This Date's Issues: 4133 4134
Johnson's Russia ListReturn to CDI's Home Page I Return to CDI's Library
February 26, 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Missing Russian reporter alive, near Chechnya.(Babitsky)
2. New Carnegie web resources. www.ceip.org
3. AP: US Says Russia Rights Record Uneven.
4. AFP: Russia's Public Debt Rises to 108.7 Percent Of GDP In 1999.
5. Vremya MN: RUSSIANS DOUBT IF PUTIN CAN FIGHT CORRUPTION.
6. Segodnya: Andrei Kamakin, MILITIA WILL HELP MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE. Interior Ministry Bodies Are Charged with the Task of
Monitoring the Presidential Election Campaign.
7. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Word cops in land of Putin and
8. The Irish Times: The devil Russians know, and may learn to love.
Who is Vladimir Putin, the man who will be rubber-stamped as Russia's new president in next month's elections? Jonathan Eyal profiles a
leader the West will have to get used to.
9. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: PUTIN'S PROMISES TO CONTINUE YELTSIN TRADITION.
10. Izvestia: Vladimir Putin's Open Letter To Russian Voters.]
Missing Russian reporter alive, near Chechnya
February 25, 2000
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Missing Russian reporter Andrei Babitsky, whose fate has
become an issue of international concern, was in good health and at a police
headquarters near Chechnya Friday, his wife told a Russian television
Lyudmila Babitsky said her husband, who works for U.S.-funded Radio Liberty,
had telephoned to say he was well and that he had spent more than a month in
Interfax news agency said Babitsky, detained by Russian troops in Chechnya
last month and then allegedly swapped for captured servicemen, was held by
police in a cafe in the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan.
Neither Babitsky's wife nor Interfax could explain how the reporter, whose
disappearance caused an international outcry, had turned up in the Dagestani
``He told me he was at the Interior Ministry press center in Makhachkala. I
don't know if anyone brought him there or anything,'' Lyudmila Babitsky told
NTV by telephone from the Czech capital Prague, where Radio Liberty is based.
``The conversation was very brief. I asked about his health and he told me
everything was all right and he hoped to be home soon,'' she said. ``He said
he had been in Chechnya all this time.''
She said she had only just arrived in Prague but would return to Moscow
Saturday and fly on to Makhachkala if her husband was unable to come to the
Interfax quoted Dagestani Interior Ministry sources in its report. It said
police refused to confirm he had been detained, saying only they were holding
a man resembling the reporter.
Babitsky's reports from rebel positions infuriated authorities in Moscow.
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo accused him of abetting Chechen rebels, a
charge strongly denied by Radio Liberty.
Russian forces captured him last month when he tried to escape from the
Chechen capital Grozny, held by rebels at the time. Senior officials later
said Babitsky had agreed to be exchanged for several servicemen held
A video film of him apparently being swapped for a number of Russian
servicemen was shown on Russian television stations. Footage of a
listless-looking Babitsky saying he was well and hoped to be home soon was
shown after his disappearance.
A series of high-profile Western visitors to Moscow demanded news of his
whereabouts and his immediate release.
Before Lyudmila Babitsky's statement, Radio Liberty officials had urged the
U.S. government to do more to determine what had happened to the reporter.
Radio Liberty and its sister station Radio Free Europe were founded in the
Cold War era to provide news from a Western source to east Europeans living
under communist rule.
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2000
From: Liz Reisch <email@example.com>
Subject: new Carnegie web resources
The Carnegie Endowment is offering new web resources related to the
presidential elections that may be of interest to JRL readers.
Resources at www.ceip.org include:
-- Audio Webcasts featuring scholars from the Carnegie Endowment
Washington and Moscow offices
-- A series of weekly analytical bulletins produced by the Carnegie
-- Links to other English and Russian-language election resources
available on the internet
The 15-minute webcasts or audio series will include the latest news from
the campaign trail and commentary by Carnegie’s team of Russia analysts
from Washington and Moscow. The product of a cooperative agreement
between the Endowment and the news service, Feature Story News, new
webcasts will be posted every Friday afternoon from February 25 to March
Carnegie Endowment Russian and Eurasian Program
US Says Russia Rights Record Uneven
February 25, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department said today human rights abuses in
Russia extend well beyond the widely reported excesses committed in Chechnya,
alleging the existence of arbitrary arrests and detention as well as
mistreatment of prisoners and military personnel.
``Police and other security forces in various parts of the country continued
their practice of targeting citizens from the Caucasus and darker-skinned
persons in general for arbitrary searches and detention,'' the department
said in its annual human rights report.
It said these arrests are often carried out on the pretext of fighting crime
and enforcing residential registration requirements.
As for prison life in Russia, the report said conditions ``continue to be
extremely harsh and frequently are life-threatening.''
