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Johnson's Russia List


March 11, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4160 4161


Johnson's Russia List
11 March 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Maria Eismont, Gorbachev says Putin should cut Yeltsin link.
2. Itar-Tass: PUTIN'S NATO Statement to Strengthen Opposition to IT-Ex-Pm. (Primakov)
4. Segodnya: THESE EXPENSIVE DEFENDERS OF THE HOMELAND. The army eats up nearly a third of the budget. And needs more.(Interview with Duma deputy General Alexander PISKUNOV)
5. Kommersant-Daily: Interview With Acting President Vladimir Putin.] 


Gorbachev says Putin should cut Yeltsin link
By Maria Eismont

MOSCOW, March 10 (Reuters) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev praised 
Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday as an ``intelligent, 
serious'' politician but said he must break free from the shadow of his 
former boss, Boris Yeltsin. 

Yeltsin, who ousted Gorbachev from power in 1991, named Putin as his 
preferred successor last summer. Yeltsin resigned on December 31 after 
handing his powers to Putin, an ex-KGB spy. 

``Putin ought to speak to people in a way which would distance him from the 
regime which made him its successor,'' Gorbachev told a news conference. 

``(He must show) that he will open Russia for everyone, not just for separate 
groups which want to privatise supreme power yet again and keep it for 
themselves,'' he said, referring to post-Soviet Russia's powerful businessmen 
known as ``oligarchs.'' 

Gorbachev, who ran for president against Yeltsin in 1996 but won less than 
one percent of votes cast, does not intend to contest the presidency this 
time. Putin is runaway favourite to win the race on the back of his tough 
stance on rebel Chechnya. 

Gorbachev, still feted abroad as the man who helped end the Cold War but 
ignored or even despised by many Russians for presiding over the breakup of 
the Soviet Union, has been very critical of Yeltsin's eight years at the 


He was more positive about Putin's chances to rebuild the vast former 
superpower but stopped short of fully endorsing his presidential bid. 

``He is intelligent, serious, restrained, organised,'' said Gorbachev, adding 
that he had not yet decided whom he would vote for in the election. 

``We can not say he (Putin) is without sin. See how many small and serious 
mistakes he has already committed. He even shows some authoritarian 
tendencies,'' Gorbachev said. 

``But that does not frighten people. They think they now need a firm person 
(in charge) because we are in such a big mess.'' 

Gorbachev said he understood the West's caution on Putin. 

Western leaders have been very critical of Putin's military campaign in 
Chechnya, though they have also indicated they want to build good working 
relations with a man who looks set to dominate Russian politics for the next 
few years. 

``In March, 1985, when we launched our disarmament initiative, the West also 
thought this is just another propaganda stunt by a new General Secretary of 
the Communist Party,'' he said. 

Gorbachev welcomed Putin's recent suggestion that Russia might one day join 

``This shows that the present leadership is in the mood for serious relations 
with NATO. I would welcome such cooperation,'' he said. 

Putin has since played down his NATO comments, made in an interview with the 
British Broadcasting Corporation, but the West interpreted them as signalling 
a desire to improve ties, damaged by the Chechnya war and by last year's 
Kosovo crisis. 

Gorbachev has played no active political role since being ousted from power 
nearly nine years ago but travels abroad regularly to give lectures. 

He also heads a charitable foundation and late last year founded a new 
political grouping, the Social Democratic Party. The party garnered less than 
0.1 percent of the vote in December's parliamentary election. 


PUTIN'S NATO Statement to Strengthen Opposition to IT-Ex-Pm. .

MOSCOW, March 10 (Itar-Tass) - Former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov said 
Acting President Vladimir Putin's recent statement about Moscow's possible 
joining NATO could strengthen Russia's forces opposed to the alliance's 
eastward expansion. 

"I have repeatedly talked to Vladimir Putin about that. He has said he is not 
so naive as to think that 'they are waiting for Russia with open arms'," said 
Primakov, who is leader of the Fatherland/All Russia faction the State Duma 
lower house. 

"Stalin, too, said Russia might join NATO. But there was no Warsaw Treaty 
Organisation then, it had to be set up," he said. 

While voicing his suggestion about Russia's possible membership of NATO in an 
interview with the BBC, Putin knew "what they will tell him in response the 
following day," Primakov said, adding that the alliance's reply was that 
Russian membership was a hypothesis. 


Russia Today press summaries
March 10, 2000
Satanic Taxes

In a statement yesterday, the Russian Orthodox Church Synod accused the Tax 
and Duties Ministry of using "satanic symbols" in some tax documents. 
According to the Church, barcodes contain the image of the apocalyptic number 
666. It is funny that, at the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church has been 
striving for more tax privileges for many years.

A great portion of the Orthodox Church’s economic wealth comes from 
privileges that it was granted on the import of alcohol and tobacco. The 
Church controls a significant part of these imports which is strange for a 
religious organization.

The first thing one notices about the statement of the Sacred Synod is that 
it is very vulnerable to criticism. The Russian Orthodox Church has very 
rarely spoken on any issues in secular life. Besides, the position of the 
Orthodox Church in society has become less influential than in the 
mid-nineties – when every politician, even the convinced atheists, had to go 
to church to please his electorate. The Church also has problems with its 
flock – it must seek a balance between the uneducated radical part of its 
congregation and the "sympathizers" who go to Church irregularly, but list 
themselves as "Orthodox Christians".

