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Johnson's Russia List
19 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Bloomberg: Putin Adviser Anticipates `Very Radical' Steps on Economy.
(Dmitri Yakushkin in Washington)
2. AP: Russia Predicts Better US Relations.
3. Reuters: Putin faces questions after deal with Communists.
4. The Times (UK): Giles Whittell, Putin strikes liberal pose for the West.
5. smi.ru: PUTIN: EITHER THE PRESIDENT OR THE LEADER. BUT WHY?
6. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Putin Finds Support Among Governors.
7. Fred Weir on develops in Chechnya war.
8. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, Freed embezzler is Russia's main
ally in Chechnya.
9. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Russia Could Use Dose of Yankee Spirit.
10. Obshchaya Gazeta: Marina Tokareva, In the Second Capital--Here Every
Stone Knows Putin; Shading the Portrait of the Acting President. (Putin's Early Life in Leningrad Examined)
11. Rossiiskaya Gazeta: Iraida Semenova, RUSSIAN SOCIO-ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE IN 1999.
12. Itar-Tass: Electoral Commission to Cooperate with New Duma.
13. Reuters: Russia complains over Canadian newspaper's insult.]
Putin Adviser Anticipates `Very Radical' Steps on Economy
Washington, Jan. 18 (Bloomberg)
-- Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to pursue ``very
radical and unpopular moves'' to boost the nation's economy if he wins the
March election, a Putin adviser said.
Dmitri Yakushkin, who was also the spokesman for former President Boris
Yeltsin, said Putin would use the mandate of an election victory to promote
``very different economic steps'' in Russia. The country needs dramatic
action to ease business regulations, cut personal and corporate tax burdens,
and reform laws governing bankruptcies and property transfers, Yakushkin
Yakushkin addressed reporters at the National Press Club in Washington three
weeks after Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and handed power to Putin. His talk
also came a week before an International Monetary Fund team is due in Moscow
to resume discussion on $640 million in loans that have been delayed for
His comments suggest Putin will spend the period before the March 26
presidential election avoiding harsh economic medicine that could alienate
voters and would then take steps that the IMF sees as necessary to revive the
``Don't expect much before the elections,'' Yakushkin said. ``The election
period will be populist.''
He said Putin will take care during the campaign to avoid publicly
surrounding himself with reformers such as former Deputy Prime Minister
Anatoly Chubais, who are blamed by many Russians for imposing painful,
post-Soviet economic changes.
Yakushkin said Putin nevertheless is aware of the severity of Russia's
economic troubles and their connection with what he said was the country's
lawlessness. He said even honest businessmen couldn't be blamed for sending
their money out of the country to avoid a tax structure that is ``very
He said taxes are so high ``you have to pay more than you gain in some
Russia Predicts Better US Relations
January 18, 2000
By DAVID BRISCOE
WASHINGTON (AP) - Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, is modern and
pragmatic and will maintain good relations with the United States and the
West, said a senior Russian government adviser who was predecessor Boris
Yeltsin's chief spokesman.
In a frank discussion at the National Press Club, former journalist Dmitry
Yakushkin acknowledged that Yeltsin was so irritated by President Clinton's
position on Kosovo that he sometimes avoided talking with him.
He said relations with Putin should be better, although he predicted the
Chechen crisis would take years to resolve.
``We won't have any hawkish declarations,'' he said, seeing relations under
Putin as ``much more calm, much more pragmatic, much more workmanlike in the
``This will be a more predictable, more reliable country,'' Yakushkin said,
adding that Russians are acutely aware of the economic and political problems
that grip their nation and are trying to solve them. ``I don't see any hint
of possible future confrontation.''
Yakushkin, a deputy to Putin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, said he
expects no major economic measures to be announced by Putin before the March
26 presidential election he is expected to win easily.
Yakushkin described Yeltsin as a dominant figure during his time in office,
but discounted rumors of continuing Yeltsin influence over the Russian
``There is no double center of power,'' Yakushkin said.
He noted that Putin's firm stand on Chechnya underpins his popularity among
Russians, who view leaders of the Chechen rebellion as outlaws. He said final
resolution of the crisis will take ``not months, but years,'' possibly
including strong rule from Moscow.
``Maybe it needs dictatorship,'' he said, explaining afterwards that he meant
only that tough measures must be taken to impose order, discipline and the
rule of law on Chechnya.
Yakushkin said he planned no official meetings while in the United States for
Putin's government but was here to get the views of private American
analysts, journalists and others on the new Russian government.
Putin faces questions after deal with Communists
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Centrists and reformers said they will be on
tenterhooks on Wednesday to see how Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin
reacts to a deal to divide control over parliament between his allies and the
Under the deal cut on Tuesday Communist Gennady Seleznyov became speaker of
the State Duma, while Unity, a party formed three months ago with no platform
beyond its support for Putin, won control of nearly half the key committees.
Other parties were locked out of leadership positions altogether, or given
only a handful of posts. Before the voting for speaker, more than a third of
deputies stormed out of the hall, including many who had called themselves
Putin faces an election on March 26, but few Russians have any doubt he will
win. A Unity-Communist alliance would have a comfortable majority in the
Duma, and the deal reached on Tuesday could shore up Putin's control of the
But the victory may have come at a political price.