The study, covering all of 1999, noted human rights groups allege that
between 10,000 and 20,000 detainees and prison inmates die in penitentiary
facilities annually, some from beatings but most as a result of overcrowding.
The report said the military justice system in Russia does not follow
democratic practices. It also said violent hazing of military recruits
remains a problem even though the number of such incidents reportedly is
There were reports of soldiers being sent to the front lines in Chechnya as
The report restated long-standing State Department complaints about the
killing of numerous Chechen civilians by Russian forces through the use of
``There were credible reports - and government forces admitted - that law
enforcement and correctional officials tortured and severely beat detainees
and inmates, and government forces reportedly raped civilians following the
battle for the Chechen town of Alkhan-Yurt,'' the study said.
The report was released as Russian authorities opened an investigation today
into broadcast footage that suggested Russian troops have committed
atrocities against Chechens during the war in the breakaway republic.
Russia's Public Debt Rises to 108.7 Percent Of GDP In 1999
MOSCOW, Feb 25, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia's public debt rose by
22 percent in 1999 to 4.871 billion rubles, ($169 billion), representing
108.7 percent of gross domestic product, news agency Itar-Tass reported
Thursday, quoting finance ministry data.
Foreign debt rose by 32.6 percent to 4,287.4 rubles, or 95.7 percent of GDP.
Domestic debt shrank by 23 percent to 583.6 billion rubles, or 13.03 percent
February 23, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIANS DOUBT IF PUTIN CAN FIGHT CORRUPTION
As the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin might be able
to solve almost every problem in the state, but fighting
corruption is obviously not his destiny. Such are the results
of a recent survey conducted by the Obshchestvennoye Mnenie
Foundation. Pollees were offered 10 questions, each mentioning
a concrete task that the acting president will have to face in
case he wins the election on March 26.
Should Vladimir Putin be elected president, what should
and what should not he do?
Shall Shall not
Strengthen Russia's military might 72 14
Preserve Russia's integrity 66 14
Strengthen the CIS 59 18
Synchronize the work of the government
and the State Duma 55 21
Ensure order and stability in society 49 30
Reduce the unemployment rate 49 31
Clean up the mess in the top
echelons of power 48 32
Lead Russia out of the economic crisis 47 29
Raise the living
standard of the population 45 34
Deal with corruption 29 48
All-Russia Obshchestvennoye Mnenie Foundation.
Representative survey involving 1,500 Russians in 56 regions of
the Russian Federation. February 18, 2000./
Sociologists note that Russian citizens do not doubt
Putin's ability to handle Russia's geopolitical problems and
strengthen its military and political power on the
international arena. However, when it comes down to economic
problems--for instance, the need to raise the living standard
of the population--the pollees appear not so sure of their
successful solution. And, finally, the idea of Putin fighting
corruption gives rise to real scepticism. Indeed, only one
third of the pollees believe that Putin might be able to
achieve positive results in the drive to combat corruption, and
that with 81% of pollees in previous surveys saying authorities
in their region were corrupt and prone to abuse of office.
February 25, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
MILITIA WILL HELP MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE
Interior Ministry Bodies Are Charged with the Task of
Monitoring the Presidential Election Campaign
By Andrei KAMAKIN
The Russian militia will have more worries on their hands.
They will not only fight with routine crimes but sort of
duplicate the Central Election Commission with its regional,
territorial and district committees. The interior ministry is
entrusted with the task to "monitor the election campaign" and
fight against "dirty election technologies." A statement to
this effect was made by Alexander Tolkachev, chief of the
department of regional and public relations of the Russian
Federation's interior ministry. To carry out the task set by
the higher bodies, a coordinating centre has been formed in the
interior ministry, and working groups have been sent to the
regions which "must assess on the spot the law-enforcers'
readiness to ensure security and rule of law during the
According to Leutenant-General Tolkachev, amendments to
the law on the militia (whose new wording was made public on
December 6, 1999) will serve as a legal ground for such
activities. However, the Segodnya correspondent did not find
any mention of "technologies" in this law. Under this law, the
militia's new functions include, first, "help to election
commissions" by granting (at their requests!) information about
candidates' previous criminal records (should there be any).
Second, they must take measures "to cut short...
election propaganda which is contrary to law... (including
measures to prevent attempts to bribe voters).
We had to leaf through other laws, too (on the elections
of deputies, on guarantees for citizens' voting rights, and on
the elections of the president), but none of them has any
clearcut definition of what can be regarded as "election
propaganda" or, the more so, "dirty technologies." Therefore,
the questions of what is considered to be such by our militia
and how they are going to fight it might arouse some curiosity.
There is another interesting point. The law was adopted
two weeks before the Duma elections. There was more than enough
dirt during the parliamentary election campaign. Though it was
poured mostly on the heads of Kremlin's opponents. In his
interview to the Segodnya correspondent, Alexander Tolkachev
explained that the militia did not have enough time then to
start carrying out its new functions. However, they have
managed to do it now, closer to the presidential elections.
