This Date's Issues: 4578 •
Johnson's Russia List
14 October 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Baltimore Sun: Kathy Lally, Maverick Russian judge ousted for
'independence.' Willing to buck system, even acquit defendants;
Reformer says he'll appeal; Firing shows resurgence of intolerance
2. Edward Lucas: Lieven/4546. (Re journalists, Russia and Chechnya)
3. Yasushi Toda: Nezavisimaya gazeta poll re Nobel prize.
4. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, NGOs Just Beginning To Take Root.
5. Moscow Times: Peter Ekman, Pseudo-Banks Must Go Way Of All Flesh.
6. gazeta.ru: Putin Favours Return to Soviet Anthem.
7. The Times (UK): Alice Lagnado, Belarus protests take their cue
8. AFP: Prosecutors admit they faked murder to incriminate
9. BBC MONITORING: Russian paper says draft law on regional leaders
written for Tatar president.
10. AFP: US plays down Russian flouting of agreement on Iran arms
11. The Global Beat Syndicate: Tatiana Zaretskaya, Controls by the
Kremlin Diminish Democracy.
12. Reuters: No radioactive threat from Russia's
October 14, 2000
Maverick Russian judge ousted for 'independence'
Willing to buck system, even acquit defendants; Reformer says he'll appeal;
Firing shows resurgence of intolerance for dissent
By Kathy Lally
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW - Judge Sergei A. Pashin regularly infuriated his colleagues,
acquitting defendants, speaking out against corruption, criticizing police
brutality. Finally, he made a fatal mistake. He dared to reveal his office
phone number on a radio program.
That - and having the temerity to write a critical analysis of a court case
in a nearby jurisdiction - persuaded his fellow judges to boot him off the
bench in Moscow, where he has been a loud but lonely voice for legal reform.
"They decided that giving out my phone number on the air was not behavior
befitting a judge," Pashin, 37, said yesterday. "But the real reason was my
The Moscow Qualification Collegium of Judges, Pashin said, voted 9-4 to
dismiss him this week.
"In this country," said Diederik Lohman, director of the Human Rights Watch
office in Moscow, "there's always a rule they can find to apply to people
they don't like."
Pashin's removal reflects a growing reluctance by officials to permit
dissent, said Tatyana I. Kasatkina of Memorial, another human rights
"Policy is changing for the worse, and people like Pashin have become
disagreeable and unwanted. The same thing is going on in the press and other
areas," she said.
She added that a radio program on human rights that Memorial had been
regularly preparing had been taken off the air recently.
Pashin quickly got into trouble because he refused to run his courtroom
according to Soviet-era rules. In the Soviet days, the accused was always
guilty and prosecutors, police and judges worked as a team.
"The main idea was that it was impossible for the Soviet court system to make
mistakes if it correctly followed Marxist precepts," Pashin said. "And the
system hasn't changed."
In the early 1990s, then-President Boris N. Yeltsin put Pashin at the head of
a new department to overhaul the legal system. The reformers introduced trial
by jury in nine of Russia's 89 regions beginning in 1993.
But enthusiasm for change waned in the face of police and prosecutorial
opposition. The department was disbanded, and Yeltsin appointed Pashin to the
Moscow City Court in 1996.
"He has been very principled," Lohman said. "This is a judge who actually
will acquit people. He has not only stuck to his principles in court, but he
speaks about them publicly."
Pashin knew he would have a difficult time because he was willing to
investigate when a defendant said he was beaten by police. He was willing to
acquit, doing so in one of every 10 cases even though nationally less than
one-half of 1 percent of criminal cases end in acquittal.
And he was willing to speak up and criticize when lawyers complained to him
about legal violations in other courtrooms.
When the defense asked him to critique the procedures under which a young man
in another jurisdiction was convicted of draft-dodging after he applied for
conscientious objector status, Pashin obliged.
Even though the conviction eventually was overturned and even though he
signed his analysis as a legal scholar and not as a judge, Pashin's
interference infuriated his colleagues.
"There is an unwritten code that still exists from Soviet times," Pashin
said. "Rule No. 1: Don't think. No. 2: If you think, don't speak. No. 3: If
you speak, don't write it down. No. 4: If you write it down, don't sign it.
"And if you think, speak, write it down and sign it, don't be surprised at
what happens to you."
In 1998, he was accused of violating an obscure legal procedure and was
Human rights groups protested, and the Supreme Court reinstated him.
But another judge, Vladimir Mironov, who testified on Pashin's behalf, was
soon fired - in retaliation for his testimony, his supporters said.
"It was clear then that Pashin would not hold out for long," Kasatkina said.
"This was going to happen sooner or later."
Gasan P. Mirzoyev, a lawyer and member of parliament, said Pashin obviously
was fired because of his views.
"Sergei Pashin is one of the best judges in this country," he said. "I am
very upset by this news."
Yesterday, a weary but determined Pashin said he would appeal to a higher
judicial panel, to Russia's Supreme Court and even the European Court of
Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
He would return, he said, to his spartan chambers in the Preobrazhensky
district court, across from the bus stop named True Judgment.
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2000
From: Edward Lucas <email@example.com>
Here is a rather belated response to Anatol Lieven's piece about
journalists, Russia and Chechnya, which I found both thought-provoking
and profoundly wrong-headed. I should say at the outset a) that I have
never been to Chechnya and b) that Anatol is a very old friend.
