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CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List

Johnson's Russia List
 

 

December 5, 2000   

This Date's Issues:   4669  4670

 

Johnson's Russia List
#4670
5 December 2000
davidjohnson@erols.com

[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Russia forecasts strong economic growth for 2000.
2. Interfax: Russia's liberals put forward Chechen peace plan.
3. Reuters: Russian defence chief takes tough ABM line.
4. Moscow Times: Anna Badkhen, Forget Order: We'd Rather Be Suffering.
5. The Guardian (UK): Ian Traynor, Kremlin's arms salesmen target US foes.
6. Chicago Tribune: Colin McMahon, SIBERIAN LAKE A SOURCE OF DEBATE.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS, MILL CLASHING OVER POLLUTION.

7. BBC Monitoring: Russian president sets out his proposals with regard to Russian state symbols.
8. Interfax: Russian intellectuals protest return of Soviet anthem.
9. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: INTERIOR MINISTRY SLATED FOR RESTRUCTURING.
10. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): The empire sinks back.  As decay and disintegration gather pace in Russia, it is every man, woman and child for themselves. Marcus Warren reports on the collapse of a superpower.]

******

#1
Russia forecasts strong economic growth for 2000

MOSCOW, Dec 5 (AFP) -
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov reported an optimistic economic forecast for
2000 on Tuesday that included a 10-percent jump in industrial production and
seven-percent growth in GDP.

Meanwhile the ruble fell to 27.95 to the dollar from 27.91 late on Monday and
to 24.79 to the euro from 24.53

The growth figures, if they come true, could deliver an important boost to
Kasyanov's government, which is under pressure, and show that the economy had
its best year since collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Kasyanov told an Western investment forum in Moscow that annual inflation for
2000 would hold at 21 percent compared to 84 percent the previous year.

His government is aiming for 12-14 percent inflation next year and reported a
10-percent growth in the population's real income for the current year.

"The Russian government's main task is to build on these positive economic
tendencies," Kasyanov said.

He also set out two key short-term tasks for his government: making Russia's
struggling banking sector more transparent and reforming the so-called
natural monopolies such as the electricity and natural gas sectors.

"Our goal is to make these industries competitive and transparent," Kasyanov
told the Western investors.

However his optimism came against the backdrop of intensifying criticism of
the government's work by President Vladimir Putin and his senior economic
aides.

Putin over the weekend savaged a foreign debt restructuring plan negotiated
by Kasyanov earlier this year as counterproductive for Russia and accused the
government of relying too much on barter trade.

Meanwhile Putin's most senior economic advisor bluntly accused Kasyanov of
wasting the year away even while the country profited from skyrocketing world
prices on its oil and natural gas exports.

"Without any effort, without changing anything, 30 billion dollars (33.70
billion euros) extra has come into the Russian economy," Andrei Illarionov
said. "The question was how to use that money."

Illarionov said economic indicators pointed to a slowdown in Russia growth
over the past few months.

Russia currently owes 48 billion dollars to sovereign creditors in the Club
of Paris and has not budget for any of the 3.3 billion dollars that come due
next year in the 2001 spending plan.

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on Tuesday that
Russia would honour its debts in 2001 even if it failed to restructure them
in time.

"We will honour all of our debts even if we fail to reach an agreement,"
Interfax quoted Gref as saying.

About 39 percent of Moscow's sovereign debt is owed to Germany and the two
countries are currently negotiating as debt write-off in exchange for shares
in some Russian companies.

However economists predict that plan would have a hard time getting past
Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament.

******

#2
Russia's liberals put forward Chechen peace plan
Interfax

Moscow, 5th December: Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right Forces
faction in the State Duma, met President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday [5th
December] and gave his proposals for a political settlement of the situation
in Chechnya.

"The president understands quite well that it is impossible to resolve the
situation in this region with the aid of weapons alone, and that there is a
need for a political decision," Nemtsov told the press while commenting on
the exchange of opinions with the president on this issue.