Thus, the economic reasons for the statement are probably second to 
ideological reasons. The Russian Orthodox Church is always opposed to 
attempts to create any regulatory system based on Western methods. It sees in 
any innovation the "hand of the Vatican", if not the anti-Christ.

It seems that in the balance between the conservative and liberal camps of 
its parishioners, the Church has made its choice in favor of the former, 
which have always played a dark and non-constructive role in Russian society.


March 10, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
The army eats up nearly a third of the budget. 
And needs more.

The military successes of the federal forces in Chechnya 
highlighted certain results of the military reform. In 
particular, we now have truly combat-ready units and the army 
is fighting better, in general. However, this is not a 
breakthrough yet. The army and other law-enforcement agencies 
are still too expensive, which creates a threat to the 
economic prosperity of Russia. General Alexander PISKUNOV, a 
Duma deputy, talks with Segodnya correspondent Oleg 
ODNOKOLENKO about possible ways of getting out of this 
dead-end without undermining the national economy, and of 
creating a modern army. 

Question: The troops are clearly more ready for fighting 
during this campaign than during the first Chechen war. Is this 
a result of the military reform?
Answer: It would not be correct to say that a genuine 
military reform was carried out in 1992-96; it would be more 
correct to speak about strength reductions. The enlargement of 
armed services and military districts began only in 1997, when 
the federal budgets provided allocations for the reform. As a 
result, combat-ready units were created by the beginning of the 
second Chechen campaign and we got a chance to pay the 
personnel involved in the hostilities. 
The situation in the military sphere clearly improved. But 
the main problems have not been resolved yet. In particular, 
budgetary allocations suffice only for monetary maintenance (up 
to 75% of spending) and minimum assistance to the defence 
enterprises. In fact, monetary allowances to the personnel of 
law-enforcement agencies should be doubled and we must resume 
full-scale combat training. 

Question: In other words, we should spend more on defence?
Answer: The "National Defence" chapter of the 2000 federal 
budget provides for spending 2.63% of the GDP on this task, 
with 3.7% of the GDP spent on defence as a whole. Allocations 
to security amount to 1.5% and 1.8% of the GDP, respectively. 
Taken together, the overall volume of spending in this sphere 
will amount to 5.3% of the GDP, with due consideration for 
indirect outlays. 
And this is the absolute top, because all other types of 
spending, with the exception of allocations on the servicing of 
the state debt (4.11% of the GDP) add up to 6.5% of the GDP.
Without spending on state management, the judicial system, 
international operation and assistance to the budgets of other 
levels, we can spend only 3.7% of the GDP on the whole of 
socio-economic sphere. 
With such military spending, Russia cannot hope to have 
even a relatively bright future. 

Question: That is, if we live on our budget. But our basic 
military document is not the budget, but the national security 
concept and the military doctrine, which do not always take 
into account the financial possibilities of the state. 
Answer: A reform of the military organisation of the state 
that does not take into account the economic possibilities of 

the state is tantamount to suicide. For we must not only 
determine the nature of threats and possible wars (there are no 
limits for strategic fantasies here), but also establish the 
limits of possible allocations. Only then should we choose that 
variant of the reform that would better meet the provisions of 
the military doctrine and the national security concept.

Question: How can this be done in practice, if the bulk of 
"patriots," including in the state bureaucracy, simply want to 
have many weapons and troops?
Answer: The guidance of the military reform is the 
prerogative of the president and the Security Council, whose 
status should be stipulated by a federal law. Such law would 
provide the Security Council with a legal basis for the 
elaboration of political decisions on the establishment of a 
requisite balance of the needs of the law-enforcement agencies 
and the possibilities of the state. 
The government should tackle the task of a balanced 
distribution of resources. It should forecast the macroeconomic 
indices of national development and determine the growth rate 
of these indices depending on allocations to defence and 
It should also determine the genuine needs of the 
law-enforcement agencies. 
Regrettably, nothing of the kind is being done now. We 
have neither a forecast of the state's possibilities in this 
sphere, nor an evaluation of genuine needs of the 
law-enforcement agencies. And the chapter on allocations to the 
military reform was removed from the federal budget. 

Question: Does this mean that the reform is marking time?
Answer: It is difficult to speak about the reform until 
the hostilities in Chechnya end. And yet, the main reason for 
procrastination is the lack of proper attention to this problem 
on the part of the top leadership of the country. This 
especially concerns the government structures. 
This task should seemingly be tackled above all by the 
newly-established commission on military-industrial matters. 
But its efforts are mostly limited to the problems of the 
defence industries, which cannot be resolved in principle 
without a comprehensive defence order. However, the latter 
involves a reform of the law-enforcement structures. We must at 
long last understand that if we build weapons without due 
regard for outlays, our own army will eventually destroy us - 


March 10, 2000 
Interview With Acting President Vladimir Putin 
Byline: Natalia Gevorkian And Andrei olesnikov
(From Federal News Service and

We wrote a book together with Putin. That is, we put questions and he answered
them. From it those who wish to can at last learn who is Putin. We met him six
times and talked a total of twenty-four hours. We started with Peterhoff
the German siege and ended with the fate of the oligarchs. We discussed some
very personal matters. We parted on a good note. This interview is not an
attempt to render the content of the book in a nutshell. We did it specially
for Kommersant choosing just one topic that is uppermost in people's minds --
the iron Putin.

