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Johnson's Russia List
9 October 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Itar-Tass: ELECTION CHIEF RULES OUT YUGOSLAVIA-STYLE VOTE FIDDLE
2. Reuters: Russia may need IMF cash if economy worsens - PM.
3. The Russia Journal: Francesca Mereu, Is this the current view of
freedom of the press?
4. Financial Times (UK): Arkady Ostrovsky, Go-ahead for Russian fiscal
5. AFP: Russia out to prove its worth in resolving world crises.
6. Wall Street Journal: Andrew Higgins and Alan Cullision, Russia
Alienates an Ally By Hesitating in Yugoslavia.
7. Segodnya: The Law on Calm Old Age. (re immunity decree)
8. The Guardian (UK): Ian Traynor, My Mr Perfect, by Boris Yeltsin.
Latest memoirs see Russia's ex-president writing adoringly of his heir
9. CBS News: Yeltsin: Russian Democracy Firm. (re 60 Minutes
10. Newsweek International: Andrew Nagorski, Boris’s Choice.
In a new memoir, Yeltsin traces his last years in office—and his
selection of Putin.
11. BBC MONITORING: CHECHEN REFUGEES WRITE LETTER TO RUSSIA'S
12. Vek: "A RATING OF HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT." State Duma deputy
Vladimir RYZHKOV warns that a regime, which is not controlled by
society, can become dangerous to the President.]
ELECTION CHIEF RULES OUT YUGOSLAVIA-STYLE VOTE FIDDLE IN RUSSIA
Moscow, 9th October, ITAR-TASS correspondent Igor Borisenko: The way the
votes were counted in Yugoslavia's presidential elections "is an object
lesson to all electoral authorities on how not to do it", the chairman of
Russia's Central Electoral Commission, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, told reporters
today. He believes "there should be legislation to regulate" the process of
counting votes and arriving at the results.
On the whole, Veshnyakov said, the problem with counting the votes and
announcing the results in Yugoslavia was that there was "conflicting data" on
the progress of the count. "We've sorted that problem because we use our
'vybory' ['elections'] state computerized system for vote-counting," he said.
Russia may need IMF cash if economy worsens - PM
MOSCOW, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Russia may need to resort to loans from the
International Monetary Fund if its economy takes a turn for the worse, Prime
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on Monday.
Strong oil prices that have boosted the economy could fall, leaving Russia in
the lurch, he told a news conference.
``We say ourselves that we do not need money. We have enough. But in the near
future, we may need financial support,'' he said.
IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer told an investment
conference in Boston on Friday a new precautionary programme might not
provide immediate funds for Russia, but would signal approval of government
An IMF mission is expected in Moscow next month to discuss Russia's economic
programme and set the stage for a new deal.
Kasyanov agreed that no immediate financing was needed from the Fund, which
more than a year ago put on hold a $4.5 billion loan programme due to slow
reforms, but that Russia's strong balance of payments could deteriorate.
IMF aid was meant primarily to help with balance of payments problems,
``The Russian Federation is far from that situation, but the positive trend
is not stable, which means that in addition to general cooperation, in the
nearest future we may also need financial support from the Fund and other
international financial institutions.''
The 2001 draft budget approved by the State Duma lower house of parliament in
a first reading last week assumes $1.75 billion of IMF support.
The Russia Journal
October 7-13, 2000
Is this the current view of freedom of the press?
By Francesca Mereu
>From virtually the moment President Vladimir Putin was installed as
Russia's president, Western observers have been debating whether he is a
reformer applying tough methods to reach a democratic goal, or a sinister
figure bent on returning the country to a new kind of authoritarian regime.
Whatever the truth, Putin's period in the Kremlin has raised serious
concerns about the future of independent media coverage of events in Russia.
• The Chechen war
Journalists are required to have accreditation to work in Chechnya, and the
information Russians receive from the war through the news is mostly
confined to the official line. Journalists who have tried to cover the war
independently have been subjected to serious government intimidation.
The highest profile case is that of Andrei Babitsky, the Radio Liberty
correspondent who was first detained by the Russian military in Chechnya,
and then later swapped for Russian soldiers held captive by Chechen
fighters. In this instance, Russia clearly violated international war
protocols. Protocol I to the Geneva Convention (Article 79), to which
Russia is a signatory, states: "Journalists engaged in dangerous
professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as
civilians ... [and] they shall be protected as such. ..."
In May, police commandos raided the offices of the Media-MOST group, which
runs the private NTV channel. A month later, Media-MOST owner Vladimir
Gusinsky was arrested on fraud charges and briefly jailed. Gusinsky's media
has been critical of the war in Chechnya and skeptical of Putin's
In September, Russian military forces detained Ruslan Mussayev, a Chechen
cameraman working for the Associated Press, on the grounds that he was not
registered as a resident of Grozny. He was released the following day
after being beaten by Russian soldiers.
"Since the beginning of the conflict in October 1999, about 10 foreign
journalists have been stopped and interrogated by the Russian secret
services and forced to leave the combat zones," according to the Reporters
Without Borders group, an international media watchdog. "Since 1997, at
least 14 representatives of the press have died in the North Caucasus,
considered to be one of the most dangerous regions for journalists."
Journalists covering corruption have also fallen into Putin's clutches. In
January, police raided the apartment of Alexander Khinshtein a reporter
with the capital’s daily Moskovsky Komsomolets armed with a warrant to
spirit him to a clinic for psychiatric examination. Khinshtein, at that
time, was investigating Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo's alleged
illegal activities, and had also charged that tycoon Boris Berezovsky was
providing money for Chechen warlords.
