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Johnson's Russia List
29 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Izvestia: RUSSIANS NAMED MEN OF THE CENTURY.
2. Reuters: PM says Russia not ready for Western-style liberalism.
3. Moscow Times: Sarah Karush, With Official Blessing, Unity Forms.
4. Jonas Bernstein: response to Mikhail Kazachkov/3711.
5. Paul Kindlon: russia's future.
6. Arun Mohanty: Election.
7. Irene Hurd: Duma election list.
8. Robert Bruce Ware: Reply to de Waal/3707.
9. New York Times editorial: Russia's Losing War.
10. New York Times letter: Paul Saunders, Russia's Slow Start.
11. Vremya MN: Svetlana LOLAYEVA and Gleb CHERKASOV, RUSSIA SEEKS TO
DEVISE RULES OF THE GAME. It Knows Not What 2001 Has in Store for It.
12. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: In Grozny, West Pays as Russia Kills.
13. Reuters: World Bank Russia loan under fire amid Chechen war.
14. Interfax: PUTIN'S PRESIDENTIAL RATING STILL RISING.
15. St. Petersburg Times: Russell Working, LETTER FROM
Just One of the Reasons Unity Means Bad News.
16. AP: Russia Missile Forces Pass Y2K Test.]
December 28, 1999
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIANS NAMED MEN OF THE CENTURY
The majority of Russians believe that Georgy Zhukov,
Marshal of the Soviet Union and four times Hero of the Soviet
Union, is the greatest Russian military leader of the 20th
century. This is shown by the data of a recent public opinion
poll. The poll was conducted among 1,800 adult Russian
citizens from all over Russia by the Russian independent
institute of social and national problems, said the Interfax
agency on December 27. Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin
Rokossovsky is second on the list, and Semyon Budenny is
third. The founder of practical cosmonautics Sergei Korolyov
is recognised as the greatest Russian (Soviet) scientist of
the 20th century. The second place is taken by the scientist
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and the third - by the inventor of the
submachine-gun Mikhail Kalashnikov. The list of outstanding
Russian cultural workers is opened by Academician Dmitry
Likhachev, the greatest literary scholar of this century.
PM says Russia not ready for Western-style liberalism
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, gearing up for
presidential polls in June, on Tuesday laid out his vision of Russia's
future, rejecting both blind adherence to Western market ideas and a return
to the Soviet past.
In his first broad policy statement published on a government Internet site
(www.pravitelstvo.gov.ru), Putin prescribed a mixture of a regulated market
economy and a paternalistic state to cure the country's ills.
He said Russia had no chance of becoming yet another Western-style democracy.
``Russia will not soon, if ever, become a copy of the USA or, say, Britain,
where liberal values have deep historical roots.''
``(Russian) society wants the restoration of a guiding and regulatory role of
the state to the extent dictated by national traditions and the state of the
country,'' he added.
Putin, in sharp contrast with many political leaders in Russia, showed little
nostalgia for the Communist past and defended post-Soviet market reforms,
widely criticised for impoverishing the country and resulting in ``crony
``The Soviet regime failed to make the country flourishing, its society
dynamic, its people free,'' he said.
But he recognised that his liberal predecessors had made mistakes. ``Of
course the drawbacks in the process of renewing the country were not
inevitable,'' he said.
PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA MUST PLOUGH OWN FURROW
Publication of the article coincided with a congress of the pro-government
Unity party, which did surprisingly well in a parliamentary election earlier
this month and has now asked Putin to use it as power base in his future
Putin, whom Yeltsin made prime minister in August and named as his choice for
the next president, has soared in popularity due to his tough military drive
against separatist rebels in the southern region of Chechnya.
The stony-faced former head of the FSB domestic security service is now seen
as the strongest presidential candidate with unchallenged public support. So
far, he has said little about his political or economic views.
Putin, 47, said the biggest mistake of reformers was their attempt to copy
Western patterns on Russian soil.
``We can count on a worthy future only if we manage to naturally combine the
principles of a market economy and democracy with Russia's realities,'' he
PM URGES TO MEND SPLIT IN SOCIETY
Putin said progress was impossible until a deep split in society was mended.
He offered several ideas to promote harmony.
He cited patriotism, the feeling of belonging to a great power, based on
economic and technological might rather than military force, and loyalty
towards the state.
He also said Russians were not ready to abandon traditional dependence on the
state and become self-reliant individuals.
``There is no point speculating whether this tradition is good or bad...It
exists and remains dominant for now. This should be taken into account,
especially in social policy.''
Putin said he wanted to keep Russia part of the world economy, improving the
foreign investment climate and expanding participation in international
He made clear the government intended to keep a tight grip on the economy and
draw up long-term guidelines for it. ``The need for a comprehensive system of
state regulation of the economy and social sphere is an important lesson of
He said the time was not ripe for classical liberalism. ``Sometime later we
will probably take this recipe, but now the situation demands stronger state
December 29, 1999
With Official Blessing, Unity Forms
By Sarah Karush
Even before the Unity party congress began Tuesday, it was clear it was a
As delegates and journalists filed toward the coat check of the Rossiya movie
theater, someone in the crowd remarked on the efficiency of the Rossiya's
"We're not from the Rossiya," responded one of the women taking coats. "We're
from MChS [the Emergency Situations Ministry]."
