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Johnson's Russia List
13 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russian PM stands ground on Chechnya campaign.
2. Financial Times (UK): Moscow blames US for IMF trouble.
3. Reuters: Strange optimism on Russia's Volga.
4. Itar-Tass: Legitimate Mechanism of Changing Powers Works in Russia.
5. Michele Ann Berdy: kinut' revisted.
6. Newsday: Michael Slackman, On-Air Power Broker / Russia Turns to
abrasive anchor for news. (Sergei Dorenko)
7. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: OVR Political Advert Sets Out Russian Bloc's
8. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): James Langton, Russians in US to avert
New Year nuclear war.
9. St. Petersburg Times: Galina Stolyarova, Youth Groups Still Teaching
10. Ira Straus: FWD: Are Dagestanis friendly to Russian imperialism?]
Russian PM stands ground on Chechnya campaign
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stood his
ground in defence of the military drive through separatist Chechnya and
Grozny residents began making their way through a new corridor leading out of
the besieged regional capital.
One Russian news agency report said artillery attacks had resumed outside
Grozny on Sunday after a lull of several days. It also spoke of civilian
casualties and difficulties for an estimated 50,000 people still in Grozny to
get medical care and food.
In Moscow, the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, was scheduled to
hold an extraordinary session on Monday. It was almost certain to ratify a
treaty signed last week to merge Russia and neighbouring ex-Soviet Belarus
over time. Ratification by the upper chamber would follow later in the month.
The Duma, meeting on a public holiday marking the passage of the 1993
post-Soviet constitution, may also discuss ratifying the U.S.-Russian START-2
nuclear arms reduction pact.
In a report from southwest of Grozny, Itar-Tass news agency said fire from
howitzers and Grad multiple rocket launchers had resumed on targets near the
regional capital, breaking the lull.
It quoted refugees as saying that lack of transport made it difficult for
Grozny residents to make their way to hospitals or find scarce food and
medicines, let alone find two corridors leading out of the town.
Putin, interviewed on Sunday evening by ORT public television, played down
the prospects of a negotiated end to conflict in the region, from which
Russia withdrew after a disastrous 1994-96 war.
NO PROGRESS IN TALKS WITH CHECHENS
He said talks with envoys from Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov had made no
progress as the president had not met Russian demands for the release of
hostages and the turning over of radical warlords.
If Maskhadov was unwilling to do so ``then he is fully associated with the
bandits'' and no talks were possible, Putin said. If he was unable to do so,
he said, that would mean he could not be considered a worthy negotiating
``Then why do we need him at all as a negotiator?'' Putin asked. ``Is he the
man with whom we can and should reach an agreement?''
He described differences over the conflict with Western countries, which
accuse Moscow of disproportionate force and high civilian casualties, as ``an
exchange of blows of a virtual nature.'' The West, he said, was getting its
revenge for Russia's opposition to NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia.
He said Russia was considering a number of options to move in on Grozny,
depending on the behaviour of the rebels.
RIA news agency said 70 Chechens turned up at the Russian end of a corridor
southwest of Grozny. Russian aircraft dropped leaflets on the capital urging
others to move to safety.
Following universal condemnation in the West, the Russian army rowed back on
an ultimatum for civilians to leave the city by December 11 or become a fair
target in an all-out onslaught.
Putin has said the ultimatum is not intended for civilians and Russia's envoy
in Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman, made clear there were no plans for a frontal
attack. Russian forces were still uncertain about entering Shali, 20 km (12
miles) southeast of Grozny, which the rebels said they left several days ago.
Top officers said they would keep military activities away from the Grozny
corridors, to let them operate in the daylight.
President Boris Yeltsin reiterated Russia's commitment to restore its control
over Chechnya in the North Caucasus.
``Under the disguise of calls for national and religious independence, they
(separatist rebels) have tried to revive mediaeval savagery,'' Yeltsin told a
Constitution Day reception. ``That is why our duty is to restore law and
order in Chechnya.''
Financial Times (UK)
13 December 1999
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: Moscow blames US for IMF trouble
By John Thornhill, Andrew Jack and Richard Lambert in Moscow
Senior Russian finance officials have warned that the International Monetary
Fund's decision to delay credits to Moscow has set a dangerous precedent
because it was motivated by political rather than economic factors.
They say Russia had complied with all the macro-economic conditions set by
the IMF and had never been in such a strong budget position.
In an interview, Victor Gerashchenko, the chairman of Russia's central bank,
said the IMF's lending policies had been caught up in Washington politics. He
said the structural reforms demanded by the IMF before releasing the next
$640m tranche of its $4.5bn loan were "not serious".
"My opinion is that [the delay] is not motivated by any economic reasons," he
Aleksei Kudrin, first deputy finance minister, said Russia had complied with
all IMF conditions on budget revenues, spending and central bank credits.
Parliament had also adopted a tough budget for next year in record time, he
This month, the IMF announced it would delay disbursement of further credits
to Russia because Moscow had not implemented agreed structural reforms,
including more effective bankruptcy legislation and improved banking
regulations. But some western politicians have suggested the IMF will not
lend more money to Russia while it continues its bloody assault on Chechnya.