So, in Tolkachev's opinion, "incorrect" propaganda is,
above all, the attempt "to discredit a rival not only as a
candidate, but also as a citizen." Asked what can be considered
as "discrediting," he said: "It is for the court to decide. We
shall reveal facts and submit them to experts at the election
commissions." By the way, there will be more experts sitting on
election commissions: according to Tolkachev, "at the request
of election commissions of all levels" interior ministry
staffers will be put on them to supervise, apart from other
things, "the accumulation and spending of candidates' election
funds." This, however, is the election commission's prerogative
written into the constitution.
In Tolkachev's words, the main sphere of ideological
militia control is spontaneous street meetings. They will crack
down on violaters. However, for the beginning they promise to
settle things peacefully: if they reveal facts of
"discrediting," they will "talk with the organisers of the
event and demand that they take away what is punishable under
law, what discredits a person or negatively affects public
In other words, it will be for militiamen to decide
whether there is any "discrediting," "threat to morals" or
"dirty technologies," or not. If the talks bring no result, the
culprits might be detained. They will be called to account
under the Code of administrative offences; in Tolkachev's
words, "most probably," under the article "hooliganism" and
"violation of public order." The possible sanction is a fine.
In more serious cases, detention. The interior ministry will
hardly ever deal with the television and the other media since
this is the jurisdiction of the ministry of the press. How
hardly, though, will also be decided by militiamen, with half
Christian Science Monitor
February 25, 2000
Word cops in land of Putin and Pushkin
By Fred Weir, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Russian radio stations play the top khits and keep a khotline for listener
requests. Housewives shop at the new mall or supermarket. They buy clothing
items like shoesi and jeansi, foods products such as yogurt, potato chipsi,
and maybe some drinksi.
If language is the gateway to a nation's soul, Russia's door has been ajar
since the Soviet Union's collapse. The world has poured in, bringing a
cacophony of English business lingo, advertising ditties, computerese, and
Hollywood slang to the mother tongue of Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. But
there is hope that the Russian language - and the country's inherent values -
can be saved.
"We cannot speak of having united national goals ... if we don't get our
language in order," says Yury Vorotnikov.
He is one of the 45 experts tapped to form the Council for Russian Language,
created last month by acting President Vladimir Putin. Their task is to
stiffen the national backbone and build pride by purging what Mr. Vorotnikov
calls, "distortions, neologisms and a whole stream of stupid borrowings."
Rubles are the only legal tender, but wise people keep their savings in
buksi. Politicians take up speaking engagements to appeal to their elektorat.
Never mind how the new generation of MTV-watching, computer-savvy teenagers
"Changing realities have brought many new words into the language," says
Valentin Rasputin, a novelist and deputy chair of the new council. "Often
there are perfectly good Russian analogues for these words, but they are
pushed out by the foreign ones"
In ordaining the new Council, Mr. Putin himself became entangled in
unfortunate words. He said its mission would be to zachistit, or cleanse, the
Russian language. The same word is used for the security sweeps by Russian
forces to root out suspected rebels in occupied Chechen villages. "That was
just the standard slang of a military man," explains Mr. Vorotnikov. "He just
meant we will defend our language." But he complains that even the
presidential decree establishing the body says its work uses the angliscism
prolongirovat rather than the perfectly good Russian verb prodlit to describe
the Council's projected five-year brief.
Soviet bureaucracy added ponderous, ideologically charged but by now habitual
modes of expression. "Communist language had its own style, grammar and
vocabulary whose purpose was to conceal reality," says Vorotnikov. "We should
certainly get rid of that."
Chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matveyenko, the Council is charged
with developing an action program that targets the sources of linguistic
corruption and proposes long-term solutions. It's first meeting is slated for
mid-March. "Obviously you can't provide every speaker with a private language
teacher and textbook," Ms. Matveyenko said in an interview with the Kultura
weekly. "But we can create a social atmosphere of intolerance toward those
who distort and contaminate the language.
Given the anti-journalist bias displayed by the Putin administration, her
chief culprit isn't surprising: "The place to start is with the mass media,"
The Council will also give recommendations on how Moscow can reach out to the
25 million ethnic-Russians in now independent post-Soviet republics of the
Commonwealth of Independent States.
"The Russian language is being pushed out in the CIS countries, Russian
schools are closed, media is shut down," says Mr. Vorotnikov. "We cannot
leave our fellow Russians alone and helpless, to be discriminated against
Council members insist that it will be merely an advisory body. But many look
wistfully to France, where a special committee issues an annual list of
banned expressions and vets every new word carefully before it is admitted to
Ms. Matveyenko says "ridicule and "irony" should be employed against those
who abuse linguistic standards, but others suggest punishments and fines.
