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Johnson's Russia List
27 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. New York Times: William Safire, Christmas in Grozny: Death Takes
2. Washington Post: Sergei Shoigu, Voices of Russian Voters.
3. Reuters: Yeltsin wants to avert isolation over Chechnya.
4. Los Angeles Times: Robyn Dixon and Mayerbek Nunayev, Chechens Say
Real Horror Began After Battle Ended.
5. Itar-Tass: 1999: Political Problems and Prospects for next Year.
6. Izvestiya: Incubator of Napoleons. MOST BRILLIANT GENERALS' CAREERS
BEGIN OR END IN CHECHNYA.
7. Vek: RUSSIA AFTER DUMA ELECTIONS. The nation's prospects are assessed
by head of the Efficient Policy Foundation Gleb PAVLOVSKY and director of
the Centre of Applied Political Research (INDEM) Georgy SATAROV.
8. New York Times editorial: Delaying a Russian Loan.
9. Delovoj Petersburg: No Massive Falsification in Russian Elections.
10. Bloomberg: How Russia Plans to Tackle the Millennium Bug: Y2K Insight.
11. Itar-Tass: Designer of Russian Missile Weapons Man of the Year.]
New York Times
December 27, 1999
[for personal use only]
Christmas in Grozny: Death Takes No Holiday
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Christmas in Grozny: Death Takes No Holiday
Two New York Times columnists acted as moderators at a session of Russian and
Western investors in Davos a couple of years ago. When Tom Friedman asked
George Soros what was holding up investment in Russia, the billionaire trader
pointed to Boris Berezovsky across the table and said: "Him. He's a crook."
Amid the gasps, I stuck a microphone in front of the accused Russian
oligarch, long whispered to be the money man behind Boris Yeltsin's corrupt
"family," and asked, "Are you going to let him get away with that?"
Impervious to criticism, Berezovsky shrugged and smiled. He was not about to
rise to the bait.
After last week's parliamentary elections, the little man with the darting
eyes is smiling still. Thanks to the use of a bloody war as a political
campaign device, Berezovsky and his amalgam of K.G.B. apparatchiks, Yeltsin
mafiosi and phony reformers have emerged on top.
The best thing about the Russian election was that it was held at all. The
next best thing was that the Primakov-Luzhkov marriage of cunning
no-goodniks, highly favored to take over the country only a few months ago,
The worst thing about the Duma election was that it showed how easily the
Russian electorate can be manipulated. Nobody will investigate the suspicion
that the bombing of apartment houses was the work of the K.G.B. taking a leaf
from the Gestapo's Reichstag fire. But however caused, those terror attacks
and ill-timed Chechen troublemaking ignited Russian fear and fury at the
dark-skinned, independence-minded Muslims. It gave vengeful Russian generals
and the Yeltsin "family" a new lease on political life.
Almost all politicians jumped on the kill-the-Chechens bandwagon. Anatoly
Chubais, Yeltsin's favorite "reformer" -- the man who delivered the Soviet
Union's wealth into the hands of a few favored oligarchs -- led the charge to
whip up hatred.
As a result of the war fever, and of the suppression of media reports of the
first Russian casualties, the Kremlin party won a fourth of the seats; the
Communists were held to another fourth, while phony reformers plus Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's lunatic fringe have about 15 percent, as does the staggered
The only party to call for negotiation with the Chechen leaders, rather than
obliterating the women and children in Grozny, was Yabloko. The lonely
democratic reformers, Grigory Yavlinsky and Sergei Stepashin, paid the price
for resisting the bloodlust; their Duma strength dropped from 8 percent to 6
Now we will see the second phase of the Putin-Berezovsky-Chubais election
strategy. Russian troops, accompanied by Chechen quislings sprung from Moscow
jails, will win nominal control of Grozny, now pulverized by bombs and
shells. Western reporters threatened with criminal prosecution will be kept
from seeing the killing of civilians and the loss of Russian soldiers and
tanks. The generals will then declare the war over.
By day, Russians will pose for pictures patrolling the key town squares. The
negotiations scorned by politicians during the election campaign will be
offered to Chechen leaders left standing. 'Twill be a famous victory.
By night in Grozny, however, and in the southern mountains, unconquered
Chechen guerrillas supplied by terror networks may continue to harass and
bleed the Russian occupiers. They outlasted Stalin; they could outlast Putin.
If the grim Russia-haters act true to past form, the fickle Russian public
may find the Chechen war not so popular by the time presidential elections
roll around next fall.
Meanwhile, the family and its supporting crooks will lean on American
politicians. Last week, under G.O.P. pressure to react to the Chechen
massacre, Madeleine Albright had to use a national-security law to stop the
too-eager James Harmon, president of our taxpayer-supported Export-Import
Bank, from guaranteeing a loan to Tyumen Oil, a sleazy Russian operation.
Mr. Harmon was the Wall Street banker who provided a $1 million-a-year haven
for Tony Coelho after that pol left Washington under a cloud. Harmon also
donated $115,000 in soft money to the Democratic National Committee in its
gilt-edged 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. That bought him the Ex-Im bank job
with Al Gore himself swearing him in. Coelho, now Gore's campaign chairman,
is likely to be White House chief of staff if Gore wins.