The atmosphere of state sponsorship continued throughout the hour-long open
meeting, as the newly elected deputies, led by Emergency Situations Minister
Sergei Shoigu, pledged to support Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's government
and his presidential bid.
Putin himself sat on the podium between Shoigu and the No. 2 on the bloc's
election list, wrestling champion Alexander Karelin. The Kremlin's deputy
chief of staff, Igor Shabdurasulov, sat in the front row.
"Many people call us Putin's party," Shoigu said as the prime minister looked
on from the podium. "Well, it's true."
Putin lent his support - and his soaring popularity - to Unity during the
campaign, though at the time he emphasized he was doing so only as a citizen.
On Tuesday, however, Putin was speaking strictly as prime minister.
"The government intends to work with all factions [in the Duma], but we are
counting on working with your faction," Putin told the delegates.
Putin summed up Unity's election success as an endorsement of the military
campaign in Chechnya.
"I think this [the vote for Unity] is an outgrowth of a consolidation of
opinion in society on today's key issue, the issue of fighting terrorism," he
said. "Our people have long ago understood that we can't solve a single
social or economic problem if the Russian state is falling apart."
During the campaign, critics maintained that Unity was receiving unfair,
illegal support from the government. The privately owned NTV, which is often
critical of the Kremlin, reported that Unity's campaign was essentially run
out of Shabdurasulov's office.
Even Kommersant, owned by Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, reported Saturday
that the Railways Ministry was also helping Unity. In an account of a public
appearance attended by Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko - who is also
the railways minister - the newspaper said Aksyonenko "began reading
congratulatory telegrams from Unity, which expressed gratitude to the
[Railways] Ministry for support in the elections."
To judge by Tuesday's congress, the leaders of Unity, also known as Medved,
or Bear, have every intention of creating an official party of the state -
with an infrastructure modeled on that of the Soviet Union's official party.
"In 43 regions we have founded youth organizations - our Bear's Komsomol,"
said Shoigu, who spoke in a stilted voice - one that made for a sharp
contrast with the more cool manner in which he speaks in front of television
cameras in Chechnya.
"There have been many suggestions to start a children's organization, but we
think we shouldn't involve them in politics. It's still early [for them]," he
added with a grin. The joke seemed to fall flat, as the audience remained
Oddly, Tuesday's event was a founding congress for Unity, which despite
receiving almost 24 percent of the vote on Dec. 19 did not exist then as an
officially registered political organization - merely as an election bloc.
The delegates, who in addition to Duma deputies included many regional
leaders who supported Unity's campaign, voted unanimously to form a political
organization called Unity. They also voted unanimously to name Shoigu the
leader of the movement, a position which he accepted while declining to take
his seat in the Duma. Instead, he will remain at the head of the Emergency
Situations Ministry, a position that has given him the reputation of a
The delegates also unanimously approved a pledge to focus on supporting
Putin's presidential election campaign this spring.
The congress, where speaker after speaker paid tribute to Putin, was followed
by a closed meeting of the newly elected deputies. Their central task was to
determine who would head the Duma faction in lieu of Shoigu. But late Tuesday
afternoon, the deputies announced that the decision wouldn't be made for a
Deputy Lyubov Sliska told NTV that she was part of a working group that had
been established to discuss the issue. "I think only around the 31st, just
before New Year's, you will have a name," she said.
Earlier in the day, Sliska, who until now worked as a deputy governor in the
Saratov region, gave a speech at the congress, in which she said one of the
important tasks of the new Duma would be to legalize land ownership
throughout the country as has been done already in Saratov.
Afterward, Sliska said she had been nervous before her speech before her new
colleagues, many of whom were still strangers to her.
"Here you see it was a new audience. Today was my first public speech in my
new role as a State Duma deputy and before my new colleagues," she said.
But this week many Russian media are predicting that the faction will be
headed by Boris Gryzlov, who headed Unity's St. Petersburg election
headquarters. Little is known about Gryzlov; according to Central Election
Commission, he is president of the Regional Development Business Cooperation
Itar-Tass on Monday quoted Putin as saying that Gryzlov was "one of the
candidates" for faction leader.
Shoigu said Tuesday that Unity was looking for allies in the new Duma. In
addition to the Union of Right Forces - which is considered the second main
pro-government party - Interfax quoted him as saying there had been talks
with former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who ran with Yabloko, and with
the All Russia movement.
All Russia ran in a joint bloc with the anti-Kremlin Fatherland, but many of
the more conciliatory regional forces who make up All Russia have declared
they will form a separate group in the Duma.
