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Johnson's Russia List
15 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russian pro-government bloc takes poll lead.
2. Ekonomika i Zhizn: THE DIAGNOSIS. (poll on trust)
3. AP: EU Official: Yeltsin Not All There. (Solana)
4. Reuters: Moscow mayor defiant in Russian poll rally.
5. Bloomberg: Russia's Right Cause Party Campaigning for the Next
6. New York Times editorial: Russia's Parliamentary Vote.
7. St Petersburg Times: Sarah Karush, Stalinist Bloc Woos Voters With
8. Newsday: Dimitri Simes and Paul Saunders, Russia Has a Case in
9. Moscow Tribune: Stanislav Menshikov, WHO KNOWS THE CAT IN THE BAG?
A Difficult Choice at the Polls.
10. AFP: Dmitry Zaks, Bodyguards Required. Election Watchdog Hunts
Russia's Al Capones.
11. Robert Devane: Re: "kinuli"
12. Nick Holdsworth: Blasts in Moscow.
13. Albert Weeks: Russian General Staff journal undergoing face-lift.
14. Russia Today: Notes On The Union. Russian Life Executive Editor Mikhail
Ivanov defends Russia's union with Belarus.]
Russian pro-government bloc takes poll lead
MOSCOW, Dec 14 (Reuters) - An opinion poll released by the
ROMIR research centre on Tuesday gave the pro-government
Yedinstvo bloc under Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu a lead
over its main rival the Communists ahead of the Duma election.
The strong gains consolidate a surge last week in popularity
for Yedintsvo, with Communist support remaining fairly stable.
The following are the latest standings of the main Russian
parties and blocs contesting the election to the State Duma
lower house of parliament on December 19.
The data is provided by ROMIR independent research centre,
FOM and VTsIOM on a weekly basis. The figures denote percentage
of the total number of respondents. Figures in brackets show the
change on the previous poll. Error margins are between two and
FOM ROMIR VTsIOM
Dec4-5 Dec4-5 Dec3-6
The Communists 21( 0) 17.7(-0.3) 26 (+1)
Yedinstvo 17(+3) 21.9(+7.9) 17 (-1)
Fatherland-All Russia 9(-1) 9.0(-2.0) 10 (-2)
Yabloko 7(-1) 8.3(-0.7) 10 (+1)
Union of Right-wing Forces 5(+1) 5.6(+0.6) 5 ( 0)
Zhirinovsky's bloc (LDPR) 5(+1) 4.9(-1.1) 5 (+2)
Women of Russia 3( 0) 2.7(-2.3) 4 (+2)
Our Home is Russia 1(-1) 1.3(+0.3) 1 ( 0)
More than a dozen other minor parties and blocs are also
registered for the poll, but they stand virtually no chance of
collecting the five percent of the votes needed to enter the
Duma and do not feature on the list.
Most parties contesting the Duma election are headed by
presidential hopefuls. Political analysts believe that a good
result in the December vote will be used as a launching pad for
presidential bids in 2000.
The following figures, supplied by the same agencies,
indicate how Russians would have voted in a theoretical
presidential election held on the day following the day of the
FOM ROMIR VTsIOM
Dec4-5 Dec4-5 Dec3-6
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin 45(+2) 47.0(+4.0) 45( 0)
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov 17(+1) 13.3(-0.7) 19(+2)
Ex-premier Yevgeny Primakov 7(-2) 6.9(-1.1) 8(-1)
Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky 5(-1) 3.3(-0.7) 5( 0)
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu 5(--) 2.5 ( --) 2(--)
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov 3(+1) 2.3(+0.3) 1(-1)
LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky 4( 0) 3.0(-1.0) 3( 0)
Regional governor Alexander Lebed 1( 0) 1.3(+0.3) 1(+1)
Primakov and Luzhkov head the Fatherland-All Russia list in
the parliamentary election. Putin does not have an official
party affiliation but he has said he will vote for Yedinstvo in
December. Lebed heads his own Honour and Motherland party.
Polls conducted by VTsIOM canvass 1,600 people across Russia
and FOM and ROMIR 1,500. VTsIOM and ROMIR poll those who say
they are committed to take part in the election while FOM
surveys also include non-committed voters.
VTsIOM and FOM ask respondents to choose from a given list
of candidates while ROMIR asks them to give any name.
The agencies are aware that their differing techniques make
it difficult to compare the results of their surveys and have
promised to work out a common standard.
Ekonomika i Zhizn
[translation for personal use only from RIA Novosti]
V. GOLOVACHEV, own correspondent
The latest research of the Public Opinion fund show that
there is a deep gap between the powers that be and the common
people. The fund's question, "How much do you trust the
institutes of powers?" produced unexpected results.
HOW MUCH DO YOU TRUST THE INSTITUTES OF POWER?
Institutes of power Trust Mistrust
1. The State Duma 14% 55%
2. The Federation Council 20% 36%
3. Local legislative agency 20% 32%
4. The Russian government 25% 45%
5. The mayor, city head 32% 37%
6. The regional head 39% 30%
So, 14% of the respondents trust, and 55% mistrust, the
State Duma. What is this, if not the vote of no-confidence passed
by the people on the deputies? The new deputies will have to work
very hard to raise their rating.
The Federation Council and local legislative agencies are
trusted a bit more (20%), and 25% trust the executive
authorities. Yet many more people mistrust them (37% mistrust
their mayors and city heads, and 45% mistrust the government).
How can one explain the high personal ratings of the premier and
some of his ministers then?
The only ones to be mostly trusted by the people are the
regional heads (39% as against 30% who mistrust them).
Paradoxically, though, these same governors and republican
presidents are mistrusted as members of the Federation Council.
Here is the answer. The living standards of the voters are
the best indicator of the effectiveness of work of any elected
representative. The regional heads are working more or less
expediently in their regions, settling (some do it better than
others) local economic problems. But the Federation Council as
the body of power has not yet created its own face, and has loose
positions on many questions. As a result, the regional leaders do
not suit the people as public politicians.
The results of this poll show that the people trust those
who speak less and produce more results.
EU Official: Yeltsin Not All There
December 14, 1999
MADRID, Spain (AP) - Javier Solana, the European Union's high representative
for security and foreign policy, claims Russian President Boris Yeltsin is
not in his right mind.
``Yeltsin is not in possession of all his faculties,'' Solana told Catalan TV
channel Canal 33 late Monday. ``We've seen it on television across the world
and nobody can hide it,'' he said, referring to Yeltsin's sometimes erratic
behavior in public.
Solana made the remarks during a visit to Barcelona, the capital of Spain's
northeastern Catalonia region.
Referring to Russia's war in Chechnya, Solana said: ``We have to say it loud
and clear that we Europeans cannot tolerate, that we feel it unacceptable,
the behavior of the Russians right now in Chechnya.''
Solana said continued political pressure and ``and even some of an economic
nature'' are needed to make Russian leaders change how they are handling the
situation in Chechnya.
Moscow mayor defiant in Russian poll rally
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, trying to bolster
support for his opposition movement in Russia's parliamentary election,
roared defiance at Kremlin leaders on Tuesday and urged voters to reject
candidates linked to them.
Five days before polling day, Luzhkov told a cheering crowd of about 25,000
behind St Basil's cathedral on the edge of Red Square that Russia would
collapse unless it rejected the poverty and corruption he said was bred by
The centre-left Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) movement, led by Luzhkov and
former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, trails in opinion polls behind the
Communist Party and the pro-Kremlin Yedinstvo (Unity) bloc.
``On the basis of law and the constitution, we must change direction, change
our lives. If we carry on as we are now for even a few more years, Russia
will perish,'' Luzhkov shouted.
``They are afraid of us. Because we want to bring to account those who
allowed lawlessness, who pillaged the country of its property and money.''
Ten thousand police watched over the rally, one of only a few outdoor events
in a campaign overshadowed by the Russian military's advance through Chechnya
and allegations of a Kremlin dirty tricks campaign. Participants dispersed
Russian television showed police breaking up an unauthorised rally in
northern Moscow attended by members of Yedinstvo and the Union of Right-Wing
Forces made up of pro-Western technocrats. Media reports said 53 people had
The campaign for 450 seats in the State Duma lower house is seen as a
stepping stone to next year's presidential election to replace Boris Yeltsin.
The opposition has predicted attempts to rig the outcome and say media bias
is affecting the campaign.
PRO-KREMLIN MEDIA ATTACK OPPOSITION PARTY
Pro-Kremlin media have relentlessly attacked Fatherland-All Russia and its
leaders. Semi-private ORT television portrays Luzhkov as corrupt and Primakov
as too far to the left.
Primakov, sacked by Yeltsin as prime minister last spring, was the first
Russian premier since the Soviet Union fell in 1991 to put moderate
Communists in key posts in the government.
Last week pro-Kremlin media pounced when he suggested his party could find a
post-election accommodation with the Communists, the outgoing Duma's largest
group. But hours before Tuesday's rally, Luzhkov denied plans for any such
Luzhkov, heavily favoured to win re-election as mayor in a separate poll on
Sunday, also told a local radio station that the Kremlin was manipulating
Yedinstvo ``which is supposed to be independent, but in reality has a ring in
the end of its nose.''
The mayor has gone out on a political limb by suggesting the Chechnya
campaign, backed by most Russians as a fight against terrorism, has been
turned into a ``military operation against the Chechen people.'' He also
suggested Kremlin involvement in the election meant democracy had ceased to
exist in Russia.
In the Chechen capital Grozny, thousands of civilians remained trapped as the
city was hit almost continually by Russian shells despite Western calls for a
A Chechen rebel Internet web site said the storming of the capital had begun.
A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman denied that report, but Interfax news
agency quoted military sources as saying clashes had taken place in the city.
Yedinstvo has surged into second place in opinion surveys as its leader,
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, receives nightly media exposure shown
clad in an anorak and tackling the problems of refugees in areas of Chechnya
recaptured by the army.
The latest opinion polls give the Communists 17 to 25 percent support,
Yedinstvo 17 to 22 percent and OVR nine to 12. One poll by the ROMIR
organisation put Yedinstvo in the lead. The liberal Yabloko party has seven
to nine percent.
Russia's Right Cause Party Campaigning for the Next Century
Moscow, Dec. 14 (Bloomberg)
-- Russia's Right Cause coalition, a group of free market reformers, has
low expectations for this month's elections, setting its sights instead on
Leading the party's list of candidates are Sergei Kiriyenko, the former prime
minister who presided over Russia's domestic debt default last year, as well
as Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, former ministers whose economic
policies have earned them a more favorable reputation abroad than at home.
The party, while expecting to meet the 5 percent threshold for entering
parliament, is looking to the future when the current leadership will be
replaced by a new generation that can set the economy on a steady course of
growth. It's established a Club of 2015, including company executives, to
``People with a different thinking must come to power -- as president and
prime minister,'' said Irina Khakamada, 44, a leader of Right Cause who
specializes in development of small businesses. ``In 10 years' time, there
will be a change in generations.''
Khakamada, a Moscow native whose Japanese communist father moved to the
Soviet Union in 1939, and other leaders of the party, have served in various
post-communist governments in Russia before free-market reformers fell out of
favor. President Boris Yeltsin has changed the government four times in the
past two years.
The reformers carry a lot of baggage into this election. Voters associate
Kiriyenko with the default, the ruble's subsequent 75 percent fall against
the dollar and the collapse of banks; Chubais is seen by some as the person
responsible for designing a state asset sale program that turned state
property over to powerful oligarchs; Yegor Gaidar, who served as prime
minister in 1992, is associated with eliminating price controls, causing
prices to soar and the value of savings to dwindle.
Still, Right Cause said it expects to garner as much as 10 percent of the
vote in elections to the lower house of parliament, the Duma, on Dec. 19. The
party currently has no seats in parliament as it was formed in the past year.
Recent opinion polls put the party's support at about 4 percent, below the 5
percent minimum required to get into the parliament.
``We believe our electorate is a thinking one,'' Khakamada said, adding that
Kiriyenko was forced to drop support of the ruble because pressure on the
currency had become too great.
Tipping the Balance
Even if the party gets just the minimum vote, it could still have a
significant impact on the allotment of seats in the Duma, analysts said. Half
of the Duma's 450 seats will be allocated to parties based on the percentage
of votes gained. The other half will go to individuals running in
constituencies across the country.
Russia's economy began expanding this year following a 4.6 percent decline
last year after the weakening ruble drove up the cost of imports, leading
domestic producers to increase sales, and helped boost exports.
In radio advertisements, Right Cause urges voters to stop ``voting on
emotion,'' and ``vote with your mind.''
The party has the potential to take votes from the communists, who dominate
the Duma, or from the Fatherland-All Russia party, led by former Prime
Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, which is supported
by 10 percent of the electorate, according to recent polls.
``Don't worry about Fatherland-All Russia, don't worry about the Communist
Party,'' as they'll win seats in parliament anyway, Khakamada said on ``Glas
Norada,'' a talk show carried on Russian television station NTV. ``It's we
who really need you.''
Right Cause has yet to choose a candidate for next year's presidential
elections, though it says it's held talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,
whom Yeltsin appointed in August and immediately anointed as his preferred
Putin ``is an optimal figure -- he addresses Russians' main needs now,''
Khakamada said. ``They want to see a soldier, and he's associated with
security issues, strength and youth. They want to see personal
Right Cause advocates cutting taxes, shifting the tax burden to consumers
from producers, creating a stable legal system and boosting competition in
the market. If this happens, small business would flourish and could
represent as much as 60 percent of gross domestic product, Khakamada said.
Now, it's at about 12 percent, she said.
``Taxes, a non-competitive environment, and limited access to the market
because of power, this has all led to small business not being able to
compete with large business,'' she said.
Russia's economy is still dominated by large companies. Businesses with not
more than 100 workers employ about 10 percent of the population, far lower
than the 73 percent in Italy and the 54 percent in the U.S., according to the
Russian Venture Capital Association. Tax rates must be slashed and laws made
reliable for that to change in Russia, said Khakamada, who formerly led the
State Committee for Support and Development of Small Business, which was
``The government is still the main businessman on the market,'' she said.
Corruption in government and business is one of the main obstacles to real
economic reform in Russia, Khakamada said.
The problem is especially prevalent among small businesses that have little
defense against bureaucrats' demand for bribes.
``Not one of the members of the political elite, not one group, thinks that
small business can become part of a strategy for economic change,'' Khakamada
said. ``Everyone talks about it, but no one believes it.'
New York Times
14 December 1999
Russia's Parliamentary Vote
When Russians elect a new Parliament on Sunday, they will be exercising a
right long denied them under Communist rule. That itself is the greatest
achievement of Russia's young democracy. Voters will choose among more than
20 political parties and 6,700 candidates for the 450-seat lower house, or
Duma. Yet this important election, a precursor to presidential elections next
June, has also aroused destructive forces that threaten to undermine Russia's
The last-minute attempts to use the new Russian assault on Chechnya for
political gain is disturbing. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's iron-hand
politics in Chechnya, as well as his defiance of Western criticism, have
given him a bounce in early polling for the presidential race. Other
potential candidates have used the ravaged Caucasus region as a political
backdrop. Sergei Shoigu, head of the new, Kremlin-backed Unity Party,
recently swept through the area searching for civilians to lead to safety.
