This Date's Issues: 4106
Johnson's Russia List
14 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Times (UK): Giles Whittell, Putin lines up old KGB pals to run Kremlin.
2. Reuters: Happy end for Russia? Berlin Film Festival says so.
3. Sarah Lindemann: Request from Siberia.
4. Reuters: Russian Communists suspicious of debt deal.
5. The Times (UK): City where the dogs eat the dead. Janine di Giovanni,
the only British reporter based in Grozny, witnesses the devastation wreaked by Russian forces.
6. Moscow Times: Yulia Savelyeva, Jump On the Passion Wagon.
7. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright on Russia February 8.
8. ACTING PRESIDENT PUTIN ANSWERS QUESTIONS IN KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA PHONE-IN FEBRUARY 11.]
The Times (UK)
14 February 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin lines up old KGB pals to run Kremlin
FROM GILES WHITTELL IN MOSCOW
WHEN the deadline for registration expired last night, Vladimir Putin was one of 14 candidates to have announced their candidacy to be Russia's President. So confident is Mr Putin of victory in next month's election that he has already hired from his native St Petersburg a cadre of advisers who could mould Russian politics for the next decade.
Meet the "Putinburgers" - or, as some are brave enough to call them, the St Petersburg mafia. They include friends of the acting President, though he has admitted he has few of them. Some of the Putinburgers are national figures but most are virtual unknowns. They represent no single ideology, but what they do have in common, one expert said yesterday, is that "in a country where mutual mistrust is the norm, Mr Putin trusts them".
Six weeks before the presidential election, 17 key posts in the Kremlin, including two Deputy Prime Ministers and the head and deputy head of the Federal Security Service (or FSB), are already filled by figures who rose through the St Petersburg regional government when Mr Putin was the city's deputy mayor in the early 1990s.
For some, the acquaintance goes back further. Nikolai Patrushev, like Mr Putin, joined the KGB in what was then Leningrad in 1975. In August he was put in charge of the KGB's successor, the FSB, apparently at Mr Putin's insistence as he was leaving the job to become Prime Minister.
Another former Leningrad KGB officer, Viktor Cherkessov, is now the FSB's second-in-command, while yet another, Viktor Ivanov, controls all personnel matters in the Kremlin. Mr Patrushev and Mr Ivanov are no friends of liberals in or outside Russia. In a chilly echo of Soviet times, they have told FSB personnel that "foreign organisations and missions" may be trying to influence the coming election. Mr Patrushev is notorious for describing as a "police training exercise" a big bomb scare in Ryazan last year, soon after the blasts in Moscow and elsewhere that helped to trigger the Chechen war.
These and others in the Putin entourage are widely feared as possible instruments of a return to authoritarianism after the election. However, the Putinburgers also include well-known reformers. Foremost among these is German Gref, a 36-year-old economist brought to the Kremlin by Anatoli Chubais, the architect of Russia's early privatisations, and kept on in two high-profile roles by Mr Putin.
Mr Gref had risen to become a Deputy Privatisation Minister when Mr Putin took on the acting presidency. He is now also head of the Centre for Strategic Research, a Putin think-tank which has the daunting task of drawing up a plan for Russian economic revival within two months. Mr Gref has so far offered hope for both Russia's poor and the West's potential lenders. "Without doubt we will follow a liberal model of development," he told journalists last month, "but that model will preserve a wide sphere of state regulation." Hinting at a paternalistic state on German or Swedish lines, Mr Gref promised "a wider social safety net to make up for the shock that many felt when decades of state care were swept away".
Whether Mr Putin will use such plans remains unclear. "He is using the St Petersburg people first of all because he knows them," Fyodor Gavrilov, a St Petersburg columnist, said yesterday. "But they are not of one voice and they may not last long; he is likely to play them off against each other as Yeltsin did. At best, he will use the intelligentsia for ideas and the ex-KGB men to put them into practice."
St Petersburg languished for much of the 1990s as Russia's capital of organised crime, its liberal elite largely corrupted or sidelined. Hopes that it can inject new reformist zeal into the Kremlin seem unrealistic, and Mr Putin has yet to declare war on corruption. But the new blood could hardly be worse than the old. As he said last week, in Moscow "everything has been in place for years . . . Sometimes it's useful to break the chains".
Moscow's new leaders have historically brought with them waves of appointees. Boris Yeltsin's rise was marked by an influx of former colleagues from Yekaterinburg, and Stalin lavished his patronage on fellow Georgians.
The results are not always malign. Mr Gavrilov noted yesterday that, as a seat of learning and a forcing house for European-leaning administrators, St Petersburg could provide Russia with a new generation of able technocrats as the Baltic states did for Tsarist Russia in the 19th century.
The billionaire "oligarchs" blamed for Russia's stagnation are unlikely to be affected. Mr Putin has promised not to investigate the privatisations that enriched them.
Happy end for Russia? Berlin Film Festival says so
By Alastair Macdonald
BERLIN, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Is a new optimism edging into Russia and into
Russian cinema? At the Berlin Film Festival there are some who want to see it
The two new mass-market movies leading the Russian entries this weekend could
scarcely be more different in style, the one an 18th-century historical epic
based on a tale by Alexander Pushkin, the other a remorselessly contemporary
story of rape.
