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Johnson's Russia List
16 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Philip Sherwell and Tony Paterson,
Putin accused of blackmail plot to defend Yeltsin family.
2. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Germans flush out Putin's
spies. Fears that KGB ring is still active.
3. The Guardian (UK): Amelia Gentleman, Russia faces slow march to
victory. Putin's entire career is based on the elimination of terrorists in Chechnya.
4. Trud: COSSACK SINGERS AND DANCERS CHOOSE NOT TO COME BACK FROM
5. Moscow Times: Genine Babakian, An American Khrushchev.
6. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Chechen 'spirits'
7. www.deadline.ru: Natalya Babasyan, BEREZOVSKY LOST PUTIN TO
CHUBAIS: The war among Kremlin clans is only about to begin.
8. Reuters: Chechens say they blocked Russian advance.]
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
16 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin accused of blackmail plot to defend Yeltsin family
By Philip Sherwell and Tony Paterson
RUSSIA'S acting president Vladimir Putin played a key role in a dirty-tricks
campaign that sabotaged a corruption investigation into Boris Yeltsin's
family and friends, a new book will allege this month.
The inquiry ground to a halt following the broadcast of a video apparently
featuring Yuri Skuratov, the prosecutor-general, cavorting naked with teenage
Mr Skuratov, whose investigations were alarming the Yeltsin camp, says that
last March, Mr Putin - then head of the FSB secret police and a former KGB
spy - telephoned him ordering him to resign over the compromising footage.
Mr Skuratov, who insists the video was a fake, refused to back down, and the
footage duly appeared on Russian television. Although the video was widely
believed to be the work of the KGB's successor organisation, Mr Putin's FSB,
it is the first time that he has been directly accused of political blackmail.
The chief prosecutor, who is now suspended, will make the startling
allegations in a book to be published this month. "It was simple blackmail,"
he told the Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet in his only comments ahead of
Mr Putin, 47, has publicly insisted that the video was not a fabrication.
Asked about the acting president's alleged role in conspiring against Mr
Skuratov, a Kremlin spokeswoman said yesterday: "We have no information about
Five months after the video was broadcast, Mr Yeltsin, who was then
president, appointed Mr Putin prime minister. Then, upon retiring at the New
Year, he declared him his acting successor. The anointed heir now seems
certain to win presidential elections in March.
The meteoric rise to power of the dour judo black belt owes much to the black
arts he acquired during his 16 years service in the KGB. Despite recent
setbacks in the offensive against Chechen rebels, it was the early success of
the military campaign that transformed Mr Putin from a faceless former spy
into a political strongman in the eyes of many Russians.
The mysterious bombings of apartment blocks that killed more than 300 people
in September in Russian cities provided the pretext for the war in the
Caucasus. Chechen militants were officially blamed for the atrocities,
despite the lack of evidence. But in Moscow there is growing belief that the
attacks were planned from the Kremlin, only a month after Mr Putin was
installed in office.
Last week's conveniently timed discovery of explosive devices in three Rostov
apartment blocks - just as the first Russian media criticism of the war began
- has fuelled suspicions that his security services are promoting
anti-Chechen hysteria. The bombing campaign bears all the hallmarks of an
operation by the old KGB, the organisation for which Mr Putin worked from
1975 until the Soviet collapse.
The once-enthusiastic Communist made clear last week that he still regarded
the West as Russia's main enemy as he approved a new national security
strategy significantly lowering the threshold for Moscow to resort to nuclear
Mr Putin's shake-up also calls for the security services to be bolstered as
he attempts to restore what many Russians still view as Soviet-era
"greatness". Such Cold War sentiments send ominous signals to Western leaders
who will have to do business with him.
Little has previously been disclosed about his KGB career. However, The
Telegraph can reveal that one of his most important tasks during his five
years in East Germany was to garner military secrets about the Eurofighter
aircraft, a defence project involving Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Horst Jehmlich, a former adjutant with East Germany's Stasi intelligence
agency who worked with Mr Putin in Dresden from 1985 to 1990, said the KGB
major was responsible for recruiting agents to carry out industrial espionage
in West Germany. These were frequently disaffected East German scientists who
had applied for permission to leave for the West: spying duties for Moscow
were the required "payment".
Mr Putin's time in Germany overlapped with a crucial period for the
Eurofighter scheme as the design plans were finalised between 1985 and 1988.
"There was a huge amount of technology exchanges going on between all these
countries at the time," said a military analyst.
West Germany was highly fertile territory for Communist spies during the Cold
War and they had already obtained secrets about the Tornado fighter from a
German company. As well as targeting the Eurofighter scheme, Mr Putin used
his agents to penetrate the Siemens electronics giant via its East German
Major Putin was officially head of the House of Soviet-German Friendship in
Dresden. In reality, he worked from the KGB's residence in the Loschwitz
district. The two-storey villa, which was a stone's throw from the city's
ugly concrete Stasi headquarters, is today a centre for natural medicine.
Mr Jehmlich told The Telegraph: "Putin was an ambitious career KGB officer,
but he was just part of their team. If anything, he stood out because of his
good manners. He did not drink like the rest of them and was keen on sports.
I would not have imagined that he would become acting Russian president. He
did not seem the type."
