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Johnson's Russia List
9 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Patrick Lannin, Two held in wake of Moscow bomb blast.
2. Interfax: PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW BOMBERS WILL BE FOUND.
3. BBC MONITORING: CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S OFFICE REJECTS BLAME FOR
4. Reuters: Elizabeth Piper, Tears, fears and anger at Moscow
5. Interfax: PROMINENT RUSSIANS BAND TOGETHER AGAINST "AUTHORITARIAN
6. BBC MONITORING: SOCIAL ASPECT OF RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT'S REFORM
DEEMED "DIRECT THREAT" TO SOCIETY.
7. Itar-Tass: BRITISH LIBRARY'S RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE IS GIVEN
8. Segodnya: AUTHORITIES MUST PAY FOR RESTRICTING FREEDOMS AND
LIBERTIES. (Interview with Liliya SHEVTSOVA)
9. The Guardian (UK): Ian Traynor, Sure-footed Putin firms up his
quiet revolution. The Russian leader came into office a year ago.
Yesterday's bomb will test his ability to use his growing powers.
10. Moscow Times: na Uzelac and Andrei Zolotov Jr., Blast in
Underpass Kills 7, Injures 53.
11. Financial Times (UK): Sledgehammer liberalism: Vladimir Putin
is seeing off rivals and using his power base to tackle Russia's
fiscal problems. But some question the depth of his commitment to
market principles, says Andrew Jack.
12. Reuters: Russian magnate predicts more blasts, raps Putin.
Two held in wake of Moscow bomb blast
By Patrick Lannin
MOSCOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Russian police said on Wednesday they had detained
two suspects, including a Chechen, after a bombing in Moscow killed seven
people and injured more than 90.
President Vladimir Putin warned against any witchhunts after the blast but
said the war in the rebel region would be pursued to its final goal of
destroying guerrillas in their ``lair.''
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov denied his separatist forces were involved
in the blast, which tore through tunnels leading from a main underground
railway station in central Moscow during the rush hour on Tuesday.
More than 90 people were injured. The site of the blast has become a place of
mourning, with people laying flowers and standing, some in tears, staring at
Putin, who took personal control of the investigation into the blast, said it
might have been a settling of accounts between criminal gangs or terrorism.
If it was a terrorist act, a single nation should not be blamed, he said.
``It is very wrong when we brand one nation, because criminals, terrorists
above all, do not have a nation or a belief,'' Putin said. His comments,
shown in part on Russian television, were reported fully in a Kremlin
``We must bring to a conclusion what we are doing in the North Caucasus: we
need to hit the terrorists in their lair, we need to protect people from such
acts in other parts of the Russian Federation,'' he added.
A link to Chechnya, where Russian forces are fighting separatist rebels, was
on the mind of most Russians after the blast and brought back fearful
memories of a wave of bombings in Moscow last year which killed nearly 300
The blasts were one of the reasons Russia invaded Chechnya and launched its
second war in the region in three years, although rebels denied any link to
the blasts. Putin's own rise was linked to his strong support for the war.
The first suspects in Tuesday's blast held by the FSB security police were
two men, one from Chechnya and the other an Avar from a neighbouring North
Caucasus region, Dagestan.
``We do not exclude they were both behind the terrorist act,'' said Vladimir
Pronichev, first deputy chief of the FSB domestic security police. Interfax
quoted the FSB as saying three other Chechens had been detained on suspicion
of planning a bomb attack in the southern town of Saratov.
Despite widespread suspicions of a link to the rebels, separatist leader
Aslan Maskhadov denied any involvement.
``The press service of the president of the Chechen republic of Ichkeria is
empowered to declare that attempts by the Russian side to blame the terrorist
act on Pushkin Square on Chechen resistance fighters has no foundation,'' a
The Chechenpress agency, based in Georgia, placed the statement on its
Internet website (www.ichkeria.com.ge). The agency said it was the official
voice of Maskhadov, who is thought to be in the southern Chechen mountains.
As police tightened security throughout the capital, the search for other
suspects went on.
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo appeared on television to show photo-fits
of three men. RIA news agency quoted Moscow police official Alexander
Oboidikhin as saying a fourth person, believed to be the main culprit, was
also being sought.
Rushailo said the death toll was seven, with 93 people receiving medical
treatment. The Emergencies Ministry denied a report that an eighth person had
died on Wednesday.
PEOPLE IN MOURNING
Two of the men in Rushailo's pictures had short, dark hair and were described
as being of North Caucasian origin.
The North Caucasus region on Russia's southern rim includes rebel Chechnya
and neighbouring Dagestan, which comprises hundreds of obscure ethnic groups.
The third man was fair-haired and round-faced and described as a Slav.
Russian media said witnesses described seeing two men leave a bag or bags
near a kiosk to go and change dollars into roubles. They were then seen
rushing away and driving off in a Russian-made car just moments before the
Experts said the blast beneath central Tverskaya Street, just a few blocks
from the Kremlin, was caused by between 400 grams (one lb) and 1.5 kg (3.3
lb) of explosives.
Despite the damage, police were able to reopen the tunnels after an initial
In the gloomy light of makeshift lamps, people walked hurriedly down the
tunnel which the night before was filled with blackened debris, shattered
glass and twisted metal.
They walked past burned out shops, the once carefully laid out displays
turned into a charred ruin.
Many seemed to want to get out of the tunnel as fast as possible although
others stopped to lay flowers. Some cried.
