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18 March 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. RFE/RL Russian Election Report: Laura Belin, CAMPAIGN MANAGER
EXPLAINS PUTIN'S REFUSAL TO PUBLISH and ELECTION-SEASON HUMOR.
2. Itar-Tass: State Duma Endorses Commission to Protect Investors'
3. Itar-Tass: Almost 1/3 of Muscovites CAN'T Be Recruited on Health Reason.
4. Yale Richmond: Putin as TASS Correspondent?
5. Defense News: William Church, Russia's Rights In Chechnya.
Moscow's Actions, Rationale Deserve Reappraisal.
6. www.yabloko.ru: Pro-Government Factions Do Not Want the FSB Training in Ryazan to Be Investigated.
7. SUNDAY BUSINESS (UK): James Hughes, Putin's Russia.
8. Ira Straus: any evidence on 10 prevented explosions?
9. Valentin Mikhailov: Re 4157/Russian Regions Wary as Putin Tightens Control. (Tartarstan)
10. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: PRO-WESTERN VOTERS BACK THE ACTING PRESIDENT.
11. AFP: Rasputin demystified in new biography, thanks to 'The File'
12. Business Week: Sabrina Tavernise, Dot-Com Deals Come to the Steppes. Net stakes are dirt-cheap now, but prices are rising
13. The Economist (UK): Russia's Sleepy Election Campaign.
14. AP: Barnstorming Putin Boasts of Capture.]
RFE/RL Russian Election Report
No. 3 (11), 17 March 2000
RFE/RL Russian Election Report is prepared by Laura Belin
on the basis of a variety of sources. It is distributed
every Friday. Direct comments to Laura Belin at BelinL@rferl.org.
CAMPAIGN MANAGER EXPLAINS PUTIN'S REFUSAL TO PUBLISH
PROGRAM. Almost all of the presidential candidates have
prepared campaign programs except the one who is virtually
certain to win the election: acting President Vladimir
Putin. He has said voters should judge him by his deeds.
Speaking to foreign journalists at the Carnegie Moscow
Center on 14 March, Dmitrii Medvedev, the head of Putin's
campaign headquarters, explained that Putin has already
made his priorities clear in an open letter to voters
published in several newspapers on 25 February. That
letter, which can be found on Putin's website
(http://www.putin2000.ru), contained vague expositions of
Russia's problems (poverty, lack of political will) and
uncontroversial goals (fighting crime, making the state
strong, providing a decent life for all Russians).
Medvedev argued that it "would not be right" to
publish a finished program during the current, shortened
presidential campaign. Policies should be carefully
considered and not put together hastily, and in this
respect Putin's decision not to release a detailed program
is "honest," Medvedev continued.
Asked when Putin will reveal his choice to succeed him
as prime minister, Medvedev told "RFE/RL Russian Election
Report" that the constitution does not allow Putin to name
a prime minister before he is elected president. He
acknowledged that in theory Putin could announce the most
likely candidate for the job sooner but argued that it
"would not be right" for Putin to discuss that hypothetical
situation. One must not "rush such questions," Medvedev
added. He rejected the suggestion that Putin is concealing
his intentions, noting that as soon as candidates for prime
minister are named in Russia, opponents immediately start
attacking them. Why "create complications for possible
candidates?" Medvedev asked.
The official spin on Putin's reluctance to reveal his
plans echoes attempts to portray his avoidance of debates
as a noble refusal to engage in advertising (see "RFE/RL
Russian Election Report," 10 March 2000). Such caution on
Putin's part is logical. If, as many opinion polls suggest,
a majority of voters are already inclined to support Putin,
any specific policy statements would risk alienating
current supporters. LB
ELECTION-SEASON HUMOR. The lackluster presidential campaign
certainly lacks the drama of the hotly-contested December
parliamentary election. But looking on the bright side,
more political jokes are making the rounds in Moscow now
than several months ago.
The following joke continues a long tradition in
Russian humor, in which a simple Chukchi unwittingly
provides salient social commentary. (The Chukchi are an
ethnic group indigenous to the far northeastern corner of
Russia, across the Bering Strait from Alaska.)
A Chukchi is stranded in a remote location in the
middle of winter. A small plane manages to deliver an aid
package to him, containing a large box of canned food along
with some newspapers, a radio receiver, and a television
set. A week later the Chukchi sends a distress message:
"I'm hungry, please help me!" The aid organization radios
back to him, "But we just sent you a large shipment of
food!" The Chukchi replies, "I looked at your newspapers,
and it was all about Putin. I turned on the radio: Putin
again. The television was the same--Putin, Putin
everywhere. I was afraid to open those cans."
The following joke, published in "Moskovskii
komsomolets" on 13 March, recalls a famous Aesopian fable.
It also expresses the widespread sense of resignation
surrounding Putin's apparently inevitable victory:
A crow sits in a tree, holding a piece of cheese in
its mouth. A fox approaches the tree and asks, "Hey, crow,
are you going to vote for Putin?" The crow doesn't answer.
The fox says, "I'm asking you whether you're going to vote
for Putin." The crow remains silent and fidgets
uncomfortably. The fox says, "I'm asking you for the last
time: are you going to vote for Putin or not?" The crow
says, "Yes!" The piece of cheese falls to the ground. The
crow wonders, "And would it have made any difference if I
had said no?"
