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Johnson's Russia List


February 15, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4107 4108 4109


Johnson's Russia List
15 February 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: POLITICAL COMMISSARS FOR THE MILITARY? 
2. Itar-Tass: Military Operation in Chechnya to End in One Month.
6. New Holdsworth book -- Correction.
7. Matt Taibbi: eXile poll. (re Yavlinsky)
9. Versiya: Rustam Arifjanov, BE PATIENT!
10. Robert Bruce Ware: A&F - Supreme Mufti of Chechnya Says Russian Troops Should Stay.
12. AFP: Bush says China should receive priority over Russia.
13. Novye Izvestiya: Yavlinsky Was Given 2 Million Signatures.
14. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Geoffrey York, The Quiet Man. Vladimir Putin's shadowy, careful rise to power.] 


Jamestown Foundation Monitor
14 February 2000

Vladimir Putin signed a decree over the weekend which some observers 
believe is a step toward reinstituting the Soviet-era practice of placing 
"political commissars" inside Russian military units. The presence of 
state security units within the armed forces, in fact, never fully 
disappeared. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the task of watching 
over the military passed from the third department of the KGB's main 
directorate to the military intelligence departments of the KGB's various 
successor organizations. State security agents within the military ranks, 
however, were basically robbed of their Soviet-era political function. 
Over the last few years, the units of the Federal Security Service (FSB) 
within the armed forces have been used not only to counter the activities 
of foreign intelligence organizations, but also to root out criminal 
activities within the armed forces, including the theft of weaponry, and--
perhaps with less success--to ensure "the observance of law" within the 
ranks. There has also been talk of transferring these functions from the 
FSB to either the Defense Ministry or the GRU, the military intelligence 
service (Izvestia, February 13).

However, the new decree--No. 318, called "On the Directorates 
(Departments) of the Federal Security Service in Armed Forces, Other 
Troops, Troop Formation and Organs"--reportedly assigns the FSB units 
within the armed forces such tasks as "the elimination of negative 
phenomena within the army environment." This vague language, it has 
been suggested, can easily be interpreted to include such things as the 
political views of a military officer or his "unsanctioned contacts with the 
press" (Izvestia, February 14).

Today, in an apparent reaction to that report, FSB spokesman 
Aleksandr Zdanovich claimed that the "security organs within the [armed 
forces] are not receiving any additional power" and that the new directive 
"only brings the security organs into conformity with the existing 
structure of the armed forces, where over recent times reforms were 
carried out" and is based on the federal law on the security organs, 
which "carefully maps out" the powers of the FSB (Russian agencies, 
February 14).

While it remains to be seen whether Putin's new decree really means 
the revival of "political commissars" within the armed forces, it is worth 
noting that the measure comes on the heels of others which might be 
viewed as part of an overall attempt to reinstitute elements of ideological 
control over society. On Putin's first day in office as acting head of state 
(December 31 of last year), for example, he signed the decree 
"Readiness of Russian Citizens for Military Service," which revives the 
Soviet-era practice of providing two to three hours a week of military 
training in state schools. Boys will be expected, among other things, to 
learn to take apart and reassemble rifles, while girls will learn first aid 
and other medical techniques (Moscow Times, February 11).


Military Operation in Chechnya to End in One Month
By Pavel Koryashkin 

MOSCOW, February 14 (Itar-Tass) - The military stage of the counter-terrorist 
operation in Chechnya will end "inside one month", Russian Defence Minister 
Igor Sergeyev said on Monday. 

Sergeyev made the announcement after a meeting with Duma Defence Committee 
chairman Andrei Nikolayev. 

He stressed the need to "finish the military stage of the operation and move 
on to a special operation" to be carried out by Interior Ministry troops. 

"I do not link the deadline for the conclusion of the operation in Chechnya 
to the (upcoming) presidential elections," Sergeyev said. 

"I link it to the criteria which have been established for the 
counter-terrorist operation. These are minimum losses among federal troops 
and the peaceful population," he said. 


Vremya MN
February 11, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
By Oleg SAVELYEV, VTsIOM press-service

On January 6-26, 2000 the All-Russian Public Opinion
Centre (VTsIOM) carried out a representative poll of 2,407
Russians. Distribution of answers to some questions of this
research is given in percentage points, together with the data
of similar polls carried out by VTsIOM in the previous two
years. The statistical error of such polls is within 2%. 

