This Date's Issues: 4474 4475
Johnson's Russia List
25 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Russia denies sedative used to silence Kursk critic.
2. AFP: Secret police probe Dagestani terror link in Kursk tragedy: media.
3. BBC MONITORING: NTV, COLLEAGUES "INDIGNANT" OVER CHECKS INTO TWO DAGESTANIS ON
4. Interfax: BIG MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS THINK MOSCOW BLAST "TERRORIST ACT"
5. The Economist (UK) editorial: Putin’s sea of troubles.
6. The Economist (UK): The damage done. Russia’s submarine disaster
has dented Vladimir Putin’s image and his popularity. But has it weakened his presidency?
7. Moscow Times: Anna Raff, Taxes Set To Boost Cost of Living .
8. Business Week: Paul Starobin, A Catastrophe Casts a Pall over
9. Murray FESHBACH: Vremya MN translation on population developments/4473.
10. Dan Bell: Russia doesn't need advice from a murderer's associate/re Chile JRL 4472.
11. Albert Weeks: "Putinshchina"
12. Stratfor.com: Gridlock: All Trains Lead to Moscow.
13. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian Government Paper on 'Black PR,'
Attempts To Make Capital From Kursk.
14. The Times (UK): Michael Evans, Russians 'hampered' Kursk rescue
Russia denies sedative used to silence Kursk critic
MURMANSK, Russia, Aug 24 (AFP) -
Russian naval authorities on Thursday dismissed media reports that the mother
of a Kursk submariner had involuntarily been given a sedative injection while
questioning deputy prime minister Ilya Klebanov about the tragedy.
"These claims are absurd, I'd be surprised if there had been an injection
purely to keep her from talking," navy spokesman Vladimir Navrotsky said.
"Probably the woman was worked up by her emotions and because of the
conditions in the crowded hall," he added.
BBC journalist Orla Guerin told AFP that the footage of a meeting on August
18 attended by several of the relatives was shot by a cameraman working for a
Some 500 relatives and friends of the 118 seamen who died in the August 12
disaster have gathered at the naval base of Vidyayevo, near Murmansk, to
receive counselling and support.
Clearly overcome by grief, the woman was filmed as she shouted at the deputy
prime minister who has been leading the investigation into the submarine
In the incident caught on film a medical officer approached the woman from
behind but the footage did not explicitly show an injection being
The woman collapsed into the arms of medical officials a short while later.
The incident has been widely broadcast in the Western media, notably by the
BBC, with the implication that it represents a throwback to the Soviet-era
methods of repression of dissidents involving the use of drugs.
A witness at the scene, Yelena Alexeyevna, said there had been many medical
personnel at the meeting, but that she had not seen an injection administered
to the distraught woman.
There was some mystery regarding the origins of the film, with all three
local television stations contacted by AFP denying that it was their
cameramen who had filmed the incident.
Russian television contacted in Moscow said they had not been offered the
The news editor of the Murmansk television station that employs Alexander
Klotok, the cameramen said by the BBC to have filmed the incident, denied
that Klotok had shot the scenes in question.
Yuri Yerofeyev of Murman Television said the cameraman had told him he was
elsewhere in the hall filming the woman from other angles, and had not seen
the injection being administered.
Klotok told the BBC that the hall was full of naval officers to ensure order
at the meeting and that he had been ordered to stop filming as soon as the
Secret police probe Dagestani terror link in Kursk tragedy: media
MOSCOW, Aug 24 (AFP) -
Russia's secret services have launched a probe into two Dagestanis who were
aboard the Kursk nuclear submarine when it sank on August 12, media reports
quoted Federal Security Service (FSB, ex-KGB) chief Nikolai Patrushev as
The two men, a civilian and a military officer, were working for a Caspian
Sea firm and were not members of the submarine crew, NTV private television
quoted Patrushev as saying.
Mamed Gadzhiyev and Arnold Borisov were employed by Dazdiesel, a company
which manufactured torpedoes for submarines, Interfax reported.
"We have been gathering intelligence on this subject since the very first day
but we do not at the moment have any proof implicating them in the accident,"
NTV cited the FSB chief as saying.
Dagestan shares a border with the rebel republic of Chechnya, where Russian
troops are waging a bloody war against separatist guerrillas who have
threatened to launch a bombing campaign on Russian soil.
The FSB's role was not to develop its own version of events leading up to the
Kursk tragedy, Interfax reported Patrushev as saying at a briefing at the
Northern Fleet's base in Murmansk.
"It just helps obtain certain information that can either confirm or refute
the existing versions," Patrushev added.
However, his comments mark the first time that Russia has even indirectly
suggested that the Kursk may have been the victim of a terrorist strike.
Questioned by AFP, the FSB press service declined to comment on the possible
Dagestani link, but FSB spokesman Alexander Zdanovich later criticised the
media for misreporting Patrushev's remarks to suggest the authorities were
now investigating a terrorist or kamikaze strike.
"It is not possible to link the names of the two Russian specialists from
Dagestan with the tragedy," he added.
Movladi Udugov, a Chechen official close to rebel warlords Shamil Basayev and
Khattab, claimed several days after the submarine accident, which cost 118
lives, that the Kursk had been sabotaged by a Dagestani member of the crew,
Sirazhudin Ramazanov, on behalf of the Chechen rebels.
But Ramazanov's name did not appear on the list of the Kursk's crew members
distributed on Wednesday's national day of mourning for the dead seamen.
