This Date's Issues: 4122 4123
Johnson's Russia ListReturn to CDI's Home Page I Return to CDI's Library
21 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: German days reveal Putin's KGB past.
2. AFP: Sports of former Soviet Union hit by criminal.
3. Newsweek: Mark Hosenball and Bill Powell, The Russian Money Chase. The pair who ran a money-laundering scheme cop a plea, spill
to the Feds and cause dread in Moscow.
4. Washington Times: Jamie Dettmer, War trials urged for Russian
5. Re Ken Burns civil war series on NTV.
6. Peter D. Ekman: RE: Wines (JRL4121)
7. Andrei Liakhov: On Soviet Dissidents.
8. John Jaworsky: Re Soviet dissidents.
9. Russkii Zhurnal: Vladimir Matussevich, Andrey Babitsky and Radio
10. The Russia Journal: Otto Latsis, Putin's double victory.
11. Argumenty i Fakty: Konstantin Sergeyev, WILL ZYUGANOV BE RUSSIA'S
German days reveal Putin's KGB past
By Adam Tanner
DRESDEN, Germany, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin arranged to meet his East
German secret service comrade and asked for help in his latest espionage
``We'd like to set up electronic phone surveillance of a German I work
with,'' said Putin, one of about half a dozen Soviet KGB agents stationed in
Dresden in the late 1980s.
He did not explain why he, a Soviet agent living in an important centre of
East Germany, would need to spy on a local.
Even abroad in the East Bloc, the KGB was king, and much as some officials in
East Germany's Stasi secret police might grumble about it, they inevitably
bowed to Moscow's wishes.
This fragmentary episode is one of very few described in still closed
archives offering a glimpse of Russia's acting president when he was at the
height of his KGB career.
``His activities were directed against the West, gathering information about
the economy, politics and the military. It was multi-faceted,'' Horst
Jehmlich, then assistant to Dresden's Stasi chief, told Reuters. ``He came to
us when he needed a connection to an enterprise or to a factory or to police.
``He was someone who well understood his work.''
COOL STYLE WINS AWARD
Putin lived in Dresden from about 1984-90 -- officials differ slightly on the
exact dates -- in a country that was then a bulwark against the West. He held
a relatively low rank but his ability in undertaking cloak-and-dagger work
made an impression on both his superiors and his Stasi counterparts.
``He was always very cool, matter-of-fact, solid, someone who did not drink,
a well-balanced individual,'' Helmut Biesold, an ex-Stasi officer who worked
with the KGB, said in an interview.
Stasi agents who dealt with Putin, one of several KGB liaison officers,
recall his embrace of the Teutonic virtues of orderliness as well as a
command of German so fine-tuned that he had a hint of the local Saxon accent.
He even looked straight out of KGB central casting with his blond hair, trim
frame and steely eyes.
The Stasi awarded Putin a bronze service medal in 1987, but it apparently did
not signify remarkable achievement.
``It was altogether the smallest medal awarded; it was usually given only to
drivers and secretaries,'' Markus Wolf, the head of East Germany's foreign
intelligence, told Reuters. ``It's a sign that he really was insignificant,
and he had a low rank at the time.''
Yet even among his fellow KGB officers, Putin played a relatively important
internal role as chief political officer, seeking to ensure diligent
adherence to Communist Party ideals.
``Of the KGB agents stationed here, he was the party worker,'' said Biesold.
``When we had receptions and special events he often accompanied his chief.''
STASI COMRADES NEARBY
Putin's office was inside a two-storey 1909-built villa surrounded by high
cement walls with a guard in front. Stasi headquarters were a convenient 50
metres (yards) away.
``We don't know exactly, but we can assume he worked against the West,'' said
one German intelligence official. ``That means he sought to recruit agents
and had the support of the East German Stasi, for example when he tried to
set up apartments for covert activities.''
Some German officials say Putin may have recruited Germans to work for the
KGB and some of these recruits could still be in active service. But no one
knows for sure.
``The Soviet secret services certainly used local citizens and sources
without the Stasi knowing,'' said Konrad Felber, head of Dresden's office in
charge of the Stasi archives.
A few German media reports have said Putin lived in West Germany from 1975
when he first joined the KGB, but officials interviewed said there is no
evidence of this. ``It could be that he operated in the West but this is very
unlikely,'' a German intelligence official said.
HUNT FOR TECHNOLOGY
Officials say it is very likely that Putin did focus some of his undercover
work in the late 1980s on gaining updated Western computer technology for
Such work was especially important because East Germany's main computer
manufacturer, Dresden's Robotron, based its mainframe and personal computers
on Western IBM and Digital Equipment models, said Gerhard Merkel, the firm's
former research director.
He said the Stasi operated both an internal check on Robotron's 69,000
workers -- just shy of the largest company in the country -- and had their
own external economic espionage division to boost microchip manufacture.
``We had many subsidiaries, and we attended many trade fairs and congresses
and it is possible that secret services operated among these subsidiaries,''
he said in an interview. ``Putin's work could have had something to do with
Jehmlich, the former Stasi official, added: ``We had many congresses in
Dresden and many foreigners and West Germans came. There were many
opportunities for contacts with interesting people and groups coming.''
