CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List|
Johnson's Russia List
1 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
Happy New Year! S novym godom!
1. Reuters: Putin awards knives in Russian-held Chechnya.
3. Reuters: Missiles stay put but Yeltsin goes as Y2K dawns.
4. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Yeltsin Resignation Fits Legacy.
5. Bloomberg: Henry Kissinger on Boris Yeltsin's Resignation.
6. Bloomberg: Stratfor's Friedman on Yeltsin, Putin:.
7. Bloomberg: CSIS's Bush on Yeltsin Resigning, Russia's Economy.
8. Bloomberg: Cambridge Energy's Gustafson on Yeltsin's Resignation.
9. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIA GEARS UP FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
10. Russia Today: Yeltsin Bye, Bye. Analyst Rod Pounsett explores Yeltsin's decision to resign on the eve of the new millennium.
11. Reuters: CHRONOLOGY-Main events in Yeltsin years.
12. Moscow Times: Oksana Yablokova, Skuratov: 'Turover List' Is Real.
13. Bratislava's Pravda: Interview with Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, A Road Toward Losing the Caucasus.]
Putin awards knives in Russian-held Chechnya
MOSCOW, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Acting President Vladimir Putin flew unexpectedly
to a Russian-held town in rebel Chechnya early on New Year's Day to award
hunting knives to troops and tell them their main aim was to keep the Russian
``I want you to know that Russia highly appreciates what you are doing,''
Putin said in remarks to officers and soldiers broadcast live on television
at around 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Saturday from Gudermes, east of the regional
``This is not just about restoring the honour and dignity of Russia,'' he
said, his wife at his side.
``It is rather more important than that. It is about putting an end to the
break-up of the Russian Federation. That is the main task. Russia is grateful
Moscow says Chechnya is one of the 89 regions in the Russian Federation.
Chechnya says it is independent.
Itar-Tass news agency said Putin handed servicemen hunting knives inscribed
with the words ``From the chairman of the government of the Russian
Federation,'' indicating the visit was planned before Boris Yeltsin resigned
on Friday and handed power to his prime minister.
Asked whether the trip was the start of his election campaign, Putin said the
visit had been planned a month ago.
The presidential election is expected to be held on March 26. Putin is by far
Russia's most popular politician, largely on the strength of his military
campaign against Moslem rebels in Chechnya, a province in the turbulent North
The campaign began three months ago and 100,000 Russian troops now control
much of the territory, but not the whole of Grozny or the southern mountains
where rebels have strongholds.
``I wish you a happy New Year,'' said Putin, flanked by troops and dressed in
a thick parka coat. ``I wish you happiness, all the very best. May you be
healthy and your families well.''
``We flew for quite a long time. We had to turn back and then complete the
journey by car,'' he said. ``So I'm sorry it took so long, but better late
Clinton Statements on Yeltsin Text
December 31, 1999
The Associated Press
President Clinton's statement and later comments outside the Oval Office
Friday on Russian President Boris Yeltsin's resignation, as transcribed by
the Federal Document Clearing House:
Today, President Yeltsin ends his historic tenure as Russia's first
democratically elected president.
Under his leadership since 1991, the Russian people have faced the
unprecedented challenge of creating new institutions and building a new life
after decades of corrosive communist rule.
His lasting achievement has been dismantling that communist system and
building new political institutions under democratically elected leaders
within a constitutional framework. The fact that Prime Minister Putin assumes
responsibility today as acting president in accordance with the constitution
is but the latest example of this achievement.
The relationship between the United States and Russia under President Yeltsin
has produced genuine progress for both our people. Five thousand strategic
nuclear have been dismantled, and our nuclear weapons no longer are targeted
at each other.
We have worked together to eliminate nuclear weapons from the other states of
the former Soviet Union. Russia has withdrawn its troops from the Baltic
Now its troops are serving alongside Americans to maintain the peace in the
Balkans, and Russia was instrumental in achieving peace in Kosovo.
We have also had our differences, such as on Chechnya, but President Yeltsin
and my starting point has always been how Russia and America can work
together to advance common interests.
In this spirit I look forward to working with Acting President Putin as the
Russian people begin the process of making the transition from one
democratically elected president to another.
To President Yeltsin, let me convey my appreciation for the work we have done
together. Hillary and I extend our warmest wishes to you and your family.
Not long ago I had about a 20 minute phone conversation with President Boris
Yeltsin, who today ends his historic tenure as Russia's democratically
Under his leadership, since 1991, the Russian people have faced the
unprecedented challenge of building a new democracy and a new life, after
decades of corrosive communist rule. His lasting achievement has been
dismantling the communist system and creating a vital democratic process
within a constitutional framework. The fact that Prime Minister Putin assumes
responsibility today as acting president, in accordance with the
constitution, is the latest example of President Yeltsin's achievement.
The relationship between the United States and Russia under President Yeltsin
has produced genuine progress for both our people. Five thousand strategic
nuclear weapons have been dismantled. Our nuclear weapons are no longer
targeted at each other. We have worked together to eliminate nuclear weapons
from the other states of the former Soviet Union. Russia has withdrawn its
troops from the Baltic nations. And now its troops are serving alongside
Americans to maintain peace in the Balkans. In fact, Russia was instrumental
in achieving the peace agreement in Kosovo.
