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Johnson's Russia List
24 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, Six kilometers of hell.
2. Reuters: Russia's Putin says needs liberal support in Duma.
3. Reuters: Putin sets no time limit to Chechen campaign.
4. BBC MONITORING: Mayak Radio, PUTIN EXPLAINS HOW HE PERCEIVES ROLE OF
STATE IN ECONOMY.
5. Christian Science Monitor: Ian Bremmer and Tom Corcoran, Pipeline
politics and Chechnya.
6. Newsweek: Owen Matthews, Chechnya; 'Like a Meat Grinder.' Inside
Grozny: The Russian Military's 'Final Assault' on the Capital City is Slow, Chaotic and Bloody.
7. THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN (Japan): Alexander Tsipko, LIBERALS COULD BE
BUGBEAR FOR PUTIN.
8. BBC MONITORING: Russian Public TV, RUSSIAN TYCOON MP BEREZOVSKIY
COMMENTS ON PARLIAMENT CRISIS, CHECHNYA.
9. Reuters: Chechen first lady stays with her people. (Kusama
The Russia Journal
January 24-30, 2000
Six kilometers of hell
By Andrei Piontkovsky
(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic
Research in Moscow.)
A scathing attack on the war in Chechnya and the heads of the Russian
intelligentsia - Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar.
A swindler, close to the highly unpopular Kremlin "family," hated and held in
contempt by the whole country, toured Russia a few months before elections
persuading governors to unite and form a new pro-Kremlin party. Three or four
of the governors most mired in corruption scandals and one directly
implicated in the murder of an opposition journalist took up the proposal.
A couple of months later, this new "party" swept to victory in parliamentary
elections. So what happened over that couple of months, and how was it that
the swindler, who poured money into what looked like a doomed enterprise,
turned out to be so far-sighted?
Nothing particular happened, just Shamil Basayev's raid on Dagestan that
killed hundreds of Russian soldiers and Dagestanis; just explosions in Moscow
and Volgodonsk that killed some thousand more people; mass bombings and
full-scale war in Chechnya with hundreds of more dead soldiers and an unknown
number of civilian casualties. And there's plenty more blood and death yet to
Meanwhile, the TV screens regale us with a decisive macho man, sometimes
dressed like the Prince of Wales in various military uniforms, sometimes like
a medieval samurai in a black-belted kimono, leading us from victory to
victory. Our aviation "is working" on Bamut, and our special forces troops
are "cleansing" Shali for the second time.
Three parties, three sources and component parts of "Putinism," have shaped
its core of support -- corrupt governors, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the
lights of the Russian intelligentsia -- Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar.
Chubais and Gaidar have finally seen their dream of a Russian Pinochet come
true -- the man who will lead Russia with an iron hand toward liberal reforms
and a state of well-being. True, thousands or, more likely, tens of
thousands, will lose their lives on the road to this radiant future. But, as
the swindler and founding father of the new party once said "well, there'll
be a bit of killing, but then, there always is a bit of killing going on
somewhere or other."
There are bad Chechens, we are told. It was bad Chechens who blew up our
homes. The authorities repeat it so incessantly it looks like they are trying
to convince themselves of the fact.
There are good Chechens, as well. They are the ones we are liberating from
the bandits. The best, most pro-Russian and most legitimate Chechen is Malik
Saidullayev -- chairman of the State Council of Chechnya -- elected to his
post to by Doku Zavgayev's 1996-model legitimate Supreme Soviet.
Saidullayev relates what happened in his native village after it was
liberated: "The soldiers chased people from where they had been hiding in
basements. Some of those people were carrying small children in their arms.
The soldiers lined them up and forced them to run six kilometers to the next
village. They promised that whoever ran the distance would live. Tanks fired
after them as they ran."
Now we can be certain that hell on earth exists. We create this hell every
day with our high-precision "grad" and "uragan" artillery. And if hell also
awaits beyond the grave, then somewhere in its labyrinths is a six-kilometer
field torn to pieces by artillery shells. It is across this field that
Gaidar, Chubais and their charming wives, Irina Khakamada and her handsome
husband with his curly locks flying, will run for all eternity.
They, but not Hero of Russia Gen. Vladimir Shamanov. There is no hell for
single-celled organisms. The Shamanovs of this world are innocent, for they
know not what they do.
Among those singing the praises of this shameful and criminal bloodbath,
dubbing it the Renaissance of Russia and its army, Chubais and his friends
are the most intelligent, best educated and the most talented. And therefore
the lowest of the lot.
Russia's Putin says needs liberal support in Duma
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin said on
Sunday he needed the support of liberal groups to push legislation through
parliament and described Communist renationalisation proposals as
``The package of draft laws waiting for the Duma (lower house) approval are
mainly aimed at promoting the market economy and we will largely count on
liberal deputies to pass them,'' he said.
But he made clear in an interview with RTR television that he would not get
involved in the latest parliamentary row triggered by a power-sharing deal
between the Communist Party and his supporters in the Unity bloc after
Nor would he resort to undemocratic means to defend liberal allies.