Yet both dealt with similar themes -- moral collapse in a Russia in political
and social turmoil. And both, while long on violence and misery, end with a
grain of hope that a younger generation can rise above the corruption of the
It is an idea Alexander Proshkin, director of the Pushkin story ``The
Captain's Daughter,'' suggests might be applied to the Russian cinema itself,
a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall brought on the collapse of
communism across eastern Europe.
``The myth of the death of Russian cinema has been exaggerated,'' he said
after the screening of his Golden Bear entry at the Berlinale's new home on
Potsdamer Platz, an area rebuilt on the wasteland where the Wall once ran.
Revival in the east is one of the themes of this year's festival, to match
the rebirth of Berlin as Germany's capital.
``We have the same sort of problems the rest of our society is suffering. But
no worse. It's a passing pain. But our cinema has got more hard edged,''
Proshkin said. ``And already we're beginning to see light at the end of the
DEMAND FOR HOME-GROWN FILM
Both Proshkin's movie and the modern drama ``Rifleman of the Voroshilov
Regiment'' (Voroshilovsky Strelok) are produced by NTV-Profit, an arm of the
booming NTV television empire, and both have played well at home despite the
closure of many cinemas since the end of Soviet subsidies.
``As time goes by, people get fed up of seeing only badly dubbed American
films on television,'' said Proshkin, a leading TV director in Soviet times.
``It's a tough test for our culture. But there's a generation coming up that
is starting to demand something that is its own and not imported.''
For a convincing taste of what he means about life so far in today's Russia,
viewers need look no further than ``Rifleman'' directed by veteran film-maker
turned leftish nationalist politician Stanislav Govorukhin.
Three young ``New Russians,'' small-time provincial hoodlums, spend their
drug-dealing dollars on foreign cars and gadgets and imported booze and
videos, earning the contempt and occasional envy of their impoverished
neighbours on Freedom Street.
When they gang-rape the teenage Katya -- in the sort of scene the Soviet
censor would never have smiled on -- they get away with it thanks to official
corruption and incompetence.
Her life, she tells her war veteran grandfather ``Uncle'' Vanya, will never
be joyful again. But like Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in the century-old
play of the same name, the grandfather takes up a gun in revolt against the
And this being today, it is no revolver but a high-powered rifle that revives
skills the old man, played by Soviet film legend Andrei Ulyanov, learned as a
sniper in World War Two.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
Two centuries ago, things were much the same, Proshkin says.
Produced last year for the bicentenary of national poet Pushkin's birth,
``The Captain's Daughter'' (Russky Bunt), is set against the backdrop of the
18th-century Pugachev revolt led by Cossacks against the rule of Empress
Catherine the Great.
``This is an entirely contemporary story,'' Proshkin said, noting daily gang
violence and the war in Chechnya.
Amid the cruelty and corruption of both sides, two teenagers fall in love and
maintain their honour and integrity, offering hope for the future, the
Govorukhin, who may stand in next month's presidential election, has his
elderly hero, sickened by the end of the old order and certainties of
communism, stooping to the mean methods of the new Russia. But the outcome is
one of hope. Sort of.
``You're free,'' a policeman tells him.
``But how am I supposed to live?'' replies the grandfather.
Silence. Then simply: ``You're free.''
And cut to a scene of adolescent joy and hope restored.
As 200 years ago, Proshkin says, ``These 16- and 17-year-olds...are the
heroes of our time.''
And of course a happy ending is good box office everywhere.
From: "Sarah C. Lindemann" <email@example.com>
Subject: Request from Siberia
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000
Request from Siberia
I am in the process of preparing an application that includes a speaking
tour to US universities, other organizations and institutions interested in
democratic transition in Russia. The topic is a first hand activists
exploration of the results and methodology for stimulating grassroots civil
society development in Siberia 1995-2000. I would appreciate hearing from
any JRL readers who would like to be included on the list of lecture sites.
Russian Communists suspicious of debt deal
MOSCOW, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Russia's Communist leader, one of the leading
candidates in a March 26 presidential election, criticised a debt deal with
Western creditors on Monday and demanded that its details be closely checked.
Russian negotiators on Friday struck a deal to reduce $32 billion of
Soviet-era debt to the London Club of commercial creditors by an average 36.5
percent and to restructure the debt into Eurobonds payable over 30 years.
``During the course of one night our debts rose by $21 billion,'' said
Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, referring to the fact that the Russian
government had become the formal debtor rather than state-owned
``I demand the handing over of documents relating to this agreement. They
should be sufficiently transparent,'' he said.
Zyuganov said the debt agreement should be ratified by parliament as it was
an international accord.
Zyganov holds second place in opinion polls ahead of the election with Acting
President Vladimir Putin well ahead. However, latest polls have cast doubt on
whether Putin will manage to gain the 50 percent needed for a first round
The Communists were bitterly opposed to former Russian President Boris
Yeltsin although their strength has been watered down in the current State
Duma lower house of parliament.
Putin has yet to test his strength against the Communists, although Zyuganov
has criticised the acting Kremlin leader for a lack of clear policies ahead
of the election.