In May, Igor Dominkov, a journalist with Novaya Gazeta, was attacked by an
unknown person and died a month later from his injuries. The paper's
editor, Dmitry Muratov, is quite sure that Dominkov, who covered social and
cultural issues, was mistaken for investigative reporter Oleg Sultanov, who
had published several articles on corruption, and lives in the same building.
• Regional media
The regional media are more restricted than Moscow-based outlets, and it is
estimated that 80 percent of regional media are under the control of the
In July, Irina Grebneva, the editor of the weekly Arsenyevskye Vesti, was
jailed in Vladivostok on charges of "petty hooliganism," after publishing
the transcript of a phone conversation involving Primorye officials,
including Gov. Yevgeny Nazdratenko. Grebneva was sentenced to a five-day
imprisonment and denied the right of appeal. Arsenyevskiye Vesti has been
one of the few regional media outlets to criticize Nazdratenko and his allies.
• Democratic survival
In spite of all this, Putin, in his remarkable statement of July 8 to the
Russian parliament, said: "Censorship and interference in the activities of
the media are prohibited by law. ... Without a truly free media, Russian
democracy will not survive."
But, just over a month later, Putin broke his own word, again displaying
his ambivalence to the free press, when he heavily criticized media
coverage of the Kursk tragedy, saying the reporting was aimed to enhance
the political fortunes of media owners.
The most recent digest report published by the Glasnost Defense Foundation,
a media advocacy organization, provided a good explanation of the ambiguity
between the president's deeds and his speech to parliament: "Putin repeated
several times the sentence that it is impossible to build a democracy
without a free press. But it is possible that the president meant: If
without independent media there will be no democracy, let's destroy it so
democracy will die."
According to the Glasnost report, the presidential administration organized
a special department to take active measures against the independent media.
"It is possible that, with this new project, journalists will be shadowed
and their phones will be monitored. It is also possible that there will be
a kind of psychological pressure [over journalists]," the report said.
• Western worries
International watchdog organizations are also very worried about the
situation in relation to freedom of the press in Russia.
The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors and
journalists, has placed Russia on its "IPI watch list," a twice-yearly
compilation of countries, and charged that Russia appears to be moving
toward a greater suppression and restriction of press freedom. Putin was
informed of the decision by letter.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (New York), the International
Federation of Journalists (Brussels), the International Federation of
Periodical Press (London), the International Press Institute (Vienna) and
the World Press Freedom Committee (Washington) are also alarmed about the
intensifying threats against press freedom in Russia, and have also written
Echo Moscow Radio reported that the Council of Europe's Parliamentary
Assembly (PACE), is also concerned about the media situation in the
country, assigning two of its committees to prepare reports on press
freedom in Russia. PACE specifically mentioned the Babitsky case, the lack
of journalists' rights in Chechnya, the Media-MOST situation and the
Gusinsky arrest. In particular, PACE condemned the lack of a clear position
from the Russian authorities on all these cases.
In the short time Putin has been in office, the media situation in the
country has deteriorated dramatically. According to a report by the Center
for Journalism in Extreme Situations, a watchdog organization of the
Russian Union of Journalists, in the first six months of 2000 some 108
cases of censorship and pressure over the media took place. In comparison,
in the whole of 1999 there were 157 cases, while in 1998 there were 126.
(E-mail Media Watch at email@example.com).
Financial Times (UK)
9 October 2000
Go-ahead for Russian fiscal policy
By Arkady Ostrovsky in Moscow
The government of Vladimir Putin, Russia president, has received a green
light from the Duma, the lower house of parliament, for its tight fiscal
policy following the approval of next year's budget in the first reading.
The Duma approved the key parameters of the country's first ever balanced
budget on Friday and will debate the structure of government spending later
this month. This is only the second budget in Russia's recent history which
has gone through the parliament in the first reading. The first such budget
was presented by Yevgeny Primakov, the former prime minister, in 1999.
Analysts said the vote reflected the new relationship between the president
and the parliament. "The voting in the Duma demonstrated that Putin's
government has no viable opposition in the parliament," said Liliya
Shevtsova, an analyst at Moscow Carnegie Centre.
Three political parties, the Communists, Fatherland-All Russia and the
Agrarian party, voted against the budget, saying it was too conservative.
However, this was the first budget supported by the liberal Yabloko party led
by the economist, Grigoriy Yavlinsky. "This is the first time when the
government has a near-majority in the parliament," Ms Shevtsova said.
Observers said the support in parliament would mean that the responsibility
for economic reform would now lie entirely with the government, which will no
longer be able to blame the parliamentary opposition for any failures.
Some economists said that while the budget implied increases in spending on
armed forces and agriculture, it did not reflect the structural changes in
the economy necessary for achieving sustained growth.
However, Alexei Ulyukaev, the deputy finance minister, said the aim of the
budget spending was not to get quick returns but to invest in long-term
infrastructure projects, which could not be supported by private business. He
said the budget included a number of innovative measures, such as interest
rate subsidies for agriculture.
