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10 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. BBC MONITORING: CHECHEN INTELLIGENCE BOSS SAYS RUSSIA PREPARING
NEW BLASTS FOR ELECTIONS.
2. Moscow Times: Brian Humphreys and Matt Bivens, Chubais, Other
Oligarchs Under Fire.
3. Matt Bivens: Stepashin and Chechnya.
4. Reuters: Russian Communist leader confident ahead of vote.
5. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS ADOPT NEW STRATEGY IN
6. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, Chechens 'raped and beaten' in detention camps.
7. Garfield Reynolds: Re a minor gripe. (re Babitsky)
8. NG-Szenarii: Yurii Levada, Analytical memo: Opinions and Moods,
9. Reuters: Russia's Putin fine tunes image on phone-in show.
10. Los Angeles Times: Richard Paddock, With Fall of Grozny, the
Real War Begins. Chechnya: Conflict's character will shift as garrisons are targeted by mobile rebels.
11. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, When Bad Laws Aren't Enforced. (re law on
12. Reuters: Russia's Putin considers land ownership referendum.
13. THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/DAILY YOMIURI-Japan: Koichi Hamazaki, All Russia is a political stage --and Yeltsin is the playwright.]
CHECHEN INTELLIGENCE BOSS SAYS RUSSIA PREPARING NEW BLASTS FOR ELECTIONS
Source: Kavkaz-Tsentr web site, in Russian 1200 gmt 09 Feb 00
9th February: The Russian mass media have disseminated information about
another explosion of a block of flats in Russia. This time, a five-storey
house in Khabarovsk has exploded. Our correspondent asked Abu Movsayev,
chief of the special department under the State Defence Committee of the
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, to comment on the situation.
He said it was impossible to completely rule out the theory about the
domestic nature of the explosion. However, the Chechen special services
have long had information about the preparation of three or four "electoral
explosions" in a number of Russian towns, which will be carried out in line
with a slightly different scenario than was the case in Moscow. Abu
Movsayev said that the explosions had been prepared by a secret unit of the
Federal Security Service [FSS]. He recalled that [Russia's acting President
and Prime Minister] Vladimir Putin had recently publicly warned inhabitants
of Russia about possible terrorist acts. Movsayev also recalled the story
with "exercises" in Ryazan when the local police arrested FSS employees who
had planted several sacks of explosives in the basement of a block of flats.
The chief of the Chechen special service also pointed out that it was
planned to carry out the explosions in towns situated far away from central
Russia. The Russian special services will actively suggest theories about
"domestic explosions", simultaneously hinting at a "Chechen terrorist
trace". This theories will be constantly discussed by the Russian media in
order to mix the idea of "a domestic explosion and terrorist act".
Peripheral towns have been chosen in order not to irritate the
politically-active part of the population living in central Russia. The
Kremlin needs all these political terrorist manipulations to keep up the
necessary "psychological degree in Russian society" in the run-up to the
The Khabarovsk explosion indicates that Putin's plans have already come on
February 10, 2000
NEWS ANALYSIS: Chubais, Other Oligarchs Under Fire
By Brian Humphreys and Matt Bivens
A Cabinet minister, a Duma deputy and the acting president himself have all
in recent days criticized affairs at the national electric power company,
prompting talk that the reign of UES chief executive Anatoly Chubais may be
in its final days.
And Unified Energy Systems is not the only economic colossus being targeted
for a shake-up: Other major state-owned businesses, including the natural-gas
monopoly Gazprom and Aeroflot airlines, are reportedly in the midst of
tugs-of-war for control.
Aeroflot's next shareholders meeting is not until the spring, but already one
of its shareholders, a company called Foster, has put forward eight
candidates for board seats - all of them people associated with Boris
Berezovsky, the politically connected businessman.
Berezovsky is also an unusually influential shareholder at ORT national
television - to the point of being able to regularly edit the newscasts in
mobile phone chats with anchorman Sergei Dorenko. And Berezovsky's support,
via ORT, has been helpful to the political careers of both acting President
Vladimir Putin and his pocket party, Unity.
The business daily Vedomosti reported this week that these and other signs of
the times suggest Aeroflot general director Valery Okulov - who is Boris
Yeltsin's son-in-law - could be on his way out, while Berezovsky's allies -
including Alexander Krasnenker, who was himself ousted as vice president of
Aeroflot last February - on their way back.
Gazprom, meanwhile, has been flirting with various "restructuring plans,"
including a proposal to sell up to 14.5 percent of the company's stock on
U.S. financial markets via ADRs - American Depositary Receipts, instruments
designed to trade on U.S. markets as "proxies" for Russian stocks.
Some observers had suggested this was Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev's way of
tightening his control over the company. Vyakhirev manages the government's
35-percent stake in the company, and so serves only at acting President
Vladimir Putin's blessing; and Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny has
been critical of Gazprom's work recently.
On Tuesday, Putin summoned Vyakhirev to the Kremlin for a discussion.
Vyakhirev emerged smiling and claiming Putin's support for some pet Gazprom
projects, including a gas pipeline through Turkey. He also said they did not
discuss "restructuring" plans. The headline in Kommersant newspaper was,
"Vyakhirev has made up with the Kremlin."