Again, details remain sketchy. Putin has never publicly explained what he did
in Dresden, and he declined to answer questions for this story.
Diplomats say privately that Putin has mentioned being in Dresden, but both
German and Western officials appear frustrated that they do not know more
about a time that could provide clues about what his leadership in Russia is
likely to bring.
Sports of former Soviet Union hit by criminal
MOSCOW, Feb 21 (AFP) -
Russia's hockey supremo is cut down in a hail of bullets, a Ukrainian
football club president is blown up, a well-known Georgian wrestler is shot
The playing fields of the former Soviet sporting world have turned into
something of a killing field for shady operators with cash to launder and
scores to settle.
Contract killings, money laundering, arrests of officials on suspicion of
corruption and extortion... sport in the former Soviet Union has in recent
years been plagued by a string of dark and deadly incidents far removed from
the notion of sport in most countries.
The problem traces its origins back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in
1991 and the economic crisis that ensued, which resulted in a severe lack of
funding for sports clubs that used to benefit from handsome backing from the
Soviet Army, police and country's trade unions in Soviet times.
The lack of legal funding forced sport clubs and their presidents to dip into
the murky world of shadowy business, which in turn found sports clubs and
foundations a useful way to launder their dirty cash.
The first sign that something was rotten in post-Soviet sport emerged in
April 1994, when a hired gunman cut down Otari Kvantrishvili, president of a
sports foundation who also controlled Russia's wrestling federation.
Since then, the contract killings have occurred with depressing regularity.
Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Valentin Sych was killed by gunmen in
April 1997, while the president of the National Sports Foundation, Boris
Fyodorov, was badly wounded in an organised hit the previous year.
One of the bosses of Spartak Moscow football club, Larisa Nechayeva, who ran
the outfit's finances, was also killed by hired gunmen at her countryhouse in
the summer of 1997.
In Ukraine meanwhile, the former president of Donetsk football side
Shakhtyor, Akhat Bragin, was blown up in the VIP box of the city's stadium
during a league match in 1995.
And just last week in Moldova, Valery Rymar, president of football club
Constructorul, was killed in a hail of bullets from an automatic weapon.
Rymar, it later emerged, hailed from the criminal underworld with a street
nickname "Green" and a 10-year stretch in jail behind him.
Beyond the contract killings lies a murky world of extortion and official
Ukraine's wrestlers association president Boris Savlogov was arrested earlier
this year and is still being held in prison on extortion charges. He faces an
eight year jail term if found guilty.
Last month the president of the Ukraine's top flight side Tavria Simferopol,
Ruvim Aronov, was arrested and charged with extortion by the local police.
Not even government ministers are entirely clean. Russian sports minister
Boris Ivanyuzhenkov admitted recently that before his appointment last year
he had been charged with unauthorised possession of a handgun and accused of
being a member of Moscow's notorious Podolsk criminal group.
Ivanyuzhenkov did not deny the charges in his interview to the Russian weekly
"Kommersant Power", but added later he was cleared.
Even Russia's top sportsmen are not immune from the pressing attention of the
Last week top football star Andrei Tikhonov said he was ready to leave Russia
altogether after hoodlums stole his jeep from under his wife's nose, throwing
his baby out into the snow.
"I am going to play abroad," Tikhonov told Sport Express daily.
"I no longer want to worry about my family every day," he added, echoing a
decision made five years ago by another Spartak Moscow skipper Viktor Onopko
after a copycat incident.
The Russian press has speculated that up to 80 percent of funding in Russian
football comes from shadowy business structures, adding the majority of
country's clubs would fold if this source was cut.
Professional League President Nikolai Tolstykh said in recent interviews that
club presidents had flatly rejected on several occasions his proposal to make
the game and its financing more transparent through the disclosure of budgets.
Tax police - and even Russian acting President Vladimir Putin - have promised
to crack down on corruption and shady financial dealings, but observers note
that this would probably force the vast majority of sports clubs in Russia at
least to shut down.
February 28, 2000
[for personal use only]
The Russian Money Chase
The pair who ran a money-laundering scheme cop a plea, spill to the Feds and
cause dread in Moscow
By Mark Hosenball and Bill Powell
It is the law-enforcement equivalent of Myst, the famously opaque computer
game. It is nearly impossible to sort successfully through a well-planned,
well-executed international money-laundering scheme if the players don't know
which paths to follow, which clues to heed and which to ignore. Having an
experienced guide playing along can make all the difference. Last week, in
pursuit of what appears to have been a massive operation to launder money out
of Russia from 1996 to 1998, U.S. investigators recruited the guide they need.
A pair of guides, in fact. Lucy Edwards and Peter Berlin are a
husband-and-wife team, Russian émigrés who, federal prosecutors say, were
players in a scheme that ultimately funneled more than $7 billion through the
Bank of New York in a little over two years. Edwards worked at the bank's
Eastern European division, while Berlin set up three fund-transfer companies,
called Benex, BECS and Lowland. Together, he and his wife made billions
disappear and admitted pocketing nearly $2 million for themselves in doing
so. Last week in New York they pleaded guilty to money laundering and a
series of lesser charges. The couple had been cooperating with the
investigation since September and will continue to do so. Berlin and Edwards
hope for reduced sentences; the government hopes, with the couple's help, to
find out who else was involved in the United States, in Russia and wherever
else the complicated trail leads.
The unfolding investigation has provoked anger and dread in Moscow. Some
investigators familiar with the case believe Edwards and Berlin could provide
damaging information about several high-powered Russian banking and political
figures. Massive corruption has been one of the Yeltsin era's most
debilitating problems. The ongoing BONY case guarantees that more sordid
details will emerge, and that's not good news for Russia.
The case, since it broke last August, has already helped sour U.S.-Russian
relations. It has raised doubts about Washington's support for continued
financial assistance to Russia from international lending agencies. Some
Russians dismiss the scandal. Initially Moscow's media derided the
investigation as a political attack on Al Gore, an architect of the Clinton
administration's see-no-evil Russia policy. Many Russian businessmen insisted
that BONY merely provided a temporary home for legitimately earned money
before the tax or customs authorities in Moscow could get at it. Yes, it may
have been tax evasion, some argued, but the alternative - given the country's
complicated and confiscatory tax system - was to go broke.
But the Berlin-Edwards plea makes it clear that the case isn't as mundane as
that. Sources familiar with the case say that one notorious Russian
organized-crime group - allegedly run by Semyon Mogilevich, a Russian now
living in Budapest - laundered at least $500 million using the Edwards-Berlin
operation. Berlin has admitted meeting with Mogilevich at least twice. And
though Russian entrepreneurs may view it as business as usual, avoidance of
customs duties on imported goods does warrant money-laundering charges:
Russian firms, the U.S. Feds say, funneled billions through Benex and BONY
that should have been in the Kremlin's budget. One knowledgeable source also
believes evidence will "probably" emerge of outright embezzlement of Russian
As described in the court proceedings, the system Edwards and Berlin set up
was relatively simple. It transferred money from Moscow to the United States
and then to offshore banking havens. In 1996 Berlin set up Benex and BECS,
which in turn opened accounts at the Bank of New York. Berlin's companies
were essentially fronts for an obscure Moscow bank called the Depository
Clearing Bank, known by its Russian initials as DKB. Edwards then arranged
for BONY to make available to her husband a special software system - which
bank usually allowed only its best corporate customers to use.
Called micro/CA$H-Register, it permits account holders to make international
wire transfers from their BONY accounts without having to do any paperwork.
Benex and BECS in turn set up an office in Queens, N.Y., equipped with a
computer in which the CA$H-Register software was installed. In effect,
Berlin's Queens operation became a New York-based branch of DKB - even though
the bank had no license to operate in the United States. BONY denies any
Trying to find out where all the money came from, investigators are now
focusing on DKB and at least three other Moscow banks to which it is linked.
Banking sources in Moscow say DKB—which had its banking license revoked
November was run by two men, Kirill Gusev and Ivan Bronov, both apparently in
their late 20s. According to the sources, DKB owned a relatively small - and
now bankrupt - Moscow bank called Flamingo. DKB, in turn, was controlled by
others banks: MDM and Sobinbank. Moscow authorities raided Sobinbank and
Flamingo late last year after the BONY scandal broke and seized piles of
documents. U.S. authorities say the Russians have not yet shared much of that
Skeptics think they know why. Sobinbank and MDM both have links to Russia's
so-called oligarchs—the influential group of bankers who funded Boris
Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign. The chairman of MDM is Aleksandr Mamut,
a member of the Kremlin's inner circle under Yeltsin. Both Sobinbank and
Flamingo, meanwhile, were at least partly owned by a company called SBS
Agro - controlled by Aleksandr Smolensky and Boris Berezovsky, two of
most powerful oligarchs. In the past, Smolensky and Berezovsky have denied
money-laundering allegations, and Mamut has said he has nothing to do with
How much more can investigators learn about where all the laundered money
came from? In part that depends on what else Berlin and Edwards have to
say—and whether their information will lead investigators to other, more
senior figures within the Bank of New York. Last August the bank allegedly
forced out an executive named Natasha Gurfinkel Kagalovsky, formerly the head
of its East European division. Gurfinkel insists that she has done nothing
wrong, and may sue BONY for forcing her out. In the meantime, NEWSWEEK has
learned that her lawyer, Stanley Arkin, has hired a private investigator
named Jack Palladino. His previous claim to fame was working for the Clinton
campaign in 1992 to keep a lid on "bimbo eruptions." Both Arkin and Palladino
But the case's ultimate fate may lie where it started: in Moscow. Acting
President Vladimir Putin, who will almost certainly be elected to the office
in his own right next month, has said that restoring law and order is a
priority. Shedding some light on where those Russian billions came from - by
allowing his law-enforcement agencies to share what they know - would be one
way to reinforce that message. In the next few weeks, U.S. investigators will
continue to listen to Berlin and Edwards hoping all the while that Putin is
as curious about where Russia's money went as they are.
February 21, 2000
[for personal use only
War trials urged for Russian generals
By Jamie Dettmer
MOSCOW - U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson yesterday
suggested Bosnian-style prosecutions of Russian generals for overseeing
"executions, tortures and rapes" in Chechnya, further aggravating already
tense relations between Russia and the West.
Outraged Russian officials immediately accused Mrs. Robinson, a former
Irish president, of being "biased and nonobjective" and said her remarks to a
French newspaper contained "anti-Russian" overtones.
Mrs. Robinson's request to lead a fact-finding mission to Chechnya was
now highly unlikely to be approved, they added.
Mrs. Robinson, in the interview published yesterday, repeated statements
she made Wednesday accusing Russia of "serious human rights violations during
and after the assault on Grozny and other parts of the territory."
She said there were "serious and documented" complaints of "executions,
tortures, rapes, violence and bad treatment of Chechen civilians by the
To the horror of the Kremlin, she then raised for the first time the
possibility that Russian generals could be treated as war criminals. That
would make them vulnerable to prosecution at The Hague, where an
international tribunal has been trying Serbs, Bosnians and Croats accused of
crimes against humanity.
"There should be no immunity," Mrs. Robinson said.
U.S. officials were similarly outraged when, in December, chief
war-crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte announced an investigation of American
generals over their conduct of last year's air war against Serbia and raised
the prospect of prosecutions. The tribunal quickly backed off in the face of
sharp criticism from Washington.
Relations between Russia and the West have been badly strained by
criticism of the Chechnya campaign. The latest blowup came last week when
Seilam Beshayev, the deputy chairman of the breakaway Chechen Republic's
parliament, was invited to the State Department to discuss the human rights
situation in Chechnya.
Moscow denounced the meeting as an "unfriendly step" and "totally
unacceptable." State Department spokesman James P. Rubin responded that it
reflected the administration's deep concerns about civilian suffering in the
The Kremlin had clearly hoped criticism of the Chechnya campaign would
die down after Mr. Putin last week named Vladimir Kalamanov, head of Russia's
agency for internal refugees, as his special representative on human rights
in the region.
But that appointment and a weekend acknowledgment by the Russian
military that some soldiers may have committed "discreditable actions" have
done little to satisfy Western concern over mounting evidence of atrocities
being committed in detention camps.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both in recent weeks
provided detailed reports of atrocities being committed against civilians
outside the detention camps as well.
Russian setbacks on the diplomatic front were matched by frustrations on
the battlefield. In a rare demonstration of candor, Interior Minister
Vladimir Rushailo confirmed late Saturday that Chechen rebels had managed to
shoot down a Russian helicopter, killing 15 troops.
The minister's openness was probably dictated by the fact that the rebel
Web site (kavkaz.org) was beaming pictures of the helicopter in flames. The
interior minister denied a Chechen claim that a second helicopter had been
Chechen rebels also mounted a series of hit-and-run raids and continued
over the weekend to deny Russian forces control of the strategic Argun gorge,
although the Chechen leadership admitted last night that they had been forced
to quit the village of Daba-Yurt at the mouth of the pass.
"Fierce fighting is taking place in which the Chechen forces use the
tactics of mobile defense. They dig in and fight for 24 hours and then move
away," said a Chechen spokesman.
Russia's answer has been to pound rebel bases with artillery and air
fire and then to drop paratroopers on key heights overlooking the gorge and
another key mountain pass at Vedeno.
Russian generals remain fearful that the rebels may try to repeat the
pattern of the last Chechen war when they were able to break out en masse
from their mountain strongholds and eventually retake the capital of Grozny.
Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said yesterday that all efforts were
being made to contain the rebels in the southern mountains.
He warned the rebels may launch a major assault tomorrow, the 56th
anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechen people en masse to
In anticipation, Russian forces are barring civilians from traveling
within Chechnya and beefing up checkpoints in the south, Agence France-Presse
reported last night.
Subject: Civil War
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000
Over the weekend, NTV Plus broadcast a re-run (dubbed in Russian) of the
Ken Burns' series on the War Between the States.
Seeing the pictures of the bombed out, burned down remains of Atlanta,
Georgia and Richmond, Virginia after the Union bombardments, one could not
help be reminded of more recent, strikingly similar scenes and media
reports coming out of Groznii.
American politicians and the western media can find plenty of evidence of
the same (or worse) levels of destruction of once proud cities and the
victimization of an innocent civilian population right in their own back
yards inflicted by the Union Army some 135 years ago, all which was
likewise done in the name of "flushing the rebels out of the city" and
crushing the move for Southern independence.
Washington should not be "shocked-shocked," but proud that Russia is
following her example -- after all, imitation is the most sincere form of
flattery. The United States of America did the same thing to her own
citizens, and erected a lot of monuments to those who done it.
This comment in no way seeks to minimize or trivialize the human suffering
and deprivations being suffered in Chechnya, and certainly not to put
Basayev and others on the same level as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.
It's simply a reminder to "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
From: "Peter D. Ekman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Wines (JRL4121)
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000
The NY Times piece on Putin by Michael Wines shouldn't be
faulted for its presentation of the facts, but I found myself
disagreeing with each interpretation of the facts presented.
One particular story on Putin was presented that has long bothered
me. It has previously appeared on both JRL and in the Moscow Times,
and presents Putin as the "can do" guy who saves $9 million of the
US taxpayers money from being confiscated by the Russian government.
And only a minor payment ($1 million if I remember correctly) goes
off in a new direction. As Wines puts it:
Mr. Murray, the American investment adviser, described a 1994 instance in
which a Russian government agency sought to seize a $9 million donation by an
American charity -- until Mr. Putin personally persuaded the former prime
minister, Mr. Chernomyrdin, to push legislation through Parliament thwarting
the agency's plans. Mr. Putin extracted his own payment for the favor: a
hefty donation of sterilization equipment to a city medical clinic to slow
the spread of AIDS.
"The guy's very professional; very disciplined," Mr. Murray said. "And in the
end, you got a result. Usually at the end, you don't know if someone's
looking for a bribe. But that's not Vladimir Putin."
In the original story there was an interesting bit about an unaccounted
for half-million, which Murray unexpectedly discovers at the end.
Frankly, this story stinks to high heaven. The US government
gives $9 million to help the Russian people, the Russian government
says that it is going to take it all, and Putin comes along and saves the day
only taking $1 million. To me Putin looks much more like a sly
the hero of this story.
From: "Andrei Liakhov" <email@example.com>
Subject: On Soviet Dissidents
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000
I can't agree with the statement that Soviet dissidents made a sizeable
contribution to the collapse of the USSR. Reasons are numerous, but I would
like to point out here that they did not have any real means to make their
views known (Samizdat was read by a tiny proportion of the population,
primarily by students - humanitarians and their peers), all dissident
protest was (with small exceptions) extremely personal, rather than
organised and negative, rather than positive (hence inability of the
dissidents to play any substantial role in building of the post Soviet
society) and often establishment inspired (it is also true that by mid 80ies
some of the dissidents were an exclusive KPSS/KGB propaganda projects
created in order to let the steam out of the society which was starting to
The majority of dissidents did not have any alternative ideas beyond open
denial of the extremeties of the Soviet society - thus they were never even
regarded as a serious threat by the Establishment and could be dealt with
primarily by expulsion to Israel or the USA. It is also true that the
collapse of the USSR was caused primarily by the power struggle within the
ruling elite which even in the post Soviet state denied the dissidents any
prominent positions in state management, politics or society. This fact was
recognised by Solzhenitsin who even refused to accept a state award and is
in a silent opposition to the regime.
The dissidents (at least the majority of them, Solzhenitsin and Sakharov
excluded) had by far and large an agenda which the silent majority of
increasingly disillusioned population did not understand, did not identify
with and never shared.
Apologies, but anyone who tries to argue the opoosite has no idea of what
the USSR was really like or how it did collapse.
P.S. A healthy debate is most welcome on any of the above.
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000
From: John Jaworsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re Soviet dissidents
I enjoyed reading Keith Gessen's article and the commentaries it
provoked, but the article has one flaw that no-one has mentioned so far.
In his article Keith frequently refers to the *Soviet* dissident
experience and former *Soviet* dissidents. However, all or almost all of
the individuals with whom he met and conducted interviews are
representatives of only one category of former dissidents; those who lived
and were active in Moscow.
For very good reasons Moscow was, of course, the hub of dissident
activity in the USSR, and Moscow dissidents played a crucial role in the
preparation and distribution of samizdat publications. However, if one
carefully examines the contents of the most highly respected (and very
reliable) samizdat human rights periodical, *Khronika tekushchykh sobytii*
(*Chronicle of Current Events*), prepared by Andrei Sakharov's human
rights group, one finds that it provided a comprehensive overview of
dissent throughout the entire USSR, devoting a great deal of attention to
the Baltic states, the Caucasus, Ukraine, etc.
In fact, if one carefully examines all available sources on the
individuals who were arrested and imprisoned for their political
("anti-state") activities in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, it becomes
clear that dissidents from Russia were in a minority, while
disproportionately large numbers of dissidents from the Baltic states and
Ukraine served terms in the "corrective-labor" institutions where the most
stubborn dissidents were imprisoned. Thus a number of dissidents from
Moscow (e.g., Lubarsky, Orlov, etc.) have noted that they only became
fully aware of the importance of the "national question" (natsional'nyi
vopros) in the Soviet Union after they were imprisoned in the Mordovian
and Perm camps where many "politicals" (including many national rights
activists) were detained. It should also be noted that a number of these
non-Russian dissidents played a significant role in the political life of
their homelands just before and after the collapse of the USSR, and some
remain very active today. For example, Mustafa Dzhemilev, a former
dissident and political prisoner, remains the highly-respected leader of
the Crimean Tatar community in Crimea.
The former dissidents from the non-Russian regions of the USSR
are, like the former Moscow dissidents, a very diverse (and occasionally
rather eccentric) group of individuals. Still, if Keith Gessen is
interested in the general fate of Soviet dissident exiles in North
America, he would greatly benefit from interviews with individuals such as
the former Ukrainian political prisoner Nadia Svitlychna, the Crimean
Tatar activist Aishe Seitmuratova (both live in the New York area), or
other representatives of human/national rights movements from the
non-Russian regions of the USSR. He would find that they are generally
more involved in developments in their homelands, and less alienated from
their diaspora communities, then the individuals he interviewed. And as a
general guide to Soviet dissent I would recommend Ludmilla Alexeyeva's
*Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious, and Human
Rights* (1985), also published in Russian, a much more comprehensive work
than the Moscow-centred book on Soviet dissent, by Rubinstein, that Gessen
Gessen used for background information.
Russkii Zhurnal (http://russ.ru)
February 14, 2000
Andrey Babitsky and Radio Liberty
[translation for personal use only]
Yelena Rykovtseva has written in Obschaya gazeta: "Radio Liberty is not our
radio, it's a foreign one. Perhaps, this is why we rushed all together to
the defense of its reporter, because we are not so familiar with the
internal workings and methods of the RFE/RL, as with our domestic
mass-media." Yet until very recently the Radio Liberty was never perceived
as a foreign station. About 85 percent of its Russian broadcasting is filled
with native Moscow accent, and with native Russian politicians on the
microphone round the clock. As for its internal workings and methods, they
are pretty obvious for its listeners. Nevertheless, many people do not
listen to it regularly, which helps explain the one-sided character of their
protests in the Babitsky case.
I do not want to discuss the behavior of Russian government and military
authorities, since everything has already been said on this score. Yet the
journalist's employers, the chefs of the Liberty kitchen, ought to bear no
less of a blame - and perhaps even more - for what happened to Andrey
A few days ago, one of them, namely Jeffrey Trimble, the director of the
RFE/RL broadcasting, acknowledged that Andrey was "a little wild" (it is not
by any chance that he used the past tense - all of them, beginning from the
CEO Thomas Dine to Savik Shuster, the Moscow Bureau chief, repeat that "we
are afraid Andrey may not be alive"). In his interviews to Moscow radio and
TV stations, to internet newspapers and news agencies, Trimble sounds
invariably didactical, presenting himself as a first-rate example of a
serious and responsible American journalist in a country of low professional
But what if we move from theory to practice: why did he allow for "a little
wild" Babitsky to become the chief spokesman for the Radio Liberty on
Where were Trimble's principles of journalist's ethic when he sanctioned the
airing of Babitsky's account from Chechnya that became notorious for the
following statement: "One must say that the Chechens cut throats to [the
Russian] soldiers not because they are sadists or because of their
inclination to some particularly violent treatment of [the Russian]
soldiers, but because that's the way they try to make the war more graphic,
more visible, to wake up public opinion."
Where was Trimble's journalistic and simply human conscience when he
approved the NTV showing of Babitsky's videofilm of an interrogation of a
captive Russian soldier by Chechen guerillas? How would Americans react to
their fellow citizen, working in the English-language service of the Voice
of Russia, who would accept the invitation from Serb officers to film an
interrogation of two American soldiers taken captive during the Kosovo
operation, and then would sell the video to, say, NBC?
Where was his teacher's pointer when Babitsky, a reporter (!) of the
U.S.-funded Radio Liberty, was inflaming passions on the air: "Our starting
point is that power [in Russia] is in the hands of small-scale degenerate
gangsters who unleashed a senseless war which would have been unimaginable
even under the communists"?
Well, of course, Trimble is in Prague, and, one must think, he does not
oversee the Russian service broadcasting on a daily basis. But let us take
Savik Shuster, Andrei's immediate boss and editor of his reports. There is
little doubt that he considered Babitsky's vehemently pro-Chechen utterances
to be acceptable from the standpoint of high professional standards. Because
his own standards are not that different.
On January 22, the main event of Shuster's "concluding news hour" was the
talk with Movladi Udugov [Chechnya's information chief]. Udugov was telling
the audience, in a self-confident, meticulous and exuberant style, that
Gen.Malofeyev is in the guerillas' captivity, that he is alive and being
interrogated. In those same hours, Interfax, Ekho Moskvy and others were
informing: the body of the general has been found under the rubble in Grozny
and transported to Vladikavkaz. Two days later, even Chechen warlords
admitted in public that Udugov's version was a fake. What conclusions did
Trimble and Shuster draw from this ignominious journalistic failure? On
February 5, "the Chechen Goebbels" was yet again the much welcomed guest -
and the centerpiece - of their program.
What specifically did I mean by saying, in my interview to ITAR-TASS, that
the Babitsky case is a provocation on the part of the RFE/RL administrators?
In late December, Andrei returned from Chechnya to Moscow, let his film to
be broadcast on NTV and claimed, in his interview to Russian Deadline, an
internet newspaper (www.deadline.ru) that he escaped an assasination plot by
a special task force of the Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU). He
presented no evidence substantiating this story. On the Ekho Moskvy radio,
he spoke already of two GRU task forces equipped against him. In response,
the official Rosinformcenter struck with the following statement: "Radio
Liberty is waging war on the side of Chechen terrorists." In this situation,
not a single superior of any decency would have sent the reporter back to
Chechnya. But the Radio Liberty chefs did exactly that. Which suggests that
they may have needed this confrontation beyond all limits, which suggests
that they may have encouraged and propelled the "wild" Babitsky.
Meanwhile, the announcement of his disapperance was made by RFE/RL only ten
days after the fact. Which coincided with the Moscow visit by Madeleine
A year ago, at the insistence of one U.S. senator, a big expert in the
global political geography, the Free Iraq Radio was founded as an
affiliation to RFE/RL. President Dine, a veteran of lobbyism and PR, was
exuberant: "We are back in business. We are back in the newspapers." (a
quote from his interview to the Washington Post). Today, they are back in
the news, as never before. The president and his team are euphoric, but also
in profound grief: according to Thomas Dine in the same Washington Post of
February 5, he is "afraid that [Babitsky] was murdered by Russians." If, God
forbid, these fears were to be substantiated, the list of murderers should
be expanded to include Dine, Trimble and Shuster. If these fears turn to be
unfounded, still, there is no justification for how these people acted with
regard to Andrei.
