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Johnson's Russia List
13 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
DJ: I want to thank those who responded last Sunday to my
request for feedback. Its encouraging to know that many people
ARE paying attention on a summer Sunday.
1. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Muscovites fear enemy within.
2. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Putin plots his revenge
on rebel bombers.
3. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, To talk or not to talk.
(re ABM treaty)
4. US News and World Report: Barnyard epithet. (re Gore)
5. The Washington Post: Michael Dobbs, The New Russia.
It's a Shame It's Too Late To Blame Communism.
6. Obshchaya gazeta: Vladimir RYZHKOV: It Is Foolish to Be Looking
for Liberals on Lubyanka Square. Interview by Yelena Tokareva.
7. Mark Jones: realtor in Moscow.
8. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, Chechen war a social time bomb.
9. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): John Simpson, Now Putin brings
his generals to heel in new order of battle.
10. The Russia Journal: Ekaterina Larina, Regional leaders on
increased federal power.]
The Independent (UK)
13 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Muscovites fear enemy within
By Helen Womack in Moscow
It was her last day at work before her summer holiday. Olga Udalova, 18, a
secretary at the Vremya-MN newspaper, arrived at the office punctual as
ever. Her colleagues were impressed by how she always managed to be on
time, although she commuted two-and-a-half hours into work in the morning
and two-and-a-half hours home again at night. She was a provincial girl
from the town of Voskresensk, trying to make a career in the capital.
At 5.30pm she finished her typing and went down to Pushkin Square to meet
her boyfriend. At the height of the rush hour, a bomb ripped through the
precinct of kiosks in the underpass. Olga was among seven people killed
outright but it was a while before the authorities identified the charred
bodies. They showed her black and white photograph on television. She was a
pretty, fresh-faced girl.
Muscovites were deeply shocked by Tuesday's explosion, whose death toll has
since risen to 11. It brings back memories of last year's shopping mall and
apartment block bombings. Is the nightmare beginning again? That is the
question on everyone's lips.
As soon as the debris was cleared, the blackened underpass became a shrine.
Women brought flowers and icons, men stood drinking shot glasses of vodka
in memory of the dead. The Serbsky Psychiatric Institute, which in Soviet
times used to give "treatment" to dissidents, reported that scores of
distressed people were applying for counselling. But more were queuing at
the Sklifasovsky Hospital to donate blood to the victims in the burns unit,
the most severely hurt of the 100 injured.
"I am giving my blood because it is the only positive thing I can do," said
Lev Markov, a middle-aged family man. "I don't hate the terrorists, I just
feel sorry for the victims. A thing like this makes you realise it could
happen to any one of us."
Listeners participating in the Silver Rain radio station's phone-in show
were less charitable. They mostly assumed that Chechen terrorists were
behind the blast and a number favoured a nuclear solution to the problem of
the rebellious Muslim region.
While police arrested several suspects of Caucasian ethnic origin,
President Vladimir Putin spoke of the importance of keeping an open mind
and not branding a whole people as terrorists. His fatherly tone and
new-found fairness contrasted sharply with the vows he made last year, on
launching the war against Chechnya, to "catch terrorists wherever we find
them, to zap them in the toilet if that is where they are".
Some Muscovites thought he was being hypocritical and seeking to undermine
their popular mayor Yuri Luzhkov, the only politician to descend into the
underpass immediately after the explosion.
Mayor Luzhkov, while stressing that most Chechens were ordinary decent
people, was more inclined to see a Chechen connection to the blast.
The guilt of those responsible for last year's apartment block bomb, in
which some 300 people died, has never been proved. The Russian authorities
blame Chechen terrorists but some Russians suspect their own secret
services wanted to create a pretext to send troops back into Chechnya. The
new war was initially very popular and helped Mr Putin to win the
presidential election this March.
Now he is in power, President Putin has less to benefit from an atmosphere
of war fever. However, analysts note that he may be planning to weaken
parliament in the autumn and a renewed terrorist threat could give him an
excuse to impose stronger personal rule.
The latest bombing succeeded in pushing from the headlines details of a
corruption scandal gathering around the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail
Kasyanov. In the same way last year, the public was distracted from
allegations of Russian money laundering through the Bank of New York by the
dramatic news of the apartment block bombs.
This year, on balance, it seems probable that Chechens were taking revenge
for all the death and destruction in their homeland. Chechnya's president,
Aslan Maskhadov, denied that his guerrillas were involved in the Pushkin
Square attack and indeed they have no record of targeting civilians, only
of resisting the Russian military.
But Chechnya's separatist rebels are now divided. The Russian army crowed
recently when two groups of rebels apparently started fighting each other
in the forests of Chechnya. But defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said that
Moscow should be worried by this development. "In the Palestinian national
movement military setbacks and ensuing political splintering helped to
create some of the most ferocious terrorist groups in world history. The
same may be happening today in Chechnya: as Maskhadov and other mainstream
war lords who historically have disapproved of the use of extreme terrorist
tactics lose credence and control, fanatics may be breaking loose."
The Sunday Times (UK)
13 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin plots his revenge on rebel bombers
Mark Franchetti, Moscow
EVEN as exhausted firemen were dragging out the bloody remains of seven
bodies from under Moscow's Pushkin square, President Vladimir Putin was
plotting his revenge against those who had cast a pall of fear across the
Putin's motorcade sped from the Kremlin, crammed with bodyguards. The
president, who revels in intelligence operations, headed not to the scene of
the bombing, but to a secret location thought to be a compound used by Alfa,
the Russian equivalent of the SAS.