Izvestia newspaper took a look at the political-business scene in Saturday's
issue and concluded that acting President Putin is working to tame or humble
key oligarchs. Using the gangster slang so popular in Russian media accounts
of the domestic political scene, Izvestia reported, "Informed sources say
that the Kremlin has already zakazal [or "put out a murder contract on"]
Anatoly Chubais, Rem Vyakhirev and Boris Berezovsky."
Other politics-watchers quibble about the fortunes of this or that oligarch
(and indeed, it is hard to see any evidence of a Kremlin break with
Berezovsky at this point). But where all seem to agree is that each is coming
under Kremlin scrutiny, as a new political elite takes shape in the
"A carefully calibrated campaign has begun to reign in the Russian natural
monopolies, and put them under the Kremlin's control," said Andrei Ryabov, a
political analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. "This battle is about
who will control the economy after the March presidential elections."
Nowhere can this be seen more starkly than with Chubais and UES.
Acting President Putin last week offered public criticism of UES as "an
unstable and disorderly state mechanism." UES wants to hike its rates; Putin
suggested it would not need to do that if it were being run better.
"If UES was able to collect at least 30 to 35 percent [of its fees] in cash
instead of 20 percent as at present, we would not need to speak of new
tariffs," Putin said.
Those comments came within two weeks of Kalyuzhny flatly calling for the
removal of Chubais, on the grounds that he prefers to make presentations to
investors in London rather than do real work back at home in Russia.
These sallies were accompanied by an attack from Alexander Shokhin, a leading
State Duma deputy, on the way Chubais has used allies among foreign
shareholders to strengthen his control over UES.
The stock market reacted to Putin's criticism by dumping UES stock, and it
dropped 10 percent in value. At UES itself, Putin's remarks elicited urgent
news releases about the company's successes, and Kommersant reported the
company was gripped by "panic." In a headline it characterized Putin's
criticism of UES as "a last warning for Chubais."
UES officials have dismissed as empty this latest speculation about the
future of Chubais, and they note that as the architect of Russian
privatization he is no stranger to hostile headlines.
Nor would removing him be easy, even though the state owns about 52 percent
According to an amendment to the UES charter that was pushed through at last
summer's shareholder meeting, the head of the company can only be ousted if
75 percent of shareholders agree.
About 30 percent of UES's shares are in the hands of foreign investors - many
of them holders of ADRs bought through the Bank of New York. These foreign
investors have thrown their weight behind Chubais, which would seem to make
But not so fast. On Feb. 28 a Moscow arbitration court is to hear a legal
challenge against the 75 percent rule - one brought by the Moscow
Registration Chamber, a municipal body which helps enforce compliance with
Russian law on joint-stock companies.
And Duma Deputy Shokhin has challenged the foreign investors themselves, in a
complaint that centers on the Bank of New York. That bank is most famous for
allegations of massive Russian money-laundering operations. But before it won
that broader notoriety, the Bank of New York was better known as a window
onto the ADR business for Russian companies.
Shokhin says that the Bank of New York has over the years been in a unique
position to influence how the ADRs it runs on Wall Street are voted back in
Russia, and indeed has surrendered control of them to the heads of the parent
Russian companies - men like Chubais.
Shokhin has complained of this in letters to the U.S. Securities Exchange
Commission and to its Russian counterpart, the Federal Commission for
Securities, or FKTsB. Shokhin argues that by handing the "foreigners' votes"
over to existing management, both at UES and elsewhere, the Bank of New York
has made it easier for management to marginalize or ignore minority
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000
From: Matt Bivens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: The Moscow Times
Subject: Stepashin and Chechnya
Can someone explain to me why it is significant at all that Stepashin claims a
war in Chechnya was planned in March?
After all, at that time Gennady Shpigun had just been kidnapped and Interior
Minister Stepashin was shrieking about cutting off electricity, closing the
border, punishing Chechnya and destroying band formations ... In other
March Stepashin was openly demanding (and presumably planning) a war. So to my
mind -- unless I'm missing something -- it offers no support for otherwise
intriguing arguments that the Kremlin engineered the Dagestani invasion and
Russian Communist leader confident ahead of vote
By Maria Eismont
MOSCOW, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Russia's Communist Party leader said on Wednesday
that he could win the presidential election as Acting President Vladimir
Putin was less than half as popular as opinion polls indicated.
``Carry out independent research and you will see Putin's rating is
overestimated twofold,'' Gennady Zyuganov told a news conference while
presenting his platform for the March 26 vote.
``We have every possibility of getting 55 percent in the presidential
election. This is the task of our election headquarters,'' he said.
The burly Zyuganov -- a veteran opponent of the Kremlin in every election
since 1991 -- was given 12 to 13 percent in the latest opinion polls, well
behind the 48 percent for Putin who remains heavily favoured.
Zyuganov, who earlier this week became the first candidate registered for the
vote, said he did not know Putin well. ``To define somebody's personality you
have to eat at least a kilo of salt with him, but we only had a drink of tea
together,'' the 55-year-old Communist leader said.
``The country must elect its leader knowing exactly who and what is behind
him. Putin has no programme, no ideology, no real team, no formed public
opinion,'' Zyuganov said.
``Few media people are trying to sell him as article that needs to be shortly
dumped,'' he added.
Zyuganov, outlining his own platform, promised an immediate increase in
pensions and salaries up to a minimum 3000 roubles ($105) per month for
teachers and doctors and a minimum 1000 roubles ($35) for others.
Russia's minimum pension and salary is 410 roubles ($14).
Zyuganov, a former mathematics teacher, said he would at least halve taxes
for domestic manufacturers, as well as reduce tariffs on energy, transport
He also said he would establish a state monopoly on alcohol and tobacco
He promised that his government would be formed based on a parliamentary
majority and be accountable to the legislature.
``Whatever the opponents of freedom of speech do, every Russian citizen will
get our programme, our methods of approach, the list of our team,'' Zyuganov
The Communist Party won the biggest share of votes in a December 19
parliamentary election and its electorate is well organised and disciplined,
but many of its voters are elderly and analysts say Zyuganov needs to broaden
his support base.
($1-28.66 Russian Rouble)
RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS ADOPT NEW STRATEGY IN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN - PAPER
Source: 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta', Moscow, in Russian 8 Feb 00 p 3
The election HQ of [Communist leader] Gennadiy Zyuganov is preparing to
conduct an active election campaign. This time, the Communists have decided
to come out with more constructive positions. According to our information,
the main emphasis will be placed not on criticizing the regime, but on
specific proposals to improve the situation in the country.
Viktor Peshkov, secretary of the Central Committee of Communist Party of
the Russian Federation [CPRF] for election strategies, told a 'Nezavisimaya
Gazeta' correspondent: "Now what the voter is expecting is not an
assessment of the period that we have lived through... People are expecting
a real mechanism for solving problems. Besides, society's main irritant,
Boris Yeltsin, has retired, and it is difficult to criticize his successor
because he has not done anything yet."
As this 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' correspondent learned, the CPRF election
campaign will go along two tracks. The first is campaigning to voters of
the older generation. Here, traditional methods will be used - the work of
party activists, the distribution of leaflets and newspapers. All local
CPRF structures will be engaged in this. The second is attracting undecided
voters up to 50 years of age. It is at this group that television ads in
support of Gennadiy Zyuganov will be aimed. It must be noted that the use
of new election strategies in the elections to the State Duma, according to
Communist political strategists, allowed them to attract to the side of the
CPRF 11 per cent of voters aged 18 to 35. This is a good result if one
considers that the Union of Right Forces, which conducted a campaign
oriented practically completely towards the young, received 16 per cent in
this age group.
But since Gennadiy Zyuganov's main opponent in the presidential election
will be Vladimir Putin, the CPRF will try to lower his rating as much as
possible. With respect to opposing Vladimir Putin's candidacy, the
Communists consider their main ally to be time. If one looks at the results
of polls carried out by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public
Opinion [ACSPO] in November and January, one can indeed see that the degree
of displeasure with Vladimir Putin's policy is growing. Whereas in
November, 31 per cent of those polled had no complaints about the work of
the government, now that figure has fallen to 7 per cent. The Communists
will encourage these sentiments in society, telling the voters that the
government is not doing anything to pull the country out of crisis.
But the CPRF leaders understand perfectly well that Vladimir Putin's rating
does not hang on the economy, but on the war in Chechnya. Polls by the
ACSPO, the Public Opinion foundation and other agencies show that Putin's
policy in Chechnya is supported by more than 50 per cent of Russians, while
the degree of the support for his economic and social policy is at the
level of just over 20 per cent. From this, the Communists conclude that if
the Russian Army suffers a crushing defeat in Chechnya, Vladimir Putin's
rating will fall in a matter of hours.
It is interesting to note that the rating of the acting president in large
cities, where people have great access to sources of information, is
slightly lower than in the hinterland. CPRF election staff workers
associate this with the coverage of the events in Chechnya by the
television channels NTV and Centre TV, which focus mainly not the army's
victories, but on the victims of the war.
The Communists do not see any other alternatives to Gennadiy Zyuganov aside
from Putin. Their confidence is based on poll data showing that society has
ceased to fear a Communist revenge. In 1996, some 70 per cent of Russians
completely rejected the possibility of voting for the leader of the CPRF;
now there are only 40 per cent of these left. Therefore, if previously
Zyuganov was bound to lose in the second round to practically any
democratic candidate, now he will yield only to Vladimir Putin.
The Independent (UK)
10 February 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechens 'raped and beaten' in detention camps
By Patrick Cockburn in Nazran, Ingushetia
Chechen men are being systematically raped, beaten and killed in a
Russian-run detention camp in northern Chechnya, according to a letter from a
Russian soldier stationed at the camp, which has been obtained by The
Independent. "They are literally being killed here," the soldier writes. "One
just has to hear the cries of robust healthy guys whose bones are being
broken. Some of them are also being raped. They also force some of them to
rape another. If there is a 'hell' one can see it here."
The soldier, who signs himself "N", writes that he cannot give his real name
"for obvious reasons". He is doing his military service at Chernokozovo camp
close to the Terek river in northern Chechnya, he says. The Russian
government has confirmed that suspected Chechen rebels are imprisoned at
The writer says he feels compelled to speak out "because I cannot stand it
when I know this and don't do anything against it". Andrei Babitsky, a Radio
Liberty journalist handed over to the Chechens by the Russian security
services in exchange for captured Russian soldiers, was held in Chernokozovo,
he says. Mr Babitsky was not raped, "but they beat him so badly that his
glasses were flying in the air, poor guy".
The letter is dated 3 February and covers three sides of paper. The writer
admits that he is not very literate. His shaky grammar appears to indicate
that he is a young, poorly educated conscript. The accuracy of his account is
underlined by his use of prison slang. Some of his facts can be confirmed.
Radio Liberty journalists learnt that Mr Babitsky was in Chernokozovo more
than a week ago.
For months, thousands of Chechens, mostly young men, have been detained by
the Russians in Chechnya, without anybody being able to find out what has
happened to them. Attempts by relatives to contact family members inside
Chernokozovo and other prisons have usually failed.
The young soldier reveals to the outside world, for the first time, what is
happening inside one of the dreaded "filtration" camps where Russian security
says it is separating guerrillas from civilians. It now appears that they are
being subjected to punishments of extraordinary brutality. "N" says, as if
possessed by a sense of guilt, that he himself could be "numbered among the
butchers, though a rank-and-file one". There are some 700 detainees in the
camp, but only seven are really suspected of taking part in the war, he says.
Most of those subjected to homosexual rape and beating are in their late
teens and have been detained for minor offences such as not having registered
their passports or having no passport at all, he says. Others were arrested
while smoking a cigarette outside their homes or walking to a neighbouring
village or for having a military-style raincoat or belt in their houses..
His account of what is happening inside the camp is all the more convincing
because he expresses no sympathy for the seven suspected Chechen fighters.
"They are one-half rotten so they deserve it and I don't have compassion for
them." He adds that two of the alleged guerrillas were shot.
Homosexual rape is common in Russia's prisons. "It is used as an instrument
of humiliation," one former prisoner says. "The guards also call prisoners
who have been raped by women's names."
This is the first time, however, that such systematic assault has been
reported in Chechnya, a conservative, Islamic society with strict sexual
mores. The news that a soldier at Chernokozovo confirms that such methods are
being used is likely to provoke a furious reaction among Chechens.
Several times, the writer repeats that the prisoners he has seen have not
fought against Russia. In anguish, he writes: "I cannot describe the exotic
methods they use to break the human spirit, to turn a human being into an
Local people in the district where Chernokozovo is situated say they have not
been able to get into the prison, which they describe as a grim brick
building with four visible watch towers. Fatima, a local human rights
activist who did not want her family name published, said that women in a
market beside the prison "could not bear to listen to the screams of pain
coming from inside".
A local civil police commander called Nurdy Ildarov, arrested at the
beginning of last month though he had worked for both Chechen and Russian
governments, was so badly beaten that "his hands were broken and his backbone
damaged", Fatima said. "He died at the end of the month and his family had to
buy his body from the Russians." Several badly beaten prisoners have been
released but they were told by guards that their families would be killed if
they spoke about what had happened to them inside the prison, she said.
"N", whose identity may never be known, said he was "brainwashed to believe
that all Chechens were enemies and criminals". Now he realises they are
normal people and pleads for somebody to help them.
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000
From: Garfield Reynolds <email@example.com>
Subject: Re a minor gripe
Dear foreign correspondents,
Please adjust your television sets. The ski masks worn by the men who took
Babitsky away were GREEN, not black. Despite this, I am not sure that I have
seen a story on the wires (including NYT and WP/LAT) reporting green ski
they are always either black ski masks or just ski masks, color not given.
It is scary that this many people can be this inaccurate about a simple fact.
February 9, 2000
Analytical memo: Opinions and Moods, January 2000
[excerpts in translation for personal use only]
Yurii Levada, Doctor of Philosophy Sciences, is Director of the All-Russian
Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM)
<...> According to the VTsIOM poll, the news about Boris Yeltsin's early
resignation excited 11% of the respondents, satisfied 51%, surprised 27%,
caused regret of 4%, outraged 1%, worried 4%, while 12% of those polled did
not feel anything about it. After the former president apologized before
citizens for having been unable to meet their expectations fully, 27% of
those polled changed their attitude toward him to the better, 5% felt worse
about him than before, and 65% did not change their attitude.
40% of respondents believed that Vladimir Putin was the one to gain most
from Yeltsin resignation, while 17% found that gains had been made by
"average citizens". Among losers, the first place was taken by "the Family",
mentioned by 28% of respondents. 17% think that nobody lost from this
change. 13% named Yeltsin as the one who lost from his resignation, 8%
mentioned the oligarchs, and 5% - pro-Yeltsin political parties (Unity and
<...> The prevailing opinion is that it would have been better not to
provide the former president with immunity, because he should be held
responsible for illegal actions and abuses of power. This opinion was shared
by 46% of participants in the poll.
The evaluation of different periods of Russian 20th century history:
Was a given period rather positive or rather negative for the country?
