This Date's Issues: 4386 •
Johnson's Russia List
5 July 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Russia seeking to ease its Soviet-era debt at G8 meeting.,
2. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Sober up or get the sack,
Russian workers are told.
3. Reuters: Putin to address parliament amid reform plan row.
4. AFP: Russian academics take to streets to protest against low
5. Moscow Times: Yulia Latynina, How President Putin Ate a Little
6. Platt's Metals: John Helmer, RUSSIA'S AUDIT AGENCY CHANGES
MIND ON NORILSK NICKEL LEGALITY.
7. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, Putin puts future of
Siberian tiger at risk.
8. The Electric Telegraph: Marcus Warren, Discovering the real
9. APN: Boris KAGARLITSKY, Oligarch setting free is worse than
10. Edward Lucas' personal view from Moscow.
11. RFE/RL: Michael Lelyveld, U.S. Experts Differ On Reform
Program. (Jeffrey Sachs and Marshall Goldman)]
Russia seeking to ease its Soviet-era debt at G8 meeting
MOSCOW, July 5 (AFP) -
Finance ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrial countries meet
in Japan on Friday to prepare the upcoming summit in Okinawa, with Moscow
seeking an easing of its Soviet-era debt burden.
At the July 21-23 summit President Vladimir Putin is expected to push for a
rescheduling of the 42 billion dollar debt the Russian Federation inherited
on the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
But Western states and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want to see key
reforms implemented before cutting Russia any more slack.
These include radical tax changes, an end to massive capital flight and root
and branch reform of the financial sector devastated by the August 1998
default on domestic debt.
However, the arrival of a new economic team in Putin's cabinet has generated
"colossal interest" abroad, Russia's Economic Development Minister German
Gref said on his return from the World Economic Forum on Eastern Europe.
The youthful minister has devised an ambitious 10-year reform programme for
Russia, whose economic renaissance continues to surprise observers.
Gross domestic product grew by 8.4 percent in the first half of the year, the
trade balance is strongly in the black, this year's budget should be balanced
for the first time in post-Soviet history, while the Central Bank's reserves
have soared to more than 20 billion dollars.
But even the reformers now in charge of Russia's born-again economy admit
that the recovery from the August 1998 crash is largely due to the sharp
ruble devaluation that ensued and continued high world oil prices.
The effects of devaluation are now wearing off, leaving a legacy of
inflationary pressures, while global oil prices will likely fall given Saudi
Arabia's recent pledge to boost output to rein back prices.
Russian businesses "remain weak," said Alexei Kudrin, the deputy prime
minister and finance minister who has been tasked by Putin with overseeing
"The revenue surplus enables us to repay our debts, not spend more," he told
the Vlast weekly in Tuesday's edition.
And in order to launch the major structural reforms all agree are needed to
ensure long-term economic growth, Russia depends on the support of the West
and international credit institutions.
Kudrin insists that Russia has changed and no longer intends to live on
foreign loans and "spend money we don't earn," he told Vlast.
Russia no longer expects massive IMF loans suspended since last September.
Nevertheless, discussions with the IMF on its economic programme remain
important as they set the tone for the approach to Russia taken by the West
and overseas investors burned in the 1998 financial crisis.
"I don't doubt that we will not receive any IMF loans before the end of the
year," said Alexander Shokhin, who chairs the committee in the State Duma
lower house of parliament on banking and international credit organisations.
"But discussions with the IMF are indispensable, not for the money, but in
order to resolve our problems with the Paris Club," which groups states
holding Soviet-era debt.
"Until there is an agreement with the IMF (on an economic plan) there will be
no rescheduling" of the Paris Club debt.
"It is unlikely that the IMF will grant large sums to Russia (this year) and
discussions with the Paris Club will be very difficult," said Boris Nemtsov,
leader of the Union of Rightist Forces in parliament and a former first
deputy prime minister.
However, the reformer called for the debt slate to be wiped clean, saying
"the collapse of the Soviet Union was worth more to the West than the these
Securing a rescheduling agreement with the Paris Club is one of Moscow's main
goals in the next few months, and has been a focus of Putin's talks during
the flurry of trips to Europe since his March 26 election.
Berlin, Moscow's biggest creditor, is resolutely opposed to a cancellation of
half of the debt mooted by the Russian authorities.
The most likely outcome is a rescheduling agreement, with Moscow holding out
for a long-term deal at minimal interest rates.
German Economy Minister Werner Mueller said he was optimistic that an
agreement could be reached when Putin was in the German capital last month.
The Independent (UK)
2 July 2000
[for personal use only]
Sober up or get the sack, Russian workers are told
By Helen Womack in Moscow
Everybody knows that hard-drinking men are the bane of Mother Russia's
life. The average Russian man is said to drink a whole bottle of vodka
every other day.
Alcoholism is the main cause of low life expectancy among Russian males –
and not only does drink kill them, but many are dead drunk when they die.
Meanwhile the vast country, always perceived as female, endures and suffers.
The reforming Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, tried to end this endemic
national disaster, but only made matters worse. By limiting supplies of
vodka, he merely pushed Russians into drinking eau de cologne and cocktails
based on boot polish.
By ripping up the fine old vineyards of Crimea, he ensured that when vodka
did return, Russians only drank more of it, as wine ceased to be an
alternative. This is the problem with Russian reform: it has always been
imposed from above, rather than growing from below.
But now in a village in the Volga region, one exasperated woman is fighting
drunkenness on her own patch and hoping to start a social revolution. She
is Lydia Gavrilova, director of the Hope Collective Farm in Novy Usad.
