This Date's Issues: 4482 4483
Johnson's Russia List
29 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Catastrophes Shroud Pain In
2. Reuters: Brian Killen, Russian infrastructure, disaster waiting
3. AFP: Russian government attacks NTV in wake of television tower
4. Interfax: OSTANKINO TV TOWER STABLE - CONSTRUCTION COMMITTEE CHIEF.
5. Reuters: Chechens claim responsibility for TV tower fire.
6. Itar-Tass: Nukes Reliable Instrument of Ensuring Global Stability.
7. Trud: Vyacheslav NIKONOV, A POLITICAL TSUSHIMA?
8. Dan Bell: Reply to Kenneth Christopher Duckworth in JRL 4476.
9. Financial Times (UK): Dominique Moisi, How to help Russia's transition to 'normality'. Legitimate doubts about the true nature of
Vladimir Putin's regime require the west to judge Moscow according to its deeds.
10. Reuters: Russia says won't be America's Korea proxy-report.
11. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN MEDIA MINISTER INTERVIEWED IN WAKE OF
OSTANKINO FIRE. (Mikhail Lesin)
12. AFP: Asians thrive in outpost of Russia's Far East.
13. Financial Times (UK): Andrew Jack, Seventh Heaven is no celestial
experience for visitors. (Ostankino)]
August 29, 2000
EDITORIAL: Catastrophes Shroud Pain In Ingushetia
The dramatic tragedies of August have driven them off of front pages and
evening newscasts (where, that is, evening newscasts can be seen). But spare
a thought for the roughly 140,000 people f men, but mostly women and children
f who have had their homes and lives in Chechnya destroyed and who are now
living in neighboring Ingushetia, many of them in tent camps.
The Russian government's position is: These people should go home. By Oct. 1.
And just as during the height of the war f when the government dragged a
trainload of terrified refugees out of Nazran and back into Chechnya f the
refugees are being bullied into leaving.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees wants to build another tent
city for 12,000. But as reporter Sarah Karush recounted for us last week from
Ingushetia, the government insists that the tents be built in Chechnya only.
UNHCR and others say that for up to six weeks at a time this summer, food
supplies have been cut off to Ingush refugee camps to try to drive out the
refugees. UNHCR also reports that some railway cars that had served as homes
for refugees have been trained back into Chechnya. And refugees say their
tents are miserably unprepared for the coming of winter.
We can't help wondering what the logic is in forcing innocent civilians back
into a patch of territory that is the scene of daily guerrilla fighting f
this Sunday, for example, saw at least 16 gunbattles in and around Grozny
that killed two soldiers, while Monday a bus stop explosion killed a
policeman. How can the Kremlin advocate forcibly repatriating camps filled
with children into that mess?
When President Vladimir Putin explained the war aims, high on his list was
making life better for ordinary people in Chechnya. This Oct. 1 deadline the
government insists upon puts the lie to that policy. The war was never aimed
at helping these people, but at punishing them f for their associations with
the terrorist attacks of Sept. 1999 and with the failures of the 1994 to 1996
war f and, of course, at getting Putin elected.
Now the election is over and these 140,000 inconvenient people are being
slowly forced back into the war zone f and no one cares.
Consider: If the Kremlin was to forcibly regulate the flow of money, there
would be a flood of Western and Russian talk about how money goes where it
gets the best returns and how it is futile and wrong to try to force money to
act against its own interests. But here we have the Kremlin quietly pushing
children back into a war zone þ and it's barely even news.
ANALYSIS-Russian infrastructure, disaster waiting to happen?
By Brian Killen
MOSCOW, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Russia is paying a heavy price for a decade of
failed reforms and financial neglect that has left much of the infrastructure
in the world's biggest country a disaster waiting to happen.
Just two weeks after the Kursk submarine disaster in the Barents Sea killed
118 and exposed the shortcomings of Russia's rescue capabilities, Moscow fire
fighters struggled for 24 hours to control a blaze that devastated the city's
Ostankino TV tower.
President Vladimir Putin blamed the catastrophe, apparently caused by a short
circuit, on the dismal state of the economy and the country as a whole.
``We should not fail to see major problems in the country behind this
accident, and we should not forget the economy,'' he told senior cabinet
``Whether or not such accidents happen again in the future will depend on how
we work in this vital direction.''
Analysts agreed, saying the economy was still woefully inefficient and
starved of badly needed investment despite a recent recovery driven largely
by higher world oil prices and the 1998 devaluation of the rouble currency.
``Reforms have been carried out in such a way that there has been no
significant investment in the economy for 10 years,'' said Mikhail Delyagin,
director of the Institute for Globalisation.
The decay has been felt by everyone from ordinary motorists driving their
rickety cars over potholed roads to cosmonauts struggling to patch up the
orbiting Mir space station.
Leaky pipelines spill tonnes of oil every day and electricity transmission
facilities need billions of dollars for upgrading.
Fighter pilots are grounded by lack of fuel, naval vessels cannot afford to
sail and millions of people go without hot water for weeks in summer as
antiquated boilers undergo maintenance work.
Roland Nash, an economist at Renaissance Capital investment house, said there
had been massive underinvestment since the collapse of the Soviet Union in
1991. ``The results of that are everywhere to be seen,'' he said.