Of course, we have also had our differences. But the starting point for our
relationship has always been how Russia and America can work together to
advance our common interests. In that spirit, I look forward to working with
acting President Putin as the Russian people begin the process of making the
transition from one democratically elected president to another.
To President Yeltsin, let me convey my appreciation again for the work we
have done together. Hillary and I extend our warmest wishes to him, Naina and
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you going to Moscow in February at the
invitation of Prime Minister...
CLINTON: I have made no plans to do that, yet.
QUESTION: Mr. President, can you share some of your personal recollections of
Boris Yeltsin? You seemed to have a warm, personal relationship with him.
What did you admire? What are you thoughts about him as a person?
CLINTON: Well, I liked him because he was always very forthright with me, he
always did exactly what he said he would do, and he was willing to take
chances to try to improve our relationship, to try to improve democracy in
He took the Russian troops out of the Balkans. He recently agreed to take
them out of Moldova and Georgia.
We got rid of all those nuclear weapons in the other states of the former
Soviet Union. We got rid of thousands of nuclear weapons. He's committed to
START II, and I hope it will be ratified by the Russian Duma so we can
quickly move to START III and reduce our nuclear arsenals even further.
I liked him because I think he genuinely deplored communism. He lived with
it, he saw it, and he believed that democracy was the best system. I think it
was in every fiber of his being.
And we had our arguments, we had our fights, we had our genuine disagreement
about our national interests from time to time, but I think that the Russian
people were well-served to have a leader who honestly believes that their
votes ought to determine who was running the show in Russia and what the
future direction of the country should be.
Missiles stay put but Yeltsin goes as Y2K dawns
By Martin Nesirky
MOSCOW, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Russia's nuclear missiles remained in their silos
and the lights stayed on as the New Year reached all Russia's 11 time zones
on Saturday and news sank in that Boris Yeltsin had quit as president.
Stretching from Chukotka on the international dateline opposite Alaska to the
Kaliningrad enclave next to Poland, Russia had more opportunity than most to
stage a party to remember.
But because of its poor infrastructure and lack of funds, the country was
also under closer scrutiny than many for signs of Y2K computer glitches.
Officials reported all was apparently well with energy, transport and
telephones -- and nuclear weapons.
"As we promised, our forces reliably prepared for the Y2K problem and now we
are reporting that their work was not in vain," the Strategic Rocket Forces
chief, Vladimir Yakovlev, told Interfax news agency. "There are no faults."
The colonel-general, in charge of the land-based missiles in the world's
second largest nuclear arsenal, spent the New Year letting off firework
rockets in the yard with his children -- the only launches he envisaged for
>From a special centre in Colorado, Russia and the United States jointly
monitored the skies for unsanctioned strategic missile launches or erroneous
warnings and said all was fine.
MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW
At midnight in Moscow, tens of thousands of people crammed into the cobbled
Red Square next to the Kremlin fortress where Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned
As the bells of the Kremlin struck 12, the crowd burst into spontaneous
shouting and a deafening din ensued with fireworks filling the air with acrid
Small groups of young people wandering through the square shouting "S novym
presidentom" instead of "S novym godom" -- happy new president instead of
happy new year.
Telephone networks and electricity grids from Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific
coast to the capital and beyond defied Y2K doomsayers and remained in
operation without disruption as midnight passed. It may take longer for a
full picture to emerge of whether some computers failed to recognise the
change in date.
Most Russians are off work until at least January 5 and many will not return
until January 10, after the Orthodox Christmas.
But millennium night reports were unanimously confident. Everything from
atomic power plants to airports were working.
"We have no problems," RAO UES electricity firm spokeswoman Tatyana Zakharova
said. "Everything went smoothly."
Russians across the country were reeling from the shock resignation of
Yeltsin, who had led their country for eight years since the fall of Soviet
rule. But many were more interested in preparing for new year, their main
As the hours ticked by, there was no sign of significant trouble from the Y2K
bug, which experts had said could lead to anything from power outages to
The Y2K problem was one of the first to be faced by acting President Vladimir
Putin, who took over three hours before the first stretches of Russian
territory entered the 21st century.
In his fourth hour in office, Putin told his advisory Security Council all
Y2K staff were in place.
Scarcely had he done so, when a live television broadcast showed him in
Gudermes, east of Grozny, capital of the rebellious province of Chechnya,
awarding medals to soldiers to mark the New Year.
Putin, already Russia's most popular politician by far, largely on the
strength of his military campaign against the Moslem rebels in Chechnya,
wished his troops a happy New Year, and told them: "I want you to know that
Russia highly appreciates what you are doing."
Russia: Analysis - Yeltsin Resignation Fits Legacy
By By Sophie Lambroschini
With his resignation today, Russian President Boris Yeltsin caught his
countrymen and the world by surprise. But RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Sophie
Lambroschini reports that the move is very much in keeping with Yeltsin's
Moscow, 31 December 1999 (NCA/Sophie Lambroschini) -- By chosing to resign
ahead of presidential elections initially planned for June, Boris Yetsin's
public message was that it was time for a new generation of leaders.