Rather positive Rather negative
Nicholas II 18 12
Revolution 28 36
Stalin 26 48
Khrushchev 30 14
Brezhnev 51 10
Gorbachev 9 61
Yeltsin (as of March 1999) 5 72
Yeltsin (as of Jan. 2000) 15 67
As we can see, after Yeltsin stepped down, public opinion about his era
slightly improved. It is quite possible that it will undergo considerable
change when it will become possible to compare the Yeltsin period with its
People understand quite well that comprehensive and drastic changes over a
wide range of issues are both undesirable and impossible at the moment;
substantive expectations with regard to the new president and the new
government are fairly modest. <...> According to 56%, the situation in the
country will improve with Yeltsin's departure, while only 3% belive that it
will get worse. Speaking of improvements, production growth is expected by
31%, and "strict order:" by 26%. Most worries are related to the possible
rise in prices, mentioned by 15%.
<...> The noisy conflict in the newly elected Duma and around it attracted
wide attention, but did not cause significant anxiety among respondents.
Only 18% believe that the split of the parliament into two camps is a
serious long-term development, while 52% considered this to be ephemeral.
31% believed that the opposition bloc of three factions (OVR-SPS-Yabloko)
may become 'a weighty political force'; 41% did not think so. <...> Perhaps
the most important figure that clarifies this attitude is the 54% of those
polled who believe that the new Duma is either "definitely" or "likely"
controlled by the administration of the president. Only 27% think that it is
either 'definitely" or "likely" to remain independent. Let us note that this
state of affairs does not evoke any protest among general public.
<...> According to the poll, 25% of respondents sympathize with the
"democrats", while 23% favor "communists". The sympathies of 7% are with the
"patriots", 5% prefer "the party of power" and the same percentage belongs
to "centrists and others". The rest either does not sympathize with anyone
or does not have an answer.
Russia's Putin fine tunes image on phone-in show
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Acting President Vladimir Putin, pursuing a charm
offensive ahead of next month's presidential election, told newspaper
readers it was up to them to decide whether he was fit to do the job.
Putin was answering questions on a ``hotline'' phone-in organised by the
popular Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, the latest in a series of
high-profile appearances intended to soften his image as a tough and
``If I am not elected, then I am unworthy. Someone else will be elected and
he will be considered worthy,'' Putin told one caller during the phone-in
at the newspaper officers, where reporters were invited to listen for a time.
His replies revealed plenty of wit, or at least stage presence.
Asked about the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, decried by millions of
pensioners impoverished by post-communist austerity, he replied: ``Anyone
who does not regret this has no heart. Anyone who wants to restore the
Soviet Union in its previous form has no head.''
Putin, who took office when Boris Yeltsin resigned as head of state on New
Year's Eve, remains far ahead in opinion polls, though two recent surveys
polls put him just below the 50 percent needed to win outright on the first
His official registration as a candidate in the March 26 contest is
expected just before the Sunday deadline. So far only Communist leader
Gennady Zyuganov and leftist intellectual Alexei Podberyozkin have been
Much of his high ratings are due to his prosecution of the war against
separatists in Chechnya. With the campaign now in full swing, he has
clearly tried to switch the emphasis and portray himself as down-to-earth
and caring and his main rivals appear to be doing the same.
PUTIN EMERGES AS TOUGH RULER, SOFT FAMILY MAN
On Monday, in the second half of an interview with ORT public television,
Putin returned to one of his favourite themes of restoring order and
galvanising post-Soviet institutions. He also stood firmly for civil
liberties and freedom of the press.
``People are tired of the laxness of power. When the first steps to
strengthen the state became apparent it was vital and people reacted
positively,'' he told the interviewer. ``For me this reaction was very
important, like getting a signal back.''
A chink was also made into Putin's home life. The acting president
disclosed that he was fond of his family's white toy poodle, which went
bounding across his lap.
During the phone-in, Putin looked composed in his trademark dark suit,
beginning his replies only after taking notes.
He told one caller it was vital to strengthen the role of Russia's security
forces and improve living standards of people working for them. But that
issue, he said, ``cannot be considered in isolation from the overall
situation in the country.''
He also said Russia could hold a referendum on private ownership of land to
ensure that ``farmers should not have any fears that someone could take
away their land.''
The acting president later told reporters that the programme was ``just
like a working situation. There was not a single unexpected question.''
Putin said the most memorable question came from a girl of 13 who said she
had drawn up an election leaflet for him and wanted to know what more she
could do to help him win election.
``I think that's enough,'' he said, cracking a rare smile.
Los Angeles Times
February 9, 2000
[for personal use only]
With Fall of Grozny, the Real War Begins
Chechnya: Conflict's character will shift as garrisons are targeted by
By RICHARD C. PADDOCK, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--With the capture of Chechnya's shattered capital, Moscow can
claim a symbolic victory that will play well in next month's presidential
election, but for Russia's conscript army, the fall of Grozny marks the start
of a guerrilla war that could last years.
As many as 8,000 well-armed, well-trained separatist fighters have
retreated to the steep Caucasus Mountains, where they will be able to regroup
in the coming months, hide from Russian bombers and begin launching surprise
assaults against federal forces in the rebel republic.
The brutal war, dominated so far by Russia's relentless bombing
campaign, will change character as immobile government garrisons and their
supply convoys become ready targets for the hardened Chechen rebels.
"It is possible to predict already that guerrilla warfare will go on in
Chechnya for a very long period of time," said Gen. Makhmut A. Gareyev,
president of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences. "The final resolution
of the conflict in Chechnya still remains very remote."
Acting Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who rose to popularity on
the strength of the Chechen war, has rejected a negotiated settlement of the
conflict and refuses to allow talks with any of the rebels.
Instead, Russian generals plan to base an occupying force in Chechnya,
create a "sanitary cordon" along the base of the Caucasus Mountains and try
to contain the rebels. Russian officials insist that they will pursue the
insurgents and destroy them in the mountains--although history suggests that
a Russian victory in the rugged terrain is highly unlikely.
"Next, we should see complete destruction of the major armed gangs,
their dispersal and destruction," Putin asserted Monday in a televised
interview. "And then, as the military already said, we will begin a planned
withdrawal of military units from Chechen territory while stationing an armed
forces division there on a permanent basis."
From a short-term, political standpoint, the strategy is likely to work
so well that Putin could win the presidency outright in the March 26 election
without facing a runoff.
"The declaration of a victory in Grozny ties very neatly into the final
stage of Putin's presidential campaign," said analyst Viktor A. Kremenyuk,
deputy director of Moscow's USA-Canada Institute. "The timing is perfect to
finish up large-scale combat activities and instead engage in pompous
After the presidential election, however, the war is likely to drag on
The rebels, who were able to hold off for months the Russian forces
attacking Grozny despite massive aerial bombing, suffered heavy casualties as
they retreated from the city, with several top commanders killed or wounded.
On Tuesday, the Russian military claimed that Chechen Vice President Vakha
Arsanov was among those killed during the rebel escape from the city,
although his death was not confirmed by the Chechens.
Despite their losses, however, the Muslim separatists remain a
formidable foe. The volunteer Chechen army is better trained and more
experienced than the rookie Russian soldiers it faces. The rebels remain well
armed, having begun stockpiling weapons years ago. And they have repeatedly
demonstrated the ability to sneak through federal lines in significant
numbers and launch surprise attacks against Russian troops.
Chechnya's resentment of its annexation by Russia has persisted since
the 1800s. During World War II, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin shipped the
Chechens to Kazakhstan, where they were forced to remain until the 1950s.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chechnya declared independence.
Russia invaded in 1994, and the ensuing 21-month war ended with the republic
winning de facto independence while nominally remaining part of Russia.
Military analysts are quick to point out that Putin's claim Sunday of
victory in Grozny is largely meaningless, because the rebel force remains
intact and will regroup to fight another day.
"It is nothing but a virtual victory, the declaration of which was
needed by the Kremlin to score decisive points in Putin's presidential
campaign," said retired Col. Alexander I. Zhilin, a military analyst with the
weekly Moskovskiye Novosti. "They are trying hard to drive it into the
subconscious of the people that a great victory has been achieved with
comparatively small federal losses. But it is all a lie."
Zhilin disputed claims by Russian commanders that federal forces had
killed 1,500 rebels as the guerrillas retreated from Grozny, including many
"I am a military man, and I can tell you that to get 1,500 men blown up
in a minefield, you need to make them not just run or walk through the
minefield but to deliberately search for mines to blow themselves to pieces,"
he said. "Since the federal authorities haven't shown pictures of more than
20 bodies yet, we can say with all confidence that the rebels escaped and are
now spread all over the hills, lying in ambush once again."
While the Russians fight to take territory, the rebels will fight a
guerrilla war, blending into the population and drawing support from it.
Russian brutality and atrocities such as the alleged execution of at least 22
civilians in Grozny will only strengthen backing for the rebels.
Now that the Russians control the ruined city, the army will need to
find a way to keep the insurgents from taking it back--as they did in the
1994-96 war. Grozny is large, and the occupying forces will be spread out.
"As Russian troops gain control of more and more of Chechnya's
territory, they naturally become more and more scattered, which in turn makes
them more vulnerable to Chechen attacks," Gen. Gareyev said. "This applies in
the first place to the garrison stationed in Grozny--the city will continue
to remain a target of Chechen raids."
Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst with the daily newspapers Sevodnya
and the English-language Moscow Times, said Putin is fighting a war that is
"His real aim should be to destroy the will of the enemy to resist so
that the enemy lays down arms," he said. "From the start, the strategy has
been flawed. To bombard them all dead is not achievable--it never happens
except in computer games."
As the war continues, Felgenhauer said, the quality of the Russian
troops will only worsen and fighting the war will become increasingly
Many of the more experienced soldiers are already being sent home, under
the army's current rules, and there aren't enough trained troops to replace
them. Russia's bombing campaign has eaten into the supply of munitions, and
the army already is using shells manufactured during the 1960s and even the
1950s, Felgenhauer said. Similarly, some equipment being used by the army
dates to the 1950s.
"It makes the war cheap," he said. "But as it drags on, they will be
incapable of keeping it really cheap."
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- When Bad Laws Aren't Enforced
By Paul Goble
Prague, 9 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian government is not enforcing
the provisions of its law on religion, a pattern of behavior that in the
short term has encouraged some observers but one that over the longer haul
entails more serious consequences.
Many religious leaders and human rights activists in both Russia and the West
were concerned that the Russian authorities would move against various
minority religious groups after the Duma failed to extend the deadline for
their registration with the state beyond December 31.
Because the law places tight limitations on religious groups without
registration -- they cannot own property or conduct public services, among
other things -- some church leaders predicted that Moscow would use its
provisions to close these groups down or drive them underground.
So far, that has not happened.
This week, Lawrence Uzzell, the director of the religious watchdog
organization Keston Institute in the United Kingdom, noted that once again
"the salvation of Russia is the poor implementation of bad laws." And he
predicted that the Russian authorities are unlikely to change their approach
dramatically in the run-up to the presidential elections at the end of March.
For the current Russian leaders, Uzzell said, "religious questions simply are
not all that important." Instead, he continued, "what they want most is
servile silence on issues such as the Russian army's atrocities against
civilians in Chechnya, and that they already have."
Indeed, by having on hand a law they are not enforcing, the Russian
authorities put themselves in a particularly strong position to affect the
behavior of religious congregations. Those who are cooperative won't be
touched, while those who show any independence from Moscow's line can be
harassed or worse -- and that entirely within the law.
But as Keston's Uzzell notes, "in the long run, the picture is darker."
First, Russia's acting President Vladimir Putin already "has presided over
the most startling assault on freedom of the press since the mid-1980s."
Freed from the attention arising from the ongoing election campaign, he is
likely to move against religious minorities both to shore up his support with
the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and play to the rising tide of Russian
nationalism in the population at large.
Second, as Uzzell notes, "in the long run, religious freedom is not likely to
thrive if other freedoms are being crushed." That is precisely what is
happening now. Putin has demonstrated little interest in defending freedom of
the press or the other freedoms that form the foundation of a free civil
Putin's regime has "slandered and intimidated journalists whose reports on
Chechnya differed from the official line," Uzzell notes, "even swapping a
correspondent of the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty for Russian soldiers being
held prisoner by the Chechens."
Under Putin's direction, Russian officials have "threatened a Russian
journalist specializing in the study of official corruption with forced
confinement to a psychiatric hospital," Uzzell says. Moreover, "in the recent
parliamentary election campaign, Moscow officials in effect turned news
presenters on state-owned television into press secretaries for the party in
This pattern of non-enforcement of a bad law subverts the very possibility of
a law-based state. Many Western governments have praised Moscow for not
enforcing this and other pieces of legislation, and given how pernicious some
Russian laws are, their attitudes are entirely understandable.
But over time, such praise has the effect of allowing the Russian government
to gain support from those concerned about civil liberties while retaining
the ability to change its course at any time via non-democratic means.
If Russian believers and Russian citizens more generally cannot count on the
government to enforce its laws and especially if they see that the West
praises Moscow for not enforcing some laws, then these believers and these
citizens can have little confidence in any laws that the Russian government
may promulgate. In the end, they are likely to lose confidence in the meaning
of law altogether.
Consequently as welcome as Moscow's nonenforcement of its law on religion may
be to many now, the Russian government's continuing ability to decide which
laws it will enforce and which ones it will ignore casts a dark shadow over
the possibility that Russia will emerge as a democratic, law-based state
Russia's Putin considers land ownership referendum
MOSCOW, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Russia may hold a referendum on allowing private
land ownership, acting President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
``It must not just be a closed circle which decides this issue,'' he said in
a phone-in with readers of Komsomolskaya Pravda newpaper to which the press
He emphasised it was ``fully possible'' a referendum would be held.
But he added that for technical reasons it would not be possible to hold a
referendum simultaneously with the March 26 presidential election, which
Putin is expected to win.
The issue was most important as far as agricultural land was concerned so
that ``farmers should not have any fears that someone could take away their
Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 only limited land reforms have
Small plots may be owned privately, but it is possible to rent agricultural
land in some regions. In others ownership is technically allowed, although
this is seen as a risk in the absence of a federal land code.
Small private farms produced nearly half of Russia's food in 1998, while
accounting officially for just three percent of all agricultural land,
although statistics may be distorted by farmers failing to register private
land to avoid bureaucratic problems.
By contrast, state farms are dogged by shortages of cash, fuel, fertiliser
and other inputs, and saw output of grain slump to a 40-year low of 47.8
million tonnes in 1998, recovering only slightly to 54.7 million last year.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/DAILY YOMIURI-Japan
ALL RUSSIA IS A POLITICAL STAGE --AND YELTSIN IS THE PLAYWRIGHT
All Russia is a political stage --and Yeltsin is the playwright.
By Koichi Hamazaki, Senior fellow at the Yomiuri Research Institute.
Of all the countries in the world, Russia may be the only one where an
absurdly obvious farce can be played out in public precisely according to
its script. This can be attributed to nothing but the national traits of
the Russians, who love plays and operas and have an appetite for anything
The current drama engrossing the Russian public is a political one. The
plot of the drama runs as follows: The old, ailing czar Boris I, who has
one more year before stepping down, nominates Vladimir Putin, head of the
secret police, a man devoted to carrying out his duties, as crown prince
and, at the same time, appoints him prime minister.
There are two main missions entrusted to Putin, who hitherto has rarely
caught the eye of the public: -- If he accedes to the throne of the czar as
planned, Putin should ensure that Boris I is allowed privileges befitting a
former czar and guarantee that he will not be prosecuted for any
wrongdoings he may have committed while on the throne and that he and his
family will not be arrested in connection with any such wrongdoings. --
Putin should secure peace in the empire by subjugating the pagan Chechens,
who have risen in revolt in the borderlands, and lead pro-czarist political
forces to victory in an election for the Duma, the lower chamber of the
Putin, the young hero clad in judo gear girded with a black belt, goes
forth to the war front in high spirits and ruthlessly pounds the pagans,
including women and children. Overnight he becomes a national hero and is
hailed as the incarnation of patriotism and a strong leader.
Thanks to Putin's blessing, a pro-czarist party that is nothing more than a
group of hastily patched-up forces--whose nickname contains the word
"bear," the mascot of the Russians--enjoys a landslide victory in the Duma
election. After observing the situation, Boris I suddenly announces his
abdication six months earlier than scheduled and appoints Putin his regent.
Needless to say, the first task Putin executes after becoming the regent of
Boris I is to sign documents guaranteeing that Boris I will enjoy the
social status of a former czar and immunity for his past deeds.
Consequently, Putin ascends to the throne of the czar with the enthusiastic
support and high expectations of the public. However, nobody knows how he
will rule the empire. That caricature may be somewhat extreme, but it is
not far from the political drama that has been played out inside and
outside the Kremlin in the mere five months since Vladimir Putin, head of
the FSB, the successor to the KGB, was appointed prime minister in August.
Compared with the ongoing primaries in the U.S. presidential race, the
overall political situation ahead of the official declarations of candidacy
in the Russian presidential election is notable for its uniqueness. It is
reminiscent of a romantic folk tale in which a hero emerges out of the blue
to save Mother Russia and her people, who are beset by difficulties. It has
an essential Russianness, which cannot be laughed off as simply reflecting
the political naivete of the Russian people.
First of all, the stage setting is typically anachronistic. The Kremlin,
which is the center stage for the drama, is haunted by conspiracies,
tyranny and bloodshed. Rather than a president as a symbol of democracy, an
authoritarian czar seems more fitting as the ruler. To complete the
picture, Muscovites are living in fear of indiscriminate terrorist
bombings, and far in the background is war-torn Chechnya, dotted with the
strongholds of detested terrorists. The once-obscure protagonist displays
his prowess in battle and instantly becomes a folk hero.
Furthermore, the political arena is none other than Russia, which is
crowded with a cast of assertive characters with unforgettable looks.
Besides Yeltsin and Putin, the dramatis personae include Communist Party
leader Gennady Zyuganov, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Grigory
Yavlinsky, head of Yabloko, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal
Democratic Party--all of whom are waiting in the wings as prospective
candidates for the presidential election scheduled for March 26.
Supporting roles are being filled by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Boris
Berezovsky, a politically influential businessman dubbed a "modern-day
Rasputin." They play monsters known for their tricks. Even their remarks
bear the exaggerated tones of stage speeches, and their comments are always
accompanied by the flamboyant poses of kabuki actors. If they spoke with
the ambiguity that is the hallmark of Japanese politicians, the public
would never take them seriously.
Probably the most typically Russian aspect of Russian politics may be the
general inclination of that country's people, including its politicians, to
be dissatisfied with politics unless they are over-the-top theatrical and
to regard only "strong leaders" as qualified for leading roles. The script
penned by Yeltsin and his henchmen to help crown Putin as president was
apparently aimed at appealing to the psychology of the Russian public, with
its craving for strong leaders. Initially, however, the public gave Putin
the cold shoulder because of his dour air, causing fears among the
scriptwriters that the plot had flopped.
Nonetheless, Putin assumed a hard-line stance in commanding military
campaigns in Chechnya, defying criticism from the West, and, as a result,
succeeded in extinguishing the sense of defeat smoldering in the Russian
heart since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The results of the successful
Chechnya campaign were evidently in line with the script. The unfolding of
the plot included a strong performance by the pro-Kremlin Unity Party in
the latest Duma election held late last year, in which the votes it gleaned
were only 1 percent shy of those for the Communist Party, which won 24
percent of the votes.
The script also included Yeltsin's exit from the presidency and the
attainment of overwhelming prospects for his understudy, Putin, to be
elected to the presidency in March. The key factor behind the plot's
developing as scripted is that a majority of Russians have come to accept
it and decided to sit back and enjoy the drama. Deep-rooted public distrust
of politics, however, remains a problem. Russians, who feel betrayed by
erstwhile hero Yeltsin because he did not live up to their expectations,
are just exercising what may be a short-lived willing suspension of
disbelief in pinning their hopes on Putin. What can the politician with no
political resume do in the political arena?
It must be said, however, that Russians' psychological makeup is such that
they are dangerously inclined to elect to the presidency a politician who
emerged from obscurity a mere six months ago, despite their awareness that
he is a fictitious hero. That is because there is a likelihood that
populist rule may have its own way. Thus, the direction Putin's Russia will
take has become one of the world's first worries of the early 21st century.
Fortunately, Putin has so far maintained a positive image of a normal and
fairly competent individual. All we can do at present is to hope such an
assessment of Putin is right.
(Hamazaki is a senior fellow at the Yomiuri Research Institute.)
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