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Johnson's Russia List
14 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Putin To Cut Nuclear Spending.
2. Itar-Tass: RUSSIAN SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM CALCULATED FOR SECOND
3. Anonymous source: Monday in Moscow alert.
4. Interfax: HEAD OF RUSSIAN CHURCH CONDEMNS ATTEMPTS TO SPLIT IT.
5. Newsday: Ken Fireman, AL GORE: HIS PUBLIC RECORD. The Russia
Question: Hit or Miss. Gore pushed cooperation, but critics say effort
6. The Russia Journal editorial: Effective Compassion.
7. The Russia Journal: Otto Latsis, Politicians just don’t understand.
Rural farmers face difficulties officials rarely encounter.
8. BBC MONITORING: MOSCOW BOMB INVESTIGATION MAKING PROGRESS -
RUSSIAN DEPUTY MINISTER.
9. the eXile: Mark Ames, WHY NOT JAIL THE OLIGARCHS?
10. Stratfor.com: Blackjacks and Bears: Ukraine Sends Bombers to
11. Newsweek: Christian Caryl, Terror in Moscow. A bomb attack
in the capital revives fears that the war in Chechnya is coming
Putin To Cut Nuclear Spending
August 13, 2000
MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin has decided to reduce spending on
nuclear forces and shift some of their responsibilities to the conventional
forces, the air force commander said.
The decision came at a meeting Friday to debate the future of Russia's
beleaguered military and defuse tensions over control of the country's
nuclear arsenal. Putin, elected in March, has championed nuclear disarmament
as a goal of his presidency.
The Interfax news agency said that at Friday's meeting, ``A decision was made
on the redistribution of financial flows'' away from the nuclear forces
toward the conventional forces. It gave no details.
Air force commander Anatoly Kornukov, who participated in the meeting, said
on Russian television Saturday that the space missile defense troops,
currently a branch of the Strategic Rocket Forces, would be put under air
force command by 2002.
The head of the General Staff, Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin, wants to downgrade the
Strategic Rocket Forces by folding them entirely into the air force, saying
Russia must concentrate its meager money on conventional forces such as those
fighting rebels in Chechnya.
His proposal prompted a rare public dispute with Defense Minister Gen. Igor
Sergeyev, a former commander of the nuclear forces. He argues that Russia
needs to improve its nuclear arsenal to deter possible attacks by other
The Kommersant newspaper reported that Putin won backing from the Security
Council for his proposal to reduce Russia's nuclear arsenal to 1,500 warheads.
Russia has promised to cut its stockpile - estimated now at 6,000 warheads -
to 3,000 to 3,500 under the START-II arms reduction treaty with the United
States. A planned START-III originally envisaged both sides cutting to 2,000
to 2,500 warheads.
But Putin, arguing that Russia cannot afford upkeep on so many weapons, has
suggested dropping that to 1,500. Kvashnin wanted even deeper cuts, to 1,400
Russia's 1.2 million-strong armed forces are broke and low on modern
equipment and morale. The Russian Defense Ministry budget for 2000 is less
than $5 billion - compared to about $268 billion in the United States.
RUSSIAN SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM CALCULATED FOR SECOND QUARTER
Moscow, 13th August: The overall subsistence minimum in Russia has been
calculated at R1,185 per capita [per month] for the second quarter of 2000.
This is stated in a decision of the Russian Federation government of 11th
August, signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and received by ITAR-TASS
today. For the working population the subsistence minimum was R1,290, for
pensioners R894 and for children R1,182.
These figures were confirmed following submissions from the Russian
Ministry of Labour and Social Development and the Russian Federation State
Statistics Committee. They are needed in order to assess the living
standards of the population in the course of drawing up and implementing
social policy and federal social programmes, to substantiate minimum pay
and old-age pension levels, where these are set at federal level, and also
to determine the size of grants, allowances and other social payments and
enable budgets at all levels to be drafted for 2001.
From: anonymous source
Subject: Monday in Moscow alert
Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2000
I wonder whether it might be useful to alert your Moscow readers of a
persistent rumor that tomorrow in the morning there will be a major
antiterrorist operation in Moscow jointly by FSB and MVD (operation Vikhr').
All foreigners better carry their ids with them. Refer to me as an anonymous
HEAD OF RUSSIAN CHURCH CONDEMNS ATTEMPTS TO SPLIT IT
Moscow, 13th August: Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II has
protested against "attempts by external forces to split the Russian
Orthodox Church and shatter its unity".
Addressing the participants of the Bishops' Assembly currently being held
in Moscow, the patriarch recalled that "even the disintegration of the
Soviet Union was not able to destroy the multiethnic nature of the Moscow
patriarchy". It is no surprise that "efforts to confine the church to the
limits of the Russian Federation have also been fruitless", he added.
The patriarch made these comments in relation to the intentions of the
Ukrainian and Estonian state leadership and a number of religious figures
to set up independent churches in these countries despite the fact that
Orthodox believers living there have been "fed by the Moscow patriarchy"
for many centuries.
"The Russian church also opposes a state forcefully thrusting its will on
other countries and nations," Aleksiy II stressed and said that, in his
view, the recent tragic events in the Balkans are an ominous warning.
Speaking of "pseudo-missionaries and totalitarian sects" whose emissaries
are working in Russia, the patriarch asserted that their activity "has
subsided" today. "They tried to lure our congregation, but this audacity
has now been discredited and rejected by our people," he noted.