From: "jonas bernstein" <email@example.com>
Subject: response to Mikhail Kazachkov/3711
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999
Re: Mikhail Kazachkov's response in JRL #3711 (Dec. 28, 1999) to my critique
of Martin Malia's recent New York Times op-ed
Concerning the question of whether or not someone inside or connected to the
Yeltsin government may have plotted to blow up buildings in Moscow and other
cities, in order to provide a pretext for the Chechen war, Mr. Kazachkov
writes that because of the "plurality of centers of power" in today's Russia
and "a media lurking for sensational stories," it is "utterly unimaginable
a conspiracy as huge as exploding a few apartment buildings could have been
pulled off with no leaks."
Really? Why, then, do we remain in the dark about who was behind the murders
of Moskovsky Komsomolyets journalist Dmitri Kholodov (October 1994), Russian
Public Television founder Vladislav Listyev (March 1995) and State Duma
Deputy Galina Starovoitova (November 1998)? True, six people, including four
former airborne troops officers, have been charged in connection with
Kholodov's murder (he was killed while investigating alleged corruption
among high-ranking military officials). But nobody here thinks that these
people masterminded it, and a trial is not expected before next summer (but
don't hold your breath). As for Listyev, who knows? Boris Berezovsky
recently alleged that former Presidential Security Service chief Alexander
Korzhakov and Federal Security Service chief Mikhail Barsukov were behind
that murder, but that isn't a very reliable source, is it? Don't hold your
breath for a trial related to that murder, either. As for the Starovoitova
murder: the indentities of the killers and those who ordered the hit (surely
Mr. Kazachkov doesn't believe it was a random killing) remain a mystery, as
do so many other things that took place during the last ten years. Who, for
example, really owns the major private stakes in Russian Public Television
or Gazprom? Who stands behind the Cyprus-registered companies that won
various loans-for-shares auctions and other less-than-transparent
privatization deals? What happened to the more than $200 million in state
funds, earmarked for supplying MiGs to India, that went astray in 1997?
All of which is to say that conspiracies are not as hard to pull off in the
New Russia as Mr. Kazachkov suggests. On the contrary.
As for Mr. Kazachkov's tag line: "I find it an ironic proof of genuine
Russian improvements (see Dr. Malia's OpEd) that conspiracy theory mentality
is now championed by Westerners rather than by my compatriots..."
Here is what Yevgeny Kiselyev, host of NTV Television's Itogi and Glas
Naroda programs, said in an interview published this week in Novaya Gazeta:
"Isn't it strange that from the moment of the explosions [of the buildings]
in Moscow and Buinaksk, the public has believed that the explosions were
organized by Chechens? Why then didn't [Chechen warlords Salman] Raduev,
[Shamil] Basayev or Khattab, who have usually taken responsibility [for
terrorist attacks], take responsibility this time? There is a lot that is
peculiar ... I believe that we have enough politicians who are prepared to
use any situation cynically. Someone blew up the apartment buildings. And it
is obvious that the authorities rode on a wave of popularity, using the
public mood after the explosions."
Kiselyev's comments, while cautious, require little interpretation. By the
way, he is Russian.
From: "Paul Kindlon" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: russia's future
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999
David, A few remarks on Western perceptions about Russia as we begin to
enter a new millenium.
1) Western journalists/pundits persistently attempt to analyze events in
Russia according to Western notions of economic and political progress. At
the basis of this viewpoint lies the idea of linear progression which is -
for the most part- absent in Russian consciousness. Looking mostly at
Moscow and Petersburg, journalists forget that Russia was for thousands of
years an agrarian society. It is still mostly agrarian. Russians are,
therefore, characterized by an agrarian consciousness, perceiving life as
a series of seasonal cycles.
The belief that Russia is in transistion towards a higher plane of socio-
political existence is a myth dreamed up by those whose mindsets were
formed by ideas directly descended from the Enlightenment. The same mistake
was made by the Soviet communist party. Russians know instinctively that
all economic systems were designed to protect the majority of citizens from
the corrupting influence of power and money.
2) To expect a new government with a " pro-reformist" bent to act
rationally is to say that summer is an improvement on spring. Russians are
not rational; they are irrational. This is not to say they are incapable of
rationality; they simply reject it as illusory.
3)There is another great myth that has been accepted almost without
criticism: the belief that Russians are "Russian Orthodox believers".
Scratch any Russian and chances are good you will find a pagan. This very
ancient (and agrarian) religion lives on in the consciousness of the
majority of Russians to this very day. The attraction of the Dacha (no,
not private property) is the mystical allure of nature connected with
Paganism. The belief in witches is widespread even among educated classes.
The desire for communal dionysian -like festivals can be seen every
weekend in bars and in private apartments. The centrality of music, the
worship of animals(pets), and an almost spiritual need for self-destruction
characterize this Russian form of paganism. When " Russian experts" begin
to scratch their heads ten years after the turn of the century wondering
why the transistion never occurred, some will no doubt make comments about
the "mysterious Russian soul." Ladies and gentlemen... The fact is the
Russian soul is not at all mysterious; it just isn't what you expected.
Dr Paul Kindlon Moscow State Linguistic University email@example.com
From: "Arun Mohanty" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999
Dr Arun Mohanty, Associate Professor, Moscow City University.