These days, Radio Liberty has gone hysterical. In every program, Pyotr Vail
keeps offending even those who protest and stand for Andrei in Moscow:
"Unlike Babitsky, all the so-called Russian military journalists are General
Staff journalists in camouflage"; "over the past months, Russian
journalists' corps has been despicably unanimous in its support of the
authorities." Lev Roitman enunciates gravely: "Russia is being precipitously
transformed from the Evil Empire to the Empire of Lies." What an ugly
paradox: for decades, under the avalanche of allegations by Soviet and
Western liberal media of being a vehicle for the Cold War propaganda, Radio
Liberty was scrupulously abiding by the rules of American journalistic
ethic. Today, it becomes similar to Soviet cartoons from the 1950s.
I am quite sure that this remake of the Cold War initiated by the Radio
Liberty is a private initiative of the Dine crew rather than a fulfillment
of instructions from the White House, the State or the CIA. And if so, then
the recent Washington Post editorial titled "Barbarity in Moscow" will soon
be followed, for the sake of symmetry, by an article called "Idiocy in
To sum up, Yelena Rykovtseva turns out to be right: Radio Liberty in its
present condition is a radio alien to us - on both sides of the ocean - not
because it is a foreign radio, but because it lost its mission (unless its
mission is conceived as a perverse struggle for jobs, salaries etc.), it
lost its identity, its self-respect and its professional trademark.
The Russia Journal
February 21-27, 2000
Putin's double victory
By Otto Latsis
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, speaking at a congress of his Fatherland-All
Russia (Otechestvo) movement, called acting President Vladimir Putin a blank
sheet of paper. What he meant by that was that no one knows anything about
his political plans, and so no one knows quite what to think about him as a
contender in the March presidential elections.
Until recently, this assessment was close to the truth. Putin's political
statements have all been of a general nature, the kind that suit everyone.
His government's economic achievements are no more than the successful
continuation of processes begun earlier.
Even the launch of anti-terrorist operations in Chechnya, which more than
anything gave his popularity a boost, was not a show of individual political
will. Faced with Shamil Basayev's invasion of Dagestan, any Russian leader
would have been obliged to react with military operations.
But two recent and very different events have changed this situation. The
liberation of Grozny and the agreement with the London Club on restructuring
Soviet debt are not just achievements for Russia - they are also personal
victories for Putin.
Circumstances forced the beginning of anti-terrorist operations on the
authorities, but carrying on until the terrorists and their bases are wiped
out was a matter of political will. Many voices both abroad and in Russia
itself called loudly for an end to operations, immediate negotiations with
the Chechen separatists, a halt to attacks on terrorist bases and moves to
set up a long-term blockade.
Putin, like Boris Yeltsin before him, categorically rejected all these
proposals. Unlike the federal authorities in 1996, Putin took full political
responsibility for seeing the operations through to their conclusion.
The agreement with the London Club to restructure part of the $32 million
Soviet debt is an equally decisive step in its way. Critics of the agreement,
including authoritative figures like former Finance Minister Mikhail
Zadornov, said that Russia wouldn't be able to keep up with payments if less
than 70 percent of the debt was written off.
When asked what should be done if the creditors didn't give in, the critics
advised Russia not to pay until they accepted our conditions. Bankruptcy of
the official debtor - Vnesheconombank U.S.S.R. - does not mean sovereign
default for Russia.
First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said recently that 40 percent
was the limit below which Russia could go no further. But he went on to sign
an agreement writing off only 36.5 percent of the debt. True, the payment
timetable has been stretched over 30 years with a seven-year preferential
period, and an agreement has been reached on low interest payments.
The outcome is that Russia will actually pay only half of what it was
intended to originally. But the price of the deal was that Vnesheconombank's
debts now become state debt. This means that over the 30-year payment period,
there cannot be a single missed deadline.
The London Club "operation" was as much a full-on attack in its way as the
operations in Chechnya. The agreement came out of the blue, just when
everyone was saying that the West would make no real deals with Russia before
the March 26 presidential elections.
Putin expressed great satisfaction with the agreement, saying that he
considered any possible manipulations with future payments a highly improper
matter. A self-respecting state, one that thinks of the future, does not try
to cheat its partners.
Kasyanov's signature on a risky agreement overturned all the usual rules of
the game. But it is Putin who ultimately carries political responsibility for
this breakthrough that turns Russia from a passive player forced to wait for
others' decisions into an active participant.
These two different events show the same approach to political
decision-making, namely an attacking strategy calculated on constant movement
forward. Putin still hasn't revealed the details of his plans for regulating
the situation in Chechnya, nor his economic program. But whatever Putin's
personal preferences, the logic of events makes his future steps clearer - if
he wants to build on his success.
The operation in Chechnya makes sense only if the authorities prove able to
prevent a large-scale partisan war, and to do that, they must find a common
language with the local population.
