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Johnson's Russia List
22 April 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
PLEASE READ: With the proliferation of free e-mail services
on the Internet there has also been a proliferation of recipients
neglecting to pay attention to their e-mail and thus a growth
of rejected messages coming back to me. I waste a lot of time
dealing with this busy work. PLEASE, your responsibilities vis-a-vis
JRL are few but this is one of them. Don't create unnecessary
work for me. I will start to be ruthless about deleting e-mail
addresses as soon as they bounce. And not letting you return until
you have mended your irresponsible ways. Don't take this service
1. Itar-Tass: Patriarch Calls for Prayers for Troubled Russia.
2. Itar-Tass: Academy of Sciences Urges Preservation of Archive
3. AP: Angele Charlton, Russia' Putin Off to Powerful Start.
4. Reuters: Putin signs Russia's new military doctrine.
5. AFP: RUSSIA APPROVES NEW "STRIKE FIRST" MILITARY DOCTRINE.
6. The Times (UK): Giles Whittell, Can Putin ever make his people
The Russian President's task is nothing less than the reform
of an entire society.
7. Itar-Tass: Zyuganov Calls for Lenin-Style Economic Policy.
8. Reuters: Putin may lead new Russian party -- minister.
9. Baltimore Sun: Kathy Lally, Russian spies ask targets to foot
Internet: Short of money, successors to KGB want users to
provide equipment for agency to monitor their messages.
10. Reuters: Russian food producers create major lobby group.
11. Matt Taibbi: Re Mueller/4261-IKEA.
12. Interfax: RUSSIA'S FOREIGN DEBT CONSIDERABLE BUT NOT YET
CRITICAL, OFFICIAL SAYS.
13. BBC Monitoring: RUSSIA'S CHIEF PRIVATIZER NOW ADVOCATES
14. Interfax: Vitaly Davydov, START III: TO BE OR NOT TO BE.]
Patriarch Calls for Prayers for Troubled Russia.
MOSCOW, April 22 (Itar-Tass) - Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian
Orthodox Church, read a liturgy in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Saturday service in Moscow churches celebrated resurrection of dead Lazarus
After the liturgy, Alexy called on the flock to pray for Russia and its
people who are living through many hardships these days.
"God grant that God blesses our land with peace and prosperity in the coming
new millennium," Alexy said.
He said Russians should "ask God for forgiveness of the sin of theomachy of
which our people was guilty in the post-revolutionary era".
Alexy called the Lazarus Saturday a "precursor of resurrection of all the
dead who left the earth life with belief and hope for eternal life".
He wished believers on the eve of the Passion-week "to feel and co-suffer the
redeeming deed of the Saviour, who took voluntary suffering and death for the
sake of salvaging the humanity" in order "to meet the radiant festivity of
Easter with joy about Risen God".
Alexy awarded patriarchal decorations to several priests of Moscow for
diligent service of the Church.
"Today, the pastor should not only affirm people in belief but share with
them their numerous difficulties," he said at the awarding ceremony.
Academy of Sciences Urges Preservation of Archive Service.
MOSCOW, April 21 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Academy of Sciences is concerned
about the plan to liquidate the Federal Archive Service and assign its
functions to the Culture Ministry, says a letter of Academy President Yuri
Osipov to President-elect Vladimir Putin. A copy of the letter was received
by Itar-Tass on Friday.
Russia has 2,640 state and municipal archives of about 460 million files. The
archives occupy a special niche in the country comparable to libraries and
museums, the letter says.
"It is very important to preserve the national archive service, a symbol of
the Russian statehood, as an independent organization capable of storing
documentary evidence of our thousand-year history," the letter says.
A similar letter has been sent to Putin by a group of Academy members.
Russia' Putin Off to Powerful Start
April 22, 2000
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - A string of victories in parliament has solidified President
Vladimir Putin's authority and appears to be setting the stage for a calmer,
more conciliatory era in Russia after the frenzied confusion of the Boris
Since taking office as acting president in December, Putin has persuaded
once-combative lawmakers to do two things they steadfastly refused to do
under Yeltsin: approve the START II nuclear disarmament treaty and fire
Russia's top prosecutor. Lawmakers also approved the nuclear test ban treaty
on Friday at Putin's urging.
``He looks invincible. The president's powers are already great, and now it
seems the legislative branch is ready to support him - or afraid to oppose
him,'' said Alexei Chaplygin, an analyst with the Center for Civil Society
Studies, a Moscow think tank. ``It's very popular to like Putin now.''
Some analysts say Putin could just be enjoying a honeymoon after his election
by a wide margin last month. He could face more bruising debate, for example,
when he finally presents his plan for the crucial and touchy issue of
restoring Russia's economy.
But overall, observers predict Putin will probably have little trouble
getting what he wants - whatever that turns out to be. While he talks of
stamping out corruption, reviving Russia's global clout and trimming taxes,
he is vague about how he would realize those goals.
Putin has a key advantage that his predecessor lacked: majority support in
the lower house of parliament, the State Duma. The Communists and their
allies who dominated the Duma for years lost their majority in December
parliamentary elections, and were replaced by centrists who generally back
Much of what Putin has done so far is clean up after Yeltsin. It was Yeltsin
who signed START II in 1993 then fought with the Duma for years over
ratification, and Yeltsin who first tried to fire Prosecutor General Yuri
Skuratov a year ago.