The deal, under which the Communists got the Duma speakership and split most
of the committee chairmanships with Unity, prompted a Duma walkout by four
outraged liberal and centrist groups.
``Communist Party statements about the need to redistribute property, or, as
their documents put it, resort to confiscation and nationalisation, are
unacceptable for us,'' Putin told.
``There are no grounds to say there was some strategic deal (with the
He said he hoped the parliamentary row would be sorted out soon and added
that he needed the liberal support in the long run.
CONSOLIDATE LIBERAL FORCES
``So as a prime minister I would indeed be interested in consolidating
liberal forces and giving them more than they would normally get,'' Putin
``But as an acting president I think I have no such right because the balance
of forces in the Duma should reflect the balance of forces in the nation.''
Putin, who became Russia's most popular politician by conducting a war
against separatist rebels in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya, became
acting president after Boris Yeltsin resigned on December 31.
He is seen as the strongest candidate in a presidential election due on March
The acting president shrugged off criticism that the parliamentary deal
between the Communists and Unity could be a prelude to a new dictatorship,
saying his main efforts would be aimed at strengthening state institutions.
This, he said, was crucial for providing a favourable atmosphere for a market
But he added: ``When we talk about strengthening the role of the state in the
economy, we in no way mean the state should interfere directly in the
The key task of the state was to set and maintain the rules of the game.
``If the government fails to guarantee that the rules of the game are
observed, we will never create a good investment climate,'' he added.
Putin sets no time limit to Chechen campaign
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin,
preparing for a presidential poll in March, said on Sunday he would not push
troops fighting rebels in Chechnya to time the end of the campaign to a
``The timing of the operation is fully decided by military considerations,''
Putin told RTR television. ``It will not be timed to any date on the
In an indication of the ferocity of fighting in the breakaway southern
province, the military said they had found the body of a general killed last
week when he led soldiers in a street battle in the Chechen capital Grozny.
In the neighbouring region of Ingushetia, the wife of Chechen rebel leader
Aslan Maskhadov denied reports issued by the Russian military that he was
wounded. She said her husband was in good spirits and committed to crushing
the latest onslaught.
Despite severe winter weather, Russian forces continued to hammer rebel
positions in mountain gorges and in the shattered capital. But they reported
little headway in their gruelling week-long drive to storm the city.
Warplanes and helicopters flew more than 100 sorties over Chechen targets,
Interfax reported from Russian headquarters.
It quoted military reports as saying heavy fighting was under way in the
city. Russian troops had taken complete control of a bridge over the Sunzha
river which bisects the city but were still fighting for the central Minutka
PUTIN SAYS NO HASTE
The four-month long operation in Chechnya has made Putin the most popular
politician in Russia and the strongest candidate in the presidential polls
called for March 26 after the surprise resignation of Boris Yeltsin.
But after an initially smooth advance, in which the Russians seized northern
and central Chechnya, the troops hit well-organised resistance in Grozny and
faced hit-and-run guerrilla war in other parts of the region.
The Russian military have said there was no definite front line in Grozny and
street battles raged in almost every corner.
Last week, Major-General Mikhail Malofeyev, one of key commanders in the
area, went missing in Grozny and the rebels said they had captured him.
On Sunday, the military, quoted by Russian news agencies, said rescue teams
had found Malofeyev's body in a trench close to where he led soldiers in his
``He was a hero,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted a Russian commander in
Chechnya, Viktor Kazantsev, as saying.
``When an attack unit of the Interior Ministry forces messed up, he stood up
and led a group of soldiers to cover the backs of the main force.''
MASKHADOV'S WIFE SAYS REBELS DEFIANT
The Russian military say that despite difficulties, they were capable of
taking the operation to the end. But Maskhadov's wife Kusama, who keeps in
touch with her husband, said the Chechens were defiant.
``We believe that victory will be ours,'' she said told Reuters in a refugee
camp on the fringes of the Ingushi town of Sleptosvsk.
``Our cause it right. We are not fighting on the territory of others. We are
defending our people who they are out to destroy.''
Kusama, who says she is not controlled by the Russians despite living in
Russian territory, denied Russian reports that her husband was wounded in the
``He is alive and well,'' she said. ``He is in good spirits. They all feel
The other main focus of fighting is the mountains in the south, part of the
Caucasus, Europe's highest range.
Russians on Saturday seized Vedeno, the largest village in the mountains. But
guerrillas still maintain bases in the steep Argun and Vedeno gorges, all but
impenetrable in winter.
Malik Saidullayev, a pro-Moscow Chechen businessman, was due to fly to
Chechnya from Moscow on Sunday to meet the leaders of armed groups and
negotiate bringing them to Russia's side, but he postponed his visit to later
The rebels have dismissed his initiative.
PUTIN EXPLAINS HOW HE PERCEIVES ROLE OF STATE IN ECONOMY
Text of report by Russian Mayak radio on 23rd January
[Presenter] Vladimir Putin, the prime minister and acting president, has been
interviewed by the "Zerkalo" programme on the state-run Russia TV channel.
During the interview, he raised a whole host of issues. Discussing short-term
economic goals, Putin in particular outlined the role of the state in
building a new economy for Russia. This is what he said.