Cattle were dying on the farm because the workers were too drunk to look
after them. Her first act on becoming director was to sack all the boozers
and take some back on probation. "One drink and you're out" is the new
rule. All the senior administrative positions she gave to women – far less
likely than men to be hopeless soaks.
Ms Gavrilova, smart in a black skirt and mauve lace jumper, was out in the
fields, supervising work. A male cowherd stood by, smiling timidly. "He's
not a drunk, he's just lazy," said Ms Gavrilova.
The huge farm, which always had male directors in Communist times, ran into
trouble in the early Nineties, when state subsidies dried up.
Young people went to work in cities, and the older peasants who remained
struggled to survive. Problems were compounded by drink. Cattle went
unmilked. Workers were too hungover to start at 5am, and neglected calves
died at birth.
Ms Gavrilova, a trained agronomist, had left the farm where she started her
career, but the workers begged her to come back and sort them out.
"It wasn't just that they trusted me," she said. "There was no man around
willing to take on an impossible job." Ms Gavrilova, separated from the
father of her little girl, is reticent about her private life and whether
experience of drunkenness in her own family led her to crusade against the
But sobriety is improving life on the farm, and locals now aspire to work
Mindful of the failure of Mr Gorbachev's temperance campaign, the director
is too realistic to try to stop workers drinking in their own time.
Drink is an integral part of Russian culture and, indeed, in offering
hospitality to guests, Ms Gavrilova serves kvas, a mildly alcoholic drink.
She simply does not allow drinking on the job.
Men are in awe of her. "I had been drinking," said Viktor Lebedev, as he
worked in the cowshed. "Gavrilova laid me off for two weeks. I begged to
come back. I watch myself now."
Mechanic Anatoly Morozov said: "Gavrilova has a strong character. She's
really trying to keep this place running. I respect her for that. Women
rule men at home. I have no trouble letting them rule at work."
Before strong women, Russian men tremble. Despite the apparent dominance of
men in public positions, in many cases, it is women who really wear the
trousers. They love their men like children, instead of adults. They tend
to boss them around, instead of trusting them.
Could it be that Mother Russia has the men she deserves?
Putin to address parliament amid reform plan row
By Gareth Jones
MOSCOW, July 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will deliver his
annual state of the nation address to both chambers of parliament on
Saturday, the chairman of the upper house, the Federation Council, said on
Putin's first state of the nation speech comes at a time when the two houses
of parliament are at odds over Putin's radical plans to shake up the way
Russia is governed.
But Yegor Stroyev said the upper chamber was ready tofind a compromise with
the State Duma (lower house) over the proposals.
The plans have alarmed many in the Federation Council, made up of regional
governors whose powers Putin wants to curb.
``The president's address will be on July 8,'' Stroyev told reporters.
Parliamentary officials had said earlier on Tuesday that Putin's first state
of the nation speech since his March 26 election would be given on July 18,
the day he is due to start a trip to Asia.
Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, gave the first such address in 1994, a
year after he used tanks to crush a revolt by hard-liners in the old Soviet
legislature and introduced a new constitution with a strong presidency and
Putin's constitutional proposals, strongly backed by the Duma where
pro-Kremlin parties dominate, amount to the deepest changes in the way Russia
is ruled since the events of 1993.
The plans would strip regional governors of their seats in the upper chamber
and give Putin the right to dismiss them if they violate federal laws or the
constitution. Governors also would gain the right to dismiss lower officials
who break laws.
Putin, elected on a law-and-order platform, wants to tighten Kremlin control
of a vast nation sprawling over 11 time zones.
Stroyev told reporters that senators were likely to agree at an extraordinary
session on Friday to a Duma proposal to set up a conciliation commission to
try to iron out their differences.
But he made clear the Federation Council would want the commission to tackle
all of the proposed changes, not just the plan to strip governors of seats as
the Duma now envisages.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has a seat in the upper house and said he
opposed Putin's plans, told Interfax news agency that the upper chamber had
to agree to the commission or risk being frozen out of the decision process
on its future.
Under the constitution, Putin can override a Federation Council veto,
although Stroyev said that the president had stressed in a telephone
conversation with him that he wanted to reach a compromise acceptable to both
Russian media have said that such a compromise could include allowing
governors to serve out their current terms rather than having to quit
parliament next year.
Along with parliamentary seats, the governors stand to lose immunity from
prosecution. The Kremlin has suggested some might have broken the law while
in office and should be punished.
On Tuesday, Putin also discussed the constitutional issue by telephone with
Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov and held talks in his Kremlin office with
several parliamentary leaders including Boris Gryzlov, head of the
pro-Kremlin Unity faction.
In a sign of the pro-Putin forces' determination to push through the
constitutional changes, Unity later expelled young lawmaker Vladimir Ryzhkov
for failing to toe the party line.
Ryzhkov has argued that the government overhaul scheme could threaten the
fate of Putin's planned economic reforms, which must win the approval of the
Seleznyov said that if the Federation Council agreed to set up the
conciliation committee it could forge a compromise that the Duma could
approve on July 19 before its summer recess.
Russian academics take to streets to protest against low pay
MOSCOW, July 5 (AFP) -
Russia's scientists, once the intellectual elite of the Soviet Union, took
President Vladimir Putin at his word Tuesday in mounting a nationwide protest
against low pay and shrinking research grants.