Meanwhile, Russia launched a criminal probe into the Kursk tragedy Thursday
following Russian President Vladimir Putin's vow in a nationwide broadcast to
discover what caused it to sink to the bottom of the Barents Sea.
Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov noted that the most important thing was
"to find out the reason for the accident," Interfax reported.
COLLEAGUES "INDIGNANT" OVER CHECKS INTO TWO DAGESTANIS ON KURSK
Text of report by Russian NTV International television on 24th August
[Presenter] It was confirmed in Dagestan today [24th August] that two
residents of this republic had indeed been on board the Kursk submarine.
Both were from the Dagdizel [Dagestan Diesel] defence plant in the town of
Kaspiysk. Our own correspondent in Dagestan, Ruslan Gusarov, visited the
plant today, and I hope we can now speak to him live. Hallo, Ruslan, can
you hear me?
[Correspondent] Good evening, Marianna. I have just returned from the
Dagdizel plant in Kaspiysk, and I have to report that were not two but
three people from Dagestan on board the Kursk nuclear submarine. They were
senior warrant officer Abdulkadyr Eldarov from Tabasaranskiy District,
designer Mamed Gadzhiyev from the Dagdizel plant, and Arnold Borisov, a
military representative from the same Dagdizel plant.
I have just returned from the Dagdizel plant and I have to tell you the
atmosphere at the plant now. People are seething at the statement made
today by head of the Federal Security Service Nikolay Patrushev. People
feel utter indignation because emphasis was made on two Dagestani
nationals, because it was said they had to be checked before everyone else,
and checks have indeed been made since the first day of the tragedy. The
fact that the Dagestanis are being checked thoroughly before the cause of
the disaster is officially announced was taken badly here.
The people in question - above all Dagdizel design bureau designer Mamed
Gadzhiyev and military representative Arnold Borisov - have been described
here in glowing terms. I have to say that Mamed Gadzhiyev had worked at the
plant for about 20 years, and this was not his first duty trip to the navy,
including submarines. In effect, Mamed Gadzhiyev, who designed a unique
torpedo that can operate with equal success in fresh and sea water, visited
the Northern Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet and the Baltic
Fleet. He was a highly skilled and very good specialist who took part in
many such voyages and tests. According to our information, Mamed Gadzhiyev
was on board the Kursk in order to monitor the tests of the latest Dagdizel
One has to note another thing: experts we spoke to today specially
emphasized that all the staff who have anything to do with the design,
production and particularly the testing of torpedoes undergo extremely
thorough checks, first at their place of work and then again to gain access
to classified facilities. In order to gain access to a nuclear ship in
Severomorsk in particular, one has to undergo unprecedented vetting for
loyalty. As we were told at Dagdizel, those who do gain access are totally
reliable and have a perfectly clean record as far as security services are
BIG MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS THINK MOSCOW BLAST "TERRORIST ACT"
Moscow, 24th August: The overwhelming majority of Russians (81%) regard the
blast in an underground passage on Moscow's Pushkin Square on 8th August as
a terrorist act planned in advance, sources in the All-Russia Centre for
Public Opinion Research told Interfax on Thursday [24th August].
The centre polled 1,574 respondents on 21st August:
- 8 per cent of those polled think the bombing was due to a criminal feud,
2 per cent believe it was a tragic accident and another 2 per cent assume
that the bomb was set off by an insane person.
- 7 per cent of respondents found it difficult to answer this question.
- 54 per cent of those polled think that Chechen rebels are most likely to
commit terrorist acts such as the Moscow blast. This was a multiple-choice
- 30 per cent blame "forces striving for destabilization in Russia" for the
- 20 per cent put the blame on Wahhabis and 20 per cent think that it was
- 14 per cent accuse Aslan Maskhadov and his men.
- 4 per cent named other culprits, and 10 per cent found it hard to answer
The Economist (UK)
August 26-September 1, 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin’s sea of troubles
NATIONS, like individuals, can react in unpredictable ways when they are
convulsed with grief and anger. The 118 sailors who perished on the Kursk
submarine will not be the only Russian servicemen to forfeit their lives in
ugly, violent circumstances this year. Indeed, the toll in this incident is
tiny compared with the sickening casualties which Russian forces continue
to suffer, and inflict, in the Caucasus. Yet the loss of the Kursk, and the
bungling that followed, have dented President Vladimir Putin’s reputation
for controlled efficiency (see article) and may yet make Russians think
again about the sort of government they deserve.
One reason that the Kursk fiasco has had a bigger effect on Russia’s
national psyche than any other recent news event is that the navy, which
gave out conflicting reports of the accident and then fouled up the attempt
to find survivors, had previously enjoyed a higher reputation than other
bits of the battered defence establishment. Now Russia’s admirals look
tarnished too. Meanwhile the repercussions from the tragedy are growing for
Russia’s civilian masters. After giving the impression that he had a
tightening grip on Russian affairs, Mr Putin and his administration seemed
to be flailing about hopelessly. If the correct lessons are eventually
learned, the submariners will not have died for nothing. But the affair
seems bound to affect Russia’s political atmosphere and its relations with
the outside world.
