This Date's Issues: 4113 4114
Johnson's Russia ListReturn to CDI's Home Page I Return to CDI's Library
17 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Journalists say Russia press freedom at risk.
2. APN: Political analysts warn: vodka is bad for rating.
3. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD. (re US and Putin)
4. Interfax: PUTIN'S CAMPAIGN STAFF READY TO REBUFF OPPONENTS' ATTACKS -
5. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Putin's Unity Group Attractive To Both Right And Left.
6. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM -- WHEN POLITICS
7. Reuters: Russia's Bratsk says sale not finalised.
8. Reuters: Putin thaws Russian-NATO ties ahead of vote.
9. Orthodox Christian News Service: Nikolas K. Gvosdev, The Orthodox
Church and Russian Politics.
10. Reuters: UN rights boss blasts Russia over Chechnya abuses.]
Journalists say Russia press freedom at risk
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Russian journalists sounded the alarm on Wednesday
over what they said was a growing threat to press freedom following the
mysterious disappearance of Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky in rebel
The journalists made their statement in a special black-and-white edition of
the Obshchaya Gazeta newspaper, only published when Russia's press freedom
``We regard what has happened with...Andrei Babitsky not as an isolated
episode of contemporary life but as an effective turning point in the battle
for a press which serves society and not the authorities,'' the Union of
Journalists of Russia said in a statement on the cover of the four-page
Beside the statement was a photograph of demonstrators at a recent Moscow
rally demanding urgent action to secure the return of Babitsky, allegedly
handed to Chechen rebels by Russian forces on February 3 in return for
several captive soldiers.
Babitsky's reports from Chechnya for his U.S.-funded radio station had
infuriated Moscow. He was arrested by Russian forces in Chechnya last month.
Russian officials said Babitsky agreed to the swap -- video footage of which
was aired on Russian television -- but Chechen commanders have denied any
involvement in the exchange, prompting speculation he might still be in
Senior Russian officials, including acting President Vladimir Putin, have
said Babitsky is alive but in rebel hands. His whereabouts remain a mystery.
The swap, applauded by military and police authorities, has sparked outrage
among Russian journalists and abroad.
Russia's human rights commissioner, Oleg Mironov, told a news conference on
Wednesday the state had failed in its fundamental duty to protect its
citizens when it handed over Babitsky to people it says are ``bandits and
Underlining international concern, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson
said he raised the Babitsky case during his talks with senior Russian
officials in Moscow on Wednesday.
Robertson said Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov would announce a plan by Putin to
appoint an international human rights adviser to hear complaints on Russia's
actions in Chechnya. ``This is an initiative I very much welcome,'' said
WRITERS SAY STATE DISREGARDS RUSSIAN CONSTITUTION
In Wednesday's newspaper, prominent writers said the case showed the
authorities had scant respect for the rule of law or for civil liberties
enshrined in the post-Soviet constitution.
``It is unacceptable to trade any Russian citizen, even with his consent. The
fact that an exchange nevertheless did take place proves we live in an
absolutely amoral society,'' said writer Boris Vasilyev.
Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote: ``Babitsky must be released and if there are
questions for him to answer he should answer them publicly and before the
law, not in this illegal fashion.''
Russian officials have said they suspect Babitsky, who also covered the
1994-96 Chechen war, of supporting the rebels.
The paper included interviews with Babitsky's wife Lyudmila and with his
lawyer Genri Reznik and also excerpts from reports he filed for Radio
Reznik said the authorities had violated the constitution by detaining his
client far longer than the period allowed without charges being brought and
by denying his right to legal defence.
The Russian authorities have severely limited media access to the latest
round of fighting in Chechnya following mostly negative coverage of the last
war which ended with the humiliating withdrawal of Moscow's troops from the
Russian journalists first banded together to publish two special editions of
the Obshchaya Gazeta in 1991 at the time of the hardline coup against Soviet
President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Babitsky, 35, was decorated by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin for his
coverage of the 1991 coup which ended in defeat for the Communist hardliners.
He returned the award in 1993 in protest at Yeltsin's decision to send tanks
to crush a rebellion by hardliners in parliament.
16 February, 2000
Political analysts warn: vodka is bad for rating
«The government did not take a decision» to increase prices for vodka.
Russia’s acting President Vladimir Putin stated it at a news conference in
his Kremlin office.
«The government does not regulate prices for vodka, they are adjusted by
the market,» Putin noted philosophically.
Nevertheless, Putin instructed the government to elaborate measures to keep
alcohol prices at a constant level, not to let them increase. He probably
decided that in spite of the fact that alcohol beverages prices depend upon
mysterious nature of the market, it would be the government which would
have to hold «the invisible hand» of the market.
It is clear that Putin is seriously concerned with the fact that increase
of vodka prices may hurt his popularity with electorate. Is his concern
reasonable? APN addressed this question to well-known Russian political
analysts: Igor KLYAMKIN, Valery KHOMYAKOV and Alexei CHESNAKOV.
Putin, mind what happened to Ryzhkov?
Igor KLYAMKIN, director of Sociologic Analysis Institute: It is too early
to talk about that, because the officials haven’t taken any final decision
yet. But in principle it could irritate people.
