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Johnson's Russia List
18 April 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy: Maslyukov: IMF Not to Blame for
2. Itar-Tass: Gereshchenko Says Economic Collapse Avoided.
3. Eric Chenoweth: 101 Reasons Why eXile is Wrong.
4. Argumenty i Fakty: Yeltsin's Income Said To Have Plummeted in 1998.
5. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Alice Lagnado, Young men dodging
two-year terror of Russia's army bullies.
6. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Yavlinskiy: Impeachment Will Not Lead to
7. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, New Moves On The Caucasus Chessboard.
8. The Observer (UK): Patrick Wintour, Nato holds up Russia's plan for
a peace force. The West has cast Moscow as the honest broker, with a
massive task to fulfil.
9. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): France fears aerial onslaught could
provoke Moscow into war.
10. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Russia embraces the art of
xenophobia. Nationalism may be on the rise, but Muscovites are not about
to take up arms to help their 'cousins' in Yugoslavia.
11. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Zyuganov Easter Message to 'Orthodox Russians.'
12. The Sunday Times (UK): General Sir Michael Rose, Nato must head for
door marked exit.
13. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Marcus Gee, REPORTER CHALLENGES REPORTS
OF MASSACRES IN PRISTINA.]
Maslyukov: IMF Not to Blame for Russia's Woes
Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy
14 April 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Presenter] First Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy
Maslyukov hopes the Russian government will arrive at positive results
during its talks with the World Bank and the IMF mission over the next
[Begin Maslyukov recording] During this week and next, by 20th April, our
aim is to complete the talks with Mr [James] Wolfensohn, the president of
the World Bank, who arrived today [14th April], and with the full-scale
mission from the IMF. I think that we and Wolfensohn will announce the
results of our recent consultations as early as tomorrow. Our talks with
the IMF will take another week and a half. We have already got used to
accusing the IMF of everything, blaming them for our hard life. Nothing
of the sort! In many respects we need to proceed the way they advise,
because they have a certain amount of experience. When they wrongly
assess the situation in our country or fail to take account of our
specific circumstances, we should tell them. That is the spirit in which
we are working with them. [end recording]
[Presenter] The deputy prime minister reckons disagreements over
political issues are one reason why the talks with international
financial organizations have not been sufficiently successful. After all,
the IMF is, first and foremost, an American institution, Yuriy Maslyukov
Gereshchenko Says Economic Collapse Avoided
MOSCOW, April 14 (Itar-Tass) -- Russia's
performance in the first quarter of 1999 shows that it has managed to
escape economic collapse, Central Bank Governor Viktor Gerashchenko said
The Central Bank made such a conclusion analysing the consequences of
last year's economic crisis, Gerashchenko told the ninth congress of the
Russian Banking Association. The budget crisis of the past two years was
aggravated by the government's policy of the unjustified upvaluing of the
rouble rate and increment of interest rates, which made the August 1998
crisis inevitable, he said.
Gerashchenko, however, said the situation has remained under control. The
government and the Central Bank managed to restore effective payments
through the banking system. The Bank of Russia refused to fix the rouble
rate creating conditions to make Russia's balance of payments positive.
These measures helped preserve gold and hard currency reserves and effect
payments on foreign debts, Gerashchenko said. Inflation and devaluation
also went down in the first quarter of 1999, he added.
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999
From: Eric Chenoweth <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: 101 Reasons Why eXile is Wrong.
A few points concerning eXile's "101 Reasons Why the War in Yugoslavia
Sucks," which has received such bipartisan praise:
Many of the reasons eXile lists are a recapitulation of Serbian
nationalist historiography and propaganda as developed under Slobodan
Milosevic, adopted by his Russian allies, and reflected on most Russian
media. Typical of both Serbian and Russian nationalist ideology in their
current strain are the ideas of Slavic and Orthodox brotherhood, the
special nature of Serbian/Russian suffering in history at the hands of the
West, and the heroic and courageous character of the Slavic (read:
Serbian/Russian) soul. This is all poppycock and one would have expected
better from eXile considering its coverage of the Chechnya war and general
opposition to Russian nationalists.
Underlying both nationalisms is the belief in the unique, positive, and
superior collective character of specific (not all) Slavic peoples and the
negative, dirty, cowardly, yet threatening character of darker or Muslim
peoples. In its "101 Reasons," eXile often chooses to justify opposition to
the war by dehumanizing the Albanians (E.g. Reason 31: "Name One Albanian,"
as if people's lack of knowledge of Albanian names or personages makes
Albanian Kosovars less human or worthy of protection.) Implied by this
overall adoption of Serbian/Russian nationalist views is that any treatment
of darker peoples is justified or not worth humanitarian intervention. No
matter what one's views on the NATO military campaign, this thinking has
some very dangerous consequences.
