This Date's Issues: 4196 • 4197
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library
Johnson's Russia List
25 March 2000 [my birthday!]
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Itar-Tass: Scientists Concerned about Declining Life Expectancy
2. Reuters: Gareth Jones, Russia sets out new foreign policy plans.
3. Carnegie Presidential Election Resources.
4. Keith Bush on election at CSIS in Washington on March 27.
5. ABC News Nightline: Acting President Putin Grants Interview.
6. RFE/RL: Donald Jensen, Vote Is Merely Putin Referendum.
7. The Guardian (UK): Jonathan Steele, THE RYAZAN INCIDENT:
IF THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE CAN BE BOTHERED TO VOTE, THEY WILL VOTE FOR
THE MAN WHO IS BEING FOISTED ON THEM.
8. The Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Russia's heir apparent.
9. Reuters: Defiant Yavlinsky eyes second spot in Russian poll.
10. Ray Thomas: Our speculators (afferisti) have sharp brains.
11. Los Angeles Times: Maura Reynolds, In the West's View,
Putin Very Well Could Be the Businessman's Special.
12. AFP: Paper Implicates Putin In Saint Petersburg Scandal.
13. Reuters: Russia favours gradual land reform - Dep PM.]
Scientists Concerned about Declining Life Expectancy in Russia.
MOSCOW, March 24 (Itar-Tass) - Death rate in Russia has increased by 33.4
percent as a result of cardio-vascular and infectious diseases, accidents at
enterprises, murders and suicides, Academician of the Russian Academy of
Sciences Nikolai Trapeznikov said at today's meeting of the board of the
Russian Science Ministry which discussed a draft concept of state politics in
the area of health service and prevention of diseases for 2000-2010.
"Growing depopulation is fraught with a two-times drop in the number of the
indigenous population of Russia in 50-70 years' time and a sharp decline in
the creative potential of the nation because of a growing number of
pensioners and invalids," Trapeznikov said.
The level of alcohol and tobacco consumption has risen, the problem of drugs
addiction, and among youngsters in particular, has worsened. The situation
which developed in arouses serious concern in broad medical circles and
interested ministries and departments, Trapeznikov said.
A new trend in the suggested concept is that it gives priority to
strategically, socially and economically justified principles of maintaining
and fostering health rather than its rehabilitation.As a result, the strategy
of state politics in health service should be re-orientated to maintenance of
initial health parameters and creating conditions which would enable to
control the health of the population.
Experts believe that the parameters of the health dynamics and the quality of
life of the population should be acknowledged as the main goal of social
reforms and the criterion of the effectiveness of work carried out by the
authorities at a federal and regional level.
Russia sets out new foreign policy plans
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, March 24 (Reuters) - Russia's advisory Security Council approved a
new foreign policy concept on Friday that calls for stronger protection of
Russian citizens abroad and for a more commercially-oriented diplomacy.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking to reporters after the council session
chaired by Acting President Vladimir Putin, said the doctrine reflected
Russia's resources and needs better than a version drawn up in 1993.
``The new concept is closer to life and to those tasks which we are trying to
resolve within the country,'' he said in televised comments.
Ivanov gave no details but Putin made clear the concept included looking
after the interests of Russians living abroad, especially in the former
Soviet republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the
three Baltic states.
``We have to defend in a more attentive, balanced but also more active way
the interests of our citizens...who have chosen to live permanently in other
countries,'' Putin said.
It is a common complaint of Russian nationalists that Russians stranded in
the Baltic states, Ukraine, the Caucasus region and Central Asia after the
break-up of the Soviet Union have faced varying degrees of discrimination and
Putin, hot favourite to win Sunday's presidential poll, has said he wants to
strengthen Moscow's ties with the 12 ex-Soviet republics which make up the
loose Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The three Baltic republics --
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- are not CIS members.
PROTECTION FOR RUSSIANS ABROAD
Sergei Ivanov, secretary of the Security Council and a close ally of Putin,
said ethnic Russians should feel ``comfortable'' in their chosen home and not
want to rush back to the motherland.
``We must create through our policies such conditions...that people, our
compatriots, would want to stay put, to work normally and to live
comfortably,'' he said.
The concept envisages the foreign ministry taking a coordinating role in
promoting Russia's interests abroad. It also proposes that diplomats do more
to help promote Russian industry and commerce.
``The role of the foreign ministry must be raised. We need actively to use
the foreign ministry's opportunities to promote the economic interests of our
state overseas,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying.
Foreign Minister Ivanov said Russia had the means to remain a key player in
the international arena despite its current economic difficulties.
``We take into account the possibilities and resources which our foreign
policy has and, although they are to some degree temporarily constrained,
they are enough to maintain a worthy place for Russia in the outside world,''
The new foreign policy concept comes on the heels of a national security
doctrine, adopted in January, that in effect lowered the threshold for Russia
using nuclear arms in response to non-nuclear threats. That was followed by a
nuts-and-bolts military doctrine which gave domestic concerns priority over
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000
From: Liz Reisch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Presidential Election Resources
There are new additions to the Carnegie Endowment "Russian Elections:
1999-2000" Web page that might interest JRL subscribers.
New resources include:
--March 24 audio webcast, "Election Countdown: Two Days Until Russia
Chooses its Next President," featuring commentary by Michael McFaul and
Nikolai Petrov. The previous four segments are also available on the
--Election Bulletins from the Carnegie Moscow Center (in Russian),
edited by Michael McFaul, Nikolai Petrov, and Andrei Ryabov
Bulletin #1, "The Political Forces on the Eve of the Elections," March
Bulletin #2. "The Presidential Election on March 26," March 22, 2000.
--Event Summaries: Russian Presidential Candidates and Campaign
Managers at the Carnegie Moscow Center (in English and Russian)
*Press conference with Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party
of the Russian Federation and presidential candidate, February 28, 2000.
*Meeting of heads of foreign diplomatic missions and foreign media with
chief managers of the Vladimir Putin's electoral campaign, March 14,
Keith Bush will be discussing the Russian election
on Monday, March 27, at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington DC
1800 K St. NW
Registration is requested by calling Jeff Thomas
at 202-775-3240 or fax 202-775-3132.
March 24, 2000
Putin: Ex-KGB Men in Kremlin
Acting President Putin Grants Interview
to ABCNEWS’ Koppel
ABCNEWS' Ted Koppel, right, talks with acting Russian President Vladimir
Putin in Nizhni Novgorod, on March 21. Koppel is the only U.S. journalist to
interview Putin on the eve of Russia's second-ever-democratic presidential
NIZHNI NOVGOROD, Russia, March 21 — In the only interview
granted to a foreign journalist before the upcoming presidential election,
acting Russian President Vladimir Putin told ABCNEWS’ Ted Koppel that he will
use former KGB employees in the Kremlin. What follows is a transcript of
ABCNEWS’ Ted Koppel: Even as an acting president — what you did earlier this
week when you flew backseat in a fighter jet to Grozny was unusual — what’s
the symbolism there?
Vladimir Putin: First of all apart from being acting president I’m commander
in chief of armed forces in Russia, and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to look and
see what the power of the army is. That’s first — the second thing is usually
when I move by normal transportation I’m usually being watched by your
Russian colleagues — that means that the information about my travels becomes
public. This information could reach the kind of people who shouldn’t know
this — including those who are in opposition to federal forces based today in
Chechen territory. Moving with military transportation, like the one you
mentioned earlier, keeps this information from the people who should not know
about it. And finally — based on what I’ve already said, traveling by jet
fighter was cheaper, faster and safer.
Koppel: You looked as though you enjoyed it too?
Putin: Besides all that — I do like it — that’s true.
Koppel: Was there also a symbolism for the international community, or was it
Putin: I’ll tell you honestly — the last thing I think about is symbols. I do
what I think makes most sense. And if somebody sees symbolism in that — that
could be true as well. Because in the future — I am going to act in the way
that makes most sense. That means I will be acting in a predictable way.
Koppel: I’ve read a number of your speeches and was delighted to discover you
have a very active sense of humor. When you were speaking to the intelligence
officers you said to your colleagues — it appears we have succeeded in our
first effort to infiltrate the Kremlin. I assume you were joking?.
Putin: Of course it was a joke — though I have to say that a gathering of
employees of intelligence agencies and former leaders of those agencies is
not unusual even in the West. It’s not a new thing and there’s nothing
unusual about it. Not for North America nor for western Europe.
Koppel: Do you feel comfortable surrounded by some of your old colleagues?
Because I know you’ve brought some old colleagues from the KGB into the
Putin: That’s true. I’ve brought some of them to the Kremlin in staff
positions — people who I’ve known for many years — and people whom I trust.
So that is the reason why I’ve brought them in. Not because they worked in
the KGB and follow some specific ideology. It has nothing to do with ideology
— it has to do with their professional qualities and personal relationships.
Koppel: Much of the wealth in this country is in the hands of a very few men,
and almost all of the debt in this country falls on the shoulders of the
Russian people and the Russian government — that and the issue of corruption
— could you give me at least a sense of how you’re going to begin dealing
with those problems.
Putin: Based on the problem you already mentioned I have brought into my
innermost circle people from competent organizations who are untarnished and
have no connection with corruption. This is also a response to your question
about why I have ex-intelligence people surrounding me. As to a wider
approach to this problem I can say this problem does exist, not only in
Russia but in many other countries as well. We can probably agree that during
the transformation of the economy, conditions appeared where the state
couldn’t guarantee equal conditions for all participants in the market.
People appeared who, due to their close relationships with politicians and
government or to regional leaders, used this situation to get favorable terms.
Our future actions will aim to resolve several problems. First, we’ll strive
for full guarantees for the rights of owners and investors. The right of
ownership will be the priority in Russia. We’ll be striving for the state to
articulate its position well within the realm of law. The state should be
strong enough to guarantee those rights. Thirdly — which relates to the
question you raised — we’ll do our best to put participants in the market on
an equal footing. I hope if those basic rules are followed we will not be
forced to talk next time about the problems of corruption in Russia.
Koppel: Mr. President — thank you very much indeed, you’re very gracious for
taking the time.