Mr Putin's close relations with his German counterparts earned him the
nickname "Stasi" - he is still known by that name - and he was decorated for
his services by the East Germans in 1988. His KGB colleagues regarded him as
pedantic and humourless - more German than Russian.
He was an efficient operative but not a high-flier. The Russian security
services now appear to be trying to bolster his KGB reputation by planting
stories in the German media suggesting that he was expelled by Bonn in the
Seventies for spying while working there as a journalist.
The German counter-espionage agency denied last week that he had been in the
West at that time. He joined the KGB only after completing a law degree at
Leningrad University in 1975, and was not posted abroad until he attended the
prestigious Red Banner Institute of Intelligence in 1984.
He did, however, make visits to the West. German intelligence has pictures of
him visiting the KaDeWe department store in West Berlin. By the late
Eighties, he and his colleagues had a further role: to try to persuade their
hosts of the merits of perestroika. When East Germany's hard-line communism
crumbled in 1989, Mr Putin sought to recruit Stasi officers to spy for the
Shortly after his return to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in 1990, Mr Putin
made an inspired career move, becoming an assistant to the democracy activist
Anatoly Sobchak, his former law professor. In 1991, Mr Sobchak was elected
mayor and Mr Putin left the KGB to be his most trusted lieutenant.
St Petersburg gained an infamous reputation for corruption and shady
privatisations during the transformation to "gangster capitalism". Indeed, Mr
Putin was censured when a city commission said he had improperly issued
lucrative export licences.
But Mr Sobchak stood by his man and, in 1994, Mr Putin was introduced to Mr
Yeltsin aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia during the Queen's first visit to
Russia. Two years later, he was brought in to the Kremlin team. Since then,
he has been on a fast track upwards.
Mr Putin has reached the top, not by political back-stabbing, but by making
himself indispensable to his backers. Drawing on his KGB grounding, he
stockpiled information and kompromat (compromising material) - as Mr Skuratov
discovered. His old tutors at the Red Banner Institute should be proud.
Additional reporting by Alice Lagnado in Moscow and Peter Almond in London.
The Sunday Times (UK)
January 16 2000
[for personal use only]
Germans flush out Putin's spies
Fears that KGB ring is still active
By Mark Franchetti, Dresden
GERMAN authorities have launched an intelligence operation to track down
spies recruited by Vladimir Putin, Russia's acting president, during his
years as a KGB agent in Dresden in the last days before the fall of the
Berlin Wall. They fear many of them may still be working for Moscow.
Several high-ranking officers of the former East German Stasi secret service
who knew Putin personally were questioned recently in an effort to identify
some of those he is believed to have recruited.
The government in Berlin is especially concerned about the success of a
top-secret KGB operation to gain economic secrets that was set up in Germany
during Putin's posting there in the late 1980s.
Codenamed Luch - Russian for sunbeam - the operation set out to build a
network of spies across a divided Germany that would continue supplying
Moscow with intelligence should the communist state collapse. German
authorities suspect that some agents recruited by Putin and the KGB as part
of Luch are still active.
Details of the shadowy past of the man expected to be confirmed as Boris
Yeltsin's successor in the election on March 26 emerged in a week in which
Putin alarmed the West by approving a new security doctrine that increases
the circumstances in which Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons.
German intelligence officers from the Bundesverfassungschutz - the equivalent
of MI5 - questioned former Stasi agents late last year who had worked with
the Russians in Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig to establish what they knew about
Operation Sunbeam, and to show them pictures of KGB agents, including Putin,
who worked in Germany.
They are also believed to be studying a file on Putin's activities compiled
by the authorities in Dresden from Stasi archives retrieved after the fall of
the Wall. The 10-page document, which was sent to the capital for further
examination last week, is all that specialists combing the archives were able
to find on Putin.
The document is believed to contain the name of at least one East German whom
Putin almost certainly sought to win over to the KGB. The Stasi recorded the
name after the future Russian leader - a KGB lieutenant-colonel at the time -
filed a typed request asking the head of the Stasi's Directorate XV to
install a secure telephone in the man's flat.
Putin's file also records the names of those present at a ceremony held in
Dresden's Stasi headquarters to mark the 70th anniversary of the Russian
revolution in 1987. It was during that event that General Horst Böhm, the
notorious local Stasi head, rewarded Putin for his services with a gold Stasi
medal. Böhm committed suicide two years later.
"The Germans are really worried that some agents recruited as part of
Operation Luch during Putin's time here may still be working for the
Russians," said Horst Jemlich, Böhm's personal assistant and a Stasi agent
for 30 years who remembers Putin from his days in Dresden.
"They questioned me about it for hours. But we in the Stasi knew nothing
about the operation. The KGB mounted it behind our backs, recruiting in
utmost secrecy. The plan was to prepare one day to let us fall and have new
guys supply them with information. I only found out about Luch recently and
felt betrayed. The Russians were playing a double game."
Putin, who speaks German fluently, was in Dresden from 1984 to 1989, deployed
with a group of eight Russian agents under the command of General Vladimir
Shirokov. The unit, referred to by Stasi colleagues simply as "the friends",
worked out of a nondescript two-storey villa at 4 Angelikastrasse in
Dresden's Waldschlossen district, a residential area where most high-ranking
Stasi officers lived.
