support
his stance, despite some violations of the ethics, as we know," he said.
"It would be very important for him to continue doing his job," Mikhail
Gorbachev said in conclusion of his interview for the "Political Olympus"
programme on Russian radio Mayak.
The Guardian (UK)
10 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin panics as impeachment threat looms
By James Meek in Moscow
Russian MPs will decide next week whether to go through with a vote to
impeach president Boris Yeltsin in a political confrontation which in Moscow
is overshadowing the Balkans crisis.
In an atmosphere thick with rumours of government dismissals, states of
emergency and even a ban on the Communist Party, Mr Yeltsin rattled off a
series of threats and promises to his parliamentary opponents yesterday in an
effort to head off the vote.
The Kremlin's alarm about impeachment is a surprise, since the procedure has
little chance of success. The lower house of parliament, the Duma, may
produce the necessary two-thirds majority on one of the charges against the
president - starting the war in Chechenia - but impeachment is likely to fail
at the next stage, scrutiny by the supreme and constitutional courts, both
filled with Yeltsin-appointed judges.
Yet the president is more vulnerable now than at any time since MPs first
began to discuss removing him from office six years ago. His authority has
been weakened by illness and the financial crash, and his broad
constitutional powers have been eroded both by his inability to wield them
effectively and by the popular prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov.
Mr Yeltsin gave lukewarm support to Mr Primakov yesterday. 'In the present
situation, at this time, Primakov is useful to us. We'll have to see what
comes next,' he said.
It was Mr Primakov, aged 69, who was absent from work yesterday with a bad
back, while Mr Yeltsin, aged 68, is enjoying a relatively long run of working
days. Few expect this to last.
A confrontation with the prosecutor-general, whose anti-corruption
investigations were coming uncomfortably close to the Yeltsin family, has
also left the Kremlin nervous.
Playing the Slavic solidarity card, Mr Yeltsin hinted indistinctly at Russian
military action if Nato sent ground troops into Yugoslavia.
'I've told the Nato people, the Americans, the Germans: 'Don't push us into
military action. Otherwise there would be certainly a European, and perhaps a
world war',' said Mr Yeltsin, in edited televised fragments of a meeting
between him and the Duma speaker, Gennady Seleznyov.
Later Mr Seleznyov said that the president had also supported the idea of
incorporating Yugoslavia into the largely fictitious 'union' of Russia and
Belarus, of garrisoning Yugoslavia with Russian troops and even of again
targeting Russian nuclear missiles at Nato member states.
The Kremlin, which did not release footage of these remarks by Mr Yeltsin,
later watered down his reported remarks and explicitly denied the last. Yet
the president was clearly making an attempt to woo his opponents.
The Kosovo crisis has left Mr Yeltsin exposed to charges from the same
left-patriot coalition driving the impeachment process of being too friendly
with the West and not doing enough to help Serbians.
Russian news agencies quoted the president as saying that unnamed opposition
figures had offered him a choice between an impeachment vote on Thursday and
supplying arms to Yugoslavia. Mr Seleznyov conveyed to the Duma yesterday
what he said was a request from Mr Yeltsin that the impeachment vote be
postponed. MPs have agreed to make a final decision on Tuesday.
The charge that the president illegally launched the Chechen war is the most
coherent of five allegations drawn up by a Duma panel. He is also accused of
genocide against the Russian people, illegally bombarding parliament in 1993,
destroying the country's military and - strangest of all - with bringing down
the Soviet Union, without which action the Duma itself would not exist.
The Russian media has been rife with mutterings of Kremlin plots to impose a
state of emergency, sack Mr Primakov and ban the Communists. The mayor of
Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has spoken of his fears that such a scenario could be
played out. In a sinister show of strength on Thursday the FSB (formerly the
KGB), issued an unsought legal opinion questioning the 'correctness' of the
Duma's impeachment charges against Mr Yeltsin.
On Thursday the president met former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the
man widely blamed in Russia and abroad for the country's financial collapse
last year but still apparently regarded in the Kremlin as a serious contender
Mr Yeltsin denied yesterday that he had any plans for a state of emergency, a
new prime minister or a ban on the Communists, although the very fact he
raised the issue will be taken as a sign that it has been on the Kremlin's
That the Kremlin is even thinking about such radical steps at a time when Mr
Yeltsin is so politically and physically weak - he is due to retire next year
- may reflect the lingering influence of the wanted tycoon Boris Berezovsky,
now a fugitive from justice in France. The president's chief of staff,
Alexander Voloshin, is a former Berezovsky employee.