The loss of the Kursk has already boosted Russia’s opposition, both in the
political arena and in the media. Only a few weeks ago, Mr Putin was
proceeding rapidly with a plan to transform Russia’s internal balance of
power in his favour. As the new presidential team regrouped the country
into seven “super-regions” with Kremlin loyalists in charge, they seemed
confident of solving the abiding problem of Russia’s rulers: how to assert
federal control in a sprawling land where power disintegrates unless
actively husbanded. But their vision leaves precious little room for what
America’s founders called “checks and balances” on executive power—or for a
western-style separation of powers.
For the most part, Russians have seemed ready to go along with this,
preferring almost any sort of order to the chaos that went before. That may
now change. The families in mourning in the Russian Arctic may not yet see
it, but there is a connection between their plight and the need for some
counterweight to central authority, including robust media, in a country
where absolute power has so often corrupted its holders absolutely. If the
rage of the garrison community in Murmansk has been transmitted to the
nation and the world, it is only because Russia’s journalists, under
renewed pressure from the Kremlin in recent months, are still able to
denounce error and dishonesty in high places. Accidents can happen
anywhere, but more accountable governments are more likely to avoid them.
In defence matters, the trade-off between secrecy and accountability is
never simple; western countries do not find it easy either. But in a
democratic society, the media develop a nose for the difference between
real and invented national-security concerns. When security is being used
to mask incompetence, a whistle is blown.
In Russia, the fate of the Kursk has already focused attention on another
attempted cover-up: the refusal by officialdom to discuss honestly the
ecological danger posed by at least 100 disused nuclear submarines whose
reactors could poison the Arctic with radioactive material unless they are
stored more safely. Instead of responding to international criticism by
tackling the problem, officials have tried to press treason charges against
Alexander Nikitin, an ex-naval officer who denounced the ecological threat
to the region through a Norway-based pressure group, Bellona. It would be a
fitting memorial to the sailors lost on the Kursk if the authorities heeded
Mr Nikitin instead of persecuting him.
The reckoning to come
Meanwhile, the loss of one of their most modern submarines, and the public
anger at their handling of the incident, should prompt Russian policymakers
to re-examine basic assumptions about defence and foreign affairs.
One consequence of the Kursk affair should be a fresh look at the cuts and
reforms needed in Russia’s over-sized armed forces. Mr Putin has been
holding the ring in a dispute between Russia’s ground troops and its
strategic-rocket forces over which should be sharply reduced; in reality,
both need to be cut. Because it continued to function, and could play
cat-and-mouse games with NATO, the submarine fleet had seemed comparatively
immune from the hard choices posed by shrinking budgets. Yet its bungling
and obfuscation over the Kursk affair suggests the navy, too, must rethink
It is encouraging to see how many Russians, and not only the bereaved
families of the Kursk crew, feel the government was too slow to accept
assistance offered by Britain and Norway. The message to Russia’s ruling
class is that xenophobia as a political tactic—one much favoured in recent
years—does not always pay. In a country with a long tradition of regarding
all transactions with foreigners as adversarial, ordinary Russians seem to
have recognised that these offers of help were made in good faith. On this,
as on the need for greater openness and accountability over the whole
affair, Russia’s government would be wise to listen to its voters.
The Economist (UK)
August 26-September 1, 2000
[for personal use only]
The damage done
M U R M A N S K
Russia’s submarine disaster has dented Vladimir Putin’s image and his
popularity. But has it weakened his presidency?
IT WAS all too little and too late to recapture the inflated popularity
that Vladimir Putin enjoyed during his first few months as Russia’s head of
state. But this week’s emotional apology from the president and other top
Russians for the loss of 118 lives on the Kursk submarine means that the
political damage may now be containable.
The sinking of one of Russia’s newest and most formidable submarines during
naval manoeuvres on August 12th marked the beginning of the worst ten days
of Mr Putin’s political life. Although his Kremlin spin-doctors have proved
adept at wrong-footing local governors and tycoons, dealing with the
politics of real life proved way beyond them. On August 23rd, the president
solemnly owned up to a “great feeling of guilt and responsibility” for the
tragedy; but many of the bereaved families were unimpressed.
Official behaviour from the start was deceitful, arrogant and callous. When
Mr Putin first surfaced from holiday, he sounded like an inexperienced
minor bureaucrat rather than the action man whose image has been built by
photo calls with a military backdrop. He seemed more worried about the boat
than its crew. Nobody in the Kremlin appeared to care about the relatives;
many had to trundle to the port of Murmansk by train, at their own expense.
Russia rejected help from NATO as unnecessary until four days after the
accident—and then blamed the West for foot-dragging.
Official statements were misleading on almost every other salient fact:
when the accident happened; its presumed cause (a technical fault, then a
collision with a foreign submarine, then a misfired torpedo, then—with
greater insistence—a collision); contact with survivors trapped in the
wreck (actually there was none, or possibly a few desperate words in Morse
code); electricity and oxygen supplies from the surface (announced, but
never provided); whether the reactor had been properly shut down (nobody
knows, it turns out); and any realistic chances of people coming out alive.
Russian officials admitted this week that they had given up hope the
previous Monday—which makes it all the more puzzling that they told
pointless lies for several more days.
When Norwegian divers reached the Kursk, they opened an escape hatch in a
few hours; it had defeated Russian rescuers for days. They found the boat
filled with water. The two mysterious explosions that sent the vessel
crashing to the seabed had killed most people on board almost instantly.
By Soviet standards, all this marks an encouraging move towards openness;
previous submarine accidents were simply hushed up. Gleb Pavlovsky, a
Kremlin adviser, argued that Mr Putin’s eventual willingness to accept help
from NATO was commendable when a western sub might have caused the
accident. Russian officials such as Ilya Klebanov, the much-criticised
deputy prime minister who oversaw the rescue effort, seem to think they
have been models of frankness.