The Times (UK)
14 February 2000
[for personal use only]
City where the dogs eat the dead
Janine di Giovanni, the only British reporter based in Grozny, witnesses the devastation wreaked by Russian forces
THE Russians have wiped Grozny off the map. It is uninhabitable, even for the packs of hungry wild dogs. It is these dogs, according to Hussein, one pro-Moscow Chechen working as a volunteer grave-digger, which are tearing apart the bodies of the unburied throughout the city. "The dogs are eating the corpses," he says.
It is difficult to find a building not gouged by bombs or reduced to a pile of bricks. Apartment buildings with no roofs are booby-trapped and mined. There is no water, electricity, heating or telephones.
When this war started, there were about 400,000 people living in Chechnya's capital. But Grozny now has only a small, ragged band of civilians. The living dead are emerging from hiding places. They shuffle out of their cellars, clutching plastic soda bottles to fill with water. Some wear white armbands to distinguish them from fighters. Most are women, some are so old they are nearly bent double.
When the military curfew descends at 6pm, nearly everyone goes back to the cellars, but those caught outside tell stories of drunken Russian Interior Ministry troops looting, shooting randomly into cellars, taking women away.
The first unconfirmed reports of rape are filtering through. Alpatu, 40, says she left Samashki, in western Chechnya, on February 1 with three women friends, aged 39, 23 and 40.
They arrived at the first Russian checkpoint in Grozny and produced their passports. Alpatu was lucky - she was last in the queue. The others were marched off and not heard from again. "They were soldiers from Dagestan and North Ossetia," she says. " I've tried to find my friends. What is strange is we haven't found the bodies."
The rape stories are not limited to one side. Another woman, an ethnic Russian, comes forward weeping, clutching a photograph of a beautiful teenager: her 15-year-old daughter.
"Chechen fighters came on November 15," she says slowly. "They burst into the room, wearing black masks and carrying Kalashnikovs. They said, 'We need her', that was all." She has searched three months in vain for the girl."Nothing," she says, rubbing her red eyes. "She just seemed to disappear."
The Russian emergency services have set up four "feeding points" which include hot showers in an attempt to prevent an epidemic, as well as a full surgical hospital. But in the Staropromyslovsky district, once heavily populated and less damaged than other city areas, there were fewer than 200 people gathered. They wait silently for three hours in the freezing cold, shuffling their feet for warmth, for a bowl of buckwheat kasha, a cup of sugared tea and a loaf of dark bread.
More are creeping to the hospital, complaining of shrapnel wounds, infections, illnesses or tuberculosis.
Near Minutka Square, Lyobov Yasinsaya, 42, a Ukrainian doctor who has lived in Grozny for years, screams with rage and frustration. She says that she could not leave the city because her elderly mother and her four children were unable to travel, and she emerged from her cellar only ten days ago. "We had to steal to get food and we often had no water. Now the war is over, I have been standing here for two weeks, and no one will help me!"
She is covered with dirt and grime, her face hidden behind weeks of unwashed soot. She stares at her hands, cracked and raw. "I'm an educated person, I hate going around like this, but I have descended into the condition of a monkey."
Dzhanat Aktulayeva, 62, says she has gone through two wars as well as deportation in 1944 to Kazakhstan. Her son was killed in the 1994 war and she raises his three children on her small pension. "We've been tortured," she says. "Life in Grozny has been hell on earth."
February 12, 2000
Jump On the Passion Wagon
By Yulia Savelyeva
I think St. Valentine's Day came to Russia at the perfect moment," said
28-year-old Natasha, who's been celebrating St. Valentine's for six years.
"We didn't want to mark those stupid socialist holidays anymore. We needed a
special holiday to satisfy our emotional human side, that was why we were so
enthusiastic in joining the rest of the world and marking this holiday." In
the early '90s, when most of the communist-era holidays lost their meaning,
the only favorites to survive were New Year's and birthdays. Just about that
time, the local Moskovsky Komsomolets daily ran a big story about the famous
Western holiday for sweethearts and proposed its readers start the same
tradition in Russia.
So, in just several years, St. Valentine's Day has become a new favorite
holiday - as well as an element of city life when, for one week in February,
red roses are the most sought after flowers in town, restaurants feature
special menus, night clubs host special parties and lovers prowl around in
search of romantic gifts.
Any congratulations start with cards and, although you can find them this
week even in your neighborhood grocery store, the cutest and wittiest of them
are on sale at the Hallmark stores ($1.50 to $3) together with beautiful
paper and bags for wrapping your presents. "In Europe, everyone is content to
give each other cards and chocolate, and I think that's enough. But Russians
are indefatigable and irrepressible in everything, including presents,"
26-year-old Lika said. A young woman on the hunt for a gift to please her
husband at Kalinka-Stockmann thought that "in contrast to the feminist
International Women's Day and the militaristic Army Day, St. Valentine's is a
unisex holiday and it's nice for both sexes to get one more present in the
year." Her 25-year-old friend Irina continued, "St. Valentine's Day is a good
occasion to give a memorable present to someone you love."