In an extraordinary comment yesterday the Russian interior minister, Sergei
Stepashin, who commands the country's police force, said that despite the
issuing of a warrant for Mr Berezovsky's arrest he had no intention of
Poll Shows Ratings in Event of Duma April Election
8 April 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Report by Nikolay Mikhaylov: "Duma Musings"
Only the CPRF [Communist Party of the Russian
Federation], "Fatherland," and Yabloko would confidently be able to
overcome the 5 percent barrier and enter the Duma if elections were to be
held in April.
They would collect 25 percent, 15 percent, and 14 percent of the votes
respectively. These figures were presented to journalists by the Center
for Political Studies. According to its leader, the political scientist
Igor Bunin, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the
Ilyukhin-Makashov All-Russia Movement in Support of the Army, the Defense
Industry, and Military Science come close to the leaders in the election
While substantial proportion of the electorate is prepared to vote for the
Communists Russians do not believe in the activity of this State Duma.
Only 1 percent believe that the parliamentarians are working actively and
making the decisions the country needs. Exactly a year ago 6 percent gave
this assessment of the State Duma's activity. In addition 53 percent of
Russians are convinced that the parliamentarians will not manage to
remove the president from power with the aid of the impeachment
procedure. Only 24 percent of our fellow citizens believe the Communist
deputies will see this initiative through. And 23 percent were unable to
give an answer to the question. The fate of B.N. Yeltsin does not
particularly interest them....
April 10, 1999
WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Surveying the Field in the Impeachment Battle
The vote on impeachment of the president in the Duma may radically change the
political map of Russia. Naturally, the powers-that-be are looking for means
to insure themselves against the initiation of the impeachment proceedings.
The State Duma's special commission on impeachment committed significant
legal mistakes. This is the conclusion made by specialists of the Federal
Security Service based on an analysis of documents prepared by the [FSB's]
special commission. The special commission's conclusions will not have any
importance at all, even if the Duma dares to officially accuse [President]
Boris Yeltsin of high treason or any other serious crime, which would mean
the beginning of the impeachment procedure. The Federation Council, in order
to dismiss the head of state from his post, will have to confirm the
legitimacy of the accusations against him by a two-thirds vote within three
months. But the senators will have to wait for a verdict by the Supreme Court
concerning whether crimes are indicated in the actions of the president of
the Russian Federation, and for the Constitutional Court's verdict regarding
whether the established order for making an accusation has been observed. And
here bitter disappointment awaits the initiators of the impeachment. ...
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov does not discount that forecasts by analysts,
"about the possibility in the next week of a confrontational scenario,
entailing the dismissal of Primakov's government, the dissolution of the
Duma, the banning of a number of parties and pre-term elections, from which
[Luzhkov's] Otechestvo [movement] will also be barred," will be confirmed.
It is possible to disregard Luzhkov's words, but they are indirectly
confirmed in the Kremlin. It is believed in the [presidential] administration
that if the opposition sees a Duma vote for impeachment as a success for
itself, it will take "tough steps" aimed at amending the Constitution. It
cannot be excluded that the Duma will try first of all to replace popular
elections for the head of state with voting by electors, in whose person
Russia will receive again "the congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union and general secretary." On the other hand, the Kremlin is sure that the
three-month period that the Duma hopes to use to protect itself from
dissolution is "a quite ephemeral" trump card of the opposition, because "in
any case, by mid-July the president will have the right to dissolve the
Izvestia, April 7
The Guilty Rich
A class struggle has commenced in Russia - a hunt for well-known and wealthy
people. A hunt that is being conducted by left-wing forces and whose
instrument is the Prosecutor General's Office, whether voluntarily or not.
Without attempting to clear or accuse anybody, let us note that these cases,
which have been conjured up ahead of the April 15 vote on the president's
impeachment, will sway public opinion in a most definite way by pointing once
again to the "people to blame for the economic and political crisis in
Russia" and "Boris Yeltsin's henchmen."
The unexpected activeness shown by the Prosecutor General's Office looks all
the more strange since both [the Boris Berezovsky and Alexander Smolensky]
cases, especially the one against Smolensky, concern days long gone by. ...
The theory that the Alexander Smolensky case is a card in a political game
launched ahead of impeachment by the left-wingers, energized by the scandal
surrounding [Prosecutor General] Yury Skuratov, seems to be more plausible.
It is extremely convenient to recall old, stale cases, revive them with the
help of the Prosecutor General's Office and declare yet again that the
persecution of Skuratov is revenge for his struggle against corruption.