Across the road, a sprawling 1970s Soviet-style building housed the Stasi's
headquarters, from where Böhm co-ordinated the work of thousands of
informers. Nearby was the Soviet army base in Dresden, a massive sealed-off
compound where Putin's wife, Lyudmila, shopped in Russian stores and the
young couple went to the cinema to watch Russian films.
Off-bounds even for Stasi officers, the KGB villa in the Angelikastrasse is
where Shirokov, Putin and his comrades planned dozens of undercover
operations to recruit agents across West and East Germany who reported to the
KGB station in Berlin and back to Moscow.
It was a prestigious posting for a young and ambitious officer. One of only
five cities in the former Soviet bloc with a micro-electronics industry,
Dresden was home to Robotron, a state company that provided mainframe and
personal computers to the entire Soviet bloc, including the KGB.
At times working in concert with the Stasi's foreign intelligence section,
Putin's station exploited well-established contacts between Robotron and
western giants such as Siemens and IBM to steal high-technology secrets for
Moscow. Both services had full-time agents working within the company.
Robotron and Dresden's large university also made the city a focal point of
contact with western businessmen, technology experts and academics who often
travelled to and from West Germany and other western bloc countries.
The two-way traffic gave both Putin's station and the Stasi unparalleled
opportunities to recruit agents and establish sources in the West from the
field of technology and business. It also enabled them to recruit East
Germans who were sent across to the West to work in economic espionage.
"It was simple," said one high-ranking former East German officer who headed
the Stasi's Directorate VIII in Dresden, which was in charge of surveillance
and intelligence-gathering operations.
"We didn't have the money or resources to compete with the West in the field
of technological research. So we let the West do the job and stole the end
results to copy their technology without the costs."
Co-operation between the two services was extensive, with the KGB making use
of the Stasi's own huge network of informers, said to have been several times
the size of that in Nazi Germany.
"Whenever our friends needed to send an East German across to West Germany to
work for them, they would come to us," recalled another former Stasi agent
who once saw Putin - known for his abstemious nature - pour his glass of
vodka into a house plant during an official Stasi ceremony.
Putin also often travelled to nearby Leipzig, where he was officially in
charge of the House of Soviet-German Friendship, as well as to Bonn and
Hamburg, where he sought to develop contacts in the world of German politics.
In Dresden both the Stasi and Putin's station invested much energy in
monitoring the flow of visitors from the West at the Bellevue, the city's
best hotel, where prostitutes were used as bait with businessmen deemed of
interest for information-gathering purposes.
"The world of the KGB runs in Putin's blood," said another former Stasi
officer, who for years was in charge of operations inside the hotel. "He was
always very restrained, very careful and constantly under an iron form of
self-control. He worked behind the scenes without attracting attention. You
just didn't notice him. He is a very clever man. Silent but effective."
The details that have gradually begun to emerge of Putin's espionage
activities seem likely to heighten his standing at home, where latest polls
suggest continued strong support, with only 4% of ordinary Russians disliking
The only question mark is over Chechnya. Feted by Russians for his tough -
and apparently successful - stance as prime minister in waging war in the
breakaway republic, Putin knows his ratings could plummet if, as now appears
possible, the war goes badly wrong over the next two months.
Nearly three weeks have passed since the Russian army promised to take
Grozny, the bombed-out capital. But last week the prospect of a swift Russian
victory to coincide with the forthcoming elections seemed as elusive as ever.
Television coverage within Russia - once reassuringly jingoistic - is also
beginning to become more critical. For the first time since the campaign
began in September, viewers are seeing footage of dead soldiers.
Nevertheless, Putin remains virtually unassailable, his position further
strengthened last week by the announcement by Yevgeny Primakov - whom he
replaced as prime minister - that he was stepping down from the presidential
The Guardian (UK)
16 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia faces slow march to victory
Putin's entire career is based on the elimination of terrorists in Chechnya
Amelia Gentleman, Moscow
Russia claimed to have killed 58 Chechen fighters trying to escape from the
besieged capital of Grozny yesterday, as thick black smoke curling above the
battered city indicated that the bombardment had intensified once again.
It was not clear whether the claim of heavy rebel casualties was just the
latest strike in a continuing propaganda war.
A Chechen rebel commander retorted that his men had slaughtered 28 Russian
soldiers in the capital early yesterday. Neither claim could be verified.
It has been a nasty week for Russia's generals. After preening themselves
over the praise meted out by Yeltsin in his final days - that Russia's army
had conducted a 'flawless' campaign in Chechnya - the high command was in for
a rude shock.
Seizing their moment carefully, Chechnya's rebels suddenly rounded on their
attackers and orchestrated lightning raids on several strategically crucial
Russian-held towns. The military could not disguise its humiliation,
conceding that it had suffered the worst losses of the campaign so far.
Russia had suffered serious setbacks already in the course of this war, but
managed to conceal the extent of the problems from the electorate. Last week
Russia's independent papers splashed pictures of gruesomely wounded Russian
soldiers on their front pages for the first time, and even pro-government
publications began to question the wisdom of the war.