But if officialdom has inched forward in the past 15 years, public opinion
has taken giant strides. “The Russian people get punished for betraying
their state. But why does nothing happen when the state betrays its
people?” asks Valentina Avliene, the mother of a cook who perished on the
Kursk. Equally impressive has been the ability of the press to focus
discontent. Furious relatives denounced official incompetence and secrecy
on national television. Newspapers pointed out the contrast between
official fumbling and Mr Putin’s loudly stated desire for renewed naval
glory. Reporters also raised hard questions about sloppy housekeeping,
claiming, for example, that the Kursk lacked the right emergency batteries,
food and oxygen supplies. And public views of NATO proved more benign than
the official image of a bullying aggressor.
I feel your pain, now
Belatedly, the Kremlin woke up to the political dimensions of the disaster.
Mr Putin interrupted his holiday, declared August 23rd a day of mourning,
and spent an emotional three hours talking to relatives of the crew on a
hurried visit to Murmansk. “The grief is immeasurable, no words of
consolation will ever be enough,” he said. In sharp contrast to the
trigger-happy Boris Yeltsin, Mr Putin said that nobody would be dismissed
before a full investigation. This sensible reaction, however, was offset by
the Kremlin’s distinctly peevish attitude towards the media, controlled in
large part by the oligarchs who oppose him. Some fear Mr Putin may conclude
that the press needs further muzzling.
But scapegoats will no doubt emerge as the cause of the accident becomes
clearer. Bellona, a Norwegian pressure group, believes the blame lies with
liquid-fuel torpedoes, which are no longer used by western navies for
safety reasons. Alexander Rutskoi, a former Russian vice-president,
suggested that a new type of torpedo had exploded with massive force. While
that blustering politician is an unreliable source, his idea dovetails with
the belief of western specialists that Russia is in the process of
deploying a super-fast, liquid-fuelled torpedo, the Shkval [squall].
As for Mr Putin’s political firepower, it is probably true that, although
his honeymoon has ended, he retains enough clout to deter any frontal
attacks. Artfully, he suggested this week that the oligarchs, by depriving
the Russian state of tax revenue, had undermined the armed forces. Of the
few politicians who have said anything publicly, many have simply called
for higher defence spending.
The most prominent exception has been Boris Nemtsov, a liberal politician.
He termed Mr Putin’s initial rejection of foreign help “immoral”. When the
Duma, the lower house, returns on September 8th, he wants it to start an
independent inquiry. But it may take a long time, or some more bad news,
before this draws any blood from Russian officialdom. In the meantime, the
question outsiders are asking is whether Mr Putin is heartless, powerless,
or just unable to take decisions.
August 25, 2000
Taxes Set To Boost Cost of Living
By Anna Raff
If your daily routine includes driving to work in a Volga, smoking a pack of
Ducats and downing a bottle of Kristall vodka, your lifestyle could well end
up costing you at least 70 rubles [$2.55] more a week come the new year.
Russians' cost of living would inch up thanks to new tax legislation recently
signed into law by President Vladimir Putin and slated to go into force Jan.
The laws are part of a broad revamp of the tax system designed to boost
collection by lowering some taxes in a bid to cut down on tax evasion. Other
taxes f such as those on tobacco, alcohol and gasoline f are being hiked to
make up for the difference.
Under the law, 97 kopeks will be added to the cost of a liter of 92-octane
gasoline, 30 kopeks to a pack of cigarettes, and 40 kopeks to a liter of
The new excise tax on gasoline will be 1.42 rubles per liter, spirits will be
taxed at 8 rubles per liter, and cigarettes at 1.5 rubles per pack of 20.
The government says that these excise taxes, which are regressive in nature,
are needed to make up for revenue that will be lost from implementing a flat
13 percent income tax, reducing payroll taxes and cutting turnover taxes from
4 percent to 1 percent.
While the total amount of revenues that the hiked taxes will ultimately bring
in to government coffers is unclear, Alfa Capital economist Natalya Orlova
estimated that the budget would rake in at least 40 billion rubles ($1.45
billion) next year.
"It's hard to draw comparisons between different years because the tax base
is always changing," Orlova said.
Whether the sum will make up for any revenues lost from eliminating the upper
20 percent to 30 percent income-tax brackets also remains to be seen,
The government, which admits that tax evasion is rampant, is itself unsure
about how much unreported income it loses each year.
Excise taxes are seen by the government as effective taxation because demand
for products like vodka, gas, and tobacco rarely wavers.
"People who drink vodka won't stop drinking vodka because of 1 ruble," said
Svetlana Dikanskaya, a store manager at the Kristall store on Pyatnitskaya
Ulitsa. "For those with little money, higher taxes will change their behavior
as how far they're willing to travel for cheaper vodka. For those with money,
a ruble or two isn't going to make a difference."
The tax levels that the government passed are a far cry from what was
initially proposed in May. The government had sought a sixfold increase on
gasoline excises and a twofold increase for cigarettes. If the increases
proposed by the government had passed, the price on 95-octane gasoline could
have grown by up to 30 percent.
A 97-kopek hike on a liter of gas would be an increase of about 15 percent.
Still, the increased excise taxes are almost certain to bite at the pockets
of consumers, tax experts said. But how much of the additional tax will end
up being passed on to the consumer will largely be left up to store managers,
wholesalers, and individual companies.