Two former prime ministers, Sergei Stepashin and Yevgeny Primakov, gave
blistering speeches in the Duma. Primakov called the deal "a total collapse
of democracy" and a "desecration."
The walkout raised the specter for the first time of an organised opposition
to the overwhelmingly popular acting president among leaders of Russia's
mainstream political elite.
Four major factions pledged after the vote late on Tuesday to work together
to oppose what they described as a Communist- Unity coalition, and said they
would refuse to accept any official positions in the chamber's committee
MAIN QUESTION WILL BE PUTIN'S REACTION
Sergei Kiriyenko, another former premier whose Union of Right Wing Forces has
been strongly pro-Putin so far, said it was too early to say whether the
acting president had shown his true colours by linking with the Communists.
"The main thing will be to see his reaction," ex-Prime Minister Sergei
Kiriyenko said on NTV television. "Not to react -- this is also a form of
"He must either correct the course of his pro-government faction, or not
correct it. That will be the main question."
Kiriyenko said his party still backed Putin for president, but its support
would be conditional on Putin carrying out a pro-reform programme.
But other deputies involved in the walkout said they had already made up
their minds to oppose the new Kremlin boss.
"Putin did not lose today. The ones who lost were those who believed in
Putin," said Stanislav Govorukhin, a filmmaker and senior deputy from the
centrist Fatherland-All Russia party.
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the social democratic Yabloko party, said the
parliament deal proved that the Communists and Unity were "one and the same
thing, and we must fight this."
"Does Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) understand this policy?" Yavlinsky
mused. "Of course we cannot yet know for certain... But for me it seems
The Times (UK)
19 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin strikes liberal pose for the West
FROM GILES WHITTELL IN MOSCOW
VLADIMIR PUTIN offered Russians and the West a tantalising glimpse yesterday
of the reformer that he could become. He urged the Duma to adopt a
long-delayed law allowing private landholding, which would transform stagnant
In his maiden speech to the new parliament, Mr Putin, Russia's acting
President, called on it to approve legal codes on land, labour and civil and
criminal court procedures that have languished unratified for years, even
though they were framed as part of Russia's Constitution.
The ten-minute address was clearly meant for Western governments as well as
the Duma's 450 deputies, setting out fiscal reform and "the rights and
freedoms of citizens" as top priorities, even as the war in Chechnya
continues to plague Russia's relations with the wider world.
The simple fact of Mr Putin's presence in parliament, now housed in the giant
former state economic planning building near Red Square, marked a sea change
from the Yeltsin era, when the President often ignored or quarrelled with the
Communist-dominated chamber for months at a time.
Mr Putin drew a clear distinction between his tenure in the Kremlin, expected
to be confirmed by an election in March, and his predecessor's. He criticised
the Yeltsin administration's legislative efforts as minimal and sluggish,
encouraged the Duma's rival blocs to co-operate with each other and the
Kremlin, and rejected suggestions that he plans to use the constitution to
help him to establish an elective dictatorship.
"Those who speak about a possible dictatorship are themselves dreaming of
it," he said after the speech. Despite a consensus that the constitution
drafted under Mr Yeltsin in 1993 gives a more active president scope to ride
roughshod over parliament, Mr Putin insisted that dictatorship "is impossible
It was his decision to include land reform in his list of specific requests
that would bring the most far-reaching change to ordinary Russians.
The farming system is caught between two poles. In regions whose governors
have chosen to champion private farming, its fragile beginnings are emerging,
but without a stable market. Elsewhere the wreckage of the collectivised
system serves consumers as badly as ever. An Agriculture Ministry official
recently admitted that two out of three grain harvests failed to meet minimum
Privatising land in the world's largest country is a mammoth undertaking and
it remains unclear whether Mr Putin will muster the political will to push it
through. Clearer yesterday was his signal to the West that with its support -
and not too much handwringing over Chechnya - he will back broadly
marketoriented economic policies.
His mention of unratified codes of civil and criminal procedure appeared to
be an integral part of the message. Without workable legal arbitration, the
PUTIN: EITHER THE PRESIDENT OR THE LEADER. BUT WHY?
"Novaya Gazeta" runs a "conceptualized" anti-Putin material, an interview
with member of the council of the Society of social technologists Victor Mini
(Lyudmila Stolyarenko). The main idea is rather whimsical: "Putin's is the
dilemma between his personal interests and Russia' fate. He has yet to
determine his choice: to win the March 26 elections or to become the
country's real leader. These are basically two different tasks, which have
different solutions". Minin's main scarecrows are: "The crisis is approaching
faster than Putin is running to the throne". "Zyuganov can win the elections,
or Luzhkov can seize the power, with the help of the military". By the way,
Luzhkov was so busy with the Moscow regional elections "the elite military
units are stationed there". So, either Putin starts his war with corruption,
or Luzhkov will overthrow him before or after the elections, backed by these
elite military units. "What is a coup in this country? The seizure of the
Kremlin and the White House, and then - curtains!"