State Duma Endorses Commission to Protect Investors' Rights.
MOSCOW, March 17 (Itar-Tass) -- The State Duma, or the lower house of
Russian parliament, on Friday approved the composition of the house
commission in charge of protecting the rights of investors and the
regulation on the commission, which comprises 13 deputies representing the
majority of factions and groups of deputies.
The commission's objectives is to analyse comprehensively the legislation
of the Russian Federation in the field of investment processes with a view
to creating an attractive investment climate and protecting the rights of
One of the main directions in the activity of the commission is to prepare
for the State Duma house committees proposals for the improvement of the
legislation of the Russian Federation concerning the protection of the
rights of investors.
The commission will interact with international economic organisations,
such as the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development, Russian and foreign entrepreneurs and their associations,
alliances, as well as chambers of industry and commerce, in the field of
investments. The commission will participate in consultations, meetings and
information exchange with the above mentioned organisations.
The commission will be headed by Irina Khakamada of the Union of Right
Almost 1/3 of Muscovites CAN'T Be Recruited on Health Reason.
MOSCOW, March 17 (Itar-Tass) - Almost one third of young Muscovites, liable
for being drafted for active military service, cannot be recruited on
health reasons, Moscow military commissar Lieutenant-General Mikhail
Sorokin said on Friday.
Most of them enjoy recruitment delays, and about one fourth are exempt from
the draft, he said.
The regular list of ailment has been recently supplemented by
psychoneurological disorders and illnesses caused by the abuse of narcotic
drugs, Sorokin said. There were HIV-infected youngsters amongst the Moscow
recruits for the first time ever last year. The six recruits were exempt
from the active military service on that reason.
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
From: Yale Richmond <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Putin as TASS Correspondent?
Can anyone confirm that Vladimir Putin was a TASS corespondent in Bonn
in the late 1970s before being expelled for espionage? Such a report was
published in the New York Times on January 10, citing a West German
newspaper, but I have not seen it confirmed anywhere.
From: "William Church" <email@example.com>
Subject: Russia's Rights In Chechnya
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
Russia's Rights In Chechnya /
Moscow's Actions, Rationale Deserve Reappraisal
By WILLIAM CHURCH
William Church is managing editor of the Revolution in Military Affairs
Watch at the Scottish Centre for War Studies at the University of Glasgow.
Only 10 years ago, the world was engulfed with self-congratulations on the
end of the Cold War and a step back from nuclear war. But now, Russia once
again has been isolated in the international community and is building a
foreign policy to reflect that reality.
Nothing happens overnight. This slide away from the West became clear in
the aftermath of the 1998 International Monetary Fund loan default and
accelerated during the Kosovo-NATO war. However, Chechnya
marked a final turning point in the relationship with the West and,
perhaps, a point of no return.
Russia was faced with an autonomous state within its political control that
had disintegrated under warlord factions, and which invaded a neighboring
state. Finally, it faced the very difficult task of fighting an
internal war where its own citizens were mixed in with the Chechen warlords.
The West owes Russia a re-examination of the facts surrounding Chechnya and
a demonstration of support, not condemnation. Human rights groups and
government organizations alleged war crimes and violations of international
law, and it is time to fully investigate the facts.
The allegations against Russia can be divided into three groups: first, the
invasion of Chechnya was without cause and violated the terms of a 1996
agreement; second, prosecuting the war violated international
humanitarian law; and third, improper handling of displaced persons.
Regarding the first objection, it is important to note that the Chechen
Republic is one of the 89 constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
The maintenance of order in Chechnya is not only Russia's right, but its
obligation if the Chechen government is harboring terrorists or violating
According to the Assistance Group of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Chechnya, "the deprivation of rights had
become a norm of life in Chechnya. Abductions, murders, and provocative
attacks on the Russian law enforcement officers and servicemen and the
population of the neighboring North Caucasian Republics had turned Chechnya
into a hotbed of crime and terror."
>From the period of 1991, when the government of Gen. Dzhorkav Dudaev seized
power, to the start of the war in September 1999, the population of
Chechnya declined from 1 million to less than 300,000. During this same
period some 506 persons were taken hostage. The unemployment rate rose to
nearly 75 percent with all government services -- health, education, law
enforcement -- at a virtual stand-still. In essence,
Chechnya was being ruled by an international criminal gang.
The Chechen government also instituted a regime under shar'iah (Islamic)
law that was counter to the human rights policy of the Russian Federation.
In May 1996, the Russian Federation issued a decree against the death
penalty, but the Chechen government, even after urging by the OSCE,
continued to practice the death penalty, amputation of limbs and abuses
Finally, the Chechen warlords invaded neighboring Dagestan and attempted to
establish a similar government under Islamic law. It was then the Russian
government chose to act.
Russia claims it was obliged to act under the 1994 Code of Conduct on
Politico-Military Aspects of Security that was signed at the OSCE summit in
Specifically, paragraph six states "participating states will take
appropriate measures to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms," and
paragraph 25 says "the participating states will not tolerate or support
forces that are not accountable to or controlled by their constitutionally
established authorities." Both of these paragraphs apply to the actions of
the Chechnya warlords.
The second allegation against Russia is that it used excessive force and
endangered civilians. The group Human Rights Watch repeatedly charged
violations of international law in terms of the rules of engagement.