Putin had summoned two of his most trusted generals, the commanders of Alfa
and another anti-terrorist unit known as Vityaz. Kremlin sources described
how a furious president berated them for failing to track down Shamil Basayev
and Khattab, the rebel Chechen leaders suspected of being behind the attack.
According to one source, he then demanded the rebel commanders' heads. The
rebels are believed to be hiding in the southern mountains of the breakaway
Putin and his generals also assessed ways of increasing security in Russian
cities after the bombing. The death toll rose to 11 after three more victims
who had been badly burnt died in hospital on Friday night.
Putin wanted the rebel commanders eliminated last summer, when, as prime
minister, he ordered the special forces to hunt them down in the aftermath of
a series of apartment bombings that claimed nearly 300 lives. But 11 months
later, as the guerrilla war grinds on, Basayev and Khattab are still leading
their movement from remote hideouts.
For Putin, who owes his popularity to his tough stance in Chechnya, their
resistance is an embarrassment, and his credibility hangs on their fate.
Yesterday police were still looking for two men of Chechen appearance said to
have been in the passageway beneath Pushkin Square at 5.55pm on Tuesday,
minutes before the explosion. They tried to buy a bag with a $100 bill, and
left when the vendor asked for roubles, saying they were going to change
their money. Seconds later the vendor noticed that they had left a black
case, now believed to have contained 2oz of TNT connected to a homemade
"I saw the case and went to ask for help," he recalled last week from a
hospital bed where he is recovering from multiple burns. "As we were walking
back, the blast went off."
The explosion devastated the narrow corridor, killing seven people on the
spot, including Olga Udalova, 18, a secretary at Vremya MN, a popular
newspaper with offices on the square.
Looking forward to her holiday by the seaside that was to begin on Wednesday,
she had arranged to meet her boyfriend in the passageway after work, but he
was a few minutes late. Vladimir Udalov, her distraught father, has said he
now wants to fight in Chechnya.
By 8pm that evening, Udalova's half-naked body lay cheek by jowl with six
other maimed and charred corpses pulled from the wreckage. Each body was
tagged with a blood-stained, handwritten note with the victim's name. It was
a miserable sight and, as forensic experts pored over the bodies, one rescuer
looted CDs from a shattered pop music stand.
"We'll never know who did this, no one will be caught. All we get is words,"
said one of the vendors who survived.
The Russia Journal
August 12-18, 2000
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: To talk or not to talk
By Andrei Piontkovski
Russia must choose to accept ABM treaty amendment or negotiate.
U.S. intentions to deploy a national missile defense system (NMD) on its
territory, and Russia’s hard-line opposition to these plans, has led to a
serious crisis in relations between the two countries. Whether we want it
or not, this defense system will go ahead the U.S. Senate has already
taken the necessary decision.
Developing and implementing the NMD system will require either amendment of
the 1972 ABM treaty or U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. The U.S.
administration understands well the negative consequences of unilateral
withdrawal from the treaty and is therefore trying to convince Russia to
begin negotiations on the issue.
Russia has two options today. It can either not agree to amendment of the
treaty, or it can agree on negotiations. If it rejects negotiations, the
United States will pull out of the treaty sooner or later, regardless of
protests from Russia, China and European countries. This scenario would
lead to sharply worsening Russian-American relations and increase the
probability of a new "Cold War." Russia would lose control over the nuclear
Calculations show that deployment of a limited missile defense system
wouldn’t affect the existing strategic balance between Russia and the
United States. No matter what system is eventually deployed, Russia would
still be able to break through it and inflict unacceptable damage on the
United States. This makes confrontation with the United States over
amendments to the ABM treaty unproductive and not in keeping with Russia’s
At the same time, active dialogue with America on ABM issues could bring
Russia considerable political dividends. Negotiations could lead to a
legally binding agreement being signed that would ensure openness and
mutual control at all stages of development of the U.S. NMD system.
A common argument is that though the projects under discussion at the
moment don’t threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent capability, the
infrastructure developed for the project could become a threat in the
future. But this argument only makes all the more clear the need to deal
with the situation today, to prevent such a turn of events tomorrow.
Russia needs to realistically analyze its choices from the point of view of
its national interests. Either the United States will develop its NMD
exactly as it pleases, or it will have to work within the restrictions of
the international legal framework set by an amended ABM treaty. Amending
the ABM treaty would not signify defeat for Russia, it would make the U.S.
project subject to restrictions that would only be in Russia’s security
Deployment of an American NMD system is not a direct threat to Russia’s
interests but is much more significant for relations between the United
States and China. Maintaining a flexible position on amendment of the ABM
treaty would give Russia political room to maneuver with regard to
countries concerned, and enable it to propose serious initiatives. One such
could be a proposal to broaden Russian-American ABM negotiations to include
the "nuclear club" members China, France and the United Kingdom with
the aim of drawing up mutually agreed restrictions on deployment of NMD
systems and adoption of a "strategic stability pact" that could become the
foundation for the international security architecture of the 21st century.
(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic Research.)
US News and World Report
August 21, 2000
Don't tell House GOP investigators that the Clinton era is over.