``Those were all Yeltsin's issues. Does that mean Putin will continue
Yeltsin's policies? Who knows,'' said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of
the Institute for USA and Canada Studies in Moscow.
One policy Putin appears determined to pursue is nuclear disarmament. As soon
as the Duma ratified START II, talks began in Geneva on further cuts of
But Putin is treading cautiously. He insists Russia will pull out of any arms
control pact if Washington follows through on amending the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to build a limited anti-missile defense system.
``Russia will ensure its security as it sees fit,'' said chairman of the
Duma's defense committee, Andrei Nikolayev. ``The ratification of START II
has created a unique situation for maneuvering by the Russian president,''
both at home and abroad.
Nationalism may prove the strongest common ground between Putin and
parliament. Legislators of all political stripes embrace Putin's goal of
restoring Russia's international influence.
``Such a strengthening of cooperation could only have come about because of
nationalism. The Duma still has a very nationalist majority. Putin will use
that nationalism and that majority to exercise pressure on (Russia's)
international partners,'' Kremenyuk said.
Putin is seen as a cool-headed consensus-builder, unlike the temperamental,
fervently anti-communist Yeltsin.
Putin met almost no resistance with his request Wednesday that the upper
house of parliament, the Federation Council, fire top prosecutor Skuratov.
The house generally supports the government, but defiantly refused Yeltsin's
repeated requests to fire Skuratov last year.
The council, which is made up of regional governors, appears eager to stay in
Putin's favor. Analysts say the governors are worried that Putin will slash
regional leaders' powers if they prove too unruly.
Even Skuratov, who says Yeltsin's inner circle was trying to remove him to
thwart his investigation into alleged Kremlin corruption, seemed unfazed by
dismissal at the hand of Putin.
Still, Skuratov warned that Putin may not tackle high-level graft because of
his close ties to Yeltsin's scandal-marred administration. Putin has promised
to fight corruption, which plagues every facet of Russian life and is a key
obstacle to economic progress.
Putin signs Russia's new military doctrine
MOSCOW, April 22 (Reuters) - President-elect Vladimir Putin signed a decree
on Saturday formally approving Russia's new military doctrine which upgrades
the role of nuclear weapons.
``He has signed the decree,'' a Kremlin spokeswoman told Reuters. She gave no
Russia's Security Council, an influential advisory body grouping senior
ministers and aides, approved the new doctrine on Friday at a meeting chaired
The new doctrine, which replaces a 1993 version, envisages the possible first
use of nuclear weapons by Russia to deter a mass conventional attack.
Some Western officials have criticised the doctrine, saying it is too
confrontational, and have called for a revised version stressing cooperation
with the West.
But the secretary of the Security Council, Sergei Ivanov, defended the new
doctrine on Friday and said it was essentially defensive in character.
The new military doctrine comes into effect as Russia's relations with NATO
gradually improve after the strains of last year's Kosovo crisis and more
recent disagreements over Chechnya, where Moscow's forces have been battling
NATO's bombing campaign against Belgrade exerted particular influence on the
drawing up of the new document. Moscow opposed the air strikes against its
Slavic brethren in Yugoslavia.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
RUSSIA APPROVES NEW "STRIKE FIRST" MILITARY DOCTRINE
Russia's powerful security council
approved Friday a tough new military doctrine which reserves the country's
right to be the first to deliver a nuclear strike.
President-elect Vladimir Putin said he would sign the document into law later
Friday, the Interfax news agency said.
The doctrine, according to the Kremlin, states that "the Russian federation
envisages ... the possibility of using all forces and means at its disposal,
including nuclear weapons, where all other means to settle the crisis have
been exhausted or have proven ineffective."
Interfax quoted Security Council chairman Sergei Ivanov as saying that "the
text of the doctrine answers the national interests of Russia."
Attended by the country's top defense official, Friday's meeting also
included the heads of Russia's two energy monopolies, in a sign that Moscow
now views the international battle for control over Caspian Sea oil and gas
riches as a point of national security.
Friday's revised version of the original 1993 military doctrine text had been
tentatively approved in February and Putin stressed that the final draft
could no longer wait.
"In the past several weeks, this conceptual document on military security had
been polished up in the various ministries - first of all in the defense
ministry," Putin said in televised remarks.
"Today we have to put a final period to this work."
Precise details of all amendments to the document, which was also revised in
1997, were not immediately clear.
Reports said that it has identified 12 foreign and six internal threats to
the nation's security.
It also clearly reserves the right for Russia to be the first to deliver a
nuclear strike, but only if there is clear-felt danger to the country's very
existence - a similar position to one taken by the United States.
Reports said that the new doctrine had also noted that NATO did not seek
approval from the UN Security Council, where Moscow has a right of veto,
before launching air strikes against Russian ally Yugoslavia last year.
It further addressed Russia's military concerns on the country's volatile
southern rim, where federal troops are waging their second deadly military
campaign in the rebel republic of Chechnya.
The West reacted with concern to February reports that the new version was
tougher than the original and relied more heavily on nuclear deterrence.
Putin at the time said that Russia "cannot but notice changes in NATO's
strategy" and must respond accordingly.
However Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov later added that "Russia is not
threatening anyone and does not intend to use its nuclear force to bring on
In a new twist to the national security debate, Rem Vyuakhirev of the Gazprom
natural gas giant and Russia's UES electricity monopoly head Anatoly Chubais
also attended the security council session Friday.
Putin for his part castigated ministers for letting Western nations win
recent battles for control over pipeline routes which could bring energy
riches from the Caspian Sea to markets in the West.
These have so far bypassed Russia, which means Moscow cannot rely on a
handsome profit that comes with charging oil and gas transfer fees.
"We must clearly understand that the interest which our partners from other
nations show in the Caspian - in Turkey, Britain, and the United States - is
not accidental," Putin said.
"It is happening primarily because we are inactive," he added.
"We should not make the Caspian into a new zone of confrontation. But we must
understand that nothing will fall into our hands for free. This is a
competitive battle and we must be competitive."
The Times (UK)
22 April 2000
[for personal use only]
Can Putin ever make his people honest?
The Russian President's task is nothing less than the reform of an entire
By Giles Whittell
There are no left turns in Moscow, or very few. This is not a political
observation, but the first rule of driving here and a steady source of income
for the city's 80,000 traffic police, whose bribe-taking is an obvious
symptom of what ails Vladimir Putin's Russia.
The wretched gaishniki are liable to wave you down with deceptive playfulness
the moment you get behind the wheel. They introduce themselves, explain the
no-left-turn rule as if it were the Bill of Rights, and coyly ask what should
be done now. The expected answer: "I would like to pay an on-the-spot fine."
This week Russia's parliament, the Duma, started discussing a new traffic
code that would give the traffic police 17 new reasons to stop drivers and
confiscate their licences. The announcement prompted hysterical warnings of
an incipient police state, which is why, for fairness' sake, I should record
being pulled over recently for three egregious consecutive left turns in The
Times's red Volvo, easily-identified by its yellow numberplate as a foreign
sitting duck. The fine was 40.75 roubles (roughly £1), payable at the state
savings bank round the corner. A receipt would be provided. It was and I
returned with it as instructed to the scene of the crime.
"Akuratno," said the hero cop. "Vsyo khoroshovo." (As it should be. All the
He smiled and saluted from the front seat of his Lada and I spent the rest of
the day in a state of stunned euphoria. Maybe he was playing by the rules
because he happened to be stationed under the watchful slit windows of the
Kremlin, or maybe, just maybe, there is hope for Russia.
At a higher stratum, the signs are not good. Moscow hosts, for example,
motorists who are never stopped for anything. They are identifiable by
flashing blue lights on their roofs and are fondest of fast German saloons.
They are supposed to be Duma deputies or high-ranking bureaucrats. In
practice, anyone can lay hands on a blue light if they know whom to pay. The
going rate is said to be £300.
Mr Putin is in the biggest hurry of all, and a guided missile would be
hard-put to stop him on his way to work. A hush falls over the city centre as
ten-lane highways are cleared for his 90mph motorcade of armoured limousines.
As a spectacle it is obscene, yet given the scale of challenges facing the
new President it may be forgivable.
Mr Putin's most pressing task outside Chechnya is to impose the rule of law
on Russia. His new chum in London, Tony Blair, set himself an equivalent goal
- to be "tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime" - but in Russia
this means nothing less than straightening out an entire society.
Being truly tough on crime in Russia would mean starting at the top. It would
mean re-examining the records of the oligarchs who enriched themselves
prodigiously during the privatisation spree of the mid-1990s and remain some
of Russia's most powerful men. It would mean, above all, taking on Boris
Berezovsky, who zips around Moscow with a relatively modest retinue of
bodyguards in high-powered four-wheel drives while investigators in
Switzerland pursue him in connection with £400 million of missing Aeroflot
Mr Berezovsky, whose holdings include a large chunk of the Omsk-based Sibneft
oil company, is no stranger to criminal investigations. Mr Putin's readiness
to pursue them is seen as a key test of his mettle, and so far he has failed
it. Far from retreating, Mr Berezovsky is resurgent since the Putin
phenomenon took off. He started by winning immunity from prosecution with an
obscure seat in the Duma. Then he and fellow-oligarch Roman Abramovich took
over virtually the entire Russian aluminium industry.
In the meantime Mr Berezovsky has bought himself a £20 million château on Cap
d'Antibes, and a yacht called Super Toy, in case he finds himself having to
spend more time abroad.
Fat chance, as they probably say in Omsk. Mr Putin made much of taking no
campaign contributions from the oligarchs, but he has accepted them as a fact
life and undertaken only to keep them at arm's length. He has vowed war on
corruption and enlisted his alma mater, the secret police, to the cause. But
the Federal Security Service is not known for undermining the status quo.
There is a real risk that ordinary Russians and investors in Russia will be
thrown a few scapegoats and invited to believe that corruption has been dealt
with. This week police hailed as a breakthrough the capture of 12 men
suspected of trying to smuggle £140 million-worth of gems out of Russia. All
well and good, but next to the billions leaving in illegal capital flight,
£140 million is small fry.
