This Date's Issues: 4623
Johnson's Russia List
6 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. UPI: Russian navy official says Kursk collided with NATO
2. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, In Russia you are guilty till proven innocent – that goes for judges
3. The Daily Telegraph (UK): Oleg Gordievsky, Putin may be worse than we think. (re defector Alexander Litvinenko)
4. Stanislav Nevzorov: Russian veterans.
5. Prague Watchdog: Ilya Maksakov, Russian political forces on the war in
6. BBC Monitoring: Russia waits for independent analysis of poor-quality humanitarian aid.
7. Gary Kern: Amur Tiger vs. PC.
8. The Guardian (UK): Amelia Gentleman, Ivan the terrible. A warts-and-all portrayal of the revered Russian writer Ivan Bunin - as a bullying, drunken egotist - is being hailed as the most important film to come out of Russia this year. So why did the authorities try to block it?
9. Newsday: Michael Slackman, Sold For His Organs. Kin auctioned off Russian boy, cops
10. Financial Times (UK): Andrew Jack and Arkady Ostrovsky, Lukoil data delay is blow to hopes for
Russian navy official says Kursk collided with NATO sub
MOSCOW, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- An unidentified source in the Russian navy told
Interfax news agency on Sunday that the collision of the sunken vessel with
an unidentified NATO submarine caused the Kursk's sinking.
The source, identified only as a representative of the Russian navy's
general staff, added that the theory about the collision was "not a version,
but a position" fully backed by the Russian navy chiefs.
"The naval command has only one problem now -- to determine 100 percent
sure which of the two NATO countries owns that submarine," said the source.
Previously, the Russian media had reported that three NATO submarines --
the United States' Memphis and Toledo and Great Britain's Splendid -- were
allegedly located near the site of the Kursk's tragic August 12 sinking.
None of these reports has been officially confirmed.
"The most powerful blast aboard the Russian submarine took away not only
the lives of our best seamen, but also destroyed the traces of collision --
though not all of them.
"What we have discovered so far explains why the vessel sank, but doesn't
disclose to which country the submarine that had hit it belongs."
On Sunday, the NTV commercial network broadcast a report from the
Norwegian port of Bergen where the USS Memphis had called on August 18, six
days after the Kursk sank.
A spokesman for the Norwegian navy told NTV that the American submarine
had notified the Norwegian authorities about its call at Bergen several
weeks in advance.
The spokesman added that a local TV crew had taped the submarine in his
presence and the vessel hadn't had any visible traces of damage.
NTV contacted a local television station in hopes to obtain a copy of the
tape and broadcast the footage to the Russian viewers, but the Norwegian
side told NTV that the tape had had a technical defect and was thrown out.
Kursk-related speculations have proven to be a rather tacky issue as a
senior Russian navy officer on Sunday denied Friday's assertion that had
been made by the Russian Navy Chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov.
On Friday, Kuroyedov told reporters that Russia's Pyotr Veliky atomic
cruiser's radars had detected an unidentified submarine that made contact
with the Kursk.
Kuroyedov added that the foreign vessel was trying to hide the traces of
the August collision that had sent the Kursk to the bottom of the ocean.
On Sunday, Northern Fleet Deputy Commander Vice Admiral Vladimir
Dobroskochenko, told NTV that "a fake contact with an underwater target was
detected on Friday."
Dobroskochenko denied the presence of a foreign submarine, adding that the
detected target may have been a "large school of fish or some reverberation
from the seabed."
Meanwhile, the salvage operation aboard the Kursk continued Sunday as the
deep-sea divers managed to enter the vessel's fourth compartment.
The divers made little progress inside the compartment as scattered debris
allowed them to advance only one meter (3.2 ft).
However, the team of divers will continue to work overnight and perhaps
manage to go farther into the compartment by Monday morning.
The fourth compartment is supposed to hold at least 10 bodies and could
also be used for entering the neighboring fifth compartment.
On Sunday, forensic experts officially confirmed identities of the two
crewmen -- Seaman Roman Kubikov and Master Chief Vyacheslav Mainagashev --
who until Sunday had been recognized by their relatives only.
Following Sunday's findings, all 12 of the recovered bodies have been
Also on Sunday, the Norwegian subsidiary of the U.S.-based Halliburton oil
services agency told Interfax that the uplifting of the Kursk submarine,
scheduled for summer 2001, could be a rather costly enterprise that Russia
could hardly finance on its own.
Halliburton's representative said that the whole operation to lift the
Kursk from the bottom of the Barents Sea would cost approximately $50
"It is a too significant amount of money for Russia and an international
consortium drawing foreign investments needs to be formed in order to carry
out the project," said Halliburton's representative.
"Halliburton is likely to be one of the companies that will become members
of such a consortium."
Halliburton's Norwegian subsidiary is currently carrying out the rescue
operation jointly with a team of Russia's Rubin military design.
The Independent (UK)
6 November 2000
In Russia you are guilty till proven innocent – that goes for judges too
By Patrick Cockburn
An orphan living under a staircase in Moscow stole a pair of trousers and
two jars of jam and is now serving five years in prison. A grandmother from
Novgorod, with a long history of petty theft, stole two cans her next-door
neighbours had left to dry on top of a fence. She received an eight-year
"It is a cruel system because so many people get sent to prison for such
long periods for such minor offences," says Sergei Pashin, just fired as a
judge from Moscow City Court for his liberal decisions, as he lists recent
miscarriages of justice. He points out that "about 99.6 per cent of people
brought before the courts are found guilty. And half the 0.4 per cent not
guilty verdicts are reversed on appeal."
Russia has an extraordinary number of people – 1.1 million – in its
crumbling jails and prison camps. Out of every 100,000 Russians some 750
are in prison compared to 120 in Britain.