Comment: No above-mentioned point has been substantiated. Unclear is, despite
all references to the oligarchs' nasty doings - the idea of Putin's dilemma
between the presidency and the leadership. What counts, though, is the nasty
doings: Minin believes that Chechnya is not enough for Putin to become the
leader; therefore, he must fight corruption. If he fails to do that, he will
be a puppet president, if he goes ahead with the fight, he will not be the
president (details ignored), yet he will become the leader. Why the
coup-obsessed Luzhkov is so inevitable, remains unclear. Still unclear is why
the seizure of the Kremlin and the White House means the success of a coup.
How about the telephone, the telegraph, railroad stations and Ostankino?
However, "Novaya Gazeta" promises that the talk with Minin is to be continued.
"Novaya Gazeta": To win in the elections or to be the president
Russia: Putin Finds Support Among Governors
By Sophie Lambroschini
Among acting Russian President Vladimir Putin's most insistent supporters are
a growing number of regional governors. RFE/RL correspondent Sophie
Lambroschini reports from Moscow on the different reasons for the governors'
Moscow, 18 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's regional governors, not always
known for their loyalty to the Kremlin, are lining up to support acting
President Vladimir Putin's presidential bid in March.
For some regional leaders, such as Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, the
switch to Putin reverses a position held as recently as parliamentary
elections in December.
The leaders' loyalty comes as a surprise given the recent difficult relations
between the Kremlin and the regions provoked in large measure by Russia's
economic crisis in 1998.
Just six months ago, regional heads held a rebellious vote against former
President Boris Yeltsin by confirming the position of the Kremlin's
arch-enemy: Prosecutor-General Yuri Skuratov. Skuratov was involved in an
investigation into alleged corruption inside the Kremlin. The governors'
support was seen as an expression of their growing strength and influence.
Some analysts see the governors' attitude as a purely pragmatic reaction to
Putin's enormous popularity. Others see it as the result of behind-the-scenes
bargaining, with Putin handing out threats and favors to win regional
The governor of Nizhny Novgorod, Ivan Sklyarov, told Russian journalists that
the regions never had an alternative but to follow the Kremlin's line. He
says even if the governors themselves refused to participate, their regional
bodies would nevertheless submit:
"I don't believe that nowadays regional leaders can stay out of big politics.
So when we [governors] said [in the past] that we weren't taking any sides,
we were in fact deceiving ourselves. Through our apparatus and some other
organizations we followed the [government] line."
An economist with the Russian Institute for Globalization, Mikhail Delyagin,
says the federal center retains enormous financial powers over the region. He
told RFE/RL these powers can easily be abused and given what he calls a
"The financial levers are quite powerful and diverse. For one, a majority of
regions receive donations from the federal center through transfers. More
than 30 of Russia's 89 regions in principle cannot exist without the
financial help of the center. So here is a situation of direct control: 'If
you're not going to apply the policy that I choose, you might lose this
money.' This is possible because transfers and other types of federal help
[to the regions] is issued in an arbitrary way. The mechanism of their
payment has not been really formalized. So this issue depends practically
almost completely on the will of high-placed civil servants. It's very easy
to give this issue a political aspect."
Such forms of pressure were also a favorite weapon of Yeltsin's
administration, but Putin's popularity gives the Kremlin's authority new
vigor. Delyagin says governors know that the time of Kremlin laxity induced
by a weak center are over.
Delyagin says Putin may have another advantage stemming from a position he
held a few years ago. Back then he was part of a Kremlin-controlled watchdog
department formed to investigate the misuse of state funds. Delyagin says the
position may have given Putin access to compromising material that he can use
to blackmail reluctant governors.
Putin's overall plan for the regions has not been made public, although he is
widely believed to favor a strong central authority.
A new security concept published last week includes a pledge to fight
separatism, and a Russian television station (NTV) has recently aired footage
from 1995 of Putin demanding that separatists face criminal charges. This
appears to be a direct warning to regional leaders like Tatarstan's Shaimiev
or Yekaterinburg's Eduard Rossel, both of whom have used the separatist card
to extract power for themselves.
Our correspondent writes, however, that Putin has not relied solely on
threats and intimidation to tame leaders.
The Kremlin's recent endorsement of a plan by St. Petersburg Governor
Vladimir Yakovlev to move forward the date for regional elections was widely
seen as payback for political loyalty. Yakovlev announced his support for
Putin just days after the December parliamentary elections.
The Russian daily "Vedomosti" reported that Putin has promised to pay some of
the regions' wage arrears, but that he will likely demand harsh terms --
including stifling regional freedom -- as repayment. According to the
newspaper, the Kremlin is acting toward the regions in much the same way that
the International Monetary Fund treats Russia.
From: "Fred Weir" <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000
By Fred Weir
SLEPTSOVSK, Russia (CP) -- Russian officials say the military campaign
to subdue the breakaway republic of Chechnya is heading into its ``final
but defence experts and refugees fleeing the latest fighting say the war
will likely be protracted and savage.
``The Russians have lost the military intiative, and are no longer able
to control the situation,'' says Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent security
``They can take territory and plant the flag, but they cannot hold it.
The rebels come back and hit them from behind''.
Russia invaded Chechnya last October to destroy what the Kremlin
described as a ``spawning ground of terrorism'' and a ``bandit state''.