"I am ashamed to tell you how little a Russian academic earns," the
newly-elected leader told the Academy of Sciences last month and it was a
remark taken up by about 300 scientists who demonstrated in the streets of
"Defend science, protect Russia!", "Don't let science die!" and "Don't kill
science with taxes" were among other slogans chanted by the academics whose
large international reputations often contrast sharply with their paltry
post-Soviet wages, sometimes as low as 50 dollars a month.
Meanwhile, in St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, in western Siberia, and Vladivostok
in Russia's far east, as well as in other "scientific cities" across the
country, disgruntled colleagues joined the protest against cuts in the
scientific research budget since the heyday of the Soviet Union.
Before 1991 and the end of the Communist era, science funding represented
seven percent of the overall Soviet budget, and contributed 2.5 percent of
the gross domestic product, compared to 0.25 percent nowadays, according to
Vladimir Strakhov, director of Russia's Institute of Earth Sciences.
One of the key organisers of Tuesday's mass protest, Strakhov calculates that
in Russia today science enjoys more or less the same level of funding "as
hunting and fishing."
Almost two million Soviet academics were employed in the physical and social
sciences during the 1980s, as opposed to about 800,000 today, according to
But in real terms, pay levels have fallen even more drastically.
Take Lev Morev, for example, a 72-year-old PhD in Oriental languages, who was
one of the demonstrators in Moscow carrying a placard emblazoned with Putin's
Morev earns the equivalent of 50 dollars a month or "less than a Moscow
roadsweeper," as he wryly observes.
Moreover, the four- or five-fold average drop in Russian academic pay has led
to a worrying brain drain, according to experts, with at least 30,000
scientists leaving for more profitable appointments abroad.
"Fifteen years ago, one scientist in four across the world spoke Russian,"
observes Strakhov. "Today, Russians account for less than five percent of
Meanwhile, as the demonstrators in Moscow told the Russian parliament in an
address Tuesday, "the average age of (Russia's) scientists is
catastrophically high -- about 57 -- because young people have been
discouraged by the fall in salary levels."
Svetlana Danilova, 36, one of the few students studying for a PhD at the
Russian Institute of Plant Biology, says she "does not want to be forced to
leave the country in order to get a decent job," as a friend did recently.
But with her grant of only 400 rubles (13 dollars) a month, she is obliged to
live off her husband who "does not work in the scientific field."
Elena Kazantseva, union leader at the Institute of Physical Chemistry,
invokes the venerable ghost of Andrei Sakharov, father of the Russian atomic
bomb and a celebrated dissident during the Soviet era, in considering the
plight of Danilova and others like her.
"It's a paradox," she says. "Scientists were among the most staunch defenders
of democratic reform (in Russia) and now they are its principal victims."
July 5, 2000
INSIDE RUSSIA: How President Putin Ate a Little Bird
By Yulia Latynina
In Saltykov-Shchedrin's "Tale of the City of Glupov," there was a noteworthy
city elder. He was noteworthy because everyone expected him to perform deeds
"both great and terrible." However, the city father "ate a little bird" and
at once calmed down.
Once there lived another famed eater of little birds: Russia's first
President Boris Yeltsin no less. Yeltsin drew up an authoritarian
constitution and as a result presided over the carving up of a state. Yeltsin
broke up parliament with tanks and promptly granted amnesty to the mutineers.
Yeltsin created a system of authority in which he decided everything himself
f and as a result every last piece of the system was privatized by the
oligarchs. Generally, the populace expected "terrible deeds," but the city
head ate a little bird and ž
Last week we all saw how President Putin got down to eating his little bird.
The president suffered three significant defeats. First, he was forced to
release media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky from prison. Second, he suffered a
blow to his flank from Boris Berezovsky, who, like Frankenstein fighting
against his own creation, got stuck into the conflict over presidential
decrees for reforming federal relations. Finally, the governors f who for a
whole month had been behaving exactly like Trotskyites at the trials of
Vishinsky, that is fiercely supporting their own massacre f suddenly
rebelled. They swapped their soft words for ones reminiscent of the oath of
the 12th-century Aragon princes who pledged loyalty to the king, "if the king
shall possess the authority to require this of us" f we will be loyal as long
as he forces us to be loyal and no longer.
There was another more noteworthy fact, however. Namely that this whole
womanish furor can be explained not by the strength of the president's
enemies, but by the unforgivable tactical errors of the authorities
If governors-general have truly been appointed to rule the regions, then they
should have proclaimed that they were setting out to destroy the previous
But no. The governors general have done no such thing. Instead, they have let
themselves get involved in squabbles over which historical residence to call
Meanwhile, what was the point of arresting Gusinsky only to release him?
Contrary to those claiming that this behavior was designed to scare the
opposition, such behavior could only possibly give the signal for the
opposition to unite.
The opposition did just that, crying out: "Chekists have got hold of Russia!"
Of course, all of Putin's measures are in truth branded with Chekist
And therein lies Russia's salvation.
Both the KGB and its successor, the Federal Security Service, have never been
the Satan that dissidents have long f for some reason f imagined. Rather they
have been formless bureaucratic organizations that suffocated under their own
Now Putin's team is acting extremely clumsily. It has frightened everyone and
eliminated no one. They are chasing the same enemies all at once instead of
getting rid of them one by one.
They start a war with the oligarchy, not with the close circle but with those
bothered by this circle. In doing so they lose the ability of showing that
this is anything other than the latest palace squabble.
So far Putin has been saved only by the fact that those who stand against him
are just as dissolute, just as lazy and as lacking in moral superiority. But
in any conflict it is dangerous to count on your opponent making mistakes.