Often, eXile's Gen-Y attitude and arrogance has some journalistic purpose,
which I often appreciate; in this case, it has led it down a sloppy
path--and a slippery slope.
Yeltsin's Income Said To Have Plummeted in 1998
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 964
April 1999 (Signed to press 13 Apr 99)
Unattributed report in the "No Comment" column: "Yeltsin Reveals his
Income to 'AiF;'" Words and passages within slantlines published in
boldface; introductory paragraph published in italics
April has come, and it is time to give account of
one's incomes. As usual, 'AiF' ['Argumenty i Fakty'] has sent letters to
all senior Russian state officials inviting them to publish their
[income] declarations in our paper.
The first one to arrive was the declaration submitted by the top man in
the country, President //Boris Yeltsin//. It showed that in 1998 the
president //earned R183,837//. His annual income is derived from his
salary (rate of pay R10,000 a month) and interest accrued on his deposits
in the Savings Banks of the Russian Federation. All the taxes and a
percentage of pay deductible to the Pension Fund of the Russian
Federation have been paid in full.
For comparison, last year the president declared an annual income of
//R1,950,324// (in redenominated currency). This means that //Boris
Nikolayevich's income fell by over 90 per cent in one year//.
There have been no changes in [Yeltsin's] real and personal estate. The
president, his wife and his youngest Daughter Tatyana's family are still
living in //a flat with a floor space of 323.4 sq.m.//. Boris
Nikolayevich owns //a 4-hectare plot of land with a country house built
on it (floor space 422.6 sq.m.)//. He also owns a 1995 BMW car.
Next to respond to our invitation was Valentina Matviyenko, deputy prime
minister in charge of social issues. She told us her overall income last
year had been R182,859 (including [pay for] her work as the Russian
Federation's ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Greece).
Matviyenko has no other income, neither does she own any shares or
securities. She owns //a two-room flat in a cooperative in Moscow (53.9
sq.m.)// and a 1993 Niva car.
The declarations of other top statesmen will be published in our
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
18 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Young men dodging two-year terror of Russia's army bullies
By Alice Lagnado in Moscow
YOUNG Russians are so terrified of joining the armed forces that they are
resorting to extreme measures to avoid the draft.
As Russian concern over Nato's bombing of Belgrade reaches fever pitch,
potential conscripts to the armed forces are readily paying thousands of
dollars, moving house or faking illness to avoid national service.
The most popular method of dodging the draft is to join a college or
university with a military department, where boys train one day a week and
graduate as reserve officers. But this month, a ripple of fear went through
thousands of young men when the Ministry of Defence announced plans to close
200 out of 250 military departments.
Army service, which lasts two years, is feared for good reason. Every teenage
boy has heard of dedovshchina, or bullying - and not just healthy teasing
either. Conscripts are routinely beaten and raped by older officers, or are
subject to "games" of humiliation and pain.
Others die. The Russian Military Prosecutor's Office has admitted that about
2,000 conscripts die each year, and human rights organisations put the number
at nearer 3,000. Many of these are suicide cases - boys who cannot cope.
Sergei, a shy young man of 22, avoided service by joining a college with a
military department. He said that all his friends found ways to dodge the
draft. "One friend of mine paid a doctor something like $1,000 for a note
saying he had asthma. Another guy cut off his big toe so he would be declared
unfit for service," he said. Bribing a doctor is quite common. Doctors
earning £30 a month - often women with children - willingly help young men by
writing them notes for up to £3,000 each. These notes can also be acquired as
a favour in a society where, unable to rely on courts of law or other systems
of redress, people help each other as a matter of course.
Sergei was not enthusiastic about studying mechanical engineering specially
to avoid the army, but it was a small price to pay. "I had no choice. Joining
the army used to be prestigious. Now, I'm sure that if you asked people in
the street if they wanted to join, 90 per cent would say no. The army is a
terrible thing," he said.
Other young Russians also expressed their fears of the armed forces. "I want
to avoid the army with all the fibres of my soul," said Arseny, a strong
young man of 17. "My friends think the same. The officers don't like
conscripts. They bully them, or kill them." Arseny and his parents are
determined that he gets into a university or college with a military
department when he leaves school.
Andrei, 19, moved out of his parents' house to live with friends to avoid
service. "I am afraid of the bullying in the army. There are deaths,
suicides, people run away. Everybody knows about these things," he said.
Andrei would have gladly served if the army were not such a source of terror.
"I would like to defend my Fatherland, to learn about discipline and
responsibility and to test myself, but there are too many negative things in
the army," he said. Andrei said some parents pay vast sums to buy a voenniy
bilet, an official document that serves as proof of completion of national
One friend's parents are paying £3,000. The passes are not fakes, but bought
from middlemen who have corrupt contacts within the Ministry of Defence.
Parents who can scrape together a few thousand dollars do not hesitate to do
so, despite the worsening economic situation in Russia.