Economists and traders said the hike on gasoline taxes would probably have
the most impact on prices because most goods are ultimately shipped by road.
Svetlana Burlakova, head of investor relations at the oil giant, Sibneft,
agreed that oil companies would have to increase prices as a result of the
new taxes. What happens after that, however, is out of the company's hands,
"It's very difficult to predict the price increase at the pump, because it
will turn into a trial-and-error situation," Burlakova said. Gas station
operators will test the waters before gas prices stabilize at the beginning
of next year.
"Any drop in demand will be temporary," she said. "People will at first cut
down on driving because they see the price rise, but thenthey will get over
the shock and driving will go up to normal levels."
Traders interviewed Thursday said they had not yet decided how they would
price the higher taxes into their wares.
During a routine check of one of his several vegetable stands around
Tretyakovskaya metro station, Alexander Tekhov pondered a reporter's query
about the tax increases before finally replying, "Yes, they could make a
Tekhov, like many other small sellers in Moscow, delivers fruits and
vegetables to his stands by car.
Fluctuating gas prices directly affect the prices of his goods, Tekhov said.
But often when prices jump sharply f such as during the fuel shortage of the
summer of 1999 f the entrepreneur covers the lost profits himself and keeps
prices the same, he said.
But under a long-term tax hike, he would be forced to increase prices.
"It's all a chain," he said, pulling at an invisible chain around his neck
with his fingers. "Wholesalers have fleets of 50 cars, and to offset expenses
they will increase prices. That will be passed down to me."
September 4, 2000
[for personal use only]
A Catastrophe Casts a Pall over Putin
By Paul Starobin in Moscow
EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER POWER
The Kursk submarine disaster has abruptly ended the honeymoon Russian
President Vladimir V. Putin was enjoying with the public. Before the Kursk
sank, ordinary Russians regarded Putin as a can-do leader. But now begins a
furious battle between Putin and his opponents over who gets the blame for
the disaster. If Putin wins, he will dodge responsibility for the
calamity--and may even turn the Kursk affair to his advantage as he seeks to
outmaneuver rivals and push for reform in the hidebound military. If he
fails, then Putin's authority may suffer a telling blow that diminishes his
ability to govern.
Putin is moving fast. In a nationwide televised address on Aug. 23, he
admitted to a ``great feeling of responsibility and guilt'' for the Kursk
sinking. But then, Putin indirectly blamed Russia's oligarchs for the
disaster, charging them with siphoning off billions from the government and
economy that could have gone to keep the military in fighting trim. ``They
should have sold their villas in France and Spain,'' he said.
GLOATING FOES. Putin needs to counterattack, since the criticism from the
media and intelligentsia has been coming thick and fast. In acting slowly to
seek foreign assistance, delaying his trip to the scene of the disaster, and
allowing the military to play down the news, Putin lost control of an
event--and something of his moral standing. Babushkas have cursed him, and
the nongovernment press has been ferocious. ``Whose Honor is Drowning in the
Barents Sea?'' asked a page one headline over a picture of Putin in the
Moscow daily Kommersant, which is owned by oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a top
Prominent politicians are riled too. ``The behavior of our President is
immoral,'' said Duma Deputy Boris Nemtsov, leader of a liberal faction that
supports Putin's economic program. When legislators return from vacation in
September, a weakened Putin could find himself facing fresh challenges on
Kremlin priorities, including a bill to regulate political parties and
another to establish private property rights to own land.
The investigation will be another political hot spot. The Kremlin has
established a commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and
including Defense Ministry officials. But with the government's actions at
issue, that's a far cry from the independent probe the catastrophe demands.
The State Duma is launching an inquiry, but it lacks the authority to pry
answers from the Navy. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is whispering that the military
kept critical information from Putin. If the matter festers, Putin may be
forced to fire top military officials to show he is in charge. Another
possibility: the appointment, for the first time, of a civilian defense
Although Putin's standing has been tarnished, that of the West has been
enhanced. Norwegian divers risked their lives to open the hatch of the
Kursk--with a British rescue vessel on standby. The Russian military may now
find it more difficult to manipulate public suspicion of foreigners, which it
has long done to justify its pet weapons programs. Indeed, doves in the
liberal Yakova party say national security lies not in a big defense sector
but in greater cooperation with NATO allies. The military would balk at this.
But Putin may now be able to overcome military opposition to his plans to
shift funding from nuclear rocket forces to the ordinary needs of the army,
navy, and air force. The tragedy of the Kursk is over. The political life of
the Kursk has just begun.
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000
From: "Murray FESHBACH" <FESHBACH@gunet.georgetown.edu>
Subject: Vremya MN translation on population developments/4473
There are 2 egregious errors in the first paragraph(s) of this
article--presumably the translator, I can't believe it was the author,
First, the number of deaths was not some 146,000 but 1,146,200.
Second, the next census of population will be in 2002, not 2001.
Third, the precision of any census is, among other issues, always a
question of the very very likely undercount of illegals in a given country,
whether it be the US or in Russia, the Chinese, Afghans, Kurds, or
whomever. If the number remains relatively constant that is one issue, if
it is growing significantly--perhaps the Chinese in all that lebensraum in
the Far East--especially if the regional population declines further and
Fourth, it also is an issue of the undoubted undercount of the number of
persons with specific diseases--acute, chronic, infectious, non-infectious,
On and on .....I never finished reading it but wrote immediately about the
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000
From: Dan Bell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russia doesn't need advice from a murderer's associate
"Reformers never did explain to the public the logic
and implications of the policy changes, something essential
for successful free-market reforms...."
