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Johnson's Russia List
31 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: War and parties mark Russia's New Year.
2. Reuters: Russia, U.S. cooperate to avert nuclear accident.
3. Michael Kagalenko: Re: election results/Vassiliev/3709.
4. BBC MONITORING: PRO-CHECHEN WEB SITE WEIGHS UP OPTIONS FOR RUSSIAN PM'S
SEIZURE OF POWER.
5. The Independent (UK): Steve Crawshaw, A white-knuckle ride without end.
6. AP: Chechnya Death Toll Climbs.
7. Business Week: Paul Starobin, The Man Who Would Be Russia's President.
Vladimir Putin is a nationalist with pro-market leanings.
8. AP: Russia's Putin Seeks Support Online.
9. Moscow Times: Gillian McCormack, State Media Won Elections, But at What
10. Obshchaya Gazeta: Labor Ministry Official on Oblast Living Standards.
11. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Russians find 'school for
War and parties mark Russia's New Year
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Russians planned mass street parties to mark the
new millennium on Friday but top leaders scheduled meetings in the run-up to
celebrations and awaited fresh news of their war in Chechnya.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said President Boris Yeltsin had a heavy
New Year's Eve programme, citing the workload as the reason for cancelling
the president's appearance at a sumptuous Kremlin reception on Thursday
Among the president's commitments was a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin, the man singled out by Yeltsin as his preferred successor in June's
presidential election. No details or proposed agenda were disclosed.
A Kremlin-sponsored New Year party was planned for Red Square, while Moscow's
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov planned a celebration in a nearby square. Gatherings were
scheduled in other squares and at the imposing World War Two memorial.
Russia's most celebrated actors were to gather at the Bolshoi Theatre.
As celebrations approached, officials sought to allay Western fears of
important computer systems going awry over Y2K "bugs." They predicted
Russia's vast electric grid, rail network and even space facilities would
operate without interruption.
Putin has been propelled to the top of opinion polls by his campaign to wipe
out rebels in the breakaway region of Chechnya, who were blamed by Moscow for
bomb attacks in Russian cities, .
He was post-communist Russia's fifth prime minister in 17 months when he was
chosen by Yeltsin in August, but a strong showing by his allies in this
month's general election confirmed him as frontrunner to become president
NO "IMPERIAL AMBITIONS" -- PUTIN
In an interview broadcast on Thursday evening by the U.S. Cable News Network,
Putin appealed to Western nations to give Moscow the only thing it sought --
"Russia is not fighting a war against Chechnya. Russia is conducting an
counter-terrorist operation against international terrorists," Putin said.
"Quite often we hear that Russia has imperial ambitions, but this is not
true. Russia has only one ambition -- to enjoy respect from other nations. We
will surely achieve that."
Reports from Chechnya, broadcast on Russian television networks, showed
troops and pro-Moscow Chechen militia trying to close in on rebels defending
the regional capital Grozny. Troops also occupied separatist positions in
mountains to the south.
Commercial NTV television said the number of Russian casualties near Grozny
had been on the rise. It showed aid and gifts being distributed to the many
thousands of refugees forced from their homes by the fighting.
In a speech to the Kremlin reception, Putin said Russia had been right to
resist Western criticism of the Chechen campaign. Russia, he said, had
confounded doomsayers by remaining intact eight years after the collapse of
the Soviet Union.
"Unfortunately, the bandits threw us a brazen and impudent challenge. They
invaded Dagestan. We were duty-bound to restore order in the North Caucasus,"
"Not everyone in Western nations understood this. We shall not allow the
national pride of Russians to be trod upon."
In his CNN interview, Putin said he would welcome a visit soon by U.S.
President Bill Clinton, as had been suggested by a government source on
Thursday, and like to visit Washington if invited.
Russia launched the campaign against Moslem rebels in Chechnya after they
invaded the neighbouring region of Dagestan. It also accused them of setting
off bombs in Russian towns, although the rebels denied this.
Russia, U.S. cooperate to avert nuclear accident
By Judith Crosson
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Dec 30 (Reuters) - U.S. and Russian military
experts sat side by side on Thursday in unprecedented cooperation to avert
the deadliest of all nightmares -- a nuclear attack triggered by the Y2K bug.
The Centre for Year 2000 Strategic Stability began operations on Thursday on
the grounds of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, manned
by military personnel from the United States and Russia.
They will jointly monitor nuclear missile launch warning systems to avoid any
catastrophic accident prompted by a Y2K bug.
The Y2K bug stems from mainly older computer systems which were programmed to
read only the last two digits of a year. If the glitch is left uncorrected,
systems could misread 2000 as 1900, causing systems to malfunction or even
Peterson was chosen because it is near NORAD, the U.S.- Canadian North
American Aerospace Defence Command, built in the early 1960s to detect
missiles approaching North America.
``From the U.S. perspective, it went very smoothly. Of course we haven't come
to the rollover time yet so we're anticipating as things get further along
that we may see a few things,'' U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Hale told
reporters after the first shift got off duty.
