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27 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Did Alexei stumble across Russian
agents planting a bomb to justify Chechen war?
2. Moscow Times: Natalya Shulyakovskaya, Is Presidential Immunity
3. NTV: CENTRAL RUSSIA SCHOOL TEACHERS ON STRIKE OVER WAGE ARREARS.
4. Segodnya: Avtandil TSULADZE, WHAT WE LIKE ABOUT THEM. Voters Prefer Resolution to Competence.
5. Stephen Shenfield: THE CURRENT ECONOMIC GROWTH: WHAT DOES IT MEAN
FOR RUSSIA'S FUTURE?
6. Reuters: Kremlin spin doctor takes stage in Chechen campaign.(Yastrzhembsky)
7. Interfax: PUTIN INTERESTED IN SETTLING DUMA CONFLICT -
8. The Times (UK): Cold kills conscripts in trenches. Alice
Lagnado, in hiding in a village in Southern Chechnya, hears that the outnumbered
rebels are holding their own against Moscow's forces.
9. The Times (UK): Giles Whittell, $1,000 buys ticket to the war zone.
10. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Caring for Chechnya's displaced.
UN says 10,000 people fled in recent days. Russia hiked security yesterday to ward off rebel attacks.
11. APN: Alexander Lebed puts an end to his presidential campaign.
12. Moscow Times: Natalya Shulyakovskaya, Skuratov Campaigns To Reveal
13. Interfax: Igor Denisov, DUMA: LESSONS OF JANUARY.]
The Independent (UK)
27 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Did Alexei stumble across Russian agents planting a bomb to justify Chechen
By Helen Womack in Ryazan
A new metal door with an electronic lock distinguishes apartment house 16/14
from the other high-rise blocks on Novosyolov Street in the city of Ryazan.
The security improvement is the residents' compensation for a disturbing
incident that happened lastautumn. They are now supposed to shut up and
forget about it.
On 23 September, after a wave of apartment block bombings in Moscow and other
cities, originally blamed on Chechen terrorists, residents noticed three
strangers behaving suspiciously near the house and called the police.
Officers found what they believed was a huge bomb in the basement and
evacuated the flats. The residents were kept out in the cold all night. Only
24 hours later did the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow say the
emergency had been a "training exercise".
At the time, the residents' shock and relief at escaping the fate of those
who were buried under the rubble turned into annoyance with the FSB for using
them in a bomb drill. Since then, however, they have started to ask questions
about the incident. Was somebody really trying to kill them? Could it have
been the very service that is supposed to protect the citizens?
Novosyolov (New Settlers' Street) lies at the heart of a Seventies housing
estate on the edge of Ryazan, 130 miles south-east of Moscow. The new
security arrangements make entering the building impossible unless you know
the door code or someone coming out lets you slip inside.
Ring any doorbell and theoccupants will tell you that the best people to
speak to are the Kartofelnikov family, because they were the main witnesses
to everything that happened. At flat number 19 on the fourth floor, the door
is opened by Yulia Kartofelnikova, who says her parents, Alexei and Lyudmila,
are out. She invites me anyway into a book-lined living room. Ms
Kartofelnikova has just graduated from medical school; she gives a clear
account of the strange events of 23 September.
"It was about nine in the evening. Dad had just come back from the garage [he
is a bus driver]. He spotted a white car backed up to our building. A piece
of paper with the number 62 [code for Ryazan] was pasted over the number
plate. He thought it was odd. Most people would not notice such a thing but
he is a driver, so such details catch his eye.
"I saw the car as well. I was looking down from the balcony. I saw one man
from behind. He looked at his watch and got into the driver's seat."
At ground level, another witness, Vladimir Vasiliev, a radio engineer, also
saw two passengers, another man and a woman, and they looked to him like
Russians rather than Chechens.
"Dad came up and rang the police," Ms Kartofelnikova said. "The phone was
engaged, engaged, but he persisted and got through. I was walking Malish [a
dog] when three policemen arrived. I showed them the way to the basement...
The police were not keen to go down there. But one young officer did, and he
came rushing back up again, shouting 'bomb'."
Bomb-disposal teams were summoned. The police went after the white car, only
to find it abandoned in a car park. The building was evacuated. Use of the
lift was forbidden, so the residents, including elderly people and pregnant
women, filed down the stairs. Several bedridden invalids had to be left
behind. The residents stood in the cold until after midnight, when the nearby
October Cinema opened its doors to them.
"There was no heating and the water had been cut off," said Ms
Kartofelnikova. "Then Dad had an idea. He fetched one of his buses and we
spent the night in a warm coach. Early in the morning, on the radio, we heard
that four sacks of explosives had been found, with a device set to detonate
them at 5.30am. Then it hit home. I felt afraid."
Only in the morning of 24 September were the residents allowed back home.
Later that day, as the Russians began the war in Chechnya that has propelled
Vladimir Putin into power, the head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, said the
scare in Ryazan had been a "training exercise". The sacks contained only
sugar. (Subsequently, the FSB was to announce that it had found a "school for
terrorists" in the Chechen town of Urus Martan and explosives identical to
those used to bomb flats in Moscow, Buinaksk and Volgodonsk.) Mr
Kartofelnikov was declared a hero and given a black and white television set
as a reward.
But questions started arising in residents' minds. If it was a training
exercise, who was being trained? Why, after the residents had practised
evacuation procedures, were they not reassured and allowed to go home? If, as
Mr Patrushev said, this was a nationwide exercise, why were there not similar
drills in other cities?
Mr Kartofelnikov is convinced that Ryazan was next on the list of cities to
be bombed, but by whom he does not know. I asked his daughter whether she
thought it was conceivable that FSB agents, rather than Chechen terrorists,
were behind the bombings. "There is no proof but anything is possible," she
said. She added that she did not blame the local police or Ryazan branch of
the FSB for what had happened.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sergei Kabashov of the Ryazan police said: "Our
preliminary tests showed the presence of explosives. We were not told it was
a test. As far as we were concerned, the danger was real."
Another police officer in the city, Major Vladimir Golev, said a local
telephone operator had intercepted a call to an FSB number in Moscow in which
the caller had sought instructions because the city's railway stations were
"Split up and make your own way out," said the voice on the other end,
according to Major Golev, who said the call could have been part of an
exercise to test police alertness.
According to Ms Kartofelnikova, a local FSB officer told her father privately
that he had been "born in a shirt", a Russian expression meaning someone is
very lucky. Was he admitting the Kartofelnikovs and all the other 250
residents were to have died in their beds?
Whatever the truth, the FSB would now like the residents to forget all about
the affair. "At the very least," said Ms Kartofelnikova, "we were
inconvenienced... Some of us wanted to take the matter to court. But
Alexander Sergeyev, of the local FSB, paid us a visit. He said he understood
our feelings but we should think of the situation in the country and be
loyal. So we are quiet."
Instead, the residents have their metal door and an intercom system. They
collected some money for it themselves and when they still could not afford
it, they found that the housing authority had decided to let them have it at
January 27, 2000
NEWS ANALYSIS: Is Presidential Immunity Decree Legal?
By Natalya Shulyakovskaya
The legality and implications of the first decree signed by acting President
Vladimir Putin - an order to give Boris Yeltsin and his family immunity from
any future legal prosecution or investigation - remain unclear.
On Dec. 31, then-President Yeltsin signed decree No. 1761 transferring the
powers of the Russian presidency to Putin. The next decree, No. 1762, was
signed by Putin and declared that the acting president accepted the
The very next decree was titled "guarantees to a President of the Russian
Federation having relinquished his duties, and to the members of his family."
The document guarantees Yeltsin a pension equal to 75 percent of his
presidential salary. What this means in dollar terms is unclear: Although his
official monthly salary was just 10,000 rubles (roughly $2,000), his declared
1998 income was 183,837 rubles (roughly $23,500, calculated according to pre-
and post-crisis exchange rates). According to the Kremlin, the latter figure
was the sum of his salary and interest accumulated in the Sberbank account
where his salary was deposited.
The decree also protects the president from any future searches, arrest or
prosecution, and stresses that he cannot be questioned. The immunity from
searches extends to his home, office, luggage, paperwork, telephone and car.
Yury Skuratov, who was ousted from his office as prosecutor general last
spring when his investigations moved uncomfortably close to the Kremlin,
called decree No. 1763 "illegal."
"To extend immunity to a retired president is absolutely unconstitutional and
illegal. Any appeal to the Constitutional Court should lead to the
declaration of this decree as unconstitutional.
"Putin is still connected to corrupt officials," Skuratov said. "They still
occupy their Kremlin offices."
Under Russian law, those immune from prosecution include the sitting
president and the members of both houses of parliament.
"It will take constitutional amendments, or at least federal law, to change
that. Some time ago, mocking [Mikhail] Gorbachev, Yeltsin asked him, 'And why
would you, Mikhail Sergeyevich, need immunity?' Now it is the West's turn to
ask, 'What did Yeltsin do that he needs such a decree on immunity?'"
The biggest legal questions spring from the part of the decree that extends
immunity to family members traveling or living with the former president.
"Basically, members of Yeltsin's family and his closest circle also receive
certain guarantees," Skuratov said.
There is already talk among new State Duma members about opening a
parliamentary discussion of the decree. Indeed, the decree foresees that it
will someday be superseded by a federal law.
Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, said the
Communists may have an interest in discussing the decree as they may want to
be seen by voters as still harrying Yeltsin - and so, still in opposition to
"the criminal regime," as they called it.
Even so, with the influence Putin now holds over the Duma, enshrining the
immunity spelled out in decree No. 1763 in a federal law would probably not
be terribly difficult.
"But the question is, does Putin really need it?" said Boris Kagarlitsky, a
political analyst. "Is it good PR to start pushing for such a law before the
presidential elections? And after the elections, why would he need to be
bothered with it?"
CENTRAL RUSSIA SCHOOL TEACHERS ON STRIKE OVER WAGE ARREARS
Source: NTV, Moscow, in Russian 0900 gmt 26 Jan 00
[Presenter] More news from Russia's regions. Teachers are protesting against
their impoverishment. Denis Shuyskiy has the details.
[Correspondent] Pochinok is a small town in Smolensk Region. In the morning,
there are a lot of children in its streets. None of the kids has gone to
school for two weeks now. Local teachers have again gone on strike, this time
indefinitely. Over the last five years, their miserly salaries have been
[Anatoliy Mamontov, trade union committee chairman at School No 1] The
question now is whether the species such as the teacher will survive
[Correspondent] In the first term, the local teachers were working
practically for nothing. By the New Year, they had received their August
salary of R200...
In order to survive, teachers gather berries in the forest or work on farms.
[Svetlana Anashkina, school deputy headmaster] All of us pick berries and
sell them on the market, work in vegetable gardens or breed cattle in order
to start working in the autumn without being paid.
[Correspondent] Sometimes teachers have nowhere to work. Not so long ago the
ceiling of a classroom collapsed at School No 1...
It is hard to imagine that the school has been working like this for 27
years. For years, village teachers have in vain sent letters to every
possible authority. This is the latest letter, sent to acting President
Vladimir Putin. In the letter, they are asking for federal financing of local
schools. The situation in education in the whole of Smolensk Region is a
disaster. Now, at the beginning of the third academic term, over 200 schools
are on strike here.
26 January 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
WHAT WE LIKE ABOUT THEM
Voters Prefer Resolution to Competence
By Avtandil TSULADZE
The recent parliamentary vote has shown how fast the
people's preferences change, predictably affecting the
politicians' ratings. To what extent are the voters' priorities
linked to the leadership qualities of the actors on Russia's
political stage? In order to answer this question, a survey of
experts was held.
The respondents were asked to assess five key figures -
Chernomyrdin, Putin, Yavlinsky, Primakov, Zyuganov - first in
traditional criteria: attractiveness; ability to evoke trust;
honesty; intelligence; and organizational skills. The
politician who thus scored the most points was Grigory
Yavlinsky, an apparent outsider of the presidential race. Putin
and Primakov shared the second place, closely followed by
Chernomyrdin, with Zyuganov closing the list. This distribution
does not correspond with the present ratings of these hopefuls.
Then the experts were asked to assess the level of these
politicians' competence. The picture thus drawn seem closer to
the actual ratings. It is unclear still, why the "most
competent" Primakov is visibly losing popularity, while the
"least competent" Zyuganov still holds the honorable second
place after the unconditional front-runner, Putin, as the
In order to solve this problem, a scheme was devised,
which broke the favorites in two groups - initiative and
Putin's qualities of an initiative leader manifestly show (such
as "persistence," "sense of purpose," and "ability to take
responsibility.") The qualities of a conservative leader are
also present here to a large extent ("tolerance," "readiness to
unexpected turns," and "ability to pull himself together in a
Primakov possesses the qualities of both groups in similar
measures. However, his readiness to unexpected turns is low. He
obviously loses to Putin in terms of all the "initiative"
qualities, but runs a bit ahead of his rival in terms of such
conservative qualities as "ability to plan" and "attention to
details." Still Putin is way ahead in terms of his "ability to
pull himself together in a critical situation," which is a most
Zyuganov's initiative and conservative qualities are
equally weak. He is the most "balanced" of the politicians in
question, but the most indecisive one. His certain stubbornness
is recognized, but he is considered a politician unable to take
responsibility upon himself. Here, he is but a trifle ahead of
Yavlinsky's most manifest "initiative-leader" qualities
are "sense of purpose" and "persistence." He turns out to be
the most impulsive, but the "ability to bear responsibility"
and "resolution" are weak in him. Conservative qualities are
even more foreign to him. His "ability to pull himself together
in a critical situation" is lower than the average.
Chernomyrdin is equally initiative and conservative, but
neither of the qualities is strong enough. He got the greatest
number of points for "persistence," "sense of purpose," and
"ability to pull himself together in a critical situation."
Chernomyrdin is the most solid and balanced leader. These
qualities are very valuable in a manager, but in vying for
power, more passionate and strong-willed ones sweep the prize.
In short, Yavlinsky was assessed as the most intelligent
and attractive one; Primakov, the most competent; Zyuganov, the
most balanced; Chernomyrdin, the most solid; and Putin, the
most resolute and courageous.
Main Competences of Political Leaders
Competence Primakov Putin Cherno- Yavlinsky Zyuganov
Awareness of the
country's problems 3.81 3.72 3.45 3.54 3.45
Awareness of economic
issues 3.18 3 3.72 4.18 2.45
Awareness of foreign-
political issues 4.63 3.45 3.36 3.18 2.63
Ability to run
the country 3.45 3.63 3.09 2.63 2.36
Initiative Leader Qualities in Candidates
Quality Primakov Putin Cherno- Yavlinsky Zyuganov
Strong personality, able to
bear responsibility 3.81 3.72 2.81 2.54 3.27
Persistence 4 3.45 3.27 3.63 3.63
Impulsiveness 2.90 2.72 2.36 3.09 3
Purpose 4.27 3.54 3.72 3.72 3.45
resolution 4.27 3.36 2.72 2.90 3.18
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000
From: Stephen Shenfield <Stephen_Shenfield@Brown.edu>
Subject: Re: Russia's economic growth
Here are some thoughts I'd like to share with JRL readers
about the meaning of Russia's current economic growth.
THE CURRENT ECONOMIC GROWTH: WHAT DOES IT MEAN
FOR RUSSIA'S FUTURE?
Stephen D. Shenfield
Many people, bombarded by apparently contradictory
information, must have trouble trying to form a coherent
picture of what is going on in the Russian economy. On the
one hand -- reports of continuing economic growth. On the
other -- reminders that the deep structural problems
are still there, such as the estimate by the Institute of
International Finance that capital flight continues at the rate
of $20bn per year (RFE/RL, Jan. 25).
Optimists will think that in spite of all the problems a turn for
the better is at last on the way, while pessimists will suspect
that the growth is more a statistical artifact than reality.
Reports appearing in the Russian press (and sometimes on
JRL too) of booming sales by specific consumer goods
enterprises -- a chicken factory here, a clothing factory
there -- do suggest strongly that the growth is real. But the
growth is of a special kind, with a limited potential that will
soon be exhausted. It does not signify a lasting turn for
The precipitous decline in output between 1991 and the
financial crash of August 1998 was the result of two distinct
phenomena: first, the underuse of available productive
capacities; and second, the decay of available productive
capacities caused by decapitalization (net capital
investment insufficient to compensate for ageing of the
A higher rate of utilization of productive capacities could
always (in principle) have been achieved by means of
state policy of two kinds: first, measures to protect Russian
producers from the flood of cheap imports; and second,
macroeconomic regulation along Keynesian lines to
maintain the effective demand of the population at an
optimal level. The decay of productive capacities could
have been halted and reversed only through private and
The crash of August 1998 finally did the job that a
protectionist policy should have accomplished earlier.
The effective demand that had previously been met by
imports now supports home production. This is the major
source of the growth that has occurred since. Keynesian
stimulation of effective demand could fuel further growth,
but how much depends on the rate of utilization of
productive capacities that has already been reached.
There is reason to think that the rate of utilization is now
quite high. According to the recent report on the investment
climate in Russia by the Expert Institute, fuller utilization of
existing capacities could increase GDP by no more than
another 8--12% (Voprosy ekonomiki 1999, 12, p. 4).
However, it may not be possible to realize even this growth
potential in the absence of urgent investment to relieve
bottlenecks arising in infrastructure. Thus the railroads had
great difficulty in coping with the 14% increase in freight
traffic in 1999 generated by the revival of industrial output,
there having been no renewal of the park of train wagons
and locomotives in the past five years (NG 12/11/99, p. 4).
Most crucially, renovation of the electricity generation
network has been so badly neglected that there may not
be enough electricity to support industrial growth in coming
years (interview with deputy minister of fuel and energy Viktor
Kudriavy, NG-politekonomiia 11/23/99). True, there is plenty of
scope for more efficient use of energy in Russian industry --
but that also presupposes large-scale capital investment.
Another factor behind Russia's relatively favorable economic
situation at present is the high world price of oil. This might lead
one to expect a cyclical pattern, with each fall in the oil price
plunging Russia again into crisis, to be temporarily rescued by
the next rise. But in future years Russia may no longer be in a
position to benefit from its oil exports. The oil industry too has
been starved of investment, so that it produces only half as
much oil as it did a decade ago. Without the necessary
investment, warns the Expert Institute, Russia may within 5--10
years become an oil importer!
Similar considerations apply in other export branches, such as
arms and aerospace. Successes are possible in the immediate
future, but in the absence of investment their source will dry up.
The gas industry is the only exception in this regard.
This argument exposes an additional meaning of the Chechen
war -- its opportunity cost. For the Russian government might
have used the proceeds from the present favorable conjuncture
in the sphere of foreign trade for emergency renovation of
infrastructure and other measures (such as combatting TB and
AIDS) that would help to keep open the possibility of Russia's
survival and long-term recovery. Evidently these are not
top-priority concerns to Russia's "patriots" -- whether of the red,
brown, or blue variety.
Kremlin spin doctor takes stage in Chechen campaign
By Anatoly Vereshchagin
MOSCOW, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the man Russia charged with
improving the image of its military campaign in Chechnya, made his debut
appearance on Wednesday and ruled out talks with the rebel region's leader.
Yastrzhembsky, a former Kremlin spin doctor, was appointed by Acting
President Vladimir Putin last week to handle the tricky task of coordinating
the flow of information on Russia's four-month military offensive in
The campaign has put Russia at odds with the West, which believes Moscow is
using force indiscriminately against civilians in its drive to restore
control over the breakaway region and has called for talks to end the
Yastrzhembsky ruled out talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, saying
the leader did not have control over the region on Russia's southern fringe.
``The man was elected in disregard of the laws of the Russian Federation. He
does not control the situation on the territory of the Chechen republic and
therefore has no legal authority,'' Yastrzhembsky said.
Western European states have called for talks with Maskhadov, a relative
moderate elected in January 1997 in voting to which the Kremlin at the time
gave its de facto blessing.
After his election the secretary of Russia's Security Council welcomed the
poll and attended Maskhadov's inauguration in Grozny.
Yastrzhembsky, an ex-diplomat whose career included spells as spokesman for
the Foreign Ministry and former President Boris Yeltsin, also said he was not
ready to publish lists of soldiers killed in action.
``While the operation is going on to destroy the bandits, there is always the
threat of reprisals, for example, against family members of the soldiers,''
He said he would take steps to enable reporters to cover the campaign without
endangering their lives.
Putin hopes Yastrzhembsky can shore up public opinion on the Chechen
campaign, now encountering increasing difficulty as the military closes in on
the capital and the rebels' mountain strongholds to the south. Yastrzhembsky
earned a reputation as a skilled spokesman explaining the unusual behaviour
and remarks of his former Kremlin boss, Boris Yeltsin.
Yeltsin sacked Yastrzhembsky in 1998 in the middle of a government crisis in
which the press secretary tried unsuccessfully to get Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov appointed prime minister.
Yastrzhembsky later joined the election staff of the Fatherland-All Russia
bloc led by Luzhkov and former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov during last
month's parliamentary election campaign. But he left Luzhkov after
Fatherland-All Russia's poor performance in the polls.
PUTIN INTERESTED IN SETTLING DUMA CONFLICT - DEPUTY (Primakov)
MOSCOW. Jan 26 (Interfax) - Leader of Fatherland-All Russia
coalition Yevgeny Primakov has said that acting President Vladimir Putin
is interested in seeing the Duma conflict resolved. After the two met in
the Kremlin Wednesday, he said the meeting had been very constructive.
Putin did not give any guarantees of support for the proposals of
Our Home is Russia, the Union of Right Forces or Yabloko, which are
boycotting Duma sessions, Primakov said.
"I did not ask for guarantees," Primakov said, adding that the
question had not been put that way because he realized "the complexity
of the situation related to the post Putin holds."
In his opinion, Putin will continue consultations and meetings with
Duma leaders "to find a way out of the [critical] situation."
Primakov said there was no question of his faction returning to the
Duma sessions yet. "If there is no progress, we will not attend [the
session] on Friday, of course," he said.
He spoke for changing Duma regulations to take minority interests
into account. The same interests should be respected in law-making as
well, he said. The bills Our Home is Russia, the Union of Wing Forces
and Yabloko are drafting "should be on the list of priority projects
that have to be discussed," Primakov said.
He stressed that if the proposals are not accepted, his faction
will return to the Duma, of course, but reject all official posts,"
adding that he meant the posts of deputy speaker and committee chairman.
The Times (UK)
January 27 2000
[for personal use only]
Cold kills conscripts in trenches
Alice Lagnado, in hiding in a village in Southern Chechnya, hears that the
outnumbered rebels are holding their own against Moscow's forces
IN THE villages south of Grozny, Russian troops are barely surviving. Thick
snow has made life in the trenches even harsher. Yesterday villagers here
said that two Russian conscripts living in trenches surrounding the village
died because of the cold. About 100 Russian soldiers set up a new checkpoint
in this village yesterday, making it yet harder to move around.
I feel increasingly trapped in my room behind a locked door, or sitting in
the back of a car, eyes permanently averted, and daydream about walking down
Moscow's wide boulevards. Meanwhile, the rumble of Russian jets at night is
loud and in the day reconnaissance planes hum near by. On Tuesday Russian
jets bombed the village of Alkhazurovo, southeast of Urus Martan, killing at
least two civilians and injuring about 20.
However, Russian troops have failed to penetrate central Grozny, despite
flying more than 200 missions a day, Chechen rebels said yesterday. Many
reports, filtering back from rebel fighters in the city by walkie talkie,
Movladi, a fighter based at a rebel camp in the forest on the western border
of Chechnya next to Ingushetia, said yesterday that reports suggested there
was no street fighting in central Grozny. That was backed by Zina
Khachukayev, 38, who spoke to her husband, Khizir, a Chechen field commander
fighting in the Oktyabrskoye district of Grozny, on January 12. According to
him, Russian troops had not even reached Chernorechie, a district on the
city's southern outskirts; nor had they reached Minutka Square. The troops
had reached only Staraya Sunzha in the northeastern outskirts and, in the
northwestern suburbs of Staropromslovskoe, had got to the village of
Katayama, some way from the city centre.
According to fighters such as Movladi, there are about 4,000 rebels in
Grozny, 2,000 at the Argun Gorge, the second area where heavy fighting is
taking place, and about 4,000 more around Chechnya. They are holding back the
100,000-odd Russian troops thought to be in the whole of Chechnya.
Movladi, 34, is commanding a unit of 30 men living in an underground base in
the forest. His men are patient; they have been guarding their stretch of
road since the beginning of January without facing any fights with the
They may not have to wait long before they are needed elsewhere, however.
Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen President, has ordered that today, or very soon,
rebel sources must retake the Russian-controlled villages of Urus Martan,
Achkoi Martan and Assinovskaya, southwest of Grozny.
The fighters may bring relief to some villagers who have endured violent
"mopping-up operations" by Russian troops in search of rebels. Mrs
Khachukayev said that Russian soldiers have raped women in at least one
village. One aged 23 and her mother, aged about 50, were raped by soldiers in
the village of Assinovskaya in November. She said that several weeks ago an
Ingush family, two parents and an adult son and daughter, were beheaded in
the Korpinsky Kurgan district of Grozny by Ossetian Omon, the paramilitary
police. The murders are believed to be linked to an earlier war between the
Mrs Khachukayev said that villagers did not go out after 6pm for fear of
violence by Russian soldiers. "They say we [the Russians] have snipers and
cannot be responsible for what goes on after 6 o'clock. During the day they
ask for bread, cigarettes and medicine. If only you could see how dirty they
are," she said.
In November, when soldiers came to "check" the village of Sernovodsk, where
Mrs Khachukayev lives, most people, fearing violence, left. The soldiers took
everything they could.
In the last war, Mrs Khachukayev hid three Russian deserters in her home. But
she does not hate Russian soldiers. "There may be deserters again. I will
help them, of course," she said.
The Times (UK)
January 27, 2000
[for personal use only]
$1,000 buys ticket to the war zone
FROM GILES WHITTELL IN MOSCOW
RUSSIA'S security forces are accepting bribes of up to $1,000 (about £615) a
day to take journalists to frontline positions in the battle for Grozny, a
government official acknowledged yesterday after a press conference in which
Moscow had hoped to seize the initiative in the Chechnya information war.
Sergei Yastrzhembsky, appointed by acting President Putin to co-ordinate
information from the war zone, was confronted by a French photographer, who
described three recent trips to the region's war-torn capital, all arranged
by officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in return for substantial
"I returned from Grozny three days ago," Antoine Gyori, of the Sygma photo
agency, said. "My journalist's accreditation was useless, but my
hundred-dollar bills worked like a dream."
Waving one in Mr Yastrzhembsky's face, Mr Gyori added: "The Chechens have
never asked me for money, but the FSB always does. It is shameful."
Mr Yastrzhembsky replied: "Yes, it is shameful. I agree with everything you
say. Come with me next time you go to Chechnya and you won't pay a rouble."
The exchange encapsulated the difficulty in which Russian officials find
themselves as they try to control information in an increasingly costly war,
while disenchanted soldiers on the ground latch on to journalists as a source
of cash or as a channel through which to vent fears and frustrations.
When not greased with hard currency, the Russian information blockade around
Chechnya can be unyielding. Reporters from The Times have been detained twice
by the FSB (the KGB's successor) trying to find a way through it, and most
recently have used disguise to enter the country with a Chechen guide.
Mr Yastrzhembsky said he did not think Moscow had given foreign reporters
enough opportunity to see "what we are doing in Chechnya". He promised to
reorganise by next week a tortuous system of accreditation that has served so
far to keep all but the most co-operative Russian reporters off most military
trips into the war zone.From now on, the only official Russian sources on the
war will be Mr Yastrzhembsky and General Valeri Manilov of the Armed Forces'
general staff, he said.
All journalists in the region would be required to have life insurance and
their freedom of movement would be limited "for their own security" because
of the risk of kidnapping.
It was no surprise when the new team in charge of war news rejected claims
that official casualty figures are far lower than the real ones. The official
Russian death toll since fighting began in Dagestan in August stood at 820
yesterday, but anonymous army sources put it at 1,173.
Christian Science Monitor
27 January 2000
Caring for Chechnya's displaced
UN says 10,000 people fled in recent days. Russia hiked security yesterday to
ward off rebel attacks.
By Fred Weir, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
The sharp odor of unwashed bodies is strangely punctuated by the acrid smell
of burning vegetable oil from the homemade lamp that provides the room's only
Twenty-four pairs of eyes stare out intently when the door opens and
strangers arrive. They belong mostly to children, gaunt but smiling, who
sleep side by side on planks laid across the floor of this cramped former
collective-farm kitchen. More - hundreds more - are camped out in the next
room, and in the farm's machine shop, cattle sheds, and administrative
"There is not enough food, not enough heat, and hardly any blankets," says
Elita Abdulshayedeva, a Chechen schoolteacher who fled here with her family
three months ago when Russian forces attacked her village of Nazha Yurt. "But
the worst thing is there is no place to organize a classroom, and no supplies
at all. These children may survive, but what future will they have if they
As winter drags on, these refugees are the forgotten catastrophe of the
savage war raging a few miles away. A third of Chechnya's population has fled
the fighting to lodge with their ethnic cousins in the impoverished republic
of Ingushetia - nearly doubling its population.
United Nations officials say nearly 10,000 people have crossed into
Ingushetia in the past several days, as Rus-sian troops continue their effort
to secure the Chechen capital, Grozny.
Russia's Federal Security Service, meanwhile, announced a heightened state of
alert yesterday for several cities. The KGB-successor said the precautions
were to guard against "possible terrorist acts."
Moscow blames unspecified Chechens for a series of apartment bombings over
the summer that killed 300 people across Russia. The blasts were responsible
in part for the decision to launch a military operation in October to retake
control of the breakaway Caucasus republic.
Open almost any door in Ingushetia today and you are apt to find yourself
looking at several tight-lipped, stoic Chechen women and a horde of
bright-eyed, ragged kids. They live in sad, sprawling tent camps near the
Chechen border, in hastily converted dormitories in farms, factories,
schools, and bus stations, and in the streets.
About 258,000 refugees are officially registered in Ingushetia, although aid
workers believe the actual number today is more like 175,000. Some have
returned voluntarily to their homes, while others were forcibly removed in
early January by federal forces to camps inside Russian-controlled Chechnya.
The Ingush have responded as best they can. A great part of the Russian
republic's meager budget goes to feeding and housing the refugees, and many
local people have opened their homes to Chechen relatives, friends, and even
strangers. But there are some who exploit the tragedy.
Zura Visayiteva fled the Chechen capital in October with her two children.
They moved into spare rooms in a private home in the Ingush city of Nazran,
for which they pay 1,000 rubles (about $30) each per month. But the landlord
keeps cramming in more people.
"There are 18 tenants now," she says. "You can't move without stepping on
someone. You can't breathe." She doesn't know what will happen when the money
runs out and all her possessions have been sold. "I have no hope anymore of
going home. They say Grozny is a dead city. I guess we'll become permanent
For an unknown number of refugees who have been unable to find shelter of any
kind, the outlook is even more grim.
"We are sleeping in a construction site with only a little fire to keep the
children warm," says Zhanna Mutieva, who fled Grozny with 14 others, mostly
children, in early January. "We have no money and no possessions other than
the clothes on our backs."
Food is a huge problem. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Services and the
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) say they are providing at
least one meal a day to all inhabitants of the official refugee camps, which
comprise two large tent cities and two huge colonies of railway carriages.
But that takes care of just 10 percent of the displaced Chechens.
"Everyone can agree that one meal a day is hardly enough, especially for
children," says Tom Trier, project manager with the Danish Refugee Council,
an interchurch organization hired recently by UNHCR to coordinate its food
relief program in Ingushetia. "There are many places where refugees are
receiving aid only sporadically, and in some places not at all."
Refugees say a typical monthly ration for one person is 300 grams of rice,
300 grams of pasta, 200 grams of sugar, a can of milk and a kilogram of
millet. But amounts actually reaching people seem to vary wildly.
At one aid distribution point on the outskirts of Nazran, teenager Zelimkhan
Khadayev displays the weekly ration for himself and 12 other people who share
a single room. It comprises 400 grams (about a pound) of dirty rice and four
loaves of bread. "Of course we can't live on this," he says. "We have to sell
our things and beg for help from others."
Many refugees claim there is corruption in the food pipeline, which is mainly
under the control of Russian and Ingush authorities. "They say they're
spending 15 rubles [about 55 cents] per day on each of us, but we don't see
that much," says Ms. Abdulshayedeva. The claims seem at least partially borne
out by an internal UNHCR report, which in December found that much of a 5,000
ton food shipment sent to Ingushetia through the Russian Ministry of
Emergency Services went astray.
The UNHCR responded by bringing in the Danish Refugee Council. "They realized
that a significant amount of aid was not reaching the refugees," says Mr.
26 January, 2000, 19:12
Alexander Lebed puts an end to his presidential campaign
According to APN source in All-Russian Young People's movement «Lebed», all
regional coordinators of the movement and people who held other leading posts
there were made to take a lengthy unpaid leave. According to APN informant,
it means that in the Krasnoyarsk headquarters it was decided to postpone
Alexander Lebed's presidential campaign «until later».
Dying away of Alexander Lebed's presidential campaign, APN source thinks,
doesn't exclude that it will be revived in the nearest future. Though, there
is information that in spite of Alexander Lebed's decision not to participate
in the coming presidential election, he might want to «sell» his supporters'
votes to one of the candidates. It might be Samara region governor Konstantin
Titov or acting president of the RF Vladimir Putin.
All-Russian Young People's movement «Lebed» was set up soon after Alexander
Lebed became governor of Krasnoyarsk region. «Lebed» has a rather complicated
structure with many posts which are one or another way connected with the
coming election. The Russian Federation is divided into zones, in each of
them «Lebed» has its representative. According to the information available,
it was planned that this movement would play the role of Alexander Lebed's
election headquarters during the presidential campaign.
January 27, 2000
Skuratov Campaigns To Reveal Real Putin
By Natalya Shulyakovskaya
He says he is running for president in order to expose Vladimir Putin. And as
soon as he is formally registered as a presidential candidate, Yury Skuratov
says he will strike.
"My Plan A is to win [the election], because it is impossible to go on with
the idea of the heir of the corrupt Yeltsin regime. Putin is the continuation
of this regime. Many Russians, many serious political forces in Russia, do
not want to live with that," said Skuratov, the ousted prosecutor general, in
an interview this week.
"But Plan B is to gain the public's attention, and to say everything I have
to say. I have to say who Putin really is, what sort of relationships exist
among the corrupt Kremlin elite, and many, many other things."
Skuratov earned international fame when he began to investigate corruption
scandals that were said to lead to former President Boris Yeltsin's family.
Soon after, the Kremlin began to seek his removal - and then state-owned
national television stations broadcast a video, of unknown origin, that had
Skuratov frolicking in bed with prostitutes.
Skuratov's allies say the Kremlin conjured up the video to blackmail him into
silence. Since his suspension, Skuratov has put up a yearlong fight to return
to office. On Friday, Skuratov upped the ante: The Central Election
Commission registered a group that will collect signatures of support for
Skuratov's presidential candidacy.
To make it onto the ballot, a candidate has to collect 500,000 signatures, of
which no more than 35,000 can be from any one region. Whether Skuratov will
be able to do that is unclear, but he said he feels obliged to try: "I cannot
stay out and watch.
"I don't want Russians to be fooled once again, as they were in 1996 when a
sick, weak and incapable president was forced upon them through a dirty media
campaign and rigged elections. I know exactly how the election results were
skewed in Tatarstan, in Dagestan and in several other regions."
Skuratov said that prosecutors opened 25 cases into elections fraud after the
"All of the results were swayed in one direction [to favor Yeltsin]," he
Skuratov said all of the investigations were completed, and none of them
sought to punish anyone or challenge the results. But he said that was
because the authorities were able to discourage the investigators.
"Many local [prosecutors] were influenced by the governors and decided to
stay out of this squabble," he said.
Now Skuratov comes to work at a spacious three-story mansion with intricately
patterned hardwood floors and golden floral wallpaper - once the offices of
Chara Bank, now the makeshift headquarters of the Skuratov campaign. But even
from his new vantage point, Skuratov says he is seeing a repeat of the
election violations he saw in 1996.
"We have seen only the first steps of this campaign, but already there are
grave violations," he said.
"Putin's representatives in the regions use regional administration resources
to organize their campaign headquarters. And it's usually the deputy
governors who become the heads of these headquarters, which is an outright
violation of our election laws, because it is illegal for the state to
promote certain candidates."
Skuratov said that this heavy involvement of local authorities in Putin's
campaign could possibly provide a legal basis to challenge the legitimacy of
the March 26 presidential elections and overturn the results.
He did not disclose who his own supporters or financial backers are. Nikolai
Petrov, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, said that it does not
take much money to run a low-key passive campaign, especially during the
period when signatures are collected.
"But if he manages to collect the 500,000 signatures [necessary to register
as a candidate], this would be a real indication that he has some serious
backing," Petrov said.
Yeltsin tried to fire Skuratov three times. But each time the upper house of
parliament, the Federation Council, refused to approve the dismissal.
Instead, the Kremlin managed to suspend Skuratov while authorities
investigated whether the prostitutes in the famous video were a bribe from
organized crime, in return for which Skuratov closed some criminal cases.
In October, a Moscow court ruled that the investigation of Skuratov was
illegal and should be closed, but in December, the Constitutional Court ruled
that the Kremlin was within its rights to suspend and investigate Skuratov.
DUMA: LESSONS OF JANUARY
By Interfax analyst Igor Denisov
MOSCOW. Jan 26 (Interfax) - The crisis that has been rocking the
new Duma almost since its first day seems to be nearing an end. The
Regions of Russia group was the first to back out on the tough demands.
It had not agreed always or on everything with the other refuseniks even
The agreement of the group to delegate Artur Chilingarov to the
post of vice speaker and Alexander Zhukov to the post of chairman of the
Budget Committee was only the first sign. The process began, as they
say. But the true turning point came on Tuesday after acting President
Vladimir Putin met with the leaders of Unity and the Union of Right
Forces, the two pro-government factions that by some twist of fortune or
as a result of someone's intent found themselves on the opposite sides
of the Duma barricades.
We know the result: leader of the Union of Right Forces Sergei
Kiriyenko virtually dropped the main demands of the Union of Right
Forces, Our Home is Russia and Yabloko: the revision of the package
agreement and the re-election of the house speaker.
It is indicative that Kiriyenko got nothing or almost nothing in
return for the promise to end the Duma boycott. Unity in the person of
its Duma faction leader Sergei Gryzlov only promised to take into
account the legislation drafted by the refuseniks and work out some
mechanisms that would permit Duma to take the interests of the minority
into account in the future.
Kremlin sources claim that the Union of Right Forces and Unity
reached the understanding without any mediation. "Putin kept his promise
not to interfere in the Duma conflict. By receiving Kiriyenko and
Gryzlov, he only gave his right-wing supporters a chance to keep their
face in an unseemly situation, to put it frankly," a source has said.
Putin's meeting with leader of Fatherland-All Russia coalition
Yevgeny Primakov scheduled for Wednesday only completes what was begun.
Evidently, it may result either in the return of Primakov & Co. to the
Duma, a split inside Our Home is Russia or a split among the refuseniks,
which threatens the defectors with remaining in absolute minority.
And last but not least, Yabloko. Its leader Grigory Yavlinsky still
insists on the return to the package agreement and the rule of precedent
applied by the first and second Dumas, when portfolios and committees
were distributed on the basis of a scrupulous count of seats.
However, Yavlinsky also seems to realize that the continuation of
the boycott by the minority is rather hopeless, if only he does not wish
to adopt the image of the sole untarnished politician, a lone rider on a
white horse striving to triumph over the "evil forces" in the
presidential elections. However, this strategy, if fully adopted,
threatens to end up in a tilt against windmills and all the
While continuing to speak of a boycott of Duma sessions, even
Yavlinsky no longer flatly rejects the suggestion of sending his
representatives to posts of deputy chairmen of several committees.
The refuseniks at times still let off steam, of course, make
statements in the old negativist spirit: "We will not go there, we will
not do that, let them respect us, where is justice," etc. But this is no
longer a game, it is its end, its finale.
So what is the result? Who won? Not the refuseniks, this is
evident. It is equally evident, that Unity demonstrated that it is a key
and highly disciplined player, unconditionally fulfilling the coaches'
instructions. And the most unexpected combinations, including tactical
alliances with the left wing, are possible.
The latter saw once again that the Duma majority is capable of many
things. This time, though, the majority is guaranteed to them only by
their alliance with the party of power and the semi-paralyzed state of
the Duma at least until the presidential elections.
As for Putin, while formally remaining neutral he has made it
understood that he is ready to become the president of all Russians, not
only some part of them. In this connection it is indicative that
contrary to the forecasts of analysts the Duma crisis has not affected
Putin's popularity, which continues to grow.
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