This is a dangerous symptom. It means that in the near future everyone who
does not live below the poverty line will be the enemy that the Communists
and their ilk have been so lacking. Fortunately, there are enough rich people
in Russia today. But as the joke goes, the Marxists would rather get rid of
them than see that there were no poor. Presumably many more files will be
found in the prosecutor general's archives that can be pulled out at the
requisite moment and presented to the public.
Segodnya, April 7
After yesterday's debates in the State Duma it becomes clear: the president
does not plan to wait for April 15, when the lower chamber plans to discuss
the issue of his impeachment. Nor does he plan to sit with his hands folded
for the planned April 21 session of the Federation Council, at which the
question of the resignation of the prosecutor general will again be
considered. Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] long ago proved: as soon as
something touches his personal, not to mention financial interests, he always
strikes first, regardless of the condition of his health. Today the next
portion of kompromat will be thrown at Yury Skuratov. Murky information about
dachas, apartments and automobiles will be put into play. Already yesterday,
Zhirinovsky divulged information the Kremlin has saved up concerning
Skuratov's four-room apartment.
But it's a dangerous business: It could unnerve Skuratov, and then the
country could find out the names on the secret list of owners of Swiss bank
accounts, which, according to some information, come to tens of billions of
Tribuna, April 8
It is clear that a politician who has the guts to turn his plane around over
the ocean does not want to depend on the will of [Communist Party leaders
Gennady] Zyuganov, [Valentin] Kuptsov, or [Viktor] Ilyukhin for the rest of
his life. That means that he must strengthen his own position to such an
extent that he can exist without those three, while simultaneously, of
course, not becoming dependent on the president. And Primakov was virtuous in
playing this game. He traded Skuratov for Berezovsky, whose head it was much
more important for the prime minister to see roll.
We may assert with certainty that all of the theatrics of issuing a warrant
for the arrest of Berezovsky were calculated beforehand, and not only by the
General Prosecutor's Office, but also by the White House and the Kremlin. As
we have managed to learn, both the government and the president knew several
weeks before Berezovsky's arrest order that the relevant order was already
prepared and only needed to be signed.
Berezovsky himself also knew about this. But the entire political
establishment is not interested in seeing Berezovsky actually arrested. He
knows too much and is paying too many people.
They say that even Skuratov, the intrepid corruption fighter, used to
"conduct business with Berezovsky" (of course this does not necessarily mean
bribe-taking) before splitting with him, apparently in an attempt to adjust
himself to the new government's likes and dislikes. When, for instance,
Berezovsky was shaking the foundations of [Viktor] Chernomyrdin's government,
and [Anatoly] Chubais openly told Skuratov about Aeroflot and the oligarchs
acting against the state's interests, the prosecutor did not take any action
at all. Therefore, the action of issuing a warrant for the arrest of both
Berezovsky and Smolensky was undertaken not to arrest them, but not to let
them back into this country - to isolate them from Russia.
Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 8
10 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Aid recipient Russia sends supply convoy to friend, Yugoslavia
Criticism of U.S., a donor to Moscow, is left unsaid during send-off
By Kathy Lally
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW -- In a solemn ceremony that bore the air of a religious crusade,
Russia sent off its first shipment of humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia this
week, with officials preaching that even a poverty-stricken, aid-receiving
nation could give unto others.
"Isn't there some discrepancy here?" a Russian reporter asked Sergei K.
Shoigu, the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. "We were receiving
aid, and now we are rendering aid ourselves."
Of course, Shoigu assured reporters meeting with him at a news conference,
there was no conflict whatsoever.
"You see," he said, "there are some things that Russia needs and there are
other areas in which Russia can help others. And these two things should not
Shoigu tactfully avoided mentioning the words "United States," which is among
the countries bombing Yugoslavia to weaken it and force it to come to terms
over the fate of Kosovo.
The United States -- began delivering nearly $1 billion of aid to Russia last
month in an attempt to avoid hunger here next winter.
And Germany, a NATO ally in the bombing, has just sent Russia a trainload of
beef, part of a $500 million aid package from the European Union.
"Even in the hardest times for Russia we helped other states in spite of our
own internal difficulties," Shoigu said. "And speaking about the concrete
situation, we are sending the cargoes that we can afford to send."
That includes Russian-made medical supplies, baby food, sugar, salt,
vegetable oil, tents and a mobile hospital.