Administration sources tell Whispers that the chairman of the House
Government Reform Committee has subpoenaed the administration for a 1995
intelligence warning alleging corruption by Victor Chernomyrdin, then prime
minister of Russia, on which Vice President Al Gore allegedly scrawled
"bull- - - -." Gore denies all and says he doesn't know if his superpower
partner was a crook. Our sources say the White House, the vice president's
office, and the CIA are searching files to comply with Rep. Dan Burton's
The Washington Post
13 August 2000
[for personal use only]
The New Russia
It's a Shame It's Too Late To Blame Communism
By Michael Dobbs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of my most vivid memories as a reporter covering the collapse of
communism is of standing behind Boris Yeltsin on the balcony of the Russian
White House in August 1991 as he celebrated his victory over an attempted
coup by hardline communists.
As the crowds chanted "Freedom! Freedom!" it was easy to believe that Russia
had crossed a political Rubicon. The solution to the country's problems
seemed crystal clear: Tear down the old totalitarian system and embrace the
promised capitalist future as swiftly as possible.
This summer, making my first extended trip back to the former Soviet Union in
seven years, my thoughts kept returning to the scene on the balcony. The
certainty and moral clarity that I, and many of my Russian friends,
experienced after the failed August coup has given way to confusion and
bewilderment. As I try to absorb the stunning changes of the past decade,
culminating in the rise of a more authoritarian leadership under Vladimir
Putin, I don't know whether to rejoice or weep, to be awed or repelled, to
feel nostalgic about the past or to look forward to the future.
I am amazed by the gleaming new face of Moscow: the American-style
supermarkets and shopping malls, the repainted facades, the gentrification of
crumbling tenement buildings, the bustling highways and beltways that are the
pride and joy of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. At the same time, I am saddened by the
vulgarity of the new rich, the sight of beggars being splattered with mud by
Toyota Land Cruisers, the seemingly all-pervasive corruption, the stunning
gap between haves and have-nots. Russian friends fear that Putin may be
attempting to roll back some of the new freedoms granted under Yeltsin and
Mikhail Gorbachev. Some even talk of emigrating.
Everywhere I went, from the Caucasus to Central Asia, I encountered a
deep-seated nostalgia for the old Soviet Union. The nostalgia assumes
different forms in different people, but the common thread is a yearning for
a way of life that may have been drab and regimented, but was nevertheless
secure and predictable. "Of course, life was better back then," snapped an
unemployed Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh, focal point of the Soviet Union's
first serious ethnic disturbances in 1988. "There was peace, and we all had
In Almaty, the commercial capital of Kazakhstan, I celebrated my 50th
birthday with an hour-long massage in the health club of the new
Turkish-built Ankara hotel. The hotel is an oasis of privilege and luxury,
offering a level of hospitality unthinkable in Soviet times, when hotel staff
seemed to compete against each other for the title of "Surly Employee of the
Month." The masseuse got her job thanks to the new service industry, but when
I asked her how she liked the work, she sighed and launched into a long story
about how she used to train children to become Olympic gymnasts. Since the
state no longer subsidizes school gymnastics programs, so-called Masters of
Sport are reduced to rubbing rich people's backs. She wished she could turn
the clock back.
I replied that I remember the pre-1991 Soviet Union, and that it wasn't all
that wonderful. The shops were empty, and people were forced to stand in line
for three to four hours for even basic commodities. The only part of the
economy that was thriving was the black market. The masseuse agreed that life
under Gorbachev was grim, in many respects. "I was thinking of an earlier
time," she said wistfully, referring to the much-maligned "era of stagnation"
associated with Leonid Brezhnev.
On a more philosophical level, many of the existential questions about
Russia's future that appeared settled after the failure of the August coup
(Who is guilty? What is to be done?) are being reopened for debate. Russian
writers and philosophers have traditionally referred to such tortured musings
as the "cursed questions," because the mere act of asking them often led to
Blaming the communists for all Russia's problems is no longer as satisfying
as it was in 1991. And nobody seems to have a clear idea of what should be
done to rescue the country from its post-communist mess.
Having been spied upon and harassed by the KGB, which kept a extra close
watch on foreign correspondents, I never thought I would feel nostalgia for
the Evil Empire. In some ways, however, life was simpler back then--for
foreigners as well as Soviet citizens. Top of my list of things to miss about
the old Soviet Union is the relative ease of travel from one republic to
another. True, in the old days, we had to give 48 hours notice to the Foreign
Ministry of any trip outside Moscow. Sometimes, permission was refused. But
those difficulties paled by comparison with the problems I encountered this
summer visiting three former Soviet republics (Russia, Armenia and
As travel around western Europe becomes ever simpler, travel around the
former Soviet Union has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare. In order to
assert their independence and sovereignty, the former Soviet republics have
introduced a bewildering array of customs regulations and immigration
controls, along with some truly exorbitant visa fees. I forked over nearly
$1,000 in consular fees for my month-long trip, which required three separate
entries into Russia. (Moscow remains the hub of the post-Soviet
transportation system.) As I traveled from one republic to another, there
were days when I seemed to trapped in a twilight zone of passport booths,
X-ray machines and form-filling.
The appearance of 15 new countries has provided plenty of work for petty
bureaucrats, but enormous headaches for ordinary people. Outside the Russian
embassy in Almaty, where I went in search of yet another Russian visa, I was
greeted by a seething mob of former Soviet citizens wanting to travel to
Russia. Many had been waiting for hours in the broiling sun. Occasionally,
the gate would open a crack to admit another applicant. "See how they treat
us, it's shameful," yelled a frustrated visa-seeker.
Despite the fancy restaurants and luxury automobile dealerships that have
sprung up almost overnight in big cities like Moscow and Almaty, it seems
undeniable that most people are worse off than they were in 1991, at the dawn
of the new free-market era. Factories have closed, prices have gone through
the roof, and old economic ties have been destroyed. "There are no jobs" was
a recurring refrain everywhere I went. In some places, unemployment is as
high as 50 or 60 percent.
It is also undeniable that a small minority of people, perhaps 1 or 2 percent
of the population, have done incredibly well from the transition from
communism to capitalism. In Russia, at least, the riches have been spread
around somewhat, and a putative middle class seems to be emerging. But the
further one goes from Moscow, the more the wealth seems concentrated into the
hands of a well-connected elite, which often turns out to be the very same
elite that held power in the waning days of the Soviet Union.
Take the case of Kazakhstan, a land of fabulous natural resources, including
vast oil deposits, where political and economic power is firmly under the
control of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the republic's last Communist general
secretary. When I interviewed him in 1992, shortly after Kazakhstan gained
its independence, Nazarbayev seemed a modest, reform-minded leader, open to
Western ideas. He sprinkled his speeches with democratic rhetoric and firmly
denied any intention of transforming himself into a "khan," or traditional
central Asian autocrat.
Yet that, in many respects, is precisely what he has become. Not only has the
president crushed all potential political opponents, the Nazarbayev family
controls much of the country's wealth, including the main television stations
and most of the newspapers. Last month, news leaked out that the U.S. Justice
Department is investigating charges that the Kazakh leader accepted millions
of dollars in kickbacks from leading oil companies. In private conversations,
Kazakhs refer to the president as "Papa."
Staying at the Ankara hotel, I had the opportunity to witness a gathering of
the extended Nazarbayev clan, at a wedding reception for one of his nephews.
For sheer spendthrift opulence, it rivaled an Academy Awards ceremony. Long
lines of black Mercedes disgorged guests in tuxedos and elaborate designer
gowns, clutching magnificent floral bouquets. Security men with earpieces
patrolled the hotel grounds. When the happy couple decided to have their
pictures taken on a mountain overlooking the city, the road was closed to
That things should have turned out this way is perhaps hardly surprising.
"Imagine a rather unusual family," says Yevgeny Zhovtis, a human rights
activist in Almaty. "You have the market economy as the mother, and the
communist-style management system as the father. The only offspring you will
get from that kind of marriage is a corrupt and criminalized state."
And yet there are shards of hope. The brightest, it seems to me, is the
release of huge amounts of energy. Life in the old Soviet Union was
characterized by an extraordinary lethargy, as if everything had slowed to a
standstill. People spent their days doing as little as possible: "You pretend
to pay us and we pretend to work," was the national joke. Today, people have
to struggle to survive. Russia is becoming a nation of hustlers.
The most visible evidence of this energy is the number of gleaming new
buildings going up all over Moscow. If architecture is the sign of the vigor
of a civilization, then the new Russia--or at least the new Moscow--is
gaining daily in self-confidence. Entire areas of the city are being ripped
apart and remodeled. Churches are springing up like mushrooms after a storm.
Not since Josef Stalin sprinkled Moscow with pompous wedding-cake-like
structures more than half a century ago has the city's skyline changed so
Just as Stalinist architecture was the physical expression of Soviet power,
so are these gleaming new skyscrapers, beltways and churches the perfect
reflection of the new era of crony capitalism. In order to get them built,
Luzhkov established an almost feudal system of relationships with the city's
leading businessmen. In exchange for the privilege of doing business in
Moscow, they are required to hand over a portion of their profits, to be
spent on the mayor's favorite projects.
Like Russia itself, the new architecture is a bizarre mishmash of resurgent
nationalism and crass commercialism. The symbols of Tsarist
Russia--double-headed eagles, golden church domes, crosses--jostle for
attention with a forest of billboards advertising everything from toothpaste
to "the face of the year 2000" and the occasional red star or hammer and
sickle left over from the Soviet period. The overall effect is jarring, but
also breathtaking in its scale and ambition.
As to where this country of bewildering contradictions is headed, it is
difficult even to hazard a guess. The deepest impressions from my most recent
trip are very similar to those that struck me most forcefully when I first
started coming to Russia many years ago: awe over the sheer size and untapped
potential of a vast, incredibly rich country; amazement at the patience and
endurance of ordinary Russians; entrancement with the melodic rhythms of the
Russian language and landscape. I am reminded of the words of Nikolai Gogol
who--writing nearly 160 years ago--compared Russia to a troika, dashing
through the snow, as other nations looked on in amazement.
Russia, where are you flying to? Answer! She gives no answer.
August 10, 2000
It Is Foolish to Be Looking for Liberals on Lubyanka Square
Interview by Yelena Tokareva
[translation for personal use only]
Vladimir Ryzhkov is a young democratic politician who had the misfortune of
falling out of favor with the Kremlin court. He has been elected to the Duma
three times, beginning with 1993, when he was 27 years old. In 1997, he
became deputy speaker of the Duma, and since 1998 he chaired the generally
pro-Kremlin faction Our Home Is Russia. In 1999, when OHR, led by Viktor
Chernomyrdin, failed to enter the parliament, he was re-elected in his
single-member district in the Siberian region of Altai, and later joined,
along with Chernomyrdin himself, the Unity faction. However, last month he
was expelled from Unity for violating factional discipline by voting against
president Putin's draft laws on administrative reform.