This is the best way not to make mistakes yourself.
If not, the authorities' ration will consist solely of little birds.
Yulia Latynina writes for Sovershenno Sekretno.
From: "John Helmer" <email@example.com>
Subject: RUSSIA'S AUDIT AGENCY CHANGES MIND ON NORILSK NICKEL LEGALITY
Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000
>From Platt's Metals, July 5, 2000
RUSSIA'S AUDIT AGENCY CHANGES MIND ON NORILSK NICKEL LEGALITY
>From John Helmer in Moscow
Russia's independent state auditor, the Accounting Chamber,
sees little likelihood that a recent challenge by Moscow city prosecutors to
the ownership of Norilsk Nickel will get far.
The Accounting Chamber reported on June 9 that the takeover by the Interros
group of Russia's largest mining company between 1995 and 1997 was not
illegal. This opinion reversed several earlier findings and a 1997 report
by the Chamber, condemning every aspect of the scheme by which Interros and
its associated Uneximbank took over the company, in an tender auction
Uneximbank conducted itself, for a fraction of the market price.
The August 1997 award of a 38% shareholding in Norilsk Nickel was made after
Uneximbank defied efforts by the prime minister at the time, Victor
Chernomyrdin, and state prosecutors and Accounting Chamber officials tried
to stop the tender.
The Chamber's recent change of mind was followed within days by the filing of
a court claim against the company's privatization by the Moscow
division of the state prosecutor's office. This has triggered widespread
speculation that the Putin administration is considering an attack on
Vladimir Potanin, the head of the Interros group and an influential
during the term of President Boris Yeltsin.
Putin met with Potanin last week in the Kremlin, and announced that the fate
of the big mining company had to be decided on "objective terms". Prime
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov took a similarly vague stance.
The Accounting Chamber made clear to Platt's on Tuesday that there are no
"objective" grounds to reversing the privatization of Norilsk Nickel, or
stripping Potanin's group of its controlling stake. Chamber officials also
imply that the government has neither the money nor the management to
fill the gap at Norilsk Nickel, if Potanin's appointees were to be evicted.
Norilsk Nickel, which is a world leader in production of nickel, copper, and
platinum group metals, denies the Kremlin is behind the challenge, calling it
instead "bungling by different bureaucrats".
The Moscow court has ordered the prosecutors to reconsider their filing, and
return with a redrafting of the claim. The issue is now under
review by the federal prosecutor-general, who may order the case to be
Sources inside the Accounting Chamber hint that officials who have analyzed
the Norilsk Nickel case are far from unanimous on what should be done about
According to Valery Meshalkin, a Chamber auditor who worked on the first
Norilsk Nickel investigation in 1997 but not the most recent one,
prosecutors had to abandon their first criminal case targeting the
privatization official involved, Alfred Kokh, not because the case was weak,
but because of a personal amnesty for Kokh.
Yevgeny Nikulischev, who worked on the most recent investigation, defended
the latest Auditing Chamber report, but told Platt's support for its
recommendations was not unanimous. "The main conclusions of the Chamber
didn't change," Nikulischev claimed.
"In this case," he told Platt's, "we had a situation when the
legislation on privatization didn't have the loans for shares scheme as a
mechanism for privatization of the state property."
"From the common sense point of view, this, plus the fact that no
money was allocated in the budget for repayment of the loan, may amount to
a criminal violation. But we have to follow the law, not some common
In August 1997, a Uneximbank affiliate bid 171 million Ecu for the
shareholding -- a fraction more than the $171.1 million loan, which
Uneximbank made to the Russian government in 1995, in order
to take control of the company in a loans-for-shares scheme. By deciding
not to repay the loan, the government defaulted on its obligation to
the bank, so Uneximbank officials claimed at the time, thus triggering the
sale of the shares by tender.
These transactions were declared illegal by the Accounting
Chamber, which reported just before the August sell-off was completed,
that presidential decrees, government resolutions, statutes, and Russia's
Civil Code all substantiated violations in the original
transfer of the shares, as well as in the move to sell them by tender.
Nikulischev told Platt's Tuesday the evidence was clear that the government
never intended to pay back the loan. He claims now that neither this, nor the
terms of the scheme, amounted to a violation of Russian law. "We have made a
maximally objective check, and legal expertise of the case was carried out
by leading experts in civil and business law. This stated there was no
Nikulischev denied the Accounting Chamber, which was taken over early in the
year by Sergei Stepashin, a former prime minister, "was playing politics".
He defended the new stance of the Chamber, claiming "that positive
changes have occurred [at Norilsk Nickel] since the new owner stepped in."
Denying that the latest court challenge was in any way based on the Chamber's
reports, Nikulischev told Platt's: "I don't think that this case has
prospects in court. I think that the prosecutor's office should also
consider the potential harm made by the reconsideration of the results
of privatization and the efficiency of operations of the new owner.
Already the announcement of the investigation led to
damage to Norilsk Nickel. The damage may be far greater, and not only to the
owners of Norilsk Nickel, shareholders and workers, but also the state,
because of losses in taxes, etc."
The Independent (UK)
5 July 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin puts future of Siberian tiger at risk
By Patrick Cockburn in Moscow
The last of the Siberian tigers may soon be hunted to extinction in the
forests of the Russian Far East because of a surprise government decision
in Moscow to abolish the two main environmental agencies that helped to
There are only about 400 Siberian tigers left in the wild and their
survival is continually under threat. Poachers can make up to £12,000 a
time by selling their skins and body parts for use in folk medicine in
China and Japan.
"The Siberian tiger may well become extinct," says Dr Igor Chestin,
director of the Russian office of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Ironically, the number of tigers had risen slightly in the past few years
because of well-armed and equipped anti-poaching patrols, but Dr Chestin
believes these are likely to be disbanded after abolition of the State
Committee for Environment Protection and the Federal Forestry Service.
Russian environmentalists are reeling from a decree signed by President
Vladimir Putin on 17 May, under which the functions of both agencies pass
to the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The ministry's priority is economic development, whatever the environmental
cost. "In the words of an old Russian proverb, it is like putting a goat in
charge of the cabbage patch," says Dr Chestin.
Mr Putin's decree probably came in respone to heavy lobbying by Russian oil
companies, which calculated Russia's hitherto strict environmental laws
would cost them more than $1bn in coming years. The timber companies are
keen to keep down the prices they pay the government for cutting in
Mr Putin's economic advisers also believe lax environmental standards,
without state agencies to enforce them, will attract foreign investors
avoiding stricter regulations in America and Western Europe.
Official hostility to environmental protection is growing. Sergei
Tsyplenkov, a geogra-pher who is executive director of Greenpeace in
Russia, was raided in his office in Moscow on 1 March. He says: "Policemen
burst in and said we had 20 minutes to close under a decision of the
anti-terrorist commission of Moscow city."
At the police station Mr Tsyplenkov was unable find out more about the
mysterious "anti-terrorist commission", of which he had never heard.
Equally mysteriously, the police backed off when they brought him back to
his office to shut it, only to find it surrounded by Russian television
crews and reporters. They dropped their claim of terrorism to one of
building an internal partition wall in the office without permission.
Mr Tsyplenkov says the great forests of the Russian north-west and Far East
are also under serious threat because they are close to big consumers in
Finland and China.
"One in five logs exported from Russia is cut illegally but [the figure] is
much higher in some areas," he says. "Theft of trees is well-organised by
criminals. They will block a road into a forest with a car guarded by armed
men to make sure nobody tries to stop them."
He says the State Committee for Environmental Protection and the Forestry
Service were open to bribery. But they were the main enforcement agencies
for environmental rules, which the Ministry of Natural Resources sees as a
waste of money. One senior official even said quenching forest fires was a
misuse of resources if human lives were not endangered.
But the lives of animals are likely to be the first casualties in the
coming free-for-all in use of Russia's natural resources. The Siberian
tiger, in its habitat east of the Amur river north of Vladivostok and the
Far Eastern leopard, of which only between 40 and 60 exist in the wild,
face their last days.
Before anti-poaching patrols started, Dr Chestin says, "their numbers were
dropping fast, hunters killing 50 to 60 of them every year". But the
patrols required the backing of the now-abolished State Committee. Russian
environmentalists claim they were among the first and most effective
dissidents in the Soviet Union. They rallied against a plan to reverse the
flow of Siberian rivers to irrigate the cotton fields of Central Asia and
the industrial pollution of Lake Baikal.
Their credibility was boosted by the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear
power station in 1986, which confirmed what they has been saying about the
disregard of safety standards in pursuit of economic growth. The State
Committee for Environment Protection was set up in 1988.
Dr Chestin says that in the first years after the collapseof the Soviet
Union environmentalists were successful in pushing through stringent
legislation. Since the agencies have closed, the Kremlin has been deaf to
protests from politicians and academics.
Environmentalists are now frantically organising to collect two million
signatures so they can force a national referendum to reverse Mr Putin's
A referendum would seek votes for or against import ofradioactive waste and
the establishment of an independent environmental protection bodyand a
legally independent forestry service.
The Electric Telegraph
28 June 2000
[for personal use only]
Discovering the real Meestar Putin
>From Marcus Warren in Moscow
WHEN Russia's pundits pontificate on the West's hopes and fears for this
country's new president, they often break disconcertingly into English.
"Khuar yu, Meestar Putin?", they ask.
For his cheerleaders at home and abroad the answer to the question is
simple: Vladimir Putin is a strongman with the will and the guts to force
some unpleasant, but urgently needed, medicine down the throat of a very sick
patient, Russia itself.
To his enemies the president is a despot in the making, a former KGB goon who
will use his new powers to lock up opponents, silence the free press and rule
over a police state.
He may be both, neither or a mixture of the above. But the secrecy and
toadying that are the Kremlin's specialty ensure that we still know next to
nothing about Putin the man. Insiders give little away. Outsiders can rarely
find anything out. An ex-spy, Mr Putin himself hides behind a mask of
Only a handful of people from outside the creepy caste of apparatchiks or
one-time intelligence officers which surrounds him have ever had quality
access to the Russian leader. Now, however, one of the lucky few has spoken
out and spoken her mind.
Natasha Gevorkyan is one of the interview queens of Russian journalism, an
expert on the netherworld of the intelligence services and was therefore a
natural choice to take part in a project dreamt up by the Kremlin at the
beginning of this year.
Its aim was to introduce "the real Vladimir Putin" to the voters on the eve
of March's presidential elections. The method selected was a book, the fruit
of 24 hours of interviews with the man, later translated into English as
When the book came out in Russian, some of Natasha's colleagues were shocked.
The questions she and the two others conducting the interview asked the
future president were so soft as to be embarrassing, one told me. The whole
project was a sordid PR-stunt, a fellow journalist complained.
Reading it myself, I was less inclined to be judgmental. The book's authors
had done us all a great service by allowing Mr Putin to reveal the little he
did about himself, I concluded: not least the man's intellectual and
emotional poverty and his loyalty to the old KGB.
That had clearly not been the book's intention. And Natasha herself was
ambivalent about the finished product - and the book's main hero. Over a
drink in one of Moscow's ersatz Irish pubs a few hundred yards from the
Kremlin, she recounted her impressions of her 24 hours in Mr Putin's company.
"Buttoned up" and "grey" were only some of the epithets that came to mind,
she said. I asked her whether, after so promising a start to their
acquaintance, she wanted to pursue the relationship further. She gave her
answer after some thought. "No", she replied.
We agreed that our conversation would remain between ourselves. But I feel
justified in breaking her confidence now that Natasha has aired her private
thoughts on the subject of Mr Putin in public herself. And pretty devastating
reading it makes too. Fresh from tailing him on his recent visits to Madrid
and Berlin, Natasha attacked the man with a vengeance.
She felt embarrassed by the way he walked and his gauche attempts at humour.
"Putin is mediocre," she wrote in the internet paper, gazeta.ru. "And as soon
as he emerged from the shadows into the light, this became rather too
noticeable." The trappings of power had infected him with complacency and
over-confidence, she continued.
"When a wife feels embarrassed by her husband, it is unbearable. But there is
a way out. If the worst comes to the worst, they can separate. But here? You
can't separate from your own country."
Her verdict on Mr Putin may have been brutal. You may disagree with her
conclusions. But there are few observers better placed to answer the question
"Khuar yu, Meestar Putin?"
28 Jun, 2000, 17:37
Oligarch setting free is worse than being jailed
By Boris KAGARLITSKY
As is well known you should never hit a man when he is down. Vladimir
Gusinsky, however, has been released. It means he has not been down any
longer… The editors share not all estimations by the author of the present
article, but his approach, in our point of view, is of doubtless interest,
especially due to its vivid and talented writing. Moreover, Gusinsky`s
position itself and that of his lawyers have been already presented in our
Recently the Russian public has heard plenty of protests against Gusinsky`s
detention. Particularly active were those who not long ago have put forward
Putin as presidential nominee, praised his “dictatorship of law” and were
moved at his “mochit v sortire” (…with a pledge to hunt down Chechen
separatists even in their outhouses and mochit`, or «waste» them, acting
President Putin opened the latest war in Chechnya.)
Indeed, one matter is when Chechen settlements are bombed or workers are
shot at in Vyborg – it is all in the day`s work. It`s quite another matter
when a respected man, millionaire is put in jail and what is more - in
Butyrka and what is more in a sell together with other eighty criminals!
Rumors about sharing his cell with criminals, launched by his lawyers,
proved false, though. Actually, the Media-MOST head was given a luxury cell
with a refrigerator, TV-set and “intellectual forger” as his companion. The
oligarch sustained his status even being imprisoned.
Though the event has been aggressively highlighted by mass media Gusinsky`s
detention aroused no public indignation. It was only in NTV television`s,
most part of liberal intellectuals` and even some of the Kremlin insiders`
viewpoint that Putin has done something to undermine his authority.
Meanwhile, in reality, it was for the first time that the power did
something to provoke some sort of curiosity in the vast masses.
Oligarch’s suffering in the above-mentioned cell is unlikely to touch
people who hardly survive within their “average wage.” The common view was:
Gusinsky should not be released, and what is more Berezovsky and etc.
should be jailed!” If Putin on his arrival home from his trip abroad just
as Peter the Great, had began to punish boyars he would have only deserved
enthusiastic approval of people, whichever savage the punishment might be
because everybody is tired of tycoons.
As for the formal right, everybody knows those are just mere words in
Russia. Unlawfulness towards a tycoon may be considered manifestation of
democracy since it witnesses civil equality. If everybody is equal before
the tyranny it is a step toward democracy, a sign that a straggle against
privileges has been started.
People have been deceived once again. To tell the truth, nobody seriously
trusted in a fair outcome. They rather scoffed. It was clear for any person
who knows the way resolutions are passed in this country that it was not a
fight against corruption and oligarchy but a fight within corrupted
Gusinsky`s release was as illegal as his detention. It demonstrated once
again that an arbitrary rule reigns in the country: they detain and release
people when they wish.
At the same time people understood: equal rights are impossible to belong
to everyone. If you have any influential friends at home and abroad they
will get you out even from Butyrskaya prison in three days. If you don`t…
Gusinsky`s release has a further serious effect which will influence
developments in future. Peremptory cry from abroad combined with criticism
from Anatoly Chubais and entrepreneurs close to him were enough for
“independent prosecutor`s office” to change its opinion on Gusinsky and
preventive punishment for him radically. The power revealed its weakness,
dependence and inconsistency. In Russia, they never forgive when someone is
Putin`s imagemakers have done their best to built a figure of independent,
self-confident, cruel and strong politician who is paving the way to his
object. It had nothing to do with the reality. They managed, however, to
sustain the image some time.
At present, the entire country watched the President make excuses to the
West and the power yield up though it was a situation when it could have
The authorities` approach in the Gusinsky`s case was much better grounded,
at any rate, from formal and legal viewpoint, than that in the Chechen war.
Slight violations of the criminal code can not be compared with large-scale
destruction of peaceful residents in Chechnya and it is much more difficult
to give prove of the refusal to have talks with Aslan Maskhadov, Chechen
President legally elected and recognized by Russia, than to yield to
It`s quite another matter that the Chechens in contrast to Media-MOST
(despite official propaganda) had no influential friends in Russia and in
the West. If they had had them the war would have been over in three days
like oligarch’s suffering.
Why everybody (Clinton, Shroder, Chubais, Dorenko) officially came out in
favor of freedom of speech. They say, that is not Gusinsky to be the reason
of it they protect the principle itself. However, why it is precisely
Gusinsky who has been selected to embody this principle. Amid turmoil
around a threat to freedom of speech they have forgotten the main thing:
there is a difference between oligarchs and journalists.
They have not forgotten about it, though. When Andrei Babitsky was
exchanged for Russian captives in Chechnya, many of those who later was
indignant at violence toward Gusinsky supported the authorities or
pretended not to notice something was happening.
Chubais` statements look far less logic and consequent. He said not long
ago that who criticized Russian army’s actions in Chechnya were betrayers
and enemies of the State. Now he insists Gusinsky`s detention is an
evidence of impending “semi-fascist” regime in the country.
One should note western politicians` and businessmen` logic thinking is not
better. Alexander Rar, known German specialist in Russia, complained: “We
wished to forget Chechnya but faced another problem –Gusinsky!” We should
forget, they say, dozens of thousands killed, burned settlements as soon as
possible. German business circles want to invest in Russia. This is the
main point. No need to remember Babitsky`s persecution. But Tycoon`s
detention! That`s impossible to forget.
A group of western investors at that very moment refused to go to Moscow,
which was cheerfully broadcast by NTV television, and representatives of
transnational corporations exposed a touching care about democracy.
It was in 1993 that none of these corporations refused to continue their
business in Russia after the parliament had been shot. None of them
responded to two Chechen wars. However, they immediately answered to
Gusinsky`s arrest. In the end, it was not a certain oligarch’s immunity to
be worried about. Respect for capital requires respect for the individual
who owns this capital.
The Kremlin took the hint and improved its tactics. We had a chance to
understand who is host in this country. And what is the most important
thing for this, rather these hosts.
There is a pending threat to freedom of speech, however, in Russia not
because Gusinsky is a symbol of freedom in Russia. The fact is practically
all electron and press media in the country is under oligarchs` control.
Under the circumstances, there is no need to press journalists. It`s enough
to agree with oligarchs (it`s simple as the oligarchs are power). If you
fail you can urge one of the tycoons to. He himself will impel “his”
journalists to achieve his end. Everything will be done within law and
In general, it`s a historical irony that Gusinsky proved to be authorities`
enemy. In fact, NTV was not an opposition television company. The following
is the way NTV estimated the 1993 events in Moscow: if the people were so
silly to elect such wrong deputies it is permissible to shot off the
parliament. It is normal, it`s a democratic republic.
NTV couldn`t have been such a success if it had not cooperated with other
oligarchs. Gusinsky and Berezovsky jointly sought to boost up Yeltsin`s
rating in 1996. NTV journalists never said anything to contradict an
official version concerning the latest Chechen war. As for Putin, he has
been shown in NTV in quite a loyal way.
I remember NTV journalists as regularly shooting campaign in favor of
boycotting the presidential election, interviewing its participants.
However no footage has been aired. I remember their explanations: we are an
independent company, therefore we may not permit ourselves to conflict with
the authorities. That`s right. They would be eliminated, dismissed, otherwise.
Gusinsky was mistaken only last autumn to stake on Luzhkov. If Luzhkov had
won, absolutely different people would have done time in Butyrskaya prison.
Not Gusinsky and Kiselyov would have needed to be defended but Berezovsky
So the system Gusinsky has been creating for almost a decade made an
attempt to punish him. The system which has made of him what he is. The
system he has served faithfully.
You may certainly compare new bankers` and old Bolsheviks` fates. However,
there is a big difference between them. First, Bolshevik leaders served
people. They understood it in their own way and major part of people would
have refused these services with great pleasure. They were sincere, anyway.
“New Russians” served only themselves. It did suite them that vast capitals
were created with millions of other people grow poor.
The fortunes made of air have an unpleasant peculiarity to disappear as
mysteriously as they were raised. At first, prisoners became millionaires
in this country. Then – vice versa. This is also logical.
However, Gusinsky`s and old Bolsheviks` fates differ. There was no need to
be nervous about that 1937 is in the air. The Stalin power would punish its
victims in truth. Gusinsky was repressed in pretence. The tragedy returns
as a farce.
DATE: Sun, 02 Jul 2000
From: "edward lucas" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The usual reminder: this is not an article from The Economist;
it's just my personal view.
I've just been in Salzburg for the Davos meeting on eastern
(for people not important enough to go to the real thing). Several
things struck me.
One was the absence of important Russians (no oligarchs, no ministers
apart from a fleeting appearance by Gref, no governors, very few
deputies) When no one more substantial and loyal than Yavlinsky and
rentaquote commentators are available to put Russia's point of
one has to assume that life is elsewhere. The obvious explanation is
that the Russian government is not particularly worried at the moment
about selling itself to the West (admittedly, they may just think
entirely wrongly of course--that Davos is largely an over-priced
junket for flip-chart merchants and other parasites, but it is also
true that no big Russians bothered coming to the Renaissance meeting
last week either). It is easy enough for Putin to flounce about on
his remarkably frequent foreign trips. It is another for serious busy
people to take the time to go and sell Russia to a bunch of
increasingly sceptical (thank goodness for that at least) Westerners.