The centre will receive information from NORAD that the two sides previously
``We don't expect any problems with the U.S. or the Russian side but there
may be some other foreign countries that could have some problems,'' Hale
``The risk is real low, but when you're talking about nuclear missiles the
pain is real high,'' U.S. Air Force Col. Don Knight said.
Knight was speaking about the unique project devised by the Pentagon to make
sure any possible glitches that could spark a nuclear attack as computers
roll over from 1999 to 2000 do not happen.
To bring this about a group of Russian Federation military experts is sitting
with U.S. military personnel monitoring worldwide missile warning
The purpose of the centre is to ensure that the world's two largest nuclear
powers are in direct contact during the Y2K rollover.
The first crew coming off its eight-hour shift could report only one small
glitch -- a malfunctioning ringer on a telephone that links the centre in
Colorado with a similar monitoring operation in the Moscow area.
``There was a small glitch with our communications,'' Russian Federation Air
Force Col. Sergey Kaplin told reporters through an interpreter, but he said
it did not affect operations.
Six people, three Russians and three Americans, work on each eight-hour
shift. They communicate with Moscow through a regular telephone, a backup
phone and a satellite phone.
``I would prefer to speak about these centres as not two separate centres,
but as two parts of one centre,'' Kaplin said.
When the telephone in Moscow failed to ring, the centre in Colorado called
the back-up telephone to find out what happened. The ringer was fixed.
From: "Michael B. Kagalenko" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: "Why our election results make sense" by Glinski Vassiliev
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999
I quite agree with amended position that Glinski Vassiliev expresses
in subject line of his contribution to JRL #3709. Election results do
make sense; it is well - known that TV is capable of manipulating
voters, and that regional leaders likewise have considerable influence
on the outcome of voting.
That is much different from his earlier assertion that the voters made
rational choice on December 19. It is impossible to make rational
choice when you do not have access to the crucial facts relevant to
your decision (Nikolai Petrov was quoted in JRL saying that in the
provinces, Putin and "Unity" are not perceived as the Kremlin insiders;
therefore, we can safely assume that an unknown, and possibly
considerable, part of "Unity" vote is actually misguided protest vote).
Indeed, making rational choice is different from merely making the
right choice; the choice has to be made for the right reasons as well.
No one would say that voters made "a rational choice" if they used dice
to pick the candidate to vote for, for example; even if they happened
by chance to pick the best candidate in this fashion.
I greatly enjoyed Glinski Vassiliev's explanation of what lower middle
class was "punished" for in August 1998; he maintains that their
infraction was that they were likely to vote for the non-communist
opposition. As credible non-communist opposition did not exist then, he
must believe that nomenklatura strategists actually foresaw that the
emergence of such an opposition, as well as its voter base. Whew, they
must have a great deal more foresight than they are commonly given
credit for. There's still a logical kink to be worked out in his
thesis; some people maintain that it was Aug. 1998 crash that created
such credible anti-Kremlin opposition in the first place. I trust that
in his future contributions to JRL Mr.Glinski Vassiliev will explain
the matter to everyone's full satisfaction.
His point regarding the weakness of opposition is valid, however I
fail to see how that helps his case; I happen to believe that even
weaker opposition is better than surrender and appeasement; and that
stronger opposition will never emerge if voters do not back the not-so
Similarity between Luzhkov/Primakov '98 and Yeltsin '91 does not go beyond
the surface. In 1991 Yeltsin's separatist gambit was backed by predominant
opinion in Russian society that separation from the republics will
bring quick economic benefits. No such consensus exists wrt to Russia
regions. And accusing Primakov of separatism is inconsistent
with his record as Prime minister; he proposed to abandon the elections
of local governors during his tenure.
PRO-CHECHEN WEB SITE WEIGHS UP OPTIONS FOR RUSSIAN PM'S SEIZURE OF POWER
Source: Kavkaz-Tsentr web site, in Russian 1438 gmt 29 Dec 99
Text of report by Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency web site
29th December: Even though a victory is being predicted for [Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir] Putin in the presidential elections in summer next year,
as before there is still no certainty about the candidacy for the Kremlin's
head. Winning popularity in the "Chechen war" unexpectedly, Putin has
virtually become a hostage of this adventure.
His path to the Kremlin directly depends on the military situation in
Experience shows that one can expect any kind of surprise from the Chechens.
Therefore, it is hardly suitable for Putin to play the role of a bystander,
when his destiny does not depend on his actions but on a deceptive and
changeable fortune. The war has not ended yet and no-one knows what things
will be like in the future.
It is also obvious that if the elections were held today, Putin would be
Thus there is only one obstacle to a 100-per-cent victory: it is [Russian
President Boris] Yeltsin. Two scenarios of the development of events would
suit Putin: Yeltsin's voluntary resignation as a result of his illnesses or
the death of the Kremlin's head.
The scenario of his voluntary resignation is definitely being worked out.
However, the entourage of the ill president, his so-called "family", does not
quite trust the prime minister, who has been greatly strengthened. Therefore
Yeltsin's resignation is being delayed, even though rumours about this are
actively being puffed up in Moscow's political gatherings.
It is clear that Putin cannot do anything if he is really interested in the
Kremlin's throne. In that case, if there is no sign of Yeltsin retiring in
the near future, Putin will simply have to take certain steps. This could be
a forcible removal of Yeltsin. In that case, people will certainly be
informed about the voluntary departure of the president due to the state of
his health. Or Yeltsin must die!
Putin has all the military and political resources for a real capture of
power. If tomorrow the situation in Chechnya changes for the worse, these
resources will evaporate quickly.
Moreover, defeat in Chechnya may cost Putin not only the presidential throne
but also possibly his private freedom, because someone may have to answer for
the military crimes in Chechnya. Putin will certainly be that "someone" in
the event of defeat in the Chechen war.
There is another essential point. The "family", which brought up Putin, has
been doomed to play "the innocent" to strengthen Putin's power. He will
simply have to get rid of the current ruling corrupt group to become
independent and demonstrate the highest level of just power to people.
Only by destroying the "family" will Putin really be able to count on people
and go to the pyramid of power to take control of the generals, who will
understandably consider him to be obliged to them.
But a sovereign who is obliged to his servants for power is weak and not
The Independent (UK)
31 December 1999
[for personal use only]
A white-knuckle ride without end
By Steve Crawshaw
Russia is nothing if not a political rollercoaster. Just a few months ago,
the analysts' talk was all about the fragility of President Boris Yeltsin's
government and of Mr Yeltsin himself. When the almost unknown Vladimir Putin
became prime minister, he was the fourth man to occupy the post in 18 months
â€“ economic reformer Sergei Kiriyenko, former KGB chief Yevgeny Primakov and
Sergei Stepashin, all fell by the wayside.
The financial crisis of 1998 was followed by this summer's dramatic
revelations, when the Bank of New York admitted to co-operating with an
investigation into alleged money-laundering on a scale that was startling
even by Russia's standards, involving up to $10bn.
Meanwhile, terrorist attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities were treated
in the West with surprising insouciance.
The government's position was weaker than ever before. And then â€“ as so
before â€“ Mr Yeltsin and his allies pulled a shameless rabbit out of the
The terrorist attacks were political manna from heaven for the Kremlin,
providing the perfect pretext for an attack on Chechnya â€“ although some
sceptical as to whether Chechens were indeed responsible. Five years ago, the
Russian forces received a bloody nose when they attacked and (briefly)
conquered Chechnya. Now, they were ready to try again. All of Russia's
obvious woes could briefly be forgotten in the all-out assault. Hundreds of
thousands of civilians bore the brunt, killed or driven out of their homes.
Russia has done everything possible to restrict access to the war zone by
independent journalists; it has lied shamelessly throughout the campaign.
All of which has benefited the Kremlin enormously, at least in the short
term. The newly formed pro-government Unity Party gained substantial support
in elections this month; just a few months ago, the government's electoral
humiliation was assumed to be inevitable.
Seen from the perspective of the historybooks, however, this year's war on
Chechnya looks set to be seen as a disaster. The Kremlin's current brutality
is likely to backfire in the months and years to come.
Not that Boris Yeltsin will necessarily care. He looks set to survive until
next year's presidential elections, where his preferred successor, Mr Putin,
may inherit the presidential mantle. The man who has so often been physically
and politically written off has defied the pundits to the very end. A few
years ago, that would have seemed like good news; now, less so.
Chechnya Death Toll Climbs
December 30, 1999
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - As corpses pile up on Chechen battlefields and in morgues, some
independent observers are claiming that the Russian military is covering up
the war's real death toll.
Hundreds of deaths in Chechnya are going officially unreported, some critics
contend, citing information from wounded troops and soldiers' relatives.
Officers and military journalists privately allege that scores of Russian
troops have been killed in the past few weeks alone.
``Until the war is over, we will not know what is really happening,'' said
Lilia Markelova, a member of Russia's respected Soldiers' Mothers' Committee.
But the public is largely supportive of Russia's military offensive, and
disinclined to ask questions. It is a marked contrast to the last Chechnya
war, in 1994-96, when grisly Russian television footage of soldiers' corpses
stoked public opposition to the fighting.
The Defense and Interior Ministries say more than 600 Russian soldiers have
been killed and more than 1,600 wounded since federal forces began battling
the militants in August, when Chechnya-based rebels invaded the neighboring
republic of Dagestan.
But the toll does not include bodies too badly damaged to be identified,
according to a Defense Ministry spokesman who asked not to be named. Nor is
anyone tallying the number of troops missing in action, he said.
Yuri Gladkevich, a retired officer who works for the independent Military
News Agency, said his military sources regularly report losses up to double
those officially released.
A battle in Minutka Square earlier this month in the Chechen capital, Grozny,
heightened his suspicions of official data. The Defense Ministry denied that
any fighting had occurred. But a Russian officer who said he had taken part
in the battle told Gladkevich 42 servicemen were killed or wounded, and
doctors at the region's main military hospital told him scores of men wounded
in Minutka had been registered that day.
An Associated Press reporter saw more than 100 soldiers' corpses after the
``Low casualty figures support the idea that the military is victorious even
when it's not,'' Gladkevich said.