Q: Vladimir Aleksandrovich, how would you explain the surprising turn in
your political biography? Just recently, you were on a short list of
candidates for high-ranking positions in the government. Now you have been
expelled from the pro-Kremlin faction and are actively campaigning against
the administrative reform initiated by the Kremlin.
A: Let us make it clear that my distancing from the authorities began since
March 1998, when Viktor Chernomyrdin ceased to be prime minister. In
September last year, we declined the insistent proposals to join Unity which
were emanating from the Kremlin. Later, however, Viktor Stepanovich decided
to get along with the present authorities, and his opinion prevailed in OHR.
He still keeps sending mails to OHR regional branches encouraging them to
merge with Unity.
Meanwhile, I disagreed with presidential draft laws, both separately and
taken as a system. I find it wrong to speak about restraining the arbitrary
rule of governors by using a heavy hand from Moscow. Arbitrary rule ought to
be limited by courts, parliament, the media, public opinion, but not by
federal bureaucracy, as it was under Peter the First. I cannot deny that
regional authorities often abuse their powers and that they have accumulated
considerable political debt vis-a-vis society. But I cannot understand why
the role of the jury is being arrogated by federal bureaucracy which is
enmeshed even more in corruption, lawlessness and arbitrary rule. For these
reasons, I voted against all the three presidential draft laws.
Q: Can we conclude that you suffered for defending governors' interests,
while they themselves eventually gave up their fight and reconciled with the
A: They simply surrendered to a superior force. And this was wrong. The new
Federation Council will be permanently without work, becuase there is just
no permanent work for the upper house. Meanwhile, these people will require
Moscow apartments, vehicles, and dachas. They will only irritate the
population and become a butt of mockery.
The mentality of our political elite has gone through striking changes. Only
a year ago, almost everyone was saying that the Yeltsin constitution was no
good, because it gave too much authority to the president. These days, same
people say: we need to strengthen the presidential chain of command, give
additional powers to Putin, and so on. Putin continues to weaken the
parliament that was already so much humiliated in the 1990s, and people who
define themselves as democrats support him for some reasons that are not
Q: Do you refer to the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Yabloko, who joined
A: This is my biggest disappointment. Recently, Irina Khakamada was asked on
NTV, what position would be taken by URF if the conduct of liberal reforms
would require the establishment of an authoritarian regime. She replied that
they would agree to that, if needed. I was shocked.
I believe that many people in URF and in Yabloko represent the interests of
the large-scale Moscow capital, which often confronts local capital and
regional authorities in its struggle for the regions. I think that, by
bringing regional elites to heel, these politicians defend the interests of
Moscow businesses. Boris Nemtsov said that two dozen of businessmen for whom
he organized a meeting with the president control 50% of the national
economy. This is regrettable, because almost all of these people come from
Moscow-based corporations. This means that no autonomous economic centers
can emerge in the regions. We look like South Korea which has 7 to 8 cartels
controlling all the economy. But this is a small country, where it is easier
to sustain social equilibrium. In Russian conditions, such a concentration
of capital creates serious tensions, turning regions into colonies where all
the revenues are siphoned off to the top of the pyramid. This monstrous
system cannot be perceived by the people as just.
Q: Indeed, many prominent liberals have been converted into staunch
statists. Perhaps, indeed, the strengthening of the state will enable to
accelerate liberal reforms?
A: I am convinced that the economic reform will fail if carried out by FSB,
by prosecutorial offices and by tax police. The mentality of our statists
does not bode well for reforms. I was stupefied when I heard the president
to say that some of our media take anti-state positions. But the media is an
institution of civil society in the classical sense, and the latter's
interests are very often at odds with the interests of the state. And if we
want to have a state that would be restrained by society, the media needs
additional guarantees of immunity and financial autonomy. Out of the same
considerations, I would go for a double increase of personnel in the
judiciary system and would raise their salaries.
Ten years ago, Boris Yeltsin put seven empty glasses on the shelf. On one
glass, it was inscribed "parliament", on another one, "the party system", on
yet another, "local self-government", on the fourth glass, "the freedom of
speech", on the fifth, "business". Over these years, the glasses became
half-full: we have acquired a real self-government at the local level, we
acquired regional parliaments with political factions, we are half-a-step
away from creating nationwide political parties. That is, society begins to
self-organize. Now, instead of letting these glasses become full, it has
been decided to break them into pieces.
Q: But today in the Kremlin there are the same people as under Yeltsin.
A: The master has changed, and everybody changed their uniform. Under
Yeltsin, it was as if we were cutting through a thick wood to make a path
through the forest. This was slow, but the move was in the right direction.
Now, it looks as if we are building a German autobahn, but it goes the wrong
From: "Mark Jones" <email@example.com>
Subject: realtor in Moscow
Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2000
David, I'm wondering whether you or anyone on your List knows of a reliable
realtor/estate agent in Moscow which also has a London office? It's a
question of selling some property in Moscow.
13 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechen war a social time bomb
By Colin McMahon
Tribune Foreign Correspondent
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia-The casualty rolls from Russia's wars in Chechnya do
not list men like Andrei Sedyshev, but doctors know the wounded when they see
They are victims of what doctors and servicemen alike call "the Chechen
syndrome," a psychological scarring that afflicts thousands of veterans of
the current Chechen war and the first conflict in 1994-96. Like Sedyshev, men
who once dreamed of building normal civilian lives now struggle to fit into a
society that they feel does not respect them.