First, the group accepted the claim, as often heard in the media, that the
Chechen bandits were lightly armed freedom fighters or rebels. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Russian federal troops were confronted
by a well armed and trained army of some 25,000 soldiers (including up to
2,000 mercenaries), equipped with a variety of battle tanks, armored
personnel carriers, armored infantry vehicles, antiaircraft guns and
satellite communication systems.
Second, there have been claims that the Russian federal troops acted
without appropriate rules of engagement. The media did not include in its
coverage that in four out of five cities and more than half of the 122
settlements, the town leaders expelled the Chechen bandits on their own,
and invited the combined force of Russian federal troops and Chechen
militia as liberators, not invaders.
When a hostile force was encountered, specific rules of engagement were
followed. First, a safe corridor was opened for civilians. Second, before
returning fire, the federal troops confirmed the location of the hostile
As for Grozny, where much of the media attention was focused, the Russian
federal forces were faced with one of the most difficult environments known
to modern armies: an urban battlefield where civilians are still mixed with
the hostile force. Even here, the Russian forces followed rules of
engagement designed to evacuate civilians.
It also was not reported that the Russian State Duma granted total amnesty
to the Chechen bandits on Dec. 13, 1999. The amnesty applied to persons who
committed specified acts in Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Alania,
Dagestan and Stavropol territory from Aug. 1 through the effective date of
the resolution, ceased armed resistance, and surrendered weapons and
military equipment by midnight, Feb. 1, 2000.
The Chechen bandits issued their own decree that threatened to kill anyone
suspected of cooperating with the lawful authorities of the Russian
Finally, the Western media refers refugees, but the more accurate term is
displaced persons, because these civilians did not cross into a territory
that was outside their nationality. Although this may seem like a small
point, it is at the heart of the Russian contention. The displaced persons
were a primary concern to Russia because they were their citizens and not
These facts should not be taken at face value, but used to ask an important
question: Has Russia been treated fairly regarding the war in Chechnya, and
does a closer examination need to take place? I am sure Russia would
welcome an honest appraisal of their actions, because the alternatives
might be devastating to international stability.
March 17, 2000
Pro-Government Factions Do Not Want the FSB Training in Ryazan to Be
[translation for personal use only]
The Duma factions of Unity, People's Deputy and a part of Russia's Regions
and LDPR rejected a proposal to address a parliamentary inquiry to Acting
Prosecutor-General with regard to explosives found in Ryazan on Sept. 22,
1999. The inquiry was drafted by Yabloko deputies, Sergei Ivanenko and Yurii
Yabloko deputies proposed their colleagues in the lower house to demand a
response from Acting Prosecutor-General to the following questions:
- what is the current condition of the criminal case initiated in connection
with the discovery of explosive substance in Ryazan on Sept. 22, 1999?
- was the substance subjected to expert analysis?
- when and by whom was issued the order on conducting the exercise, and what
were its objectives?
- what kind of substances and materials were used in the exercise, were they
true explosives or imitations?
- The inquiry also asked Acting Prosecutor-General to verify the evidence
provided by Novaya gazeta (no.10) suggesting that storage facilities at one
of the Airborne Forces' training units were used to store hexagen, packaged
in sugar containers.
Voting results on the proposal to issue a parliamentary inquiry:
Communist Party - 87.5% for, 0% against
Yabloko - 86% for, 0% against
Agroindustrial group - 83% for, 0% against
Fatherland-All Russia - 83% for, 8.5% against
Union of Right-Wing Forces - 66% for, 9% against
LDPR - 19% for, 25% against
Russia's Regions - 7% for, 51% against
People's Deputy - 0% for, 65% against
Unity - 0% for, 81% against
The text of the inquiry mentions the fact that the FSB top officials changed
their official story within two days of the event. According to their first
version, on Sept. 22, 1999, a terrorist action was successfully averted.
Then, they asserted that the unexploded substance was used as a material in
trainings designed to review combat readiness of law enforcement agencies.
The authors of the inquiry reminded of the journalistic investigation
undertaken by Novaya gazeta (no. 6 and no. 10).
"Several pieces of publicized evidence cast doubt upon the official version
of events in Ryazan," says the text of the inquiry. It also points to the
decision to classify information related to exercises in question, to lack
of access to the criminal case initiated by the FSB Directorate for Ryazan
oblast, and to the fact that the names of those who installed the explosive
device and of those who issued orders for this training remain unknown.
The authors of the inquiry refer the materials of the Novaya gazeta
investigation which suggest that "the assertions of senior officials at FSB
claiming that the substance discovered in Ryazan was granulated sugar do not
withstand evidence." For example, the equipment used to analyze the
substance indicated the presence of hexagen, the detonator of the explosive
device was not an imitation, and other details cast additional doubts upon
the FSB version of the events. In addition, as found by Novaya gazeta, other
containers, similar to those discovered in Ryazan, were seen on the
territory of an Airborne Troops' training base in the fall of 1999. The
inquiry emphasizes that, according to the newspaper's sources, these
containers were used to store hexagen.
