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Johnson's Russia List


November 17, 2000    

This Date's Issues:  4640


Johnson's Russia List
17 November 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. BBC Monitoring: Poverty and cold drive Russia's Maritime Territory teachers to strike.
2. AP: Lawmakers Want To Clean Language.
3. AP: Soviet Immigrants Bemused by Flap.
4. BBC Monitoring: Some communists advocate more criticism of Putin.
5. Dale Herspring: re warplanes buzzing US aircraft carrier.
6. From Edward Lucas.
7. The Economist (UK): Boris the Belligerent. Is Boris Fedorov a self-interested gadfly, or a champion of investors’ rights and economic reform in Russia?
8. AP: Putin Urges Tough Economic Reforms.
9. Interfax: Russian farmers conceal 10-15 per cent of bigger than forecast harvest.
10. The Guardian (UK): Using and abusing the law in Putin's Russia. As the soap opera over who ownership of Russia's two main television channels rolls on, Ian Traynor looks at the main victim of the affair - the law.
11. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Andrei Korbut, GENERAL STAFF ASSUMES CONTROL. The System of Power Departments to Be Overhauled.
12. Washington Post editorial: Selective Persecution.
13. St. Petersburg Times: Veshnyakov Rebuffs Vote-Finance Charge.
14. State Duma to consider draft bill that would give past presidents and their families guarantees of immunity.
15. Obshchaya Gazeta: Vladimir Zolotukhin, Pyramid Nine Trillion High. Pension reform threatens to turn into a grandiose swindle.] 


BBC Monitoring
Poverty and cold drive Russia's Maritime Territory teachers to strike 
Text of report by Russian Public TV on 17th November 

[Presenter] There is a new teachers' strike in Maritime Territory. A total of 
30,000 are taking part in the action. Teachers say they will not turn up for 
work until they are paid their wage arrears and schools are heated. In many 
classrooms the temperature is close to freezing. Here is a despatch from 
Sergey Kosarev. 

[Correspondent] It is unusually quiet in the schools of Artem. Even though it 
is a weekday, all classrooms are closed and there are no pupils. The town's 
teachers have joined the nationwide protest action and have refused to take 

[Woman, speaking on the phone] No, there are no lessons today. Ring again on 
Monday to see. 

[Correspondent] Pupils have been phoning school since early this morning and 
some are coming in to see for themselves that lessons have indeed been 

[Child] We've been on holiday for an extra week. 

[Second Child] We are already bored of it. 

[Correspondent] But lessons may not even resume on Monday. The situation in 
Artem's schools is catastrophic. The teachers, whose average wage is R1,000, 
have not been paid for six months. The subsistence minimum is exactly double 

[Teacher] We haven't been paid since June, so we have been forced to take 
this action today. 

[Correspondent] The teachers have described what is happening with the town's 
education as a total mockery. Not only are they unpaid, but they have to work 
in freezing classrooms. The temperature in this school is five degrees 
[Celsius] and the plants that the children have been cultivating are dying. 

[Woman] Just try sitting on this bench. Try it. The children couldn't sit on 
these for long. No way could the children sit on these for four or five 
lessons. They are cold. 

[School worker] What we've got is what you might call permanent cold - 
permafrost. You freeze at work and then you go home and there's no heating 
there either. We've never had anything like this here before. 

[Correspondent] A meeting of the town's teachers is under way at one of the 
school's halls. They are very determined and no longer believe any of the 
promises made by the town's authorities and have given the mayor's office a 
week to pay wages and switch on heating in schools. If this does not happen, 
an indefinite strike will begin. Colleagues from Ussuriysk, Arsenyev and 
Kavalerovo are ready to join the teachers of Artem. 


Lawmakers Want To Clean Language
November 17, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) - For years, Russians have complained about politicians who 
pepper their speech with puzzling terms derived from English or Latin, words 
like ``keeler,'' ``defolt,'' and ``impeech'' - or ``killer,'' ``default'' and 
``impeach,'' as they're better known to native speakers. 

Others bemoan the gangster-style talk of Russians, from the working classes 
to public figures, who litter their language with unprintable swear words. 

Now a group of lawmakers in Russia's parliament wants to outlaw both kinds of 
talk: The 12 legislators have proposed a bill that would mandate the use of 
Russian words instead of imports and make the use of swear words in any 
public comments a criminal offense. 

It is unclear how wide-ranging the bill would be, and whether it would apply 
to everyone or just politicians and the media. But under the bill, 
politicians talking about defaulting on debts would have to say 
``nevypolneniye obyazatelstv'' instead of taking the common foreign shortcut, 
``defolt.'' And references to the new ``millennium'' would be replaced by the 
Russian word, ``tysyacheletiye.'' 

The text of the draft has not been published yet, but excerpts were provided 
to The Associated Press by one of authors, pro-Kremlin Unity Party lawmaker 
Alexei Alexeyev. 

``Unfortunately, there are no legal norms in our current legislation on the 
purity of the Russian language'' - an oversight that the bill proposes to 
fix, Alexeyev said Thursday. 

The legislation was proposed by Unity but also backed by several of 
parliament's Communists, who are known for a nationalist dislike of imports, 
linguistic or otherwise. 

The bill may have a hard time winning wide backing in the house, called the 
State Duma, where many lawmakers themselves resort to foreign or unprintable 
words in private, and occasionally public, conversation. 

But the proposal highlights some Russians' growing concern about the state of 
the language of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And it comes amid increasing threats 
to the language's eminence in former Soviet republics outside Russia, where 
long-suppressed local tongues are taking over. 