Yeltsin: "Russia must enter the new millennium with new politicians, new
faces, new intelligent, strong and energetic people. As for those of us who
have been in power for many years, we must go. Seeing with what hope and
belief people voted during the Duma elections for a new generation of
politicians, I understood that I had done the main job of my life. Russia
will never return to the past. Russia will now always be moving forward. I
must not stand in its way, in the way of the natural progress of history."
But some analysts say that in reality, the moment was chosen as the most
favourable to ensure that his anointed heir, Vladimir Putin, will succeed
him, though in a way that still respects formal legalities. With today's act,
Yeltsin demonstratively swept away all the speculation about his intention of
staying on in an authoritarian manner. In his parting speech, he pointedly
referred to this, saying that he had often heard suggestions that he would
hold on to power "by all means". He called such speculation a lie.
Now, indeed the change at the head of the Russian state is expected to follow
the constitutionally established path. In case of the president leaving his
post prematurely, new elections are to be held in a course of three months.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Putin is acting president with most of the
powers of head of state.
But some analysts argue today's move actually reveals the limited hold of
true democratic principles in Russia. Carnegie analyst Nikolai Petrov is
among them. He says Yeltsin and his circle have proved themselves masters in
using the techniques of democratic institutions to secure power of an
Petrov: "In principle maybe this regime isn't that far away from democracy in
some of its manifestations. But the [main] thing is that by its logic, by the
Constitution, by its internal workings, it made it possible to go over to an
authoritarian system of rule without even violating the Constitution."
Petrov and other analysts say that by leaving unexpectedly, Yeltsin makes
sure that the next presidential elections planned for March 26 will give
opposition candidates less of a chance. In effect they have only a few weeks
to collect one million signatures, and find the financial resources to lead a
Petrov points out that in effect, because of recent parliamentary elections
leaving Russia with a half-formed parliament, Putin the prime minister, the
president, and the candidate is playing all alone on the political field.
Petrov: "If we speak about the transformation of the regime, it's evident
that the moment is well chosen. [Now, Yeltsin's circle] can use the smoothly
working system they set up and exploit the very good results for the Kremlin
during elections. It's a manner of strengthening their victory by not giving
those opposition political forces who were broken or weakened after
parliamentry elections even a chance to regroup. Announcing early elections
gave everyone except the party of power's candidate two months to prepare.
It's the beginning of a dead political [season] where there isn't even a
Andrei Piontkovsky, another political analyst, also points out that by having
Yeltsin resign now, he was minimizing any political risks to Putin linked to
the war in Chechnya.
Piontkovsky: "This act is a completely technical decision based on the
[Yeltsin circles'] desire to get Putin elected. For now, it seems that they
think that he is their only guarantee of political financial and maybe
physical survival. So they had to do everything to help [him]. And since
Putin's whole campaign was built on the war in Chechnya, it's a lot easier to
sell the image of a [military] victory for three months than for six months."
Other analysts note that Yeltsin's decision has postponed for Russia for
several years one of the watersheds in any young democracy -- the first
instance when one elected head of state peacefully hands over power to an
Henry Kissinger on Boris Yeltsin's Resignation: Comment
New York, Dec. 31 (Bloomberg)
-- Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger spoke on financial
news network CNBC about Russian President Boris Yeltsin's resignation.
``He was going to have to resign in June in the face of a new election. I
think he decided to retire in order to give the maximum opportunity to his
successor (Vladimir) Putin, who can now run as an incumbent president and
hold the elections three months early which makes it difficult for opponents
to get organized. I think his parting speech had a lot of pathos and
``I think we cannot continue to (link) our relations to Russia to individual
personalities and to make us believe that one particular person is the key to
``What we are witnessing in Russia now is a transformation to a more
traditional Russian government. Not communist, but more going back to the
czarist period. I would expect it to be a stronger government.''
``I think conditions in Russia will be chaotic for a while. Once a central
authority is re-established and a legal system is put into place -- and that
may take a year or two -- then the Russian economy will recover fairly
rapidly. It is a country very rich in resources with a high level of
education. Therefore, it starts from a much better place than many of the
Stratfor's Friedman on Yeltsin, Putin: Political Comment
Washington, Dec. 31 (Bloomberg)
-- The following are comments of George Friedman, chairman of
Stratfor Inc., an Austin, Texas-based global intelligence services company.
Friedman spoke about the resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and
the background of Vladimir Putin, Russia's acting president:
``Yeltsin has been finished for months,'' said Friedman. The U.S. humiliated
Russia by pursing the bombing campaign in Kosovo this spring and then
effectively denying Russia a significant role in overseeing peacekeeping in
that country, he said.
Friedman said Putin's ascension to prime minister in August, 1999 should be
viewed as a ``silent coup'' by Russian industrialists and intelligence
officials who wanted to gain control over the country.
``This was a coup by the old apparatchiks (spies or communist agents) who saw
Russia was collapsing,'' said Friedman, a former director of Center for
Geopolitical Studies at Louisiana State University.
Friedman said Putin, who spent 17 years as a spy for the KGB, was involved in
a KBG group trying to steal western computer technology.
``In the early 1980s, the KGB realized that Russia was falling
catastrophically behind in technologies,'' Friedman said.
``They put in place an intense operation for doing two things: first,
restructuring the Soviet economy and second, arranging for western technology
transfers. This was Perestroika,'' he said.