As troops scrambled to regain control, military spin doctors sought to
retrieve the situation before popular opinion had a chance to crystallise
against acting president Vladimir Putin's fundamental project - the
'elimination of terrorists' in Chechnya, the campaign on which his entire
future career is based.
Desperation pushed the military to adopt astonishingly harsh measures against
the civilian population - with the region's senior commander Colonel-General
Victor Kazantsev announcing that the key mistake his men had made was the
rather unlikely error of being excessively 'tender-hearted', and that such
soft ness was to be eliminated immediately. In this vein he announced that
Chechen males - including children as young as 11 - were henceforth to be
regarded automatically as rebels.
Further evidence of the military's disarray was displayed last week in the
undignified accusations of blame flung between the different arms of the
Russian forces. Kazantsev accused the Interior Ministry troops, whose job it
was to protect the conquered territory, of failing to perform their jobs
Preferring to sweep the disaster under the carpet, Defence Minister Igor
Sergeyev announced that the rebels' advance should not be seen as a Russian
failure. Meanwhile the Kremlin - determined to bolster wavering popular
support for the war - issued a video which it claimed proved that militants
in the separatist region masterminded the terrorist bombings across Russia
last autumn that killed almost 300. The video appeared to be designed to
stamp out rumours that the government itself orchestrated the attacks, in an
attempt to stoke up nationalist support.
Military officials have been forced to acknowledge that rebels are still
hiding inside areas supposed to be under Russian control and have admitted
that further counter-attacks are eminently possible.
The most surprising element of last week's events is that the Russian
generals failed so dismally to prepare for the possibility of these
As the officers responsible face uncomfortable recriminations, defence
analysts have been expressing amazement that the army failed to learn two
crucial lessons from its 1994-96 war with Chechnya.
The first was that wresting the Chechen capital Grozny from the rebels would
be a very bitter and prolonged operation. The second was to have forgotten
the effective ness of the rebels' favourite tactic - swift but devastating
raids into Russian-held territory. During the last war, Russia won most of
Chechnya before promptly losing it again, as a result of the rebels'
persistence under pressure.
Russia also began the conflict on the edge of winter, with fog and mist
making it easy for rebels to sneak through Russian lines.
Alexei Malashenko, of the Carnegie Institute in Moscow, said: 'Russian
generals had begun to believe that they were capable of anything they wanted
to do on Chechen territory. That was a bad mistake.'
By the beginning of this year, the army had moved its élite forces to Grozny,
leaving poorly trained conscript brigades to look after the rear. These
demoralised young fighters represent the Russian army's main weak spot.
Anatol Lieven of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and
author of a book on Russia's last war with Chechnya, said: 'Often the
soldiers simply don't want to fight, they huddle behind barbed wire rather
than going out on patrol especially in the fog or at night.
'If you are a young conscript who has been beaten by older soldiers for the
last year, if you are aware that the senior officers are selling off your
weapons on the black market and stealing your pay, you're likely to feel
The military dismissed unofficial reports of soaring casualties as 'lies' but
the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, a Moscow pressure group which campaigns for
the rights of conscripts, insisted that the true figure was at least double
and possibly four times the 700-odd dead admitted by officials.
Yet, despite these mistakes, there is little doubt that Russia is capable of
defeating the rebels. Lieven said: 'The Russians have unlimited ammunition.
If they keep their nerve and continue to hammer away, they will win.'
January 13, 2000
COSSACK SINGERS AND DANCERS
CHOOSE NOT TO COME BACK FROM AMERICA
[translation for personal use only]
The Don Cossacks Song and Dance Ensemble, that celebrated its sixtieth
anniversary three years ago, that was applauded by audience in thirty three
countries, that was awarded the Order of People's Friendship and honored
with academic title, was rightly considered one of the bearers of Russia's
cultural diversity. All of a sudden, it has been struck by a scandal. After
a three-month tour in the United States and Canada, the longest in the
ensemble's history, a half of its members did not return home. <...>
The contract for the tour had been signed with Columbia Artists Management
Inc. back in 1996. America met the artists with loud applause and excited
press reviews. The team gave its performances in twenty-seven states. The
company that had offered the contract extended the frame of the tour and
provided the opportunity for the ensemble to perform in Canada. At each of
the sixty two performances, the audience was full. The smallest audience
consisted of 1,500 seats, and the largest one amounted to about 6,000. The
respect accorded to our Cossacks by the receiving side was evident, among
other things, in the fact that the ensemble performed in the top cultural
sites of the country. For example, the Kennedy Center in Washington, where
the Don Cossacks sang and danced within half an hour from the famous Placido
And then, the last performance came - in Tampa, Florida. Soon, a van was
going to drive the artists to the airport. But Fyodor Ishchenko, the
director of Rostov Philarmony and the coordinator of the tour, saw his
artists arrive without their suitcases. Earlier, he had heard talks about
how good it would be to stay longer, to extend visas, but he could have
never expected that the total of thirty two artists would stay abroad.
The one who could have changed the situation was Professor Anatoly Kvasov,
the Laureate of the Glinka State Award. For thirty years, he has been the
artistic director of the ensemble. He is one of those to be credited for the
worldwide fame of the team. But, ironically, his own daughter Valentina was
among the first to announce her intention to stay abroad.