What is an informer

Q: Is it true that you wanted to become an intelligence man since you were in
A: Not at all. I was thinking very seriously about a flying school, I mean
civil aviation. I was reading the literature and subscribed to an air
I got interested in intelligence matters when I was in the middle of ninth
grade at school...
Q: Books, movies?
A: "The Shield and the Sword". It wasn't just a whim. I even went to look at
the building which housed the KGB, in other words, I was thinking about it in
very real terms. And that was not all. I went to the KGB reception room. I man
came out and, oddly enough, he even listened to me seriously and said: "It's
heartening of course, but there are several snags. Let me be frank with
you. We
do not take on those who volunteer. Second, we only enroll those who have done
their army service or have a university degree." I asked him what university.
"It doesn't matter." "Still, what university would be preferable?" "Law
school." "I got the message." I joined the Leningrad State University Legal
Q: Are you suggesting that they remembered you and later offered you to work
for the KGB?
A: Of course they could have hooked me after that visit to their reception
office, but they probably felt I was too young. They didn't pay attention to
Q: When did they pay attention to you? Did you collaborate with them while you
were an undergraduate?
A: They didn't even try to recruit me as an agent although it was common
practice at the time. There were many people who collaborated with the
bodies. It is an important instrument of the normal life of a state --
cooperation with normal citizens. The crucial thing is on what cooperation is
based. Do you know what a seksot (secret worker -- FNS)?
Q: It means "secret worker, or collaborator".
A: Okay, do you know why it has acquired such a negative connotation? Because
these people fulfilled a certain function. What function?
Q: Ideological.
A: Yes, ideological. It's political sleuthing. We all say that intelligence is
interesting. Do you know that 90 percent of all the intelligence
information is
obtained through agents among ordinary Soviet citizens? Agents work in the
interests of the state. It doesn't matter what they are called. The important
thing is on what basis cooperation takes place. It's one thing if it based on
betrayal and material gain. And it's quite another thing if it is based on
ideological principles. And the struggle against banditry? You can't get
anywhere without secret agents.
Q: How did you become a member of the KGB?
A: When I was in the middle of my fourth year at university a man who called
himself a member of the personnel directorate contacted me and suggested that
we meet. True, he did not give his name. He called me on the phone. Later I
learned that he was from the unit which was in charge of higher education
establishments. It was under the former arrangement. He said he wanted to
discuss my future job placement. "I won't tell you what job just yet." But I
was smart enough to realize that if he wasn't telling me it was a sure sign
that he meant a job with "the firm."
We arranged to meet in the university vestibule. I waited for about twenty
minutes. "The creep, he played a practical joke on me," I thought. I was about
to go when the man came running: "Sorry, I couldn't quite make it." He got
to business at once. "There is still a lot of time ahead, but in general
how do you feel about joining the security service?"

The Guy Catches Attention

Q: Were you talking in the hallway?
A: Yes, by the window. I replied that I would be interested. I didn't tell him
that I had come to the KGB reception office. I decided against it because I
remembered very well that first conversation: "We don't take on those who are
seek the job themselves." It was not until a year later that I was invited for
an interview to the KGB personnel directorate. They talked with me. I filled
out some papers and questionnaires. And at the job placement commission, the
operative who supervised higher education institutions said openly: "The
question is settled, we are hiring him to work for the KGB."
Q: What year was it?
A: 1975.
Q: And in what jobs did you work?
A: First, at the secretariat, and then in the counterintelligence unit. I
with foreign matters, should I say. And that was when I caught the eye of the
External Intelligence Service people. They spotted me at a meeting of some
Q: When you became directorate of the FSB, did you read your personal file?
A: Yes, I did. I read everything.
Q: And what did you discover?
A: Everything was normal.
Q: Not a single critical remark or negative trait?
A: There is one entry in the character assessment: "Low sense of danger." That
was a psychologist's assessment.
Q: Is it good or bad?
A: Bad.
Q: Was the psychologist right?
A: I never thought and still don't think that I have low awareness of danger
but this is the conclusion psychologists made after watching my behavior for a
long time, sometimes secretly.
Q: Were you aware of it when you worked in the KGB?
A: No, I wasn't.