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov told the Interfax news agency that about
1,000 Russian troops had been killed over the past few weeks in the battle
for Grozny, the Chechen capital. The figure could not be independently
confirmed, but both sides have tended to exaggerate the other's losses.
At least 15 oil wells were ablaze on the southern edge of Grozny on Thursday,
sending black columns of smoke billowing into the air as entrenched rebels
kept advancing Russian forces out of the city center. The rebels also
attacked federal troops blocking rebel supply routes in the southern
The Soldier's Mothers' Committee, which gained prominence by opposing the
previous Chechen war, estimates the overall Russian death toll at double or
triple the official figure. It collects information from relatives of the
dead or from visits to the troops.
In spite of the alleged hushing-up of casualties, Gladkevich said losses have
been lower than during the 1994-96 Chechnya war, when barely trained
conscripts marched into Chechnya's cities and suffered heavy losses at the
hands of a much smaller separatist force.
Between 30,000 and 100,000 people are believed to have been killed in the
last war, most of them civilians. The Russian military says it lost about
3,000 soldiers, but independent observers put troop losses at 6,000. The
soldiers' mothers say they are still looking for about 600 soldiers missing
from that war.
Russia's strategy has changed since then to protect soldiers. Now the
Russians are engaging in fewer ground battles, depending instead on air and
artillery bombardment to hit the Chechens from afar.
Public attitudes, too, have changed. Most Russians - terrified by the
kidnappings and other violence that have plagued Chechnya and surrounding
regions since the last war - see this offensive as justified.
The media's role also is different this time. The military has severely
restricted journalists' access to battle zones and closed off morgues.
One of the very few Russian politicians to oppose this war is liberal
lawmaker Grigory Yavlinsky.
``We need to do one thing: Every day in the evening newscasts ... it's
necessary to announce the names of those killed,'' Yavlinsky told independent
NTV television this week. ``Then the price of what is happening there will be
clear to us.''
Chechen casualties are even harder to pin down than Russian ones. The rebel
command says about 300 fighters have been killed, while the Russians say
they've ``liquidated'' about 7,000 militants.
As for civilians, the Chechens say 4,000 have been killed this time while the
Russians say they are avoiding inflicting civilian casualties. Once again,
the true number is unclear.
January 10, 2000
[for personal use only]
The Man Who Would Be Russia's President (int'l edition)
Vladimir Putin is a nationalist with pro-market leanings
By Paul Starobin in Moscow
On the weekend of Dec. 25, a small group of advisers to Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir V. Putin huddled at a countryside resort outside Moscow.
Just a week earlier, the robust performance of the Kremlin-created Unity
party had confirmed Putin as the front-runner to succeed lame duck Boris N.
Yeltsin in the presidential elections set for June, 2000. At the gathering,
Putin's team was crafting a new economic program for him to take to the State
Duma in the months ahead. The plan is expected to focus on tax reform.
It's a step that could be a boon for Russia's sclerotic economy--and for
Putin's political prospects as well. For now, he's popular, based largely on
a favorable public perception of his management of the war raging in
Chechnya. But public approval could plummet if the conflict becomes a bloody
quagmire. To become President, Putin needs to show that he can do more than
send Russian troops into battle.
Putin has yet to articulate a broad vision for the country. Government
economist Vladimir Mau, among those meeting at the countryside resort,
describes the 47-year-old Prime Minister as a ``liberal nationalist.'' Putin
is using patriotic appeals to rally support for the cause in Chechnya and for
a call to rebuild Russia's defense sector. But he also aims to channel
Russia's greater sense of national purpose into the broader cause of
modernizing its economy.
Westerners who have had close contact with Putin say his instincts lie in
a pro-market direction. He's pledging to create a more hospitable environment
for foreign investors. He's not an advocate of ``deprivatization''--the push,
favored by communist leaders and Moscow Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov, to review past
privatization deals and rebid the assets if the transactions are found to
have violated the law. Putin has told economist Yevgeny Yasin, an informal
adviser, that he wants new regulations requiring Russian companies to adhere
to international accounting standards. The idea is to make Russia's murky
financial world more transparent and understandable to outsiders. Foreign
investors in Russia ``will not be disappointed,'' he told BUSINESS WEEK at a
Dec. 23 reception.
TAX REFORMER. On the tax front, his emerging plan is likely to feature tax
reduction and simplification. Cuts are expected in payroll and profit taxes
on business and income taxes on individuals. An overhaul of Russia's
byzantine tax code would be a huge step towards national economic progress.
But don't expect Putin to embrace the American market credo. Judging by
his few public statements, his vision of a market-driven economy resembles
German-style state capitalism more than the entrepreneurial system in the
U.S. The top-down German model, which emphasizes cooperation between elites
in government, business, and labor, appeals to Putin, who worked in Germany
in the 1980s as a KGB official.
The problem with adopting the German model is that it could perpetuate
Russia's entrenched system of crony capitalism--an economic order controlled
and manipulated by Kremlin-connected business titans. Putin has so far
accommodated himself to this arrangement. He would not be where he is without
the support of Boris A. Berezovsky, the most powerful of the business lords.