If we turn to the lessons of our recent past we can see what happened when
bread prices were increased when Ryzhkov was in power. He said that he is
trying to take into consideration the real cost of bread: this way he
wanted to make a transition to market economy. But this caused such a great
scandal, that it «ruined» the Prime minister.
Government has 45 days at its disposal
Andrei FYODOROV, Director of Political Research Foundation: It will not
tell on Putin`s pre-election rating. The reason is the following: there is
vodka provision in the country for 45 days estimated in terms of old
prices. Vodka will be enough for mid-March. And several days before
elections prices will have no time to have a negative effect on acting
In general, factors of this kind affect «as a package.» There should
several negative resolutions be accumulated. The package is minimal so far.
Vodka will lead to the second round
Valery KHOMYAKOV , director of the Applied and Regional Politics Agency: If
vodka prices go up it will be a blow on Putin’s electorate.
Sociologists note that his voters are people without higher education and
with a rather small income. They are also main users of this popular
Russian product. So an increase in vodka prices can lead to the second round.
Voters’ sobriety doesn’t change its lability
Alexei CHESNAKOV, director of Political Conjuncture Center: If this subject
is presented accordingly, Putin may loose 2 % of the vote. But not more
than that. In Russia voters are rather labile, and even when they criticize
those in power they still vote for them.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
16 February 2000
WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD. U.S. President Bill Clinton
appeared to jump on Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin's
election bandwagon this week, saying in an on-line interview with
CNN that the Russian leader is a man the United States "can do
business with." Clinton also described Putin as "highly intelligent,"
"highly motivated" and a man of "strong views." Clinton allowed that
the U.S. administration is not in agreement with Putin on every
issue, but nevertheless asserted that "what I have seen of him so
far indicates to me that he's capable of being a very strong and
effective and straightforward leader." The U.S. president also spoke
of his hope that Russia and the United States could move forward
diplomatically following the Russian elections and that the two
countries might make further progress in arms control negotiations
(Reuters, AP, February 14-15).
Not surprisingly, the Russian government expressed its delight
yesterday over Clinton's "constructive statements," though it
focused its attention not on Clinton's praise for Putin personally but
on his call for improved bilateral relations. A Foreign Ministry
statement underscored that the "Russian leadership shares the
desire... to intensify bilateral dialogue, primarily in the spheres of
security and disarmament, and to overcome the trend there for a
dangerous impasse. In addition, the statement appeared to use
comments made by Clinton regarding the need to battle
international terrorism as an endorsement of sorts for the Kremlin's
war in the Caucasus. "We also note confirmation from the U.S.
leadership of the importance of decisive steps taken against
international terrorism," the Russian Foreign Ministry statement
said. In his on-line remarks Clinton had said that Chechen rebels
bore some of the responsibility for five months of conflict with
Russia (Reuters, Russian agencies, February 15).
Putin is right now the prohibitive favorite to win Russia's March 26
presidential vote. But an election is nevertheless still to be held, and
the timing of Clinton's remarks--which come just as the election
campaign is getting underway in earnest--sound in that context like
an American endorsement of the former KGB colonel. Clinton's
public praise for Putin, moreover, appears to mark the end of a half-
hearted and apparently brief effort by the administration to distance
itself a bit from the Russian leader. In testimony before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee on February 8, for example, U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had just returned from
Moscow, adopted a more even-handed tone in describing Putin than
she had done previously. Albright told lawmakers that Putin is a
"mixed bag" who appears to be "in denial" on some issues,
including the war in Chechnya (AP, February 8).
In so readily and so publicly embracing Putin, the Clinton
administration (like political leaders in Europe) appears to be in
danger of recreating the same sort of personalized--and potentially
dysfunctional--relationship that it had with former President Boris
Yeltsin. But there were at least powerful historical reasons for the
privileged ties that developed between the Russian and U.S. chief
executives in the early 1990s. Yeltsin was, after all, Russia's first
democratically elected leader and the man most responsible for the
dissolution of the Soviet Union. For much of the decade he also
wielded tremendous political power and could at least reasonably be
portrayed as a bulwark against the return of communism.
Putin possesses none of these virtues. He remains an unknown
quantity, a man whose rise to power has been choreographed by
powerful economic and political interests though the conduct of a
cruel and barbaric war in the Caucasus. Nor does his performance
as president thus far, not to mention his background as a career
KGB intelligence operative, provide much reason to believe that he
will emerge as a reliable defender of the freedoms necessary for
Russia's democratic development. Western leaders are, for obvious
reasons, anxious to mend fences with Moscow after a period of
intense acrimony. But it is not clear that an uncritical embrace of
Putin will further that goal in any constructive form.
PUTIN'S CAMPAIGN STAFF READY TO REBUFF OPPONENTS' ATTACKS - MEDVEDEV
MOSCOW. Feb 16 (Interfax) - Vladimir Putin's campaign staff will be
ready to rebuff any attempts to declare an information war on Putin,
chief of Putin's campaign staff Dmitri Medvedev has announced.
"Wars, including information wars, are not the best way of settling
relations. Quite honestly, Putin cares more for the mood of the voter
than for attacks by his opponents," he said in an interview with
Nezavisimaya Gazeta published on Wednesday.
He announced that Putin's campaign staff will start receiving
He also said that Putin's presidential program will soon be
published in detail.