Russia: Analysis -- Vote Is Merely Putin Referendum
By Donald Jensen
Prague, 24 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Sunday's vote for the Russian presidency is
less an open, competitive election than a referendum on acting President
Vladimir Putin's leadership. The major question is not whether Putin will
win, but whether he will do so in the first round. A decisive victory will
help him consolidate power so he can move toward achieving his goals of
reforming the economy and rebuilding the Russian state.
Public-opinion surveys give Putin more than 50 percent of the vote. This
rating is more than twice that of his nearest rival, Communist Party leader
Gennadi Zyuganov. Putin's large lead has taken much of the suspense out of
the campaign and prompted concern the turnout could be less than the 50
percent needed to make the election valid. Zyuganov, like the other
candidates, has served largely as sparring partner.
Putin's popularity is largely based on public perceptions of his conduct of
the Chechnya war. National television, much of which is controlled by the
Kremlin, has presented the conflict as a success. Moreover, Putin's awkward,
spare campaign style -- which Kremlin media handlers have tried to portray as
a sign he means business -- has actually proved an asset and contrasts
favorably with that of former President Boris Yeltsin. It has given Putin a
negative charisma that has convinced voters he is far more capable than his
predecessor of dealing with Russia's problems.
The election is the latest step -- though not the only or most important one
-- in a transition that began last year, when Russian elites dependent on the
Kremlin for their political and financial viability began to explore
presidential succession scenarios. This strategy included: naming Putin prime
minister to give him the advantages of incumbency; the political destruction
of former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov -- at
the time the leading presidential hopefuls; military action in the North
Caucasus to galvanize public opinion; and a manipulated State Duma election
campaign designed to ensure a pro-Kremlin majority in the parliament's lower
The plan succeeded. As a result, Yeltsin's resignation at the end of last
year was not a genuine transfer of power, but a way to prolong and revitalize
the elite-dominated system that has ruled Russia for much of the past decade.
As is often noted, much about Putin's views and earlier career are unknown.
Nevertheless, a close check of his record gives indications of the kind of
president he would be.
Putin is well trained in the school of Yeltsin-era politics, where money,
personality and political power are inextricably intertwined, corruption is
in the eye of the beholder and the ends justify the means. Putin was one of a
generation of former KGB officers who burrowed into the country's new
political and commercial structures, in the process blurring the distinction
between public interest and private gain, national security and democratic
openness. He spent a period in the St. Petersburg administration, where he
was implicated in the corruption that marred the city's commercial
activities. He also managed an election campaign for a tainted mayor that was
characterized by dirty tactics -- from death threats to lies about attendance
figures during a crucial vote.
Putin then moved to Yeltsin's presidential administration, a bloated, corrupt
bureaucracy that managed the Kremlin's huge business empire and is under
investigation by Swiss law enforcement officials for corruption. Putin
recently defended Pavel Borodin, former head of the administration, from the
charges. By contrast, Putin has been quick to brand as "traitors" and
"criminals" those who disagree with him.
During Putin's tenure as head of the Federal Security Services, the successor
to the KGB, that agency imprisoned activists Aleksandr Nikitin and navy
captain Grigory Pasko for trying to bring attention to environmental damage
caused by Russian naval vessels. Last year, when corruption allegations
against Kremlin insiders brought by Procurator General Yuri Skuratov
threatened Yeltsin's impeachment, it was Putin's FSB which led the campaign
to smear Skuratov.
Putin's public statements, intentionally minimized during the campaign to
broaden his appeal, have often been contradictory and show his lack of
political experience. They also suggest Putin has not yet decided some key
issues. But taken as a whole, his comments and his conduct as interim
president suggest that while Putin is market-oriented and vaguely supportive
of democratic values, above all he seeks to re-centralize state power at home
and re-vitalize Russia abroad.
"Beautiful, powerful, very obedient," was how Putin characterized the SU-27
aircraft he flew in on Monday (March 20) in a campaign stunt. That is how he
also might describe his ideal Russian state. Putin has shown he is
uncomfortable with political pluralism, especially when it interferes with
attaining his objectives. Putin has also made it clear that he will not
tolerate press criticism of the Chechen war.
A January deal between the pro-Putin Unity party and the communists
temporarily alienated many liberal and centrists deputies and left the
legislature largely under his control. Presidential candidate Vladimir
Zhirinovsky -- whose supporters regard Putin favorably -- has been ruled on
and off the ballot, apparently based on the latest Kremlin calculation of
whether Putin needs Zhirinovsky's electorate to put him over the 50 percent
barrier he needs to win on the first round.
In foreign policy, there are strong continuities with the Yeltsin era. On the
one hand, Putin seems to believe Russia's long-term security and economic
interests lay in ties to the West. He has received credit for renewing
contacts with NATO -- though he opposes further expansion of the alliance.
But the thaw actually began during the waning months of the Yeltsin
administration last summer and is moving toward the status quo that existed
before the Kosovo war.
Putin also supports "Start Two" treaty ratification along with adherence to
the 1972 ABM Treaty. On the other hand, Putin has continued to cultivate
relations with China, Iran and Iraq, so far more skillfully than Yeltsin. His
centralizing inclinations are evident in relations with the Commonwealth of
Independent States, where he has moved to strengthen ties with the former
Soviet republics under the guise of "fighting terrorism."