``The KGB was charged with stealing western technology and Putin was one of
the bright young men doing that,'' he said. Friedman didn't provide specifics
on the technology stolen, yet he said western companies such as Apple
Computer Inc. Siemens AG and International Business Machine Inc. were
``We don't know the specifics of what it was, but his group was focusing on
accessing western military and industrial computer technology,'' he said.
After the KGB, Putin began his political career as director of the foreign
affairs committee in St. Petersburg in 1991. In that role, Putin was a
liaison to foreign investors and the business community, Friedman said.
``He also was very wired into the western investment community and also wired
into the Russian business community,'' Friedman said. This combination of KGB
experience and close involvement with the Russian business community could
provide Putin with valuable leverage.
``The real question today is to what extent will Putin control the situation
or to what extent will he be a tool of the oligarchs?'' Friedman asked.
``The question facing Putin over the next six months is, `Can he coerce or
make a deal with the oligarchs to release sufficient resources to make a
national economic policy possible?' ''
CSIS's Bush on Yeltsin Resigning, Russia's Economy
Washington, Dec. 31 (Bloomberg)
-- The following are comments by Keith Bush, director of the Europe
and Asia studies program at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Bush spoke about the
resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the prospects for Vladimir
Putin, who is serving as acting president, and the Russian economy:
Yeltsin's resignation ``is a very positive development because in Russia, he
was the leader of the second leading nuclear power in the world. That was not
good. You had this man in charge of the nuclear button who was mentally and
physically impaired, so it is a great relief.''
``We don't know a great deal about'' Putin, Bush said. ``We do know he was in
the KGB. But we shouldn't hold that against him because in the Soviet Union
the KGB attracted very competent individuals. It was a very honorable
``We know he favors some kind of protectionism because he realizes Russian
industry not competitive on the world market. And he understands the scope of
the problem with the economy.''
``Putin realizes that corporate governance is very bad right now in Russia.''
On a $640 million loan pending from the International Monetary Fund, delayed
``The IMF may still insist on the changes they've requested,'' such as
increasing cash collection and improving bankruptcy laws, Bush said.
Cambridge Energy's Gustafson on Yeltsin's Resignation: Comment
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dec. 31 (Bloomberg)
-- Thane Gustafson, director of the Eurasia energy program at Cambridge
Research Associates, comments on the resignation of Russian president Boris
Yeltsin, his heir apparent Vladimir Putin, and the outlook for foreign
investment in Russia.
``This is good news for investors because it avoids several worst-case
scenarios. It particularly avoids the prospect of continued uncertainty
heading into a long electoral campaign with an uncertain outcome.''
``A Putin victory is the odds-on scenario. This implies a smooth
``Investors have been very pro-Putin. The market soared by 25 percent in the
week following the parliamentary elections, this second bounce is
confirmation of the fact that investors see in Putin a pragmatist. They see,
in what's going on, relief from uncertainty. ''
``No question about it, moving up the elections to March when Putin stands an
excellent chance of winning - I would say he's the odds-on favorite at this
point - means you don't go through the uncertainty scenario that seemed to be
a prospect, with elections in June with several competing candidates and a
highly uncertain outcome. The market feared that.''
``Behind that is a judgement that Putin is more than just Mr. Chechnya. He
has a history as a KGB lieutenant colonel. He was a resident of East Germany
in the '80s, he knows something about the outside world. Apparently he speaks
native-quality German. His first job when he came back to Russia in the early
1990s was (being) in charge of foreign investment and relations with foreign
companies for the city of St. Petersburg. He's used to dealing with western
``The 1990s were an extremely bumpy decade, Russia was up for grabs. There
were no rules and it was a roller-coaster decade. There are some signs that
things may be settling down.''
RUSSIA GEARS UP FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Text of report by Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 31st December
[Sergey Parkhomenko] We have the chairman of the Central Electoral
Commission, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, on the line. Hello.
[Veshnyakov] Good day.
[Q] I don't think it's a good day for you, Aleksandr Albertovich. You've got
more work to do on New Year's Eve, haven't you?
[A] Well, is work something to be afraid of? Good day and a happy New Year.
[Q] Thank you, you too. A new year and a new president. You've already given
an interview - I'm reading it now and you believe, if I understand it
correctly, that there's only one date the Federation Council can set for the
presidential election - 26th March.
[A] That's right. The Federation Council sets the date for the election of a
president of the Russian Federation no later than 14 days after a president
leaves office ahead of time and that was today, 31st December. So no later
than 14th January the Federation Council must meet and set an election date
of 26th March under the new law on presidential election that was signed by
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin today.
[Q] Can it be earlier? I understand that it can't be any later but what
about, say, 19th March?
[A] Under the new law that is to be published in literally the first five
days of January, it must be 26th March.
[Q] 26th March. Aleksandr Albertovich, how ready is the Central Electoral
Commission to hold these elections? After all, you haven't got the ballot
papers printed in advance or provided any training.
[A] It's still a long way to the ballot papers. Now we need to nominate
candidates. Incidentally, nominees can be put forward at congresses of the
relevant electoral associations and blocs or initiative groups of at least
100 voters. They must collect at least 500,000 signatures. If these were
normal elections rather than early elections it would be 1m signatures but
under these circumstances, when there is less time, only 500,000 are needed.
This is why the Central Electoral Commission is a body that has to be ready
for any action required by the constitution or federal legislation and we are
[Q] Aleksandr Albertovich, what changes by comparison with the usual
procedures - we've already said fewer signatures are needed than usual - what
other changes are envisaged?
[A] Other electoral activity is curtailed - the time for nominating
candidates, for example, or for registration etc but these are details that -
[Q] Are not so important.
[A] I've already said what's most important.
[Q] As for the election campaign itself, actual campaigning. Is the time for
that reduced as well?
[A] Of course it is, because, as you can see for yourself, if, for example,
as I think most likely, the Federation Council meets on 9th January and
adopts the decision I've talked about, it would be published the next day and
that would be the official start of the presidential election campaign. If we
calculate from 10th January to 26th March, it's only two and a half months.
If it were a routine, scheduled election campaign it would be for four months
so each stage of the election campaign is compressed in terms of the time
allowed and the possibility of candidates appealing to their voters.
[Q] And the last question, Aleksandr Albertovich, you've already touched on
briefly earlier. The new law on electing a president envisages - you remember
where many would-be deputies came unstuck - over property.
[A] Now they'll have to give details not only of their own property but also
of their bank accounts and those of their spouse and children. This will all
have to be done at the stage of nominating a candidate for the presidency and
it will be checked not just for 10 days but for a lot longer - up to a month.
[Q] And the last question, will such a curtailed period of time increase the
number of candidates or on the contrary reduce it by comparison with holding
the elections in June?
[A] That's down to the candidates in the end.
[Q] What do you think?
[A] Everyone can see that not all the candidates will be prepared for such a
[Q] Okay. Thank you very much for coming on air. I think you'll be a frequent
visitor in the first three months.
[A] I'm quite ready to be a frequent visitor and I wish success to you and
above all to all of us in this new year 2000.
December 31, 1999
Yeltsin Bye, Bye
Analyst Rod Pounsett explores Yeltsin's decision to resign on the eve of the
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin's decision to resign on the eve of the new
millennium is NOT a surprise. In fact, if it wasn't planned months ago, I'm
certain results in the recent Russian parliamentary elections sealed the
plan. Kremlin power brokers will have convinced the President that to go now
would allow them to cash in on the current popularity of his chosen
successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. They will have calculated that the
ninety days to the presidential election on March 26 will be sufficient to
maintain support for Putin. That is provided the Chechen war doesn't turn
into a disaster. If Yeltsin hung on for his full term until June 2000 with
the dark clouds of corruption and other mal-practice hanging over the Kremlin
it threatened to give opposition factions time to rebuild forces against the
Yeltsin clan and slam to the door on Putin.
But will ordinary Russians think this a suitable gift to serve up for the
millennium celebrations? New Year is the one time of the year when Russians
like to forget their troubles and party big time. They will surely find it
hard to shut out the prospects of yet another political crisis, which could
further destroy confidence in their country and increase economic decline.
Interfering with a Russian's right to party is a dangerous game, as former
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discovered. When he restricted vodka supplies
in the late eighties his popularity tumbled over night and never recovered.
On the other hand there will be many in Russia who will see Yeltsin's
resignation as the perfect party theme. During the past few years his
popularity with ordinary Russians has taken a nosedive. For them he alone
takes the blame for successive crisis and worsening living conditions.
Despite his many protestations of "Not guilty!" they also suspect he and his
cronies have been up to their ears in corruption and misuse of power as
The hero worship Yeltsin enjoyed back in the days when he stood by ordinary
peoples' sides against the old repressive Soviet regime with the promise of a
free, democratic and prosperous future has long since faded. Indeed during
his resignation statement on Russian TV early New Year's Eve he almost seemed
to be admitting as much. In quite uncharacteristic style he begged the
population's forgiveness for the mistakes of his presidency and for promises
unfulfilled. But this eleventh hour plea for forgiveness is unlikely to
eradicate the memories of his countless errors of judgement and often
style of leadership.
Yeltsin, of course, inherited a pretty awful economic mess when he stepped
into the presidency following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But
historians will be failing in their duty if they do not catalogue his
stewardship over his nation's development into one of the most mismanaged
state's on this planet where a vile form of 'mafiocracy' seems to control
almost every aspect of a Russian's life.
And what of Yeltsin's chosen successor? Putin is currently enjoying
widespread popularity, especially because of his hard line against Chechen
rebels. But the very fact that he's Yeltsin's man may work against him,
especially if Yeltsin takes a high profile in Putin's election campaign. The
best prospect for Putin is for Yeltsin to take a ninety-day recuperation
holiday far away from the madding crowd.
Of course Yeltsin's stint as leader of the world's largest country hasn't all
been bad news, especially for the West. Washington particularly has enjoyed
his company as the man they saw best fitted to steering Russia on a more or
less democratic, market economy route. And whatever the truth of the behind
the scenes malpractice there have been times when he's shown the ability to
hold that disparate nation that is Russia together. And he has stood firm
against the communist who would have the clock turned back.
Personally, however, I feel he's let a lot of people down. How well I
remember standing with the crowds outside the besieged Russian White House in
1991 listening to Yeltsin's speech from the balcony in which he seemed to be
offering so much hope for the future of a country and people I love a lot.
Unfortunately my other vivid memory is of a seemingly inebriated Boris
Nikolayevich Yeltsin conducting a band outside the Berlin City Hall on live
If I were a Russian, I'm certain I wouldn't buy a second hand car from him.
And maybe that's the way ordinary Russians will perceive his man Putin,
however good he's proved to be as a Prime Minister of mismanaged Russia.
CHRONOLOGY-Main events in Yeltsin years
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who announced his shock
resignation on Friday, was the first elected leader of Russia.
He presided over monumental events in his country's history, including the
dissolution of the Soviet Union, the divisive transition from a command
economy to a free market, two wars in Chechnya, street battles with
parliamentary opponents, three parliamentary elections and his own historic
re-election in 1996.
Here is an outline of his political career.
1985 - New Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev brings Yeltsin, a Communist Party
boss in the Urals city of Sverdlovsk, to Moscow to oversee construction. He
then becomes Moscow city party boss.
February 1986 - Yeltsin is made a candidate member of the Politburo, the
inner cabinet of the Soviet Union's ruling party.
October 1987 - Yeltsin is sacked from the Politburo in disgrace after
complaining at the slow pace of reform. He is taken to hospital after
suffering a breakdown.
May 1990 - The Russian Federation's Congress of People's Deputies, the
republic's parliament, elects Yeltsin as chairman.
June 1990 - Yeltsin quits the Communist Party.
June 16, 1991 - Yeltsin becomes Russia's first directly elected president,
defeating communist and nationalist rivals.
August 1991 - Yeltsin plays a key role in putting down a hard-line coup
against Gorbachev and he soon eclipses his rival. Yeltsin's decision to climb
atop a tank during the coup gives rise to one of the seminal images of the
collapse of Communism.
Oct 29, 1991 - Yeltsin announces plans for radical reforms with a team headed
by little-known economist Yegor Gaidar.
Dec 8, 1991 - Yeltsin and the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine sign agreement
ending Soviet Union. Gorbachev resigns.
June 16, 1992 - Yeltsin appoints Gaidar acting premier.
Dec 14, 1992 - Yeltsin, facing opposition from a conservative parliament to
Gaidar's reforms, drops Gaidar and replaces him with former gas industry boss
March 28, 1993 - Yeltsin survives an impeachment bid by the Russian
parliament by 72 votes.
April 25, 1993 - He wins referendum on his rule.
Sept 21, 1993 - Yeltsin dissolves parliament, accusing it of blocking
constitutional reforms and elections. Rebel deputies barricade themselves
inside the White House parliament building.
Oct 4, 1993 - Supporters of parliament stage an armed attack on the Moscow TV
station. The following day Yeltsin uses tanks to storm the White House and
put down the rebellion.
Dec 12, 1993 - Voters approve a constitution giving Yeltsin increased powers.
They select a new lower house of parliament, the State Duma, at an election
in which nationalists do well.
Feb 26, 1994 - Leaders of the parliamentary rebellion walk free after Yeltsin
fails to prevent a parliamentary amnesty.
Aug 1994 - Yeltsin behaves erratically on a visit to Berlin marking
withdrawal of Russian troops from Germany. He stumbles after a champagne
lunch, seizes conductor's baton to direct an orchestra and grabs the
microphone to sing.
Sept 30, 1994 - On refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, on his way back from
the United States, Yeltsin fails to get off his plane to meet Irish Prime
Minister Albert Reynolds. He says he overslept, aides say there was a mix-up.
Dec 11, 1994 - Yeltsin sends troops to Chechnya region to try to quell a
separatist drive. Tens of thousands are killed in 21 months of fighting.
July 11, 1995 - Yeltsin is taken to hospital with heart problems. He stays
there two weeks before moving to sanatorium.
October 26, 1995 - Yeltsin has another heart problem. He does not return to
the Kremlin until December 29.
December 17, 1995 - Communists win more than one-third of seats in elections
to a new Duma.
January 1996 - Yeltsin ousts several liberals from the cabinet in a shift
away from reform after the election.
Feb 15, 1996 - Yeltsin says he will run for a second term in office and
launches an active, Western-style campaign.
June 16, 1996 - Yeltsin wins first-round election ahead of communist Gennady
Zyuganov. He later consolidates his position by making third-placed Alexander
Lebed his security adviser.
June 20, 1996 - Yeltsin sacks three hawkish members of his team, one day
after dismissing Defense Minister Pavel Grachev.
July 3, 1996 - Yeltsin wins a second term in office despite disappearing from
view and canceling campaign trips in final stage of campaign. Only later will
the Kremlin reveal that he suffered several heart attacks during this period.
Aug 9, 1996 - Yeltsin takes his oath of office.
Aug 31, 1996 - Lebed signs peace deal ending Chechnya war.
Sept 5, 1996 - Yeltsin announces he has agreed to have heart surgery to
enable him to live a normal life.
Oct 17, 1996 - Yeltsin sacks Lebed, accusing the general of harboring
Nov 5, 1996 - Yeltsin undergoes quintuple bypass surgery.
Jan 9, 1997 - Yeltsin taken to hospital with pneumonia.