Almost daily, Russian newscasts show politicians talking about reaching 
``konsensus'' (instead of ``soglasiye,'' the Russian word for ``agreement''); 
about the Communists' ``impeechment'' attempt against ex-President Boris 
Yeltsin; about the government's ``defolt'' on foreign loans - all words that 
were once alien to the Russian ear but recently have pushed their way into 
everyday conversation. 

Even the Russian word for ``murderer'' is often abandoned in favor of the 
English-derived ``killer,'' pronounced ``keeler.'' 

Many prominent government and public figures are notorious for mangling 
Russian's complex grammar. President Vladimir Putin himself could become a 
target of the bill: He is known to resort to rough speech at times, and at 
least once crossed publicly into the unprintable. Speaking to families of the 
sailors killed in the sinking of the submarine Kursk, he used an obscenity 
that prompted him to add: ``May the women forgive me.'' 

The lawmakers' effort is not the first crusade for the Russian language. 

A popular Russian radio station runs a brief program that highlights 
frequently mispronounced Russian words and tells listeners how to say them 
correctly. The Academy of Science's Institute of the Russian Language has set 
up a free telephone service for callers who want to know how to spell or use 
a difficult word. And the Russian Press Ministry has set up a literacy Web 
site with dictionaries and a survey of common language mistakes in the 
Russian media. 

``Language is not simply a communication tool, but a creative force that 
forms, preserves and modifies the national perception of the world,'' the 
site says. 

Regulating the ``national perception of the world'' was something Soviet-era 
propaganda once excelled in. But in today's Russia, where state control over 
everything from speech to public dress is largely a thing of the past, the 
lawmakers' proposal has been received with humor rather than apprehension. 

Punishment for violators of the proposed language law has not been specified 
yet, Alexeyev said. He said the authors are still putting finishing touches 
on the document. 


Soviet Immigrants Bemused by Flap
November 16, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) - The first time he voted, there was only one option for 
national leader: Josef Stalin. So Yevgeny Gorelik isn't dismayed by the furor 
over the deadlocked presidential election. 

``It's democracy,'' said the 75-year-old from Belarus, who cast his first 
U.S. ballot last week. ``It's a celebration.'' 

For Gorelik and other immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the turmoil in 
Florida highlights the contrast between freewheeling American politics and 
the predictability of communist-controlled elections. 

In Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood, a hub of the Russian emigre 
community, the standoff hasn't induced nostalgia for the old days, but it has 
perplexed many first-time voters. 

``I don't understand American law,'' said Vladimir Rozenshteyn, 70, a retired 
engineer from Moscow. ``All 50 states have their own laws. It's too 

Rozenshteyn, like Gorelik, voted for the first time in the United States last 
week. Both men are studying English at a Jewish community center in Brighton 
Beach; they took time out from class Wednesday to talk about elections. 

Rozenshteyn said voting was simpler and more efficient in Russia, but not 
more satisfying. ``I take my ballot, I put it in the box,'' he said. ``But it 
was not a choice. In Russia we didn't have a choice.'' 

He recalled the run-up to those elections, when Communist Party people would 
roam house to house with an emphatic message: ``Vote. Vote.'' 

Even with no opposition party to consider, people did vote, Rozenshteyn said, 
recalling turnouts announced at 99 percent. Often there were extra 
incentives, he said, such as a buffet table at the polling place, stocked 
with foods that might have been hard to find in the stores. 

Lana Khrapunskaya, who now works at the Jewish community center, used to be a 
teacher in Ukraine and worked as a vote-counter during elections there. 

``I was just doing my job,'' she said. ``I knew that the votes couldn't 
change the situation. It was already decided.'' 

Khrapunskaya, 41, moved to the United States three years ago and hasn't yet 
obtained citizenship. However, she worked at a voter-education program at the 
community center, helping teach new voters how to cast their ballots. 

Many immigrants showed up at the polling place on Election Day only to be 
rebuffed because they hadn't registered, she said. ``It was like a shock to 

A fellow worker at the center, Boris Kaplan, immigrated from St. Petersburg, 
Russia, eight years ago, and has learned enough about U.S. politics to 
suggest the Electoral College might need to be changed. 

``Those who wrote the Constitution, maybe it was OK when they wrote it,'' he 
said. ``Now they have 27 amendments. Maybe they can write a 28th.'' 

But Kaplan, 55, embraces democracy. 

``In Russia it didn't matter if you vote or not - the result is the same,'' 
he said. ``Here, when you see the news on TV, you understand that you can 
change something with your vote.'' 

Ralston Deffenbaugh, a former human rights lawyer who is president of the 
Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said many new 
immigrants from repressive or troubled countries share Kaplan's sentiments. 

``There's wonder and admiration that so many refugees look at this spectacle 
with,'' he said. ``This is the most closely contested election in our 
lifetimes, and life goes on normally. We don't see troops in the street. We 
don't seeing business or daily life grinding to a halt.'' 

``In the countries that many of the refuges come from, everything would have 
been closed down,'' Deffenbaugh said. ``There would have been curfews, and 
people stockpiling food.'' 

Few new voters from the former Soviet Bloc know more about U.S. elections 
than Anna Sternina, 78, a former teacher and school principal from St. 
Petersburg who studied American democracy extensively. 

She came to the United State in 1993, lives in Albany, N.Y., and last week 
cast what she considered her first meaningful vote for the leader of her 

Asked through a translator who she voted for, she replied, ``Nyet.'' 

