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16 March 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times: Sarah Karush, Hackers Attack Novaya Gazeta.
2. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Yavlinsky (And Titov) Look Best.
3. Reuters: Gareth Jones, Yavlinsky woos Russian liberal votes again.
4. David Filipov: re Ira Straus says (JRL 4169).
5. RFE/RL: Lisa McAdams, Russia: Panel Ponders Political Future.
6. AP: Angela Charlton, Russian Moguls Eye Putin With Worry.
7. Xinhua: Zyuganov Urges to Build Renovated Soviet Power in Russia.
8. BBC MONITORING: TOP COMMUNIST SUSPICIOUS ABOUT POSSIBLE KREMLIN
LINKS TO CHECHEN REBELS.
9. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Putin's invisible challenger. Some dissatisfied Russians will vote 'none of the above'
on March 26. Others not at all.
10. smi.ru: Putin, Media's Most Popular Leader.
11. Financial Times (UK): Russia's regions prepare to bow again to
the centre: Vladimir Putin seems determined to impose his sway across all 11 of Russia's time zones. John Thornhill reports.
12. Interfax: SMALL BUSINESSES MUST BE PROTECTED FROM BUREAUCRATIC
TYRANNY - PUTIN.
13. AP: Moscow Mayor To Support Putin.]
March 16, 2000
Hackers Attack Novaya Gazeta
By Sarah Karush
Novaya Gazeta -- a biweekly newspaper known for its investigations that dig
deep and challenge official versions of events - was kept off the stands
Thursday after someone broke into its computer network and destroyed the
issue, the paper's editors said.
Deputy editor Sergei Sokolov said it happened around 3 p.m. Wednesday, two
hours before the paper should have gone to press. The laid-out pages of
Thursday's and next Monday's issue, as well as the paper's logo, were erased.
Sokolov said in a telephone interview that the break-in was likely related
to one of the articles that was scheduled to come out in Thursday's issue.
"There are many possibilities," he said. "Naturally, most of the articles
were about the election campaign."
Thursday's issue was to contain an article detailing the sources of
campaign financing for Boris Yeltsin's 1996 campaign and acting President
Vladimir Putin's campaign this year, Sokolov said.
"The editors do not rule out the possibility that the obsequious entourage
of the country's leaders is ready to display its loyalty using even this
method," the editorial board said in a statement.
One high-profile investigation the paper has been conducting concerns last
fall's incident in Ryazan, when the Federal Security Service, or FSB,
announced that a bomb residents had discovered in their apartment building
was fake and had been put there as part of a training exercise.
Many observers contend that the bomb was likely real and see it as proof
that the secret services were behind the apartment building explosions in
Moscow and Volgodonsk, which took place earlier in September.
Novaya Gazeta furthered this version in Monday's issue, where it printed
the story of a paratrooper identified as Alexei P. According to the
article, while guarding a storehouse last fall, Alexei and his friend
discovered hexagen, the explosive that the Ryazan authorities say was found
in the apartment building. The hexagen was in large sacks marked "sugar,"
and the soldiers said they broke one open hoping to be able to sweeten
their tea. When their tea tasted strange, they informed their supervisors,
who had the white powder tested.
In the end, FSB officials sent from Moscow scolded the soldiers for
"exposing state secrets," and advised them to forget what they had seen,
Novaya Gazeta said.
The idea that the secret services might have had something to do with the
apartment bombings evoked indignation in Putin in an interview published
last week in Kommersant.
"To even speculate about this is immoral and in essence none other than an
element of the information war against Russia," he was quoted as saying.
Pavel Voloshin, author of the Novaya Gazeta series on Ryazan, said he
thought the destruction of Thursday's issue was provoked by his reports.
"In each article, we call upon the FSB to answer specific questions," he
said. "The FSB answered in an untraditional way."
But Sokolov said he did not suspect it was related to the Ryazan series, in
part because no article on the subject was planned for Thursday.
When the issue was erased, Voloshin was at the State Duma working with
Deputy Editor Yury Shchekochikhin, who holds a seat in the Duma with the
Yabloko faction, on a proposal for the lower house to hold an inquiry into
the Ryazan affair. Reached by telephone, Shchekochikhin said he hoped the
issue would be put on the agenda for Friday's Duma session.
Voloshin said he had new evidence about FSB attempts to cover up the
details of the "training exercise" that he was planning to publish shortly.
"Those who had any connection to the training exercise are now [serving in
the armed forces] in Chechnya, including the explosives specialists and
those who were guarding the storehouse," he said.
In his previous articles, Voloshin outlined in painstaking detail the
reactions of local authorities who said they believed the explosives
discovered in the basement of the building were real.
Similar reports have been published in the Western press, but they have
been largely absent from Russian newspapers.
One exception is Versia, the muckraking weekly published by Sovershenno
Sekretno publishing house with U.S. News and World Report. Sovershenno
Sekretno publisher Artyom Borovik was killed in a plane crash last week and
while officials say they found no evidence of a bomb, some suspect he was
killed because of his journalistic endeavors.
Among the facts it presented in its article on Ryazan, Versia quoted a
statement issued by local FSB officials saying they had been on the verge
of arresting suspects when Moscow announced it had been an exercise.