It's Weird, But It Is a Fact

Q: While at the KGB, you joined the Communist Party, of course?
A: It was impossible to join the intelligence service without being a party
member. That was ruled out. We had some funny episodes. For instance, a person
has worked with a security unit for less than a year and then was transferred
to another unit and in the interim period he grew out of the YCL age. And it
was impossible to admit him to the party because nobody could give him a
recommendation: for a recommendation a person has to have worked with a unit
for at least a year. And nobody knew him for a period longer than a year. So,
nobody could recommend him for party membership. He was out of the YCL because
of his age and he couldn't be admitted to the party. An intelligence man have
to be a party member. So, he was dismissed from the security service. It's
nonsense, but it is a fact.
Q: They say that security people didn't like party appointees?
A: That is true. They were disliked. When people joined the intelligence
service after being full-time party officials as a rule they turned out to be
good for nothings. Loafers and career seekers. Of course, it takes all sorts,
but very often they were people with exaggerated self-esteem. They saw
themselves only as big cheeses and they didn't want to be operatives. So, they
would taken from some middle level party job to top posts with the State
Security Service. Of course, this has always caused resentment among
Q: What other things caused resentment among professionals?
A: I know for a fact that they resented it when non-establishment artists were
harassed. I still don't understand who came up with the idea. Some member of
ideological department in regional or central party committees. The security
bodies objected. In Moscow they used bulldozers to sweep away paintings. The
KGB objected and said it was a stupid thing and it shouldn't have been done.
But somebody at the Central Committee ideological department put his foot down
for motives I can't understand. He simply was hidebound in his attitudes.
That's why. And because the security bodies was a highly regarded division of
the party, they had to do as the party told them.

The Ears Stick Out

Q: Did you always think along these lines?
A: For good or bad, I was never a dissident. My career as shaping up well. But
you know, many of the things that the security bodies have licensed to do now
were absolutely impossible then. They proceeded carefully so that the ears
wouldn't stick out. Let me give you an example. It may be primitive example,
but still...
For instance, a group of dissidents was planning to stage an event in
Petersburg. For some reason it was connected with Peter I or with the
anniversary of the Decembrists' uprising. They invited the diplomatic corps
journalists in order to gain publicity. What to do? We were not allowed to
disperse them. We were not involved in such events, but we did meet with
colleagues in the dining room and they told us. KGB agents organized a wreath
laying ceremony themselves precisely in the spot where the journalists were
going to come. They invited officials from the regional party committee, the
trade unions, police sealed the place off and the band struck up. Journalists
gathered and members of the diplomatic corps came. They watched for a while,
yawned a couple of times and went home. Then the police cordon was removed --
you may go ahead and lay you wreaths, but nobody is interested anymore.
What is my point? Of course, they shouldn't have acted in this way. It was a
manifestation of the totalitarian state. But it was considered to be indecent
if the "ears stuck out." The KGB in the 1970s considered it beneath it. And I
think of the Sobchak election campaign in 1996. The special services and law
enforcement bodies became directly involved in the election campaign.
took part: the Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry and the
Prosecutor's Office.
Q: And there is a more recent example.

Hero Or Traitor?

A: What do you mean?
Q: I mean the case of Babitsky? Bring back the journalist (the conversation
took place before Andrei Babitsky's release -- Kommersant).
A: Put that question to the bandits, please.
Q: But people doubt that he is being held by the militants.
A: Really? Well, they shouldn't. And the French journalist? Cochetel
Where is he? And where is General Shpigun? And they are holding 258 people.
Where are they?
Cochetel didn't even manage to take any pictures. He came from across the
Georgian border and he was seized immediately. Now he is sitting in a basement
and writes letters: "I can't endure it any longer, do anything to set me
And Maskhadov has been saying up until now that he has no idea about the
Frenchman's whereabouts, but most recently he called Russel Johnston and
offered to swap him. Just like the two Polish women.
So, he is after all, in control of the situation? But he doesn't admit it. So,
he shouldn't be trusted. So, when he says he has no idea about Babitsky's
whereabouts and that he doesn't know the field commanders who were interceding
on his behalf, obviously, he cannot be trusted.
Q: Is Babitsky alive?
A: Yes, he is alive. I think the militants sent a video today. You can see
clearly in the video that he is alive.
Q: When will he show up in Moscow?
A: He will. And as soon as he shows up, he will be summoned for interrogation.
Q: That's odd. First, you release him against a written pledge not to leave
Moscow, then you exchange him, and then you summon him for interrogation.
A: I'll tell you this. Our country is living through a rather complex
period of
time. You would agree that the defeat Russia suffered in the first Chechen war
was to a large extent due to the morale of society. Society didn't realize
ideals our soldiers were fighting for. They gave their lives and in return
were anathematized. They were dying for the interests of their country and
they were on the receiving end of a baiting campaign.
This time around it's different. Well, Babitsky and his ilk were trying to
reverse the situation. He was working directly for the enemy. He was not a
neutral source of information. He was working for the bandits.
Q: So, you don't like his reports?
A: Let me finish. He was working for the bandits. So, when the militants said
they were ready to release several of our soldiers in exchange for that
correspondent, our people asked him, do you want to be exchanged? And he said
And in exchange we were offered three of our soldiers who were under death
threat if we didn't rescue them. These are our soldiers. They were fighting
Russia. If we don't collect them, they will be shot. And they won't do
anything to Babitsky because they treat him as one of them.
And we were also told that if we gave back Babitsky at the time he is in the
camp of the bandits in the mountains, they would release two more and they
kept the promise.
So, in sum it was Babitsky against five of our soldiers. It would be worth
exchanging him even for one.
Q: So, he is now a Hero of Russia?
A: Or a traitor? It's not good to collaborate with bandits and to write that
they are cutting off the heads of our soldiers in order to portray the horror
of war. And the fact that they were cutting off the heads of living people
before the start of hostilities and the hundred hostages taken with criminal
motives in order to get a ransom -- how do you account for that? He was
justifying decapitation of people.
Q: What he said exactly was --
A: I have read it. He went there. He went in. And he came out carrying the
schemes of routes by which one can skirt our checkpoints. What authority
did he have to go in there without official accreditation?
Q: Then, perhaps, he should have been brought to Moscow to sort the whole
matter out here?
A: He was arrested and an investigation was started. He says: I don't believe
you, I believe the Chechens, they asked that I be handed over to them, so,
hand me over. And our people then told him, you can go wherever you like.
Q: And what if it is all untrue?
A: You may ask me some other time to tell you the truth about the war. What
really happens to people when they fight on the side of the enemy --
Q: Journalists, don't fight.
A: What Babitsky did is much more dangerous than firing a machinegun.
Q: And what about the freedom of expression?
A: We interpret freedom of expression in different ways. If you mean direct
complicity in crimes, I will never agree with that. Let us repeat the sentence
about decapitation.
Q: You can speak your mind, but you have no right to dispose of his destiny.
A: We didn't sent him there, he went himself.
Q: Are you sure?
A: This is the truth. What I say is confirmed by his own words and what you
say is not confirmed by anything.
Q: And the film from which it is obvious that he is anxious to go there... You
took a Russian journalist and handed him over to people you don't know.
A: He is not a Russian journalist.
Q: He is a Russian citizen.
A: You say that he is a Russian citizen. Then he should behave according to
laws of his country if he expects to be treated in accordance with the same
Q: And still, it's unclear under what law he could have been handed over.
A: He asked for it himself.
Q: And if he had asked to be shot, what then?
A: That is impossible. It is forbidden under internal regulations. I'll tell
you this. It made no sense to shoot him, but to get five of our soldiers in
exchange -- I think that is an acceptable deal.
Q: Bring Babitsky back.
A: We can't bring him back. We will search for him and hand him over to the
judiciary. I don't know if this case is fit for trial. I am not sure. But he
will have to be interrogated.

The Country No Longer Exists.

Q: For how many years have you worked with the KGB?
A: Sixteen. Of these, I worked in the GDR for almost five years, I was in
Dresden from 1985 until 1990, until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Q: What did you do there?
A: I worked for political intelligence.
Q: Were you personally affected by the revolutionary events in the GDR? The
Security Ministry offices were smashed at the time.
A: A crowd gathered around the house where our intelligence group worked. The
Germans had attacked their own security ministry, that was their internal
business. But we were not their internal business. We were in serious danger.
We has documents there. Nobody stirred a finger to protect us.
We were ready to defend ourselves. And we had to demonstrate our readiness. It
produced an impression. For a while.
Q: Did you try to go out and talk with the protesters?
A: When the crowd got vocal again, I came out and asked them what they wanted.
And people from the crowd asked me, "Why do you have with German license
in your courtyard? And in general, what are you up to?" And they intimated
they knew what we were up to anyway. I said that under an agreement we were
allowed to use German car plates. "And who are you? Your German is too good,"
they shouted. I replied that I was an interpreter.
People were in an ugly mood. I rang up our troops and explained that the
situation was. And the reply came, "We can't do anything without orders from
Moscow. Moscow is silent." Several hours later our soldiers arrived. The crowd
dispersed. But these words, "Moscow is silent..." I got a feeling at that time
that the country no longer existed.

In Reserve

Q: When did you decide to retire from the security service?
A: I realized even before I left Germany that the system has no future and
the USSR has no future. So, I turned down an offer to work at the central KGB
office in Moscow. I returned to Leningrad. And I gladly agreed to take up a
university job hoping to write a Candidate's dissertation, to see the lay of
the land and, perhaps, to stay on. I was thinking along those lines.
In 1990 I became vice-chancellor for international relations. I was, as we put
it, in active reserve.
Q: How did you come to work under Sobchak?
A: I once met some old university pals at the Leningrad City Soviet. We talked
about Sobchak. And I must say that I followed his activities with much
sympathy, if not exactly admiration. And it was doubly pleasant for me because
he was a member of our university. Although, of course, he was unlikely to
remember me. He wasn't among my teachers.
A friend told me that Sobchak had no team and that he was surrounded by crooks
and he asked me if I could help Sobchak.
Q: But you were still working for the KGB?
A: That is precisely the point. I met with Anatoly Alexandrovich in his office
at the Leningrad City Soviet. I remember the scene very well. I entered the
office and introduced myself and told him everything. He is an impulsive man
and he immediately told me: "I'll talk with university Rector. Report for work
on Monday. That's all. We'll make arrangements quickly, you will be
transferred." I couldn't help replying: "Anatoly Alexandrovich, I would
love to
do it. I find it very interesting. I want to work for you. But there is one
thing that may stand in the way of such a transfer." "What is it?" I replied:
"I must tell you that I am not just an assistant to the Rector, I am a KGB
officer." He paused to think. It did come as a total surprise to him. He
thought and thought and then said: "To hell with it."
I didn't expect such a reaction although I had seen much in the previous
This was our first meeting, he was a Professor, a Doctor of Law and
Chairman of
Leningrad Soviet. And he uses a four-letter word. Q: Did your main employer
A: I came to my boss and said: "Anatoly Alexandrovich offers me to work under
him. If that is impossible, I am prepared to hand in my resignation." I was
told, "No need to do that. Go ahead and work for him. No problem there."
Q: So, perhaps, you are still an active KGB officer?
A: No, I retired, even twice. My first notice of resignation got lost
somewhere. Apparently, somebody couldn't bring himself to make a decision. So,
when the 1991 coup began, I was still a KGB officer.
Q: Did Sobchak know about your report?
A: I told Sobchak about it at once. But he didn't pay attention. I doubt that
he even remembered it, I must say he was a rather carefree person.
I came back from my vacation on August 20. The situation was still uncertain,
there were troops just outside Leningrad. But I knew for sure that I would not
obey the orders of the coupsters and would take their side. I flew back and
wrote my second resignation report.
Q: And if it was swept under the rug like the first one?
A: I warned Sobchak of such a possibility: "Anatoly Alexandrovich, I
offered my
resignation once, but it was shelved. Now I have to write another letter of
resignation." Sobchak immediately called Kryuchkov and then the chief of my
directorate. And the following day I was told that my request for resignation
had been granted.
Q: Was it a wrenching experience?
A: Yes. It was a wrenching experience. And it was especially difficult for me
because I was building a successful career as an officer, I had no cause to
grumble. Everything was fine, but better than in the case of many other
everything was going according to plan.

The Loafer Kalugin

Q: Have you read the things that were published in Moskovskiye Novosti and
Ogonyok in those days? For instance, General Kalugin's exposures?
A: Kalugin is a traitor. I saw Kalugin in my time in Leningrad where he was
deputy head of the Directorate. An absolute loafer.
Q: A loafer, perhaps, but he remembers you.
A: He doesn't remember anything.
Q: He does remember and says that from the point of view of the intelligence
service you worked in the province and had nothing to show for your
A: He does not remember anything at all. He can't remember me. I had no
contacts with him and did not communicate with him. It is I who remembers him
because he was a big boss and everybody knew him. As to the likes of me, there
were hundreds of us.
Q: You left the KGB. But did you remain a member of the CPSU?
A: Yes, until the CPSU ceased to exist. After that I took my party membership
card and my registration card, put them in a drawer of my desk and made the
sign of the cross over them. They are there to this day.
Q: Incidentally, have you been baptized?
A: Yes. An old woman, we called her Babushka Anya, used to share our communal
apartment with us in Leningrad. When I was born, she and my mother took me and
had me baptized secretly from my father because he was a party member, a
secretary of the party organization in his production shop.
Q: Did your mother go to church?
A: Yes, of course, she did. About four years before mother died I travelled to
Israel. And she gave me my christening cross so that I would have it
blessed at
the Holy Sepulcher. I took it and put it on so as not to loose it. And I am
wearing it since.

Met a Couple of Times

Q: Who initiated your transfer to Moscow? Chubais?
A: Chubais, when he was the presidential chief of staff, was the man who
eliminated the job in the presidential administration that had been offered me
prior to him. From the very beginning, strange though this may be, Pavel
Borodin was the initiator of my transfer. Absolutely unexpectedly, immediately
after Sobchak and I lost the mayoral elections in St. Petersburg, he called me
and said: "What are you doing there?" "Well, I'm packing my stuff and leaving
Smolny", I replied. "Would you work in the presidential administration?"
But at the time nothing came out of getting a job there.
Q: You were so well acquainted with Borodin?
A: You know, it never even occurred to me that he could telephone me. Nothing
bound us. We met only a couple of times. But I do not think that he remembers
Q: And you appeared in the Kremlin in 1996?
A: Not in the Kremlin but on Staraya Ploshchad. Some three months after the
elections in St. Petersburg I became the President's deputy property manager.
Q: So that is why you have now appointed Borodin to the post of State
Secretary of Byelorussia and Russia.
A: It is not I who appointed him. I suggested him and he was elected.
Q: Despite his trail of scandalous accusations? Don't you think that it was
necessary first to sort out these things and only then nominate Borodin for
any post?
A: I proceed from what the law says. There is a golden rule, a fundamental
principle of any democratic system and it is called presumption of innocence.