And some of Moscow's big stores can help you make a choice.
Forget about jewelry from Chopard or Bulgari, where the prices on
heart-shaped accessories start at $1,000. We're talking about some moderately
priced goods that won't leave you penniless, but can help make the holiday
In case you can't think of anything special for your valentine, the wide
array of cosmetics and fragrances at Articoli promises to be a fail-safe
solution. Take note of the scents with designs featuring red hearts, for
example, Oh! from Moschino and Vice Versa from Yves Saint Laurent. The Rivoli
perfume store has a special holiday offer until Monday: Buy any two perfumes
with a 10 percent discount and get the chance to win a special prize for
lovers from Emporio Armani.
Swatch has created special watches that not only sport roses but even smell
like them ($46)! And Benetton has joined the Valentine's craze with its
red-heart-covered underwear collection: bikinis and nightgowns for her,
boxers and T-shirts for him ($12 to $35). Or, if those are too intimate,
check out the "United Lovers of Benetton" T-shirt, complete with a
heart-shaped box ($27).
Kalinka-Stockmann offers a wide spectrum of special St. Valentine's Day
goods, and don't think you'll get by without hearts here. The store's
assortment can satisfy all your needs for this special night. Of course,
candles are an inalienable attribute of St. Valentine's: The various heart
candles ($2.20 to $6.90) and metal candle-holders decorated with carved
hearts ($2.50) will help set a romantic atmosphere. If you feel like whipping
up something sweet for your loved one, take a look at the heart-shaped
cookie-cutters ($1.20). Or maybe you prefer the store-bought stuff? No
problem - cookies can be served right on their original heart-form plate
($15.90). Napkins at the holiday dinner can be neatly tucked into
heart-shaped holders ($3.50), and a lone flower can decorate your table in a
vase on a red heart pedestal ($12.90). Finally, why not sip champagne from
special crystal glasses with two frosted hearts ($11.90 each)? Don't despair:
If the shopping gets you down you can take part in a special St. Valentine's
lottery instead, with the final drawing to be held at the store Sunday at 5
Oh yes! What about after the champagne? Although one Internet survey showed
that nearly 79 percent of young women feel St. Valentine's can be celebrated
without sex, just in case some of them change their minds, Kalinka-Stockmann
has gorgeous bed linens with light-red hearts on a dark-red background ($105
to $169) that can intensify their passion. And don't forget to switch off the
red heart lamp from the Payle salon ($109).
Prepared Testimony By
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
February 8, 2000
"America and the World in the Twenty-First Century"
The past year in Russia has been extraordinarily difficult.
Political turmoil, corruption, terrorist bombings, the war
in Chechnya and continued economic problems have created
hardships for the Russian people, and at times strained
relations with the West.
In the months ahead, we hope to re-establish and expand the
basis for cooperation between our countries. There is new
leadership in the Kremlin and a new Duma that may prove more
constructive and forward- looking than the one it replaced.
Our nations are working together again in the Balkans, and
consulting closely on arms control and nonproliferation
ssues. We seek to further develop ties between Russia and
NATO. And it remains very much in our interests to help
Russia prevent the loss of nuclear materials and expertise,
and to assist the Russian people in strengthening civil
The key short-term test for Russia's leaders remains the war
Like many others, we have criticized the Russian military
for indiscriminate shelling and bombing in that region. We
understand the problems posed by terrorism, but deplore the
massive violations of human rights. We are concerned about
the regional impacts of the conflict, including refugee
flows. And we also believe that the harsh tactics being
used will not work.
As I said last week in Moscow, "These tactics will not set
the stage for peace. Only a political resolution of the
conflict will do that. As long as the fighting continues, it
will serve as a magnet for extremism that could one day risk
the stability of the entire region."
It should not be surprising that the Russian transition is
proving difficult. After all, Communism was a seven-decade
forced march to a dead end, and no nation went further down
that road than Russia. But there is also no question that a
peaceful and democratic Russia that is tackling its economic
problems and playing a constructive international role can
make an enormous contribution to the 21st Century. We have
an enormous stake in Russian success and will continue to
work with Russian leaders whenever possible to advance
TITLE: ACTING PRESIDENT PUTIN ANSWERS QUESTIONS IN KOMSOMOLSKAYA
PRAVDA PHONE-IN (KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA, PP.3-5, FEBRUARY 11,
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I'M NOT GONNA TELL TALES. NOBODY NEEDS THEM.
Within half an hour the acting president of Russia lifted the phone
38 times. Some of the questions were hard-hitting. So were Putin's
"Do you deserve to be the president of Russia?"
Q: Hallo, who is it?
Q: Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am a born Muscovite. Do you
consider yourself to be worthy of becoming the President of Russia
if you have been recommended by Yeltsin who destroyed the Soviet
Union and whom the people do not trust?
A: If the people vote for me, I am worthy and if they don't
Q: But what is your personal opinion?
A: My personal opinion will be based on the opinion of the
voters who will go to the polls on March 26 and make their
decision. I think you would agree with me that a man is judged not
by what people say about him, but by what he does.