I fail to understand the conclusion of some analysts and journalists that
the outcome of the just-completed Duma elections is a 'monumental victory'
for the rightist forces and that the new duma would be fully controlled by
Some analysts even suggest that the centre of right forces would control
as much as 54% seats in the new duma and that the election outcome is a
complete vote against the communists.
The first deputy chief of Kremlin staff Igor Shabdulrashodov has gone to
the extend of describing the poll- results as a 'peaceful revulution' in
favour of reforms.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that rightist forces have scored a
sweeping victory in the elections.
During the 1995 Duma elections ,the rightist forces - Gaidar's 'Choice of
Russia' and Yavlinsky's 'Yabloko'- had polled 4.6% and 7.5% respectively ,
making about 12% together.
Both the parties had a strength of about fifty members in the 450 -strong
In the 1995 duma elections, rightist forces- the Union of Right Forces
(the substitute for Choice of Russia) and Yabloko - have polled about 8,5%
and 6% respectively, which provides them 14,5% of votes together making an
improvement by 3% over the the past performance.
It is evident that the ideologically close Yabloko and the' Union of Right
Forces' have simply interchanged their places in their own common
The communist party has recieved almost 25% against its tally of 22,5% in
the 1995 Duma election , which is an improvement 2.5% over the past
If Right's 3% improvement in performane can be considered as a sweeping
victory , the communist party's 2,5% improvement can definitely be called
a victory instead of failure for them in an election fought on
notoriously unequal terms.
The fatherland -All Russia (FAR) led by Evgeny Primakov and Yuri Luzkov,
which is a left of centre alliance , has polled around 14% of votes for
itself, and the major part of the block is likely to vote more often with
communists than with pro-Kremlin factions.
So, this would be another shot in the arm of the Left in the new Duma.
If you go by the total number of seats in the new Duma, the Right does not
seem to have added to its strength.
In the old Duma , the Right had a strength of around 52 members ,which they
are unlikely to improve in the new duma.
The Communists had a strength of 157 - 99 through proportional
representation and 58 through single mandate constituencies- in the old
Duma which they are likely to maintan in the new Duma as reported by
sources close to the party.
This means while communists would control almost one third of the Duma ,
their counterparts in the Right would have control only over one ninth of
the new legislature.
So, the weakening of communists and srengthening of rightists or reformers
in the new Duma seems to be highly
exagerated, and rather a reflection of wishfull thinking on the part of
some analysts and journalists.
The widespread conclusion that the new Duma would be completely controlled
by Kremlin , which is reportedly heading to have 54% of seats in the lower
house of the russian parliament , also does not
correspond to the real co-relation of forces in the new legislature.
FAR is likely to get 70 seats in the new lower house, and if its major
part remains under the control of Primakov and Luzhkov making a common
cause with the communists , then both the blocks would control around 220
seats sending shivers in Kremlin corridors.
More over, there are sizable number of independents who , as shown in the
past Duma, would vote with the left on many issues.
Even there would be a number of deputies who have succeeded in the
electoral battle on the exclusive support of l governors would vote
according to the wish of the regional boss.
Parliament members elected with the support of regional leaders like
Kemerova governor Aman Tuleyev or Pri-moriye governor Evgeny Najdartenko
are highly unlikely to vote along with radical reformers.
In the old Duma, though the left had a total strength of 205, they had
succeeded in getting the support of 247 members in expressing
no-confidence against President Yeltsin (there is no such provision in the
russian constitution), 284 members had supported the communist-sponsored
impeachment on one of the five issues and alltogether 295 members had voted
in favour of impeachment of president Yeltsin on different issues.
Kremlin would have full grip over 160 seats at best in the new Duma.
As the corelation of forces stand today , neither Kremlin nor
anti-Kremlin forces will have a clear majority in the new legislature.
I would like to remind that none of the known analysts had predicted in
the aftermath of the 1995 Duma elections that communists would control the
second Duma, which they did soon after.
So, the euphoria about the 'monumental victory' of the rightist forces and
defeat of the Left is rather a reflection of wishfull thinking.
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999
From: Irene Hurd <email@example.com>
Subject: Duma election
If someone on the List has a copy, preferably in Russian, of the names of
the new Duma members, could they please send it to my e-mail address.
Thanks and Happy New Year!
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999
From: Robert Bruce Ware firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Reply to de Waal JRL 3707
In his response to my note on "The Failure of Western Analysis" JRL
3704, I was pleased to see that Tom de Waal supports my assessment of
the Dagestani population as providing
overwhelming support for the present Russian military operation in
Chechnya. Indeed, de Waal is gracious enough to add that this
was shared by "other North Caucasian specialists" who convened in London
and that "other speakers from the region confirmed that the whole of the
North Caucasus was fed up with the lawlessness in Chechnya over the last
I am also grateful to de Waal for
underscoring this point with his recollection of events that occured
Khasavyurt on 29 September. Obviously, the fact that large numbers of
Dagestanis turned out to prevent a meeting between Dagestan's Magomedov
and Chechn President
Makhadov is additional evidence for my assessment. However, since
Magomedov was traveling to meet Maskhadov at the request of Putin, the
role of the latter in the incident is far less tidy than de Waal allows.