Unlike the devastated towns of Chechnya or the dead Russian soldiers carted
off in coffins, the shattered lives of these men are not an obvious cost of
the war. Yet their damage to Russian society is tangible, experts say.
The men struggle to find or keep jobs. They have higher than average rates of
drug and alcohol abuse. Their families find them distant, or worse. They have
trouble relating to women.
Most worrying, experts say, veterans of the Chechen war are more likely to
turn to crime.
Unable to make a legitimate living, comfortable with weaponry, perhaps inured
to violence, they make good candidates for criminal gangs recruiting foot
soldiers. The barbarity of the Chechen fightingâ€”"a war without limits" is
Sedyshev put itâ€”alters the moral compass of some veterans.
Estimates vary of how many veterans are affected. The Soldiers' Mothers
Committee says that as many as half of all veterans suffer some sort of
post-traumatic stress disorder from a war that the group bitterly opposes.
The chief psychiatrist of the Interior Ministry, whose troops share duty in
Chechnya with the Defense Ministry, puts the figure much lower.
About 5 percent of Interior Ministry soldiers suffer post-traumatic stress
disorder, said Col. Vladimir Levitsky, though this rises to about a third
among those who have been wounded. The rate among officers is 13 percent, he
said. Among rapid-response forces it is almost 25 percent.
So far, at least 100,000 Russian soldiers have served in the current Chechen
Now a year old, Russia's latest war in the Northern Caucasus bears troubling
similarities to the 1994-96 conflict.
Despite Moscow's claim of control and an imminent end to the fighting,
attacks by separatist rebels continue unabated. Russian casualties have
surpassed 10,000, with more than 2,500 soldiers dead.
On Friday, Russian troops killed at least six rebels in a rare clash with
Chechen guerrillas outside their region, a Russian spokesman said.
The Moscow-based spokesman said Russian troops supported by helicopter
gunships and artillery attacked the rebel group near the village of Nizhny
Alkun in Chechnya's western neighbor Ingushetia late on Thursday.
In the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod, psychologist Irina Panova is
watching the cases of Chechen syndrome pile up. Her Rehabilitation Center for
Veterans of Local Conflicts is one of the few clinics in Russia dedicated to
treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Among her patients, even today, are veterans of the Soviet Union's
disastrous, decadelong war in Afghanistan. She sees in this generation of
Chechen veterans many of the same ill effects of the Afghan war, which ended
in failure in 1989.
"The physical symptoms are sleeplessness, shortness of breath, sweating, a
racing heart," Panova said. "The other effects: flashbacks, bad dreams, an
inability to adapt to family life, to society, to relationships. They cannot
figure out what to do. The details or the problems of their civilian lives no
longer seem important."
To her, Sedyshev is a typical case of Chechen syndrome.
Panova did not know Sedyshev before the war, but she said she can guarantee
that he was a completely different person than the one who sits in her office
now. Silent, tense and rail thin at the arms and wrists, his hands folded
between legs of skin and bone.
Sedyshev speaks only when spoken to and then just barely.
Sent into Chechnya at age 19 as a draftee of the Interior Ministry, he was in
Grozny in March 1996 when his checkpoint came under a furious rebel attack.
Comrades were wounded and killed before the rebels pulled back.
A month later, Sedyshev was sent back to his home unit and soon discharged.
Four months later, the Chechen rebels would return to Grozny, take back the
capital and force out the Russian soldiers.
Now the Russian troops are back in Chechnya, and in Grozny, for another war.
The rebels are again delivering devastating hit-and-run blows on Russian
soldiers. And Sedyshev is in Panova's care for the second time this year.
The young man hears voices. He has trouble controlling his temper or
communicating with his parents and friends. He gets along with other Chechen
veterans, but then, they understand him.
Before the war Sedyshev wanted to be a carpenter, but he cannot find that
kind of work now. He thought of getting married and raising a family, too,
but he has trouble even talking to women.
Veterans of Chechnya say that many young women view them as damaged goods.
Their interest in the men's experiences rarely exceeds casual curiosity. Some
are even afraid of the men.
Some of this has to do with Russian actions in Chechnya. Warplane and
artillery attacks that critics call indiscriminate have killed untold numbers
of Chechen civilians since air raids began the war last September.
Human-rights activists also have documented looting, rapes and killings of
This affects the soldiers in various ways. Some who have engaged in
atrocities may carry tremendous, buried guilt, Panova said. Some who did not
participate but saw the effects of such crimes may feel stained as well.
Finally, civilian Russians are wary of the soldiers, even if they do not
believe the worst allegations.
Unlike in the past, women nowadays often prefer men who avoided military
service to pursue college or careers.
"Before we had this understanding that if a guy did not join the military,
then a girl would not talk to him," said Andrei Kozhenkov, 24, a draftee who
recently finished his tour in Chechnya. "Now it is just the opposite."
After his discharge Kozhenkov returned to Nizhny Novgorod and tried to join
the police force. He was given a psychological test and deemed a high-risk
candidate. He was not told why he was rejected. Within weeks, he was rejected
"I was a marine, the elite. I was with three people when they died. I was
wounded," Kozhenkov said. "Now I understand that my experience in Chechnya
counts for nothing. They can all go to hell."
Kozhenkov was drinking beer and vodka with a handful of other Chechen
veterans at a pool hall in suburban Nizhny Novgorod. The young men have
formed a group called the Brotherhood, which now counts about 400 veterans
from the region.