CHAOTIC REFORMS NEGLECT INVESTMENT
As Russia struggled desperately to pull its economy out of a tailspin,
investment in long-term infrastructure projects was clearly not the highest
priority in the budget.
The government was always struggling with debt inherited from the Soviet era,
and its plight was worsened by flawed reforms, low tax collection, crime,
corruption and capital flight.
``There was not enough money to go around in the budget and therefore
investment tended to be left until last,'' Nash said, adding this affected
all levels of government and companies.
He said gross domestic product fell by about 40 percent betweeen 1992 and
1999 and investment by 80 percent in the same period. ``The whole of Russian
Lack of foreign direct investment has contributed to the neglect. There are
myriad reasons for why foreigners are still reluctant to plough money into
Russia -- crime, corruption, bureaucracy, corporate governance problems, poor
management, inadequate property rights.
``A host of economic and political factors come into why there has not been
enough investment in Russia in the last 10 years,'' Nash said.
RECOVERY CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH
Putin's recognition of the underlying problems might bode well for the
future, and might save lives, but the government still has to cope with a
worrisome foreign debt burden and implement structural reforms that at least
look good on paper.
Nash said there had already been a pickup in economic activity and investment
this year. However, Delyagin was more sceptical about the liberal economic
policies drafted by Trade and Economic Development Minister German Gref.
He said investment in industry rose almost 40 percent in the first half of
``We have an investment boom, but this investment boom does not touch sectors
where it takes a long time to turn a profit,'' he said, adding that
investment in electricity had fallen 10 percent both last year and in the
first half of this year.
``That is because very big sums are needed over a very long period,'' he
``The only way out of this situation is for the state to designate a limited
amount of necessary vital projects, no more than 10 or 15, and give them
guarantees from political risks,'' he said.
``Without such guarantees, no Russian or foreign investors will come.''
Russian government attacks NTV in wake of television tower fire
MOSCOW, Aug 28 (AFP) -
Russia's private television station NTV, the only one still on the air after
a fire in a Moscow telecommunications tower the day before, is "misleading"
the population, a top Russian official charged Monday.
"NTV news reports are exploiting the situation and are in some ways even
adding fuel to the flames, and misleading viewers," Russian Information
Minister Mikhail Lesin told the Echo Moscow radio station on Monday.
NTV owner Media Most has been a stern critic of the Russian government,
particularly of President Vladimir Putin.
NTV news programmes are "not objective," Lesin said.
Firefighters were able to control the blaze at the Ostankino tower earlier
Monday, but not before it killed four people and blacked out most Russian
television stations, including the public channels ORT and RTR, leaving some
10 million city dwellers without TV.
Initially stricken, NTV was nevertheless able to transfer programming to TNT,
another Media Most channel, which does not broadcast from the Ostankino tower.
NTV director Yevgeny Kiselev offered the other channels the opportunity to
broadcast their own news bulletins over TNT, which has a limited audience.
The Kremlin would like to force Media Most owner Vladimir Gusinsky to sell
NTV to Russian gas giant Gazprom, and negotiations for the sale have been
under way this summer, according to Russian media reports.
Gusinsky spent three days in prison last June, but was later freed following
a meeting with Putin.
Lesin told Russian radio that some of the television broadcasts blacked out
by the blaze would resume in as soon as two or three days, although experts
have said two or three months will be needed before all broadcasts could be
Meantime, Lesin said Monday that the tower fire holds "grave consequences"
for the Russian advertising market.
"The effect of the fire on the advertising market is comparable to the effect
of the financial crisis of August 1998," he told Echo Radio.
Television advertising represents about 40 percent of the Russian advertising
market, and the highest advertisement budgets and revenues are concentrated
in the capital, according to Sergey Koptyev, president of an advertising
association, cited in the Russian daily Vedomosti on Monday.
Russian advertisement agencies could see their earnings drop 30 to 50 percent
as a result of the fire, Koptyev said.
The fire Sunday initially knocked out the broadcasts of six stations -- NTV,
TV-6, STS-8, M1, TV-Centre and the cultural channel, Kultura.
Apart from TNT, Muscovites only had satellite channels. The television
blackout was unprecedented.
Another channel, Stolitsa, had continued to broadcast until Sunday evening
before stopping, as its transmitter was not powerful enough.
OSTANKINO TV TOWER STABLE - CONSTRUCTION COMMITTEE CHIEF
MOSCOW. Aug 28 (Interfax) - Russian Construction Committee chief
Anvar Shamuzafarov has said he thinks that the Ostankino television
tower "can and must be repaired."
"At the moment only the interior cables [mounted after the tower
was built] are damaged," he said after a meeting of the tower
firefighting staff on Monday.
"Ostankino television tower must be reinforced before repairing the
damage," he said. "A metal band" must be placed at a height of 385
meters and three extensions must be installed. If this is done, "the
tower will certainly stand" and it will be possible to discuss interior
repairs, he said.
"The tower is not tilting now," Shamuzafarov said. "All deviations
are within the norm, and nothing fatal has been noted," he added.