How to avoid the army is the main topic of conversation for parents of
teenage boys. The activities of the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee, which
fights for soldiers' rights, has made more parents aware of the horrors of
service. When today's fathers served in the army it was tough, but the
bullying which happens now was unheard of.
The army, meanwhile, struggles to fill its quotas of conscripts despite the
repeated cuts since Soviet times. In March the army said it had half the
number of ground troops it had four years ago, and the entire armed forces
add up to only 1.2 million. It is well-known that the Russian armed forces
employ bully-boy tactics to recruit young men. Boys are press-ganged on the
street or seized from their homes.
Yet each year the army says it has too few conscripts and that those they do
recruit are weak and unhealthy. At the same time, the Soldiers' Mothers'
Committee claims that 85 per cent of conscripts' are unfit for service, owing
to the poor health of Russian youth, but that the army recruits ill boys
anyway because it callously disregards conscripts' state of health.
Those young men who do join up say that because the army is so desperate to
fill its ranks, many conscripts are physically or mentally ill or addicted to
drink and drugs. Some recruits deliberately hurt themselves to get out, while
others run away or commit suicide. Even conscripts serving in the Kremlin
Guard, which protects President Yeltsin's official residence, have reported
Yavlinskiy: Impeachment Will Not Lead to Civil War
13 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Interview with Yabloko leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy by the
Komsomolskaya Pravda Crime Desk under the "Forecast" rubric; date and
place not given: "I Do Not Believe That Impeachment Will Be Followed by
Civil War" -- first paragraph is introduction
The question of removing the president from office
is a source of concern to everyone. We asked Yabloko's leader to comment
on the situation connected with the forthcoming events in the Duma.
[Komsomolskaya Pravda] Grigoriy Alekseyevich, it is well known that Yabloko
supports the impeachment of the president.
[Yavlinskiy] We will vote for charges to be brought in any case that
a large number of human casualties. After all, no one asks me whether I
believe that he is guilty. The question is a different one: Do I believe
that this charge should be examined by a court of law? To which Yabloko
replies: Tens of thousands of people were killed in Chechnya; the Russian
Army was betrayed in Chechnya. Someone made these decisions. Such deeds
should be examined by a court of law; therefore we will vote "for." If
the procedure is continued, the Supreme Court must consider whether such
deeds come under a specific article of the Criminal Code. Then the case
will be transferred to the Constitutional Court, which must establish
whether the procedure by which the charges were brought and examined
complies with the law. And only after that will the case come to the
Federation Council, which will decide whether the president is guilty or
not. How senators will behave cannot be predicted.
[Komsomolskaya Pravda] And if a civil war then ensues?
[Yavlinskiy] Why should there be a civil war? Yeltsin would be leaving six
months early. So what? He will have to go sooner or later anyway.
[Komsomolskaya Pravda] There are another four charges apart from Chechnya.
[Yavlinskiy] Of course, we will not vote on charges such as destroying the
As for the accusation of genocide, it has yet to be seen who organized
genocide here: Remember how many Russian people were killed by the
Communists themselves. Impeachment is not a procedure for exacting
political revenge, but a strictly juridical process for ascertaining
responsibility for the deaths of a huge number of people.
[Komsomolskaya Pravda] All the same, in the upshot you will support the
[Yavlinskiy] No, they will be supporting us because, when we opposed the
in Chechnya, they prevaricated. They will vote on their own issues and we
will vote on ours. We insist that each vote be not on emotive charges but
on articles of the criminal code. And we also insist on an open vote with
named ballot papers. Because in that case the results of the vote cannot
[Komsomolskaya Pravda] But you once said that since Yeltsin has been
he should stay in place till the end of his term, according to schedule.
[Yavlinskiy] If he is found according to the Constitution to be a person
has committed a serious criminal offense, he should not stay in place till
the end of his term. But if not, let everything happen according to schedule.
The East: Analysis From Washington -- New Moves On The Caucasus Chessboard
By Paul Goble
Washington, 16 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Several events in the southern Caucasus
this week may lead to fundamental changes in power relationships not only
there but across a much larger portion of the world as well. And because of
that, some of the players both within the region and beyond appear to be
positioning themselves to respond with new moves.
On Saturday, leaders from the Caucasus and Central Asia will mark the opening
of a 515-mile pipeline that will carry oil from the Caspian basin to the
West. And on the same day, Ukraine, Georgia and Bulgaria are scheduled to
sign a treaty creating a new Black Sea rail ferry route. These moves, widely
welcomed in the West, will allow the countries of this region to reach Europe
without going through either Russia or Iran.
Together, such shifts on the chessboard of the Caucasus may come to transform
the geopolitical environment of both this region and Eurasia as a whole. As
one senior Azerbaijan official put it, these steps mean "the world to us,"
giving Baku "direct access to the West" and thus allow Baku to free itself
from Russia "after 200 years."