The danger of a phoney war on corruption mirrors that of an equally phoney
one on human rights abuse in the Caucasus. Moscow has arrested one officer
who shot a woman at close range for failing to sell him vodka. Another has
been charged with the rape and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen girl. But the
prospect of senior Russian commanders facing trial for alleged war crimes is
as likely as a court martial for General Colin Powell after winning the Gulf
If Mr Putin lacks the will to tackle the real obstacles to peace in Chechnya
and prosperity in Russia's heartland, they will fester. He must win over, for
example, a Chechen who gave me a lift the other day in Moscow; fresh-faced,
handsome, with a Russian bullet in his neck from the 1994-96 war. To thank me
for reporting on the current one, he refused to take my money. Like honest
traffic cops, taxis operated by meters rather than refugees are said to be a
litmus test of progress. If so, Moscow has some way to go.
Zyuganov Calls for Lenin-Style Economic Policy. .
MOSCOW, April 22 (Itar-Tass) - The Communist Party's delegation on Saturday
laid wreaths at Moscow's Red Square Lenin mausoleum to mark the 130th
anniversary of the birthday of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet
Communist leader Gennady Zuganov said Russia "needs a modern-level NEP" this
day, referring to the early Soviet-era New Economic Policy which Lenin
proclaimed to resuscitate Russia's economy which was left in shambles by the
1917 Revolution and the Civil War.
The policy was to partially allow enterprise, to be eradicated after it
helped an economic pick-up.
Zyugabov told reporters after the wreath-laying ceremony that he had made
sure of practicability of Lenin's teachings.
"Lenin is topical as never before, primarily his new economic policy which
reconciled collective, private and state forms of property and allowed to
raise the country from ruin within months," Zyuganov said.
He said the reincarnated NEP should be "reasonable proportions between state,
collective interest and private forms of property".
"The state should be not a watcher of the market, but a strong owner,
primarily of raw material resources," Zyuganov said.
He said Russia's fresh President Vladimir Putin should pursue just the new
"The statements that the state should be strong are right, but this should be
supported by a qualitatively new budget and the new economic policy,"
He said "liberalism in the pure form is absolutely unacceptable, fatal for
Zyuganov said another Lenin's thesis proved true these days. "This is the
thesis that capital will strangle those who are weaker," he said.
As soon as Russia opened to the world, it became clear that production in
Russia is far more costlier than in Europe, America or South Asia, and
thousands of factories came to a halt, he said.
"If anybody attentively studied Lenin's NEP and his predictions, he would
have never allowed such an absurdity," Zyuganov said.
As for Chechnya, he said "one should cope with bandits". "This is obvious, we
supported and we will support this line," he added.
He said there is the need for a programme of Chechnya's post-war rebuilding,
especially of its oil and gas sector, and for "clever power, but only
central, in a reasonable combination with local authoritative leaders".
Chechnya's leader Aslan Maskhadov does not control the situation in Chechnya,
Putin may lead new Russian party -- minister
MOSCOW, April 22 (Reuters) - The Unity movement formed to back Vladimir
Putin's bid for the Russian presidency decided on Saturday to become a
political party and said Putin could be its leader.
``The time has passed when the head of state remained above political
party,'' Unity's current leader, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shoigu said
after a meeting of its political council.
In televised remarks, Shoigu said Unity would formally turn itself into a
political party at a congress set for next month.
It would aim to become the main nationwide opponent of the Communists, who
inherited from Soviet times their strong regional organisation, membership
and other party trappings.
Shoigu said Putin, Russia's president-elect since a March 26 poll, would
decide himself whether he wanted to lead the new party. He remained in close
contact with Unity, Shoigu added.
Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, refused to launch his own party or
movement, saying that as head of state he had to represent all Russians
regardless of political affiliation.
Unity was set up last autumn partly to drain away support from an
anti-Kremlin movement, Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), led by Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov and ex-premier Yevgeny Primakov.
In December's parliamentary election, Unity outperformed OVR thanks to its
unconditional support for Putin and his popular military campaign to crush
rebel fighters in breakaway Chechnya.
Unity is now the second biggest grouping in the lower house of parliament
behind the main opposition Communists.
Critics dismiss Unity as a political marriage of convenience and say it lacks
any defining philosophy or even any motive other than keeping Putin, a former
KGB spy, in the Kremlin.
Grigory Yavlinsky's liberal Yabloko movement also met on Saturday to agree
structural changes and discuss deepening ties with other pro-reformist groups
in Russian politics.
Yavlinsky, who came third in the March presidential election after Putin and
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, said Yabloko also planned to turn itself
into a political party.
21 April 2000
[for personal use only]
Russian spies ask targets to foot bill
Internet: Short of money, successors to KGB want users to provide equipment
for agency to monitor their messages.
By Kathy Lally
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW - In the old Soviet days, the secret police had all the time and money
they needed to read mail, tap telephones and keep track of typewriters and
their owners. The Internet, bearing its huge flow of information, caught them
at a moment of weakness, when government budgets were turning into a trickle
too small to support expensive new eavesdropping technology.
Resourceful as ever, the successors to the old KGB rose to the challenge.
They decided that Internet users themselves should pay for the cost of being
bugged. So far, only one Internet provider in Russia has publicly refused
this request from the Federal Security Service - and no one knows how many
have been asked.