He said it is difficult to say how much time it will take to repair
the tower, adding that this could only be discussed after an official
announcement of the end of the fire. The announcement is expected at 6
Chechens claim responsibility for TV tower fire
MOSCOW, Aug 28 (Reuters) - A Chechen rebel web site said on Monday that
prominent field commander Shamil Basayev was behind a fire in Moscow which
damaged the world's second tallest television tower and killed at least two
Kavkaz.org site, which has no official status but is known for its support of
Basayev, quoted a statement by his command that rebels had paid $25,000 to an
employee of the Ostankino tower to carry out the terrorist act.
The web-site also claimed responsibility for destroying the Russian nuclear
submarine Kursk in the Arctic Barents Sea. The Kursk sank on August 12 with
118 crew on board and Russian officials have said the cause of the accident
has yet to be determined.
Russian investigators have not yet reached final conclusions on what might
be behind the two incidents but officials have said they do not believe
either of them could be the result of a terrorist act.
Official investigations focus on three possible causes of the Kursk accident
-- a collision with another vessel, a blast of ammunition on board or a
combination of both.
According to early official suggestions the Ostankino fire could have been
caused by a short circuit or an accident during repairs.
Russia earlier blamed on the rebels a series of apartment block blasts in
1999 which killed nearly 300 people.
Some officials said they believed that the Chechen rebels were behind an
explosion in a Moscow underground pass earlier this month in which 12 people
died, though other officials including President Vladimir Putin urged
treating such suggestions with caution in the absence of proof.
Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has denied any blame for the previous
terrorist acts. Maskhadov is at odds with Basayev, whom he blames for
provoking Russia's latest military onslaught on Chechnya.
Kavkaz.org gave no details about the alleged attack on Ostankino. It said
that a sailor from the Kursk, originating from Dagestan, had volunteered to
destroy the submarine.
There were two people from Dagestan on board the Kursk and the head of FSB
domestic security service Nikolai Patrushev has said their background is
being carefully checked. But Patrushev denied any involvement of the two in
Officials could not be reached for comments.
Nukes Reliable Instrument of Ensuring Global Stability.
MOSCOW, August 29 (Itar-Tass) - Nuclear missile weapons are, indeed, a
reliable instrument of ensuring global stability in the foreseeable future,
claimed director of the Strategic Stability Institute and member of the
Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Mikhailov.
In the director's opinion, "we increasingly clearly see military-political
functions of nuclear weapons of the great nuclear powers as non-combat but
'political' weapons, as a means of reliable prevention of escalation of
political tension into large-scale armed conflicts: the essence of their
existence is only in non-application and only in prevention of a global
conflict under any circumstances".
"The Russian Federation now possesses unique personnels creating nuclear
weapons, technologies and production facilities, which puts it abreast with
great powers of the present-day world," the academician noted.
"Of great importance will be development (in future) of a new generation of
super-precise nuclear weapons of super-small yield and with a small impact on
the enviroment. Russia should be a flagship of nuclear disarmament today and
tomorrow and an outpost of containment of those who are sabre-rattling on our
The article "20th century and Russian nuclear weapons" by Mikhailov, timed to
coincide with the test of the first A-bomb in the Soviet Union in August
1949, was printed by the latest issue of the Voenny Parad journal.
August 26, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
A POLITICAL TSUSHIMA?
By Vyacheslav NIKONOV, Politika Foundation president
In recent days I have happened to hear and read that the
Kursk disaster had catastrophic consequences for Russian
authority. Mention was made of a falling popularity rating of
the President, lowered prestige of the military, and Russia's
Authorities did not acted the best way, it is true. There
was an obvious mismatch between expectations of a shocked
public which looked to active moves and the response by the
President and his civilian and military leadership as a whole
which acted in a way that left a feeling of indifference,
incompetence and lies...
But even so, despite this, I would not risk exaggerating
too much the extent to which the Kursk drama has impacted
adversely on the country's power institutions.
Indeed, a Moscow poll conducted by the ROMIR centre
revealed that 28 per cent of those interviewed changed their
attitude for Putin for the worse, if slightly. But for 60 per
cent of Russians the loss of the submarine in no way affected
their attitude to the President. Considering that most among
the 28 per cent who now put less trust in Putin did not earlier
overlike him anyway, then I would put the damage to the head of
state's overall rating at not more than 5-10 per cent. That is,
early in August he had as much as 73 per cent, which now
dropped to (an also impressive) 65 per cent. No serious loss in
popularity. I will remind you that a year ago Yeltsin had a
support rating of approximately three per cent and felt fine.
For the military establishment the political effects of
the Kursk drama are not so manifestly negative either. Indeed,
reshuffles in the top leadership of the Defence Ministry and
the Navy are now, if not inevitable, at least more likely. Now
Putin need not look for additional pretexts to sack any general
or admiral with full backing from public opinion. But at the
same time the loss of the submarine has graphically
demonstrated the consequences of under-financing of the armed
forces and will give an impulse to increasing defence spending.
Its massive growth is already factored in the
government-prepared budget for next year and the State Duma may
be expected to show even more generosity.
That is, though some of the military may individually lose, the
army and navy will most likely benefit in general.
In long-term range the Kremlin and the Defence Ministry
may have trouble from parliamentary commissions on the
investigation of the submarine's loss, which State Duma
deputies and Federation Council members are threatening to set
up. Clearly, these commissions will not be formed to lavish
compliments on executive authorities and their work may keep
the Kursk destiny long at the focus of public attention. But
according to our laws no one is obliged to submit any
information to parliamentary commissions, and it is unlikely
that they will make much headway in their probe. And besides it
is already possible to predict the commissions' conclusions:
they will name the lower officials as culprits and urge further
increases in defence allocations.
Nothing fatal for the Kremlin or power structures.
The least politically pleasant are the international
aspects of the accident. Russia, its president and the top
military command have got a very bad press abroad. Commentators
and analysts, with ill-conceived glee, have for many days
pontificated on our weaknesses, negligence, red tape,
confusion, and the low estimation of human life in Russia,
compared with national prestige considerations. We have
provided occasion to speak of a new "Russian menace" stemming
from possible disasters on our military facilities, including
nuclear ones. A most serious blow has been dealt at the
reputation of Russia as an exporter of weapons, including naval
Nothing good is to come for relations with the West from
statements by our officials about a collision with a NATO
submarine as the likely cause of the Kursk disaster. If this is
true, it is little short of an excuse for war. If untrue, it is
a direct insult to at least one influential state.
But every international cloud has a silver lining. Our
trouble has called attention to such an issue as international
cooperation in the deep seas. Until now the scene has been one
of rivalry, with submarines having played and playing
cat-and-mouse games. And this at a time when the Cold War is
long over, and agreements long in place on non-orbiting of
nuclear weapons in space, banning nuclear tests, restricting
ground armaments, etc.
The issue of ocean demilitarisation -- the most neglected of
the disarmament issues - is now being given the chance to be
put on the agenda of world politics.
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000
From: Dan Bell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reply to Kenneth Christopher Duckworth in JRL 4476
I agree with Kenneth Christopher Duckworth on the value
of maximizing the individual's ability to control his
or her own life and minimizing the role of government.
This is just as important in the political sphere as
it is in the economic sphere, which is my main concern
over what occurred in Chile.
Where to draw the line of balance between the responsibility
of government to satisy the collective needs, and the
rights of individuals to self determination over their own
affairs, is a matter for democratic debate among a plurality
of political proponents. Unfortunately, the US government,
the IMF and the World Bank ignored the need for
plurality among the proponents of economic reform in
Russia, and acted as if only Yeltsin-Chubais-Gaidar's
version of reform was democratic, withholding support
from those who argued for other reform methods.
While it may be the case that Mr. Duckworth is more
capable of building his own retirement security than
government employees, the government has played a large
role in making his investment choices more secure through
regulation carried out by the Securities and Exchange
Commission. One need look no further than Russia's voucher
fund disaster to appreciate the role that the US government
has played in creating an attractive investment environment
for non-professional investors.
For me, it is disturbing that the examples of government's
role given by Mr. Duckworth center around police, courts
and defence, basically coercive methods to control people.
In states like Pinochet's Chile, these tools were used
by an elite group of property owners to protect their
monopoly on ownership from the majority of propertyless.
A Texas professor was once accused by the McCarthy Commission
of being against private property. His reply was that the
Senator had been misinformed. In fact he thought private
property was so good, EVERYONE ought to have some.
This is a major aspect of Jeffersonian thinking about
democracy. Where the maximum number of people are
owners of the means of production, there is the kind
of economic equality which permits political equality
in setting up a government to carry out services that
benefit all, not just a small elite.
The US isn't perfect, but much of its success with
the experiment of democracy has come from major strides
in achieving economic success for a majority of its
citizens. Much of this came via government action:
the homestead act which allowed many to become farm
owners rather than serfs; the housing finance supports
which allowed many to become homeowners, rather than
tenants; the college scholarships for war veterans which
allowed many to gain a higher education; the Securities
and Exchange Commission along with the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act which allowed many to build up
"safe" retirement funds to supplement the small retirement
safety net provided by social security.
These government actions have reduced the dependency on
coercive policing methods to safeguard property. In many
parts of the US, one can live with only a pane of glass
between his or her possessions and the passer-by on the
street, unlike some countries where windows are protected
by bars and perimeter walls are lined with broken glass due
to the severe economic inequality that exists.
Having made working visits to Russia annually since 1991
and having lived there for two years, I agree with Mr.
Duckworth's assessment that giving trust to the people
is a major difference between American and Russian
leaders, both in government and in enterprises.
The best US firms are succeeding through employee
participation based on labor-management cooperation,
especially in companies where employee ownership has
been established. Many Russian managers continue to mistrust
their employees and resist implementing internationally
proven high performance methods of employee participation.
But again, where wages are below subsistence, and where
the lack of a rule of law makes secretive management
practices commonplace, one can understand why open book
management is slow to catch on.
In conclusion, I have no problem being counted by Mr.
Duckworth among those "Americans who think that the proper
role of government is limited to those activities which can
best be performed by government, and that all other activities
belong in the realm of the people who are best able
to determine the methods for achieving their own happiness,"
just as long as I retain the freedom to democratically
participate in the debate over just which activities
Financial Times (UK)
29 August 2000
[for personal use only]
How to help Russia's transition to 'normality'
Legitimate doubts about the true nature of Vladimir Putin's regime require
the west to judge Moscow according to its deeds
By Dominique Moisi
The author is deputy director of the Paris-based Institut Francais des
Relations Internationales. He writes here in a personal capacity.
By accepting responsiblity for the Kursk submarine tragedy, Vladimir Putin
has sought to narrow the emotional gulf between state and society in Russia.
But in the west, his carefully chosen words - a revolutionary departure from
Soviet practice - have renewed the debate about the true nature of the
country he leads.
Where should Europe and the US place the emphasis in their relations with
Moscow? On the new-found transparency of the Russian president, or on the
initial Soviet-style reaction to the sinking of the Kursk? The answer hinges
on whether the events of the last week are a sign of change or of continuity.
In the aftermath of July's meeting in Japan of the Group of Eight industrial
nations, western leaders were full of praise for Mr Putin, the star of the
summit. They saw a welcome change from Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor; a
leader who arrived on time, sober, coherent and competent, a man in charge.
At last, it seemed, Russia had a responsible and popular president.
Beware of first impressions, for they are always the best, Talleyrand used to
say. The initial reactions of leading French diplomats towards Mr Putin were
noticeably more cautious than those of their British or even German
counterparts. His KGB background, his cynical and brutal pursuit of the war
in Chechnya, even his physical resemblance to the bad guy in so many James
Bond films all demanded that he be treated with care.
Over time, however, French misgivings have eased. In the absence of any
alternative, Mr Putin appeared the best possible Russian leader, the only man
capable of restoring the authority of the state over Russia's regions, its
oligarchs and mafia, perhaps even the army.
The Kursk tragedy has challenged such wishful thinking by raising again the
question of human rights. The way a country treats its citizens can no longer
be regarded as a matter of secondary importance.
Russia wants to join Europe, to be a normal country. Europe shares that
aspiration. But a normal country does not sacrifice the lives of its young
sailors out of pride, incompetence and a malign desire for secrecy. Russia
has the worst of all worlds: its state is too weak and its Machiavellian
instincts too strong.
Of course, Russia today is not simply the Soviet Union without an empire or a
strong military machine. When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor caught fire in
1986, Mikhail Gorbachev neither informed nor apologised to the Soviet people.
But in the last 10 years a free press has emerged, and civil society has
begun to exist. By initially ignoring these changed realities, the powers
behind Mr Putin appeared not only inhuman but also anachronistic.
The cold war is over, and there is no point in pretending otherwise. But
Europe cannot go back to dealing with Russia the way France and Great Britain
dealt a century ago with imperial Russia - that is, without considering the
nature of its regime. The classical balance of power has crumbled: unlike in
1914, there is no enemy threatening the west, against which an alliance with
Russia is required at all costs.
Today's threat in Russia is the lack of democratic control, the absence of
the rule of law, the disregard for human life, and the risks of irresponsible
behaviour for the safety of our planet. The west should ask itself whether a
crippled giant with rusty nuclear weapons is not a bigger threat than "rogue"
states. The tragedy of the Kursk will, one hopes, have no ecological
consequences. We may not be as lucky next time.
Seen from Europe, the US's obsession with its National Missile Defence is
evidence of misjudged priorities. A catastrophic accident in Russia is more
likely than a nuclear terrorist attack by North Korea. So the Kursk accident
will probably intensify the current transatlantic debate about security
In the present confusion, when Russia is, more than ever, a country caught
between two worlds, the west must reintroduce the concept of conditionality
in its relations with Moscow. Precisely because of the legitimate doubts
about the true nature of Mr Putin's regime and the character of the man, we
must judge Moscow according to its deeds.
It is not an individual, whoever he may be, that the west must support in
Russia. That mistake was made too often and for far too long with Mr
Gorbachev and Mr Yeltsin. Instead, the west should concentrate on Russia's
policies and, in particular, the respect shown for fundamental principles
such as human rights or the protection of nature. After all, why should
Europe and the US demand less of the Russian government than do ordinary
For nearly 10 years, Washington, Paris, London and Berlin have, with some
nuances, followed the same line: let's engage Russia if we can, let's contain
Russia if we must. Today, Russia no longer has to be contained. Rather, it
must be protected from itself - from its dark instincts and its decaying
Russians want to be proud of their country; just like westerners, they want a
competent, honest and transparent state. The Russia that Europe wants to see
emerge is the same country that Russian citizens are asking for. Of course,
those in power in Russia can use nationalist frustrations and humiliations to
resist change. But after the tragedy of the Kursk, Moscow can no longer
delude itself about the condition of its navy or the deep feelings of its
people. The west has a part to play in this transition: firmness and openness
will help Russia become a normal country, not cynicism, short-term greed or
Russia says won't be America's Korea proxy-report
August 28, 2000
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow has decided that it will not act as a proxy in U.S.
relations with North Korea, the Interfax news agency reported Monday citing a
Russian diplomatic source.
Senior Russian and U.S. diplomats are holding two-day consultations in Moscow
on the situation on the Korean peninsula and its impact on disarmament and
A spokesman for U.S. State Department Counselor Wendy Sherman, who is
representing Washington at the talks, has said the purpose of her visit was
to find out more about North Korea's conditional offer to give up its missile
``Moscow has no intention to deal with North Korea on behalf of third
parties,'' Interfax quoted the source as saying ahead of a planned meeting
between Sherman and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov, who is in charge
of Moscow's Korean policies.
In talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, North Korean leader
Kim Jong-il reportedly offered to scrap his country's missile program if the
United States agreed to launch North Korean satellites.
But a South Korean newspaper later quoted Kim as saying that the offer was
just a joke.
A spokesman for Sherman has said Washington thought the Russians were
following up with the North Koreans.
The foreign ministry in Moscow declined to comment on the talks and the
meeting with Mamedov, which Interfax said was due to take place Tuesday.
A U.S. embassy spokesman told Reuters there was nothing special about
``It's routine in the sense that they have had these before, it's part on an
on-going dialogue that we have about Korean issues,'' he said.
The Russian source said Moscow wanted to discuss a whole range of issues
linked to the situation in northeast Asia and voice its concern about what it
said were Washington's plans to deploy a theater defense system in the
It said Moscow had no plans to join a policy coordination body set up by the
United States, Japan and South Korea after a reported missile launch by
Pyongyang in 1998.
Sherman was due to leave Moscow Tuesday and hold talks in Seoul Friday.
In a separate report, Interfax quoted a Russian diplomatic source as saying
North Korea had postponed indefinitely a visit to Moscow by its Foreign
Minister Paek Nam-sun who was due to arrive in Moscow in late September.
RUSSIAN MEDIA MINISTER INTERVIEWED IN WAKE OF OSTANKINO FIRE
Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1630 gmt 28 Aug 00
In the first of a new series of the "Details" programme on 28th August,
Russia TV's studio guest was Mikhail Lesin, the press, television and radio
broadcasting and mass communications minister. Asked about the consequences
of the fire at the Ostankino TV studio, Lesin played down the extent of the
damage although he also said it was likely to cost the state "hundreds of
millions of dollars". He said that at least one channel would be back on the
air by the end of the week for the 10-12m Moscow viewers currently without
access to programmes. No alternative means of broadcasting had yet been
established, he said, because experts would be assessing the situation inside
the tower the next day. Lesin was confident President Vladimir Putin had the
situation under control and stressed the importance of restoring broadcasting
since the government had a duty to keep its citizens informed. The following
are excerpts from the interview. Subheadings have been inserted editorially
[Presenter Sergey Pashkov] Good evening. After many months off the air, the
Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company's "Details" programme
is back with up-to-the minute comment and exclusive interviews live on Russia
TV with eyewitnesses to the latest big events. Unfortunately, the latest
event is the fire at the Ostankino television tower, a fire that cost the
lives of several people and has left several millions in Moscow and its
Region without television, a fire with consequences for Russia's electronic
media that are hard to imagine.
Our programme's guest today is Minister of the Press, Television and Radio
Broadcasting and Mass Communications Mikhail Lesin.
Hello, Mikhail Yuryevich.
[Q] It's not the most auspicious time to meet but nevertheless this is all
your field. What's going to happen to us? What will become of Russian
television broadcasting and of Russia's viewers? Over to you.
Damage at Ostankino TV tower "not catastrophic"
[A] The main thing I want to say is that the fire has now been completely
extinguished and rescue workers and firefighters have gone right through the
building to virtually its highest point. This means we can already say that
in actual fact the damage sustained by the tower is not all that bad. It's
not catastrophic and, most importantly, experts have already concluded today
that the tower won't come down and there are no problems regarding its
stability or any danger of its falling, neither the upper metal structure nor
the concrete foundation.
[Q] So what about the talk about the cables holding up the tower snapping or
the need to dismantle the upper sections? Were there no grounds for saying
[A] The fact is that all these hypotheses were produced when the fire was
still burning. In actual fact, it wasn't possible to say precisely how bad
the damage was inside and at that time experts were unable to see how
individual structures were performing. Now, the experts have been inside and
had a look and have said confidently that there are no problems as regards
the stability of the tower.
Rescue workers and firefighters should, of course, be given their due since
they used as much equipment as they could when they were putting out the fire
and that, basically, saved the high-tech equipment inside the tower.
Tomorrow, several groups of experts start work at 0800 [0400 gmt], including
engineering experts and technical equipment inspectors, who will present
their conclusions tomorrow evening as to the extent of damage sustained by
Expert assessment to determine means of broadcasting after fire
[Q] That's fine as regards the tower, Mikhail Yuryevich, but what about
Russian television and I don't just mean our station but all the other
domestic stations? You said this afternoon that a decision would be taken
this evening as to how viewers could get the first, second, third, fourth and
fifth Russian TV channels in their own homes. Has a decision been taken?
[A] No, it wasn't in the end because we looked at several options today but
didn't take a definitive decision as to which was most applicable. Plus,
since we got the chance to go into the tower, we'll have the results of the
investigation tomorrow and we can take a final decision as to how to proceed.
[Q] So it turns out that our tower is a kind of natural monopoly. It only
took an emergency - force majeure - a fire and that was it. The viewers were
without the media, without television.
[A] You can't say that because the tower doesn't actually have a monopoly and
the regional stations are still working. Admittedly, it's not very nice for
Moscow but I think broadcasting to Moscow will resume in a very short time
and viewers will have the chance to receive their television signals.
Government role as information provider stressed
[Q] Incidentally, how many viewers can't get a signal?
[A] We reckon it's somewhere in the region of 10-12m.
[Q] Ten-twelve million? In other words, almost the whole population of
[A] Almost the whole population of Moscow and the area immediately around it.
[Q] You're saying very soon. How soon? A week?
[A] We're giving approximately three to five days to get it done.
[Q] In those three to five days, during that time, where is someone who has
got used to watching television to get their information from?
[A] First of all, we're using the radio as much as possible. Then, there are
still the TNT stations on 35 UHF and the Stolitsa channel and, of course, all
the channels are putting as much information as they can out on the Internet.
And there are the papers, of course.
[Q] But not many people are lucky enough to have the Internet.
[A] Quite, but at the moment we're using every possible opportunity to get
information to the consumer, to the citizen, so that people don't need to
worry and can know what's going on.
[Q] There was talk of using Moscow University in Vorobyevyye Gory or
mobilizing Moscow's cable television studios, of using 31 and 35 UHF, so that
viewers could see the main channels or at least the main channels' news. Was
that discussed today and what decisions were taken?
[A] These options have been studied but let me say again that the situation's
fairly unexpected and the technical equipment required for putting out
television and radio signals isn't the kind of equipment that's kept in
storage to be just taken out and put in place. It's the kind of equipment
that needs to be got ready. So, we're looking at all the options and as soon
as we hit on even the slightest possibility of putting up equipment or
finding a transmitter and installing it, aerial included, we'll take full
advantage of it.
President Putin well-informed, prepared to control the situation
[Q] You've seen the president today. In addition, there was a government
meeting and no doubt you were one of the key players at both. After all,
you're a member of the commission that is to resolve these issues as a matter
of urgency. What's the president's frame of mind? Is he prepared to take
control of the situation?
[A] Of course, he's prepared to control the situation and he asked a great
many questions and was interested in any details of what was going on. He
also assigned the very rigorous task of restoring television broadcasts in
Moscow and the surrounding area...
[Q] How much will this tragedy cost the state?
[A] Hundreds of millions of dollars, I think.
[Q] Has the state got that kind of money?
[A] It will find it whatever because it's down to the state to provide
citizens with as much information as possible and to give the residents of
the country the possibility of obtaining the information that they had until
No blame apportioned; no personnel changes anticipated
[Q] Mikhail Yuryevich, you're a responsible statesman and head of a major
department so now for the perennial Russian question: Who's to blame?
[A] I think it's too early to say. Expert studies must be done first and
conclusions reached afterwards.
[Q] Vladimir Putin said heatedly today that it all goes to show what a state
the key sectors of the Russian state are in. I'm thinking also about the
recent tragedy with the Kursk submarine, as well as today's event, the fire
at the television tower. What do you think? Will the president get so
irritated that he takes personnel decisions regarding senior officials?
[A] I don't think he will but of course we should be concerned about the
state of all this equipment.
[Q] You've said that television today is not the television of television
towers, that up-to-date technology is needed. What did you mean?
[A] I meant digital technology and technology that enables us to get away
from direct broadcasting over the airwaves, to develop an entirely new set of
services and to look for ways of avoiding situations like this.
[Q] A really improbable story appeared today. There was talk of airships that
were able to transmit signals somehow, that there was an airship in Germany
that could be brought over to Russia. Was this option considered?
[A] Yes, it was but it's been discounted.
[Q] Discounted. Right.
[A] That's right.
Moscow viewers to have some programming available by week's end
[Q] Mikhail Yuryevich, what's important to the viewers right now? They want
to know when they'll be able to see their programmes, their favourite films
and programmes and the news. Can we give even an approximate time?
[A] I think the channel will be up and running by the end of the week.
[Q] By channel, do you mean we'll press number one and get channel one,
number two and get channel two?
[A] One of the channels. Which I can't say at present.
[Q] In other words, this is being dealt with?
[A] It is.
[Q] Is it a question of a tender or a competition?
[A] It's a question of technology.
[Q] Who'll decide who has the right to a final decision?
[A] It'll be decided by the technical group that was set up today, involving
the communications ministry and the media ministry.
[Q] Who's in the group? Leonid Reyman [minister of communications and
information technology], of course, and yourself. Who else?
[A] And technical experts.
Lawyers to be involved in assessing cause of fire
[Q] From what I understand, staff from the Prosecutor-General's Office, who
opened a case into the fire at the Ostankino tower today, will turn up
tomorrow as well?
[A] Yes, they will and they'll examine the tower along with our experts to
discover the reason for the fire and to assess what was happening when it
[Q] People are saying the fire alarms didn't work. Some news agencies are
even saying there weren't any fire alarms as such at Ostankino at all? That
the fire precautions were unacceptably low. Is that really the case?
[A] No, it's not and I can say already that these are just rumours since it's
something that can only be said for certain once the experts have finished
their work. Until then, it's mere speculation and supposition.
[Q] Thank you, Mikhail Yuryevich...
Asians thrive in outpost of Russia's Far East
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia, Aug 28 (AFP) -
As Chinese pop music blared out of a cassette recorder, a middle-aged woman
bent over a steaming bowl of noodles while keeping an eye on her wares.
In a bustling clothes market in the capital of Russia's Sakhalin Island, just
north of Japan, Chinese and ethnic Korean traders sell cheap goods from China
that are just the cure for cash-strapped Russians.
