This Date's Issues: 4334
Johnson's Russia List
30 May 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times: Le Monde Says Putin Linked To Crime.
2. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Geoffrey York, Piqued Putin cancels
satirical TV show.
3. Washington Post: Vassily Aksyonov, Russia as the Bad Guy
4. Interfax: RUSSIAN AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY NOW 67 YEARS - STATISTICS
5. BBC MONITORING: RETIREMENT REFORM IN RUSSIA COULD PUT MEN'S PENSIONS BEYOND REACH.
6. Reuters: Russian presidential aide says economy may slow.(Illarionov)
7. RFE/RL: Michael Lelyveld, Harvard Experts Assess Putin.
8. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Russia's hope for swift win dims with
9. Reuters: OECD says Russia outperforming, reforms needed.
10. Financial Times (UK) editorial: Meeting Mr Putin.
11. The Independent on Sunday (UK): Patrick Cockburn on Vice President Gore and Russia.
12. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE ABM TREATY IS BURIED.
13. Itar-Tass: Putin, Primakov Call for Consensus in Society.
14. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Who Will Pay for the Reform?]
May 30, 2000
Le Monde Says Putin Linked To Crime
The French daily Le Monde reported last week that President Vladimir Putin
and Economic Strategy Minister German Gref were involvedwith a German real
estate development company whose co-founder was arrested earlier this month
on charges of money laundering and ties with organized crime.
In an article published Thursday called "Mr. Putin's Name Appears in
Liechtenstein Money-Laundering Case," the newspaper said that until March of
this year Putin and Gref had a vague "adviser" status with the St.
Petersburg-based Immobilien und Beteiligugngs AG, or SPAG - a German company
that was founded in 1992 in collaboration with St. Petersburg's City Hall and
had subsidiaries in the "northern capital."
One of SPAG's founders and shareholders, Rudolf Ritter, was arrested May 13
in Liechtenstein's capita,l Vaduz, on charges of money laundering and ties
with organized crime. According to Le Monde, last year's report by the German
secret service BND said that Russian criminal groups had transferred money to
SPAG through a Romanian bank for purchase of real estate in Russia.
A Russian translation of the article appeared Friday on the web site
Inopressa.ru and was re-printed Saturday in Kommersant newspaper without any
The French newspaper mentions one Vladimir Smirnov, who runs SPAG's St.
Petersburg subsidiaries Znamenskaya and Inform-Future, and describes him as
In response to Le Monde's inquiry, the presidential administration denied
that Putin had ever worked for SPAG. "The president has never worked there as
a consultant," the newspaper quoted the presidential press service as saying.
"He has never received any salary there."
However, Markus Rese, the director of SPAG, was quoted by Le Monde as saying
that both Putin and Gref had unpaid advisor status with the company until
March. "It was ... some kind of a patronage," he said.
"Nothing makes it possible today to assess Putin's exact role in the German
company," Le Monde said.
In 1994, when Putin was St. Petersburg's deputy mayor in charge of foreign
investment, Znamenskaya was contracted to build a shopping complex in the
city center, the newspaper said, and the company boasted that it was the only
foreign company working in major real estate development projects in the
The French daily also said that, through another business, Smirnov is
connected with Vladimir Kumarin, described as the leader of St. Petersburg's
powerful Tambov criminal gang.
The presidential press servicesaid on Monday that it had no comment on the
article in Le Monde.
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
May 30, 2000
Piqued Putin cancels satirical TV show
Moscow -- Just three weeks after becoming Russia's president, Vladimir Putin
has taken his vengeance on one of his most annoying enemies: a giant rubber
Bowing to Kremlin pressure, the NTV television channel has agreed to censor
its broadcasts of a scathingly satirical puppet show that ridicules Russia's
The channel has announced that it will temporarily withdraw the Putin puppet
from the weekly show.
The move is aimed at placating the powerful Kremlin officials who repeatedly
complain of the show's irreverent portrait of Mr. Putin.
The satirical program, called Kukly, is the most popular television
entertainment program in Russia today. It has built a huge audience by
hilariously skewering the arrogance and errors of Kremlin insiders and
High-ranking officials have grumbled about the puppet show for years, but
former president Boris Yeltsin, a frequent target of the show himself, always
refused to allow it to be persecuted.
In 1995, Russia's prosecutor-general launched a criminal investigation
against Kukly for "insulting" the president. But most politicians rallied to
support the program, and the prosecutor was fired in disgrace.
Today, however, the political environment is radically different. Unlike his
predecessor, Mr. Putin has never been a defender of the media. He has accused
some journalists of being "traitors." Russian media outlets are under intense
pressure to support the Kremlin.
Several outlets, including NTV, have been caught in a crackdown.
NTV is the only independent television channel with a national audience. It
is also the only channel that refuses to follow the Kremlin's official line
on the war in Chechnya and other issues.
Its parent company, Media-MOST, was the target of a raid on May 11 by heavily
armed police commandos wearing masks. The channel described the raid as an
attempt to intimidate it into obedience.
The raid was apparently part of a larger campaign to crack down on disloyal
One reporter at the muckraking, corruption-fighting newspaper Novaya Gazeta
was savagely beaten with a hammer in a mysterious attack this month. The
Russian Press Ministry issued stern warnings to two newspapers, including
Novaya Gazeta, for publishing interviews with Chechnya's rebel president, an
offence that could lead to the revoking of their publishing licences. The
biggest state-controlled channel has portrayed NTV's owner, Vladimir
Gusinsky, as an Israeli secret agent. And two prominent investigative
journalists, Andrei Babitsky and Alexander Khinshtein, have been persecuted
by the Russian police.