March/April, 1997 - Back at the Kremlin, Yeltsin completes a government
reshuffle and puts reformers in key positions.
Dec 10, 1997 - Days after returning from a trip to Sweden, where he made
several diplomatic blunders, Yeltsin retreats to the Barvikha sanatorium
outside Moscow for a few weeks with what the Kremlin says is an acute
respiratory viral infection.
March 23, 1998 - Returning to Kremlin after a respiratory infection, Yeltsin
sacks Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin and his cabinet for failure to push
through reforms. He names former Energy Minister Sergei Kiriyenko as new
July 13, 1998 - The International Monetary Fund and other foreign lenders
agree a $22.6 billion credit package for Russia.
Aug 17, 1998 - Under increasing financial pressure, the government is forced
to let the rouble slide and to default on some debts, triggering a severe
Aug 23, 1998 - Yeltsin sacks Kiriyenko and his entire government and appoints
Chernomyrdin acting prime minister. Chernomyrdin fails to win backing from
parliament, so Yeltsin later names Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov instead.
October, 1998 - Yeltsin cuts short a Central Asian trip and scraps plans to
visit Austria because of health problems. Kremlin aides say day-to-day
affairs in Russia are increasingly in Primakov's hands.
November, 1998 - Yeltsin enters hospital with pneumonia.
December, 1998 - He returns to work and sacks Valentin Yumashev as his
Kremlin chief of staff.
January, 1999 - Yeltsin is rushed to hospital with a bleeding stromach ulcer
which keeps him out of public view for much of the first part of the year.
May 12, 1999 - Yeltsin sacks Primakov and names loyal top policeman Sergei
Stepashin as premier. Three days later Yeltsin survives an impeachment vote
Aug 9, 1999 - Yeltsin sacks Stepashin, names little-known security chief
Vladimir Putin as new prime minister, says he wants Putin to succeed him as
Sept 23, 1999 - After clashes in neighboring Dagestan province and a series
of bomb blasts in Russian cities, Russia bombs the Chechen capital, Grozny,
signaling the start of a new armed conflict in the rebel region.
Nov 29, 1999 - Yeltsin again in hospital with pneumonia.
Dec 19, 1999 - Putin's supporters perform surprisingly well in a
parliamentary vote, a sign of premier's vast popularity.
Dec 31, 1999 - Yeltsin resigns, names Putin acting president.
December 29, 1999
Skuratov: 'Turover List' Is Real
By Oksana Yablokova
A Moscow newspaper reported this week that Russian investigators were in
possession of 49 files of explosive information about high-level corruption -
including alleged cocaine smuggling by former Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin - that had been confiscated from a well-connected Russian
Yury Skuratov, suspended from the post of prosecutor general early this year,
confirmed Tuesday that his office was in possession of documents seized from
the emigrÓ Felipe Turover, but said he could not confirm specific allegations
named by Novaya Gazeta.
In a telephone interview, Skuratov said he received the files of Turover, a
key witness in a Swiss investigation into alleged bribery of Kremlin
officials, at the end of 1998.
"Part of these materials are being used in investigations of the criminal
cases, including the Mabetex case," he said, adding that since he was
suspended by President Boris Yeltsin in February, he has no access to the
files kept in his former office.
In its Monday issue Novaya Gazeta published an interview with Turover
speaking of the documents seized by prosecutors and the information they
contain. Novaya Gazeta reporter Oleg Lurye said he had received a list of the
folders and had then turned to Turover for an explanation of their contents.
The most sensational of the documents he described sanctioning the import of
cocaine to Russia and its further transport through the country.
Chernomyrdin's spokesman Valentin Sergeyev refused to comment.
Among other officials he said were named in the documents were former Prime
Minister Sergei Stepashin, State Duma deputy Alexander Shokhin, Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov and the Kremlin-connected tycoons Boris Berezovsky and Roman
Turover told the newspaper that a folder of documents about the Mary El
republic dealt with the secret production and sale of missiles by one of the
He said he could not name the countries to which the missiles were sold but
said "sales were planned to India, South Korea, Egypt, Syria, Equador,
Skuratov said he could not confirm the specific information in the documents
because of their large quantity. He said he had focused on files dealing with
Mabetex, a Swiss construction firm that is accused of bribing Kremlin
In his Novaya Gazeta interview, Turover also mentioned files on the Kremlin's
property department, which he said were used in the Mabetex investigation.
Turover, who carries Spanish and Israeli passports, worked for the Swiss bank
Banca del Gottardo as a debt collector in Russia until 1998, and boasted of
past acquaintances in the Kremlin and frequent visits there.
Skuratov said he was surprised that the information about the documents had
become public, as only two people in the Prosecutor General's Office
including himself and his chief investigator Alexander Mytsykov, knew about
Journalist Lurye implied in his article that there had been an attempt to
keep the information in Turover's files under wraps. He quoted unnamed
sources as saying that the archives were in the possession of Skuratov's
office since mid-1998 but were not investigated.
But Skuratov said he got hold of the archives in November 1998 only and
started looking into them immediately.
"We were closely cooperating with him [Turover] on the issues of corruption
among Russian officials in November, December and January ," he said.
Skuratov said he met with Turover in September 1998 during his brief visit to
Switzerland. Turover was introduced to him by Swiss Prosecutor General Carla
del Ponte, and two months later handed him the files.
