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Johnson's Russia List
10 July 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Organized Russian Crime Is Stronger.
2. Reuters: Russia's media ministry to enforce election rules.
3. AFP: Russian journalist in treason trial defense lashes at police.
4. Polina Smith: blame game - who lost Russia.
5. Brian Taylor: re: lebed march on Moscow, 9-90/JRL 3385/Ray Smith.
6. St. Petersburg Times editorial: Human Rights Are Issue No. 1.
7. RFE/RL: Ben Partridge, Caspian Sea: Predictions Of Wealth In Caspian
8. Moscow Times: Valeria Korchagina, U.S. Concerned by Union Plans.
9. Reuters: Adam Tanner, Russia ponders loss of moon race 30 years on.
10. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Dangerous Liaisons. Is An Alliance Possible
Between the Communists and Primakov?
11. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Andrey Albitov, Sitting on Top of the City.
(Luzhkov Abuses Revealed)]
Organized Russian Crime Is Stronger
July 9, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's crime rate is booming among police and the general
populace, and the mafia is getting stronger, Russia's interior minister said
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo told the Interfax news agency that
Russia's overall crime rate jumped 22 percent in the first five months of the
year compared to the same period in 1998, with 1,519 crimes recorded.
``Organized crime is occurring on an extremely dangerous scale,'' Rushailo
said. ``They have strengthened themselves in financial and organizational
spheres and exert considerable influence on the situation in the regions.''
Crime is also on the rise among Russia's police forces, growing by 8 percent
in January through May from the first five months of 1998, Rushailo said.
Some 1,400 Interior Ministry personnel were found guilty of various crimes,
and 4,100 were disciplined for smaller violations.
Widespread poverty and poor law enforcement have caused a much higher crime
rate in Russia since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Police themselves are widely
believed to be corrupt, accepting bribes and urging crime victims not to file
reports in cases that look too tough to crack.
Russia's media ministry to enforce election rules
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW, July 9 (Reuters) - The head of Russia's ministry for the mass media
on Friday vowed to make sure politicians stick to election rules in the
run-up to parliamentary and presidential polls due in the next 11 months.
But the ministry's head Mikhail Lesin, former deputy chairman of the state
television channel RTR, pledged not to get involved in ideological issues.
``One demand on the ministry is in the sphere of television advertising
during pre-election campaigning, and we need to ensure that (the campaigns)
are within the bounds of the law,'' he told Ekho Moskvy radio in an
``First of all the ministry will work on issues of print, radio (journalism)
and other mass media, and this work is not ideological. The dark eyes of big
brother will not loom over anyone.''
President Boris Yeltsin appointed Lesin head of the new ministry on Tuesday,
passing him a loaded baton as pre-election campaigning has made control of
Russia's television networks and newspapers a hot political issue.
But Lesin said the ministry's overriding goal was to help provide technology
to organisations which were suffering from a reliance on foreign goods, not
to monitor news content.
``A new growth in the media can only happen with the use (of technology),''
Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin also pledged that the ministry would not
become a tool for propaganda in election campaigning.
``Don't think about naming it the ministry for propaganda, ideology or
truth,'' Stepashin told a government meeting.
``One of the main achievements over the last several years in our country is
(the introduction of) freedom of speech and the possibility for journalists
to work in democracy, and this will continue.''
Yeltsin often portrays himself as the guardian of a free press in
post-Communist Russia, and freedom of speech and expression is one of the
main achievements of his eight-year rule after the political restrictions of
But strong media support for the leader is credited with helping him defeat a
Communist challenge to his presidency in the last election in 1996.
Russia's top businessmen have built up important media holdings to help
cement their political influence during the Yeltsin era.
Russian journalist in treason trial defense lashes at police
MOSCOW, July 9 (AFP) - A Russian navy journalist on
trial for treason in a passionate final address will deny he passed any
military secrets to Japan and will accuse police and security services of
trying to stamp out democracy.
Grigory Pasko's defense, to be delivered on July 16 in conclusion of his
six-month trial before a military tribunal in the Far East Rusian port of
Vladivostok, has been published on the Internet.
The trial has been closed to journalists. Pasko has not yet spoken before
the court and reporters will also be barred from hearing his statement.
"This case is not about treason since treason was barely mentioned during
the entire hearing," Pasko states. "All that was ever discussed, including
those things mentioned by witnesses, only concerned my journalistic
Pasko's trial began in November shortly after his arrest by police.
An investigative journalist who worked for the Pacific Fleet's newspaper,
Pasko is accused of revealing secrets about accidents involving the navy's
Russian prosecutors also contend Pasko handed video footage on the fleet's
dumping of radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan to Japan's NHK television,
which featured the material in a report about ecological crimes committed
by the Russian military.
The prosecution has called for a 12-year prison term, the minimum sentence
allowed in treason cases. A verdict is expected before the end of the month.
Pasko in his statement laments that freedom of speech in Russia has come
under attack from police forces who have no accountability before
government or the people.