For months, Mr. Putin's aides and cabinet ministers have expressed their
displeasure at Kukly's disrespectful portrait of their boss. In private
conversations with NTV producers, Kremlin officials warned that Mr. Putin was
irritated by the show and hinted strongly that the program should be more
Earlier this year, a group of Mr. Putin's supporters called for criminal
charges to be filed against Kukly for "insulting the President." Senior
police officials warned that NTV could face "unpleasantness" if it refused to
restrain the show.
Many politicians were infuriated by a pre-election satire in which Russia's
politicians were portrayed as prostitutes in a brothel, with Mr. Putin
choosing among them.
This week, the Kremlin's pressure campaign finally seemed to succeed.
"In order not to fan the flames, if someone high up is so worried about a
rubber puppet of the President . . . we have decided to try an experiment: We
will try one program without the Putin puppet," NTV anchorman Yevgeny
Kiselyov announced Sunday night.
He said the Kremlin had made it clear that the removal of the Putin puppet
was a necessary condition for a reconciliation between NTV and the Russian
"The Kremlin doesn't want to destroy NTV, it only wants to make it submit to
the Kremlin's official line," said Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst at the
Moscow Carnegie Centre.
"They were very dissatisfied with Kukly's interpretation of Putin's political
activities. This show is more damaging to Putin's reputation than any
criticism from the Communists or other politicians."
The government's new Press Ministry is "trying to restrict and correct the
media," Mr. Ryabov added. "It's a real threat to the free press in Russia."
While agreeing to remove the Putin puppet from the weekly program on Sunday
night, NTV tried to defy the Kremlin by mocking the President without
actually showing his image.
It portrayed him as an invisible God, striking terror with bolts of lightning
and claps of thunder. His top aide, portrayed as Moses, refers to "the voice
of the master whose name I may not mention." The regional governors,
portrayed as Israelites wandering in the desert, prostrate themselves
fearfully and promise to obey their master.
In an interview yesterday, a Kukly staff member said the show is planning to
feature the Putin puppet next week in a sketch based on the scheduled summit
meeting between Mr. Putin and U.S. President Bill Clinton. But other NTV
spokesmen said they were uncertain whether the Putin puppet will return.
May 30, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia as the Bad Guy Again
By Vassily P. Aksyonov
The writer is a novelist who left the Soviet Union in 1980 and now teaches
Russian literature at George Mason University.
We need to find an answer to the increasingly anti-Western outlook in
Russia--the new, democratic and supposedly Western-oriented Russia. It cannot
be explained by the activities of extremist groups (left and right). It comes
from more profound sources.
After the overthrow of the Soviet regime in August 1991, many Russians,
without knowing a thing about the West, rushed to it with open arms, in a
state of euphoria and expectation. That seems a long time ago. Last summer I
watched on a Moscow TV channel a program on space exploration, and the lunar
expeditions in particular. It turned out, according to this program, that the
Americans never even landed on the moon. All those frames of Armstrong and
Aldrin hopscotching in their spacesuits over the lunar surface were simply a
Hollywood production done with the sole purpose of humiliating Russia.
And so here we are, back to the old, stinking sort of disinformation
concocted by Brezhnev's KGB. It's almost as if a new Iron Curtain were being
constructed from the rusty detritus of the old one.
As I say, we need to find an answer, but right now I'd like to focus on
another part of the picture: the curtain-builders on this side--the side I
now inhabit. To be honest, the West is responding to the new Russian
xenophobia in a way that disturbs me.
In the Western mass media, Russia is pictured today as a land of spiteful
dolts--innate enemies of civilization and democracy. It seems never to occur
to anyone in this hemisphere that Russia managed to get rid of
totalitarianism by its own efforts, unlike some other countries, which had to
be bombed to ashes before they became decent members of the liberal
During my long residency in the United States I have been fortunate enough to
know many intelligent and strong Americans who dedicated their careers and
their lives to the struggle against aggressive Soviet totalitarianism. They
always stressed, during the Cold War, that they did not consider themselves
enemies of the Russian people--the narod--who were the principal victims of
the Communist tyranny.
Yet today many of them sound like confirmed Russophobes. What has caused this
change? The major factor, it seems clear to me, is the so-called "second
Chechen war," still being waged in one form or another. I can't help being
shocked at how biased and monochromatic the Western coverage of this drama
Many of my friends here, especially those who remember Soviet times, have a
feeling that behind Russia's Chechen campaign stands a sort of agitprop
apparatus issuing guidelines for the supposedly independent organs of mass
information. Thus one cannot trust anything coming from Russian sources. On
the other hand, just about everything produced by Chechen sources is to be
believed. Thus people in the West willingly accept any cheap lie, any foolish
bravado, any dirty provocation produced by Chechen agents.
At the beginning of the current conflict, I happened to be invited to a
Washington dinner party, at which I soon became aware that in virtually all
discussions of the atrocious apartment bombings in Moscow, it was assumed
that "Putin's people," rather than Chechen terrorists, were the perpetrators.
When I finally remarked that it might just as credibly be said that American
agents, rather than Osama bin Laden's thugs, had blown up our embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania, my fellow guests exchanged glances and shrugged.
Even in the depths of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had many defenders in
the West--people who saw it as the "cradle of socialism" or some such thing.