Now about destroying the Soviet Union. I can remind you of a
formula which has become conventional wisdom here: he who is not
sorry about the collapse of the Soviet Union has no heart and he
who wants it recreated in its former shape has no head. As you see,
our actions recently have been aimed at recreating the union state,
but on a new basis. If the people approve of what we are doing to
this end they will vote accordingly.
Q. Thank you very much.
A: Good day, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am Ayaz Khasanov from
Kazan. Russia has signed treaties with many regions. The pioneer in
this movement was Tatarstan. Won't the treaty between Russia and
Tatarstan come under revision?
A: For such a multinational state as ours the federal system
is the best set-up if we are to keep the state safe and sound. The
parameters of the treaties the federal Center has signed with
Tatarstan and with many other subjects of the federation give
grounds for hoping that our state will be stable for a long time to
By the way, we are in contact with the leadership of your
republic. And we are in contact with President Shaimiyev. He is, on
the one hand, himself an advocate of a strong state and on the
other, there is no reason to doubt that he is above all a patriot
And nobody is going to impinge upon the interests of the
subjects of the Federation. On the contrary, we will improve these
relations so that the people of Tatarstan and other national
republics should feel that they have all the opportunities for
national development as members of the Russian Federation.
Q: And one more little question. You have said that all the
presidential candidates will have equal opportunities. But the TV
channels and the printed media speak mostly about Putin. If the
other candidates are ever mentioned, it is only in a negative way.
Do you call that equal opportunities?
A: If you take me, specifically, I have not yet been
registered as a presidential candidate and I have not started my
election campaign. You can only begin discussing how much air time
is given to me as a candidate and to other candidates for the post
of the president of the Russian Federation only after I launch my
As for the attention of the mass media to the institution of
the presidency which I happen to personalize today, there is
nothing I can do about it: you can't forbid the press to cover the
activities of the top bodies of state power and administration.
Q: Thank you for your frank answer.
Q: Vladimir Vladimirovich, my name is Yelena Nikolayevna. I
wish you success in the electoral race. We need a president like
you -- competent, modern, energetic.
A: Thank you.
Q: I think you understand that the fate and the condition of
the Russian people which makes up 80 percent of the Russian
population is crucial for the fate and the future of the whole of
our country. Last year there was, for a certain period, a
department for the Russian people at the Nationalities Ministry,
but it was dissolved after reorganization.
A: It's the first time I hear about it.
Q: As the head of government and state don't you think that
this body should be restored and the national problems of the
Russians should be seriously attended to?
A: I am ashamed to say it, but I didn't know that the
Department of the Russian People has been dissolved. That is odd.
Russians account for a larger percentage of the population in
Russia than the French in France. And of course, "the Russian
question," like the state of affairs regarding other ethnic
entities and nationalities, should be within the purview of the
government and the state administration bodies. This is my
position. And I thank you, Yelena Nikolayevna, for giving me some
Q: I am a school student from Blagoveshchensk. My name is
Larisa Belaya, I am 13 years old. I want to work in your team, I
want to help you to win the presidential election. I am already
making leaflets in your support. What else can I do?
A: Larisa, I am not sure I can answer your question because I
am not a specialist on campaigning. There should be an initiative
group in Blagoveshchensk, there are a lot of them across the
country. I think it would be enough if you promote your views on
what the elections should be in the circle of the people close to
you. You yourself are not yet old enough to vote. It should be
proper if you present your views to your relatives and the grownups
whom you know and so on. I think that would be enough for starters.
And I will be grateful to you for this.
Q: Thank you very much. We will vote for you.
A: Thank you. I wish you success.
"Why do you think the fate of the communists is so important?"
Q: I am Pavel Alexandrovich, I am from Krivoi Rog. I am
interested in the fate of the communists in Russia. Consider the
situation. Their ideology has led to the destruction of millions of
people, churches and shrines. Even the symbols of their power are
sinister: a banner the color of blood, and they have turned Red
Square into a cemetery... How do you feel about all this and the
fate of communists. I, for one, think that their ideology is very
A: Pavel Alexandrovich, as far as the danger of their ideology
is concerned, I feel pretty much the same as you do. But I would
like to remind you that more than 6 million people vote for the
communists. And they do so without much information support,
especially the electronic media. And still people do it for some
reason. Realizing the danger we should ponder all the facts and
draw conclusions for ourselves as to how we should act.
If we simply persecute people for their views and convictions,
that will do no good. I think our behavior in this case should be
exceedingly civilized, we should not break the law.
Q: And how do you account for what happened in the Duma: Unity
has made common cause with the communists?
A: I will elaborate on this point.
In my opinion we should fight not the communists but we should
try to win over the people who vote for them. We should do it not
by words but by deeds. People should see in practice that the ideas
that you and I advocate -- and they are the ideals of democracy and
the market economy -- bring practical results and people's lives
become better and easier, they become wealthier and feel safer.
This is the main area of effort.
As for the fate of the Communist Party itself, there are
several options. If they change their ideology, that part of it
which is dangerous and which you spoke about and if they change
their platform into the bargain... By the way, they took a lot of
things out of their program but a lot has remained, things like
confiscation, nationalization and so on. But we have been into that
before, there was a time when they confiscated everything and made
everything common property, including chickens. But then they
thought better of it and introduced the New Economic Policy. There
is a danger that it will be repeated. This is not a hollow threat.