In this connection, Aleksiy II yet again reminded the bishops of the
Russian church of the huge responsibility that lies with them as ministers
"in these hard and deceitful times"...
"The greatest attention should be paid to spiritual enlightenment," he went
on. "The situation cannot be considered normal when a parish or a bishopric
purchases expensive liturgical utensils, builds comfortable mansions for
the clergy and holds sumptuous meals lasting many hours while at the same
time refusing to allocate funds for a proper Sunday school or a church
newspaper, an Internet site, refresher courses for personnel or youth
work," he said.
"If this continues to happen, these priests could face the danger of
remaining alone behind glorious walls and fences," Aleksiy II warned.
The patriarch described as "basically satisfactory" the current state of
the bishopric and parochial life of the Russian church. The Moscow
patriarchate currently includes the Japanese and Chinese autonomous
churches and 130 bishoprics with 128 bishops and 25 vicars serving there,
545 monasteries and 19,417 parishes...
August 13, 2000
[for personal use only]
AL GORE: HIS PUBLIC RECORD
The Russia Question: Hit or Miss
Gore pushed cooperation, but critics say effort was ill-aimed
by Ken Fireman
Washington-The timing couldn't possibly have been worse.
When Vice President Al Gore's December, 1993, trip to Moscow was scheduled,
the idea was to arrive just after parliamentary elections to give President
Boris Yeltsin hearty American congratulations on his latest triumph.
Instead, Gore landed in the frigid Russian capital in the midst of an
embarrassing crisis. The election winner, it turned out, was not a Yeltsin
supporter but Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a vitriolic ultra-nationalist with a
taste for anti-American rhetoric.
For three days, Gore shuttled from meeting to meeting, trying to put the
best face on a humiliating defeat for Washington's ally in the Kremlin.
After an hour-long session with Yeltsin, Gore met the media and tried to
persuade them that nothing had really changed. Yeltsin, he said, had
assured him there would be no shift in Russia's Western-oriented policies
and that the new parliament would be supportive despite the election results.
"I predict that President Yeltsin will be successful in forming a coalition
and will be able to govern and govern effectively," Gore said. "He
expressed great confidence in his ability to stay on the reform course."
But nobody was buying it,neither knowledgeable Russians nor the Western
business people and diplomats based in Moscow. They saw Zhirinovsky's
victory for what it was-a clear signal that Russia's chronic political and
economic instability was getting worse, not better-and Gore's and Yeltsin's
assurances as hollow words.
"I'm not prepared to accept these vague commitments at face value without
something more coming from the [Russian] president," said one diplomat
dismissively at the time. "Most of what has been coming out of Washington
and Moscow has been just spin control." The skeptics were right. Yeltsin
soon dumped most of the pro-Western reformers in his government and began
to adopt a more nationalistic, independent approach in his relations with
the West. Zhirinovsky's star faded, but parliament fell under the control
of government opponents who blocked economic reform at every turn.
Now, nearly seven years later, Gore is in the midst of a presidential
campaign in which his experience as a senior player in the Clinton
administration is a major selling point. But one key aspect of that
experience,his role in the administration's handling of U.S.-Russian
relations,has virtually disappeared from Gore's own rendition of his resume.
Instead, it is his Republican opponents who remind voters of Gore's
involvement in Russian policy, confident that it will tarnish his reputation.
In fact, a special all-GOP congressional task force headed by Rep.
Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) is expected to release a report next month that
at least implicitly criticizes the administration-and Gore-for pursuing a
policy that backfired badly, leaving Russia in worse shape than before and
Western ideas and influence discredited.
The administration, Cox said in an interview last week, made one
fundamental mistake: placing all its chips on personal relationships with
Yeltsin and a handful of people in his government and acceding to policies
that promoted their needs at the expense of other Russian leaders and
"On both sides of the Atlantic, there is agreement by all objective
observers that the decade did not turn out as we would have hoped in 1992,"
Cox said. "The complete economic collapse of Russia in 1998 was the tragic
culmination of a long downhill slide. The fundamental element of U.S.
policy in this period was strengthening the Russian central government . .
. Instead, U.S. policy should have focused on enacting into law the
building blocks of a free enterprise system." Gore and his defenders
strongly dispute that conclusion. They say the Republican criticism is
motivated by partisanship and ignores the real-world choices Gore and other
administration policy-makers faced at each juncture as well as the
considerable achievements the administration's approach has reaped, despite
"Because we chose to engage Russia, vigorously and creatively, we have
succeeded in locking in important, practically irreversible progress that
serves U.S. national interests," said Gore's national security adviser,
Leon Fuerth, recently. "Engagement has brought us this far-and is the only
means of bringing us farther." Ironically, Gore may have unwittingly made
himself a bigger target than necessary. His main role on Russia came
through his co-chairmanship, with then-Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, of a joint commission that sought to advance and implement
U.S.-Russian cooperation in a wide variety of areas.
In the days when Russia seemed to be an emerging success story, Gore and
his allies touted the commission as an important institution and Gore's
leadership of it as evidence of his senior role within the administration.
More recently, with Russia foundering economically while waging a brutal
war in Chechnya and Chernomyrdin deposed and accused of corruption, Gore's
Republican opponents have been only too happy to revive that version of
In fact, Gore may not have been the most important player at the
administration table when Russia was on the agenda. Deputy Secretary of
State Strobe Talbott, the president's Russophile friend from his Oxford
days, was a major influence, especially on strategic questions, while
Lawrence Summers played a large role on economic issues in his jobs as
deputy Treasury secretary and later Treasury secretary.