Skuratov May Return in Theory

Q: But in the case of the ex-prosecutor Skuratov nothing was proved in court,
but that was no obstacle to his dismissal. And as Director of the FSB you took
part in that.
A: Skuratov has been suspended from his work in full compliance with the law.
He has not been dismissed. A Prosecutor General has to be suspended for the
duration of an investigation of him. And that is what has been done.
Q: Do you assume that he can return to his job if the investigation produces
A: In theory, yes. You see, there is not only the criminal law aspect of the
case, but also the moral one. For me personally, everything is clear with this
moral aspect. I know this for sure. He have discussed this matter with him.
Q: Then why did he plead innocence again?
A: He did not want to be compromised, that is all.
Q: A newspaper claimed that Skuratov wrote his second letter of resignation
after you personally had worked with him. And that after such work a person
might consider himself very fortunate to find himself in the basements of
A: This is total rubbish.
Q: And what had really happened?
A: There was a meeting of four. Boris Nikolayevich, Premier Primakov,
myself as
the then FSB Director and Skuratov. Boris Nikolayevich produced the cassette
and photographs made from the video film. He simply placed all this on the
table and said: "I believe that you cannot work further as the Prosecutor
And Primakov also concurred: "Yes, Yuri Ilyich, I say that you should write a
letter of resignation". Yuri Ilyich thought for some time, took a sheet of
paper and wrote his letter of resignation. But then he reconsidered.
Q: If you were in such a situation, what would you do?
A: If I thought that this was incompatible with the performance of my duties I
definitely would have resigned. I have held and continue to hold that the post
of Prosecutor General is incompatible with such a scandal.
Q: And the post of Prime Minister?
A: Prime Minister? Strange though it may seem, but to a lesser extent. A
prosecutor is another matter. A prosecutor must be a model of moral standards
because it is he who oversees the observance of laws by all citizens,
including the premier and the president, by all.

"I Did Not Even Get a Hint"

Q: The whole country really learned about you when you were appointed head of
the FSB two years ago. Was it a nostalgia for the service?
A: There was no nostalgia at all. Do you think anybody had asked me about my
wishes? I did not even get a hint about the possibility of such an
appointment. The President simply signed the decree...
Q: Was Valentin Yumashev the presidential chief of staff at the time?
A: Yes. I was sitting in my office and the telephone rang: "Can you go to the
airport to meet Kiriyenko?" He was the prime minister then and he was
from a visit to the President who was vacationing in Karelia. I replied that I
could. "Why me all of a sudden?", I thought. And I began to have some
misgivings. I went to the airport, Kiriyenko came off the plane and said:
"Volodya, hi. Congratulations!" "With what?" Kiriyenko: "The decree has been
signed. You have been appointed Director of the FSB" What was there to be
grateful for? I cannot say that this news caused me joy. I had no desire to
wade into the same water for the second time.
Q: How were you received in the FSB? After all, suddenly there appears a
A: I was received warily. Then this passed. As to colonel... Let us sort this
out. Firstly, I am a retired colonel. I ended my service with the rank of
lieutenant colonel. But that was ten years ago. During those ten years I had a
different life. And I came to work in the FSB not as a colonel but as a
civilian who held the post of first deputy presidential chief of staff.
Q: And, if we are to believe Primakov, you immediately replaced the top brass.
A: I took the entire board of the FSB to Primakov for a conference. He had
replaced Kiriyenko as prime minister. And it turned out that nobody was
missing, nobody had been sacked. Later on Primakov apologized and said that he
was deluded.
Q: Is it true that when you were the Director of FSB you had met with Vladimir
A: It is true.
Q: By chance?
A: No, not by chance. I worked quite actively with veterans.

The Beginning of the End

Q: Are you going to say that you were appointed prime minister also without
your consent?
A: Boris Nikolayevich invited me and said that he was considering offering me
the premiership but that he first had to talk this over with Stepashin.
Q: Did this surprise you?
A: Not particularly. It was already clear that everything was developing in
that direction. I mean not my appointment but Stepashin's dismissal. Yeltsin
did not ask me if agreed to become prime minister or not. He just told me that
he had already taken his decision concerning Stepashin.
Q: Did he tell you of his decision to appoint you as the successor?
A: Incidentally, in his conversation with me Boris Nikolayevich did not use
word "successor". What he said was "a prime minister with a future". He said
that if things worked out normally this could be a possibility.
It was already later, when Yeltsin appeared on television, that he spoke about
me as a possible future president. He said it out loud for the whole
country to
hear. And when I was deluged with questions immediately after that, I replied:
"Since the President has said it, that is what I am going to do".
Q: You did not sound quite confident at the time.
A: Perhaps, this did not sound quite confidently, but there was no other
I could give. Remember the state in which the country was at that time. Hardly
any time remained before the elections. Yeltsin had to take a decision. After
all, the very same governors, for instance, felt very well that everything was
up in the air and they had a stand to take. Why, frankly, was Fatherland - All
Russia created at the time? Because the governors had no other alternative.
But there must be an alternative.
Q: For instance, Unity?
A: Yes.
Q: But at the time when you were appointed successor everybody thought that
that was the beginning of the end.
A: But I, too, did not rule that out. True, for another reason. All this was
happening against the background of the aggression that had just begun in
Dagestan. And I made a decision for myself: that's it, my career is very
to end here, but my mission, my historic mission -- sounds high-flown, but
is true -- is to resolve the situation in the Northern Caucasus.
Q: But you could not have adopted the decision to start the campaign in
Dagestan and then in Chechnya all by yourself. Yeltsin was President and he
bore the burden of responsibility for the first failed Chechen operation.
Incidentally, Stepashin as well.
A: Well, Stepashin was no longer a prime minister. As to Yeltsin, he fully
supported me. He placed his trust in me and that's that. I reported to him on
the measures taken post factum.
Q: You mean, he did not interfere?
A: I repeat again. He fully trusted me. Each time we met, we discussed the
situation in Chechnya.
Q: So the entire responsibility rests with you?
A: To a large extent this is so. I told myself: I still have some time, two,
three or four months, to smash those bandits. After that I'll be ready to face
the music.

"Seriously Socked Them in the Jaw"

Q: Was it really necessary to start the second Chechen campaign? After all, we
have driven them out of Dagestan...
A: We did not start anything. We are defending ourselves. And we did drive
out of Dagestan. But then they came again and again we drove them out. And
still they came again and we drove them out the third time. But when we
seriously socked them in the jaw, they blew up houses in Moscow, Buinaksk and
Q: The decision to continue the operation in Chechnya, did you take it before
the blasting of houses or after?
A: After.
Q: Do you know that according to one version the houses were blown up not by
chance but to justify the commencement of military operations in Chechnya,
that supposedly this was the doing of Russian special services?
A: What? Blew up our own houses? Total rubbish! Raving madness! There is
in the Russian special services capable of committing such a crime against our
own people. It is immoral even to consider such a possibility. In fact,
this is nothing but an element of the information war against Russia.
Q: A large-scale guerrilla war has begun in Chechnya. What are you going to do
about it?
A: I will tell you this. What variants of behavior do we have? Again withdraw
from Chechnya, abandon everything and wait all the time to be attacked again?
Q: Or stay in Chechnya and wait all the time to be attacked? What should we
A: I have said what we must do. All those who are armed, who are in the
mountain caves must be scattered and destroyed. Perhaps, after the
elections we should introduce direct presidential rule there for a couple of
years. We must rebuild the economy and the social sphere, show people that
normal life is possible, we must pull the young generation out of the
environment of violence in which it is living, we must put in place a program
of education...
We must work. We must not abandon Chechnya as we have once already abandoned
it. And, indeed, we did a criminal thing then. We abandoned the Chechen people
and we set up Russia. We must work hard and then move on to full-fledged
political procedures, give them and ourselves a possibility to decide how we
can coexist. It is unavoidable that we will live together.
We have no plans to deport them anywhere as Stalin had once solved this
problem. And Russia, too, has nowhere to go. Nobody can impose a solution
on us
by force and we will be ready to take maximum account of their interests. We
will negotiate and search for a compromise variant of our coexistence. And
they come to realize that this is an acceptable solution nobody will have any
desire to take up arms.
Q: But while they come to realize this peaceful residents will turn into
bandits and attack liberated settlements. Besides, nobody knows if they are
going to arrive at such an understanding at all.
A: We will destroy those who will resort to arms. This means, besides, that it
is necessary to create a local elite which will understand that it is in
Chechnya's interests to remain part of Russia. As things stand today, any
discussion of any status outside of the framework of Russia is out of the
Q: The militants have already sentenced you to death several times.
A: One should never fear such threats. Its like with dogs, you know. A dog
feels when somebody is afraid of it, and bites. The same applies here. If you
become jittery, they will think that they are the mightiest. Only one thing
be effective in such circumstances -- to go on the offensive. You must hit
first, and hit so hard that your opponent will not rise to his feet.

"A Rather Difficult Fate"

Q: When did you learn about Yeltsin's impending resignation?
A: About two or three weeks before New Year. Boris Nikolayevich invited me to
his study and said that he had decided to go. And this meant that I was to
become Acting President. He looked at me and waited for my answer.
Q: And you didn't say "Boris Nikolayevich, don't do this"?
A: I did not try to dissuade him. But neither did I say that I would be worthy
of the high trust shown in me. I just sat there and did not say a word. He
began to speak in greater detail, he said he planned to announce his
resignation already before the year was out... When he finished, I said: "You
know, Boris Nikolayevich, in all honesty, I do not know if I am ready for
if I want this, because this is a rather difficult fate". I was not sure
that I
wanted such a fate... And then he replied: "When I came here, I also had other
plans. But it has so happened. I also did not yearn for this, but it has so
happened that by force of many circumstances I had to struggle for the post of
president. And I think that your fate is taking such a turn that you will have
to make a decision. And our country is such a huge one. You will cope".
Q: It must not have been easy for him to conduct this conversation.
A: That was a sad conversation, I must say. I did not take my appointment as a
successor quite seriously, so when Boris Nikolayevich told me about his
decision I certainly felt that I was not quite prepared for this.
But I had to say something in reply. Only a "yes" or a "no" was expected of
In our conversation we strayed to other themes and I thought that we would not
get back to this. But Boris Nikolayevich looked me in the eye and said: "You
have not given me your answer".
On the one hand, one has one's own, inner arguments. But there exists also a
different logic. Life is taking such a turn that one gets a chance to work at
the highest level in the country and for the country. It would be foolish to
say: no, I'd rather be a petty trader.
Q: For some reason everybody is saying that immediately after the elections,
given that you win them, you will change drastically. Do you really have the
desire to change all and everything.
A: I won't tell you.
Excerpts from the book Conversations with Vladimir Putin will be published in
the next issue of the magazine Kommersant-Vlast ((c) 2000 Federal News Service


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