"The cost of capital is too high for agriculture but if a farmer can secure a
loan or credit from a private bank, which can assess whether the project is
viable, the government would be prepared to subsidise the rate of borrowing,"
he said. Russia's national power company, Unified Energy System, aims to
increase electricity exports to energy-hungry European Union countries,
Anatoly Chubais, chief executive, said yesterday. The European Commission
recommended last week that the EU should strive for closer co-operation with
Russia on energy matters, particularly on rehabilitating oil and gas
production and transport facilities.
Mr Chubais said electricity should also be part of the east-west "energy
bridge". "Russia started exporting electricity to western Germany starting in
August," he said. "We understand this is not the full extent of the energy
bridge and we are ready to move further."
The EU energy commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said energy co-operation would
benefit both sides and would be a key issue on the agenda of an EU-Russia
summit in Paris later this month.
Russia out to prove its worth in resolving world crises
MOSCOW, Oct 9 (AFP) -
Russia's top diplomats shuttled from the Balkans to the Middle East in a bid
Monday to douse another raging crisis and show the world that few conflicts
can be resolved without Moscow's help.
But even at home there were skeptics that Russia was capable of proving its
fast-fading diplomatic worth.
"I think that the minimum purpose of (President Vladimir) Putin is simply to
demonstrate that there are things that cannot be done without Russia," said
Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of Moscow's USA-Canada Institute.
"Korea, you cannot do much without us, Iraq you cannot do much without us,
and the same" for the Balkans and the Arab-Israeli conflict, said Kremenyuk.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was due to travel to Gaza late Monday for a
meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then on to Israel, talks
that come on the heels of his flash visit to Yugoslavia amid a presidential
election crisis there.
Speaking Monday in Syria, Ivanov minced no words about what he thought was
Russia's role in dousing a conflict that has already claimed more than 90
"Russia has always supported the peace process. Our aim is to stop the
violence, to prevent the escalation of tension and to analyze the situation
in the locations where incidents have recently occurred," Ivanov said.
Yet analysts question just what Ivanov can accomplish.
Together with Washington, Moscow is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace
process, but its sway in the volatile region under former president Boris
Yeltsin dramatically waned.
"Our influence in the Middle East existed 20 to 30 years ago, when Russia
sponsored the Arab states and the United States supported Israel," said
Andrei Piontkovsky of the Institute of Strategic Studies.
"Right now the politics are more balanced, but our influence really does not
exist. And even the United States, which has enormous economic wealth, is
unable to control the situation" in the Middle East, said Piontkovsky.
Ivanov's Middle East mission follows a visibly uncertain diplomatic shuffle
in Yugoslavia that saw Putin drop his support for ousted president Slobodan
Milosevic only days after backing his claim that presidential elections there
deserved to go to a second round.
It was an uncomfortable turnaround since Yugoslavia is viewed as a
traditional Russian ally and one of the last bastions where Moscow still
exerts some strength.
Days late, Putin found himself scrambling to strike a new alliance with
elected leader Vojislav Kostunica, who wryly noted that he would have
preferred to have enjoyed Kremlin's backing in the heat of his standoff with
The Belgrade about face came shortly after both sides ignored Moscow's offer
to host a meeting between Milosevic and Kostunica to resolve the Yugoslav
Now, analysts say, Russia is trying to save face in the Middle East.
"Russia must restore its reputation after failing to resolve the situation in
Yugoslavia, where it turned out that neither side needed its help," said
Yevgeny Volk of the Heritage Foundation, a US-based political research
"Although Russia has no influence in the Middle East, it is trying to do its
part even with the United States holding the reins of power," said Volk.
"But Russia's diplomatic efforts are not supported by its actual political
and economic standing."
Analysts note that Putin is following through Yeltsin's original policy of
building a "multi-polar" world -- one that has so far been fruitless as
neither China nor India are keen to ally themselves to Russia too closely.
Amid these struggles, Piontkovsky conceded that Russia had deteriorated into
"a phantom superpower" which should accept its new -- lower -- post-Soviet
world standing and build upwards from there.
Then, Piontkovsky said, Moscow would be able to bring something to the
"Now I do not see what Ivanov can do in Israel -- he has no political,
economic, or moral arguments to influence events," Piontkovsky said.
Wall Street Journal
October 9, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia Alienates an Ally By Hesitating in Yugoslavia
By ANDREW HIGGINS and ALAN CULLISON
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
MOSCOW -- Russia has lost the plot in Yugoslavia. Though bound to its fellow
Slav nation by a shared Orthodox faith, emotional ties and rhetorical
solidarity against the West, Russia has been wrong-footed by the pace of
events in Belgrade.
Its diplomacy crimped by domestic political divisions, Moscow has sat mostly
on the fence, offending both supporters of Slobodan Milosevic, who looked to
Russia for robust support, and allies of Serbia's opposition leader Vojislav
Kostunica, who was sworn in as president on Saturday.
Moscow's clumsy response to the crisis, which recalls the Kremlin's disarray
after the sinking in August of the nuclear submarine Kursk, further dents
President Vladimir Putin's reputation as a decisive can-do leader. Mr. Putin,
who came to power promising vigorous leadership, was out of Moscow on a state
visit to India for most of last week.
While the West cheered what it saw as popular protests against falsified
election results, Mr. Putin -- out of touch with events in Belgrade and wary
of resisting strong emotional currents back in Moscow -- said in a statement
Thursday that Russia was merely "watching ... the tragic development of the
situation in friendly Yugoslavia."
Moscow is now scrambling to catch up, but remains wary of joining the
Western-led pack. After initially endorsing Mr. Milosevic's claims that Mr.