"Several months ago the president had no such understanding and the progress
is evident," Nemtsov said, refusing to specify the details of the talk.

At the same time, Nemtsov suggested starting a dialogue with the Chechen
authorities that are legitimate under Russian legislation, the Union of Right
Forces faction told the press.

Nemtsov also thinks it necessary to appoint a federal representative in
Chechnya in the post of governor-general and to give him necessary powers,
which will combine the functions of a civil and military administration.

He said the work of the Chechen parliament elected in 1997 should be resumed
and a State Council created that consists of "the formal and informal elite
of the republic, taking into account the clan structure of Chechen society".

Nemtsov said in his opinion, it is necessary to start the process of changing
the constitution to ensure transition to a representative form of governance,
that is, to the creation of a parliamentary republic in Chechnya.

******

#3
INTERVIEW-Russian defence chief takes tough ABM line
By Martin Nesirky
 
MOSCOW, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Russia's defence minister distanced himself on
Tuesday from an arms control proposal put forward by his nuclear missiles
chief, saying Moscow would not agree to any changes in the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

In written answers to questions from Reuters, Marshal Igor Sergeyev also
said he planned to discuss ways to help retrain officers made redundant and
to avoid submarine accidents during talks in London and at NATO
headquarters in Brussels this week.

Last month, the head of the Strategic Rocket Forces, General Vladimir
Yakovlev, said it would be difficult to persuade the United States to ditch
its plans for an anti-missile shield and to avoid rewriting the ABM treaty
altogether. He proposed introducing an index of strategic weapons as a
counterbalance.

But Sergeyev said: "At the moment various opinions are being expressed
about solving the problem of retaining the ABM treaty.

"I should like to stress again that Russia's position on the question of
the ABM treaty is consistent and unchangeable. Russia will not agree to any
'adaptation' of the ABM treaty which would allow national anti-missile
defences to be deployed and thus in fact destroy the treaty."

SERGEYEV PLANS TO DISCUSS SUBMARINES

Russian and Western arms control experts were more intrigued at the time by
Yakovlev's comments than President Vladimir Putin's own revived proposal
the same day to Washington for cuts in nuclear weapons. It was not clear
then whether Yakovlev's comments were a trial balloon agreed with Sergeyev
and Putin.

Sergeyev, a former missile chief himself, seemed to leave little doubt he
was disavowing Yakovlev's index idea, under which anti-missile systems
would be bracketed together with nuclear strike forces. A country wanting
to increase one component would have to make cuts in the other.

"We have not held any talks on this question (adapting ABM) and we will not
hold any," Sergeyev said. "Our position on this is dictated by the highest
interests of maintaining strategic stability and national and international
security."

The minister gave approval for his answers to be published as he flew to
Brussels for a meeting on Wednesday of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint
Council, a discussion forum aimed at improving ties between the Alliance
and Moscow.

He said an important question to be discussed with NATO was how to rescue
submarine crews.

"The views of Russia and NATO on this question and on how to agree on it
almost coincide and we hope for balanced cooperation in this area," he said.

Earlier, Russian news agencies quoted the ministry's international
relations chief as saying Sergeyev would also raise the question of how to
avoid submarine accidents.

But Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov said the Russian delegation would not
specifically mention the Kursk disaster in which a Russian submarine sank
in August with the loss of all 118 sailors on board.

Russian officials have said a collision with a foreign submarine was the
most likely cause but NATO has denied any of its vessels were involved.

Sergeyev said he aimed to discuss a bilateral agreement on avoiding
submarine accidents during his visit to London later in the week.

******

#4
Moscow Times
December 5, 2000
SAY WHAT?: Forget Order: We'd Rather Be Suffering
By Anna Badkhen

"Russians love Putin because they crave order."
-Matthew Fisher, "Why Russia Loves Putin," Toronto Sun, Nov. 27.

Whoa, hold it right there. Look out the window. Look at all the cars crammed
into your courtyard so tightly that they appear to be crawling onto one
another, like copulating bugs. Do you see order?