From: "James Hughes" <J.Hughes@lse.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
SUNDAY BUSINESS (UK)
Sunday 19th March 2000
By Dr James Hughes
Department of Government
London School of Economics & Political Science
Next Sunday Russia goes to the polls for its most important election since
the fall of communism. By all accounts the result of the election is a
foregone conclusion. Opinion polls indicate that the support for Acting
President Vladimir Putin is running at 54%-60%, while that of his nearest
challenger, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, is stalled at around
20%. All of Putin's other rivals have flopped. Whatever one thinks of Boris
Yeltsin's almost decade-long presidency, whether one views it as a time of
consolidating democracy and the market economy or as an epoch that saw
Russia steadily sink into a morass of corruption, the fact is that Yeltsin
was a friend of the West. March 26 will see the first major alternance of
power in Russia since 1991 and will mark the official beginning of the
post-Yeltsin era. How a great nuclear and resource-rich country like Russia
is governed is, of course, of critical significance not only for Russia
itself, and its immediate neighbours, but also for the West. Yet the
election has hardly registered any concern on the part of Western leaders,
at least in public. In fact, British and US policy has undergone a complete
u-turn over the last four months. From denouncing Putin's government for the
all-out war and humanitarian catastrophe in Chechnya, British and US leaders
now speak warmly of Putin and his 'vision'.
The remarkable thing about the election is just how little we know of
Putin's intentions. It may be common enough for political leaders these days
to win elections with a hollowed out programme of slogans and soundbites,
but in Russia Putin has run his campaign by making a virtue of the fact that
he has no programme at all. Not surprisingly, the Putin enigma is causing a
great deal of concern as to the extent of his commitment to liberal
democracy. Ironically, Putin's most solid voter support comes from those who
are most pro-Western and who want Russia to be a democracy with proper human
rights, high living standards and secure private property.
Putin's manifesto published on New Year's eve declared his general support
for the market economy but, significantly, he tied it to the reestablishment
of a strong state in Russia. Since then he has steadfastly refused to put
any flesh on his future economic plans. Aside from the manifesto, observers
have looked, mostly in vain, for insights into Putin's thinking from his
public pronouncements and the recently published book 'In the First Person:
Conversations with Vladimir Putin'. What is most striking about these
heavily doctored tales of Putin's background and derring-do career is the
harshness of his language and outlook. Putin is the hooligan turned
judo-master, the KGB officer turned democrat. His core values, however,
remain those of someone who favours the short-sharp-shock aggressive
approach to problem-solving. Indeed, we have already seen this approach
well-demonstrated in the relentless pursuit of the war against Chechnya and
the refusal to consider any negotiated compromise.
That Russia has eventually found the 'strong hand' so yearned for among its
masses in one sense bodes well for the future. Despite the current flushed
state of the Russian exchequer due to high oil prices, there are immense
problems ahead in dragging the Russian economy out of its seemingly endless
depression. In the short-to-medium term Putin will have to court popular
support in other arenas. The two that he appears to wish to concentrate on
are rooting out domestic corruption and reasserting Russia's great power
status in foreign affairs.
It is common currency in Russia to speak of the insidious and corrupt
influences of the 'oligarchs', the seven or more monopolistic banking
conglomerates that own most of the Russian economy, control the media, and
even dominated its political life through a beholden Yeltsin after the 1996
election. If Yeltsin was compromised by his ties to key oligarchs, Putin has
shown every sign that he is not. Most significantly he has kept them at arms
length from his campaign and wants to keep them out of government. An attack
on the power of the oligarchs would be the first major step for Putin to
consolidate his hold on government. The political environment for an
anti-corruption campaign is favourable and the high oil prices means Putin
is much less dependent on oligarchs' financial backing. Key oligarchs will
have to fall if Putin's anti-corruption drive is to be taken seriously. Who
the scapegoats will be remains to be seen, though, many of these notorious
bankers are much weaker today and more easily dealt with than they were
before the 1998 crash.
Although Putin is often associated with Anatoly Chubais, the 'father' of
Russia's economic transition to the market (it was Chubais after all who
brought him into the Kremlin from St Petersburg), lately their relationship
has chilled. In his book Putin derogatorily dismissed Chubais as a
'Bolshevik' who misplaced the trust of the people and could not be trusted
with power again. This statement would seem to banish any prospect of
Chubais playing a role in government. In contrast Putin has been very
conciliatory towards the communists. He proved himself an astute political
tactician by dividing up the Duma committees with the communists after the
December 1999 parliamentary election, and seems to have reached an informal
accommodation with them on future policy.
There is a view that Russia's future relations with the West will heavily
depend on Moscow's willingness to reach a political accommodation with the
Chechen leadership and investigate reports of atrocities committed by its
troops in Chechnya. While these are ethically sound judgements, they bear no
relation to the current drift in Western policy. If the ongoing reengagement
with the Putin administration continues then we will hear very little about
Chechnya unless the Russian military campaign falters. The problem of
Chechnya, like Kosovo, is something Russian and Western leaders would
mutually readily forget. Moreover, Putin appears to be intent on building a
new relationship with the West. While he is prepared to distance himself
from the bitterness of Russia's relations with the West over Kosovo and
NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe, he will be much tougher in demanding
the respect that he believes Russia deserves. Western leaders are seriously
deluding themselves if they believe their rhetoric about Putin's 'vision',
since his promise of 'blood and sweat' ahead applies in equal measure to
Russia and the West.