Berezovsky controls Russia's most popular state-television channel and
masterminded a campaign in the Duma contest to smear the rival
Fatherland-All Russia party, led by Moscow mayor Luzhkov and former Prime
Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov.
But insiders say Putin doesn't enjoy close ties with Berezovsky. ``My
impression is that Berezovsky does not trust Putin--never has, never will,''
says Thomas E. Graham Jr., a former political aide at the U.S. Embassy in
Moscow. ``He supported Putin as the lesser of evils in the Duma campaign. And
now that Luzhkov and Primakov have been mortally wounded, he will probably
begin a more active search for a substitute for Putin.'' A possible
replacement: Sergei Shoigu, leader of the Unity party and Yeltsin's Emergency
Putin must also please the mercurial Yeltsin, who has a history of firing
Prime Ministers. But Putin is adept at negotiating such minefields. ``He is
almost pathologically faithful to his bosses,'' says a report prepared by the
Center for Political Information, a Moscow research firm. Being faithful does
not guarantee Yeltsin's support, but Putin's ability to read his bosses
boosts the chance that he will survive as Prime Minister until the June
DISCIPLINED STRONGMAN. Yeltsin and Putin are altogether different characters.
Yeltsin is a big bear of a man, moody and effusive, camera-friendly, prone to
impetuous actions and hobbled by chronically poor health and occasional
drinking binges. Putin, younger than his boss by 21 years, is short and lean
and has a black belt in judo. Classmates from his days at St. Petersburg
State University recall him preferring milk or beer to vodka. He prides
himself on his emotional restraint and command of logic. While Putin has
shown good instincts for maneuvering inside the Kremlin, he has yet to show
Yeltsin's genius for the bold public gesture.
Still, Putin's image as a disciplined strongman resonates with Russians in
the twilight of the tumultuous Yeltsin era. Putin is seeking to bind a vast
land whose people have felt disoriented since the Soviet Union collapsed. ``A
nation must have some basic, fundamental values--our patriotism, our culture,
our religion,'' he says. While disapproving of Soviet ideology and practices,
he praises Russia's older generation, which came of age during Soviet times,
for making ``our country'' a ``superpower.''
Putin's emerging brand of liberal nationalism is one possible response to
post-Soviet Russia's chaotic, incomplete effort to transform a dysfunctional
society. And most Russians don't want to return to Soviet times--they would
simply like to see the fruits of the new order spread more evenly.
The risk is that liberal nationalism could turn illiberal. Some of
Russia's most reform-minded leaders, including Peter the Great, have also
been among the most authoritarian, resorting to brutal means to serve
progressive ends. ``Some psychologists see in Putin all the makings of a
dictator,'' the Center for Political Information notes in its report. But so
far, that chilling diagnosis has not been fulfilled. Putin may yet have the
opportunity, through democratic means, to pull Russia forward. But he has to
fight Russian politics--and Russian history--to do so.
Russia's Putin Seeks Support Online
December 29, 1999
By ANNA DOLGOV
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia is in danger of sliding into the ranks of Third World
countries and needs a tough government to avoid that, Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin said in an article on the government's new Web site.
Long after the Kremlin, the two houses of parliament and a succession of
official agencies did so, the Cabinet went online this week, contemplating
Russia's future at the turn of the millennium.
The site was inaugurated with Putin's article, ``Russia at the Threshold of
the Millennium,'' in which he outlined his thoughts on how the country can
restore some of its lost might.
``Russia is going through one of the most difficult periods in its
multi-century history. Probably for the first time in the past 200-300 years,
it faces a real danger of finding itself in the second, or even third rank of
the world's states,'' Putin wrote.
He said free-market and democratic reforms could help, but they must be
carried out gradually and under close control by the state.
``Russia will not quickly, if ever, become a second edition of, say, the
United States or Britain, where liberal values have a deep historic
tradition,'' Putin wrote. ``For us, the state, its institutions and
structures have always played an exceptionally important role in the life of
the country, of the people.''
The rhetoric reflects just the kind of appeal that Putin has for many
Russians, who are tired of President Boris Yeltsin's erratic behavior and
repeated illnesses and see in their premier a strong, decisive man of action.
Putin's tough handling of the military offensive in Chechnya has earned him
wide popularity among Russians, and he is leading the polls to replace
Yeltsin in the June presidential election.
In his article, Putin appealed to Russians' weariness of extremist rhetoric
and economic and social upheavals, calling for more moderate reforms.
``Russia has exhausted its limit of political and socioeconomic shakeups,
cataclysms, radical changes. Only fanatics or political forces that are
deeply indifferent, apathetic to Russia and its people are capable of appeals
for a new revolution,'' he wrote.
Putin also called for restoring a social safety net for the needy, stating
that Russians are accustomed to relying on government help to improve their
``Russia needs a strong state power and must have it,'' he wrote, adding that
he was not appealing ``for a totalitarian system.''
December 29, 1999
ESSAY: State Media Won Elections, But at What Cost?
By Gillian McCormack
The media in Russia had a tough task ahead of them when parliamentary
elections were held this month. Inevitably, the war in Chechnya provided a
strong backdrop to the election campaign. Also, nearly 30 parties were
originally registered to take part, and it was unclear up until the final
weeks which of these would be allowed to participate. Many of these parties
were small, or representing special interests, and some were new alignments
specifically created for these elections. Two of these new blocs,
Fatherland-All Russia and Unity (Medved), came to dominate media coverage of
the pre-election period.
Coverage of parties in broadcast and print media monitored by the European
Institute for the Media (EIM) during December was dominated by broadcasts and
articles about the Fatherland-All Russia bloc. The bloc and its leaders,
Yevgeny Primakov and Yury Luzhkov, received the most negative coverage of any
party during the campaign. The election results show - at least in the
Russian context - that the adage "any publicity is good publicity" is not
During the 1995 parliamentary elections the most noticeable tendency was for
the main state-controlled broadcasters to strongly promote the then "party of
power," Our Home Is Russia. During the presidentials in 1996, most national
broadcasters promoted President Boris Yeltsin as the golden future and
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov as the murky past. During these elections
in 1999, the state-controlled broadcasters promoted the government (including
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu), providing exclusively official
information about the war and the Russian government's independent stance
versus Western criticism of the conduct of the military campaign. Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin was shown giving unconditional support to the Unity
bloc on several occasions and Shoigu was given a platform to call for votes
for Unity on the ORT news program "Vremya" on Dec. 17, the weekend of the
>From Nov. 28 to Dec. 17, the EIM monitored 24-hour broadcasts on five
national television channels, coverage offered in 20 national newspapers, and
regional media in Samara, Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. We
found a strong tendency towards negative campaigning by politicians - but
also by the media themselves, a continuation of smear tactics rehearsed
regularly in the Russian mass media over the past year. Allegation and
counter-allegation characterized this campaign far more than in previous
ones. On the one side were media controlled by the government and by
businessman Boris Berezovsky and on the other those controlled by Moscow
Mayor Luzhkov and media entrepreneur Vladimir Gusinsky. The "information war"
grew more fierce during the elections, although ORT and RTR were the worst
Although the EIM concluded that coverage of the elections in the most
important sections of the Russian media was biased, it is only fair to point
out the marked difference in the performance of the state-controlled and
commercial media. Promotional material masquerading as news is a
long-standing practice within the Russian media, both before perestroika and
after, and most media were guilty of this.
However, if TV Center engaged in non-news by showing Luzhkov handing out
prizes or attending concerts, it is nevertheless possible to say that ORT
showing Anatoly Chubais meeting factory workers on the morning of the
elections was worse.
ORT and RTR, state-controlled broadcasters with the greatest national
audience reach, had a particular responsibility to provide impartial
information about the political choice on offer to the electorate. They did
not live up to this responsibility. In showing coverage which was heavily
biased against the Fatherland-All Russia alliance and for the pro-government
Unity, they failed to meet standards set in Russian law and in international
agreements and conventions signed by the leaders of the Russian Federation.
ORT devoted more than a quarter of its election news coverage to Unity with
28 percent, and Fatherland-All Russia received half that coverage with 14
percent - which was even less than the Zhirinovsky Bloc's 15 percent. The
tone of coverage on the news was negative in relation to Fatherland-All
Russia and positive towards Unity. Combining coverage of Putin and the Unity
bloc on these two channels would show a majority of information - nearly all
of it positive - going to the government and pro-government party.
Statistics show that in the Moscow region, although NTV's entertainment
programs enjoy the most popularity generally, the most-watched news program
is ORT's "Vremya." Taking the Russian Federation viewing figures as a whole,
the top 50 programs watched by Russian viewers are all ORT and RTR programs.
The most popular program in the Russian Federation for the weeks preceding
the elections was Sergei Dorenko's analytical program on Sunday nights on
ORT. Given that Dorenko used his position to call Luzhkov everything from a
supporter of evil sects to a murderer, Luzhkov's huge victory (around 70
percent) in the Moscow mayor elections indicates that sometimes in Russia
even bad publicity has no discernible effect.
The impact of negative campaigning through the media is difficult to
establish in any election, and there is no reliable data which proves that it
effects voting. However the absence of information upon which to base voting
decisions is another matter. It is arguable that the absence of any real
analysis of the Chechen conflict contributed to its continued popularity
during the election campaign - and in turn, to the popularity of the
government and the pro-government party.
The Russian media have become very sophisticated in a relatively short space
of time, and there was a high level of professionalism in the technical
production and variety of programs and articles on offer. It cannot be
ignored that there were many talented Russian journalists who worked to
produce informative and analytical pieces to enlighten the difficult election
process. The problems facing the Russian media lie in the structure of their
ownership, their weak financial position, the lack of legal and political
support for the protection of journalists and the legal morass which confused
the role of the media during the campaign.
The final question is that of ethics. The widespread lack of appreciation of
journalistic ethics not only debases the profession but also lubricates the
wheels of political campaigns run by the powerful and wealthy political
parties and blocs in Russia. To use the proverbial pen as a sword is an
established trick during political campaigns, but to propagate half-truths,
untruths and lies is to abuse the trust of the audience. The long-term
consequences of such a policy are dire - does anyone want a return to the
days when Russians had no confidence in the media at all?