A wave of sympathy for the injured caused people to stand in long queues to
``I am sad for the people,'' said Yevgeny, 23. ``I just had to come and give
blood. It's terrible.''
PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW BOMBERS WILL BE FOUND
Moscow, 9th August: Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the
criminals who organized Tuesday's [8th August] explosion on Pushkin Square
in Moscow will be found and that the state's response to this crime will be
Replying to questions from journalists on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin said:
"Yesterday, immediately after the tragedy in the centre of Moscow, two
possibilities were considered: an accident or a crime. According to
preliminary assessments by experts a crime has been committed and this has
been either an action by criminals - the consequence of rivalry between
criminal groups - or a terrorist act."
"And if we are talking about a terrorist act, then I must state that it is
incorrect to look for an ethnic connection, to look for a Chechen
connection or some other such connection in this crime," Vladimir Putin
"It is not a very correct thing to do when we stigmatize a whole people.
Criminals and terrorists have neither nationality nor religion," he stated.
"But we must know where the threat stems from," the Russian president
"Terrorism is not our national disease. Terrorism is an international
disease. One can recall the tragedy of the German hostages in the
Philippines, the explosions in Great Britain and Spain," he said.
However, Vladimir Putin believes, the problem of terrorism is particularly
acute for Russia. "We allowed a terrorist enclave to be created on our
territory," he stated.
"Terrorists are always striking where there are many people, they count on
blood, maximum effect, panic and hysteria. Commotion and collapse of public
order is the best gift for terrorists," Vladimir Putin said.
The Russian president believes that terrorists should be countered by
"political will, well-organized systematic work of the law-enforcement
bodies, the population's vigilance and improved coordination in the work of
"Mankind has not yet devised an efficient method of fighting terrorism. An
appropriate response is the only medicine," he stressed.
Vladimir Putin said that the actions of federal troops in the North
Caucasus would be seen through to the end and terrorists "will be finished
off in their lair".
"It's a question of honour for the law-enforcement bodies to protect the
population in other regions of the country," the president said.
Vladimir Putin said that "sooner or later we will find out the names of
those who ordered and carried out the crime in Pushkin Square the same way
we have already identified the names of those who carried out crimes in
Moscow, Dagestan and North Ossetia. We will find out the names of these
criminals too. The state will give a response."
CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S OFFICE REJECTS BLAME FOR MOSCOW BLAST
Source: Chechenpress web site, Tbilisi, in Russian 9 Aug 00
The Russian government's attempts to blame Tuesday's explosion at Moscow's
Pushkin Square on Chechen resistance fighters are "absolutely groundless",
the press service of the rebel Chechen president said on Wednesday.
"The press service of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is
authorized to declare officially that attempts to ascribe the terrorist act
at Pushkin Square to Chechen resistance fighters are absolutely
groundless," the statement said, quoted by Chechenpress news agency web site.
"Russia has bitter experience of some politicians not being averse to
blowing up their own people's houses in Moscow, and in doing so trying to
blame mythic Chechen militants for hundreds of innocent victims, in the
name of achieving their ambitions and political conjectures," the statement
The Chechen leadership repeated its stance that "any acts of retribution by
the Chechens will be directed exclusively against military installations
and directly against those taking part in the military operation in
"Unlike the Russian leadership, the president and the government of the
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria have never permitted and will never in the
future permit any actions directed against civilians, either in Chechnya or
in the Russian Federation," the statement said.
The rebel Chechen leadership and the press service of President Aslan
Maskhadov expressed condolences to the relatives of those killed and
"voices its deep indignation at this incident", the agency stated.
Tears, fears and anger at Moscow blast scene
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) - A woman picks through the sooty, charred clothes
she used to sell from her small shop in a central Moscow underpass, fighting
back the tears as she tries to scrub them clean with her blackened hands.
``These are the worst days of my life,'' she cries, turning to a friend who
is desperately trying to wash the window, cracked by a deadly bomb blast on
The official death toll stands at seven with more than 90 injured. Local
newspaper reports that an eighth victim had died have been denied.
``I'm scared to live in Moscow, to tell the truth I don't want to live here
anymore. Everything's gone, I've lost my work, my money and could have lost
my life,'' said the woman, her red-rimmed eyes surveying the once
multi-coloured fashion clothes from which they had made their money.
Dozens of people walked through the narrow tunnels, blackened by smoke after
the explosion swept through the corridors, destroying many small shops which
sold everything from videos to flowers, perfume to children's toys.
On Wednesday most people walked quickly on their way to work, desperate to
leave the eery gloom and breathe fresh air above ground on Moscow's main
thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street.
But for some the workplace was underground.
``It's awful, cleaning up all this stuff,'' said one cleaner, trying to find
words to describe what he had swept up and washed clean since the early hours
of the morning.
``I can't tell you what I have seen,'' he said, looking at the shops which
had stayed shut.
The blast, which hit during Moscow's busy rush hour, sent dozens of injured
fleeing the passage, their faces covered with blood and their clothes torn.
Late on Tuesday, the tunnel was still littered with pieces of clothing, blood
and twisted metal.
Charred bodies were put into ambulances, while frightened Muscovites looked
FEAR AND ANGER
On Wednesday, many on Moscow's streets said they felt fear and anger.
``I fear for my family, for all our people. What have we done to deserve
this?'' said Nadezhda Grigoryeva, 50, mopping the floor at a nearby cafe. ``I
couldn't sleep last night, it's terrifying,'' she said.