What could you say about your mood lately?
1998 1999 
Jul Nov Jan Mar May Jul Sep Nov
Excellent 4 3 3 3 4 5 4 4 
Normal, balanced 
state 39 33 33 34 36 34 37 40 
Tense state, 
irritation 41 43 44 42 39 45 40 39 
Fear, depressin 9 13 13 14 11 11 12 9 
Hesitant 7 8 7 7 10 5 7 8 

Excellent 5 
Normal, balanced 
state 45 
Tense state, 
irritation 33 
Fear, depression 10 
Hesitant 7 

Which of the statements given below corresponds most of
all, in your opinion, to the current situation? 
Jul Nov Jan Mar 
Not everything is so
bad and it's possible
to live 9 5 5 5 
It's difficult to
live but it's 
tolerable 37 38 42 41 
Our plight cannot
be any longer 
tolerated 46 51 47 47 
Hesitant 8 6 6 7 

1999 2000 
May Jul Sep Nov Jan 
Not everything is so
bad and it's possible
to live 7 7 7 6 9 
It's difficult to
live but it's 
tolerable 40 40 42 47 50 
Our plight cannot
be any longer 
tolerated 45 48 45 40 35 
Hesitant 8 5 6 7 6 

To what degree does your present life satisfy you as a

Jul Nov Jan Mar 
Quite and largely 
satisfies 14 7 8 9 
Partly satisfies and
partly not 31 26 30 30 
Completely and 
largely dissatisfies 54 65 61 60 
Hesitant 1 2 1 1 

1999 2000 
May Jul Sep Nov Jan 
Quite and largely 
satisfies 11 13 12 12 16 
Partly satisfies and
partly not 32 31 33 33 34 
Completely and 
largely dissatisfies 54 55 53 53 48 
Hesitant 3 1 2 2 2 

How would you assess the economic position of Russia? 

Jul Nov Jan Mar 
Very good and good 1 - 1 - 
Medium 14 6 9 6 
Very bad and bad 79 90 85 88 
Hesitant 6 4 5 6 

1999 2000 
May Jul Sep Nov Jan 
Very good and good - 1 - 1 2 
Medium 10 9 11 13 20 
Very bad and bad 83 83 81 76 70 
Hesitant 7 7 8 10 8 

If mass manifestations of people against the falling
living standards and the protection of their rights are held
in your town, will you personally participate in them or not? 

Jul Nov Jan Mar 
Most likely, yes 27 24 29 28 
Most likely, no 50 59 52 55 
Hesitant 23 17 19 17 

1999 2000 
May Jul Sep Nov Jan 
Most likely, yes 27 28 24 24 20 
Most likely, no 57 53 58 64 60 
Hesitant 16 19 18 12 20 

On the basis of the data cited you should not make hasty
conclusions that the life of Russians and the economic
position of Russia have improved considerably. No doubt, some
revival of the economy is witnessed. According to statistics
and polls, the arrears of wage and other payments have been
eliminated. However, these wage and other payments are so low
that frequently do not ensure even a subsistence minimum. The
first signs of the growth of optimistic sentiments among
Russians is most likely linked with stronger hopes for the
future typical of the period of "around election optimism."
Incidentally, a similar picture was fixed by VTsIOM polls
during the 1995-1996 election campaign. However, when after
the previous presidential elections the life of most Russians
had not improved, the level of the assessment of life, the
conduct of reform and hopes for the future dropped



MOSCOW. Feb 14 (Interfax) - If presidential elections in Russia had
been held last Sunday, acting President Vladimir Putin would have won a
convincing victory because 57% of the Russians planning to take part in
the elections would cast their ballots for him. The figure comes from a
representative poll of 1,600 adult Russians conducted by the All-Russian
Public Opinion Center conducted on February 7.
According to the center estimates, approximately 58% of registered
voters plan to come to polling stations in March. The estimate is based
on a comparison of the poll and actual turnout in the previous
presidential elections in July 1996.
This time 17% are ready to vote for Communist leader Gennady
Zyuganov, 4% for Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, 4% for leader of
Fatherland-All Russia coalition Yevgeny Primakov and 2% for Liberal
Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Three other presidential hopefuls - Governor of Kemerovo region
Aman Tuleyev, Samara region governor Konstantin Titov and former Duma
member Ella Pamfilova - are supported by 1% each.


19:35 14.02.00
Mass Media
After the March 26 presidential election, the body of Vladimir Lenin will be 
probably interred, a highly-placed source in the Kermlin Administration that 
wished to remain anonymous said. The building of the Lenin Mausoleum, 
however, will remain in the Red Square and "thus the problem will be finally 
solved". The Russian Government intends to give Lenin a solemn burial, 
although it is not clear at this stage whether it will be conducted in 
accordance with Christian ritual. According to the unnamed representative of 
the Presidential Administration, the graves of other well-known Soviet 
leaders: Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov, are planned to be removed from the Red 
Square too. "There must be no cemetery in the Red Square", the official 

Comment: Probably Boris Yeltsin's successor will be able to achieve what 
Yeltsin himself had been unsuccessfully striving for throughout the years of 
his rule. However, the same Kremlin source admitted that the final decision 
on this issue has not been taken yet. "Putin has his own view of the problem, 
but he also respects the opinions of people form the older generation", so he 
wants to try to resolve this "painful question" without creating a split in 
society. That is precisely why, Der Spiegel thinks, the story of the proposed 
changes in Red Square has so far been distributed only by the 
English-language service of the ITAR-TASS information agency. Too 
considerable a section of Putin's potential electorate is opposed to the idea 
of burying Lenin's body, so "a broad discussion of this subject before the 
election may have a negative effect on the whole of the Acting President's 
election campaign".
Der Spiegel: Lenin soll begraben werden


Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000
From: "Nick Holdsworth" <> 
Subject: New Holdsworth book -- Correction


Readers who saw my note on JRL 4105 on February 13 and tried to find my new
book "Moscow: The Beautiful and the Damned -- Life in Russia in Transition."
on will have failed.....the reason is that I should have directed
you to the British site, not the American site. My publishers
Andre Deutsch have British and Commonwealth rights only......although I do
hope that an American edition will come out in the future.