Kostunica hadn't won outright victory in the Sept. 24 first round of
Yugoslavia's presidential election, Russia waited until the last pillars of
Mr. Milosevic's authority had crumbled to revise its position. On Friday it
became the last major European country to recognize Mr. Kostunica as
Yugoslavia's rightful new president.
"Putin has responded to the national interests of Russia," Mr. Kostunica told
Russian television Saturday, "It took him a long time to do it, but, thank
God, he came back from India and did what needed to be done."
But, in a sign of how difficult even this recognition of reality was for
Russia, the country's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on Friday
overwhelmingly rejected a motion that the legislature congratulate Mr.
Kostunica. Many legislators denounced Mr. Kostunica's triumph as a Western
plot. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party, said this "is not
democracy. It smells of marijuana, vodka and dollars."
Even the Kremlin's own belated moves to embrace Mr. Kostunica came couched in
legalistic circumlocution that left many Western diplomats scratching their
heads. After talks Friday in Belgrade with both Mr. Kostunica and Mr.
Milosevic, Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, said he had congratulated
Mr. Kostunica on his "victory" but didn't spell out whether Moscow accepted
that he had won more than half the votes needed to secure outright victory in
the first round or whether he had merely come out ahead. It is unclear
whether Mr. Ivanov offered to help Mr. Milosevic avoid a war crimes tribunal.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright criticized Russian officials
Sunday, saying, "They did not play the role they needed to at the right
time." Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, said the
Russians threw their support behind Mr. Kostunica "at the 11th hour" but
"wish it had been at the 10th hour."
Russia's hesitant approach, say analysts, has hurt its position in Serbia,
too, squandering much of the good will it earned last year with its
opposition to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's bombing campaign.
Meanwhile, the West, though still widely resented in Serbia over Kosovo, has
presented itself as a defender of Serbs' right to choose their own leader.
With Mr. Putin's own first-round victory in Russia's March presidential poll
marred by allegations of falsification and manipulation, few Russians feel
outrage at evidence that Mr. Milosevic twisted results of the Yugoslav
European and U.S. promises of economic support for Serbia under Mr. Kostunica
also contrast with Russia's inability to provide more than symbolic gestures
-- and its potential to serve as a safe haven for members of Mr. Milosevic's
family. His son, Marko, flew to Moscow on Saturday with his wife, Zorica, and
their son, Marko Jr., according to the independent Belgrade news agency Beta.
Mr. Milosevic's brother, Borislav, is Yugoslavia's ambassador to Russia and
appeared on a Russian television talk show Friday to denounce protesters who
toppled his brother as "drunk and armed." He said Yugoslavia still hadn't
fallen to the West, describing it as a "a field still untaken," and said his
brother would stay there.
Liberal politicians and analysts said Russia has missed a valuable
opportunity. "If Moscow had recognized Kostunica only two days earlier, it
would have made Moscow the real partner of the new Yugoslavia heads of
state," said Andrei Piontkovsky, head of the Center for Strategic Studies, a
Moscow think tank. "But instead you saw a lot of filth thrown on the
elections and the stupidity at the Duma." He said Russia's policy had been
guided by "psychological prejudices and myths."
Indeed, Russia's relations with Serbia have long been built on rich rhetoric
about Slavic fraternity and a catalog of mutual betrayals. Though firm allies
against the Nazis, Serbs and Russians veered apart after World War II, with
Moscow accusing Belgrade of ingratitude and Belgrade accusing Moscow of
bullying. They nearly went to war.
Sense of Betrayal
After the collapse of communism, Russia frequently denounced what it
considered Western meddling in Yugoslavia but grew increasingly irritated
with Mr. Milosevic, who repeatedly backtracked on promises. Mr. Milosevic, in
turn, felt betrayed by Moscow, which declined to provide antiaircraft
equipment and other military support during last year's NATO air campaign.
Instead of offering concrete assistance, Moscow sealed Mr. Milosevic's
capitulation in Kosovo through proposals delivered by Russia's special envoy,
former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
This mutual suspicion crippled a brief attempt by Moscow to mediate a
settlement to the political crisis that erupted after Yugoslavia's recent
presidential poll. At the end of last month, Mr. Putin offered to send his
foreign minister, Mr. Ivanov, to Belgrade to try and broker a settlement with
Mr. Kostunica. Mr. Milosevic rejected the offer.
Russia hopes that Mr. Ivanov's belated visit Friday marks a new beginning.
After his return to Moscow, Mr. Ivanov said Mr. Kostunica wants to make his
first foreign trip to Russia.
Write to Andrew Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org and Alan Cullison at
Russia Today press summaries
October 9, 2000
The Law on Calm Old Age
The Kremlin brought in the draft law "On guarantees to the retired president
of the RF and to his family members" to the State Duma. Preliminary debates
on the bill have started at the Duma committees, but the Duma leadership is
afraid to bring the bill in to the plenary session, because they fear a
The document literally repeats almost all provisions of Putin's decree of
December 31, 1999, which secured immunity and social guarantees to Boris
Yeltsin and to his family. According to the decree, Botis Yeltsin and his
family members got lifetime immunity against criminal or administrative
persecution. They also were granted state guard, special communication
services and medical and social benefits.