Or maybe you have seen order in a central Russian village in late March, with
the roads impossible to navigate other than on stilts? Or in Moscow parks in
April, with broken glass scattered around children's playgrounds and dog
excrement floating across puddles of melted snow?

Do you think Russians really crave order?

When President Vladimir Putin announced that he will "waste [Chechen
fighters] in the outhouse," it was not a sense of "order" that the Russians
immediately fell for. It was Ordnung, implemented by a Strong Hand f and the
implied possibility of suffering that comes with it.

Politicians, analysts and babushkas on the courtyard bench have been musing
for years now over just what the Russian national idea could be. None of them
f and particularly the gossipy babushkas, whose pensions are sometimes lower
than the monthly rent they have to pay f ever realized that it's has been
right here all along f in their brains, in the air, in our history:
martyrdom.

Russia is the nation of martyrs. The more you suffer, the more admirable you
are. Take Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who were canonized by the Russian
Orthodox Church because they were shot to death in 1918, even though they
were not such great guys at all. (On Nicholas' coronation day in 1896, for
example, 1,400 people were trampled to death or suffocated at a celebration
on Khodynka Field outside Moscow, as Nicholas continued to dance at a gala
ball in his palace. The people who died at Khodynka are also admired,
naturally, because they died suffering.)

Also revered are the victims of Josef Stalin's repressions f although more
sensible responses would probably be regret, guilt and anger. Admired and
cherished is every wife of an abusive, alcoholic husband; her neighbors and
friends usually call her a "saint."

Average Russians flaunt their suffering, as well f but they would never
flaunt their well-being. We do not say we are doing "great" when our friends
ask us; we say we are doing "more or less OK" at best, although usually, we
immediately begin to describe all the illnesses, accidents, failed love
affairs and broken fingernails that we and our families have gone through in
the recent days, weeks or months. A person who would say that he or she is
actually enjoying life would be frowned upon.

Things are changing, of course. More and more fancy cars appear in the
streets, more women sport a fresh-from-the-ocean tan in supermarkets in
mid-December. Some have even learned how to smile.

But the fact that, having barely emerged from under the Communist yoke, we
elect a president who wages a real war against his own people in the Caucasus
signifies that in Russia as a whole, martyrdom is still in vogue.

So when you see all these hungry people on television who say they are dying
of hypothermia in the unheated and underfed Russian Far East, don't pay any
attention. They are loving it, really.

Anna Badkhen is a staff writer at The Moscow Times. She wrote this column
late at night, suffering from a slight cold, after a long week of 14-hour
days.

******

#5
The Guardian (UK)
5 December 2000
Kremlin's arms salesmen target US foes
Ian Traynor in Moscow

Russia is trying to revive its declining arms industry and military sales by
exploiting market openings among America's enemies as part of President
Vladimir Putin's policy of pursuing a more assertive foreign policy and
restoring a sense of power among his people.

In the past couple of weeks, senior officials have pledged to kickstart
military cooperation with North Korea, and the defence minister, Igor
Sergeyev, is expected to visit Tehran in the next few weeks - a move that
could signal the ditching of a clandestine agreement with the White House to
phase out arms supplies to Iran.

The Russians are shopping for military orders in Libya, Mr Putin is about to
visit Cuba, and last week the Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, made two
visits to Moscow.

And despite US, British and French opposition, the Russians last week called
for the end of a United Nations arms embargo on Yugoslavia.

But, according to Jane's Defence Weekly, Moscow's biggest arms customer to
date is China, which will shell out up to $15bn (£10bn) in the next five
years on Russian military equipment that could neutralise any US attempt to
defend Taiwan.

Where Washington sees a rogue state, Moscow is increasingly seeing a market
niche. "As far as public opinion is concerned, the west is no longer seen as
a reliable partner," said Konstantin Kosachev, a former senior diplomat and
deputy head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. "There's a big
shift in foreign policy taking place. It's about looking after our own
national and economic interests."