Cox acknowledges that Gore wasn't alone but suggests that he, Talbott and
Summers formed a more or less co-equal "troika" that drove the
administration's Russia policy. "They may have been competitors in some
ways, but they were very much a clique," Cox said. "Each had their own role
to play." During the five-year life of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission,
the two leaders met frequently and developed a strong personal
relationship. Gore allies say that relationship paid handsome dividends for
the United States last year when Chernomyrdin, acting as Yeltsin's personal
envoy to Slobodan Milosevic, persuaded the Serbian leader to withdraw from
Kosovo in the face of a NATO bombing campaign.
And Gore aides say the commission itself produced a plethora of undramatic
but substantial accomplishments, working out concrete programs to promote
joint space missions, reduce trade barriers, increase the safety of
Russia's nuclear plants and the security of its nuclear stockpiles and
improve its public health programs.
Perhaps even more important, Gore worked through the commission to broaden
the nature of Washington's relationship with Moscow, expanding what had
been a narrow agenda focusing on traditional security and arms control
issues into a much wider field of view. "Gore helped to define a new
relationship with what was at the time a new country," said one
administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Cox, however, dismissed the commission as an unwieldy bureaucracy whose
main product was paper. "It established its own secretariat," he said.
"Each of the players had their own staff. In the end, hundreds of people
were necessary just on the U.S. side just to have a meeting. The Russian
government complained that it had to prepare for months." As for Gore's old
Russian partner, who was fired as prime minister by Yeltsin in 1998, he has
become an involuntary poster boy for a story line that Republicans are
anxious to promote: how a few corrupt Russians enriched themselves while
the Clinton administration looked the other way. While Chernomyrdin has not
been charged with any crime and vehemently denies any wrongdoing, his
Russian critics accuse him of raking off millions through his connections
to Gazprom, the Russian state natural gas monopoly that he once headed.
Gore's critics say that whatever Chernomyrdin did or did not do, the
accusations against him are a metaphor for a larger kind of corruption that
infected the upper levels of Russian government and business circles with
at least the tacit approval of the administration and its vice president.
The engine driving this corruption was a deal between the Russian
government and a small group of banker-businessmen that came to be known as
"loans for shares." Under this arrangement, which began in 1995, the
bankers provided the cash-starved government with large-scale loans and
credits to pay off the state's mounting debts-and, not insignificantly, a
huge war chest for Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign. In return, the
government allowed the bankers to buy large stakes in newly privatized
state companies at bargain prices.
The deal helped create a new ruling class of Russians that came to be known
as the "oligarchs." And they quickly became the target for opposition
politicians of all stripes-and the source of a growing public perception
among ordinary Russians that the much-touted Western precepts of democracy
and market economics were shams.
According to Cox and other Republican critics, the administration, with
Gore's enthusiastic approval, implicitly supported the whole scheme by
continuing to back the funneling of large amounts of aid to Moscow from the
International Monetary Fund and other global financial institutions despite
growing evidence that it was being misused.
"What actually happened was that this money became part of the means by
which the new oligarchs in Russia were able to convert their rubles to hard
currency and flee the country," Cox said. "Loans-for-shares was faux
privatization which merely transferred state monopolies into private hands
and created no new competitors. . . . It was privatization into a
non-market economy. And in the end, it has greatly diminished support for
what used to be charitably called reform-and diminished U.S. influence in
Russia and more generally the way Russians view the United States." Fuerth
argues that this criticism is misguided in every respect. There is no hard
evidence that Western aid was misused or diverted, he said, and the IMF has
closely monitored its lending program to ensure Russian compliance with its
commitments to reduce the budget deficit and improve tax collection. The
administration, Gore included, was well aware of government corruption-a
corruption that predated Yeltsin and had its roots in the Soviet era-and
has done its best under difficult conditions to combat it.
And to have delayed the privatization of the Russian economy until a
perfect system of legal mechanisms was in place, as Republicans argue,
would have been a huge mistake, according to Fuerth.
"Privatization was the one sure way to break away from the past," he said.
"Had we adopted a go-slow approach . . . we would have given the communists
leverage to maintain state control and further retard the development of
the free market." Finally, Fuerth argues that whatever the problems and
failures in Russia today, it is important to think about what didn't
happen-but might have-had it not been for the administration's efforts to
support Yeltsin during the critical years when he was locked in a power
struggle with his hard-line opponents. The communists did not return to
power; the country did not disintegrate, suffer total economic collapse,
lose control of its nuclear arsenal or fall under a new dictatorship of a
rabid ultra-nationalist like Zhirinovsky.
"We recognize that Russia's historic transformation is incomplete," Fuerth
said. "All the more reason we must continue to engage Russia. We recognize
that Russian democracy is challenged by corruption that deeply penetrates
her society. All the more reason to engage Russia on behalf of reform. We
recognize that Russia has her own self interests and concerns that can and
do run contrary to ours. All the more reason to search for constructive
forms of cooperation."
The Russia Journal
August 12-18, 2000
The blast in the center of Moscow on Tuesday has once again exposed the
vulnerability of ordinary people to arbitrary acts of crime and terrorism.