``I'm exercising my American liberty of privacy,'' she explained. ``In the 
Soviet Union, I was not able to do that. My whole life I have lived under 
fear and under the burden of always saying different from what I'm thinking 
and thinking different from what I was saying.'' 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press writer Rik Stevens in Albany, N.Y., 
contributed to this report. 


BBC Monitoring
Russia: Some communists advocate more criticism of Putin 
Text of report by Radio Russia on 16th November 

[Presenter] State Duma speaker Gennadiy Seleznev gave an interview to Radio 
Russia, in which he admitted that there were contradictory viewpoints about 
the [Communist] Party's future. The interparty discussion focuses on the 
attitude to President Vladimir Putin. 

[Selezhev] Everyone is speaking his mind about what the party programme will 
be and how the congress will be held in December. A wide-scale party 
discussion is under way. But as for the fact that Putin is the touchstone in 
this discussion, yes, it is most likely so. True, many say that, since 
[Communist leader] Gennadiy Zyuganov lost the [presidential] election, we 
should toughly and severely slam the president who won the elections for 
everything. I think this is wrong. We should criticize him according to his 
deeds alone. We should not praise [him] much, too, as there are no 
substantial grounds for this. 


Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2000 
From: (Dale Herspring)
Subject: warplanes buzzing US aircraft carrier

Moscow's claim that two of its warplanes buzzed the US aircraft 
carrier Kitty Hawk sounds more than a bit far-fetched. Anyone who 
has been such a ship will know that all potential threats, sub-
surface, surface and air are tracked constantly. Even more, a 
carrier does not travel alone and other ships have some of the 
same equipment on board. The idea that such planes could slip 
through undected is silly.

Why then did the Kremlin go out on a limb and make such a 
claim? There are two possible reasons: first, foreign. PUtin is now 
meeting with a number of foreign officials and one could argue that 
this adventure would give him a shot in the arm -- ha, ha, 
Americans, you are not as good as you thought. I don't think Putin 
is that dumb. The second, and more persuasive in my opinion, has 
to do with internal Russian military politics. The situation within 
the Russian military is close to disastrous. It desperately needs a 
shot in the arm. Regardless of what the real facts were, being able 
to show members of the Russian military shots of US ships -- while 
claiming that the US was surprised -- can help in that regard. We 
are not as bad as many in the country -- and elsewhere -- throught. 
Look, we were able to sneak up on the highly touted Americans.

As far as the US Navy is concerned, it did exactly what it was 
supposed to do. The planes were spoted, aircraft were launched, 
but since there was no threat, they were tracked and followed until 
they left the region.

All in all, it is a sad commentary on the situation within the 
RUssian military that General Kornukov feels compelled to make 
such a claim.


From: "edward lucas" <>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 
Subject: From Edward Lucas

To subscribe to this weekly mailing, send an e-mail to 

Masha Gessen and several other people have taken me to task for saying that
Russia is less free than it was ten years ago. Maybe I overstated things,
or maybe the comparison is not sensible. What I was trying to say was
that--purely on the political front, and leaving the quality of carrots etc
aside--there was a feeling of exhilaration then which is quite absent now.
Everything seemed possible. Old Soviet mechanisms and controls were falling
down, new shoots of civil society were appearing, Yeltsin was back and
championing what sounded like democracy, captive nations outside Russia
were recovering their independence. Admittedly, a lot of that optimism
proved unfounded. It may have been superficial and misleading. But contrast
that with what we've got now: muzzled media, controlled elections, and much
worse to come.

There was a very interesting briefing yesterday from the editors of
Gusinsky's four main outlets. They are so anti-Putin and gloomy that I
sound like a wild optimist in comparison. The good news is that they seem
ready to go down fighting, although they are already suffering from an
exodus of journalists (a case of hacks leaving the sinking shit). They say
the only thing holding Putin back is fear of western criticism--which is
why it was particularly depressing to hear that Tony "Toady" Blair was
backtracking on whether to give an 
interview to Ekho Moskvy--apparently, although the British Embassy denies
this--the excuse is that his media appearances have to be cleared (or
co-ordinated) with the Kremlin. Clinton did give an interview, despite a
lot of pressure from Putin. Blair at least hasn't ruled it out, and perhaps
some hostile coverage in today's British press will stiffen his jelly-like


The Economist (UK)
November 18-24, 2000
Boris the Belligerent
Is Boris Fedorov a self-interested gadfly, or a champion of investors’
rights and economic reform in Russia?

IF YOU like nothing better than a bruising argument, Russia is the place.
Boris Fedorov, a formidably articulate politician-turned-banker, is
enjoying himself hugely by banging away at the opaque and eccentric
management of three of the country’s most powerful companies.

Each of Mr Fedorov’s targets, in its way, keeps Russia together. Sberbank,
a state-guaranteed savings institution, is easily the biggest and most
important bit of the country’s financial system. United Energy Systems
(UES), the national electricity company, keeps Russia functioning, more or
less, as an industrialised country. And Gazprom is the most important of
the lot: its gas stops Russia from freezing in winter, and its export
revenues and tax payments help the state to fend off bankruptcy.

Bad management at all three also holds Russia back. Sberbank is a tool of
the central bank. Its regional branches function as cash dispensers for
local chieftains. Gazprom and UES sell energy at a loss (at government
behest). In many ways, these companies are run as the private fiefs of
senior managers. Gazprom has shifted billions of dollars of assets and cash
flow to a shadowy, and hugely profitable, intermediary company, Itera, that
many believe is linked to its bosses. UES’s chief executive, Anatoly
Chubais, seems to run his firm to political as much as commercial ends:
recently, for example, UES bought a TV station.