Gillian McCormack, head of the media monitoring project of the European
Institute for the Media, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
Labor Ministry Official on Oblast Living Standards
23 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Interview with Vladimir Aleksandrovich Litvinov, department head at
Living Standard Center, RF Ministry of Labor, by Aleksandr Nikitin,
personal correspondent; place and date not given: "A Gubernatorial
Why are the circumstances of life so different in neighboring oblasts,
even when the regions seem almost identical? This was the topic of
Obshchaya Gazeta correspondent Aleksandr Nikitin's conversation with
Vladimir Litvinov, a department head in the Living Standard Center of the
RF Ministry of Labor.
[Nikitin] Vladimir Aleksandrovich, we are confronted by mountains of
unnecessary information, some of it absolute trash, during a campaign.
We heard what Kursk Governor Rutskoy's young wife had to say about him.
She is a lovely and intelligent woman, and there are many that might envy
the Governor, but I was in a neighboring oblast recently and I took a
ride through some parts of the Governor's region. The roads there were
in worse shape, the homes were more modest, and the weeds were taller.
You work with figures and you know about the standard of living. Which
regions in the country have the lowest standard of living and which have
[Litvinov] Our chief indicator is the purchasing power of per capita
income. We calculate the ratio of this income to minimum subsistence.
That indicator covers almost everything: wages, other income, and the
relative prices of goods and services. In Kursk Oblast the indicator is
1.07. The figure in neighboring Belgorod Oblast is 1.11, and in Lipetsk
Oblast it is 1.18.
The purchasing power of the retirement pension, including compensatory
benefits, is lower: 0.58. According to the figures for the second
quarter of 1999 in absolute terms, however, the Kursk pensioner is not
the poorest in the country. He has 435.7 rubles. The oblast ranks 85th
on the list of 88 RF members (excluding Chechnya). Belgorod and Lipetsk
oblasts rank 67th and 68th. The Kursk pensioner's standard of living now
is 20 percent lower than it was in 1998. The national indicator has also
declined, but not as much.
[Nikitin] Every voter should know the figures for his own oblast.
After all, they are like a time bomb under the chair of anyone who
governs badly. If a governor has excelled in the struggle for a higher
standard of living for the voters, he should have these data at his
disposal and use them in his campaign for re-election.
[Litvinov] You have to realize, however, that there are no absolutely
precise tools of measurement. In addition, "shadow" income can
have an appreciable effect on the indicators.
Some regions are special cases and require adjustments. Moscow is one
example. It seems to be the richest region in the Federation. Income
there is equivalent to 417 percent of minimum subsistence--three times as
high as the national average. It also attracts more visitors than any
other city in the country, however. Their purchases are also included in
the calculations and embellish the results. The pensioner in Moscow,
after all, is close to the bottom of the list. Only the Chukchi and
Koryaks are poorer. The pension here is equivalent to only 72.5 percent
of the minimum subsistence figure. Meanwhile, the Moscow Government
keeps raising pensions and giving senior citizens all types of benefits.
On the one hand, however, the high cost of living nullifies all of these
increases. On the other,... Of course, the Moscow pensioner does not
actually have the same standard of living as the Chukchi. The Muscovite
has children, and those children have income that is not included in the
statistics. There is probably more undeclared income in Moscow than
anywhere else in the country.
[Nikitin] In spite of these details, are your data a useful tool?
[Litvinov] Of course. They immediately tell us how well someone
governs. Many officials are making a bid for re-election now. The
standard of living has been declining steadily for years, however, in
spite of all of the new premiers in Russia and in spite of the parties
and blocs backing them.
[Nikitin] Are there some leaders in our country who have been more
successful than the rest in bolstering the standard of living? Are there
any "outstanding capitalists," so to speak?
[Litvinov] There are, of course. Can you guess where they are in the
[Nikitin] In St. Petersburg, of course. Governor Yakovlev must be
one of them.
[Litvinov] You are partly right. St. Petersburg is the leader in
terms of income in relation to minimum subsistence, but the pension in
Novgorod the Great, in Governor Prusak's region, is closer to minimum
subsistence. We also have to consider St. Petersburg's incredible
economic and cultural potential. It is second only to Moscow. What does
Novgorod have, even if it is Novgorod the Great? Nothing but cranberry
and cloudberry marshes and a dozen or so cathedrals! Prusak deserves our
congratulations! He established such a superior investment climate in
the oblast and such superior conditions for investors, foreign and
domestic, that he has almost the highest per capita investment figure in
Russia. Farmers elsewhere keep complaining about difficulties selling
their products, for example, but almost half of the dairy herd in
Prusak's region works for a chocolate factory, a joint venture with
foreigners. That is why Novgorod can provide its pensioners with more
than they would get in St. Petersburg. Furthermore, he is not that far
below his grand neighbor in terms of income in relation to minimum
subsistence: 117 as compared to 131. I cannot understand why we keep
"dipping into the same well" for presidential candidates.