Whoever the perpetrators of this crime and most have already pointed in
the direction of dark-skinned people of "Caucasian nationality" the
reality is that the Russian state has failed in its primary task, that of
protecting its citizens.
When the government decided to wage an all-out war on a nationality
(Chechens) killing thousands and leaving tens of thousands homeless and
given the vengeful culture of Chechens, an all-out fight could not have
been too difficult to predict.
The risk of terrorist attacks in Russia’s heartland, ever since last year’s
apartment-block bombings, has been a very real possibility.
No matter who they are, the perpetrators of this crime are cowards, like
any other terrorist who leaves a bomb in a marketplace with the sole aim of
killing innocent civilians and generating maximum terror. This is a
despicable action and no war, no fight over anything, can justify it.
The problem is the Russian government should have expected that something
of this order was coming and it should have been prepared. But, it seems,
apart from a few extra police at metro entrances harassing the "chorney"
nothing was done.
There is no lack of compassion among Russian citizens and high government
officials for the victims. But the faith of the population has been shaken
not just by this latest bombing, but by the realization that the state is
truly incompetent and unable to protect its people.
According to a report, the average time required for a fire and rescue
squad in Britain to reach the scene of an accident after it is reported is
two minutes. In major U.S. cities, it is two to three minutes. Eyewitnesses
and some traffic police on duty in the area said the first rescue squads
reached the Pushkinskaya underpass an appalling 30 minutes after the tragedy.
As a result, a distressing parade of people with shrapnel wounds, serious
burns and blood-covered faces stumbled out of the underpass unaided. Dazed
and confused, they found only passersby offering assistance, and that, of
course, was limited to water and the clothing off their backs.
Among the first to reach the scene were TV cameras and journalists from
nearby offices. Moscow City Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nikolsky ran to the
scene of the tragedy on foot and proceeded to help the victims himself
(full credit to him, but he is not trained to do so).
And there can be no doubting a genuine sadness and somber mood is prevalent
in the Kremlin. But a citizenry needs more than just compassion at a human
level. The effectiveness of the state machinery in Russia in combating such
situations is criminally low.
It is not simply a question of understaffing and lack of money though
that is a severe problem as well. Moscow fire-fighting vehicles are among
the slowest machines in Europe. And Moscow drivers, for their part, seldom
give way to ambulances or rescue squads on the city’s congested streets.
But the greatest problem, the real problem, is the all-pervasive corruption
among the rank-and-file police and crime-fighting forces in Russia.
When the traffic police use the specter of terrorism to stop and extort
money from owners of foreign-made cars, their foreign drivers, or to hassle
traders from the south, they only create an atmosphere of contempt for the
The Russian people, for good reason, do not trust their police. This lack
of faith in the security services and their general inability to do more
than persecute "chorney" and extract bribes creates enormous windows of
opportunity for real criminals and terrorists.
The usual response, similar to that implemented last year: Clamping down on
dark-skinned people, a tougher passport-checking regime and deportation of
non-Muscovites, did not (and will not) catch or deter hardened terrorists.
The Russia Journal
August 12-18, 2000
Politicians just don’t understand
By Otto Latsis
Rural farmers face difficulties officials rarely encounter.
What's the main issue surrounding market relations in rural areas? Any
politician or journalist will tell you without hesitation creating a land
market. The government is sure of it Boris Yeltsin fought for the freedom
to buy and sell land. The opposition is sure of it the left consider it
their first duty to prevent the free exchange of land.
If a nationwide referendum is announced, one can guess the result ahead of
time. The land market will be supported by city dwellers, who form a
majority in the country and are far removed from rural realities. The
minority the farmers will vote against it. They will be against it
because they are scared of all change. They have not benefited from any of
the changes over the past ten years, and everything bad is blamed on market
reforms. They are indifferent to the question of land sale and purchase.
They, best of all, know that in today's economic world, the question is of
no great significance.
There are many reasons. First, it is already possible to buy land when
there is a real economic necessity. There are many legal and quasi-legal
ways to sidestep outdated legislation. Second, very few people want to buy
agricultural land, and its price is accordingly low. The market economists
know this, and they say that the important thing for a land owner is not to
sell land but to receive credit with land as collateral. But the credit
will be meager if the land is not worth much. Farmers received plenty of
credit over the past years without land as collateral, and it did not
prevent most of them from going under.
Political theories present the land market as a magic wand legalizing
land sale will miraculously transform the rural economy. Of course, it is
essential and productive to pass such a law. But there will be no instant
miracle transformation. There will be a long road of transformation of all
economic relations, not just agricultural. At what point on this road is
Russian agriculture at the moment? This was addressed at the latest
conference held by Manchester University Professor Theodore Shanin.
Shanin is a British sociologist and agricultural expert. He founded the
Moscow Higher School of Economic and Social Sciences.
The conference was devoted to the informal economy that, traditionally in
the 20th century, was the main source of means for Russian peasants to
survive. The foundations of this economy wavered under market reforms. In
Soviet times, the legal economy, labor in the kolkhoz or sovkhoz, ensured a
sufficient income only to the rural elite. Most peasants lived off the
income of their personal produce, for which the kolkhoz served as a special
support. It did not pay much for labor, but it gave the chance to obtain or
steal feed for privately owned livestock, the basis for a family’s income.
This was surrounded by a network of informal contacts. One neighbor might
steal a vehicle with feed from a field and bring it to his private yard.