[Putin] The state should have some kind of institution to safeguard the
interests of all levels of society. It would have one other important purpose
and function - to safeguard the rules of the game. This really is a very
important function. It's important not only in politics but in economics as
well and perhaps in economics even more so, because even if we're talking
about a stronger role for the state in the economy we must never say that the
state ought to directly intervene in the economy. Or that it should give the
orders or restore the command economy, or assume direct management. Although
there should be enterprises and sectors of the economy in which the state has
to retain that function, and we have in Russia what we call treasury
enterprises. These are in the defence sector and some other areas.
But overall, the state should perform a different function. It should create
clear and understandable and fair rules. And most importantly, it should
create a system for observing and upholding these rules. Unfortunately, our
judicial system is still not doing its job properly, moreover this applies in
all areas. The general courts and arbitration tribunals and antitrust
authorities are, unfortunately, being used not in the interests of the state
and market players but often in the interests of cronies and groups, in the
interests of some business figures against others. As part of competition
between businesses. This should not happen. If we don't stop it and if we
don't make sure that the state can safeguard the rules of the game, then
we'll never create a good investment climate. And then all our billions in
resources will not be put to proper use.
This is something that we really must do. Not only that, but in my opinion,
the active public support for our actions in the Caucasus is due not only to
a sense of hurt national identity but also to a vague feeling - and rightly
so, the ordinary man may not formulate it as such but it is a correct feeling
- that the state has become weak. And it ought to be strong.
Christian Science Monitor
January 24, 2000
Pipeline politics and Chechnya
By Ian Bremmer and Tom Corcoran
Ian Bremmer is president of the New York-based consulting firm Eurasia
Group, and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York. Tom
Corcoran is executive director of the Eurasia Group and a member of the
Council on Foreign Relations Russian Economic Task Force.
International outrage over Russia's Chechnya strategy once again draws
attention to how energy markets affect the course of current events. In
short, Russia's ability to prosecute the war in Chechnya is abetted by the
current high price of oil.
The rise in oil prices has given the Russian economy a boost, building acting
President Vladimir Putin's popularity and providing the Kremlin with funds to
pay the last installment of debt to the International Monetary Fund.
This has led many to recommend that the US draw down its oil reserves to
depress the market. When the price of oil drops, the reasoning goes, the
Kremlin's campaign in Chechnya will be severely impaired.
Whatever you think of the Chechnya crisis, this suggestion illuminates a
paradox in the keystone of US policy on Eurasia - the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, a
project of multinational oil companies aggressively lobbied for by the
Stretching from Kazakhstan through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey,
Baku-Ceyhan is the only policy initiative for the region with wide bipartisan
support in Washington.
The basic idea is to strengthen the nascent states of the Caspian region by
weakening Russia's hold over them. All but one pipeline originating in the
Caspian presently travels through Russia. Accordingly, Russia benefits from
the transit fees on oil and gas passing through its territory. Russia also
benefits politically - by owning most of the routes to market it effectively
has a stranglehold on the Caspian economies.
Therefore, Baku-Ceyhan subverts Russian influence in an effort to strengthen
the independence of the new states of the so-called southern tier.
Baku-Ceyhan is also self-defeating - its success depends on conditions that
undermine its ends.
The pipeline is extremely expensive; the estimated cost of construction is
roughly $3 billion over the course of the next four to eight years. Thus the
commercial viability of the project depends on high oil prices sustained over
a prolonged period, because oil companies are not interested in making the
capital investments required without margins sufficiently wide to justify the
But high oil prices provide the Kremlin with the resources to be mischievous
in Chechnya, exporting its power and ignoring international pressures.
Indeed, it provides the Kremlin with the resources to consider other forms of
adventurism all along its southern border.
The conditions necessary for the construction of Baku-Ceyhan subvert the very
goals its backers seek to achieve. Nor does Baku-Ceyhan advance US policy
goals. The Clinton administration ostensibly supports continued engagement
with Russia, working to bring Moscow closer to the Western orbit. But by
supporting the construction of Baku-Ceyhan, the administration sends the
message that it wants to weaken Russia's influence, hardly the best way to
solicit Russian cooperation. Indeed, by sending a hostile message to Russia,
the administration's policy provides the Kremlin with persuasive reasons to
obstruct US initiatives in the region whenever it can - that is, whenever the
price of oil rises.
With Boris Yeltsin gone, Russian foreign policy will become less quixotic.
Mr. Putin is a pragmatic statist, likely to attack attempts to undermine
Russia's influence in its backyard. With the resounding success of
pro-Kremlin forces in recent parliamentary elections, Putin probably believes
he would enjoy the public's mandate to do so. So now is the ideal time to
remold US foreign policy with an eye toward practical ways to meet policy
Baku-Ceyhan is self-defeating, serves no one's interests in the end, and will
continue to undermine the stability of the Caspian.
January 30, 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechnya; 'Like a Meat Grinder' Inside Grozny: The Russian Military's
'Final Assault' on the Capital City is Slow, Chaotic and Bloody
By Owen Matthews
>From a shell-pitted apartment block on Grozny's Kasiora Street, the besieged
capital city of Chechnya spreads out in a low lying ruin of smoke, fire and
shattered concrete. Incessant bombardment from Russian artillery and
200-kilo bombs dropped by attack planes send thundering detonations through
the town. Jets scream overhead every few minutes. But there is also another
constant: the uninterrupted crackle of rebel machine-gun fire.
For months the bombs have fallen. Day after day, night after night, the full
might of the Russian Army's heavy artillery and Air Force has been
concentrated in a massive attack on Grozny. The aim has been to annihilate
the city's Chechen defenders. Last week it was the infantry's turn to try to
make good on the Russian military's boast that the recapture of Grozny was
imminent. But a NEWSWEEK reporter's trip into the city last Saturday shows
just how slow, chaotic and bloody that assault has become for the Russians.
In north Grozny, Chechen irregular troops loyal to Moscow have succeeded in
pushing back rebel fighters just 400 yards in the past week. Their
commander, Beslan Gantemirov, says his reconnaissance groups are now scouting
the center of the city, two and one-half kilometers from the federal front
lines. Compared to the last assault on Grozny (in 1994-95), this is much
slower and much more messy," says Gantemirov, the former mayor of Grozny and
once an ally of the late Chechen president Dzhokar Dudayev. Boris Yeltsin
released Gantemirov from jail in September where he was serving a sentence
for embezzlement so that he could head the pro-Moscow Chechen forces. "Our
opponents are good fighters. Even though they are my enemies I can say as a
Chechen that I am proud that they are fighting so bravely."
Russian officials claim that there are only 700 fighters left in the burning
ruins of the city. A more realistic figure seems to be around at least
1,500. But however few their numbers, the rebels who remain in networks of
heavily fortified dugouts throughout the city are putting up a deadly fight.
The Russian force in Chechnya is 100,000 strong, but its progress last week
in the "final assault" on Grozny was punishingly slow. Like Gantemirov's
troops, some of Russia's Interior Ministry troops managed to push the rebels
into a retreat from some sections of Grozny, but in the process they took
casualties far higher than the seven to 10 per day admitted to by Moscow's
Defense Ministry. And the rebels, even in retreat, managed to score a
significant psychological victory when they wounded and captured (according
to their account) one of the commanders of the Grozny assault: Maj. Gen.
Mikhail Malofeyev, deputy commander of the Federal Forces' Northern Group.
His unit was ambushed in a nighttime rebel raid on Grozny, when a group of
fighters crawled through sewer pipes to reach the Russian unit's location,
catching it completely unprepared for an assault.
The level of concern in Moscow with the increasingly deadly war in Chechnya
is now obvious. Last Saturday acting president Vladimir Putin replaced the
Interior Ministry commander in charge of troops in Chechnya, including those
leading the assault on Grozny. He also again adopted the tough-guy pose that
has boosted his popularity among Russian voters before the forthcoming
presidential election. While insisting, as he has repeatedly, that the
Grozny operation was going to plan, the acting president warned Russians to
be prepared for further terrorist attacks on Russian soil. He reminded
everyone of the bombs that went off in Moscow, Buinaksk and Volgodonsk in
late August and early September, which Moscow said were set by Chechen
terrorists. Putin said the bombs went off because "we socked the bandits in
the mug in Dagestan ... when they found they were powerless in a straight
battle with us."
But the idea that the Chechens are "powerless" is sadly mocked by the
mounting number of zinc coffins carrying Russian soldiers home every week.
As even some Russian military officers admit, it is their infantry, composed
mostly of teenage conscripts, that is unprepared for the war. Their enemies,
for the most part, are hardened veterans of the last Chechen war who are once
again demonstrating their skill as guerrilla fighters -- both in the capital
city and in the fighting that continues in the mountains to the south. Igor
Ivanikov, a major commanding Interior Ministry forces for Moscow, concedes
his troops are no match for their opponents. "I see these 18-year-old kids
coming back from fighting in the hills and their eyes are dead," says
Ivanikov. "It's as though they are already prepared to die. Like they are on
All too many are. In Grozny last Saturday, Said, one of the Chechen
irregulars fighting for Gantemirov, told NEWSWEEK that "these kids just panic
when a sniper opens fire." One of their men was shot by a sniper and the
driver of their armored personnel carrier reversed in panic. He backed into
a house and crushed one of his own boys to death.
Such chaos among Russia's forces is not uncommon. When Gantemirov's men took
a building on Kasiora Street after a lengthy battle last week, they found
themselves under attack again -- this time from "friendly" federal artillery.
One of his men was killed in the shelling. "My radio battery gave out and I
had to send a man back with a message that they were shelling their own
people," says Omar Dagarov, one of Gantemirov's commanders. Admits
Gantemirov: "There is no coordination between different federal forces. Our
radios don't work, there is no unified command. We have to buy our own
ammunition and my troops are not paid. Everyone is fighting separately --
the Interior Ministry forces, the Army and us." And the biggest problem of
all, says Dagarov, is that the young, inexperienced federal forces "don't
know how to fight."
That's why the death toll for Moscow is mounting, even as their troops make
incremental gains in the capital. According to Chechen reports, one Russian
combat unit of 40 men was either killed or captured last week. "Out of our
company of 75 men, only 25 are left," one shell-shocked Russian sergeant told
Russian television. "It was like a meat grinder."
One top commander, Gen. Gennady Troshev, flew into Grozny last week to buck
up one unit that had refused to advance any farther after taking a brutal
beating in a firefight on the northern outskirts of the city. Their
commander had to call in more experienced Army troops to bail them out. At
an impromptu medals ceremony the soldiers "stood with their heads down, their
faces black with dirt and shook hands with Troshev as if they were zombies,"
said one Russian journalist who witnessed the scene. "All they wanted to do
was not go back to the front lines."
But back they will go. At the weekend the Russian attempt to capture the
capital was still in progress -- though in slow motion. The weight of the
sheer numbers meant that "victory" in Grozny is inevitable for Moscow. But
as in the last Chechen war, victory could mean occupying a city the rebels
consider theirs -- and becoming targets for the deadly hit and run attacks
that are sure to come.
With Bill Powell in Moscow
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN (Japan)
January 23, 2000
LIBERALS COULD BE BUGBEAR FOR PUTIN
By Alexander Tsipko
Special to The Daily Yomiuri
(Alexander Tsipko is director of the Political Research Center in Moscow.)
If a Russian presidential election were held now, there is no doubt that
acting Russian President Vladimir Putin would win. Polls show that 55 percent
of voters support him and his policies. Sixty percent of Russians share his
firm resolve to win victory in the fighting in Chechnya.
Putin is a real national leader, a favorite of the people. He charms Russian
Philistines with his energy and strength. He does not need to use
undemocratic means to ensure an election victory. He ingratiates himself with
the West even less than the Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov. He is tough
enough to insist on Russia's right to solve the Chechen problem with the use
Putin's mild anti-Westernism and enlightened nationalism have already made
him Russia's most popular politician, and, given the right conditions, these
factors will see him elected president.
But Putin's popularity among patriotic Russians as well as his independence
from the "Washington Party Committee," are at the same time major risks and
threats for his presidential campaign.
The interests of the post-Soviet Russian intelligentsia, for many reasons,
are different from the hopes of common voters. The intelligentsia is afraid
that if Putin gets supreme power, he will limit freedom. Russia's
intellectual elite, including Moscow's political elite, is both pro-Western
and cosmopolitan. They think that Putin's state leadership will inevitably
lead to another iron curtain and to limitations on human rights.
Many treat Putin as another Stalin, but there is no factual basis for such
fears. He seems more Western than many human rights defenders. But the fears
and syndromes of the communist era are sometimes stronger than common sense.
The potential split between liberal pro-Western intelligentsia and the acting
president were realized after the Kremlin administration supported Communist
candidate Gennady Seleznyov for the post of chairman of the Duma, the lower
chamber of parliament.
Nobody knows who initiated the creation of a Duma majority by associating the
pro-Putin "Unity" faction with the communists. But the alliance itself gave
the liberals a chance to accuse Putin of pro-Communist sympathies and of
intending to make a bureaucratic-Communist union the social basis of his
Of course, Putin supported Seleznyov not because he shared his communist
views but in order to restrict Yevgeny Primakov from becoming chairman and
restricting his own ambitions. Putin's actions were purely pragmatic.
Seleznyov is weak and obedient. Moreover, he is a "fellow countryman," in
other words a member of the "Leningrad (St. Petersburg) community." On the
other hand, Primakov is still a rival in the presidential race.
Putin's tactics have been considered a strategy, and his "Putin-communists
union," has been opposed by all liberal factions.
After Jan. 18, Russia entered a period of a balance of power headed by what
looks like a so-called Russoist state party including factions of Unity, the
Communist Party and the People's Deputies. Liberal opposition, including the
Union of Right Forces, Yabloko and Fatherland, looks like a party of
We have had to deal with confrontation between so-called Russoists and
Westernizers before in Russia.
In the new power balance there are some obstacles blocking Putin's way to
being enthroned in the Kremlin. He gains no profit from the identification of
his name with patriotic etatists, among whom former communists play a leading
The problem is that the liberals who are currently rallying around
Primakov--and will most likely name him as their candidate for the
presidency--have always overpowered the patriots. That occurred in August
1991 and again in the autumn of 1993.
The Liberals have always been stronger in intellectual, financial and
information spheres. If Putin loses the support of energetic liberals like
Anatoly Chubais, his team may become significantly weaker. Until recently,
many thought that Chubais would head Putin's campaign headquarters.
If popular liberals join Primakov's team, the number of Putin supporters
among the voters might decrease. If the liberal opposition, headed by
Primakov, Sergei Kiriyenko and Grigory Yavlinsky, starts a serious campaign
against Putin, his chance of taking over the Kremlin will become smaller.
The liberal opposition now has enough force to prevent a Putin election
victory. Firstly, liberals control popular television channels like NTV,
TV-Centre, radio station Moscow Echo and part of the press. Media reports
after Jan. 18 started to expose "the threats of a Putin dictatorship."
They will probably soon start to publish compromising details about Putin,
unmasking his connections with the so-called Yeltsin family and the
There is a possibility that liberal journalists will run from Putin to
Primakov, thus weakening the intellectual resources of the acting president.
Secondly, the liberal opposition could attract the support of the West--who
view Putin with suspicion and feel uneasy about his tough persona and
demonstrative independence. One should take into account that Yeltsin made
Putin his successor against the opinion of the West.
There can be no doubt that if Primakov decides to run for the presidency he
will receive information and financial support from the United States and
The International Monetary Fund has already frozen its loans to Russia for
ideological reasons. It is also likely that there will be attempts to limit
Russia's oil and gas exports.
Thirdly, the liberal propaganda campaign will play an important role in the
guerrilla war in Chechnya, in which the number of federal troop losses is
increasing--misfortunes in Chechnya may also reduce Putin's popularity.
Fourthly, Primakov's popularity is also an important point. If he takes part
in the race and if Yavlinsky steps aside in Primakov's favor, the latter may
jump ahead of Zyuganov in first-round vote. In that case, the second round
becomes the real election. Aggravation of the economic situation may also
contribute to a reduction in Putin's popularity.
Fifthly, one of the opposition's resources is the reputedly rebellious Moscow
region led by Mayor Yury Luzhkov. The region contains 10 percent of Russian
voters. By confronting the united liberal forces, Putin could alienate the
region and find himself facing a powerful political foe.
It is therefore too early to talk about an inevitable victory for Putin in
the March 26 presidential election as there are a lot of unexpected things
that could happen during the next 60 days.
Putin still does not have total control over the security and police forces.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs is subordinate to Boris Berezovsky's friend
Vladimir Rushailo. If Berezovsky, who controls the most popular television
channel, ORT, sides with the liberals, Putin's position will be considerably
Putin has the means to enforce his authority and to protect his high
popularity, as he enjoys the support not only of a parliamentary majority,
but also of most regional governors. Provincials traditionally do not like
metropolitan liberals and always prefer to join forces with their rivals.
The Russia Regions faction in the Duma that had cooperated with Primakov
eventually sided with the Duma majority. So the consolidation of governors
around Putin will continue.
Putin might still make peace with the West. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright recently made a gesture of peace calling Putin a reformer. The next
move is up to Putin, but he has a difficult time ahead and must proceed
cautiously. He must not make any more political enemies. He cannot fight
simultaneously with both liberals and Communists. And Zyuganov will at least
have to pretend to fight Putin for the presidency. Putin is now entering a
political minefield where one false step may end in defeat.
RUSSIAN TYCOON MP BEREZOVSKIY COMMENTS ON PARLIAMENT CRISIS, CHECHNYA
Source: Russian Public TV, Moscow, in Russian 1800 gmt 22 Jan 00
There is no military solution in Chechnya, a political accord must be
reached, Russian tycoon MP Boris Berezovskiy has told Russian Public TV's
analytical "Vremya" programme in a live interview on 22nd January. He also
spoke of the newly-elected parliament and of prominent Russian politicians.
The text of his interview follows. Subheadings have been inserted
[Presenter] I propose that we now go over to a positive analysis of the
situation in the State Duma...
Our guest is [State Duma] Deputy [Boris] Berezovskiy...
I would like to know your opinion of the situation. Every situation has its
pros and cons. And, in my opinion, the State Duma crisis, apart from the
obvious cons has some pros. Could you describe these pros in a nutshell?..
[A] I would like to say that the 1999 elections to the State Duma totally
differ from the 1996 presidential elections as regards their impact on
people's mentality. It seems to me that this is the main achievement of the
1999 parliamentary elections. In contrast to the 1996 elections, when the
Communists thought they would be able to take revenge later - yes they lost
[the elections] but they thought they would be able to take revenge -
nowadays the Communists are well aware that it is unrealistic for them to
[Q] It's absolutely shocking, but [Union of Right Forces leader Boris]
Nemtsov today spoke in Nizhniy Novgorod and evidently he banned a video tape
with his speech from being broadcast, because TV companies that were present
at that news conference not only refuse to pass the tape to their friends or
counterparts but even refuse to sell it, which is an unprecedented thing. He
said that [acting President Vladimir] Putin is not an independent man - I
quote: the situation is being controlled by [tycoon Roman] Abramovich,
Berezovskiy, [Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana] Dyachenko, [chief of the
presidential administration Aleksandr] Voloshin and others. Therefore,
nothing much should be expected from Putin. With each passing day, the
illusions which all thinking people in the country had about Putin are
vanishing away, said B. Nemtsov, according to Interfax.