"To resolve their own problems, they're trying to force Internet providers to
do the job for them," Nail V. Murzakhanov, an Internet provider from
Volgograd, said yesterday. "It is easy to frighten us into obedience."
More than a year ago, his local FSB, as the security service is known,
demanded that Murzakhanov provide the agency with a computer, modem, a good
connection line and all his customers' passwords. He refused.
The FSB was basing its request on a 1995 law creating a System for
Operational-Investigative Activities, known by its Russian acronym of SORM.
The law gave the FSB the right to eavesdrop on telephone conversations and
read postal and electronic mail - if it obtained a court order.
The security service decided this meant it could intercept all the
communications it chose - if it obtained a court order when it wanted to read
any of it. In July 1998, based on this understanding of the law, the FSB and
State Communications Committee decided to require Internet providers to
install equipment that would establish a direct link to FSB computers,
allowing the FSB to monitor e-mail as it was sent.
This equipment would be paid for by providers, who, of course, would pass on
the costs to customers. About 1.7 million of Russia's 145 million people use
Then, in January, acting President Vladimir V. Putin - a veteran of the
intelligence services - approved a regulation extending this privilege to
several other law enforcement groups. These included the tax police, the
Interior Ministry and the Kremlin, presidential and parliamentary security
services. They, too, would need a court order to read any the messages they
Against this background, the National Press Institute and Russian human
rights activists organized a three-day conference this week in Moscow,
studying the prospects for freedom on the Internet. The people who once
risked their lives to put information on paper now are wondering how they can
protect their rights online.
They have not forgotten the past, and they don't trust the security forces to
go to the trouble of asking for a court order if the information they want to
read can be obtained with the click of a mouse.
"As we remember, during Soviet times people knew every conversation could be
overheard," said Yuri Vdovin, vice chairman of Citizens' Watch in St.
Petersburg. "The eavesdropping system was not regulated. Fax machines were
registered. They could keep an eye on all fax messages.
"Now we have a law requiring a court order to listen in. But I don't think a
court will ever say no to the security systems."
Murzakhanov said he and several partners began setting up their Internet
service in Volgograd in 1996. It wasn't until 1998 that the company,
Bayard-Slavia Communications, got licenses to buy its equipment.
>From the beginning, he said, the FSB wanted the means to carry out total
surveillance of all Bayard-Slavia's clients, while insisting it was only
interested in targeting the criminals among them.
"They did a lot of nasty things to us," said Murzakhanov. The company found
its license suspended and its satellite connection cut off. After trying to
resist the FSB for 18 months, Murzakhanov and his partners sued the agency,
going to court with the help of human rights organizations.
"Only after it was made public did they leave us alone," he said. "The public
supported us. It is because of their support that the security services were
not able to do what they wanted."
Though other countries, including the United States, conduct extensive
electronic surveillance around the world, they don't require Internet
providers to build surveillance equipment into their systems.
Murzakhanov said he is willing to comply with any court order authorizing
eavesdropping for a specific investigation. "Never once in all this time have
they come with a court order," he said.
Other speakers said that other Internet providers are obviously cooperating
with the FSB. Other providers have refused to discuss the issue publicly.
"I believe we are the only provider in the country that is able to speak at a
human rights conference," said Murzakhanov, who is 33. "The eight founding
members are all young people and progressively minded. We all agreed that no
matter what, we would do our best to make life better for our children and
prevent the return of totalitarianism."
He predicted that the equipment the FSB wants installed will eventually cost
Internet providers thousands of dollars.
"After you give them the computer, the modem, the line, the passwords, the
appetite increases. They want equipment and training that can cost from
$20,000 to $30,000," he said.
"Specialized spying equipment is being developed. It has a very narrow
application, and it's extraordinarily powerful. It will start at $100,000 and
go up from there."
One reporter described to Murzakhanov several unsuccessful attempts to send
e-mails mentioning the KGB from Moscow, through a Russian Internet provider.
They never arrived.
Murzakhanov said that all electronic traffic crosses at one point in Moscow,
and it is entirely possible that the security services have installed
equipment that not only reads all e-mails but diverts any containing certain
The most reliable way to ensure privacy, he said, is to send a handwritten
fax. The machines don't do well with handwriting. And when he sends his
e-mail, he uses his own personal code.
"I never mention dangerous words," he said, "like SORM, KGB - or freedom."
Russian food producers create major lobby group
By Sebastian Alison
MOSCOW, April 21 (Reuters) - Russia's main farming and food producing groups
joined forces on Friday in a new trade association to lobby for state support
for their beleaguered industry.
"We need to work out and create a new agrarian policy, that is, to change the
representation of the agro-industrial complex in the political sphere," said
Viktor Semyonov, the former agriculture minister who heads the Industry Union
Association of the Agro-Industrial Complex or ASSAGROS.
"We want to set up a constructive lobby, above all in the State Duma," said
Semyonov, who is himself a deputy in the lower house of parliament, at the
association's first meeting.
Russia's food and farming sectors have suffered for years from
under-investment and poor management which have seen output of grain and
other key crops such as sugar fall sharply.
Several lobby groups represent particular sectors, but this is the first time
they have united to seek protection for the whole industry.
Semyonov, who represents the pro-communist Agrarian party in the Duma, said
it was essential to work out legally-defined relations between the state and
Arkady Zlochevsky, chairman of the Grain Union, threw his weight behind him.
