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Johnson's Russia List
21 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Barry Renfrew, Vote Is Democratic Step for Russia.
2. Reuters: U.S. welcomes Russian elections.
3. Garfield Reynolds: Duma elections.
4. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: MEDIA WILLING ALLIES OF WINNERS.
5. Georgi Sturua: The SPS misinterprets its mandate.
6. Itar-Tass: Regional ELITE'S Political Likings Key to Election
7. AFP: Weary Muscovites resigned to Kremlin victory in elections.
8. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Kremlin Wins Battle, But Not Yet War.
9. Ostankino Radio Mayak: OPTIMISM, DISAPPOINTMENT AS RUSSIAN PARTY
LEADERS COMMENT ON ELECTIONS.
10. Reuters: White House not decided on blocking Russia oil loan.
11. Ha'Aretz newspaper (Israel): Isabella Ginor, A Belligerent Consensus.
12. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Yeltsin's legacy to Russian voters
Vote Is Democratic Step for Russia
By BARRY RENFREW
December 20, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) - Things won't change overnight, but the success of centrist
parties in parliamentary elections could mean that Russia is taking another
big stride away from its Soviet past.
For the first time since the Soviet collapse in 1991, a majority of voters
opted for moderate, centrist parties. It is a far cry from the previous two
post-Soviet elections when Communists and right-wing nationalists triumphed.
Russia's messy, often vicious politics could start to be transformed after
Sunday's election for the State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament. It was
an outcome few imagined before the election.
The strong performance of Unity, the main centrist party, is a strong
endorsement for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his tough handling of
Russia's war in Chechnya. Putin had backed Unity and its emergence as the
largest centrist party will boost his hopes of winning the presidency.
But the centrist parties did well overall, suggesting deeper factors than
just the Chechen war.
Most Russians are weary of ineffective government, incessant political
feuding and the corruption that pervades politics at almost every level. They
are also tired of years of botched reforms and economic decline that has left
millions of people living in poverty.
In such a political landscape, the extreme parties of the left and the right
could have been expected to make major showings. Instead, voters saw Putin
and other centrist leaders as pragmatic moderates capable of cleaning up
Russian politics and making changes for the better. The vote was a boost for
moderation over ideology and extremism.
While the centrist parties did well in the party list vote, centrist and
independent candidates appeared to have done even better in the races for
individual constituencies. Voters wanted moderates who would try to deliver
improvements for their home towns.
The big exception to the centrist tide is the Communists, who are likely to
remain the largest party in the Duma but failed to increase their
constituency beyond their mostly elderly supporters. Sensing the shift in
public opinion, the Communists moderated their policies during the election
campaign, even advocating some pro-market practices.
The centrist leaders have strong political differences among themselves and
may find it difficult to form an effective alliance in the Duma. But for the
first time since the Soviet collapse, the Duma and the government will be
ready to work together and tackle Russia's problems. Basic reforms like the
right to own land could now be enacted after years of Communist opposition in
It will be a huge change after years of bitter feuding between the old
Communist-dominated Duma and President Boris Yeltsin. Their mutual loathing
created a political stalemate that made it impossible to get things done as
the economy unraveled and millions of people sank into poverty.
A lot could go wrong during the Duma's four-year term. The centrists may
splinter over next year's presidential elections to replace Yeltsin. But the
ideological deadlock on Russian politics may have been broken.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Barry Renfrew is the AP's Moscow bureau chief.
U.S. welcomes Russian elections
WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The White House on Monday welcomed Russian
elections as a sign that democracy there is becoming accepted as normal.
Spokesman Joe Lockhart noted the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe had made an initial judgment that the elections on Sunday were free
and fair after a ``very rough-and-tumble'' campaign.
``It says something about the system in Russia where elections are becoming
more common, where the turnout is so strong and the democratic institutions,
regardless of, you know, what you think of who won and who lost, have become
accepted as the norm, and that's a positive,'' Lockhart told reporters.
Russians handed victory to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the elections,
strengthening his hand in the Chechnya conflict, for which Moscow is facing
increasing outrage from the international community.
The elections boosted Putin's hopes of becoming president and weakened the
Communists who have controlled the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
Of the Chechnya issue, Lockhart said Russia's domestic political audience may
view the conflict differently than the international community.
``I think this is a situation where the international community is going to
have to continue to make the case to the Russian government and to the
Russian people about how the rest of the world sees this,'' he said.
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999
From: Garfield Reynolds <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Duma elections
An open challenge to all the Western journalists who have been busily filing
stories that call this Duma election a victory for reformist forces or some
Could someone please explain to me what they mean by "reforms?" I don't see
any reformers in Medved and SPS. Medved is a ragbag collection of corrupt
and opportunists, best described as the new nomenklatura. As for SPS, it
to be seen whether they will succeed in doing anything worthwhile in the Duma.
When these people were in the government they succeeded in ruining the economy
and condemning millions to poverty while enriching themselves and their mates,
often through corrupt means.
What this election did do was demonstrate that the techniques which Chubais
honed during the 1996 presidential elections can be used effectively for a
State Duma vote.