The campaign went well for three months. One hundred thousand Russian
troops with heavy weaponry and close air support, deployed on the relatively
flat terrain of northern Chechnya, swept the rebels away.
The people of several large Chechen towns, fed up with the wars and
privations of Chechnya's 8 years of quasi-independence, declared neutrality
and welcomed the Russians in. Other communities surrendered quickly under
threat of bombardment.
But the Russian army ground to a halt almost a month ago when it hit
the Chechen capital of Grozny. Once a city of half a million, Grozny is now
a mostly-deserted urban ruin, where rebels scurry through the sewers and
lurk in bunkers beneath wrecked and booby-trapped apartment blocks.
Official Russian sources say only 600 federal troops have been killed
since the war began. But most analysts, and the widely-respected Committee
Soldiers' Mothers, a grassroots anti-war group, say the true figure is
probably five times higher.
``We have seen dead Russians lying everywhere in the streets of
Grozny,'' says Zhanna Mutieva, a 56-year old woman who escaped the Chechen
week. ``For a month the Russians have been trying to move into the city, but
they get ambushed by our boys and they withdraw''.
Russian generals say they are now on the verge of capturing Grozny and
extinguishing the rebel Chechen state.
``The situation allows us to speak of completing the final task of the
anti-terrorist operation,'' Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev said this week.
Military experts say the Russians will inevitably take Grozny sooner or
later. Early in the previous 1994-96 war, they seized the city after a
costly assault. But they never managed to fully control it, and the rebels
snatched it back from them in a stunning August 1996 offensive.
Analysts say the rebels will retreat to the craggy mountains and
impenetrable beech forests of Chechnya's southern districts, where they will
re-group, re-arm and launch lightning sorties against Russian lines of
supply and communication.
``The story of the last war is repeating itself,'' says Felgenhauer.
``The Russians hide behind heavy weapons and think they're winning, while
Chechens run rings around them and strike in the least expected places''.
In the early stages of the present operation the Russians tried to win
Chechen ``hearts and minds'' by bringing order, gas, electricity and other
services to occupied towns.
But after rebel counterattacks earlier this month struck deep inside
Russian zones of occupation, federal forces switched tactics.
``We started to trust that things might become normal again, but no
more,'' says Khazan Temiyeva, a 37-year old woman who left Russian-occupied
Gudermes after fighting erupted in the city centre last week.
``Now the Russians are going crazy. They treat everyone as an enemy.
They searched me ten times a day''.
Instead of treating Chechens under their rule as peaceful people to be
won over, Russian security forces are starting to view them all --
particularly the males -- as potential guerrillas lurking in civilian guise.
Ironically, the Russians may be the world's most experienced experts on
how well-intentioned military operations, meant to be swift and victorious,
have a way of degenerating into unlimited and endless repression against an
The Soviet Union fought a bloody 9-year war against Islamic insurgents
in mountainous Afghanistan in the 1980's before withdrawing in utter defeat.
The Kremlin tried for two years in the previous war to force a sullen
and resentful Chechen population to accept Russian rule, but finally signed
a peace accord that recognized the futility of using military muscle against
``The Russians do not seem to learn the basic lesson,'' says Mohamed
Arsanukayev, an official of the Chechen State Council, a pro-Moscow shadow
government that works with Russian troops in Chechnya.
``Now they are in a situation where they control only the territory
within the range of their artillery by day. At night they control only the
fortified posts they hide in.
``Until they come to see their role as helping Chechens to govern
themselves, there will be no solution here''.
The Independent (UK)
19 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Freed embezzler is Russia's main ally in Chechnya
By Patrick Cockburn in Moscow
A pro-Moscow Chechen leader who only recently served a jail sentence for
embezzling $6m (£3.75m) may soon be decorated as a Hero of Russia, an honour
equivalent to the Victoria Cross.
Beslan Gantemirov, a formermayor of Grozny, was still in prison three months
ago but if Grozny falls in the next few weeks it is he who is likely to help
to raise the Russian flag over its ruins. He said yesterday men under his
command were fighting their way towards the centre of the capital.
Mr Gantemirov set up his own militia to fight beside the Russian army after
receiving a presidential pardon for his fraud conviction.
His bizarre political resurrection as a senior Russian representative in
Chechnya after three years in a police cell shows the difficulty Moscow is
having in finding Chechens with any local credibility to support its
campaign. It is a measure of Moscow's political weakness in Chechnya that, as
it gears up to storm Grozny, almost its only Chechen ally is a thief.
Even Russian soldiers find him a bizarre choice. "Have you ever seen
Gantemirov's men at the front?" a Russian colonel asked one reporter. "They
will follow behind the army and come into Grozny to be presented as
The reappearance of Mr Gantemirov is also bad news for Chechens who hope to
receive Russian aid to rebuild their shattered villages and towns, as well as
Nikolai Volkov, a senior director in the general prosecutor's office in
Moscow, told The Independent that in 1995 a special commission was sent from
Moscow to Grozny to look into reports that money was disappearing from the
mayor's office. Mr Gantemirov held the post as a member of a Russian puppet
administration. The commission discovered that the rouble equivalent of $40m
intended for reconstruction was missing. Some $6m was traced to Swiss bank
accounts controlled by the mayor.