Protecting civilians should be more than a photo opportunity.
As in the 1996 presidential campaign, television coverage has become a cudgel
used against candidates and parties opposing President Boris Yeltsin and his
supporters. One particularly scandalous Sunday night program on a nationwide
channel run by the financial tycoon Boris Berezovsky has accused the
competition of murder and attempted assassination. Such heavy-handed use of
the airwaves makes news broadcasts a megaphone for the government and damages
the principle of a free press.
Because members of Parliament are immune from prosecution, some candidates
are clearly trying to get elected for personal protection. Immunity was
originally considered crucial to the independence of Parliament. But this
year it has drawn as many as 100 candidates with criminal records.
If opinion polls prove correct, the new Duma may look very much like the old
one, dominated by Communists and nationalists. That will not advance the
cause of economic and political reform, nor help the Kremlin improve
relations with the West.
St Petersburg Times
December 14, 1999
Stalinist Bloc Woos Voters With Old Images
By Sarah Karush
MOSCOW - It has been 43 years since Nikita Khrushchev toppled the cult of
personality, but suddenly Stalin's portrait is popping up everywhere.
On posters and billboards across the city, the mustachioed generalissimo
gazes out at voters - who will find his name among the parties on the ballot
for State Duma elections Dec. 19.
The Stalinist Bloc for the USSR, led by Viktor Anpilov, Stanislav Terekhov
and Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, is banking on the once-revered
leader's reputation to carry them past the 5 percent barrier into the lower
"It is our obligation not only to lift up Stalin's name as an icon but to
revive the true essence of his epoch," Anpilov, perhaps the best-known of
Russia's radical communists, said at a news conference last Thursday.
It may not be such a bad campaign strategy. According to a September poll by
the Public Opinion Foundation that put historical figures on a hypothetical
ballot along with contemporary political figures, 7 percent of the country
would choose Stalin for president.
Anpilov's bloc came within an inch of victory during the last Duma elections
when it received 4.53 percent of the vote. And while Anpilov was open about
his fondness for Stalin even then, the name of his bloc had yet to include
the word "Stalinist," and he had not yet teamed up with Dzhugashvili - who
bears a strong resemblance to his grandfather.
Dzhugashvili, 63, is valuable to the bloc mostly for his lineage and last
name - also Stalin's before he adopted his nom de guerre. Before teaming up
with Anpilov, he headed an organization devoted to defending Stalin's name
but was not active in politics. He was quiet for most of last Thursday's news
Anpilov, a former radio correspondent in Nicaragua, and Terekhov, who leads
the Union of Officers, were both jailed in 1993 for their roles in that
year's parliamentary uprising. After spending a few months in Lefortovo
Prison, they were amnestied along with other coup leaders.
The group called the news conference in honor of Stalin's 120th birthday,
which falls on Dec. 21 and which the bloc will formally celebrate at a
congress in Moscow on Saturday.
The bloc supports resurrecting the Soviet Union, undoing the results of
privatization and punishing those involved, and abolishing the presidency and
other executive offices.
Dzhugashvili used his short speech to speak out against the government's
decision two years ago to remove the nationality clause from internal
"Nationality should be written [in one's passport]. Russian, Chuvash, or
Tatar. What is there to be ashamed of? It's simply the further destruction of
our state!" he said. Under Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, minorities were
Russified, Volga Germans and Chechens were exiled to Ka zakhstan, and Jews
were targeted in the purges.
As far as history goes, Dzhugashvili said there is a lot of exaggeration
where Stalin is concerned.
"Look at the truth, not the fantasies that have been purposely invented about
these 'repressions,'" he said. "There are people who really suffered, but
there are others who are just confused. They need to be told the truth."
The Stalinist Bloc has several prominent billboards in Moscow - an unheard-of
luxury for a fringe party. It is unclear where the money for such advertising
is coming from, but one possibility is that it is funded by people who want
to take votes away from the main Communist Party.
It also looks like Anpilov & Co. have learned from past mistakes. According
to a paper by Tatyana Shavshukova published by the Panorama Research Center,
in 1995 Anpilov did not think his bloc had a good chance of getting into the
Duma by party list. Thus, the bloc's activists focused most of their efforts
on the single-mandate districts where they were running. In the end, only one
single-mandate candidate made it into the Duma.
Shavshukova suggests that had Anpilov focused more energy on the general
party list campaign, he would have had a better shot at a Duma seat.
But Boris Kagarlitsky, a leftist analyst at the Institute of Comparative
Politics, said that despite the apparent financial backing and Stalin's name,
the bloc may have a hard time beating its 1995 performance. While Stalin
remains popular in some circles, Kagarlitsky said true Stalinists would
likely vote for Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party, the successor to the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
"The typical Stalinist is disciplined and will follow the Party. Even if the
Party is wrong, he'll vote for the Party," he said.