On economics, Putin has called for land and tax reform, support for small
businesses, and greater foreign investment. His team of free-market
economists will present an economic strategy for the government next month.
At the same time, under Putin the state probably would retain its role in the
"natural monopolies" -- such as oil and natural gas -- where it can earn
large revenues. It is likely to remain influential, as well, in the military
industrial complex and other areas of "strategic interest."
Despite being all but assured of election, Putin is not yet in control of the
forces that brought him to power. Although there has been a partial
realignment of political forces in the Kremlin, the "Family" -- the retinue
of family members, cronies, and courtiers which hung around Yeltsin for years
-- is masterminding Putin's campaign.
Evidence also suggests Putin does not yet have the full support of the power
ministries. The FSB, for example, appears to be divided between holdovers who
have long served in Moscow and newcomers Putin is bringing in from St.
Petersburg. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, not Putin, was reportedly
the presidential choice of some top officers. Indeed, Putin's clumsy handling
of RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky's detention earlier this year
repeatedly gave the impression that the acting president was not fully in
Putin has tried to strengthen his political base by bringing in loyalists and
forming effective coalitions on some issues. However, his hold is far from
secure. He was able to improve ties with NATO despite the objections of the
military, which is more autonomous than at any time in recent years. But it
is unclear whether the campaign in Chechnya would stop even if Putin ordered
an end to hostilities -- at least without the acting president giving
concessions to the military on other issues.
Despite public promises to liquidate the business oligarchs, none of them has
been banished from the inner circle. In fact, several moguls are financing
Putin's campaign. Putin was unable -- or, during the election season, perhaps
unwilling -- to stop a recent aluminum deal in Siberia which further enriched
magnate Roman Abramovich.
With the momentum from a decisive win in the elections, Putin probably would
move quickly to address Russia's problems and fill in the many blank spots in
his program. For his image of competence to endure, he must bring the
Chechnya fighting to a politically acceptable conclusion, improve the legal
basis for economic activity, and show at least symbolic progress in attacking
corruption. In that regard, public cooperation with foreign law-enforcement
investigations such as the Bank of New York case will do much to establish
Should Putin continue his pressure on the press and the country's weak
representative institutions, however, he risks damaging the most important
gains of the Yeltsin era. As political scientist Thomas Remington has pointed
out, the answer to a breakdown of legal order is not granting the state more
power. Giving law-enforcement authorities broad, extra-legal powers and
restricting civil rights usually undermines the respect for law even further.
But a popular mandate in Russia has far less importance than in the West. The
most important politics is that of the elites. Even when ordinary Russians
are aroused to vote they generally lapse back quickly into passivity.
Moreover, unlike Yeltsin's rise to power, Putin has so far shown no ability
to mobilize the population as a way of settling inter-elite feuding.
Thus, it is doubtful Putin will be able to govern without strong support in
the power ministries, and among some oligarchs and regional leaders. At the
same time, he must expand his base by packing the new government with
loyalists. Such moves will almost inevitably threaten long-entrenched
interests -- press reports already have suggested several business barons
hope Putin is not elected until the second round so that he will be more
manageable. It is how he manages these conflicts that holds the fate of his
The Guardian (UK)
24 March 2000
[for personal use only]
THE RYAZAN INCIDENT: IF THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE CAN BE BOTHERED TO VOTE,
THEY WILL VOTE FOR THE MAN WHO IS BEING FOISTED ON THEM
By Jonathan Steele (Jonathan.Steele@guardian.co.uk)
A new noun has crept into the English lexicon. Partly a puppet, partly a
front man, a 'put-in' is someone installed, imposed, or enthroned in power in
a country by undemocratic but completely legal and constitutional methods. No
need for a palace coup, an army putsch, or a revolution in the streets. The
appointment of Russia's new president shows that to be a 'put-in' you only
require influential friends in the right place.
A pseudo-democratic seal of approval will be stamped on the lucky man on
Sunday, when those Russian voters strong enough to resist the crushing hands
of apathy and disgust troop off to the polling booths. But the real election
took place last August when a handful of men behind closed doors in the
Kremlin chose a hard-nosed apparatchik, Vladimir Putin, to take over from
Known as the 'Yeltsin family', this bunch of asset-strippers who seized
Russia's energy and raw material monopolies when state ownership ended, were
well aware that anyone they picked would have little chance of losing what
pass for elections in Russia. Incumbency and control of television are the
keys. In a society where authoritarian instincts run deep, just being
presented as the man in charge gives you a headstart since there is no
requirement that challengers get equal treatment on news programmes. Far from
it, they are either ignored or pilloried with no right of reply.
Four years ago the Kremlin clique used these cynical techniques to drag
Yeltsin to victory after initial opinion ratings in single figures, even when
he had a major heart attack three days before the poll. (Lying to voters,
they denied the attack had happened.) This time the task was bound to be
easier, provided they picked someone able to walk straight and keep sober in
What issue should he emphasise? Reviving the collapsed economy was a
non-starter, since Putin clearly has no expertise and most Russians are too
disappointed to believe anyone on the economy. Tackling corruption was also a
hard issue on which to campaign, since the Yeltsin family's whole point in
appointing an insider was to protect themselves and their friends from
prosecution or revenge.
How about war? This was a better bet, since war plus media control give a man
the chance to project a wider image as a strong leader. Chech nya was the
obvious target. The Chechens had provided a pretext by invading Dagestan in
August, and when several blocks of flats in Moscow and other Russian cities
were blown up in September, popular anger against them rose.
Does that mean the Kremlin was behind the bombings, as some Russians have
alleged? It is hard to know. The FSB, the successor to the KGB which Putin
briefly headed, has not yet found proof of a Chechen hand. Investigators told
a Moscow press conference last week they still believe Chechens may have been
behind the explosions: but of the 26 people on their list of suspects, none
is an ethnic Chechen.
Alexander Shagako, deputy head of the FSB investigation department, said his
people had identified the components of the explosives used in all three
cities, the drivers who delivered the explosives and stored them, and the
people who chose which buildings would be attacked. But he admitted there was
no proof that those who carried out the explosions were trained in an
anti-Russian Islamic centre on Chechen territory.
Doubts over a Chechen link to the bombs were heightened by an incident in
Ryazan, south-east of Moscow, in September when residents discovered a bomb
in their flats and suspicious men who turned out to be FSB agents. The FSB
later said the bomb had been put there as part of a training exercise. When
Duma MPs called for an inquiry, pro-Putin MPs blocked it.
Much has been written about the enigma of Putin, but guessing makes little
sense. Even if Russia were allowed a democratic poll, any winner would try to
restore a strong state, give Russia back a sense of dignity, and improve tax
collection. Putin too says he will do this. There is no surprise there. The
crucial test is whether he means it, given his undistinguished career as a
KGB agent and servant of Russia's new rich. Will he remain as crude and
authoritarian as his behaviour suggests, with his references to critical
journalists as 'traitors' and Chechen opponents as 'animals', and his dirty
tricks against dissidents and, most recently, against the prosecutor who
tried to investigate the Yeltsin family?
After leaving the KGB, Putin owed his promotion to two men suspected of
corruption, Anatoly Sobchak, the late mayor of St Petersburg, and Pavel
Borodin, the head of the Kremlin's property department. Will he really be
able to break from the kleptocrats and their political friends who have
captured the Russian state? Will he tackle the raw material monopolies and
ensure a reasonable share of their earnings go to the national exchequer
rather than disappearing abroad?
This is Russia's main problem, and it flies in the face of common sense that
this new president will do anything serious about it. After all, it goes
against a spy's code of honour to betray the men by whom he is 'put in'.
The Toronto Sun
March 24, 2000
Russia's heir apparent
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- There is not much to say about a presidential election campaign
when the result seems to be preordained.
I could report that Russia's heir apparent, Vladimir Putin, refuses to
debate his opponents. I could say he also refuses to give speeches or publish
campaign literature or produce advertising of any kind.
I could write that Putin refuses to provide even the tiniest scrap of
information about his intentions for Russia's turbid economy. I could add
that for all that the putative favourite is so committed to democracy he is
already considering lengthening his second term (!) in office from four years
Searching for something interesting to say about Russia's unique democratic
process, The Economist offered the opinion last week that Putin wore platform
shoes when he met Tony Blair two weeks ago. One can only imagine what kind of
shoes The Economist will have Putin strapping on when he meets Bill Clinton,
who is a head taller than the British prime minister.
If all this seems frivolous, it is because it is. The only sensible
commentary is to express astonishment that a former junior KGB agent, whom
99.9% of the Russian population had never heard of eight months ago, is the
front-runner for the leadership of a country which still dreams of greatness.
Whatever the actual tally on Sunday, for there remain doubts about the
fairness of Russia's ballot counting process, the only question is whether it
will also be announced that Putin has won on the first ballot or that he has
come up with just less than half the ballots cast. This would necessitate a
second vote in a couple of weeks against either reformer Gregori Yavlinski or
Communist Gennadi Zyuganov.
Having not been invited to join the acting president for a photo op in the
back seat of a Sukhoi fighter jet in Chechnya last week, and without many
other ways to get a measure of Russia's little big man, I trudged out into an
early spring blizzard two afternoons ago in the centre of Moscow to look for
what would translate into English as Little Putinkovsky Lane. Like so much of
the capital, it was closed for repairs, but all 100 metres of Putinkovsky
Lane, which abuts it, was jammed with cars heading toward Pushkin Square.
A US$50,000 Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to the federal tax service pulled
up in front of me, disgorging a middle-aged bureaucrat and a young woman with
garish lipstick and a very unbureaucratic decolletage. The unlikely couple
entered a notoriously pricey Chinese restaurant.
With typical Russian humour my interpreter, Marina, joked they were either
going there to shake the place down or spend some money they had stolen
somewhere else. Breaking into a laugh, she wryly added that they were most
probably there to do both - and much else besides.
Under a banner advertising the Treasure Island Casino and a billboard
proclaiming the virtues of an American dental clinic, a babushka shivering in
a thin grey cloth coat accosted car drivers and demanded a few rubles.
Stopping two men who turned out to be brothers, I asked them about their
intentions on Sunday. The older one, an unemployed former military book
publisher who did all the talking, said: "There is only one hope left."
I gathered that he meant Putin. He confirmed this and said: "Who else are we
to believe? We've had him for almost three months now and he hasn't done
anything wrong yet."
I gently suggested this might be because other than the war in Chechnya, the
acting president hadn't yet done anything.
This observation provoked silence and a shrug.
After a few more minutes of equally unilluminating responses, Marina and I
left the brothers in the slush and ducked into the blue-domed Church of the
Birthday of the Holy Mother of God in Putinkha to get warm.
Marina, who claims to be an atheist, lit a candle for herself - and for
Defiant Yavlinsky eyes second spot in Russian poll
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, March 24 (Reuters) - Grigory Yavlinsky, the leading liberal candidate
in Russia's presidential election, vowed on Friday to beat the Communists
into third place in Sunday's poll and shrugged off a series of attacks on him
by state television.
In a string of last-minute interviews, Yavlinsky made clear he would not be
intimidated by the so-called oligarchs, politically powerful businessmen whom
some Russians see as bankrolling Acting President Vladimir Putin's election
``My aim in these elections is to beat the Communists in the first round and
the oligarchs in the second,'' he told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.
``Russia's future is neither Communist nor bandit-controlled,'' he told the
Moskovsky Komsomolyets paper.
Putin remains hot favourite to win the presidential race, with Yavlinsky
widely predicted to come a distant third behind Communist candidate Gennady
Zyuganov with about five percent of the vote.
But Yavlinsky appears poised to win reasonably strong support among the
nascent middle class in European Russia's big cities, sparking fears in the
Putin camp that this might deprive their man of outright victory in the first
INFLUENTIAL ORT CHANNEL TAKES AIM AT YAVLINSKY
In recent days ORT public television, in which leading oligarch Boris
Berezovksy has a big stake, has mounted a series of fierce attacks on
Yavlinsky, accusing him of receiving money from the West, of failing to
support the popular Chechen war and even of having plastic surgery to boost
his appeal to voters.
ORT said Western funding -- denied by Yavlinsky's office -- could compromise
Russian national security in the unlikely event of a Yavlinsky victory.
ORT, the vast nation's most influential station because it is the most widely
broadcast, also aired footage of homosexual activists saying they would back
Yavlinsky in an obvious bid to scare off Russia's generally
Yavlinsky's camp shrugged off the ORT coverage.
``It shows that they (Putin's team) are afraid. They think that Yavlinksy is
a strong challenger,'' spokeswoman Yevgeniya Dillyendorf told Reuters.
Despite her nonchalance, ORT has in the past proved to be a formidable
Ahead of last December's parliamentary election, it waged a relentless smear
campaign against an anti-Kremlin grouping led by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov
and former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov, pushing them into third place
behind the Communists and the brand-new Unity party created solely to back
YAVLINSKY SAYS PUTIN, COMMUNISTS ARE BASICALLY SAME
Yavlinsky said on Friday Putin and Zyuganov were two sides of the same coin.
``It is psychologically easier and in practical terms more convenient for the
Kremlin to work with the Communist opposition than with the democrats,''
Zyuganov's Communists, the biggest party in the State Duma lower house of
parliament, have a track record of cooperating with the Kremlin on a range of
issues while Yavlinsky's Yabloko party has often opposed key bills including
Yavlinsky has homed in on liberal fears that Putin, a former KGB officer who
has never contested an election and who owes his rise to power wholly to
inside political connections, will try to reverse some of Russia's hard-won
``I think Putin is dangerous for democracy,'' Yavlinsky told a news
conference earlier this week. Putin says he will respect individual freedoms
while rebuilding the authority of the state.
Yavlinsky told NTV independent television on Friday that, whatever the
outcome of Sunday's poll, he would try to rally Russia's liberal forces.
The other main liberal group apart from Yabloko in the Duma, the Union of
Right-Wing Forces, has stopped short of backing Yavlinsky's presidential bid
but says it wants him, not Zyuganov, to challenge Putin in any second round.
In an unexpected boost for Yavlinsky this week, the Kremlin's former
astrologer, Georgy Rogozin, predicted that the Yabloko leader, not Zyuganov,
would be runner-up to Putin.
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000
From: R.Thomas@open.ac.uk (Ray Thomas)
Subject: Our speculators (afferisti) have sharp brains
This title comes from an article in the Russian language fortnightly London
Courier (page 4 issue 13-16th March). The article comprises an interview
with conducted by B Shimanovski with Victor Melnikov a former rowing
champion now working in London as zampred of Russia's Central Bank
investigating the outflow of capital from Russia.
Melnikov explains that in Russia it is easy to set up a firm for foreign
trade. All you need 300 dollars for a deposit and a passport. If you
don't want to use your own you can get hold of a passport from someone who
has died. It is then possible to move vast sums abroad. Investigation of
these firms often leads to moulding gravestones in the Baganovski cemetery.
Who are these scoundrels (gadi) who move the wealth of Russia to the
Seychelles? Melnikov asks.
Melnikov states that the Central Bank formulated two laws last November
before the Duma to make life difficult for these fly-by-night firms. But
they are still with the Duma and meanwhile the outflow of at least a billion
dollars a month continues.
The article goes on to describe three 'classic' ways of moving currency out
of Russia. One method is to undervalue exported goods. Copper, for
example, is exported as broken bricks, and the difference in value goes into
a reliable (dobrotni) offshore bank. Another method is to overstate the
quality of exports and include a penalty clause in the documentation. The
penalty payment goes into the offshore bank. The third classic method is
to set a high credit rate. Melnikov actually displayed to Shimanovski a
document from a British firm offering credit at 50% per year. Under the
guise of interest payments Russian firms can take out millions.
Melnikov said that the central bank has already come across tens of
thousands of such suspicious contracts in its files. Melnikov summarised
what he had learned from the British government about the struggle against
serious fraud by saying that it is impressive that ways of accomplishing
financial fraud and covering the tracks have real international character.
He added that 'our speculators (afferisti) have sharp brains (cvezhie
This account by Melnikov seems valuable in relating the scale of the outflow
of capital from Russia to some of the mechanisms used. But I wonder if JRL
readers would agree that account indicates that the Russian Central Bank has
not got a clue as to how to stem the flow of capital from Russia?
Melnikov has been sent downstream and has reported how the river has flown
round or over a series of obstacles. But Melnikov and his employers the
Central Bank take the existence of the river for granted. They do not
question the direction of the flow.
If the Central Bank does not have a clue about this, what hope is there for
Putin? It is easy to imagine that Putin will try to put more obstacles in
the path of the river, and he has declared that he aims to encourage foreign
But has Putin said anything that even shows awareness of the crucial problem
of the outward direction of the flow of liquid capital? It is easy to
imagine that Putin will finger the scoundrels and speculators, but that
would be to accuse dominant sectors of the Russian economy.
Many of these scoundrels and speculators are doing nothing more than trying
to protect the value of their capital - an activity that is not regarded as
a crime in the West.
Los Angeles Times
March 24, 2000
[for personal use only]
In the West's View, Putin Very Well Could Be the Businessman's Special
Russia: Foreign investors predict a boom under the autocrat and expect he'll
impose a little law and a lot of order on the unruly but promising economic
By MAURA REYNOLDS, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--Just days before Russian voters are expected to elect a dour
autocrat as president, many Westerners share a surprising conviction: A
little authoritarianism might be just what Russia needs.
Of course, that's not precisely the way they--or the man likely to be
voted president Sunday, Vladimir V. Putin--are putting it.
"No one wants to use the word 'authoritarian' because it doesn't go over
well," says Alan Rousso, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.
"Instead, the language Putin is using and everyone else is using is 'strong
A strong state is one that can collect taxes, enforce laws, safeguard
nuclear stockpiles and manage the economy--all things that everyone agrees
Russia needs. And on this score, nearly everything Putin has said and done
since he became acting president Dec. 31 matches up with what the West wants.
"He's sending all the right signals," says Z. Blake Marshall, executive
vice president of the U.S.-Russia Business Council. "Looking at all the
evidence, you can build a picture that is quite promising and suggests better
days are ahead."
In fact, Putin's economic agenda reads like a foreign investor's wish
list: simplifying the tax code, legalizing land ownership, enforcing
shareholder rights, stemming capital flight. And unlike former President
Boris N. Yeltsin, Putin seems to have the clout with lawmakers to make those
wishes come true.
The other major area of direct concern to the West is nuclear safety.
Putin has already increased contacts with U.S. officials regarding programs
to safeguard nuclear weapons and other materials, and he has signaled support
for progress concerning arms control.
"Under Putin, they seem to be taking these issues as seriously or more
seriously than ever," said a U.S. diplomat who spoke on condition of
What no one knows, perhaps even the likely president, is whether, under
Putin, a "strong" Russia would also be a repressive Russia.
So far, that's what signs point to. Putin launched a violent war against
the separatist republic of Chechnya that has killed thousands of civilians,
and he has made little effort to investigate human rights abuses allegedly
committed by Russian troops. He has even jailed journalists who report the
views of Chechen leaders, seeing the writers not as presenting the other side
but as "betraying" Russia.
"It's already clear that his instincts aren't democratic," Rousso says.
"He thinks that when people act in the interests of the state, their rights
should be protected. But when they don't serve the state, their rights
shouldn't be protected."
And who determines the state's interests?
"Putin, of course," Rousso says. "This shouldn't give us a tremendous
amount of confidence."
As a result, Putin has put Western leaders in a bind. How should they
react if he does all the right things for them but violates the human rights
of some Russians?
"In terms of the bilateral relationship, he's doing many things right,"
the U.S. diplomat said. "There are groups who'd like us to make human rights
the litmus test. But if we do that, we'll sacrifice productive programs for a
The upshot is that Western governments have high hopes for Putin but for
the most part are expressing them quietly.
Foreign investors, on the other hand, are practically chortling. They
predict an economic boom and expect Putin to impose a little law and a lot of
order on his country's promising but unruly economic system.
"I am personally telling our clients that the time to get in is now,"
says Bruce Bean--a partner with the law firm of Clifford Chance Punder--who
advises foreign investors.
In the last year, Russia's economy has risen from the ashes of the 1998
financial crisis. The country's gross domestic product grew an estimated 3%
in 1999, a massive improvement over the nearly 5% it fell in 1998. The stock
market--in effect comatose after the financial crisis--has roared back to
life, tripling the Russian Trading System index in 12 months. With prices for
oil and other natural resources high, the nation chalked up a trade surplus
of more than $30 billion last year.
"Russia is no longer dangerous for investors," says James Fenkner, a
strategist with the Troika Dialog brokerage firm. "Putin is coming into a
beautiful situation. First he inherited the presidency. Now he's inheriting
an economic boom."
Moreover, the change in the Kremlin is expected only to accelerate the
"You need a new face," Fenkner says. "There was too much damage done in
the past. And in this sense, Putin is the best face we could have, because
he's not linked to the past."
In this light, President Clinton's description of Putin last month seems
uncannily on the mark: "I think that the United States can do business with
In Russia these days, speculation about the future tends to take off
from two cases--China and Chile--where developing market capitalism took
precedence over developing democracy. Even Russian liberals express more
admiration for former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet's economic
record than concern about his human rights record.
In fact, after nine years of Yeltsin's volatile leadership, what
Russians and Westerners appear to crave above all else is political
"We are confident that Putin will get in, and we believe he will bring
stability," says Chris Lacey, head of General Motors' regional division here.
"Whether it becomes more authoritarian, the important thing is what he does
to legislation. We all need to know what the rules of the game are. What we
can't have is a situation where the rules are changing all the time."
Lacey says a deal is "imminent" under which GM would invest hundreds of
millions of dollars in a Russian auto maker. Putin wants to nearly double the
scale of such direct foreign investment, to $5 billion, by the end of the
"With a couple of bold moves this spring, that's possible," says
Marshall of the U.S.-Russia Business Council.
Could an authoritarian Putin eventually become a problem for the West?
Marshall says that point would come if tough measures, such as jailing
dissidents and censoring the media, started to be seen as signs of the
state's weakness rather than its strength.
"Authoritarianism is a problem when it compromises political stability,"
Marshall says. "Actions like that detract from predictability."
But until that point, the West is likely to sit by quietly--albeit
uncomfortably--if Putin delivers on his promises in the fields of national
security and economic reform, even if he also restricts individual freedoms.
"Let's not be naive. That may happen," the Carnegie Center's Rousso
says. "Russia absolutely needs a stronger state than the one it has now in
order to take on the kinds of problems Putin is talking about. The question
is how far he is willing to take it."
Paper Implicates Putin In Saint Petersburg Scandal
MOSCOW, Mar 24, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) An investigative Russian
newspaper on Thursday implicated Acting President Vladimir Putin in an
embezzlement scandal dating back to his time as a deputy mayor of Saint
The bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta said Putin benefited personally from some of the
22 billion rubles (worth then roughly $4 million) siphoned from the "Trust
20" construction firm in the mid-1990s.
Contacted by AFP, the Kremlin press service refused to comment on the
allegations, which resurfaced three days before presidential elections which
Putin is widely expected to win.
According to the newspaper report, Trust 20 was set up to "build, rebuild and
repair industrial buildings, buildings and cultural sites in Russia and
The firm, which was registered by the "Committee for External Relations"
which Putin chaired, received 23 billion rubles in credits and cheap loans
from the city budget.
However, only one billion rubles were spent on the intended projects in the
city between 1993 and 1996, Novaya Gazeta said, citing an investigation by a
finance ministry department responsible for Saint Petersburg.
Investigators said that $60,000 was spent building a dacha in the Saint
Petersburg area for Putin. The country home was destroyed by a fire in 1997.
In November 1995, the paper alleged, Putin authorized the disbursement of 415
million rubles (then worth $90,000) to Trust 20 to cover the reconstruction
of a Russian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem.
The actual work cost around $20,000, the paper said.
Putin has previously denied any wrongdoing during his term as deputy mayor of
Russia's second city. His committee was subject to city council inquiries but
he was never formally accused of any misdeeds.
Russia favours gradual land reform - Dep PM
MOSCOW, March 24 (Reuters) - The Russian government supports a gradual
introduction of the right to buy and sell land, Deputy Prime Minister in
charge of agriculture Vladimir Shcherbak said on Friday.
``The government is for the adoption of a land code which would say that land
can be bought and sold, but such transactions should be controlled by special
laws,'' Shcherbak told a news briefing.
The constitution defends the right to private land ownership, but Russia has
yet to liberalise fully the sale and purchase of land. The issue mainly
concerns agricultural land.
Acting President Vladimir Putin said earlier this year he may hold a
referendum on the issue after Sunday's presidential election.
Shcherbak said that formally, 90 percent of all land already belonged to
farms or individuals and not to the state.
``But in fact they are not real landowners, as there is no land code and so
no opportunity to buy or sell land,'' he said.
Shcherbak did not elaborate on how the government planned to control land
transactions, but said any controls could be eased gradually as a market