Why is it that this particular war waged by a democratic Russia--a conflict
that I would argue is the nation's first just war in modern times--meets such
unanimous condemnation? Could it be a response to Russia's resistance to the
Kosovo operation? Or is it just that Russia didn't live up to the West's
expectations in Chechnya and lose?
They say in the United States that a Russian combat success in Chechnya would
lead to military dictatorship and a new threat to the Atlantic alliance. Does
it never occur to anyone that the breakup of Russia would create a horrifying
meltdown of European stability?
And finally, why, amid all the talk of "genocide," have Western media not
mentioned the atrocities against Russians living peacefully in Chechnya? Last
summer I traveled over the North Caucasus and heard blood-curdling stories
told by Russian refugees from Grozny. They had been visited in broad daylight
by thugs, armed to the teeth, who made it clear they wanted the Russians'
apartments. When the intruders encountered resistance, they used their
knives; blood was streaming down the staircases, I was told, but the police
seemed to be not at all interested.
There are several million Russians, Cossacks and other Slavs who have lived
for ages in the North Caucasus. Moscow cannot leave them to the mercy of
would-be "ethnic cleansers." In a way, the current action is a rescue
operation, a thoroughly legitimate one that also must be used to save the
majority of the Chechen people. They, too, are victims of the "separatist
rebels," whose primary goal actually seems to be power and money-grabbing.
It is time to end the stereotyping and prejudice, before all hope is lost for
an open dialogue between Russia and the West and another circle of mutual
animosity begins its devastating motion.
RUSSIAN AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY NOW 67 YEARS - STATISTICS OFFICE
Moscow, 29th May: The average life expectancy in Russia is now a little more
than 67 years, according to information from the Russian State Statistics
Committee obtained by Interfax.
Statistics have it that the average life expectancy for men in Russia is 61
years and 4 months and for women 72 years and 11 months.
However, in 1987 the average life expectancy in Russia was 70 years and 1.5
months (64 years and 11 months for men and 74 years and 7 months for women).
Those were the best figures for Russia from 1961 until the present. The worst
figures were registered in 1994, when men lived on average only 57 years and
7 months and women 71 years and two months (the average life expectancy being
less than 64 years).
According to statistics, only 76.2 per cent of Russian men and 91.3 per cent
of Russian women reach the age of 50, 68.9 per cent of Russian men and 88.3
per cent of Russian women live to the age of 55 and 59.9 per cent of men and
83.9 per cent of women reach the age of 60.
RETIREMENT REFORM IN RUSSIA COULD PUT MEN'S PENSIONS BEYOND REACH
Text of report by Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 29th May
[Presenter] A phased increase in the age of retirement could begin in Russia
in a few years' time, or by 2003 to be precise. At the end of it, both men
and women will retire at 65. This means that men will become pensioners five
years later than at present and women will have to wait another 10 years.
This is one of the central planks of a programme submitted to the government
by the Centre for Strategic Developments, which is headed by German Gref.
Analysts at the centre point to alarming figures from the State Statistics
Committee - in 1998 there were 711 welfare dependants for every 1,000
able-bodied people in Russia.
The State Statistics Committee also reported today that the average life
expectancy in this country is no more than 67. So if the retirement age
reform goes ahead, men won't live to see their pensions at all because their
average lifespan at present is 61 and a half. Women live longer, to nearly 73
years of age.
A former labour and welfare minister, Sergey Kalashnikov, believes that
raising the age of retirement may not be very popular but is absolutely
[Kalashnikov] The pensions we pay now are so miserly that they actually
reduce life expectancy. So I think that it's inevitable that the age of
retirement will be raised to bring it in line with the rest of Europe. I just
hope that life expectancy will increase in the meantime. If we take loss of
ability to work as a criterion for receiving a pension, then our people tend
to retire earlier on health grounds. There is another side to the argument -
mortality does not depend on whether you're working or retired. Yet that's
the reason why the idea of raising the age of retirement has been rejected
[Presenter] Kalashnikov hopes that the reform will be preceded by a serious
Russian presidential aide says economy may slow
MOSCOW, May 30 (Reuters) - Russian economic growth, boosted by high export
revenues and the 1998 rouble devaluation, may slow down and even halt if
budget spending is not cut, Russian presidential aide Andrei Illarionov said
Illarionov, Vladimir Putin's economic adviser and Russia's envoy to the Group
of Seven industrialised countries, said industrial output growth slowed in
April in month-on-month terms.
He said gross domestic product grew by an impressive 7.8 percent in the first
quarter of 2000 but was expected to lose some steam in the second quarter.
``If these negative trends prevail, economic growth may considerably slow
down in the nearest future, or even halt,'' Illarionov told a news
conference. ``There is a threat of renewed economic decline.''
Illarionov still hoped GDP growth in 2000 would reach the forecast level of
four to five percent after 3.2 percent in 1999.
The government should reduce taxes and cut budget spending to 20 percent of
GDP from the current 38 percent to provide for rapid economic growth, or at
least to 30 percent to achieve sustainable growth, Illarionov said.
These measures would leave more money in the private sector of the economy,
which in turn should boost production, he said.
Illarionov also said the government should finalise its long-awaited economic
programme by the end of June.
Russia should agree a new cooperation programme with the International
Monetary Fund in early or mid-July, he added.
The IMF put on hold a $4.5 billion loan programme to Russia last year, saying
the government failed to implement agreed structural reforms.