So, if they understand it and gradually begin to abandon the
radical elements in their program and ideology then they will not
only retain, but broaden their social base and gradually evolve
into a European-style social democratic party.
Another possibility is that they will stick to their
ideological dogma and will gradually lose their social base and
will end up being an organization which has a high-sounding name,
but no real popular support. So, these are the options.
Q: Thank you and I wish you success.
"What is your aim in Chechnya?"
Q: Good day, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am Alexander. I can't
believe that I am talking with the President.
A: And rightly so. Because you are acting with the acting
Q: But I hope that you will be elected.
A: Thank you.
Q: But I don't quite like what you are doing in Chechnya. And
my question is, how will you go about fighting crime?
A: How come? On the one hand, you disagree with my actions in
Chechnya and at the same time you are calling on me to fight crime.
It doesn't quite add up. I think everything is interconnected
because Chechnya is one of the main enclaves of crime from which
crime spreads all across the territory of the Russian Federation.
Unless we crush the criminal community there we will have
absolutely no chance to challenge crime on the whole territory of
the Russian Federation. I hope that answers your question...
Q: Thank you.
Q: I am Alexander Georgiyevich from the city of Moscow. Let me
say right off that I support your campaign to restore order in
Chechnya. My question is about the reform of the Armed Forces. Does
the state have a concrete program in that area? I want to see our
army more combat ready.
A: That is a very sore question, Alexander Georgiyevich. And
one that is vital for the destinies of the country -- I don't mind
using high-sounding words. It is important for the economy, for
security and for the state of society as a whole. The "power
component" in this country has become weakened and everything went
tumbling down. But everything should be in harmony: the economy,
the social sphere, the power structures and the law enforcement
bodies... Of course, it's one of the main tasks we will have to
tackle immediately. Are you a serviceman yourself?
Q: I am an officer in reserve.
A: You have put your finger on a very real problem there.
Those who look at it from the outside see nothing wrong: we have an
army of 1.2 million, so, we can come and solve any problem. But in
reality army structure, its condition and its cost -- all this
requires a different approach. You know that a new concept for
restructuring the Armed Forces has been adopted and one of the
levers in these transformations is to strengthen the so-called
general purpose forces.
Q: When will we have an army of professionals?
A: We will introduce professional army service gradually in
accordance with the economic potential of the state. There are some
areas in which only professionals should work and serve. The
Special Forces, for example.
Q: Thank you very much. I wish you success in the elections.
Q: Karachov Nikolai Yegorovich, of the Izhevsk radio
electronics factory. I served as a marine in the border troops. I
have a suggestion: could we reintroduce general mobilization to
include university students as well? My son served in the army
after completing his freshman year, they were a group of 25 young
men and they signed up to serve in the army and they came back good
and healthy guys and completed their studies.
A: Nikolai Yegorovich, I don't think it is such a good idea to
draft all students into the army because we also have to develop
science, culture and the economy.
If we don't have a powerful economy, the army won't survive.
So, a certain balance is needed.
Q: Vladimir Vladimirovich, the people in Izhevsk hope you will
make a good president.
A: Thank you.
Q: I am Nevzorova Natalya Borisovna. Why is there so much talk
about the journalist Babitsky who has disappeared and nothing is
heard about General Shpigun who was kidnapped last year?
A: As for Babitsky, as one of my assistants told me today, a
television channel ran a video in which Babitsky says that he is
all right. So, in that sense we can't say that he has disappeared.
The field commanders with whom he is and who took him have
already handed over five servicemen in exchange for him. By the
way, the military reported to me that there was initially no
information about his movements because the group that offered to
trade him set the condition that they would hand over two more
officers after Babitsky reached their camp in the mountains. This
accounts for the cautious way in which our military have acted.
Q: So, he kind of volunteered to make a sacrifice of himself?
A: No, he has not sacrificed himself. This was his voluntary
decision. He went to the people whose interests he effectively
served. And they proposed to exchange him for our soldiers. That
said, there are still a lot of things that need clearing up.
As for Shpigun, I agree with you. And it's not only him. There
are still over 250 hostages there, our citizens and foreigners.
"Save our sons"
Q: Hello. I lost all my family in Grozny. I have only my son
left. When the first war began I sent him to Moscow to my relatives
because I was afraid that he would be drafted and sent to fight...
He was arrested in September of last year. And now he is in
Matrosskaya Tishina jail. Please, help my son to regain confidence
in life and in truth. He is now ready for that.
A: Where can you be reached?
Q: I can be reached at telephone number ...
A: Okay. We will pass it on to the people who deal with this
matter. As a mother, are you sure about your son, that he is OK?
Q: I am sure that when he is released now... he is suffering
a lot, he says, "Mother, this is God's punishment." He went to jail
in order to become a real man.
Q: I am Ganzha Lidiya Sergeyevna. I am sorry to bother you. I
am a soldier's mother. My son was in a training camp and since then
I've been trying to locate him for three months without success. Is
there an organization that could help me find my son?
A: Give me his name and coordinates.