Since de Waal agrees that it was necessary for the Russian military
to defend the human rights of the Dagestani people and other citizens of
the region against Chechen lawlessness I would welcome further details
regarding the manner in which this might have been accomplished through
a limited military operation. There is a troubling naivete in de Waal's
hopes for a security zone. Surely he must recognize that a security
zone would be unenforceable in the rugged highlands that constitute much
of the Chechen-Dagestani border. Even in the lowlands, federal forces
protecting a securityy zone would likely succumb to bribery, and if they
did not then such a zone would mean continuous skirmishing and
instability for the entire region.
de Waal's unsupported accreditation of Maskhadov also seems naive.
My note cited evidence for a linkage of Maskhadov to the Chechen
kidnapping industry. If de Waal has compelling evidence to the contrary
then perhaps he will share it.
Finally, I would hope that de Waal might comment on the failure of
Western media to report on the suffering of non-Chechen civilians (e.g.
by interviewing Dagestani refugees, liberated kidnap victims, etc.) that
has resulted from Chechen lawlessness. How many of these victims have
been interviewed by Western human rights organizations?
And what about the failure of Western policy that has followed from
simplisticWestern analysis? If no one in Chechnya is really capable of
delivering anything in response to a negotiated agreement with Moscow,
then what good can be accomplished by Western leaders who demand such a
settlement? And why do Western leaders condemn Russian brutallity (as
indeed they should) without also calling upon the people of Chechnya to
release the hundreds of civilian hostages that they are presently
The point of my JRL note was that it is counterproductive to naively
decry the Russian campaign in Chechnya without offering a realistic
alternative. I look forward to de Waal's contribution to this effort
and anticipate greater precision.
New York Times
December 28, 1999
Russia's Losing War
It is ironic and tragic that Russia, which endured so much bloodshed this
century, should end 1999 with a spasm of violence in Chechnya. Moscow seems
intent on leveling the Chechen capital of Grozny, risking tens of thousands
of innocent lives and threatening to damage its relations with Muslim
nations, Europe and the United States.
The military campaign daily reduces more of Grozny to rubble. Some 50,000
civilians remain trapped in the city's bombed-out ruins, with Russian
authorities declaring they can no longer flee to safety. Power and heat have
been cut off, leaving residents exposed to the harsh Caucasian winter.
Meanwhile Grozny's rebel defenders are putting up unexpectedly strong
resistance, using land mines and artillery to slow the advance of Russian
troops and militia fighters from the outlying suburbs.
The Russian attack is a methodical effort to expunge the humiliations of the
1994-96 Chechen war. Separatist rebels in that conflict fought unprepared
Russian troops to a standstill and made Grozny a battered symbol of their
resistance. This time Russian forces are larger and better prepared, having
digested the lessons of that earlier campaign. Russian military successes
thus far have boosted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's popularity, making him
the leading candidate to succeed Boris Yeltsin in presidential elections next
June. But whatever short-range military and political gains this campaign may
yield, the enduring costs are likely to be high.
Beyond the toll inflicted on Chechen civilians, Moscow's actions call into
question its willingness to abide by the standards of behavior now prevailing
in most of Europe outside the Balkans. The war has already deformed Russian
democracy by driving many reformers into an unnatural embrace of military
nationalism and strengthening the political influence of army and
Perhaps Moscow will belatedly heed calls of American and European leaders,
suspend its assault and negotiate a compromise peace agreement.
Unfortunately, given the war's popularity among Russian leaders and voters,
there seems little chance that will happen before Grozny is destroyed and
Russia is diminished.
New York Times
December 28, 1999
Russia's Slow Start
To the Editor:
Thomas L. Friedman is probably right that Russia has reached "the end of the
beginning" (column, Dec. 22). But the beginning of what?
While the balloting in this year's parliamentary elections may have been
relatively free, it was hardly fair.
Numerous reports in the Russian media have asserted that Russia's regional
governors exerted considerable influence (and money) on behalf of favored
More broadly, the "key centrist and reform-minded parties" that may establish
a majority in the Russian Parliament prevailed through a combination of
anti-Western nationalism and support for Prime Minister Vladimir N. Putin's
brutal war in Chechnya.
Russia has made real political and economic progress since its independence,
but it has also experienced considerable setbacks, including these elections.
PAUL J. SAUNDERS
Washington, Dec. 23, 1999
The writer is director of the Nixon Center.
December 27, 1999
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIA SEEKS TO DEVISE RULES OF THE GAME
It Knows Not What 2001 Has in Store for It
By Svetlana LOLAYEVA, Gleb CHERKASOV
Russia will have a new president in 2000 when Boris Yeltsin
divests his powers six months from now. The name of a second
nationally elected president is thus far unknown.
Now that the year 1999 is drawing to an end, one is apt to
think that the vacation will go to PM Vladimir Putin. His rating
is high, supporters are many, and he has no real rivals to speak
But then, a year ago, at the end of 1998, one thought that
Yevgeny Primakov would be the next Russian president. His rating
was also high, supporters were many, and he had effectively no
serious competitors to speak of.
Another year earlier, in late 1997, one was tempted to view
Viktor Chernomyrdin and Alexander Lebed as the most probable
Russian politics is known to be unpredictable. A politician
who is basking in the sun of public success and bureaucratic
might today may well turn into a pitiful marginal two or three
months hence, and vice versa. Such are the rules of the game.
There is no politics outside the state structures, be it the
government, the presidential administration or parliament. The
state machinery which propels the country today, has been built
to fit Yeltsin, who is known to be highly unpredictable.
The real question is not whom Yeltsin will yield his powers
to. The interesting question is whether the rules of the game
will change and if yes, how far. Will the notorious
unpredictability come into play? Or has the political course been
charted for years to come?
In the past eighteen months, those who had anything to do
with the 'party of power' have done everything to chart the
course, one that would be a continuation of the political and
economic principles which Yeltsin adopted in 1992, rather than a
One condition is that whoever becomes the president will
have to grapple with the wilful governors. This will be a hard
job to do: over these years, they have grown from Yeltsin's
appointees into provincial princes.
Having gone through the regional election battles to retain
the office or win it, as the case may be, each of the governors
has begun conditioning the local power vertical to fit his own
needs. Which means that every governor tries hard to control the
local governments, business community and media.
In their relations with the Centre, the governors have had
to rely on their hunch of 'keen administrators' to become buddies
with Moscow's 'real master'. The strengthening of the authority
locally began in 1996 to be effectively over in 1999. As a
result, the outcome of gubernatorial elections in the absolute
majority of provinces has become very predictable.
Having appreciated the might of the regional administrators,
the federal authorities understood they needed to restore their
own power vertical if they wanted to preserve the country's
unity. They decided to emulate the order established in the
majority of the Federation's constituent members.
Following the August 1998 meltdown, when the big money was
in the hands of either state structures or major commercial
companies with an appreciable participation of the state, the job
was easier to do. The majority of the governors had no serious
material resources of their own and thus were poor rivals to face
the Kremlin in its power play. Those few who did have the
resources, proved to be hard to handle.
The 'party of power' then jettisoned 'aliens', i.e. the
Primakov government, and those who was not quite up to the
objectives of the day--Nikolai Bordyuzha, Sergei Stepashin,
Mikhail Zadornov, etc.--but that does not mean some of them
cannot be recalled to tackle new objectives.
Lastly, in 1999 the 'party of power' amply demonstrated its
capacities if it mobilised its resources. It won in the
parliamentary elections: 35% of the voters voted for blocs
representing the 'party of power'.
Indicatively, many of those who voted for Unity or the Union
of Right Forces on December 19, had had quite different
intentions three months previously. The ministry of the press and
the Russian Information Centre have taken effectively all
information about the Chechen campaign under control. Fronde has
disappeared from or become hardly discernible in the state
apparat. For the first time in years, no first deputy to the
premier has claimed to have more power than the PM.
All of this has become impossible. Following the
parliamentary elections and the defeat of Fatherland-All Russia
which was poised to become the future 'party of power', the risk
of insubordination in the closed joint-stock company named the
Russian Federation, has been minimised.
If the course persists, the rules of the game will have been
finally devised by the next presidential election which would be
a largely formal voting.
Still, Russia is an unpredictable country. Predicting
developments two or three months from now is practically
impossible. Falling oil prices, a hitch in the Chechen campaign
or another sudden development may unbalance the seemingly stable
system. Moreover, the state of mobilisation can only last for a
very short time.
December 29, 1999
EDITORIAL: In Grozny, West Pays as Russia Kills
It is almost dangerous for one's sanity to look to closely at what is now
happening in Chechnya - the decision to start using terrifying anti-personnel
aerosol bombs, the dogged assault on Grozny that seems certain to kill
thousands of civilians.
It also seems pointless to look closely. It is simply too late. That is clear
from the attitude of top Russian officials. Consider Boris Yeltsin's lavish
praise Tuesday for a "flawless" little war, or General Vladimir Shamanov's
enraged rejection of criticism earlier this week on the grounds that he and
his men are in the midst of a holy war.
All we can do now is watch.
The West, despite some fine words, has done nothing whatsoever to prevent the
needless killings of thousands of innocents. The World Bank on Tuesday even
ponied up another $100 million - "for the coal sector," you understand. The
World Bank has a shameful history of providing low-interest funding to
oppressive government schemes, including those that have involved the forced
relocations of millions; but even so, it is surprising to think that Western
taxpayers have just cut the Kremlin another fat check.
The money comes as Russian forces have for days pounded Grozny - a city that
is still home to somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians. Not so long
ago, the Russian military dropped an infamous set of leaflets on Grozny
telling these people to get out by the next Saturday or die. That leaflet
aroused international outrage - so the authorities disowned it.