Mr Gantemirov did not deny that the money was missing, but said that $34m had
been spent on buying arms for his militiamen to fight President Jokhar
Dudayev, the leader of the Chechen independence movement. Asked about the
other $6m, Mr Volkov recalls that Mr Gantemirov said: "It was safer to keep
the money in Swiss banks" and he had failed to buy weapons with it only
because he was arrested.
A Russian court did not believe the Mr Gantemirov's explanation. He received
a six-year sentence of which he had served half by the time he was pardoned
by President Boris Yeltsin last year to return to his previous role as
Moscow probably chose him because it could find nobody else. Few of the small
number of Chechens who have openly sided with Russia in this war are
untainted by allegations of corruption but none has seamier pasts than Mr
Hatred for Mr Gantemirov runs deep among most Chechens. The badly mutilated
body of one of his bodyguards was recently discovered.
January 19, 2000
EDITORIAL: Russia Could Use Dose of Yankee Spirit
It seems that optimism -- even when baseless - is healthy. Optimists live
longer. Nations of optimists take on absurd tasks while others chuckle, and
then succeed while others gasp.
That's the conclusion of studies published in the American Psychological
Association's academic journal this month. It seems optimists are less prone
to accidents and violence, including everything from getting in a car
accident to suffering a household mishap to being selected as the target for
murder. Optimists confronted with news of a terminal illness also lived nine
months longer, on average, than those who were more "realistic" about their
fate. Scholars have arguments about why this is so, but actually no one
Among nations, optimism also seems to be a winner. That's the implicit
conclusion that could be drawn from a series of British national achievements
this month that has each been hailed as miraculous: the creation of the
power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, which ended 30 years of
deadlock and violence there; the revival of the world-famous Royal Opera
House in London's Covent Garden; and the completion of a London subway line
that stretches to perhaps the ultimate symbol of 21st-century optimism, the
As The Washington Post reports, all three of those "miracles" were salvaged
from daunting disarray when an American was brought in. There is much
pundit-chinpulling as to why this is so, but again, much of it seems to boil
down to American can-do optimism.
This is not to say that grinning like a self-confident idiot is the secret to
success. It would be hard to survey the scene in Russia - after a decade of
expert economic advice from can-do Yanks and their local camp followers - and
conclude that the problem has been too much realism and pessimism.
Nor is it to complain that Russians in general need more optimism in their
personal lives. For one thing, we all probably do; we'd be happier. For
another, what more optimistic way is there to embrace life than to bake
oneself in an oven, then have a friend beat one with sticks, then leap into a
frozen lake - all in the name of good health?
Even so, Russia could use some Yankee optimism. How hard is it, after all, to
write a good Tax Code? Or to envision anyone other than Vladimir Putin for
president? Or to adopt an honest, firm yet penitential approach to Chechnya -
a Christian approach, if you like, one of rebuilding and reconciliation? How
hard is it really to eradicate medically resistant tuberculosis from the
nation's prisons? Isn't the problem that everyone assumes it's impossible?
Putin's Early Life in Leningrad Examined
13 January 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Marina Tokareva: "In the Second Capital--Here Every Stone
Knows Putin; Shading the Portrait of the Acting President"
The man who has stepped from the Kremlin shadows onto the proscenium
of Russian history, brightly illuminated by the Chechen fire, will
possibly be the one to determine its course in the beginning of the third
All at once, the harsh and impervious Vladimir Putin has become the
main enigma of the new times. Who is he and what is he like? Today,
each of us needs the answers to these questions.
We searched for brush strokes to add to his portrait, relying on
testimony of people who knew Putin in his former life--his Petersburg
friends and enemies, associates and partners, and simply observers. In
this city, many remember him. But far from all of them agreed to give
their names and positions in speaking about him. They were afraid. And
this too adds a brushstroke to the portrait of our hero.
A MAN FROM THE COMMITTEE
Those who knew his parents say that this was an ordinary Leningrad
family. The father worked as a plant foreman, and they lived in communal
housing up until 1990.
Vladimir Putin, a late and only son, was born a year before the death
of Stalin. At the university, he was "like everyone else."
"He was not brilliant," recalls Anatoliy Sobchak, who at
that time was professor of the juridical faculty, "but he was a good
student and stood out by his persistence."
The student Putin wrote his diploma paper on the topic of "The
Principle of Most Favored Status in Trade," and specialized in the
field of international private law. But already in the last year of the
university, he agreed to go to work for the KGB [Committee on State
Security], and continued his studies at the Moscow Red Banner Institute
of Foreign Intelligence. There were two levels of assignment: Official
intelligence under protection of a diplomatic passport, and illegal
intelligence. The screening for this was as rigorous as for cosmonauts
going into space. It was here that Putin was assigned.
They say that, after the final exam, some of his friends from the
intelligence school partied too much and ended up in the militia
department. There was a huge scandal at the institute. One of those who
had been detained that night by the militia patrol took all the blame on
himself, clearing Putin. Eyewitnesses say that this man's life was
ruined: He was dismissed from everywhere, took up drinking, and went to
seed. Meanwhile, Putin, having undergone special training, went abroad.