Sokolov said Novaya Gazeta editors would decide Thursday whether or not to
go to the police regarding Wednesday's computer break-in. He said the paper
would publish an expanded issue Monday that would include the articles
planned for Thursday's issue.
Robert Coalson, a program director at the National Press Institute, said
such problems are not unusual at Russian newspapers.
"It happens in the regions fairly regularly. About once a month or so,
either a paper gets its computers wiped out or the whole print run gets
impounded," he said.
Most Russian newspapers are believed to be controlled by financial
structures with concrete political interests, but Coalson said he did not
think Novaya Gazeta was serving any political clan.
The editors' statement Wednesday said that former financial partners of
Novaya Gazeta have "put pressure on the paper."
"We have over and over again refused to change our political line in
exchange for financial assistance," it said.
In late January, the paper said an FSB officer had threatened a reporter
who had been writing articles critical of LUKoil.
Sokolov said the paper, which has been published since April 1993, was
currently financially independent. He said former Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev, who has a foundation, "helped us get on our own two feet" in the
paper's early days.
March 16, 2000
EDITORIAL: Yavlinsky (And Titov) Look Best
What was it that finally convinced the Union of Right-Wing Forces - those
self-styled leading liberals - to formally endorse Vladimir Putin for
Perhaps it was Putin's refusal to address well-documented accounts of
atrocities by Russian soldiers against Russian civilians. Or his recent
suggestion that the protection of the law extends only to proven patriots.
Or his touching insistence on a presumption of innocence for Kremlin
officials wanted for money-laundering.
Then again, it's more likely this has been just another demonstration that
the Union of Right-Wing Forces is led by a collection of careerists and
Yes, there are some fine people in the back-benches of SPS. But they are
performing a disservice, both to themselves and to their nation, by
sticking with the party of Sergei Kiriyenko and Anatoly Chubais.
Instead, citizens who want to see the nation develop into a strong,
democratic and capitalist economy ought to be looking closely at two other
presidential candidates: Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and Samara
Governor Konstantin Titov.
Titov and Yavlinsky have been lonely voices of cool reason. Both have
spoken out for civil liberties and a market economy, and against the
never-ending three minutes of hate directed at Chechnya.
Titov in particular deserves kudos for being the first major politician to
stand up to the wave of war hysteria and urging a cooler assessment of how
Chechnya ought to be handled. We also appreciate his brave opposition to
proposals to scrap elections for governors, and his advocacy of a dramatic
cut in the bloated government apparatus.
Though we like both of these politicians, if we had to choose we would pick
Yavlinsky. Over the past 10 years Yabloko has proven itself to be both
liberal and principled - the two missing commodities in politics here.
Yavlinsky from the start supported an anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya,
and then, in response to wildly escalating civilian casualties, called for
a rethink. His criticism has been consistently careful and patriotic.
Yavlinsky's rivals complain that he has never done anything, that he does
not compromise, and so on. We would say that refusing to compromise with a
corrupt system should be honored, not disdained. And those who believe
Yabloko has never done anything ought to reexamine this party's impressive
legislative record, and their valuable work setting in order the finances
of the St. Petersburg city government - finances left a mess by the
outgoing administration of Putin and Anatoly Sobchak, by the way.
Yavlinsky woos Russian liberal votes again
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, March 16 (Reuters) - In the latest edition of the popular satirical
TV puppet-show ``Kukly,'' veteran liberal Grigory Yavlinsky is depicted as
the only virgin in a luridly lit brothel which represents Russian politics.
As the life-size marionettes representing Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov,
nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and others vie to win the favours of a
bashful Acting President Vladimir Putin, Yavlinsky holds back, saying he is
not ready yet.
``Who is that?'' a puzzled Putin asks the brothel madam Gennady Seleznyov,
who in real life is chairman of the State Duma lower house of parliament.
``Oh she's been here for years and she still hasn't been with anybody yet,''
comes Seleznyov's tart reply.
Yavlinsky, the main liberal candidate in Russia's presidential election on
March 26, prides himself on keeping his political virginity intact through
the past turbulent decade, refusing to trade his principles for a slice of
The stocky economist and his Yabloko faction have staked out the moral high
ground, speaking out in favour of economic and political reforms and against
cronyism, corruption and two bloody Chechen wars.
But his critics -- including many fellow liberals -- say Yavlinsky has primly
avoided soiling his hands in government because he fears taking
responsibility for policies which might fail or prove unpopular.
They say Yavlinsky is a prickly loner by nature and lacks the team spirit and
sense of give-and-take that politics demands.
Either way, 47-year-old Yavlinsky has virtually no chance of winning the
election, in which ex-KGB spy Putin is the runaway favourite. Most political
analysts expect Yavlinsky to take third place behind the Communists'
``An ideal result for Yavlinsky would be about 10 percent of the vote. That
would allow him to influence the wider political process,'' said Andrei
Ryabov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Yavlinsky also ran in the 1996 presidential election, coming fourth -- with
7.34 percent of the vote -- behind incumbent Boris Yeltsin, Zyuganov and
tough-speaking reserve general Alexander Lebed, who is not taking part in
this year's poll.
``If Yavlinsky won about 10 percent of the vote this time round, he could
emerge as leader of the liberal opposition to the Kremlin status quo,'' said
Boris Makarenko of the Centre of Political Strategies.