"Yes, I am guilt of: honestly following a journalist's duty, being a
Russian patriot ... that I did not notice that glasnost (free speech) and a
budding democracy have died in our country," Pasko states.
"I am guilty of the fact that I exist and that I am still alive."
Pasko's lawyers have repeatedly insisted the information their client
handed over to the Japanese was already in the public domain.
The journalist's case has received international attention, with Amnesty
International declaring Pasko a prisoner of conscience.
"Freedom of speech is guaranteed by law in our country," Pasko says.
"However, the freedom of a person who exercises his right to free speech is
guaranteed by nothing but the will of scoundrels. I found this out through
From: SmiStar@aol.com (Polina Smith)
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 12:57:22 EDT
Subject: blame game - who lost Russia
The attached comment is not intended as a continuation of blame game on the
subject of "Who lost Russia", but a call for action to make appropriate
amends, because ducking this important responsibility would not do anybody
The article of Andrei Piontkovsky in Moscow Times of July 8, 1999, took out
of context my question to the former Polish finance prime minister Grzegor
Kolodko at the Jamestown Foundation conference in Washington D.C. last
month. Prompted by a powerful presentation of David Satter about theft and
corruption that accompanied the market reforms in Russia, I asked Dr.
Kolodko whether a contrasting absence of widespread corruption could have
been the main reason behind the success of market reforms in Poland, as
opposed to Russia. This question was not framed to stop "the stream of
American self-flagellation" but only to focus it more precisely. It was
raised to question our continuing lack of emphasis on institutional
integrity of the reforms in Russia. The fact is that American influence on
the events in Russia during the last decade is difficult to exaggerate -
denying it is a case of false modesty. The current loss of American
influence is a result, rather than a cause, of the staggering failures of
the U.S. technical assistance in Russia at the expense of both the American
and Russian people. It is well demonstrated by Janine Wedel's "Collision
and Collusion, the Strange case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe 1989-1998"
and other authors. A serious strategic US policy revaluation toward Russia
is needed in order to dissipate the resulting chills of a new cold war in
the US-Russian relations. It is not too late to amend U.S. policy and
correct our mistakes, even if the political process in Washington or Moscow
does not allow politicians to admit them publicly. Professionalism, honesty,
integrity and pursuit of solid democratic principles, rather than a double
standart of short term political expediency in dealing with Russia, would
generate long-lasting positive results. Is American democracy strong enough
to implement such a policy change? I hope so.
Polina Kotlyar Smith
Post-Soviet Legal Advisor
Member of the New York Bar since 1983
Soviet-trained lawyers since 1975
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999
From: Brian Taylor <email@example.com>
Subject: re: lebed march on Moscow, 9-90/JRL 3385/Ray Smith
Lebed is referring to events in September 1990, when Moscow was gripped
by a massive coup scare. The sudden and suspicious movement of several
airborne (VDV) regiments towards Moscow on September 9 caused a scandal
in the press, and the Supreme Soviet established an investigatory
In fact there was no coup attempt in September 1990, but President
Gorbachev had ordered the VDV to move towards Moscow in anticipation of
the opening of the Supreme Soviet and a planned democratic rally on
September 16. After the scandal broke out, Gorbachev kept silent and
disassociated himself from the decision.
The fact that no coup attempt was under way is clear from the movement
of troops. In particular, as was pointed out at the time, the most
likely units to be involved in a coup attempt, the Taman and Kantemirov
Divisions based near Moscow, had not moved, nor had several other
special units based in the Moscow area. The movement of VDV regiments,
on the other hand, suggests preparation for civil disorder, since the
VDV had been called on to deal with these situations on several
occasions under Gorbachev.
Colonel-General E. Podkolzin was Chief of Staff of the VDV in 1990.
Podkolzin later explained that Gorbachev had ordered the movement of
troops into Moscow. When the outcry erupted a cover-up was ordered and
Podkolzin, as Chief of Staff, was put in charge of drawing up materials
(maps, orders, etc.) showing that the troop movements were part of a
training exercise. Lebed was commander of the Tula Airborne Division at
the time and he also was involved in the cover-up. He was ordered to
cooperate with Podkolzin by the Commander of the VDV, General Vladislav
Achalov, who was put in charge of the cover-up by Yazov. Both Podkolzin
and Lebed dismiss the idea that Yazov could have ordered the troop
movements himself. Yazov testified in the trial of the August 1991 coup
plotters that 3-4 times in 1990-1991 he had received verbal orders from
Gorbachev to move troops to Moscow, usually before the opening of the
Supreme Soviet or on holidays. Although Yazov is not specific about the
dates, the two most prominent such events were in September 1990 and
Yazov, one might say, had obvious reasons to lie about these events.
But there was little motivation for either Podkolzin or Lebed to lie,
particularly 3-5 years after the fact. Gorbachev remained silent at the
time of the coup scare, and neither he nor any of his top aides mention
this incident in their memoirs. The most telling fact is that no one
lost their job because of these incidents. It is hard to believe that
the President would have been either so silent or so serene about such a
scandal if the military had been operating behind his back. The
evidence is quite strong that Gorbachev ordered these troop movements.