Another could repair private cars. Another would pay with meat from his
livestock. One of the women would sew for the whole village. The system of
natural swapping of produce and services supported people’s needs. This
system has collapsed. In the worst cases, it has been replaced by total
thieving not just from the kolkhoz, but also from the neighbor. In the
best cases, it has given way to commercialization and monetary exchanges.
But not everyone can get accustomed to and manage this way of life. Being
unable to adjust to it causes dismay. And the question of land purchase and
sale remains secondary for most peasants.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Bolsheviks ended the progressive
agrarian reform which had started in the tsarist era. The Stalinist kolkhoz
was a peculiar form of medieval society an archaic structure that stood
in the way of agrarian reform. The principles of societal support were used
to relieve the state of its responsibility for the peasants' survival and
put it all on the peasants themselves. Today, rural Russia is stuck in the
search for new forms of economic and social interaction. They are not
getting any help from politicians in this difficult hour because the
politicians do not understand what is going on.
MOSCOW BOMB INVESTIGATION MAKING PROGRESS - RUSSIAN DEPUTY MINISTER
Source: Russian Public TV, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 12 Aug 00
The motive for the Pushkin Square bomb could have been terrorism, gang
disputes or a targeted individual, first deputy interior minister Vladimir
Kozlov said in a television interview. The investigating agencies are
working harmoniously and have already made some progress. Many offers of
help have been received from abroad and from the Russian public. Kozlov
called on the public to remain vigilant and noted that 16 tonnes of TNT had
recently been found in the Urals city of Ufa. The following are excerpts
from a report by Russian Public TV on 12th August:
[Presenter Marina Nazarova] We have the opportunity to obtain the latest
and most reliable information about the investigation into the explosion in
Moscow virtually from the original source. Russian First Deputy Minister of
Internal Affairs, Vladimir Kozlov, answers questions put by the "Vremya"
Good Evening Vladimir Ivanovich.
[Kozlov] Good evening.
[Q] Over all these days several possible versions of the crime have been
put forward but recently the `Kommersant' newspaper carried a report that
an expert in economic crimes had been appointed as the investigator and
that this probably indicates that one of the versions seems to be the most
promising. What can you say about that?
[A] At present the investigating groups are working on three versions. They
are all regarded as equally possible. Work is proceeding actively on all
three versions. I shall tell what these are. The first version is that the
crime was carried out by people from an extremist organization. The second
version is that the crime was committed for reasons of division of spheres
of influence. And the third is the domestic version.
I would like to delve into these versions a little and to talk about the
first version: the version that this crime was committed by people from
extremist organizations. A few days ago the question of the so-called
Chechen connection was raised. No-one intended to accuse the Chechens - the
Chechen people - of committing this terrorist act. What was being
considered was a Chechen connection viz. that those who had commissioned
this crime and the main organizers were on the territory of Chechnya, while
those who carried out this crime could be various people, of various ethnic
As far as the economic version is concerned, indeed, when we began to work
with trading structures, with the trading booths, which were located in the
subway on Pushkin Square, there are some serious questions to be put to
some of them. There was some tension between the commercial structures. I
would describe them as shady businesses. Therefore, we are working on this
line, we are investigating this version.
The third version is the domestic one. We are not ruling this out. This
version says that this could be a contract killing against one of the
people killed in this terrible tragedy.
[Q] Vladimir Ivanovich, have you managed to establish what explosive was
[A] I have here the preliminary conclusion which has been presented by the
Federal Security Service's criminal experts. I will read out just the
conclusion: in all the samples taken from the site of the explosion in the
Pushkin Square subway, traces of TNT were found. Further investigations are
now being carried out. And I think that we shall learn what sort of
explosive device was used.
[Q] As far as we know no terrorists, no organization or individual has
admitted responsibility for this crime. Doesn't this mean that this will in
some way make the work of the investigators more complicated?
[A] Yes indeed, Marina, Russian reality is such that even when they carry
out terrorist acts, extremist organizations do not accept responsibility.
You are well aware that after the explosions which take place in Spain and
France, in all of these cases, various extremist organizations accept
responsibility. But I do not think that this will make the work more
difficult in some way. Undoubtedly, this is difficult.
But you know that the president has taken the investigation of this crime
under his personal control. We report to the minister every day, in the
morning and in the evening, on the work that has been done. And this work
is being carried out in close cooperation with the staff of the Federal
Security Service, the Procurator General's office and the Interior Ministry.
[Q] Statements on this subject are being made by your colleagues from other
departments. Perhaps you could say a bit more about how this work is being
[A] You are well aware that an operational headquarters has been set up to
clear up this crime. None of the services involved intends to try to pull
the blanket over to its own side. We work in harmony. And I would like to
say that at the present time we have very much information that is of
operational importance. I do not intend to expand on this or to name
specific individuals or specific organizations which could be involved in
this explosion. But there is information.
[Q] I know that a few days ago Interior Minister Vladimir Rushaylo said
that your foreign counterparts were prepared to provide assistance to
Russia to clear up this crime. How effective do think this will be and how
often are used abroad in this way?
[A] After the explosion in Moscow almost all the heads of power-wielding
departments and law-enforcement bodies of CIS countries and the distant
abroad responded; they expressed condolences and offered their services and
their staff to help to clear up this crime. I think that we shall decide
later what this will consist of. There are various proposals and we have
already sent objective information about the situation on Pushkin Square to
all heads of law-enforcement bodies of CIS countries and the distant abroad.