They didn't in Chile either. They didn't have to.
Why is it that neoliberals assume people working for the
state are bad, and people working for private corporations
are good. Trust your retirement savings to fund managers
who take their fees as a percentage of the funds they manage,
regardless of whether or not they make wise investments.
Don't trust "state employees" to manage such investments.
Don't rely on the government to pay your pension. Rely on
the private investment fund. Afterall, when markets crash
and the private fund doesn't have much to pay you, you can
always count on the government to bail them out.
Trust your savings to private banks. Afterall, when they
crash, as they did in Chile, the government can always be
counted on to bail them out.
José Piñera is the last person to be talking about free
people. After signing on with a bloody dictator to cram
neoliberal ideology down the throats of a Chilean people
held hostage at gun point through assassinations, torture
and "disappearances", I can only assume that he interprets
"free" as giving the elite class a free hand to commit
whatever crimes they like against the general population
while enriching themselves.
Piñera's version of economics for the wealthy used Chilean
labor and resources to produce exports that benefited
foreign consumers at cheaper prices (thanks to a cheap
workforce prevented from organizing by an anti-labor
dictatorship), and enriched the Chilean elite who refused
to share with their fellow citizens.
The income of the general population did not grow, so
Chile remained dependent on export for income since they
did not have a domestic market to buy Chilean products.
The wealthy counted on state welfare to increase
their wealth, for example the central bank bailed out
the private banks which had made sweetheart loans to
the wealthy elite, allowing the elite to become even
The Chilean model is a myth. Piñera talks about the
great growth from 1987 to 1998. After Nixon and Kissinger
contributed the services of the CIA to throwing Allende's
economy into chaos (ie, subsidizing truckers to park their
trucks and disrupt distribution among other things) in the
early 1970s, Pinochet destroyed the domestic economy from
1973 through the late 1980s.
Only after shrinking
the economy through massive bankruptcies of small businesses
and un- and underemployment levels over 30%, did the "miracle"
of sustained growth over a decade get Chileans back to the
level of GDP which had existed before Pinochet took over! True
economic growth in Chile, directed at the needs of the
broader population, only began in the 1990s after Pinochet
was finally ousted through the vote of the Chilean people
and replaced by a "protected" democracy. It has taken another
decade to undo many of the lasting antidemocratic policies
put in place by the dictatorship, but Chile is finally
taking steps toward life after dictatorship.
"Overcoming those obstacles required a coherent economic
program and direct appeals to the people." Hogwash! All
it took was the Chilean military, Pinochet's willingness
to shoot innocent people, and the economic advisors'
willingness to look the other way.
I don't think the Russians need more advice from people
like José Piñera on how to increase corruption, concentrate
wealth in the hands of the elite, and dismantle human
rights. They've been achieving these goals just fine all
on their own.
International Program Coordinator
Ohio Employee Ownership Center
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
(330) 672-0333 << New direct number!
(330) 672-4063 fax
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000
From: Albert Weeks <AWeeks1@compuserve.com>
The reaction to Putin's putative inaction in the Kursk
tragedy has been inordinately harsh, both in Russia
and in the press here, and among JRL regulars like specialist
Amy Knight (JRL 4472).
With all due respect, I think, frankly, that a lot of this
excoriation of Putin is misdirected and overdone. I
thought Putin's explanation--though some like Ms.
Knight may call it a pretext rather than a legitimate excuse for
his not flying immediately from Sochi to Murmansk or Severomorsk
a throwback to Soviet times--sounded sincere. She and others
saw it as typical, Soviet-like contempt for human life.
I disagree. I don't read Putin as an emergent embodiment of Soviet-style
Putinshchina. This is an attitude many observers of the Russian
scene report from interviewing easily-accessible, disenchanted
Russians who (unreasonably) loathe all politicians and politics.
Yet at same time, I do view these ongoing, dangerous war games as an
insane carryover from the Cold War. So, America or NATO is going
"nuke Russia" or vice versa?? Come on!
Perhaps some of this "offensivism" would be toned down
by putting the accent on defensism rather than offensism--that is,
by building anti-missile defenses rather than keeping offensive
weapons in the forefront and on the ready (as in current Russian
military doctrine and strategy).
Look, Putin, as constitutional commander-in-chief, has just
taken, publicly, some personal responsibility for the Kursk tragedy .
What more can anyone ask of the President? Bottom line: Let's
not forget that Putin was elected by a sizable portion of the
Russian electorate, that he is potentially a strong leader in a
country that needs just that, a nation, moreover, that is
(unreasonably) jaundiced about politics in general. I think
that we in the West cannot afford the luxury of dumping on
every Russian leader who isn't a liberal in our own democratic
mold. That is perhaps too much to expect of a nation emerging,
unprecedentedly, from over two generations of totalitarianism and
a decade of vastly errant domestic policies.
August 24, 2000
Gridlock: All Trains Lead to Moscow
The Russian Railways Ministry banned Russian freight trains from
carrying cargo to or from former Soviet republics that owe the
ministry money. Since most of these states depend upon Russian
transportation for their exports, the Railways Ministry decision
could deliver a crushing blow to their fragile economies. It also
highlights just how dependent on Russia these countries remain -
and who is ultimately in charge.