Returning to our "front runners" in terms of the standard of
living, I have already mentioned Moscow, and the next on the list are the
oil and gas okrugs and Tyumen Oblast, which includes those okrugs. Once
again, however, per capita income is high, but pensions are a different
story. The pension in the Yamal-Nenetsk Autonomous Okrug is equivalent
to only 80 percent of minimum subsistence! Why? "Shadow"
income is in short supply in the tundra.... Believe it or not, the next
in line is Samara Oblast! It has no oil or gas, but income there covers
165 percent of minimum subsistence! What is the unique resource that
distinguishes it from its neighbor, Ulyanovsk Oblast (104 percent)?
Furthermore, it was not always among the top five. It used to trail all
of the rest. The only difference now is that Governor Titov is
conducting an intelligent policy in urban and rural areas. It is true
that pensions there are a little low, given the local level of minimum
subsistence. Titov realizes this, and he raised the pension to 700
rubles. Luckily, the oblast came up with the resources to cover the
increase. Then the Russian Pension Fund stepped in, however, and the
resulting conflict could not have been settled without Putin's help.
[Nikitin] In view of everything we have been discussing, I think the
salaries of governors, Duma deputies, and the president should depend
directly on the standard of living of their subjects. Prusak and Titov,
for example, should get paid more than other regional leaders.
[Litvinov] I do not know whether the income of voters can be tied
directly to the income of the people they elect, but there is one thing I
know: Any official decision should undergo thorough analysis and strict
evaluation by the public. If the decision will lower the public's
standard of living, it should be rejected outright, however tempting some
of its other aspects might be. It is time to finally realize that we
have to have an economy that serves the individual instead of expecting
the individual to serve the economy. Otherwise, the economy will
collapse sooner or later. [Boxed item]
Purchasing Power of Per Capita Monetary Income of Population
(Ministry of Labor data for first half of 1999; names in parentheses
are regional leaders) Top 10 1. Moscow (Yu. Luzhkov)
2. Yamal-Nenetsk Autonomous Okrug (Yu. Neyelov)
3. Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (A. Filipenko)
4. Tyumen Oblast (L. Roketskiy) 5. Samara Oblast (K. Titov)
6. Murmansk Oblast (Yu. Yevdokimov) 7. Komi Republic (Yu. Spiridonov)
8. Krasnoyarsk Kray (A. Lebed) 9. Irkutsk Oblast (B. Govorin)
10. Perm Oblast (G. Igumnov)
88. Aga Buryat Autonomous Okrug (B. Zhansuyev)
87. Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug (V. Maliyev)
86. Ingushetia (R. Aushev) 85. Dagestan (M. Magomedov)
84. Chita Oblast (R. Miniatulin) 83. Kalmykia (K. Ilyumzhinov)
82. Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug (N. Poluyanov) 81. Tyva (Sh.
80. Ivanovo Oblast (V. Tikhomirov) 79. Karachay-Cherkessia (V.
The Independent (UK)
30 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Russians find 'school for terrorists'
By Helen Womack in Moscow
Explosives of an identical type to those used in a wave of apartment block
bombings in Russia were found in a Chechen "school for terrorists", officials
The Federal Security Service (FSB) said it found the bombers college in the
recently "liberated" town of Urus Martan, and concluded that Chechens must
have been responsible for the bombings which killed nearly 300 people in
September. Massive blasts destroyed two blocks of flats in Moscow and another
two in the southern towns of Volgodonsk and Buinaksk.
Security services were on full alert in case of acts of terrorism over
Russia's new year holiday.
Vladimir Kozlov, the deputy head of the FSB's department for the protection
of constitutional rule and the combating of terrorism, said that service
operatives had found a site for test blasts in Urus Martan and 500 kg of
explosive material "exactly like that used in Moscow and Volgodonsk". The
Chechen government denied responsibility but Khattab, an Arab comrade of the
Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, hinted that the bombings had been in revenge
for Russia's expulsion of Islamic fundamentalists from Dagestan in August.
Mr Kozlov said: "We have no doubt that the main authors of these acts [the
apartment block bombings] were Khattab and Basayev."
The bombings provoked Moscow to intervene militarily in Chechnya for the
second time this decade and public opinion swung strongly behind the
"anti-terrorist operation", although ordinary Russians had been unhappy about
the last war from 1994-1996.
The FSB said that eight people suspected of involvement in the bombings had
been arrested, although it was not clear whether that had happened recently
or whether they were referring to Chechens picked up immediately after the
blasts. Nine more suspects were on international wanted lists.
Meanwhile, heavy street fighting continued in the Chechen capital, Grozny, as
federal forces, aided by pro-Moscow Chechens with a good knowledge of the
local geography, struggled on towards the city centre.
General Valery Manilov, of the Russian general staff, said: "It is hard,
bloody work." But he added that the Russians were succeeding in isolating
groups of rebels from each other. Federal forces controlled most of two
suburbs in Grozny, he said.
The Chechens seemed to confirm the loss of one suburb, Staropromyslovsky,
when President Aslan Maskhadov said that fighters had withdrawn from there to
"re-group". The President's whereabouts were unknown.
Mr Basayev was also keeping one step ahead of the Russians, despite the fact
that they were laying siege to his power base of Vedeno in the foothills of
the Caucasus mountains.