Q: Ganzha Mikhail Viktorovich. Born on July 15, 1980 in the
city of Moscow. He was drafted by the Timiryazevsky district draft
station on May 26, 1999. I went to the draft station ...
A: Where did he serve?
Q: In the town of Ostrovsk, Pskov region, military unit No.
... I wish you would set up a hot line so that mothers could find
A: I'll make inquiries about your son and we will let you
Q: But you know that very many mothers suffer.
A: I agree. As far as I know, the Defense Ministry has set up
such a hot line. I will talk about it with Igor Sergeyev.
Q: May God give you good health.
"When will you secure the release of airmen?"
Q: I am Romanovskaya Olga Fyodorovna from the city of
Zhukovsky near Moscow. We met with a great misfortune. An air crew
of the research institute sent to Angola was seized by UNITA. To
this day neither the administration of the Institute, nor the
relatives have any information although they have appealed to every
quarter. We sent appeals to you when you were the head of the
Federal Security Service. In addition to our crew, there are five
other crews, 20 Russian airmen in all. When will they be released?
A: Olga Fyodorovna, we too are worried about the fate of our
citizens who found themselves in trouble. And the Foreign Ministry
never stopped working to secure their release.
But I would like to tell you something else. Unfortunately, it
is not uncommon for our citizens or just Russian people who live in
other republics, but hold Russian citizenship, to work not in the
interests of the state but for private firms and companies and,
unfortunately, they often break the laws of the countries where
they work. In this way they put themselves and Russia in a
difficult situation. So, these are not easy problems to solve.
But it doesn't mean that we should leave them in the lurch. Of
course, we will step up efforts to secure their release. Olga
Fyodorovna, I assure you that we have not forgotten about them.
Q: Thank you very much.
"What is in store for Berezovsky?"
Q: Dmitriyenko Andrei Gennadyevich from Moscow. It's about
Berezovsky. Is there any progress in the investigation into his
activities? Will a line be drawn?
A: I am not involved in the investigation of his activities or
anybody else's. Criminal cases have been instituted by the
Prosecutor General's Office and a corresponding procedure is being
implemented as part of these criminal cases. I don't think you and
I should interfere in the work of the investigating bodies.
Q: Won't there be attempts to throw spanners in the works?
A: Why should there be any? Why do you have such fears?
Everybody is equal before the law. And in this connection no one,
including Boris Abramovich Berezovsky, can expect to be treated in
some special way.
I can tell you one more thing. Those whom we have come to call
oligarchs -- and I know many of them -- often say one and the same
thing: we are ourselves interested in compliance with common rules
of the game. Why is it that one person pays taxes and another
person has the right to dodge taxes? It is the duty of the state to
treat everybody equally and to create a level playing field.
Q: Thank you for your answer.
Q: I am Andrei Sladkov, a serviceman. Of late, there have been
rumors that Defense Minister Sergeyev and Interior Minister
Rushailo are about to be fired. Could you comment on them?
A: Nonsense. No such resignations are being planned. And
rumors are being spread by people who don't know or in order to
rock the boat and introduce an element of destabilization in the
army and the power ministries. It is done either by unscrupulous
political rivals or by nitwits who don't understand what they are
Q: Is the firing of Kolesnikov from the post of First Deputy
Interior Minister linked to these rumors in any way?
A: No, there is no connection. It's an internal decision of
the Ministry. Of course, I could have stepped in, but when the
Minister and Vladimir Ilyich Kolesnikov himself decided that he
shouldn't work at the Interior Ministry, I think I have no right to
interfere in the process. People in a team should be
psychologically compatible. I don't think personnel decisions
should be forced if they are not matters of principle or have
"Let's hold a referendum on land"
Q: I am Georgy Mikhailovich from Moscow. The confrontation
over the issue of land has been lasting for a year. It is time to
put an end to it by going to the people because land is the
property of the whole people and let the people decide what to do
about it. In order to save the cost the referendum could be held
simultaneously with the presidential election.
A: The question of land has always been crucial for Russia.
Clearly, it has to be solved somehow. The land situation should not
stand in the way of the development of market relations. But we
shouldn't allow people, especially rural folk, to have fears that
the reforms would deprive them of their basic means of production
from which they make their living. So, this is not a question that
can be solved by a narrow group of people.
In civilized countries where they have free sale and purchase
of land and where land is said to be a marketable commodity, all
this is regulated by a huge number of conditions. And this
mechanism should be worked out in detail and spelled out.
It is quite possible to hold a referendum on the issue. But we
won't manage to prepare it by the time of the election for
technical reasons. But it's an interesting suggestion anyway.
Q: Good day, I am Zadorina Galina Vasilyevna. We have read in
Komsomolskaya Pravda that 342 million of federal money will be
allocated for the sowing season in Chechnya.
A: Yes, this is an option under consideration.