Do you wonder why well-connected Boris Berezovsky is smiling as Chechens die
at holiday time? Much business remains to be done.
26 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Voices of Russian Voters
By Sergei Shoigu
The writer is the leader of Russia's Unity Party.
MOSCOW. Meet Russia's needs with pragmatism and determination.
If you wish to condense into a single sentence the message that Russian
voters delivered clearly last Sunday, that one will do. By electing a Duma in
which centrist, forward-looking parties will wield decisive influence, voters
injected fresh energy and a sense of direction into our young democracy. Both
are needed if we are to make life better for Russians and make Russia a full
member of the global economy.
This was the opportunity that a few colleagues and I hoped for when we formed
the Unity Party in September. In only a few months we forged a party that ran
a very close second to the Communists. Because we will cooperate closely with
the Union of Right Forces and other progressive functions, we expect to
muster majorities in support of several vital issues.
Some analysts have commented that Unity was formed not to advance policies,
but to protect President Boris Yeltsin's flank today and to promote Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin's election to the presidency next year. To put it
charitably, these are misleading half-truths.
We do want constructive relations between the Duma and the Yeltsin
government. So do the voters, who are understandably frustrated with
obstructionism, which all too often substitutes needless stalemate for
necessary action. Unclogging this channel serves the public interest more
than it does the interests of a single leader.
It is true that Unity's founders regard Prime Minister Putin's sound
performance in office as an excellent indicator of his suitability for higher
office. So do the voters, who give him top grades in opinion polls. Many of
them apparently also paid attention when Putin spoke favorably about the
programs of both Unity and the Union of Right Forces.
Critics imply that there is something sinister about this developing
collaboration between a political leader and political groups. This is a
curious notion, particularly when advanced by Americans. Their high school
textbooks tell them how Thomas Jefferson and a few associates artfully
assembled what is now the Democratic Party before the 1800 election put him
in power. Two centuries later, we must operate in a more transparent
It is regrettable that the turmoil of our Duma campaign and the Chechnya
conflict deflected attention from several important policy issues. Unity
seeks reforms that we now have a good chance to accomplish. They fall under
two headings--the economy and human rights. Under the first, we will fight to:
* Overhaul our cumbersome tax code in a ways that lower rates, combat illegal
evasion and eliminate loopholes that are unfair to ordinary citizens.
* Protect the legal rights of both domestic and foreign investors, who
require reasonable regulations that are fairly enforced.
* Provide material incentives for job-creating investment and greatly
simplify procedures relating to production sharing as means to attract more
* End the unnecessary ban on the sale of agricultural land.
Changes along these lines are critical to improve Russia's business
environment and improve our standing as a trading partner. But citizens have
more personal needs that we will strive to meet. Our legislators must:
* Reform the distribution system for social welfare programs to ensure that
benefits go directly to the individuals entitled to them.
* Guarantee the right to choose one's place of residence, as provided by the
Constitution, without interference by local officials.
* Improve access to information held by government and quasi-official bodies.
* Improve living conditions in detention facilities and prisons.
This is an ambitious agenda, particularly at a time when Chechnya demands
attention and resources. I have some first-hand experience because my day
job, as Americans like to say, has been minister of emergency situations. In
that role, I recently spent two weeks in Chechnya helping more than 2,500
people return to their homes in areas where peace has been restored and
taking other steps to protect innocent civilians.
But the voters are also demanding. They want their leaders to resolve the
terrorism problem in Chechnya, to restore civil society there and to press
ahead in confronting our national needs. Though they have less than a
decade's experience in practicing democracy, they seem eager to convey their
wishes via the ballot box; 61 percent of them participated in the Duma
election. A new generation of Russian leaders is paying attention.
Yeltsin wants to avert isolation over Chechnya
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW, Dec 27 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin told his foreign minister
on Monday not to let Russia become diplomatically isolated because of its
controversial military campaign to subdue Chechnya.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov , after meeting Yeltsin, told reporters: ``Our
main task for 2000 is not to allow increased influence of those forces which
seek to isolate Russia, using Chechnya as a pretext.''
``We have some basic disagreements (with the West) including over the
situation in the North Caucasus. I do not overdramatise the situation,'' RIA
news agency quoted him as saying.
But Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who also met Yeltsin on Monday, had
surprisingly little to say to journalists about Chechnya, making clear the
conversation focused on other issues, including relations with the newly
elected parliament, the economy and ties with other ex-Soviet republics.
Putin, who plans to run for president next year, owes his popularity to the
tough stance he has adopted on Chechnya. But political analysts say he will
need to find a new basis for support if he is to last the distance until the
Russia's military campaign has widespread backing at home but has fuelled a
wave of indignation in the West, which is concerned about massive use of
force and the fate of civilians.
The Russian military, which launched an operation to seize Grozny on
Saturday, say they are planning to take the city block by block to minimise
losses among troops and civilians.
LONGER WAR COULD HURT PUTIN
Some analysts believe the Chechen campaign, which will enter its most
difficult stage when troops have to tackle the rebels in their well-defended
strongholds in the southern mountains, might become a burden rather than a
booster for Putin.
Most Russian politicians still back the military action, although a few are
doubting the tactics and the motives.
``Waging a war of revenge, seizing Grozny as a symbol is unacceptable for
us,'' Grigory Yavlinsky, the head of the liberal Yabloko party, said on
Putin has so far devoted most of his time in office to Chechnya, but analysts
say the success of the pro-government Unity party in the December 19 election
to the State Duma lower house of parliament gave him broader scope for
The legislature is still finely balanced between the Communist Party and
Unity, with their respective allies, but it is no longer a leftist opposition
bastion and Putin's personal authority could help secure new economic and
Both camps are now looking for allies among smaller parties and independent
candidates to shift the balance in their favour and help win a fight over who
will become the new Duma speaker -- a Communist, a Unity nominee or a
Putin presented himself on Monday as a premier capable of compromise. ``It is
wrong to start the work of a new Duma by dictating the government's will,''
PM UPBEAT ON PRIORITIES
Putin sounded upbeat on Russia's economic situation, despite failure to get
crucial International Monetary Fund loans.
``To the great surprise of some of our partners, we are doing all right even
without help from certain international financial institutions, which we
hoped for,'' he said.
He said the government had managed to clear pension arrears and was about to
do the same with wage arrears for state employees -- two huge headaches for
Putin also outlined another sphere of interest, which could win plaudits from
many who regret the Soviet Union's collapse.
He said he would promote further unification with Belarus, with which Russia
struck a merger treaty last month, and mend ties with another Slav neighbour,
Ukraine, soured by a series of trade and political rows.
``It is necessary to maintain intensive bilateral contacts with Ukraine so
that technical problems do not grow into political ones,'' Putin said.
Los Angeles Times
December 27, 1999
[for personal use only]
Chechens Say Real Horror Began After Battle Ended
War: Villagers describe a rampage of looting, murder and mutilation by
Russian soldiers who took their town.
By ROBYN DIXON, MAYERBEK NUNAYEV
ALKHAN-YURT, Russia--As he died, Andi Altimirov, 38, clutched helplessly
at a handful of grass and kicked at the ground. Dirt-caked green strands were
found locked in his fingers.
It was Buru Altimirov who later pried open his son's fingers as the
younger man lay dead on a riverbank nine days ago in this village in the
war-torn republic of Chechnya.
After going to look for the family's missing cow on Dec. 18, Andi was
seized and decapitated on the riverbank, apparently by a group of Russian
soldiers. His head was discarded several yards from his body, near the
Altimirov was one of the last victims of a rampage by looting Russian
troops in Alkhan-Yurt.
There are 19 names on a list compiled by the New York-based group Human
Rights Watch, all of civilians slain in the rampage in the weeks after Dec.
1, when a battle for the town was over, Chechen fighters had left, and
Russians were in control.
Many of the victims were killed as they pleaded for mercy, or when they
tried to stop soldiers pillaging their homes.
As the battle for the Chechen capital, Grozny, continues, Human Rights
Watch has been reconstructing the chain of atrocities in Alkhan-Yurt and has
called on the U.N. Security Council to begin an independent investigation.
Russian officials say they have found no evidence of wrongdoing.
During the rampage, soldiers hurled grenades into basements where
civilians were sheltering, shot and allegedly mutilated people, and burned
some of the bodies.
Human Rights Watch staffers have conducted dozens of interviews, and the
circumstances of each of the 19 killings have been confirmed by witnesses.
What follows is based in part on those accounts.
Andi Altimirov was a firefighter, widely respected in town.
"He was my youngest son. He was the best in the family. All the people
in the village came to his funeral. People respected him, even though he was
young," his father recalled in an interview Sunday with Human Rights Watch
observer Peter Bouckaert, based in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia,
who has been working on the case for several weeks. "He was my best assistant
in the house. He was a good son to his father and mother and a good brother."
When the family cow went missing, Buru Altimirov was going to go and
search, but his son went instead. The cow returned sometime later, but Andi
The photograph Buru has to remember his son by shows him proud and
strong, dressed in a Soviet army uniform during his military service as a
'They Killed People Right on the Spot'
Akhmed Dakayev, interviewed by The Times just outside Alkhan-Yurt,
described the mass looting.
"The Russians simply forced the doors of the houses that appealed to
them," he said. "They pillaged houses, taking whatever they saw, and they
killed people right on the spot who tried to stop them or who objected. They
did not talk; they did not ask questions. They just walked into a house, as
if it was their own, took things out and killed the hosts, as if it was the
only way to shut Chechens up.
"It was a true outrage of lawlessness. All hell broke loose, and no one
felt safe in that madness."
Alkhan-Yurt, a village of 13,000, has the misfortune to stand on a
strategically important point, on the Baku-Rostov highway about seven miles
south of Grozny. The battle for the village began in early November, as the
Russians tried to block Chechen fighters' last remaining exit route from the
By late November, artillery attacks raged intensely, killing many
villagers and destroying many houses. The exact casualties from the shelling
are not known.
The Alkhan-Yurt elders, including the local Muslim leader, Wahad
Muradov, approached the Chechen fighters, who were in trenches near the
cemetery outside the village, and asked them to leave so that the village
would face no further attack.
But the fighters refused to go. When Muradov pressed the point, they
threatened to shoot him.
After a fierce battle that lasted several days in late November,
however, the fighters retreated, and on Dec. 1, Russians entered the village.
According to witness reports gathered by Human Rights Watch, the troops
operated in groups of about four, moving through the town and throwing
grenades into basements where civilians were hiding. Later, they forced many
people to walk to a neighboring village, Kulary.
The worst violence and looting in Alkhan-Yurt took place Dec. 2-5.
Although more than half the houses had been ruined in the shelling, many more
were burned by Russians in the looting.
One of the first victims was Nabits Kornukayeva, a woman aged 100, shot
down outside her home Dec. 2 when Russian soldiers came to loot it. The body
of her son Arbi, 65, also shot, was found next to hers.
Khamid Khazuyev was the local policeman. On the morning of Dec. 3,
neighbors saw an armored personnel carrier and two cars pull up at his house,
and 20 minutes later they heard gunshots. After the Russians drove off, their
vehicles laden with stolen goods, the neighbors found Khazuyev shot dead in
On the night of Dec. 8, Hanpasha Dudayev, 63, was ill, sheltering in his
cellar. A young man was there taking care of him. Russian soldiers entered
the basement and tossed a grenade, wounding Dudayev. He started to plead with
the soldiers, saying, "I'm an old man, don't shoot." The younger man played
The Russians shot Dudayev and then burned his body. After they left, the
younger man fled and later told the story to Human Rights Watch.
The same night, Dec. 8, Muradov, the local Muslim leader, and his son
Isa were sheltering in their basement. About 11 p.m., Isa went upstairs, but
he never returned.
The next morning, Wahad Muradov found his son dead in the courtyard,
with his left eye shot, his nose blown off and about 30 shots in his stomach.
Two men in their 30s, Alimpasha Asuyev and Ibragim Usmanov, also were
shot to death. Human Rights Watch is trying to confirm reports that they were
mutilated with knives.
One witness told Human Rights Watch that he went into Alkhan-Yurt during
the first week of looting with an official of the FSB, the main successor to
the KGB. When the FSB man tried to prevent the looting, soldiers retorted
that they had fought hard for the village and had then been given it to do
with as they pleased.
Villagers said the looting soldiers appeared to be contract mercenaries.
They also said that Russian casualties in the battle for the village were
high, but there are no reliable figures on those numbers, either.
Similar Events in the Previous War
The events in Alkhan-Yurt mirror similar incidents in the earlier war
over Chechen independence, from 1994 to 1996--for example, in the town of
Samashki, where masked soldiers threw grenades into basements or at groups of
civilians and set people on fire. No one was ever prosecuted for the events
Russian authorities have set up an inquiry into the Alkhan-Yurt
incidents, but there are widespread doubts about how thorough it will be.
Acting Prosecutor Gen. Vladimir Ustinov said Friday that he had no plans to
go to the village to investigate. With the inquiry far from complete, he told
reporters that there was no evidence of excesses by Russian soldiers.
Ustinov said it is out of the question that the commander of the Russian
unit in Alkhan-Yurt could face punishment for what happened.
Most Russian media have ignored the killings in Alkhan-Yurt, although
Saturday independent NTV television aired the allegations and footage of
soldiers who had looted a truckload of goods. Another television station,
RTR, also broadcast the allegations, briefly, on Sunday.
Maj. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the western front in Chechnya,
said military prosecutors had investigated events in Alkhan-Yurt and found
nothing amiss. He dismissed the fuss, saying it was caused by some
"Don't you dare touch the soldiers and officers of the Russian army.
They are doing a sacred thing today--they are defending Russia. And don't you
dare sully the Russian soldier with your dirty hands!" Shamanov said after
meeting with Russian journalists at Russian headquarters in Mozdok on
But Rachel Denber, a New York-based Human Rights Watch spokeswoman
currently in Moscow, said it is crucial that an objective international
investigation be carried out because of the poor record of the Russian
military in investigating crimes of this nature.
Times staff writer Dixon reported from Moscow and special correspondent
Nunayev from Alkhan-Yurt.
1999: Political Problems and Prospects for next Year.
MOSCOW, December 27 (Itar-Tass) -- The outgoing year was rich in political
events of all kinds in Russia. In any case, it can by no means be described
as a quiet year.
Suffice it to say that the country has seen several governments come and go
within this year: the Yevgeny Primakov cabinet was fired in May; the Sergei
Stepashin government followed suit in August; the third government in one
year came to be headed by Vladimir Putin whom President Boris Yeltsin
officially proclaimed to be his desirable successor as head of state. The new
premier's rating of confidence soared and exceeded 40 percent in December.
Regrettably 1999 will be remembered not only as a period of political
instability but also as a period in which terrorism left its gory mark. Blood
spilling acts of terror very nearly became routine. On March 19, an explosion
in the central market place in Vladikavkaz killed 64 and wounded over 100
people. On August 2, an armed group of extremists from Chechnya invaded
Dagestan, and the invasion was followed by a tide of terror that rolled over
Russia. First, a five-storey house exploded in the town of Buinaksk in
Dagestan, killing 64 people, and in Moscow a blast in a 9-storey block of
flats killed more than 90 people on the night from September 8 to 9, and
another block of flats was fully destroyed on September 13, killing over 120
people. A block of flats was then blown up in Volgodonsk, killing 19.
Against this tragic backdrop, the public opinion and Russia's political
forces were nearly unanimous in their support of the Putin government's
anti-terrorist action which evolved into an army operation against the
international terrorists based in chechnya. The operation started on
September with federal aviation launching large-scale bombing of the rebel
bases in Chechen territory, it is still going on.
The army's anti-terrorist actions consolidated Russia society and, at the
same time, evoked a sharply negative response on the part of the West and
their relations with Moscow worsened considerably.
The outgoing year will also be remembered as a year brimful of political
scandals, mud-slinging campaigns and "information wars." The first notorious
case was the suspension by the President of Yuri Skuratov as Russia's
Prosecutor General, the move to which the Federation Council, or the upper
house of Russian parliament, has refused to agree to date. Broadcasting TV
sequences of the prosecutor's private life - a thing previously unheard of in
Russia - sparked off political scandal into which different political forces
found themselves drawn. The election campaign which preceded the December
elections to the State Duma was marked by the use of mean techniques designed
to debunk political rivals. The key TV channels turned into arenas of
ruthless "information wars."
Fortunately, 1999 will be remembered by the Russian people not only for the
many grievous facts; the country managed to successfully evade a number of
serious aggravations of the situation on the domestic arena. For instance,
May 15 saw the failure of the left-wing opposition's attempt to launch an
impeachment procedure against the Russian president. The botched attempt
failed to pose a real threat of destabilisation in Russia.
In Russia's relations with its closest CIS allies, the signing by the
presidents in December and subsequent ratification by the parliaments of
Russia and Belarus of the treaty on the formation of a Union state was
certainly a milestone.
The elections to the State Duma, or the lower house of Russian parliament, in
December were undoubtedly the most important event of the year. The line-up
of political forces changed substantially as a result of the elections. The
new Duma will have six blocs and alliances represented in it. They will form
their own factions and probably a number of deputy groups. Although the
Communist party of the Russian Federation won more votes than in 1995, its
factions will be smaller numerically and the era of left-wing domination in
the lower house appears to be coming to a close. The Duma will apparently
have a powerful pro- government bloc comprising Edinstvo (Unity), which is a
new party of power, the right-wing liberal reformers from the Union of
right-wing forces and Vladimir Zhirinovsky with his notably slimmer Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia which has always been on the side of the
government in its hard times.
The political year 2000 will begin with the sharing out of the key posts in
the Duma among the winners, after which the entire logic of political
struggle in the country will be subordinate to the forthcoming presidential
elections in June. The country will be preparing for the change of the guard,
proceeding from the prerequisites which took shape in 1999.
Russia Today press summaries
27 December 1999
Incubator of Napoleons
MOST BRILLIANT GENERALS' CAREERS BEGIN OR END IN CHECHNYA
Various rumors emerged in connection with the sudden appearance of Gen.
Shamanov's in Moscow.
The commander of the 58th Army, which conducts military operations in
Chechnya, he was summoned to Moscow, say anaylsts, because of the events in
Alhan-Yurt, where great losses have occurred among the civilian population,
when it was assaulted by federal troops. Sources say that Russian soldiers
performed atrocities upon civilians in the occupied village, which is located
within the area of responsibility of the 58th Army.
Events in Alhan Yurt have come under scrutiny, as it is the native village of
the pro-Moscow State Council of Chechnya chairman, Malik Saidullayev, who has
been the source of information on events there. Alhan Yurt is a great reason
to start a propaganda campaign against premier Putin, who is believed to be
the main ideologist and proponent of the Chechen war.
Any connection between Shamanov's summon to Moscow and the events in Alhan
Yurt does not really exist. Shamanov was temporarily dismissed, because this
energetic young general has become the talk of the town in the Russian Army.
In the first two months of the Chechen war, when the federal troops moved
into the peaceful territory without resistance, Shamanov was the mouthpiece
of an influential group of generals who demanded that negotiations with the
Chechens be discontinued and the strictest measures taken. These generals
pursued personal, rather than state interests.
Some have political ambitions, some want to become heroes of Russia and some
have felt a deep hatred towards Chechnya from the time of the first Chechen
The political powers are actively fighting against the Napoleon-style manners
of Russian generals in Chechnya. There is only one person, whose rating is
allowed to grow along with the military successes in Chechnya - Colonel
Vladimir Putin. [December 27 1999, page 1]
Vek, No. 50
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIA AFTER DUMA ELECTIONS
The nation's prospects are assessed, below, by
head of the Efficient Policy Foundation Gleb PAVLOVSKY
and director of the Centre of Applied Political
Research (INDEM) Georgy SATAROV.
Question: The Right have been rather successful at the
December 19 elections. How stable is their success? What is a
victory, for the Right?
Gleb Pavlovsky: At this time, a victory for them is above
all the ability to tell themselves and their supporters that they
have an electoral following, something they have not believed in
throughout the past five years. The Right have overcome their
'defeatist complex' and are now facing the task of building a
mass Liberal party.
The Right have not got all the votes they could have got at
the latest elections: their potential electorate is much larger.
Putin has stolen some of their voices, having called on the
nation to vote Unity.
Georgy Satarov: Their success is relative and could have
been bigger if the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, had not made
some of its strategic mistakes in the course of the election
campaign. The Right have been soliciting the votes of the young
only, which they should not have done. The potential electorate
of the democratic forces (i.e. from Yabloko to SPS) is about 30%
of the total. Yet they have got less than 15%. The other 15%
voted either for Unity or for Fatherland-All Russia (OVR).
But the Right have attained the main goal--they have
united--for which reason SPS had no serious competitors in the
Right field apart from Yabloko. The next step would have been to
maximally consolidate the democratic electorate, something which
has not been done.
On the whole, the success of SPS is rather stable, because
the Union relies on a realistic electorate possessing stable
outlooks and interests, and this success can be developed.
Chubais and Kiriyenko are right when they say theirs is a
'growing' electorate, while speaking of their prospects for the
Question: How would you explain the high results of Unity
and SPS? Only by a well-conducted election campaign and support
on the part of PM Putin, judging by their numerous statements to
GP: Techniques would not work without a correctly defined
strategy of election campaigning. A year ago, i.e. at the
inception of the New Force movement, Kiriyenko said there was the
need of the 'new Right' to "propose a new programme to the new
The strategy has worked: the latest elections have dispelled
the myth that a majority of Russians share the Left or Centrist
views. When Kiriyenko went into a structural opposition to the
powers of the 'provincial princes' and challenged Luzhkov this
past May only to spend the past summer building a single Right
force, he was conducting an absolutely correct election strategy.
OVR's poor performance at the elections has helped:
otherwise, SPS would have been balancing on the brink of 5%. And
I do not think that SPS has stolen an appreciable number of
Yabloko's votes, the way many think.
GS: The SPS electorate did not pay too much attention to the
declarations of friendship with Putin by the bloc's leaders. SPS
has got as many votes as watchers have been predicting it would.
For Unity, Putin's support has really been instrumental: its
electorate is unstable.
Unity has stolen votes from throughout the electoral
spectrum: former fans of the democratic parties, the Communist
Party and even the Liberal Democratic Party have voted for it.
The Unity electorate is a social stratum in expectation of an
efficient politician, a strong figure. Putin answers this
description and, having supported Unity, has brought this many
votes to the movement.
Question: How would you assess OVR's harvest when the bloc's
initial rating had exceeded 25%?
GP: OVR has come to the electorate with ideas which have
become obsolete by that time. As a result, Fatherland-All Russia
has become hostage to its own ideology, the way it had been with
the Soviet Communist Party.
The bloc's leaders had launched their offensive under the
slogan: "Yeltsin hangs to power tooth and nail. We must oust him
from the Kremlin." The nation, meanwhile, was interested to know
what kind of power there will be after Yeltsin. While OVR was
fighting Yeltsin, there came Putin to present the 'new power' to
GS: OVR has got less votes than expected because it had
chosen a wrong strategy. The stake on confrontation was rejected
by the electorate who wanted stability, tranquillity and
Incidentally, its voters are not the formerly moderate part
of the Communist electorate the way many experts think.
Question: The Liberal Democratic Party has proven its
reputation of a phenomenon of the newest Russian history. The
party's popularity seemed easy to explain while Zhirinovsky had
the image of an 'absolute' nationalist patriot. How do you think
he has managed to succeed now that his party adheres to an openly
GP: As I see it, the same people are voting for Zhirinovsky
every time. In a sense, the LDPR is a national relic and a
tradition. The reasoning of the people who vote for Zhirinovsky
is: How can the Duma do without him? For the LDPR's voters, the
party's leader and his activities are the embodiment of a
'popular common sense'. He scares many. But then, there are some
who are scared of our people.
GS: On December 19, the LDPR got a half of the votes it had
had at the previous elections. Generally speaking, the voters
have a poor understanding of what the LDPR is doing in the Duma,
of its standing. People vote for Zhirinovsky not because he is an
'absolute' patriot, but rather because he is a 'groovy guy'--"see
how he's had them." Some people tend to take him at face value.
To put it honestly, his voters are pure-water marginals,
maybe the extreme marginal part of Russia's society.
Question: Do you think there will be clearly defined
coalitions in the new Duma? If yes, do you think Yabloko could
join one of them, perhaps, having replaced its leader?
GP: There will be a Right, I would say, pro-Putin coalition.
As to a Left coalition, it is hardly likely--I don't see much
sense in such an alliance for the Communists. I don't think
Yabloko will join the Right coalition. Yavlinsky is advised to
learn the lesson of the past election campaign and amend some of
his habits and outlooks. But changing the leader now would be
catastrophic for Yabloko.
GS: Information about Yabloko is very controversial. Some
leaders say that the party sees a possibility of forming a
coalition and others reject it. There will hardly be a change of
the leader. A change of the political paradigm is more likely, if
Yabloko forms a coalition with the Right-Centrist forces.
As to coalitions in the Duma, there will be a Right
coalition of at least Unity and SPS. Whether they will want to
admit the LDPR to it is a big question. That party is no longer a
juicy morsel--only seventeen members--and it is easier to attract
independent MPs. The coalition may grow if and when OVR will
Nothing is known about a Left coalition. One can expect the
formation of an Agrarian coalition, composed of its
representatives in OVR and some members of the Communist Party.
OVR will hardly become allies with the Communists.
Question: There is the 'law of pendulum' in Russia--a
success for the Right brings a success for the Left at the next
elections, and vice versa. The Right may be riding high today,
but will not their rating plummet in the summer of 2000?
GP: There are neither Right nor Left at the presidential
election. There are only candidates. While running for the
presidency, Putin would be the candidate of a very broad
coalition of forces--the Liberals, the Left and the nationalist
GS: The 'law of pendulum' means that voters do not want to
keep their eggs in one basket. They instinctively want to vest
power in different political forces. But the law is not absolute;
it only means that a success or flop at an election does not
guarantee a victory or defeat at the next election.
In this connection, one cannot say that a candidate of the
Left forces will triumph at the next presidential election.
Question: Do you think Putin popularity is explained by the
course of the operation in Chechnya?
GP: Putin's popularity cannot be explained by the Chechen
campaign alone. Putin has just pulled off a second 'miracle' by
having restructured the Russian political scene as if by the wave
of a magic wand.
The premier is therefore more than a "Russian military
leader in Chechnya"; he is a man of whom the nation expects new
'miracles.' If the people feel he has set out to tackle society's
troubles of long standing, they would agree to a "temporary
In short, for as long as Putin moves ahead, he would be
forgiven a lot of mistakes.
GS: A lot depends on Putin, but today he is much less
dependent on the situation in Chechnya than he used to be. In any
case, Putin, what with the nature of his popularity, has to
continuously fuel it. But his popularity would suffer if he does
not maintain his reputation of an active politician and allows a
lull in his activities.
(Transcript by Andrei SOGRIN.)
New York Times
December 27, 1999
Delaying a Russian Loan
The Clinton administration acted appropriately recently in ordering the
Export-Import Bank to delay $500 million in loan guarantees to Tyumen Oil, a
state-affiliated Russian company whose abusive business practices cheated
foreign companies. But the loan's delay, which is likely to be short-term,
should not signal a broader disengagement from Russia. Such a retreat would
make little sense after the election of a new parliament expected to be more
friendly to economic reforms.
Tyumen's main offense was its alleged manipulation of bankruptcy proceedings
to take over a Siberian oil field previously owned by American and other
foreign investors. That grab was reversed Wednesday, after the loan delay.
The longer-term solution to problems of this kind is for Russia's new
parliament to strengthen legal protections for all investors, domestic and
The administration continues to resist pressure to scale back other
assistance programs for Russia. These serve important American interests like
reducing nuclear dangers and encouraging democracy and economic reform.
Washington should stand firm in its condemnation of Moscow's warfare in
Chechnya. Broad cutoffs of American aid programs would not halt the combat.
But delaying these ill-advised Ex-Im loan guarantees sends a useful
political, as well as economic, message.
27 December 1999
No Massive Falsification in Russian Elections
Russia's Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov
says that no serious violations have been noted during the recent round of
Veshnyakov is certain that rumors of "alleged wide-scale falsification of
election results are clearly exaggerated by those individuals who lost out in
Nevertheless, Veshnyakov admitted that "there have been several incidents
which demand serious analysis," and that "in certain cases, the results of
the elections may be canceled, but only at the level of individual polling
stations", if an infringement of the election law can be confirmed.
"At the level of electoral districts, such infringements are unlikely", said
the head of the CEC. He mentioned, however, "one district where the
difference between the winner and the loser was only 50 votes" (in the
Novosibirsk Oblast). The outcome will become clear in the coming week.
During the course of the election campaign, a total of 50 complaints were
filed against the electoral commission. Veshnyakov said he had "the
impression that the CEC became the target of consistent efforts aimed at
disrupting the elections."
He "can guarantee that there are no grounds to question the results of the
elections based on the federal party lists." Veshnyakov also believes that
the results of the voting in the vast majority of single-mandate districts do
not cause any doubts. He first made these statements right after his meeting
with the Russian President, who congratulated Veshnyakov on the successful
ending of the elections.
The head of the CEC pointed out that on December 19, "we were able to avoid
many of the violations that occurred in the previous elections, such as the
problem of "doubles". Also, several candidates, both on federal lists and in
single-mandate districts, were barred from running because they were under
criminal investigation, had previous convictions or dual nationality. Amongst
the problems that have to be solved before the presidential campaign, the
chairman of the CEC mentioned the need for closer scrutiny of the candidates'
sources of income and campaign contributions, and the need to fix the date of
the voting. It appears that the presidential election will be held on the
first Sunday of the month in which expires the four-year period after the
How Russia Plans to Tackle the Millennium Bug: Y2K Insight
Moscow, Dec. 27(Bloomberg)
-- The following is a summary of how Russia is preparing to tackle the
possible computer system failures caused by older machines mistaking the year
2000 for 1900.
The government ordered companies, banks and individuals to complete all
payments to federal and local budgets by Dec. 28. All payments between the
central bank and commercial banks will be completed on Dec. 29, and on Dec.
30, the central bank will finish all internal work.
Commercial banks will follow the same schedule. Rosbank said all of its
interbank operations will finish on Dec. 29, while internal operations, such
as money transfers for clients from one account to another or currency
conversions, will continue on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31.
Russia's main stock exchange, the Russian Trading System, will close at 2
p.m. on Dec. 31. The exchange will be closed on Jan. 3 and 4, and 7. The
exchange will be open for trading on Jan. 5 and 6. The RTS tested its system
on Sept. 9, 1999 and experienced no disruptions.
The RTS also successfully tested in August all of its computer systems,
including the trading system, electronic documentation, clearing center, and
``Our test results confirmed the trading system is prepared to work in
2000,'' an RTS statement said.
The RTS uses its own private telecommunications network installed in 1995
which passed all Y2K bug tests this year.
Russia's biggest currency and debt instrument exchange, the Moscow Interbank
Currency Exchange, will close electronic currency trading on Dec. 29, 30, and
31. It will resume trading Jan. 5 and 6, and close trading again Jan. 7.
The exchange, known as Micex, will close government bond trading on Dec. 29
and will resume trading Jan. 6, closing again on Jan. 7. Moscow's main
brokerages, including Aton, Alfa Capital, Brunswick Warburg, Credit Suisse
First Boston, and Troika Dialog, participated in testing the RTS held.
The holding company for Russia's regional phone companies, OAO Svyazinvest,
said its companies spent 537 million rubles ($20 million) on updating
computers and equipment to prepare for the date change. The company formed a
special committee to work on the issues. Svayzinvest conducted tests of phone
networks after it upgraded equipment and said systems will go without
malfunctioning on New Year's eve.
Ericsson AB, which sells equipment to local telephone companies, tested its
equipment and doesn't expect its customers to have problems. They have 500
customers in Russia--network operators, and mobile operators, AO Vimpelcom,
OAO Svyazinvest, and OAO Rostelecom, the biggest long-distance provider.
Rostelecom began updating its networks last year, and has already tested most
systems and said all will be working when the date changes.
The Russian government said the energy industry, including operator of the
nation's power grid, RAO Unified Energy Systems, is ready to handle possible
computer breakdowns. UES, which operates 73 regional power companies across
11 time zones, said it checked 50,000 of its computer systems, fully changing
about one-third and upgrading the rest.
Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy said the country's nine nuclear power
stations are ready for the date change. The stations generate about 11
percent of Russia's electricity. The first station to meet the millennium is
located in Chukotka, nine hours from Moscow.
Russia's gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, which provides about a quarter of Western
Europe's natural gas, ruled out disruptions in deliveries, and said all its
computers are ready for the date change. Gazprom said it spent 880 million
rubles ($32.2 million) to upgrade 14 percent of its systems, while the rest
aren't susceptible to Y2K glitches.
Russia's biggest oil producer, OAO Lukoil Holdings, said it completed work on
its computer systems controlling production, while AO Yukos Oil Co., Russia's
second-largest oil producer, said all it computers are ready for the date
Russian airline Aeroflot said it will fly its regular schedule during the
night of Dec. 31 and throughout the day on Jan. 1, 2000, and its fleet of 120
planes, including Russian-made Ilyushin and Tupolev planes as well as Boeing
Co. and Airbus Industrie aircraft all all Y2K safe.
Aeroflot began working on Y2K upgrades in November, 1998 and spent $12
million to ensure safety.
Moscow's main international airport, Sheremetevo 2, said it doesn't expect
problems related to the date change. The airport spent $4.5 million to test,
replace and upgrade its 1,000 computer centers. Sheremetevo handles an
average of 70 flight arrivals and departures during the night.
Designer of Russian Missile Weapons Man of the Year.
MOSCOW, December 27 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Biography Institute has
adjudged the honorary title of "Man of the Year" to Academician Nikolai
Guschchin, the chief constructor of the Machine-Building Design Office, for
his contribution to the strengthening of the Russian defence complex and for
developing new types of armaments.
Itar-Tass was told on Monday by officials of the Defence Ministry that one of
Gushchin's main achievements was the the unique and highly precise
"Iskander-E" missile complex for ground forces. It is designed to accurately
hit small-size and pin-point targets. The "Iskander-E" was preceded by
Gushchin's unique "Tochka", "Oka", and "Tochka-V" missile complexes. The
"Iskander-E" is a new-generation weapon, which is better than all the foreign
systems of this kind, including the "Lance", as regards tactical and
technical performance. This missile system will be offered for sale on the
The state-run Machine-Building Design Office, based in Kolomna, was set up on
decision of the State Defence Committee on April 11, 1942. It was the
country's main designer of mine-throwers, recoilless guns, and bomb launchers
until 1956. Then it went over to the designing of missiles. It was headed
from 1965 to 1989 by world-famous Russian Engineer Sergei Nepobedimy. In our
days, Kolomna the leading centre, where operational-tactical missile systems,
anti-tank guided missiles, and portable anti-aircraft missiles are being
designed. Its engineers have developed more than forty types of weapons,
which are being exported to sixty countries.