Indeed, if both this pipeline and ferry arrangement work out, Russian
leverage over these countries will decline still further. And as if to
underline the decline in Russian power there, approximately 100 soldiers from
Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine began a four-day military exercise on Tuesday
at the Krtsanissi range just east of Tbilisi.
While the number of troops involved is small, such a joint exercise
highlights the continuing decay of the Russian-backed Commonwealth of
Independent States as the chief security organization of the post-Soviet
region. And it gives new content to GUAM, an organization that includes
Moldova as well as the three countries taking part in these maneuvers.
Many Russian officials are likely to view this exercise as a direct challenge
to Moscow, particularly because it comes on the heels of a decision by
several CIS states not to continue to participate in the Commonwealth's
defense agreement. Even more, officials in other countries in this region are
certain to be following this exercise as a test of what may now be possible
for them as well.
But precisely because so much is at stake not only for these countries but
for others as well, several countries have moved some pieces on this
chessboard as well. On Wednesday, Russia and Iran signed an agreement to
cooperate in the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the region, a
direct response to the new Azerbaijan-Georgia pipeline.
Russian oil minister Sergei Generalov and his Iranian opposite number Bijan
Namdar Zanganeh initialed an accord that will expand the already large degree
of cooperation between the two states from which many in the Caspian basin
seek to become more independent. Whether this accord will give these two
states more opportunities to counter the new east-west corridor in the
southern Caucasus remains to be seen. But on Wednesday, Moscow took another
step designed to defend or even expand its influence there.
General Anatoly Kornukov, the commander of the Russian Federation air force,
visited Yerevan to mark Armenia's expanded participation in CIS air defense.
While there, he announced that Moscow will send more fighter jets to its
military bases in that Caucasus country.
Kornukov went out of his way to say that this new buildup was in no way a
threat to Azerbaijan, with which Armenia has been locked in a dispute over
the Nagorno-Karabakh region for more than a decade. But few in Baku or
elsewhere are likely to see this latest Russian move as anything but
Indeed, when Moscow recently deployed advanced S-300 missiles and MiG-29
fighters to Armenia, Azerbaijanis from President Heidar Aliyev down protested
this move as inherently destabilizing. They are almost certain to raise their
voices again now that Moscow has introduced still more weaponry into Armenia,
with which the Russian Federation maintains close ties.
Such moves and countermoves serve as a reminder not only of how complicated
this region remains and how much is at stake for how many people but also of
how difficult it is for any of the participants in this geopolitical game to
make a move to which the other side cannot quickly respond. And that in turn
suggests that neither side is likely to be able to move its geopolitical
chess pieces into an endgame anytime soon.
The Observer (UK)
18 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Nato holds up Russia's plan for a peace force
The West has cast Moscow as the honest broker, with a massive task to fulfil.
Patrick Wintour reports
Nato's demand that it leads and forms the core of the proposed international
peacekeeping force in Kosovo is now the single biggest stumbling block to a
Serbia has formally rejected the presence of foreign troops on its soil, but
is likely to prove more flexible under Russian pressure.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last Friday, Serbia formally
rejected UN proposals for a peacekeeping force in Kosovo. 'We are not at all
open to accepting any foreign military presence,' the letter stated.
'Civilian presence, this is something that can be negotiated, but military
presence, absolutely not.'
Last week the United States and Britain dropped their demand that Nato
exclusively form the proposed force in an attempt to persuade the Russians to
act as honest brokers with Belgrade.
The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, also confirmed Nato was willing to accept
a large Russian participation. London might be willing to see the force
acting under a UN label as long as it was, in reality, under a Nato command
structure. The force would enter Kosovo with a UN mandate, including the safe
return of displaced refugees.
These concessions were made in talks between the Russian Foreign Minister,
Igor Ivanov, and the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, in Oslo last
Tuesday. They were confirmed last Wednesday at a meeting of European Union
heads of government attended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Moscow's Ambassador to Bonn, Sergei Krylov, said Russia was willing to take
part in a Kosovo peacekeeping force, but 'not together with soldiers from
Nato countries that are now taking part in the air offensive'.
Nato insistence on a core role in the peacekeeping force stems from its
disillusionment with the UN-led forces in Bosnia (Unprofor) in the early
Nineties. The British military, including General Sir Michael Rose, the
former Unprofor commander, were contemptuous of its operation. In particular,
the haphazardly financed UN troops were never given a clear mandate. The
subsequent Nato-led I-for and S-for in Bosnia have been more successful.
In the case of Kosovo, the Nato-led force assembling in Macedonia (K-for) is
headed by General Sir Michael Jackson, the commander of ACE (Rapid Reactions
Corps). For the first time US troops will be under a Nato command led by a
The reluctance of London and Washington to drop this carefully planned
command structure places huge obstacles in the way of Russia's negotiator
with Yugoslavia, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Chernomyrdin, appointed by President Yeltsin last week, met Western
ambassadors in Moscow on Friday and is likely to travel to EU capitals this
No agreement exists either between Serbia and Nato over whether Belgrade must
state that all Serb forces would leave Kosovo as a precondition for a
Germany, the current president of the EU, last week spread temporary alarm
within Nato by suggesting a 24-hour ceasefire.