Q: But in the Trans-Urals area, the birth place of Terenty
Semyonovich Maltsev, where there are a hundred thousand hectares of
land under grain crops we are told that we won't get a single
kopeck from the federal budget. Who will provide the people with
A: Galina Vasilyevna, as for Chechnya, it is a special case,
as you understand. If the state does not give direct support, we
will have to feed the whole republic and that would require not 300
million but perhaps many billion rubles. It is cheaper for us to
give that money now so that people should have a chance to work and
feed themselves and their own people. That's one thing. Secondly,
it is our duty to support Chechen people today. It is untrue to say
that we are fighting the Chechens. We are fighting bandits and
terrorists who have claimed the Chechen people as their first
victims. They are our citizens and it is our duty to take care of
Thirdly. Simply disbursing money from the federal budget for
any sector in the former manner, like it was in former years, -- I
think that is wrong. We have been there before and it is not very
effective. I would agree with you that we have to find methods for
the state to promote development of agriculture in the regions.
"Give child allowances to the mothers"
Q: Good day, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am calling you from the
Rostov region. I have a question about child allowances.
A: What's your name?
Q: Sofya Yuryevna.
A: Sofya Yuryevna, it is in fact one of the most pressing
social issues. I won't tell you tales, they are no use to you. You
are interested to know if child allowances will be paid?
Q: Yes, and not only me.
A: We had total arrears of 30 billion rubles, and we are now
beginning to pay them back. The main mistake, I think, was made
when allowances began to be handed out right and left regardless of
whether a person needed them. Now, as you know, allowances are
given upon considering applications. Those who need allowances
provide information about themselves and their families and get the
money. By the way, arrears have been cut by several billion rubles.
How much do they owe you?
Q: I haven't been paid in three years. I am a single mother.
A: What town do you live in?
Q: Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, the settlement of Likhovskoi.
A: I will look into the situation there. We will try to do
more in that area.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: I am Rubits Olga Alexandrovna from Voronezh. My husband is
a serviceman. First of all, I would like to know how you assess
your physical condition?
A: I am not a military man, I am a civilian, I am in reserve.
But I think that my physical condition is satisfactory.
Q: And are you a good shot?
A: Not bad, pretty good, in fact.
Q: Can you tell me then, when will servicemen get their
salaries on time?
A: The situation has improved in the last six months. Or,
perhaps, you disagree with me?
Q: The situation improved only on New Year's eve, before the
elections. They paid arrears on food parcels, but now they stopped
paying them again.
A: Food parcels, yes. We had a problem there. But there is no
connection between elections for the State Duma and payments to
servicemen. We are paying the current salaries, but the arrears is
more of a problem. But we will gradually pay them off too. Anyway,
God forbid you from linking it to the upcoming presidential
"What do you go to church for?"
Q: I am Lidiya Vasilyevna Titova. I am an office worker in
Moscow. I hear you often go to church. Is it connected with some
personal experiences or troubles?
A: When I was several months old, my mother and a neighbor in
the communal flat where we lived at the time took me to a church
and baptized me without telling my father who was a Communist Party
member. That was my first visit to the church, and, as you may
guess, I find it hard to remember it.
Later, when I worked in Petersburg I went to Jerusalem at the
invitation of the Israel Foreign Ministry and my mother gave me the
little cross with which I was baptized so that I should sanctify it
on God's sepulcher. I fulfilled my mother's will. And I must say
that I was seriously impressed by the holy places. Later we went
there, the whole family, as tourists, privately.
Q: Can it be said that your soul calls you to a church?
A: I told you honestly how it all happened and you can draw
Q: The conclusion suggests itself: if a person goes to a
church of his own free will, his soul bids him to do so.
A: I simply wanted my children to become involved in it. I
have been visiting church from time to time ever since.
Q: Thank you for your answer.
Q: Good day, my name is Lyudmila. I am a Muscovite. Do you
A: I like good football. It is very much like art.
Q: When will we get a Spartak stadium? It's a team that is in
the champions league?
A: You know that big sporting facilities is a major problem
here. Many of these facilities are owned by the trade unions. We
would hate to quarrel with them and create the impression that we
are out to grab some of their property. But it is clear that major
sporting facilities should serve a very different set of purposes
and not be used as open market space where they sell rags. So, you
have an ally in me there.
Q: You are so young and energetic, you should tackle this
A: Okay Lyuda, we will try.
Q: Good day, Vladimir Vladimirovich. My name is Anzhela. Could
you tell me about your family?
A: I have a wife and two children, two girls aged 13 and 14.
My wife has finished a university. She majored in Romance
philology, studied Spanish and French. But she worked for a while
at university with the German language, as it happened.
Q: Do you know any foreign languages?
A: I have working command of German. My children go to school
and their German is better than mine. They are very fluent, they
speak almost like natives. My wife doesn't work currently.
Q: What do your children want to be?
A: It is too early to say yet, they are too little. They will
probably go on to a university or an institute. They are good
academically. They do sports, they go in for judo in spite of being
girls. They also ski. That's about all.
From the editors:
Unfortunately, we couldn't publish the whole transcript of the
phone-in program. The paper only has so much space. We have handed
over to the President's staff the full transcript of the
conversation between Vladimir Putin and the readers of
Komsomolskaya Pravda as well as the numerous letters and telegrams
that people sent to the paper addressed to him. We got a promise
that not a single question will remain unanswered. Thanks to
everyone who called or wrote to us.
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