December 14, 1999
"Russia Has a Case in Chechnya"
by Dimitri K. Simes and Paul J. Saunders
(Mr. Simes is President of The Nixon Center. Mr. Saunders is the Center's
Rarely has there been as much oversimplification and outright
demagoguery (albeit for a good cause) as in the case of opposition to
Russia's brutal military campaign in Chechnya.
As usual, the Clinton administration is ahead of the pack.
Remarkably, the president - who compared Boris Yeltsin to Abraham
Lincoln during Russia's earlier, no less brutal (but certainly less
justified) intervention in the rebellious republic - is now shocked that
Moscow's "indiscriminate" artillery and air attacks have harmed innocent
If protecting innocent civilians is of paramount consideration in
war, perhaps Bill Clinton should denounce Harry S. Truman for dropping
the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - which were unquestionably
civilian targets - and condemn his hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the
indiscriminate bombing of Germany's cities, particularly Dresden.
Similarly, Republicans, who take pride in being members of the party
of Lincoln, should remember that it was President Abraham Lincoln who
unleashed Gen. William T. Sherman on Georgia in a deliberate effort to
terrorize its citizens and hasten the Confederacy's surrender.
Nothing can justify Russia's brutality in Chechnya. But those in the
West who would lead a moralistic crusade against Moscow should apply the
same standards to their own records. They also have a strategic
responsibility to examine the complexity of Russia's predicament in
Chechnya and the realistic options available to influence the Kremlin.
Russia has no good options in Chechnya. Though we were strongly
opposed to Moscow's 1994-96 military campaign and critical of the
Clinton administration's defense of Yeltsin, we believe that this time
Russia had good reasons to act.
While the Russian government has been unable to prove conclusively
that Chechen militants were responsible for terrorist bombings that
killed 1,000 civilians in Moscow and other major cities, there is no
doubt that Chechnya had become a lawless land plagued by kidnaping and
murder, and that it harbored groups that launched regular armed
incursions into neighboring Russian regions and eventually a large-scale
invasion of Daghestan. No government could ignore similar developments.
Given that Russia was entitled to act, and that the Chechen
government had no control over its warlords, what could Russia do?
Storming Chechnya's cities with poorly trained, underequipped soldiers
failed the last time. Instead, Moscow tried to replicate NATO's campaign
against Serbia, which we now know did much more damage to Serbia's
civilian infrastructure than to its military - without NATO's resources
This course was perfectly predictable. In fact, we argued at the
time that NATO's "humanitarian intervention" in Serbia would be
interpreted as giving the green light to governments around the world,
including Russia's, to deal in a similar manner with those whom they saw
as terrorists and violators of human rights. Typically, the Clinton
administration failed to foresee - or to accept responsibility for - the
consequences of its actions.
The ugly new war in Chechnya reflects both the ruthlessness and the
capacity for blatant lies of today's Russian political establishment. It
is sadly significant that the Russian government's only "success" since
the collapse of the Soviet Union is on the battlefield against its own
citizens. Worse, this "success" gives greater legitimacy to the military
and security services and leads many to see it as a political device to
increase the chances that the Yeltsin inner circle, and its chosen
oligarchs, will retain power in Russia's forthcoming elections.
A country that behaves in this fashion cannot be a strategic partner
of the United States. The next American president must take note of this
- and of the growing anti-Americanism in Russia - and take appropriate
steps to protect U.S. national security interests. However, Washington
should not confuse official policy with editorial commentary.
The State Department's worldwide alert to Americans traveling abroad
over the holidays should be a powerful reminder that the world is a
dangerous place, and that it could be much worse if an alienated Russia
refuses to cooperate with Washington in efforts to curb terrorism and
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is tempting to
suggest that we can ostracize Russia for its behavior in Chechnya while
continuing to work with Moscow to destroy nuclear warheads and safeguard
Russian nuclear materials, but this would be a reckless assumption.
With all of these complexities and constraints in mind, what should
the United States do? First, as difficult as it may be during an
election campaign, focus on national interests rather than public
relations. Second, approach the Russian government without undue
moralizing but with a firm and realistic message that continuing the war
will contribute to Russia's international isolation. Third, cancel those
things that do not make sense on merit, such as Export-Import Bank
credits that serve primarily to support Russian oligarchs.
This would also be a good excuse to end the pretense of Russian
participation in the G-8, supposedly a grouping of the world's most
economically advanced democracies, and return to the G-7 format that
Finally, and most important, tell Moscow that if and when Russian
leaders conclude that they are unable to prevail in Chechnya at an
acceptable cost, the United States would be prepared to offer a helping
hand by promoting Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
mediation of the conflict.
Such mediation could not be based on Chechnya remaining within
Russia; rather, it would likely require a referendum, perhaps partition
and international peacekeepers to protect both Chechnya's independence
and Russia's right to security from terrorism. This would not be easy or
cheap, but it could work and would benefit Chechnya, Russia and the
December 14, 1999
WHO KNOWS THE CAT IN THE BAG?