Fears that Germany might be offering a unilateral ceasefire prompted German
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to tell the German parliament last Thursday
that Serbia would have to prove it was pulling troops out of Kosovo before
Nato stopped bombing and began peace initiatives.
A UN resolution supported by the Russians would preclude the need for any
direct talks between Serbia and Nato countries.
The Russians favour the peacekeeping force being made up of monitors similar
to the unarmed members of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), which
withdrew from Kosovo before Nato began its air campaign against Serbia last
The KVM was run by the 55-nation Organisation for Security and Co-operation
in Europe, and was largely seen as powerless in the face of Serb thuggery.
But Chernomyrdin, admired in European capitals, has called for patience and
talks with Nato.
In a keynote speech last Thursday President Clinton said: 'The last thing we
need in the Balkans is greater Balkanisation. The best solution is not the
endless rejigging of their borders but greater integration into a Europe in
which sovereignty matters but in which borders are becoming more and more
open, and less important in a negative sense.'
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
18 April 1999
[for personal use only]
France fears aerial onslaught could provoke Moscow into war
SENIOR officials in Paris are claiming that the French government has vetoed
plans by the Western allies to intensify the war against President Milosevic
with an all-out aerial onslaught.
According to the Elysée Palace, President Chirac blocked a move to begin a
new offensive that would involve unlimited attacks on Serbian "centres of
power" for fear of provoking Russia. In detailed briefings to senior French
journalists, the Elysée conceded that opposition to what it calls "Phase
Three" of the campaign has effectively isolated France from her allies.
While the government remains committed to stepping up pressure on Milosevic -
specifically approving the deployment of America's tank-busting helicopters -
it remains convinced that it is too risky to confront Moscow with what
amounts to "total war".
In yesterday's Libération, the respected commentator Serge July said that the
French government fears that the increasingly "fragile" Yeltsin
administration, already facing hostile public opinion, would be forced to
react vigorously. He said the Elysée's view was "things must not be allowed
to slip out of control" on the battlefield, "or who is to say that we
wouldn't eventually have to go to war with Russia?".
In light of the dangers involved, said officials, France was now asking to be
consulted in advance - unlike most other governments in the alliance - over
the choice of specific targets. The sources stressed: "There will be no
escalation without the agreement of France." Mr Chirac's position was said to
be that France "prefers fighting with her hands tied behind her back to
having both hands free while walking a tightrope above the abyss".
Libération also reported that in a lengthy telephone call to President
Clinton last week, Mr Chirac insisted that high-level talks with the Russians
should be reopened immediately. He also stressed that the allies should go
back to the UN Security Council as soon as possible.
The Independent (UK)
18 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Notebook - Russia embraces the art of xenophobia
Nationalism may be on the rise, but Muscovites are not about to take up arms
to help their 'cousins' in Yugoslavia
By Phil Reeves
ILYA Glazunov is not to everyone's taste. Some accuse him of anti-Semitism.
Even if you feel that charge is unfair, his art creates the uncomfortable
suspicion that he has crossed a dangerous line.
One of his works, Russia, Awake!, is a massive canvas showing a Slavic
soldier with a Kalashnikov in one hand and a New Testament in the other.
There is a drummer boy, whose instrument carries the slogan "Russia for the
Russians". In another, The Call of the Devil, a large-breasted woman sits
naked but for a shawl adorned with the Star of David across her knees.
Beneath her knees, a scaly tail peeps out.
You get the idea? This is Russian nationalist art, the work of a monarchist
and Orthodox believer whose art hovers perilously on the cusp between
patriotism and rabid expressions of racial superiority. With its romanticised
figures from Russian history and its acidic attacks on Western popular
culture, his art is a manifesto. About that, he is candid: "The restoration
of Russia - that's what art is for," he once told an audience.
We are not talking here about fringe. His exhibitions have pulled in millions
of visitors, including Boris Yeltsin. Glazunov has just been given a new
gallery in Moscow, free,by order of one of the most powerful men in the
country, the city's mayor and a possible future president, Yuri Luzhkov. For
the mayor is also a populist nationalist, whose patronage of the arts has
earned him the reputation of a modern Medici, albeit one whom some suspect
favours tub-thumping neo-imperialist Slavo-kitsch to Michelangelo. But there
is a method in the madness of these two men, at least in one sense. Their aim
is to give Russians a sense of identity, filling a vacuum that began with the
end of the Soviet Union and its endlessly degrading aftermath. The loss of
creed and empire, and repeated social upheavals, wrought such damage to the
Russians' self-respect and sense of direction that it has challenged their
very identity. This duo seeks to put them right.