"The main aspects of the program have already been announced by
Putin himself - the dictatorship of law through the establishment of
proper legal order all over Russia, the defense of citizens from crime
and terrorism, civil liberties, the priority of the rights of the
individual, stability and the inviolability of the right of ownership,"
"The long-term global strategy of our development must be
stipulated in the presidential message which will obviously be read out
by the president elected by the people," he said.
Medvedev also said that until the end of the election campaign
Putin will perform his constitutional duties.
The newspaper writes that Dmitri Medvedev, a lawyer, has known Putin
since 1992 when both of them worked at the mayor's office in
St.Petersburg. In 1999 he took a job in the government office at
Putin's recommendation and was subsequently appointed deputy
presidential chief of staff. Medvedev said that he had taken leave to
run the work of the campaign staff.
Russia: Putin's Unity Group Attractive To Both Right And Left
By Sophie Lambroschini
Nearly two months after Russia's parliamentary elections, acting President
Vladimir Putin's faction in the State Duma (lower house), the Unity party,
continues to refine its goals and ideas. But RFE/RL Moscow correspondent
Sophie Lambroschini reports that Unity has already attracted a motley amalgam
of politicians -- from reformists to Stalinists -- whose common goal is
restoring great-power status to Russia.
Moscow, 16 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- "Unity is Putin's Party." The Unity
party launched this slogan last December, a week after it unexpectedly won
some 90 seats in the new Duma and days before Vladimir Putin became acting
president after Boris Yeltsin's resignation.
But it's still not clear -- several weeks later -- what Unity stands for.
Discussing his economic policies last week, Putin explained that he didn't
wish to make them public for now, so as to avoid their getting ripped to
pieces by opponents.
Even without a detailed program, the Unity faction has attracted outside
forces who approve of what is perceived as Unity's ideological core -- the
idea of Russia as a strong state.
Moscow-based Carnegie Institute analyst Nikolai Petrov says that, from
reformers to admirers of Stalin, many politicians are using Unity's strong
position in the Duma to claim it as their own -- perhaps with the hope of
Putin's winning aura brushing off on them.
Petrov says this attraction is logical and more than mere desire to be on the
winning side. For him, Unity represents a winning force not only in the Duma
but -- because Putin is favored to win next month's presidential elections --
in the country at large. He says Unity has succeeded in presenting itself as
the incarnation of the idea of Russia as a great power.
In an interview with RFE/RL, the head of the Duma's committee for local
self-government, Samara reformist deputy Vladimir Mokry, was very open about
his pragmatic motivations for joining Unity. Mokry worked for -- and still
admires -- Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, who is running for president on
a pro-reform and anti-war platform. But Mokry says that he joined Unity
because he felt that his ideas on reinforcing Russia's federal structure
could only be imposed through a strong pro-state faction.
"If you don't join [a faction], no one will put forward your candidacy. You
can't head a Duma committee because factions and groups propose candidates.
When [the main factions, the communists and Unity] decided on which committee
would go to which faction, it became clear that the local-self government
committee would not go to the Peoples' deputy group, where I was, but to
Unity. [Unity] made me an offer, we talked. I accepted, first and foremost
out of personal interest, but also because I promised my voters that I would
work on [strengthening] legislation."
Mokry says it is unfair for analysts and the media to expect Unity to have an
ideology since it was hastily assembled on the eve of elections and can't
just create common principles overnight. But he believes that defending the
interests of the state is the main common idea among Unity deputies.
Unity claims that its natural ally is the reformist Union of Right Forces,
called the SPS. Yet a recent tactical alliance between the communists and
Unity, which re-elected communist Gennady Seleznyev as Duma speaker, was not
well received by the SPS. And the SPS's indignation over the authorities'
treatment of missing RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitsky represents another
area of disagreement.
On the other side of the political spectrum, a group of young leftists see in
Putin a modern -- and a moderate -- autocrat like Stalin. They are trying to
set up a youth organization for Unity on the basis of their own experiences
in the communists youth organization.
Malyarov told RFE/RL that Putin reaches out to a very wide audience, and that
his pledge to bring law, order, and stability to Russia is the reason his
organization will support the acting president. That, he says, is also why
two Komsomol members have joined Unity's youth organization.
"It's not about Putin being an ideal for communists today. We're realists, we
understand in what world we're working. And even if we do think that the
destruction of the economic system that existed in the Soviet Union was not
judicious, we understand that it is impossible and probably not advisable to
aim for a return to the past. From our point of view, there are now certain
priority tasks, with the first among them assuring [Russia's] territorial
integrity, providing for law and order, and fighting corruption."
For Malyarov, Putin's ambiguous program is the reason why he can fit any
niche on the left or right. Malyarov says that he fully supports Putin, even
though in December's elections he ran on an extreme-left list that used an
image of Stalin as an emblem. He claims there is nothing contradictory in
admiring both Stalin and Putin because they both defend a strong state --
even if their methods are different.
Carnegie analyst Petrov says the Stalinists' moving closer to Unity is
logical. He points out that the communist regime was not very ideological
during the last years of the Soviet Union. The idea that dominated that
period, he adds, was that of Russia as a strong power -- just the one the
neo-Stalinists say they find in Unity today.