For those who want more information on these events, Lebed's memoirs are
the best source. Podkolzin also discussed this in a 1993 interview.
University of Oklahoma
St. Petersburg Times
July 9, 1999
Human Rights Are Issue No. 1
IT'S good to see human rights on the agenda at this week's gathering of the
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in St. Petersburg. And the more Vla di mir
Yakovlev and Gennady Seleznyov bristle at the mention of names like Galina
Sta ro voitova and Alexander Nikitin, the better.
It's time that Russia honored its own constitution, not to mention the
international human rights agreements that it has signed on to, and stopped
its blatant disregard for basic civic liberties. No amount of
finger-pointing over Kosovo is going to hide the fact that Russia is
unforgivably cruel to many of its most vulnerable citizens. Nikitin and
Starovoitova are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more issues,
both local and national, worthy of attention from this week's international
visitors. Here are just three:
Police brutality. St. Petersburg's police are notorious. They subject the
city's ethnic minorities to brutal and discriminatory treatment; women,
foreigners and motorists are all regular targets of their arbitrary and
often malicious abuse of power. Virtually anyone can be stopped at any time
for a document check, an exchange that typically ends either in violence or
the surrender of whatever money you have in your wallet. City Hall has
turned a blind eye to this phenomenon. The end result? Petersburgers go out
of their way to avoid these so-called keepers of the peace. So much for law
Compulsory army service. The Cold War is over and defense budgets have
shrunk, but all young men are still subject to two-year army service in
Russia. For those families too poor to pay for the doctor's excuse or
temporary stay in a psychiatric institution that will spare their sons
having to serve, the outlook is grim. Draft board, still trying to meet
Soviet-sized quotas - will press-gang virtually any candidate, regardless
of his physical or mental well-being. Once consigned, draftees are more
often than not subjected to miserable conditions - underfed, uselessly
occupied and the target of relentless and sometimes fatal hazing. Suicide,
murder and theft are rampant. The draft, for many, is no better than a
The propiska system. It has a new name now, but its methods are the same.
The Soviet practice of registering citizens to specific geographic
locations is little more than systematized demographic control. The
procedure completely restricts the right to free movement; people without
legal registration live without access to social protection of any kind -
health care, legal guidance, pension rights, housing. In Russia, the
homeless are called bomzhi - an acronym for byez opredelyonogo mesta
zhitelstva, or literally, without a defined legal residence. Until Russia
allows the free self-determination of its residents, it should continue to
earn the scorn of its Western counterparts.
Caspian Sea: Predictions Of Wealth In Caspian Region Exaggerated
By Ben Partridge
London, 9 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A leading Western oil executive says
Central Asian and Caucasus countries need to be more realistic in their
expectations of the amount of wealth that is likely to be created by
Caspian oil and gas fields.
Willy Olsen, senior adviser to the Norwegian state oil company, Statoil,
says predictions of a new "El Dorado" in the Caspian region are
exaggerated. Olsen, involved in Caspian oil and gas developments since
1991, says it is understandable why the Central Asian and Caucasus
countries "see the energy sector as the foundation of great wealth,
influence and power." But he says some predictions are far too optimistic.
He spoke this week before the Royal Institute of International Affairs
(RIIA) in London.
"Some reports of the bright future go over the top, though, as the
journalist from the San Francisco Chronicle who traveled to the region in
1998 and wrote, and I quote, 'the region's oil and gas wealth will shovel
unimaginable wealth on people whose annual per capita GDP hovers between
$400-600, building a new El Dorado.' I believe it is necessary to try to
paint a realistic picture of what we can expect in years to come rather
than dream of new El Dorados."
Olsen says the Caspian region has "exciting prospects of becoming a
significant exporter of oil and gas in the next decades."
But he says there are many problems including the unknown size of Caspian
reserves, the difficulty of exporting oil and gas to world markets, the
time and cost needed to build the infrastructure for a modern energy
industry, and shortage of drilling rigs and other equipment.
Olsen says it will take years to discover the size of the oil and gas
reserves of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the other countries.
Geological knowledge is limited because in the Soviet era the region was
behind a closed border. He says geologists have identified 250 undrilled
sites across the region. But the chance of finding oil in commercial
quantities at any one place are only 15-20 percent.
Olsen addressed the question: how fast can the Caspian oil and gas fields
be developed? He says much will depend on the level of world oil prices.
They have slumped in recent times, but have now recovered to a level of $18
a barrel. He says any return to lower oil prices will make the Caspian less
attractive to foreign investors.
Much depends on whether the cost of developing Caspian oil makes it
competitive. In the past 15 years, the cost of finding, developing and
producing, for example, North Sea oil has fallen from $20 a barrel to $10.
Costs will have to come down in the Caspian as well.
Olsen says the fact the Caspian nations lack access to an open sea means it
will be difficult to transport their oil and gas to market.
"The huge distance between the region it serves and world markets imply a
considerable financial burden, and it may add up to two to four dollars per
barrel to the cost. As important, and it is very often forgotten, the
Caspian countries do not have access to all the worldwide resources of the
oil and gas industry, such as marine drilling and construction fleets, or
world scale fabrication facilities."
Olsen says the shortage of oil drilling rigs is slowing down exploration.
He says the three rigs in the region, two in Azerbaijan and one in
Kazakhstan, will never meet the requirements of the many oil production
sharing agreements already signed. He says the Caspian needs more drilling
rigs, but the cost will be enormous.
In addition, there is only one crane barge in the region, needed for
hoisting equipment onto the rigs. This depends on 30-year-old technology no
longer in use in the oil industry elsewhere.
Olsen says the Caspian region is also handicapped by the lack of investment
and maintenance of the old Soviet industrial infrastructure. Azerbaijan
used to be the main supplier of oil equipment to oilfields in Siberia, but
no longer has an industry for "tomorrow's requirements." The lack of export
pipelines for oil and gas is yet another problem and one that gets
Olsen says energy companies are also facing environmental challenges which
are already causing delays to energy projects in Kazakhstan. Olsen says
drilling companies want to ensure they do not cause further harm to the
Caspian sturgeon population and to wildlife in the north.
Regional instability is another element that could delay the exploitation
of oil and gas fields. Olsen says without a solution to existing hot spots
-- including Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia -- political
risks will remain high, and impede development.
In summary, he says the Caspian region is an exciting region for the
international oil and gas industry. But governments and industry have
under-estimated the time and cost of developing the modern infrastructure
needed for export success. He also says the Caucasus and Central Asian
nations must not depend on the energy sector alone, but must set out to
build diversified economies.
"I do believe the energy sector can become a locomotive for growth and
prosperity in the Caucasus and Central Asia, but to depend only on the
success of the energy sector will be a very very dangerous strategy. Future
petroleum revenues are exposed to the price of oil, and, as we have learned
again in the last 15 months, the price of oil fluctuates. The Caspian
energy states will have to diversify their economies if they are to
succeed, and they will need western engagement to succeed."
The lecture coincided with the launch this week of a new RIIA study of
Central Asian and Caucasian prospects. The study, "Western Engagement in
the Caucasus and Central Asia", is by Neil MacFarlane, who is a professor
of international relations at Oxford University.
July 10, 1999
U.S. Concerned by Union Plans
By Valeria Korchagina
Russia's hurried steps toward a full integration with Belarus have sent
off warning bells in Washington, where U.S. officials voiced concern that
such a union could undermine Russian democracy.
"Absent the full restoration of democratic government in Belarus, it's
hard to imagine that any popular approval process on union in Belarus would
be truly democratic and representative of the will of the people," U.S.
State Department spokesman James Foley said Thursday.
The comment followed a series of concerns expressed by the U.S. that
Belarus's poor democratic record could be a serious set-back to the
progress Russia has made along the path to democracy.
Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin confirmed Friday that both countries were
moving a step closer to signing the long-touted union agreement. After
meeting in the Kremlin with President Boris Yeltsin, Stepashin said that
the treaty between Russia and Belarus was "practically ready."
The issue of a union between the two Slavic neighbors was first raised in
April 1996. Since then, integration talks have occasionally been revived
from time to time, but progress towards unification was slow until
recently, when the Kremlin suddenly decided to move full steam ahead. Many
analysts speculate that by uniting with Belarus, and thus creating an
entirely new country with a new legal structure, Yeltsin is keeping his
options open to stay in power beyond the end of his last presidential term
The merger, which must be approved by a majority of the population in both
Belarus and Russia, would unite the two countries' economies, banking
systems and infrastructures.
However, the United States is concerned that such referendum results could
be falsified, especially in Belarus. U.S. ties with Belarus have been
strained since last year, when Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko
kicked out foreign diplomats, including Americans, from their official
residences. The incident, which resulted in the U.S. ambassador being
recalled, has remained unresolved.
However, the U.S. reaction is not likely to have much effect on the union.
Officially, according to U.S. policy, the decision of two foreign countries
to unite is considered the internal affair of those two nations.
Human rights organizations and liberal politicians in Russia also worry
that Lukashenko could play a decisive role in ruining Russia's tenuous
"Should the state of Florida decide to unite with [Cuban leader] Fidel
Castro it couldn't then seriously expect to preserve its present level of
democracy," Oleg Panfilov, an activist at Moscow's Glasnost Foundation,
"Lukashenko is an authoritarian leader and he is unlikely to change,"
If the Kremlin goes ahead with the union, Panfilov warned, it could give
the green light to Russian officials who support Lukashenko's dictatorial
methods, and bring back the repressions of the Soviet era.
"There are many Lukashenko supporters here. Should he become part of
Russia's ruling elite, all sprouts of democracy in Russia will be pulled up
by their roots," Panfilov said.
Russia ponders loss of moon race 30 years on
By Adam Tanner
KOROLYOV, Russia, July 9 (Reuters) - When sending a rocket ship to the moon
first became possible, Soviet scientists proposed setting off a nuclear blast
there to show the world its scientific prowess.