Deputies were indignant for awhile, but then they put up with the decree. Now
they have a number of legal questions with respect to the proposed law. It
appeared that the bill contradicts five provisions of the Constitution
(foundations of the rule of law state, equality of citizens before the law
and inevitability of punishment). The Duma Committee on Legislation proposed
the President to recall the bill. The greatest objections were caused by the
Kremlin's proposal to grant the former president lifetime immunity against
criminal persecution. In fact, this gives the president of Russia the right
to commit any crimes, including genocide or high treason. While it is
possible to dismiss the president who is in office through the impeachment
procedure, the dismissed President will be automatically released from
responsibility for any crimes. No provision like this can be found in Russian
or international legislation. It would be incorrect to hastily release
presidents from all responsibility, judging by examples of Helmut Kohl,
Jacques Chirac or Slobodan Milosevic, saying nothing of Pinochet or Suharto.
According to sources, the idea to confirm guarantees to the former President
comes from Yeltsin's "family". However, some Duma deputies think differently.
They believe that it is not Yeltsin who sought guarantees, but President
Putin himself, who is preparing for tough confrontation with the Russian
The Guardian (UK)
9 October 2000
My Mr Perfect, by Boris Yeltsin
Latest memoirs see Russia's ex-president writing adoringly of his heir and
Ian Traynor in Moscow
Boris Yeltsin's literary heroes as he grew up in Stalin's Russia evidently
left a lasting mark on the iconoclast who would smash Soviet communism - and
in his view they live on, in the person of the former KGB career officer now
Vladimir Putin, says the third volume of Mr Yeltsin's memoirs, launched at
the weekend at a glittering gathering in a villa overlooking Moscow, is the
very embodiment of the class of tough young military officer that Mr Yeltsin
read about as an adolescent in the Urals 50 years ago.
The Presidential Marathon, or Midnight Diaries, as the English edition is
entitled, shows Russia's first president indulging in unabashed hero worship
of Russia's second president.
Mr Yeltsin comments adoringly on Mr Putin's extraordinary eyes. He handpicked
Mr Putin as his successor last New Year's eve, he writes, because Mr Putin
reminded him of "the strong determined generals" he so enjoyed reading about
in the pulp fiction of his Stalinist childhood.
Every time Mr Yeltsin confronted a problem in his last years in power, it
seems, the solution turned up promptly in the form of Mr Putin.
Need a new secret police chief? "In the summer of 1998 I began to think who
should replace [Nikolai] Kovalyev? The answer came instantly: Putin!" Need a
new prime minister? A year later, Mr Yeltsin did. "Who will support me?" he
puzzled. "Who will realistically stand behind me? Then I understood - Putin."
But Mr Putin is not the only vigorous young leader who attracted the
flamboyant, wayward ex-president, according to the Yeltsin ghostwriters: he
found Bill Clinton "completely amazing".
Talking of their first encounter in 1993, Mr Yeltsin describes Mr Clinton as
a "young, eternally smiling man who was powerful, energetic and handsome".
Mr Yeltsin claims he could have saved the US president a lot of grief by
telling him about a bombshell that landed on his Kremlin desk in 1996 in a
cable from the Washington embassy.
The Republicans were preparing a "honey-trap" seduction of President Clinton
by a young woman. "Monica Lewinsky?" asked the German newspaper, Welt am
Sonntag. "Yes," said Mr Yeltsin.
"I could have warned him, but didn't," Mr Yeltsin told Russian TV. "It seemed
appalling, immoral. And I didn't want to believe it. Then I thought that
Clinton could cope with it himself."
Referring to his own battles with the bottle, Mr Yeltsin, 69, admits that he
resorted to vodka to relieve the stresses of office since his almost nine
years as president were like a "40,000-kilometre marathon".
But these days, he insists, he keeps from getting sozzled, sticking - on
doctor's orders - to a glass of wine a day.
Yeltsin: Russian Democracy Firm
Grants First Interview With Western Media Since Resignation
Praises Putin's Character, Critiques His Leadership So Far
Claims Russia Is Just As Influential As America
NEW YORK, Oct. 6, 2000
(CBS) In his first interview with Western media since resigning New Year's
Eve, a combative former Russian President Boris Yeltsin tells 60 Minutesâ€™
Mike Wallace that democracy is firmly established in the new Russia.
In the interview, which will air Sunday, Oct. 8, the 69-year-old Yeltsin also
says that Russia is not in dire economic trouble and the America is not the
He also discusses his battle with alcohol and corruption allegations against
him and his family. And he takes his successor, Vladmir Putin, to task for
mishandling the sinking of the Kursk.
Yeltsin, who became Russia's president in 1991 and survived two armed
uprisings by hardline communists, resigned suddenly Dec. 31 after suffering
several heart attacks and being hospitalized with pneumonia.
He was also the target of accusations he had accepted bribes. Putin granted
Yeltsin lifetime immunity from prosecution upon his resignation.
In the interview with Wallace, Yeltsin insisted his health had improved, that
his heart and emotional state were stable, but he did not appear well.
Yeltsin says of his battle with alcohol, saying "I did struggle. Of course I
did," but says he has reduced his drinking since his 1994 heart attack.
He says he stopped drinking heavily back in 1994 after a heart attack left
him noticeably weakened.
He admits he concealed his 1996 heart attack from the public until after the
election that year, saying, "I was confident about my health."
The former president, who estimates his net worth at $300,000, denies that he
and his family have foreign assets hidden away.
Confronted with statistics showing that the standard of living in Russia had
fallen and that suicide, crime and alcoholism were increasing, Yeltsin said,
"Your data is wrong. I don't believe your data."