[A] Well, I can only-
[Q] Well, we'll talk about this a bit later because - [changes tack] Really,
are there many chances that this union is possible-
[A] But I would nevertheless like to comment on this, at least in a nutshell,
now that you have touched upon this particular issue. Yes, I read this
report. True, in this particular case I am upset only by the fact that Borya
[diminutive form of Boris] Nemtsov cannot learn things. About a year or a
year and a half ago, I said that Nemtsov was Boris Yefimovich, that in some
ways he was Boris Abramovich [Berezovskiy] but that he wanted to be Boris
Nikolayevich [Yeltsin]. So, nothing has changed as far as his self-perception
is concerned. Boris Nemtsov still wants to be the first, he wants to be the
boss - and this is, generally speaking, not a bad wish, but he should then
speak the truth instead of engaging in populism...
Primakov has been marginalized, Putin has moved to the centre
Now I would really like to answer your question about the pros. I would like
to repeat that nobody planned them. Maybe somebody planned, after all, but I
can describe what happened as follows: first, the right-wingers, undoubtedly,
have become more consolidated. Second, [Fatherland-All Russia leader
Yevgeniy] Primakov has been cut off by the left-wingers. And some time ago,
he was looked at as a symbol of the new left-wingers. And, finally, third,
some of those who had supported Putin on the right wing moved to the right of
him, and some of those who had not supported him on the left wing, moved
towards him, and this, in my opinion, further improves the chances that Putin
may be elected, with this new make-up of political forces being as it is now.
[Q] In other words, Putin has moved closer to the centre?
[A] It seems that he has moved closer to the centre.
I believe that my stand on [Gennadiy] Seleznev - and I voted in favour of
electing Seleznev [to the post of State Duma chairman] was immoral, but I
acted as my conscience prompted me to do, despite the fact that I consider
myself to be a fully-fledged right-winger. But there was a choice and
political expediency. And there was only one option - either Seleznev or
[Q] And why do you think that Primakov is less useful, so to speak?
[A] I - [changes tack] It's a common thing in Russia to think less of those
whom we know, and to think more of those whom we do not know - we presume
that some positive qualities may still show themselves. Unfortunately, I
happened to get to know Primakov, to get to know him in a very concrete
situation. When I learned that Primakov had ordered that [Yabloko movement
leader Grigoriy] Yavlinskiy and [first deputy chairman of the Media-Most
board of directors Igor] Malashenko be shadowed - I later talked to
Malashenko and he confirmed that he knew about that - and when one
high-ranking employee of Russian special services refused to do this, and I
learned about this-
[Q] He refused to shadow them?
[A] He refused to shadow them, having given quite a specific explanation: he
said Yavlinskiy is a deputy and he had no right to do this because this would
be in violation of the law - which, of course, is absolutely beyond
Primakov's comprehension - and Malashenko was playing in the president's team
during the presidential election and it had to be the president's team.
I came to Yevgeniy Maksimovich [Primakov] and said to him absolutely openly:
Yevgeniy Maksimovich, you are doing an absolutely wrong thing. This is a
different country now. Don't take us back.
And he said, looking straight into my eyes: Boris Abramovich, I swear to you
on the memory of my late son [that I am not taking the country back].
You know, I have long been thinking whether or not I should say that this is
not true, whether or not I should say this here in this studio, and I doubted
whether or not I should disclose that private conversation to such a vast
audience. But, after all, I would like people to know this as well, because
Primakov still remains an important political figure. He could have become
president in real terms - we know this. He is the man who - [changes tack]
I told Yevgeniy Maksimovich: Yevgeniy Maksimovich, you have no right to say
this to me. You know little about me. So why should you say this so openly,
why should you swear on the memory of your child, the more so as he is no
At that moment, I understood that I made a very serious enemy for the rest of
my life, the enemy who just hates me. But I do not regret at all that all
this happened because I also got to know perfectly well what Yevgeniy
Maksimovich Primakov looks like from within. This is why I decided that he
was a great danger to society.
There can be no military solution in Chechnya, only political
[Q] Russia's main internal political problem now, or one of the most
important ones, is Chechnya. Should the Duma deal with such issues or not at
all? Is the Duma only about legislative work, or should it also concern
itself with such serious problems? If so, what should it resolve? What will
you vote for or propose as an expert on this problem?
[A] Yes. I think that the Duma should, without fail, concern itself with all
questions of fundamental importance for the country-
[Q]Not only legislative work.
[A] Not only legislative work. That is why, from my point of view, the Duma's
foremost task is to evaluate what is taking place in Chechnya. Let me tell
you something of fundamental importance here, as it were. It boils down to
this: that in 1994, 1996 and up until the Chechen attack on Dagestan what
made most Chechens tick was the desire for independence which they regarded
The situation is different now. I think that most of them probably continue
to want independence, but an overwhelming majority, I do not think I will be
far wrong if I say more than 90 per cent regard Chechnya's independence as
unattainable right now. That is why the approach ought to be completely
I categorically disagree with you that a stronger pressure is one such
approach. I want to say that the problem of the Caucasus for Russia is a
perennial problem, there is no final solution to the Caucasian problem.
However, the solution which is, at long last, achieved and it will be
achieved, I have no doubt about that, can only be based on acceptance on the
part of Chechen society and the Russian society as a whole. There does not
exist another solution to the problem there.