Some US politicians have called for IMF lending to be suspended because of a
scandal surrounding the Bank of New York involving allegations of Russian
Western finance officials have accused Mr Gerashchenko of resisting attempts
to improve outside scrutiny of the central bank and Sberbank, the state
savings bank. But Mr Gerashchenko said the central bank was moving steadily
in the right direction and should not be rushed into decisions.
Mr Gerashchenko conceded the central bank did have conflicts of interest in
operating commercial banking subsidiaries abroad and aimed to sell them off,
probably in 2001. He admitted the bank had been guilty of "improper
manipulation of statistics".
The veteran central banker, regarded as a Soviet-era throwback when
reappointed to the post last year, said he was now "very independent" in
running the bank because he had already passed pensionable age. Under his
direction, the central bank would continue to maintain a steady exchange rate
and anti-inflationary stance.
But Mr Gerashchenko said he was worried by the performance of the finance
ministry and the failure to institute real tax reforms. "In my opinion the
budget performance is not improving drastically," he said.
Strange optimism on Russia's Volga
By Peter Henderson
SAMARA, Russia, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A strange feeling of optimism pervades the
streets of this old Russian trading city.
But inside bustling sausage plants, few workers appear ready to take time out
to vote in the December 19 parliamentary election, though many name jobs as
the number one issue.
``There is work for anyone who wants it, even if the pay is not so high,''
says Olga Viktorova, a saleswoman in a basement store in Samara, where the
special is a nip of cheap vodka in a plastic cup.
Her satisfaction would shock in other towns up and down the Volga river,
Russia's Mississippi, which links rich farmland and heavy industry to the
Small Samara factories churn out hot dogs, milk and even potato chips, their
power unleashed by liberal laws in the region, which prides itself on
abolishing any kind of price controls even while neighbouring areas resort to
The Russian economy is finally growing after shrinking all but one year in
the last decade, though Samara is one of the rare places where people seem to
notice this new-found growth.
That is challenging Samara governor Konstantin Titov to channel the optimism
into pro-market votes in the national election, which he hopes will give a
mandate to finish off reforms.
Titov and other powerful governors are perhaps the best-positioned
politicians to influence the race, and have thrown themselves into it with
vigour, despite voter hesitation.
Agriculture, food processing and auto parts -- sectors that the heavy
industry-obsessed Soviet Union forgot -- are the main growth engines, Titov
says, confirming Western studies of how Russia could jump start growth.
``It's tough, but little by little,'' says Yuri, who built up a small food
factory with profits eked from crops on his privatised land -- his parents'
part of the old collective farm.
But his interest in the election is limited. ``I don't like politics,'' he
DARK STREETS HIDE STRENGTH
The good times are not immediately clear in Samara's streets which fall dark
early and are generally bereft of restaurants or other distractions.
Life's little luxuries are truly little on wages equivalent to $40 a month,
the pay in many factories and shops. The well off make around $100, and at
such rates there are few customers, even in a town of 1.5 million, to keep
Residents see no charm in the old city's wooden houses, which lack running
Nor is there charm in the new city, a Soviet-era housing nightmare of
skyscrapers thrown together from concrete panels that stretches up the icy
Samarans say their enthusiasm is based on perspective -- life is better than
it was and better than in neighbouring regions.
A decade ago there was rationing and many point to nearby communist-run
Ulyanovsk region, honouring the original surname of Soviet founder Vladimir
Lenin, which still tries to control prices of basic foods.
>From the 1920s, Russians donated food for ``the hungry of the Volga,'' a
stigma which many felt until a few years ago.
NO ENTHUSIASM FOR VOTING
Samarans and their governor seem to agree on government's main job -- leave
business alone to work. But such freedom has failed to breed convictions that
send citizens rushing to the ballot box.
``The parties themselves are probably most worried about the election,'' said
Alexei Khomyakov, chief executive of the Rossiya chocolate factory owned by
Swiss-based Nestle, and which pays relatively high salaries.
``People are tired of elections. People are tired of the party battle, and so
the turnout is always low.''
Retired trucker Sergei Kayukov, 55, said he would vote ``Against all''
candidates for the State Duma lower house.
He is one of the rare Russians to speak out against Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin, immensely popular because of the improving economy and a war against
what Moscow calls ``terrorists and bandits'' in the breakaway Chechnya
``I don't trust him because he worked things out so quickly -- like a dark
genie from a bottle,'' Kayukov said.
Policeman Vasily Alekseyev, 25, chatting with a few comrades, shrugs off the
general contempt of voting, saying he will cast his ballot for the Union of
Right Forces, a group of reformers backed by Titov.
``They promise a lot, though it is tough to believe promises,'' he says. But
Titov is a real man, he adds.
GOVERNOR TAKES SIDES
Titov, who has freed prices and changed laws so that almost anyone can sell
almost anything in the province, is fighting for such votes and he is one of
the wild cards in the election.
Governors permeate every major party in a sharp change from previous
They hope for influence in the Duma, the main lawmaking house which has
generally ignored the provinces. Some, including Titov, are considering
running for president next summer to succeed Boris Yeltsin.
``Governors have the ability to influence elections, and they use that
ability,'' he said in an interview after a day's trip to an outlying region
where he was drumming up support for his deputy who is running for the Duma.
``If a governor has enough authority, he should use that authority for the
victory of his party,'' he said.
The national influence of the regional leaders, even powerful Moscow Mayor
Yuri Luzhkov, is untested, but local politics is vital in the half of the 450
Duma seats contested in single-member constituencies.
The other half is elected from country-wide party lists.
Titov predicted that liberal forces would seize four of Samara's five
single-member seats, double their take in the 1995 poll.
Pensioners and handicapped people who get small additions to their monthly
benefits from the regional government thanked the governor warmly at the town
meeting in the town of Syzran.
Such groups generally vote Communist.
Many governors operate what are effectively fiefdoms, and even in more
liberal regions such as Samara the power at the top reaches far down.
Alexander, a driver for a regional official, did not have any special idea of
who he wanted in office, but he knew how to cast a ballot. ``I'll vote for
who the boss says,'' he said.
Legitimate Mechanism of Changing Powers Works in Russia.
MOSCOW, December 12 (Itar-Tass) - President Boris Yeltsin, speaking on Sunday
at the St. Andrew's Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace on the occasion of
Constitution Day, said that "they often tried to scare us with coups and
states of emergency, without understanding the main thing: we are already
living in another country, in a country where governor and deputies are
elected with every passing year and where a legitimate mechanism for changing
authorities is in operation".
The president stressed that the Fundamental Law, adopted on December 12,
1993, "laid down principles of new statehood and created a framework of the
entire legal system, and nobody is permitted to distort and break it up
voluntarily, especially when these attempts are prompted by time
considerations, including a pre-election" situation.
We are open for a reasonable dialogue on improving the Constitution, but we
are obliged to remember that it was the Constitution that put roadblocks in
the way of unscrupulous politicians and extremists and stopped those who
strove for new reshaping both in politics and the economy. Therefore, loyalty
to its basic principles is a law for any representative of power."
The president pointed to special importance of the principle of the
Constitution's direct action, "spelled out clearly" in the document.
"Precisely this capacious phrase was the rock-firm basis for norms of the
Fundamental Law," he continued. "It made work both the judicial system and
new structures of power without any delays."
Yeltsin noted that "the Constitution has become an important part of our new
history over the past years". He underlined that "it is a direct duty of
power to protect the constitutional system".
"These are not only foundations of the political and economic system, these
are, above all, human rights and freedoms," he added.
"I greet now members of the Russian Constitutional Court with a special
feeling. Your professional activities subdue ambitions of federal and
regional politicians. Your strict legal arguments prevent a disruption of the
legal field and encroachments on human rights.
"You perform your judicial duty in a worthy way, without permitting to
involve yourselves into political debates. This is how an independent
prestigious judicial authority should operate."
Concluding his speech, Yeltsin tosted to "Russian Constitution Day. Peace and
order on our soil. Prestige and dignity of our great power".
From: "Michele Ann Berdy" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: kinut' revisted
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999
Scrolling down through Stephen S. Moody's long piece I stumbled across the
following: "The oligarchs and kleptocrats who now run Russia conned the
IMF into lending them its tools. "Kinuli ikh," someone has
said. "We conned them." The closest and best English (or American English)
equivalent of "kinut'" is "to stiff someone." "Kinut'" SHOULD NOT be
translated as "to con someone" because to con someone ALWAYS means that
the con was intentional, while "kinut' can be intentional or
unintentional. In this case I have to assume the "someone" Mr. Moody is
referring to is Anatoly Chubais. A line in his interview with Evgenia
Albats was picked up and mistranslated by the LA Times as something like
"we conned the IMF." However, in that instance it was clear he meant that
they "stiffed the IMF UNINTENTIONALLY "-- or, more neutrally, "we failed
to pay what we owed them." Zhenya wrote about this, I have written about
it, and the head of the department of translation and lexicology at Moscow
State told the LA Times the same thing when queried. I think the LA Times
even did a retraction or apology to Chubais. But still this
mistranslation persists! Of course, the problem is not just a minor
matter of translation; people use this as "proof" or "evidence" of
Chubais' perfidy. Sorry, folks: he didn't say it. It is not a fact. It
didn't happen. In my best Joe Friday imitation I say: "just the facts,
ma'am." This isn't the dark ages of Russian-English translation anymore --
there's no reason for this kind of mistake to made, or for history to be
rewritten and a career affected -- by a translation error!
12 December 1999
[for personal use only]
On-Air Power Broker / Russia Turns to abrasive anchor for news,
By Michael Slackman. MOSCOW CORRESPONDENT
Moscow-The accuser leaned forward in his chair and told 40 million
rapt television viewers that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, one of Russia's
most powerful men, had murdered an American businessman who controlled
one of the biggest hotels in the capital.
This was followed by a grainy black-and-white film showing two naked
prostitutes frolicking in bed with a man, Prosecutor General Yuri
Skuratov, the nation's top law enforcement official who targeted Kremlin
If it is Sunday night, it is time to put a favorite chair in front
of the television and tune in the top-rated "Sergei Dorenko Show," a
cross between "60 Minutes" and Montel Williams. In the West, Dorenko,
with his penchant for selective editing and twisting quotes out of
context, would be a travesty of even television's broad interpretation
of news. But in Russia, where the people learned under Soviet communism
to discount the content while absorbing the hidden message, Dorenko has
helped shape the political landscape to benefit his employers.
"Facts are important when we talk about documents," Dorenko said
during a recent interview in his office. "But drama is important as
well. When people have 10 channels to choose from, I have to give them a
show they want to watch.
The only thing that is important to me is ratings." Though he denies
it, Dorenko is seen as a hired gun, a hitman for a powerful clique of
Kremlin insiders and businessman Boris Berezovsky who control the
television station, ORT. Dorenko's show has become the frontline in the
battle to control the country's few institutions of electoral power, the
parliament and the presidency.
Under the guise of news analysis, Dorenko has tarred Luzhkov, the
once all-powerful mayor, and his political partner, former Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Both men have watched their political stock
plummet as Dorenko's ratings have skyrocketed. Both men are despised by
Berezovsky for their efforts to undermine his business empire and by the
Kremlin, which feared their new political bloc, Fatherland-All Russia,
would seize the reins of power. Still, Dorenko says he is more of a
commander than a mere soldier.
"It is very naïve to think I will talk to people who instruct me,"
said Dorenko, who during an hourlong interview appeared more insecure
than the bravado he projects on the air. "I talk only to people who
adore me. I don't talk to cretins who don't understand my creativity."
The ORT studio where Dorenko weaves his spell is shabby and run-down. It
is state-owned, so there is no money for improvements or even to spruce
up Dorenko's chair, which is shredded. His desk is scuffed and dirty.
Even his clothing is old and shabby.
But the production values are slick and effective. The background
music is jarring, like jail doors slamming shut and huge gears grinding.
Pictures flash on the screen, putting the subject in the worst possible
light, like Luzhkov yawning-followed by unrelated bundles of cash
None of this matters, though. What is important, what works for the
broadcaster, is his delivery. He speaks with hypnotic gravity, his top
lip pulled tight over his teeth, as though it pains him to say these
things. His voice conveys confidence with a gravelly timbre. His
sentences are crisp and declarative, a welcome relief for viewers used
to long, cluttered, often meaningless sentences in other shows and from
Recently, perhaps his most notorious move was the prostitute story.
"I agonized for a long time on whether to show the tape," Dorenko
said, during a recent broadcast that catapulted the level of sleaze
masquerading as news to a new height. But the anchor decided to go ahead
with his plan because "in modern Russia, no one can limit the right of
people to know all about their elected leaders." Then the tape rolled,
and for eight minutes Russians watched as their prosecutor general had
sex with two prostitutes. It was pornography, and Dorenko knew it, so he
carefully warned parents: Children should be protected and not allowed
to watch or else parents will have "a very hard time teaching them
patriotism." There was plenty of blood on this segment, too, three full
minutes of doctors sawing through a man's hip bone and fishing out the
old socket. The aim was to convince the viewers that Primakov was not
fit to be president because he had similar surgery.
Dorenko enjoys being a genre-bender, mixing news, entertainment and
political propaganda. "I am against any stylistic limits," Dorenko said
in the interview.
"It's my genre. Just call it Dorenko. I don't want to limit myself.
I am not insulting women or children. Only politicians." To be sure,
this information war has more combatants than Dorenko's show.
Luzhkov has fought back with his own city-run television station,
accusing his opposition of using psychological techniques to make
viewers into zombies. "The only way to protect yourself is to turn it
off," a journalist on Luzhkov's station declared to his viewers.
Newspapers, like Moskovsky Komsomolets, have also jumped into the
fray. MK, which is allied with Luzhkov, has, for example, charged that
Berezovsky has paid Dorenko $1 million for his unceasing anti-Luzhkov
"It is not criticism, it is just lies that come from this television
program," said MK's editor-in-chief, Pavel Gusev.
But taking on Dorenko is like shooting darts at a giant, not so much
because of his persona, but by virtue of his medium. Russia is vast,
stretching across one sixth of the face of the earth and 11 time zones.
There are only three national television stations, two aligned with the
Kremlin and one that is quasi-independent. That station, NTV, reaches
only 50 percent of all homes.
"Dorenko's influence is clear," said Andrei Richter, director of the
Center for Law and Media at Moscow State University. "On the one hand,
people don't trust him. On the other hand, there is no tradition of
getting information about our candidates in any way other than
television." There is another reason for Dorenko's popularity: Russians
are ready for a fight. One decade after the collapse of the Soviet
state, they are tired of being victims, tired of perceiving their
leaders as walking with heads bowed behind the West. They have united
behind such actions as the all-out bombing of the breakaway republic of
Chechnya, and behind an aggressive anchorman.
"These are dark times for Russia, very dark times," said Yuri
Levada, director of the All Russia Public Opinion Center, a think tank.
"Chechnya is one symptom, Dorenko is another." Dorenko knows all too
well the mood of his audience. His staff put together every single piece
of videotape they could find of Luzhkov and Primakov and then
transcribed their quotes into small books he keeps on his desk. His
favorite weapon is their own words. Recently, for example, there was
Luzhkov standing atop a podium in 1996 rallying in favor of Yeltsin.
Then recent video of him criticizing Yeltsin.
But Luzhkov is not criticized merely for being a hypocrite, or even
a murderer (Dorenko said he gave the order to kill Paul Tatum in 1996, a
charge Luzkhov denies). He is chided for being short, bald and fat,
words Dorenko uses on the air.
"We are dealing with a political pygmy, a little man who is running
along your table and whom you can slam down with a fly swatter," Dorenko
Dorenko has also taken aim at Luzhkov because his lawyer, Galina
Krylova, is said to practice Scientology. In one of Dorenko's more
bizarre segments, his camera zoomed in on the lawyer's hands as she
nervously pinched the skin between her fingers while speaking in court.
"I would like to draw your attention to her...squeezing skin on her
hand," Dorenko said "This mysterious woman from Scientological
association is hurting herself. From outside it looks horrible but maybe
it's some kind of Scientological method, pinching flesh." Pollsters
agree that the sheer repetition of Dorenko's anti-Luzhkov message, week
after week, has had significant effects, cutting support for
Fatherland-All Russia in half, eroding Primakov's support for the
presidency and mortally wounding Luzhkov's presidential aspirations and
even beginning to hurt him in his home base of Moscow.
Luzhkov held a news conference last week to strike back. He did not
allow any spontaneous questions, only those that were arranged in
advance. And he insisted he would ultimately prevail.
"The confrontation with the Kremlin may escalate," Luzhkov said.
"The regime is capable of anything because they are now losing their
positions. They have failed to tar me." But viewers like Iirina
Dyuzikova tell a different story. A 55-year-old homemaker from Moscow
who has long supported the mayor also faithfully watches Dorenko, whom
she praises: "He has opened our eyes."
OVR Political Advert Sets Out Russian Bloc's Aims
9 December 1999
Political advertisement for Fatherland-All Russia "published on a
no-payment basis": "Believe Only Deeds!" - passages within slantlines
published in boldface
The bloc was formed at a constituent conference 28
August 1999 and registered as an electoral association by the Central
Electoral Commission 4 September 1999.
The bloc's coordinating council is headed by /Yevgeniy Maksimovich Primakov./
The bloc's founders are: Fatherland, Russia's Regions, the Agrarian
Party of Russia, the Russian Union of Christian Democrats, and For
Equality and Justice.
Fatherland-All Russia [OVR] Is an Alliance of Real Deeds [subhead]
/The Fatherland-All Russia bloc/ is an alliance of our country's
patriotic and democratic forces which brings together people of action
and people of honor and conscience capable of taking responsibility for
the Motherland's destiny.
OVR is the only political force capable of proposing and implementing a
program of actions to really change the situation in the country.
Our ideology is not "against" but "for."
Our politics are stability without stagnation and order without dictatorship.
Our values are Freedom, Law, and Harmony.
Our aims are [to ensure] Russia's territorial integrity and to increase
its power; to develop the real economy; to adjust previously implemented
reforms; and to raise Russians' living standard.
/The bloc's election platform/ entitled "Laws for Russia" contains over
100 draft laws in all spheres of society's life for the new State Duma's
priority consideration. We Know What To Do and How To Do It [subhead]
We are neither right-wing nor left-wing. Both pseudoliberal reforms and
a return to the totalitarian past are equally unacceptable to us. We are
for harmony between all our Fatherland's healthy forces.
We are the only electoral bloc to have brought together in the
interests of the CAUSE [delo] people of ACTION [dela] who represent all
We are united that state policy demands serious adjustment.
We are for a strong state based on the full development of democracy.
We are for democratic federalism as the principle of Russia's state
We are for democracy on the basis of the unconditional application of
the Law by all to all.
We are for a socially oriented market economy, the development of its
real sector, and for supporting the domestic producer.
We are for a just society and for the timely payment of wages,
pensions, grants, and subsidies.
We are for the ruthless eradication of terrorism and organized crime.
We are for strengthening the nation's moral and physical health, an
enhanced role and place in society for science and education, and for the
revival of the traditions of free education and health care.
We are for ensuring decent living conditions for every Russian family,
and for women, children, and the elderly.
/Together we will win! Together we will revive Russia!/ [D
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
12 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Russians in US to avert New Year nuclear war
By James Langton in New York
A RUSSIAN delegation will arrive at one of America's top secret military
bases this week in an attempt to ensure that the Millennium does not herald
The Pentagon has made the unprecedented decision of allowing Russian military
experts to observe its intercontinental ballistic missile monitoring centre
buried deep in the Rocky Mountains on New Year's Eve.
America fears that Russia's antiquated computers could fall victim to the
Millennium bug and either falsely register an attack by missiles from the
United States and its allies or, worse, accidentally launch one of its own
Even with the end of the Cold War, the former communist giant still has about
2,000 missiles ready to launch at a moment's notice - as President Yeltsin
warned America last week in response to Bill Clinton's criticism of the
Russian bombardment of Chechnya.
If the Kremlin's own early warning systems collapse at midnight on December
31, it is hoped the delegation will assure Moscow that America's missiles are
still in their silos.
The Russians will be observing the joint US and Canadian Norad (North
American Aerospace Defence Command) space and air defence command system
buried deep inside Cheyenne Mountain near Denver, Colorado.
They will not be allowed inside the highly classified centre, which is
protected from nuclear blasts by millions of tons of granite and thick steel
doors. Instead, America has hastily constructed a temporary "Centre for
Strategic Stability and Y2K" at a US Air Force base 10 miles away.
"The concern is that satellite systems and radar might have problems and
cause Russia to go blind," said Major Mike Birmingham, a spokesman for US
Space Command, which runs Norad.
The Millennium bug is caused by old computers wrongly reading the year 2000
as 1900. The US military has been working on the problem since a test in 1993
briefly caused Norad to shutdown. The Pentagon is now confident that its
systems will work on January 1.
But Russia's turbulent politics and economic woes mean that less work has
been done there. A collapse of the Russian military command system could be
highly dangerous and there are fears that electrical problems could cause
some missiles to catch fire in their silos. Under an agreement signed last
month, up to 20 Russians will spend two weeks sharing data from Norad
headquarters with their American counterparts. Using a hot line, they will be
able to act as Moscow's eyes and ears if things should go wrong back home.
At its heart are steel rooms, including a 10-man command centre. It is
approached through a tunnel in the side of the mountain, which ends after a
third of a mile in 25-ton steel doors designed to withstand a direct blast.
US officials know only too well the possibility of accidental catastrophe. In
1980, monitoring screens apparently showed 2,200 nuclear missiles from the
former Soviet Union streaking towards America.
As B-52 bomber crews prepared to head into Russia, senior advisers were one
minute from advising President Jimmy Carter to launch a retaliatory strike
when they realised that the attack was non-existent. The fault was later
traced to a computer chip costing 30p inside a Nova 840 computer, which had
wrongly started tapes for a military exercise.
Russia has also had its scares. In 1995, the routine launch of a Norwegian
weather rocket was mistaken for an incoming nuclear missile.
Some experts have called on both countries to deactivate their nuclear
weapons on New Year's Eve. But Washington has refused, arguing that if
systems did fail, the race to restore them could be even more dangerous.The
US has 2,300 missiles in a state of constant readiness. Along with Britain's
fleet of Trident nuclear submarines, they have been tested and cleared as Y2K
The situation in Russia is much less certain. Publicly, Moscow is insisting
that its computers will not fail. But a Russian government report last August
estimated that at least half of its operating systems and all of its software
programmes would experience problems with the Millennium bug.
According to Western consultants working in Russia, the government has now
abandoned attempts to fix the problem in time and is concentrating on
emergency strategies to deal with the repercussions. The worst of these could
be a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster that would contaminate millions with
More likely are widespread power cuts as the electricity grid fails in the
depths of the bitter Russia winter. In addition to causing thousands of
deaths, such catastrophic glitches could provoke civil unrest and further
weaken the authority of President Yeltsin.
America is so concerned about the situation that it has earmarked millions of
dollars to repatriate embassy employees and their families over Christmas and
the New Year. They will not be allowed back until the State Department has
given the all clear.
St. Petersburg Times
December 10, 1999
Youth Groups Still Teaching Old Values
By Galina Stolyarova
The flag-waving, society-building glory days of the Pioneers and Komsomols
may have gone the way of the Soviet Union, but interest in a similar kind of
nationwide youth league, aimed at reinforcing the values of a civilized
At least, that is the message of a recent survey commissioned by City Hall,
which found that roughly two out of every three teenagers would like to join
some sort of organization that would instill the collective spirit once
shared by the members of Communist youth groups.
Unlike the days before perestroika, when there was only one youth group in
the whole country to belong to, there are now over 160 youth organizations in
St. Petersburg alone - with the largest one having only 2,000 members.
Back in Soviet years, the Pioneers' Charter stated that membership of the
organization was voluntary, but in practice it was quite the opposite. Being
excluded from Pioneers was rightly considered the hardest punishment a
schoolchild could receive, because it meant exile, loneliness and public
The child was set apart, unable to join Pioneer meetings and projects. And
not belonging to the Komsomol - the next step on the Communist-youth ladder -
virtually eradicated one's chances of a university education. Non-Komsomols
and non-Pioneers had the status of third-class citizens.
These days, voluntary children's organizations are exactly that - voluntary -
including the remnants of the Pioneers.
But one of the results is that no matter how appealing membership might be,
73 percent of schoolchildren have no idea of what these organizations are, or
how to contact them.
"I have never heard of any such organization, and have no idea how to contact
any of them," said 13-year-old Sasha Spiridonov, who is in his seventh year
at School No. 51. "And as far as I know, none of my classmates is either a
member of any such union, or knows anything about them."
Rositsa Karova, in her eighth year at School No. 50, said she would like to
join Greenpeace or the Scouts, but doesn't know how to contact them either.
"They love the Earth and are very careful about nature," Rositsa said. "Also,
I like the entertaining spirit of the Scouts, and would love to join in their
Rositsa's mother, Marina, said that she finds the activities of the Scouts
"When I was a child, schools provided their pupils not only with education,
but also looked after their upbringing, and we had the Pioneers to thank,"
Karova said. "Politics apart, the Pioneers helped make children
compassionate, understanding, willing and ready to help. Now, I see our
children are becoming indifferent to other people's sorrows."
"The Scouts have the chance to travel under the guidance of an experienced
leader," she added. "When I was at school, I traveled all over the Soviet
Union with my class. Now, most schoolchildren are deprived of such
opportunities. Contacts between schools have been lost."
There is, however, one organization trying to maintain and restore such
connections. Next year, the Moscow-based Union of Pioneer's Organizations and
Federation of Children's Organizations (UPO-FCO), whose delegates convened
this November in St. Petersburg, will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
UPO-FCO arose out of the ashes of the Pioneer movement in 1990.
"The compromise name UPO-FCO was chosen, because in some regions [such as the
so-called Red Belt] and ex-republics they wanted to keep their Pioneers
organizations - and still have them - while others felt that Pioneer
detachments were outmoded," explains Svetlana Shorina of Young Piter, the St.
Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast branch of UPO- FCO.
"But everyone understood that the most important thing was to keep
connections and good relations," she said. "None of the Soviet All-Union
organizations survived, not the Komsomol, nor the DOSAAF (Voluntary Society
for Collaboration with the Army, Air Force and Navy), nothing. But we
cooperate with more or less all the former Soviet republics. It is important
that children exchange ideas and participate in joint projects."
Currently, UPO-FCO is comprised of 73 voluntary organizations such as the
Union of Azeri Children, the Belarus Pioneers' Organization, and the Union of
Pioneers of Tatarstan. Next year's projects include, for example, a contest
of stories entitled "The History of My Family," meant to encourage children's
interest in family traditions and cultural values; a competition for young
photographers; and a art competition on the theme of "My Rights," dedicated
to the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.
According to Vyacheslav Ryabkov, who helps run St. Petersburg youth and
children's organizations, Pioneers are but one part of UPO-FCO.
"In St. Petersburg, we have two separate Pioneer organizations, supervised by
the Communists and parties with similar views," Ryabkov said. "Each of them
has approximately 300 members, and, as a rule, these are the children of
members of those parties."
By comparison, the St. Petersburg Scouts have over 2,000 members.
But today's Pioneers march under a different slogan: Instead of the old
"Ready to fight for the cause of the Communist Party," they now prefer "For
the Motherland, good deeds and justice."
Russian law forbids the involvement of juveniles in any kind of political
movement. Once a child has turned 14 and obtained a passport, however, it is
not uncommon for politics to invade their lives in one form or another.
Some regional UPO-FCO representatives have complained of various movements
trying to convince teenagers to work part-time for them - pounding the
streets for signatures, for example - as elections to the Russian State Duma
"We must remain independent of politics," said Yelena Chepurnykh, Deputy
Education Minister of the Russian Federation and head of UPO-FCO. "Otherwise,
children will be caught up in the confrontations of adults."
Chepurnykh believes that because schools do not take responsibility for
children's morality and human values anymore, voluntary organizations should
take up the mantle.
"I have heard so many complaints from parents that children are running out
of control, and that schools are indifferent," she said. "Humanitarian and
charity projects should involve more schoolchildren. Underpaid schoolteachers
For more information on local youth groups go to http://www.fdo.mol.ru on the
World Wide Web.
From: IRASTRAUS@aol.com (Ira Straus)
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999
Subject: FWD: Are Dagestanis friendly to Russian imperialism?
I wondered if you saw this item from IWPR. If it is accurate -- and I would
hope that others on JRL would comment on the degree it strikes them as
accurate; to me it sounds one-sided but mostly plausible -- then it would
indicate three conclusions:
1. Contrary to the views expressed virtually unanimous by Western
commentators and experts at the time, Russia's use of force in Dagestan to
repel Chechen-led rebels was not counterproductive and did not alienate the
peoples of Dagestan. If anything, this article suggests, it led to a
pro-Russian consolidation in Dagestan.
2. It has been a mistake for Western governments and commentators always to
argue that the use of force by Russia in the Caucasus is counterproductive
and can only stimulate the very problem it is fighting against. It may also
be a mistake to describe such use of force as always an overreaction.
(Something similar may or may not be true about the presumptions that are
made in the West against any use of force by the regimes in Central Asia
against Islamists there.)
3. Russians, observing the Western presumption against their own use of
force, and observing that the West's arguments about its
counterproductiveness are not always correct, may well draw an unwelcome
conclusion of their own, namely: that the West is not sincere in its
professions of supporting Russia's territorial integrity and only wishing for
Russia to be wiser in its tactics, and in reality is hostile to Russian power
and wants to see Russia out of the Caucasus.
To avoid any confusion about my own views, I myself think that the West is
sincere when it says that it wants Russia to hold together and Russians are
wrong when they say the West is trying to break their country into pieces;
but that most Westerners are instinctively nervous about Russian military
power and its use, due to longstanding memories of that power being directed
against the West. Just as most Russians are instinctively nervous about NATO
power and its use. Thus the consistently adversarial interpretation of the
other's use of force.
These instincts do seem to get in the way of sound judgment on both sides.
And the misjudgments of each side in turn get interpreted by the other side
in ominous terms: Russian criticisms of the West over Kosovo were received
bitterly, as are Western criticisms of Russia over Chechnya. Western leaders
vowed in effect not to compromise with Russia over Kosovo, but at most to use
Russia to help impose Western plans on Serbia; Russian leaders vow not to
yield to Western pressure over Chechnya, and the public applauds them when
they say this. It is not a promising situation.