But the war crime it envisioned is now taking place.
When they decided they were bent on destroying the city of Grozny, Russian
authorities entered into - at minimum - a moral and legal responsibility to
They have not in the slightest met that responsibility; their only nod to it
has been to foster a false perception, through media manipulation, that all
is going well.
They should have set up true safe corridors to equipped refugee camps; they
should have declared a temporary cease-fire and brought in the Red Cross to
organize the evacuations of these thousands of weak, poor and elderly Russian
They did none of these things, and attacked. But since the war has been
grinding on so relentlessly - it has become a grim fact that we are all
simply accustomed to now, that these winter holidays will find thousands in
Chechnya dead or dying - and since the Russians did not bother to send the
rest of the world a "get-out-or-die" ultimatum to announce the fact, no one
is even really noticing how deeply sinister the events in Chechnya have
World Bank Russia loan under fire amid Chechen war
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON, Dec 28 (Reuters) - A $100 million World Bank loan to Russia came
under fire on Tuesday from human rights activists who said it could help fund
Moscow's military campaign in breakaway Chechnya.
Human Rights Watch and other groups said the bank, which quietly approved the
payment this week, should have followed the lead of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and the U.S. Export-Import Bank and suspended loan
payments during the war.
The West was missing a chance to pressure Russia to halt its advance deep
into the rebel province, which is located on Russia's volatile southern rim,
``The World Bank's decision represents a lost opportunity to send a strong
signal,'' said Human Rights Watch's Elizabeth Andersen. ``Blame rests with
the Clinton administration and the other shareholders in the World Bank.''
The World Bank said the $100 million payment was part of an $800 million
package approved in December 1997 to help Russia modernise its coal sector.
Spokeswoman Gina Ciagne said the money was ``specifically earmarked'' and
could not be diverted.
But human rights groups said the World Bank's money could be channelled into
the war effort, and that the payment would only encourage Russian leaders to
intensify their bombardment.
Critics, including the U.S. State Department, say Moscow's Chechen campaign
is violating international norms. Russia describes it as a war against
bandits and terrorists.
The World Bank loan payment comes almost a week after the United States
blocked a $500 million Export-Import Bank loan guarantee package for Russia's
troubled oil industry amid Western criticism of Moscow's campaign against
Islamic militants in Chechnya.
Disbursements from a $4.5 billion IMF loan to Russia have also been frozen as
the United States and the European Union pressed Moscow to negotiate a
settlement to the Chechen crisis.
Ciagne said World Bank management was ``deeply concerned'' about the fighting
in Chechnya, but that Russia was entitled to the money because it met the
While costly to Russia, the campaign ``has not threatened macroeconomic
stability,'' Ciagne said. But she added: ``We have made clear to the
government that we will have to monitor developments closely in the event
that the conflict is prolonged.''
Critics said the payment cast doubt on the resolve of the Clinton
administration to try to rein in Russia. The United States is the World
Bank's largest shareholder and it has enormous clout in the bank.
It could also undermine the World Bank's already tarnished reputation in a
hostile U.S. Congress.
``What's going on in Chechnya is unspeakable and now the World Bank is
implicated in it,'' said Holly Burkhalter of Physicians for Human Rights.
``Their inability to use common sense and common humanity on a loan like this
makes many people, including many in Congress, think that the World Bank does
more harm than good,'' she added.
Russia has defended its campaign by saying it aims to destroy Islamic
fighters Moscow blames for a series of deadly bomb blasts in the capital and
The United States has repeatedly denounced Russia's military campaign, and
has called for Moscow to begin a dialogue to try to produce a political
PUTIN'S PRESIDENTIAL RATING STILL RISING
MOSCOW. Dec 28 (Interfax) - If the Russian presidential elections
were to be held next Sunday, 60% of the potential voters would cast
their ballots, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would win a clear
victory with the support of 50% of those who intend to vote.
This is evidenced by a survey recently conducted among 1,600
Russian citizens by the VTsIOM public opinion foundation. The
statistical margin of error is no more than 4%.
VTsIOM sociologists have told Interfax that Putin's presidential
rating is steadily rising. On December 6 he would have been supported by
45% of respondents, and by 48% on December 12.
Only the answers from those who intend to participate in the
elections are given, the foundation pointed out.
Communist Party of Russia leader Gennady Zyuganov would take second
place, his rating having fallen during the last month. Zyuganov would be
supported today by 15% of the respondents, while 19% on December 6 and
18% on December 12 would have supported him.
Third place is occupied by Fatherland-All Russia leader Yevgeny
Primakov, who would be supported by 9% of Russians now (8% in the two
They are followed by "Yabloko" leader Grigory Yavlinsky with 4% (5%
and 4%, respectively); Unity movement leader Sergei Shoigu with 3% (2%
and 1%); Union of Right-wing Forces leader Sergey Kiriyenko with 2% (2%
and 2%); LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 2% (3% and 3%); Moscow
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov with 2% (1% and 2%); Krasnoyarsk region Governor
Alexander Lebed with 1% (1% and 1%) and speaker of the outgoing State
Duma Gennady Seleznyov with 1% (1% and 1%).