That is why I think that already a month ago we should have altered our
priorities completely. Yes, the action in Dagestan was absolutely sensible,
absolutely essential, it was essential to take a ruthless stance. I do not
want to speak about how the situation in Dagestan emerged in the first place,
when four prime ministers calmly watched trenches being dug there. However,
all subsequent actions were, from my point of view, perfectly proper, up
until a certain point in time.
I do not want to be platitudinous, but you can't score a victory over a whole
people and Chechens are a people...
Outlines his plan for a settlement in Chechnya
A month and a half ago I proposed a plan for a settlement in Chechnya. Its
essence is made up of two most important elements: Chechnya is an inalienable
part of the Russian Federation, we are never going to give up our territorial
integrity, at any rate not at this juncture in history, let us put it this
way. This ought to be acknowledged by the Chechens. Secondly, a military
solution does not exist there. That is why my proposal consisted in this: OK,
we did exert this pressure and it was essential and now we ought to be clear
in our minds that there are no people who regard Chechnya's independence as
attainable. That is why those who shed blood right now are those who are
trying to save their own lives and, first and foremost, those who are in
charge of these people. This, then, is the reason why I thought that it was
necessary to make it possible for these people to leave the territory of
Russia, there are not many of them, five or 10 people and subsequently to
bring them to justice according to the norms of international law. Yes, they
must be put on trial, without fail. However, we must not now chase these 10
or so people, because, in principle, it is 10 people that control things
there, and shed colossal amount of blood in the process...
[Q] Who is [field commander Shamil] Basayev, who needs Basayev? Let us assume
that Basayev leaves and, say, is accepted in Jordan. Let us then assume,
although it is a certainty, that in half a year, laden with explosive
substances and what have you and accompanied by his gangs he again turns up
in this or that place and he will turn up, without fail, it is his whole
life, he cannot live any other way.
[A] I stated perfectly clearly that there must be guarantees that these
people will be tried according to the norms of international law.
[Q] This means that we are making it possible for others to interfere,
someone ought to take them out.
[A] But no simple and clear-cut solution exists here. There does exist a path
towards a solution which is implementable and I am only talking about this. I
would not speak about these people if I did not know what makes them tick, if
I had never met them. Let me recall that Basayev used to be the first deputy
chairman of government of the Republic of Chechnya when we held talks with
Chechnya. [Movladi] Udugov and others, who today are really implicated in
terrorism, well, let me assure you, they are no Che Guevara, neither of them
and that is precisely why I proposed this solution, in order to reduce the
number of casualties, a position of principle, absolutely so and in order to
ensure that no strategic opportunities are created for a return to such
methods of war...
INTERVIEW-Chechen first lady stays with her people
By Olga Petrova
SLEPTSOVSK, Russia, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The wife of Chechnya's President Aslan
Maskhadov has chosen to stay on enemy territory to be closer to her people
while her husband leads the battle against Russian troops in the breakaway
Kusama Maskhadov, a shy woman in her 40s whose blonde hair is tinged with a
touch of silver, spoke to Reuters in the Russian region of Ingushetia
bordering Chechnya on Sunday. She said she shared her husband's struggle to
avert what she called the genocide of the Chechens.
``I move freely, I live where I want to live and I am under no one's
supervision other than God's,'' Kusama Maskhadov said in a tent on the
fringes of a refugee camp near Sleptsovsk, just over the Chechen border.
A month ago Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has since become acting
president, caused a stir by announcing that Maskhadov's family was on Russian
territory and being protected by the country's secret services.
Putin said Kusama Maskhadov and other family members had been taken to an
undisclosed location away from Ingushetia, a region which has provided refuge
for more than 200,000 people fleeing the conflict.
But on Sunday, she was at the refugee camp in Sleptosvsk, watching a small
anti-war rally quietly from a large white jeep. She was accompanied by one
Chechen man and two women, with no security guards in evidence.
An interview was conducted under some secrecy.
``Follow the jeep and you can talk in one of distant tents,'' her companion
said. In the green army tent equipped with a stove the president's wife was
making herself comfortable on a sofa.
``I live with refugees, but not in this camp,'' Kusama said. ``I could leave
if I chose, but I don't want to. I want to stay with my people.''
Kusama, who wore a black coat and headscarf, said her grown-up daughter was
living with her but not her son.
MASKHADOV IN REGULAR CONTACT, WIFE SAYS
She said she was in fairly regular contact with her husband and fully
supported his cause, spearheading resistance to Russia's four-month-old
onslaught in Chechnya. ``We are often in contact,'' she said without
elaborating. ``Sometimes once in a month, sometimes twice.''
Kusama denied a report by the Russian military that the Chechen president had
been wounded, saying she had spoken to him after the report.
``He is alive and well,'' she said. ``He is in good spirits. They all feel
``In Chechnya a real genocide is taking place, and this is not the first
time,'' she said. ``It has lasted for ages.''
But Kusama said she remained optimistic for the future -- as did her husband
and other rebels who thwarted Russia's first attempt in 1994-96 to subdue
Chechnya's independence drive.
``We believe that victory will be ours,'' she said. ``Our cause it right. We
are not fighting on the territory of others. We are defending our people whom
they are out to destroy.''
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