"If we agree now to unite our efforts, we will make all our lives easier in
the future. Our tasks are to solve mainly economic problems, but the tools
for solving them are political as well," he said.
Some argue that the way out of the crisis is comprehensive land reform giving
farmers clear legal ownership of land so they could raise mortgages to invest
in farming. Others see the solution as more state aid.
But Russia's financial crisis, especially since the devaluation of the rouble
in August 1998, has meant the state has precious little cash to give.
The consequence has been a shortage of all main inputs such as seeds,
fertilisers, pesticides and fuel, with predictable results. After a grain
harvest of 88.5 million tonnes in 1997, Russia collected just 47.8 million in
1998 -- the least for 40 years.
Although the harvest bounced back slightly last year, it did not recover
enough for Russia to be able to feed itself. Instead it was forced to ask the
United States for food aid for the second consecutive year.
From: "Matthew Taibbi" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000
Several people wrote me personally, and Jonathan Mueller wrote to you, to
respond to my piece about the IKEA story in the New York Times with the
criticism that I’d missed the point, the point being that IKEA refused to
pay a bribe to Luzhkov.
I won’t even address the believability of the story that IKEA is choosing
this site in Moscow to take a principled stand against bribery. It’s not
even relevant, as far as the problems with the Times’s coverage goes. IKEA
refusing to pay a bribe doesn’t change the fact the reporter Fuerbringer
relied solely on one source—an IKEA spokesman. IKEA could be honesty
incarnate-- Mother Teresa, Eliott Ness and George Washington all rolled into
one-- and this would still be slanted, irresponsible business journalism. I
was a deputy editor of my high school newspaper, and even back then, I sent
articles back to freshmen when they only had one source in their first
attempts at writing news articles—features on the soccer coach or the school
play or whatever. But this guy writes for the New York Times! No matter what
the story, Mueller must admit this is inexcusable.
Furthermore, Mueller-- and this is too bad, judging from his State
department address-- seems unable step back and look a things from the
Russian point of view, to see the absurdity of the amount of coverage this
IKEA business is receiving. Relatively speaking, this is a trivial
story—extremely trivial even. If this incident had taken place in your
average U.S. city, it would be treated as an ordinary zoning dispute,
corrupt on both sides as zoning disputes always are, and banished
accordingly to the inside pages of the community section, or to the town
But Mueller wants to make the case that IKEA is a litmus test for Putin’s
reform credentials. In this case, the argument goes, this is not a simple
zoning dispute at all, but a story which has genuine import both in terms of
international relations, and in terms of its utility in providing insight
into the nature of the Putin regime.
This is preposterous for several reasons. The first is that, for the story
to have any value as a “litmus test”, the “test” has to involve a clear and
unambiguous ethical conflict. You have to accept at the outset that IKEA is
perfectly blameless in this matter; you have to accept that they they’re
telling the truth when they say they refused to pay a bribe; and you have to
dismiss entirely the entire issue of the monument, and assume with absolute
confidence that the whole issue of the tank trap was nothing more than a
p.r. smokescreen dreamed up by Moscow city officials who were really just
out for a bribe.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you have doubts about those
assumptions. Suddenly the story has problems. If IKEA is lying about the
bribe, how is this a litmus test? If the Russians really do care about the
monument, how is this a litmus test? If the IKEA people were just stupid
enough businessmen to start building the on-ramp before they’d secured
permission for it, how is this a litmus test? Add just one or two real
ambiguities to the story, and the “Can honest Western businessmen do
business in Russia?” plotline evaporates, taking the litmus test with it.
And there are plenty of ambiguities here. It seems to me that there is good
circumstantial evidence, at least, to believe that the monument issue is
real in the Russians’ minds—even if it’s just a side issue, a garnish, to a
bribery conflict. First of all, the monument really is there, and that spot
really is the spot where the Germans were repelled. It’s not some bare spot
on the ground suddenly designated a historic site. It’s a real and genuinely
meaningful landmark. A normal society retaining any kind of patriotic or
civic values would not want a garish, warehouse-like Swedish furniture store
obscuring such a place. My home town of Hingham, Massachusetts won’t let
people have colored Christmas lights on the street, for Christ’s sake,
because the town elders are concerned with preserving its WASPy tradition.
Surely if the Nazis had been beaten back in Hingham, the original tank traps
would never have been cleared out of the battle site after 1941, let alone a
replica tank trap. Those tank traps would not only still be there, they’d be
decorated by Martha Stewart and Currier and Ives, and protected from the
common, non-D.A.R.-member riffraff by hundred-foot-tall electrified fences.
For the Russians not to want yet another ugly concrete overpass over the
thing is absolutely reasonable and believable on its face.
Beyond that, it’s just in atrocious taste for a Westerner to even question
the sincerity of Russian objections to development on that site. Even if the
Russians really are lying about their motives, common decency and respect
for what Russia went through in the war (and what, importantly, Americans
like Mueller and I never went through on our territory) demands that we all
just eat our suspicions and take their word for it in situations like this.
If a guy begs out of work for a week because his mother died, you could have
all the evidence in the world that he’s really playing hooky, and you’d
still have to take his word for it. After all, his mother died. Now, if it
was your mother, too, maybe you could say something to your slacker brother.