Several men at the table told bitterly of troubles finding jobs. No matter
that they served in a warâ€”or, as the Kremlin insists on calling it, an
"anti-terrorist operation"â€”that the majority of Russian citizens say they
support. No matter that some won military honors. No matter that some were
Pavel Yudahin said he spoke with a World War II veteran at a factory where he
finally landed work. The veteran of the Great Patriotic War dismissed his
service in Chechnya.
"He said that people were stupidly dying in Chechnya," Yudahin recalled. "He
said they were not true soldiers, that they did not die protecting the
Yudahin and his comrades started the Brotherhood in part as a support group,
an organized way to have bull sessions about the war. But they also collect
money to help out fellow veterans. They find jobs for members, and they try
to fill in gaps that the federal government purposely overlooks.
Soldiers from Chechnya do not get benefits that other war veterans get
because, by the government's definition, Chechnya is not a war.
Even medical care for the veterans is a question mark. Panova's
rehabilitation center, for example, is funded by the regional government, not
In the last six months, Panova said, her center has counseled 500 people
dealing with the Chechen syndrome. Some are relatives of veterans, but most
are former or current soldiers themselves. So far, the center has not had to
turn away any patients for lack of space or time.
But as Panova said, "The phone is always ringing in my office."
This could very well get worse.
Having learned some lessons from their defeat in the last Chechen war,
Russia's generals entered the current conflict with far more troops. This
helped them overwhelm the smaller Chechen force and quickly gain control over
much of Chechnya. Yet it has also exposed more Russian soldiers to combat
than during the first war.
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
13 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Now Putin brings his generals to heel in new order of battle
By John Simpson
John Simpson is BBC World Affairs Editor
IN his five months as Russian president, Vladimir Putin has methodically
ticked off each item on a list of institutions preventing him from getting a
firmer grip on the mess he inherited from Boris Yeltsin. He has shown the
regional barons that the days when they were placated and cosseted are over.
He has dealt, sometimes brutally, with the oligarchs controlling Russia's
business and media. Now he has turned his attention to the army.
This week - a difficult one for Mr Putin, with a major terrorist attack in
the centre of Moscow - he has tried to put some order into the confused and
wasteful business of Russian military spending and strategic planning. And as
a result we can see something of the new Russia he is creating.
Russia has one and a quarter million men under arms, and a defence budget of
about £3 billion. More than £2 billion goes on buying new equipment for the
country's nuclear forces, in an attempt to compete with the United States.
The trouble is American spending on defence is 60 times higher than Russia's,
at £190 billion. Mr Putin has sided with those of his generals who believe
that it is pointless trying to match the US, especially when Russia's real
strategic problem is holding its post-imperial structure together and
stopping regions such as Chechnya from breaking away.
So, last Friday, he summoned his National Security Council together to work
out a new and more sensible approach to Russia's military strategy. He
reminded them that it was the attempt to compete with American
weapons-spending during the Cold War that caused the collapse of the old
Soviet Union. He pointed out how badly the Russian army had done in the first
war in Chechnya, from 1994 to 1996, and gave his support to those in the
Russian military who say that it is impossible to improve the country's
conventional forces while the nuclear forces get almost three quarters of all
new military procurement spending.
The chief exponent of this line is Gen Anatoli Kvashnin, the chief of staff
of the armed forces. By contrast Marshal Igor Sergeyev, the defence minister
who used to run Russia's nuclear defences, was predictably outraged at the
idea that the nuclear forces should have their budget cut back drastically
and be absorbed into the air force. But the marshal was brought up in the old
school, and came out of the meeting mouthing the new orthodoxy. The new plan
was, he said, well balanced and based on the economic potential of the
country. In other words, he voted for his pension.
Russia has about 3,500 land-based nuclear warheads, 3,500 air and sea-based
nuclear bombs and warheads, and 750 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
After this latest review, the land-based warheads could be cut to 1,500. As a
result, Russia's approach to nuclear weapons will change. Until now they have
been seen as the last defence against another nuclear power, to be used only
in the final phases of some catastrophic confrontation.
But a recent Russian military exercise posited a Nato attack on the isolated
Russian city of Kaliningrad. At the point where conventional Russian forces
were about to be overwhelmed, the planners envisaged firing nuclear weapons -
before Nato forces had threatened nuclear force.
Maybe it's just play-acting, like all the other exercises that the Russians,
Nato and the Chinese habitually carry out. Maybe it was an attempt to
influence the debate in the Russian National Security Council about the
relative importance of nuclear and conventional forces. But it does make
clear that Putin's Russia is in the process of putting an end to 10 years or
so of feeble compliance with the West, and is looking for ways of
re-establishing itself as an effective opposition to American power. Not in
nuclear terms: Gen Kvashnin's winning argument within the National Security
Council on Friday was that a nuclear war with the United States was
impossible, so there was no point in trying to maintain a strategic balance
with it. Yet by cutting back on its nuclear arsenal, Russia will actually
become more reliant on it, and might be tempted to use it more quickly in a
Above all, Mr Putin seems to be expecting greater trouble with the West in
future. We once thought Boris Yeltsin's feeble control over Russia might
cause problems, with rogue elements taking power into their own hands; but
now that someone a lot tougher and more effective is in power we might find
ourselves looking back on the roi fainéant days of Yeltsin with a certain
The Russia Journal
August 12-18, 2000
Regional leaders on increased federal power
By EKATERINA LARINA
Governors are still criticizing or arguing in support of the Federation
Council’s decision to approve an amendment that effectively increased
federal power in the regions, although the decision was taken in mid-July.