Thus, the 61-year-old mayor, a hyperactive bulldog (he still plays football),
has been enthusiastically filling his city with gargantuan symbols, intended
to stir the ashes of Russian pride. They are not for people of subtle taste.
The worst is the monstrous statue of Peter the Great which stands in the
Moscow River. But there are others, the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the
Saviour, the monolithic Victory Park celebrating the defeat of the Nazis, and
These days no one talks much about bringing back the Romanovs as figureheads,
an idea that gained brief currency a few years back. But other opportunities
to reinforce the national identity are seized by Mr Luzhkov and the country's
leadership. When Nikita Mikhalkov - another nationalist - produced his dismal
new movie, Barber of Siberia, billing it as a Russian blockbuster, it was
given a lavish Kremlin world premiere. And when the faded diva of the concert
hall, Alla Pugacheva had her 50th birthday on Thursday, the celebrations
shoved the Balkans war out of the leading news slot. Anything to promote a
Last week the question of who the Russians are - and what that identity means
to them - arose again, in an unexpected form, when the Yugoslavian parliament
voted to join the Russia-Belarus union. Russians were surprised. Sure, they
had expressed deep outrage at Nato's attacks. But that had more to do with a
sense of betrayal by the West than fraternity between eastern and southern
In fact, they had no idea the Serbs liked them so much. It was like receiving
a surprise visit from a remote cousin whom you last saw when you were a
toddler: instead of greeting you with a distant handshake, he bursts in, arms
spread, and envelops you with a hug and a slobbery kiss.
Two quickie opinion polls - one by Ekho Moskvi radio and another by
Kommersant newspaper - revealed that the warmth of feeling was not mutual.
More than 70 per cent didn't want a union with Yugoslavia. Their own
legislature, the State Duma, renowned for its silly thespian gestures,
disagreed, passing a symbolic vote to join. But the ordinary Russian had
bigger problems to worry about than getting in bed with people they barely
know (especially if that means going to war).
For, in the end, that is the reality, despite the rhetoric emanating from
Belgrade and Russian nationalist circles. "All that talk about Slavic
brotherhood is thought up by politicians for propaganda purposes," Irina, my
Russian teacher, told me last week, after I began questioning her over
whether she feels Russian, or Slavic or both. "Bred," she added, a word that
loosely translates as raving nonsense.
I rang half-a-dozen Russian acquaintances to find out how much they actually
know about the Serbs. Not much, came the reply. In Soviet times, the Russians
regarded Yugoslavia with envy because it had a higher standard of living.
Certainly they were never trusted as true brothers in socialism. Tito's
Yugoslavia was considered as a law unto itself, a country hovering between
communism and capitalism.
Long queues would form in Moscow whenever the whisper went around that
Yugoslav goods were on sale; their consumables - fridges, shoes, furniture,
leather bags - were considered far better than the general tat churned out by
Soviet factories. That reinforced the impression that Yugoslavia leaned far
more towards western Europe than to the Soviet empire; whose inhabitants
spoke Russian with a pronounced accent, and whose Slavic population has been
spiced with more than a dash of Mediterranean blood.
Another friend - also called Irina, and also an educated Muscovite - told me
the Serbs had a reputation of being "good lovers", who were regarded as
"generous and rich" and not unlike Georgians, who live on the Black Sea.
"But they are foreigners, of course," she said - a word that carries extra
weight in xenophobic Russia. They were attractive and friendly enough and -
above all - southern. But brothers in arms? My friends were unanimous. Nyet.
Zyuganov Easter Message to 'Orthodox Russians'
10 April 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Address by Gennadiy Zyuganov, leader of the NPSR [People's Patriotic
Union of Russia]: "Holiday of Russian Heart"
Brothers and Sisters!
Permit me to congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on the greatest
religious holiday of Holy Rus. From time immemorial our forefathers
welcomed the bright day of Easter with the joyous greeting-- Christ Has
Risen! This jubilant holiday of the victory of light over darkness, of
good over evil, a holiday of peace and love, of hope and triumphal joy is
a true holiday of the Russian heart--benevolent and loyal, merciful and
It is this benevolence that enabled our great nation to peacefully
expand the boundaries of its power from century to century, remaining a
reliable friend and defender of all the nationalities and tribes which
linked their historical fate with Russia.
It is this loyalty to our sanctities and age-old national ideals that
helped us survive many cataclysms, storms, and unrest in our history,
which more than once threatened Rus with the loss of its unique spiritual
It is this people's mercy that did not allow the Russian cathedral soul
to become hardened and embittered during the countless ordeals and
sorrows which time after time fell to the lot of our long-suffering
It is this calm and quiet courage--which blossomed during the years of
the war turmoil into a wonderful flower of mass national heroism--that
has repeatedly saved the Fatherland's independence in battles against
foreign invaders, who hankered after its resources and land.
All this together makes it possible to hope also now that Russia will
arouse itself in all its former sovereign power and spiritual glory.
At the same time, however, we must honestly admit: Today the country is
on the verge of an abyss!
Such a difficult situation in Russia forces me, on the day of the Easter
celebration, to turn to all Orthodox Russians with an urgent appeal for
unity in the face of the dangers and calamities threatening the country.
Brothers! We no longer have the right to waste our strength on the futile
internecine confrontation imposed on us by undisguised Russo-haters,
crafty foreigners, and enemies of our age-old sanctities.
The neofascists from NATO and the United States, who cast off all
restraint, in full view of the whole world are bombing with impunity and
impudence peace-loving Yugoslavia, which is friendly to us, and are
mercilessly destroying the fraternal Orthodox people. But Russia
humiliated and devastated by "democrats" silently looks at how Yugoslavia
is being transformed into a proving ground, on which unscrupulous
aggressors are developing methods of destroying our country and our
people. Let everyone know: Today bombs are falling on Belgrade and
tomorrow they will drop on Moscow.
Under these conditions all of us must realize that it is a matter of the
very existence of the Russian state, the Russian people, and the Orthodox
Church. There is no doubt that we will be able to overcome the trouble
that befell Russia only all together, only by uniting the efforts of all
healthy public forces and all responsible politicians and ordinary
Russians who grieve for their tormented Fatherland. Such a unification is
inconceivable without the active participation of believer Russians,
without the weighty, authoritative word of the Orthodox Church.
I believe that the entire country will hear this fiery word. I believe
that Russia will hold out, despite all the satanic attacks by the dark
forces of world evil... And we will festively celebrate more than once
Easter--the bright spring holiday of the big, good Russian heart.
The Sunday Times (UK)
April 18 1999
[for personal use only]
Nato must head for door marked exit
Air power has failed and the allies' only real option is to get out, writes
General Sir Michael Rose
General Sir Michael Rose is a former commander of the UN in Bosnia and author
of Fighting for Peace
The tragic accidental bombing by Nato of civilians in Kosovo will not
surprise those who understand the difficulties aircrews face flying missions
over Yugoslavia and the limitations of Nato air power. Its weapons systems
were designed for general war against the Warsaw Pact - not for the limited
type of engagement taking place over Yugoslavia.
Think back to February 1994, when Nato issued another ultimatum. Then the
United Nations brokered an agreement between the Bosnians and the Serbs to
establish a 20-kilometre exclusion zone around Sarajevo; Nato said it would
launch airstrikes against any heavy weapons that remained within the zone.
But surveillance aircraft found it impossible to determine accurately whether
there were any tanks or guns in the exclusion zone. On one occasion, air
reconnaissance identified a Serbian mortar position that turned out to be a
collection of haystacks. Nato had to rely on UN military observers on the
ground to verify possible targets.
It is not easy for pilots flying at more than 400mph over broken country to
identify the sort of targets that will have to be destroyed if Nato is to
succeed in Kosovo. The lesson that can be drawn from the sad incidents that
have occurred so far is that air power is a blunt weapon, wholly
inappropriate for use by itself in this form of conflict.
Without soldiers on the ground able to verify targets and direct airstrikes,
the terrible mistakes (the bombing of a passenger train and refugee convoy)
that occurred last week will inevitably continue to happen.
Such a lesson is not clearly understood by Nato. On April 14, at the daily
press conference, Jamie Shea, the alliance's press spokesman, said Nato had
chosen a modus operandi in line with its policy not to be at war with the
Serbian people. The alliance, he said, wished to avoid inflicting
"unnecessary pain on the Serbian people or their economy". Within a few hours
many Kosovo Albanians had been killed and wounded by Nato airstrikes.
Expressions of regret, however sincere, coupled with bland assurances that
Nato is doing all it can to avoid such mistakes - and that anyway Milosevic
is to blame - are an insufficient response to these mistakes. Civilised
people will not stand by for ever and watch the Serbian people, who have
already been reduced to the edge of survival by their brutal rulers, being
One of the more worrying characteristics that has emerged during the first
month of the war is the degree to which rhetoric has taken over from reality.
Daily, we are being subjected to increasingly irrelevant accounts of military
actions being routinely undertaken by Nato against civilian and military
targets in Yugoslavia - without any real analysis as to whether what is being
done is delivering the stated objectives.
Instead, we get the sort of fairy tale told by Shea that "every morning
President Milosevic wakes up and realises that in the last 24 hours he has
become weaker, he also sees that Nato is becoming stronger".
These musings are usually accompanied by emotional descriptions of the
terrible things that are being done by Milosevic's brutal regime - as if
their repeated telling would somehow justify the continuation of a Nato
strategy that has already failed.
Before long, the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo will be halted - not because of
anything Nato may have done, but because there will be no Kosovo Albanians
left in Serbia.
The alliance's credibility is already hanging on a thread. Clear thinking
coupled with firm action, not words, are required if it is to emerge intact
from its war in the Balkans. We urgently need to find a way for Nato to
extricate itself with some vestige of honour from this increasingly messy
Assuming it is now too late to prevent Milosevic from achieving his
objectives in Kosovo, Nato will be left with the options of continuing the
air campaign for the foreseeable future, escalating the war to include the
use of ground forces, or seeking a political compromise.
Nato and the Americans seem to favour the first course of action. This would
reinforce failure, leave the initiative to Milosevic and assume the
continuing unity of the alliance. But success would still not be guaranteed.
The second option, while making military sense, having moral right on its
side, still seems to be ruled out by most of the contributing countries; they
are either too worried about the possibility of military casualties or do not
believe they have armies properly equipped or trained to fight a ground
offensive in Kosovo. Such an option would also require the presence of combat
troops on the ground for many years.
Most armies have been drastically reduced in size since the end of the cold
war, and it is unlikely that they could undertake the sort of commitment
still being met in South Korea by the American army almost 50 years after the
Korean war ended. At present levels of operational deployment, tour intervals
in the British Army are less than 12 months. This is unsustainable even in
the short term.
The third and, in my view, the most likely option is that Nato will agree a
political compromise through the mediation of the Russians and the UN. It
would meet some, but not all of Milosevic's political aspirations. With his
typical ruthlessness, he would probably judge that by ceding part of Kosovo
to the Albanians he would be ridding Serbia of a big problem for ever.
The long-term benefits of this would greatly outweigh the loss of territory
that a partition would imply.
He has done so before: in 1994 he struck a secret deal with Franjo Tudjman to
quit Krajina in return for an early end to the war in Bosnia.
Whatever the outcome of the war, Nato cannot continue to ignore the fact that
it has suffered a strategic defeat. It cannot go on using words to conceal
the absence of a suitable exit strategy from the increasingly
counterproductive war in which it is now involved. Above all, it is worth
reminding the political and military masters of Shea, who recently described
life in Kosovo as "nasty, brutish and short", that Thomas Hobbes also wrote
that words were "the money of fools".
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
April 14, 1999
REPORTER CHALLENGES REPORTS OF MASSACRES IN PRISTINA
By Marcus Gee
One of the few Western journalists reporting from inside Kosovo
says his impressions clash with NATO reports of what is happening
in the war-torn province.
Paul Watson, a Canadian who works for the Los Angeles Times,
says he has seen no evidence that Serb authorities have massacred
Albanians in the Kosovo capital of Pristina.
In an interview yesterday with the CBC radio program As It
Happens, he said he has toured ethnic-Albanian neighbourhoods
several times and has not seen any bodies.
"It is very hard to hide an anarchic wholesale slaughter of
people," said Mr. Watson, who has been in Kosovo since the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization began bombing on March 24. "There is
no evidence that such a thing happened in Pristina."
NATO blames Serb troops for the exodus of hundreds of
thousands of ethnic Albanians in the past three weeks. It says they
have been raped, massacred and burned out of their homes. The
reports of refugees in border camps support that version.
Yugoslavia, however, says the NATO bombings are forcing the
ethnic Albanians to flee.
"I am certain it is a mixture of both," said Mr. Watson, who won
a Pulitzer Prize for news photography when he was covering the
international intervention in Somalia for The Toronto Star.
"I have spoken personally to people who have been ordered to
leave their homes by police in black. I've also spoken to people who
are simply terrified."
For example, he said, many people fled the area around Pristina's
airport after a NATO bombing there. "I see a pretty clear pattern of
refugees leaving an area after there were severe air strikes."
Mr. Watson said the effect of the NATO bombing has been to
"stir the pot" in Yugoslavia. "We shouldn't be surprised that it has
spilled over. And in spilling over it has created anarchy in the
That does not excuse Serb atrocities, he said. "But I don't think
that NATO member countries can, with a straight face, sit back and
say they don't share some blame for the wholesale depopulation of
"If NATO had not bombed, I would be surprised if this sort of
forced exodus on this enormous scale would be taking place."
He said the centre of Pristina has been devastated by the NATO
bombing. The police headquarters, the post office and other
government buildings are in ruins. A graveyard and a children's
basketball court have also been hit.
Even so, people continue to walk in the streets. "Even this
morning at 10 o'clock, as large explosions were rocking high-rise
buildings in the centre of the city, there were people strolling up and
down and oohing and aahing as if they were watching a fireworks
Mr. Watson said most of the villages between Pristina and the
Albanian border to the southwest were deserted when he travelled
through them. He also saw large convoys of vehicles carrying
He did not see large groups of refugees living in the open, as
NATO has reported, but he stressed that does not mean it is not