We have seen in the last year extreme and hysterical accusations from both
sides when the other's military goes into action. We have seen grossly
exaggerated accusations turned into public orthodoxies on both sides. We have
seen vituperation against those who seek clarification of the actual extent
of things, and accusations at them of contributing to genocide by breaking
ranks and asking questions. Some of that vituperation we have seen on JRL;
notice how Gordon Hahn has been stoned for attempting linguistic and factual
clarification. JRL has in fact provided an interesting new kind of service in
bringing together in one place both the clarifiers and the vilifiers, who in
the past have usually subsisted in separate publications and different
universes of discourse. This makes it possible to evaluate, in a way that
would have previously been much harder to do, the state of public discourse
and the methods of its constriction.
- - - - -
IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 10, December 10, 1999.
From: email@example.com (Institute for War & Peace Reporting)
DAGESTAN TURNS ITS BACK ON CHECHNYA
Russia's new military campaign in the North Caucasus is marked not only by a
new military strategy but also by a changed attitude to the Russian army's
activity in Chechnya.
By Nabi Abdullaev in Makhachkala
A transition from sympathy for the Chechens and their fight for independence
to total approval for the Russian military campaign is now clearly visible in
Dagestan, Chechnya's neighbouring Russian republic.
More than 14,000 Chechen refugees sought shelter in Dagestan during the first
Chechen campaign in 1994-96. Dozens of international humanitarian
organisations worked in the republic at that time to help official agencies
care for the refugees.
The situation this time is very different. After the Chechen 'boevik'
invasion of Dagestan in August 1999 under the leadership of Shamil Basaev,
the Dagestan Interior Minister, Adilgirey Magometdagirov ordered a stop to
free travel across the border of Chechen citizens.
This order is still in place. Only about 4,000 refugees, mainly ethnic
Dagestanians and Russians have fled from Chechnya into Dagestan since the
beginning of the latest conflict. Only a few Chechens with relatives in
Dagestan were allowed to enter and only after their credentials were checked.
And most Dagestanis support these new administrative measures. Chechnya has
been a constant source of danger for Dagestan for several years. Besides
incidents of kidnapping, cattle rustling and attacks on border villages
Dagestanis have come to associate Chechnya with drug and oil smuggling, as a
support base for local extremists and criminal leaders.
Such characters easily find shelter in Ichkeria where the Russian police have
no real access. Dagestanis who gave a shelter to Chechen families during the
first war in Chechnya - and particularly the citizens of the Tsumadin and
Botlikh regions - have publicly expressed regret for their own hospitality.
These people believe the Chechens betrayed their hospitable traditions.
Dagestanis are inclined to associate all Chechen people with Chechen leaders
like Maskhadov, Basaev, and Raduyev. Such attitudes are given further
credence by stories narrated by former hostages, freed from Chechen
captivity. There are hundreds of former hostages in Dagestan and the majority
of them claim many Chechens are members of criminal groups and there is no
way to separate "bad" from "good".
As a result pro-Russian opinion in Dagestan has been strengthened. Despite
the existence in Russia of prejudice against Dagestanis together with all
Caucasian peoples, Dagestanis have opted for Russian "imperialism" rather
than Chechen "imperialism".
Chechens make up the largest ethnic group in the Northern Caucasus and have
never concealed their aspirations to dominate in the region. Shamil Basaev
could be considered an exponent of Chechen imperialism. He declared his
mission to unify all the Northern Caucasus republics and to create one
Islamic state with Ichkeria playing a central role.
This concept does not suit either the Dagestani political elite or the public
at large. The 'civilised' Russian "imperialism" is considered a better option
than the 'wild' Chechen variety. Separatist tendencies are virtually
Russia's presence in the region has been seriously strengthened. Many in
Dagestan see this a positive force given the Russian presence restrains local
leaders, who still possess some old, feudal habits. An example of this
restraining influence was demonstrated during the pre-election campaign in
In the past violence and confrontation have marred election campaigns, but
this time things are proceeding relatively peacefully. The people's attitude
towards the Russian military has also changed, especially during and after
the military operation to expel the Chechen incursionists from Dagestan.
Now the residents not only feed the soldiers, but also supply them with warm
clothes. Some men have even helped in military operation.
This contrasts markedly with the Russian military experience in 1994-1996.
One other interesting observation: many Dagestanis have joined the Islamist
Wahabi forces as soldiers for the Chechen cause.
In the mountainous areas of Dagestan emissaries for Basaev and Khatab still
try to hire local residents. But society in general refuses to acknowledge
that Dagestanis are fighting on the Chechen side and have labeled such people
traitors to the motherland.
If the local press and general conversation are anything to go by Dagestanis
do not foresee a political settlement in Chechnya. Maskhadov is not perceived
as a viable negotiator. The Chechen president failed to apologise for the
incursion into Dagestan, an omission that seriously damaged his standing in
So much so in fact that residents in Khasavyurt prevented Maskhadov from
meeting his Dagestani counterpart, Magomedali Magomedov on September 29.
The main impact of the war in neighbouring Chechnya on the every day life in
Dagestan has been increased security measures - the strengthening of existing
police checkpoints and the establishment of new ones by Russian forces.
Despite the added inconvenience most people are sympathetic to the measures.
One local driver said, "I am not against my car to be checked by a Russian
officer. I am sure he won't be afraid to stop a brand new Mercedes that
belongs to a local Mafia guy. In addition, unlike our militia, the Russians
address me using the more polite form of 'you'".
Nabi Abdullaev is the political editor of Novoye Delo in Makhachkala.