``In 1958 there was a plan to send an atomic bomb to the moon, so that
astronomers across the world could photograph its explosion on film,'' said
Boris Chertok, 87, a leading rocket scientist from the earliest days of the
Soviet space programme.
``That way no one would have doubted that the Soviet Union was capable of
landing on the surface of the moon,'' he said in an interview. ``But the idea
was rejected as physicists decided the flash would be so short lived because
of the lack of an atmosphere on the moon that it might not register on
The Soviet leadership eventually set its sights on sending a man to the moon,
setting off on a decade-long race with the United States that ended with an
American taking the first step 30 years ago this month on July 20, 1969.
For engineers and cosmonauts involved in the Soviet effort, the anniversary
revives often-bitter memories of a high-profile loss and contradictory
explanations of what went wrong.
AN UNFAIR RACE TO THE MOON?
Vasily Mishin, 82, who headed the Soviet moon programme from 1966 to 1974,
now says the race was an unfair contest, pitting the vast financial resources
of the United States against a far weaker Soviet Union.
``It was not a fair race,'' he told Reuters. ``First of all, America was
richer than we were, especially then, and Russia was weakened by the fight
against German fascism and weakened by the costs of the arms race.''
``As soon as American began the moon race, we understood we could not win,''
Despite these disadvantages, the Soviets achieved impressive results in
putting their mark on the moon.
They were the first to hit the moon with a probe in 1959 and to land an
unmanned spacecraft in 1966. The unmanned Soviet Luna 10 first orbited the
moon later that year, broadcasting the ``Internationale'' to the Communist
Party Congress in Moscow.
In 1968, the Soviet Union sent the first space ship to orbit the moon with
life abroad, returning turtles back to Earth.
The U.S. space agency NASA took the Soviet challenge very seriously, and in
1968 sped up their programme as a result.
THE GIANT LEAP
When the day came that Neil Armstrong was ready to step out of the lunar
module Eagle and make his historic walk on the moon, top Soviet scientists
and cosmonauts gathered to view the event via a bootleg cable hook-up from
``We were delighted as engineers as they had done wonderful work,'' said
Chertok, deputy for 20 years to Sergei Korolyov, the father of the Soviet
rocket programme. ``But on the other hand we felt disappointment. Why them
and not us? It was bitter.''
Soviet television did not broadcast live images of Armstrong on the moon on
what was already July 21, 1969, in Moscow.
The Soviet daily Pravda provided a small mention of the historic walk on the
front page. Inside, after extensive coverage of 25 years of Polish socialism,
the paper offered another article and a fuzzy photo taken from a television
image of Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.
Soviet authorities explained they were not first to the moon by denying they
had even been trying to get there. The secrecy surrounding the moon effort at
the time was such that Mishin was often airbrushed out of photos. The
official line also said America took needless risks to put a man on the moon.
Mishin, who is now finishing an updated memoir, says he no longer remembers
the day the Americans landed on the moon, but still feels the blow of losing.
``Of course it pains me,'' said Mishin. ``We made mistakes.''
After the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, deep
secrets of the moon quest began to emerge, including the atomic blast idea
Chertok described in an interview this month.
ROCKET SCIENTISTS PONDER WHY
Those involved in the Soviet moon programme still disagree -- often strongly
-- about what went wrong.
The rocket scientists say they were not close to landing a man on the moon as
they lagged in devising a way of getting a cosmonaut from the moon's orbit to
the surface and back.
However, they were close to flying a man around the moon, but lost that race
to Apollo in December 1968.
Alexei Leonov, the cosmonaut who might have been the first human on the moon
if Mishin's efforts had succeeded, is still bitter three decades later about
the programme's failures.
``Some people today say there wasn't enough money. Nothing of the kind. We
had the money, but we only needed to spend it properly,'' Leonov told
``Mishin says the Defence Ministry didn't give us money. This is not true,''
he said. ``We did not properly analyse things and do not move further. That
was his mistake. Bad organisation.''
Mishin's response? ``Leonov is a mouse. He doesn't understand anything,'' he
In addition to money woes Mishin says he lost time with rocket design
mistakes and said the Soviet leadership wasted resources by running competing
space programmes. Soviet rocket scientists, unlike their NASA counterparts,
also had the burden of building nuclear missiles as well as space rockets.
Leonov and others say the Soviet moon effort never recovered from the death
of Korolyov in 1966.
``We had everything to fly around the moon. We had the rockets, the space
ship, the crew was ready, but we didn't have Korolyov,'' said Leonov, who
keeps small framed U.S. and Soviet flags flown on Apollo 11 on his office
``But even with Korolyov, we would not have beaten the Americans to be the
first on the moon.''
The men who took over from Korolyov still live in his shadow. Mishin has a
home in a town near Moscow named after the scientist, and Chertok lives on a
Moscow street honouring him.
For the cosmonauts who trained for moon missions, the Soviet failure could
not erase their longing to take a closer look.