Some make enough money in this remote outpost of Russia's Far East -- whose
710,000 inhabitants are sunk in deprivation despite immense oil and mineral
wealth -- to pay others to tend their stalls under rain and snow.
Ira Vinogradova, 33, a university-educated woman who used to work as a
geologist, gets paid 1,600 rubles (58 dollars, 64 euros) a month to sell
t-shirts, jeans, jackets and footwear imported from China.
"Here at least you can make some sort of a living. I've got mouths to feed,"
Sveta, 30, a former office secretary, smiled cheerfully as she bent down to
pick out a pair of shoes for a customer on a busy Saturday afternoon.
"We get along well. They know what they're doing" she said, asked about the
Asian traders, adding that her uncle was now learning Korean.
Xiao Bing, his eyes darting about suspiciously at first -- like many Chinese
in Russia, he is living there illegally -- relaxed as he recounted how he
came to Sakhalin five years earlier looking for a better life.
"There are too many of us in China," said the youthful-looking 30-year-old.
"I don't say that it's easy here, but our goods are affordable and you can
prosper if you work hard."
In a nearby food market, traders were unloading crates covered with Chinese
Vye Sin, 46, immigrated from the northern Chinese city of Harbin in 1997,
leaving his wife and children behind.
"As long as they don't kick me out, I'll stay on. I have my business here,"
he said proudly pointing to the display of tinned goods, fruits, sugar, rice
and other food items crammed into his tiny shop.
Alongside hundreds of Chinese immigrants, offspring of Koreans deported here
during World War II by Japan -- which controlled Sakhalin from 1905 to 1945
-- dominate market trade in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Olya, 35, who uses a Russian name and has forgotten how to speak Korean, told
the story of her father who was brought to the island to work in the coal
mines, paid in food by the Japanese authorities.
After Soviet troops occupied Sakhalin in the final days of the war, he and
her mother stayed on.
Today, the Korean community is thriving.
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk's premier entertainment spot, a complex housing a casino
and pricy Japanese and Korean restaurants, is owned by an ethnic Korean.
Meanwhile, from across the sea in Japan, investors have rushed here since the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as oil and gas majors vie to extract
the island's oil riches.
The top two hotels in the city are Japanese joint ventures. And even the
local mafia has felt the winds of change.
Law enforcement officials say that in 1997 the owner of a top Japanese
restaurant was bludgeoned to death by criminals who stole thousands of
dollars in cash from his home.
But within a short time, yakuza -- feared Japanese mafia -- came looking for
the culprits and killed them in cold blood.
Financial Times (UK)
August 29, 2000
[for personal use only]
Seventh Heaven is no celestial experience for visitors
By Andrew Jack
Visiting the Seventh Heaven revolving restaurant in Moscow's Ostankino
television tower was always a less than celestial experience, even before the
tower was badly damaged by fire over the weekend.
After a long queue in a poorly signposted annexe, visitors were required to
fill in documents and show identification papers. Foreigners were then
redirected to another obscure office where they faced more paperwork and a
higher ticket price, before finally being allowed to proceed through security
checks into the tower itself.
Inside, the ageing decor and the officious guides all gave the impression
that little had changed since the tower was built as a 540-metre tall symbol
of Communist pride in 1967.
On Monday it seemed that old-style centralised thinking had combined with
modern-style underfunding to cause the destruction of the Seventh Heaven, and
at least two deaths. Like the accident on the Kursk nuclear submarine earlier
in August, the Ostankino fire is being seen by many Russians as a symbol of
the rapid deterioration of their state over the last decade.
Some industry insiders said on Monday that while the state remains the
official owner of the tower, commercial interests had been involved in its
management since 1993, reflecting the mixture of public and private that
characterises much of contemporary Russian life.
But broken tiles in the corridors and the decrepit offices of the studios
from which ORT runs Russia's most popular TV network all gave the impression
that there had been no significant new investment for at least a decade.
As for state funding, Eduard Sagalayev, president of the National Association
of Television and Radio Broadcasters, said in a radio interview on Monday:
"The Ostankino Tower was under-funded from the budget. It didn't get enough
for repair and maintenance."
Mr Sagalayev also complained about the concentration of transmitting capacity
in the tower, another legacy of Soviet-era centralised planning.
The tower still acts as a strategic artery for communications networks
operated by the armed forces and security agencies, but now also serves the
city's public and private TV networks, radio pager services and other
Inquiries to establish who was in charge of fire and security installation
and inspection work at the tower highlighted another Soviet-style relic: a
chain of shifting responsibility to others. The State Construction Committee,
the Moscow authorities, their contractor Mosproekt 1, the Moscow Architecture
Committee and the Central Scientific-Research Institute for Established and
Experimental Projects all referred calls to each other or elsewhere.
The decision to allow firefighters and operators to travel up in a lift once
the fire was under way on Sunday - resulting in two deaths - seemed in
contradiction to any standard western safety procedures or concern for human
It also appeared on Mondaythat, in common with most Russian buildings, there
was no automatic fire extinguishing system.
But for an estimated 20m people in the Moscow region, the most visible impact
of the fire has been fuzzy white screens in place of all their TV programmes,
a powerful reminder to ordinary people of what President Vladimir Putin
called the "condition of our essential facilities and the overall state of
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