Russia: Harvard Experts Assess Putin
By Michael Lelyveld
The performance of Russia's new president, Vladimir Putin, has been given a
mixed report card by Harvard University experts. Professors Richard Pipes and
Marshall Goldman agree he has taken some promising steps, but they are
sharply critical of his methods in enforcing the rule of law. NCA
Correspondent Michael Lelyveld explains their views in this report.
Boston, 26 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's first
steps in office have received broadly similar ratings from leading analysts
at Harvard University, but there were sharp differences among some experts
over his efforts to increase authority and respect for the law.
Speaking at a Harvard seminar this week, U.S. and Russian experts gave their
report cards on Putin as president and acting president over the past five
Leonid Gozman, chief strategist for the Union of Right Forces during the 1999
campaign for the State Duma, split his evaluation of Putin into what he
called "good news" and "bad news." Gozman, who now serves as chief adviser to
Anatoly Chubais, the chairman of Unified Electrical Systems, noted that Putin
has named an impressive list of reformers to his economic team, calling the
appointments "good news."
In particular, Gozman cited economist Aleksei Kudrin as deputy prime
minister, German Gref as minister for economic development, and economic
adviser Andrei Illarionov. Gozman praised proposals to lower Russia's income
tax rate to 13 percent as a sign that Putin will push for sweeping change.
He also hailed Putin's plans to crack down on corruption, saying, "There is a
very high level of anxiety among oligarchs. They are very nervous now." But
Gozman added, "The bad news is they're not nervous enough."
Also on the negative side of Putin's report card, Gozman pointed to former
KGB officials that Putin has brought into government. He was particularly
critical of the raid on Media-MOST headquarters in Moscow earlier this month.
Gozman had harsh words for the government's intimidation of journalists and
limits on press freedom. "It's very bad news. It's very dangerous," he said.
Gozman sees the major factor of Putin's presidency as his enormous
popularity, which has created what he called "fantastic opportunities."
Gozman said, "He can improve democracy, and he can destroy democracy. He can
improve the market economy, and he can go back to the socialist economy."
Two of America's top experts on Russia agreed on the choices that are open to
Putin, but they noted many troubling signs.
Marshall Goldman, associate director of Harvard's Davis Center for Russian
Studies, said, "I'm still ending up with a bad report card here, and great
While Goldman agreed that Putin had promoted some liberal economists, he
voiced disappointment with the naming of Mikhail Kasyanov as prime minister
because of his reported links to Russian banks and his dislike for reform
economists like Gref.
Goldman said Putin has also showed signs of being too close Russia's
oligarchs. Putin did nothing to stop the creation of an aluminum monopoly. He
has also ruled out the renationalization of companies that do not pay tax
arrears or debts, Goldman said.
But the biggest differences came over Putin's efforts to establish a rule of
law. Gozman supported measures to rein in Russia's governors, for example,
and to strip them of immunity by restructuring the Federation Council of
parliament. Gozman said, "Everybody in Russia understands that it's necessary
to rebuild the state."
The American experts were far more troubled by Putin's drive to centralize
Richard Pipes, a Harvard history professor and author of many books on
Russia, focused on the different concepts of law in Russia and the West. In
the West, Pipes said, law is seen as above both governments and its citizens.
But Pipes said that Putin appears to regard law only as "an instrument of
Pipes said, "There is a great deal of evidence that neither Putin nor the
people around him understand what law is." In Russia, the government enforces
the law but it is not restrained by the law, he said.
Goldman also pointed to Putin's attempt to control Russia's governors, saying
that the effort may be needed to establish respect for the law, but the
methods are troubling because they imply that elections can be overruled.
Goldman said that Putin had missed an opportunity to strengthen Russia's
democratic institutions from the very start of his rise to the presidency by
refusing to campaign, relying instead on the popularity of the war in
May 30, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's hope for swift win dims with time
By David Filipov
TANGI-CHU, Russia - ''If anything moves, shoot it.''
From his foxhole on a steep bluff overlooking this war-racked village in
southern Chechnya, Russian Private Vladimir Khokhlokov aimed his antitank
weapon at the dense greenery of the foothills and repeated his orders as he
waited tensely for the enemy to come.
But it is hard to see anything move in this lush forest. That is the first of
many problems for Khokhlokov and his unit, 30 Russian soldiers up here on the
front lines, facing the forbidding Caucasus mountains to the south, where
separatist Islamic militants have split into small, mobile groups that launch
deadly, guerrilla-style attacks.
No one in Khokhlokov's unit knows when the rebels will come, or from which
direction, or even who will come - Chechens, Arab mercenaries, or even
Taliban fighters from bases in Afghanistan, against which Russia has
threatened to launch preventive strikes. All the Russians know is that they
will come. And so they wait, and worry.
''Until now, we have been the hunters and they have been the prey, but now
things could turn the other way around,'' said Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Likhachev, who is stationed at a sprawling and well-protected military base
dug into the plains north of Tangi-chu, four miles behind Khokhlokov's
The Russian Army has captured much of Chechnya from the militants, and some
commanders even declared victory following the fall of the separatists' last
major strongholds in February. But the military is struggling to finish off
the rebels, and the campaign is starting to look like a bloody stalemate.
Likhachev's base has multiple artillery batteries that launch massive strikes
at the first sign of trouble. The troops here have sophisticated listening
devices and optical equipment to help detect movement in the foothills. But
this impressive force is unable to completely protect Russian troops in the
mountains from rebel ambush. The Russian military said six paratroopers were
killed yesterday in fighting throughout the region. Last week, 10 Russian
servicemen were killed and 83 were wounded. The week before, 51 died.
Still, neither the Kremlin nor the Russian public has shown any sign of
weakening resolve to restore Moscow's control over Chechnya, despite the
mounting death toll. In Russia, people see television news footage from
southern Lebanon, where jubiliant Hezbollah and Amal militia celebrate the
withdrawal of Israeli troops. That reminds many Russians of 1996, when the
Chechens launched a surprise offensive that forced federal troops to withdraw
in defeat after two years of fighting.
The Russians do not want to let that happen again. That is why even though
the Russians have lost more than 2,000 men in Chechnya since fighting renewed
here in October, exceeding the official losses in the 1994-1996 war, no one
on the Russian side is talking about peace negotiations or withdrawal.
Russian commanders still talk about the eight-month campaign in Chechnya as a
well-planned success. By sending out special commando units into
rebel-controlled areas in the mountains to pursue guerrilla groups, Colonel
General Valery Manilov said, Russian special forces have killed several
leading rebel commanders in the past week, including Abu Mosayev, chief of
security for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.
But Russian fighting men on the ground, who several months ago spoke
hopefully of a quick victory, now say they realize they are here for the long
''This war is going to go on forever,'' said Private Vladimir Kostin, on
lookout duty at the front of an impressive labyrinth of trenches. Last fall,
the military was signing volunteer soldiers like Kostin to three-month
contracts; Kostin recently extended his hitch by a year.
''And I'll be here longer than that,'' he spat. If he is lucky, that is. Five
of his friends have been killed in the fighting.
Russian troops say the past week has seen some of the heaviest fighting since
February. In the ruined capital, Grozny, devastated by the Russian assault,
more corpses are dug up every day from makeshift graves; most of the 1,200
bodies recovered so far were civilians.
Civilians are returning to Grozny. So is the fighting.
''We never know who is shooting or at whom,'' said a paramilitary police
officer manning a checkpoint in central Grozny. He did not want his name used
or his picture taken out of fear of reprisals by Chechens against his family
in central Russia. ''When we come out in the morning, the whole place is
mined and we have to call in the bomb squad.''
The Russian forays into the mountains have also brought heavy casualties. The
latest ambush, which killed 19 Russian servicemen in the neighboring Russian
region of Ingushetia on May 11, was reportedly carried out by units loyal to
the Arab-born rebel commander known as Khattab.
Russian security officials say Khattab is connected to the Islamic terrorist
network controlled by Osama bin Laden, whom the United States has blamed for
bombing attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
It was Khattab, and the senior Chechen commander Shamil Basayev, whose
incursion last summer into another Russian region, Dagestan, prompted Moscow
to send troops into Chechnya. Yesterday, the Russian military reported that
it had repelled an attempt by a large rebel force to try to cross into
But that success has been overshadowed by other problems with Russia's
mission in Chechnya. Even after eight months, the army still has trouble
distinguishing civilians from the separatist militants it has vowed to
''Let's say we're walking down the street and we meet a Chechen,'' said
Lieutenant Colonel Valery Chinovaryan. ''Is he a rebel who has buried his gun
somewhere and who will attack us tonight? Or is he a farmer who wants a
peaceful and prosperous Chechnya? We have no way of knowing.''
Take Tangi-chu. The Russians rarely go into the town, but when they do, to
conduct sweeps for rebel fighters, soldiers find only women, elderly, and
children - and men's dirty shoes.
''We're always wondering when the owners of the shoes will come back, and
what they'll do,'' said one paramilitary officer.
Rather than take chances, many Russian officers shoot first, and ask
''If I get the order to fire at rebel fighters, I'm going to shoot, and never
mind who might be in the house next door,'' was the way Likhachev put it.
''My first concern is the safety of my soldiers.''
This approach, some Chechen civilians say, has led to numerous crimes against
innocent victims. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the
whole village of Tangi-chu was surrounded by Russian forces for three months,
cut off from water or electricity, while the military made sure there were no
rebel fighters here.
Four witnesses who spoke to Human Rights Watch said young men were stripped
naked and beaten in public, dragged off, and held prisoner in ditches until
their families paid a ransom. These allegations, if true, highlight the
ambivalent nature of Russia's campaign: It was precisely this kind of
hostage-taking for ransom by Chechen gangs that Moscow said its soldiers were
put in Chechnya to prevent.
It was in Tangi-chu, in March, that a Russian colonel raped and murdered Heda
Kungayeva, an 18-year-old Chechen girl, the one war crime the military has
admitted. Even though the colonel's guilt was proclaimed on national
television by the Russian chief of the general staff, the army now insists
that the colonel is innocent.
As a result, Chechens express little trust in the military or the Russian
government's representative office in Grozny.
To solve this problem, Moscow has been looking for a Russian loyalist Chechen
leader who can help it run the republic, but has not yet found anyone who has
the trust or popularity of a majority of Chechens. The Kremlin had placed
hopes on Bislan Gantamirov, a convicted embezzler it let out of jail to help
conquer Grozny. But the military later decided it could not trust
Gantamirov's 2,500-member militia enough to fight alongside it.
For all the difficulties of their mission, Russian officers express little
doubt about the need to clear Chechnya of rebel fighters.
But once they are out of earshot of their commanders, some Russian soldiers
tell a story of frustration and fear in dealing with Chechens.
''We are friendly with them by day, then at night they kill us. It is
terrible, and I'm tired of it,'' said Mikhail Larin, a noncommissioned
officer who was returning to his Siberian homeland after three months at war.
''Even the Chechen women, even the loyalists, they come up to us and say,
`We're going to drive you out.' If they wanted to, that's what they'd do.''
OECD says Russia outperforming, reforms needed
By Peter Henderson
MOSCOW, May 30 (Reuters) - Russia's economic recovery has proved more
impressive than expected, despite the need for reform, the OECD said on
Tuesday, substantially raising its growth forecasts in its half-yearly
Real gross domestic product growth should rise this year to the highest since
the Soviet Union's fall, 4.0 percent after 3.2 percent in 1999, slowing to
3.0 percent in 2001, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development forecast.
Consumer inflation would be steady this year and next at 20 percent, slowing
from 36.7 percent last year.
``The general outlook for the Russian economy now appears more favourable
than in the recent past. The new momentum in industrial output should
contribute to another year of at least moderate GDP growth while incomes,
domestic demand and investment should also continue a gradual recovery,'' it
With a strong trade surplus and political stability under a new president,
Vladimir Putin, now was the time for reforms which would be the basis of
long-term growth, it added.
The effect of Russia's exchange rate crisis on the Baltic States also
appeared near an end, the OECD said, adding it saw European Union growth
leading them to orient trade away from Russia.
The picture in south eastern Europe was mixed. Slovak Republic economic
growth was seen rising to 2.0 percent this year and 3.0 percent next from a
1.9 percent GDP rise in 1999.
But Slovaks faced fiscal pressure this year and next and needed political
commitment for reforms, it said..
The picture of health for Russia sharply contrasted with anaemic growth
forecasts -- 1.0 percent this year and next -- made six months ago, but the
OECD raised familiar warning flags.
Regions were suffering as the healthy federal budget took a bigger slice of
the pie and barter between the regions and taxpayers still flourished,
limiting officials' ability to govern.
Nationally economic imbalances such as repressed energy and transportation
prices, which have distorted the economy since Soviet days, needed to be
addressed and appeared to partly answer for the unexpectedly strong
industrial growth, it warned.
Recent industrial strength has generally been attributed to high prices for
energy exports and the sheltering effect from export competition of a weak
rouble, which has spurred local firms to produce for the domestic market.
The trade surplus has also boomed, though the OECD said the central bank,
which has furiously been buying foreign currency and printing roubles to do
so, could spur inflation by not allowing the rouble to appreciate.
``A stronger current account could have the effect of pushing money supply
and inflation somewhat beyond official targets,'' it said.
Financial Times (UK)
May 30, 2000
Meeting Mr Putin
Vladimir Putin wooed and won the Russian electorate when he was elected
president two months ago. This week he is seeking to do the same with his
most important foreign partners, the US and the European Union. But even if
all obviously want to demonstrate that their relations are off to a good
start, they must not duck the problems that have still to be resolved. Mr
Putin could prove to be a prickly partner to deal with, even if he is more
predictable than Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor.
The Russian leader is certainly showing growing self-confidence in exercising
the sweeping powers of his office. He has moved swiftly to consolidate his
position, both with respect to the Russian Duma and the powerful regional
governors. He is clearly determined to transform his disparate Unity movement
into a new party of power, although it seems rather like the old Communist
party in style, if not substance. His appointment of seven regional
"viceroys" is intended to curb the governors.
On economic reform, he has yet to spell out a clear strategy. As an efficient
bureaucrat rather than a politician, he is inclined to consult all opinions
before reaching a decision. While he is pressing ahead with a simplified tax
code, which is an improvement, he is making less headway in introducing clear
rules of property ownership. Both are essential to promote urgently needed
investment. On the downside, his re-appointment of Mikhail Kasyanov as prime
minister, and of Alexander Voloshin as presidential chief of staff, is less
reassuring. Both are closely associated with the Yeltsin "family". Mr Putin
clearly does not feel strong enough to challenge those interests, even if he
When he met EU leaders yesterday he stressed that Europe was Russia's "top
priority", because of its location, culture and economic relationship. No
doubt when he meets Bill Clinton at the weekend, he will stress the special
ties between the two nuclear powers, even if Russia can no longer claim
But he has problems on both fronts. The Europeans have been particularly
critical of human rights violations in Chechnya, while the American plans for
a national missile defence system are anathema to Moscow.
The EU and US must seek to present a united message to Mr Putin. Economic
reform, underpinned by an independent judiciary, has a long way to go.
Enforceable laws are essential to curb the powers of the financial oligarchs,
whose influence is a major disincentive to foreign investment. Human rights
violations are not acceptable inside Russia's borders, any more than they are
outside. Democracy and a market economy are two sides of the same coin. That
is what Mr Putin needs to understand.
The Independent on Sunday (UK)
28 May 2000
[for personal use only]
From Patrick Cockburn in Moscow
re Vice President Gore and Russia
Early in the US presidential campaign Vice President Al Gore’s bid to
follow President Clinton into the White House was almost capsized by
allegations that he had turned a blind eye to corruption in Russia despite
frequent contact with Russian leaders.
The Vice President was vulnerable because between 1993 and 1998 he
had taken a leading role in formulating US policy towards Russia as
chairman of a joint commission on relations between the countries which
he chaired with former Russian prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin.
Mr Gore had boosted the commission as evidence that he was a serious
international statesman and more than a decorative figure in the Clinton
White House. The claim blew up in his face last year when critics asked
why, if he knew so much about Russia, he only leaned from the
newspapers about the scandal over the laundering of $10 billion in
Russian money through the Bank of New York.
Criticism of the Vice President over the Chernomyrdin-Gore
Commission missed the real target sources in Moscow have told the
Independent on Sunday. He was telling the truth when he said he knew a
great deal Russia. He could not publicly explain, however, that his
knowledge stemmed from the extraordinary relationship between his
father, Senator Al Gore Sr, and Armand Hammer, the American
multi-millionaire, who, after meeting Lenin, became the Soviet Union’s
first foreign investor in 1921. Hammer also served, according to secret
Soviet documents since released, as the conduit for laundering money to
Soviet intelligence operations and Communist parties abroad.
“The American press missed the point over the Gore-Chernomyrdin
scandal,” said a diplomat in Moscow last week. “Gore had access to the
Soviet and then the Russian leadership long before he met Chernomyrdin
because of his father’s links to Hammer and Hammer’s high level
contacts in the Soviet Union.”
The Vice President is often presented as a wooden and somewhat
simple-minded clone of Mr Clinton. In fact his political background is far
more interesting and complex. His political career developed out of that
of his father Senator Al Gore Sr of Tennessee, who left the Senate in
1971 to become head of the coal division of Hammer’s oil company
Occidental Petroleum. He earned a salary of $500,000 a year.
The link between Hammer and Al Gore Sr was intimate and went back
many years to when he was a Congressman from Tennessee. Hammer
once said, according to a US source, that he had Gore in his “back
pocket.” As early as 1950, according to Edward Jay Epstein’s superb
biography of Hammer (Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer,
Random House, New York, 1996) he made Congressman Gore his
partner in a profitable cattle-breeding business.
Hammer needed political protection. J Edgar Hoover, even before he
became head of the FBI, had been tracking him as a possible Soviet
agent. For once Hoover was right, though this only became clear in 1996
when the Russian government released secret archives to Mr Epstein. In
Congress Al Gore Sr helped keep the FBI off Hammer’s back.
Hammer, who died in 1990, was notorious for advancing his business
interests by the systematic bribery of politicians and government officials.
He won an important oil concession for Occidental in Libya in 1967 by
paying a larger bribe than anybody else. Senator Gore Sr stood beside
him on the podium at the oilfield opening ceremony the following year.
Al Gore Jr, as freshman Senator for Tennessee, inherited his father’s
connection with Hammer and Occidental. In 1981, Hammer was his guest
at the inauguration of President Reagan, just as he had been the guest of
his father at five previous presidential inaugurations. The link with
Occidental was not broken by Hammer’s death. As recently as 1996 the
Vice President reportedly played an important role in the privatising of
the Elk Hills naval petroleum reserve in California which was later
bought by Occidental for $3.5 billion.
Unnoticed in the furore over the Vice President’s association with
Occidental in the US was the degree to which he had also benefited from
Hammer’s and Occidental’s connections, before 1990, in Moscow. The
two potential scandals now threatening his presidential ambitions – his
relationship with Russian leaders and an overclose relationship with
Occidental – both originate in his family’s involvement in the business
activities of Armand Hammer in the Soviet Union and the US.
Hammer left Moscow in 1929. The Soviet Union no longer needed him
as a showcase successful foreign capitalist – Lenin’s motive for giving
him the concession to an asbestos mine in the Urals – or to secretly fund
its agents and sympathisers abroad. He had briefly owned a profitable
pencil factory, but ultimately lost money in the young Soviet Union. His
one remaining concession was to act as agent for selling art treasures now
owned by the Soviet state. Even this was not quite what it seemed. His
first attempted sale was of a supposedly lost Rembrandt painting called
The Circumcision of Christ, which turned out to be a recent fake.
Hammer returned to Moscow in 1961. Senator Gore Sr arranged
semi-official sponsorship of his trip by the US Commerce Department.
He met with Nikita Khrushchev, then Soviet leader, but it was ten years
later that he really began to do serious business once again in the Soviet
Union. His method of cultivating the Soviet hierarchy differed little from
his approach to political leaders in the US. In Moscow he became a friend
of Yakaterina Furtseva, the well-connected Minister of Culture, who soon
after began to build a luxurious holiday home for herself. She died in
Moscow in 1974 after coming under investigation for corruption. A
former associate of Hammer later testified in the US that she was paid a
bribe of $100,000. During the same period Hammer also arranged for
$54,000 in laundered hundred dollar bills to be paid to the Nixon White
House to help finance the Watergate cover-up.
Despite the corruption of officials the Soviet Union got more than its
moneys worth from Hammer. He genuinely wanted to be seen as an
architect of detente. Before he died, aged ninety-two, he poured
enormous sums from Occidental’s coffers into hopelessly uneconomic
projects in the Soviet Union. A vast and ugly trade centre, built by
Hammer, still rises beside the Moskva river in central Moscow.
Not surprisingly Soviet and later Russian leaders – often the same
people – favour Vice President Gore for the presidency as an associate of
their favourite capitalist. Andrei Kortunov, president of the Moscow
Science Foundation, and an expert on relations with the US, says: “The
traditional establishment likes the Gore family.” On meeting Al Gore Jr
in Washington as early as 1985 he recalls being struck by the Senator’s
knowledge of the Soviet Union.
Ironically, Vice President Gore was right in saying he knows a lot
about Russia, but he is hardly likely publicize the reason why.
May 30, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE ABM TREATY IS BURIED
Konstantin KOSACHEV, deputy chairman of the Duma committee
on international affairs and deputy head of the OVR faction
Now that barely a few days are left before the arrival of
President Clinton in Moscow, the US administration, the
parliament and above all the Pentagon are preparing for the
discussion of the pivot issue of bilateral relations today.