Legend has it that, upon returning and occupying powerful positions in
the municipal authorities, he sought out his former classmate and helped
him get back on his feet. They say that today this man stands at the
head of a flourishing enterprise.
...Putin's last assignment abroad lasted for 5 years. Both of his
daughters were born in the GDR [German Democratic Republic]. He lived in
East Berlin, but went beyond the Wall almost every day.
As a rule, chekists [secret service men] who are stationed abroad do
not usually receive promotions. Putin received two of them. Also, his
term of assignment was extended--by reason of the extraordinarily high
results of his work.
"Germans are hard to recruit. Neither money nor compromising
material has any great effect on them. It is only possible to build
something on personal contact: If a person believes in you, has
"fallen in love" with you, then he will work with you. Putin's
results were simply fantastic. He knew how to establish the closest
contact with his ideological opponents, without any barriers. He could
become such fast friends with an enemy, that he would force him to act in
his favor," says a close friend of Putin, Valeriy Golubev, also a
former chekist and today the head of the city's Committee on Tourism.
"He was an experienced manipulator. People for him were
material. But the sympathy and trust which he instills in recruiting a
fellow conversationalist are unconditional." That is how another
specialist in this same field characterizes Putin.
It seems that it was specifically on the wave of these achievements
that some of this man's traits were formulated--a man who in the not too
distant future is to "recruit" the entire country, whose name
The ability to be (or to appear?) extremely sincere, the ability to
delve into the psychology of another and not to retreat in the face of
"difficult situations," self-control and patience--all these
are among Vladimir Putin's special talents. As is the ability to make
devoted allies out of his subordinates. (We might add that, in the art
of judo, which Putin has preferred to all other types of sports ever
since his school days, the readiness to get up again and again and to
repeatedly enter into single-handed combat is valued higher than physical
Putin "sat" in Berlin until the very disappearance of the
GDR. The destruction of the Berlin wall became a drama for him.
"He told me," recalls Sobchak, "that he could not stand
the treason which had occurred when Germany united and our agencies gave
up their network of agents to the Germans..."
Some say in a whisper that Putin applied special efforts to bring
"his people" out from under the blow, and that he still retains
informal ties abroad... The rule that "one does not give up one's
own" is among the most important for him. It was then that he
refused an honorary assignment in the central apparatus of the KGB and
took a humble position in his own alma mater university. He wanted to
look around and get used to what had happened with the country in his
"The Soviet past for him is a dear past," believes the
documentary producer and author of the once-famous broadcast,
"Kontrolnaya dlya vzroslykh" ["Test for Adults"],
Igor Shadkhan, who made several films about Putin. "He remembers
and values that life."
A MAN OF SOBCHAK
Putin entered the recent history of the country as a man of Sobchak.
He was always next to Sobchak, just half a step behind, "in the days
of the people's triumphs and troubles."
Few people know that the political star of Anatoliy Aleksandrovich
rose to a significant degree thanks specifically to Putin. It was he who
prepared the historic meeting of the Leningrad Council, which scheduled
the elections for mayor of the city in which Sobchak was victorious. It
was he who, in August of '91, driving the car up to the very ladder of
the airplane, did not allow his former colleagues to arrest the mayor who
was returning from Moscow, mobilizing the Pulkovo Airport militia and
Sobchak's personal bodyguards to help him.
And it was he, sources say, who distanced himself from Sobchak before
the last round of the gubernatorial elections.
He knows how to select cadres--that is what they say today about
Sobchak. After all, he was able to see a future state leader in the
inconspicuous (the embodiment of anonymity!--the pro-rectors of the
university used to say with indignation) assistant to the rector of LGU
[Leningrad State University] on international relations. But something
else is more probable: It was the KGB, foreseeing Sobchak's prospects,
that assigned Putin to him at the dawn of perestroyka. And very soon,
the latter occupied the second position in city power.
Those in the know say that the KGB was in shock. Never before had
active associates of the committee engaged in public policy in such
"The leadership made us an offer: Stay with us and serve, and we
will hide you in such a way that no one will know that you are ours (we
might add, you would be generals by now). But Putin decided to
resign," recounts Valeriy Golubev, who by that time had been invited
to the Smolnyy apparatus. (How can we not recall Putin's recent sharp
comment: "assigned by you to work under cover of the
government...", pronounced at the celebration of the FSB [Federal
Nevertheless, Putin was the only one of the GB [state security]
associates who in the early 90's frankly recounted his chekist past in
the Petersburg newspaper Chas Pik ["Peak Hour"]. Already at
that time, many had noted in him a strategic mind. His strategy was to
merge perfectly with the new time.
Putin accompanied Sobchak to see the strong people of this world:
Major, Charac, Kohl... Igor Shadkhan recalls that, at a meeting with
Kohl, Putin brilliantly fulfilled the role of translator. Later, he and
Shadkhan went to see the Bonn night life.
"For me, it was important that he was not a nationalist. Not an
anti-Semite. I saw that he was familiar with world values. I saw in him
the joy of life and--self-irony...
But unlike the producer, most people are even afraid to say anything
good about Putin. "He will calculate, he will calculate...",
muttered a former co-worker from whom I tried to drag out the
"details of style." "Keep in mind: You were not at
Smolnyy...", another cautiously warned.