[Q] It has been reported on more than one occasion that many witnesses have
been questioned - over 100 people, I believe. And the interior ministry has
asked the public for help and asked for any information to be given as soon
as possible. How effective is such help?
[A] Indeed, the public is now giving us very active help. In Moscow alone
we receive 200-500 pieces of information every day. We check this
information. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of
those who are helping us, whether this information is given anonymously or
whether people give their names. But we receive any information which will
be useful in clearing up this crime and we check it out...
There is one other thing that I would like to mention today, Marina, and
this is the reaction of the population. We all saw that when disaster
struck very many people responded to the disaster. We saw the queues of
people wanting to donate blood for the victims. But there are also people
who wish to profit from this disaster, from people's grief. I would like to
cite one example. On the day when the explosion took place in Moscow there
was railway wagon on its way to the town of Ufa carrying explosives - TNT.
This wagon was discovered in Ufa yesterday evening. The individuals
involved have been detained. The explosive, TNT, has been removed; there
was 16 tonnes of it. You can imagine what could have happened to the city
if such a quantity of explosive had been detonated somewhere in the centre
of the capital.
And I would like to take the opportunity once again to appeal to our
citizens: Be vigilant, pay attention to objects left at vital
installations, at transport junctions, on transport, in places where lots
of people assemble.
[Q] Thank you for finding the time to come into our studio and answering
questions from the "Vremya" programme.
August 3-17, 2000
WHY NOT JAIL THE OLIGARCHS?
By Mark Ames
Sergei gets nailed at the Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station for holding a few
tcheki of smack in his pocket, and he winds up spending three years in
jail, his life and health permanently ruined. This crime goes unnoticed,
unreported; the punishment seems harsh, though reasonable. The Western
press keeps silent.
Only one case brings out the wrath of the West’s opinion page writers on
the cruel and arbitrary nature of Russia’s “rule of law”. That’s when an
oligarch gets in trouble.
The Western elite’s frantic defense of the oligarchs over the past couple
of months is disingenuous and evil on several levels, betraying its
long-standing contempt for Russian public opinion, as well as the media’s
own barely-concealed intimacy with wealth and power.
First let’s get one very basic fact straight: despite what all of the
Western newspapers and commentators have falsely suggested, there IS a
Russian criminal code. It’s very detailed and as clear as any country’s
fucked-up criminal code. Everybody and their dog knows that Russia’s
oligarchs have violated nearly every serious law in that code, from murder,
extortion and theft to fraud, illegal wiretapping, tax evasion, etc. Of
course, the biggest crime of all is that they raped and looted the state of
Russia, economically, socially, culturally, demographically...
In the case of Gusinsky, a clear law was broken, a charge was made. Instead
of hailing this as “at last, Russia is applying the law”, everyone from the
Moscow Times to the Washington Post, from the World Jewish Congress to the
U.S. State Department denounced Russia’s alleged lawlessness and
Gusinsky suffered four days in Butyrka’s swankiest suite. You’d think he
was Mandela by the outpouring of international sympathy for his plight.
Hundreds of thousands of wealth-challenged and connections-challenged young
Russians have decayed in Russia’s jails over the past several years accused
of non-violent crimes in a system that favors the wealthy and the
connected, without a peep from the West. Why, if the rule of law is
allegedly so savage, arbitrary and ill-functioning, should these people’s
sufferings be ignored, while the super-rich and super-evil should be
treated like Mumia?
The Western, or rather American elite loved to piously wag their moralistic
index finger at the underdeveloped Russian populace, for whom the jailing
of Gusinsky and the threats of the others may have felt good. “While it may
appeal to Russians suffering hardships/While it may be good politicking,”
they say, “it is bad for the rule of law in Russia.”
This American-led contempt of Russian public opinion has been in force ever
since Russians parted with the State Department’s view of how things should
be. Thus, the Russians were too stupid or underdeveloped to understand how
good Gaidar’s reforms were, how good privatization was, how beneficial in
the long-term Anatoly “the lightening rod” Chubais was for them, how
necessary it was to continue slashing budgets and tightening belts, and how
positive NATO’s war in Kosovo was for the world.
Now, they’re saying that although jailing the very people who stole the
state’s assets and destroyed their country might “feel good”, ultimately,
it would be bad because it would scare away foreign investment and further
the arbitrary nature of Russian justice.
This is as absurd as arguing that Al Capone should not have been put away
in the 1930s for tax evasion because the government only went after
unpopular criminals for tax evasion. Or as absurd as telling someone who’s
house had just been cleaned out and daughter raped that while it may “feel
good” to put the criminal behind bars, until they start putting every
single person in American behind bars, they shouldn’t put away this
Arbitrary justice? America is chock full of statistics showing how horribly
unfair its justice system is to the poor and the non-white. Crack cocaine
penalties are far more severe than the middle-class-favored powder cocaine,
even when the measured amounts are the same. This is actually written into
law. Non-violent drug offenders on-average serve longer sentences than
rapists, robbers, and even most forms of murder. The former head of the
United States’ drug war efforts in Colombia, Col. James Hiett, used to send
Colombian drug lords to the US where they faced life-term imprisonment.
When his wife was found guilty of running a heroin ring out of the embassy
he served in, she was given five years; Hiett, who admitted using her drug
money for personal use, but claimed he had no idea where it came from, was
given five months for being an accessory. Five months! Even though the
judge openly said he didn’t Hiett’s claim to ignorance. Our next president
is either going to be an ex-cokehead who’s been zealously juicing any Negro
near the scene of a violent crime (Dubya), or a bong-sucking Deadhead whose
administration has jailed more non-violent marijuana offenders than all
previous administrations combined (Gore).
The real issue is that America’s elite, including the media elite, have a
strong interest in keeping the oligarchs out of jail. The New York Times,
Washington Post, Businessweek and others all wrote lovingly of the
oligarchs in the past, comparing them to Rockefeller and Carnegie, calling
them brave new capitalists. Fred Hiatt, opinion page editor of the Post,
once labeled Vladimir Potanin “a baby billionaire” who “just wants to do
business”, while the September 7, 1998 issue of the The New York Times
called Berezovsky “a capitalist in the bloodless image of Commodore
Vanderbilt.” Now, they want to protect their men.
As for the Moscow Times, their recent hysterical defense of Vladimirs
Potanin and Gusinsky are easily explained: oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky
owns a big chunk of the Times. Only this could explain a Bivens editorial
on July 12th, “Prosecutors Can’t Fix System”, in which he cries: “[R]ather
than the messy business of cat-and-mouse with NTV and Vladimir Potanin,
[... take] on the corruption and murkiness in state-owned structures. There
is no point in struggling to ‘take back’ Norilsk, if the state taking it
back is itself a cesspool.”
First of all, of COURSE a prosecutor’s job is to prosecute crimes. Just
because other crimes are going unpunished, it doesn’t mean that the most
obvious ones shouldn’t.
All of this bleating about “until corruption is cleaned up” or “until there
is a rule of law” is just a red herring. The world’s elite don’t give a
fuck about justice; they only care about their own kind.
No non-violent drug offender should spend a day in jail anywhere. All
oligarchs who steal and murder should be lined up before a wall. That’s
justice. Anyone who says differently merely announces whose side he really
Well, duh. If you’re poor and your crime is too small, the price you pay
will be your life; if you’re mega-rich and you’ve been to Davos, you’ve got
carte blanche to do whatever the fuck you want. And the media elite will be
there to ensure that this age-old injustice is carried out. To a “t”.
Blackjacks and Bears: Ukraine Sends Bombers to Russia
11 August 2000
Washington has threatened to halt aid for nuclear disarmament in Ukraine.
The government of President Leonid Kuchma reportedly continues to ship
nuclear capable bombers including the supersonic Tu-160 Blackjack to
Russia, while accepting Washington’s money. The Clinton administration will
find it hard to bring sufficient pressure to bear on Kiev.
The United States will stop financing Ukraine’s nuclear dismantling if Kiev
trades any more strategic bombers to Russia, Steven Pifer, the U.S.
ambassador to Ukraine said on Aug. 7, according to the Interfax news agency.
Ukraine, however, stands to make much more money by continuing to give the
bombers to Russia. Although Washington does intend to withhold the funds,
it will not likely do anything more. By calling Washington’s bluff and
ignoring its warning, Ukraine may stress relations with its Western
sponsor. But Washington is unlikely to get its way.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine inherited the third
largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It included 25 Tu-95 Bear and 19
Tu-160 Blackjack heavy bombers. The Bear is an aging intercontinental
bomber with a range of about 13,000 kilometers; the Blackjack is a
supersonic multi-mission bomber, similar to the U.S. B-1 bomber, capable of
carrying cruise missiles, short-range guided missiles, as well as nuclear
and conventional gravity bombs. Under the 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction
Program, Ukraine is obligated to physically destroy 44 Soviet-era bombers
by the first quarter of 2002.
Instead, Ukraine last year traded 11 bombers eight Tu-160s and three
Tu-95s and almost 700 cruise missiles to Russia in exchange for $285
million worth of debt forgiveness. Ukraine owes Russia for natural gas
shipments. In July, Ukraine offered Russia another 10 bombers in exchange
for more debt relief; Russia has not yet formally responded. Pifer pointed
out that Washington pays for the decommissioning of the aircraft, because
they were built specifically to target the United States with nuclear
weapons, reported Interfax.
Although the United States cannot prevent Ukraine from giving the planes to
Russia, it can cease payments meant to cover the cost of the planes’
destruction. The United States has promised approximately $500 million for
the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to be carried out in Ukraine. Of
that, $13 million is allocated for heavy bomber elimination, and of that $6
million has already been spent.
But from the Ukrainian standpoint, working with Washington doesn’t make
sense. Financially, forfeiting $7 million from the United States in order
to wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of debt to Russia is a
bargain. But is it politically affordable?
Ukraine is the third largest recipient of U.S. financial aid, behind Israel
and Egypt; U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has said that Ukraine
is one of Washington’s top four international priorities. Since
independence in 1991, the United States has given the country almost $2
billion. In March, Ukraine was promised $170 million for this year; while
in Kiev in June U.S. President Bill Clinton pledged another $80 million for
the safe closure of Chernobyl.
In return, Ukraine which is geographically strategic and challenged with
diplomatically juggling Washington and Moscow has increased its military
and political cooperation with the United States, often at the risk of
Russian reprisal. It is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program,
and this May the country promised to bring its military into line with NATO
standards by 2005, reported Agence France Presse.
Kiev and Washington have been, however, unreliable allies. Ukraine has
witnessed Washington’s hesitation to protect some of its other allies in
the region, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Kuchma government will not
count on the United States to protect it from Russia, for example.
Ukraine will not bow to the tune of a mere $7 million. Unless the United
States is willing to withdraw additional aid not specifically tied to
nuclear disarmament Ukraine will likely keep right on calling
Washington’s bluff and shipping nuclear-capable bombers to Russia.
August 21, 2000
[for personal use only]
Terror in Moscow
A bomb attack in the capital revives fears that the war in Chechnya is
coming back home
By Christian Caryl
For the last decade, ever since she moved to the United States, Natalya
Yelin had looked forward to a Moscow homecoming. So did her son, Ilya. Just
3 when the family emigrated, he’s a textbook American teen who listens to
Metallica and is preparing to enter Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School
in the fall.
BUT HE’S KEPT up his Russian, so he was ready when his mother booked a
flight earlier this month. “It was my dream,” says Natalya, 35, a program
analyst in a Manhattan brokerage house. “I was waiting for him to turn 13
so that I could show him this beautiful city.”
Last week the dream turned ugly. As mother and son strolled through a
bustling passageway underneath Moscow’s Pushkin Square, Ilya stopped to
check out some music CDs in a kiosk. “That’s probably when the bomb went
off,” says Natalya. “Glass was falling, and then there was black smoke all
around us.” The blast, concentrated by the confined space of the underpass,
blew off her shoes and peppered her feet and side with glass shrapnel.
Barefoot and bleeding, she staggered to the exit and spent 20 wrenching
minutes searching for Ilya. She finally found him holding the hand of an
elderly woman, the skin on his arms and face toasted by fire, most of his
hair burnt away. Among his first words to his mother: a plea never to
return to Russia. “For 10 years I had forgotten what it was like here,”
Natalya says. “Now they’ve reminded me.”
For most Russians, the memories are fresher. The blast, which killed
11 people and wounded about 100, echoed a string of bombings that claimed
300 lives in Moscow and elsewhere in August and September of last year.
Those attacks, widely attributed to Chechen separatists, put the public on
edge and—thanks to the all-out military campaign he ordered against the
Chechens—boosted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin into the presidency. The
brutal 11-month offensive pacified a large chunk of the renegade southern
republic, though skirmishing and ambushes of Russian troops continue. The
attacks on the home front ended—until last week. Now there are fears that
the never-say-die Chechens are again trying to bring the war to the
The government immediately blamed the Chechens. After the attack, which
came a day before the first anniversary of his appointment as prime
minister, Putin said that “the terrorists will be finished off in their
lair” and vowed to bring the bombers to justice. He said much the same
thing last year; the people responsible for those attacks have never been
identified. “There were explosions then and there are explosions now,” says
Aleksei Malashenko, a Caucasus specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace in Moscow. ”[Putin] was elected in the expectation that
he’d put an end to the war. And that expectation was in vain.” Last week
police quickly apprehended two “suspects” from the Caucasus—and then
admitted that they had nothing to do with the Pushkin Square bombing.
Leading Chechens denied involvement, as they did last year. “Neither
the regular Chechen forces, nor special services, nor warlords have
anything to do with the explosion on Pushkin Square,” said rebel leader
Aslan Maskhadov. Toward the end of the week, Russian media aired alternate
explanations for the attack—a mafia-related assault was one. The FSB
quickly moved to quash them by issuing a statement saying the bombing
definitely had a Caucasus angle.
Ironically, proof of Chechen involvement would be a mixed blessing for
Putin. It would mean that his war has spawned exactly the sort of terrorist
threat it was supposed to prevent. This summer, for the first time, suicide
truck bombers attacked Russian checkpoints. That suggests a growing
fanaticism among some of the rebel groups and could be a sign of a wider
campaign of Chechen terror against civilians. As with the Palestinian
movement in the 1970s and 1980s, political and military setbacks, coupled
with savage reprisals against the civilian population, have created a
fertile breeding ground for fanatical splinter groups and have sidelined
Yet Putin shows no sign of easing off from a war that, by optimistic
official reckonings, has already cost 2,134 Russian dead and more than
6,000 wounded in the past 11 months. In polls taken just before the Pushkin
bombing, Putin was still garnering 70 percent-plus approval ratings, and
his popularity is unlikely to slip in the wake of a terrorist onslaught. In
fact, tough anti-Chechen measures after the bombing would likely boost his
ratings. Russian parliamentary deputy Sergei Yushenkov worries that “people
are ready to sacrifice their freedoms in the name of greater security.” He
points out that Putin doesn’t have a legal basis to introduce, say, a
full-scale state of emergency, though a law to give him such powers has
begun to move through the Legislature and could be in place within weeks.
But Yushenkov is concerned that a demoralized Russia with weak democratic
institutions will happily tolerate a “creeping crackdown” by security
forces. And with press freedom increasingly under attack, there may be few
Russian journalists willing to inform the public.
By the weekend, sadness—and tension—had replaced panic around Pushkin
Square. The day after the attack, police opened the passageway for
business, and Muscovites quickly turned it into a makeshift shrine. Fresh
flowers piled up around the blackened crater in the concrete floor.
Onlookers stood by in stunned silence, some of them weeping. Even President
Putin stopped by to pay his respects. But not Natalya and Ilya Yelin. They
were already on a plane back home to New York.