In the meantime, if you would like the book please order via or
by contacting Nigel Stoneman, Publicity Executive, Andrei Deutsch Ltd, 76
Dean St, London W1V 5HA.

I'll be putting some more comments on the site and there should
also be a review there shortly.

Thanks and my apologies for the mistake!
Nick Holdsworth
Times Higher Education Supplement (London)
Moscow and Eastern Europe Correspondent


Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000
From: Matt Taibbi <> 
Subject: poll

Dear David,

The eXile is conducting a poll, and we were hoping we could post the 
question on your list and invite your readers to respond. Participation in 
the poll is restricted to Americans living in Russia. We will post the 
results later this week.

The question is as follows:

Do you think Grigory Yavlinsky would make a better President of the United 
States than:

1. Al Gore (yes/no)
2. George W. Bush (yes/no)
3. Bill Bradley (yes/no)
4. John McCain (yes/no)

Responses should be sent to me at

Thanks in advance-- I hope we'll have an interesting report on this to send 
you soon
Matt T.


By Interfax analyst Viktoria Lavrentyeva

MOSCOW. Feb 14 (Interfax) - The early resignation of Managing
Director of the International Monetary Fund Michel Camdessus marked the
beginning of an intermediary period in the IMF which will most likely
last until the United States presidential elections.
"For some reason, everyone is talking about the presidential
elections in Russia, forgetting about the presidential elections in the
U.S., although the outcome of the presidential elections in the U.S.
will determine what policy and economic strategy will be chosen by the
world's leading countries," a highly-placed Russian official has told
The United States' hegemony in the world has virtually evolved into
a monopoly. The U.S. determines the position of the seven most
industrialized states on the key issues, even though theoretically there
are at least two political counterbalances - the European Union and
Japan, to say nothing of Russia.
The debates over Camdessus's successor were not an exception,
either. To this day, the main shareholders have not come to terms on a
candidacy that would suit everyone. The most likely candidate, the
German deputy finance minister, has failed to secure the support of
France, Japan and the United States. But if the Europeans had managed to
reach an agreement, at least between themselves and better yet with
Japan, they would have been able to counter the U.S. position.
But then, there is no position whatsoever at the moment that
explains why no distinct statements have been made by the IMF's main
shareholder concerning the future of the IMF. There is only one
explanation; the U.S. is more concerned about who will emerge victorious
from the upcoming presidential elections - a Republican or a Democrat,
and who will outline the United States' foreign policy, including the
recipients of IMF loans, among them Russia.
"This is one of the main causes of the current rift in relations
between Russia and the IMF which simply has no mechanisms of making
decisions concerning Russia, even though Russia is earnestly
implementing the program agreed upon with the IMF," Troika Dialog chief
economist Oleg Vyugin has said.
By silent agreement, the role of the IMF chief, pending the
termination of the period of 'interregnum,' will be played by First
Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer. Camdessus said that the
efficiency and functional ability of the IMF should worry no one in this
transitional period at a recent appearance in Bangkok. Fischer will
ensure a normal and very efficient leadership, as he is an extraordinary
person, Camdessus said.
In the opinion of Russian officials, Fischer is "a brilliant
economist who is rather far from politics and with whom one can conduct
a substantive dialogue."
On Tuesday, contacts with the IMF's chief interim figure are to be
established by Russian presidential envoy to the G8 Alexander Livshits
who has already arrived in Washington.
In the meantime, the Russian government is having a time-out, as
Fischer himself has stated on many occasions that the IMF will not
release any loans to Russia until after the presidential elections.
Anyway, the availability of an agreement with the IMF is a political
rather than financial issue, as without such an agreement Russia will
fail to reach a comprehensive accord with the Paris Club on the Soviet-
era debt. Nor will it be able to borrow on international markets on
acceptable terms.
It is clear now that Russia will have to reach an agreement with
the IMF and to repay its debts, currently amounting to $15 billion. "To
pay or not to pay is not even being discussed, as this will be a scandal
that will inflict irreparable damage on the country," Vyugin said.
But then the prestige of the IMF may suffer if the IMF mandate is
curtailed and its independence becomes purely nominal under the pressure
of the United States. Obviously, the future of this international
institution concerns its shareholders much more than the Russian
Hopefully, the presidential elections in Russia scheduled for March
will settle at least some of the problems in relations between Moscow
and the IMF. As to the political future of the IMF, it will become clear
as late as November, after the presidential elections in the United


February 15-21, 2000
Rustam Arifjanov
[translation for personal use only]
Rustam Arifjanov is Chief Editor of Versiya, a weekly newspaper.

Did you ever play chess with Aleksandr Karelin, the wrestler? Neither did I.
But I imagine quite vividly this mountain of muscles towering above me. Now,
at some point he steals my white bishop from the chessboard, puts him into
his pocket, looks me in the eyes, and waits for my reaction. And I react -
by putting up with it. Life has taught me this way, especially over the
recent months.

What else can we do? Life has become very much like a chessgame with
Karelin. We watch it timidly and we put up with it.

As before, teachers are not paid their salaries. Workers are being thrown
out of their factories. Utility and phone bills keep rising. The rouble is
quivering before the dollar like an aspen leaf. The people is being fooled
up and the people keep their patience. Shoigu and Karelin are our best
lawmakers. Abramovich and Berezovsky are the chief representatives of the
people. Gudermes is the capital of Chechnya. Yastrzhembsky is the messenger
of truth. Who will argue against that?

And now even vodka will cost more. Isn't it marvelous? A price hike of more
than a third. Excellent! That is, the cheapest brand will cost no less than
50 Rbl per bottle. Thank you.

"Let it be so," the people say, counting their coins at liquor stores,
"we'll put up with it."

Everyone understands that our money is needed to fill the government
coffers. From our pockets - to the government pocket. And then, where to?
Let us list the names of those who are alleged to be pumping money out of
the federal budget. Berezovsky and Borodin, both under investigation by
Swiss prosecutors. Abramovich and Dyachenko, suspects of the Russian public
opinion. A Chechen named Gantamirov, who had been indicted for the
appropriation of billions of government money and then pardoned by Yeltsin
and favored by Putin. And a Chechen named Yusupov who takes Russians as
hostages and then sells them for Russian money, mostly from the federal
budget funds. We are happy for all of these.

We are paying our money to them, guys, to the Berezovskys and Gantamirovs.
They wage war and they live in luxury using our money. By adding another two
dozen of roubles each to the old price, we allow to sustain the federal
budget and all those who stick to it.

To hell with the vodka. Life is getting ever more pricey and ever more
stupid. Not only are we poor, but we also look like idiots. The Kremlin
chessmasters contrive stories to cover up the smuggling of the forbidden
Iraqi oil. We take it at face value and we keep our patience. We are being
told about the multipolar world, while relations are strengthened with
Saddam Hussein, Kim Chong Il and Hafez Assad. We are being told lies first
about the disappearance of Andrey Babitsky, then about his arrest, then
about his exchange for soldiers, then we are told that the exchange did not
take place, then, again, that it was done on a voluntary basis...They will
keep on lying - about military victory, about unanimous support for the
Russian liberators by the Chechen people. TV screen will show us Chechen
girls throwing flowers to our tanks, and the elders opening their ironclad
coffers and taking out the portraits of the Acting President bequeathed by
their ancestors. While Russian boys will be shot from around the corner
several people a day.

The masters of the "black PR" are playing weird chess with us. Even if you
are a chessmaster, and the other side is not very skilled, it can always
take the chessboard and hit you in the head. In a timid voice, in which all
of our political elite speaks with Vladimir Putin, we will make a reproach
to the wrestler with the chessboard. He looks at us as if he does not
understand. And we quickly agree with him. For the sake of the consolidation
of society, for the sake of repelling international terrorism, for the sake
of continuity and the progress of reforms. We are shouting, in our
military-patriotic zeal, "It's a checkmate! We are checkmated!" "Really?",
he respond with an affectionate smile, "ok, let us play one more game. It's
so much fun, don't you agree?"

We agree and we put the pieces patiently back on the chessboard. What else
can we do?


From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <>
Subject: A&F - Supreme Mufti of Chechnya Says Russian Troops Should Stay
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 

Robert Bruce Ware 
Department of Philosophical Studies
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Re: "A Monument for Yeltsin?" (JRL #4105) from the standpoint of the Chechen Mufti. A statue of Yeltsin (De Waal, JRL #4105) would be wasted on Grozny when there are so many other venues where Yeltsin's figure might preside over the visible ruination of Russia and its environs. For Grozny, how about a statue of Barayev propping up Basayev above the inscription "Chto Poseyesh, To I Pozhnesh": The warlords have been driven into the same basements where they brutalized more than a thousand civilian hostages. Only when those leaders have been eliminated, and only when the people of Chechnya have finally repudiated the patterns of regional predation in which their leaders indulged, will they deserve support from those international organizations that rarely have troubled themselves over the human rights of those living near the Chechen border. Here's the Chechen Mufti, prepared to lead that repudiation, commenting upon the Maskhadov's regime's connections to the hostage industry, the benefits of occupation, and the confusion of the Western response: 

Moscow 'Argumenty i Fakty', 9 Feb, page 7 
by Dmitriy Makarov, entitled "Russian Troops Should Stay;" 

Mufti of Chechnya Akhmed Khadzhi Kadyrov took up arms to fight Russian troops in the first Chechen war. But almost immediately after it ended he understood that the new Chechen leaders Maskhadov, Basayev and others were taking the republic in the wrong direction and that instead of being Maskhadov's ally he had become his worst enemy. Just recently he has had several meetings with Vladimir Putin. The other day the mufti gave an exclusive interview to ARGUMENTY I FAKTY correspondent Dmitriy Makarov.