People laid flowers at the entrances of the underpass. Some wept. Others
stood in groups, wondering out loud whether this heralded a rerun of last
year's series of apartment block bombings which killed nearly 300 people.
``If war is going on here in Moscow, let's do it openly. There can't be more
blasts, oh God,'' Grigoryeva said.
Some blamed Chechen separatists for the latest blast, others refused to point
the finger. Russia's FSB domestic security service said it had detained two
men -- one from rebel Chechnya -- in connection with the explosion. Dozens of
Muscovites queued to give blood for the victims. ``I heard about the tragedy
and I understand very well that it could happen to anyone. Normal people are
suffering and I knew I had to help,'' Nadezhda Germanovna said at the
crumbling blood donors' centre in Moscow.
Yevgeny, 23, his arm bandaged, said he and his girlfriend just wanted to help
``I am sad for the people, I just had to come and give blood. It's
terrible,'' he said.
PROMINENT RUSSIANS BAND TOGETHER AGAINST "AUTHORITARIAN THREAT"
Moscow, 8th August: A number of prominent political and public figures
concerned about the threat of authoritarianism in Russia issued a joint
appeal on Tuesday [8th August] calling for a new public political movement
to be born.
Signing the document were the writer Vasiliy Aksenov, tycoon Boris
Berezovskiy, actor Sergey Bodrov, moviemaker Stanislav Govorukhin,
journalist Otto Latsis, theatre director Yuriy Lyubimov, actor Oleg
Menshikov, the former first deputy chief of the presidential staff, Igor
Shabdurasulov, and a "founding father" of perestroika, Aleksandr Yakovlev.
This document, entitled "Russia at the crossroads. An appeal to society",
which has been obtained by Interfax and the full version of which will be
published in an upcoming issue of `Izvestiya', says:
"On the threshold of the 21st century, Russian society is facing a new
choice: to live in an authoritarian or a truly democratic country. This
choice is not between such polar opposites as in 1996, when the question
whether we would return to the communist utopia or continue moving along
the path of liberal reforms had to be decided. But the current choice will
very soon also radically influence the lives of each and everyone
regardless of one's political views, property or social status, age or
"The new president's quite understandable and natural eagerness to create
an efficient and responsible power and thus halt the process of the state's
disintegration evokes the ruling bureaucracy's traditional reflex 'to seize
and forbid'. The main achievements of the past decade are endangered: the
free press, free enterprise and, most importantly, intellectual freedom and
the spirit of independence.
"If these trends are not curbed, the logic of conflict between the
authoritarian instinct of any power and the people's democratic aspirations
will lead either to the dismantling of the major successes of recent years
or to a paralysis of the governing system. That will be a tragedy for yet
another generation," the document says.
"Russian democracy is young and too dependent on the recent totalitarian
past. The peculiarity of the current situation consists in the weakness of
the social institutions that are the basis of civil society. Our
intelligentsia, the traditional bearer of liberal values, has become unable
to fend off the threat of authoritarianism on its own since the economic
shocks of the past years. However, a new generation of politically and
economically active citizens has developed in the past decade: elected
public politicians, independent journalists, businessmen and simply
self-reliant young people. It is chiefly against them that the present
authoritarian impulse of the community of administrative power is
directed," the document charges.
"We believe that many Russian citizens share our concerns. We propose to
unite in order to create a new public political movement based upon the
ideas of the freedom of conscience and religion, the freedom of the
individual, the supremacy of law, respect for national traditions, the
freedom of the press and the inviolability of private property," it says.
SOCIAL ASPECT OF RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT'S REFORM DEEMED "DIRECT THREAT" TO SOCIETY
Source: `Nezavisimaya Gazeta', Moscow, in Russian 5 Aug 00
In an article that appears to reflect Russian society's scepticism towards
the true effects of yet another reform package, this time round by
President Putin's economic guru German Gref, the Russian newspaper
'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' has warned that it is likely to result in an even
greater degree of social polarization and impoverishment. The programme,
devised by an "elite minority" unfamiliar with the problems experienced by
ordinary Russians, holds out no prospect of better life. Indeed, if
healthcare provisions are anything to go by (for example, with mothers to
be charged thousands for a stay in a maternity unit), the only way is down.
Follow excerpts from Nadezhda Azhgikhina's article, published on 5th August:
For several years now millions of our compatriots have been desperately
fighting for their survival rather than living. According to official data,
the incomes of 60 per cent of Russians are below the poverty level; tens of
millions of children and adults are undernourished.
This kind of situation is caused by an underestimation of the social
consequences of reforms being carried out in Russia. Of course, we have to
admit social benefits and guarantees were an unfashionable topic in the
last 10 years. Many people sincerely believed the newly established market
will automatically solve all the problems; that working people will be able
to finance their own needs with their own money, as well as the needs of
the elderly and the young. The architects of the "new market miracle" did
not even want to hear about any kinds of "birthmarks of socialism" in the
form of social programmes.
The romantic neoliberal enthusiasm of [Yeltsin-era market reform apologist
Yegor] Gaydar, who promised life would automatically become wonderful when
prices have been deregulated, comes to our mind ever more often these days;
ordinary people experience a new shock every time they hear on TV about the
social aspects of the project proposed by [Economic Development and Trade
Minister] German Gref and, in principle, already accepted by the
government. Education, just as medical care, is supposed to be paid. The
recent report on obstetrical care sounded as sheer provocation: Ordinary
people found out that soon the cost of a pregnant woman's stay in a
high-comfort ward would be 10,000 dollars for the whole observation period,
including midwifery, whereas in an ordinary ward the cost would be
2,000-3,000 dollars. It is unclear who will have the determination to have
children in that kind of situation; besides, it is unclear how many
unfortunate women and children who do not have the money will die.
Meanwhile, the country's population decreases at a rate of more than
750,000 people per year; the president deemed the problem of the population
decrease as one of the most urgent state problems!
At a session of the special scientific council of the Russian Security
Council Natalya Rimashevskaya, academician of the Russian Academy of
Sciences [RAS] and director of the RAS Institute of Socioeconomic Problems
of the Population, recently delivered a report entitled "Analysis of
threats to the security of standards of living and provision of social
guarantees for Russian citizens". She depicted the implementation of the
social aspect of German Gref's programme as a direct threat to the state's
main resource - its human potential. The measures envisioned by the
programme will escalate the polarization and impoverishment of a major part
of the population; the nation's genetic pool will be weakened; social
tensions will increase. The country will be thrown back into the past to
the period of the Civil War.
"For a long time now we have not had one country for all," the academician
told your `Nezavisimaya Gazeta' correspondent. "There is Russia of the rich
and Russia of the poor, which differ greatly not only in terms of their
income levels (the incomes differ by a factor of 100 or more), but also in
terms of their behaviour, values and preferences. Often they know very
little about each other, just as the person who never uses the subway does
not know what is happening underground: What the routes, stations and
passengers look like. One gets the impression the authors of the social
aspect of the programme belong to the elite minority and simply do not know
the country about which they write their works. Otherwise it would be hard
to interpret the fact that the main object of the future reform is some
kind of average statistical citizen. This category does not exist in
nature; society is layered...
"The programme does not say a word about any specific measures regarding
any particular sections of society, although those kinds of measures should
have been developed long ago; the only exception is the group of people
with above-average incomes which, in the opinion of the authors of the
programme, should be offered an infrastructure meeting its demands
(casinos, restaurants, holiday centres and the like). Analysis of the
socioeconomic situation demonstrates that shock therapy is absolutely
unacceptable to Russia for many reasons, including the population's
mentality; absolutely different measures are required."
Scientists from the RAS Institute of Socioeconomic Problems of the
Population suggest the following measures: to reduce the difference between
employees' compensation levels; to raise the minimum wage based on
subsistence level indicators; to reform the social sphere with an eye
towards the solution of urgent humanitarian problems, such as improvement
of children's and young people's health, protection of the state's
intellectual potential and the like...
BRITISH LIBRARY'S RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE IS GIVEN AWAY
London, 8th August: One of the world's largest libraries - the British
Library - has started destroying some of its newspaper archives. The
richest collection of pre-Revolutionary Russian newspapers is among those
threatened, the British Library's senior official, [?Bavna] Taylor, told
ITAR-TASS on Tuesday [8th August].
She said her repeated offers to hand the collection over to Russia for free
were unheeded by Russia's leading libraries, including the St Petersburg
Taylor said that any Russian organization interested in obtaining Imperial
Russia's newspaper collection starting from 1900 was free to contact the
British Library by fax: 0044-020-7412-7390.
The archives which are to be destroyed include 60,000 foreign newspapers
dated from 1870 onward.
August 9, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
AUTHORITIES MUST PAY FOR RESTRICTING FREEDOMS AND LIBERTIES
Liliya SHEVTSOVA, political scientist from Moscow's
Carnegie Centre, talks to Segodnya's Sergei MULIN, about
Vladimir Putin's first year in office.
Question: Ms Shevtsova, if you compare the first years of
both Russian presidents, what common features could you see in
their political styles?
Answer: Outwardly, moves by Yeltsin and Putin suggest a
conclusion about their political techniques being alike. Putin
today, like Yeltsin in 1991, is trying to consolidate power
within its personalist model. Incidentally, the idea first
appeared at the end of 1991, and its promoter was Gennady
Burbulis, the then "gray eminence."
Power consolidated in Yeltsin's hands was ideally suited
for solving two problems - to destroy Gorbachev's power base
and to make a decisive market spurt. But Yeltsin proved unable
to remain consistent in building up his "vertical", although at
the end of 1991 he had enough backing. At the beginning of 1992
the chance was passed up and first a timid and then an open
opposition to Yeltsin began to form.
One should, however, note the difference in the initial
conditions in which both presidents acted at first. Yeltsin
tried to build his "vertical" in conditions of an unstructured
political field, with no clear affinity groups yet established.
Putin started building his "vertical" when the political field
was already structured and there were powerful affinity groups
interested in keeping the earlier atmosphere of mutual
connivance. Sooner or later, resistance from these affinity
groups will make itself felt. But that would be a
non-institutional and underhand resistance, one harder to cope
Putin has succeeded the first president because he fitted
(or was fitted) in with the model of the self-reproducing
ruling corporation. The paradox is that Putin as a president
can keep his power only if he breaks with this formula and
creates his own model of mutual dependence, that is, he
demolishes the base and pedestal of Yeltsin traditions.
Question: During his first year in office Yeltsin
attempted to concern himself mainly with economics, keeping the
political system intact. Is Putin's administrative reform an
endeavour to correct his predecessor's mistake?
Answer: Putin's reform, which I describe as an attempt at
a coup within the regime, is a natural attempt to consolidate
power. If Putin wants to shed the influence of the former
Yeltsin team, he must do what he is now doing. The point,
however, is different: how realistic is it to create a driving
belt in a sufficiently developed pluralistic society and how
possible is it to do this, using a discriminating and selective
approach to different political and social groups? Any
exceptions from the general rules of the game lead to
favouritism, and favouritism demolishes both the "vertical" and
the sought-after "driving belt".
Question: Initially, Yeltsin had enough constitutional
powers, but a year later he faced the need for an urgent
re-drawing of the Fundamental Law. Do you think a similar
problem will arise, if at all, before Yeltsin's successor?
Answer: As early as the beginning of 1992 Yeltsin pondered
ways of dissolving the Congress of People's Deputies of Russia:
the deputies began throwing a monkey wrench in his efforts,
restricting his scope for manoeuvre. Putin began rebuilding the
regime of Yeltsin's monarchy, so far not resorting to formal
alterations in the Constitution. But what he is doing implies
changing the existing constitutional order, bypassing the
necessary legislative procedures (the reference is to a
re-carving of the Federation Council's functions and setting up
of the State Council).
The population will support his plans for a driving belt
only if there is a serious compensation in the social and
economic areas. For restricting freedoms and liberties, for
abolishing the climate for connivance authorities must pay. If
they cannot pay, all plans for erecting a working presidential
vertical will collapse. By concentrating responsibility with
himself, Putin will gradually lose the legitimacy of his power.
As a result, we risk getting once more an all-potent but
The Guardian (UK)
9 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Sure-footed Putin firms up his quiet revolution
The Russian leader came into office a year ago. Yesterday's bomb will test
his ability to use his growing powers
Ian Traynor in Moscow
Vladimir Putin's minders were horror-stuck recently when their boss was
floored during a visit to Japan. The combative Russian president's showpiece
bout with a Japanese judo wrestler left him on the rug in his shirt and tie.
"I wasn't expecting this. It wasn't necessary," said Yevgeny Murov, Mr
Putin's chief bodyguard. "The health of the president is the health of the
It was a rare fall for the surefooted president. In the months since Boris
Yeltsin stunned Russia and the world by naming the obscure Mr Putin as his
new prime minister, a year ago today, and declaring that he should be the
next president, the Russian leader has ushered in a quiet revolution where
mishaps have been only of the carefully staged variety.
As Mr Putin repairs to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for his summer holiday,
he is in an unassailable position, only four months after the electorate
rubber-stamped the Kremlin's decision and made him president in March.
"Under Putin the Russian state is being renewed and reinvigorated. There's a
new respect for government and politics," said Mikhail Kozhokin, editor of
the influential daily newspaper Izvettia. "That's his main achievement. He's
been a surprise, but he has a strong instinct for politics. He feels what
kind of Russia he wants, although he hasn't quite formulated it yet."
There is a striking discrepancy between perceptions of Mr Putin abroad and
how he is viewed at home. While editorial writers in New York, Berlin, or
London lambast the "authoritarianism" and control freakery of the former
career KGB officer, his popularity has soared to 70% among the public. At the
elite level, too, he enjoys broad support. "There is no political
opposition," said Alexander Oslon, director of the Public Opinion Fund
polling organisation. "Even our focus groups of regional elites and
communicators outside Moscow show very favourable results for Putin."
For the best part of his year in the public eye, Mr Putin did little, with
the brutal exception of the war in Chechnya, which critics decry as cynical
ruthlessness and admirers hail as proof of steely resolve.
But since March he has launched several offensives on a broad front,
provoking showdowns with the big vested interests of Mr Yeltsin's Russia and
emerging victorious every time. Some say that, tactically, Mr Putin has made
too many powerful enemies too quickly, and that scores will be settled at a
later stage. But so far, the gamble has paid off.
"Putin's modus operandi is to go strongly on to the attack and then back down
a little, offer concessions and compromises," said Igor Bunin, of the Centre
of Political Technologies thinktank.
Mr Putin's quiet revolution entails a radical shift in the way in which
Russia is run. All the key instruments of Mr Yeltsin's Russia are either
being co-opted or attacked, intimidated or marginalised: the over-powerful
governors of the 89 regions, the so-called oligarchs or business magnates who
exercised disproportionate influence under Mr Yeltsin, and the media,
especially national television.
The duma, or lower house of parliament, and the general prosecutor's office,
both focal points of opposition to Mr Yeltsin, are already Kremlin toys. The
upper house is being stripped of its powers in favour of a new state council
headed by Mr Putin and staffed by his appointees.
"He's dismantling the Yeltsin system of power and creating a new regime,"
said Liliya Shevtsova, of Moscow's Carnegie Centre. "Under Yeltsin, power was
fragmented horizontally across Russia among various interests. Putin is
recentralising, consolidating personal power, not that of institutions. His
concept does not tolerate alternative centres of gravity."
Privately, the president's aides are contemptuous of the riotous Yeltsin
years. Mr Putin's mission, they say, is to reverse that dysfunctional state,
and make Russia "effective and strong".
"In 10 years this country has been reduced to complete chaos," said a Putin
aide. "The president knows he has two, at most two-and-a-half years of strong
support to make the changes he needs before tackling tough decisions which
will be unpopular. That's why he is moving so fast."
The aim is to tame first Chechnya, then the governors, the oligarchs, and so
The aide conceded that in fashioning his new Russia, Mr Putin might view
democracy, market economics and civil liberties not so much as values in
themselves but as tools in building a stronger, more successful and cohesive
state. "But how long did it take for Germany, for example, to become a
"Putin believes in democracy as a means to an end, he's a conditional
democrat," said Sergei Markov, head of the Centre for Political Studies. "If
it helps to make a great Russia, fine. If not, he'll give it up."
Alongside the dizzying pace of domestic streamlining, coercing loyalty to the
Kremlin, Mr Putin has been keeping up a punishing but successful schedule
abroad, visiting the Pope, Tony Blair, Gerhard SchrÃ¶der, staging a summit
with Bill Clinton in Moscow, going to China, North Korea and Japan. There
have been no embarrassing Yeltsin-style gaffes on the foreign stage. The
performance has been polished, helping Russians to feel better about
themselves after a decade of growing resentfulness towards the west.
The anti-western novelist Alexander Zinoviev wrote last week that Mr Putin's
election was the keynote event of post- Soviet Russia, and that he had the
potential to become "an outstanding president".
Mr Markov says that Mr Putin is constructing a "limited democracy", trading
some freedoms gained in the Yeltsin era for order and predictability.
Television is a case in point. The two national channels, the state ORT and
the private NTV, are controlled or owned by rival oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky
and Vladimir Gusinsky. Both are under intense Kremlin pressure to surrender
control of the networks and toe the political line. The Kremlin is also
planning a new network of regional TV and newspapers in the seven
super-regions, under new Putin envoys, to dictate its agenda and bypass the
regional governors, many of whom control local media.
Such moves have liberal critics crying foul. Mr Yeltsin's 1993 constitution
confers sweeping powers on the president. Mr Putin's moves are increasing
those powers and eliminating the checks and balances that existed under Mr
"It's an elective monarchy, where everything is subordinate to the president,
not the law," said Ms Shevtsova.
An appeal organised by Mr Berezovsky and signed by several prominent public
figures yesterday warned of the threat of a new wave of authoritarianism.
"While the president's aim of creating an effective and responsible
government is natural and understandable", the statement declared, "the main
gains of the past decade are under threat: the free press, free
entrepreneurship and - the main thing - freedom of thought."
The signatories included Alexander Yakovlev, the architect of Mikhail
"Putin's policies are a cause for concern," Ms Shevtsova said. "But I don't
want him to fail, because his successor might be much more totalitarian,
aggressive and nationalist."
August 9, 2000
Blast in Underpass Kills 7, Injures 53
By Ana Uzelac and Andrei Zolotov Jr.
An explosion rocked the crowded underground passageway on Pushkin Square on
Tuesday evening, killing seven people, injuring 53 and putting the city on
edge once again.
Twenty minutes after the 6 p.m. blast, acrid black smoke still rose from the
underground passage. People with bleeding faces and ripped clothing staggered
out and collapsed on the sidewalk. Anyone who had been in the passageway,
even if unhurt, was covered in soot.
"I was in the passage when it happened, I guess just 15 meters from the
center of the explosion," said Stepan Konstantinov, 56. "It looked as if it
was in one of the kiosks. First there was the blast and then a huge cloud of
thick black smoke appeared, as if a boiler room was burning."
He was visibly shaken and his eyes brimmed with tears. "A girl died in front
of my very eyes," he said. "She was burned all over and she kept on screaming
and rolling on the ground. There was nothing I could do, she died before the
ambulance came f it took them half an hour. I swore at them, yelled, but they
just said they were called late and there was a big traffic jam."
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said almost immediately that he believed it to be
the work of terrorists. He and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said
police have been ordered to tighten control over metro stations, other places
likely to draw crowds and residential areas.
But Federal Security Service spokesman Alexander Zdanovich said later in an
interview on Ekho Moskvy radio that it was too early to classify the
explosion as a terrorist attack.
At a news conference, however, acting FSB head Vladimir Pronichev blamed the
blast on "bandits" and "terrorists," terms often used to refer to Chechen
None of the officials openly pointed the finger at the Chechens, but their
remarks evoked memories of last September's apartment bombings and the fear
that gripped the city at the time.
"We Muscovites should all understand we're living in the capital of a country
at war," said Alexander Muzykantsky, a high-ranking city official, on ORT
television. "We should therefore make the conclusions that citizens of
countries at war make."
Shamil Beno, the Moscow representative of Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader
Akhmad Kadyrov, urged city and federal officials not to "exploit the tragedy"
or "incite ethnic strife" by fueling suspicions that Chechens were behind the
Beno called on Russians not to make "unsubstantiated statements, but to wait
for the results of the investigation into the tragedy," Interfax reported.
By late evening, Moscow police had distributed descriptions of two suspects
in the bombing, according to Itar-Tass. One man was described as having a
"clearly Caucasian" appearance; both were said to be 25 to 30 years old,
wearing black jeans and short-sleeved shirts. The sketches appear to have
been compiled on the basis of interviews with people present at the scene of
The underpass, where three metro lines converge on Tverskaya Ulitsa, is lined
with kiosks selling flowers, cosmetics, CDs, books and gifts. It is one of
the most popular shopping and meeting places in the city.
Light smoke continued to come out of the underground passage for an hour or
more, its bitter smell spreading over the square, where at least a dozen
ambulances and Emergency Situations Ministry vehicles were parked. Rescue
workers and medical staff carried the injured to the vehicles. Federal
Security Service agents also were on the scene with the big letters FSB on
their chests and backs.
Natalya Zulumatova watched it all silently, her hair smoldered and her hands
and bare feet covered with blood.
"I was lucky," she said. "They just took a girl who was standing next to me,
Tanya, who was completely burned."
Zulumatova was selling jewelry in Kiosk 43 deep in the underground passage.
"The only explosion I heard was the blast of our lamps in the kiosk, and then
I saw gusts of black smoke and felt debris falling over my head. I don't know
how I managed to scramble out. There was so much smoke around, I think the
people who lost consciousness must have simply suffocated."
She remembers there was the usual crowd of commuters, "so many people, they
were all coming back from work."
Alyona, 28, who sells office materials in the passageway, was also lucky. "I
was standing on the stairs at that moment, that's how I survived," she said,
her face swollen from crying. "But Volodya, the boy who was selling
videotapes, they took him out completely burned."
She just remembers the bang and then smoke, dust and parts of burned clothes
falling all over. "A kiosk where they were selling theater tickets, just a
few meters away from where I stood, simply disappeared," she said.
Rescue worker Odat Maruan said the bomb was apparently placed haphazardly on
the ground in front of the theater ticket kiosk, The Associated Press
The steps down into the dark passageway were covered in debris: shattered
CDs, glass shards, broken chairs, a mannequin. Flowers and plastic bags of
mushrooms that had been abandoned by people selling them at the entrance were
scattered around firemen resting on the steps.
About 9 p.m., ORT aired footage of rescue workers with flashlights searching
the underground passageway where several charred, bloody corpses lay among
broken glass. Less than an hour later, ORT reported that one woman and one
man had been found alive under the wreckage.
Pronichev said seven people were killed and 53 injured, 12 of them seriously.
He was filling in for FSB head Nikolai Patrushev, who was on vacation but
flew back to Moscow later Tuesday evening.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a special commission to
investigate the blast, Pronichev said at the news conference.
Luzhkov, who arrived on the scene within an hour of the blast, urged
Muscovites to be vigilant and contact police if they notice anything
"The nature of this crime is evident: The explosion occurred in a crowded
place at rush hour," Interfax quoted Luzhkov as saying.
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu echoed the mayor. "We must appeal
to people in order to reestablish the system of vigilance that was introduced
last year," Shoigu said at the news conference.
The blast came two days after security forces had been on alert in case of
possible attacks by Chechen separatists to mark the Aug. 6, 1996, anniversary
of their retaking of Grozny in the 1994-96 war.
Earlier Tuesday, anti-organized crime agents seized large batches of
explosives during raids in Moscow and Ryazan, Itar-Tass reported, citing the
Interior Ministry, which said its agents had been informed that the
explosives were intended for terrorist acts by Chechen separatists.
Oksana Yablokova contributed to this report.
Financial Times (UK)
9 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Sledgehammer liberalism: Vladimir Putin is seeing off rivals and using his
power base to tackle Russia's fiscal problems. But some question the depth
of his commitment to market principles, says Andrew Jack
With a few strokes of his pen this week, President Vladimir Putin signed
into law two of the boldest changes to Russia's political and economic
system in the country's short democratic history.
One set of measures is a substantial blow to the power of his most powerful
potential rivals, the country's 89 regional governors. The other is a
sweeping simplification of the tax regime that could help Russia counter
its endemic problem of tax avoidance, and potentially boost economic growth.
Together with other initiatives such as his attack on influential business
"oligarchs", the measures mark a significant break with the regime of
former president Boris Yeltsin. Mr Yeltsin settled for sharing power with
the governors and never tackled Russia's fiscal difficulties.
Mr Putin's actions have raised hopes that he may be able to push through
much-needed economic reforms. But as he approaches his first 100 days in
office many critics worry about the methods the president has employed to
get his way.
In one respect - the sheer scale of his activity - Mr Putin has surpassed
expectations. "Any Russian commentator still intoning the refrain 'But we
are still waiting for Putin to actually do something,' is either profoundly
misinformed or is trying to defend a previous bad call," wrote Eric Kraus,
chief strategist with Nikoil Capital Markets Research, this month.
Mr Putin's most controversial act has been to neutralise his opponents. He
has tackled what he regards as the excessive autonomy and abuse of power of
the country's 89 regional governors, who help run Russia's chaotic federal
system. Many governors are seen as running corrupt administrations.
His approach contrasts with that of Mr Yeltsin, who formed an alliance with
the governors to counter opposition from the then Communist-dominated Duma,
or lower parliamentary chamber. Mr Yeltsin gained the loyalty of the
governors and heads of the regional assemblies by granting them
considerable freedom in how they ran their fiefdoms. He gave them a
national voice by nominating them directly to the Federation Council, the
upper parliamentary house.
Mr Putin has had less need of the governors because the Duma has been
predominantly pro-Kremlin since elections last December, and he has focused
his efforts on reforming the Federation Council. Legislation finalised this
week forces the governors and regional assembly heads to abandon their
seats by 2002 in favour of other nominees.
Earlier this month, separate laws gave the president the power to dismiss
and suspend governors, and to dissolve regional assemblies. Mr Putin has
also created seven administrative super-districts, which span several
regions, that are designed to curb further the autonomy of regional
Also under discussion is the creation of a new state council, made up of
governors but more or less under presidential control. The existence of
this body could further dilute the power of the Federation Council, taking
over its current authority to nominate top federal officials including high
But although the governors are an easy target, some analysts say Mr Putin's
changes may simply create an additional layer of bureaucracy. "The trend is
to remove power from independent players and create bodies that are totally
controlled by the president," says Nikolai Petrov, a specialist on regional
policy with the Carnegie Moscow Centre.
Sergei Markov, head of the Moscow Institute of Political Studies, says "Mr
Putin understands that any power needs opposition but he only wants
'constructive opposition'. It can criticise and correct but it must not
replace the existing authority. In my view, any real opposition is empty.
There are not enough brave people to lead it."
Mr Putin's second action this week also went further and faster than had
been expected - this time in the economic sphere. He approved a package of
financial reforms that comprise what Alexei Zabotkine, chief economist with
the brokerage UFG in Moscow, calls "the biggest change to tax legislation
since the creation of the (current) tax system in 1992".
At its heart is the creation of a flat-rate income tax of 13 per cent to be
introduced from next year, which is designed to entice the country's richer
residents into the tax net for the first time. One percentage point of the
total is to be paid into the national social fund, to create a centralised
and more transparent welfare system.
A second package of laws due to be completed in the autumn is likely to cap
corporate profit taxes at 35 per cent, permit a broader range of
tax-deductible expenses in line with international practice, and abolish or
reduce other taxes such as an existing tax on corporate turnover. The
latter has been paid directly to the regions, boosting the finances of the
regional governors under Mr Yeltsin.
Both measures are designed to increase the country's low rate of tax
collection and to reduce the huge administrative uncertainties and leeway
given to individual tax inspectors. This has encouraged evasion and created
an uncertain climate for many local businesses.
The measures have been broadly welcomed but there are concerns about how
far the reform of taxes - like so many other policies in Russia - will be
translated into practice. "The idea is fine but nobody knows what the
result will be," says Niina Pautola with the Russian-European Centre for
Economic Policy in Moscow. "Still, I am quite positive. The government is
The main difficulty is the lack of much tradition of paying taxes in
Russia. Many rich people avoid filing any returns because they suspect they
will be vulnerable to subsequent rises in the tax rate. Mr Putin hopes the
flat-rate tax will encourage more people to pay. The inspectorate is also
preparing to crack down by cross-checking employees' and employers' tax
filings, property records and other data from government departments.
But even if Mr Putin brings Russia's tax regime under control he cannot
determine the economic outcome. Analysts agree that effective tax laws are
essential for a properly functioning economy but they could take some time
to work. In the short term, the economic pressure on Mr Putin has been
eased by two factors. The global rise in raw material prices has helped the
resource-rich country, and the rouble devaluation of 1998 has shielded
domestic producers from imports.
In the longer-term, he needs his economic reforms to pay off in terms of
growth and prosperity. The president's nominations to positions of economic
power have been distinctly liberal. These include the technocrats Mikhail
Kasyanov as prime minister; Alexei Kudrin, Valentin Ulukayev and German
Gref as ministers; and the radical liberal economist Andrei Illarionov as a
So far, his legislative approach has also gained strong backing from the
public. His approval rating was a record 73 per cent in a poll carried out
at the start of this month. "There is a consensus in the majority of
society about what needs to be done, and a lack of any alternative
programme," Mr Markov says.
But many analysts believe there are already signs that Mr Putin's
government will bend free market principles when it wants. A third Moscow
mobile phone licence was granted in opaque circumstances, and the
government has allowed a series of mergers that have created a
near-monopoly in the aluminium sector.
Mr Putin may so far be using his new powers to implement a more liberal
economic regime. But if his tax reforms fail to give the desired boost to
the economy, those powers could equally be deployed to push Russia in
Russian magnate predicts more blasts, raps Putin
MOSCOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Prominent businessman Boris Berezovsky said on
Wednesday he expected further bombs like the one which killed seven people in
Moscow on Tuesday because of Russian President Vladimir Putin's stance on
Berezovsky, who in the past has negotiated with Chechen rebels on behalf of
the Kremlin, said Russia had no choice but to talk to the separatist
``This (bombing) will happen again more than once if the policy of 'smashing
the bandits in their lairs' continues,'' Interfax news agency quoted
Berezovsky as saying. He was referring to the 11-month-old military offensive
``There is only one way of dealing with terrorists -- through agreement. No
other way exists,'' he said.
Tuesday's blast ripped through an underpass in central Moscow at rush hour,
killing seven and wounding dozens more.
Putin has urged caution in pinning blame on any specific group and Berezovsky
said he was sceptical about a Chechen connection, but some Russian officials,
including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, say they are sure the rebels are
Rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has denied responsibility.
Berezovsky said he had warned in the past of the danger of terror attacks,
but neither the Russian people nor its leaders had paid any attention.
``You get the impression that the people, including its politicians, have
absolutely no memory,'' he said. ``You rub their noses in completely obvious
things, try to persuade people who have never read a single book about the
Caucasus, and all to no avail.''
As an official in the advisory Security Council under former President Boris
Yeltsin, Berezovsky often travelled to the North Caucasus after the 1994-96
Chechen war, which ended with the humiliating withdrawal of Russian troops
from the region.
Putin sent troops back into Chechnya last autumn after a series of
devastating bomb blasts in Russian cities which he blamed on the separatists,
whom he calls ``terrorists.''
Berezovsky, whose business interests range from oil to media, has retained
informal contacts with the North Caucasus region, although he no longer holds
any public office.
He recently resigned his seat in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of
parliament, in protest against what he called Putin's drift towards
He is trying to build a ``constructive opposition'' to Putin, who remains
popular with most Russians, according to opinion polls.