Perhaps they just realised what a hard sell Russia is. The line that
"reforms are imminent" seems to be wearing very thin. One
called it "same old bullshit". Oddly, the economics plan is
quite good. Serious western businesspeople I talk still to are
willing to forgive the delay and give the benefit of the doubt while
we see what actually gets implemented. I'm pessimistic about this
(surprise surprise).. I think there have been 14 economic plans since
perestroika started. The question is always how much political will
is there to confront vested interests, and are there tough-minded
people in the right places. I don't see them
Third was the continuing gulf between the way the West sees Russia
and the the way Russia sees itself. The Russian industrialists
(Bendukidze et al) who were there found the whole tone of the
discussions patronising. Assuming that nothing much changes, and
Russia continues to decline, it will be interesting to see how the
Davos-going crowd reacts to being simply ignored by the West. I still
think we underestimate the potential for disappointment to turn into
something crosser and nastier.
I think the most ominous sign of the past couple of weeks has been
the extraordinarily tough language coming out of the MFA about 1940
in the Baltic states. Can you imagine a German foreign ministry
spokesmaneven under the most extreme provocationtelling the Czechs
that the Munich agreement was "according to the international law
of the time"? I think this gulf between the Russian view of Soviet
history and the way everyone west of Russia sees it is a bigger
stumbling block that we currently realise. Oddly, it may ultimately
be quite good for the Baltics (if they play their cards right).
Fending off Russian claims of "discrimination" on the
citizenship laws is always a bit of an uphill struggle given the
west's ignorance and mental laziness. Once Russia starts
explicitly defending Stalin (and his alliance with Hitler) the balance
shifts a bit.
Finally, I am becoming more and more convinced that Putin's mouse
phase is only temporary. This guy is learning to love being in the
limelight. There are rumours that Tanyavalya are really scared at the
Frankenstein's monster they have created. The person I would love to
know more about is Sergei Ivanov, who is clearly now Putin's no 2,
and may end up as PM in the much-talked-about October reshuffle. My
rash six-month prediction for year-end is a botched economic reform,
messy confrontations with some of the most conspicuously obnoxious
governors, and much tougher attitude to the press.
On that happy note, have a nice weekend.
Russia: U.S. Experts Differ On Reform Program
By Michael Lelyveld
A debate between two top Harvard experts on Russia has revived the
controversy over what went wrong with foreign advice and the country's
reforms. RFE/RL's Michael Lelyveld reports.
Boston, 27 June 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs defended his
reform prescriptions for Russia during a debate Monday with fellow-economist
Marshall Goldman, as both experts lamented the pace of progress over the past
Sachs, who served as the leading economic adviser to the Russian government
in 1992 and 1993, has frequently come under fire for the reforms that he
helped to design, although his program for neighboring Poland has proved
The attempt to adapt the Polish experience to the different culture of Russia
has been most often cited as a failure of foreign advisers like Sachs.
Russia's early reform efforts under then-Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar
are now widely seen as a patchwork program, because some measures were
implemented while others proved politically impossible.
In the debate entitled "Who Lost Russia?" at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School
of Government, Marshall Goldman was frank about the faults of such an
Goldman said: "After 70 years of attacking capitalism, of attacking markets,
it was unrealistic to expect that the system would absorb this change. To
give such advice under those circumstances, it seems to me, was wrong, and
that deserves criticism."
Some features of the economic program, like land reform, have yet to be
implemented because of political resistance. For years, Russia also remained
subject to sudden massive devaluations of the ruble and pressures to print
worthless currency, making reform unsuccessful and unpopular. Both Goldman
and Sachs pointed to the theft of Russia's resources as a major factor in
For his part, Sachs accepted much of Goldman's criticism.
Sachs said: "Basically, I agree with 90 or 95 percent of what Marshall has
said, and always did."
He said the difference is essentially one of attitude and motivation. Sachs
compared himself to a doctor who had been called in to an emergency situation
and was unwilling to let the patient die.
Sachs said: "My view was that it was worth the try." Sachs argued that he
would have gone much further in his effort, believing that the United States
should have committed as much as $50 billion in aid from the start to revive
Russia. He noted that Gaidar's reform team lost power at the end of 1993
before Russia received a penny of aid.
The disagreements between Sachs and Goldman have been smoldering for years.
As a leading Sovietologist, Goldman was largely excluded from the process of
designing the early reform program for the Soviet Union at Harvard in 1991.
Young economists who had far less experience in Russian studies, like Sachs,
took over the task after the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991.
Goldman was also candid in recognizing the resentments, noting that some
Russia experts felt that they alone were qualified to give advice.
Goldman said: "That's what some of us were arguing, that you had to know the
territory, as it were. And that meant that indeed this was our turf. Don't
mess with it." Goldman conceded that "to some extent, it was sour grapes,
jealousy on our part, no doubt about it." He also noted that some analysts
had anti-Soviet reputations, saying, "There was reason for excluding those
people with that kind of experience." But Goldman said there was no excuse
for ignoring Russia's lack of institutions to carry out reform policies or
for urging treatments that could not be followed. He carried the analogy of
the patient further, saying that foreign advisers hoped they could awaken
Russian market behavior as if it were a sleeping prince. But said Goldman:
"The problem was that the prince wasn't sleeping. The prince was dead."
Sachs also tried to point to a number of other factors in the comparative
success of countries like Poland. The biggest is geography, Sachs argued. He
said proximity to a border with the European Union tends to promote
investment and increase hard currency.
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