In the Committee on Foreign Relations, which Putin headed up, life was
in full swing. It worked as the staff headquarters of the revolution--it
is no wonder that Petersburg became such a proving ground for the whole
country in the sphere of the market and privatization, and Putin
personally participated in all the major actions.
"After all, he had experience in real life in the West and knew
it from the inside," says Anatoliy Sobchak. "Even today, this
makes him unique among the active politicians."
Informed people insist that he had personal ties with Yeltsin since
the early 90's. And when he resigned, after Sobchak's defeat, he refused
all the "local" proposals. Anatoliy Chubays and Aleksey
Bolshakov thought that he was needed in Moscow.
A MAN OF THE FUTURE?
In my opinion, a turn toward totalitarianism is possible at a certain
moment in our country. But the danger lies not in the agencies of law
and order, security and the militia, and not even in the army. This
danger lies in our own mentality. Sometimes it seems to us, and to me,
that if we bring about order with a firm hand, we will all live more
comfortably and safer. But this firm hand will very soon begin to stifle
us... " Putin pronounced these words in a documentary film made in
People express polarized viewpoints about him. These range from
"100-percent reliable" to "totally cynical," from
"compassionate and humane" to "absolutely merciless."
Confirmation of the former is the multitude of life stories.
Confirmation of the latter is the war in Chechnya and the head of state's
attitude toward it. This is a topic which requires individual study.
...Summarizing various points of view, all his life Putin had been
formulated by context and circumstance which forced him to adopt the
necessary "coloration," the formula "one has to do what
one has to do." Now, he himself will have to engage in formulation
of context. Does he have sufficient data for this? Not information and
not psychological readiness, but humanitarian notions? Ten years ago,
during the universal euphoria, Andrey Sinyavskiy said about Yeltsin:
"Unfortunately, this man has read very few books..." Has
Vladimir Putin read a lot of books? They say that he knows the early
Mayakovskiy by heart, and that he is familiar with the novels of Belle
in the original...
Be that as it may, Putin has more than enough political will.
"Frankly speaking, I do not experience any internal conflict,
vacillation, or torment." Several years ago, that is how he
answered the question of whether he is in conflict with himself.
In one television film about him, the narrator, perhaps having heard
about his dacha which looked like a palace (which, by the way, later
burned down), asked Putin: "Do you take bribes?" "I do
get such offers," he answered, without batting an eye. "But
the bribe-giver always belittles the bribe-taker, and the sense of human
dignity costs a lot..."
Putin was surprisingly calm about his fantastic ascent. "You
know, when they asked him to become the successor, he refused the
President twice," recounts Golubev. "And the latter even...
started to cry." But, having agreed, his friends think, he accepted
what was happening as heavy "man's" work ("if you only
knew, fellows, what a madhouse this is, a hole on top of a hole...").
At the same time, some people in Petersburg undergo a change of
expression at the mention of "Putin:" "He has a Napoleon
complex. The dictator is sleeping within him. The country will not even
have a chance to look around, than everything in it will change."
...In the Fall, at the anniversary celebration of the theater founded
60 years ago by Arkadiy Raykin, the Prime Minister, surrounded by his
bodyguards, ran into an inebriated Shirvindt in the corridor. The
latter, seeing the Prime Minister, imposingly extended his hand:
"Shura. Would you like to have a drink?" "Vova,"
Vladimir Vladimirovich introduced himself, "why not?" And he
turned his retinue toward the bar.
Is this the new imperial style, or democratism? We will soon find out.
January 18, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIAN SOCIO-ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE IN 1999
By Iraida SEMENOVA
The Russian Federation's Economics Ministry, which has
analyzed this country's socio-economic performance over the
entire 1999 period, estimates that official popular cash
incomes had dwindled by 15 percent last year (on 1998 levels).
Besides, about 33 percent of all Russians now live below the
official poverty line. Meanwhile the real-life situation
differs from official statistics.
As of late 1999, per-capita subsistence-minimum levels had
totalled 980 roubles. At the same time, people, who get even
less money, now account for 35 percent of the entire Russian
population. This is happening despite the fact that per-capita
wages had soared by 49 percent on 1998 levels.
Declining standards of living can be explained by the fact that
the rouble's purchasing power has dwindled by more than 20
Vyacheslav Bobkov in charge of the Labor And Social
Development Ministry's Living Standards Center explains that,
according to his center's experts, the living standards of
nearly 66 percent of this country's population had declined
Only an insignificant part of the Russian population began
to live better. On the other hand, retirees and crippled
persons were the hardest hit. The purchasing power of families
with many children, unwed mothers, people working for state-run
organizations and hired workers had declined by nearly
At the same time, the afore-said center's experts draw
attention to the fact that the gap between regional living
standards has increased nearly 14-fold. True, the gap between
regional dwellers' incomes is not very impressive all over
Russia. For instance, this gap is minimal in the Aginsky Buryat
autonomous area. Consequently, one has every reason to say that
the Buryat population experiences poverty to just about the
same extent. A similar situation has also shaped up in the
Ust-Ordynsky (Buryat) and Komi-Perm autonomous areas, the
Marii-El republic and some other Russian regions. This small
popular-income gap serves to stabilize the social situation to
a great extent.