Fyodor Ishchenko was left with no other choice than to order those declining
to come back formally to resign as members of the ensemble. They wrote their
resignation letters. With a clear understanding that there will be no way
back to their old jobs.
What happened with the artists? Most of them are young people, aged twenty
five to thirty five, only three of them are close to fifty, the youngest
dancer is twenty years old. <...> Everyone gave one single reason for their
unwillingness to come back: money. At home, the artists' earnings were
between 500 and 1000 roubles per month And even this was not paid
regularly. <...> The ensemble's top balalaika-player, Vladimir Sedykh,
worked after rehearsals as truck loader. <...> Other highly qualified
artists had to overcome their shame and sell pies and linen on the local
<...> The Cossack dancers and singers who decided to stay in America split
into several groups. A few people joined the artists of Stavropolye, a
folklore ensemble that did not come back to Russia after a US tour back in
April. Six of the Cossack artists entertain the audience of Russian Samovar,
a New York restaurant. Still others dispersed across the country where they
perform in restaurants and hotels. Some are satisfied with low-skill labor,
working as housemaids.
Are they to blame? Regional authorities supervising cultural institutions
have been divided. Can the artists be punished? Should one go through the US
immigration officials and try to make the artists expelled from the US?
According to the law, the artists should have had obtained foreign contracts
first, before leaving the country. But in this case, they would have to pay
3,000 to 4,000 dollars for a US visa and a ticket. No one of them has this
<...> This case is not an ordinary one. An artists' flight on such a large
scale did not occur in Soviet times, when only a handful of individuals were
able to escape from the supervision of cultural authorities and state
security organs. Nor did it happed afterwards, when emigration became
legally possible, and conspiratorial
methods seemingly became unnecessary.
But, as we can see, they didn't. The story of the Cossack ensemble is but
one of the symptoms of a grave illness. <...> A large number of those who
have been traditionally considered the source of pride for the Russian art,
since long ago are only tangentially related to Russian life. Where are now
most of the leading professors of the Moscow Conservatory? Either in Germany
or in Sweden. As for the team of the State Symphony Orchestra, it is at the
brink of falling apart. The Moscow Philarmony Orchestra is in a similar
January 15, 2000
An American Khrushchev
By Genine Babakian
Tucked away in a tiny academic office the size of a broom closet, Sergei
Khrushchev, the son of the late Soviet leader, is hard at work putting the
finishing touches on his latest manuscript, "Creation of a Superpower." In
profile, he bears a striking resemblance to his father, Nikita. Only when he
looks up from his work do his sparkling blue eyes beckon his visitors to take
a seat among the clutter of black and white photographs from the Soviet era.
A map of the United States nearly covers one wall, marking the cities where
Khrushchev has lectured. When he is not traveling, the recently naturalized
U.S. citizen teaches international studies at Brown University. In December -
when Russia's president was still Boris Yeltsin - Genine Babakian went to
Providence, Rhode Island, to meet with him.
When you became a citizen of the United States last summer, newspapers quoted
you calling your new home a kind of "paradise." What is it about your life
here that you so enjoy?
When people ask me, "How do you like living in America?" - how do I know what
it is like to live in America? I live in Rhode Island ... What do I like
about living here? First of all, it's warm - like in the Ukraine. Second of
all, I never liked big cities. I don't like Moscow, or even Paris. I never
liked snow, or cold. I always thought it would be nice to retire in the
Ukraine, where it is warmer. And I always thought that when I got older it
would be nice to create something. I was invited here to work at [Brown]
University. And they want me to do what I find interesting - write books.
So why am I here? Because here are all the elements that I could want in my
later years. A warm climate, ideal working conditions, a comfortable
lifestyle. If I could have created these conditions in another
English-speaking country - New Zealand, for example - I would have gone
there. But they did not invite me.
In your travels around the country, do you meet up with people who want to
drive home the point that America's political system is the best?
America probably does have the best system. I do not dispute that point.
Americans are not mistaken when they take pride in their country. (Everyone
should.) Theyare mistaken when they try to tell others, "Do everything our
way, and everything will work out for you." Not only in Russia, but in Europe
as well. Then again, it is not America's fault if some idiots come to power
in Russia and say we need to do everything as they do in America. A smart
person knows his country, and the more he knows about other countries, the
better he can adapt those conditions to his own country and make life there
better. [Yegor] Gaidar, [Anatoly] Chubais, [Boris] Fyodorov - they are all,
as [Alexander] Solzhenitsyn would call them, obrazovantsy: people who read a
lot but know nothing. They present a formula, and say it works. But economics
is not a science - it is knowledge. You can write a formula about the
trajectory of a rocket, because it will not fly any other way. But economics
is more like medicine.
You have to know the patient.
You have to know the patient, and you have to know the illness.
Do you see such a person in Russia ?
That's difficult to say. Russia needs a person who is honest and experienced
enough, and of those on the horizon, the only one I see who might be able to
do something is [Yevgeny] Primakov. But the illness has developed to such a
degree, it is difficult to say whether he will be able to manage.
Do you think that Primakov will be able to fight corruption?
He began to do so. They removed him because he started to battle with
criminal elements. And he lost that round. The criminal element is very
strong. Take [Boris] Berezovsky, for example. He is simply the Professor
Moriarty of the 21st century.
If a political player like Primakov is to succeed in pulling Russia out of
economic crisis, what measures need to be taken?
They need to create conditions for the small businessman. The oligarchs are
not capitalists - they are just thieves. Conditions in Russia today don't
support businessmen, but criminals. To support small business, you have to
lower taxes. To lower taxes, you have to increase federal budget revenues. To
increase federal budget revenues, you have to return to government control of
the profit-bearing industries, such as gas, oil, aluminum, alcohol, etc. Then
today's Russians will start to work, and in five years there will be a more
or less functioning economy. But to return that money to the federal budget -
to take away Sibneft from Berezovsky or [Roman] Abramovich - I would not try.
Are there any elements of your life in Russia that you miss? For example, I
understand you built a banya here in your home.
We built our own banya in the basement. By the way, you can make great veniki
here - better than in Russia. We make them from oak. You just have to know
when to cut the branches. When the leaves are not too tough, but not too
young and soft.
How did your children [who are living in Moscow] react to your decision to
How should they react? Had I stayed in Moscow, they would have been obliged
to feed me [in my old age]. And from here I can send them presents. When we
planned to submit our application for citizenship, I asked them what they
thought about it. And they said do what you want.
America is a more ideological country than Russia. America still lives in the
Cold War. For them the fact that Khrushchev became a citizen is the same as
when [Josef] Stalin's daughter fled to America at the height of the Cold War.
But I didn't run anywhere. I was invited to come and work. And if I don't
like it, I can go back to Russia at any moment. And I think that the majority
of Russians understand this [difference] better than most Americans.
Do your children in Moscow have any difficulties as a result of your decision
to stay in the United States?
I don't see them having any difficulties. However, if [Vladimir] Putin comes
to power - God forbid - that would scare me. He is a KGB man, and has no
understanding of what to do in the country other than exert pressure.
Your books focus on the Khrushchev era. Isn't it difficult to be objective
when writing about your father?
I never said that Khrushchev was right about everything, that everything
during his period was rosy and beautiful. There was no kind of democracy
then. But during his era, the first step towards democracy was taken. But the
transition to democracy is a very painful, gradual process.
What would have happened had he stayed in power, nobody knows.
I understand that when you first came to America in the early 1990s, you
intended to get involved in some kind of business. Was this in some way
connected to your former profession as a rocket engineer?
When I first came here my money - just like everyone else's in Russia - had
disintegrated. So I tried to buy and sell some things. I was like everyone in
Russia - naÕve. But it soon occurred to me that my money was not
accumulating, but disappearing. I don't know how to make money. If you want
many, many millions, buy a lottery ticket. You don't need anything else. I
buy them sometimes. I even won five dollars recently. And the losses are less
than if I had gone into business.
Do you ever miss your former profession as a rocket scientist?
By the time I came here I was already not a rocket scientist. I had finished
editing my father's memoirs, and I had reached a point in life when I wanted
something new. Just then this opportunity appeared.
So your career at Brown is like a second youth for you?
Even a third. The second occurred when they [the Soviet authorities]
transferred me - against my will - from the rocket industry to computers.
Then, it was a warning from the authorities not to work on my father's
memoirs. At first I didn't want to go, but then I found it very interesting.
Youth ends when you lose interest. And for me life is still interesting.
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
16 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechen 'spirits' haunt Russians
By Marcus Warren in Staraya Sunzha, Chechnya
THE swaggering confidence of the Russian army in Chechnya is ebbing, with
belief in a swift victory being replaced by mounting alarm at the enemies'
ability to survive the relentless onslaught.
Shades of Afghanistan: Russian soldiers see the Chechens' guerrilla tactics
as sometimes almost supernatural
On the outskirts of Grozny, in the mountains and even on the plains that the
Russians believed they had under control, the guerrillas are putting up
dogged - and highly effective - resistance. What once looked like a race to
take the Chechen capital by an army that had rediscovered its pride in itself
now threatens to turn into yet another war of attrition that Moscow can win
only at huge cost.
As the bombardment continued with no let-up, the combined firepower of an air
force, heavy artillery, tanks and soldiers has failed to budge the city's
defenders from its outskirts. The high-rise flats that mark the boundary
between Grozny and the village of Staraya Sunzha still defied the besieging
army, just as they had a fortnight ago.
>From the peaks of the Caucasus, Europe's tallest mountain range, the
landscape now reminds some officers of their nighmarish times in Afghanistan.
While in towns such as Shali and Argun, briefly but dramatically overrun by
the Chechens last week, Russian troops still had little idea where their
enemies had sprung from - or when they would return.
The soldiers call them "spirits", just as they did the Afghan mujahideen, a
nickname justified by the rebels' ability to appear from nowhere in force and
then slink back where they came from, even deep behind Russian lines.
The top brass were as confident as ever of defeating the enemy. "We have not
come to fight for Yeltsin or Putin," Gen Gennady Troshev announced during an
appearance at a mountain-top camp in the snows near Zamai-Yurt. "We have come
here to defend Russia and to shed the bandits' blood."
Grozny was one of his main concerns, he admitted, before trying to clear up
another - the confusion over his own status. Last weekend the general had
been relieved of his command; now he was boosting morale on a tour of his
As for the deadlock at Staraya Sunzha, his troops there were not supposed to
advance - they were "blocking". Then he listed the acronyms of all the
supposedly elite units that would go into Grozny when the time came.
The troops from OMON, SOBR and the MVD, all from the Interior Ministry rather
than the regular army, have so far made heavy work of the three-week-old
attack and taken even heavier casualties.
One local in Staraya Sunzha had his own cynical explanation for the slow
progress of the Russian troops based in his backyard. "They live in our
houses, fuel their fires with our furniture and eat our food," he complained.
"Why hurry when every day without moving forward is another day without
risking their lives and another day closer to going home?"
Reports emerged yesterday that Chechen villagers have been forced to bribe
Russian generals not to shell their homes, with the sums involved sometimes
running into thousands of pounds. While Interior Ministry troops take the
brunt of the fighting in the towns and villages, the regular army watches
from a distance. For the time being, its role is to provide support when
The din from the "support" laid on by an artillery battery echoed through the
mountains on Friday. Asked to explain what they were firing at, Col Vladimir
Kruglov, a paratrooper, replied: "What they need to fire at." The
paratroopers, the most combat-ready units in the Russian army, have, along
with the marines, done much of the fighting for control of the peaks of the
And near Zamai-Yurt they even had a uniformed Orthodox priest to help out. "I
tell the troops that they are doing God's work by defending Russia's land,"
said Father Safroniy, a bearded monk. Over a lunch of beef and beetroot salad
in the officers' mess, Col Kruglov bemoaned the state of the armed forces and
the fact that the paratroopers had turned into workhorses, always doing jobs
too difficult for the rest of the army.
He was proud of his men, convinced that they were the army's elite. But
having disparaged the rest of the military, he found nothing inconsistent in
suggesting that the biggest challenge should be left to others. "As for
Grozny, I don't think it is a job for paratroopers," he said. "I think there
are other units much better trained for fighting in cities."
January 11, 2000
BEREZOVSKY LOST PUTIN TO CHUBAIS:
The war among Kremlin clans is only about to begin
[translation for personal use only]
With regard to the government shakeup, Vladimir Putin declared: "These are
minimal modifications that do not change anything from the functional point
of view." It looks like Vladimir Vladimirovich sought to underplay his
accomplishment: as the proverb says, a small coin still a golden coin. Even
though pundits rushed to comment that Putin finally signaled his
independence from the Kremlin and started assembling his own team, it is
quite clear that the key role in it will be played by the Chubais people.
Still, there is every reason to see some changes in the government as real
signals of change. In the first place, this refers to the dismissal of Pavel
Borodin, presidential chief manager - who has not only been one of the most
prominent business administrators in the country and the hero of multiple
scandals related to the Family bank accounts, but also one of the most
unswerving upholders of the Familial honor. Over the course of the scandal,
Pavel Pavlovich never admitted the existence of Yeltsins' foreign bank
accounts. It cannot be ruled out that for this very reason after his
patron's resignation he was honorably demoted - not to the job of a yardsman
in a Moscow suburb, but to nothing less than the future state secretary of
the Russian-Belorussian Union. And no matter how excited is the Russian
political establishment with the Acting President's outstanding courage
shown by the dismissal of "a man of this stature", this firing is of a
Khrushchevian style - a soft one, if not honorable.
The appointment of Sergei Shoigu as Deputy Prime Minister, in addition to
his job as Minister for Emergency Situations, is no less of a signal. On one
side, it means that Shoigu begins to receive the payoff for his services in
the Duma electoral campaign. On the other side, it suggests the Kremlin has
far-reaching plans with regard to Shoigu. Most likely, he will be allowed to
work as Deputy Prime Minister until the presidential elections, and then
promoted to a top position in the government - the one of Prime Minister or
First Deputy Prime Minister. For the financial clans, Shoigu may be most
advantageous candidate for any of these positions. He has a track record of
loyalty, while having little idea about the workings of the economy. And if
put in charge of portentous macroeconomic decisions, first of all for the
financing of major industries, these decisions will be taken in fact by
those who will stand behind him.
There is almost no doubt that this someone will be anybody but Boris
Berezovsky who took such an active part in the emergence of the Bear Party.
His main proxy in the cabinet - Nikolai Aksyonenko, has been moved, however
smoothly, from the seat of the First Deputy Prime Minister with almost
unlimited authority with regard to the economy and finances, to his more
habitual place of Railroads Minister. The vacated seat was occupied by
Mikhail Kasyanov, the Finance Minister, and a Chubais man. The job of second
First Deputy Prime Minister has been abolished, but Viktor Khristenko, the
holder of this job and another representative of the Chubais team, moved
just one step down, becoming Deputy Prime Minister.
Thus, in fact, Berezovsky lost his opportunities to influence the
distribution of financial flows through the government. His proxies now find
themselves on the roadside, while Aleksandr Voloshin, although connected to
Berezovsky for a long time will, it seems, do his best in the current
situation to preserve his position under Putin, which means he will prefer
to refrain from lobbying the oligarch's interests. The only serious and
influential figure from among the Berezovsky cadres remaining at the top is
Vladimir Rushailo, Minister of the Interior. Rushailo himself can hardly be
satisfied with the current political configuration. Some believe that the
role currently played by Putin was originally designed for Rushailo, but in
view of the independence and unpredictability of the latter, the preference
was given to Putin. At the same time, Rushailo has in his hands not only the
interior troops, but also a variety of kompromat against many participants
of the ongoing political events and representatives of financial groups. And
against the background of Putin's first failures in Chechnya and the
aggravation in his relationship with the top brass, no other than Rushailo
may assume the role of a counterbalance to the Acting President, with
support from Berezovsky who is displeased with the current design of the
Some rumours about a new information war initiated by Berezovsky against
young oligarchs have already appeared (see Pravda Online). However, before
the government shakeup the motivation of this would-be war looked rather
flimsy: the main reason was Putin's rejection of Berezovsky's services in
the former's presidential campaign. After Putin's edicts, there are good
reasons for the start of a warfare. It cannot be ruled out that the first
issue of a thriller series about the life of the mammals will be displayed
before the eyes of the citizenry this coming Sunday by Sergei Dorenko. And
its scenario will be written on the basis of the documents obtained from
Mr.Rushailo. At the same time, the first strikes will be directed not
against Putin, but against Berezovsky's main rivals from the Chubais
entourage: for the purpose of the campaign is not a strategic one - to
remove Putin, but a demonstration of capabilities ("let us strike a deal").
It is also unlikely that Chubais will tolerate Berezovsky's actions and will
not respond with moves of his own. And if the war between recent allies will
flare up, then it is most likely that Rushailo will become the proximate
target for removal from the government.
Chechens say they blocked Russian advance
By Patrick Lannin
MOSCOW, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Chechen rebels fighting in the breakaway region
said on Sunday they had blocked the advance of Russian forces and one
official was quoted as saying a hit-and-run war had been declared on Moscow's
But Russia said it had continued attacks on rebel positions and killed many
fighters. Russian television correspondents, reporting from the Mozdok
military base outside Chechnya, said a steady stream of warplanes was taking
off to bomb rebel targets.
Acting President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that the offensive, on which
he has largely built his popularity, was going according to plan despite
setbacks last weekend when the rebels launched several surprise raids on
Rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov said clashes had taken place in the southern
villages of Duba-yurt and Serzhen-yurt on Saturday and that Russian forces
were beaten back.
``Fierce battles continue but the Russians cannot move forward,'' said
Udugov, speaking by telephone from an unknown location.
He said Chechen forces had re-established control over strategic heights
outside Duba-yurt after the encounter. The Russian Defence Ministry was not
immediately available to comment on Udugov's statements.
Udugov also said that Russian warplanes were concentrating their bombing on
several villages in the south on Sunday, including Vedeno, Sharoi, Shatoi and
However, Russian news agencies quoted the military at Mozdok as saying that
more than 100 rebels were killed in fighting over the last 24 hours and that
the guerrillas were concentrating their forces in several regions in the
Both sides have made exaggerated claims about each other's losses, although
one independent source, the senior secretary of the Committee of Soldiers'
Mothers, told Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio that the death toll among Moscow's
forces was 3,000.
This was far higher than the figure given by the military, which says the
death toll is almost 600, including troops from the Interior Ministry and the
Russia's four-month-old campaign against the rebels went forward quickly
until its forces came up against strong resistance in Grozny and in the
south, the rebels' traditional mountain stronghold.
CHECHENS DECLARE HIT-AND-RUN WAR
Chechen Defence Minister Magomed Khambiyev was quoted by Russia's Interfax
news agency as saying that rebel commanders had decided at a meeting to
declare a hit-and-run war on Russia.
``The period of battles for strategic positions is coming to and end. From
now on the tactic of a partisan war will mainly be used,'' the agency quoted
Khambiyev as saying.
``We do not set ourselves the aim of entering populated areas and holding
them, our aim is to smash separate units and to retire to repeat the
operation in a new place,'' he said.
The rebels carried out raids on Russian-held positions last weekend, catching
Moscow's forces by surprise. However, Putin said the attacks did not mean the
offensive was going wrong.
``We will finally take Grozny, this will be the first stage. The second stage
is that we will finish the operation in the mountains, no matter who is
running around and hiding in caves,'' he said on Saturday, referring to the
EUROPEAN OFFICIALS TO VISIT
Putin leads opinion polls for a March 26 presidential election, although
political analysts say any sharp turn for the worse in the Chechen campaign
could hit his popularity.
Russia's campaign and its treatment of refugees, most of whom have fled to
the neighbouring region of Ingushetia, was due to come under further
international scrutiny, this time by a team from the parliamentary assembly
of the Council of Europe.
A delegation from the body, which monitors human rights, was due to arrive in
Moscow on Sunday before heading to the North Caucasus on Tuesday and
Wednesday to meet Ingushi President Ruslan Aushev and other regional leaders.
The delegation would also hold talks with Putin on Tuesday before visiting
Russian-held areas in Chechnya.
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