A special report by the official Russian human rights body says that 85,000
prisoners have no beds, 91,000 are sick with TB and 5,000 have Aids. Mr
Pashin's biggest crime in the eyes of his fellow judges was apparently
that, during his four years on the bench, he often found defendants
innocent. In Russia judges are traditionally biased in favour of the
prosecution. As an adviser to President Yeltsin's administration in the
early 1990s Mr Pashin was also the main proponent in Russia of trial by
jury, which he succeeded – in the teeth of official resistance – in
introducing into nine Russian regions.
None of this has done his career much good. Since he became a judge in 1996
Mr Pashin, a dapper 37-year-old who looks more like a successful
businessman than a judicial reformer, has been strongly criticised by other
judges. He was sacked in 1998 but the decision was reversed by the Supreme
Court on appeal.
But in October the Moscow Qualification Collegium of Judges fired Mr Pashin
again. Ironically he is being sacked under legislation he himself drafted
for removing judges who were accused of serious crimes. His offences were
twofold: He had written a paper about a conscientious objector called
Dmitry Neverovsky, who was convicted of draft dodging in the Kaluga region.
Mr Pashin said the court had violated procedural laws and had disregarded
Neverovsky's right to do civilian service as an alternative.
His second offence was that he had taken part in a phone-in programme on
Ekho Moskvy radio station when a woman called in asking desperately for
help. "She said she had awful problems and had lost all hope," says Mr
Pashin. "I said I could not advise her, but if she wanted to call me at my
office she could do so and I gave her my telephone number over the air." Mr
Pashin's colleagues decided this was "not fitting behaviour for a judge".
Mr Pashin is still an enthusiast for jury trials. He says juries are much
more likely to bring in not guilty verdicts or take into account special
circumstances. They also reduce the opportunities for judicial corruption.
This, he says, is not as bad as in the militia or police, but if you know
the right lawyer you can usually get to a judge.
"Many judges say privately that they favour jury trials because it makes
them feel that they are real judges and not just a substitute for the
prosecutor," says Mr Pashin. But provincial governors oppose them because
it limits their power and nobody lobbies for jury trials within the
It is not only that the court system is biased towards the prosecution. Mr
Pashin says it takes an absurdly long time for a case to come to court at
all. In civil cases people trying to bring a case against one of Russia's
rocky banks often have to wait so long that, even if they win, the bank has
disappeared or its assets have been transferred elsewhere.
On hearing of his second dismissal in two years Mr Pashin was reluctant to
appeal to the Supreme Court for the second time. "I thought I would go into
teaching and scholarly work," he said. Since then he has had second
thoughts and will now take his case to the European Court of Human Rights
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
November 5, 2000
Putin may be worse than we think
By Oleg Gordievsky
Oleg Gordievsky was the highest ranking KGB officer ever to work for MI6
Another KGB defection casts the President in a new light, writes Oleg
Gordievsky THOSE - such as Robin Cook and Tony Blair - who seem to think
that Vladimir Putin is a new kind of Russian politician, with Western
attitudes and moral scruples, may be forced to change their attitude in
the coming weeks. According to Alexander Litvinenko, the latest defector
from the KGB who arrived in London last Thursday, the President of Russia
is quite prepared to order the assassination of political opponents, and
the murder of hundreds of ordinary Russians when he thinks it will gain
him political advantage.
Litvinenko used to be a lieutenant colonel in the KGB (the organisation's
acronym has officially been changed to FSB, but it's still the old KGB). A
couple of years ago, he held a sensational press conference in which he and
four other masked men claimed that they had been part of a special KGB
assassination unit. The group, he alleged, had been set up by Nikolai
Kovalyov, Putin's predecessor as head of the KGB. Number one on the target
list was Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire who owns some of Russia's most
popular television stations and newspapers.
Putin took over as head of the KGB four weeks after that press conference.
He never repudiated Kovalyov. And he instigated what turned out to be a
prolonged campaign of harassment of Litvinenko, who was arrested, thrown
in prison, released and imprisoned again. It is a sign of the extent that
today's Russia has improved from its Soviet progenitor that Litvinenko is
still alive. In the old days, when the KGB placed you under arrest, you
stayed there until they shot you or you managed to escape - as I knew only
too well when they arrested me.
The new Russia has the beginnings of a legal system, and the KGB's power to
detain people without any recourse to law has diminished significantly.
Litvinenko was even allowed to travel to Britain with his wife and family,
something that would have been inconceivable in Communist Russia. But if
Litvinenko is right, the new Russia is, in some ways, even more morally
corrupt that the old one.
Litvinenko has hinted that he has "information" which shows that Vladimir
Putin was behind the bombs which killed 300 people in Moscow more than a
year ago. Those bombs, blamed on Chechen terrorists, gave Putin the excuse
he needed for a new offensive in Chechnya. That propelled him to victory
in the presidential election. If you ask the question, who benefited, the
answer is simple: Putin did.
Planting a bomb which kills 300 civilians merely to increase your
popularity would set a new record for cold-blooded callousness, even by
the standards set by Russia's past leaders. It would mean Putin is capable
of the kind of Caligulan cruelty which would raise serious questions about
his sanity. Not even Stalin deliberately blew up blocks of flats
containing his own citizens. Could Putin have done it? My own belief is
that it is very unlikely. Even supposing Russia's President to be without
any moral scruples whatever - and his handling of the Kursk submarine
incident shows he is not overburdened by them - he has a certain
intelligence. In today's Russia, it would be impossible to keep such an
operation secret, and Putin would know it. He's well able to calculate that
the risks of exposure would guarantee the operation was not worth its
It is more difficult to dismiss Litvinenko's allegation that the KGB has
been assassinating political enemies, especially as he says he was part of
the hit-squad. Nevertheless, there are some strange elements in the story.
Boris Berezovsky is a very odd target. Yes, he's rich and had made most of
his billions by acquiring, legitimately or illegitimately, state assets -
then exploiting them or selling them on at a huge profit. Yes, his
ownership of media means he has, to his enemies, a disturbing power.
He was a supporter of Boris Yeltsin, and he likes to interfere in politics.
It was, apparently, he who released two British hostages taken by the
Chechens by paying a huge ransom. Berezovsky might have succeeded in
buying out a second group of three British engineers, had not a
Moscow-inspired rescue attempt panicked the Chechens into cutting their
heads off. Even in Russia, however, it is difficult to see how any of that
constitutes a reason for having Berezovsky killed.
Stalin's KGB was famous for assassinating opponents, with or without the
slightest pretext. But by the time I joined the KGB, such "wet jobs" were
very rare. Indeed, in the last 40 years, the KGB has assassinated only
President Hafizullah Amin of Afghanistan, who was killed in the prelude to
the Russian invasion. The KGB provided the Bulgarian secret service with
the poisoned umbrella its officers used to murder Georgi Markov, the
dissident who lived in London. But the KGB dispensed the technology only
with the greatest reluctance. I know that Yuri Andropov, then head of the
KGB, did not want the KGB to get involved. He was only persuaded to help
after prolonged pleas by Bulgaria's president.
It would be a major policy reversal for the KGB to go back to murdering
people in the way it did in the Stalinist era. On the other hand, if
Litvinenko's allegations are not true, it is mysterious why he should have
made them. Gossip in Moscow says he was given a huge bribe by Berezovsky,
who simply wanted a way to discredit the KGB. I have no idea whether the
gossip is true. But if MI5 establishes that Vladimir Putin or his close
associates hbave been ordering assassinations, then even Tony Blair will
be able to see that he will have to reconsider his "special relationship"
with the President. It would not be before time.
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2000
From: Stanislav Nevzorov <email@example.com>
Subject: Russian veterans
I am writing this message in hope that somebody from
the Russian Government will read it and will be
ashamed. Sorry, that I did not have time to do it
After the death of Pskov paratroopers in Chechnya and
"Kursk" submarine, a lot has been said about the
attitude of the Russian politicians towards Russian
soldiers. No secret, that it has always been complete
negligence and disrespect. A soldier has always been a
piece of trash for all the governments of the Soviet
Union and modern Russia. Many say that our governments
take care only of dead soldiers. My story tells the
Siberian city of Ulan-Ude. August 2-nd, 2000. The Day
of Russian Airborne Forces. The day to revere dead
soldiers. I went to my brother's grave. When I
approached the grave, I was shocked: heavy nickel
parachutes had been stolen from the grave posts. There
were no words to describe what I felt... Show me, who
is to blame.
Graves' robbery is a very profitable business here.
All the stolen metal is sold to China in numerous
metal markets. Local President issued a decree to
cancel metal sales, but who cares about decrees in
Russia. Isn't it better to share profit? I doubt that
it happens only in one region of Russia and nobody is
Open your eyes, the Government. Is anybody ashamed up
there? The soldiers will continue to die for you.
Maybe, it is time to change your attitude?
From: "Prague Watchdog" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russian political forces on the war in Chechnya
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2000
October 25, 2000
Russian political forces on the war in Chechnya
By Ilya Maksakov, correspondent of the daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta", Moscow
Special to Prague Watchdog
Much attention has been given to the differences between the first and
second wars in Chechnya. One of them being the present absence of
opposition to Moscow's actions in political circles; this could not be
said of the 1994-96 campaign. Moreover, the positions of many political
parties are literally concurring. Whilst there may be varying estimations
as to the important events on the battle-front, there is no party or
association which takes up the goals of the campaign, such as the
neutralization of terrorism and preservation of the state's integrity.
We only have to look at the stance of the Russian Orthodox Church which
must not be overlooked. The Patriarch of Moscow and Russia, Alexi II,
expresses his opinion on the subject frequently and unequivocally. In
particular he has announced his "spiritual support of the Russian army" as
defender of Russias integrity. The Patriarch stated: "In the Northern
Caucasus, our army opposes not only Chechen guerilla fighters but also the
international terrorism which is trying to destroy stability and peace in
our country." Also, at the beginning of this year the Russian Orthodox
Church decorated commanders and officers who excelled in the Northern
Caucasus for their services to Russia and the Church.
During the last year Russian political forces have had reason to express
their positions and to act accordingly. Last autumn there was the
commencement of military operations in the Northern Caucasus, followed by
the explosions at residential houses in Russian cities, the potential
crossing of the official Chechen border by Russian troops and then the
dilemma of whether to advance into Chechnya to the south of the Terek
river or to create a "sanitary cordon" north of the river. There was the
expediency of the Grozny assault, the Andrei Babitsky case and the
political conflict with PACE, the negotiations with Maskhadov, the
enforcement of federal control in Chechnya and so on.
Besides the Narodny deputat [People's Deputy] alliance, the Yedinstvo
[Unity] movement is the largest faction of the Duma, and for well-known
reasons, supports the Kremlin in all matters. The more reticent position
of the "bears" can be partly explained by the higher governing body's
policy of consecutive problem-solving in Chechnya, which has in fact led
to doubts and mistakes. Yedinstvo could neither afford to put pressure on
authorities nor to advise on situations. Yet at the same time, the movement
succeeded in establishing its branch in Chechnya [May 17, 2000] and,
through this realization as an official structure, Yedinstvo is the only
federal party to have its representatives in Chechnya. The leader of the
Chechen branch, Lecha Magomadov, is an influential politician in the
republic and his opinion has been considered by both sides since the first
war. He was the most likely candidate for election as Chechen delegate to
the State Duma, and would have gained the seat had it not been for the
sudden victory of Alsambek Aslakhanov.