Russia will meet its debt payments as long as the country sees stable
economic growth. But the only way to stimulate growth is to continue market
reform. Whether Putin wants this or not, whether he understands this or not,
the blank sheet of paper is beginning to be filled.
Argumenty i Fakty No. 7
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
WILL ZYUGANOV BE RUSSIA'S NEXT PRESIDENT?
By Konstantin SERGEYEV
If Vladimir Putin and Gennady Zyuganov have to vie in the
second round, the fate can suddenly turn to the latter's side.
First. There are no strong candidates left in the election
arena who could strip Zyuganov of his votes. Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov, ex-Premier Yevgeny Primakov and ex-Premier Viktor
Chernomyrdin who is the leader of Our Home Is Russia (NDR)
have withdrawn from the election race by their own free will.
As a result many people will vote for the KPRF leader in
addition to the traditionally "left" electorate.
Second. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky will sooner take
away the votes of the right from Putin than fight for the
"left" votes. He can garner up to 14% in the first round.
Third. The "undecided," that is those who, as a rule,
decide for whom to vote on the voting day, will play the key
role in the election. Herein lies the main danger for Putin,"
as the election campaign tactics of his team is based on the
slogan of uniting all political forces and mostly on the
striving to come to terms with the KPRF.
As a result of this tactics, the bulk of the Russian
electorate are rather confused about political priorities.
Russians voted for Putin's Unity, the party of power, which
suddenly allied with the constant opponent of the regime, the
KPRF. Voters hope that Putin will lead them forward. However,
his views are applauded by communists as if they completely
accorded with their slogan "backwards at full swing!".
So, on the voting day the undecided electorate will not be
confronted with the "either-or" situation similar to the "vote
or you will lose!" situation in 1996: there will be no vitally
important political choice.
So, at the last moment these voters will have to choose
between two concrete candidates - Zyuganov, who is just a step
short of becoming a social democrat and who is known to them
for more than ten years, and Putin, the great unknown. This is
sure to arouse the fear typical of the man-in-the-street: the
choice is actually between the KPRF and the KGB.
Communists are no longer what they used to be: today they
wear pectoral crosses and are, at least in words, for
guarantees for private ownership and civil liberties, while
Cheka operatives are always Cheka operatives. So the
man-in-the-street is more likely to choose the least of two
evils: being summoned on the carpet in the office of the
communist party local leader is not as frightening as being
arrested in the middle of the night.
What is more, in the eyes of many people Putin is Boris
Yeltsin's "heir," because he has not distanced himself either
from the previous Kremlin team or from the oligarchs and the
Family. Boris Berezovsky's and Roman Abramovich's proteges hold
a number of key positions in his inner circle - from the acting
President's administration to his Cabinet.
By and large, the line of political agreement with the
KPRF, which Putin and his team have chosen, can lead to his
election failure. The existence of such a line was eloquently
demonstrated by the transient bargain between the Unity and the
KPRF concerning the division of posts in the new State Duma
when it began its work. But the true essence of strategic
agreements lies much deeper: communists agree to Putin's
election as President in exchange for the government or its key
posts for communist representatives.
Putin's team is probably prepared to give the KPRF the
posts of the interior and defense ministers with the
responsibility for the solution of the Chechen problem into the
bargain. They can even "trust" communists the finance ministry,
which will have to take a number of unpopular steps aimed to
deprive Russians of their cash savings: the government needs
money to pay its debts to private Western investors, as First
Vice-Premier Mikhail Kasyanov has promised to pay them two
billion dollars more a year.
Putin is likely to preserve control over the FSB, the
foreign ministry, the information ministry with control over
television, as well as the fuel and energy ministry with the
possibility to manage oil, gas and energy resources.
It goes without saying that the KPRF leaders are aware
that the "power and government portfolio sharing" agreement can
be broken at any moment: the future President will be able to
sack the Cabinet wherever he likes. That is why the package of
their agreements with the Kremlin stipulates, according to
rumours, the convocation of the Constitutional Assembly shortly
after the presidential election. The Assembly is to codify the
provision in keeping with which the President will be unable to
form and dismiss the government at his own discretion and this
question will be decided by parliamentary majority vote. The
existence of such an agreement between the Kremlin and the KPRF
is in an indirect manner but very vividly confirmed by
pro-Kremlin ORT television anchorman Viktor Dorenko who
continues "spoiling in the loo" such political opponents as
Luzhkov and Yuri Skuratov but keeps his lips tight with regard
All told, it is clear that Putin can avert his election
campaign defeat either by winning victory in the first round at
any cost or by radically changing the present information line,
in particular, in the electronic mass media.
It goes without saying that the trick of frightening
people with a communist comeback, as was the case during the
previous presidential election campaign, will not work this
time. Putin's spin doctors will have to deal personally with
the KPRF leader and his team in order to show the "left"
electorate that communist party functionaries have long since
regenerated and become part of Yeltsin's political system and
bosom friends of Russian oligarchs. We are sure to see Dorenko
plucking and drawing Zyuganov's income declaration.
It is not excluded, either, that the Kremlin can ask
Chubais to head Putin's election headquarters.
Web page for CDI Russia Weekly: