This Date's Issues: 4076 4077
Johnson's Russia ListReturn to CDI's Home Page I Return to CDI's Library
29 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, Russia 'planned Chechen
war before bombings.' Former Prime Minister reveals invasion of republic was prepared months in advance of terrorist attacks.
2. Obshchaya Gazeta: Nikolay Zhurablev, Waiting for a Tyrant.('Myth' of Russian Desire for Tyrant Examined)
3. Los Angeles Times: Tyler Marshall and Maura Reynolds, Albright's
Russia Trip Has Healing in Mind. Diplomacy: Washington hopes visit will help rebuild ties strained by actions on both sides. Analysts agree
restoring trust and confidence is key.
4. Interfax: COMMUNIST LEADER INVITES PUTIN TO TV DEBATE.
5. Paris' Le Monde: Interview with Russian investigator Nikolay
Volkov, "'Major Sums Belonging to Aeroflot Were Misappropriated and Laundered'"
(Berezovskiy May Face Trial for Fraud)
6. International Herald Tribune: David Hoffman, Kremlin Muzzles Reporters Telling Chechen Side of War.
7. Profil: PEOPLE STILL PREFER SAVINGS BANKS.
8. Voice of America: Andre de Nesnera, WHO IS PUTIN?
9. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Yabloko Criticizes Proposed EU Sanctions.
10. Business Week: Kristina Shevory, Where Damp and Mold Lay Siege...And a Clinic Tends the Casualties. (St. Petersburg)]
The Independent (UK)
29 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia 'planned Chechen war before bombings'
Former Prime Minister reveals invasion of republic was prepared months in
advance of terrorist attacks
By Patrick Cockburn in Moscow
A senior Russian leader says that Russia made its plans to invade Chechnya
six months before the bombing of civilian targets in Russia and the Chechen
attack on Dagestan which were the official pretext for launching the war.
His account wholly contradicts the official Russian version of the start of
the war, which claims that it was only as a result of "terrorist" attacks
last August and September that Russia invaded Chechnya. Sergei Stepashin,
Russian Interior and Prime Minister for most of last year, said the plan to
send the Russian army into Chechnya "had been worked out in March". He says
he played a central role in organising the military build up before the
invasion, which "had to happen even if there were no explosions in Moscow".
Mr Stepashin, in recent interviews with the daily Nezavissimaya Gazeta and
Interfax agency, says that as early as last March Russia intended to invade
Chechnya as far as the Terek river north of Grozny, the Chechen capital, in
August or September. In fact the Russian army crossed into Chechnya on 1
Mr Stepashin, Interior Minister up to May and then Prime Minister until
August, was at the centre of Russian decision-making in both jobs. He says
the inner cabinet held a closed meeting with army and security chiefs in
March to discuss the operation against Chechnya.
The revelation by Mr Stepashin, that Russia planned to go to war long before
it has previously admitted, lends support to allegations in the Russian press
that the invasion of Dagestan in August and the bombings in September were
arranged by Moscow to justify its invasion of Chechnya.
Boris Kagarlitsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of
Comparative Politics, writing in the weekly Novaya Gazeta, says that the
bombings in Moscow and elsewhere were arranged by the GRU (the Russian
military intelligence service). He says they used members of a group
controlled by Shirvani Basayev, brother of the Chechen warlord Shamil
Basayev, to plant the bombs. These killed 300 people in Buikask, Moscow and
Volgodonsk in September.
Mr Kagarlitsky, who, from internal evidence in the article, is drawing on a
source with close knowledge of the GRU, says that invasion of Dagestan by
Shamil Basayev himself in August was pre-arranged with a senior Kremlin
leader at a meeting in France in July.
He says that the motive for launching war was the need for the political
leadership in the Kremlin to control the succession to President Boris
Yeltsin. By last summer Mr Yeltsin, a year from his retirement as president,
was deeply unpopular. His family and associates feared for their freedom and
their fortunes if a president hostile to their interests was elected this
In an unnoticed reference in Svenska Dagbladet, the Swedish daily, on 6 June
last year, the paper's Moscow correspondent Jan Blomgren wrote that one
option being considered by the Kremlin and its associates was "terror
bombings in Moscow which could be blamed on the Chechens". This was four
months before the first bomb. Mr Blomgren told the Independent that his
sources, whom he cannot name, were familiar with discussions within the
A month later, writes Mr Kagarlitsky, a meeting took place in the south of
France attended by Alexander Voloshin, head of the presidential
administration, Shamil Basayev, the Chechen warlord, and Anton Surikov, a
former official belonging to the army special services.
Both sides had interests in common. Mr Basayev's political fortunes had ebbed
in Chechnya and might be restored by a small war. The Kremlin was also in
need of an outside enemy. According to Mr Kagarlitsky they agreed that Mr
Basayev would launch a military foray into Dagestan and that Russia would
respond by invading northern Chechnya up to the Terek river. Participants in
the meeting have all denied it took place.
Events now moved quickly. On 8 August Mr Basayev's forces invaded Dagestan to
the east of Chechnya. On 9 August Vladimir Putin replaced Mr Stepashin as
prime minister. In Dagestan the invasion did not go as planned. Mr Basayev's
forces were beaten off but, according to the Russian magazine Profile, were
virtually escorted back to the Chechen border by two Russian helicopters.
Cooperation between Mr Basayev and the Russian army is not so surprising as
it sounds. In 1992-93 he is widely believed to have received assistance from
the GRU when he and his brother Shirvani fought in Abkhazia, a breakaway part
of Georgia. Russia did not want to act overtly against Georgia but covertly
supported a battalion of volunteers led by Mr Basayev.
It is now alleged that the cooperation between the GRU and Shirvani Basayev
went further. The invasion of Dagestan might be resented in Russia, but it
was insufficient to mobilise Russian public opinion. This only occurred when
four massive bombs exploded in Russia in September. The first, at a military
housing complex at Buinaksk in Dagestan, blew up on 4 September killing 83
people. The next two were targeted at ordinary Russian civilians. On 8 and 13
September explosives demolished two working-class apartment blocks in south
Moscow leaving 228 men, women and children dead. Three days later a truck
exploded in Volgodonsk.
It was the wave of anger and hatred among Russians against Chechens,
universally blamed for the attacks, that gave Mr Putin the backing he needed
to invade Chechnya. An unknown figure when appointed, with just 2 per cent
support in the polls, he was soon the leading candidate to win the
presidency. In December Mr Yeltsin was able to retire more gracefully than
seemed possible six months before and Mr Putin became acting president.
Mr Kagarlitsky now alleges that the GRU itself was behind the bombing. He
says it used Shirvani Basayev to carry it out "because he was more easily
managed" than his brother. It also appears that he himself and his men did
not know exactly why they had been recruited by the GRU for a special
'Myth' of Russian Desire for Tyrant Examined
20 January 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Nikolay Zhurablev: "Waiting for a Tyrant"
Waiting for a tyrant
The appearance of Vladimir Putin made the subject of "order"
and a "firm hand" dramatically topical. This
subject is now being discussed so heatedly and in such detail that one
gets the impression that dictatorship is the only prospect worthy of
interesting conversation. Moreover, this is not only the
fashion in Moscow, far from it. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who
monitors Russia from the opposite side of the earth, entitled his recent
article "Putin -- Milosevic or Pinochet?" -- not leaving Russia
the chance for anything else.   Domestic experts associate
"order" and a "firm hand" with more familiar
historical personages -- from Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin, but
this does not change the essence of the matter.
If the presentiment of the coming tyranny were connected only with the
probable presidency of Putin (he is a former Chekist, unleashed the war
in Chechnya, etc.), this might resemble anti-Putin
propaganda. But, in the first place, not only Putin's
opponents, but his supporters as well, promise "order" and a
"strong president." And in the second place, both
they and others base their expectations not so much on the personal
qualities of the acting president, as on the nature of the public
demand. That is, the point lies not in Putin's dictatorial
potentials, but in the fact that the people want a "new
Stalin." And you can't do anything about
that. The people are tired to death of the democratic outlaw,
and they thirst for firm rule. Possibly they are, as usual,
wrong, possibly they simply do not deserve freedom, but their will, alas,
It turns out quite badly. There is no dictatorship yet, thank
God, but it is already, in the preliminary procedure, sanctified by the
will of the people. This is extremely dubious from the
standpoint of public benefit, and quite debatable in the scientific
respect. I don't know on what Brzezinski based his
prediction, but our "home-bred" catastrophists have absolutely
no precise bases for interpreting the natural melancholy of the Russians
as a request for a tyrannical power. This is nothing more
than intellectual speculation, refutable by any conscientious study of
The latest of these studies was made by the VTsIOM [All-Russian Center
for the Study of Public Opinion on Social and Economic Questions] during
the new year holidays. Characteristically, its results were
published on the Internet under the title, "Zhit Stalo Veseley, No
Nuzhen Poryadok" [Life Has Become Enjoyable, But We Need
Order]. It is apparently hard to get away from the
"Stalinist" allusions: this is the subject.
The sociologists began by asking the respondents what, in their opinion,
was more important today: a) "order, even if we have to
resort to a few violations of democratic principles and restriction of
the personal freedoms of the citizens in order to achieve it"; b)
"democracy, even if the subsequent adherence to democratic
principles represents a certain freedom for destructive and criminal
elements"? It is easy to guess what the citizens
answered. Seventy-two percent chose order, agreeing to
certain constraints on their freedoms, 13 percent preferred democracy to
order, and the rest had not decided which was better.
It would seem that everything is clear: the people, of
course, crave order. Moreover, the absolute majority of those
polled accept the opposition of order to democracy as being proper,
without noticing the incorrectness of this opposition. The
sociologists are competent people, however, and ask a control
question: "Just what, in your opinion, is
'order'"? and "Just what, in your opinion, is
'democracy'"? And here it becomes clear that for the
Russian citizen, "order" means the same thing that it does for
any normal person -- even for a person who is unacquainted with the
condition of Russian chaos. It is "political and
economic stability" (45 percent of the answers), then --
"strict adherence to the laws" (35 percent), and after that --
"putting an end to the looting of the country." The
"restriction of democratic rights and freedoms" gathered only 3
percent of the votes, and the interpretation of "order" as a
slogan "opening the way to dictatorship" gathered only 1 percent.
In other words, our citizens do not think that, in order to catch
bribe-takers, punish thieves, have wages paid promptly and introduce
discipline, it is necessary to abolish freedom of speech and religion, to
limit voting rights, prohibit mass meetings and processions -- it is
enough simply to observe the laws strictly. What is
specifically "racist" in these ideas? Where is the
social demand for a Pinochet?
The Russians also interpret the concept of democracy quite
adequately. It is once again "strict legality" (29
percent), "order and stability" (28 percent) and for only a few
(10 percent) -- "idle talk." Things prove to be
quite interesting here: it turns out that democracy is the
mother of order. But not at all of anarchy, as should be
expected, after listening to talk about the national hopes for a
In my opinion, the myth of the public demand for a dictatorship is purely
elitist in origin. For some part of the elite, a strict
authoritarian regime means a possibility of realizing their qualities and
skills, which are not called for under democratic rule. For
others, this myth is the embodiment of their personal fears when faced
with order as the triumph of legality. They made their
fortunes and careers in the years of lawlessness, and the thought of
elementary order thus horrifies them.
The reasons for these and other, different, interests are opposing, but
the attempt to cover up their own personal aspirations or phobias with
the will of the people bear the same danger. At the least,
foolhardiness -- importunity, with the masochistic thrill of instilling
in the people the idea that they have a tremendous desire for
slavery. It is even more dangerous to persuade the future
president of the same thing. Our leaders are already little
predisposed to self-restriction, and to encourage their evil propensities
is -- the height of madness.
Los Angeles Times
January 28, 2000
[for personal use only]
Albright's Russia Trip Has Healing in Mind
Diplomacy: Washington hopes visit will help rebuild ties strained by actions
on both sides. Analysts agree restoring trust and confidence is key.
By TYLER MARSHALL, MAURA REYNOLDS, Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's planned trip to
Moscow next week--the first by a ranking U.S. official since Vladimir V.
Putin became acting Russian president last month--marks the start of a
concerted Clinton administration effort to rebuild relations that have soured
dangerously over the past five years.
"This is not the normal kind of meeting," said an administration
official who requested anonymity. "This is not a trip for splashy results but
for quiet consultations to build things back into the relationship. We want a
big-picture discussion, a way-forward discussion."
Albright is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on Monday to co-chair a Middle
East development conference with her Russian counterpart, Igor S. Ivanov,
before engaging in a day of extensive talks on bilateral issues.
Albright's mission comes amid a growing sense that this crucial
bilateral relationship is on the brink of a new era, one filled with doubt
and uncertainty but also potential. Despite such destabilizing matters as
last year's NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, a Russian
money-laundering scandal, the unknowns surrounding Putin's intentions and the
controversial conflict in Chechnya, many of those who follow U.S.-Russian
relations believe that the new era provides at least the chance to reverse
"It all turns on what political leaders on both sides think is
possible," said Coit Blacker, a former White House advisor on Russia policy.
"It can be either an important moment to get things done before [the U.S.]
election, or they can throw up their hands and say it's all just too hard."
Either way, analysts in both countries agree that a priority is
rebuilding trust and confidence in a relationship desperately lacking in
"We must try to return to a dialogue where there's some respect, even
where the power disparities are enormous," said Robert Zoellick, an
undersecretary of State during the Bush administration. "This is going to
take a real transformation because there are lots of scars there."
U.S. policymakers said they hope to start with a series of small
measures--what one official called "baby steps below the CNN
threshold"--rather than with a grand, new program. The official cited as one
example the recent move that allowed Russian officers access to a U.S.
military base in Colorado on New Year's Eve so they could be assured that
U.S. nuclear missiles contracted no unexpected millennium bugs. Ongoing
cooperation between Russian and North Atlantic Treaty Organization
peacekeeping forces in Kosovo--a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant
republic--also was noted as a small but significant confidence-builder.
Meanwhile, new trouble looms, such as the administration's desire to
modify the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in ways that would
allow the United States to deploy a missile defense system against a possible
attack from what it views as "rogue" states such as North Korea. Moscow
claims that such a system would devalue its own aging nuclear deterrent and
set off a new arms race in which it could not possibly compete.
Russian and U.S. officials are conducting exploratory discussions in
Geneva on how such an ABM treaty modification might be bundled with other
initiatives, including: U.S. help to shore up Russia's aging missile defense
system; Moscow's ratification of the 1993 START II treaty to reduce strategic
nuclear arms; and the beginning of negotiations on START III, which would
further reduce nuclear arsenals.
During her talks with Russian leaders, Albright is expected to stress
that "rogue" states pose a threat to both countries and that Washington and
Moscow should cooperate to counter them.
The scars in U.S.-Russian relations stem in part from differences on a
variety of major issues. Russia opposed President Clinton's successful
efforts to expand NATO to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic;
condemned the U.S.-led military operation against Yugoslavia; came out
against U.S. and British airstrikes against Iraq in 1998; and fears that
Washington wants to undermine the primacy of the U.N. Security Council--a
venue where Moscow still has clout through its veto power.
At the same time, the United States opposes Moscow's bloody military
foray into the breakaway republic of Chechnya, worries about leakage of
Russian nuclear expertise to Iran, and has become disillusioned by levels of
corruption in Russia so great that they have undercut the impact of
international aid and slowed the pace of reform.
But more than the differences, distrust and thinly veiled contempt have
corroded the foundations of a relationship that began the post-Cold War era
amid high hopes. For Russia, struggling to retain some vestige of its former
greatness, the mood has spawned a disillusionment that borders on a feeling
As a consequence, Russians have low expectations for any contacts with
U.S. officials in advance of Russia's presidential election March 26 and U.S.
elections Nov. 7.
"There is little each side can offer the other," said Andrei V.
Kortunov, president of the Russian Science Foundation. "Both countries are
facing elections, so the situation is not favorable to new initiatives. On
the contrary, in both countries there is pressure to get tougher."
What especially grates members of Russia's foreign policy elite is what
they see as a kind of dismissive arrogance on the part of U.S. officials who,
they say, frequently pretend to take Moscow's concerns to heart, then quickly
A bit more graciousness on the part of the world's most powerful nation,
they say, could have gone a long way toward preventing the erosion of the
"Americans are trying to convince us that we should put up with being a
second-rate country. They would be much better off not saying such things at
all," said Anatoly I. Utkin, advisor to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the
Russian lower house of parliament. "For most Russians, such words are a major
insult they cannot forgive."
He added: "Russians' inherent patriotism will never let them say, 'Who
cares? Let's be like Belgium.' This is a mistake, a major mistake, that the
United States is making."
And Kortunov noted: "There is always room for being more cooperative,
even in terms of rhetoric. In many cases these are nuances, but they make all
By contrast, Russians feel little animosity toward Western Europe even
though the countries there strongly supported the intervention over Kosovo
and consistently have dished out harsher public criticism of the Russian
campaign in Chechnya than has the United States. Russians say this only
underscores that U.S. errors have been as much a matter of style as of
U.S. analysts agree that the administration's tone and style frequently
have been counterproductive. Zoellick argued that an earlier sense of respect
and dignity that helped underpin the relationship has been lost. Others
"They've been made to feel irrelevant, that when push comes to shove,
they're no longer in the top 10," said Toby Gati, a senior White House
advisor on Russia early in the Clinton administration. "We need to change
U.S. policymakers say they are aware of a style problem--one
administration official said it had been noted in "umpteen" policy papers
written for Albright. But they insist that frank, open discussions are vital
to any healthy relationship.
"When we talk about it [Russia's weakness], there's a sense of us being
preachy, telling them what to do, how to run their country. But we also have
an obligation to be very clear on this," noted a second official. "There's
always going to be tensions there."
Marshall reported from Washington and Reynolds from Moscow.
COMMUNIST LEADER INVITES PUTIN TO TV DEBATE
MOSCOW. Jan 28 (Interfax) - Russian Communist leader and
presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov has invited acting President
Vladimir Putin to take part in a TV debate on Russia's problems.
"This serious dialogue on the country's problems can be held by
teams on the first or second TV channels," he told a Friday news
conference. The debate should focus on questions of governing the
country, making the budget, combating corruption and others.
Presidential candidates should say why inflation in January more than
doubled from the end of last year, why Russia "should be living on a
budget of $20 billion which is not enough to support the nation," why
the Russian budget is equivalent to only 40% of the budget of Finland
etc, he said.
Zyuganov said the TV debate should help people "not to vote with
their hearts" as they did during the previous elections but choose their
candidates on the basis of their programs.
He found it impossible to put off the presidential elections from
March 26 because there is too little time left for amending the
constitution under which the president should be elected three months
after the resignation of his predecessor, he said in reply to a question
There is a chance "to let the voter calmly choose the candidate of
his liking during the election campaign," Zyuganov said.
It is necessary, though, to guarantee candidates equal access to
the media, because so far "the party of power has been crudely violating
the media law," he said. Still Zyuganov thought that the coming
presidential elections will be more honest than the parliamentary
He announced that the Duma was setting up a subcommittee to monitor
the observation of election laws. Among other things the subcommittee
should look into the violations during the Duma election campaign.
Zyuganov said the Communist Party "has collected 500" facts of election
law violations in Tatarstan which "was made a vote-stealing zone."
"The matter will be taken to court. Those who stole votes will be
imprisoned because they are pushing the country" to lawlessness and
violence, Zyuganov said.
He said similar violations were also registered in Samara, Saratov
and Kursk regions, in Bashkortostan and some other places.
Russia's Volkov: Berezovskiy May Face Trial for Fraud
Paris' Le Monde
27 January 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Russian investigator Nikolay Volkov by Agathe Duparc
in Moscow; date not given: "'Major Sums Belonging to Aeroflot Were
Misappropriated and Laundered'"
Moscow -- [Duparc] At the beginning of November
financier Boris Berezovskiy proclaimed victory, saying that you had
lifted all charges against him in the Aeroflot case. What exactly is the
truth about this?
[Volkov] Mr Berezovskiy can say whatever he wants, but this is not so. The
charges against him that I lifted had been brought at a preliminary stage
of the inquiry. At the time, Mr Berezovskiy was abroad most of them time,
and we were unable to interview him as a witness. Once he had been
charged with "illegal commerce" and money laundering, he was obliged to
answer our summonses. We believed at that time that the Andava company,
based in Lausanne, with which he is closely associated, had handled
Aeroflot money, without authorization from the Russian Central Bank.
Then, during the course of our inquiries, we discovered that these
charges -- relatively minor ones -- did not apply to Berezovskiy.
[Duparc] So is the inquiry continuing in Moscow?
[Volkov] Yes, and more intensively. With the help of the Swiss security
bodies, and on the basis of certain documents, we have confirmation that
some of the Aeroflot money, which passed through the accounts of the
Swiss firms, Andava and Forus, was indeed directly stolen following an
instance of fraud.
[Duparc] Is Boris Berezovskiy implicated?
[Volkov] We are examining his involvement. Mr Berezovskiy was until the
moment one of the main shareholders, together with Mr Glushkov (a close
associate of Mr Berezovskiy and a former Aeroflot official -- Le Monde
editor's note,) in the Andava company. Of course, the difficulty has to
do with the fact that these gentlemen do nothing openly. They hold shares
via straw men, by means of a subtle system of proxy. So they were in
touch with what was going on. Following the establishment of Andava and
Forus, Aeroflot was severed from its flows of finance, and then the
stolen money was laundered and legalized via a host of small commercial
structures based in Switzerland and elsewhere. Mr Berezovskiy behaved
similarly in the case of AvtiVaz (a large Russian car manufacturer -- le
Monde editor's note) and in the oil sector.
[Duparc] What kind of sums are we talking about in the Aeroflot case?
[Volkov] A sum of $580 million passed through the Andava company, and $350
million via Forus. Of course, not all of it was misappropriated,
otherwise Aeroflot would quite simply have been unable to operate. But
apart from this, we have identified several financial transactions that
were not conducted for Aeroflot's benefit -- for instance, one episode
involving $50 million.
Now we are impatiently awaiting the transfer, at the end of January, of
bank documents seized in Switzerland. And also documents regarding the
firms' status and transcripts of interviews relating to these firms,
conducted in Switzerland. I attended the interviews with witnesses in
November, and I concluded that we are moving in the right direction.
[Duparc] Are you prepared to indict Boris Berezovskiy?
[Volkov] Yes. If the documents that we are about to receive confirm his
guilt, we will indict him immediately. He will then be charged with
fraud, theft of money from Aeroflot, and money laundering. These offenses
carry a sentence of 10 years' imprisonment.
[Duparc] Is it possible to mount such a direct attack on Boris Berezovskiy,
who still performs a very prominent role in Russia?
[Volkov] We want to prove that Russia can live according to the law. It
little importance whether Mr Berezovskiy is a deputy, a minister, or a
senator... The inquiry continues. For the present, no pressure has been
brought to bear on us, either from the judiciary or from the government.
If I were to be dismissed, if the case were to be closed, then I could
tell you why it happened.
[Duparc] But does Mr Berezovskiy enjoy parliamentary immunity?
[Volkov] Not with regard to activities that he conducted before being
a deputy (in December 1999 -- Le Monde editor's note.) And this applies
to the Aeroflot case. But if the case comes to trial, then the State
Duma's (lower house of parliament -- Le Monde editor's note) agreement
will be needed in order to lift his immunity. That will be more difficult.
[Duparc] Is President Vladimir Putin willing to pursue this case to the
[Volkov] For the present, I am taking Mr Putin entirely at his word. He has
said on several occasions that the struggle against corruption is one of
the main focuses of his action. For the present, I have no reason to doubt
International Herald Tribune
January 29, 2000
[for personal use only]
Kremlin Muzzles Reporters Telling Chechen Side of War
By David Hoffman Washington Post Service
MOSCOW - After days of saying that they had no information, Russian
authorities acknowledged Friday that five days ago they detained a Radio
Liberty correspondent, Andrei Babitsky, who has angered the Russian military
with his reports from the Chechen side of the war.
The arrest was another example of how the Kremlin and the Russian military
are putting clamps on journalists, in an effort to cut down on the
increasingly critical reporting on the war against Chechen separatists.
Mr. Babitsky's arrest came as the Kremlin re-hired Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a
former press spokesman for Boris Yeltsin, and put him in charge of a renewed
propaganda campaign. The deputy chief of the general staff, General Valeri
Manilov, who has repeatedly denounced Western and Russian reporting on the
war, serves as the military mouthpiece for the new propaganda drive.
The Interior Ministry said Friday night that Mr. Babitsky, who disappeared in
Grozny about Jan. 15, was arrested Jan. 23 at the Staraya Sunzha checkpoint
as he was leaving the Chechen capital. Interfax quoted the ministry as saying
Mr. Babitsky was detained because he had no accreditation card issued by the
The Russian forces have previously detained correspondents on grounds they
lack accreditation, but usually released them quickly. The military has
allowed extremely limited access to the combat zone, under heavily controlled
circumstances, for the few correspondents it is willing to give
Many journalists, including Mr. Babitsky, have tried to cover the war without
accreditation, despite the risks.
It is highly unusual for the Russian forces to hold a correspondent for five
days. Both Mr. Yastrzhembsky and General Manilov have made misleading
statements about Mr. Babitsky's whereabouts to reporters. On Jan. 26 - three
days after he was arrested - Mr. Yastrzhembsky said in response to a question
about whether Mr. Babitsky was detained by the Russian forces: ''Detained by
the federal forces? I do not know about that. What I do know is that Mr.
Babitsky had left Grozny and vanished.''
On Friday morning, five days after Mr. Babitsky was taken into custody,
General Manilov said: ''I don't have any information about him now. I don't
have information confirming that our bodies are holding him.''
Mr. Babitsky, 35, brought back singular video interviews and tape of the
Chechen fighters that was broadcast in late December by the commercial NTV
television channel. Mr. Babitsky was accused by the war propaganda
department, officially named ''Rosinformcenter,'' of being in the employ of
''the Chechen bandits and slave traders.''
Recently, the authorities seized film from Mr. Babitsky's apartment. He had
last been in touch with Radio Liberty about 12 days ago when he said he was
trying to leave Grozny. Vladimir Baburin, chief editor of Radio Liberty's
Moscow bureau, said in a television interview that Mr. Babitsky had warned
the editors he was going to try and walk out of Grozny and not to expect any
calls for a few days.
''He was obviously fearful of some steps by the federal authorities, who were
seriously annoyed with his job,'' Mr. Baburin said.
Profil, No. 2
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
PEOPLE STILL PREFER SAVINGS BANKS
It seems no financial crises can disrupt people's trust
in savings banks. Over the first 9 months of 1999, the overall
amount of people's bank deposits increased from 199.8 billion
roubles to 258.6 billion roubles.
According to the data of the Central Bank of the Russian
Federation, the sum total of deposits in financial
institutions reached its peak on the eve of the August 1998
crisis. From January to July 1998, the amount of roubles in
banks increased from 141.8 billion ($24 billion) to 155.8
billion ($25.1 billion), and that of hard currency - from $4.8
billion to $6 billion. After August, the situation changed.
>From October 1998 to April 1999, hard currency deposits
dwindled by nearly a half - from $4.5 billion to $2.9 billion.
At the same time, rouble deposits increased by 30 percent -
from 123.7 billion to 152.0 billion roubles. However, in hard
currency terms they also shrank - from $7.7 billion to $6.3
billion. Nominal growth in rouble amounts was mostly achieved
through the transfer of hard currency accounts from
problem-ridden banks to rouble deposits with the Savings Bank.
It is significant that both before the crisis and after
it Russian depositors preferred to keep their savings in
roubles. Thus, from January to October 1999, rouble deposits
increased by 30 percent - from 199.8 billion to 258.6 billion
roubles (i.e., from $2.9 billion to $3.2 billion), and hard
currency deposits by a mere 6 percent - from $2.9 billion to
As of today, 60 percent of all private deposits are
concentrated in the Savings Bank. This is so despite the fact
that commercial banks offer better terms for keeping both
rouble and hard currency deposits (6-8 percent annual interest
on currency deposits, and 25-30 percent annual interest on
rouble deposits). The Savings Bank offers 4-5 percent and
25-30 percent respectively. People still have more trust in
state institutions since the August crisis showed that the
Savings Bank is Russia's most reliable bank: it has never
delayed any payments on its clients' deposits.
Judging by all signs, the volume of private deposits will
go on growing. This helps increase people's real incomes
(according to the economics ministry's forecast, this year
they will increase by another 3 percent, as against the last
year's level). It should not be ignored that people's trust in
banks is getting stronger. Maybe because Russians' main wealth
Voice of America
TITLE=WHO IS PUTIN?
BYLINE=ANDRE DE NESNERA
/// EDS: This is the first of two reports on
Vladimir Putin. ///
INTRO: Russia's acting president - Vladimir Putin -
continues to be the favorite to win the country's
presidential elections scheduled March 26th. In this
report from Washington, former Moscow correspondent
Andre de Nesnera looks at what is known about the man
who may lead Russia in the years ahead.
TEXT: Forty-seven-year-old Vladimir Putin has been
Russia's acting President since December 31st, when
Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly announced his resignation.
Before taking over the presidency, Mr. Putin was prime
minister - chosen for the job by Mr. Yeltsin last
August. And now, with presidential elections set for
March 26th, he is the overwhelming favorite to lead
Russia for the next four years.
Despite his meteoric rise to power, many Russians -
and western analysts - still ask the question: who is
Mr. Putin and what does he really stand for?
His official biography is sketchy. A graduate of the
prestigious Leningrad law faculty, Mr. Putin joined
the Soviet secret police - the K-G-B - in the mid-
1970s. He was sent to East Germany and remained there
until the end of the 1980s.With the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991, Mr.
Putin shifted gears and associated himself with the
liberal mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. He
served first as the city's head of external relations
- responsible for getting foreign investments into the
city - then became St. Petersburg's deputy-mayor (1994).
Mr. Putin returned to Moscow, after Mr. Sobchak was
defeated in St. Petersburg's 1996 elections for
governor. A few years later, Mr. Putin was named to
head the Federal Security Service - the K-G-B's
domestic successor. He then became prime minister and
acting president - a position he now holds.
Western analysts are debating whether Mr. Putin is a
reformer - given his track record in St. Petersburg -
or is he more bent on authoritarianism - given his
history in the secret services. Or, is he somewhere in between?
Bruce Johnson - with the Hudson Institute - says there
are positive elements in the way Mr. Putin addresses problems.
/// JOHNSON ACT ///
We know of an incident in the mid `90's when he
was, of course, one of the powers in the city of
St. Petersburg - when a group of American
entrepreneurs were trying to get butter and
badly needed dairy products into Russia which
were being donated, as a matter of fact. It was
being blocked by the communists - completely -
because they wanted their cut. And the group
was not willing to pay this corrupt fee to get
things into the hands of the people. Putin
personally solved this. He took five weeks to
do it - and at no time did he take credit and at
no time did he ask for credit. And he actually
blocked three attempts by people to take some of
the butter for their "payment." We have a lot
of incidents like that that give me a lot of hope.
/// END ACT ///
Most analysts agree it is unlikely Mr. Putin will go
back to the days of Soviet-style command economy. But
many analysts say while Mr. Putin is in favor of a
market economy, they question his commitment to
democratic principles. One of them is Marshal Goldman, from
/// GOLDMAN ACT ///
He has basically begun to re-institute some
controls over the press which brings back the
threat of censorship. There has also been an
effort to try and control the (computer internet
world wide) web - the e-mail - so that the K-G-
B, or the new version of the K-G-B, will have
access to that. So these are all what I would
call "dark clouds." But he does also talk about
trying to bring back investment and trying to
bring about the market. And I suspect what
ultimately we will end up with is a man who
relies very heavily on the government, who shows
his feelings for the K-G-B and strong state
control - but who at the same time will try
periodically to move towards a market.
/// END ACT ///
Many western experts say it would be foolish for Mr.
Putin to reveal all his cards in the midst of a
presidential campaign. Ariel Cohen - with the
"Heritage Foundation" - says Mr. Putin, at this time, has one
goal in mind.
/// COHEN ACT ///
He is a consummate politician and the main thing
for a politician is to gain power and remain in
power. That is priority number one: to get
elected, to make the communist opposition to
himself somewhat duller in the March 26th
presidential elections. And to try to position
himself as appealing to all sectors of Russian
society: reformer and nationalist, moderate,
communist and right-winger. That is the supreme
task of Vladimir Putin - and so far, he has had
many more successes than mistakes going down that road.
/// END ACT /// In the short-term, analysts say
Mr. Putin remains a
mystery. They say his true colors will come out after
the March 26th presidential elections which he is expected to win.
Russia: Yabloko Criticizes Proposed EU Sanctions
By Sophie Lambroschini
Russia's reformist Yabloko party has criticized an EU proposal to slap mild
sanctions on the country over Chechnya. RFE/RL's Sophie Lambroschini reports
from Moscow that the party could be trying to broaden its support base by
criticizing both the war and the West's opposition to it.
Moscow, 28 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The Yabloko party, traditionally one of
the harshest domestic critics of the Kremlin, says international economic
sanctions won't work in ending the country's military campaign in Chechnya.
The European Union this week turned to proposing mild sanctions as a way of
voicing its disapproval of the Chechen conflict. EU foreign ministers agreed
to consider suspending about $90 million of funding for Russia and to freeze
another $60 million of trade agreements.
In addition, the Council of Europe, a multinational body that promotes human
rights, has criticized Russia over Chechnya. The council's Parliamentary
Assembly met yesterday (Thursday) in Strasbourg to consider what stance to
take -- including possibly suspending Russia's membership in the council.
Yabloko deputy Aleksei Arbatov, outlining his party's position, tells RFE/RL
the West is free to express its opinion on Chechnya, but he says outside
pressure and sanctions are "unacceptable interference" in Russia's domestic
Arbatov, a member of the State Duma's Defense Committee and a specialist on
international affairs, says Chechnya is an internal affair. He says pressure
to put an end to the war can only come from inside Russia:
"The war in Chechnya can be stopped and peace will come only when [Russian]
public opinion, the media and the Russian parliament change their position on
the war. [Meanwhile], in the present conditions, obvious pressure on Russia
-- and particularly the threat of sanctions -- will harden public opinion
under the banner that 'Russia isn't Yugoslavia, so you won't get away with
it.' It makes the work of party leaders, political groups and civic forces,
which are seeking a solution to the situation on the North Caucasus by
stopping the war, extremely difficult."
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman (Aleksandr Yakovenko) immediately
criticized the proposed EU sanctions as "inappropriate." The spokesman said
they would harm the EU as much as Russia.
Our correspondent says Moscow generally reacts to foreign criticism of the
military action in Chechnya by saying foreigners are "misinformed" about the
nature of the conflict.
The West has focused its objections on what it says are disproportionately
high civilian casualties. Russia, meanwhile, says the military campaign is
justified as an anti-terrorism operation.
Arbatov says that even though Yabloko opposes international interference in
the Chechen conflict, the party is still strongly opposed to the war:
"We are concerned about the interests of the civilian population in Chechnya,
who are Russian citizens whatever their nationality, and about our army,
which was dragged into yet another butchery. [We propose to] cease the
senseless storming of Grozny -- not only because it's going to cost us
another few thousand soldiers' lives, horrible destruction and the death of
civilians. But foremost because from a military point of view, the operation
doesn't make sense. [We propose to] create three rings in Chechnya, three
blockade rings -- that same sanitary cordon with which this operation began
before growing into this senseless slaughter."
Yabloko called for a similar plan in November, proposing a political solution
based on Russian military threats. Although the plan was far from an all out
call for peace, Yabloko has been harshly criticized by Kremlin allies for
what they call a betrayal of Russia.
Political scientist Yevgeny Volk, who works for the Heritage Foundation in
Moscow, tells RFE/RL that Yabloko is trying to balance its stance on Chechnya
by opposing both the war and the West's reaction to it.
Volk says Yabloko is trying to follow the general movement of public opinion.
This is especially important ahead of the presidential election in March.
Yabloko's leader Grigory Yavlinsky is one of the candidates in the March 26
vote and is a longshot against the frontrunner, acting President Vladimir
Volk says that if Yavlinsky fares poorly in the election, his party's future
may be in doubt. Yabloko scored low in parliamentary elections in December, a
fact that was partly attributed to its criticism of the popular Putin.
Volk says that while Yabloko is still trying to portray itself to voters as
the genuine democratic opposition, even it cannot completely resist what he
calls the "Putin effect."
February 7, 2000
[for personal use only]
Where Damp and Mold Lay Siege...And a Clinic Tends the Casualties (int'l
By Kristina Shevory in St. Petersburg
EDITED BY HARRY MAURER
Irina Anatolevna is a woman at war with the elements. As chief restorer of
St. Petersburg's Yusupov Palace, she is charged with the near-impossible task
of maintaining a mansion built in 1760 against the destructive incursions of
a humid climate. Her team struggles daily against wet stains, flaking paint
and plaster, peeling wallpaper, and dank smells caused by a host of microbes,
fungi, and molds. The swath of damage extends from the museum's basement,
where Rasputin was killed, to the sumptuous rooms once occupied by one of the
richest pre-revolutionary Russian families. ``Renovation is a never-ending
process here. We constantly have to come back in and repaint,'' laments
She's not the only one with that Sisyphean task. Local scientists estimate
that 90% of all buildings in St. Petersburg's historic center are suffering
damage from this biological scourge. Other well-known victims include the
Hermitage Art Museum, the Pushkin Apartment Museum, and the Kunstkamera
Museum, as well as residences. ``If this destruction is allowed to continue,
St. Petersburg will lose many of the landmarks that make it the cultural
capital of Russia,'' says Sergey Starsev, a member of the International
Academy of Ecology.
Already, the destruction exceeds by far that in any other European city.
St Petersburg's problem is rooted in its founding on swampland by Peter the
Great almost 300 years ago. Canals were dug to drain the marshy area, which
lies only a few feet above the water level of the nearby Gulf of Finland.
Basement masonry soaks up the high ground water--just 1.5 to 2 meters below
the surface--like a sponge. Once it saturates the masonry, the water
evaporates into the air, creating a damp environment perfect for the growth
of microorganisms. Unless measures are taken, the humidity can then invade
the upper floors.
Alarmed by the architectural gems crumbling around them, local scientists,
museum directors such as Hermitage head Mikhail Piotrovsky, and medical
professionals formed the Foundation Against the Biological Destruction of the
City Environment of St. Petersburg in 1999. The group lobbies the municipal
government, the primary owner of the city's buildings, for money to pay for
damage control. ``We formed this organization to make people aware that this
is a much more serious threat than they think,'' says Vyacheslav Krilenkov, a
biophysicist and head of the group.
But so far, city officials seem to be passing the buck right back. ``Only
when these scientists can show that it really is dangerous to people and
better publicize the issue will politicians take it seriously,'' says
Alexander Norko, deputy manager of the city's budget strategy department.
Scientists say the city needs to allocate just $1.5 million to $2 million
a year, out of a $1.3 billion budget, on preventive measures. Most cultural
landmarks have budgets so abysmally low that they can't afford to fight
moisture without city money, the sole exception being the Hermitage, which
started waterproofing its own building six years ago. The museum has raised
tens of millions of dollars from private Russian and foreign sources.
International renovation experts have been working on a moisture-control
system scheduled to be finished in five years. If it works, all those
Matisses can finally rest easy.
While the city studies the damage to buildings, doctors from the P.H.
Kashkina Institute of Medical Mycology warn that excessive moisture can make
people sick, too. The institute is devoted to treating the 100 ailments
caused by funguses and molds, such as chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma,
and skin and organ infections. Such diseases currently afflict every fifth
person on the planet, according to Vitaly Antonov, director of the institute.
Last year, the clinic treated 11,000 people, though Antonov says the
number suffering from such illnesses must be much greater, given the center's
relative anonymity even among medical professionals. ``When my son came down
with what seemed like the worst allergy, coughing, sneezing, and so on, I
took him to a city clinic, but they didn't know what was wrong with him,''
says Natalya Sergevna. After visiting the Kash-kina Institute, her son is on
the mend. So more publicity about St. Petersburg's moisture woes could strike
a blow for public health as well.
Web page for CDI Russia Weekly: