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Johnson's Russia List
20 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Pro-Kremlin team just ahead of Communists.
2. Reuters: TABLE-Russian election results at 0220 GMT.
3. Reuters: Who said what on Russian election night.
4. Bloomberg: Russia's Chubais on Duma Elections, Unity Party.
5. Interfax: YABLOKO LEADER SAYS UNITY'S ELECTION SUCCESS SHOWS RUSSIA
IS STILL SOVIET.
6. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN COMMUNIST LEADER CONFIDENT OF STATE DUMA
7. Moscow Tribune: Fred Weir on constitutional reform.
8. Peter Ekman: re: Miller(3694)Internet.
9. Bloomberg: Troika Dialog's Adshead on Russian Duma Elections.
10. Bloomberg: Brunswick Warburg's Boone on Russian Elections.
11. Reuters: New Russian Duma may not differ from old-Gorbachev.
12. Reuters: Solzhenitsyn sceptical about Russian Duma poll.
13. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, On election eve, there is no joy in
14. Los Angeles Times: Alex Alexiev, The Russians Face a War Without End.
15. Reuters: Kremlin pins hopes on action man Shoigu.]
Pro-Kremlin team just ahead of Communists
By Martin Nesirky
MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Russia's untested pro-government Unity bloc held
the narrowest of leads on Monday in a parliamentary election, just ahead of
the veteran Communists and well beyond all forecasts.
In a dramatic night with fighting still raging in Chechnya, the liberal
Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) that broadly backs Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin did surprisingly well, too. The centrist OVR Fatherland-All Russia
bloc did worse than expected.
The picture could change, but the preliminary outcome, with nearly 30
percent of the votes counted, pointed to a State Duma lower house less
dominated by Communists, a chance for economic reforms to advance and a
boost to Putin's presidential hopes.
``We woke up in a new country today,'' said businessman Boris Berezovsky,
likely to win one of 225 Duma constituency seats. ``I thought the next Duma
would be in constructive opposition but it turns out it will be
constructive and non-opposition.''
Broadly pro-market groups, like Unity and ex-premier Sergei Kiriyenko's
SPS, could indeed give a fillip to sluggish economic reforms as well as to
Putin. But his and their economic platforms are not clear enough to make
that a certainty.
Partial results put Unity on 25.89 percent against the Communists' 25.21 in
the party-list voting that counts for half the Duma's 450 seats. The other
half are constituencies. Turnout was about 60 percent of the 107 million
voters across the 11 time zones of the world's largest country.
``Unity is not a political party,'' said Kiriyenko. ``It is the personal
rating of Putin.''
Unity leader Sergei Shoigu, who is the emergencies minister and fully
supports Putin, remained cautious and true to his reputation as a man of
deeds rather than words.
``What we have already achieved is thanks to simple people, our friends and
our finely-tuned team,'' he said.
CHECHNYA STILL KEY FOR PUTIN
The pro-reform SPS looked set to take 8.59 percent. OVR stood on 8.06
percent, ahead of ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky's bloc on 7.11.
The liberal Yabloko party was credited with 5.85 percent.
Results could still shift as votes are counted in the more populous and
industrialised west. But the other 20 parties and blocs were unlikely to
clear the five-percent hurdle to enter the Duma in Russia's third
parliamentary election since ditching communism in 1991. Some could get in
The likely outcome provides a clear further boost to Putin, an ex-KGB spy
who is the preferred successor of President Boris Yeltsin. Putin has built
his popularity battling Chechen rebels.
``Putin is the strongest presidential candidate,'' said Anatoly Chubais, a
well-known reformer who ran the SPS campaign. ``He understands liberal
values, democracy, the market and does not accept isolationalism.''
Failure in Chechnya could see his ratings tumble, and those of parties he
As votes were cast, counted and analysed, Russia kept up its campaign in
the separatist province, bombing the capital Grozny as civilians cowered in
cellars. Chechnya did not vote.
A television exit poll had given the Communists the expected first spot,
but as the night wore on, actual results showed Unity was holding a narrow
lead over them. SPS was put in third place in the exit poll on NTV
``This is a very important victory for everyone,'' Putin said after a visit
to SPS headquarters. He called in at or telephoned other parties, but
stopped by spontaneously at SPS first.
The Duma poll was seen throughout a rough campaign as a dry run for next
June's presidential election, the real prize in Russian politics with
powers far exceeding parliament's.
KIRIYENKO JUBILANT OVER BLOC'S SUCCESS
Kiriyenko said the outcome had confounded forecasts and could produce
cooperation on some issues between Putin's cabinet and a loose alliance
between his party, Unity and Yabloko.
``This is a monumental victory of liberal ideas,'' he said.
The SPS is widely called the coalition of ``young reformers'' and many
members held posts in Kiriyenko's government before it fell after an
economic crash in August 1998. The SPS campaign in the final stages
stressed an alliance of sorts with Putin.
Yuri Luzhkov, one of the leaders of the opposition OVR bloc, was far ahead
in his bid to win re-election as mayor of Moscow, with preliminary results
giving him 70 percent of the vote.
He was bitter about OVR's showing nationally.
``By their unprecedentedly dirty campaign the authorities again got the
result they wanted,'' he told reporters.
The bloc, led by Luzhkov and ex-prime minister Yevgeny Primakov, had been
second through much of the autumn in surveys, but faced fierce attack from
media inclined toward the Kremlin.
Yet OVR could still wield leverage in the Duma.
``Clearly the biggest development in this election will be that the
Communists will no longer be able to dictate their conditions,'' said OVR
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky. ``This Duma will be fundamentally different
from the last one.''
Pre-election opinion polls had shown the Communists leading, but without a
majority. The party had stayed largely clear of the mud-slinging that
characterised the campaign and remained confident of remaining the Duma's
biggest single force.
The party, with superior local organisation left over from the Soviet era,
was expected to win many single-seat districts.
TABLE-Russian election results at 0220 GMT
MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Following is a table of partial
preliminary results of the parliamentary election held in Russia
on Sunday. Results are from the Central Electoral Commission.
Half of the 450 seats in the State Duma lower house were
contested among 26 parties, the other half by individual
candidates in local constituencies.
A party needs to get at least five percent of the vote to
win seats in the Duma. Votes won by parties which fail to pass
through the threshold are divided between the winners. So the
share of seats in the next Duma will be bigger for each of the
winning party than the percentage of votes it wins.
For parties which took part in the 1995 Duma election,
results of their party list voting is shown in brackets.
Time: 05:20 a.m. (0220 GMT)
Percent of votes counted: 28.21 percent
Turnout: 60.5 percent (minimum 25 pct)
PARTY LISTS INDIVIDUALS TOTAL
pct seats seats seats
1. Unity (Yedinstvo) 25.89 XX XX XX
2. Communist Party
(22.30 pct) 25.21 XX XX XX
3. Union Of Right-Wing
Forces 8.59 XX XX XX
4. Fatherland-All Russia 8.06 XX XX XX
5. Zhirinovsky bloc
(11.18 pct+) 7.11 XX XX XX
6. Yabloko (6.89 pct) 5.85 XX XX XX
7. Communists and Workers
of Russia for USSR 2.46 XX XX XX
8. Pensioners Party 2.25 XX XX XX
9. Women of Russia (4.61 pct) 2.21 XX XX XX
10.Our Home is Russia
(10.13 pct) 1.24 XX XX XX
11.Party for Protection
of Women 0.87 XX XX XX
12.Stalinist bloc for USSR 0.63 XX XX XX
13.For Civil Dignity bloc 0.62 XX XX XX
14.''Peace, Work, May'' 0.58 XX XX XX
15.Block headed by general
Andrei Nikolayev and
Svyatoslav Fyodorov 0.55 XX XX XX
16.Movement in Support
of the Army 0.51 XX XX XX
17.Congress of Russian
Communities (4.31 pct) 0.49 XX XX XX
18.Party of Peace and Unity 0.42 XX XX XX
19.Russian Popular Union 0.28 XX XX XX
20.Movement of Patriotic
Forces 0.20 XX XX XX
21.Russian Socialist Party 0.18 XX XX XX
of Russia 0.15 XX XX XX
Party 0.12 XX XX XX
24.Socialist Party 0.11 XX XX XX
25.Social-Democratic bloc 0.10 XX XX XX
26.Spiritual Heritage 0.10 XX XX XX
27.Against All 3.33 - - -
28.Independents - - XX XX
In 1995 ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky stood for
parliament at the helm of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).
This year the party was barred from election on technicalities
and Zhirinovsky hastily set up another bloc. But throughout the
campaign he consistently said it was just another name for LDPR.
Who said what on Russian election night
MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Following are quotes from political leaders
commenting on early results of their blocs in an election to Russia's State
Duma lower chamber of parliament.
Six parties appear poised to clear a five-percent barrier and get into the
Duma on party lists.
SERGEI SHOIGU, leader of the pro-government Unity (Yedinstvo), which was just
ahead with 26 percent of the counted votes, said his party's lead had been
secured by ``people of deeds,'' Itar-Tass news agency said.
``We have never given empty promises,'' said Shoigu. ``What we have already
achieved is thanks to simple people, our friends and our finely-tuned team.''
GENNADY ZYUGANOV, whose Communist Party was one percentage point behind Unity
and struggling to overtake it, told Reuters: ``Everything is going according
to plan. We will soon be in first place, don't doubt it.''
SERGEI KIRIYENKO, whose Union of Right Forces (SPS) was on eight percent, an
unexpectedly high result, said: ``This is a monumental victory of liberal
ideas. A new generation is coming to politics.''
YURI LUZHKOV, one of the leaders of the Fatherland-All Russia bloc (OVR),
complained about the media war launched by the Kremlin against his
organisation. OVR was on slightly more than eight percent.
``It was not a dirty but a super-dirty election. Authorities destroyed those
who were chosen to be their foes,'' he said. ``By their unprecedentedly dirty
campaign the authorities again got the result they wanted.''
VLADIMIR ZHIRINOVSKY, whose ultra-nationalist bloc was doing well at just
over seven percent, said he would celebrate not with a toast but by hacking
into Western computers.
``No. No way, we Russians don't drink any more. We now work on computers, we
use computers to send viruses to the West and then we poach your money.''
``We have the best hackers in the world. We do not need to drink or
smoke...We do not drink, smoke, have drugs and we don't have AIDS, that's
what you have got in the West,'' he said.
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY, leader of the opposition liberal Yabloko which was doing
worse than expected at six percent, said his reservations over the popular
military campaign in Chechnya had affected his party's results.
``There have been periods of military hysteria in Russia during the election
campaign,'' Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. ``It is clear that
civic parties have big difficulties in campaigning under such conditions.''
He also said the success of the pro-Kremlin Unity showed that ``Russia is
still very much a Soviet state.''
BORIS BEREZOVSKY, a leading businessman with strong Kremlin connections who
has said he played a role shaping several Russian governments.
``We woke up in a new country today,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as
saying. ``We made two steps forward, while I expected only one.''
``The outgoing Duma was opposition-dominated and unconstructive,'' Berezovsky
added. ``I thought the next Duma would be in constructive opposition but it
turns out it will be constructive and non-opposition.''
Russia's Chubais on Duma Elections, Unity Party: Comment
Moscow, Dec. 20 (Bloomberg)
-- Following are comments by Anatoly Chubais, one of the leaders of the
Union of Right Forces, which won 11 percent of the vote for the lower house
of parliament, the Duma, in yesterday's elections, according to an exit poll.
Chubais, a former deputy prime minister and currently chief executive of RAO
Unified Energy Systems, Russia's main electric utility, spoke at the press
center of Central Electoral Commission during the vote count.
``The people supported reformers. This gives us the ability to move forward
and achieve the aim of the full destruction of communism in Russia.
``In the new Duma there is a chance to form a right-wing majority. The vote
for the Unity (party) showed a unique support for (Russian Prime Minister
YABLOKO LEADER SAYS UNITY'S ELECTION SUCCESS SHOWS RUSSIA IS STILL SOVIET
Moscow, 19th December: Yabloko leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy regards Unity's
success at the elections to the State Duma as "a sign that Russia is still a
Soviet country in many ways".
At a press conference at the Yabloko election headquarters late Sunday
evening [19th December], he said: "If you tell me that the advertisement time
spent on television by Unity and the Union of Right Forces does not fit into
any budgets, I will probably agree with you." According to him, these
associations were allowed "repeated violations above all norms and limits".
Asked whether Yabloko encountered any difficulties in the election campaign,
Yavlinskiy recalled that the campaign had started with the blowing up of
houses in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buynaksk, as a result of which hundreds of
people had died. "The campaign was marred by periods of outright military
hysteria. Obviously, in such conditions civilian parties had huge
difficulties in running their campaigns," he said.
Throughout its campaign, Yabloko has never betrayed its principles. "I would
not like to get 5 per cent more but remember for the rest of my life that
when the war in Chechnya started I called for fighting till the last Chechen
and the last Russian soldier, the way our opponents called for," Yavlinskiy
He believes "this time the Communists will not control the State Duma; a
different situation will emerge to let Yabloko find its place and play its
Yabloko is ready to cooperate with various forces in Duma "on specific
issues," Yavlinskiy said, adding that the association "will retain its
independence, will not lean on anyone and will pursue its way".
According to Yavlinskiy, "in 20 years, Russia will become a democratic
country with a party like Yabloko having the control package".
RUSSIAN COMMUNIST LEADER CONFIDENT OF STATE DUMA ELECTION WIN
[Correspondent] Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov is with us live, and the
first question is the following, naturally. According to the latest data,
you, Gennadiy Andreyevich, are in second place, 4 per cent behind the Unity
bloc. But you are used to be the first, to be the leader. What do you feel
and think? Are you hoping that the situation will change?
[Zyuganov] I'm not simply hoping but am absolutely confident that we will be
in the lead with a very good result, we will make gains practically
everywhere. This is the so-called northern ball, when it is being rolled from
Far East and putting pressure on public opinion. But now we will reach the
most densely-populated areas in central provincial Russia and the North
Caucasus and you will see that whole regions will vote for us there. More
than half of the voters are there. However intense their brainwashing was,
they still are loyal to the ideals of justice, friendship of the peoples and
respect for the working man...
[Correspondent] Gennadiy Andreyevich, you faction will be in the Duma, no
doubt about that. Have you prepared a new scenario or are you going to
concentrate on criticism again? Are you ready to cooperate?
[Zyuganov] You are wrong, we have been cooperating for a long time in the
name of Russia and for Russia. We, Communists, made a union with the For
Victory movement together with Agrarians, Power to the People, industrial
unions, creative organizations, organizations of students, young people and
veterans. There has been no broad association of patriotic forces of this
kind before. On the other hand, our three factions worked in the Duma as a
single organism. We numbered 205 deputies in the Duma. You kept saying that
we were in the majority. We numbered 205. Now we are proposing to set up an
association of 305 deputies and introduce amendments to the constitution,
[Correspondent] Who are you going to cooperate with? Who are you relying upon?
[Zyuganov] With all those who love Russia, and there are such factions. I
believe that a broad union of patriotic forces will emerge in the Duma. The
time has come because the situation is getting worse...
[Correspondent] Are you going to cooperate with the government?
[Zyuganov] We are working with the government, however, we have not heard
from Vladimir Putin an answer to fundamental questions: what to do with the
economy? Why is the government silent while taxes are kept at lethal levels?
Why is a subsistence level not ensured? And it amounts to R1,000 today
minimum while 50m people get R300-400-500...
[Correspondent] Well, you are asked to comment on your own statement to
Interfax that you don't rule out early presidential elections in Russia. What
did you have in mind?
[Zyuganov] I don't rule them out because Yeltsin's era is over, and this
can't go on. The country is out of control. Such statement as he made in
Beijing to the effect that he is ready to throw nuclear weapons right, left
and centre are impermissible, even for the top person. He must understand
what nuclear weapons are. And finally the economy continues its decline,
unfortunately, fuel prices are going up, by 15 per cent for gas and 17 per
cent for electricity.
[Correspondent] But will there be early presidential elections or not?
[Zyuganov] I don't rule them out at all.
[Correspondent] But will they be held constitutionally?
[Zyuganov] Naturally, of course they will.
Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 2110 gmt 19 Dec 99
20 December 1999
From: "Fred Weir" <email@example.com>
MOSCOW -- A new Duma is elected, and after a brief pause the
struggle for real power will start. It remains to be seen whether the coming
battle for the Kremlin will unfold according to the rules laid down in Boris
Yeltsin's 1993 constitution. Hopefully it will. But the constitution itself,
conceived in the political space carved out by three tanks thrown onto
Kalininsky Bridge at a crucial moment, seems destined to follow its author
down history's memory hole.
Virtually all forces on the political spectrum now appear agreed
that the Yeltsin constitution was not such a good idea for Russia. Most are
already talking about some version of constitutional reform, and the point
they all agree on is the next occupant of the Kremlin must not get the
sweeping powers that Yeltsin awarded to himself. Even one of the leading
scholars who drafted the document back in '93, Vladimir Guliyev of the
Institute of State and Law, defends it today mainly by pointing to the
pitfalls of trying to change it. "Some new accord on the division of powers
may be necessary," he says. "But it would be very difficult and dangerous to
start this process".
One of the harshest indictments of Yeltsin is that he failed to
sustain a legal process of constitutional reform in Russia. It was not
impossible. Several post-Communist countries, including the economic basket
case Ukraine, have managed to do so. The old Supreme Soviet -- the
parliament Yeltsin eventually blew away -- had a high level committee
drafting a new post-Soviet charter. It was chaired by. . . Boris Yeltsin.
At his right hand sat a brilliant young constitutional lawyer, Oleg
Rumyantsev, who did most of the actual writing. In those days, 1992-93,
American journalists were fond of describing Rumyantsev as "the James
Madison of Russia". On October 4, 1993, Rumyantsev was dragged by his hair
from the burning White House and subjected to several mock executions by
laughing OMON men. I last talked to him a couple years ago, and found him
bitterly, savagely eloquent about his fate. If rumours are to be believed,
he now works as a salesman for Mars Corporation.
What happened? Around March 1993, Yeltsin broke with the
parliamentary committee and started his own constitution project. The
reasons had nothing to do with human rights, private property, market
reforms or any of those issues. It concerned the division of powers.
Rumyantsev was drafting a constitution that was too parliamentary for
Yeltsin's taste. Repeatedly expressed, Yeltsin's view was that parliaments
are too fractious and indecisive. By tradition and national mentality,
Russians require a supreme khozayin, a master, to make the decisions, he
But giving a country like Russia one strong leader is like handing
a recovering alchoholic a stiff shot of vodka. It's no accident that most
countries emerging from a spell of authoritarianism -- Italy, Germany,
Spain, etc -- have opted for parliamentary government. The Americans may
think their presidential system is the epitome of democracy, but when they
occupied Japan after Word War Two they imposed a pure parliamentary
constitution on it. Very wise.
Nevertheless, when Yeltsin shut down the Supreme Soviet and laid
military siege to it in September '93, the West backed him. Americans are
fond of saying that two centuries of gridlock between Congress and President
has been very fruitful for their democracy, but they apparently couldn't
it for Russia. Most Western dipomats and journalists spouted the Kremlin
line that this was a battle against "hard-line communists", that a Yeltsin
victory would lead to deeper democracy, faster economic reform, a Russia
firmly tied to the West. . .
It led to the Yeltsin constitution, a document that concentrates
power in the Kremlin, reduces parliament to little more than an ornament,
and hamstrings the judicial process (need we mention Yury Skuratov?).
Yeltsin did what other strongmen have done: he won his power struggle, then
wrote up his manifesto and called it a constitution. Russia has had the
Stalin, the Brezhnev and the Yeltsin constitutions in recent decades. The
prettiest is still the Stalin version. Professor Guliyev complains that
Russians don't respect their constitution. "People should learn to fulfill
their obligations under the existing constitution before they start changing
it," he says. It's not known what he told Yeltsin in 1993.
Under his constitution, Yeltsin was able to scrawl his signature
on 4 decrees and give Russia a two-year war in Chechnya and 100,000 dead. On
the strength of more presidential decrees the crown jewels of Russia's
economy were handed to a few Kremlin cronies, creating a criminal oligarchy.
Who doubts that with a few real institutional checks and balances this
country would be vastly better off today?
Yeltsin taught us that Russian power struggles can easily erupt
into horrifying violence. I spent two nerve-wracking days under the White
in October '93, and I find myself thinking about that a lot as we head
toward the next showdown.
Fortunately, most Russian political forces today are talking about
responsible constitutional reform. I'm particularly impressed with Yevgeny
Primakov, who discussed this issue at some length on "Hero of the Day" after
declaring himself for the presidency last Friday. A government answerable to
parliament, a vice president elected by the people, a more accountable
Kremlin. Great. And Primakov is the one person I would trust to actually
implement those reforms if he landed in the president's chair.
But there's an even better way. Boris Yeltsin could relent just a
little bit, convene a Constitutional Assembly and throw his weight behind
needed reforms before he shuffles off into the twilight. What are the
chances he'll think of it?
From: "Peter D. Ekman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: re: Miller(3694)Internet
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999
I was reading Miller's comment on the lack of penetration
of the internet in Russia, just as I was getting ready to
e-mail out the results of my final exam. 22 of 26 of my
Russian students requested that I e-mail them their grades.
A couple wrote down 2 addresses - home and work.
Most likely Miller's figures are correct, only 1 in 50
Russians use the internet on a regular basis. But I think the
overall picture is misleading. There are certainly pockets
of heavy use - as illustrated by my students. Rapid growth
always starts with a few innovators.
By the way, these students are not "New Russians."
by any stretch of the imagination. Many work for foreign
companies, but most have a pretty rough time paying
$4,800 (spread over 3 years) for an MBA program.
Peter D. Ekman
The American Institute of Business and Economics
Troika Dialog's Adshead on Russian Duma Elections: Comment
Moscow, Dec. 20 (Bloomberg)
-- Following are comments by Tom Adshead, political analyst at Troika
Dialog brokerage in Moscow, on preliminary results of Russian parliamentary
elections held yesterday.
On relations with the International Monetary Fund:
``The new Duma is going to be closely aligned with the government, so it will
be very supportive of the government if it chooses to do what the IMF tells
it. The government is going to be less accommodating to the IMF and the
international community than previous governments and the Duma will follow
them in that.
``Previous governments were very pro-Western and the Duma was against (that).
. . now the government will be less pro- Western and the Duma will follow
them. Although, if the government has a pro-Western policy they would follow
them in that too.''
On continuation of market reforms:
(Economic) reform has already happened. It is more about enforcing the laws
that have been passed already. The key now is to make the system work. To
make people pay taxes, make sure contracts are enforced. . .there are already
laws against corruption and there are already laws requiring companies to pay
their taxes in cash. The issue is about enforcing existing laws. It requires
slow and steady work by the government. . .''
On the government's economic policy
``There is a broad consensus in the government and it has been some time for
a tight fiscal policy. Putin. . . is not going to print money to help
industry. . . I don't think he has a strong economic agenda.
Basically, ``not print money, keep stable monetary policy, make sure laws are
enforced. . .''
On why the Union of Right Forces and similar parties received a greater share
of votes than in previous elections.
``Because there is an absence of credible alternatives on the left. Everyone
knows that the communists would basically offer vague nostalgia for the 1970s
and that's basically it.
``I think people know whatever the communists promise they can't deliver.
There are some basic economic facts that people have learnt by now. Everyone
who wants to come and offer alternatives is going to have to do it in a much
more right-wing way. . . There is no other way. Everyone understands it.''
The vote is ``a more radical shift than we expected. . .and offers a more
``It concentrates an awful lot of power in the existing elite. The issue is
really what they do with that power. Whether they are going to abuse it in
the way they did from 1996 to mid 1998 or whether they are going to be more
responsible with it.''
Brunswick Warburg's Boone on Russian Elections: Comment
Moscow, Dec. 20 (Bloomberg)
-- Following are comments by Peter Boone, director of research oat
Moscow-based brokerage Brunswick Warburg on results of Russian parliamentary
``It is a very good result. In terms of getting past the 5 percent barriers,
the Communists, Unity, Union of Right Forces, Fatherland-All Russia and
Yabloko all got past it.
``This is a vote slightly more in favor of (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin.
If you combine Unity and Union of Right forces there is going to be a very
strong pro-government force in the new Duma.
``It is good for investment. Those are the exit polls, so it is not the final
results. It is not a big deal, but it is a little bit better than expected.
It takes away the fear the Communists would show stronger. It is going to be
hard, because Fatherland-All Russia and Communists can go together, but they
won't have a majority. . . not enough to challenge the government.''
New Russian Duma may not differ from old-Gorbachev
MOSCOW, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, loved in
the West but loathed by many Russians for reforms that helped end communism,
said on Sunday Russia's new parliament may not differ much from the old.
"Expectations that we will have a national policy (from the new Duma
parliament), supporting the interests of all Russians, and not clans and
groups -- I do not think we will get this," he said on NTV commercial
Commenting on early results from Sunday's election to the Duma lower house of
parliament, he added: "We will have serious intrigues, and many difficulties
Gorbachev, who did not run for the Duma, said it was clear the Kremlin had
done its utmost to support the Unity (Yedinstvo) bloc, which surged to second
place behind the Communists in opinion polls just two months after it was
He said those in power had several objectives in mind.
"To have a different Duma, a convenient Duma for the executive powers, that's
first. Second, to have a guarantee that the Duma will support the authorities
and their candidate for president," Gorbachev said.
Preliminary results from Sunday's vote with seven percent of ballots counted
gave Unity 29 percent support and the Communists 25 percent.
Unity's strong showing is widely seen as boosting Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin's chances of taking over the presidency from Boris Yeltsin at an
election scheduled for next June.
Yeltsin has named Putin, Russia's most popular politician largely because of
his hawkish stance on the Chechen military campaign, as his chosen successor.
Gorbachev said he handover of presidential power in 2000 was part of a key
step in Russia's path to democracy.
"We must pass not through revolutions but through elections. We must then
hand over presidential power, as is done in democratic countries. This will
be a very important stage."
He also welcomed the surprisingly strong showing for the Union of Right Wing
Forces, a pro-Western party of technocrats led by the 36-year-old former
Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko.
Gorbachev has been a bitter critic of the Kremlin's methods during the
election campaign, marked by attacks on its opponents by pro-Kremlin media
Solzhenitsyn sceptical about Russian Duma poll
MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a spiritual leader of the
opposition to the Soviet Communist system and now a critic of Russia's
westernisation, expressed deep scepticism about Russia's parliamentary
"I wonder whether the vote will do any good," Solzhenitsyn, shown on NTV
television early on Monday, said after voting outside Moscow.
"Year after year we see so many shameless and mean things committed by the
authorities. Why should we believe that this time we will be offered
cleanliness and honesty?"
Solzhenitsyn, 81, returned to Russia in 1994 after two decades of exile and
found himself at odds immediately with Russia's leaders, pro-Western liberals
at the time.
Solzhenitsyn says Russia has its own path to follow and should not copy
patterns of Western democracy, including the basis of its legislature. He
accuses most Russian political parties of being artificial creations which
should not be allowed in parliament.
"The Duma has been elected under a flawed law and it will be no better than
its predecessor," Solzhenitsyn said.
"The only hope is that a group of responsible people will join together in
the new Duma and start correcting the situation, changing electoral laws so
that the next Duma may be healthier."
December 19, 1999
On election eve, there is no joy in Moscow
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- To gauge the enthusiasm of the nation on the eve of today's
parliamentary elections, I visited the Highway of Enthusiasts last week.
A foretaste of the highway, which transects a shambles of abandoned and
half-abandoned factories, came as the subway passed through stations such as
Marxistskaya, Ilyich (Lenin) Square and Aviation and Motor.
What with the bloody civil war in Chechnya, the ruble in perpetual freefall
and organized crime controlling almost everything and everyone, I guess it
was to be expected that when I finally surfaced from the metro on the Highway
of Enthusiasts, I would find absolutely no enthusiasm for the election. Nor
did I find any enthusiasm whatsoever for any of the candidates.
The only smiles and laughs came when I asked people about President Boris
Yeltsin. In keeping with Russia's gloomy Yuletide spirit, everyone I spoke
with quickly agreed with a poll published last week by USA Today which found
that Russians and Ukrainians are the most unhappy people on the planet.
It was snowing a bit and a mean wind was blowing in from the west when I
entered a small, well-scrubbed shop selling vodka and other essentials of
Russian life. The round-faced woman managing this overheated hole-in-the-wall
refused at first to be interviewed and never did tell me even her first name,
although after about 20 minutes she did let it slip that the enormous tabby
cat who seemed to have the run of the joint was called Professor.
As an interview with the fascist leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, played on a
television set above her head, the woman, who regular customers called Galya,
said she preferred music to politics, which was better decided by men.
"I try to solve my own problems. Politicians speak a lot and do very
little," she said glancing up at Zhirinovsky, who appeared to be, even for
him, exceptionally well-lubricated and garrulous.
"The mafia used to exist on its own. The mafia is now the state. Anyway, our
opinion will not be taken into consideration. The decisions have already been
made. We have no influence."
Bidding Professor and the woman without a name goodbye, I walked next door
to a shop selling timber where a cautious man dressed in army fatigues, who
also wouldn't give his first or last name, finally ventured in a Russian
accent which suggested the Caucasus that it was "a very tough question
deciding who to vote for."
Valentina, a forthright pensioner I encountered outside the same shop, had
much more to say.
"I walk around Moscow all the time and with my own eyes and my own mind I
know the city is changing for the worse," Valentina said.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the former prime minister who is running to be mayor of
Moscow was damned as "the kind of mushroom which springs up after a warm
The incumbent, Yuri Luzhkov, who has been repeatedly attacked by the
pro-Yeltsin media in recent weeks for being corrupt, "wasn't to be trusted at
all," Valentina said.
"I'm jaded about him because all he has given us is bright advertisements
and dirty markets."
Luzhkov's main rival, Pavel Borodin, who runs the Kremlin's
multi-billion-dollar business empire, "isn't a politician at all," she
continued. "The only work I'd give him is sweeping the streets."
Maxim Shamshurin, the 30-year-old manager of a company which markets cognac
from Dagestan in Moscow, condemned Mayor Luzhkov and the governors of half a
dozen distant regions. But he said the election was not actually about
politics. Rather, it was a vicious fight for power and money between the
bankers and media barons, Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinky.
"Their differences will do Russia no good," Shamshurin said. "Because of
them it is impossible to say who is telling the truth any more."
Across the Highway of Enthusiasts, Irina, 40, an unemployed mechanical
engineer, who hasn't held a steady job since the Hammer and Sickle came down
nine years ago, said she once supported Gennadi Zyuganov, the Communist
leader. But "the more he talks the more we lose confidence in him.
"Zhirinovsky is fun to listen to sometimes, but nobody takes him seriously.
He's a clown. Anatoli Chubais cheated us when he privatized state industries.
"We are about to enter a new millennium. The world will be celebrating. But
nobody will bring us any joy. I tell you, there is nobody to vote for in
Los Angeles Times
December 19, 1999
[for personal use only]
The Russians Face a War Without End
By ALEX ALEXIEV
Alex Alexiev, an International Business Consultant, Writes Frequently on
Russian and Eastern European Affairs
HUNTSVILLE, UTAH--The results of today's Russian parliamentary elections
will almost certainly be hailed by the Kremlin as a great political victory
for President Boris N. Yeltsin and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin. The
expected strong showing by pro-Kremlin Unity, at the expense of anti-Yeltsin
forces led by Moscow Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny
M. Primakov, will be interpreted by many as a stamp of approval for the
policies of Putin's government, first and foremost, the popular war in
Chechnya, which the Russian military has promised to end victoriously before
the end of the year.
It is conceivable, indeed likely, that the several thousand Chechen
defenders of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, will sooner or later be
overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of Russian troops surrounding them,
though not before inflicting heavy losses on their foes. Russian generals
will declare victory, and their achievement will be celebrated by a
population longing to restore Russia's territorial integrity, as well as its
injured pride and honor after years of humiliation by the despised Chechens.
Few will stop to think of the cost already paid by Russia's fragile
democracy. Fewer still of the onerous payments due in the future. For this
"victory," and the manner in which it was achieved, is so fraught with
disturbing implications for Russia and its place in the world that it may
come back to haunt the victors in short order.
When a conflict in neighboring Dagestan started in August, few
criticized Moscow for acting quickly to put down the armed incursions and
banditry of criminal gangs proclaiming themselves Islamic militants from
Chechnya. Nor was there a reserve of sympathy for Chenhnya, whose government
had failed to impose law and order during its independence, thereby
threatening the entire region. Yet, the initial Russian plan to cordon off
Chechnya and then seek a political solution from a position of strength was
soon abandoned, according to former Prime Minister Sergei V. Stepashin, and
the generals were allowed to run the show as they pleased.
The campaign against a "handful of terrorists" was promptly transformed
into a take-no-prisoners war against the Chechen people. Systematic
destruction of the civilian infrastructure, indiscriminate bombing and
scorched-earth tactics became the favorite military tactics of the
100,000-strong Russian force deployed. The heavy toll among Chechen civilians
has already forced a quarter of the population to flee into neighboring
Ingushetia, and the original handful of terrorists rapidly multiplied in
military communiques to encompass much of the able-bodied male population.
Seven thousand "terrorists" have already been killed, notes a Russian general
proudly, and another 15,000 are yet to be liquidated. Many Chechens now
believe that the Russians are bent on exterminating them.
Chechens are not the only victims. Freedom of information, perhaps the
greatest achievement of the post-Soviet era, has all but disappeared when it
comes to the war. Virtually all media parrot military-scripted propaganda
that would do the Soviets proud. Some of it falls into the
theater-of-the-absurd category. Putin wants to find a political solution, but
only after all terrorists have been eliminated. Emergencies Minister Sergei
K. Shoigu vows that the Duma elections will take place, even as Russian
artillery pounds voters in Grozny around the clock.
The Russian brass has also displayed a new political assertiveness in
Chechnya that is troubling in a democracy. Handed full control over the war
effort, the generals have issued undisguised warnings to the political
leadership not to interfere. Some are even characterizing previous political
negotiations and agreements with the Chechens as a national betrayal. A new
bellicosity is also evident in relations with neighbors and the West. On the
heels of some saber rattling by Yeltsin and Putin, deputy chief of the
general staff, Gen. Valery L. Manilov, warned foreign military attaches that
Russian military doctrine calls for a nuclear response to nonnuclear threats.
While the West may dismiss such rhetoric as bluster, growing threats and
pressure on Russia's neighbors in the Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan cannot
be so easily downplayed. Persistent if groundless accusations against Tbilisi
of supporting the Chechens and constant violations of Georgia's airspace by
the Russian air force, combined with Moscow's documented support for Georgian
separatists and demand for military bases, should worry the West. The Russian
military and its sympathizers are not reconciled to the loss of their
strategic preeminence in the oil-rich Caspian and Transcaucasian region and
the pro-Western policies of their neighbors. A successful campaign in
Chechnya could stir up more trouble, or, if victory turns out to be elusive,
the military might be tempted to destabilize the area.
Chances of that are better than even. Contrary to the military's
sanguine assertions, the fall of Grozny will mark not the end of the war but
the beginning of a new and more costly stage in the conflict, one in which
the Chechens are likely to show greater staying power than the mighty
To understand this, a brief excursion in history is necessary. A tiny
but proud warrior nation of less than 1 million, the Chechens have been the
victims of Russian imperialism to an extent greater than any other Russian
ethnic group. They have dished out as they have received. As imperial Russia
imposed its rule in the Caucasus in the mid-19th century, the legendary
Chechen warrior Imam Shamil fought the Russians to a standstill during nearly
30 years of constant warfare. Later, Chechens refused to submit to their new
Soviet overlords, and guerrilla warfare continued in the mountains for
decades, culminating in a full-scale rebellion and declaration of Chechen
independence in 1940. Four years later, Josef Stalin took his revenge and
brutally uprooted and deported the entire Chechen people to Central Asia on
the pretext of their collaboration with the Nazis, who never set foot in
Chechnya. Half of them perished. When they were allowed to return to their
ancestral land in the mid-1950s, many found their homes occupied by Russian
With the latest events reinforcing their almost genetically programmed
hatred of Russians, the Chechens will now withdraw to the mountains that
cover 40% of their country and again resort to a guerrilla war. Chances are
that it will also be accompanied by a terrorist campaign in Russia proper.
For the Russians, controlling Chechnya will prove a daunting task.
Unable to find many Chechens willing to collaborate, they were forced to
settle for a jailed Chechen embezzler as the quisling figure needed for
foreign consumption. To maintain Russian rule, every single settlement will
have to be occupied militarily. This is, in fact, what the Russian command
has in mind in announcing a planned permanent deployment of large forces in
How feasible this is politically and economically, let alone militarily,
is open to question. Four-fifths of the Russian people currently support the
war, which they are told will be quick and victorious, and is being conducted
virtually without Russian casualties. What the reaction will be when it
becomes clear that success is not near and when body bags start piling up is
far from certain. It is difficult to escape the impression, though, that, yet
again, Russia has bitten off more than it can chew and will end up paying a
NEWSMAKER-Kremlin pins hopes on action man Shoigu
MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, who
earned public respect for cleaning up all manner of post-Soviet calamities,
parlayed his popularity into electoral success as an unlikely political party
But his strong performance as head of the recently created Unity (Yedinstvo)
party was achieved largely on the strength of backing from popular Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin.
Shoigu's Unity bloc won more than a quarter of the vote in election to the
State Duma lower house of parliament in a neck-and-neck race with the
Communist Party, the largest group in the outgoing assembly.
Shoigu, 44, took a rare risk in agreeing to lead Unity into the campaign a
mere three months after it was created solely to prop the interests of Putin,
Boris Yeltsin's preferred successor when he steps down next year.
His career had previously been all about risk limitation since he became
Russia's top civil defence official in 1991 and emergencies minister in 1994.
By keeping out of politics and concentrating on his job of saving people's
lives, he found a recipe for saving his own political skin that made him the
longest serving cabinet minister. He has served under six prime ministers.
"I don't get involved in politics, you must get on with your own work,"
Shoigu told Reuters in an interview last year.
All that changed when Shoigu set his sights on a seat in the Duma, an
unlikely place for a man used to rushing from one disaster scene to another.
"What is going on in the country today is nothing but an emergency," he said
in October, explaining his credentials as a party leader and denying he was
acting under Kremlin pressure.
MAN OF DEEDS APPEARS FREQUENTLY ON TV
Television viewers are used to seeing Shoigu organising rescue operations in
grim conditions, dressed in an anorak or a bulky coat and fur hat. His role
as a loyal, dark-suited minister attending government meetings is less
After years tackling disasters from earthquakes to forest fires, his new role
was as a political troubleshooter intended to take votes from the
Fatherland-All Russia bloc (OVR).
OVR is led by former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov. Both are mistrusted by the Kremlin and could pose a serious
challenge to Putin's expected bid for the presidency when Yeltsin's term ends
Yeltsin is a fan of Shoigu. He awarded him the Hero of Russia medal, one of
Russia's highest orders, shortly before the minister announced he was
launching his party last September.
Backing from Putin, whose own popularity soared because of gains in the war
with separatists in Chechnya, propelled Shoigu past OVR in opinion polls to
second place in a matter of weeks. It trailed only the Communists before
Shoigu has been boosted by daily television pictures of him dealing with
humanitarian efforts in the Chechen conflict. He is usually portrayed as a
man of deeds rather than a man of words.
His political policies are vague and most of the candidates running for his
party are little known. One of his top running partners is a wrestling
But his party also includes some regional governors, forging an alliance
which fills a gap in the political landscape that had left some leaders
outside Moscow wondering whom to back.
Success had not been guaranteed by any means.
The Our Home is Russia bloc led by then-prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
won only about 10 percent of the vote in the 1995 election and is now in
disarray. Shoigu was associated with that party, but had a minor role.
Born in the Tuva republic on the Mongolian border in 1955, Shoigu trained as
a civil engineer. Like Yeltsin, he started out in the construction industry
and was a member of the Soviet Communist Party.
He became head of Russia's State Committee for Civil Defence Affairs in 1991,
a job he held under acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar and Chernomyrdin. The
committee became a full ministry in January 1994 and he has held on to the
Shoigu is married and has two children. He says he enjoys playing soccer, but
has little time for relaxation.