Critics point out that Russian has traditionally been enriched by borrowing
from other languages, like Old Church Slavonic - still used by the Orthodox
clergy. Medieval German merchants brought a whole vocabulary for trade and
commerce. The Russian aristocracy later adopted French as its main language.
Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," contains whole passages written in French.
But, says Mr. Rasputin, "In the past it was only the upper classes who used
foreign terms. Now it's completely different. Because of the mass media, the
whole body of the language is under threat."
The Irish Times
February 25, 2000
The devil Russians know, and may learn to love
Who is Vladimir Putin, the man who will be rubber-stamped as Russia's new
president in next month's elections? Jonathan Eyal profiles a leader the West
will have to get used to
Jonathan Eyal is director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute
Nominations for Russia's presidential elections have closed and if opinion
polls are to be believed, there will be few surprises when voting takes place
next month - acting President Vladimir Putin will triumph, perhaps even in
the first round.
The transfer of power from President Yeltsin, who resigned at the end of last
year, has been smooth. Democratic proprieties were preserved and, for the
first time in Russia's modern history, the constitution appears to be
working. But, as always in Russia, appearances can be deceiving.
Clearly, Russia is no longer a dictatorship. President Yeltsin may have
plotted with his clique of advisers in the Kremlin for years, but he had to
follow certain legal procedures and constitutional niceties.
It is equally obvious that no Russian leader can hope to rule without
democratic credentials: Vladimir Putin already holds all the levers of power
but it is unthinkable he could continue to remain in control without
submitting himself to a vote.
These achievements, however, do not mean the country is now a democracy by
Western standards - Russia remains a state in which a popular vote is used to
legitimise a transfer of power which has already taken place.
Vladimir Putin was the fourth prime minister Yeltsin appointed in one year
and with every appointment, the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, was
made less relevant. The Duma did not make or dissolve governments; it was
reduced to the role of legitimising governments which had already been formed.
After Putin was appointed prime minister last year, the Kremlin sponsored a
new political party, Unity. A few months later,
it captured almost 20 per cent of the seats in parliament and is now the
second-largest party in the Duma. Now, Putin is hoping to gain a full
presidential term after he is safely installed in the Kremlin.
At every stage, the real political shift took place before the electors even
voted; the purpose of the elections was only to confirm the choice already
made inside the Kremlin palaces. Control over financial resources, the media,
the military and the security services is crucial in the conduct of a Russian
electoral campaign. These advantages belong to a person who already holds
power and who needs only the legitimacy of the electorate, rather than the
electorate's active support. In that respect, little has changed in Russia.
Moreover, the behaviour of the Russian electorate is hardly that of a mature
democracy. The wild swings in political preferences (the party supported by
Yeltsin in the past, and run by former prime minister Mr Viktor Chernomyrdin,
fell from 59 parliamentary seats at the last elections to a mere seven today,
while three new parties instantly became important powerbrokers) indicate an
electorate which is more interested in personalities than ideology and which
yearns for stability and predictability at all costs.
Putin's major asset in the forthcoming elections, apart from his control of
all funds and state institutions, is that he remains a devil Russians know,
and may yet learn to love.
In former communist countries in eastern Europe, a man who ran the security
services would have hardly presented good electoral material. In Russia,
however, Putin's KGB connections are a source of pride, and the vicious war
he unleashed against Chechnya, whose people are, after all, Russia's own
citizens, is now one of Putin's main sources of popularity.
Mr Yeltsin has left a more democratic country behind him. He has not,
however, created a true democracy.
What kind of a leader is Putin likely to be? His 15 years of service in the
KGB have been recalled by all and sundry, but this is the easy part; the key
to his personality is what he did inside the organisation and how he rose to
His initial career was conventional. We know he was taken on after graduating
from the Leningrad State University law faculty, a familiar recruiting ground
for the KGB. It is believed he volunteered for KGB work before this and we
know he was obsessed with spy novels while still at school.
He specialised in German studies and worked for a long time in the KGB's
first main directorate (now the Foreign Intelligence Service) in East
Germany. His role - under the cover of running a Soviet "cultural centre" -
was to co-ordinate the activities of the East German security services, the
Stasi, with those of the Soviet Union. The work was crucial to Moscow - these
were the 1980s when the reliability of the Warsaw Pact was being questioned.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Putin decided to ride the peak of Russia's
"wave of democracy" in St Petersburg, where he went to university. He was
close to the reformist Anatoly Sobchak, at whose funeral yesterday he cried
Sobchak ran St Petersburg between 1991 and 1996 and named Putin as deputy
mayor. Both in St Petersburg and in Moscow, however, Putin always preferred
the shadowy jobs - in St Petersburg this was the so-called "operational
committee", which organised all the economic activity of the city, while in
Moscow, he initially occupied the post of secretary to President Yeltsin's
staff and was a wheeler-dealer behind the scenes.