The $1 million in aid was provided by the government, which is regularly
behind in paying its elderly people their pensions, which had averaged about
$83 a month, but have shrunk to about $20 as the ruble has fallen and
economic prospects have grown ever bleaker since August.
Shoigu said the 900 tons of supplies, which are expected to arrive in
Belgrade tomorrow on Orthodox Easter, are destined for anyone who needs them,
regardless of nationality or religion.
He said much of the aid would be sent on to Montenegro for refugees there.
Russians, however, expect that the aid will go to their Slavic brothers, as
the Serbs are known here, and they don't begrudge it. They feel a special
affinity for Serbs, who share the Orthodox Christian tradition.
They have also been given a mostly one-sided view of the conflict in
Yugoslavia, as politicians have turned it to their own ends. Communists and
nationalists have used the bombing to stir up anti-Western sentiment,
comparing President Clinton to Hitler, in an attempt to discredit President
Boris N. Yeltsin and his pro-Western policies.
Yeltsin's own anti-NATO rhetoric, harsh at first, had moderated in recent
days as calls for military intervention appeared in danger of getting out of
hand. But with the State Duma considering impeachment proceedings next week,
he dived for political cover yesterday, sounding more strident.
"I told NATO, the Americans, the Germans, don't push us toward military
action," he said. "Otherwise there will be a European war for sure and
possibly world war."
Even moderates are furious at the West, however, saying the NATO action has
been directed by the United States, which is intent on running the world and
doesn't care whom it bombs or humiliates -- including Russia.
If it can no longer influence world events, Russia can feel a small pride in
helping an old friend.
"As for humanitarian aid for Yugoslavia, I'm in favor of it," said Valery
Dvoretsky, head of the town administration in Mys Shmidta, a desolate outpost
above the Arctic Circle. "If people there need it, they should get it."
Mys Shmidta, where daytime temperatures average 35 below zero for months,
within days of running out of fuel this winter. It has been snowed in for
weeks at a time, and people have lived on little more than bread and porridge.
"We do not get humanitarian aid here," Dvoretsky said by telephone. "But we
are trying to crawl out of our difficulties."
Albion Brichalov, a parliamentary expert on the north, said despite
predictions to the contrary, the people of the Arctic regions have survived
the winter -- on dried bread, flour and some canned food.
"They have minimum supplies, just enough to survive," Brichalov said. "And
anyway, it's impossible to deliver aid there, it's so isolated."
Attempts to telephone the Yakutia gold-mining town of Nezhdaninskoye, where
pet dogs were vanishing in November as winter set in and people grew hungrier
and hungrier, brought information that lines had been disconnected six months
ago. A regional official about 200 miles away said 240 people were still
there, heating themselves with the stoves in their apartments.
Small Russian flags fluttered defiantly on the half-dozen bulky white Kamaz
trucks that drove into the courtyard of the much-revered Danilovsky monastery
this week for a blessing before the convoy left.
A songful prayer rose from the priest's throat toward the leaden skies above.
"For our grieving brothers and sisters in Yugoslavia," he chanted, "to save
them from the adversary. God bless the drivers and the convoy." The heavens
replied with large, soft flakes of snow.
The Russian Orthodox patriarch, Alexy II, stood with a crush of priests and a
host of politicians on the steps of the Cathedral of the Holy Fathers of the
Seven Ecumenical Councils, built in 1565 by Ivan the Terrible.
The church, within the walls of the monastery, founded in 1282, was used as a
prison for juvenile delinquents in the Soviet era and now is the Moscow
residence of the patriarch.
"Humanitarian aid is a political act," said Nadezhda Leonidova, a doctor who
had come to watch. "We must help our brothers, the Slavs."
The trucks roared away as the Ministry of Emergency Situations Band broke
into a robust march.
They played "A Slavic Woman's Farewell," written in 1912 in response to
another Balkans war. It cheered the Russian volunteers who went off to help
Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria fight the Ottoman Empire.
And it has sent Russian men marching off to war ever since.
Half of Russians Would Not Welcome Communist Comeback
Moscow, April 7 (Interfax) -- Exactly 50% of
Russians would be against the Communist Party of Russia (KPRF) retaking
full power in the country, the All-Russian Public Opinion Center reports.
1,600 Russians were polled on March 27-30. While 27% would welcome a
communist comeback, 23% were undecided. Seventy-four percent would not
share in the mass protests threatened by Communist Party leader Gennady
Zyuganov if President Boris Yeltsin dismisses the Cabinet; 18% would be
prepared to take part in such protest and 8% have not made up their
minds. The statistical margin of error for such polls is no more than 4%.
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