The new law states that governors will lose their status as senators on the
Federation Council. Now, representatives from the regions will replace them
on the council.
Some regional leaders shared their views with The Russia Journal:
Gov. Alexander Lebed, Krasnoyarsk Krai
RJ: Do you think the law changing the way the Federation Council is formed
could strengthen [federal] power?
AL: The law will weaken the power vertical. Along with the Tax Code, it
deprives the regions of the will and incentive to work on self-development.
It will pull them all down to the lowest common denominator. The North
Korean model will come in useful now everyone getting the same 200 grams
of rice. But then we’ll have to forget about a market economy, we’ll have
to say goodbye to everything we’ve accomplished and fought for over the
last 10 years. We’ll have to just turn our backs on it, and if anything
smacks of Bolshevism, this certainly does. Nothing worthwhile was ever
achieved this way in the past and won’t be now.
RJ: Is this law a mistake on the part of the Presidential Administration?
AL: Without a doubt. Without governors who have real power governors who
in each of the regions were elected with at least 51 percent of the vote
you’ll never have an effective power vertical. You can replace the
governors with clerks paid for by the federal budget and therefore
dependent on Moscow. You can break the Federation Council by filling it
with obedient boys who’ll push the buttons on Moscow’s command, but this
won’t create effective power. Without a strong Federation Council, without
a real opposition, we won’t get very far.
RJ: But the Federation Council supported the law.
AL: It’s too late to start drinking mineral water when your stomach’s
already full of ulcers. We should have acted sooner. Now, I think the
Federation Council took the wisest course of action by not forcing the
president into a corner.
RJ: You really think the Federation Council simply decided not to force the
president into a corner?
AL: Why not? Putin’s idea is unnatural, it creates a situation where
everyone is appointed and everyone is the same. Governors will lose all
initiative to be independent and self-sufficient. How can this be good for
the power vertical? Millions of dollars will vanish into the common mass,
all the donor regions will be bundled together, and everything will go into
a common kitty. There’ll be someone to stand by and divide the wealth,
"good" governors will get more, average governors will get less, and "bad"
governors will get nothing at all. My region, a donor region, will lose 30
percent of its budget under this scheme. This is not a power vertical, it
is the lowest common denominator.
Gov. Dmitry Ayatskov, Saratov Oblast
RJ: Will the new law on the Federation Council do anything to improve the
DA: On the one hand, it’s not good that directly elected governors will no
longer be represented in the Federation Council. But Putin is right in
saying that everyone has to do their own job. Governors don’t even have the
time to just read all the documents they receive as senators in the upper
house. Being a governor is a full-time profession, and governors have to
give their time to this job. If you have one foot in Moscow and one in
Saratov, you’re nowhere.
RJ: That’s on the one hand, but on the other hand?
DA: Overall, the state will gain.
RJ: So the new law will strengthen the state?
DA: Yes, it’s logical. No one is trying to diminish governors’ power. We
will still be directly elected heads of our regions with the right to
exercise our authority both within the country and abroad.
Nikolai Fyodorov, president, Chuvashia
There are clear signs that our country is moving from Constitution to
repression. In Russia today, the will of the emperor, that is, the
president, is law. The opinion of Kremlin bureaucrats is considered more
important than the opinion of the Federation Council. This concentrates
immense power in the hands of the Kremlin and this is very dangerous for
I told Yeltsin and tried to tell Putin that it benefits no one to break the
Constitution. It is now our task to try and make Putin realize how
dangerous this would be for him and for Russia. A strong president doesn’t
need to be surrounded by lackeys.
I don’t approve of this policy of undermining the federation. I will not
sanction an attack on democracy and a parliamentary system. This is the
Kremlin’s work. Kremlin officials have spoken with all the senators, there
are obviously deals that have been reached, political and personal deals.
People have to get themselves re-elected, and without Moscow’s support,
there’s no guarantee you’ll get a new term in the Duma or as a regional
I have a lot of respect for Putin, I like him. But as a responsible
politician, my mission is to prevent him from pursuing a mistaken policy.
The mistake lies in having let Kremlin advisers and technicians take
control of power. They are totally out of control, they don’t consult with
anyone except their own colleagues who are just as out of control and free
of any responsibility before the Russian people. This is the weakness of
civil society in Russia. There is no multiparty system, no media able to
influence politics, no judicial system. It is the Kremlin officials who
have all the power and decide everything just like back in the old Soviet
times. This won’t strengthen the vertical of power, only the vertical of
lack of responsibility.
Alexander Dzasokhov, president, N. Ossetia
My answer [on the new Federation Council law] depends on how the future
State Council will work. If the formation of the Federation Council is
changed, it will strengthen the power vertical only if the State Council
gives governors increased opportunities by letting them deal with issues in
five essential areas war and peace, sending troops abroad, the federal
budget, internal administrative territorial division and the state border.
If the governors sit on the State Council and deal with these issues, this
will strengthen the power vertical. In this case, the State Council would
compensate for not having the Federation Council. This would also put a
stop to the talk that we are trying to hang on to our seats. But the
question is, will the State Council be like this?
I am not an optimist concerning the formation of the future Federation
Council. But I voted for the law, and from the very beginning, I thought
the law should be adopted with regard to the political-legal circumstances