From: IRASTRAUS@aol.com (Ira Straus)
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
Subject: Query: any evidence on 10 prevented explosions
In a Moscow Times report of March 17 (JRL 4174) it is noted that:
"Shagako, the FSB investigator, said at least 10 blasts were prevented by the
law enforcement forces in 1999: six in Moscow, including one on Borisovskiye
Prudy; one planned for Sept. 23 in Vladikavkaz; another for Oct. 5 in
Pyatigorsk; and two planned to take place in Tatarstan. One blast took place
Dec. 1 in the Kirov region when a gas pipeline was blown up. Fifteen people
have been arrested in the Vladikavkaz, Pyatigorsk and Kirov incidents, he
said, and all are believed to have been organized by Islamic terrorists."
These assertions, if true, would affect the probability one would assign to
the suspicion that the Moscow bombings were an FSB conspiracy.
Similar assertions had been reported earlier in the Russian press, but very
rarely if ever were mentioned in the American media. The suspicious FSB
involvement in the bombing "training exercise" has, on the other hand, been
widely and repeatedly explained in America.
There had been earlier Russian complaints about how the Dec. 1 blowing up of
the Kirov pipeline was not reported in the American media. At that time, it
was being widely stated in the West that the explosions had conveniently and
suspiciously ceased just as soon as Russia started up its war against
Does anyone have any information that could corrobate or refute the
assertions about 10 explosions that were prevented, about the Kirov
explosion, and whether there is any real evidence in these cases of links
either to Chechnya or to Islamists?
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Valentin Mikhailov)
Subject: Johnson's Russia List N4157
"Russian Regions Wary as Putin Tightens Control"
By CELESTINE BOHLEN (New York Times, March 9,2000)
Attached is my commentary on the article "Russian Regions Wary as Putin
Tightens Control" by CELESTINE BOHLEN (New York Times, March 9, 2000) which
appeared in Johnson's Russia List N 4157.
Chairman of Kazan Branch of the International Assembly
For Human Rights Protection,
Member of Tatarstan Parliament (1990-1993);
Member of State Duma of the Russian Federation (1993-1995),
elected in single-mandate election constituency N 27 (Tatarstan).
After May 22 : email@example.com
until May 22, 2000: Visiting Scholar, Institute for European, Russian and
Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University.
Celestine Bohlen describes the reaction of one of the Russia's region -
Republic of Tatarstan on the supposed enhancement of the Kremlin's pressure
on the regions after the highly probable election of Vladimir Putin as the
President of the Russian Federation.
Appraisal of situation is true in general, but I would like to add several
Unfortunately, C. Bohen confuses things which cannot be put together.
For example, in one and the same paragraph we read both about "the
restrictions on foodstuffs crossing its borders into neighbouring regions" -
which have lately become a usual thing in different regions of Russia and "its
(Tatarstan) election laws and practices make a mockery of democracy" - gross
law violations and falsifications of results that make the basis of power of
"the ruling clan, led by president M.Shaimiev.", and that become famous in
all Russian Federation.
As a whole, double impression is being formed which does not really reflect
the relations between Moscow and Kazan and the situation in this republic. It
often gives profit to President Shaimiev, whom the author seems to critisise
for autoritarian power.
Without any proof C.Bohlen says that in Tatarstan " the standard of living
among the highest in Russia". Perhaps, she could have done it relying upon
the official statistical data , but nobody believes them. Is there any space
for objective statistics under the conditions of authoritarian regime, which
the author herself so vividly describes?
>From the phrase "Mr.Shaimiev's rule is unchallenged, although not as
ham-handed as the president of neighbouring Bashkortostan, who routinely
oversteps basic democratic norms" it could be supposed that due to some
miracle methods M.Shaimiev manages to observe basic democratic norms.
Then, unfortunately, the reader is unaware of the fact that both in 1991 and
in 1996 Shaimiev became the President of the Republic in the elections
any alternative figure.
Further, it was in Tatarstan where the biggest election scandal took place:
in the course of the first round of the 1996 Russian Federation Presidential
Elections 47 thousand of votes of the citizens of Kazan (the capital of
Tatarstan) were falsificated and ascribed to Yeltsin from the other
candidates, so that Yeltsin could become the winner in Tatarstan Republic
And in the second round of the same elections hundreds of thousands votes
were obviously falsificated in the rural regions of Tatarstan.
All this was mentioned and published by the international observers and
partially by mission of OSCE.
Violations of the federative laws and of the international norms in the
of the various elections have always been numerous in Tatarstan but the local
parliament of Tatarstan, "firmly in the president's pocket" has obviously
inattentive to it, though dozens of other laws in an attempt to enlarge the
sphere of action of the republican sovereignty have been adopted.
In the article are present two mistakes, which influence the essence of the
1)The author says "Tatarstan, with its majority Muslim Tatars". In fact,
(according to the latest general census of the population) the part of Tatars
in the population of Tatarstan is 48.5% which also includes great amount of
"babtized Tatars", i.e. the adherents of Russian Orthodox Church. Their
is kept in secret by official Kazan, but may be estimated as 10 per cent from
all population of Volga Tatar. Besides, great number ot the Tatars are
atheists. In reality, some of them can become Muslims but not in March 2000
and even not in 2000.
But it is important to stress that author does not speak about the Russians
and representatives of other ethnical groups of Tatarstan. And they comprise
not less than the half of the population of Tatarstan. How do they live under
the rule of "latter-day Khan" when even "Tatar nationalists" complain of the
"selfish and . narrow in its distribution of power resources by current local
2) Also it is not true that "unilateral declaration of sovereignty" (of
Tatarstan) was issued one year before Mr.Yeltsin "urged the regions to assume
as much sovereignty as they can swallow".