The reason I want to reply at length is that: I am one of the
journalists in Moscow who is most critical of many things about Russia;
that Anatol's essay makes a specific criticism of an article I wrote in
the Economist; and that the ideas behind Anatol's arguments are at the
heart of how the west thinks about-and I believe misunderstands--Russia.
For those who are really interested, there is a splendid debate between
Anatol and Anne Applebaum in the current edition of Prospect, on whether
it makes sense to say that Communism was as bad as Nazism (she says yes;
he says no. I agree with her).
For people who didn't read the piece, or don't remember, Anatol's
argument is roughly as follows:
1) People who term Russia a disintegrating empire should only do so if
they abstain from double standards. Western countries had empires, and
often behaved very brutally during their final years. A lot of what the
Russian military has done in Chechnya would be standard military
practice in any colonial war-and although horrible, is not necessarily a
2) The western press largely ignored the ghastly nature of pre-war
Chechnya and the security threat Islamic extremism posed and poses to
3) Western journalists are prone to facile deterministic remarks about
the Russian soul, national character, historical patterns of
behaviour-which often ignores the fact that other countries behave in
very similar ways
3) This amounts to "chauvinist bigotry" which causes western audiences
to have an unfairly negative view of Russia.
4) This is amplified by a small number of professional russophobes who
are hankering for the comfortable intellectual and emotional certainties
of the Cold War. These people exert disproportionate influence. They are
also hypocrites because they happily support China, Turkey and other
American allies who do much worse things than Russia. This may have been
justified during the cold war, but it is quite wrong now.
5) This russophobia is a throw-back to nineteenth century British
imperialism, and reflects a desperate need to find enemies somewhere.
The danger is that even where none exist, we will find them.
6) A balanced, comparative approach to Russia would result in criticism
more likely to be accepted there. Currently, they see western critics as
Here are my thoughts in response.
It is quite true, as Anatol points out, that the woolly near-pacifism of
many westerners mean that they regard any military operation as
basically a war crime, which is quite unfair. But I see a different
kind of double standards applied to Russia. We shut our eyes to gross
corruption, intimidation and vote-rigging, pretending that Russia is
basically a law-governed democracy. Then at the same time we are
shocked, shocked, when the same dishonesty and brutality is applied to
This reflects our huge desire to believe the best about Russia, (and the
fact that Russia itself encourages us to think it too). So a lot of the
time we are unreasonably tolerant. And then we become unreasonably
angry. If we want to say that Russia is not a proper democracy, nor a
modern state, but rather a disintegrated/disintegrating colonial empire
prone to acts of extreme brutality, with an ingrained misunderstanding
about the horrors of its own history, then that's fine by me. But in
that case we cannot comfortably pretend that with a bit more tweaking
Russia will be just a larger version of Poland, and is already a
reliable international partner, suitable member of the Council of
Europe, etc etc..
As far as the west's own dismal record in decolonisation is concerned: I
think we have to apply the standards of the world we live in now, to
countries that claim to want to be judged by them. I have yet to hear
Russian officials saying that they want to be judged by Chinese
standards, or by those set by the French in Algeria. Just because the
western countries were expansionist, colonial, brutal war-mongers in
living memory does not mean that no one should criticise Russia now. To
see the weakness of this argument, consider small countries. Should
Finland, which has never (sadly) had an empire, not be allowed to
criticise Russia's appalling treatment of Finno-Ugric minorities now
just because of what America did in Vietnam thirty years ago?
I don't believe that the western critics have, as Anatol believes,
utterly ignored their own countries' recent history, or any parallels
with Chechnya. I have had long discussions with Russians comparing
Tatarstan to Wales, for example, and Chechnya to Corsica, Ulster or the
Basque country. Although there are big differences, there are
similarities too. Chiefly that these places have features that are not
easy to fit into a modern democracy--but there is plenty that can be
done without resorting to artillery barrages and concentration camps. It
is not an adequate response for Russia to say "Your country did this too
once and so long as you don't allow us to do it now you are all
Russia is both an empire and a post-totalitarian state. These are not
exclusive categories. The former is a useful way of looking at questions
such Russia's relations with its fringes, ethnic minorities, the
questions of citizenship and national identity and so forth. Seeing it
as a post-totalitarian state, perhaps most easily comparable to
post-nazi Germany, also makes sense in terms of understanding the
presence or absence of historical responsibility, amnesia, guilt,
reconciliation and so forth. This is true for other countries too. In a
sense Poland and Hungary still have elements of imperial thinking in
dealing with their neighbours, compatriots "stranded" in neighbouring
countries and so on.
It is therefore quite fair to include both sets of standards when trying
to make sense of what Russia does. In the case of Chechnya, the fact
that this is a nation that Mr Putin's predecessors deported en masse
within living memory adds a specific extra dimension that is missing in,
say, the Basque country, Corsica, Northern Ireland or other lingering
post-imperial conflicts elsewhere in Europe.
"Bigotry" is a large word to throw around. I don't think that Anatol
fully establishes that criticism of Russia on the lines outlined above
amounts to irrational hatred. I agree that there are some critics of
Russia who are very one-sided, but that doesn't mean that all criticism
of Russia in itself is onesided. Ideas are not responsible for the
people who believe in them. Hitler was a vegetarian.
In particular, I strongly disagree with the idea that we can forget
Communism and treat Russia just like any other country. That would be
fair if Russia had made a clear break with its Soviet past (apologising,
restituting property, and so on). But it hasn't. Just to take one small
but revealing example: Russia now maintains that the Soviet Union
annexed the Baltic states legally and refuses to hand back pre-war
Baltic embassies in Rome and Paris. That is roughly equivalent to
post-war Germany maintaining that the Munich agreement was basically
legal. This is why I argued that it is necessary to see Russia _ both _
as a post-imperial and as a post-totalitarian state.
I also don't agree with the idea that the great menace today is
Russophobia, or anti-Russian chauvinism. I reject the idea of a
one-dimensional graph with "russophilia" (good) at one end, and
"russophobia" (bad) at the other. It is possible to like many things
about Russia, but have a profound revulsion from the lingering but all
too evident imperial and totalitarian nostalgia. I think that the rest
of the world is, if anything, rather too gullible, forgetful, tolerant
and muddled in this regard, while being unreasonably nasty on other
issues (such as visas). Anatol's hypersensitivity to "Russophobia"
reminds me a bit of anti-anti-communism. The real Russophobes (if the
term must be used) are those who don't mind the crooks and spooks in the
Kremlin keeping Russians so poor and unfree. As far as the small
minority of extreme Russophobes are concerned, it is worth remembering
that some of them ploughed a pretty lonely furrow during bits of the
Cold War, and were proved much more right than other more "mainstream"
commentators. It is also worth bearing in mind that sometimes their
views have been shaped by their own or their families' suffering at
Soviet hands. Yet nobody gets on a high horse about anti-German
chauvinism in Israel, equally regrettable though it is.
Moving on to the specific criticisms Anatol makes of the western
coverage of Chechnya. I certainly wouldn't and couldn't defend some of
the stuff he quotes. It is a very fair point to note that Turkey's
policy towards the Kurds doesn't seem to worry the American media very
much. However, there is a danger here of the "whatabout" trap, familiar
to those of us who debated with fellow-travellers and Kremlin lackeys
during the Cold War: every criticism of the evil empire was countered
with a "whatabout" (South Africa, Chile, Pakistan or wherever). Two
wrongs don't make a right. And, ultimately, faced with the miserable
choice, I think I would rather be a Kurd in Turkey than a Chechen in
Although I am certainly not an expert on the Caucasus I do not think the
coverage has been conspicuously unbalanced. The horrible conditions in
pre-war Chechnya were well-reported--although perhaps not the full
extent to which the kidnapping industry operated in conjunction with
Russian help, and the extent to which Russia connived in making the
place miserable and ungovernable. There are plenty of very serious
Russian commentators (Piontkovsky and Kagarlitsky, for example) who
regard the invasion of Dagestan and the Moscow bombings as highly
suspicious, and certainly not a clear Chechen-led Islamic assault on
Russia. So I think it is quite reasonable of the Western press not to
swallow the Kremlin line on the origins of the war without question. I
am extremely sceptical about the claims of huge concentrations of
Islamic terrorists in Chechnya, especially now. It fits the Russian
propaganda perfectly, but if there were really thousands of them, I
can't see why so few have been captured (the article I wrote which
Anatol found so discreditable was based on an interview with Sergei
Yastrzembsky in which he somewhat grudgingly admitted that the total
number of foreign mercenaries captured during the war was....four)
I am also very distrustful of the two Chechen websites that Anatol cites
as evidence of Islamic insurrectionary sentiment (although I did myself
quote one particularly lurid bit of Jihad-speak in the Economist, to
show what the Russians feel they are up against). They make for lively
reading but I don't think it is at all clear that they are a definitive
source on who is fighting where. There is plenty of reason for people on
both sides to be hyping the mujahedin involvement in the war.
In short, I don't think that the western coverage of the war has been as
bad as Anatol makes out. I don't think that the debate is skewed by a
bunch of influential crackpot Russophobes. I do think it makes a lot of
sense to bear in mind Russia's dreadful history, and to suggest that
some bits of it seem to recur. I do think that the west is muddled in
its thinking towards Russia, but not in that it applies unreasonably
harsh double standards-if anything it is rather too soft on some things.
But then I would say that, wouldn't I?
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2000
From: Yasushi Toda <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Nezavisimaya gazeta
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta has started a poll, asking "In your view were the
Russian and Soviet scholars discriminated in the selection of Nobel
prizes?" The readers are given three choices: Yes, No, Not only were the
scholars, but the writers were also discriminated. So far 340 ballots have
seen sent in. 177 (52.1%) say "yes", 88 (25.9%) say "No", and 75 (22.1%)
say "Not only were the scholars, but the writers were also discriminated."
Probably esteem for the Nobel Committee is lower in Russia than in any
other countries, as I have no particular reason to doubt that the readers
of this newspaper are very different from average Russians.
Russia: NGOs Just Beginning To Take Root
By Sophie Lambroschini
Many Russian non-governmental organizations say that getting ordinary
citizens and businessmen to participate in building a civic society remains a
difficult task. RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Sophie Lambroschini reports on a
conference of more than 280 NGOs that is discussing ways of developing a
greater role for themselves in Russia today.
Moscow, 13 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The first-ever conference of
non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, in Russia has attracted some 280
groups from more than 60 of Russia's regions. Meeting through tomorrow near
Moscow, they are discussing ways of increasing their role in Russian society.
Many admit that it won't be easy. They note that, traditionally, the Russian
state has adopted a top-to-bottom policy toward its own society. That's the
very opposite of the grass-root democracy, communal identity and feeling of
belonging to a civic society represented by NGOs.
The conference -- organized by Britain's Charities Aid Foundation and
financed by foreign as well as Russian sources -- is made up of NGOs that
support everything from an antique doll museum through private farmers and
theater groups to helping disabled adults.
While they have grown in numbers in recent years, Russian NGOs are still
largely outside of mainstream society. One reason is that they suffer from
the suspicion of criminal association because many non-commercial
organizations are regularly set up and exploited by corrupt businessmen and
politicians to siphon off -- or launder-- money. That makes it difficult for
legitimate NGOs to raise funds.
Another, perhaps even more important reason is that most Russians still don't
understand the role that the non-governmental sector should play. Olga
Alekseyeva, a Charities Aid Foundation representative, says that NGOs are not
what she calls "a surrogate for the state," but rather a sector of their own
where citizens can work for their common interests. Alekseyeva strongly
criticizes Russian society's paternalism.
"[Russia's] social policy is made according to the logic that the 'state
knows best' how to help the population. The population is [seen] as little
lambs that constantly need to be saved."
Russian NGOs complain that state policy leaves them little space for action.
One of their major priorities is the development of philanthropy both on a
federal and local level. But they admit they have little general support and
that the habit of philanthropy is developing slowly in Russia.
Vera Barova, head of one of Russia's first community funds -- which collects
money exclusively from Russian businesses to support community initiatives --
explains the problems she was confronted with at first in her Siberian
hometown of Tyumen.
"Unfortunately, the idea of private funding is discredited in Russia. So when
people asked us, 'whose fund are you,' we answered that we are the whole
community's fund and that we don't belong to any particular businessman or
authority, [But they] were very doubtful."
But now, eight local businessmen have become major donors. One grant
recipient this year is a local initiative seeking to promote the Russian
tradition of dipping in icy rivers in winter by building a heated changing
room near the swimming spot to encourage newcomers.
According to Barova, Russian rather than foreign grants are preferable
because they build a sense of belonging and responsibility among citizens.
She says that, by participating in communal projects, the citizens of Tyumen
and its businessmen have joined together -- thereby breaking down the walls
of Russia's traditionally fragmented society.
But if Russian NGOs rarely lack good ideas or dedication, they often don't
know how to go about raising money. That's where organizations like Anna
Delova's NGO Support Center in Volgograd comes in. At first, the center
offered NGOs advice on taxes and grant applications, but now it's trying, in
Delova's words, "to develop a public-relations strategy to get people to
Delova says that she is trying to resuscitate the idea of fund-raising among
ordinary citizens. That was a resource rejected initially by most NGOs
because of the stereotyped notion that Russians -- marked by 70 years of
communists rule in which charities were non-existent -- "don't give."
Delova challenges that view. She says that Russians give to streets beggars
all the time and that "people will give to charities, if we find the right
approach." Her organization raises funds to help young cancer patients
through charity boxes in shops, ready-made bank transfer orders, and local
television ads that brought in more than $1,000 (about 30,000 rubles) in five
The strategy was based on the idea, new to most Russian NGOs, that a
potential donor must be approached as a commercial company would approach a
potential client. Incentive and transparency are key parts of the strategy.
"We invited people to visit office of the charity Children in Need. We
invited them to the hospital, where they can also give money. We explained
that by contributing 10 rubles, it would cover the cost of nine syringes for
a sick child. No one realizes that, and so in our campaign it was important
to show that even 10 rubles are important and can play a role."
Some big Russian companies, often branded as greedy capitalists, have tried
to improve their image through philanthropy. Vladimir Potanin, head of
Interros, set up a fund for gifted children. He also donates to charities by
doubling the sum contributed by his own employees. Companies can deduct from
their taxes charitable contributions of up to 3 per cent of their profits,
while individuals can write off most charitable contributions as non-taxable.
October 13, 2000
NOTES OF AN IDLER: TWO KOPEKS WORTH: Pseudo-Banks Must Go Way Of All Flesh
By Peter Ekman
The economic policy of President Vladimir Putin's administration has gotten
off to a roaring start. First steps that would have been considered
revolutionary under Boris Yeltsin have been taken in several important areas.
Tax reform has been passed into law but will not take effect until January. A
balanced budget has passed the first of three required votes in the State
Duma. One honest privatization sale f that of Onako f has occurred, following
thousands of dishonest sales under Yeltsin. Three oil fields have been
declared eligible for production sharing agreements, and investment may start
pouring in from foreign oil companies once these agreements are actually
signed. In almost all key areas, new economic policies are in place waiting
When the budget is finally passed, expect to see changes in the final piece
of the economic policy puzzle: the banking system. There currently is no
banking system. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov surprised few bankers last
month when he announced that there have never been any real banks in this
country. This admission implies that the government has decided to create a
banking system; a modern economy can't survive without banks.
Banks do three things for an economy. They take deposits from savers, giving
people security that their hard work will be rewarded by future spending.
Banks lend this money to companies so they can increase production. Finally,
banks transfer money, making transactions possible.
The nation's so-called banks f call them pseudo-banks f transfer money fairly
well for corporations. But an individual will find it difficult to pay
someone $100 across the country at a reasonable cost. Low-cost money
transfers for individuals are necessary for many sectors of the economy,
including e-commerce and mutual funds.
Most pseudo-banks do not seek retail deposits. This is just as well, since
they rarely pay them back. Pseudo-bankers have relied on deposits from
federal and local governments, which are typically mishandled. The treasury
department should do away with many of these abuses, which should kill many
pseudo-banks. Sberbank, majority-owned by the Central Bank, has a near
monopoly on retail deposits but has not distinguished itself in lending to
productive businesses. The problem with a government-owned bank is that its
decisions are ultimately controlled by politicians, not effective
Lending has been the major failure of pseudo-banks. Productive businesses
have been unable to get loans; insiders have been the only borrowers, and
their unproductive investments haven't allowed them to repay. The
pseudo-banking system has been a political playground where the
well-connected get government money, spread it around to friends f then don't
repay. Since the problem is political, the solution must also be political.
As a first step, those who have been most responsible for the way the system
has been run, such as Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko, should be
The new banking system needs to be started from scratch. It is no wonder that
the Putin administration has put off implementing this final part of its
economic policy; the political cost will be very high. But not doing so will
condemn the economy to third-world status for years to come.
Peter Ekman is a financial educator based in Moscow. He welcomes e-mail at
October 13, 2000
Putin Favours Return to Soviet Anthem
The State Council’s first sitting is due to be held on November 22. At the
first gathering, members of the newly formed presidential advisory body are
to review the so-called strategy for development of the state and Russia’s
At Thursday’s meeting of the State Council presidium, the 7 regional
governors who form the presidium set the agenda for the Council’s first
It also emerged that no presidium members had objections to the idea of
replacing Glinka’s Patriotic Song, the current national anthem of Russia,
with the unforgettable Soviet-era anthem. Obviously the text would be
The presidium meeting lasted much longer than planned. “The main thing is
that everybody is encouraged to say what they think on key issues. That is
why we are not able to observe the time-limit,” said Tatarstan’s president
Mintimer Shaimiyev. The meeting lasted more than two hours.
Apparently the governors are no longer perturbed by the fact that the State
Council is basically an advisory body without any real powers. After the
meeting was adjourned, all the presidium members told the press that
Vladimir Putin encouraged everyone to express their views on the issues he
The first thing the president told the governors at Thursday’s State
Council presidium session was that the former Soviet states are Russia’s
closest allies and that the events in Central Asia and on the CIS’ southern
frontiers require special attention.
Then the heads of the presidium’s so-called working groups reported to the
president about the groups’ activities.
After the meeting the governors disclosed that only the most vitally
important issues, such as the nation’s development strategy for the next
eight years (governors are convinced Vladimir Putin will rule the state for
two successive terms), and the national insignia and the national anthem in
particular were discussed.
Khabarovsk Region governor Viktor Ishayev delivered a report on the
nation’s development strategy.
Tatarstans’ Mintimer Shaimiyev also expressed concern over the future
development of the country. The Tatar president believes that the new model
for ‘vertical power’ does not provide for the precise demarcation of
jurisdiction between federal and local authorities.
Shaimiyev heads the working group in charge of preparing proposals on that
very issue and Kremlin officials even joke that the Tatar leader will have
enough work to keep him busy for the all the years of his third
As for the state insignia, the State Council presidium intends to put
forward several proposals concerning the future national anthem. Currently
Glinka’s Patriotic Song melody is the national anthem.
Tyumen governor Leonid Roketsky proposed holding a referendum on the issue.
However, his colleagues persuaded him that it would be a very costly
process. Speaking on the NTV private TV network, Mr. Roketsky said that
during the session a suggestion was made to adopt the tsarist Russian
national anthem but it was not taken seriously.
The first session of the State Council is to decide which anthem would
sound preferable and easier to sing; the former Soviet-era anthem with new
lyrics (it seems that president Putin has nothing against the idea) or,
maybe, some other Soviet-era patriotic song like Shiroka Strana Moya
Rodnaya (Wide is My Native Land), a popular song of the Stalinist era.
The work group in charge of elaborating proposals on state insignia is
headed by St.Petersburg governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Members of Yakovlev’s
group also are also working on proposals concerning the status of the State
The Kremlin’s and governors’ positions on the State Council’s political
status differ somewhat. The governors are still hoping that the Council
will be endowed with constitutional status.
So far the president has displayed a very earnest attitude towards the
State Council and it seems the governors have taken a like to their new
occupation and regular chats with the head of state.
For instance, Kommersant Daily quoted the governor of the Tomsk Region
Viktor Kress as saying: “I come to Moscow for those sittings (of the
presidium) with ever growing joy, for I see that our work can be of real
benefit to society and to the nation.”
The Times (UK)
OCTOBER 14 2000
Belarus protests take their cue from Belgrade
FROM ALICE LAGNADO IN MINSK
PRESIDENT Lukashenko, Europe's last remaining hardline communist strongman
since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, faces mass protests today by
activists inspired by the collapse of the Belgrade regime.
Tens of thousands of Belarussians will march through Minsk in protest at
parliamentary elections on Sunday, which the opposition is boycotting in
Mr Lukashenko and his loyal MPs have only about 30 per cent of Belarussian
support, according to independent surveys, but opposition candidates are
banned from running in the election and have no access to state television or
"There will be a reaction to events in Yugoslavia. Liberal-minded people have
been inspired," Yuri Khodyko, deputy chairman of the Belarussian Popular
Front, the biggest opposition party, said.
Mr Lukashenko, 46, an admirer of Mr Milosevic, refuses to listen to his
critics' complaints. His suppression of the free press, the deployment of
truncheon-wielding police against demonstrators and the disappearance of five
opposition politicians have drawn comparisons with Mr Milosevic. Yet he is
under little pressure to change.
Moscow has not condemned the election and European governments have
effectively endorsed it by sending a "technical assistance" mission to
observe election conditions.
Even the President's most hardened critics say that President Putin of Russia
has also been accused of election fraud, silencing the free press and
violating human rights.
Viktor Ivashkevich, editor of The Worker, an independent newspaper, said:
"This is a police state. Why is Lukashenko worse than Putin?"
Prosecutors admit they faked murder to incriminate "Aluminum baron"
MOSCOW, Oct 13 (AFP) -
Russian prosecutors tacitly admitted Friday they had faked the murder of a
Siberian underworld figure to incriminate suspected crime boss Anatoly Bykov,
once known as Russia's "aluminum baron."
Deputy prosecutor for the northwestern Moscow region, Sergei Lapin, said that
the arrest of Bykov on suspicion of ordering the killing had been carried out
"in a well-planned operation," cited by Interfax news agency.
Pavel Struganov, suspected of being a leading figure in Krasnoyarsk criminal
circles and nicknamed "Pasha the strobelight," was pronounced dead along with
another man on September 29 after an apparent hired killing in central Moscow.
But the prosecutor conceded that the two men were infact still alive,
although saying they had charged Bykov Friday with ordering a contract murder.
Bykov's lawyer Genrikh Padva insisted his client had been framed: "It's all
nonsense, a set-up," he told NTV television.
The shadowy business figure has been detained in Moscow's Lefortovo prison
since he was arrested on October 4 in Krasnoyarsk.
Bykov had been released on August 24 from prison, where he was being held in
preventive detention pending hearings on other criminal charges against him.
He was extradited in April from Hungary, where he had asked for political
Nicknamed the "aluminum baron" during the time he was in charge of
Krasnoyarsk's large aluminum factory, Bykov is accused of several crimes,
including fraud, money laundering and being implicated in another murder.
Struganov was a close associate of Bykov, but had sparked a feud by demanding
that he hand over control of their business interests, Kommersant business
Bykov hired a killer, Alexander Vasilenko, to eliminate his rival but the
hired gun spilled the beans to the Russian FSB intelligence agency, according
to the respected newspaper.
After the authorities announced the murders, the contract killer went to
Krasnoyarsk on October 3 to report his successful mission wired up with
recording devices, and a day later the police swooped on Bykov, said
Several hundred killings are reported each year in Russia, many connected to
business circles. About one third of the murders are solved.
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo expressed concern last month
about the growth of criminal activity in Russia and acknowledged an increase
in the number of contract killings in the country.
Russian paper says draft law on regional leaders written for Tatar president
Text of report by Russian newspaper 'Kommersant' on 12th October
Who is the most influential person in our country? The president of Russia,
of course, who sits at the apex of the vertical axis of power. The rest, even
very important bosses and oligarchs, are by comparison blustering
pip-squeaks. But, it transpires, there is one person who approaches the
president of Russia in terms of influence. For him alone the Kremlin is ready
to rewrite federal legislation.
Mintimir Shaymiyev has already been president of Tatarstan for two
consecutive terms. His second presidential term expires at the end of next
March, but he wants to stay head of Tatarstan for longer and has already
decided to run for office again. Local legislation does not prevent his doing
so. Federal legislation, on the other hand, categorically forbids it. But
Shaymiyev has already decided everything for himself.
On the other hand, you have President Putin. He began his rule in an upbeat
way with ringing speeches about "strengthening the vertical axis of power",
"the equality of all before the law", and all the regions being required to
obey federal legislation. But here you have Shaymiyev - with his doggedness.
And what can you do?
The Kremlin to date has been unable to do anything with Shaymiyev, which
officials from the presidential staff unofficially admit. And, in addition,
Shaymiyev is what is needed: He is able to "contain" the situation in that
difficult region, they have worked well with him in Moscow, they know what to
expect of him. But, after all, the uncompromising "dictatorship of law" has
been declared to the whole world!
If you do not have what it takes to force Shaymiyev to carry out federal
legislation, you simply need to rewrite this federal law - now to suit
Shaymiyev - and you can then declare the dictatorship of a quite different
law. And the [presidential] staff have now concocted a little amendment to
the law which forbids you to be head of a region for more than two
consecutive terms. Terms can be calculated in different ways. In fact there
is only one way. But if you agree that we start counting only from the day
when the pernicious law was enacted, that is to say, 19 October 1999? Then it
is splendid. It now turns out that it is only the first term that is coming
to an end.
The relevant draft law has already been submitted to the Duma on behalf of a
group of deputies. It will most likely appear on the agenda for a session of
the lower chamber in approximately a month's time.
Will it be adopted by the deputies or not? At present the chances, in the
opinion of the majority of respondents, are 50:50.
Given that the signatories to the law include a deputy from Tatarstan, a
deputy from Bashkortostan, a deputy from Unity, and one from Fatherland-All
Russia [FAR], it may be supposed that elected representatives who got into
the Duma thanks to the patronage of their regional bosses, who have an
interest in the adoption of this law, will support it. As will the FAR
faction (let us remember that Shaymiyev is one of the organizers of the
election bloc of the same name). Pro-Kremlin Unity will also vote for it. If
Unity is in favour of it, then the People's Deputy group, which is just as
firmly attached to the Kremlin, will have no option either. The Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia usually votes against the making of any
concessions to regional bosses, but if the presidential staff wants it,
[Vladimir] Volfovich [Zhirinovskiy] and his cohort will vote as required. The
Union of Right Forces and Yabloko will most likely figure among the opponents
of the draft law. "If we now make concessions to the heads of the regions on
this question, will we not then make concessions to the head of state?" -
several representatives of these factions say. The Communists' personal
relations with Shaymiyev are very difficult. They hold an enormous grudge
against Shaymiyev for the sleight of hand which was practised, in their
opinion, during the counting of the votes in the parliamentary and
Incidentally, Shaymiyev has more than 20 governors and presidents of national
republics "in his train". It is because the Kremlin cannot get the better of
Shaymiyev that they, too, should they desire, will be able to run for a third
These include quite a lot of people whom the Kremlin has no wish at all to
see as head of a republic or Region for a third time. For example, [Ruslan]
Aushev, the head of Ingushetia; [Nikolay] Fedorov, the president of
Chuvashia; [Kirsan] Ilyumzhinov, the "chief Kalmyk"; and Yegor Stroyev, the
leader of "all the senators". And another "oriental lion" - [President of
Bashkortostan] Murtaz Rakhimov - is also watching the Tatar ups and downs
with curiosity. Although he recently stated that he would not run for a third
term, he could still change his mind by the summer of 2003. The more minor
heads are not averse to taking the risk either. For example, Komi Republic
President Yuriy Spiridonov has hinted that he wants to remain in office.
Karbarda-Balkar head Valeriy Kokov will not let the opportunity slip either.
And the ball is now rolling. And there is yet another row of people standing
behind: The 17 people who have just been elected for a second term. How are
they worse? And we will see no new officials until 2008.
US plays down Russian flouting of agreement on Iran arms sales
WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (AFP) -
The United States on Friday played down Russia's violations of a 1995 pact on
ending arms sales to Iran, saying the intent of the agreement had been met.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the aide-memoire -- signed by
Vice President Al Gore and then-Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin --
had been effective, rejecting implications to the contrary contained in a
report in Friday's New York Times.
"The aide-memoire that was signed by (Gore) and the Russian prime minister
was clearly in America's national security interest," Boucher told reporters.
He allowed that Russia was not in compliance with the deal because it had
continued to deliver certain weaponry to Iran past an agreed December 31,
1999 cut-off date, but noted that Moscow had kept a pledge not to sign any
new arms sales contracts with Tehran.
"They're continuing the delivery of the weapons covered under the
aide-memoire," Boucher said.
"But the operative thing is that ... they haven't signed new contracts and
they haven't sold weapons that might be sanctionable ... and we're all safer
because we've done this aide-memoire because we've managed to curb the sales
of weapons to Iran," Boucher said.
The agreement allowed Russia to complete existing sales contracts with Iran
for specific weapons, including a submarine and hundreds of tanks, by the
In exchange, the United States promised not to seek sanctions against Russia
under a 1992 law which punishes countries that sell advanced weaponry to
nations designated state sponsors of terrorism by the State Department.
The weapons Russia was to supply Iran were a Kilo-class diesel-powered
submarine, 160 T-72 tanks, 600 armored personnel carriers, numerous anti-ship
mines, cluster bombs and a variety of long-range guided torpedoes and other
munitions for the submarine and tanks, the New York Times said.
Boucher denied an implication in the Times report that the pact was intended
to bypass the law, as the weapons covered in the aide-memoire would not have
drawn sanctions because the contracts for them pre-dated the legislation, and
because they did not meet its standard of "advanced conventional weapons."
But he said the United States had complained to Russia that it had not
completed the transfers by the deadline in the agreement, and was opposed to
a Russian request to extend the deadline.
"We have made clear in no uncertain terms in our discussions that we don't
approve of that extension," he said. "That is the one issue that's under
dispute that is involved here."
After learning that deliveries continued after the deadline, US Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright sent a classified message to her Russian counterpart
Igor Ivanov warning that "continued transfers to Iran could be subject to
sanctions under relevant US laws," the Times reported.
Boucher did not deny that Albright had sent such a message but said the
negative effects of Russia's violation of the pact were not as dire as the
Times made out, as Moscow had not signed any new contracts with Tehran.
"They have not expanded the scope of the understanding, nor do we believe
that they have signed new contracts for advanced conventional weapons," he
Boucher also denied that the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement had been kept
secret, maintaining its existence was disclosed at the time it was signed.
The Times said that while the pact was mentioned by Gore after he signed it
in Moscow, the 12-paragraph document listing the weapons Russia would supply
to Iran and the US commitment not to seek sanctions was not disclosed to the
US Congress or the public.
The Global Beat Syndicate
Controls by the Kremlin Diminish Democracy
By Tatiana ZARETSKAYA
Tatiana Zaretskaya is an independent Moscow-based expert on freedom of press,
propaganda and information.
October 13, 2000
MOSCOW -- Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia today is rapidly heading
away from many of the democratic reforms instituted over the past decade.
While it's unclear exactly where the nation is headed, it appears that the
future will more close resemble the Soviet past rather than what was
envisioned by those reformers of the early Yeltsin era.
Under the guise of unifying the state, the Kremlin has been busy
consolidating its own power. Those who oppose current policies -- or merely
don't support them ardently enough -- are quickly condemned. Based on their
experience during previous regimes, mid-level Russian officials and the
general population has quickly come to understand the nature of the new
First, it was the so-called oligarchs who were successfully intimidated by
the public punishment of a media baron -- Vladimir Gusinsky. Sporadic raids
by armed members the prosecutor's office, the tax police and other law
enforcement agencies have further heightened their sense of insecurity.
Then, it was the regional governors who were stripped of their power by a
drastic revision of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. Instead, a
State Council -- a vague and purely consultative body -- was established in
With regional and local elections scheduled for later this year, it has been
interesting to watch as various officials attempt to insure their survival.
Alexander Gurov, one of the leaders of pro-government Unity party, complains
that his organization has to keep revising its membership list because it
can't keep up with the number of former opponents now anxious to join.
Now, it's the media that is the focus of Kremlin attention, with the
government seeking to gain more complete control over what its citizens view
or read. That is what was truly behind the jailing of Gusinsky, who controls
Russia's only private and fully independent television, radio and print
outlets. And that's what's behind the ongoing battle for control of ORT,
Russia's major television channel, in which another media magnate, Boris
Berezovsky, holds a substantial stake.
Such steps are officially called "information security." Indeed, an
Information Security Doctrine was recently developed by the Security Council,
a powerful state body staffed by current and former members of the armed
forces and state security agencies, and approved by Putin.
The world got a chance to see how such a policy works during the coverage of
the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk, when the Russian media was either
blatantly misled or stonewalled by Russian officials. Nor are international
news outlets immune. Both CBS News and Fox News were denied access to Putin's
press conference during the recent Millennium Summit at the United Nations
because of their previous critical coverage of the president.
It is not only press freedom which is in jeopardy. This past summer, armed
and masked militiamen raided the offices of the Glasnost Defense Fund, one of
Russia's best known human-rights organizations. Officials said it was merely
part of "a routine check in the course of an anti-terrorist operation in
It probably should have come as no surprise that democracy "a la Yeltsin"
would become completely compromised in the eyes of the Russian people. The
general public was exhausted by economic and social turmoil that marked his
term, leaving many feeling nostalgic about the past. The majority of Russians
today are either indifferent to or approve of the government's current
Maybe this helps account for why, other than the occasional alarm sounded by
some Moscow journalists, there is so little concern over the fact that Russia
today is farther away from real democracy than it was 10 years ago.
No radioactive threat from Russia's Kursk-official
October 13, 2000
By Maxim Korzhov
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - A senior Russian official said on Friday
that the sunken Kursk submarine posed no threat of radioactive leaks and that
special devices had been fitted to monitor the situation inside the wreck.
Despite the assurance, Russian environmentalist and former navy captain
Alexander Nikitin called on authorities to raise the vessel from the bottom
of the Barents Sea in the Arctic to minimize the risk of radioactive
``The reactor is in ideal condition, it is being constantly monitored,''
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, head of a commission investigating the
Aug. 12 disaster, told a news conference.
Klebanov was commenting on the results of an inspection of the wreck by
research mini-subs in preparation for an attempt to raise at least some of
the bodies of the 118 crew. All on board died after the submarine was struck
by two explosions.
For the first time, Klebanov confirmed speculation in both the Russian and
Western press that the Kursk had been due to test a liquid fuel-powered
torpedo when the accident happened.
A film shot from aboard the deep-sea diving vessels showed them attaching
data-gathering devices to the Kursk's hull to allow real-time monitoring of
Designers had earlier described the twin-reactor nuclear power plant as one
of the most modern, safe and reliable in the Russian submarine fleet.
ENVIRONMENTALIST VOICES CONCERN ON WRECK
Nikitin, an anti-nuclear activist, retired from the Russian Navy in 1992 and
was acquitted this year after a long trial on charges of treason in
connection with divulging data on nuclear safety. He predicted Moscow would
recover some of the bodies and then abandon the craft on the seabed.
``My opinion is that it would be better if the boat was salvaged. It is
impossible to make it safe on the sea floor,'' Nikitin told a news conference
in Berlin, where he was attending a seminar on freedom of expression.
The operation to raise the bodies from the Kursk, to be carried out jointly
with the Norwegian arm of the U.S. oil-drilling company Halliburton, is to
start next Wednesday.
Russia has said it will try to lift the whole wreck next year if it secures
Klebanov said the latest inspection had shed no new light on the causes of
the Kursk disaster. He said no fragments of alien vessels had been found on
or near the submarine.
Russia has advanced a number of possible scenarios in connection with the
accident. Officials say the most likely cause was a a collision with a
foreign vessel, which detonated munitions aboard the Kursk.
Both Britain and the United States deny any of their submarines could have
been involved in a collision.
Klebanov said an accident on board was also highly probable. He also did not
rule out a terrorist attack.
Klebanov said Russia would continue using the Kursk-class submarines which he
described as the best in its fleet today.
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library