Like his predecessors, Putin stayed close to Yeltsin and his family, and was
rewarded with the post of prime minister. However, in all other respects,
Putin managed his affairs quite differently.
First, he was aware of the importance of acquiring an image of a corruption
fighter - only days after his appointment to President Yeltsin's staff he
called a press conference to boast about the arrest of a few criminals.
This carefully nurtured image of being incorruptible persuaded the Kremlin
that Putin was the best man to guarantee President Yeltsin and his close
family the legal immunity from future prosecution which they required before
the Yeltsin retired.
Putin was also aware of the need to project an image of a healthy and simple
man: while Yeltsin was in and out of hospitals, Putin popped up at sports
awards ceremonies, conferring decorations on young athletes.
The television pictures of the new prime minister in a polo neck sweater, or
practising martial arts, were all intended to convey an image of dynamism
which ordinary Russians respect. So is Putin's use of swear words and
criminal slang, which frequently appear in his speeches.
In short, he knew how to penetrate the minds of ordinary Russians: without
ever appearing to want the presidential job, he conveyed all the right
messages of a patriotic leader, both young and incorruptible, both simple and
experienced at the same time.
On foreign relations, Putin is a Russian conservative. He does not believe
the country has much to gain by offering co-operation with the West; that it
is is more likely to be respected as a power if it does not follow Western
priorities. The publication of a new defence doctrine last month is a case in
point - the document puts great emphasis on Russia's nuclear weapons, just
about the only criteria on which the country can still claim to be a
On economic affairs, Putin is an agnostic - he is not against privatisation
and will do nothing to reverse what has already been done, but he does not
believe that privatisation is necessarily good. One of his first acts as
President was to order Russian companies to repatriate all their foreign
currency earnings, the classic instinct of someone who believes in managing
an economy by decree.
The West will have to get used to its first "normal" Russian leader - a man
who does not believe Russia should become like any other European country; a
president surrounded by his friends in the security services; a man who
instinctively believes that "order" and central control are preferable to
economic reform and privatisation.
It could have been worse, but it certainly could have been better.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
25 February 2000
PUTIN'S PROMISES TO CONTINUE YELTSIN TRADITION.
Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's points and pledges, it is worth noting,
were made at one time or another by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.
>From almost the start of Yeltsin's tenure, for example, the former
president repeatedly identified corruption and organized crime as
strategic problems and promised to take measures to eradicate
them. In his yearly address to parliament in 1997, Yeltsin even got to
the heart of these problems, noting that the state interfered where it
should not--that is, in the economy, via confiscatory taxes and
bureaucracy--but was absent where it should be active--that is, in
cracking down on organized crime and enforcing a level economic
playing field. Despite Yeltsin's words, however, he did nothing
concrete to change the situation fundamentally. It should also be
noted that while Putin talked about lowering taxes, his economics
tsar, First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, has already ruled
out any significant tax cuts. In addition, Putin did not include one of
the promises Yeltsin regularly made but never kept--reducing the
size of state bureaucracy. Another presidential candidate, Samara
Governor Konstantin Titov, has made this one of his election
promises. In 1998, then Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that
1,250,000 people had been added to the state apparatus between
1992 and 1997.
Putin's open letter, therefore, should be seen more as electioneering
than an indicator of what he really plans to do if elected. Not that he
needs a new gambit to guarantee his victory on March 26. Two polls-
-one taken February 19-20 by the ROMIR agency among 1,500
people across Russia, the other taken February 18-21 by the All-
Russian Center for Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) among 1,600
people across Russia--found 59.6 percent and 59 percent,
respectively, of respondents backing Putin for president. Communist
leader Gennady Zyuganov came in second, with 22.8 percent and 18
percent, followed by Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, with 7.7
percent and 3 percent. VTsIOM found that ultranationalist leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev were
also backed by 3 percent of the respondents, and were thus tied with
Yavlinsky (Reuters, February 24).
(c) 2000 Federal News Service Transcripts)
February 25, 2000
Vladimir Putin's Open Letter To Russian Voters
By Vladimir Putin
Last week the Central Election Commission registered me as a candidate in the
election of the president of Russia. My decision to run has been thought over
and announced some time ago. But the election campaign imposes many
obligations. It imposes legitimate restrictions and makes me separate what I
am obliged to do daily as the leader of the country from what I should be
doing as a participant in the election campaign.
Like in all the previous months I will perform my proper official duties.
There are no special electoral events on my working schedule. The electoral
headquarters that has been created will do only what is prescribed by the law
on the Election of the President and the instructions of the Central Election
But there is another side to the issue, and that is the obligations of the
candidate to the Russian voters. Chief of them is to present his plan, to
tell them what problems he intends to tackle in the post of the head of the
Russian state. In short, to present his electoral platform.
This is, indeed, important. On the one hand, my position with regard to the
state is open and known to everyone. During the past six months people have
had an opportunity to see what I consider to be most important and am already
doing in the politics and economics of our country.
On the other hand, the question lingers, "who is Putin and what are his
If the question is asked, it should be answered.
I thought it would be best if I addressed you directly. I have decided to
tell you concisely and clearly, without interpreters, what I think about our
present life and what should be done to make it better.
On Our Problems
Many trace the roots of our setbacks to incompetent decisions regarding
different sectors of the economy. But this is only part of the truth.
Specialists still argue where the crucial mistakes have been made. It is not
their fault that each of them views life from his own point of view and tries
to prove that he is right.
I am convinced that there is no and will never be a coherent and workable
program if its economic part is written in one set of offices, its political
part in another and its international part in yet another. When all this is
mechanically "pasted together" and presented as a single national platform.
This is not the right approach, it won't get us anywhere.
Any program begins with identifying the main goals. A state program should
begin with what is capable of uniting all of us as the citizens of our
country. For a Russian citizen what is important is the moral principles
which he first acquires in the family and which form the very core of
patriotism. This is the main thing. Without it, it is impossible to agree on
anything, without it Russia would have had to forget about national dignity,
even about national sovereignty.
This is our starting point. It is the task of the leader to tune people in to
common goals, to put everyone in their proper places and help them to acquire
confidence in their own strength. Only in this way is team spirit formed,
only in this way is victory achieved. So, today the most important thing is
to openly recognize our root problems and name the priorities correctly.
I am prepared to say how I see the priorities.
Our first and the most important problem is a weakening of will. The loss of
state will and perseverance in seeing through what we do. Wavering, swaying
from one extreme to another, the habit of putting off the solution of the
most difficult tasks.
It is high time to address problems. And above all, the most dangerous of
them. Those that are a constant brake, those that do not allow the economy to
breathe and the state to develop. Moreover, those that threaten our very
existence in the future.
To continue sidestepping these problems is much more dangerous than to face
the challenge. People do not believe promises and the authorities lose face
more and more. The state machine is wobbly, its engine -- the executive
branch -- coughs and sneezes as soon as you try to move it forward. The
officials are "pushing papers", but not business and have all but forgotten
what work discipline is. In such conditions people, of course, cannot be
assured of the power of the law or the justice of the bodies of power. They
can rely only on themselves. What use to them such power?
A vivid example of an evil that has long been with us is crime.
By idly talking about combating crime for many years we merely drove that
evil into the depth of Russia. Banditry grew stronger penetrating cities and
villages and taking root everywhere. It even came to pass that a whole
republic, a subject of the Russian Federation called Chechnya, was occupied
by the criminal world and turned into its fortress. But as soon as we
challenged the bandits head on and defeated them, a real step has been made
toward supremacy of the law and the dictatorship of law that treats everyone
Now, wherever a terrorist or a criminal may hide -- in Novgorod, St.
Petersburg, or Kazan -- or in any other Russian city -- he can no longer
count on finding assistance and shelter in Chechnya. A terrible blow has been
delivered on the world of banditry.
This is the first step and it will be followed by more steps. But this could
not have been done while sitting in Moscow and putting together various
"programs" of combating crime. One had to challenge the enemy in his field
and defeat him there.
I hope I have explained how other difficult problems can and must be solved.
Life prompts us that you can win only by openly accepting a challenge.
Another big problem of ours is the lack of firm and universally recognized
rules. Like any person, society cannot do without them. Rules in a state are
the law and constitutional discipline and order. It is the safety of the
family and property of a citizen, his personal safety and confidence that the
established rules of the game will not change.
The state will have to begin with itself. It should not only establish equal
rules but comply with them. Only in this way can we ensure that everyone
meets uniform standards of behavior determined by the law. In a lawless and,
consequently, weak state man is defenseless and unfree. The stronger the
state, the freer the individual. Under democracy your rights and mine are
limited only by similar rights of other people. The recognition of that
simple truth is the basis of the law by which everyone from a representative
of power to the ordinary citizen should be guided.
But democracy is a dictatorship of law and not of those whose official duty
it is to enforce the law. I think it bears repeating that a law court
delivers its rulings in the name of the Russian Federation and is obliged to
live up to that lofty name. The militia and the Prosecutor's Office must
serve the law and not seek to "privatize" for their own benefit the powers
conferred on them. Their direct and only task is to protect people and not
misunderstood pride and departmental interests.
Rules are necessary and important for everyone and everywhere. For the
authorities, business people and especially for those who are weak and need
social protection. It is impossible to help the weak if taxes are not paid
into the Treasury. It is impossible to build a civilized market in a world
riddled with corruption. No economic progress is possible if the government
official depends on the capitalists.
It is asked, what then should be the relationship with the so-called
oligarchs? The same as with anyone else. The same as with the owner of a
small bakery or a shoe-repair shop.
Only an effective and strong state can afford to live according to the rules
(meaning, according to the law) and it alone must guarantee freedom of
enterprise, freedom of the individual and society.
Let us teach each other to respect the established rules, let us learn to
behave decently and force others to behave likewise. Let us punish breaches
strictly according to the law and those who up until now benefited from
breaking them will prefer not to challenge us anymore. And those who have
forgotten it may be reminded that running a country is a job paid for out of
the taxpayer's pockets, out of our earnings. I know that there are many
people today who are afraid of order. But order means rules. Those who are
today fiddling with concepts by passing off the absence of order for genuine
democracy should not look for traps or scare us with a prospect of return to
the past. As it used to be said in Russia, "our land is rich, but there is no
order in it."
Well, people will no longer say that.
Finally, there is yet another big problem which must be taken into account if
we are to make any "grandiose plans."
We have a dim idea of the resources that we possess today. For instance,
everybody seems to understand that property is untouchable, but how much
property is there, and where is it and who does it belong to? We don't even
know the real numbers as to what the state owns. Beginning from the treasures
of Gokhran and intellectual property rights that belong to all Russian
citizens. One is ashamed to admit that no one in this country can give the
exact number of working enterprises or their profits or even accurate data on
the country's population.
It is high time to determine who owns what in Russia. Only then can we
correctly estimate our own strength and identify the tasks that are
realistic. This is the luggage we will all take with us as we set out on our
way. What we need today is a large-scale stock-taking of the whole country.
We need an accurate record and proper accounting of everything there is in
A new factory manager assuming his job begins by asking for the balance
sheet. Russia is an economic entity, vast, complex and very diverse. It makes
no sense to argue whether we are poor or rich until all our successes and
setbacks, all our past losses and new achievements have been taken stock of.
Each of you certainly has his own idea of where our setbacks and calculations
are rooted. But we the citizens of Russia should long have agreed on what we
expect from the state and how we are prepared to support it. I am talking
about our national priorities now. Without it we will again be wasting time
and our fates will be decided by irresponsible windbags.
On Our Priorities
In recent years we have adopted hundreds of programs containing "immediate"
and "priority" measures. Since there are so many of them, it is a sure sign
that nobody got around to tackling the priority tasks. We have all the time
trailed behind events clearing the mess resulting from our own rash
decisions. We have constantly lumped together great deeds and small. But we
readily allowed ourselves to be diverted to easier tasks justifying our own
reluctance or fear of being held responsible for meeting really serious
If we don't want a repetition of the past, if we don't want our country to
lag behind, we should identify the truly pressing tasks. There aren't so many
of them if one approaches them reasonably. But they are complex indeed.
Our priority is to overcome our own poverty.
We are used to boasting of our wealth, the vast territory, the natural
resources, the multinational culture and the well-educated population. All
that is true. But it is woefully inadequate for such a great power as Russia.
We should tell ourselves: we are a rich country of poor people. In general,
we are a country of paradoxes. Not so much political as social, economic and
Our kids collect gold medals at international olympiads. Our best brains are
in demand in the West. Russian musicians and conductors perform to packed
houses in the best concert halls of the world. Theaters in our own capital
are always full. All this is part of our wealth.
But there is another side to the picture. It is not just depressing, it calls
for action. Millions of people in our country can barely make ends meet,
saving on everything, even on food. Parents and children have to save up for
years in order to scrape together money to travel to visit each other. Old
people who won the Great Patriotic War and built up Russia as a world power
eke out a meager existence and even have to beg in the streets. And yet these
are the fruits of their labor, their resource is being used up by our
generation while adding very little to the common weal. To repay the debt to
them is not just a social task, but a political and moral task in the full
sense of the word.
Yes, we are at long last paying pensions on time. We are doing our best to
help the needy. But that truly national problem cannot be solved by endless
patching of holes. What is needed is breakthrough ideas and vision.
It is, of course, impossible to get rid of the humiliation by poverty without
money. But to further inflate the already bloated social security system is
not the right approach. We have been there before. The main resource is the
able bodied generation. Those who want to and can become wealthy people in
the context of a civilized state.
Young and energetic people, all those who have learnt what the real price of
work is and can earn a living already know how to rid the country of the
humiliation by poverty. They are capable of bringing it back not only
economic, but moral dignity. It is a task for the whole people and together
we will solve it. Russian history offers examples galore, Russia has met even
bigger challenges before.
Our priority is to protect the market against illegal invasion, both by
government bureaucrats and by criminals.
It is simply our duty today to ensure the right of property and protect the
entrepreneur from arbitrary and unlawful interference in his activities. If
the state does not offer such guarantees, the vacuum is quickly filled by
criminal groups. They provide a "cover" for all those who cannot get the
state to protect them. The term "economic crime" was introduced some time
ago. That is not just legally incorrect, it is a mistake. One cannot lump
together all crimes connected with business and finances and then launch
crusades against "economic criminals."