Really declaration of sovereignty of RT was adopted in August 30, 1990, two
weeks AFTER the visit of Boris Yeltsin to Kazan and his famous phrase cited
above. (Argumenty I fakty, no. 35, September 1-7, 1990). And this fact
the essence of the matter in principle.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
March 17, 2000
PRO-WESTERN VOTERS BACK THE ACTING PRESIDENT.
Perhaps surprisingly, Acting President Vladimir Putin is finding his
strongest support among liberal voters. Igor Klyamkin, head of the
Independent Institute of Sociological Analysis, said yesterday that
his institute had found that 75 percent of all potential voters expect
Putin to strengthen Russia's ties with the West, and that Putin could
increase his support by 8-10 percent by committing himself to a
liberal, pro-Western election platform. Polls conducted by
Klyamkin's institute found that 58 percent of those polled would vote
for Putin if he openly declared such a platform (Reuters, March 16).
These findings jibe with those of sociologists Leonid Kesselman and
Vladimir Zvonovski in Samara Oblast in early February. They found,
among other things, that 58 percent of students and 20-25-year-olds
backed Putin, while only 40 percent of those over 55 backed him.
They also found that 60 percent of those whose living standard had
improved over the past year backed Putin, compared to only 40
percent of those who said it had worsened (see the Monitor, March
This may explain why Putin as of late has been leaning toward more
liberal, pro-Western gestures. For instance, in a Kremlin ceremony
yesterday at which he presented the head of Russia's border guards
service with an official flag, Putin emphasized that he had no
intention of resurrecting an "iron curtain," and that guarding Russia's
borders had to be combined with "creating conditions for developing
our links with other countries" (Russian agencies, March 16).
In addition, negative comments Putin made about Andrei Babitsky,
prior to the Radio Liberty correspondent's release from prison in
Dagestan and return to Moscow, have been excised from the just-
released book, "In the First Person: Conversations With Vladimir
Putin." The new book is based on six interviews which two top
Russian journalists, Natalia Gevorkian and Andrei Kolesnikov, made
with the acting president. The comments on Babitsky were included
in what was billed as an excerpt from the book which appeared last
week in the newspaper Kommersant. Those comments, however,
were removed from the final version of the book (Obschaya gazeta,
March 16). In the Kommersant excerpt, Putin charged that Babitsky,
who had been covering the Chechen war from the rebel side, was
"working directly for the enemy ... for the bandits." When Putin's
interviewers noted that Babitsky is a Russian citizen, Putin
responded: "You say that he is a Russian citizen. Then he should
behave according to the laws of his country if he expects to be
treated in accordance with the same laws." In the interview, Putin
called both Babitsky and former KGB General Oleg Kalugin
"traitors" (Kommersant, March 10).
Rasputin demystified in new biography, thanks to 'The File'
LONDON, March 16 (AFP) -
Rasputin, the legendary mad monk who had the ear of Russia's last tsarina,
is demystified in a new biography, thanks to a hefty Soviet archive file
bought on a whim by Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
But biographer Edvard Radzinsky leaves it up to the reader to decide
whether the weight of new evidence supports the view that Rasputin was the
lover of Tsarina Alexandra.
The documents, which Rostropovich and Radzinsky refer to as "The File," had
been under wraps for 78 years before turning up at a Sotheby's auction in
"Rasputin, The Last Word," which went on sale in Britain on Thursday, gives
a finely detailed account of Rasputin's incredible influence on Tsar
Nicholas II and especially on his wife Alexandra.
In the book, the prominent Russian historian gives fresh accounts of
Rasputin's wanton ways with wine and women, but also of his childhood in
the Siberian village of Pokrovskoe and his murder in Saint Petersburg, on
Rostropovich bought The File on an impulse, he told AFP.
A mysterious listing in a Sotheby's catalogue saying simply "lot on
Rasputin" caught his attention. "I very soon knew, by intuition, that it
was mysterious and that I had to buy it," he said.
He made his bid by telephone for the 500-page file, sight unseen.
Rostropovich wasted little time in getting The File into the hands of
Radzinsky, biographer of Nicolas II and Stalin, a famous playwright and a
presenter on Russian television.
Radzinsky said he saw immediately that the new information shed compelling
light on "Russia's most powerful legend."
The historian told AFP: "When I saw it, ... I was absolutely shocked. I
understood that it was the testimony of people who liked this man," in
contrast to the mountains of documents available from his detractors.
The File was gathered by an investigative commission set up by Alexander
Kerensky's provisional government in 1917, and which probed Rasputin's
murder by Prince Felix Yussupov and his accomplices.
On the basis of The File, Radzinsky maintains that Rasputin was not brought
to the brink of death by Yussupov's poisoned cake and wine nor gravely
wounded by shots fired at close range, succumbing only after being thrown,
bound, into a freezing canal.
The prince's memoires depicted Rasputin as practically superhuman.
Instead, the new record shows that Rasputin never ate cake, that the poison
he drank was too diluted to be harmful, and that his bullet wounds were minor.
And a dramatic photograph from The File shows how he tried to save himself
at the end, having freed his arms from the ropes before being pulled dead
from the waters of Saint Petersburg's Malaya Nevka canal.
"The File takes the myth out of Rasputin. It's a real man," Radzinsky said.
The writer surmised that The File made its way out of Russia soon after the
revolution and remained forgotten in Europe for 78 years.
It contains a wealth of precious details including letters from Rasputin to
"Papa and Mama" (Nicolas and Alexandra), a description of him in his bath,
his distaste for sweets, testimony of peasants from his home village, and a
letter from a nun charging that he had raped her.
One document contains lengthy testimony by Anya Vyrubova, a confidante of
Alexandra who was enamored with Nicholas and very close to Rasputin.
Radzinsky uncovered other archives containing four previously unknown
telegrams from Alexandra to "Our Friend," as she called Rasputin in English.
The tender messages, which she signed "Darling", could support the theory
that Alexandra and Rasputin were lovers.
But Radzinsky said: "Personally, I don't think they had a sexual
relationship. But I leave to the reader to decide."
March 27, 2000
[for personal use only]
Dot-Com Deals Come to the Steppes (int'l edition)
Net stakes are dirt-cheap now, but prices are rising fast
By Sabrina Tavernise in Moscow
Pavel Cherkashin, a pony-tailed, 27-year-old Internet entrepreneur, is
feeling cocky. His Moscow-based Web-development company, Actis Systems,
brought in $1.2 million last year. Sounds puny. But it's triple 1998
revenues. This year he's spending most of his time taking calls from
foreign investors who are clamoring to buy a stake in his 150-employee
company. ``We're in the final stages. It's only a matter of weeks,'' says
Global Net fever is getting so intense it's hitting even Net laggards
like Russia. Foreign investors and deep-pocketed locals are competing to
discover the Russian Amazon.com Inc. or Yahoo! Inc., even though only 1.5%
of the 147 million population is hooked up. Lured by world-class computing
talent, venture capitalists are looking beyond Russia's decayed
infrastructure and regulatory minefields. They're acquiring stakes in Net
businesses from online bookstores and financial services to search engines
and newspapers. Russian Net companies could see as much as $30 million in
investment this year.
The deals are small by American and Western European standards. For
example, a 51% stake in St. Petersburg-based online bookstore Ozone.ru was
snapped up for $1.8 million by a new investment company owned by United
Financial Group, a Moscow-based investment bank, and Baring Vostok Capital
Partners Ltd., ING Group's direct-equity investment company in Russia. All
the money is foreign.
The country's strongest suit is its homegrown talent. Russians are known
worldwide for their prowess in design and programming. Its hackers are
infamous for their ability to break codes. And even though Russia's best
brains have been draining to Palo Alto and Tel Aviv, now some are
staying--or returning--home. Actis employs three Russians with U.S. passports.
NO HELP. Despite such enthusiasm, the obstacles to the growth of the
Russian Net are immense. Phone lines are notoriously unreliable. Cable is
virtually non-existent. Fast-developing mobile technology could help Russia
leapfrog these limitations by allowing Russians to surf the Web on mobile
phones. But in a country where the average wage hovers around $50 a month,
most consumers can't afford to hook up now, much less pay mobile phone
charges that run about 50 cents a minute. Just 7 million Russians own
computers, and only one-third of those are hooked up to the Internet. And
few have credit cards, which limits the growth of e-commerce.
Government policies don't help. New regulations require Internet service
providers to install technology giving the Federal Security Service direct
links to e-mail and give other law enforcement bodies, such as the Tax
Police, access as well. ``The greatest threat to the future development of
e-commerce is too much state involvement,'' says William E. Pomeranz, an
attorney at Baker & McKenzie in Moscow.
Although deals are cheap now, Russian Net companies have high hopes of
fetching U.S.-style valuations, say venture capitalists. But some Net
investors think that's wildly unrealistic, given Russia's perilous business
environment or the possibility that a foreign competitor will enter the
market and crush local companies. ``It's hyped,'' says Boris Jordan, CEO of
Sputnik Group, which is forming a company to make investments in high tech.
``People are asking for valuations of $50 million for a company that has $1
million in revenue and no idea what it's going to do tomorrow.''
Still, Russia's tiny Web is in the early stages of a growth spurt. The
number of Internet users is projected to rise by an average of 25% a year
until 2003, when between 5% and 7% of the population will use the Net, says
Peter Kirkow, senior economist at ICE Securities Ltd. in London. A wave of
Internet deals will close in the next few weeks, as companies such as
search engine Yandex and online newspapers Lenta.ru and Polit.ru sell
stakes to venture capitalists. Russia's Internet race is on.
Snapshot of the Russian Net
2.3 million, 1.5% of population
10 million users expected by 2004
DATA: ICE SECURITIES LTD.
The Economist (UK)
March 18-24, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's Sleepy Election Campaign
OUTSIDE the governor’s office in Tver, a sleepy and impoverished place that
straddles the main route from Moscow to St Petersburg, what passes for an
election campaign in Russia is showing flickering signs of life. A dozen
elderly Communists are handing out leaflets denouncing Vladimir Putin, the
acting president, as a creature of the “oligarchs”, Russia’s politically
powerful tycoons. Across the regional capital’s main street—still called
Sovietskaya—the Putin campaign’s drop-in centre, housed in a government
building, is registering voters’ complaints. This consists of placing a
scruffy photocopied sheet reading “please deal with this urgently” on top
of the complaint forms, and passing them on to somebody else.
Election fever has not swept through Tver; Mr Putin does not need it to.
The would-be president has Tver, like many other Russian regions, stitched
up. At the parliamentary election in December, Unity, a hurriedly
constructed pro-Putin party, won nearly 30% in the region—one of its best
results. The governor, Vladimir Platov, re-elected by a whisker then, is Mr
Putin’s top local supporter. His leading officials are running the local
campaign—“all on unpaid leave”, stresses one of them. Cynics say that Mr
Platov is bound to do his best for Mr Putin because he faces a court case
to do with alleged electoral malpractice: if he stepped out of line, the
Kremlin would see to it that the judgment went against him.
It also helps that the Putin camp commands the airwaves, both nationally
and locally. Although, by Russian standards, Tver boasts an unusually large
number of privately owned publications, their effect on public opinion
seems limited. Apart from careful management of the news, Mr Putin’s
campaign is skimpy. No posters, pamphlets or other election paraphernalia
are visible. Campaigning consists of an unambitious schedule of visits to
workplaces and town halls by four local worthies, known as “the trusted
personalities”. The real struggle is not between Mr Putin and his
opponents, but between two rival business clans inside his campaign, one
Moscow-linked, one local, hoping for post-election spoils.
“This is not democracy. It is just slogans, empty slogans,” says Olga
Kurnasyenkova, a law student, breaking away from a party with fellow
students. But she, like her fellow party-goers studying child psychology,
will vote for Mr Putin—if they vote at all.
Mr Putin hits three resonant chords in Tver. The first is his promise of
more money. The state is now paying pensions on time, with increases in the
offing. The second is patriotism. “We want to be able to respect our army,”
explains a journalist on Veche Tveri, a local newspaper. The war in
Chechnya is a popular cause in Tver, perhaps reflecting the very low
casualty rate among Russian soldiers from the region: only two dead since
the start of the fighting. The third is that Mr Putin presents such a
refreshing contrast to the decayed, incoherent and sometimes embarrassingly
drunken image projected by his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. “He can talk.
You feel that he can change something,” says Boris Gubman, a liberal-minded
professor at Tver University.
Few people seem to worry that the change might mean less freedom. Tver is
in a mess. The tightly run neighbouring region of Novgorod has attracted a
bunch of big western foreign investors; Tver has none. The main culprits
are corruption and incompetence in the regional administration, from which
several recently departed figures are either in jail or awaiting trial.
Many locals seem to think that Novgorod’s friendliness to business, and
scant regard for freedoms, would be just the thing for all of Russia.
That said, early enthusiasm for Mr Putin is fading a little. “People are
getting disappointed already,” says Mr Gubman. It will be years, not weeks,
before Tver’s bankrupt, ill-run big businesses or cash-strapped public
sector can pay the hoped-for better wages. And Mr Putin’s best idea—clean,
efficient government—will be hard to put into practice in Tver when his
main tools there are so closely identified with the problem itself.
Barnstorming Putin Boasts of Capture
March 17, 2000
By JIM HEINTZ
MOSCOW (AP) - Acting President Vladimir Putin, whose tough stance on Chechnya
feeds his wide lead ahead of this month's election, boasted on a campaign
trip Friday that Russia is reducing rebels to pathetic figures.
Referring to Chechen warlord Salman Raduyev, who was seized by Russia this
week, Putin said: ``He is one of those who terrorized our country, the great
Russia. But everybody saw that he does not look like a terrorist (now). He is
more like an animal.
``We will reduce them all to the same condition,'' he said en route from a
campaign stop in Orekhovo-Zuyevo just east of Moscow.
The capture of Raduyev was a boost for Russia's image as outnumbered and
outgunned rebels continue to bloody federal forces in Chechnya.
The warlord, once widely recognizable for his full beard and dark glasses,
was shown on Russian TV clean-shaven and without glasses - revealing severe
injuries suffered in the previous Chechnya conflict, including a deformed
nose and eye.
Putin, buoyed by wide public approval for the Chechnya offensive, is
recording support of about 60 percent in polls ahead of the March 26 vote.
The support appears to be largely the result of his firmness on Chechnya and
his promises to restore Russia's greatness, including revitalizing its
deteriorating armed forces.
Russian troops in Chechnya began voting in advance on Friday. Commanders said
they were overwhelmingly backing Putin.
Even a soldier with a maverick streak thinks Putin's victory is assured.
``It's already known that Putin will be elected; just to look different, I
voted against all the candidates,'' said Warrant Officer Nadir Khachukayev.
Putin's nearest challenger, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, with
support of about 20 percent in opinion polls, has sharply criticized Putin
for relying on ringing words about greatness without releasing a plan for
dealing with Russia's complex economic troubles.
Putin on Friday expressed confidence in his prospects.
``It wouldn't have made sense to enter the race if I didn't count on
success,'' he told TV reporters on a new commuter train heading to Moscow
from Orekhovo-Zuyevo, where it was made.
The train itself underlined Putin's promises that Russia can rebound from its
troubles - its shine and cabin TV monitors a sharp contrast to the dingy,
aging trains that are a part of daily life for most commuters.
He was accompanied by Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov, whose
gubernatorial bid the Kremlin opposed. Putin needs to secure Gromov's support
to strengthen his position in industrial cities around Moscow - the
traditional turf of the Communists.
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