[Q] Will there be partisan war in Chechnya as people are predicting?

[A] I don't think so. Partisan war needs popular support and it is a long time since either Maskhadov or Basayev enjoyed that. That is the difference between this war and the first one. In the first war people, including myself, were against the Russians. As mufti I called on the people to rise up in arms and give their all to the cause of getting federal troops to leave. We thought that if the troops went normal prosperous life would begin and Islam would flourish. But the opposite happened. It turned out that those who described themselves as popular leaders were nothing of the sort. In the three years after the Russian troops left the people had to endure humiliation at the hands of all those gang leaders but they won't put up with it any more. No partisan movement will survive in those circumstances.

[Q] But surely there is a lawfully elected president in the person of President Maskhadov?

[A] Maskhadov was elected president on 80 per cent thanks to my support as spiritual leader. But starting in 1997 the Wahhabis launched a real terrorist war against those whom they perceived as their enemies. Many field commanders were killed. They tried to blow me up three times and its only through good fortune that I survived. After events in Gudermes where the Wahhabis tried to seize power by force Maskhadov declared that there was no place for Wahhabism in Chechnya. Then they tried to blow up Maskhadov too. They killed two of his bodyguards and again it was only through good fortune that he survived.

But unlike me Maskhadov took fright and immediately donned the mask of Wahhabism. It was more or less under his protection that the Wahhabis robbed people and chopped off their fingers and heads. These crimes completely undermined the very high prestige which the Chechens had won for themselves in the Muslim world through their victory over the Russian army. Now we are known only as extremists. But the saddest thing of all is that we have ruined our friendly relations with our neighbours in Dagestan.

I am certain that Basayev could and should have been "spanked" in the Dagestan mountains. All the conditions to do so were in place. But even the very name of the operation - "Horseshoe" [Russian: "Podkova"] - showed its true intent: not to surround and destroy, but to push the Wahhabis back on to the territory of Chechnya. Shamil Basayev returned from Dagestan accompanied by Russian helicopters to ensure that no harm came to him, God forbid, and that there was a pretext to embark on a counterterrorist operation in Chechnya.

In other words, there were people in Moscow with a vested interest in this war and Shamil Basayev and Arbi Barayev were paid good money to see it through with Maskhadov as their cover.

[Q] How did Maskhadov behave in this war?

[A] As a traitor. He sent his son to Malaysia as Chechnya's representative. And after that, back in August, he got all his belongings out of Groznyy. But in so doing he didn't bother to warn the people that there would soon be war and that Groznyy would not be surrendered without a fight. On the contrary, he issued a decree to the people, forbidding leaders at all levels to send their families to safe places and ordering everyone else to dig trenches and get the mortars ready.

[Q] Won't there be civil war in Chechnya?

[A] There already is civil war but if Russian troops leave when the current operation is over it will spread. Beslan Gantemirov and his people are already involved in this war. Maskhadov has already sentenced him to death. He has done the same to me and two other commanders. We all belong to different clans which are of course on our side. Chechnya isn't big enough for us and Maskhadov and Basayev. It's either us or the Wahhabis. There will be a lot of bloodshed.

[Q] Can Russian troops prevent it?

[A] If the troops don't go, there won't be war. They will help ensure that the law is observed. But without Russian troops there will be my law in my District and their law in their District. We will not submit to each other. So new authorities must be lawfully elected and most rely on force. At present this force is represented by the Russian army.

[Q] What do you think of the West's policy in relation to Chechnya?

[A] I don't understand it. In the first war when there really was the most terrible genocide against the Chechen people Clinton said that the war in the Caucasus was Russia's internal affair. Now the situation is fundamentally different. The struggle is against terrorism but the West has suddenly become terribly worried about the fate of the Chechen people.

[Q] Are you in favour of Chechnya being part of Russia or do you want independence?

[A] As far as I know, there isn't a single document to prove that Chechnya voluntarily became part of Russia. When I meet Putin and [Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadiy] Seleznev, I say that the Chechen people must be taken into consideration. To this end, a referendum should be held. There has never been one. Every dead person has relatives so no treaty on being part of Russia will have any force without the agreement of the people. Once the war is over, the people should be given a year or two to compose themselves and then a head of the republic should be elected. Only after that should there be a referendum of the status of Chechnya.


By Interfax analyst Igor Denisov

MOSCOW. Feb 14 (Interfax) - After Russia's upcoming presidential
election, the Kremlin is likely to be the sole center of executive
power. The White House has been gradually losing political weight since
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was appointed acting Russian president and
left it.
"If the current trend continues, the cabinet of ministers will give
up the niche it has been occupying in the past years, and will turn into
a purely technical body shorn of an independent political role," sources
in the government told Interfax.
"The government is losing its autonomy and becoming a structure
occupied only with economic issues," an expert said.
However, things cannot be otherwise now that Putin is acting as
prime minister and president at the same time. But this trend is likely
to continue even after the election in which Putin is known to be the
The Kremlin makes no secret of the fact that an independent-minded
political heavyweight like Viktor Chernomyrdin or Yevgeny Primakov will
not head the government.
"It has been hard to say so far who will head the Cabinet if Putin
wins the election, but judging by the fact that the government is
becoming a purely technical body, one can say that the appointment will
not be a political one," a Kremlin source told Interfax.
"The premier's job will be about the same as that of the current
first deputy premier, who is busy coordinating the Cabinet's work," the
source said.
Needless to say, this excludes such candidates as the head of the
Unified Energy Systems (UES) Anatoly Chubais, who will hardly agree to
return to the government to do the job of a "technical premier." We will
return to Chubais a little later.
The Kremlin source said First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail
Kasyanov has every chance of procuring the top government job. To this
end, Kasyanov has to do two things before the election - show his better
side and avoid committing mistakes.
No one can be insured against making mistakes, but obvious blunders
have not been seen in his work. As for successes, they are evident.
Kasyanov, who is also finance minister and therefore in charge of
relations with international lending bodies, wrenched the rescheduling
of the former Soviet debt from the London Club on easy conditions on
By all appearances, the Kremlin is also thinking about who will be
responsible for economic affairs in the government.
"We are resorting to the cutting-off principle, i.e. neither this
nor that nor that [will be appointed to the job]. What is certain is
that finances will not be placed in the hands of some tycoon with
political connections. Economic rules and laws apply equally to all,
something not all of them agree with," the source said.
Strictly speaking, the aforementioned Chubais is one of those
tycoons who are commonly known as oligarchs in Russia. At first glance,
it would be quite logical if someone from his team of reformers is
placed in charge of the government's economic sphere.
In spite of the cloak of mystery which shrouds the performance of
the Strategic Plans Center, which is drawing up Putin's economic
program, it is known that some economists close to Chubais such as
former minister Yevgeny Yasin, are taking an active part in it.
But it is obvious that several public attacks have recently been
mounted on UES, which is headed by Chubais. Everyone still remembers
Putin's criticism aimed at UES for the small share of ready money the
company receives as consumption fees for electricity.
UES, in turn, denied that information, and Chubais said that Putin
had been given false data.
Maybe, it is a bit premature to regard that fact as the basis for a
serious clash between Chubais and the Kremlin. But even if such
suppositions are grounded, everything can change and Chubais, as before,
will rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix and restore his
role in Kremlin decision-making.
Wait and see.
Experts have been pointing to recent economic remarks by Putin that
"radical reformers" are unlikely to admire. Putin has hinted that he is
an advocate of the market, but not quite a liberal one, with state
regulation preserved. He has said that the liberal idea will come in
handy, but it will just be a component.
In terms of Chubais's possible comeback to the government, where he
used to work as first deputy prime minister, it is unlikely to take
place since Putin has said that the UES boss, swallowed up with
reforming the company, is unlikely to yearn for it himself.
A question arises here. Who will be in charge of the economic
issues in the government, which the country's development relies on very
much, if the oligarchs and Chubais are out?
"We are not going to rediscover America. Why not use the U.S. hint
to invite Russian businessmen to the government? Oligarchs are out of
the question, but there are lots of brainy people working for them, from
whom the state can benefit. Businessmen can also be found who are not
linked to oligarchs," another Kremlin source said.
However, all these thoughts about the line-up of the future Cabinet
can not be carried out and things can take another twist. Russia's
recent history has lots of similar examples.
Whatever decision is taken, it is obvious that a President Putin
will not change the trend of power being funneled from the Cabinet to
the Kremlin.


Bush says China should receive priority over Russia

George W. Bush, the leading Republican presidential contender, said Sunday he 
will give China priority over Russia in his foreign policy, if he wins the 
White House in November.

"I would have to say first, China and second, Russia," the Texas Governor 
told NBC's Meet the Press program when asked to describe his foreign policy 

"I say first China because China is a giant, it's a growing country," he 
explained. "It's a country that has got huge economic potential."

Bush said that, as opposed to President Bill Clinton, who considers the 
United States and China "strategic partners," he saw the two countries as 
"competitors," who "can agree in certain areas."

Noting China's military ambitions, the Texas governor warned that if he won 
the election, his administration would deal with China in "a stern and strong 

"China needs to understand that we are going to promote the peace in the Far 
East through strong alliances that we are going to have to have a clear 
understanding that under the one-China policy, there would be a peaceful 
resolution between Taiwan and Beijing on what form of government ought to 
eventually emerge," argued Bush.

Taiwan, which Beijing says is a renegade province, has emerged as a major 
irritant in Sino-US relations, with Beijing blasting a recent vote in the 
House of Representatives in favor of a bill that would expand US-Taiwanese 
military ties.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure.

Bush, who won early contests in Iowa and Delaware but lost New Hampshire's 
primary to Arizona Senator John McCain, said China's treatment of the 
Internet should be seen as a crucial test of Beijing's readiness to be part 
of the modern world.

Beijing last month announced sweeping measures to control the flow of data on 
the Internet, warning that all information going into the Web from China must 
be first approved by the authorities.

The regulations published in the People's Daily also warned that any Web site 
created in China needed approval from the authorities, and that stiff 
penalties would be meted out to offenders.

But Bush made clear he believed the coming of the Internet to China was 
crucial to promoting democracy in the Communist-ruled country.

"If the Internet comes in to China the way it's spread its wings in other 
countries, very quickly freedom will take hold in that land," argued Bush.

Commenting on the situation in Russia, Bush said it was "too early" to pass 
any judgment on acting President Vladimir Putin.

"We need to work with him to continue to dismantle strategic and tactical 
nuclear warheads," said the Texas governor. "We need to work with Putin, if 
he is elected, to change the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM)." 

The 1972 treaty stands in the way of the United States deploying a national 
anti-ballistic missile shield that the Clinton administration says it needs 
to protect the country from the missile threat coming such rogue states as 
North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Moscow has been resisting US entreaties to revise the treaty, which in its 
current form allows each the United States and Russian only one regional 
missile defense system.

Russia, which regards the treaty as a cornerstone of the current arms control 
regime, says other weapons pacts will be threatened, if the United States 
unilaterally withdraws from the ABM Treaty.

Bush said the United States should have cut off aid to Russia because of its 
war in Chechnya.

"We should have taken a firmer stand with import-export loans, IMF 
(International Monetary Fund) loans to Russia," stressed the Texas governor.


Russia Today press summaries
Novye Izvestiya
February 14, 2000 
Yavlinsky Was Given 2 Million Signatures
Yabloko headquarters is practically covered with signature sheets. Starting 
January 26, whole teams worked around the clock checking and filing 
signatures that presently number about 2 million. Vyacheslav Igrunov, deputy 
head of Yabloko, commented on this "signature rush":

“Even though we counted on only about 600,000 signatures, we already have 
many more that number. In the places where we planned to get 2,000 
signatures, we got four or five times more. The Moscow region brought us 
63,000, while Moscow itself - more than 60,000. The so-called "red belt" made 
us very happy. It has never before shown any sympathy for us. But this time, 
the Stavropol region collected about 23,000 signatures, two times more than 
during the 1999 Duma elections. The Belgorod and Tambov regions each brought 
30,000 signatures, the Voronezh region – 39,000, Ulyanovsk – 32,000, Penza – 

It seems that many voters were a bit shocked when Yabloko received only 6 % 
of the vote in the December elections and wanted to help the party. Moreover, 
many people feel remorse because they voted for SPS (Union of Right Forces), 
thinking that Yabloko would make it to Duma regardless. And, finally, the 
intelligentsia is starting to be alarmed by the possible political 
perspectives and see Yavlinsky as the only alternatives to the Communists in 
the existing power system.


The Globe and Mail (Canada)
14 February 2000
Vladimir Putin's shadowy, careful rise to power
He didn't stand out. He faded into the background,
but never stopped paying attention. It was a strategy that made
Russia's Prime Minister and acting president an effective
intelligence agent -- and all too easy to underestimate.
Moscow Bureau

St. Petersburg, Russia -- Anatoly Sobchak never imagined that the quiet 
student who faded into the background of his law classes would someday become 
Russia's most powerful leader.

"He was just an ordinary student," the former law professor said, recalling a 
colourless teenager named Vladimir Putin.

"There were other students who shone more brightly than him. This is his 
characteristic feature -- not to stand out among others. It is his nature."

In the 28 years since that second-year law class at Leningrad State 
University, Mr. Putin has followed the same strategy. He has been discreet 
and secretive, easily overlooked and underestimated -- yet always watching 
and studying from the shadows.

Now he is not only Russia's Prime Minister and acting president, but also the 
odds-on favourite to be elected president next month.

(Yesterday, the election commission said 15 people had officially filed to 
run for president in the March 26 vote, including Mr. Putin, Communist Party 
chief Gennady Zyuganov, reformist Grigory Yavlinsky, and nationalist 
firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky.)

Mr. Putin's political career began in 1990, when he became a deputy to Mr. 
Sobchak, who left academia to become the globetrotting mayor of a notoriously 
corrupt city.

Critics say Mr. Putin's six years in St. Petersburg taught him to favour a 
closed system of private business deals, monopolies, state power, arbitrary 
decisions, and privileges for selected cronies.

"He was personally involved in constructing a system of corruption in St. 
Petersburg," said Alexander Belayev, former chairman of the city legislature. 
"He was involved in a closed, non-competitive system of distributing city 

Mr. Putin joined Mr. Sobchak's government after working for 15 years as an 
agent in the KGB's foreign intelligence service -- mostly in East Germany, 
where he maintained contacts with Moscow's spies at the height of the Cold 
War. In some ways he was an ideal spy: anonymous in appearance, 
chameleon-like in his ability to blend into a crowd, fluent in foreign 
languages, a non-drinker and a devotee of physical fitness and judo. He 
retired from the KGB with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1990.

Mr. Sobchak, by then the popular mayor of St. Petersburg and a hero of 
Russia's democratic revolution, recruited his former student as an assistant, 
putting Mr. Putin at the heart of business and political dealmaking in 
Russia's second-largest city.

"It was very unusual for someone from the shadows to step into the power 
structures," Mr. Belayev recalled.

"He gave me the impression of being a clerk, a mid-level person who adopted 
the position of the authorities. He listened more than he talked. He was 
obviously more interested in getting information than in giving information. 
It was probably a legacy from his previous career."

After Mr. Sobchak lost the mayor's job in 1996, Mr. Putin moved to Moscow and 
became a senior aide in the Kremlin property department -- one of the most 
secretive and corrupt branches of the presidential administration. It used a 
closed bidding system to conceal its own business dealings, worth billions of 
dollars, and to award lucrative contracts to well-connected insiders.

Mr. Putin's boss was Pavel Borodin, who became notorious for allegedly 
accepting bribes in exchange for giving contracts to a Swiss construction 
company called Mabetex. Last month a Swiss magistrate issued a warrant for 
Mr. Borodin's arrest in connection with corruption charges.

Mr. Putin, however, seemed to escape unscathed from the Mabetex scandal. In 
1998 he became the chief of the FSB, the main successor agency to the KGB.

Here again his backroom talents were evident. According to some reports, Mr. 
Putin and the FSB were instrumental in arranging a secret videotape of Yuri 
Skuratov, the Russian prosecutor-general, cavorting in bed with two 
prostitutes. The video was broadcast on television in an attempt to destroy 
the career of Mr. Skuratov, who was investigating the Mabetex scandal.

Last August, President Boris Yeltsin named Mr. Putin as his Prime Minister 
and designated successor. Within days, the former KGB agent was heavily 
embroiled in the Russian war in Dagestan and Chechnya -- the military 
campaign that fuelled his rapid rise in public opinion.

A closer look at Mr. Putin's six years in St. Petersburg shows that his 
method of operation was already functioning smoothly in the earliest years of 
his political career.

Although he was officially just a deputy in charge of foreign relations, he 
was soon running the day-to-day business affairs of the city.

"There was hardly a single piece of paper that didn't go through Putin's 
hands before reaching Sobchak," Mr. Belayev said.

One of the most revealing episodes of Mr. Putin's career was his involvement 
in a peculiar barter deal in 1991. The city, which was experiencing food 
shortages in the final months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, got 
special permission from the Kremlin to export oil and minerals to foreign 
clients in exchange for food. Mr. Putin was closely involved in choosing the 
private companies that would arrange the imports and exports. But much of the 
food never arrived.

City council appointed a committee to investigate the deal, and the evidence 
was sent to a Kremlin auditing department, where the probe quietly died.

"We couldn't understand why some companies were chosen and others were 
rejected," Mr. Belayev said.

"Some of the companies had no experience. Sometimes they didn't even have 
offices in the places where they were registered. And we couldn't figure out 
where the money went. Some of the money was sent to an Austrian bank, and the 
food was never delivered."

Mr. Putin also favoured a system of government monopolies to deal with 
crime-infested industries such as gambling and petrol retailing. He 
established a policy in which the city would own 51 per cent of every 
gambling casino, for instance.

"He wanted to push away the criminals and replace them with city structures," 
Mr. Belayev said. "But he failed to prevent the penetration of criminals into 
the casinos. It only helped them to have closer relations with the officials."

In an interview, Mr. Sobchak denied the corruption allegations. The former 
mayor had fled Russia in 1997 and sought exile in Paris for 20 months while 
police investigated him for corruption; the probe was eventually dropped and 
he returned to Russia last summer -- after Mr. Putin had become the FSB chief.

Mr. Sobchak defended the lack of open tenders in his administration. "Only a 
few companies were willing to do business with Russia," he said. "There 
weren't several competitors for each investment."

He also defended Mr. Putin's penchant for state involvement in the economy. 
"He is a moderate liberal, or perhaps a conservative liberal," Mr. Sobchak 
said. "The market is free, but the state controls it to prevent violations of 
the law and to defend its own interests."



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