On the other hand, there exists a 40-fold gap between
popular incomes in Magadan, Kamchatka and Amur regions, in
Yakutia, Khabarovsk territory and Moscow. By the way, these far
from poor regions tend to expand their respective
social-security programs for aiding their needy.
These apparently deplorable official statistics don't heed
the deferred-demand factor, e.g. the population's habit of
hoarding its savings, as well as the existence of illegal
incomes and social benefits. It's an open secret that quite a
few Russians have managed to accumulate a lot of cash over the
entire reform period. Staffers from the Russian Academy Of
Sciences' Institute Of The Population's Socio-Economic Problems
estimate such under-the-mattress savings at $40 billion. Many
urban dwellers, not to mention villagers, manage to live off
their own truck gardens, which were seen as pretty expensive by
Russian families in the past. At present such truck gardens
enable their owners to earn a lot of dough by marketing their
foodstuffs. People also lease their homes and apartments, work
part-time as street vendors, gypsy-cab drivers and tutors.
According to experts, apart from wages, 50 percent of all
Russian families have alternative income sources. By the way,
legal wages account for not more than 40 percent of the entire
But that's not all. The share of additional expenses in
the form of numerous privileges and benefits has also
They were perceived as a godsend only one year ago.
However, experts now agree that all privileges should be
provided in the form of money, rather than social benefits.
It's well-nigh impossible to swell popular incomes without
subsequent production growth and a stronger real economy, small
and medium-sized businesses included. Small wonder, acting
Russian president Vladimir Putin deemed it necessary to discuss
the problems of their development at a recent government
Much will also depend on regional authorities.
Incidentally, some of the Russian Federation's constituent
members have already okayed their own social-development
programs. For instance, Yakutia intends to double local output
and to boost exports to an impressive $2.1 billion. The
program's authors hope that expanded sales markets and greater
production profitability will make it possible to raise
regional living standards.
Electoral Commission to Cooperate with New Duma.
MOSCOW, January 18 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Central Electoral Commission is
going to cooperate with the new Duma in consolidating the legal base of
elections, Alexander Veshnyakov, the chairman of the Central Electoral
Commission, said at the first plenary meeting of the Duma on Tuesday. He said
the experience of the past election campaign showed the need to perfect legal
norms regulating various stages of the election and, first of all, of
In addition, there is a need to strengthen interaction of electoral
commissions at various levels, especially as regards forming commissions at
lower levels at federal elections. Veshnyakov said there is a need to protect
them against the pressure of local and regional authorities.
If the existing system of the election of Duma deputies persists, it is
extremely important to pass a federal law on political parties, Veshnyakov
believes. He said activity of the parties must also be transparent to society
in the period between elections and during the election campaign.
Veshnyakov also expressed the hope for interaction with factions of the State
Duma in forming territorial and district electoral commissions for the coming
elections, namely, the forming of the electoral commission of the Chechen
Veshnyakov noted that every faction has a right to delegate its
representatives to these commissions and that this right should be used so
that there should be no complaints about the work of electoral commissions at
Russia complains over Canadian newspaper's insult
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Canada said on Tuesday that Russian diplomats had
complained twice about a Canadian newspaper editorial which branded Russia a
filthy and corrupt ``lump of dung'' where nothing good would ever happen.
``Russian officials raised the article with their Canadian counterparts in
Moscow and Ottawa to register their regret over the piece,'' said foreign
ministry spokeswoman Valerie Noftle.
Although she stressed that Moscow had not formally protested about the Ottawa
Citizen article earlier this month, Russian diplomats in Ottawa did little to
hide their outrage.
They said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who wrote to the daily newspaper
to say the piece reminded him of Nazi propaganda, had himself contacted
officials at the Canadian foreign ministry.
``They agreed it was insulting. We hope there will be more respect for Russia
in future and that such incidents will not be repeated,'' a Russian diplomat
In the offending article, editorial writer John Robson said there was no
chance that Russia's new acting president Vladimir Putin would ever turn
Russia into a normal state.
``Normal for Russia is filthy, corrupt, menacing and hollow. Nothing good has
happened there, nor will it. Russia is a lump of dung wrapped in a cabbage
leaf hidden in an outhouse,'' he wrote, before detailing low points of
Russian and Soviet history.
``Russia is doomed by history and culture. It stinks, literally and
figuratively, and always has. People there have no manners...The bottom line
is: Russia has sucked, sucks and will suck,'' he wrote.
The article prompted a flood of angry letters, something Noftle said had been
raised with the Russians.
``Canadian officials pointed out that the strong response among the Canadian
public in the form of letters to the editor indicated the original article
should not be considered as mainstream opinion in Canada,'' she said.
Churkin said in a letter to the newspaper that never in his 25 years in the
diplomatic service had he seen an article ``so clearly below even the lowest
standards of civility.''
He added: ``This malicious display of Russophobia is reminiscent of Nazi
propaganda. Fanning ethnic or national hatred has since been universally
recognised as a most degrading pursuit.''
Officials at the Ottawa Citizen were not available for comment.
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