Mr Fedorov, who sits on all three companies’ boards as a representative of
outside shareholders, campaigns for transparent, businesslike habits. His
efforts go well beyond those of the government, which seems keener on
changing the beneficiaries of Russian big business than its management
style. But they chime strongly with the most fashionable issue among
outsiders dealing with Russia. This week, Standard & Poor’s, a
credit-rating agency, started scoring Russian firms on their corporate
governance, and the OECD published a new code of conduct for firms
operating in the country. The World Economic Forum, a Swiss outfit that
organises schmoozing sessions for the rich and powerful, said that Russian
tycoons who breached its governance code would no longer be welcome at its
annual jamboree in Davos.

The two big questions about Mr Fedorov’s personal efforts concern
self-interest and effectiveness. He is the founder and main shareholder of
a small investment bank, United Financial Group (UFG), which is the main
market-maker in Gazprom shares. These come in two kinds: depositary
receipts traded in New York, and local shares that only Russians can buy.
The second cost about half as much as the first. One of Mr Fedorov’s aims
is to create just one class of shares. There is at least the possibility
that market-sensitive information about this, or other Gazprom affairs,
could reach UFG’s clients first.

Mr Fedorov denies this with his customary mixture of charm and
forcefulness. Of course he is representing UFG’s clients, he says—their
votes put him on the board. But he shares information willingly with
outside analysts and investors (true), and does not talk to his own traders
first (harder to verify). Detractors are just jealous, he insists, because
he is getting somewhere, and because he is independent.

The latter is not in doubt. Mr Fedorov’s fierce independence—even his best
friends do not call him a team player—has all but ended his political
career. He has held public office only twice, as finance minister for a
year in 1993, and as head of the tax service for three months in 1998. By
his own account he is too patriotic for Russia’s wimpy economic reformers,
but too free-market for anybody else.

His barely veiled contempt for most of Russia’s ruling class reflects his
different origins. His own roots are a mixture of aristocracy and poverty:
his father was a caretaker in a chocolate factory, but he recently
unearthed his (Polish) family crest and the site of an estate granted to
his family by Peter the Great. Most other prominent Russians came straight
from the Communist nomenklatura, and probably think a coat of arms is what
their bodyguard wears in cold weather. Mr Fedorov’s passionate enthusiasm
for lawns, genealogy and the English countryside is a world away from the
luxury villas, bimbos and casinos that tempt most Russian bigshots.

Making a noise

Despite being well-placed to make a difference, say Mr Fedorov’s critics,
he is merely making a lot of self-promoting noise. But noise may be the
best tactic for now—if it can be made loud enough to shame politicians into
action. In none of the three companies do minority shareholders alone have
much chance of forcing management to behave differently: that can come only
through the government, which holds majority stakes in Sberbank and UES,
and is also the largest shareholder in Gazprom.

Partly thanks to Mr Fedorov, there is already progress. Sberbank recently
published accounts that are less meaningless than previous versions. UES
has revised its much-criticised plans for hasty sales of large chunks of
generating capacity. Gazprom has started regular board meetings.

Mr Fedorov points to Gazprom’s next board meeting, later this month, as a
test of the state’s intentions. “If the management says there is nothing
wrong with Itera and the government accepts it, then it is a big blow,” he
says. “If we raise the level of discussion high enough, then the government
will say it has to investigate further.” Either way, he is having fun
provoking Russia’s corporate giants, and (coincidentally, of course)
getting splendid publicity for himself and his bank. 


Putin Urges Tough Economic Reforms
November 17, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Soviet-style 
industrial behemoths must undertake reforms and the government must reduce 
barriers to imports to survive in the global economy. 

``Some Russian manufacturers will feel ill at ease under the pressure of 
cheaper foreign goods of higher quality. Nevertheless, this road should be 
taken, or else we will all die out as dinosaurs,'' Putin said during a visit 
to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, according to Russian news reports. 

Russia must open its borders to imports to integrate into the international 
community, he said. 

``Such unpleasant things must be said,'' he added. ``Competition is 
impossible without losses.'' 

Putin has insisted that economic reforms must continue, and his top economic 
advisers are strongly pro-free market. Still, it remains unclear whether he 
will be able to overhaul inefficient industries that stalled under former 
President Boris Yeltsin or clean up corruption that has crippled the economy. 

On Friday, he reiterated that raising Russians' living standards is a top 
priority, particularly in remote regions that once relied almost solely on 
subsidies that have dried up since the 1991 Soviet collapse. 

``The policy of the development of Siberia, which had been pursued for many 
years, proved to be inefficient today,'' he said according to ITAR-Tass. 
``Many factors which made the work in Siberia attractive for people do not 
work now.'' 


Russian farmers conceal 10-15 per cent of bigger than forecast harvest 

Moscow, 16th November: The actual 2000 grain harvest in Russia will exceed 
the official Agriculture Ministry forecast of 65m to 66m tonnes and will 
amount to 70m to 71m tonnes, Arkadiy Zlochevskiy, chairman of the Russian 
Grain Union board of directors and director-general of the OGO group of 
companies, told Interfax on Thursday [16th November]. 

As usual, farmers will conceal an estimated 10 per cent to 15 per cent of 
their harvest, especially of the most needed grain, so as to carry out barter 
deals and for other purposes, Zlochevskiy said. Experts believe that the 15 
regions in which the harvest is 20 per cent above the annual consumption will 
account for most of the unreported grain, he said. 

The grain market situation in 2000 will be fairly quiet, with no dramatic 
changes in prices or panic buying predicted, Zlochevskiy said. The higher 
grain harvest in 2000 will result in an increase in its export, while the 
emergency store will increase by 0.5m tonnes. 

Russia produced 54.7m tonnes of grain in 1999. 


The Guardian (UK)
November 17, 2000
Using and abusing the law in Putin's Russia 
As the soap opera over who ownership of Russia's two main television channels 
rolls on, Ian Traynor looks at the main victim of the affair - the law

Mikhail Lesin has a starring role in the endless soap opera over who will 
ultimately control Russia's two main television channels - the Kremlin or 
extremely wealthy ''disloyal oligarchs''. 

One of the most telling incidents illustrating the realities of contemporary 
political life in Russia occurred a few weeks ago, with Mr Lesin, minister 
for the media, again taking centre stage. 

He had just put his signature to a deal guaranteeing Vladimir Gusinsky, the 
media mogul and Kremlin foe, immunity from prosecution in return for 
agreement to surrender control of his media empire. 

News of the arrangement sparked uproar and the Kremlin had to go through the 
motions of upbraiding the media minister. Not that he would have to resign, 
of course, after flagrantly interfering with the judicial process and 
deploying the law as a political instrument. 

Instead Mr Lesin was punished publicly, if lightly, at a cabinet meeting, 
with the relevant bits televised and shown to the nation. Like an errant 
schoolboy caught passing smutty messages to the girls at the next desks, Mr 
Lesin was ordered to stand up before the rest of the cabinet class while the 
head teacher and prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, issued his rebuke. 

Head bowed in contrition, Mr Lesin waited to be branded a dunce and ordered 
to stand in the corner with his face to the wall. Instead, Mr Kasyanov ended 
his sermon, then issued a peremptory ''now, sit down'' to the naughty 
minister who did as he was told. 

It was an extraordinary piece of political theatre, a staged display of 
power, deference, and flouting of the law. Not that Mr Lesin's signature was 
worth much, anyway. This week the prosecutor's office issued an arrest 
warrant for Mr Gusinsky after he failed to show up for questioning about 

All the same, that a government minister could sign a pledge guaranteeing 
immunity from prosecution in return for a business deal illustrates the uses 
and abuses to which the law is put in Russia. 

Vladimir Putin came to the Russian presidency earlier this year pledging to 
establish ''a dictatorship of the law'' and a level legal playing field in a 
culture where the prosecutor's office, the courts, and the police have long 
been toys in the hands of the politicians. 

On paper Russia is a law-based state. But then Stalin's Soviet Union was 
privileged to enjoy one of the most democratic constitutions ever written. 

The Lesin signature, which could not have been written without the nod from 
the Kremlin, strongly suggests that Mr Putin is less than keen to see the 
laws of the land observed. Either that or he is too weak to do much about it. 

Sergei Pashin, a Moscow judge and a liberal who has toiled down the years to 
introduce jury trials in Russia and correct rampant miscarriages of justice, 
has just been fired for defending a conscientious objector and getting up the 
noses of his colleagues. 

When the Kremlin recently needed to appoint a loyalist Chechen mayor of the 
destroyed Chechen capital, Grozny, it opted for Bislan Gantemirov, a 
convicted fraudster. 

The last time Gantemirov held the post, he was jailed for embezzling millions 
in Chechen reconstruction funds. The Putin team let him out of jail last year 
because they thought he could be useful to them in the Chechnya war. 

Mr Putin's own choice of language repeatedly shows scant regard for the law. 
He talks of ''taking a cudgel'' to the likes of Mr Gusinsky or the other 
enemy media magnate, Boris Berezovsky. He branded Andrei Babitsky, the 
fearless Radio Liberty journalist operating in Chechnya, a ''terrorist''. 

Some of Mr Putin's past actions, too, suggest a less than scrupulous attitude 
to the law. Earlier in his career when his boss Anatoliy Sobchak, the late 
mayor of St Petersburg, was wanted for questioning, Mr Putin personally 
organised the mayor's escape first to Finland then France. 

When the Kremlin wanted rid of a prosecutor-general investigating corruption 
in the Boris Yeltsin entourage, Mr Putin, then domestic intelligence chief, 
personally presented the law officer with a clandestinely filmed video 
purporting to show the prosecutor romping in bed with prostitutes. The video 
was then given to loyal state television and broadcast to the entire country. 

The prosecutor, Yuriy Skuratov, is long gone, his place taken by a Putin 
loyalist. Mr Lesin remains in the cabinet. 

Mr Gusinsky and Mr Berezovsky, fabulously wealthy and unsavoury businessmen 
who are the unlikeliest of martyrs in the cause of press freedom, are in 
exile abroad, fearful of coming home because the last thing they expect in 
Vladimir Putin's Russia is a fair trial. 


Nezavisimaya Gazeta
November 17, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
The System of Power Departments to Be Overhauled 
By Andrei KORBUT

While Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev was closing the 
session of the leading military staff on November 16, Chief of 
the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin made sensational statements 
on the military reform, as approved by the Security Council and 
hence the president, in a closed session of the Duma defence 
One sensational news followed another. 
In particular, the General Staff suggested strictly 
delineating the functions of the Defence Ministry and the 
General Staff, because the logistics, medical, personnel and 
other elements of the power departments will be streamlined and 
Consequently, they should be guided by one agency, a function 
that Kvashnin thinks the General Staff (possibly renamed Joint 
Staff) should fulfil. The Defence Ministry should become a 
political agency headed by a civilian. 
Seeking to reduce spending on troop management, the 
General Staff suggested reforming the Main Command of the 
Interior Troops and to make the Federal Frontier Service an arm 
operationally subordinate to the General Staff (Joint Staff). 
This will lead to a dramatic reduction of generals in the 
frontier force and permit the planning of the use of the 
frontier force as a land force in the so-called special 
periods. The same goes for the Interior Troops. Although the 
Land Force is to be slashed by 180,000 troops, this reduction 
will be compensated by the fulfilment of its functions by the 
Interior Troops, transformed into the national guards and 
removed from the structure of the Interior Ministry. 
But the most mind-shattering proposal of the General Staff 
concerns the reduction of the armed forces down to 800,000 
troops and the actual introduction of the territorial 
para-police method of operation of the armed forces. The 
storage bases and reduced division deployed in the military 
districts should become the basic centres for training the 
mobile resources. This is why the 2001 defence budget doubled 
allocations on mobilisation sessions.
In other words, Anatoly Kvashnin has snatched the 
initiative concerning suggestions on further military 
development in the country elaborated for the president. The 
chief of the General Staff told the Duma deputies the final 
reduction figures. By 2010, the Russian armed forces, currently 
standing at 1.2 million, will be slashed by 350,000-360,000 
troops. The strength of the Land Force is to be reduced by 
180,000, the Navy, by 50,000, and the Air Force, by 40,000. In 
2001, the Strategic Missile Force will lose missile space 
defence and military space command, which are to be made 
subordinate to the General Staff.
The Strategic Missile Force is to be downgraded from a service 
to an arm in 2002 and incorporated into the Air Force in 2006. 
According to Kvashnin, the military reform will also touch 
upon other power departments. In particular, the Interior 
Troops of the Interior Ministry are to be reduced by 20,000, 
the Railway Troops, by 10,000, and the Federal Frontier 
Service, by 5,000 troops. More than 25,000 servicemen will be 
slashed in other departments, which have military units.
In addition to the military reform, the deputies and 
Kvashnin also discussed ways of spending additional revenues in 
the 2001 military budget. The General Staff thinks they should 
be spent on fuel and lubricants and on combat training. Some 
deputies think the money should go to research and defence 
enterprises. Experts conclude that the bulk of deputies will 
support the ideas of the General Staff during the discussion of 
the 2001 budget. 


Washington Post
November 17, 2000
Selective Persecution

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin would have the world believe that, in going 
after his country's independent media, his government is just enforcing the 
law. In the post-Communist rough and tumble, the argument goes, a handful of 
enterprising but shady operators got access to too much wealth. These 
"oligarchs," as they are known, have to be taught the lesson that they are 
not above the law. The media tycoons are simply oligarchs who happen to own 
newspapers and television networks. 

The problem with this explanation is that Mr. Putin happens to be going after 
only the two oligarchs who own media properties that have had the temerity to 
be critical of him. Boris Berezovsky, who controlled a 49 percent stake of 
one network as well as some newspapers, is one target. The other is Vladimir 
Gusinsky, founder and part owner of the nongovernmental NTV television 
network, a daily newspaper, a radio station and a weekly newsmagazine. (The 
last, readers should know, is published in association with Newsweek, which 
is owned by The Washington Post Co.) The other post-Soviet tycoons, who earn 
far more from oil and nickel and other businesses, have yet to be bothered by 
Mr. Putin's regime.

NTV and its affiliated publications have lately been the most important 
sources of independent reporting in Russia--on Russian failures and brutality 
in Chechnya, on government bumbling during the sinking of the Kursk 
submarine, on alleged corruption and mismanagement in government. And NTV has 
been the chief target of Mr. Putin's campaign. He mostly has operated at one 
remove. This week his prosecutor-general issued an order for Mr. Gusinsky's 
arrest on charges of fraud, and an imminent deal between Mr. Gusinsky's 
company and another firm collapsed, reportedly under Kremlin pressure. Mr. 
Gusinsky, living in exile, does not appear to be in personal jeopardy. But 
the government seems close to achieving its goal of ruining NTV, or at least 
putting it on a short leash. The cost to Russian democracy would be high.


St. Petersburg Times
November 17, 2000
Veshnyakov Rebuffs Vote-Finance Charge 
By Vladimir Kovalyev

Financial tycoon Boris Berezovsky - who has chosen to remain abroad rather 
than return to Russia and face questions about alleged embezzlement - has 
said President Vladimir Putin used foreign financial resources to gain 
election in March this year.

Under Russian election law, the use of finances from sources abroad is 
strictly forbidden.

But in an open letter to the media published Tuesday, Berezovsky accuses 
Putin of taking the aid of Swiss companies channeled through Aeroflot Russia 
Airlines - the very company Berezovsky stands accused of embezzling from, and 
which he partly owns.

Berezovsky, a long-time political insider in the administration of Boris 
Yeltsin, is charged with embezzling $1 billion from the airline. Though close 
to members of Yeltsin's literal and figurative family, he has fallen out of 
favor with the Kremlin under Putin and many analysts say he - like 
media-baron Vladimir Gusinsky - is the victim of a house-cleaning as Putin 
goes after the oligarchy.

In his letter, Berezovsky - who is currently in New York - answered his 
accusers, writing that "the so-called Aeroflot case was made up by [former 
prime-minister Yevgeny] Primakov and then re-activated by Putin, who was not 
happy about my criticism of his policies."

"Putin, being a candidate for president, was not disturbed when the profit of 
Swiss companies that worked with Aeroflot was used to finance [Putin's] Unity 
faction and the presidential election campaign."

Berezovsky named Andava and Forus as companies that had given profits to the 
Putin race, companies that Berezovsky himself had used to help finance ORT, 
which was behind Putin's advertising campaign, Berezovsky said in an 
interview on NTV on Wednesday.

Central Electoral Commission head Alexander Veshnyakov was asked in an 
interview on Ekho Moskvy radio on Thursday if the election results would have 
to be nullified should hard evidence arise that foreign funding had aided the 
Putin campaign - like the sort that Berezovsky hinted at though never claimed 
to have.

"That is our duty," said Veshnyakov.

"In a case where we receive documents saying that there were financial 
violations during the process of a deputy's or president's elections, we have 
to check it and, if anyone is guilty, we take measures to make them answer 
for that."

But in this particular case, Veshnyakov was not impressed by Berezovsky's 
announcement, and said that the Central Election Commission would not be 
taking any steps to look into whether or not Putin financed his campaign with 
foreign money.

"There is nothing to react to in the announcement in the interview that was 
made by Berezovsky," Veshnyakov said.

Political analysts also had doubts that the Central Election Commission would 
take action on Berezovsky's claims.

"It is typical in many countries - including the United States - to prohibit 
the financing of election campaigns with foreign money, but nothing is going 
to happen here," said Leonid Kes sel man, political analyst at the Russian 
Academy of Sciences.


November 1 6, 200
State Duma to consider draft bill that would give past presidents and their 
families guarantees of immunity

With a State Duma committee considering a draft bill that would give past 
presidents and their families guarantees of immunity, it shall be recalled 
that Vladimir Putin's first decree after his inauguration was a decree on 
guarantees for this predecessor Boris Yeltsin. Since then the debate on 
whether such guarantees are necessary at all or what they should look like 
has been raging unabated. 

It is noteworthy that the debate is of a purely political nature. It is being 
fuelled by anti-democratic forces who are not so much concerned with the 
guarantees themselves as with an attack on Boris Yeltsin. Besides, the 
legitimacy of that decree is doubtful, considering that its provisions are 
the prerogative of a federal law. It is for that reason that President Putin 
has put a relevant draft bill before the Duma. 

According to presidential envoy to the Duma Alexander Kotenkov, the Duma 
State Building Committee has recommended that the lower house of Parliament 
vote for the draft in its first reading subject to two "significant 
amendments." One of them concerns the immunity of the former president and 
provides for stringent restrictions on possible harassment. The other gives a 
clearer formula of what "a member of the family" of the former president 

In accordance with Putin's decree Boris Yeltsin gets a pension amounting to 
75% of the salary of the incumbent president or about $290. He also enjoys 
the life-long tenure of a residence near Moscow and has an armored Mercedes 
limousine, bodyguards, a staff and a Kremlin office. Besides, he has access 
to the same kind of medical service as the incumbent president. Also, Yeltsin 
cannot be detained, arrested or searched. 

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev too received life-long guarantees 
following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. However, after 
an interview for the Liberation newspaper in which he sharply criticized 
Yeltsin, he was gradually stripped of his perks, and his pension dropped to 
$2 by the fall of 1994 as a result of growing inflation. 

Sergei Filatov, former chief of presidential staff under Yeltsin, feels there 
is no need to provide absolute guarantees of immunity for a past head of 
state and his family. He maintains that a past president should be held 
responsible if he has done something wrong. The trouble though is that 
existing laws do not give a clear idea of what wrongdoings are punishable. In 
any case, the less politics is involved, so much the better. Filatov is 
against an immunity law being used as an instrument of revenge.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin has told ORT Television he has every opportunity to "act 
in the political arena."


Russian Pension Reform Plans Examined 

Obshchaya Gazeta
November 9, 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vladimir Zolotukhin, political scientist: "Pyramid Nine 
Trillion High"

Pension reform threatens to turn into a grandiose swindle 

In November, the elderly once again received a slight increase in 
pension payments. The old people are happy about even this symbolic 
increase. Meanwhile, as Obshchaya Gazeta has already reported (see 
issue 42), the government is carrying out plays for a global reform of 
the pension system. In his article, political scientist Vladimir 
Zolotukhin tells about what it forebodes for Russians. 

Saving the drowning people 

Recently, there was an announcement about the sentencing of a certain 
Vladimir Kornev in Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast. The former first secretary 
of the Dzerzhinskiy Komsomol gorkom [city committee] was sentenced to 3.5 
years of imprisonment "for repeated fraudulent acts performed in large 
amounts." In the mid-90's, Kornev founded the non-state pension fund, 
"Nash Gorod" ["Our City"], to which he attracted public funds at high 
rates of interest for 2 years. However, most of the investors were 
unable to make use of the results of this "savings system." The guilty 
party has been found and punished. But obviously, no one returned the 
money to the victims. 
It is all too common "new Russian" story. However, it is perceived 
in a special way in light of the pension reform adopted by the government 
of the Russian Federation, which is being widely advertised today. Its 
essence consists of the changeover to a so-called "savings system," when 
future pensions would be paid out not from the state budget, but from a 
special account, into which each citizen will have to deposit money he 
has earned during his entire life. 
"The demographic situation is to blame for everything." That is how 
the need for reform is justified by the government. According to 
estimates of specialists, in 7 years, for every working person in Russia 
there will be one pensioner. And this means that the old system, when 
able-bodied citizens "chipped in" by means of deducting 28 percent of 
their wages to support the elderly, will no longer meet the needs of the 
Pension Fund. The following figures are cited: Today there are 63-64 
million people employed in the economy, and 38.6 million pensioners. 
But 99 percent of all pension contributions are paid by 50 million people 
who work for hire and receive wages credited by the accounting office. 
Meanwhile, individual entrepreneurs contribute very little to the Pension 
Fund. Therefore, as the number of pensioners increases, the state will 
supposedly not have the funds to pay out pensions. 
The task of "saving the drowning people" will be left up to the 
drowning people themselves. According to the government plan, as of 1 
January 2002, employers will transfer 2 percent of a worker's earnings to 
the worker's individual Pension Fund account. Every year, this share 
will increase, and by 2009 it will reach 9 percent. No payments from 
these accounts are foreseen until 2010--the "cash register" will operate 
only for receipt of money. It is presumed that the first payments will 
begin in 10 years. And during all this time, the state promises to 
safeguard and increase the money which has been collected from the 
population. According to the estimate of Minister of Labor and Social 
Development Aleksandr Pochinok, the sum of money handed over by us to the 
state will comprise 9 trillion rubles (R). 
The author of this article has had personal experience in dealing 
with the state on the subject of safeguarding funds. In 1987, I 
concluded an agreement for savings insurance with Gosstrakh [state 
insurance], according to which I was to pay out R18 a month over a period 
of 5 years. This was a lot of money for our family. At the time, it 
would buy 23 kilograms or sugar or 82 loaves of white bread. But, upon 
making the contribution to the cash fund, I would be consoled by one 
thought: In 5 years, I would receive the huge sum of R1,000, which would 
be quite enough to buy new furniture. And in 1992, I really was issued 
a check for R1,000. But I could not buy anything for it, because even a 
loaf of bread cost R2,000 at that time. 
To this story, my grandmother can add her own recount of Stalin's 
post-war borrowing of funds from the public, my aunt--the tale of the 
3-percent state loan bonds, my father--the legend of the safety of his 
deposit in a savings account, and my daughter--the thriller about the 
state financial pyramid with the GKOs [state short-term bonds]. 
In the aforementioned list of economic works, pension reform aspires 
to the title of a best-seller. The author of such a refined (obviously, 
based on "concern for the people") method of taking money away from the 
population can most certainly head up the list which already contains the 
names of S. Mavrodi, V. Solovyeva and many others. The fact is that, 
judging by the estimates of demographers, most of this money will not 
have to be returned to its owners. For example, the average life 
expectancy of men in Russia today comprises 58 years of age. For women, 
it is slightly higher, but still it is clear that a significant portion 
of the citizens will either not live long enough to make use of the money 
they have saved up, or will be able to use it for only a very short time. 
Another factor: In the first 9 months of this year alone, inflation on 
the Moscow consumer market comprised 15.8 percent (data of Mosgorkomstat 
[Moscow City Committee on Statistics]). At such rates of growth in 
prices, what will remain of my money in 18 years? 

Stop! Thief! 

For a very long time, I have been tormented by a seditious thought: 
How to make it so that, in the future, I can ensure myself not a king's 
pension, but an old age free of worry. And how to not give away the 
"nest egg" saved up for the last years of my life to the Pension Fund, 
but on the contrary--how to hide it farther from the state. Alas, 
nothing will come of this: The new pension system does not presuppose 
voluntary participation. It is mandatory. And the money will be taken 
away from me in the form of retirement contributions in accordance with 
the full program. And in exchange, I will be told the number of the 
account in which my money will supposedly be kept up until June of 2018, 
until my 60th birthday. Oh, if only I should live so long! 
The reform which is being undertaken will deal the hardest blow to 
private entrepreneurs. They are the ones who must contribute the most 
significant part of the R9 trillion to the Pension Fund. I am convinced 
that most of them will shout loudly: "Stop! Thief!" And how can they 
not shout, when a tax inspector comes, say, to an individual barber or 
"shuttle trader" on the market, and says: "Every month, you will give 
R200 to the Pension Fund!" One cannot refuse to pay--the system makes 
no provision for refusal. Many of my friends who are entrepreneurs have 
already included this payment in the overall sum of "production 
expenditures," along with payments to public officials, racketeers, tax 
inspectors, sanitation inspectors, firemen and policemen... Will such 
pension reform facilitate support of representatives of the "middle 
class," which has not yet gained strength? The answer is obvious. 
They say that these changes have been devised as a "manifestation of 
the state's concern for the well-being of its own citizens." I do not 
believe it. The real goals of pension reform are obvious to me. 
First of all, by having implemented reform, the state is to a 
significant degree absolving itself of the responsibility for timely and 
full payment of pensions to future pensioners. If suddenly a citizen 
does not find in his account the money which he sent there, the state, 
the government, or the President will not be to blame for this. We will 
be told the name of the guilty party, and he will be punished (see the 
beginning of this article). But, as always, the money will not be 
Secondly, the reform takes a huge sum of money earned by the 
population out of circulation. This money will not be paid to citizens 
for purchase of goods, and that means inflation will decline sharply. 
Thirdly, I have no doubt that specifically this money will be used 
for current payments of pensions to today's pensioners. This will make 
it possible to reduce social tension in the country and to remove from 
the agenda the question of the Pension Fund's budget deficit. 
I am not ruling out the possibility that there are other goals as 
well, since such a huge sum--which does not need to be repaid to anyone 
for 10 years--is rather attractive to persons who receive the right to 
manage this money. The characteristic, "they are stealing!" is still 
current for present-day Russia. 
Most government officials admit that there are problems with 
safekeeping of the money, and stress the need to protect it against 
inflation. They talk about the expediency of investing this money "into 
high-yield investment projects." But no one--I emphasize, no one!--is 
giving any guarantees about the safety of my money. 


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