It is especially ridiculuous to talk of this vote being a step forward for
reform when the three parties that collected the most number of seats -- in
order, that is the Communists, Medved, Otechestvo-Vsya Rossia -- are all
essentially parties that support the status quo. To produce stable, strong
economic growth, Russia needs major reforms to taxation laws in particular and
to a variety of other areas, including bankruptcy and arbitration laws. It
needs respect for the rule of law. These are the minimum necessary requisites.
But it is not in the interests of the members of these three parties to bring
about such reforms -- and all of them are filled with people who have
shown that they respect rule by the arbitrary and powerful unchecked by
democratic processes. The Union of Right Forces is also full of people who
have either flouted the rule of law or turned the other way while it was
of course, as several people pointed out last night on television, it is
bitterly ironic for a self-proclaimed "liberal" party, that preaches free
market economics, to win through the blatant bias of state-controled media.
SPS, Medved and the Zhirinovsky Bloc were given lavish, slavish coverage by
and RTR, while OVR were vilified and both Yabloko and the Communists were
ignored. For much of the country, which only gets those two channels, they
have been forgiven for thinking Yabloko had simply ceased to exist unless they
actually watched the Election 99 ads.
Finally, it is quite incredible for me that businessmen here and in the
in such ecstacies at this "victory for reform" and feel that a pro-Kremlin
government bloc will somehow work miracles. The problem in Russia since
been the Kremlin, NOT the "oppositionist" Duma, a Duma that has all too often
played ball when the government actually needed it to do so. It wasn't the
that built up the GKO pyramid, and the vampire banks, and which sold off -- or
rather gave away -- the country's most important assets tol corrupt insiders.
Remembering all the people who got burned by Chubais, Kiriyenko, Berezovsky
and others a mere 18 months ago or less it is amazing that anyone
can portray today's election results as anyhting but a giant step nowhere
Business Editor, The Moscow Times.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
20 December 1999
MEDIA WILLING ALLIES OF WINNERS. Besides the Communists, the major winners
of the contest, Unity and the Union of Right-wing Forces (SPS), had two key
elements in common: They openly embraced and received support from Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin, and they backed the war in Chechnya. Indeed, Putin,
who "as a private citizen" endorsed Unity earlier this month, was shown on
television last week receiving SPS's economic program from SPS leader and
former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and speaking highly of it. This
effectively deputized SPS as a kind of junior "party of power," with Unity
playing the role of senior partner. The SPS leaders--including Kirienko,
Anatoly Chubais, Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada--have wholeheartedly
endorsed the government's "antiterrorist" operation in Chechnya. Indeed,
Chubais, during a televised debate, accused Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky
of treason for suggesting a thirty-day ceasefire and talks with Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov.
SPS leaders also benefited from frequent and sympathetic interviews on
Russian Public Television (ORT), the 51-percent state-owned station
controlled by Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, and RTR state television,
particularly during the last few weeks of the campaign. Both channels
lavished even more extensive positive coverage on Unity--particularly on its
leader, Sergei Shoigu, who heads the Ministry of Emergency Situations
(MChS), and Aleksandr Karelin, the three-time Olympic wrestling champion who
was Unity's number two candidate. On the evening of Friday, October 17, just
before the law forbidding election "agitation" went into effect, ORT aired
several "news" features on Shoigu and the work of his ministry which can
only be described as hagiographic.
On its news program that evening, for example, ORT ran a segment showing
Shoigu visiting a camp housing refugees from the Chechen war. In it, the
MChS chief said that he would arrest any doctor demanding money from
refugees for medical services and promised to ensure that the refugees would
receive their pensions and other benefits. Next, a woman refugee was shown
thanking him for "caring for us" and providing food and a warm dwelling.
This segment was immediately followed by an appeal from Shoigu, in which the
emergencies minister, dressed in his ministerial uniform, apologized to
those Russian regions in which his refugee work had kept him from
campaigning. Shoigu then called on voters to join Prime Minister Putin in
voting for Unity (ORT, December 17). Like many others during the campaign,
these sequences, broadcast on the country's most widely watched television
channel, at minimum violated the spirit of Russia's election laws, which
prohibit government officials from campaigning for a specific party in their
official capacity. Meanwhile, ORT and RTR carried out an unprecedented
campaign of discreditation against one of the top leaders of the rival
Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) coalition, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
While Unity's strong showing was largely determined by its support by and
for Putin and for the Chechen war, along with critical backing from Kremlin
media, the party also tapped into the longing which many voters
(particularly, it seems, those in the Far East and Siberia) have for a
strong leader promising simple, "iron hand" solutions. Indeed, Segodnya
newspaper commentator Leonid Radzikhovsky noted that basically this same
group of voters made possible the surprise victory of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's
ultra-nationalists in 1993 and General Aleksandr Lebed's third-place showing
in the 1996 presidential vote (NTV, December 19). Putin, who used various
colorful images to describe what he would do to Chechen terrorists and
demonstrated his judo skills before the cameras, appears to have touched the
same chord, as did the leaders of Unity, whom Putin blessed and who were
themselves presented as kind of "action heroes." The Kremlin image-makers
working for Putin and Unity undoubtedly knew how well these images would
play with many voters.
Likewise, it was undoubtedly no coincidence that on Saturday (December 18),
which marked the Day of Security Bodies, Putin told top security officials
that Russia had "paid dearly" for harboring the "illusion that we have no
enemies," declaring: "Russia has its own national interests and we have to
defend them" (Russian agencies, December 18). Earlier this year, when he was
still head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Putin marked what
would have been the eighty-fifth birthday of Yuri Andropov by laying flowers
at the former Soviet leader and KGB chief's grave on Red Square and monument
at the FSB headquarters (and former KGB headquarters) on Lubyanka Square
(see the Monitor, June 16).
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999
From: "Georgi Sturua" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The SPS misinterprets its manda
The SPS misinterprets its mandate
Overwhelmed with joy because of surprisingly strong elections results, the
Union of the Right Forces (SPS) seems to misinterpret the message its
electorate is sending. The whole point is whether the SPS leaderships is
doing that purposefully or simply too elated at the moment to analyze the
situation in a more balanced fashion.
I am inclined to believe that the SPS leaders are quite conscientiously
trying to substitute the real mandate they received from the voters. What
may be concluded from seeing the last editions of the SPS TV ads with
Putin’s symbolic cameo appearances, campaign reliance on such murky
characters as Pavlovsky and Gelman, SPS’ passionate defense of the
government’s course of actions towards Chechnya, Chubais/Kirienko’s
post-election emphasis on forming an alliance with the pro-government Unity?
It is as if the SPS sensed that its voters first of all pushed and kicked
them to ensure a no-questions-asked backing of the government and Putin
personally. Well, not much can be further from the truth. If all the fuss
for the SPS supporters had been to hail the government, they would have done
it directly by endorsing the Unity. (By the way, contrary to the widely
accepted belief that by last-minute associations with Putin in its campaign
effort the SPS leaders were hoping to capitalize on the latter’s popularity,
I think they were more battling for the heart and mind of the next
The order of priorities is totally different for the SPS supporters. They
voted for the acceleration of the economic and political reforms. They
clearly voted for a younger generation and new future that would leave
behind the Unity and OVR infested with a new Russian nomenklatura as well as
their Dorenkos and Hinshteins. They are not averse to siding with the
government as long as they feel it promotes the achievement of these goals.
For the government to be simply non-Communist is not enough for them. They
were grateful to be given an alternative by the SPS to either voting for the
CPRF or Yeltsin which they lacked in 1996. To make it short, they voted for
I wish to be proved wrong but the SPS leaders seem intent to deprive
("kinut"?) their voters of the fruits of their joint success. To be more
correct, I should say some leaders. Ruthless campaigners and pragmatics -
Kirienko and Chubais - will inevitably encounter resistance within the ranks
of the SPS on key issues such as Chechnya and unequivocal support of Putin.
Regional ELITE'S Political Likings Key to Election Results.
MOSCOW, December 20 (Itar-Tass) - The results of elections largely depend on
the political preferences of the local elites, the head of the Federal
Information Centre Elections-99, Dmitry Oreshkin, said.
Speaking on NTV's Hero of the Day programme on Monday, Oreshkin said he was
"strongly disappointed by how tightly regional authorities control the voting
process on their territories".
During Sunday's elections to the State Duma Fatherland-All Russia led on "its
territory" in Bashkiria, Unity gained the upper hand on "its territory", and
the Communist Party came in first in the so called red belt regions.
Oreshkin believes that in regions political parties have no resources
comparable to the scale of administrative pressure on people. That is "the
administrative resource" becomes a decisive factor.
"This proves that the regional elite has learnt the art of election and
voting. Local leaders have stopped using old partisan methods for protecting
their interest and have adopted new technologies, primitive but efficient,"
On the other hand, he noted that "this is quite a normal culture for our
political life since nothing like this existed before when some were simply
ground to powder and eliminated from political life".
Oreshkin attributes this not to the contest of ideologies -- unlike the Union
of Right-Wing Forces which leans on right-wing liberal values, Unity does not
have any clearly-cut ideology at all -- but to the decisiveness and boldness
of Unity members because people "are tired of the government which is not
responsible for anything and does not make any decisions".
Unity attracted centrist forces. This is the main strategic task that the
bloc managed to solve, he added.
And yet, the main trait of such blocs as Unity and Fatherland-All Russia is
that they "bring together regional bosses" rather than represent the
interests of certain groups of citizens.
Nevertheless, Oreshkin noted that the new Duma will represent 80 percent of
voters unlike the previous Duma which was made up of representatives of only
four parties for which 50 percent of voters had cast their ballots, while the
other half had voted for the parties which failed to clear the 5 percent
The presence of six parties in the Duma gives more opportunities for
political manoeuvre. "That is we have turned into a country with real
parliamentary democracy," he concluded.
Weary Muscovites resigned to Kremlin victory in elections
MOSCOW, Dec 20 (AFP) -
Weary Muscovites expressed little surprise Monday at the success of the
pro-Kremlin Unity party in parliamentary polls, despite some lingering regret
that the party led by city mayor Yury Luzhkov performed so poorly.
"The success of Unity was inevitable," sighed Valentina Vasiliyevna, a
67-year-old pensioner trudging along a bitterly cold wind-swept Moscow
street, of the two-month-old party which came in just behind the Communists.
"The Kremlin wanted a compliant Duma (lower house of parliament), that's what
you expect," she added.
"Unity was formed especially to grab the votes of the OVR (Fatherland-All
Russia coalition) and the Kremlin achieved its aim," said Mikhail, 22, a
computer programmer who voted for the party led by Luzhkov and ex-premier
The voters of Russia's capital gave OVR a thumping 41-percent share of the
vote, despite the party's coming in a distant third nationwide.
"The Kremlin marshalled all its forces and resources to discredit the OVR,"
said 53-year-old trader Viktor Poletayev.
"In voting for Unity, people voted for the war in Chechnya and (Prime
Minister Vladimir) Putin. The Russians are sick of the Chechens. You'll see.
Putin will get 80 percent in the presidential election," he continued.
Putin, a political unknown when appointed in August, has become Russia's most
popular politician and a favourite to succeed President Boris Yeltsin in June
thanks to his tough handling of the crackdown in the rebel republic.
"I am sorry that OVR did not come first. But I am happy that Luzhkov won the
mayoral elections," doctor Svetlana Guseva said of the populist politician's
resounding re-election as Moscow mayor with 72 percent of the vote.
"Paradoxically, our mayor kept his post because of his enemies in the
Kremlin," Guseva said.
"They flung so much dirt at him during the electoral campaign that people
supported him all the more. We Russians like underdogs," she added.
"I cannot believe that Unity obtained such a score in honest elections," said
housewife Liuba, 37.
A few Muscovites bucked the trend, voicing support for Unity, formed by
Yeltsin's camp especially to position Putin to succeed the 68-year-old leader
in June and torpedo the presidential ambitions of Luzhkov and Primakov.
"I would have liked Unity to win these elections," said Anatoly, a
47-year-old taxi driver. "I think in June 2000, when Yeltsin gives up his
post, the Kremlin will change a lot. Putin is strong enough to break with his
"It's very good that Putin will have a party that will support him in the
Duma," said Tatiana Viktorovna, 50, a mathematician. "Our prime minister is a
strong politician who deserves respect," she added proudly.
But most expressed a bitter resignation that Russia's corrupt political class
will keep its hands firmly on the levers of power.
"Who cares whether the Communists or Unity are in the majority in the Duma?
In any case, nothing will change, people will continue to eke out a living on
miserable pay," complained Alexander, a 45-year-old officer.
Russia: Kremlin Wins Battle, But Not Yet War
By Sophie Lambroschini
With votes still being counted following yesterday's elections for the
Russian State Duma, the real extent of any weakening of the Communist Party
inside the body is still in doubt. The election's main result is the proof it
offers of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's apparently solid popularity. His
favored party -- Unity -- the bloc the Kremlin hastily assembled late this
year, is in a close contest with the Communists for the most party list
votes. Whatever the final outcome, RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Sophie
Lambroschini reports that the Kremlin has plenty to celebrate.
Moscow, 20 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- With the strong showing for "Unity", the
Kremlin has managed to both reduce potential anti-Kremlin opposition in the
lower house and undermine the popularity of presidential hopeful Yevgeny
Primakov. His bloc, Fatherland-All Russia, which was seen as a front-runner a
month ago, won only some 10 percent of votes.
So for Russian authorities the Duma elections are proving to be an important
political success ahead of presidential elections in June 2000. Prime
Minister Putin is, for now, Yeltsin's designated heir. And widespread public
backing of Putin's war in Chechnya has made the prime minister Russia's most
popular politician. Now, Unity will probably be a key player in the new
Another party which openly supported Putin also achieved unexpectedly good
results. The Union of Right Forces (SPS), led by former prime minister Sergei
Kiriyenko, is expected to get nine percent. Only two days ago analysts
doubted it would get over the five percent barrier for seats under the party
Last week SPS played up its support of Putin in several political
advertisements. Putin also said on television that he agreed with parts of
SPS's pro-free market economic reform program.
Most analysts agree that Unity is accountable to Putin for its success.
Indeed, apart from the popular prime minister's backing, Unity didn't seem to
have much appeal for voters. Unity was launched only in September as a last
resort only after several other attempts at forming a pro-Kremlin party of
power failed. Unity's figureheads, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei
Shoigu, wrestling champion Alexander Karelin and retired anti-mob
investigator Alexander Gurov, even boasted that they didn't have time to work
out a program.
Unity's spokesman said yesterday that the bloc's success showed that Russians
chose a "new generation of young and energetic politicians" capable of
Political scientist Andrey Piontkowsky tells RFE/RL that Unity's success is
quite understandable because the bloc, and Putin, combine two key elements --
the support of the authorities and the kind of tough speaking leader of which
many Russians approve.
"We say Putin and mean Unity. We say Unity and mean Putin. And Putin's famous
phrase that he will 'flush [terrorists] down the toilet' is plagiarism of
[Vladimir] Zhirinovsky. All the previous projects of parties of power fell
through completely. It's enough to mention [Viktor] Chernomyrdin [leader of
the bloc supported by the Kremlin in 1995]. But [Putin and Unity] combine
Chernomyrdin's administrative resources and the [kind of] appeal of
Zhirinovsky and [Alexander] Lebed that call upon the same layer of the
population and the same structures of the collective subconscious. In this
case the combination of what seemed incompatible can explain the incredible
Supported by several governors and regional structures, Unity probably gained
from the avalanche of accusations brought by Kremlin-controlled media outlets
against Fatherland-All Russia.
Also, Carnegie Fund analyst Nikolai Petrov explains that in the provinces,
Unity benefits from the fact that it is n-o-t perceived as the party of
power. This is true for example in Krasnodar, a classic communist dominated
region where Unity was running well.
Local sociologist Natalya Tutsenko tells RFE/RL that local support for Putin
stems less from his official position than from his actions in Chechnya. She
says this was true in part because of Krasnodar's proximity to the North
Caucasus and what is seen as the Chechen "threat".
As for the unexpectedly strong showing of the Union of Right Forces, former
Moscow mayor Gavril Popov disagrees that it had most to do with its support
for Putin. He told RFE/RL last night that the showing of the Union of Right
Forces actually reflects an increasing support among Russians for private
property and entrepreneurship.
Several politicians close to the government have already expressed the
expectation that the new Duma will work more constructively with the
executive. That may make it possible to pass laws previously blocked by the
left opposition, which held 205 seats out of 450 in the outgoing Duma.
Anatoly Chubais, who backed the Union of Right Forces, says that it may be
possible to create a non-communist majority in the Duma.
According to analysts, this alliance would unite Unity, the Union of Right
Forces, Zhirinovsky's party and possibly several deputies from Fatherland-All
Russia as well as some independents.
For now, the balance in the next Duma is still difficult to evaluate while
the vote count is underway.
Also, many analysts expect that Fatherland-All Russia, which was running on a
strict anti-Kremlin platform while promoting Yevgeny Primakov as its
presidential candidate, will now crumble. United more by a conjectural
alliance against the Kremlin than by a common ideology, the bloc's deputies
are expected to divide into different factions.
Earlier, Primakov expressed his readiness to cooperate with the communists on
Another factor of uncertainty is the political orientation of those who will
win seats as independents. Their number is expected to be around 109 out of
the total of 450 deputies.
Jean-Robert Raviot, a political scientist with the Institut d'Etudes
Politiques in Paris, says that up to one third of these independents could
eventually align with the communists, boosting their representation.
Therefore, Raviot says it is too soon to say whether or not the Kremlin can
count on a docile majority.
Meanwhile, Grigory Yavlinky's Yabloko -- the only party to advance a
peace-plan for Chechnya -- appears to be faring worse than expected and worse
than in 1995. Yabloko's poor showing suggests that it is too early for a
party to benefit from making an anti-war appeal. That may still change ahead
of presidential elections, with much still riding on the fate of the military
campaign in the breakaway republic.
Another question is whether a manageable Duma majority is really good news
for the Kremlin. On the one hand, the possibility discussed by analysts ahead
of the elections that the Duma might attempt to dump presidential candidate
Putin as prime minister to try to break his political future is fading. On
the other hand, the Communist's opposition in the Duma, and their attempts to
paralyze projects proposed by the government, has always been the favored
argument of Russian authorities to explain away the country's problems. The
Kremlin may have boosted its influence but it may have lost its favorite
OPTIMISM, DISAPPOINTMENT AS RUSSIAN PARTY LEADERS COMMENT ON ELECTIONS
Source: Ostankino Radio Mayak, Moscow, in Russian 0600 gmt 20 Dec 99
The leaders of the five parties that have won seats in elections to the
Russian parliament have given their reaction to the outcome of the polls and
outlined their plans for the new State Duma.
\ \Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov spoke of continued support for his
party in the heartland of Russia.
\ Left-of-centre Fatherland - All Russia leader and former Prime Minister
Yevgeniy Primakov pledged cooperation in the new Duma with "all sound forces".
\ Right-of-centre Union of Right Forces leader Sergey Kiriyenko hoped that a
coalition comprised of his party and the Unity and Yabloko movements would
form a pro-government parliamentary majority.
\ Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, leader of the eponymous bloc,
voiced disappointment at its poor showing.
\ Finally, liberal Yabloko party leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy said that his
party had remained true to its ideals, albeit at the expense of support from
those in favour of the war in Chechnya.
[Presenter] Russian Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov, already on Sunday
night [19th December], spoke of his hope that his party would come first, as
it did in the previous parliamentary elections:
[Zyuganov] We shall be in first place with a very good result. We will make
gains practically everywhere. This is precisely the technique of the
so-called northern ball, rolled from the Far East to put pressure on public
opinion. Go to the most densely populated areas in central, core, heartland
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. They are still loyal to
the ideals of justice and friendship of the peoples.
I would like to thank all voters, my friends and colleagues. I personally
travelled across 32 republics, Territories and Regions. I held more than 150
meetings, which were attended by between 1,000 to 10,000 people each. All
public halls and student auditoriums were packed out. Everywhere, I spoke on
local radio and TV. We worked with the population, the electorate, rather
than operated through two or three channels which sought to promote the
threesome of [Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir]
Zhirinovskiy, [Unity movement leader Sergey] Shoygu and [Prime Minister
Vladimir] Putin, or vice versa, who would pop up on the screen one after
[Presenter]... [Moscow mayor Yuriy] Luzhkov's and [former Prime Minister
Yevgeniy] Primakov's bloc [Fatherland - All Russia] has overtaken Sergey
Kiriyenko's Union of Right Forces. On the night after the elections, the
leader of the bloc was quick to outline its priorities as regards cooperation
in the new parliament.
[Primakov] In parliament, we shall extend a hand to all sound forces. In the
State Duma, we shall cooperate with all those who want to cooperate with us
for the benefit of the people, for the benefit of Russia. We shall seek an
alliance with those who will join us in our efforts as a matter of priority
to pass various laws so needed by Russia. We shall try to make the Duma less
politicized but more productive in terms of legislation. We shall also try to
influence the executive. So we are optimistic.
[Presenter] The leader of the Union of Right Forces, Sergey Kiriyenko, also
remains optimistic. He is quite happy with how the vote went. This is how
Kiriyenko explains why the Unity bloc has been so sensationally successful:
[Kiriyenko] The votes cast for Unity have been cast for Vladimir Putin,
undoubtedly so, and that is very good. If the number of people who have thus
responded to Putin's call to vote for Unity turns out to be greater than
those who have voted for the Communists, it would be excellent, although our
own forecasts put the number of votes for the Communists at slightly more
I am very hopeful and, indeed, convinced that the number of those who will
have voted for the Yabloko party will rise and that Yabloko will after all
have got more than 5-5.5 per cent of the vote. I would very much like them to
have 7, 8 or 9 per cent. This is not a competition between us. Yabloko is our
main ally in the future State Duma.
The main argument that will have been decided tonight is one of key
importance. It is about who will control the State Duma. Will it be
Communists and Fatherland - All Russia, or will the State Duma after all be
controlled by a union in the form of the Union of Right Forces, Yabloko,
Unity and members for single-seat constituencies. If we are successful in our
attempts to form a coalition of constructive cooperation with the government
to enable the State Duma at long last, after the mud-slinging and
trouble-making of the election campaign, to begin to pass laws and
constructively cooperate with the government rather than to continue to
squabble in the State Duma, then we, all of us, will have won a huge,
[Presenter]... Less than optimistic statements came last night from the
headquarters of Zhirinovskiy's Bloc. Although it has cleared the 5-per-cent
hurdle, it will have considerably fewer seats in the new Duma than in the
last parliament. This is how the leader of the bloc has commented on its poor
[Zhirinovskiy] There were 10m Communists in the Russian Federation. It is
precisely those people who have voted.
They took almost no part in the election campaign on TV.
If, instead of attendance at the Central Electoral Commission for incessant
conferences and at the Supreme Court, I had made a tour of Russia, like
Primakov and Zyuganov did, we would have had 5-6 per cent more votes.
[Presenter] As regards the Yabloko movement's position, this is what [Yabloko
leader] Grigoriy Yavlinskiy has said about his priorities in the work of the
[Yavlinskiy]... Our tasks and goals are quite clear. We have always defended
certain principles and values, and we continue to do so. We shall continue to
do so whatever the size of our faction. As before, we thought it necessary to
defend what we believe to be most important, namely human rights and
individual freedoms plus a competent economic reform to create a market
economy in Russia and secure stable economic results. We have always believed
that our most important task is to oppose arbitrariness and lawlessness, as
was the case in St Petersburg [reference to the cancellation of early
municipal elections at Yabloko's initiative]. We have not been anybody's
servants and regard it as an achievement.
So what if we have only 5 or 6 per cent of the vote. We have stated our
position on the war in Chechnya, on a tragedy that may occur there. We have
put forward a peace plan. We have proposed an economic reform based on the
budget. We have suggested solutions to many other problems. In particular, we
have defended justice and law in St Petersburg. We think that those were
important things. We have demonstrated that we can have allies. One such ally
we have is [former Prime Minister] Sergey Stepashin, with whom we act
Our stance in that sense remains the same. We are profoundly satisfied with
the fact that our electorate has backed us. If we had betrayed our
principles, if we had gone into someone else's service or if we had decided
to jump on the bandwagon of the high ratings of Russia's top politicians, in
particular the prime minister, such a policy would in our view have been
unacceptable for us. For us, to gain an extra 3-4 per cent by calls to war
with Chechnya - as was done by the Union of Right Forces - war to the last
soldier or to the last Chechen would have been totally unacceptable. We have
defended what we have always considered to be very important.
[Presenter] Those were the views of the leaders of those blocs and movements
that have cleared the 5-per-cent hurdle in the elections to the State Duma.
White House not decided on blocking Russia oil loan
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The Clinton administration said on Monday it
has not decided whether to block $500 million in controversial loan
guarantees being considered by the U.S. Export-Import Bank for Russia's oil
The administration has been urged to block the funding for Russia's Tyumen
Oil Co. to protest Moscow's military campaign against Chechnya and the
Russian government's failure to protect foreign investment.
``The (U.S.) government has the right to block a transaction based on
national interests, but no decision has been made on that,'' White House
spokesman Joe Lockhart said, when asked by reporters if the administration
will invoke U.S. law to block the Ex-Im Bank loan.
The law gives Secretary of State Madeleine Albright authority to stop the
loan if it is determined that Russia is violating human rights.
The State Department is reviewing whether that law should be applied in this
case, and could step in to block the loan up to the time the Ex-Im Bank votes
on the guarantees.
The bank's board was still scheduled to take up the loan during a closed
meeting on Tuesday that is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. (1430 GMT), an agency
spokesman told Reuters on Monday.
There are basically four options for the loan: the administration could block
it, the Ex-Im Bank could approve it, the bank could reject it, or the bank
could delay a decision.
The Ex-Im Bank was created in 1934 and provides funding and other financial
assistance to promote U.S. exports. The bank guarantees the repayment of
loans or makes loans to foreign purchasers of U.S. goods and services.
Lockhart said the Ex-Im Bank is an independent agency that looks at loans
based on ``commercial viability and economic issues,'' with politics
supposedly left out.
Nonetheless, he said the White House sent the bank information last week
about Tyumen that it thought was ``relevant'' for the bank's decision making.
An Ex-Im Bank spokeswoman said on Friday the information was not new and had
already been considered by agency staff, which has recommended that the loan
guarantees be approved. She also said the administration did not include any
suggestion how the bank should vote on the loan.
BP Amoco has urged the loan be voted down after losing a fight with Tyumen to
gain control of Russian oil company, Chernogorneft, a subsidiary of bankrupt
Sidanko. BP Amoco has a 10 percent interest in Sidanko.
BP Amoco claims Russian authorities allowed Tyumen to buy through bankruptcy
a Chernogorneft oil field at a much cheaper price than what it was worth. BP,
along with financier George Soros, were part owners of the field.
The Ex-Im loan guarantees would pay for the services of companies developing
a Tyumen oil field in Siberia and upgrading the firm's refinery.
The package to be considered by the bank comprises a $292 million loan for
U.S. oil service giant Halliburton Co. to develop the Tyumen oil field, and a
separate $198 million credit for ABB Ltd unit ABB Lummus Global, to upgrade
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999
From: Gideon Remez <email@example.com>
Subject: Georgia on My Mind
A Belligerent Consensus
Analysis forthcoming in Ha'Aretz newspaper, Israel, December 21 1991
Translated from Hebrew
By Isabella Ginor
Although the breakdown of seats in the Duma is still to be finalized --
not least, it must await the matches to be made by some 100 successful
"independent" candidates -- one can already state with some confidence
that the present regime in Russia has achieved its main purpose:
preventing the domination of the lower house by a coalition of
Communists and "Fatherland-All Russia" led by Yevgeny Primakov. Such a
development would have posed a real challenge to the "family", in the
form of Primakov's candudacy for the presidential election of June
2000, which he declared on the very eve of the parliamentary ballot --
to no avail in averting the defeat of his list. Just to be on the safe
side, efforts will be made once the new Duma is sworn in to shatter
"Fatherland", which was little more than a marriage of convenience
between Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
The joint victory of three parties which enjoyed the backing of premier
Vladimir Putin "Unity", "the Alliance of Right-wing forces" and the
"Zhirinovsky Bloc" creates in the Duma a "controlled democracy"
disguised as a multi-party system. This democratic image is needed
mainly for foreign consumption, with the Alliance -- still labelled in
the foreign media as "reformist" or "democratic" to be used as the lure
for the Western credit the Russian economy needs now for financing the
campaign in Chechnya -- and soon for bankrolling the election campaign
of the Kremlin's presidential candidate.
"This election underlined Vladimir Putin's consolidating influence,"
Igor Shabdurasulov of the Kremlin apparatus said yesterday, "and this
image makes him the favorite in the presidential election." Since the
Duma vote had little to do with ideological differences but rather was
determined by Putin's support for his favored parties; and since Putin's
capacity to promote them was generated by the points he gained from the
Chechnya war, Shabdurasulov's comment seems to indicate that in order to
maintain his lead Putin needs the war to continue. But according to all
the generals' promises, the war has already been decided and should be
over within three months at most. So if he is to keep up his impressive
ratings by means of whipping up patriotic fervor and fears for national
security, is Putin plotting a new confrontation?
In the weeks leading up to the election, both President Boris Yeltsin
and Putin himself aimed military and/or nuclear threats at the west.
Putin also increased military procurement from the defense industry.
Then, just before the voting, he dismissed any anxiety about
deterioration in relations with the west, promising full understanding
within a few weeks. He took the same opportunity to declare he knew of
no more than a handful of civilian casualties in Chechnya. Toward the
west, indeed, the Russian administration may need no more than rhetoric;
for real military action on the ground, easier targets can be found. In
the last two months there have been repeated attempts to blame Georgia
for abetting the Chechen "terrorists and bandits". Once Chechnya is
(hopefully) subdued three months before the presidential election, will
there then be an extension of the conflict to Georgia?
Russia's economic interest dictates resistance to the completion and
operation of the oil pipeline for export of Caspian oil to western
markets via any route bypassing Russia. Did the recent signing of the
contract for a Baku-Ceyhan pipeline through Georgia seal the latter's
fate? The west did not intervene in Chechnya; it was clear from the
outset that the risk of nuclear war would not be taken for the
mountainous hideout of Islamic outlaws. So will the west be more
prepared to intervene for Georgia, which portrays itself as the eastern
bastion of Christianity? Its stability could easily be undermined by
restarting the secessionist war in Abkhazia, or stirring up trouble in
Adzharia (which sits smack on the pipeline route). Hot pursuit after
Chechen rebels fleeing into Georgia over their republic's only
internatiomnal boundary could help bring down President Eduard
Shevardnadze and return his country to the Russian sphere of influence.
Georgian territory has already been bombed several times, without
eliciting any western protest.
Even if, as expected, the Communists remain the largest Duma faction
(though almost equalled by "Unity"), they are not likely to oppse such a
strategy. In all probability, the Kremlin will find ways to pamper and
co-opt them: it has everey interest to ensure that their leader, Gennady
Zyuganov, reaches the second round of the presidential election opposite
the "family"'s candidate (for the present, Putin), rather than some
figure with broader appeal. The Communists have a solid and durable
constituency, but a limited one. In a second round, they did not before
and will not this time present any real challenge to the candidate
representing "the party of power".
The Independent (UK)
19 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin's legacy to Russian voters another Stalin?
By Helen Womack In Klin, Russia
The ice-bound evergreen forests and the foggy fields are the same as when
Tchaikovsky lived here, but Russia's most famous composer would hardly
recognise modern Klin, a city of poverty, violence and despair.
Like the rest of Russia, Klin will hope that today's parliamentary elections
mark the beginning of change for the better. There is certainly next to no
chance that they will transform the country overnight â€“ and they could
conceivably make things even worse.
The significance of the elections to the 450-seat State Duma, in which 26
parties are running, is that they will identify the politicians with the best
chance of making a good showing in the presidential poll next June.
The announcement on Friday by the former premier, Yevgeny Primakov, that he
would join the race for the Kremlin meant that the Prime Minister, Vladimir
Putin, popular because of the war in Chechnya, will not go without a serious
challenge when he bids for ultimate power.
In the short term, Mr Primakov's commitment to try for the presidency put his
centre-left opposition bloc, Fatherland-All Russia (FAR), back in the running
for the Duma elections. Before that, the Communist Party looked likely to
attract most of the votes of Russians disgruntled with President Boris
Yeltsin's so-called "reforms". FAR advocates the "correction" of reforms,
rather than a retreat to communism, and constitutional changes so that a
future president could not arbitrarily sack prime ministers in the way that
Mr Yeltsin has done.
The legacy of the Yeltsin years is clearly visible in Klin. The road into
town is lined with wooden hovels, the homes of the poor, interspersed with
crenellated red brick castles, like smaller versions of the Kremlin. These
are the entirely misnamed cottagi of the New Russians, who made their
fortunes as much through crime as enterprise. Some have been trying to
register themselves as candidates for parliament in the hope of winning
immunity from prosecution for crimes as serious as murder. But the
mafia-busting election supervisor, Alexander Veshnyakov, has done his best to
weed them out.
Recently near Klin, police discovered a cache of automatic weapons in one of
these obscene mansions. The guns, of the kind used to assassinate the
democratic politician Galina Starovoitova last year, were walled in next to
the fireplace. The owners evidently intended to use them to settle further
scores. This is not Chechnya â€“ Klin is only 50 miles north of Moscow â€“
in its way, it too is a battle zone.
Klin now boasts a branch of McDonald's. But only the lucky workers of the
thriving brewery, who earn by local standards "astronomical" wages (the
equivalent of Â£150 a month), can afford to treat themselves there. The less
fortunate, who toil in the chemical plant or have no work at all, go hungry.
Take Roman Burtsev and his wife Marina, who live in one room of a communal
flat. The state benefits they receive for themselves and their two children
come to just 358 roubles (about Â£8.75) a month.
Yet, like many Russians, they are besotted with President Yeltsin's chosen
successor, Mr Putin, because he is bombing the hated Chechens. "We are ready
to follow him with closed eyes," said Roman. Thus, today, they will vote for
the party he has endorsed despite the fact that Unity, or the "Bear Party",
has existed for only a few weeks and is an artificial creation, designed to
support the Kremlin.
Not everyone in Klin has abandoned thought. A middle-aged man who gave only
his first name, Viktor, said he was going to boycott the Duma elections in
protest at the corruption and manipulative behaviour of national politicians.
But he would take part in the simultaneous local elections and vote for the
local man, who had a record of doing concrete good for the city. That, he
said, was the only course of action that made sense as long as Russia had
such an imperfect democracy.
And Tolya, a mechanic who feared to give his surname, said he thought there
was something disturbingly authoritarian about Mr Putin and that, if he won
the presidency, he could become "another Stalin".
Yelena Dashinskaya said she approved of the tough policy in Chechnya, but for
her it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Mr Putin would become the
next president of Russia. Ms Dashinskaya was planning to vote for the
The sorry state of the Tchaikovsky Museum, of which she is assistant curator,
as well as the fact that she has not been paid for months, explained her
choice. The grey clapboard house, in which Tchaikovsky spent his last years,
is in urgent need of restoration. It survived the Bolshevik Revolution. It
survived the Second World War, when the occupying Nazis stored fuel and
parked motorbikes in the drawing room. But it is succumbing to the general
>From this nadir, Russia can only rise â€“ whether peacefully and
or on a wave of nationalism remains to be seen. On the eve of voting,
election-related opinion polls were no longer allowed. But another poll
revealed that 37 per cent of Russians thought Stalin an "outstanding"
personality and 48 per cent believed that, were he alive today, the old
Soviet dictator could win power through the ballot box.