The leader of the Yedinstvo faction, Boris Gryzlov, makes infrequent
public appearances with unoriginal statements. For instance, he could not
restrain himself from condemning the PACE decision to deprive the Russian
delegation of their right of speech and the UN Commission's resolution for
human rights, which he defined as an "outburst of anti-Russian hysteria".
Nevertheless, as the party of power, Yedinstvo is obliged to follow a
diplomatic role which is why Gryzlov has been simultaneously expressing his
faith in the wise and reasonable position adopted by European politicians.
He has said they are "...ready to seriously evaluate the efforts of the
federal authorities to restore peace and order in the Northern Caucasus".
In discussing pro-Kremlin political forces it should be mentioned that the
leading figure in the dispute with European parliamentarians was Dimitry
Rogozin, the Duma's Chairman for the Committee of Foreign Affairs and
representative of Narodny deputat.
In terms of the expediency of negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov, Gryzlov
has taken a cautious yet edifying approach. For example, when the chief of
the independent public commission for the investigation of events in the
Northern Caucasus, Pavel Krasheninnikov, was meeting Kazbek Machashev, a
representative of the Chechen president, Gryzlov requested that
representatives of the State Duma should coordinate their negotiations
with Chechen leaders with federal bodies. In general, the Yedinstvo leader
uses rhetoric which does not differ from the kind of statements which echo
across the Kremlin and the White House: "...we do not fight against
Chechens but for them, for their right to live in accordance with law,
safety and prosperity ...Russia is ready to cooperate with international
organizations to overcome human rights violations in Chechnya, but we are
not going to yield to pressure and will not allow our victimization
through the information war waged by Chechen leaders in the Western media
Chechnya is almost the only issue on which Russian communists drop their
opposition to the Kremlin. Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Russian
communist party ,KPRF, voices an opinion which would be more typical of
the most loyal supporters of Russia's governing body: "...all of us must
be interested in the suppression of the bandit hot-spot in Chechnya, it
engenders metastasis not only for Russia but for Europe too." Along with
the majority of other Russian parliamentarians, Zyuganov vindicated
Russia's actions in Chechnya concerning the dispute with PACE. In the
communist leader's opinion, the decision made by PACE was
"...hypocritical, unfair, shameful and humiliating". He believes the war
in Chechnya to be a tragedy for the whole nation and does not view military
action as a long term solution; yet despite supposedly being an adversary,
he states that a positive, new period has begun in Russia : "...an epoch
of creativity, smart diplomacy, restoration of lawfulness, respect for
humanity and responsible decisions", values which should also be sought
for in Chechnya. Another communist leader and Speaker in the State Duma,
Gennady Seleznev, has given his assurance of the high level of Russian
public support for the tough treatment of criminal groups in Chechnya.
The Yabloko faction can perhaps be counted as the most consistent critic
of the Russian government during the Chechnya campaign. Although no large
political force would dare to be an absolute opponent to the Kremlin's
actions [especially considering the public's strong support for
anti-terrorist measures], before last year's State Duma elections Grigory
Yavlinsky proposed an alternative view of the situation in the Northern
Caucasus. He suggested that massive bombardments in Chechen territory
should stop and that there should be a suspension of large-scale land
offensives; he also called for negotiations with Maskhadov on matters
concerning the extradition of terrorists held by Russian authorities. The
storm of criticism which followed this statement made Yavlinsky and his
union claim that their leader had been misunderstood. They explained that
Yabloko was in favour of the liquidation of terrorists but with minimal
casualties and did indeed support actions taken by the Russian armed
forces in Chechnya.
A number of prominent Russian political scientists have linked the failures
of Yabloko and Yavlinsky in parliamentary and presidential elections with
their attitude towards Chechnya. Despite this, Yabloko supporters are
maintaining their standpoint. Delegates of the State Duma which belong to
this faction did not boycott PACE sessions. In February, Javlinsky
personally gave Putin [at the time still acting President] a plan for the
resolution of the Chechen situation which stipulated the commencement of
negotiations. Yavlinsky still insists on this, believing that talks must
be conducted with those "...who kill us and whom we kill". However, the
possibility of this occurring is seriously reduced by Yavlinsky's
precondition; Moscow will only negotiate with those Chechen leaders who
recognize Russian laws and whose hands are not stained with blood. He also
accused the West of applying double standards to Russia.
As concerning Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia, LDPR, there is a saying about him that "what the Kremlin
has on its mind, Zhirinovsky has on his tongue". This is partly true, many
of his statements seem to be testing public opinion on various
initiatives. When the proposal of enforcing direct presidential control in
Chechnya from Moscow was widely discussed, Zhirinovsky claimed that this
question had already been decided and that the only possible answer was
the implementation of Russian rule. He also stood by the official point of
view on the impossibility of negotiations with Maskhadov. During January's
PACE session Zhirinovsky was the most active defender of Moscow's
position, and at a time when the President of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev,
was under private [but well-known] pressure from the Kremlin, Zhirinovsky
made the harshest statements of his address. Still, the leader of the LDPR
has shown occasional signs of independence, especially with matters which
he has never been indifferent to. One of them being his evidently
anti-caucasian stance, which became wholly apparent after the terrorist
act at Pushkinskaya square in Moscow. Immediately following the explosion,
Zhirinovsky organized a meeting and demanded the "...severe punishment of
terrorists in the Northern Caucasus".
Similarly to the communists, the union Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya [Motherland
- one whole Russia] is opposed to the Kremlin [though moderately so] and
does not call to question anti-terrorist operations. One of the leaders of
the OVR and mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has repeatedly expressed his
wish to see the military action in Chechnya continue right through to the
end, even though at the beginning of the second campaign [along with
another OVR leader, Yevgeny Primakov] he had objected to a large-scale
operation, and backed only the creation of a sanitary zone. Nevertheless,
Luzhkov has supported Putin's position concerning the direct presidential
control of Chechnya and his refusal to begin peace talks. The Moscow mayor
has a reputation of being an anti-Chechen politician; like Zhirinovsky, he
also connected the explosion at Pushkinskaya square with the "Chechen
trail". His prejudice becomes manifest even in the provision of economic
aid to Chechnya. For instance, he was prepared to participate in the
reconstruction of the republic's economy but wanted to direct the funds
from Moscow's municipal authorities to Cossack settlements on the left
side of the Terek river.
Compared to Luzhkov, Primakov does hold a more flexible position . He does
not disregard the factor of separatist leaders, he believes that the future
situation in Chechnya will depend largely on the behaviour of guerilla
fighters and does not exclude the possibility of negotiations with those
who reject terrorism and are capable of "...really controlling the
situation". In his opinion a denial of separatism is unnecessary as
Chechnya's status could be discussed in the course of negotiations.
Finally, the most diverse position belongs to the Union of Right Forces,
SPS, which in general is not opposed to the Kremlin but often tries to
forward its own opinion to the Russian governing body. The leader of SPS,
Boris Nemtsov, initially supported the idea of direct presidential control
but then proposed another scheme which would appoint a "governor-general"
who would be given a very wide latitude. SPS's flexibility was revealed by
Nemtsov's statement that "...there cannot be a military solution to the
Chechen problem but there can be a military-political solution." Another
SPS member, Pavel Krasheninnikov, has attempted to establish contacts with
Maskhadov's people, thus seeming to contradict the Kremlin's official
position; however his heading of an independent commission on the founding
of Chechnya was supported by Putin. Another example of the ambiguity of
SPS's members was when Sergei Kovalyov, the faction's delegate from the
State Duma, declared his support of the PACE decision concerning Chechnya.
He refused to boycott sessions in Strasbourg whilst the majority of the
faction upheld the State Duma's official line.
Russia waits for independent analysis of poor-quality humanitarian aid
Text of report by Russian Public TV on 5th November
[Presenter] A scandal in North Ossetia: humanitarian aid for Chechen
refugees has arrived there from the United States. But when specialists
inspected the products they discovered magnetic metal impurities. Timur
[Correspondent] These rail wagons - and there are 48 of them - contain
humanitarian aid for forced migrants on the territory of Ingushetia and
Chechnya. About 3,000 tonnes of flour was sent to the North Caucasus by the
United States of America through the channels of the World Food Programme.
The wheat flour from overseas was delivered to Latvia first and from there
by rail to Vladikavkaz [North Ossetia]. The analysis of the first seven
wagonloads showed that the flour did not meet the quality certificate
requirements. The laboratory of the North Ossetian directorate of the State
Bread Inspectorate reached the conclusion that the level of magnetic metal
impurities in the American product exceeds the allowed norm by a factor of
six. Besides, experts have discovered mildew and cobwebs in the
[Unidentified expert] It is the impurities the flour contains that give it
this smell. The flour itself is of very poor quality.
[Correspondent] The North Ossetian Emergencies Ministry, to which the
humanitarian cargo was addressed, is saying that the best way out of the
situation is to send the poor-quality flour back to the United States.
According to the minister, Boris Dzgoyev, talks to this effect are
currently under way with UN representatives, who have already approached
British specialists with a request to carry out an independent analysis.
[Boris Dzgoyev, North Ossetian emergencies minister] I have received
instructions from our [Russian] Emergencies Ministry to continue unloading
these wagons and to wait for an independent commission.
[Correspondent] The federal bread inspectorate under the Russian government
has been informed of the incident.
Date: Sun, 05 Nov 2000
From: Gary Kern <email@example.com>
Subject: Amur Tiger vs. PC
The Amur Tiger vs. PC
Missing from the discussion of the threat to the Amur tiger (JRL
#4609 & 4622) is a frank acknowledgement of what lies at the
base of that threat. Efforts to preserve tiger habitat and to
forestall poaching are heroic, but cannot save the wild tiger in
the Amur region or anywhere else in the world so long as there
is a huge and well-paying demand for its body parts. This
demand is founded on the superstitious belief that the power of
the tiger can be acquired by consuming its bones, its internal
organs or its genitals. Yet neither the World Wildlife Fund nor
any other animal-rights organization, to my knowledge, will
address this issue directly.
Rather, all strive to "work with practicioners of traditional
Chinese medicine (TCM)," as they put it, to find "alternatives"
to "tiger medicine." Nowhere in their literature, whether
printed in hard copy or on the web, do they state the plain
scientific facts--namely, that tiger bones contain no health-
giving ingredients superior to calcium tablets, that tiger
organs cure no diseases that chicken-noodle soup cannot cure,
and that tiger genitals do not give bigger and better erections
than the well-tested and attested drug, viagra. Abrogating
their commitment to science, animal-right organizations
universally accredit the tiger trade of "TCM" as something
deserving respect, rather than prove it wrong; considerately
work with its "practicioners," rather than discredit them as
witch-doctors; and gently encourage them to circumvent "tiger
medicine," rather than call it bogus. In this way they actually
sanction the savage practive and certify the stone-age
superstition, undermining their own best efforts and ensuring
the extinction of the wild beast.