Asked if he believed democracy was firmly established in the new Russia,
Yeltsin answered, "Firmly."
He also feels Russia's position in world affairs is rock solid.
"America has not become more influential than Russia. It has not," the former
"We have tennis players who knock out American tennis players," he said. "We
have female volleyball players who knocked out the American team in straight
sets. We have a very high culture - superior to America's."
Yeltsin said that Putin, who served as Yeltsin's prime minister in the last
months of his presidency, "is a profound person, a bright personality- very
goal-oriented. Once he makes a decision, he'll follow it through."
But Yeltsin admitted than he had to talk to Putin four times to coax him into
accepting the presidency. And he said that Putin "isn't decisive enough yet
so he needs a couple of years to develop as a leader, for example, in foreign
Yeltsin also criticized Putin's handling of the sinking of the submarine
Kursk in August with 118 sailors aboard. Putin was sharply criticized for
remaining on vacation at a Black Sea resort while the rescue operation was
"He made a mistake," Yeltsin said. "He had to be there, or at least in Moscow
at that moment."
Putin has also been criticized for jailing media tycoon Vladmir Gusinsky,
whose media outlet shad criticized the government, and for hinting at
restricting the press.
Yeltsin said part of the advice he gave Putin was "the media must be
respected. Its freedom must be defended."
Rarely seen in public since his resignation, Yeltsin has spent most his time
at his dacha outside Moscow working on his memoirs. Former premier Mikhail
Gorbachev, Yeltsin's predecessor, lives nearby, but he and Yeltsin have not
met for years. Yeltsin would not elaborate on the reasons.
Lost In Translation
60 Minutes' Mike Wallace, known for his tough interviewing style, drew a
sharp rebute from Boris Yeltsin - thanks to a translator's error.
The confusion arose when Wallace asked Yeltsin if he had a "thin skin" when
it came to public criticism, but the translation had Wallace describing
Yeltsin as a "thick-skinned hippopotamus."
Yeltsin was not amused.
"An experienced journalist like yourself," Yeltsin said, "should express
himself in a more civilized fashion. But this may be the translator's fault,
and if so, he is the hippopotamus!"
October 16, 2000
In a new memoir, Yeltsin traces his last years in office—and his selection
By Andrew Nagorski
In June 1996, before the second round of Russia’s presidential
elections, Boris Yeltsin suffered a major heart attack. Alarmed that
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov could win the runoff if word got
out, the Yeltsin team orchestrated a cover-up.
THE RUSSIAN MEDIA PRETENDED not to notice Yeltsin’s sudden
disappearance, and TV stations reran old or carefully taped clips that
conveyed the impression nothing was amiss; foreign news reports to the
contrary were ignored. Those tactics proved highly effective. On Election
Day, when I asked voters leaving the polling stations whether they had
heard that something was wrong with Yeltsin again, they expressed surprise.
“It didn’t cross my mind that he is sick at all, and I’m a doctor so I’m
trained to see those things,” Galina Bogolepova told me.
In Yeltsin’s case, what you see isn’t always what you get. According to
“Midnight Diaries” (398 pages. Public Affairs. $26), his just-released
autobiography covering the period from his re-election to his resignation
on New Year’s Eve, 1999, the man who claims credit for the birth of Russian
democracy argues that such deception was absolutely necessary. To do
otherwise, he writes, would have led to “a far worse evil”—the election of
Zyuganov. Even those Russian journalists who saw themselves as
representatives of a newly independent press agreed: a triumphant Zyuganov,
an unabashed apologist for the old Soviet system, would have meant the end
of any hope for a free press in Russia. Not for the first time, and not for
the last, Yeltsin and his supporters were convinced that, in the name of
defending their version of democracy, the ends justified the means—almost
any means. That’s the underlying, if often unstated, assumption of this
latest volume of Yeltsin’s autobiography, and it goes a long way toward
explaining his selection of Vladimir Putin, a product of the dreaded KGB,
as his successor. It also goes a long way toward explaining why “Russian
democracy” is still a term that begs the question: how much is Russian and
how much is democracy?
The Final Days
“Midnight Diaries” makes for an engaging, entertaining read. It’s
genuinely revealing, as much as for what it inadvertently demonstrates and
deliberately omits or distorts as for what it explicitly says. Yeltsin, of
course, presents himself as a masterful political chess player who outwits
and surprises his opponents again and again. The fact that the Russian
landscape is littered with his vanquished enemies and discarded allies
appears to support his argument. He also portrays himself as always
committed to the overarching goal of transforming Russia into a modern
democratic country, whatever the setbacks. That’s a far more contentious
In discussing his selection of Putin, Yeltsin does little to reassure
those who question how democratic his own instincts really are. He writes
of his fascination with generals, including his disillusionment with the
uncontrollable Aleksandr Lebed. In Yeltsin’s eyes, the greatest sin of the
Army general with presidential ambitions was that he proved to be a weak
politician. “I was waiting for a new general to appear, unlike any other,”
he writes. As he hired and then fired successive prime ministers, he kept
looking for a leader who would be a worthy successor. Along came Putin,
“who combined both an enormous dedication to democracy and market reforms
and an unwavering patriotism,” he says. “He was the man of my hopes.”