A Difficult Choice at the Polls
By Stanislav Menshikov (email@example.com)
The Duma elections are coming next Sunday, and it is time to speculate as to
their outcome and possible relevance for business conditions in Russia and
its relations with the West. While the Russian parliament is not omnipotent
under the present Constitution, it does set the rules by which domestic and
foreign business is run in this country, and its influence on military and
international policy is not unimportant. The parliamentary elections are
also a dress rehearsal of the presidential race next June. It is therefore
appropriate to consider how the composition of the next Duma might affect
the interests of the international business community in the short and
Barring unforeseeable circumstances, there are two most probable outcomes
considering. The majority in the new Duma will belong to either a
left-centrist coalition formed between the Primakov-Luzhkov "Otechestvo"
("Fatherland") group and Zyuganov's CPRF, or a right-centrist bloc between
Putin's "Yedinstvo" ("Unity") and part of the OVR ("Otechestvo" plus "Vsia
Rossiya ") with the possible (but not certain) participation of the
Kiriyenko-Chubais crowd, if they manage to cross the 5% hurdle. In both
cases, the stage would be set for a Primakov-Putin race for the presidency
provided that one of them or both do not drop out before next summer.
Both outcomes would be difficult for international business to acclaim,
albeit for different reasons. There is instinctive mistrust abroad in a
left-centrist bloc, a mistrust based on the perception that Primakov's
geopolitical leanings are largely anti-Western and that at some point in
time he might yield power to his much more dangerous partner - the
Communists and thus open the door for their revanche. This apprehension
seems to be overblown. In the eight months (between September 1998 and May
1999) that the Primakov cabinet was in office, with Communist participation,
it succeeded in stabilising a crisis-prone economy and laying the basis for
the beginnings of strong growth coupled with very moderate inflation. There
were no excesses in the international or military areas when this cabinet
was around and the Communists never pressed Primakov to yield on major
policy issues, While the CPRF programme calls for an unrealistic average 10%
per annum growth in the next few years, the actual fiscal and monetary
policies of a future left-centrist government would most certainly be more
cautious and conservative. Of course, such a government (presumably led by
Luzhkov) could only be formed after June and only if Primakov becomes
If these policies prevail, economic growth would most certainly lead to a
healthier budget, a recovery of capital markets and a better climate for
foreign investment of a less speculative and more long-term character than
in the short-lived financial boom of 1996-1997. The latter, engineered by
Chubais and Kiriyenko, ended in the financial disaster of 1998 - one reason
why they may fail to muster the necessary minimum of votes.
There are very few differences between the left-centre and what Mr. Putin
suggest in terms of economic policy. However, unlike his political rivals,
he emphasises non-reversal of privatisation, which endears him to the
Russian oligarchs and probably to his foreign fans, if any, as well. He
enjoys the support of the radical reformers (like Chubais and Gaidar) who,
despite their failings, remain the darlings of the West. On the other hand,
Putin favours reviving the military-industrial complex and spending more on
armaments. This is a red rag for the western bull and the radical reformers
but might well help growth in GDP, jobs and exports. Many liberal-minded
people seem to fear that his unholy alliance with the hard-line generals is
apt to endanger democracy in
Russia. These controversial attitudes make Mr. Putin somewhat of a cat in
the bag for both the right and the left. Nobody knows what this cat is
really like and what he will do after escaping from the relative anonymity
of the pre-election bag.
It is assumed by some that the war in Chechnya was allegedly started with
the principal purpose of winning elections on the wave of popular
nationalism and that once Putin wins the polls and succeeds to the
presidency he will reappear as a second-time Yeltsin who was once considered
the most pro-western Russian leader in this century. This is not an
improbable scenario given his current friendship with the Gaidar-Kiriyenko
However, it is also quite possible that Putin, like many others in Russia,
genuinely believes in an increasing NATO threat to his country and in a
militarily strong Russia as the best response to that threat. If he, indeed,
sees the Chechen invasion into Dagestan and the terrorist bombings in Russia
as an attempt, orchestrated in the West, to bully Russia into submission to
US pressure and, in the process, squeeze it out of the Caucasus and the
Caspian oil area, in general, then the Chubais-Kiriyenko influence on his
future policies would be negligible. In that case, Mr. Putin might become an
even greater danger to the West than the more cautious and more predictable
Primakov. Choosing between the two is indeed a tricky business.
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December 14, 1999
Election Watchdog Hunts Russia's Al Capones
By Dmitry Zaks
It took U.S. agents nearly a decade before they finally figured out how to
toss bloody Chicago mob boss Al Capone behind bars in 1931 -- tax fraud.
Russia's steely-eyed elections chief Alexander Veshnyakov is using a similar
strategy this winter as he fights to keep notorious mafia bosses off the
December 19 parliamentary ballots.
So far he has won some big battles, to which the band of beefy bodyguards
that now protects him at all times would attest.
"We will prevent criminal elements from getting into power," Veshnyakov vowed
when the campaign was just getting started in the spring.
"I am sure that the respectable politicians I deal with will never fall so
low as to harm me," Veshnyakov mused in more quiet tones last month.
Records show that one of every five candidates who submitted their
registration forms turned out to have criminal records.
Indeed the top prize for many running in the state Duma race is not a cushy
seat on the chamber floor and the powers that go with it. Some are after a
more priceless job perk: immunity.
Russia's political immunity is all-encompassing. A deputy may not be
prosecuted for any crime -- not even murder.
So tasked by the Kremlin to make the new parliament look somewhat respectable
but armed with a porous election law, Veshnyakov made every would-be deputy
fill out a tax form. Then he checked them.
One of the first to go was Anatoly Bykov, the former head of Siberia's rich
Kraz aluminum factory who stands accused by Russian police of organizing at
least eight contract murders and massive money-laundering.
Bykov was arrested in Hungary in October but kept campaigning for a seat from
there until Veshnyakov discovered that the multi-millionaire failed to report
a small summer hide-out shack in the Siberian country as his property.
And Bykov was out. Along with him went the entire ultra-nationalist party of
Vladimir Zhirinovsky which has a membership list that some in the media here
have unfavorably compared to a police line-up.
Zhirinovsky was later re-registered as head of a new party but it was a much
smaller affair that even the flamboyant orator admitted had fewer convicted
"There were none cleaner," Zhirinovsky said of his new followers.
But election laws in Russia remain lax and regional committees have
re-registered many of Veshnyakov's victims in so-called "single-mandate"
district races that are out of federal regulators' hands.
One such man is Sergei Mikhailov, known by the nickname Mikhas in the brutal
Moscow Solntsevo crime gang that he reportedly runs.
Mikhailov spent 26 months in a Swiss jail after being charged with murder and
embezzlement, among other things.
His lawyers -- successfully -- argued that the accusations were "nothing
other than the rape of the law and the mocking of our client" and Mikhailov
returned to Russia a free man one year ago.
He bounced between several parties that one after the other were nixed by
Veshnyakov for impropriety. Finally, Mikhailov last week earned instant
registration in Taganrog, a southwestern Russia district famed for being a
criminal hornet's nest.
Others still in the Duma running include Alexander Khabarov, who reportedly
heads the tough Uralmash gang and is electioneering in his local
And then there is Yury Shutov in Saint Petersburg, accused of at least four
high-profile murders but allowed to run from his jail cell before winning
release this month under cloudy circumstances.
Veshnyakov of course is unhappy that both convicts and police suspects are
allowed to run for parliament. But under the protection of bodyguards, the
man sounds like he will keep chipping away.
"You just have to keep steely nerves," Veshnyakov said. "Then none of us will
have any troubles."
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999
From: "Robert Devane" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: "kinuli"
I'd like to get my two cents in on the debate on the proper translation and
interpretation of the word "kinuli", as used by Chubais. Other commentators
on this matter, most recently Andrey Liakhov from the Norton Rose law firm,
have pointed out that the word comes from Russian criminal slang (phenia).
However, in contemporary Russia the words "kinut", "kidat", "kidala",
"kinuli", etc. are widely used in virtually every turn by all social
classes. I can tell you that in financial markets these words are as common
place as words like "dividends" and "yield" (which certainly doesn't reflect
well on the markets, but that's a different story). Thus, it would be
erroneous to liked these words to "four letter words" in the English
language. They are no more derogatory than, say, "jerk", "bastard", or
"bitch", all of which are offensive, but all of which can be seen on day
time television in the US.
I completely disagree with Liakhov that " 'kinut' (present tense of 'kinuli'
actually used by A.Chubais) always implies an elaborate scheme which was
planned and executed by a group of people ("kidalu") with a single purpose
to come into possession of unsuspected victim's ("lokh") property." Not so.
The word DOES NOT necessarily imply prior intent. It can be used to describe
the outcome of something, irrespective of the intent behind that something.
For instance, suppose I borrow five rubles from Liakhov in good faith and
with intent of repaying the debt, and subsequently default due to some
circumstances that arise after I borrow the money. Liakhov could then say
that "Devane kinul menya". The word "kinul" would be describing the
unfortunate OUTCOME of our transaction, not its original basis.
The English words offered by various commentators as the equivalent of
"kinuli" (scam, con, cheat) strike as imprecise. I think that the English
language slang word "screwed" may be more appropriate. If Liakhov were to
say "Devane screwed me" (in reference to the hypothetical transaction
above), his statement would carry basically the same meaning as "Devane
kinul menya". Both statements would characterize the unfortunate OUTCOME of
our deal, but could not be taken as a comment on our initial intentions.
Having read the Chubais interview that has become the cause of this debate a
number of times, I am convinced that Chubais intended to give an
unflattering characterization to how things turned out, rather than to
declare that he and his comrades perpetrated an act of deceit with malice
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999
From: "Nick Holdsworth" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re Andrei Liakhov 3680 Blasts in Moscow
There was a live news report on NTV Friday December 10 in the early
afternoon about a small bomb blast at a shop on Varshava Prospekt in the
south of the city; apparently there was also a small (fire?) bomb placed
inside a fur coat in a shop elsewhere in the city the day before.
Times Higher Education Supplement
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999
From: Albert Weeks <AWeeks1@compuserve.com>
Subject: Russian General Staff journal undergoing face-lift.
Permit me to bring to the attention of JRLers the current
issue of Voyennaya mysl' (Military Thought), organ of
the Russian General Staff (FBIS does not usually reproduice
its articles). The journal currently is undergoing revision.including
addition of more journal departments and a reader-feedback column.
Its editor, Col. P. I. Il'yin, writes somewhat ominously (p. 2, #6
November/December 1999) that henceforth in the new
century and millennium the journal will be devoted, among
other things, to assessing the "aims of the transoceanic
strategists...which raise doubts about the peaceful
solution of international problems."
A second article in the same number, by Gen.-Maj. M. I. Yasyukov,
( pp. 30-37), titled "The Geopolitical Factor in the System of the
National Security," sets out the following: "Today the model of
a bi-polar world has changed into one, according to
Z. Brzezinski, of 'international disorder,' a world that the USA
has converted into a mono-polar world with the USA as hegemon.
In such a world, says Secretary of State M. Albright, one of
Washington's concerns is overseeing the consequences of the
breakup of the Soviet empire. The USA's aim here is clear:
Not to permit the rebirth of Russia as a great power capable
of becoming a geopolitical rival and competitor with
the USA...Russia is no ordinary 'regional' power. It has global,
geopolitical interests if nothing else in order to assert itself
against the USA's pretenses of being the world's leader [and]
not allowing [these hegemonic pretensions] to weaken other
countries, in particular Russia."
December 14, 1999
Notes On The Union
Russian Life Executive Editor Mikhail Ivanov defends Russia's union with
By Mikhail Ivanov
The Union Treaty between Russia and Belarus -- signed last week by Presidents
Boris Yeltsin and Alexander Lukashenko and ratified this past weekend by the
Russian Duma has been roundly welcomed here and little reported “there.”
Nine years to the day from the signature of the Belovezhskiye Agreements,
which led to the dissolution of the USSR, Russia and Belarus have signed a
new agreement on eventual reunification. Notwithstanding the problems of
unifying with a country whose leader is no friend of human rights and free
markets, there is much to acclaim in this move.
Yes, there are significant economic and political issues that have been
comfortably ignored. But the fact is that the vast majority of Russians favor
the move and, looked at simply from a geopolitical standpoint, the treaty
makes good sense.
What many in the West do not understand is that many Russians perceive (1) a
circle of NATO expansion narrowing around our country, (2) a pattern of
Western willful neglect of the promises and pledges made after WWII. One of
these was a permanently demilitarized Germany. The direct participation of
Germany in the war in Yugoslavia is rightfully seen by many here as a
fundamental act of betrayal.
Add to this the “dispute” over WWII trophy art -- the pieces of art
transferred to the USSR after the WWII as a small token of compensation for
the losses Russia suffered at the hands of the Nazis. And then, last month,
we heard some in Germany demanding material compensation for the work of
German prisoners in Soviet Russia.
This after Russia lost 27 million souls (and countless art masterpieces,
including the famous Amber Chamber). This after the blockade of Leningrad,
the devastation of Peter’s Palace, the storming of Sevastopol, after the
concentration camps ...
So to hear that some German human rights organizations are pressing their
government to claim material compensation from Russia for having used the
labor of 250,000 German prisoners in the USSR is nothing short of
sacrilegious. The twenty seven million Soviets who died at the hands of the
German fascists must be turning in their mass graves.
Yes, Germans prisoners (many SS and Gestapo personnel) were deported to the
USSR after the war and were sent to work in the North, to construction sites
in the Far East, Ukraine and Belarus. They also reconstructed the enterprises
Germany destroyed during the war. Life was surely no bed of roses for the
German prisoners, but this was the least they could for a country they
devastated and pillaged.
Some of these prisoners of war, by the way, were led through Moscow at the
end of the war. My elderly relatives tell how, on the eve of the convoy,
citizens of Moscow were warned on the radio about the march and urged to
observe calm. For all the grievances, no one attacked the prisoners; many
Muscovites from the crowd even gave bread to the prisoners.
It is no longer December 1991. In December 1999 there is a new “realpolitik”
in Russian foreign policy. Russia is again looking to its natural historical
allies. And no other former Soviet republic is a more natural Russian ally
than Belarus. These Slavic nations speak languages that are almost
indistinguishable (in fact Russian is still the most spoken language in
Belarus) and they share a long history (for their part, one in four
Belarussians died at the hands of Nazis during the Great Patriotic War).
Not that Belarussians are longing for the “tutorship of the elder brother
from the East.” But at least some, if not all, of the former Soviet republics
will re-unite one way or another, on a qualitatively new basis, free of
Marxist ideology. It will be a union based on the proximity of historic,
ethnic and economic interests. And this is a good, first step.
Some may say, “ah, once again we hear another angry Russian speaking out of
his hurt national pride.” To those I can only reply with the words from a
note sent as instructions to all Russian ambassadors abroad by Foreign
Minister Alexander Gorchakov. Gorchakov held the post after Russia’s
devastating loss in the Crimean war of 1853-6 . “They say Russia is getting
angry,” Gorchakov’s note said. “No, Russia is simply getting its act
Mikhail Ivanov is Executive Editor of
Russian Life magazine, a bimonthly magazine of Russian culture, history,
travel and life (www.russian-life.com). This column is a weekly feature of
Russian Life online, a free, weekly newsletter of news and views on Russia