Why the hesitation? Why the reluctance to call a claw a claw?
Why, with millions of dollars in donations, do the WWF and
similar organizations not mount a worldwide campaign to convince
people who eat tigers and rhinoceroses that they are
uncivilized, that they are indulging in magical thinking, that
they are involved in disgusting rituals, that they are cruel and
selfish in their willingness to eradicate one of the most
magnificent animals in the history of this planet, and above
all, that they are just plain stupid to pay big bucks for
something that has no more medicinal value than a rat's anal
aperature, and that they would do a lot better to take a one-a-
day vitamin and pump up their sexual organs with something that
works physiologically, instead of just psychologically. In
other words, why don't wildlife organizations declare war on
tiger-eaters the way the US Surgeon General declared war on
The only reason I can find is PC--political correctness. The
WWF and other well-meaning organizations do not want to appear
to be anti-Chinese, or anti-Asian, or anti-any non-Western
culture. They do not want to offend "TCM practicioners." They
do not want to assume a position of "cultural hegemony." They
do not want--well, you know all the PC shibboleths. And so they
will not criticize foreign snake oil, foreign purveyors of snake
oil or foreign consumers of snake oil, because they are foreign
and "traditional." What has happened, in short, is that Western
science has come into conflict with Eastern superstition, and
has caved in for political reasons. Certainly the argument can
be made, and rightly so, that many of the practices of TCM,
particularly acupuncture and Qi-gong exercises, are quite
beneficial to health. But "tiger medicine" is bunk--
bloodthirsty big-business bunk--and if organizations dedicated
to saving the tiger are afraid to say so, then the tiger is
doomed, no matter how many stray specimens they may collar with
red radio transmitters or how many poachers they may catch and
prosecute, or even how many acres of land they may preserve.
The key to tiger survival is cutting off the traditional--i.e.,
primitive and pre-civilized--demand.
As for Russian Mafiosos wearing tiger skins, they keep the skins
as their part of the kill, proof of their big-crime status,
while selling the body parts to dealers who run across the
borders. Possibly they would stop bagging striped skins if the
body-part trade were curtailed. If not, then perhaps wildlife
organizations could put a handsome bounty on Mafia hides. Or
would they prefer instead to honor their traditional style of
life (RM) and work with them to find alternatives to badges of
courage and spoils of the kill?
For additional thoughts and references, please see my webpage on
saving the tiger:
The Guardian (UK)
November 3, 2000
Ivan the terrible
A warts-and-all portrayal of the revered Russian writer Ivan Bunin - as a
bullying, drunken egotist - is being hailed as the most important film to
come out of Russia this year. So why did the authorities try to block it?
Amelia Gentleman reports
When Alexei Uchitel presented a screenplay about the Russian Ã©migrÃ© writer
Ivan Bunin to the state cinema financing commission, funding was refused by
dismayed committee members - distressed by his exposure of the writer's
tangled love life. Uchitel had made a grave mistake in underestimating how
protective Russia remains of its artistic icons, inclined to treat even the
most disreputable writers with devout, unquestioning respect.
Instead of a reverent biographical work, portraying Bunin assiduously
scratching away at his short stories, His Wife's Diary shows him wholly
preoccupied by his young mistress, callously neglecting his wife in an
uncomfortable mÃ©nage-Ã -trois at his south of France villa.
Worse still, it displays the Nobel prize- winning writer, who died in 1953,
as a bullying, drinking egotist, sent into a decline by the departure of his
lover (some 40 years younger than him) for another woman. As his behaviour
deteriorates, he abandons his writing and takes up instead with a local
woman, who may or may not be a prostitute, before falling in love with a dog.
So far did the film stray from the Soviet-era glorification of Russia's
classical writers on film that the committee tried to block it. Only a
last-minute intervention from the film minister, who loved the script, saved
the project and provided the necessary funding.
Since its premiere in Moscow last month, His Wife's Diary has been hailed as
the most important film to come out of Russia this year and has been put
forward as the country's entry for the best foreign film Oscar. Dunya
Smirnova's screenplay has already won an award at the American
Hartley-Merrill international screenwriting competition.
But loud voices in the Russian press have also expressed outrage at the
breaking of a taboo, accusing Uchitel of muckraking disrespect to the writer.
A sneering review in the liberal daily newspaper Sevodnya concludes that His
Wife's Diary is the inevitable first step down a slippery slope which will
see the private lives of the nation's creative heroes recycled as soap
operas. "Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky are next in the queue," writes
critic Victoria Nikiforova. "They are being transformed from classical
writers into pop stars." Another critic warns: "Many will no doubt be shocked
by the themes in this film."
Uchitel was bemused by their response, explaining: "The finance commission
voted to turn it down - objecting to what they described as hanging out the
dirty linen of a great man. They asked, 'Was it really necessary to touch on
this side of him? Did you have to drag out the details of his love life? Do
viewers really need to see this?' I was astonished. I thought that era was
"A lot of the people on the committee - made up of film directors and
scriptwriters as well as civil servants - have been working in the film
ministry for 30 or 40 years and their thinking was guided by an old Soviet
mentality. There was a great tradition of Soviet biographical films, where if
they mentioned the hero's private life at all, they would portray everything
as wonderful. The committee saw Bunin as an icon who shouldn't be touched."
>From a western perspective, it is indeed hard to see what the fuss was about.
Far from being a tabloid exposÃ©, this is a sensitive account of the emotions
that overwhelmed the writer in his last years, loosely based on documentary
evidence from Bunin's memoirs and the diary kept by his wife, Vera, as a form
of escapism. Bunin's Nobel prize in 1933, the onset of the second world war,
unsettling reports from Stalin's new regime in the Soviet Union - all these
are background events, overshadowed by the writer's infatuation with the
young poet Galina Plotnikova (actually Galina Kuznetsova, whose name has been
changed to spare the feelings of surviving relatives). She arrives as Bunin's
student, but remains his lover until abandoning him for another woman, the
singer Marga Kovtun. Meanwhile his wife is wooed by another Ã©migrÃ© Russian
After a French co-production deal fell through (mainly, Uchitel says, because
it came with the bizarre condition that Omar Sharif should play the lead),
the film was beautifully shot in the run-down, seaside towns and villas of
the Crimea, convincingly transformed into a pre-war Cote d'Azur. The film
shows Bunin in his 60s and 70s, when he was writing his last volume of
stories, Dark Alleys - all of which focus on love and most of which end
unhappily. Published in Paris in 1946, the stories were dismissed by many of
his readers as sordid accounts of sexual encounters.
Uchitel argues that far from providing his viewers with gratuitous
sensationalism, he is offering them an insight into the experiences that
inspired this work. "You need to show how someone lives, what kind of
stresses they are experiencing, what kind of romantic drama they are caught
up in. Only then do you begin to understand that the writer did not simply
sit down at his desk and dream up these wonderful stories. Those old films
that showed the writer as utterly happy, his life very tidy, were so stupid.
You need to show that his creation only came about because of the life he was
Nevertheless, Uchitel clearly has some residual guilt about his treatment of
Bunin. Both he and the actor Andrei Smirnov, who plays the lead role, plan to
visit the writer's grave in France - to ask his forgiveness.
â€¢ His Wife's Diary is screened in the Regus London film festival next
at 6.15pm and November 11 at 4pm. Details: 020-7928 3232.
November 5, 2000
Sold For His Organs
Kin auctioned off Russian boy, cops say
By Michael Slackman. RUSSIA CORRESPONDENT
Ryazan, Russia-From his seat in the back of the jeep, five-year-old Andrei
saw it all.
His uncle, Sergei Tkachyov, strolled across the street, a blue duffel bag
hanging from his shoulder when police tackled him in a blur of kicks and
punches. His grandmother, Nina Tkachyova, was shoved against the car, her
face pressed on the cool metal.
"What's in your bag," the police shouted at Nina Tkachyova.
"Nothing," she replied, knowing there was $20,000 in her bag and $70,000 in
Forgotten in the commotion, Andrei sits alone, captured on a police video,
his blue eyes strain with fear, tears rolling down his cheeks, his mouth
contorted, lips trembling.
The uncle and grandmother were the only family Andrei had ever known. Early
that morning they woke him, dressed him, combed down his hair and took him to
a man they promised would bring him to Disneyland. They held his hand as they
entered the man's car. Then left him behind as they walked away with the
Andrei's Disney fantasy had turned into a nightmare because his grandmother
had just auctioned him off to the highest bidder for $90,000. The cash bought
a little boy's kidneys, his eyes, maybe his heart and lungs. The police said
they aren't sure if his grandmother intended for Andrei to die, but she
hatched a scheme to sell her relative for parts to be used to save those
needing transplanted organs.
The case quickly became a national tragedy, a mirror reflecting Russia's new
ugliness following the stormy end of the Soviet Union. "This case is just the
very vivid example of the collapse of values, of morality, in Russia," said
Andrei Shirokov, chief of the office of special crimes for the regional
prosecutor. "It is one case, but it is demonstrative of the disintegration of
our morality. Even five years ago, no one would have thought of this." For
the authorities in this small working-class city some 100 miles south of
Moscow, this was where they decided to take a stand by launching a sting
operation. There was no real buyer for Andrei. Instead, it was a police
detective wearing a borrowed suit, a borrowed watch and driving a borrowed
car hoping to catch someone they believed might harm the child.
"Whose idea was this?" the police asked Sergei in a videotaped statement made
the same day as his arrest and shown last week to Newsday.
"The thought was born in my mother's head ... The last time I knew, the price
was $70,000. For the nephew. She said for organs." No one, not the police,
not the family knows exactly where Andrei's birth mother, Svetlana, is.
Police said that she had Andrei and never said who his father was, if she
knew. Then she married, had another child and wanted nothing to do with
Andrei. So she dumped him off on her younger brother, Sergei, 30, and his
wife, Larisa, 32.
Both were born and raised in the city that has been their universe. They met
in school and married as teenagers. By the time they received Andrei, they
had two daughters of their own and were living in one half of a rented
run-down plaster house, on an industrial street where the acrid smell of
pollution hangs in the air. Sergei supported the family doing odd jobs around
town, driving, working as a butcher, unloading trucks.
Larisa went with her husband the morning Andrei was to be sold, and she was
also charged by the police. But the authorities said they let her go home so
she could care for her daughters and because, they said, she cooperated with
investigators. During a recent interview at her house, she denied any
knowledge of the scheme, laid most of the blame on Andrei's grandmother. "My
mother-in-law was a big obstacle," she said. "She made all these promises to
him [Sergei]. They were promises all the time. I will buy you a big house, a
big car. But never anything. Sometimes he stopped going to work. He would
live on these promises." She also said her husband "was a difficult person to
deal with" and that she could not be certain he had not collaborated with his
mother to sell his nephew.
Andrei was also a problem, she said.
"Of course we had to punish him sometimes," she volunteered. "He wasn't an
obedient child at all. A child should know what to do what not to do. He
didn't obey, you told him not to do that and he did that." The boy's
offenses, she said, included telling lies, disturbing her daughters while
they studied and taking apart toy cars that they bought specially for him.
"We put him in the corner, facing the corner. Then he would ask for
forgiveness." That's not all they did. By the end of 1999, apparently fed up
with Andrei they delivered him to the local orphanage, intending to be rid of
him for good.
But then in March, police said the grandmother showed up. She did not always
live with her son, but traveled a lot and would pop in from time to time. At
some point she went and took Andrei out of the orphanage.
Around this time, the police in Ryazan began investigating corruption
involving adoptions. Each year, thousands of foreigners, mostly Americans,
turn to Russian orphanages to adopt small children. Russian law demands that
Russian families be given first priority in adopting, but in reality, federal
and local officials said, foreigners are given the edge. The main reason is
According to local and federal officials, while most would-be parents think
they are paying legitimate fees through legitimate adoption agencies, a
portion of their payments is almost always used for bribing local officials.
The same is true in Ryazan, where foreigners adopt 80 or 90 children each
year. The Ryazan department investigating organized crime opened a case in
March using phone taps and other surveillance techniques. They ended up
charging the head of a local orphanage and a health department inspector with
accepting bribes of about $7,000 per child. Igor Semiokhin, head of the
investigation, said that during that probe they heard about a woman looking
to sell her grandson. The woman was Nina.
"We got information that a citizen was looking for a buyer for a child who
was under her patronage," Semiokhin said.
The investigation had revealed that Nina arranged to sell the boy for $45,000
to an undisclosed buyer from Moscow, but was eager to find a higher bidder.
So, Semiokhin said, she came up with the idea of selling him as an organ
donor. Police decided to get in on the bidding. A detective borrowed a nice
overcoat from a relative and a business suit from a friend. Police also gave
him a mobile telephone, a gold chain and a Rolex watch from the evidence
room. He used the name Igor and then made contact with Nina. Police did not
disclose the details of the negotiations, but said that one of the first
things Nina gave to Igor was a photograph of the boy, smiling broadly,
standing against a wall.
Police said she also asked for a death certificate for the boy so she could
explain to neighbors why he disappeared. Over a month, police managed to talk
the asking price for the boy down to $90,000, from $100,000, then convinced a
local bank to give them the money to use for the sting.
On Oct. 24, an army of detectives, and a very nervous representative from the
bank, went out to spring their trap. It was early in the morning and they
parked in a busy part of town. The entire family climbed into the Mitsubishi
jeep that investigators borrowed from the local traffic police. Igor sat in
the front and handed over a black trash bag filled with bundles of cash.
Police said that Nina had made arrangements for Igor to slip her
$20,000-because she had told her son the deal was for just $70,000. Sergei
left the car with the sack and $70,000 stuffed inside. She left with $20,000
in her handbag.
Then they were nabbed.
Police videotaped the entire arrest and the initial questioning of Nina.
"I came here alone with Andryushenka," she said using the affectionate
diminutive for Andrei. "I had an appointment with a person, Igor. We wanted
to discuss with him about adoption." "In connection with what did you receive
such a big sum of money in hard currency?" the police asked.
"I didn't get anything." "You didn't get anything?" "He gave money," she
conceded, her voice catching for the first time.
A few hours later Sergei was seated and being questioned, also on videotape.
By this time he had a gash over his right eyebrow, an accident during
detention, police said.
"Do you know why you are here?" the police asked.
"How am I supposed to answer?" he responded.
"Tell us the truth," he was told.
"I was almost aware that for organs ... " Then he added: "I resisted as I
could. Then she said that they took a photo, maybe somebody would like him."
Sergei and Nina are being held in jail and now deny they had any intention of
selling the boy for his organs. They face up to 10 years in prison.
Police eventually reached into the jeep to comfort Andrei. They handed him a
lollipop and a chocolate bar. He asked his grandmother if she would like some
chocolate before police took him back to the orphanage.
Financial Times (UK)
November 6, 2000
Lukoil data delay is blow to hopes for transparency
By Andrew Jack and Arkady Ostrovsky in Moscow
Lukoil, Russia's largest oil company, is unlikely to publish financial
results in accordance with US generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
until at least next June - many months after originally promised.
Vagit Alekperov, Lukoil chairman, said that acquisitions, including this
year's takeover of Komitek, a Russian oil company, caused complications and
delays in preparing the figures.
He hoped the 1999 accounts would be ready for the annual meeting next summer
but warned further acquisitions could push back the date further.
Mr Alekperov's comments will come as a blow to hopes of improved transparency
and corporate governance in Russia. They triggered fresh anger from Lukoil
"This delay is hopeless and very disappointing," said one western fund
manager who has invested in Lukoil shares. "It is because they don't need the
money and they don't want to disclose information."
Shareholders had hoped that converting to GAAP would explain why Lukoil's
profits are lower than those of smaller rivals, and provide greater
disclosure on issues including the ownership of Reforma, a Cyprus-based group
which acquired more than 6 per cent of Lukoil's shares sold by the state in
Adoption of GAAP is a condition for Lukoil to issue American Depositary
Shares on the New York Stock Exchange but the company has recently won more
time after announcing that a listing will not take place before next autumn.
GAAP accounts are one of the conditions for the release of a $150m loan to
Lukoil from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, although
the terms may allow a first tranche to be released ahead of publication of
the full 1999 figures.
"Much depends on the GAAP figures, including our share price, the listing of
our ADSs and the credit from the EBRD," said Mr Alekperov. He hoped half-year
1999 results prepared according to GAAP would be sufficient to satisfy the
Lukoil's profits were comparatively low because the company was investing
more than its rivals, including in the Caspian Sea, he said.
He personally directly held only a tiny number of Lukoil shares, and the
principal shareholder in Reforma was a shareholder in Nikoil, a Moscow-based
Nikoil is believed to own up to 20 per cent of Lukoil, and in turn to be
controlled by senior Lukoil executives.
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