``It would help him avenge the losses Yabloko suffered in the (December 19)
Duma election, when the newly formed Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) took
more seats,'' Makarenko added.
CHECHNYA HITS YAVLINSKY'S CHANCES
Yabloko's poor performance in the Duma poll has been attributed partly to
Putin's tacit support for the SPS and partly to Yavlinsky's criticism of the
latest Chechnya war.
Among Russia's political elite, Yavlinsky has gone furthest in criticising
Putin's Chechnya strategy and the ``military hysteria'' he says it has fed
during two election campaigns.
His stance has confirmed the positive image Yavlinsky enjoys in the West,
which has also expressed alarm at the destruction wreaked in Chechnya and the
plight of its refugees. But it has not gone down well with most Russian
voters, who strongly back the crackdown on the Chechen rebels.
Now Yavlinsky, whose traditional support is concentrated among the educated,
urban voters of European Russia, is trying to show he is close to the
concerns of ordinary people.
The one-time junior boxing champion has discussed soccer on a television chat
show, taken part in a cookery programme and travelled to provincial towns to
press the flesh and spread his ideas about fighting graft and helping small
``There is still quite a lot to play for. The polls suggest up to 30 percent
of voters remain undecided,'' said Ryabov.
Sergei Mikhailov of the Russian Socio-Political Centre suggested that,
paradoxically in a poll which features a number of candidates little known in
the country at large, Yavlinsky might suffer from the opposite problem of
being too familiar.
``Though Yavlinsky has not been tainted by association with unpopular or
failed governments under Yeltsin, he has nevertheless been around for a long
time,'' said Mikhailov.
Yavlinsky has been on the national stage since he drew up a 500-day crash
programme in the late 1980s for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev aimed at
shifting the country to capitalism. His plan was never implemented.
LIBERALS STILL HOPELESSLY DIVIDED
Yavlinsky's modest election prospects also highlight the long-running
divisions within Russia's liberal camp.
On Tuesday the SPS, founded by the so-called ``young reformers'' whom Yeltsin
promoted at different times through the 1990s, agreed to back Putin on March
26, shunning both Yavlinsky and the party's own presidential hopeful,
Yavlinsky has long had difficult relations with the ``young reformers,''
especially with Anatoly Chubais, architect of Russia's controversial
Yavlinsky once accused Yeltsin and Chubais of running an ``oligarchic,
over-monopolistic, criminal state.'' More recently, Chubais branded Yavlinsky
a traitor for urging peace talks between Moscow and Chechnya's separatist
leader Aslan Maskhadov.
``There is too much bad blood between Yavlinsky and Chubais,'' said
Makarenko, adding that the SPS wanted to forge ties with Putin as he was set
to dominate politics for the next few years.
At least one SPS deputy, the respected Soviet-era dissident Sergei Kovalyov
who served as Yeltsin's human rights envoy in the mid-1990s, has said he
would back Yavlinsky.
``Not because Yavlinsky is an ideal candidate but because there is no
alternative. Only Yavlinsky can stand up for the liberal intelligentsia,''
Kovalyov told Reuters in a recent interview. Kovalyov, like many older
generation liberals, distrusts Putin's KGB past and his calls for a ``strong
But Kovalyov represents a minority view within the SPS.
So where does that leave Yavlinsky?
``If, after the election, the Putin government starts to lose its popularity
-- which is sure to happen sooner or later -- people will start looking for
alternative leaders, and Yavlinsky will be first in line,'' said Makarenko.
If Putin followed up his rhetoric with action -- tackling corruption, opening
up the economy -- Yavlinsky might finally be willing to come in from the
cold, Makarenko said.
``After all, you can keep your virginity too long.''
From: "David Filipov" <email@example.com>
Subject: normally I love a good debate, but we have nothing to say to each
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000
Contrary to what Ira Straus says (JRL 4169), please note I went to no great
lengths to search for freedom fighters (without quotes).
Critics of media coverage on Chechnya, I propose a deal:
>From my vantage point, the stated goal, eradicating terrorism and ending a
separatist rebellion, looks like it is not being accomplished by the methods
at hand. Hopefully it will all work out for the best, but right now it seems
like there are a lot of mistakes and excesses that indicate things will only
get worse. Hey, don't just take my word for it, listen to the chorus of
reasonable Russian voices out there.
I know from firsthand experience that the situation in the Caucasus was bad
between the two wars -- and you know because reporters wrote about it all
the time -- but that is less important right now, when two thirds of
Chechnya has been turned into a combat zone and a majority of the population
has lost trust in Moscow's goodwill.
At the moment there are big problems. With your permission, I intend to
focus on them. I will do it, not because I have latent hatred for Russia or
Russians or my Russian wife, or love, or hatred, toward Chechen rebel
leaders or their followers, and with total disregard for the contents of the
editorial page (where my reports do not appear), the consequences for
U.S.-Russian relations, or anything else, if you don't mind. Oh, and I
reserve the right to continue to leave out the statements of acting Imam
Kadyrov until I get a better sense that he has widespread popular support.
You, on the other hand, are free to write off the various problems of the
campaign as you see fit, and fit the whole war into a larger picture, be it
the need for good financial relations between Russia and the West, the need
for good political relations between the two nuclear superpowers, the need
to avoid hypocrisy in describing different local conflicts. By framing
criticisms of the reports from Chechnya in this way, you can continue to
"score easy points," to borrow Straus' phrase, against reporters who do not
set themselves the task of solving the problem, but merely report it.
We're different, me and you. You, if you like, may attribute this to my
"political correctness" or "herd spirit" or distate for getting my hands
I, in return, can ignore you and go on reporting.
With warmest regards,
Russia: Panel Ponders Political Future
By Lisa McAdams
With just under two weeks to go before special elections in Russia,
commentators, special interests and western officials alike are struggling
to predict the country's near-term and future course, at the hands of what
by all appearances will be an electoral win by acting President Vladimir
Putin. But as RFE/RL's Lisa McAdams reports, even this far along, the
questions outweigh the answers among long time watchers of Russia and her
Washington, 15 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Two leading centers of Harvard
University sponsored Monday's panel at the National Press Club in
Washington, which brought together Russian and American experts to provide
insight into Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin.
Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who worked closely with Putin when
he was Chief of Russia's Security Service and Security Council Secretary,
delivered the keynote address. In it, the now Duma deputy and chairman of
the Duma's corruption commission, elaborated on the appeal of Putin, whom
Stepashin described as "able-bodied," "predictable" and "tough." Stepashin
then dealt largely with questions surrounding Russia's military campaign in
Stepashin said that from a military perspective it is "impossible" to
backtrack now, no matter how politically expedient he said such a move
might prove for Russia. He also said the bigger challenges lie ahead, in
the question of how Chechnya is to be organized following what he called a
certain "victory" for Russia.
Stepashin said he believed that for the next two years Chechnya would need
to be, "federally governed." And he said the sooner the federal government
can provide an environment for civilians to come back, the sooner Russia
would be able to speak about the first steps of stabilizing the situation
Prior to Stepashin's remarks, several leading Russian experts discussed the
upcoming special elections and its implications.
Tim Colton is the director of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at
Harvard University. He spoke to implications of the elections for future
democracy in Russia, which he characterized as "mixed."
Colton said that the real answer of Russia's democratic fate may lie in
what Putin really means when he talks about a "strong state."
"The problem though of course is that a strong state, if not also a
democratic or responsive state, can just be a codeword for dictatorship and
Russians have seen all that before. I don't believe that its possible to
tell from Putin's words what he really means by a strong state."
Colton said U.S. officials could wish things into it, but he said he did
not believe one could definitively tell at this point what Putin means from
the words themselves.
Colton also cautioned the West against the danger of exaggerated
expectations in Putin. He then concluded his remarks by saying that anxiety
and apprehension are on the rise in Russia, due not to what he said people
believe Putin will do if elected, but stemming more from all that is still
unknown about his policies.
Sergei Karaganov, the chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy
in Moscow, said there is one "known" quantity of Putin's policy -- that
being his stated goal of revitalizing the Russian state and Russian
economy. Here's how Karaganov said he sees that playing out, with regard to
relations with the West:
"That means probably, if he delivers on his word, less activist Russia on
foreign policy and more concentration of the government on the real
business of Russia. And that is the business of getting Russia out of its
crisis, which could become its last crisis because everybody understands
that we are on the brink of disintegration if we fail this time with reforms."
The elections are also being widely watched as to how they could affect
future U.S.-Russian security relations. Graham Allison, director of the
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, echoed his
colleagues when he said that too much is "unknown" to speak with any
certainty. However, he took it a step further to say that the real concern,
as regards security, will stem from what he called the serious lack of
"checks and balances" on the reach of Putin's power and influence.
But Vyacheslav Nikonov disagreed that Putin's rule could usher in a new era
of "authoritarianism," as Allison and others have suggested. Nikonov is the
director of the "Politika" foundation in Moscow and a former Duma deputy.
He said it was really hard to imagine anyone having ultimate influence and
control in a place, "as messy as Russia."
"The orders may go somewhere. You may press some button in the Kremlin
expecting that the lights will go on somewhere else and you will find out
that the lamps have already been stolen, or that the wires are not there.
So, in my view, of course this is a great guarantee (against) any
authoritarian regime in Russia, it will never happen."
Nikonov also spoke to the issue of how Putin rose to the top in Russian
politics. He put it succinctly, saying, "Putin's a winner, which is what
matters most." Only after he wins, Nikonov said, will the world find out
his plans for the presidency. As Nikonov put it, "not even he (Putin) knows
the answer to the current question of who is Mr. Putin?"
Russian Moguls Eye Putin With Worry
March 15, 2000
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - The moguls who amassed so much power and influence under Boris
Yeltsin that they called themselves Russia's ``oligarchs'' - and earned the
hatred of most Russians - are having an identity crisis.
Russia is holding a presidential election March 26 that will usher in a new
political era, and the oligarchs, a few tycoons who control huge swathes of
the economy, are anxious about hanging on to their power.
The tycoons bankrolled Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign, but acting
President Vladimir Putin is so popular that he doesn't need their millions
and has not accepted offers of help. Instead, Putin, considered a shoo-in,
says the Kremlin should distance itself from the oligarchs and others who
have ``sucked up to the authorities'' for years.
Russians see the oligarchs as synonymous with corruption, one of the
country's deepest problems. A crackdown on these men would thrill voters, and
Putin says tackling corruption is one of his top priorities.
Russians revile the oligarchs for gobbling up state assets at giveaway prices
in shady privatization deals while millions of people struggled to buy
necessities. Most of the moguls invested little in their companies or in
Russia's ailing economy, instead siphoning off resources to buy luxury cars
and overseas villas.
Their political power has been so immense that reformers call them an
obstacle to democracy and an open market economy.
Boris Berezovsky, Russia's most notorious oligarch, claimed to have
orchestrated Yeltsin's Cabinet shakeups and boasted publicly of his
``enormous influence on the government.'' These days, the oligarchs prefer to
stay in the shadows.
Yet Putin may not be able to risk totally alienating these men, analysts say.
They control Russia's richest banks, media empires, its oil and gas giants,
its lucrative aluminum industry. Some reportedly helped bring Putin into the
``He can't make them disappear. They will still have their fortunes and their
important companies. But they won't be able to call themselves oligarchs
anymore,'' said Georgy Pavlov of the Russian-European Center for Economic
''(Putin) will put them in their place. He will say: 'You guys have your
factories, you stay there and do your jobs and I won't bother you,''' Pavlov
Reformers are hoping Putin will do more, cracking down on the oligarchs to
end their stranglehold on the economy, a grip seen as hindering the
development of a free market.
``The concept of oligarchs should disappear, and the concept of competitive
big business should appear,'' lawmaker Irina Khakamada said. ``If Putin makes
this reality, it will be a revolution.''
But she warned that Putin could ``replace one set of oligarchs with another
one that is more loyal to him.'' He has already replaced some Yeltsin allies
in his administration with friends from the business community in his native
Some of Russia's biggest businesses reportedly fund the think-tank Putin set
up to craft his policies: natural gas giant Gazprom, electricity monopoly
United Energy Systems and Transneft, the state oil pipeline company.
Meanwhile, the Yeltsin-era magnates are preparing for the worst. Looking
toward a Putin presidency, they are trying to expand and diversify their
business empires, and courting likely future Cabinet ministers.
Two prominent moguls, Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, even took the unusual
step of winning parliament seats in elections last December.
The seats secured them the immunity from criminal prosecution that all
lawmakers enjoy. Both men have been accused of corruption, but escaped
serious investigation while Yeltsin was president. Yet Putin has questioned
how far lawmakers' immunity should extend.
The oligarchs political might was cemented in the 1996 presidential campaign.
Just a few months before the elections, the front-runner was Communist chief
Gennady Zyuganov, an outspoken critic of Russia's new rich who had threatened
to reverse privatization.
Seven of Russia's wealthiest businessmen poured money into Yeltsin's
campaign. It worked, and the seven - plus some other favored moguls -
influenced major policy decisions during Yeltsin's second term.
Some have dropped out of the spotlight since Russia's financial markets
collapsed in August 1998. But other influential businessmen are still on the
Zyuganov Urges to Build Renovated Soviet Power in Russia
MOSCOW (March 15) XINHUA - The Russian Communist Party leader Gennady
Zyuganov on Wednesday called for establishing renovated Soviet power and
restoring people's power and social justice in the country.
In order to achieve this goal it will be necessary to take a number of
measures urgently: limit the powers of the head of state, create a
government of people's trust, restore the independence of the judiciary,
guarantee an efficient prosecutor's office and budget federalism, Zyuganov
told a meeting of intellectuals at the State Duma, lower house of the
He denied claims that he has no clear program or team, saying his program
has been "intentionally hushed up."
Speaking of the essence of this program, he said it calls for a new
economic policy "which will encourage people to work, not steal or get
He called on the intellectuals to support him in the upcoming presidential
elections on March 26, expressing the political will to implement this
program and set up a skilled professional staff.
On the same day, Zyuganov also said he disagrees with the newly published
views of acting Russian President Vladimir Putin on communist party
In the book "From the First Person. Conversations with Vladimir Putin,"
which has just come off the press in Moscow, Putin said that the communist
party "will either change its program guidelines and then become a major
left-wing party or will be unable to do so and then gradually walk off the
Commenting on these remarks in an interview, Zyuganov said the Communist
Party program "has absorbed all the best from the communist movement, the
socialists, the social-democrats and the national patriotic parties of the
world." For this reason, he sees no need to reform the Communist Party of
the Russian Federation( KPRF).
"We have long been a major left-wing party for all the canons of the
political science and European political experience," Zyuganov said.
He also said he opposes Putin's notion that the communist party favors
"confiscation and nationalization," calling it "a propaganda cliche."
TOP COMMUNIST SUSPICIOUS ABOUT POSSIBLE KREMLIN LINKS TO CHECHEN REBELS
Text of report by Radio Russia on 15th March
Meanwhile, presidential candidate and leader of the Communist Party of the
Russian Federation Gennadiy Zyuganov has said that he insists on the
setting up of a commission of deputies to investigate links between
officials in the Kremlin administration and Chechen terrorist leaders.
In an interview with journalists on Wednesday [15th March], he said that in
spite of major victories by federal troops in Chechnya, the Chechen rebel
leaders [Shamil] Basayev, Khattab and [Ruslan] Gelayev and also the leader
of the Chechen separatists, [Aslan] Maskhadov, have always managed to
escape when they have been surrounded. In addition, Zyuganov believes that
Salman Raduyev's arrest and transfer to Moscow were carried out merely to
distract attention. Zyuganov said that the case of the organization of the
series of explosions in residential buildings in Moscow and other Russian
towns had still not been fully clarified. There is increasing evidence that
Putin's rating was deliberately pushed up with the wave of explosions, the
communist leader surmised.
Christian Science Monitor
15 March 2000
Putin's invisible challenger
Some dissatisfied Russians will vote 'none of the above' on March 26.
Others not at all.
By Judith Matloff, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Ivan Konov is not the type of person who would ordinarily inspire fear in
Vladimir Putin, Russia's tough acting president. Mr. Konov, a
schoolteacher, is a reserved, bookish fellow who lives with his mother in
Moscow. He doesn't like fights.
But Konov is angry in his own quiet way, and he is one of a growing number
of Russians who plan to lodge protest votes in the March 26 presidential
election. Feeling cheated by Mr. Putin's near-guarantee of victory, these
voters plan to check the box "none of the above."
"I don't want to be an object of manipulation," he says.
Some analysts believe that the Protiv Vcech (Against All) vote may be a
swing factor, denying Putin the 50 percent-plus majority needed to avoid a
second round runoff vote. It would be a major embarrassment for Putin -
whose support in opinion polls is near twice that of his closest rival - to
lose to no one. His government would also prefer to avoid taking the chance
that support might erode between a first and second round.
But because Putin is so far ahead, many supporters may stay away from the
polls, giving any votes against him added weight. Thus, a large "no" vote
may be a decisive factor for the first time in post-Soviet politics.
"This is a completely new situation. Protiv Vcech could get 20 to 30
percent," predicts Andrei Biryukov, public relations director of the
Nikkolo M political consulting center in Moscow.
"In the 1996 elections, the vote was white versus red - liberal reformers
personified by President Boris Yeltsin against a Communist comeback. This
time Putin is seen as a clear winner. He doesn't have a liberal opposition
or clear Communist competition. In fact, the Communists are seen to be
working with him."
Putin's opinion poll ratings run a hefty 45 to 60 percent, boosted in part
by his conduct of the war against Muslim separatist rebels in Chechnya.
A media smear campaign last fall and a backdoor deal in parliament between
the Kremlin and the Communists sidelined Putin's main challenger, Yevgeny
Primakov. The respected former prime minister and Yeltsin critic dropped
out of the race in January.
Putin's closest current rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, is
forecast to draw around 25 percent. Mr. Zyuganov lost to Mr. Yeltsin in a
second-round runoff in the last election. Next in line is pro-free-market
reformer Grigory Yavlinksy of the Yabloko party, with less than 4 percent.
This is where Protiv Vcech comes in. While Putin's ratings are high, he has
also alienated a large section of the population. Urban liberals in
particular complain that their candidates have no chance against the
Kremlin's political and media machine.
"It is clear that the bureaucrats plan to make a fiction of rights and
freedoms in Russia," reads the manifesto of a group calling itself the
Committee of the Cheated Electorate. "If we vote against everyone on March
26 then the current power will have to resign."
Under the banner of the "13th Option" - there are 12 candidates running in
all - a half-dozen groups like this one organized by human rights activists
and disgruntled rightists are urging the public to express its
dissatisfaction. Significantly in a country where apathy runs high, many
Russians say they have decided to vote Protiv Vcech.
"I am a responsible person so I will fulfill my constitutional duty to
vote," says Olga Rubinina, an earnest student who will cast her first
ballot next week. "I don't like any of the candidates, so I will check the
last [13th] box." Her hope is that the Protiv Vcech vote will outweigh that
for Putin. In that unlikely event, new elections would have to be held
within four months.
Expected high absenteeism could also be a factor. If less than 50 percent
of Russia's 107 million electorate vote, the poll is deemed invalid. In the
1996 presidential contest, turnout neared 70 percent. By contrast,
President Clinton won reelection the same year on a 49 percent turnout.
But some analysts expect an intensification of the trend seen in Russian
parliamentary elections in December. Elections had to be repeated in eight
electoral districts across Russia after nearly 2 million people voted
If that were the case, it would be the first time a protest vote would be a
viable factor in Russian elections.
And with more than 35 percent of the population - much of it supportive of
Putin - expected to abstain from voting, his election team is apparently
taking no chances. A recent official statement claimed that those calling
for a boycott or "against all" vote were allied with terrorists - Kremlin
shorthand for Chechen rebels.
"There are forces in Russia that are not interested in the election of a
proper leader.... That's why it is not surprising that the propagandists of
terrorism have launched a provocative campaign to destroy the elections,"
read the statement issued by the government information service
"The appeals to vote against everyone or to boycott the elections have one
aim: to prevent the establishment in Russia of an active power that will be
responsible legislatively and in the eyes of the people."
The dour Putin lacks the charisma of his predecessor, but he has held the
advantage since Yeltsin suddenly resigned Dec. 31, moved the election
forward by three months, and named Putin, then prime minister, as his
replacement. The firm nationalism of the onetime KGB spy and former head of
its successor, the FSB security service, has struck a popular chord across
the ideological spectrum. So confident was he at first, that he appeared
not to be campaigning at all, spurning television ads and debates.
The only snag so far in his campaign occurred on Monday, when the publisher
of a book entitled "From the First Person: Conversations with Vladimir
Putin" had to suspend plans to sell 500,000 copies to avoid violating
election laws. Otherwise, Putin could have been dismissed from the race.
In his favor is the Kremlin's influence, which has dampened most media
fault-finding. But in recent weeks he has had to answer for some of the
heaviest losses in Chechnya since the current conflict began and the messy
handling of the month-long disappearance of Andrei Babitsky, a journalist
whose reports from Chechnya were often critical of the Russian military.
Mr. Biryukov notes that a week is a long time in Russia's mercurial
political scene. He also suggests Kremlin spin-doctors may be using the
threat of the "Against All" vote to get Putin supporters out to the polls.
"This is a very sophisticated form of public relations, to warn: 'If you
don't vote, no one will," he says.
March 15, 2000
Putin, Media's Most Popular Leader
"Argumeny i Fakty" weekly asks a question: "Who are the print media and
TV's favorite candidate in the ongoing election race?" To answer the
question, the paper refers to the data obtained by a special sociological
study conducted by the "Olymp" social political information agency. "The
presidential candidates' starting positions, their abilities to create and
promote their image in the public opinion are very much diverse. The acting
president has a considerable lead over the "well-promoted" politicians like
Zyuganov, Yavlinsky or Zhirinovsky, let alone all the rest".
Comment: Out of the information flow that has streamed in the media in
February, regarding the presidential candidates, 53,6 percent was devoted
to the coverage of Vladimir Putin's activities, positions or opinions. The
Zyuganov portion in the coverage amounted to 13,2 percent, Zhirinovsky -
9,5 percent, Yavlinsky - 7,4 percent, Skuratov - 4,6 percent. Other seven
candidates gained mere 11,7 percent of the total information flow. It is
clear that the information coverage was given in the media of dissimilar
influential capacity. Considering this factor, the acting president's
impact on the electorate was far more considerable than that of Zyuganov,
Yavlinsky, Zhirinovsky, Skuratov and Titov. Yet, the seeming "inequality"
of the running candidates is justified. It would be unreasonable to expect
the media to refrain from covering the acting president's activities. Using
the administrative resources in this country (as elsewhere) is highly
effective. What reporter could be interested in describing, say, an
also-ran's election campaign just for free? Therefore, inequality in media
coverage is an objective factor, something that has nothing to do with
somebody's malice. Putin understands that perfectly and he tries not to
enrage his rivals. Remember his decent refusal to use TV self-advertisements.
Financial Times (UK)
15 March 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's regions prepare to bow again to the centre: Vladimir Putin seems
determined to impose his sway across all 11 of Russia's time zones. John
The Smolny institute in St Petersburg has provided the ornate backdrop to
some momentous events in Russian history.
In 1917 the aristocratic girls' school was turned into Lenin's
revolutionary headquarters, where the Bolshevik leader masterminded the
"ten days that shook the world". In 1934 the city's Communist party leader,
Sergei Kirov, was shot dead in one of the Smolny's long corridors,
prompting Stalin to unleash his terrible purges.
Nowadays, the Smolny houses the administration of the governor of Russia's
second city. But once again high political intrigue and low skulduggery
swirl around the building. Forthcoming elections to the Smolny in May will
reveal much about the state of Russian politics and could set the pattern
of relations between Moscow and the regions for years to come.
Vladimir Putin, the acting president widely expected to win the
presidential poll on March 26, has an intense personal and political
interest in the St Petersburg contest. Four years ago, Mr Putin was on the
losing side of the gubernatorial elections, which were won by Vladimir
Yakovlev after a filthy fight. Now elevated to the summit of Russian
politics, Mr Putin seems determined to avenge that loss, while asserting
his authority across all of Russia's 11 time zones.
But both Mr Putin and Mr Yakovlev are playing out a convoluted endgame.
Ahead of the presidential elections, Mr Putin is reliant on Mr Yakovev's
support to help ensure a high turn out in the polls. At the moment, the St
Petersburg governor - like almost all other leaders of Russia's 89 regions
- seems ready to oblige.
Few governors are prepared openly to defy the man who seems likely to end
up ruling Russia for the next eight years - although two of their braver
members, Aman Tuleyev, the leftwing governor of Kemerovo, and Konstantin
Titov, the liberal leader of Samara, are standing against Mr Putin in the
Boris Makarenko, deputy director of the Centre for Political Technologies,
a research institute, says that many voters believe there is no realistic
alternative to Mr Putin in this month's presidential elections, suggesting
the biggest danger to the acting president is complacency among the voters.
"If the turnout falls too far then the legitimacy of Putin's election may
be damaged. He may only be elected by an absolute minority of Russias," Mr
Makarenko says. "So bringing the vote out is important for Putin and the
governors can deliver that service."
Indeed, a competition appears to be developing among many of Russia's
regional leaders to prove who is the most loyal to Mr Putin. Some political
commentators suggest the governors may obsequiously believe they will be
rewarded according to how many votes they deliver.
But the regional leaders may simply be being level-headed. After the 1996
presidential elections, President Boris Yeltsin did appear to target a
disproportionate share of federal resources to the most loyal regions. The
Kremlin also helped friendly governors in their own regional election
Luxuriating in his vast office at the top of the Smolny, Mr Yakovlev
pledges his allegiance to the acting president and reads out the standard
check-list of Mr Putin's virtues. Mr Putin - a former resident of the
Smolny who inhabited a far smaller first floor office near the canteen - is
described as an efficient, pragmatic, and business-like leader, "who will
strengthen Russia's role in the world".
But the tall, florid-faced governor makes clear he will defend his own
territory fiercely in the gubernatorial elections in May in spite of Mr
Putin's covert hostility. "I do not doubt that I will win. Over the past
four years we have done a lot for the city, particularly in the social
sphere," Mr Yakovlev says.
"We have paid all our workers on time, unlike the federal government," he
adds, getting in a quick dig at Valentina Matvienko, the social security
minister, who is likely to be his strongest rival.
If Mr Putin wins the presidential elections, he is likely to try weeding
out some of the more recalcitrant governors, like Mr Yakovlev. Mr Putin may
also start stripping the regions of some of the autonomy they were granted
under Boris Yeltsin, helping to re-establish the authority of the federal
centre. Since the beginning of the year, he has replaced at least 17 of his
regional representatives, who act as the Kremlin's ears and eyes in the
Some governors also appear to be trying to curry favour with Mr Putin by
suggesting they should be appointed rather than elected. For the moment, Mr
Putin says he supports the idea of regional elections.
But he makes his personal long-term preference fairly clear. "Russia was
founded as a super-centralised state from the very start. This is inherent
in its genetic code, traditions, and people's mentality," he says.
SMALL BUSINESSES MUST BE PROTECTED FROM BUREAUCRATIC TYRANNY - PUTIN
MOSCOW. March 15 (Interfax) - A uniform structure needs to be set
up to protect small and medium-sized businesses from arbitrary
interference by bureaucrats, acting Russian President Vladimir Putin has
Arbitrary and capricious bureaucrats trying to get rich by ruining
small and medium-sized businesses obstruct the stable existence of small
businesses, Putin told a national small business conference Wednesday.
Constant checks on small businesses should be put to an end with
the help of the creation of a Control Ministry that would alone be
responsible for such checks, Putin said, and presidential control in
this area could also be tightened, he said.
"The state is very inconsistent. While the number of checking
agencies increases, double standards are used" in dealing with large and
small businesses, Putin said.
"I am often asked what I think of the oligarchs. I reject the
merger of authorities and business, and welcome a dialogue with
business," he said. Dialogue is needed with the officials of small and
medium-sized as well those of large enterprises, he said.
State regulation of the economy must promote small business, he
The state must play by the same rules everywhere in the market,
Putin said. Independent courts and the normal financing of arbitration
courts must favor the development of small business, he said.
The number of arbitration court judges will increase by 2,000,
Moscow Mayor To Support Putin
March 15, 2000
By JIM HEINTZ
MOSCOW (AP) - Moscow's powerful mayor said Wednesday that his political
alliance, the Fatherland movement, was ready to endorse acting President
Vladimir Putin in next week's elections.
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, leader of the moderate Fatherland, said that despite
harshly criticizing Putin in the past, his group sees its views and those of
Putin growing increasingly close.
``We do not push this extended hand away and we are prepared to shake it as a
sign of our partnership,'' he said, according to the news agency Interfax.
Fatherland and Putin's Unity grouping were on opposite sides of a harsh
dispute this year over allocation of leadership positions in the newly
elected Russian parliament. Luzhkov earlier this year characterized Putin as
``a blank piece of paper,'' over his lack of a detailed program for
addressing Russia's economic problems.
His statement Wednesday stopped short of outright endorsement. He said
Fatherland's support depends on Putin taking a strong position on fighting
corruption and the influence of Russia's powerful ``oligarch'' business
tycoons. Putin must also commit to mobilizing resources for social services,
But the conditional approval was another sign of the heavy support Putin
enjoys. A day earlier, the liberal Union of Right Forces announced it would
back Putin in the March 26 ballot, even though one of its own leaders is also
Polls show Putin consistently commanding 60 percent support, against 20
percent for his nearest challenger, Communist Gennady Zyuganov.
Putin's popularity apparently stems from wide approval of his tough pursuit
of the Chechen war and his image as a firm leader determined to restore state
On Wednesday, Putin met with Muslim leaders to assuage concerns that Russia
was becoming unfriendly toward Islam as a result of the war in Chechnya,
which started after Islamic militants invaded the Russian republic of
Russia would remain a home for both Muslims and Christians, Russian news
``This is how it has been for centuries and I have no doubt that this is how
it always will be,'' Putin said told reporters.
Putin also sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress who questioned
whether Russian authorities are firmly committed to battling anti-Semitism.
``Any signs of anti-Semitism are considered an inadmissible display of
aggressive nationalism incompatible with civilized society in Russia,'' the
presidential press service on Wednesday quoted Putin as saying.
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