Other potential candidates would receive less than 1% of the
popular vote; 2% of respondents intend to vote against all the
candidates, and 9% had difficulty answering the question.
These results are not a forecast of the coming vote, the VTsIOM
experts make clear. The actual list of candidates is likely to differ
substantially from the one used in the poll. In addition, a considerable
number of voters are still uncertain as to whether they will vote or
whom they prefer.
St. Petersburg Times
December 28, 1999
LETTER FROM VLADIVOSTOK
Just One of the Reasons Unity Means Bad News
By Russell Working
GO say 'hi' to First Vice Governor Konstantin Tolstoshein. Shake his hand.
He is a new member of the State Duma. Tolstoshein is one of the reasons we
have all been in such a great mood since the election. Like his boss,
Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko, Tolstoshein is a member of the Unity bloc.
Last week, an avalanche of good press followed the revelation that Unity and
other Kremlin-friendly parties would comprise a majority in the next Duma.
U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said, "We hope the election will
enable the Duma to take up economic reform issues ... and we can see capital
flow back into Russia."
You know, Sandy, so do I. My favorite thing about Russia is how easily the
locals scam foreign governments, which rush back into town at the slightest
hint of good news and shake out suitcases full of hundred-dollar bills on the
In the interests of encouraging this trend, let me provide a quick sketch of
Tolstoshein, drawn from a 1997 document written by the former presidential
representative to Primorye and regional FSB chief.
The report, by Viktor Kondratov, alleges that top-ranking officials in the
Primorye regional administration systematically used both law enforcement
agencies and the mob to enhance their own profits.
Tolstoshein, in particular, is singled out: "Together with the leader of an
organized crime group, Alexeyenkov, he conducted an unprecedented deal for
selling the [city's] largest hotel, the Vladivostok, to Amis and Co. for
virtually nothing," Kondratov wrote.
The hotel was worth 40 billion rubles, apparently at a time when the exchange
rate made that $6.7 million, but it sold for 127 million rubles. Kondratov's
report went on: "Along with illegal financial operations, Tolstoshein uses
his connections with criminal groups in order to conduct violent operations
toward competitors. ... He organized the abduction of the radio reporters
[Alexei] Sadykov and [Andrei] Zhuravlyov."
Sadykov said in an interview two years ago that the kidnappers tied his
wrists behind his back, beat him, and burnt him with cigarettes.
Though Tolstoshein would not comment, a regional spokeswoman called the
President Yeltsin evidently thought so too. The letter was addressed to his
deputy chief of staff, but no action was ever taken. Yeltsin, at
Nazdratenko's persistent urging, eventually dismissed Kondratov.
When you see Tolstoshein strolling on the edge of a demonstration of unpaid
workers outside Vla di vostok's government building, you might think:
Shouldn't such men tremble when angry workers are on the march?
But you would be wrong, my friend. The sheep can bleat all they like. Russia
belongs to the wolves.
Russia Missile Forces Pass Y2K Test
December 28, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's nuclear arsenal and its defense satellites are fully
prepared for a trouble-free transition into the year 2000, the head of the
Strategic Missile Forces said Tuesday.
Col. Gen. Vladimir Yakovlev said the military command was not worried about
the possibility of temporary radar blackouts or an accidental nuclear launch.
``Today one can confidently declare that the software of the force ... is
absolutely ready for the year 2000,'' said Yakovlev, chief of the Strategic
Missile Forces, which control the country's nuclear weapons and military
Both Russian and U.S. officials say that an accidental missile launch is
highly unlikely, and they will be consulting each other over the New Year to
make sure nothing goes wrong. The bug could cause older computers that read
only the last two digits of a date to mistake 2000 for 1900 and produce false
information or freeze up.
Strategic Missile Forces spokesman Ilshat Baichurin said the military command
had been preparing for the bug for almost two years.
``The chief command of the force already at the beginning of last year
developed a clear program of transition to the new millennium ... and has
been consistently implementing it,'' Baichurin said.
Also Tuesday, top officials of the Russian space program said computers at
ground control and aboard the troubled Mir space station will not be affected
by the millennium change.
The news agency ITAR-Tass quoted the ground control center chief engineer,
Mikhail Pronin, as saying that ``vulnerable elements of the computer system
have been upgraded.''
Russia has been slower to address the millennium bug than many other
countries because of the government's money crunch. Some Western experts have
predicted electricity and telephone services may stop working because of the
While Russian officials have assured Washington they expect no major
problems, John Hamre, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, said earlier this
month that there is no way to be absolutely sure if the Russian military will
have significant problems come Jan. 1.
A group of Russian military officers will join American counterparts at a
Center for Y2K Strategic Stability in Colorado Springs, Colo., starting Dec.
28 to share missile early-warning radar data.
The purpose is to reassure both Washington and Moscow that neither side
misinterprets any missile-related activity or radar failures around the globe
during the Y2K rollover.