The Russian Railways Ministry temporarily banned Russian freight
trains from carrying cargo to or from former Soviet republics that
owe the ministry money, according to the Moscow Times on Aug. 19.
Since most of these states depend upon Russian transportation for
their exports, the Railways Ministry decision could deliver a
crushing blow to their fragile economies. It also highlights just
how dependent on Russia these countries remain.
The ban covers Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - all states that count Russia as their
largest trading partner. While the states could dispatch their own
trains to shuttle goods across the breadth of Russia, they would
then be unavailable to service local needs. For the Central Asian
states the ban is a double blow. Any exports destined for Europe or
the United States must first transit Russian territory. Until the
debts are paid, that transit is impossible.
Shifting their trade to other states is not an option. There simply
isn't infrastructure to support other trade relationships. Of the
states targeted, only Georgia has a seaport. Azerbaijan, Kazakstan
and Turkmenistan each has only a single rail line that leads away
from the former Soviet Union. Uzbekistan is doubly landlocked.
While replacing rail transport with truck shipping is an option, it
is not an attractive one from a cost point of view. Almost all of
the exports of the states on the blacklist are bulk commodities:
cotton, coal, grain and various ores. Fuel costs alone make trucks
unfeasible. For example, once a shipment of cotton from Tashkent
bound for Europe crosses 1,000 kilometers of Kazak territory, it
still must traverse 2,000 kilometers of Russian territory and 1,000
kilometers of Ukrainian territory before even reaching Central
Europe. That's quite a gasoline bill.
This is not to say that the railways of the former Soviet Union are
in good shape. Russian Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko
estimates that $22 billion in repairs are needed to restore full
productivity. Yet they are still the most efficient transportation
option - or at least they were until the Railways Ministry
decision. As it stands, only petroleum exports shipped via
pipelines will be unaffected. With a single ban, the Railways
Ministry effectively gutted the export economies of six states.
They will have no choice but to pay their debts in full, and in
Options for retaliation are few and ineffective. Georgia could push
for closer NATO ties and Uzbekistan could again withdraw from
Russian led security pacts. But in the end, Russia holds too many
hammers over the states on the blacklist to brook any serious
There is a political component to the ban as well. Aside from
Tajikistan, all of the blacklisted states have rocky relations with
Russia. Yet since they have no economic alternatives to Russian
predominance, cutting off rail access is a simple - and
excruciatingly painful - way for Moscow to drive home just who
really is in control.
Russian Government Paper on 'Black PR,' Attempts To Make Capital From
August 23, 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Yuriy Vasilkov: "...But Some People Drowned in Words"
For 10 days now the country has been living with
the grievous trouble that afflicted its sons who were swallowed up by the
Barents Sea... Unfortunately there were people who were eager to extract
certain advantages for themselves even from this terrible misfortune.
You would think we had studied every detail of the disaster to the
nuclear submarine Kursk. From the outset theories about what happened
have been broadcast practically hourly on radio and television. State
television's special correspondent Arkadiy Mamontov constantly reports
the latest news direct from the bridge of the Northern Fleet's flagship.
There are regular briefings by top Naval leaders and senior
representatives of the government and the Navy.
Even the Western newspapers, which are not known for any particular
sympathies toward Russia, acknowledge the unprecedented openness of
information about what happened in the northern waters. "In the old days
the USSR would keep secret any information about disasters in the Navy
and the world would learn about them from foreign sources," the
influential British newspaper the Financial Times writes. "The Russian
authorities are now informing their citizens and the rest of the world
pretty well about the tragedy of the stricken submarine Kursk and the
fate of its seamen at the bottom of the Barents Sea..."
It is clear to any unprejudiced person that nobody can yet
unequivocally determine the basic cause of the tragedy. It takes time
and a cool head to assess what happened and draw serious conclusions from
it. As, for instance, with the recent disaster to the French
pride-and-prestige plane Concorde.
However, in our country there are politicians and journalists who are
eager, while events are still fresh, to fix in the public mind a
catastrophic image of Russia and its authorities. They are making
energetic use of the well-known methods of the notorious "black PR" in
representing the position of the government and president. At their
prompting some of the Western mass media are also beginning to speak of
something not far short of a political crisis that has supposedly broken
out in Russian society in connection with the Kursk disaster.
Of course, since there is no family in Russia now that has not taken
the submariners' deaths to heart, the most diverse opinions are being
expressed. But all the same, what predominates in society is reasonable
attempts to objectively get to the bottom of what happened. Statements
on the Internet show this convincingly.
"Who can decide," Anatoliy from Novosibirsk asks, for instance, "where
to draw the line between the grief of loss, national humiliation, and
self-seeking hysteria? The idea of 'getting rid of all the admirals' and
taking primitive revenge on them for their blunders -- we have been
through that before, in 1917. 'Men with golden shoulder boards' -- how
many years is it since I heard that expression?!"
"Once again the moaning is beginning, about how we are poor and weak,
how everything in our country is bad," the Muscovite Maksim Koshelev
writes. "Enough, please! Similar disasters, unfortunately, happen
regularly all over the world. That is the price of progress. Remember,
for instance, the ferry Estonia, Concorde, and many other tragedies,
which do not choose their country. As for the restraint of military men
in describing incidents -- that is worldwide practice. Suffice it to
recall the recent furor over the disaster to a US aircraft in which an
atom bomb was lost over Greenland's territory. We only learned about
that decades later!"
And here is the opinion of the Muscovite Yevgeniy: "Good heavens, how
IMMORAL it is to berate the military, who are working all out in the
rescue operation! It would be funny, if it was not so sad, to read the
'reasonings' of dilettantes about the details of the technical side of
the operation -- they outdo [the prolific pseudonymous satirist] Kozma
Prutkov (unlike the comments of the military, incidentally)! There was a
tragedy -- merciless and terrible, like all tragedies, and the Navy did
everything in its power to save not its own secrets, but PEOPLE.
Incidentally Putin acted in a perfectly natural and human way. Any
frenetic, useless activity in the disaster area would have been perceived
as totally inappropriate and even as a vile attempt to make political
dividends out of blood."
Incidentally it is not only citizens of Russia who think like this but
also our compatriots who live permanently abroad. "The question -- was
everything done to save the crew of the Kursk -- sounds inappropriate in
relation to those who are risking their lives to do everything possible
and even the impossible to save their stricken comrades," Alam from the
United States believes. "I am not talking about the admirals and
politicians but the rescue workers. They deserve respect! Without
knowing all the circumstances of the tragedy I would also not draw
categorical conclusions that help from the West would have guaranteed the
rescue of our submariners."
"What the basis is for the belief that the Americans could have saved
the crew, is not clear," Aleksandr writes from Montreal. "Does America
have some kind of super-bathyscaphs or divers that Russia does not have,
or does it have experience of conducting operations of this kind, not
counting the unfortunate case where in raising a sunken nuclear submarine
it broke into three sections, thereby killing the crew members who are
still alive? In all, in the past 30 years America has lost at least 10
military submarines, including two nuclear submarines. It is very
annoying that some of the media are 'hitting below the belt' by shifting
the emphasis from the real rescue operation to various dubious
It is noteworthy that these remarks have appeared on the sites of
Britain's BBC and Radio Liberty, which is funded by the US Congress.
And here is the opinion of an anonymous visitor to the Internet: "I
do not seem to have heard that in the past 10 years our oligarchs have
shelled out even for so much as a flak jacket for a soldier in Chechnya,
not to mention modern emergency rescue equipment. But when it comes to
howling that the president is to blame and kicking out at the authorities
yet again at any convenient opportunity -- they are very ready to do
that!" And first and foremost with the help of the media that they
It is not a question of protecting the authorities, the military, and
the president from public criticism. It is a question of elementary
courtesy and respect for oneself and for the country in which one lives.
You may hate the government, you may hunger fervently, breathlessly, for
news. But you should not use the nation's misfortune as an excuse to
settle scores or to beef up the flow of current news at any price.
The Times (UK)
25 August 2000
[for personal use only]
Russians 'hampered' Kursk rescue attempt
BY MICHAEL EVANS, DEFENCE EDITOR
NORWEGIAN and British rescue teams have angrily criticised the Russians for
deliberately obstructing their attempts to reach the Kursk submarine in time
to find survivors.
The Norwegian military commander in charge of the divers who were eventually
allowed to approach the nuclear submarine, became so frustrated at Russian
disinformation that he nearly called off the rescue effort.
The bitterness towards the Russians for "hampering" Western efforts to help
to save lives on the Kursk was initially kept private. As Russian naval and
defence chiefs continue to face criticism at home, however, those involved in
the Norwegian and British rescue teams have become more outspoken.
Rear-Admiral Einar Skorgen, head of the Armed Forces in Northern Norway and
in charge of the diving mission, said that he was "furious" at the Russians
for giving the wrong information about the submarine and hampering the rescue
In an interview with a Norwegian newspaper, Nordlandsposten, Admiral Skorgen
said: "At times there were so many wrong details and disinformation from
Russia that it was close to endangering the divers. We couldn't rely on the
information we were getting."
He said he telephoned the Northern Fleet headquarters and said that the
rescue mission would be in danger unless Russia provided correct data. "I
think this was interpreted as a threat from my side," he said.
Not only had the Russians wrongly reported that the rear escape hatch was
seriously damaged, but they also said the currents near the Kursk were too
strong. Yet the divers had no difficulties and visibility was good. It was
after the threat to pull out that Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, Commander of
Russia's Northern Fleet, intervened personally and arranged for two divers to
be flown by helicopter to another Oscar II-class submarine to examine "the
hatch and its attachments".
Paddy Heron, a member of the British team sent out to the Barents Sea with
the LR5 submersible, said that he and the others had been "revolted" to hear
the Russians claim that they had done everything they could to help the
"We had one of the most sophisticated vessels available in Europe sitting at
the wreck site with a submersible specifically designed to rescue men from
submarines, but the Russians wouldn't allow us to use it," Mr Heron said in
an interview with BBC Scotland.
He said the whole team was "bitterly disappointed" that the Russians had
excluded them from the rescue effort.
One of the many speculative explanations for Russia's reluctance to allow
Western divers on board the Kursk was that it was armed with a new weapon
system and that they were afraid the British and Norwegian experts might be
However, Captain Richard Sharpe, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, doubted
this theory and added: "I can't believe the Russians were afraid of the
divers being spies. Even if they had entered the submarine, they wouldn't
have been able to reach the forward compartments where the weapon systems
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), is to launch an investigation into
two Dagestanis who were on board the Kursk when it sank. The two men, a
civilian and a military officer, were working for a Caspian firm and were not
members of the crew.
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