But if you’re not part of the family, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut.
We foreigners are not part of the family, as far as this war memorial issue
goes. And if Mueller doesn’t see how incredibly insensitive all of IKEA’s
Western supporters seem to Russians-- how offensive, in fact, the entire
controversy is-- then he must have serious cultural blinders on. When it
comes to 1941, we gringos have no choice but to keep our mouths shut.
Now, about the “gratuitousness” of the comment about a rich Western company
getting richer. Again, no Russian would think that comment gratuitous. The
New York Times has routinely downplayed or ignored stories about genuine
catastrophes and travesties of justice that affect millions of Russians on a
basic survival level, and all of those stories are many times more
meaningful and relevant than any conceivable story about the relative
successes or failures of Western businessmen in Russia. No Westerner is
going to starve because Russians were corrupt and ripped off his business.
No Westerner is threatened with the disintegration of his state if the
Russian market falls. No Westerner is going to get his arms and legs blown
off because Russians infringed upon his copyright protections. No Westerner
is going to be thrown in a filtration camp or committed to a mental hospital
because the Russian tax laws are draconian. On the other hand, FIMACO,
loans-for-shares, the non-payment crisis, the phony Chechen war, the rigged
elections… all of these stories are literally life and death matters for
Russians, and the Times has been blasé at best about most of them. The
paper’s sole in-depth feature about FIMACO, for instance, written by
Celestine Bohlen, was about the same length as the IKEA piece and greatly
downplayed the scandal, even suggesting at one point that FIMACO had
happened because the whiz kids in the Central Bank were just over-creative
and too full of ideas. In this context, it would seem amazing that the Times
would print such a hysterical article about IKEA’s troubles in Moscow. When
it comes to covering Russia, hysteria is like water on a desert crossing—it
has to be rationed. And IKEA clearly doesn’t deserve any.
Next point: if Mueller is really concerned about Putin’s “reform”
credentials, he should urge the Times to cover Putin’s past a little better.
The big Times bio by Michael Wines, which should have been the place to
answer those questions, was a total whitewash job. He might, if he insists
on judging Putin through cases like this, better ask Wines to look into
Putin’s record in the Subway sandwich fiasco, which, unlike the IKEA thing,
he played a direct role in. IKEA, on the other hand, is a pretty lame place
to look for The Dope on Putin.
OK, on second thought, I will address the believability of the story that
IKEA simply refused to pay a bribe out of principle. I don’t believe it. As
anyone who’s done business in Russia knows, there’s no way IKEA got the
property it has without bribing the Khimki government. Furthermore, IKEA’s
moral authority is certainly not unquestioned. On Dec. 23, 1997, the BBC
reported that IKEA had been accused in Vietnam and the Phillipines of using
child labor to make its cheap furniture. And like Wal-Mart, its general
strategy of setting up on the edges of cities and obliterating local
competition with its giant warehouses and huge volume is itself not
unattended by controversy. Communities all over America have charged that
the company undercuts Mom-and-Pop businesses and, like all chain operations,
uglifies the local business landscape. If Mueller wants IKEA to provide the
litmus test for whether good Western business values can succeed in Russia,
he should remember that IKEA doesn’t represent everybody’s idea of good
Western business values.
Lastly, it should be noted that every time a Western company has problems in
Russia, the Western side always accuses the Russians of being corrupt—the
bribe charge is an age-old standby-- and the Western press reports the story
as an example of how the Russians aren’t ready to do business in a civilized
way. Frankly, this is just getting a little fucking old, as far as I’m
concerned. Westerners always come over to Russia with dollar signs in their
eyes and try to play ball like gangsters. As long as they get away with it,
you don’t hear a peep from their smug, self-satisfied mouths. But as soon as
they’re outmaneuvered, they cry foul. It’s unbelievably lame.
Incidentally, almost nothing I’ve written about has gotten as much response
as this IKEA thing. It says a lot about what Americans really care about. I
hope some of you at least can see how embarrassing this whole thing is.
RUSSIA'S FOREIGN DEBT CONSIDERABLE BUT NOT YET CRITICAL, OFFICIAL SAYS
Moscow, 21st April: The size of Russia's foreign debt is considerable, but
has not yet reached a critical level for the stability of the country's
economy, a Finance Ministry official said.
According to international standards, the foreign debt becomes a threat to
the economy "when current payments on the foreign debt in the course of the
year exceed 25 per cent of annual exports", Deputy Finance Minister Sergey
Kolotukhin told Interfax in an interview today. For Russia, this figure is
14-15 per cent, although in future it could rise to 20 per cent, Kolotukhin
Russia's total foreign debt, according to Finance Ministry figures, stood at
about 158bn dollars at the beginning of this year.
But the current size of Russia's foreign debt is "already having a negative
impact on the rate of economic growth and the amount of investment in the
economy, which in the long term could affect Russia's ability to service the
foreign debt", Kolotukhin added. Therefore, Russia must strive to reduce its
overall debt burden, including by decreasing the Soviet-era debt to the Paris
Club of country creditors, he said.
A reduction in the debt burden would allow Russia "not only to channel
additional funds into the development of the economy, but also to strictly
meet obligations to creditors in future", Kolotukhin said.