Why should Russians applaud a man who grew up in the KGB and then
headed its successor agency, the FSB? “The public was ready to accept a new
figure, a figure who was tough and willful. Despite the complete shake-up
of the political establishment, people were ready to trust Putin,” Yeltsin
argues. In other words, Putin is his general on a white horse—named as
prime minister to position him as his heir apparent. Yeltsin gloats that
“no one could attack the new prime minister. This was especially true in
the case of Putin, who had recently been head of the FSB.” Any doubt about
what he means is dispelled by a remark about Putin’s record in that job.
“Putin did not leave a single radical group in Moscow in peace,” he writes
approvingly. “All of them began to complain in the press that the era of
the police state had come to the capital.”
The reader is supposed to take on faith that Putin—like Yeltsin—employs
tough methods to achieve noble goals. Similarly, Yeltsin apparently
believes that it’s enough to brand as “paid-for propaganda” by his enemies
the accusation that he, his family and his immediate entourage were guilty
of widespread corruption. (To counter those charges, he claims the money in
his bank account equals $383,000, mostly from book royalties, and he lists
his possessions from a 1995 BMW to his tennis racquets.) He acknowledges he
personally received immunity, but denies that any of his aides or family
members received the same treatment.
According to Yeltsin’s account, he kept his wife, Naina, and the rest
of his family in the dark about his political machinations. That is, except
for his daughter Tanya, who became a key adviser during the 1996 campaign.
He didn’t tell Naina about his resignation plans until the morning of the
day of the announcement, and even then only when he was on his way out the
door. “Naina, I’ve made a decision,” he told her. “I’m retiring. My
televised address is this afternoon. Be sure to watch TV.” Her response:
“How wonderful! Finally!”
Many of his countrymen felt the same relief, but for different reasons.
Politics aside, they were weary of a president who was constantly in and
out of the hospital, and whose love of the bottle was legendary. Yeltsin
argues this was a vast exaggeration. While conceding that “alcohol was the
only quick means to get rid of stress,” he claims that he viewed the
Russian habit of downing toasts at every occasion “as a tiresome
obligation, and I couldn’t bear to put up with drunks.” Since his heart
operation in late 1996, he insists, he has followed doctor’s orders not to
drink more than a glass of wine a day. Believe that or not, just like
Yeltsin’s amusing claim that Russian intelligence had scored a coup before
anyone had heard of Monica Lewinsky. A coded report to Yeltsin predicted
that the Republicans, embittered by their political defeats, were planning
to exploit Clinton’s “predilection for beautiful young women.” They’d plant
a “provocateur” in his entourage. Yeltsin asserts he nearly handed the
report to Clinton, but then decided “not to traumatize the man.”
Put as delicately as possible, Yeltsin has a credibility problem. At
times, he openly admits that he was willing to promise anything if it
achieved his short-term goals. During a coal miners’ strike, a top official
raced from one coal district to another, “signing agreements almost without
looking at them.” At other occasions, it’s what Yeltsin doesn’t say that is
revealing. He mentions how his political opponents tried to exploit the
detention of two of his campaign workers who were caught carrying $50,000
in cash in a cardboard box, but never provides any explanation why his men
were transporting that kind of cash in the first place. Returning to
Putin’s meteoric rise, Yeltsin angrily rebukes the cynics who believe the
new man launched a new war in Chechnya to ensure himself popular backing.
Putin, Yeltsin writes, “didn’t expect his political career to last beyond
the Chechen events.” But by Yeltsin’s own account, he had already told
Putin before then that he was grooming him for the top job.
Yeltsin is one of the historical giants of the last century. He
deserves full credit for his decision to turn against the Communist Party,
and for engineering the dismantling of the Soviet Union. But he ruled the
country in a manner that hardly encouraged the development of strong
democratic institutions: he shelled Parliament when defiant legislators
refused to heed his calls for their dismissal; he preferred to rule by
decrees than by laws; his economic reforms often contained more shock than
therapy, and were marred by wholesale corruption; and, in his final
maneuver, he succeeded in springing Putin on a weak, demoralized country.
It’s a country that is far from a full democracy yet, but has traveled a
long way from its totalitarian origins. Compared with what Russia was, this
is a huge step forward. Compared with what Russia could be, there’s still a
long, long way to go. Yeltsin wants to convince us that Russia is now in
safe hands, his kind of hands—just steadier. Unfortunately, “Midnight
Diaries” is more troubling than reassuring on that score.
CHECHEN REFUGEES WRITE LETTER TO RUSSIA'S PUTIN
Text of report by Russian NTV on 9th October
[Presenter] The Karabulak camp, one of the largest refugee camps in
Ingushetia, is getting ready for winter. Humanitarian aid gets there almost
every day but migrants say that it is not enough. Ilya Kostin reports.
[Correspondent] The heating will be switched on in a week but it has been
clear that there is not enough time to supply gas to every tent. For the time
being the camp has been announced a closed zone. Migrants from Chechnya
arrive here with their own tents but the [camp's] administration refuses to
take them. Bread and hot meals are distributed in accordance with the lists
only. All residents of the camp have special cards that state the number of
the tent, the number of residents in it and the date when they received a
[Yakhya Kitiyev, captioned as Karabulak commandant] The main thing for us now
is to replace the tents, get mattresses and blankets.
[Correspondent] To get ready for the winter?
[Kitiyev] Yes. They promise us all this but we have not seen any tents yet.
[Correspondent] Zoya Zalayeva was among the first to come to Ingushetia. When
her tent was put up in an open field she could not have thought that she
would stay here for so long. Now she says that the migrants should either be
helped to survive the winter or sent back home to Chechnya.
[Zalayeva uncaptioned] Children are hungry and cold, have neither blankets
nor beds. You see these tents, it is not warm inside, there is no gas here.
It is impossible to live like this.
[Correspondent] Humanitarian aid is being brought to the camp almost every
day. Today soap, detergent, bed sheets and medicines are being distributed
here. This was the 100th convoy sent by the UNHCR office since the start of
the second Chechen campaign. People are grateful for help but it is not
enough for a normal life.
All the camp residents got together to write a letter to [Russian President]
Vladimir Putin. The result is very impressive: in the several pages long
letter the migrants ask Putin to stop the war, open humanitarian corridors
for them and even invite him to come for a visit.
[Video shows the camp, its residents and the letter to Putin]
Source: NTV, Moscow, in Russian 0300 gmt 09 Oct 00
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
"A RATING OF HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT"
State Duma deputy Vladimir RYZHKOV warns that a regime,
which is not controlled by society, can become dangerous to the
President. Ryzhkov is interviewed by Vek's Larisa AIDINOVA.
QUESTION: October 7th is the President's birthday. Do you
think that Putin can be pleased with his actions in the past
six months since he was elected President?
ANSWER: I think the fates have been quite generous to
Vladimir Putin. The winds have been blowing his way and he has
thus far steered the ship of Presidency, avoiding reefs and
shallows and sustaining no visible losses.
Just judge for yourself. The beginning of his Presidency
coincided with a fantastic growth of oil prices, a huge budget
surplus, a solid positive foreign trade balance, a more than
two-fold increase of the country's gold and currency reserves,
low inflation and a stable ruble. Pensions and wages are paid
on a regular basis. The government is working and the State
Duma supports practically all of its initiatives. All admit
that Putin's debut on the international scene was a success.
So, the President can celebrate his birthday in high spirits.
On the other hand, a more profound analysis of the
situation reveals some circumstances which to a considerable
degree tarnish the picture which seems to please the eye.
The issue at hand is Chechnya, first and foremost. Despite
all of the efforts by the President and the military, we are
unable to assert political and social peace in that republic.
Second. The submarine Kursk tragedy has shown that crying
problems have accumulated in the army and its industrial
infrastructure in the past few years.
The global community still does not trust Russia. The
liberal programs it declared have not led to the growth of
investment, and the world financial and economic community
continues to adhere to a wait-and-see position.
Nonetheless, Putin has vast possibilities. He commands an
unprecedented support of the voters (65%, according to all
opinion polls) and every step he makes meets with approval. He
practically has no opposition now. The question is how he will
use all this wealth.
The majority of Russians trust him as they would trust
either a "good" czar who replaced a "bad" one or as a
proverbial warrior who will miraculously solve all the problems
and put an end to all suffering and injustices. But for how
QUESTION: Do you want to say that Russians have a blind
trust in Putin as if he personally did not take any credit for
ANSWER: Of course not. The President is really very active
and works hard. The young, vigorous and competent Putin is
Boris Yeltsin's antipode. However, I should recall for
justice's sake that regular wage payments began under
Primakov's and then Stepashin's governments and the first
realist budget was adopted and fulfilled not in 2000 but in
1999. As for trust, it is true that a considerable part of
Russians really trust a Putin whom they invented and who is
living in their imagination.
Professional social scientists and analysts are unusually
unanimous in this context, calling Putin's approval rating
largely a rating of hope and encouragement.
Last spring I criticized Putin's "reform of power" not
because I am an opponent of an integral realm of uniform norms
and laws. I am afraid that as a result of these and other steps
the President's authority will turn into an unlimited one-man
power and, having sooner or later lost popular support, it will
become weak, unpredictable and dangerous to society and the
President himself. This has happened more than once in our
QUESTION: Don't you think that the second Russian
President only wants to get rid of the legacy left him by the
ANSWER: It is impossible either to renew or change the
elite in one go. Even Bolsheviks understood this in 1917. I do
not like our elite, either, regarding it in many respects
cynical, covetous, mercenary and lacking any values and
religious feelings, among other things. But it is what it is.
If Putin intends to change it completely, this is a false and
The defeat he can sustain in this battle will be very painful
for the country. He should search for a healthy and progressive
core in the elite and the people alike and rely on it.
QUESTION: How justified are, in your opinion, the
apprehensions that a so-called governed democracy, or
authoritarianism, is already been asserted in Russia?
ANSWER: Such a danger is quite real, first, because some
steps have already been made in this direction and, second,
because society does not put up any resistance.
ANSWER: This question should be addressed to deputies,
parties, politicians and businessmen. But the reason most
likely lies in the fact that the Establishment, as ever, can
break anyone who disagrees with it. Repressive authorities,
public prosecutors' offices and secret services once again
begin to be used in political struggle. Many of those who
express their own point of view, which differs from the
position of the authorities, are simply afraid to lose their
business or find themselves behind bars.
QUESTION: The President wants to build a great power and
feed the people, too...
ANSWER: And in so doing he sometimes makes steps, which,
in my opinion, exclude one another. This means that his
strategy has not been completely formulated yet. I would like
to see him eventually choose modern democracy and priorities of
education and the cultural and social sphere, restrict power
and administrative arbitrariness and strengthened the courts.
Otherwise, he will have to start everything from the beginning
again in some time.