``Sometimes I take out binoculars and look at the moon,'' said Vitaly
Sevastyanov, who trained to make a trip around the moon. ``And of course the
thought arises: could it have happened that I would have flown close by?
``I don't allow myself to say perhaps I could have landed on the moon,'' said
the former cosmonaut, who is now a member of parliament. ``That couldn't have
happened, but perhaps I could have flown around the moon, but it didn't work
out. Of course there is a certain regret.''
Doubts Cast on Primakov Alliance With CPRF
7 July 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Report by "A.P.": "Dangerous Liaisons. Is An Alliance Possible
Between the Communists and Primakov?"
Academician Primakov has not yet completely
recovered from his operation, he cannot even walk without crutches yet,
and the endless question "Whose side are you on, Mr. Prime Minister?"
agitates the political coterie. Primakov himself, by stating that "I am
ruling nothing out for myself," deliberately only increases interest in
The latest hit of the season: Is an alliance possible between Primakov
and the Communists? On the one hand, there is an undoubted logic in this
alliance for both sides. The Reds would acquire a far more popular,
respectable, and capable leader than Gennadiy Zyuganov. Primakov would
receive the ready-made and well- disciplined organizational structure
that he needs for the elections.
Moreover, there is evidently a possibility of replacing Zyuganov as
presidential candidate with Primakov fairly painlessly. The point is that
Gennadiy Andreyevich [Zyuganov] has braced himself to become speaker of
the new Duma. He believes that this position would be very powerful in
the presidential elections. And if he becomes speaker, knowing his less
than flinty character, it is conceivable that under the pressure of his
old comrades from the party nomenklatura (Kuptsov, Lukyanov, and co.), he
would agree to remain speaker and to make way for Yevgeniy Maksimovich.
The combination looks strong, feasible, and attractive. But like any
bold move, it has not only merits, but also drawbacks. First, the sides
could accuse one another of betrayal.
The Communists, despite all their promises, calmly swallowed the
dismissal of Primakov's cabinet. Moreover, in May '99 they had clear
possibilities of fulfilling their promises. Not for nothing was the
Kremlin preparing "for the worst." But the Left did not even try.... This
can be explained by the fact that, for today's Communists, Primakov was
never their man 100 percent. Rather, he was a fellow traveler from the
And the Reds had no guarantees that he would not wring the left-wing
opposition's neck on coming to power, and like it or not, they would have
a Pinochet on their hands.
In addition, Yevgeniy Maksimovich would lead to an inevitable split for
the Communists. Since his dismissal the majority of left-wing radicals
have believed that it was not they who betrayed Primakov, but Primakov
who betrayed them by quietly retiring on a pension. He was not willing to
go to the Duma, hold a rally there, call the people onto the streets, and
push for impeachment. In addition, although Primakov himself has never
personally discussed the remarks of Makashov and Ilyukhin, for his
supporters he remains "not quite Russian." In their milieu it is not only
customary to call Chubays "Chubays," but also to call Primakov
"Kirschenblatt" [Primakov's original surname]. Ilyukhin's supporters
would doubtless not only be unwilling, but also unable to accept such a
leader. Ye.M. would certainly not be a "clever Jew" under General
Makashov, but an independent political leader. And this would put paid
once and for all to a unified Communist Party with a chance of retaining
its unity until 2000. In many ways, incidentally, this is why the
Communists abandoned the ex-premier in May.
An alliance with the Left would also in many ways be dangerous for
Primakov himself. Above all, it would threaten him with a disastrous loss
of reputation, especially in the West. It is also important that such an
alliance would meet with desperate opposition from all political forces
without exception: From Luzhkov to Just Cause, and from the Presidential
Staff to the governors. And to win seats from them all at the same time
is impossible. Yevgeniy Maksimovich should have learned this lesson in
May. And it is not in his rules to make the same mistake twice.
Luzhkov Abuses Revealed
1 July 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Andrey Albitov: "Sitting on Top of the City"
"We did this in Moscow and we can do it in
Russia!"--from a speech by Yu. Luzhkov.
No matter what people say, the view from outside can be quite useful. A
month ago The Wall Street Journal Europe, the well-known business
magazine, published an article about the Mayor of Moscow. This is not
surprising. Yuriy Mikhaylovich Luzhkov is a famous man, and many articles
have been written about him, but this publication revealed some unknown
aspects of the Mayor's life, including the financial aspect. What did the
Abuses of office were one of the central themes. Too many things in Moscow
are under the Moscow Government's control. In principle, there is nothing
wrong with this, provided . . . . provided that the people in charge are
honest and did not seek office just for the sake of personal gain. Here
is what the article said (all emphasis mine--A.A.): "Luzhkov's aides deny
that anything of the kind is going on in the Mayor's office, but no one
denies that Luzhkov's friends and acquaintances have made good money on
deals with the city since he was elected mayor in 1992.
"Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina, is one example. She manages a company
INTEKO, a closed joint-stock company, which restored the historical
facade of some buildings in the city and supplied Moscow's biggest
stadiums with plastic seats. INTEKO also submitted the winning bid for
the installation of heating systems in the AZLK motor vehicle plant and
made $100,000 on the plastic plates and glasses it sold the city for the
850th anniversary of the capital in 1997. Last year its income from the
sale of plastic plates for the World Youth Games was $26,000."
All of this may sound "trivial." She was awarded a contract, she
submitted a winning bid, and she made $100,000, but who would think that
the disposable sandwich plate trade could be so lucrative? These are
cheap items, costing only kopecks even at today's prices. When there are
hundreds of thousands of these plates and glasses, however, the numbers
start adding up. Of course, this does not sound like a fortune to many
people who are not from "our Fatherland." Furthermore, she could have
charged more for the AZLK heating systems. The success of his wife's
business is just the most vivid and striking example, but all of this was
done so openly and there are more serious matters to consider.
"Sistema, which was founded in 1993, consists of more than 100 companies with
a total of 30,000 employees. It has $2 billion in assets and $823 million
in income (1998 figures). One Western creditor told us that Sistema was
the only one of his bank's Russian clients that did not default after the
"Sistema is actively involved in the life of the capital. Lider, the Sistema
insurance company, wrote the policies for the Moscow Subway. Kedr-M is
the largest company officially authorized to sell gasoline in Moscow. The
Sistema-Galz real estate company was granted an $11-million loan by he
city's Economic and Investment Council, controlled by Mr. Yevtushenkov,
for the construction of a business center in Moscow."
People have known about Luzhkov's ties to Sistema for a long time and have
had much to say and write about this. The company's "good luck" stems
precisely from those "casual" contacts.
What does it mean to get the monopoly rights (or something similar,
because your rivals, after all, will be put at a disadvantage) in any
field of business in Moscow? This is the location of around 80 percent of
all the money in Russia, including around 40 percent of all the tax
revenue. Besides this, the city has a population of more than 10 million.
It has a huge market and huge amounts of money. That is why Sistema has
such a large income, adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars, even
after the crisis. Furthermore, that is the official figure, but we all
know how accountants keep the books in Russia. These "work" arrangements
lead to the accumulation of colossal amounts of financial and productive
capital in a single pair of hands. Whose hands? The Fatherland
The article also has something interesting to say about the Mayor
himself. "Luzhkov himself was mixed up in one case connected with the
misappropriation of state property. There is documented evidence that in
1991, when he was still the vice mayor, Luzhkov signed Decree No 285,
transferring the title to some of the most valuable real estate in the
capital to Orgkomitet, a private joint-stock company. According to the
company's registration documents, Luzhkov was also the president of
Orgkomitet at that time." That was a common practice of the fathers of
privatization--giving themselves a modest gift. After doing so much for
the people, it would have been wrong to deny themselves these small
"pleasures." They had to think of their old age. Those are apparently
just the traces of the stage of initial accumulation, however, when the
legal base and their own experience in these routine matters were
inadequate and they had to fill out documents in their own names. Today
no one would make this kind of mistake.
The article then goes on to say more.
"While the federal government was busy privatizing the industrial sector
and decentralizing the economy, the Moscow Municipal Government got
involved in the operations of various companies by buying their stock and
setting strict rules and regulations. In 1992 the city started buying up
stock in previously privatized industrial giants, such as the Moskvich
and ZIL motor vehicle plants, producing the world's worst cars and
trucks. Moscow also bought stock in several dozen new companies, from the
five-star Marriott Hotel to a fast-food chain."
Luzhkov likes to call himself a production manager, but what did Moscow
start producing after his arrival? Venetian blinds, doughnuts,
advertising billboards in every available space. . . . The level of
production is much lower than it was during the Soviet era (in fact, it
has almost hit bottom), and how can the production facilities of the
world leaders in the space industry, which are now used for the storage
of vegetables, be compared to a tiny basement studio assembling venetian
blinds for another new bank?
Construction is another example. The Exhibition of National Economic
(VDNKh) was built in Moscow many years ago. It was a cultural center for
Muscovites and for guests from all over the country. People from distant
rural communities and settlements could come here, buy a ticket for a few
kopecks, see everything their country had accomplished, and learn many
things. This made them proud of their state, its citizens, and its
industrial and scientific potential. Foreigners envied us, and we had
good reason to feel proud. Now TV sets and cosmetics are sold in the
pavilions that once housed an authentic lunar spacecraft and satellites.
That, however, is beside the point. What has Luzhkov built? One of the
biggest construction projects was the underground mall near Red Square.
It cost more than $300 million. The rents are so astronomical that many
foreign companies cannot even afford them. After the crisis the mall was
virtually operating at a loss. The prices there are equally outrageous.
Hundred-dollar sandals are beyond the means of most Muscovites, not to
mention the visitors from farming communities. The only thing a mere
mortal can do there is take a ride on the glass elevator. That is all.
How can the VDNKh be compared to the Okhotnyy Ryad shopping mall? . . .
The construction of housing for Muscovites is another myth. First of
all, there is the volume of construction. According to the Russian State
Statistics Committee, new housing built in Moscow in 1970 totaled 5.35
million square meters of living area, but the figure in 1998 was only 3.4
million. In other words, volume was reduced by 2 million(!), and this
represents around 50,000 two-room apartments. The same is true of
libraries, hospitals, and the rest of the social infrastructure. Of
course, we do have to admit that Luzhkov's builders are ahead in terms of
the number of new banks, malls, and office buildings. For whom are we
building these, Yuriy Mikhaylovich?! Second, all of the apartments were
free in 1970, but what about now?! The percentage of free housing is
simply negligible. All of the apartments cost money, and so much money
that the amount is beyond the wildest dreams of the average person.
Everyone knows that money has to work. Now that no one is in a hurry to
invest money in physical production, Luzhkov is seeking other options,
which might not produce a profit, but could give him a political
advantage. "To extend his influence to the regions, he granted loans of
millions of dollars to poverty-stricken regional leaders. Last year he
allocated $22 million from an extra-budgetary fund for the construction
of TV Tsentr, the municipal television broadcasting station that reports
his accomplishments to 55 million viewers.
"Olga Romanova, the former anchorperson of a TV Tsentr news program, calls
Mr. Luzhkov a 'monster.' Each weekday evening, two hours before airtime,
she had to send the script of the newscast to the channel's official in
charge of ideology, who would check the script for any disloyal remarks
about the Mayor. 'I knew that nothing negative could be written about
him,' says Mrs. Romanova, who now works at Ren-TV, 'because the
censorship was too strict.'"
There you have it--"freedom of speech," "independent television," etc.
Why did the Mayor of Moscow need his own TV station? This is not a
moneymaking proposition; it is just a big expense. For about a year all
of the channel's maintenance and development costs were covered by the
Moscow budget. It does not run that many commercials, and during prime
time, the most expensive advertising time, the Mayor makes personal
appearances (for one or two hours!) to discuss Moscow government policy.
If he cannot make it, his deputies take his place.
The mood at TV Tsentr is pro-Luzhkov and optimistic: Just look at how
wonderful everything is here in Moscow. Things could be just as wonderful
everywhere else if we elect the "right" president. We have already
explained how things will be. His own people will get whatever they want,
and the rest will have a democratic choice: If you do not want to eat,
you do not have to; if you do want to eat, there is nothing left.
Incidentally, Sergey Yastrzhembskiy, who left the President's team to
join Luzhkov's team and is now the Mayor's adviser on foreign relations,
became the director of that TV broadcasting company on 25 June. In which
direction will he lead TV Tsentr? We can be certain that it will be the
right direction because he is aware of the "job" he has to do.
". . . The news media loyal to the Mayor keep track of every step he
takes. On Saturdays he usually takes his entourage and some reporters
with him on an inspection tour of the city's construction projects, such
as the skating rink or the hydrotherapy clinic. The Russians already know
about the strapping Mayor's prowess on the tennis court, and he can also
roller skate. All of this is in sharp contrast to President Yeltsin, who
makes regular trips to the hospital.
"'This is an extremely intelligent, pragmatic, and talented politician,'
says Arkadiy Murashov, Moscow's former chief of police. 'Before he states
an opinion, he checks the results of public opinion polls. In this sense,
he is a genuine populist.'"
The Western journalists also have something to say about Fatherland.
This political movement has to keep reminding everyone of its
extraordinary achievements. "At a December meeting with workers in the
construction industry (Mr. Luzhkov's most enthusiastic supporters), the
heads of the largest construction companies took turns walking up to the
podium to confirm their commitment and to blame themselves for wage
arrears. The Director of Mospromstroy, the municipal construction
company, announced with pride that all 30,000 of her co-workers had
joined Fatherland voluntarily."
The Mayor of Moscow does not want any bad publicity, and he has a whole
battalion of sharp lawyers to quickly file suits against the newspapers
or magazines. I do not know how the Mayor's "army" will react to the
article in The Wall Street Journal Europe. It is possible that they will
see it as grounds for another suit. The magazine was aware of this.
"Challenging Mr. Luzhkov and his ministers can be dangerous. The Mayor
has filed dozens of suits against his critics, and the Moscow courts have
ruled in his favor every single time. Just recently he sued Yegor Gaydar,
the former prime minister and one of the first architects of Russian
reform, for an article in which Gaydar called the municipal
administration corrupt and too inflated. Mr. Gaydar's attorney cited
incidents of bribery and other crimes in the municipal administration,
but the court refused to consider them." What else can we expect in a
genuine "rule-of-law state"--where the ruler makes the laws?
At one Fatherland convention, Mr. Luzhkov made this statement to the
members of his movement: "We did this in Moscow and we can do it in
Russia!" The public was overjoyed. Does the public know what THEY have
done in Moscow? This, after all, probably is not a complete record of the
conduct of the Mayor and his team. It is unlikely that a Western magazine
could have learned all of the deep dark secrets. Anyway, it never
intended to do this. It was simply profiling one of the future
presidential candidates in Russia.