RUSSIA'S CHIEF PRIVATIZER NOW ADVOCATES RENATIONALISATION
Text of report by Russian Public TV on 20th April
[Presenter] The "Russia - 2000" conference has taken place in London at which
some of those who took part in it made very interesting statements. Our
correspondent Aleksandr Panov has a report about that:
[Correspondent video report] On the second day of the London conference, on
the stage of the Queen Elisabeth Hall, politicians gave way to entrepreneurs,
even though, as one of the participants in the conference joked: if one takes
Anatoliy Chubays, from 0900 until 1800 he is a businessman, the head of the
Unified Energy System of Russia Russian Joint-Stock Company, from 1800 until
late at night he is already a politician. Russia's main privatizer staggered
people with a paradoxical statement: he is convinced now that the state needs
to be renationalized.
[Chubays, addressing audience] It will be necessary to undertake colossal,
very difficult efforts to reduce the number of civil servants, increase
wages, [and conduct] a merciless, total anti-corruption, campaign, which will
be accompanied by criminal trials and the jailing of many high-level state
[Correspondent] Chubays predicts a fierce struggle soon, true, several times
he made the proviso that he was expressing his personal opinion.
Creditors take it calmly that Russian politicians argue and even quarrel,
that is what democracy is about.
For the participants in the conference, potential investors, what was far
more significant were the assurances by Russian oligarchs that they are
interested market rules that are honest and the same for everyone.
The effectiveness of the "Russia - 2000" conference will be expressed in
concrete programmes and contracts and these will follow only after the
distrustful Britons see for themselves that talk about stability in Russia
has become a fact and our promises of new reform concrete legislative acts.
START III: TO BE OR NOT TO BE
By Vitaly Davydov, Interfax analyst
MOSCOW. April 21 (Interfax) - With Russia's lower house of
parliament having ratified START II and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test
Ban Treaty, it is time for Russian government advisers to start thinking
what else can be done to reduce strategic offensive armaments.
Military and diplomatic sources have told Interfax that START II is
in Russia's interests but contains concessions to the United States.
Earlier on, Moscow had planned to remove them in the course of work on a
START III. But this appears problematic today.
The sources said the first Russian-U.S. consultations on key points
for a START III treaty had shown that the two countries were pursuing
diametrically opposing goals.
"Russia would like to limit the United States' ability to build up
its nuclear potential and bring American sea-based cruise missiles into
the negotiation process. Besides, it is in Moscow's interests to
eliminate the possibility of use by Washington of the so-called return
potential, that is the activation of the 2,000 nuclear warheads that
were removed from carrier rockets earlier," the sources said.
The United States "is seeking to consolidate its advantages in
strategic offensive armaments that the START II treaty gives them. In
particular, the Americans are trying to take complete control over the
production and deployment of Russian missile systems, including mobile
ones. Nor is it a secret that they are trying to tie the strategic
nuclear component to [their planned] national missile defense system.
And finally, Washington is suggesting that Russian tactical nuclear
weapons be brought into the negotiation process," one of the sources
"In working out its proposals on START III, the American side is
deliberately setting conditions that are unacceptable to Russia," he
said. "With this approach, prospects for working out a START III are
becoming fairly vague."
The sources also doubted Washington would drop its national missile
defense plan. "But in case the United States withdraws from the 1972 ABM
[Anti-Ballistic Missile] treaty, the process of reduction of strategic
nuclear armaments will make no sense at all," they said.
They said quashing ABM would ruin the whole system of strategic
stability accords. "Whereas earlier it was planned to extend the process
of reduction of strategic nuclear armaments to other states of the
nuclear club and to so-called threshold countries, this will be
practically impossible to do if the ABM treaty is ruined," the sources
They said Russia had already thought up countermeasures. "However,
they can hardly be called [measures] of equivalent value because
Washington will in any case have advantages in the field of strategic
offensive armaments," one of the sources said.
Nonetheless, "in any development, Russia will have a chance for a
retaliatory or counter strike and will retain an opportunity for
breaching any U.S. missile defense. The important point is that there
will be no need to build up the number of nuclear [warheads]," he said.
But despite all this, the Russian military thinks Russia had no
reasonable alternative to ratifying START II. The commander of strategic
missile forces, Col. Gen. Vladimir Yakovlev, has told Interfax the
service life of all Russian heavy missiles will be over by 2007, the
START II enforcement deadline. This means it would have been too heavy a
burden for Russia to keep a 6,000-warhead parity with the United States.
"The ratification of START II is a very serious step, which makes
it possible to strengthen international stability and will help take
further measures to lower the level of nuclear confrontation," said Col.
Gen. Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the general staff.
Moscow has already proposed an approximate START III limit of 1,500
But if Washington decides to go back on ABM, "we will be forced to
take asymmetrical measures," Manilov told Interfax. "But that is not our
choice, and the task is to find arguments to preserve the ABM treaty."
It is a question whether such arguments will be found before June,
when U.S. President Bill Clinton will arrive in Moscow to meet the new
Russian president, Vladimir Putin. It is also a question whether
Washington will accept them.
The answers may, however, come before the summit: Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov is leaving on Saturday for a visit to the United
States at the head of a delegation that will include leading strategic
arms and missile defense experts.
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