They want to convince the Russians to amend the 1972 ABM Treaty
so that it would allow the deployment of an NMD system in the
Whom does the US superpower fear so much as to want to
deploy this system? Washington says it needs an NMD system to
protect the nation from some "evil" (or even worse) states,
clearly meaning North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and some other
countries. The accompanying maps provided by the CIA show the
estimated range of missiles of these "rogue" states in the year
2005. According to American forecasts, missiles launched from
Iraq (although it can hardly create them owing to unabating UN
control) will be able to reach Paris, Berlin or Warsaw. Not
long ago Der Spiegel published a picture of a circle with a
radius of 4,000km, covering broad expanses in Europe. It is
allegedly the range of the Israeli Jericho-2 missile. I wonder,
though, who supplies missile technologies to Israel, if not its
Anyway, the above means that even if there is a threat of
a missile attack from the evil states, the first to fear should
be the European allies (for geographical reasons), rather than
the USA. The idea of "the new threat" can hardly explain the
deployment of 100 interceptor missiles in Alaska at the first
NMD stage (this is why the Americans want to "modernise" the
ABM Treaty so badly). Why? Because of long distances and the
insufficient standards of research and technological progress
in North Korea or Iraq.
Well, it is for the Pentagon strategists to think on their
arguments in favour of the NMD system. While we should analyse
the consequences of its potential deployment (which amounts to
unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty) and suggest an
alternative action plan.
It is apparent that the deployment of the NMD system in
the USA would do irreparable damage to the reduction of
strategic offensive forces and the regimes of non-proliferation
of mass destruction weapons, missiles and missile technology.
States that have, or are working on, missile technology and
mass destruction weapons will not tolerate the depreciation of
their potential and the expensive efforts to create it.
To prove the point, I offer you the opinion of Americans.
According to world news agencies, the CIA is finishing a secret
report for the White House, in which it warns that the creation
of an NMD system in the USA would inevitably launch a race for
nuclear-missile weapons. The CIA believes that China will mount
MIRVed warheads on its missiles, while India will build up its
nuclear-missile potential, thus provoking Pakistan into doing
the same. North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Syria will step up the
work on their nuclear programmes.
In other words, if the ABM Treaty is violated, this will
blow up the entire system of strategic stability in the world.
Who knows how the circle with the well-known states in the
centre will expand if Article 9 of the ABM Treaty does not tie
anyone's hands? In short, it is easy to see where we will end
if certain states live by the might-is-right principle and
unashamedly pull the nuclear blanket to themselves.
We must not overlook the fact that many West European
countries, which are being drawn into the new missile defence
system (above all Britain and Denmark, and possibly Norway and
some other countries) will actually become US hostages. The
thing is - if we proceed from the pessimistic American scenario
- that missiles launched from the "instability region" will fly
in particular over Northern Europe. Will the potential
aggressors overcome the ABM shield by increasing the number of
missiles, or by delivering pre-emptive strikes at the ABM
systems in the countries that their missiles should overfly?
There is still some time left to remedy the situation. The
wisest decision for the departing Clinton administration would
be to carry on dialogue with Russia, rather than ignore its
legitimate interests. As for preparations for the June 3-5
summit in Moscow, the only acceptable variant for both sides
would be to reaffirm their position of loyalty to the ABM
Treaty and nuclear disarmament.
Putin, Primakov Call for Consensus in Society. .
MOSCOW, May 29 (Itar-Tass) - President Vladimir Putin and the leader of the
Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction in the Duma, Yevgeny Primakov, called for
consensus in society.
In the course of the meeting on Monday, Putin noted that he intended to lean
on public opinion in his work.
Putin and Primakov discussed draft laws submitted by the government to the
State Duma, the presidential press service told Itar-Tass.
Primakov said all these draft laws aimed at strengthening government. At the
same time, he noted that they would amended and he hoped that they would be
studied most carefully at all levels of government.
Russia Today press summaries
May 29, 2000
Who Will Pay for the Reform?
The first big action of the new government will be the change of several
major taxes. Kosmom analyzed how the news will tell on people's incomes and
The sages in government have calculated that they will be able to cut the tax
burden on enterprises by two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. This is
huge money on the country scale. However, nothing will change for ordinary
workers, neither in big state enterprises nor in small private companies. The
former will continue to pay 13 per cent income tax from their wages, while
the latter will only pay taxes from a smaller part of their incomes and get
the rest in "black cash".
The tax reform seems to be very beneficial for people with high revenues (50
thousand rubles a year and more), who currently must pay income taxes at a
high rate. But, as the Minister for Economic Development German Gref
explained the other day: "The State should not engage in any kind of
hypocrisy". In reality, only 0.1 per cent of present-day taxpayers pay income
taxes at the highest rate of thirty per cent. The majority of affluent people
have learnt to hide their incomes. This is why the government wants to impose
a single thirteen per cent rate â€“ it hopes that, with this rate, many
entrepreneurs will disclose their incomes and pay more to the state treasury.
The tax reform will touch some other categories of people. The military and
militia, who are tax-exempt now, will lose this privilege. A piece of good
news is that citizens' spending on education will become tax-exempt.
Russian enterprises will benefit from the reform more than individuals. The
tax on turnover, as well as road and housing levies will be cancelled, and
medical and social levies reduced. If all clauses of the proposed tax reforms
pass, enterprises will save 200 billion rubles in taxes in 2001. This money
may be spent for renovation of enterprises, which will eventually make all
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