Skuratov said he is inclined to believe that Turover's information is
reliable, calling him a "very well-informed person."
"He has got a clear picture about the activity of international industrial
and financial structures in Russia. It's hard to say what his reasons for
making it all public were, however," Skuratov said, suggesting that
persecution by the Russian secret services could have become the reason.
Aushev: Chechen War Road Toward Losing Entire Caucasus
Bratislava's Pravda in Slovak
28 December 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Ingush President Ruslan Aushev by Felix Alexejev in
Moscow; date not given: "A Road Toward Losing the Caucasus"
[Alexejev] Federal forces are trying as fast as
possible to put an end to the separatists in Chechnya. Is this associated
with the election result?
[Aushev] It is natural that the outcome of the parliamentary elections is
being manifested in the events in the northern Caucasus. Society has
backed the policy of the federal center. The people voted in favor of
bringing an end to terrorism and its aftermath. But, they cast their
ballots without penetrating more deeply into the core of this struggle,
its tactics, and details. I also believe that it is necessary to fight
terrorism. To fight it everywhere, everyday, continuously. I am even more
convinced that this campaign should have begun earlier. After all, the
law also enjoins the responsible representatives to do so. But, I do not
want to be like a windmill that turns in all directions. I will not say
what is apt for today. Therefore, I am always asking: Why does the
civilian population have to suffer? If terrorists have established
themselves in a certain building, is it necessary to destroy the entire
building in order to eliminate them?
[Alexejev] Your voice is a lone one in present-day Russia.
[Aushev] It can be heard from everywhere that everyone is behind the
center, except Aushev. But, remember the first Chechen war! At that time,
they also got mad in Moscow and said: Everyone supports us, only Aushev
is speculating. And how did it eventually turn out?! I am also convinced
now that there is no forceful solution to the Chechen problem. To swap
acquiescently the struggle against terrorism for all-out war. This is the
direct route to the loss of the entire Caucasus. I am concerned that this
is precisely how it is going to end. It is terrible to think how this
would manifest itself throughout Russia, a country with unresolved
inter-ethnic conflicts, mistakes of history. Clouds of smoke enshroud the
southern regions of Russia. They accuse me of holding anti-Russian
stances. This is not true. I hold humane stances. If what is happening
now in the northern Caucasus were, God forbid, to erupt in the far east
or in some other Russian region, I would behave in exactly the same way.
[Alexejev] The most recent reports from Groznyy talk about a deserted
which the last few thousand inhabitants have been left behind. What
reports do you have?
[Aushev] An operative group from our republic Interior Ministry recently
evacuated a retirement home from Groznyy. Our boys have been talking to
the local population. None of them knows exactly how many people are in
fact left in the city. All of the figures are just estimates. But, in
reality, it is necessary to begin with a figure of 15,000-20,000 people.
Most of them have tried to escape. But, there is fighting every day and
many of them do not know anything about the evacuation corridors. There
is no transportation or money for the journey. The inhabitants have
simply given themselves up to the mercy of fate. They have reconciled
themselves to the fact that it will be the way it is. If they get killed,
then they will get killed. And maybe a few of them will survive by some
[Alexejev] Do you think that the combat operations in Chechnya are nearing
[Aushev] Who could doubt this! After all, the Russian military grouping
has more than 100,000 troops. Massive firing power is concentrated there
-- aircraft, artillery. Naturally, it is possible to crush everything.
But, I do not see a political way out. A partisan war will begin. The
fighters will transfer to different forms of resistance. And the people
who are now on the territory of our republic or have remained in Chechnya
itself, are they perchance going to maintain a humble silence? Groznyy
has been bombed virtually every day. Everything has been destroyed. Do
you think that the refugees who go back are going to concur with what has
[Alexejev] But, Chechens are also, apparently, fighting on the side of the
[Aushev] Yes, Beslan Gantamirov (the former mayor of Groznyy, prosecuted in
Russia for economic crime, whom Moscow pardoned recently -- editor's
note) and his supporters have cropped up. But, this is a drop in the
ocean of those who are going to live in the Chechen Republic. It is not
necessary to exaggerate the role of the pro-Moscow Chechen militias. Can
they introduce order? I think that the people whom the federal center has
installed there will only remain as long as there are Russian troops in
Chechnya. And how long can such a large concentration of military forces
hang on? If we calculate how much funds are necessary for this, then it
becomes apparent that the situation is far from being as simple as some
politicians are making out.
[Alexejev] How is Ingushetia coming to terms with the huge wave of refugees
that has rolled across to you from the neighboring republic?
[Aushev] With difficulty. The 205,000 refugees are a far too large burden
the republic and its population. We need seven million rubles every day
just to feed them. We get barely one-tenth of this from the federal
center. Caucasian hospitality and fraternal relations are being
manifested. But, everything has its limits. True, the tendency has begun
to change in recent days. Fewer refugees are now coming to Ingushetia
than are leaving it. There is virtually no longer any fighting in
Chechnya all the way to Urus-Martan. And people want to return to their
own homes so that they are not a burden. But, I have decreed resolutely:
Those who do not want to go are to be left in peace. The refugees will
remain on the territory of Ingushetia as long as it is necessary.