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
Subj: RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM TURMOIL
The Moscow Tribune, February 16, 2000
RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM -- WHEN POLITICS MELTS METAL
A surprise announcement last Friday in Moscow of the takeover of three
Russian aluminium smelters means much less than the promoters of the deal
intended, Russian industry sources told The Moscow Tribune on Monday.
Instead, the sources say, an alliance of three influential Russian
businessmen is making a bid to consolidate their aluminium industry assets in
the runup to the Russian presidential election, due on March 26. The three are
Lev Chernoy, Roman Abramovich, and Boris Berezovsky. After
acting President Vladimir Putin is elected, the sources believe, the political
backing for the trio will be gone.
Russian bankers also express doubt that Abramovich has committed himself
to buying a minority stake in aluminium companies, whose control is in rival
hands, and whose financial position is also dependent on business competitors
Moscow sources told The Moscow Tribune they believe Chernoy is trying to
exchange his shares for a promise from Abramovich and Berezovsky to exercise
their political influence. Only if the ploy succeeds, the sources believe,
will the deal go through -- and perhaps not even then.
The Friday announcement, which originated with Chernoy -- the Russian
partner of the London-based Trans World Group (TWG) -- claimed that
in Bratsk Aluminium Works (BrAZ), Krasnoyarsk Aluminium Works (KrAZ),
and Novokuznetsk Aluminium Works had been sold by TWG to a group of
shareholders in the Russian oil company, Sibneft. Initial Russian press
reports claimed that control of the three plants had been changed.
A statement issued by Sibneft claimed that "a group of Sibneft
shareholders bought controlling stakes in the plants. It is not Sibneft
itself, but some of its shareholders." The statement refers to
Abramovich, a friend of the Yeltsin family, and now the dominant shareholder
of Sibneft; he also won a parliamentary seat in December. The other
shareholder reported to be involved in the transaction is controversial
Russian media owner and political promoter, Boris Berezovsky.
Abramovich has avoided direct comment so far.
Nikolai Kuchin, a spokesman for TWG in Moscow, told The Moscow Tribune
the only shares that have been sold belonged to Chernoy.
Berezovsky also declined to confirm that Logovaz, an auto sales and service
company with which he is associated, has acquired a controlling stake in
Novokuznetsk. A statement by the Metallurgical Investment Company (Mikom),
issued Friday by a spokesman, claimed this had happened, but it gave no
Alexey Stupin, Mikom spokesman, told The Moscow Tribune "the sale took place
last Friday. Mikom has sold the control packet of shares to LogoVAZ, while
it still remains a large shareholder of the plant. " 51% of the shares in
the plant were reportedly sold, but no details of the price paid were given.
Mikom continues to control 21% of the plant's shares.
Stupin acknowledged the politics behind the deal. "The sale actually
strengthens Mikom's positions, because the strategic alliance with
Berezovsky goes beyond purely economic terms."
BrAZ is Russia's largest, and also the world largest aluminum smelter, with
output last year of almost 875,000 metric tons of primary metal. KrAZ,
Russia's second largest smelter, reported output in 1999 of 836,000 tons.
Novokuznetsk, the oldest smelter in Russia and the fifth largest in volume
of output, produced 274,000 tons last year.
Shareholdings are closely and secretively held in the Russian aluminum
business. The partnership of Chernoy and TWG, which is controlled from
London by David and Simon Reuben, is also secretive, although in recent
weeks, spokesmen for David Reuben have told The Moscow Tribune they are
dissociating their holdings and investment strategy in Russia from Chernoy.
Chernoy holds a 30% stake in BrAZ, and a 17% stake in KrAZ.
David Reuben has been negotiating with Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of
the Sibirsky Aluminy group, to resume normal trading relations with
the Nikolaev alumina refinery in the Ukraine. Chernoy and TWG took management
control of the refinery last June, and then lost it to Sibirsky Aluminy
in December. At the same time, Chernoy and TWG lost control of the Achinsk
alumina refinery in Russia to a partnership between Sibirsky Aluminy and
Alfa Bank of Moscow.
Chernoy has opposed Reuben's conciliatory approach. He is still trying to
regain control of Nikolaev and Achinsk, according to German Tkachenko, head
of Ukrainian operations for the Sibirsky Aluminy group.
The outcome of these shareholder conflicts is that KrAZ, which depends on
Nikolaev and Achinsk for up to 60% of its alumina supply, is running out,
and, as a result, the plant is facing a production cut this month.
The plant is also facing a bankruptcy action for unpaid debts to the regional
David Reuben, Simon Reuben and other family members, working through a
variety of offshore-registered companies, control 30% of BrAZ shares;
and 17% of KrAZ shares. An industry source, who has been in close contact
with David Reuben, told The Moscow Tribune that over the past ten days, Reuben
told Chernoy he did not want to sell out these stakes. The source added that
no TWG sale has occurred.
"All the share transfers are problematic," the source said. "It is Chernoy
who is hoping for a deal with Abramovich and Berezovsky. But control of
Bratsk and Krasnoyarsk isn't going to change."
At BrAZ, 30% of the shares are held by the General Director, Boris Gromov,
and fellow director and head of trading, Yury Schlaifstein. Gromov is related
by marriage to Lev Chernoy's brother, Mikhail, but Mikhail and Lev have
very different strategies in business. Industry sources told The Moscow
Tribune they do not believe Gromov and Schlaifstein are selling. With
refusal of Reuben also confirmed, the balance of power on the BrAZ board
At KrAZ, 10% of the shares are held by Gennady Druzhinin, a former
plant executive, and his associates; 28% by Anatoly Bykov, the board
chairman now in a Hungarian prison awaiting extradition to Russia;
and 28% by Vasily Anisimov, head of TransConsult, and formerly a director of
Rossiisky Kredit Bank. The sale to Anisimov of the Rossiiisky Kredit stake
followed the bank's bankruptcy in August 1998. But sources close to the
deal told The Moscow Tribune the purchase price has not yet been paid, and
the transfer finalized.
Since, as sources claim, the Reuben brothers have not sold out, then the only
KrAZ stake to be affected by Lev Chernoy's transaction with Abramovich and
Berezovsky is 17%. The larger bloc of shares held by Bykov will reportedly
be put up for sale to the other shareholders later this month, as the
criminal cases against Bykov have eliminated his ability to retain control
of the smelter. Who will bid for this stake is not yet clear.
Sibirsky Aluminy is putting pressure on the KrAZ shareholders through
its control of alumina supplies to the plant. Sibirsky Aluminy is
the third largest aluminum producer in Russia, and it
controls the Sayansk smelter, as well as the Samara Metallurgical Company,
Russia's largest aluminum rolling-mill. By restricting alumina
deliveries, the Sibirsky Aluminy group has been applying pressure on
TWG, as well as Chernoy, to come to terms at KrAZ.
"Lev Chernoy needed help badly," an aluminum executive involved in the
negotiations said. "So he turned to Abramovich and Berezovsky.
They have been offered 25% of what Lev holds, in return for their
influence to solve the alumina, power, and financial problems. But time for
that is running out. After Putin is elected [March 26], they won't have the
Abramovich, the executive told The Moscow Tribune, is not sure he can achieve
what Chernoy wants, and has been reluctant to go through with the deal. The
announcement, according to this source, was timed to put pressure on
At Novokuznetsk, a struggle between Mikom to retain control against an
alliance of Kemerovo regional interests and Sibirsky Aluminy, has
forced Mikom's chief executive, Mikhail Zhivilo, to seek political
help. But the sale to LogoVAZ is not enough to shift control of the plant.
This is now under a court-appointed trustee, who reports to the plant's
"We are not leaving the aluminum business," Stupin told The Moscow Tribune.
The sale "is is a matter of maneuver only. To put it in a simpler way, it
will be more difficult for Sibirsky Aluminy and [Kemerovo Governor Aman]
Tuleyev to get rid of Mikom now. The situation is developing in a direction
favorable to Mikom."
The Russian government continues to have influence at Novokuznetsk through
its 14% shareholding, administered by the state property fund, and through
a 20% shareholding held by Sberbank.
According to Stupin, the arrangement with Berezovsky should swing
the government behind Mikom, allowing the shareholders to vote to
evict the court-appointed management. A shareholder meeting is scheduled
for March 20, just before the presidential election.
INTERVIEW-Russia's Bratsk says sale not finalised
By Aleksandras Budrys
MOSCOW, Feb 16 (Reuters) - A deal to sell 66 percent of Russia's largest
aluminium producer, Bratsk, has not yet been finalised, Bratsk's chairman
Yuri Shlyaifshtein told Reuters on Wednesday.
"So far no changes have been made in Bratsk's share register," Shlyaifshtein
said. "But...we have the understanding that some Sibneft shareholders have
managed to consolidate 66 percent of its shares."
Last Friday Sibneft <SIBN.RTS> oil company chairman Eugene Shvidler said some
shareholders in the firm had bought stakes in Bratsk and in Krasnoyarsk,
Russia's second largest smelter, as well as in a power station and an alumina
Under Russian legislation, changes to the share register must be made within
three days of the registrar receiving official notification of the shares
Shlyaifshtein said that he, as a representative of shareholders with a 33
percent stake in Bratsk, had tried but failed to make contacts with possible
"We have tried to start negotiations with them to reach an understanding and
to coordinate positions, but so far we have no results to report," he said.
Media have speculated that the Bratsk shares have been sold by London-based
Trans-World Group and by Russian businesman Lev Chernoy to Roman Abramovich,
the major shareholder in Sibneft, but Shlyaifshtein would not confirm or deny
"I have no information so far that anybody has left the business," he said.
He would not speculate on how a sale would affect the plant's operations.
"We will do everything in our power to prevent any changes unfavourable to
the business," Shlyaifshtein said.
Last Friday a spokesman for financial-industrial group MIKOM, owner of
Russia's fifth largest smelter, Novokuznetsk, said LogoVaz, a car dealership
founded by businessman Boris Berezovsky, had bought a controlling stake in
Interfax reported last week that Bratsk produced 870,700 tonnes of primary
aluminium last year, Krasnoyarsk 836,500 and Novokuznetsk 273,500, accounting
for around 63 percent of Russia's 1999 output of 3.15 million tonnes.
Putin thaws Russian-NATO ties ahead of vote
By Patrick Lannin
MOSCOW, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin took a
potential political risk ahead of a March election by reviving ties on
Wednesday with the NATO military alliance.
Putin also met union leaders to try to woo them ahead of the March 26 vote,
which he enters as runaway favourite.
Russians remain distrustful of NATO after the alliance launched its bombing
campaign against Russia's fellow Slav and Orthodox state Yugoslavia during
the Kosovo crisis.
The air strikes forced Russia to freeze ties with the alliance and relations
have since been strained by Western criticism of Moscow's offensive against
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said after talks with Putin and key
ministers in Moscow that the two sides had agreed to start cooperating again.
He said the entente was directly endorsed by Putin.
``Mr Putin is the acting president of Russia and he made it clear that the
resumption of the relationship between Russia and NATO was very much a
decision of his and it is a decision I welcome,'' Robertson told reporters
ahead of his return to Brussels after the two-day visit.
``Russia and NATO are major strategic partners on the world stage today and
it makes sense to deal with a lot of the common problems on a common basis,''
He said he had reiterated NATO's criticism of the Chechnya campaign for
excessive use of force and civilian casualties, although the offensive was
not mentioned in a joint statement.
Russian forces showed no let up in the campaign against Chechen rebels.
Warplanes again bombed the last remaining guerrilla positions in region's
OPPOSITION TO NATO STRONG
Putin conceded that strains remained by saying at the start of his talks with
Robertson that it would be difficult for Russia to cooperate with NATO after
the Yugoslav air strikes.
The image of NATO in Russia is very poor and some regard the alliance as a
threat rather than a partner. The tensions have often reached Cold War pitch
and anti-Western feeling has been whipped up by some politicians and media.
A possible balance in voters' eyes to mending ties with NATO could be Putin's
oft-repeated aim of rebuilding Russia's might and give it a greater say in
Russian newspapers were mostly positive about Robertson's visit, although the
military daily Krasnaya Zvezda did not even mention it. Western diplomats say
there were differences between the defence and foreign ministries over the
scope of the visit.
``A normalisation of relations between Moscow and Brussels will definitely
not happen in one go, but without regular contacts it will never happen,''
said newspaper Kommersant Daily.
Putin also paid attention to winning domestic support for his campaign,
attending a meeting of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions. He
listened to complaints of miserably low pay and poorly-enacted labour
legislation before promising action on healthcare issues and corruption.
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000
From: Nikolas Gvosdev <Nikolas_Gvosdev@baylor.edu>
Subject: The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics
Nicolai Petro recommended that I forward this article to you as he felt
it might be of interest to the readers of the list.
Orthodox Christian News Service, Inc.
February 14, 2000
The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics
By Dr. Nikolas K. Gvosdev
Editor's Note: Dr. Nikolas K. Gvosdev is Associate Director of the J. M.
Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, and
Associate Editor of the Journal of Church and State. His forthcoming works
include Imperial Policies and Perspectives Toward Georgia (1763-1819), to
be published by Macmillan Press. Dr. Gvosdev's past works have included
articles such as "Rendering Unto Caesar ... Orthodoxy and Democratization
in Eastern Europe," and "Orthodoxy and a Pluralist Democracy."
What is the proper political and social role for the Orthodox Church in
a post-communist Russia? For the past decade, Patriarch Aleksii II has
attempted to define the position of the Church in a society that is
nominally democratic and pluralist in nature.
Some one hundred twenty million people in Russia are nominal members of
the Church, yet only about seven percent attend church services on a
regular basis. Nevertheless, eighty-five percent of Russians celebrate the
major festivals, and the Orthodox Church enjoys high approval ratings--some
sixty percent of the population express trust in the Church as a social
institution.<#note1>1 This gives the Church--and its hierarchs--a certain
degree of importance in public life.
The Patriarch's strategy for maximizing the influence and importance of
the Orthodox Church in Russia today has been consistently followed for the
past ten years and may be summarized as follows:
Removing the Church From Direct Participation in Politics: The Patriarch
has made it clear that he will not tolerate the formation of any sort of
ecclesiastical political party (akin to the interwar "Center" party in
Germany that represented Roman Catholic interests). The Church,
collectively or individually via its pastors and parishes, may not endorse
any particular party or candidate, nor may bishops or priests advance
"their own candidacies in any elections to representative bodies."<#note2>2
This does not prevent members of the laity from taking part in the
political process or from forming political associations that may base
themselves on Orthodox principles; in fact, there are a number of
Orthodox-based parties present in Russia today, among them the Russian
Christian Democratic Party, which forms part of the pro-Yeltsin "Unity"
bloc; the "All-Russian Christian Union", which is affiliated with the
centrist YABLOKO movement, and the "Union of Christian Democrats of Russia"
which was a co-founder of the "Fatherland-All Russia" electoral alliance,
led by ex-Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov.
As an institution, however, the Church takes no sides in political
rivalries. In November, the Patriarch declared that "We are open to
representatives of any movements and parties except for extremist ones, but
we will never support any concrete candidate or an individual
party."<#note3>3 The Holy Synod made this point clear: "Orthodox churches
are for praying and sermons, and not places for political
Keeping the State Separated From the Church: Aleksii has resisted any
call to establish the Russian Orthodox Church as the state church of the
Russian Federation.<#note5>5 In his eyes, formal establishment would give
the state the ability to control the Church and give politicians a chance
to influence the selection of Church leaders and chart the course of Church
policies. Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin, a leading advisor to the Patriarch,
obliquely referred to this when he commented, "The presence of a force
[that is, the Church] that has the confidence of society but which is not
subject to the usual rules of the political game awakens the temptation to
work for a reduction of its influence." He noted that some politicians feel
the Church "cannot have any form of independent income. From here it is not
far to the next conclusion: the church organism should live exclusively on
contributions from certain structures [e. g. the state] since 'who pays the
piper calls the tune.'"<#note6>6 Aleksii is not willing to give up his
independence which enables him to publicly comment on all facets of Russian
Defining the Church as the Pastoral Counselor for the Russian State: The
fact that the Patriarch has resisted all calls for the re-establishment of
the Orthodox Church as the state faith does not mean that he believes in
church-state separation as understood in the West. In October, the
Patriarch noted that "the Church and the state share many tasks which have
to be addressed ... jointly ... the Church has been separated from the
state but not from society."<#note7>7 Therefore, the Church feels that its
voice should be heard on a number of issues, ranging from the "social and
economic situation in Russia" to "the level of public morality" and
"international relations."<#note8>8 For the Patriarch, the most important
role for the Church in Russian political life is "the safeguarding of civil
peace and accord in society"<#note9>9, since the Church's influence is
"pastoral, spiritual, reconciling."<#note10>10 The Church takes on this
role, as Fr. Chaplin noted, "to promote a dialogue of public forces and
their leaders in the interests of uniting its forces in service to the
fatherland and the nation."<#note11>11
The Patriarch, in particular, has used his pastoral role to urge
Russians not to imitate the practices of the West. Addressing the various
candidates running for election to the State Duma, he urged them "to carry
out the pre-election struggle with dignity and honestly, without using the
negative experience of the West, where the goal to morally and
psychologically crush one's opponent is not infrequently
This is also the source of the Patriarch's vehement opposition to the
proselytizing efforts of Roman Catholics and Protestants within Russia. The
spiritual unity of the nation would be disrupted if Orthodoxy ceased to be
the principal expression of the values and faith of the Russian people, and
the Church could no longer act as the moral witness of the people if
reduced to one church among many, as is the case in the United States. This
is why Aleksii has identified the "prevention of the activities of sects
and cults as the most important task" facing the Church in Russia
today.<#note13>13 In essence, the Patriarch holds to the notion that one's
national identity as a Russian is inextricably linked to one's profession
of Orthodoxy. As the late Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg once said,
"If Russia isn't your mother, God can?t be your father."<#note14>14
Recasting the Church as the True Guardian of the Nation: Since most
Russians do not attend church on a regular basis, the Church, in one sense,
could well be seen as irrelevant to the lives of most ordinary Russians. To
circumvent this problem, the Patriarch has pursued a strategy by which the
Church becomes identified, in the public's mind, as the true embodiment of
the Russian nation and guardian of the collective national soul. "The whole
world is looking at Russia today, and our country was always marked for
spirituality, righteousness, patriotism," the Patriarch recently
stated.<#note15>15 Politicians come and go, cabinets and governments rise
and fall, but the Church, "which thinks in categories of millennia," views
the political process and the upcoming elections as "more of an historical
episode that has extremely limited significance for the spiritual fortune
of Russia."<#note16>16 It is the Church which endures and holds together
the unity of the Russian people, so defined by their profession of
Orthodoxy. Thus, the Church has endorsed the union treaty that will join
together Russia and Belarus as "the start of gathering together the sacred
lands of the one and single fatherland", while the Patriarch responded to
Western criticism of the union treaty by saying, "When the West is
integrating, they say it is a natural process. But they are raising all the
forces of hell to stop two Orthodox peoples from unifying."<#note17>17 The
union treaty is thus transformed, from an economic and military pact
between two sovereign states into a sacred task--the joining together of
two branches of the Orthodox nation that were separated after the collapse
of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The religious nationalism espoused by the Patriarch, which was clearly
evident during the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia and, more recently in
his public refusal to support a papal visit to Russia, makes some
Westerners uncomfortable, and helps to create a culture of intolerance
against minority religious groups, for one thing.<#note18>18. Lacking a
mass popular base of committed activists, however, this appeal to
nationalism gives the Patriarch--and thus the Church--the social base it
needs to make its voice heard in Russian society. Only under the banner and
on the soil of the Church (Saint Daniel's monastery) could leaders of all
major political forces in Russia--from the Communist Party on the left to
the bloc headed by Zhirinovskii on the right--gather together (for the
Church-sponsored World Russian's People Assembly) and commit themselves to
seeking the popular welfare. The Patriarch reminded these leaders--among
them the most influential politicians in Russia today--that they had a duty
and responsibility before the people of not transgressing their moral
obligations, "If they are violated, the people will never again trust their
representatives," he said.<#note19>19 Regardless of his motives, the
current Patriarch has done a great service for the furtherance of democracy
in Russia, and thus implicitly in all Orthodox lands, by making it clear
that, in political matters, "the Church does not ... order her flock to
support this or that party" and that every Orthodox Christian is "free to
have his own point of view on social processes and express it wherever he
wants and in a way he prefers."<#note20>20 The Church has thus recognized
that every Orthodox Christian is capable of making an informed choice in
political matters. No longer should the destiny of Russia--or of any other
Orthodox country, for that matter--be entrusted to an Emperor or autocrat.
Political democracy, already setting forth strong roots in Greece, can
continue to take hold throughout the Orthodox world.
1. Dr. Christopher Marsh, "Russian Church and Soviet State: The
Smolensk Example." Lecture delivered October 26, 1999, at the J. M. Dawson
Institute of Church-State Studies, Baylor University. Archived at
2. Very Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, "Active Neutrality," in The Independent
Newspaper (Nezavisimaia Gazeta), November 10, 1999, at
3. ITAR-TASS bulletin, "Russian Patriarch on Elections, Relations with
Vatican," November 20, 1999, at http://www.itar-tass.com
4. Trud, October 6, 1999, cited at
5. Mikhail Semenyik, "Everyone is Personally Responsible to the Lord,"
Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, no. 2, 1993, pp. 11-13.
6. Chaplin. op. cit.
7. ITAR-TASS bulletin, "Patriarch Urges Church, State to Address
Problems Jointly," October 2, 1999, at http://www.itar-tass.com
8. Chaplin, op. cit.
9. ITAR-TASS October 2, 1999.
10. ITAR-TASS November 20,1999.
11. Chaplin, op. cit.
12. ITAR-TASS, November 20, 1999.
13. Parlamentskaia Gazeta, November 18, 1999, cited at
14. Cited in Kevin Boyle and Juliet Sheen, eds., Freedom of Religion and
Belief: A World Report (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 378.
15. ITAR-TASS, November 20, 1999.
16. Chaplin, op. cit.
17. The Jamestown Monitor, December 10, 1999, at
18. Very Rev. Mikhail Redkin of the Evangelism Conference of the Moscow
diocese has called for the passage of laws that will liquidate "numerous
sects which threaten the national security of Russia." Maria Kozlova, "Some
More Witnesses Have Burst Into Moscow," The Independent Newspaper
(Nezavisimaia Gazeta), December 8, 1999.
19. "Every Power in Russia Is From God," The Independent Newspaper
(Nezavisimaia Gazeta), December 7, 1999, archived at
20. Cited in Nikolas K. Gvosdev, "Orthodoxy and a Pluralist Democracy,"
in The Balkans: A Religious Backyard of Europe (Ravenna: Longo Press,
1995), pp. 134, 137.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily
represent the views of Orthodox Christian News Service, Inc.
represent the views of Orthodox Christian News Service, Inc.
UN rights boss blasts Russia over Chechnya abuses
GENEVA, Feb 16 (Reuters) - U.N. rights chief Mary Robinson blasted Moscow on
Wednesday for blocking access to victims of its war in Chechnya and cited
accusations against Russian forces of indiscriminate bombing, executions of
civilians and rape.
In a strongly worded statement, the former Irish president said the Russian
government had refused her request to visit areas affected by the conflict
and an offer she said she had made to send an envoy to the region.
She cited allegations of civilian executions and rapes of Chechen women by
Russian forces. She said reports had also been provided to her by the
Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helps
victims of conflict and visits prisoners of war.
U.N. officials said Robinson decided to issue the statement, her strongest
ever nearly five months after the start of Moscow's new campaign in the
breakaway Russian republic, because of the Russian government's refusal to
allow her to visit.
As Russian warplanes and helicopters pounded rebels in southern Chechnya on
Wednesday, Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, spoke of a
``catastrophic situation facing civilians in Chechnya.''
She expressed concern over civilians' ``exposure to disproportionate use of
force by the Russian military including heavy bombardment and attacks with
especially devastating munitions.''
``The suffering caused by indiscriminate bombing and seeming disregard for
civilians must not be compounded by the denial of the basic human rights of
people in Chechnya,'' she declared.
``It is the responsibility of the Russian authorities to do all they can to
ensure that those under their jurisdiction enjoy the rights and freedoms they
are entitled to under international law and to provide for effective remedies
for victims of violations.''
REPORTS OF EXECUTIONS
Robinson accused Russian forces of violating the Geneva Conventions, but the
Swiss-run ICRC, which regards itself as the guardian institution of the
Geneva Conventions that set rules for war, had a guarded reaction.
``We have a confidential dialogue with the Russian authorities through which
we raise our concerns but we do not comment publicly on allegations of
violations of international humanitarian law,'' an ICRC spokeswoman said.
Robinson said the ICRC had reported that numerous captured persons were in
need of protection and that the organisation had not been granted access to
detainees held by Russian forces.
She said the ICRC had also reported that the severe fighting in the Chechen
capital Grozny had left tens of thousands of civilians with extremely limited
water, food, medical care, electricity or gas.
Robinson said she had documented cases of some 40 civilians summarily
executed by Russian troops in Grozny and Alkhan-Yurt and reports on the rapes
of Chechen women by Russian soldiers in Russian-controlled areas of Chechnya
in Shali and Alkhan-Yurt.
She accused Russia of endangering press freedom with ``overly restrictive''
accreditation requirements for journalists that she said limited independent
coverage of the conflict.
The extent of the allegations point clearly to the need for increased
monitoring of the situation,'' said Robinson, calling for investigations into
the alleged abuses and for the persons responsible to be brought to justice.
The failure of Russian authorities, she said, ``leads to heightened concern
that allegations of human rights violations may be well-founded.''
Web page for CDI Russia Weekly: