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29 February 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: One In Two Muscovites Below Poverty Line.
2. AFP: Russians Petition For Putin Miracles.
3. RFE/RL NEWSLINE: ASK PUTIN. (http://www.putin2000.ru)
4. Nicolai Petro: No lack of info about Putin.
5. Reuters: Putin defends Chechnya war, reporter's fate unclear.
6. MOSCOW TRIBUNE: Stanislav Menshikov, POVERTY IS NOT ELIMINATED
IN ONE YEAR. Even a Rich Country Cannot Do It.
7. John Dunlop: War Crimes.
8. Moscow Times: Catherine Belton, Putin in Favor of 7-Year Presidencies.
9. CERES Forum in Washington on Yeltsin on March 1, 2000.
10. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE YAVLINSKIY CHALLENGES PUTIN OVER CHECHNYA.
(Ekho Moskvy radio interview)
11. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, A 'Democratic' War?
12. Financial Times (UK): Challengers to the oligarchs: Russian
entrepreneurs are fed up with their lawless business environment and are banding together to press for political change, writes
One In Two Muscovites Below Poverty Line
MOSCOW, Feb 28, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Over half the inhabitants of
Moscow live below the poverty line, the city's deputy mayor for social issues
On the other hand, the gap between the richest and poorest Muscovites is
enormous, with the incomes of the wealthiest 10 percent of the population
61.3 times higher than those of the poorest, Lyudmila Shvetsova told AFP.
Figures released by the deputy mayor showed that in Moscow, showcase of
Russian capitalism and home to the majority of the country's richest business
people, 52.2 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
In 1997, the average monthly wage packet in the Russian capital was $600, or
3.8 times the national average, but a year later in the wake of the August
1998 economic collapse, the average monthly salary had fallen to $280.
Over the same period, the earnings gap widened nationally, with Muscovites
now earning 4.2 times more than those living outside the capital.
The minimum subsistence level in Russia is estimated at 980 rubles ($34)
while the State Statistics Committee (SSC) estimates the average monthly
salary at 1,820 rubles ($63).
According to the latest SSC figures, 35 percent of Russians live below the
Last month, a poll carried out by the National Institute for Social and
Regional Problems revealed that seven Russians out of 10 considered
themselves poor. Only 14 percent said they could pay for necessary medical
treatment and just eight percent took a holiday in 1999.
During a recent election meeting, Acting President Vladimir Putin conceded
that Russia occupied 71st place in world rankings for its people's standard
Russians Petition For Putin Miracles
By Olga Nedbayeva
February 28, 2000
(Agence France Presse)
Russians are paying court to interim leader Vladimir Putin, the favorite in
presidential elections on March 26, hoping for miracles in one of his
For most of the petitioners, Putin is the last hope of fixing a housing
problem, or freeing relations from jail, of recovering the savings that were
swallowed up in the financial crisis of August, 1998, or getting a job.
At any one time there are about 15 petitioners in the corridor of the
building in central Moscow. Some are opponents of Putin, but all are keeping
up a tradition that dates back to Tsarist times and that continued in the
Eight volunteers - a girl student and pensioners, some wearing medals
received in Soviet times - this week interviewed several hundred people in
Putin's name, listening to their complaints and hearing their life stories.
Physicist Alla Kontchina, aged about 50, hopes the acting president will help
her to free her nephew who was jailed four years ago for a murder she says he
did not commit. She is convinced that the real authors of the crime paid
bribes to the trial judges.
"Putin used to be in the KGB. I trust that organization. He could restore
order and punish those corrupt magistrates," she said.
Pensioner Svetlana Alioshina, 69, is trying to solve her son's housing
problem. "We paid huge sums to some lawyers for nothing," she said.
"Putin is intelligent and honest, not like (former president Boris) Yeltsin
who was an alcoholic or (mayor of Moscow Yuri) Luzhkov, who promised us an
apartment by the year 2000," said Alioshina.
"I don't know his vices or virtues, but he looks like a good man. He is young
and he does not drink," added Tamara Ushakova, 57, a nurse.
Suddenly a dissenting voice accused: "But he is sending our sons to their
deaths in Chechnya," only to be slapped down with shouts of "Go away," "Get
out of here" and "What do you think you're doing here."
But Nadezhda, who sold her cow to pay for her trip to Moscow from
Novokuznetsk in Siberia, has no intention of leaving. Although she is
critical of the handling of the Chechen conflict, she is counting on Putin to
free her son, an Afghan war veteran, jailed for stealing jewelry.
Yulia, 27, wants Putin to find her a job as an accountant while Yelena
Mikhailova, wearing a mink coat, is hoping to get back her savings, lost in
the collapse of SBS-Agro bank.
For Ivan Puzakov, having an interview at the Putin campaign office is like
having psychotherapy. "What I need is to talk and shrug off my stress."
He says he wants to convince Putin of the need to revive "Russian national
Like him, other visitors have no particular problem but have come to offer
their assistance. Researcher Valentin Petrovich has brought proposals for
economic reform while Ivan Pavlov, a World War II veteran, is a volunteer to
fight in Putin's election campaign. ((c) 2000 Agence France Presse)
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 4, No. 41, Part I, 28 February 2000
ASK PUTIN. Acting President Putin on 25 February launched his
own website, http://www.putin2000.ru, in support of his
candidacy for the presidency, the website http://www.lenta.ru
reported. Putin's site contains information under the
following headings: News, Biography, Speeches, Problems,
Status, Program, and Headquarters. Under the Program heading,
visitors can find a reprint of Putin's open letter to voters
that was published in "Izvestiya" on the same day (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2000). Under "problems"
(zadachi), visitors can ask Putin questions, the answers to
which will be published on a weekly basis. JAC
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000
From: "Nicolai N. Petro" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: No lack of info about Putin
Our colleagues in journalism should stop saying that little is known about
Vladimir Putin's background and take a look at www.integrumworld.com, a
service that searches more than 1000 databases for news and information
A search for "Vladimir" within two words of "Putin" yields:
--75 articles published during his tenure in the St. Petersburg
administration (June 1991-June 1996);
--261 articles published during his service in the Presidential
Administration (June 19, 1996-July 24, 1998);
--1,806 articles during his tenure as director of the FSB (July 25,
1998-August 8, 1999).
After his appointment as prime minister on August 9, the number of
documents mentioning "Vladimir Putin" jumps to well over 40,000; still,
there is no real dearth of information about Putin's prior governmental
experience for those willing to dig for it.
Putin defends Chechnya war, reporter's fate unclear
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Acting President Vladimir Putin defended
Russia's five-month military campaign against separatist guerrillas in
Chechnya, saying failure to act would have brought greater calamity to the
The FSB domestic security agency, once headed by Putin, hosted a news
conference for one of the many people taken hostage in recent years by
Chechen criminal gangs seeking ransom money in an apparent bid to turn the
spotlight on human rights abuses by the Chechen side.
Russia has been under heavy Western fire over allegations of human rights
abuses by its forces in Chechnya. It denies the charges but has appointed a
human rights envoy for Chechnya.
The envoy, Vladimir Kalamanov, on Monday accompanied the Council of
Europe's human rights commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles to the devastated
Chechen capital Grozny to speak to survivors of Russia's months-long
bombardment of the city.
Itar-Tass news agency said the Spanish diplomat had arrived back in Moscow
late on Monday. There had been speculation that he might visit the
controversial Chernokozovo detention camp north of Grozny where Russian
guards have been accused of systematic rape, torture and execution of
NTV commercial television cast doubt on the Tass report, suggesting that
Gil-Robles might after all visit the camp, as did a group of Western
reporters on Monday.
The reporters said they saw no evidence of ill treatment of inmates during
their carefully pre-planned tour of the camp.
BABITSKY CASE STILL MURKY
In another key test of Russia's commitment to openness and transparency in
Chechnya, the fate of Radio Liberty's war reporter Andrei Babitsky remained
shrouded in mystery.
Hours after Putin called for Babitsky's release, Dagestani authorities told
Radio Liberty that its reporter had been put on an evening plane to Moscow
but it was not clear whether he had been freed from detention.
Putin, aware that the allegations of rights abuses are harming Russia's
international reputation, said Moscow would have paid a higher price if it
had failed to act in Chechnya.
``We have to wage this campaign to the very end. If we do not do this,
tomorrow we will have to make far greater sacrifices,'' he told a gathering
of his election campaign officials. Putin is hot favourite to win the March
26 presidential election.
In his first direct comments on the Babitsky case, Putin said: ``I don't
think law enforcement bodies should keep him behind bars. If they have some
questions to put to him they should sort them out without keeping him under
``I asked the interior minister to consider more attentively if there is a
need to keep Babitsky in custody. I don't think this is necessary,'' Putin
Russian forces detained Babitsky in late January while he was trying to
escape Grozny. His reports from behind rebel lines had infuriated Moscow.
Two weeks later, the authorities said they had handed him to the rebels in
exchange for several captive soldiers in a swap which drew international
Putin later said he had ordered the security services to do their best to
secure his release. Babitsky, 35, resurfaced in Dagestan last Friday and
was promptly arrested for holding a false passport which his lawyers said
had been planted on him.
The Moscow bureau chief of U.S.-funded Radio Liberty, Savik Shuster, told
Reuters late on Monday he had been told by the Dagestani authorities that
Babitsky was on his way to Moscow but had not been able to see his wife or
lawyer before boarding.
CHECHEN CRUELTY RECOUNTED
At the FSB's headquarters in Moscow, once home to the feared KGB, a young
Kazakh businessman told a horror story of months spent in Chechen captivity.
``Honestly, I did not really believe I would ever walk free,'' Alisher
Orazaliyev told reporters.
He said several other hostages had been killed, including Itar-Tass news
agency photographer, Vladimir Yatsina, gunned down for being ill and unable
to walk in the mountains.
FSB spokesman Alexander Zdanovich said up to 800 other hostages were still
held by Chechen rebels, some as slaves and some for ransom money.
From: "stanislav menshikov" <email@example.com>
Subject: POVERTY IS NOT ELIMINATED IN ONE YEAR
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000
"MOSCOW TRIBUNE", 29 February 2000
POVERTY IS NOT ELIMINATED IN ONE YEAR
Even a Rich Country Cannot Do It
By Stanislav Menshikov
Three events in the last few days have raise serious questions about the
economic thinking of Mr. Putin and his administration. First, the acting
president has published an appeal to the electorate in which he explains
some of his priorities. Second, Mr. Kasyanov has formulated what seems to
be the beginnings of an incomes policy. Third, the Ministry of Economics
has made public its projection of business development in the next few
years. When considered as parts of one strategy they do not seem to be too
consistent either with each other, or, in some cases, with reality.
Our first priority, stated Mr. Putin, is to overcome poverty. We are, he
added, a rich country of poor people. To eliminate poverty without money
(meaning paying pensions to old people and veterans) is not possible. But
to boost our excessively large welfare system is not the method. Our main
resource is the new working generation, those who want and can become
well-to-do people in a civilised state.
Those who drafted this message for the prospective president have obviously
ignored the popular Russian saying about internal inconsistency:
"elder-berry in the kitchen garden, uncle in Kiev". Enterprising young
people can become well-off and even rich without millions of pensioners or
simple workers improving their lot. Poverty is a structural problem known
to persist even in the richest countries of the world. It needs special
efforts and programmes to be effectively reduced, and even then not
completely eliminated. In Russia, poverty is a problem for the majority -
young, middle-aged and old, not for the older minority. A monthly wage of
1580 roubles ($64) - average for 1999 - (counting at least one dependent)
was 12% below the official subsistence level. Unless real wages are raised
substantially, all talk about licking poverty is meaningless.
The statement about a bloated social welfare system is also far from true.
The average monthly pension last year was 450 roubles ($18), i.e. only half
of the subsistence level. Mr. Putin himself has ordered a 20 per cent
increase in pensions starting this February. The government, on his orders,
is trying hard to pay off remaining arrears in pensions and salaries of
government employees. Why spoil this good picture with statements about
"excessive " social benefits?
Let us consider this simply an unfortunate slip of tongue. More important
is the fact that poverty elimination is declared a national priority. To
our knowledge, no previous Russian post-reform administration and no
leading politician except the communists have made this a key point of
their programmes. When Mr. Kasyanov officially embarked on formulating an
incomes policy at last week's cabinet meeting, he sounded like Columbus
discovering America. Neither Chernomyrdin nor Kiriyenko nor Primakov ever
even mentioned anything similar. This is a definite step forward on the
part of the present government.
But some statements associated with these good intentions sound
irresponsible. Mr. Kalashnikov, the minister for labour has just stated
that it is possible to double the current small (12 per cent) share of
wages in total industry average costs. This looks like pre-election
competition in words with Mr. Zyuganov who claims he can perform the trick
These gentlemen seem to forget two or three important obstacles. Most
Russian enterprises are private companies that are extremely sensitive
about costs. They will increase wages only in line with sales prices and
productivity. In its recently published forecast, the Ministry of Economics
expects industrial production to grow in 2000-2002 at an average annual
rate of 5 per cent. It also forecasts an increase in real disposable income
of the population of 14-16 per cent in those three years. This is very far
from the promises of doubling real wages fast. At that rate of growth, it
would take 15 years to accomplish.
To raise real incomes faster, the economy will need to expand at a higher
rate. This can be achieved only by actively stimulating aggregate demand by
increasing government purchases and creating a favourable atmosphere for
capital investment in the real sector of the economy. However, so far plans
made public by the government say very little and nothing concrete about
intentions to achieve this goal. In the absence of definite plans for
accelerating growth talk about doubling real wages is pointless and,
Politicians are prone to make wild promises. For reasons of his own the
acting president is now also avoiding specifics. His New Year's Eve
promise of a 7-10 per cent economic growth has so far not been repeated.
His controversial statements seem to indicate that he and his government
have not made up their minds about which course to take.
A well structured concrete policy to increase incomes is indeed the order
of the day. Mr. Putin is right when he says that most programmes proclaimed
by his predecessors were never implemented or went wrong. But so far he has
not suggested any concrete and realistic programme of his own. Unless he
does so, it is difficult to see whether his economic strategy is worth
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000
From: John Dunlop <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: War Crimes
It is amusing to be charged with "bias" by Arthur Martirosyan. Readers of
the Discussion List about Chechnya are aware ad nauseam of his penchant for
making vigorous and always passionate defenses of the positions of the
Russian government and Russian military/police. His own "bias" is
As for the N-24, BBC "war crimes" footage that he assails, let's see what
emerges. Today's Jamestown Monitor contains a good, detailed description
of where the question stands as of now.
Finally, I can assure Mr. Martiroysyan that I continue to respect the BBC
as a news organization. Its commitment to accuracy is a tad higher than
that of Rosinformtsentr.
February 29, 2000
Putin in Favor of 7-Year Presidencies
By Catherine Belton
Acting President Vladimir Putin said Monday he would support altering the
Constitution so as to extend the term of a Russian presidency from four years
to seven. He said he did not think this should be done in the run-up to the
March 2000 vote, which he is expected to win easily, but might be put in
place before a 2004 vote rolls around.
"After the elections this question [of a seven-year presidency] could be put
before the country's population," the acting president announced, in his
first official remarks to workers at his election campaign headquarters.
"If Russians support the idea, then the decision should only apply to a head
of state who will be elected in 2004."
Until Monday, Putin has publicly insisted that the Russian Constitution
remain untouched. "We have a good Constitution," he wrote in a paper
published on a government web site.
In 2004, Putin will be 51 - still almost a decade younger than a fiery Boris
Yeltsin was when he became the first democratically elected president of
Putin's stated approval for seven-year terms followed a weekend congress of
his pet political movement, Unity, that saw unanimous vote after unanimous
vote on procedural matters, and a call for Putin to head the party itself
The Unity congress was held inside the Kremlin Palace, the same place the
Soviet Communist Party once met. Asked after the congress about the
significance of the venue chosen for it, Unity leader Sergei Shoigu replied
with a rhetorical question.
"Why did the Germans return to the Reichstag?" he asked. "They returned
because the Reichstag was the historic seat of power, because it was the seat
of the ruling power."
Seven-year terms have been in the air since earlier this month, ever since
self-styled nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky suggested Putin would remain in
power for 11 more years.
Zhirinovsky often floats Kremlin trial balloons.
Then last week a troika of governors - Mikhail Prusak of Novgorod, Yevgeny
Savchenko of Belgorod and Oleg Bogomolov of Kurgan - called for seven-year
presidencies in some not-so-distant future, in an open letter published in
Nezavisimaiya Gazeta newspaper.
Prusak & Co. also included a call to jettison direct presidential elections
entirely. Instead, they suggested setting up a system under which presidents
would be appointed by "parliament, the chairman [prime minister] of the
government and by the power ministries."
Such calls are not new. During the 1996 presidential elections, Boris
Berezovsky - Russia's best-known tycoon and a master of political maneuver -
called for canceling the vote.
Berezovsky said the competition between Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennady
Zyuganov threatened to tear society apart.
He organized a public letter to that fact signed by 12 other leading business
figures, including many of those later dubbed "oligarchs," and the letter was
printed in practically every major daily newspaper.
Another in the Yeltsin camp who talked then of scrapping elections was
Alexander Korzhakov, who was then Yeltsin's best friend and Kremlin security
chief. Meanwhile, leading Communists also floated proposals to run the nation
by committee - and apportion seats on that committee behind Kremlin doors.
Political analysts on Monday thus met Putin's endorsement of seven-year terms
with little surprise.
"There has been public discussion over how the current four-year presidency
does not give the head of state enough time to realize a program of reforms,"
said Nikolai Petrov, a senior political analyst at the Carnegie Foundation.
"There is, of course, some truth in this - but beyond that there is a desire
among Putin's inner circle to ensure their place in the sun for as long as
possible. Even after a 12-year presidency Putin would still probably be young
enough and fit enough to [continue to] rule Russia."
Petrov said he suspected society would willingly approve the constitutional
changes now being bandied about, because people are nostalgic for days of
greater stability. "As a result of what has happened this last decade, the
population might even be ready to give up elections if in return they are
promised stability, security and minimal social guarantees," he said.
Putin himself said in a speech to Sunday's Unity congress that the people
were "bored with ideological battles" and wanted results instead.
"The last decade has been dominated by a battle over ideology that has split
society into two camps. It was a fight that led to destruction," the acting
president said from the podium.
"Today it's clear to all that political confrontation has had its day in
Russia. The citizens of Russia are bored with ideological battles. Now the
way forward is to unify our forces to give everybody the right to a peaceful
and worthy life.
"This is our historic task."
More than 2,000 Unity delegates and guests of the congress filled the Kremlin
Putin told them that existence of about 200 political parties in Russia was
preventing the appearance of a real two- or three-party political democracy.
He said that he hoped Unity would help change that and would become a
Unity members at the congress said they were being bombarded with requests
from former followers of other centrist blocs Fatherland-All Russia and Our
Home Is Russia to join.
Among them is All Russia head Vladimir Yakovlev, the governor of St.
Petersburg, who was at the weekend congress.
He conceded that he and other giants of the ill-fated Fatherland-All Russia
alliance - which just a couple of months ago was the political vehicle of
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov - were
looking to wear Unity's colors.
"Talks have been conducted with the presidents of Tatarstan and Bashkiria,
Mintimer Shamiyev and Murtaza Rakhimov, about a possible alliance with
Unity," Yakovlev said during a break in the conference.
Andrei Isayev, a leader of Luzhkov's Fatherland movement, was also attending.
"Luzhkov sent me here himself," Isayev said before the congress began.
"From the very beginning of Fatherland's existence, Luzhkov has said that he
is ready to collaborate with other centrist forces. Russia is tired of
extreme rights and lefts."
To change the Constitution requires the approval of two-thirds of the State
Duma and two-thirds of the Federation Council, and the agreement of regional
"All the governors at the moment are running to be first to pronounce their
loyalty to Putin. If Putin can secure a big win in the elections, then the
way will be open for him to argue for Constitutional change," said Yevgeny
Volk, a political analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
But another politics watcher, Yury Korgunyuk of the INDEM think-tank, said
doing so might require "a very big win in the first round of the elections."
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000
From: "Astrik S. Tenney" <TENNEYA@gunet.georgetown.edu>
Subject: CERES Forum on Yeltsin on March 1, 2000
The following event is sponsored by the Center for Eurasian, Russian and
East European Studies of Georgetown University (Washington DC):
"The Historical Yeltsin and Russia's Future"
Leon Aron, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute and author of
Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life
Harley Balzer, Director, Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European
Studies, Georgetown University
Paul Goble, Publisher and Director of Communications, Radio Free
March 1, 2000 from 5 - 7 p.m.
Intercultural Center Auditorium, Georgetown University
Copies of Leon Aron's book will be available for sale after the event.
Any questions about the event should be addressed to:
Astrik S. Tenney
Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies
Washington D.C. 20057-1031
RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE YAVLINSKIY CHALLENGES PUTIN OVER CHECHNYA
Source: Ekho Moskvy radio, Moscow, in Russian 1209 gmt 26 Feb 00
Russian presidential candidate Grigoriy Yavlinskiy has said that his views on
how to deal with the conflict in Chechnya differ substantially from those of
acting President Vladimir Putin. Yavlinskiy, who heads the Yabloko bloc, said
that he disagreed in particular with Putin's view that the forthcoming
Russian presidential elections should be held in the breakaway republic. He
added, however, that he had submitted a plan for a settlement in Chechnya
which he believes will form a basis for discussion. Yavlinskiy also rejected
the view that the elections are effectively uncontested and said he would
fight "to the end" to provide voters with an alternative. The following are
excerpts from the interview, as broadcast on Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on
[Presenter] This is Aleksey Venediktov and Sergey (?Buntsen). The "Passage"
programme is continuing. Speaking with us is [leader of the Yabloko movement
and presidential candidate] Grigoriy Yavlinskiy. Good afternoon, Grigoriy
[Q] We have just received a report that acting President Vladimir
Vladimirovich Putin is satisfied with his meeting with the heads of
parliament factions [on 26th February]. Are you satisfied with the meeting
with Vladimir Putin?
[A] We are satisfied with the meeting with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
[Q] Could you be more specific?
[A] We are satisfied with our meeting with him to the same extent to which he
is satisfied with his meeting with us.
[Q] You can tell us and we will compare the degree of satisfaction. We will
compare your accounts of the events.
[A] It is useful for politicians to exchange their opinions on important
issues. The meeting was unusual in the sense that it was rather long and
provided an opportunity to consider a number of issues which are truly
important for the country. This meeting was important for me because a whole
range of issues, in particular issues concerning a settlement of the
situation in Chechnya, economic policy, the price of vodka and the appearance
and abolition of military training [in education establishments], were
discussed in great detail. This was an opportunity to understand the acting
president's views on important -key -matters.
[Q] Perhaps we should discuss these important matters in a more specific way.
We should do this, if possible, because I don't think the majority of our
listeners were present at this meeting with the acting president. Firstly, we
would like to know your point of view on these issues and how much it
converges with or differs from that of the acting head of state. Perhaps we
should start with Chechnya, given that you were the one to determine the
priorities. Did this meeting reveal anything new with regard to your
positions on what has been happening? Do you agree or disagree with Putin?
Could you please be specific?
Differences over holding elections in Chechnya
[A] Specifically, I can say that we started discussing the plan that was sent
to the acting president almost a week ago. The key provisions in the plan
were considered, including the completion of military action and the
implementation of the operation to neutralize terrorists mentioned in the
plan and Putin's policy [statements].
We did not agree on everything. Our views do not always converge. For
example, he deems it necessary to hold the presidential elections in
Chechnya, I mean the Russian presidential election ballot. I think that this
cannot be done in practice. These will not be effective elections. What
cannot be done well should not be done at all.
At least, I formed the firm impression - and he himself said this - that we
have a subject for a specific discussion in the near future. A number of our
suggestions are interesting from the point of view of their practicality.
This is important for me because if a policy of a practical nature is put
forward, then this will help resolve very many problems, and primarily it
will reduce the number of casualties, it will make it possible to avoid
further casualties among the civilian population, and it will lead gradually
to raising the specific question of a political settlement.
I would insist that the government and the president should, right now,
formulate their political blueprint for a settlement in this region,
otherwise this could again develop into an escalating hotbed of partisan war
and terrorism, not only in Chechnya but throughout Russia. In order to reduce
the number of casualties, in order to reduce the losses which already
represent a huge cost of what has been done there, in order to reduce all
this, it is absolutely essential to have a political solution to the issue
and to look to the long term...
We discussed conceptual matters concerning a political solution to the crisis
and the president's views. I expressed my point of view and I was interested
in his reaction to the plan which we are to discuss with him. As I understood
it, there is a possibility of discussing practical matters, he is dealing
with it on a practical level and views it with interest, and we have
something to talk about.
[Q] Did you touch on the question of the correspondent, [Andrey] Babitskiy?
[A] No, we didn't discuss that.
[Q] Tell me, please, can it be said that, in so far as Putin is your
competitor in the presidential elections, as regards Chechnya, in broad
terms, at the moment, at this stage, your views on a future political
settlement coincide or not?
Criticizes Putin's policy vacuum in Chechnya
[A] No, it cannot be said that our views coincide, primarily because at the
moment the whole plan, the whole scheme for the development of the situation
there, and what the state actually wants to do there, is still not officially
formulated. And I cannot say that the approaches which we can observe there,
the price which is being paid for this, the assessments which have been made,
and the conversion of an antiterrorist operation into a large-scale war, that
this coincides with my views.
Yes, I do believe that Chechnya is Russian territory, that negotiations can
currently be held only with those who recognize Chechnya as a part of Russia,
yes, I do think that the attitude to bandits and terrorists has to be totally
However, I also think that the relationship between the federal centre and
the population of Chechnya should be totally different, and consequently the
outlook for this Russian region - it's Russian territory - has to be
completely different. Also, I would like to see a phased political
settlement, and that's what I was talking about today, and my appeal to the
acting president began precisely with this, that it's time to formulate the
issue in this context - how this issue will be settled politically. It has to
be realized that there will always be separatists there, there will always be
people who take a different view on this issue, and that even today a
political solution to this issue has to be sought.
[Q] Do you think you were listened to?
[A] The response was that there is something to look at, that the plan has
been studied and is being studied, that we will continue to study this issue,
that there are practical proposals there which merit discussion. From the
president's remarks it was clear that we do not coincide - we are far from
coinciding - in our assessments and in our outlooks. But there is something
to talk about in practical terms, because our common interest lies in
reducing the bloodshed, in the country escaping from the painful, terrible,
tragic situation there, in there being a fall in the number of coffins, to
put it crudely, and in the situation stabilizing and returning to normal both
in the North Caucasus and throughout the country. My main goal lies in
ensuring the security of Russian citizens, and in eliminating the source of
danger to Russian citizens in Chechnya, both in the whole of Russia and on
the territory of the North Caucasus...
Rejects view of elections as uncontested
[Q] Very many politicians at the moment -we heard Mikhail Gorbachev today
-are saying that in effect the elections are uncontested. They cite the
ratings, from 53 to 59 per cent for Putin in the first round, while you,
according to various figures, have from four to 7.5 per cent, according to
polls. Why fight when it's clear that you won't get more than 10 per cent,
and there won't be a second round? It's better to meet the prime minister and
explain your point of view, exert pressure on him, propose solutions, but why
enter the elections in such a situation?
[A] First of all, I don't believe that the elections are uncontested. I don't
believe that there's no alternative to everything that is currently going on
in the country, I mean what is happening in the North Caucasus, and military
training, and what is happening with journalists, what is happening at a
whole series of enterprises with the system of ownership rights. I believe
that there is an alternative to all this in our country. I am fighting, and
will fight, for this alternative with determination and to the end. That's
the first point.
Secondly, I reject the idea that even now, when my political opponent, the
same age as me, even four months younger than me, that even now we have to
work in a system of prompters, that even now we have to treat him like a
loopy member of the Politburo, with constant prompting, suggestion and
persuasion, and resolve the issue not on the basis of what vision of the
future he has but on the basis of who was the last to enter the bedroom. This
is absolutely no longer acceptable. This whole Byzantine system of relations,
when everything is based on the family, on rumours, on all kinds of
whisperings, on all kinds of intrigues -the country can no longer tolerate
this. When we live like the Swiss, fine, intrigue as much as you like, it
won't be of any interest to anyone, apart from all these novelists and
writers. But today this is inadmissible. In the country today we have to take
a whole range of harsh, clear, precise decisions aimed at protecting the
country's national interests and at developing an effective economy in the
country. But it's impossible to do this by this method. That's why I believe
that there is an alternative and that it has to be fought for...
[Q] Do you think there will be a second round?
[A] Yes, I think there will be a second round.
[Q] And do you think it could turn out that you will reach the second round?
[A] I think I'll beat [Communist leader Gennadiy] Zyuganov in these
[Q] You'll beat Zyuganov in these elections?
[A] Beat him in the first round.
[Q] I understand. And what do you think -whom will Zyuganov support in the
second round? Of course, if you and Putin get through.
[A] Because, unfortunately, their alliance in the State Duma has shown that
they are together. It's no joke to make one of the Communist leaders the head
of the State Duma for four years. This is no coincidental or tactical matter
when nine committees are handed over to the Communists for four years. For
example, the education committee, or others which are of strategic
importance. The support for, say, the Communist leader in Moscow Region is no
coincidence. None of this is a coincidence. And I think that the military
training in kindergartens is one of one of Gennadiy Andreyevich [Zyuganov's]
secret but much desired ideas...
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- A 'Democratic' War?
By Paul Goble
Washington, 28 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Commentators in both Russia and the
West are now arguing that Moscow's recent actions in Chechnya, however
appalling they may be, reflect the specific features of a war when the
government conducting it feels it must respond to public opinion.
Drawing parallels with NATO's campaign in Kosovo last year, these analysts
suggest that when democratic governments wage wars, they tend simultaneously
to demonize the opposition in order to justify their actions and limit the
number of casualties suffered by their own forces in order to avoid losing
Some making this argument are clearly trying to limit criticism of Russian
behavior. Others appear to be trying to make a more general point. But
together, these arguments call into question three of the most widely-held
views on the nature of the relationship between democracy and military
First, these arguments undercut the widespread assumption that democracies
won't go to war unless they are attacked, will try to minimize casualties on
all sides, and will seek to make peace as quickly as possible.
Many Russians felt they were provoked by the Chechens, but no one can
seriously argue that the Chechens "attacked" Russia. Moscow's efforts to
portray the Chechens as the aggressors have played well in both Russia and
the West. But the Russian authorities have not provided any evidence for
The Russian government has sought to minimize casualties on the Russian side,
but it has done so by employing methods that guarantee that the number of
casualties on the Chechen side is vastly higher.
And the Russian government, portraying itself as the executor of the popular
will, has fanned anti-Chechen attitudes and said it will continue to fight
until it has "exterminated" those it calls "criminals" and "bandits."
Other governments, democratic or with pretensions to being so, appear likely
to adopt a similar approach, choosing their battles for political effect,
limiting their own casualties no matter how many are inflicted on the others,
and going back to the older principle of unconditional surrender as the only
possible outcome of any conflict they take part in.
Second, these arguments cast doubt on the assumption that popular attitudes
will always act as a constraint on governments thinking about going to war.
Polling data suggest that Moscow's policies in Chechnya remain broadly
popular among Russians, a situation that reflects both the continuing
deference of the population to a government in time of war as well as
widespread Russian antipathy to people from the Caucasus.
To the extent that governments simply reflect such popular moods and
attitudes, they may be driven to aggression -- unless they actively seek to
curb rather than exploit such feelings. In an age when leaders are often
driven more by polling data than by reflection, the likelihood that many
leaders will play to the crowd in this way is likely to increase.
And third, these arguments about Russian behavior in Chechnya undermine the
self-confident assumption many around the world have had that the spread of
democracy will result in a new period of general peace.
Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly has exploited the war in
Chechnya to build his popularity and to deflect popular concerns about other
issues. If they remain successful and can continue to justify their behavior
as democratic, they and other leaders may come to view military conflict as a
useful domestic political tool. -- Indeed, there is some indication that
Moscow's approach to Chechnya is already having that effect, just as Russian
leaders claim that NATO's campaign in Kosovo provided them with a model.
In recent months, the Indian and Pakistani governments, both nominally
democratic, have used the threat of military conflict in Kashmir to generate
support at home. And last week, Beijing threatened to use military force
against Taiwan unless the latter agrees to talks on unification with the
mainland, at least in part with the hope to gain domestic support.
Clearly, the sense governments now have that they must have some popular
backing in military conflicts and that they must ensure that domestic
casualties are minimal represents a kind of progress.
But as the Russian campaign in Chechnya clearly indicated, this check may not
lead either to a more peaceful world or to military campaigns conducted with
minimal losses on both sides. Achieving those goals require something more
than counting on democratic procedures and the attitudes of citizens who may
be anything but peaceful.
Financial Times (UK)
28 February 2000
[for personal use only]
COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Challengers to the oligarchs: Russian entrepreneurs are
fed up with their lawless business environment and are banding together to
press for political change, writes John Thornhill:
The Yaroslavl Tyre Factory is an unlikely engine of economic change. At
first, the dingy plant does not appear to have evolved much since Stalin's
crash industrialisation drive in the early 1930s. Its clanking machinery,
located with customary Soviet perversity on four storeys, still belches
ear-splitting hisses and noxious fumes.
But thanks to the rouble's devaluation, which has boosted the plant's
competitiveness, and the commercial savvy of Nikolai Tonkov, its 33-year-old
commercial director, the factory is flourishing. It is running at full
capacity 24 hours a day, contributing to the region's 25 per cent surge in
industrial output last year.
A former tyre trader who was recruited to market the company's products and
ended up running the whole business, Mr Tonkov is typical of a new generation
of young, market-wise entrepreneurs creating value out of scores of decrepit
Soviet-era industrial plants. But many of these industrialists are angry that
the further growth of their companies is being checked by Russia's lawless
business climate, which has been dominated by a group of financial oligarchs.
These oligarchs strengthened their central position in the economy by
acquiring some of the country's biggest oil and mineral companies in the
shares-for-loans schemes of 1995.
The industrialists argue that the oligarchs have corrupted the country's
Mr Tonkov argues that it is only if Russia cuts its oligarchs down to size
and establishes fairer rules for everyone that the country's economy will
ever truly revive. And he believes that Vladimir Putin, the acting president,
may be just the man to lead such a revolution - assuming, as seems almost
certain, he is elected president next month.
However, many of the oligarchs thrive on opaque laws, malleable courts, a
corrupt bureaucracy and a divided parliament, and would like to keep it that
way. They also have the financial resources to corrupt any genuine reform
initiatives and the media muscle to discredit opponents.
"Russia has one big problem today. No one wants to invest in developing
industry. But if Mr Putin comes to power and deals with the political
situation in Russia then we can hope for more permanent stability," says Mr
Tonkov, who headed the Yaroslavl branch of the pro-Putin Unity movement in
December's parliamentary elections.
Many other entrepreneurs have reached the same conclusion and are banding
together to demand political change. In Moscow, a group of 20 entrepreneurs
has founded the 2015 Club, which is actively seeking to shape the agenda for
a Putin presidency.
An overlapping group of industrialists is sponsoring Russia's application to
join the Inter-national Chamber of Commerce, the global business
organisation, which helps write the rules governing cross-border trade and
Joel Hellman, an expert on the transition economies at the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, says Russia has lacked powerful trade
associations to represent the collective interests of smaller businesses,
leaving the field clear for the huge oil, gas, and mineral companies to
"capture the state".
A recent World Bank/EBRD study found that only 16 per cent of Russian
companies belonged to a trade association, compared with 77 per cent in
Hungary and 91 per cent in Turkey.
"The ability to bring collective business interests to bear on the government
is an absolutely critical element of the transition process that has been
missing in Russia," Mr Hellman says.
Many members of the 2015 Club are the kind of energetic, self-reliant
entrepreneurs who would succeed anywhere. They are, however, committed to
helping to turn Russia into a country where their children will be proud to
live. Disgusted by the financial crisis of 1998, they spent months consulting
politicians, economists, scholars and writers to draw up a 10-15-year
"business plan" for Russia. The result is a 204-page booklet, Scenarios for
Russia, that sketches out various forecasts ranging from the miraculous to
the catastrophic. The club is distributing 90,000 copies of the book free to
universities, airlines, railways and local administrations to try to generate
a national debate.
But the club's chief hope for influencing the future presidential regime lies
in the Centre for Strategic Reforms, a national brains trust set up by Mr
Putin at the end of last year to develop a government action plan. One of the
club's leading members, Nik-olai Kovarsky, a former director of strategy at
one of Russia's biggest distribution companies, now works at the centre
full-time while other entrepreneurs provide advice more informally.
"I am modestly optimistic," says Mr Kovarsky, at the centre's gleaming modern
offices. "The problems that this country faces are so staggering that you
cannot solve them other than by following several straightforward steps.
"Oil prices fluctuate and this country is depleting its resources very fast.
Within the next 6-12 months there has to be a new paradigm of power.
Otherwise we cannot survive," he says.
The club's members argue that while Russia's bad laws, punitive tax regime
and corrupt bureaucracy certainly need to be tackled, these issues are mainly
a manifestation of Russia's problems rather than their root cause. The
fundamental challenge is to change the value system of Russia's elite and to
foster a greater sense of trust, responsibility and individualism in society.
The once-omnipotent state must become the servant of society rather than its
"We have to change the mentality of the people and implant these new values
into the heads of the leadership. If that were to happen we would have a
revolution in the approach to the problems we face," says Pavel Teplukhin,
director of Troika Asset Capital Management, who contributed to the report.
Anatoly Karachinsky, a club member and founder of IBS, one of Russia's most
successful computer companies, says the government could learn much from the
new industrialists, who have learnt to serve their customers in much the same
way as the state must ideally serve its citizens.
While the old Communist party nomenklatura managers and the oligarchs were
using their political muscle to plunder Russia's richest commodity companies,
a younger generation of entrepreneurs were building a competitive "new
economy" by restructuring smaller Soviet-era enterprises and creating
"The government only talks about one economy, the inward-looking old Soviet
economy. But Russia's new economy is the future of Russia. It has new
businesses, new people, and new ideas," he says. "We have 10 years of
experience, both positive and negative, and it is already clear in which
direction we have to move to produce results."
Russia has never been short of exceptional individuals with creative ideas.
The critical element will be whether their thoughts can be implemented. Yet
it is unclear whether Mr Putin has any intention of playing the role so
eagerly ascribed to him.
Mr Putin was appointed by "the Family", the shadowy grouping of oligarchs
surrounding President Boris Yeltsin's administration, to defend their
interests - not dismantle them.
Even if Mr Putin does establish new rules, he will face a far bigger
challenge changing the value system of hundreds of thousands of state
Mr Putin has at least publicly echoed many of the themes aired by the 2015
Club's members. In an open letter to Russia's voters published on Friday, Mr
Putin promised clear moral values, a responsible and responsive state and a
"dictatorship of the law".
Says Mr Kovarsky: "The machinery of power that Yeltsin created will not be
broken down for another six months. What we are seeing is not pure Putin. But
this new group of businessmen could be supportive of the president's publicly
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