But since economics is the most lucrative type of crime today it means that
our financial and economic sector provides the most fertile soil for it. The
state itself -- by its actions or inaction -- has been helping it. It has
been helping by poor laws, the lack of clear-cut rules and chaotic and
incompetent meddling with the market.
Of course, tough state control is necessary. But that is not enough. Look
what is happening: you are not confident in the stability of your business
because you cannot count on the power of the law and the integrity of the
officials. So, you are displeased with the services of the state and for that
reason you pay only some of the taxes. Moreover, you have a chance to lead a
comfortable existence in this setup. But the state has no wherewithal to
maintain an impartial legal system, it pays little to its officials who take
bribes. The result is a vicious circle.
We have been talking about state regulation of the economy for many years.
But we read different meanings into that concept. The essence of regulation
is not to strangle the market or to promote bureaucracy to new areas. But, on
the contrary, to help it stand up on its feet. People are entitled to be
assured that their business will not be grabbed by a group of bandits. They
are entitled to demand compliance with fair competition rules. All the
economic entities should be in an equal playing field. It is inadmissible to
use state institutions in the interests of competition between clans and
To me, the picture is clear. We have high taxes, but we collect them poorly.
We need low taxes, but we should collect them well. So well as to make the
state strong and effective. To enable it to support a fair judiciary and a
bureaucracy that is not venal. To enable it to help those who cannot provide
for their own needs. I am absolutely sure that a strong state is interested
in people being well-off. So, the key decision for our economic policy is to
make sure that honest work brings more benefits than stealing.
Enough living "on packed suitcases" and stashing money under mattresses.
Enough feeding other countries by forcing our people to keep their earnings
in foreign bank accounts. It is high time we created normal conditions for
young and able-bodies citizens. They have no more need for pampering than for
crippling restrictions. Those who want to and can live well, let them help
themselves and the whole country.
Our priority is restoring the personal dignity of citizens for the sake of
Russia has long ceased to be a truncated map of the Soviet Union, it is a
self-confident power with a big future and a great people.
The past decade has seen qualitative changes in people's minds. Our citizens
are not yet rich, but they are independent and confident. Our press is free
and forever will be. Our army which is coping with a prolonged crisis is
improving and becoming more professional.
Yes, Russia has ceased to be an empire, but it has not lost its potential of
a great power. We no longer dictate to anyone and we no longer keep anyone by
force, but we have time and resources for ourselves. The new generation has
been presented with a great historical chance of building a Russia that it
will not be ashamed to pass on to its children.
Those who are claiming that we are using that chance for dictatorship are
shrinking away from their own shadow. A great country cherishes its own
freedom and respects that of others. It would be unreasonable to be afraid of
a strong Russia but one should reckon with it. One can insult us only at
one's own peril.
Our priority is to fashion a foreign policy proceeding from the national
interests of our own country.
In effect, we should recognize the supremacy of internal goals over external
ones. We should at long last learn to do so. If certain international
projects -- no matter how high sounding and catchy they may be -- are not
going to benefit our citizens we should not seek to join them. If Russia is
being lured into costly global undertakings while we are heavily in debt and
cannot even afford to pay wages to our people -- we should assess our
potential and perhaps hold on for a while.
A strong power cannot exist where weakness and poverty hold sway. It is high
time to understand that our place in the world, our wealth and our new rights
depend on how successfully we will meet our own internal challenges.
We should remember about national interests not only when we need to make a
resounding statement. Let us formulate our interests competently and clearly
and then pursue them with persistence. Only the real interests of our
country, including economic interests, should be the law for Russian
But I would like to note that our saving of strength today does not mean that
we do not seek external expansion in the good sense of the word. We also
envision for ourselves what other countries call zones of vital interest. We
see them as a source of further peaceful, economic, international and
The list may be continued, but what has been named is enough in order to get
down to business. We have enough immediate tasks to occupy us. By pooling our
efforts we will solve all of them, one after another.
On Our Common Goal
Election time usually sees the publication of a sea of political platforms by
various candidates. These voluminous documents are seldom read to the end.
I have set forth here what I consider to be most important. Those who say
that this is not yet the whole program are right. I do not lay claim to have
said the absolute truth, but I have deemed it my duty to tell my fellow
citizens briefly what my principles and views on the state are.
I am convinced that the main feature of the new century will be not a battle
of ideologies but keen competition for a higher quality of life, national
wealth and progress. And progress is something that either is there or it
isn't. The poverty of peoples cannot be justified by any references to pure
party principles -- be it right-wing or left-wing.
If I were to give a slogan for my election position, it would be very simple.
It is a worthy life. Worthy, in the sense that most of my fellow citizens
would like to see it and believe in. In the sense I see our life as a Russian
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