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Johnson's Russia List
29 May 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Straits Times (Singapore): John Helmer, GOVERNMENT OF TOADIES.
2. Reuters: Crisis looms for Russian PM days into office.
3. John Goetz: Request for information.
4. Stacy Borisov: visas to the US.
5. Itar-Tass: All Russians Recalled from US Military Colleges.
6. Financial Times (UK): John Thornhill, Succession struggle.
7. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: The eXile Loses Early
8. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Nemtsov Interviewed.
9. AP: Russia Lawmaker Gets Image Makeover. (Zhirinovsky).
10. Moscow Times: Yevgenia Borisova, Russians Bleak Over Economy.]
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Helmer)
>From The Straits Times (Singapore), May 29-30
GOVERNMENT OF TOADIES
>From John Helmer in Moscow
The verdict of Russian politicians and industrialists is already in:
the new government, formed by President Boris Yeltsin and the new
prime minister Sergei Stepashin, is a collection of toadies, whose dislike
or fear of each other is topped only by their nervousness of the President
and his family; and by their ambition to enrich themselves before
their seat at the feeding trough is taken away.
"Russia is sick and tired of Yeltsin," editorialized one business-oriented
Moscow newspaper, as national opinion polls report that public
approval of the President has sunk to 2%, with a 4% margin of error.
"Yeltsin remains because he is convenient for everyone," said Alexander
Lebed, the governor of Krasnoyarsk region, once a Yeltsin ally, and
next year a potential presidential candidate. "Those around him know that
as long as they observe a few simple rules, they can steal everything they
Yeltsin's sacking of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on May 12 was opposed
by more than 80% of Russian voters. Pollsters found that the sacking,
interpreted by all Russians as motivated by Yeltsin's fear of a popular
and uncorrupt rival, pushed Primakov even further ahead of other candidates
in the race to succeed Yeltsin in next year's presidential election.
But even Yeltsin allies, such as former prime minister Yegor Gaidar
and campaign director Anatoly Chubais, have publicly expressed reservations
about the quality of the men Yeltsin has picked to run the Russian
"It's very simple," a powerful metals exporter told The Straits Times.
"The Yeltsin family is making sure they monopolize power over the state's
cash sources and the economy's hard-currency revenues to ensure their
candidate for president wins; and to protect and expand their own financial
He said it is certain the anti-corruption campaign initiated by former Prime
Minister Primakov will not be pursued, at least not in the direction of
Yeltsin family-members and cronies, where it was headed, when Primakov was
The Russian press, which is owned by a handful of businessmen called
"oligarchs", has reported the formation of the new cabinet
as a fierce contest between individual businessmen, such as the Yeltsin
family financier Boris Berezovsky, and representatives of other interests,
such as Chubais.
This is an exaggeration, those engaged in the lobbying have told The Straits
Times. But they acknowledge that delay in making decisions, changes of
mind, and contradictory announcements all point to a struggle for power and
money that is likely to continue in Moscow for months.
Foreign businessmen who have dealt in the past with the new Interior
Minister, General Vladimir Rushailo, say he has promised to help them
when their investments have been targeted by extortion and other corruption.
But they also admit that beyond asking them to provide him with evidence,
he has done nothing.
A Russian industry chief told The Straits Times Rushailo may pursue
corruption cases, but the targets will be political. Yeltsin's family will be
spared, the source believes. Political challengers, especially Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov, will be targeted, and his business links and sources of
finance attacked. "I expect the anti-Luzhkov campaign to start in earnest
within weeks,' he added. Luzhkov opposed Primakov's ouster, and he is now
the strongest presidential contender.
The Kremlin's choice of the Rail Minister, former railway engineer Nikolai
Aksyonenko, to become First Deputy Prime Minister puts a family
trusty in position to oversee all policy decisions affecting import and
export duties, transportation tariffs, corporate taxes, currency
export regulations, and the deposit of government cash in commercial
bank accounts. This vast state cashflow is widely expected to be milked,
on Aksyonenko's instructions and on the orders of Yeltsin, his daughter
Tatiana Dyachenko, and their aides.
In a string of unconfident, bumbling public statements, Aksyonenko has
said he will follow the advice of the oligarchs, most especially of
Berezovsky, who arranged a lucrative job for Aksyonenko's son.
Berezovsky is using the Russian media to portray himself as the gateway
through which everyone seeking Kremlin favour should pass, and pay the
Other powerful business interests in the country are opposed to Berezovsky,
and will compete with him and his cronies for control of the assets and
cashflow that are now up for grabs. They operate politically
through regional politicians like Lebed, Luzhkov, Konstantin Titov, the
governor of Samara, and Yegor Stroyev, the governor of Orel and speaker
of the Russian senate; as well as through Chubais, the mastermind of
Russia's privatization schemes.
Their personal feuding over state finance is already obvious in the still
uncertain decision on who runs the economy. This drove the Kremlin into
days of muddle over the appointment of the Finance Minister. It also
ended the ministerial career of Georgy Gabounia as Trade Minister. He was
assured on Monday and Tuesday by Stepashin that he would stay. Then
Aksyonenko told Stepashin he preferred Mikhail Fradkov, the former trade
minister. This all happened in an hour on Tuesday.
The tax chief, Georgy Boos, has announced that he was told he could keep his
post, but only on condition he severed his links with Mayor Luzhkov. He
refused, and Alexander Pochinok, a former tax chief and head of the
Kremlin's finance department, was appointed in his place.
Control of customs revenues has also been the focus of fierce lobbying.
Primakov sacked the head of the State Customs Committee in April, and replaced
him with his own man, a police officer. He was then demoted by the Kremlin,
but the new appointee, former Yeltsin chief of staff, Nikolai Bordyuzha,
resigned last week without explanation. The vacancy this creates is a vital
asset in the calculations of the entire business community. So too are
the posts in charge of the state stockpiles of diamonds and precious metals,
and of state cash reserves at the Central Bank.
Victor Gerashchenko, Primakov's appointee to run the Central Bank, sat down at
the cabinet table for Prime Minister Stepashin's first cabinet meeting this
week. But he asked television cameramen not to take his picture. He can
hardly remain invisible while governing Russia's international monetary
policy. Berezovsky and the other oligarchs have their own candidates
to replace him; so does Chubais.
Gerashchenko is constitutionally protected by the Duma [lower house], which
must vote to accept his resignation, and vote to approve his replacement. If
and when the Yeltsin family decides it needs Central Bank cashflow, he will
be forced out, even if the Duma rejects his replacement, and the Bank goes
into temporary management. Central Bank staff are now so nervous, they will
not agree to speak on the telephone; they schedule meetings away from their
Crisis looms for Russian PM days into office
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, May 29 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin faced a
growing crisis over the formation of his government on Saturday, just 10 days
after taking office.
The resignation of First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhai Zadornov on Friday,
quickly accepted by President Boris Yeltsin, deepened political and economic
uncertainty and raised questions about the premier's relationship with the
Stepashin had asked Yeltsin to appoint a second first deputy premier to
tackle economic problems with Nikolai Aksyonenko, an ex-railways minister who
was imposed on him by the president.
Stepashin hoped Zadornov would be allowed to remain finance minister as well.
But Yeltsin appointed debt negotiator Mikhail Kasyanov to that post,
undermining Zadornov and Stepashin.
``The whole affair means Sergei Stepashin has little say in forming the
government and the puppet-masters continue to pull the strings guiding the
selection of government ministers,'' said liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky,
suggesting his close entourage has a major say in forming the government.
``I think the resignation will have a bad effect on the government's entire
economic policy and on its relations with international financial
Zadornov, 36, shared this sentiment. ``This (my resignation) will, of course,
make talks with international (financial) organisations more difficult,'' he
told NTV television.
But Zadornov said he believed Russia would eventually receive $4.5 billion in
loans from the International Monetary Fund anyway under an agreement reached
by the previous government last month.
The importance of the money was underlined on Friday when a group of 10
investors said it was considering filing suit to put pressure on Russia to
pay $855 million in Soviet-era debts which are due on June 2. Russia wants to
delay paying its debts.
Stepashin has called a goverment meeting for Saturday to discuss ways to
tackle Russia's economic problems, although it risks being overshadowed by
Stepashin, confirmed in office on May 19 after Yeltsin sacked the cautious
Yevgeny Primakov, did not comment on Zadornov's decision. Yeltsin also
The 47-year-old ex-interior minister is a loyal ally of the ailing president.
But Yeltsin, increasingly unpredictable at 68, has shown he is not letting
Stepashin call the shots in forming the cabinet.
Stepashin could shrug off the humiliation and simply get on with forming a
government. The alternative would be to resign, a prospect which would plunge
Russia deep into crisis.
It would run the risk of parliament refusing the person Yeltsin nominated as
prime minister to replace him, forcing the president to dissolve parliament
and call an early election.
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999
From: John Goetz <JCGoetz@compuserve.com>
Subject: Request for information
I am a journalist working with German television
(ARD) and researching a story about events
in Germany before and after the La Belle disco
bombing in April 1986. I am trying to find out how to
contact any person in the old Soviet leadership who
was responsible for Soviet policy with Libya at the time.
I would also be interested in finding out the name of
the Soviet ambassador to Libya in March-June 1986.
Do you think that any of your readers may be able
to help me?
Thank you very much,
Tel. (Berlin) (49-30) 443-4716
Fax: (Berlin) (49-30) 44057560
From: "Stacy Borisov" <S-D.Borisov@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: visas to the US
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999
Dear David, I have heard rumors from friends in the Far East that the U.S.
Embassy in Moscow is so worried about Yugoslav-related hostilities that
they have put a hold on visas to the States. Can any JRL readers confirm
or deny such a stop on visa issuance in Russia?
All Russians Recalled from US Military Colleges.
WASHINGTON May 29 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Defence Ministry has recalled all
its servicemen from American military colleges in protest against the
continuation of bombing raids on Yugoslavia, Itar-Tass was told at the office
of the Russian military attache here on Friday.
Assistant Militray Attache Lieutenant-Colonel Yevgeny Sobolev said that this
referred to the nine officers, who were receiving training at U.S. military
educational establishemnts under the International Educational Programme for
Training Military Specialists. Some of them have already left the United
States while the others are to go home shortly. They were all studying at
army and naval colleges in Pennsylvania (Carlisle), California (San
Francisco), New York, and in one of the suburbs of Washington. Sobolev noted
that taking part in this rather vast programme, financed from the budget of
the U.S. State Department, were several other countries, too.
"The given step is directly linked with what is now happening in Yugoslavia,"
the assistant military attache stressed. "By recalling its students, the
Russian side is expressing its disagreement with the American stand on the
Yugoslavia problem," he added.
Financial Times (UK)
29 May 1999
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: Succession struggle
By John Thornhill in Moscow
Mikhail Zadornov, who yesterday resigned as Russia's first deputy prime
minister, has tried hard not to dabble in what is known as "big politics" in
Moscow. Instead, the assiduous, bespectacled finance minister has for two
years grappled with the thankless task of putting Russia's public finances in
But the politically innocent Mr Zadornov may unwittingly have fallen victim
to the most important Kremlin intrigue of them all: the struggle for pole
position to succeed President Boris Yeltsin.
Mr Zadornov has now learned to his cost that while Mr Yeltsin remains in the
Kremlin, politics will always take precedence over economics.
Mr Yeltsin justified his decision to sack Yevgeny Primakov as prime minister
earlier this month by claiming that the government was making no progress on
economic reform. But it has now become clearer than ever that the actual
reasons for Mr Primakov's dismissal were political.
The 68-year-old Mr Yeltsin had decided the left-leaning Mr Primakov could not
be trusted to succeed him. So Russia's impulsive, ailing president - egged on
by his closest entourage - cleared the field for someone else by sweeping
away Mr Primakov.
Mr Yeltsin seems unlikely to name his chosen heir until his last political
breath. But Russia's powerful financial elite are already toying with
potential candidates. The problem is that they differ vehemently over who it
The Yeltsin "family", including his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, and two
influential businessmen, Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, appear set on
promoting the interests of Nikolai Aksyenenko, who was this month plucked
from the relative obscurity of the railways ministry to become first deputy
But a rival clan, led by Anatoly Chubais, the most prominent reformer in
post-Soviet Russia, who now heads the UES electricity monopoly, has opted for
Sergei Stepashin, the former interior minister who was this month appointed
Pyotr Aven, a director of Alfa Bank who accompanied Mr Chubais in a series of
meetings with top US officials this month, argues Mr Stepashin could make a
good prime minister and a promising presidential candidate.
"Stepashin is from a new generation of politicians. He is definitely
anti-communist. He is definitely pro-western. He is a very experienced and
powerful minister. He has all the necessary qualities to try for the
presidency," he says.
Mr Stepashin has been trying to establish himself as a relatively independent
prime minister and pressed hard for the professionally competent Mr Zadornov
to take responsibility for running the economy.
But Mr Aksyenenko, supported by his team of powerful backers, refused to
countenance such a move and so provoked a direct confrontation with Mr
How long Mr Stepashin can continue to lead a cabinet containing such a
destabilising force is unclear. "Now there is a settling of accounts between
one oligarchic group and all the rest," says one senior Russian political
commentator. "They will either try to turn Stepashin into a puppet or remove
him too from office."
May 29, 1999
MEDIA WATCH: The eXile Loses Early Sting
By Leonid Bershidsky
I am not sure my publishers at Independent Media would concur, but, apart
from The Moscow Times, there is one more English-language newspaper that has
played a noticeable role in forming Moscow's journalistic landscape. It is
the eXile, which bills itself as "Moscow's only alternative" (to The Moscow
Times, I assume).
A shoestring operation in which four-letter words would be a mainstay of the
style guide if the newspaper ever had one, the bi-weekly has done a huge job,
whether you love it or hate it. The very fact that most English-speaking
Muscovites either love it or hate it shows that eXile editors Matt Taibbi and
Mark Ames are not exactly wasting their time.
Of course, the eXile covers The Moscow Times with the gleeful hatred that
Rupert Murdoch's newspapers have always demonstrated for their competitors.
Everything at The Moscow Times irritates the eXile, though it was at the MT
that Taibbi once did some impressive work as a crime reporter. Seeing that
this space more or less belongs to me, I could also kick the eXile in this
column, but I do not want to, for the simple reason that I have often found
it funny and refreshing.
The eXile grew out of a sorry little newspaper for Russia-hating expats
called Living Here. Some Moscow old-timers still remember it, but I am sure
even Ames, who worked on it, would rather forget it. The eXile became what it
is now f a hot topic of discussion at many a party and a publication written
up in Rolling Stone and Newsweek f by turning around and attacking its own
readership, the Moscow expatriates. EXholes, the eXile calls them.
Of course, Ames and Taibbi are down on Russia, too, but that alone would not
have endeared them to their readers. Russia is easy to paint black. Try doing
that to yourself and the few people in town who share your native language
and you will find out that it is somewhat harder. Between writing columns
about their and their peers' sexual misadventures and publishing
ultranationalist author Eduard Limonov's I-hate-the-West pieces, the eXile
has given it a good try.
In the end, I think Ames and Taibbi helped to bring about the inevitable f
the blending in of Western expatriates with the locals. If you read the
eXile, you cannot seriously try to carry the white man's burden in Russia. In
fact, just being American may become a burden after reading the eXile with
its savage treatment of the American press corps in Moscow and NATO's war in
Taibbi played semipro basketball in Mongolia before he hired on to edit the
eXile. His fame as a prankster survived in Moscow while he was away and was
revived when the eXile started playing its practical jokes on people ranging
from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's flunkies to Western economic
analysts. Many people were offended by the prank calls Taibbi placed and by
the resulting eXile pieces. Many of those who did not bear the brunt of the
jokes, naturally, laughed.
Some of those who have been less than amused once waged a war against the
eXile on Johnson's Russia List. Some of the contributors to the Internet list
called for barring eXile stories, after one documented what appeared to be a
rape by the writer. David Johnson, who runs the list out of Washington,
refused to bar eXile f to his credit, I think. In a society that acknowledges
freedom of speech, even the rape piece deserves a place, although hardly one
of Pulitzer prize-winning glory.
The eXile is very "alternative" and that is how it positions itself on the
market. The problem is that the paper is becoming a victim of its own
success. Favorable coverage in Rolling Stone, of which Ames and Taibbi are so
proud, lends them the mainstream credibility that does their cause no favors.
The two editors have written and have been promoting a book about their
adventures at the eXile. It makes a mainstream journalist like me wonder
whether they have taken a shortcut toward the same tired kind of celebrity
that I might achieve by, say, winning the Pulitzer.
Like a grunge band that hits the big time, the eXile may remain a good
example of its genre no matter what other "underground" people might say
about selling out. The thing is that the early, penniless, exciting months of
the eXile will never come back, and as a reader I am sorry that this is
25 May 1999\
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Boris Nemtsov by Vladimir Noskov, Rossiyskaya Gazeta
bureau chief in Nizhniy Novgorod; place and date not given: "Boris
Nemtsov Takes No Money Out of Russia. Into Russia--Yes. Reporter. In the
Nizhniy Novgorod--Our candid conversation is with a person who
began his political career as an RSFSR Supreme Soviet deputy, served
as governor of Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast and first vice premier of the
government of Russia, and is now starting all over again. He wants
to become a State Duma deputy. Boris Nemtsov answers questions from
the Rossiyskaya Gazeta bureau chief in Nizhniy Novgorod, Vladimir
[Noskov] Boris Yefimovich, how do you assess the prospects for
the work of the new chairman of the government and the ministers who
have been appointed? Will they bring the country out of its
[Nemtsov] An evaluation of any government must begin with the
person who heads it up. The approval of Sergey Stepashin in the
position of premier is a very encouraging sign for the country. I
welcome this appointment. I consider Sergey Vadimovich to be a
modern, energetic, and focused leader. And the main thing is that
he is an honest person who, if nothing stands in his way, will do a
great deal for the country. I can say this because I have known him
since 1990. At that time we served as deputies together and we were
even members of the same faction.
Incidentally, even at that time he did not hold orthodox
Communist ideas. By the way, he is a cautious person. He does not
like to be too categorical or to make promises if he doubts that
they can be kept. But once he has said "yes," you can be confident
that everything will happen they way he says it will.
As for his team, I hope that he will select it to suit
himself. One wants to believe that he will not depend on lobbying
efforts that will, of course, be undertaken. I know how the
government is formed. I know how many of all kinds of oligarchs and
groups surround the government in order to push their own people
through. I believe that Stepashin will be able to form precisely a
Stepashin government and not a government of some Pupkin...
[Noskov] Tell us, does Pravoye Delo recommend anybody for the
government? Are you requesting, insisting, petitioning?
[Nemtsov] We recommend our comrade Boris Fedorov. Either for
the financial-economic block or for the tax collection block, and
here is why.
Russia is now faced with a problem of how to avoid bankruptcy.
We must immediately begin negotiations with international financial
organizations in order to prevent bankruptcy.
Fedorov is a specialist who has worked at the World Bank. He
is respected in international financial circles, he is a
professional, and he could, as they say, get right down to
He is a competent tax collector. He has the will, the
strength, and the ability to make people pay taxes. Including such
extremely large companies as, for example, Gazprom. But do you know
who the best taxpayers are now? They are teachers, physicians, and
pensioners. And who are the worst? The richest Russian companies:
the energy workers, gas workers, oil workers. And here one must
have the political will to force them to pay what they owe. Because
they resist, they do not want to share their profit.
[Noskov] There have been reports in the press that you and
Chubays have asked to bring the infamous Cherepkov from Vladivostok
into the government. Is that true?
[Nemtsov] That is nonsense.
[Noskov] Many of the Russian media are spreading a great deal
of negative information about you, Chubays, Gaydar, Fedorov,
Kiriyenko, and others who make up the nucleus of Pravoye Delo.
[Nemtsov] I can speak for myself. When I began to work in the
government, many people understood that there would be no favors.
Everything would be in accordance with the will of the government
and not follow in the wake of the actions of the various financial
groupings. I made many enemies. They fought me tooth and nail and
spent rather large amounts of money, including to ruin my
reputation. The same thing pertains to my comrades.
[Noskov] Boris Yefimovich, if they invite you to join the
government now, will you accept?
[Noskov] Do you still have contacts with the President of the
country? Do you meet, talk on the telephone, exchange
[Nemtsov] No, none of that.
[Noskov] Certain mass media and also politicians from the
opposition are spreading more and more rumors about some homegrown
politburo that includes his [Yeltsin's] daughter Tatyana Dyachenko,
Valentin Yumashev, Boris Berezovskiy, and someone else. Have you
met with them?
[Nemtsov] Practically never. I saw Tatyana Borisovna not so
long ago. We were discussing a specific issue related to the
creation of guardianship councils in secondary schools. I suggested
to her that Yeltsin be in charge of the guardianship council where
he went to school in the Urals. And that she do the same thing.
Because she went to school in Yekaterinburg.
My idea was that if the state is not able to support the
schools, and they are on the verge of destruction with many of them
leading a pathetic existence, then every leader must remember the
teachers who taught him and help the school he attended. There are
55,000 schools in the country and 12-15 million people who are far
from poor. If even 12 million were divided by 55,000, you end up
with more than 200. That is how many rich people there are for
every school. And if the President, governors, and entrepreneurs
would remember their teachers and their schools, this would be
really significant activity for supporting secondary education and
educating the next generation.
The President enthusiastically supported this idea. True, I
do not know the results so far. The rest of the people you
mentioned, I have not seen for a very long time.
[Noskov] Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin has named you as his
successor two or three times, half jokingly, half seriously.
Stepashin is now first in line for the throne. Could that really
[Nemtsov] I think the President does a disservice to the
person he names as his successor. Nothing good can come of this for
a politician. The fact is that a battle against him will begin
immediately. The bureaucracy fights for the people who will support
the bureaucracy. And the financial groups will fight and the
oligarchs will fight. Briefly, a person ends up in the crossfire
and they try to fetter him, to bind his arms and legs. Therefore I
think that if the President does not want to harm the person he
supports, in no case should he name him as his, as you put it,
successor to the throne.
[Noskov] Usually those who have been close to Yeltsin and then
have moved away write malicious books about the President. Do you
intend to write one?
[Noskov] Have you remained faithful, devoted, and obedient to
[Nemtsov] I consider Yeltsin to be a profoundly solitary
person. That is the first thing. And the second thing is that I
recall what he personally did for me. I think it would be very mean
of me to write everything I know about him. I do not want to repeat
the actions of his bodyguard.
[Noskov] What did he personally do for you?
[Nemtsov] When I was governor of Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast, he
repeatedly supported me in putting through various issues pertaining
to the life of the province. Many times! For example, if he gave
support to the automotive plant, I regarded that as assistance to me
personally. And I never had any selfish requests for the President.
I did not ask for an apartment or a car or a dacha or an award or
[Noskov] Indeed, regardless of how they may criticize you, I
have never once heard anyone accuse you of embezzlement, bribery, or
corruption. Tell us, please, do you do everything exactly according
to the book or are you simply an "odd man out" among our
[Nemtsov] The truth will out. (He laughs.) If I had ever done
anything criminal, everyone would know about it anyway. There are
too many eyes looking at me from behind my back.
Then too, I think that bribes and other abuses are for "gray"
people. People who are able to earn their own way think about their
reputation. And, incidentally, nobody has ever analyzed the
relationship between corruptness and the intellect. And this is
very interesting. It seems to me that bribes are taken by people
who know that if they were fired, they would not be able to earn a
living. Those who believe in their own abilities, who know that
their experience can be of benefit--they think mainly about what the
people around them think of them.
For example, after my resignation, I earned enough money to
support myself and my family. And I am convinced that I will have
this ability for a long time to come. I spent 10 years in politics
and I do not intend to leave it. And my only possibility of staying
there is to stay honest.
[Noskov] Let us be precise: Do you deliver lectures for money
in Russia and abroad?
[Nemtsov] I deliver lectures free of charge in Russia and for
money abroad. Unlike our compatriots, I do not take capital out of
the country but, on the contrary, I bring money in. And I pay all
my taxes. And they are considerable. Last year, for example, I
Just consider, if you have 12-15 million people in the middle
class, that is, people with cars, dachas, classy apartments, and
fairly good wages, if they paid as much in taxes as I do, Russia's
budget would have about R2 trillion. But now we only have 500,000
As you see, if people did not take their money abroad but paid
their taxes here, I assure you, life for the entire population would
be much nicer and easier.
[Noskov] Boris Yefimovich, people predict that the departure
of your namesake from the post of president of the country will be
dramatic, that he simply will not turn over the power, and that all
kinds of events could occur because of this. Is Yeltsin really such
a terrible person? Or are certain politicians slinging mud?
[Nemtsov] The President is not such a terrible person as he is
made out to be. I think that he himself and those around him have
already reconciled themselves to the idea that they will have to
relinquish the power in the year 2000. But in Russia, peaceful
transfer of power is something new. There is no tradition for it
yet, and I think the main task for the Kremlin, the State Duma, and
the government will be to provide for a constitutional and peaceful
transfer of power to the new president who will be elected by the
voters. Frankly, I do not see any forces in the country that would
not be interested in that.
As concerns Boris Nikolayevich himself, we must look the truth
in the eye: He is too old to remain as head of state. That is the
first thing. And the second thing is that he has no political
prospects. The Yeltsin era is actually over. And everyone knows
that. Including the "homegrown politburo."
[Noskov] But, in your view, what will be the President's fate?
The Ilyukhins in the Duma want to put him on trial and make him
repent. What is your opinion?
[Nemtsov] Those who wanted to put the President on trial
failed when they planned to impeach him. And I do not think the
State Duma has any more desire to repeat this shameful procedure.
And one more thing. Fears that after the President steps down he
will be tried will make it more difficult to have a peaceful
transfer of power. Therefore we must immediately adopt a law
guaranteeing the President immunity after he retires to a
Until we have such a thing, a peaceful transfer of power is
simply impossible. We must not leave open the possibility for
future presidents to try the people they replace. On the contrary,
we must do everything possible to make sure that one president
replaces another quietly and peacefully in the process of a
constitutional election procedure.
What do I respect Yeltsin for? For the fact that he did not
bother Gorbachev. He apparently hated him but, fortunately, he did
not harm him either physically or in any other way. And he does not
hold a grudge against him. One hopes that there will be no
oppression against Yeltsin and his family.
[Noskov] But after Yeltsin leaves power, will he not take his
family and go to live abroad?
[Nemtsov] I do not think his health will allow that. And
then, you have to know Boris Nikolayevich's character. He is a
patriot of his country. I recall when the American cardiologist
DeBakey suggested that he have an operation abroad, Yeltsin flatly
But the presidents from the CIS behave differently. Aliyev,
for example, had a heart operation in the United States, and
Nazarbayev and Kuchma are undergoing treatment abroad.
[Noskov] But, why hide it, many people think that the
President fired Skuratov precisely because Yeltsin's family had
begun to prepare a "reserve airfield" abroad. People wrote in the
newspapers and spoke on television about certain accounts in Swiss
banks, certain palaces in France and Spain. Is there a grain of
truth here, or is it pure slander?
[Nemtsov] My view is that Skuratov had to go. And cases of
corruption should be continued. If Skuratov were indeed such a
dispassionate procurator, he would have gone public long ago with
both the accounts and the documents for the property of Yeltsin's
family. But he had nothing to say. And this means that he could
not confirm the slander.
All of his activity began when he was shown naked on
television. Both against Berezovskiy and against Borodin. But
where was he before that?
And the last thing about Skuratov: He does not behave in a
manly way. Did he write his own resignation? If he did, let him
go, if he did it under pressure, it means he is a weak person. And
that being the case, he certainly cannot remain as procurator
[Noskov] Is it true that you are going to the State Duma in
order to take over the position of chairman there and after that
save Yeltsin from all kinds of prosecution?
[Nemtsov] That is some kind of fantasy. I have (laughs) less
evil plans. And my task is different: I do not want to join the
State Duma myself but provide for no less than 150 of my like-
thinkers to join it. This is necessary in order to give the State
Duma's work meaning and to transform it from a political institution
into a legislative one.
And do you know what we want to do when we come to the State
Duma? Abolish deputy immunity so that the State Duma is not used as
a refuge for gangsters. After all, many of our criminals have a
choice between Lefortovo and the State Duma.
We must conduct a liberal tax reform as soon as possible. The
economy will suffocate without it, and medium-sized and small
business will not develop.
And, finally, we must solve the land problem. We must adopt a
law on the land as quickly as possible.
And we must also bring Russians out of a condition where we
have to render social assistance to everyone. What we have now is
not a country but a social security system. We should be giving
people not handouts but work and wages. The population has been in
the degrading condition of beggars long enough.
[Noskov] Your supporters, and there are quite a few of them in
Nizhniy Novgorod, do not understand you when you say that you will
not run in a single-seat district. They are afraid that suddenly
your Pravoye Delo will not make the 5-percent mark and people like
yourselves will not end up in the State Duma. Then for the next
four years we will again be living with a Communist parliament where
they will not be making laws but engaging in political machinations.
Have you made a final decision for yourself?
[Nemtsov] No, the final decision will come later. After all,
I too understand that unless the quantitative composition of the
State Duma changes, 150 million Russians will suffer.
[Noskov] You are coming to Nizhniy Novgorod a lot nowadays. A
blunt question: Why?
[Nemtsov] I am conducting a municipal program for
socioeconomic development here. It will be carried out in Nizhniy
Novgorod, Dzerzhinsk, Arzamas, and other cities of the
And also I will not conceal the fact that we are doing active
political work for participation in the forthcoming elections. It
is important to me that there be more Pravoye Delo supporters in the
region where I spent my best years.
Do not forget that I worked here has governor for almost six
years and I am not indifferent to how things go in the oblast.
After all, I am not a person who forgets where he came from. And I
hope the people of Nizhniy Novgorod will remember what I have
For example, the prime minister of the government of Spain
came here recently. He opened up the Galina Blanka Plant. And its
construction began in 1995 when I met the owner of this firm in
Davos and invited him to our oblast. Thus now in Bor, several dozen
kilometers away from Nizhniy Novgorod, we have one of the largest
plants for producing chicken bouillon cubes.
The best maternity facility in Russia has been built in
Vachskiy Rayon. It has American equipment and modern methods. This
is in a remote rural area where at one time I wanted to bring as
many foreign investors as possible. We have partially
Finally, the people of Nizhniy Novgorod can now fly directly
to Europe. The city's airport is equipped so that Boeings can land
We have done much more of which I can be proud. And I hope
the people of Nizhniy Novgorod will remember this.
[Noskov] How do you feel about the fact that the governor and
the mayor of Nizhniy Novgorod do not have a common language.
Incidentally, you promoted both of them. Do you have any influence
over them now?
[Nemtsov] I am doing everything I can to make sure that the
authorities in Nizhniy Novgorod do not quarrel. Yesterday evening I
met with Mayor Lebedev and this morning with Governor Sklyarov. I
am always telling them that their public conflicts are causing harm
to both of them. There will be no winners. I go on to explain that
we must not repeat the bitter experience of Vladivostok and
Krasnodar, where the governors are quarreling with the city leaders
and all the population suffers.
When I worked as governor there were no public quarrels.
There was a short-lived conflict with Bednyakov, but it seems to
have been only for the good. Mayor Sklyarov was elected. Now, as
governor, he understands: The oblast does not need scandals. They
are destructive. We need external accord, but, unfortunately, they
act as though the gubernatorial elections were scheduled for
tomorrow. They will not be held for two years in Nizhniy Novgorod.
But they are in a hurry, they want to show one another that they
will not give in. It is funny and sad to see this. Although it is
politically advantageous for both of them not to quarrel but to work
[Noskov] And with whom do you find it more pleasant to work:
the governor or the mayor?
[Nemtsov] In politics there can be no friends or buddies. I
work with both of them. And my credo is to do as much good as
possible for the people of Nizhniy Novgorod and all of Russia. That
is the goal I have set for myself as a politician. And I want to
live and work for this.
Russia Lawmaker Gets Image Makeover
May 28, 1999
By JUDITH INGRAM
MOSCOW (AP) -- A new face has popped up among the smiling actors peddling
toothpaste, bleach and yogurt to prime-time Russian TV viewers. It's Vladimir
Zhirinovsky, selling his favorite product: himself.
Of course, the ultranationalist leader and lawmaker already enjoys
near-universal recognition in Russia. His scraps with opponents and harangues
in parliament have been a staple of Russian television news since he burst
onto the scene nearly a decade ago with visions of an empire stretching to
the Indian Ocean.
But Zhirinovsky has been cultivating another, more contemplative image ahead
of a run for governor on Sunday in the southwestern region of Belgorod.
For the past two weeks, a series of 15-second TV spots has shown Zhirinovsky
looking dreamily out an airplane window, reciting poetry, gathering with his
family around the dinner table.
He's shown palling around with Russian celebrities, even as he assures
viewers in an intimate tone he'd rather be with them, the little people.
Why the dramatic makeover? The antics that once won Zhirinovsky votes from
the politically disenchanted now seem to have grown stale. More important,
his Liberal-Democratic Party has alienated its original core supporters by
repeatedly supporting President Boris Yeltsin in showdowns with hard-liners
in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.
That support has supposedly won the party handsome financial rewards and
positive media exposure. Yet analysts predict the party won't be able to
collect the minimum 5 percent of votes needed to win seats in the next
parliamentary elections, scheduled for December.
``A rift has arisen between the party's `protest' electorate and the role
it's been playing,'' said Andrei Ryabov, an expert on Russian political
parties at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.
``Zhirinovsky wants to stay in Russian politics, but at a different level.''
So he's looking for new supporters and a new perch: a regional governor's
seat, which brings with it a place in the upper house of parliament, the
Federation Council. It also brings control over economic resources -- and a
potential cash pot for a presidential campaign.
After first announcing he would run for governor in the Leningrad region of
northern Russia or compete for the governor's seat in the Yekaterinburg
region in the Ural Mountains, Zhirinovsky settled on Belgorod.
The region of 1.4 million is in the so-called Red Belt, dominated by
Communist sympathizers. It is home to one of the nation's biggest iron-ore
exporters, and its location on the border with Ukraine makes it a pipeline
for lucrative customs revenues.
``Zhirinovsky would have control over pretty serious economic and industrial
resources, plus he'd have the governor's chair and would remain in
politics,'' Ryabov said.
Zhirinovsky has run a blitz campaign, stopping his motorcade in the smallest
villages to let locals get a glimpse of a national star.
His platform is predictable: getting the local economy moving and reducing
the region's debts. He's also used campaign stops to push his pet themes,
such as increasing Russia's birth rate.
And he's insulted everyone from his main rival, Gov. Yevgeny Savchenko, to
people listening to his campaign pitches.
``Hello! I was just at your mayor's office. ... He's a scoundrel, a bandit,''
Zhirinovsky told residents of one town, according to the weekly Argumenty i
In another, he told a 70-year-old woman she'd be better off going to the
graveyard than trying to discuss politics with him, the Kommersant daily
reported -- suggesting that in spite of his polished TV image, Zhirinovsky's
instincts still tell him he'll win by making a splash.
Most observers consider Zhirinovsky's campaign a dry-run for future
elections; the TV ads don't even mention the Belgorod campaign.
``In my opinion, he's testing his campaign technique and giving himself some
publicity,'' said Vladimir Dannikov, a reporter for the local Belgorodskaya
Pravda newspaper. ``Maybe he'll lose, but the name Zhirinovsky will be on
everyone's lips for a while.''
May 29, 1999
Russians Bleak Over Economy
By Yevgenia Borisova
Some 90 percent of all Russians believe the economy is in desperate straits
and most think it will only get worse, a number of recent surveys found,
showing that many people have all but given up hope of a stable economy in
the near future.
According to an opinion poll by the All-Russian Central Institute of Public
Opinion Research, or VTsIOM, this week, 88.4 percent of 1581 people surveyed
across Russia assessed the state of the economy as "bad or "very bad," while
a year ago only 71.3 percent thought so.
Twenty percent of the 1,500 respondents of a survey held in Moscow and St.
Petersburg in the beginning of 1999 by AC Nielsen, the leading U.S. marketing
research company, said the economic situation will become "very much worse"
for the country in 1999.
Yet another survey of 400 people, run by the Public Opinion Fund at the end
of May, found that 53 percent of Russians believe that the worst of the
economic turmoil is yet to come. In 1993, only 37 percent shared that
sentiment while 41 percent thought that the worst times have already passed.
A fund survey conducted in January showed that well over half of all Russian
believe prices will more than double on consumer goods by the end of 1999.
Some 22 percent said prices will jump 350 to 400 percent while 38 percent
said the increase will be about 250 percent.
However, the expectations of Russians in the two largest cities, Moscow and
St. Petersburg, appear to differ drastically from those living in the rest of
"Personal expectations [of the Muscovites and St Petersburgers] are þ more
positive than for the country as a whole," ACNielsen said.
Although more than half of the residents of St. Petersburg and Moscow are
pessimistic about their personal prospects for this year, the number nears 90
percent in the regions.
Young to middle-aged adults expressed the most positive expectations about
their futures, ACNielsen said.
"Young Russians don't believe that a country so rich in physical and human
resources can remain for long in this current state," said Eugene Kazakov, a
senior consumer research executive in ACNielsen Moscow.
The situation in the large cities is indeed very different from the rest of
Russia. Apparently the hardest times are being seen by those in small towns
and villages: While only 14 percent of residents in Moscow and St. Petersburg
said they were frustrated about wage, pension or stipend arrears, the lost
cash was a sore point for 57 percent of small town residents and 54 percent
of villagers, the Opinion Public Fund found.
Some 62 to 67 percent of rural Russians said they were upset about not having
enough money for food, compared to 57 percent of those living in the large
The most distressing factor that caused the biggest personal or household
frustration was the shortage of money to buy basic food items and to pay
bills, said 63 percent of Russians responding to a Public Opinion Fund survey
at the end of February.
But Russians are showing signs of adapting to even the worst economic
VTsIOM's results show that in September 1998, a month after the economic
crisis of Aug.17 swallowed two-thirds of Russians' savings, 44 percent
thought most Russians would never be able to adapt to the changes that have
taken place over the past decade. Eight months later, only 38 percent felt
the same way.
"People understood that a global crisis did not take place, that Russia was
not bankrupted," said VTsIOM deputy director Alexei Grazhdankin. "[Some]
people are now looking into the future with less pessimism."