Iran is currently Russia's biggest bone of contention with the US. In the
secret 1995 agreement, Moscow bowed to US pressure and assented to halting
arms sales to Tehran by last year. It failed to redeem the pledge and now
says it is no longer bound by the deal.

The armed forces newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda, said that new contracts with
Iran could be worth up to $8bn. This is probably an inflated estimate but
indicates that the potential profits outweigh any possible penalties imposed
by the Americans, who have the Iranian state blacklisted as a "sponsor of
terrorism".

"The decision on Iran was taken a long time ago, last year during the Kosovo
war," said Alexander Pikayev, a military analyst at Moscow's Carnegie Centre.
"But it was not made public to avoid trouble."

Russian and American experts are to discuss the row this week, with the US
state department's spokesman, Richard Boucher, warning: "We have made clear
to the Russian government that there would be consequences if Moscow withdrew
from such a commitment and that certain kinds of arms sales could lead to
sanctions."

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri),
Russia was a distant second to the US in the world arms sales league table
last year, fuelling Russian complaints that the US consistently sought to
keep Russia out of the arms market in the 90s.

While the jury is out on whether the once-mighty Russian arms sector will be
able to deliver on its sales pitches, the president moved last month to
streamline his arms sales department by sacking the managers of the two main
export organisations, merging them into a single new agency and putting a
former KGB colleague in charge.

"The US was supposed to compensate for our losses in halting sales to Iran by
helping to promote Russian weaponry in other markets, including Nato
countries," said Krasnaya Zvezda. "Not only did this not happen, but
Washington tried to put spokes in the wheels anywhere Russia had a chance to
do profitable deals."

Mr Kosachev said such behaviour was "the west's great strategic mistake. The
western market was closed to Russian arms. The only markets left are where
there is no serious western competition."

Under US pressure earlier this year, the Israelis retreated from a deal to
supply China with sophisticated electronics for Russian-made A-50E planes.
These are the Russian equivalent of the Awacs early warning aircraft.

Following a recent visit to Beijing by Mikhail Kasyanov, the prime minister,
Moscow is now to provide the avionics as well as the planes. China has
ordered four A-50Es at a cost of $800m.

The impact of projected Russian sales to China of submarines, fighter
aircraft, naval missile systems and the A-50Es has the US, Japan, Taiwan and
India worried that such armaments could secure mastery for Beijing of
Taiwanese airspace and the waters of the Taiwan Straits.

Further signs of a resumption of the old superpower rivalries surfaced last
week when the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was unable
to issue a declaration aimed at resolving the conflict in Chechnya after it
was blocked by Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister.

For the first time since the end of the cold war, meanwhile, the defence
ministry sent five "Bear" strategic bombers on training exercises in the
Arctic, where they are expected to probe US air defences. This type of plane
has nuclear capability.

"Putin's power has been dependent on the military and security structures,"
said Mr Pikayev. "The arms trade is important to them. The military is
gearing up for exports."

******

#6
Chicago Tribune
December 4, 2000
SIBERIAN LAKE A SOURCE OF DEBATE
ENVIRONMENTALISTS, MILL CLASHING OVER POLLUTION
By Colin McMahon
Tribune Foreign Correspondent

BAIKALSK, Russia -- Some Siberians believe their majestic Lake Baikal has a
healing, mystical quality. But there is nothing soothing or spiritual about
an environmental controversy surrounding the storied waters.

Despite years of protests by local and international environmentalists, a
paper mill on Lake Baikal's shore is pouring wastewater into the world's
oldest and deepest freshwater lake.

Mill officials say the discharge is safe. Environmentalists say it has
damaged Baikal's special and sensitive ecology. The Russian government looks
on, unsure how or whether to intervene.

The conflict has drawn international scrutiny because Lake Baikal is a
natural wonder.

The lake holds nearly a fifth of the world's fresh water contained in lakes,
more than that in the Great Lakes combined. Scientists estimate its age at 25
million years, compared with 20,000 years or less for the average lake. Most
of Baikal's plant and animal life is found nowhere else.

For sheer beauty, Baikal is unmatched in Russia. The UN Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization named it a World Heritage Site,
indicating the UN thinks it should be federally protected.

"Pearl of Siberia," is Russians' fanciful name for Lake Baikal. People who
live around it sometimes call Baikal simply, "sea."

Framed by mountains and woods, Baikal is a long and relatively thin rip out
of the Siberian forest. Bigger than some European countries, it stretches
nearly 400 miles. Near the western shore, Baikal reaches its deepest
point--more than a mile to the sediment-filled bottom.

Baikal water is bottled and sold in stores. On the lake itself, the cold
water is so clear that rocks resting at the bottom several feet below appear
to be within arm's reach. Visibility can be more than 100 feet; some people
complain of vertigo when they look down.

In more than 30 years of existence, the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill has not
muddied Baikal's waters. Its damage to the lake, opponents say, is less
obvious but quite serious.

"Changes have been observed in the ecosystem of Baikal since the paper mill
opened," said Jennie Sutton, a transplanted Briton who co-directs Baikal
Environmental Wave in nearby Irkutsk. "The changes being observed are big
over such a short time, and these changes are indicative of pollution.

"If you compare the level of Baikal's pollution to some lakes in North
America or Europe, then it is nothing," Sutton said. "But Baikal is a very
pure system, and the endemic organisms have evolved over 25 million years
without any pollution."

Of its 2,000 or so identified plant and animal species, about 1,500 are
unique to Baikal.

Among them is the omul, a gray and oily fish that is a culinary favorite in
the region. A more exotic inhabitant is the nerpa, an exclusively freshwater
seal whose closest cousin lives nearly 2,000 miles away in Arctic waters.
Thousands of the seals died in 1987-88 during an epidemic that remains
unexplained but that ecologists blame in part on dioxins.

Because Baikal is so big, the dioxins and other pollutants that enter from
various sources are dispersed more easily than they would be in a smaller
lake. But Baikal's ability to withstand a toxic assault also lulled Soviet
officials into thinking they could exploit the lake. Baikal was so big, they
argued, it would never get too polluted.

On top of that, some scientists and officials at Baikalsk Pulp and Paper say
Baikal has a unique but unexplained ability to clean itself. They say that
even though the main river flowing into Baikal, the Selenga, is heavily
polluted, the lake itself is almost pristine. Baikal has 335 other
tributaries, most of them minor, as well as other less-severe sources of
pollution.

"I don't want Lake Baikal to be ruined any more than Greenpeace or the rest
of them do," said Raisa Zaykova, who heads the mill's environmental
protection unit. "We live here, too. We want our children to live here. This
is why we are making the plant cleaner and safer."

She said the mill, owned by the government, by the workers and by private
stockholders, hopes to invest more than $50 million by 2005 to replace old
treatment equipment. In the long term, Baikalsk Pulp and Paper envisions a
$300 million project designed to stop waste from being dumped into the lake.

All of this, though, depends on government approval.

It also depends on funding, which Zaykova admits could be an issue. But she
suggested that the World Bank would lend what the mill cannot raise.

Zaykova produced graphs showing that pollutants in the plant's wastewater
have fallen each year since the early 1990s. She acknowledged that problems
remained, yet she said progress is being made.

"No one except our team thought about the ecology during the decay of Russia
over the last decade," Zaykova said. "Despite all the problems, despite the
crises, the plant did not stop working.

"If the mill shut down, Baikalsk would have died like a lot of other towns
died in Russia."

About 29,000 people live in Baikalsk, a tidy place of five-story apartment
buildings and some spectacular views of Baikal. More than half are dependent
on the salaries from the mill, which are high by Russian standards.

"There are a lot worse places in Russia where people are getting sick and
need help," said Natasha Matyukhina, 22, an engineer who works at Baikalsk
Pulp and Paper. "Why don't the environmentalists call attention to those
places?"

Sutton and the others worry that the people of the Baikalsk region have
become complacent. They warn that the threat to the great lake is too big to
ignore.

"If you get this lake polluted, you are not going to be able to clean it up,"
Sutton said. "This is the reason that something needs to be done."

******

#7
BBC Monitoring
Russian president sets out his proposals with regard to Russian state symbols
Source: Russian Public TV, Moscow, in Russian 1800 gmt 4 Dec 00

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appealed to Russian citizens about the
state symbols. In a television address Putin called on people to cease the
debate that had been going on for a decade and agree on state symbols taking
into account the view of the overwhelming majority of Russians. He said he
was going to put forward to the State Duma for approval the Russian
tricolour, the two-headed eagle and the music of the old Soviet anthem by
composer Aleksandr Aleksandrov as Russia's flag, coat-of-arms and anthem.
Putin added that the red flag might become the official banner of the Russian
armed forces. The president pointed out the dangers of senselessly rejecting
one's past. The following is the text of report by Russian Public TV on 4th
December.

[Presenter] The issue of the symbols of state power occupied centre stage in
Russia's political life today. Addressing Russian citizens via the media
President Vladimir Putin called on the Russian citizens to wind up, finally,
the debates about state symbols. The president said that he would send a
draft law on new Russia's coats of arms, flag and anthem to the State Duma
this evening.

[Putin speaking to the camera] The questions of Russia's state symbols have
been discussed in our country for the last decade. At times passions around
them subsided only to flare up again later. It seems these issues, like house
repairs, can go on forever. They can only be settled when we say enough is
enough.

According to normal procedures and the constitution, these state symbols,
which include the coat-of-arms, flag and state anthem, should be endorsed by
law. Unfortunately, they are still provisional in our country and they were
introduced only by a presidential decree.

Why haven't relevant laws been adopted until now? The answer is known and
it's quite simple. Because two positions have been prevalent so far in
society and the State Duma, and these are diametrically opposite positions.
One point of view contends that today we can't use as state symbols
pre-revolutionary symbols, those of Russia before October 1917, of tsarist
Russia. Other people believe that we can't use the symbols of the Soviet
period of our state. The former maintain that, for instance, we can't use the
traditional Russian tricolour because during the Great Fatherland War it was
used improperly in the fight against our own people. Or how can we use, say,
the coat-of-arms of the Russian empire, the coat-of-arms of an empire, I
stress, of a country which not for nothing was called at the time a prison of
the peoples, a country which had repressed people and dissidents of its own.
Just think of the Decembrists who were exiled to Siberia or sent to the
gallows!

Things are even more complicated with the symbols of the Soviet era. They are
more complicated because people are still alive who have personally
experienced all the horrors of Stalin's prison camps. And naturally we can't
ignore this fact. But I'd like to mention that in order to prove their point
both sides, people advocating each of these views, are applying the same
logic by making state symbols the epitome of ideology. They see these symbols
as the embodiment of the darker sides of our history, the darker times in our
history. But there were always such times. There were always times when the
authorities treated their people with unjustified cruelty and when their
actions could not be deemed fair.

But if we are guided by this logic alone, we have to forget our people's
achievements through the centuries. Where are we going to place the
achievements of Russian culture? Where are we going to place Pushkin,
Dostoyevskiy, Tolstoy or Chaykovskiy? Where are we going to place the
achievements of Russian science as represented by [chemist Dmitriy]
Mendeleyev, [mathematician Nikolay] Lobachevskiy and many many others? What
are we going to do with the many things we are proud of? Their names and
achievements were related to these symbols too.

And is there nothing good to remember about the Soviet period of our country?
Was there nothing but Stalin's prison camps and repression? In this case,
what are we going to do with [composer Isaak] Dunayevskiy, [writer Mikhail]
Sholokhov, [composer Dmitriy] Shostakovich, [space designer] Korolev and our
achievements in space? What are we going to do with Yuriy Gagarin's flight?
And what about the brilliant victories of the Russian army led by Rumyantsev,
Suvorov and Kutuzov? And what about the spring 1945 victory?

I think that if we ponder all this, we will recognize that we not only can
but must use all the main symbols of our state today. It's another matter
that they have to be properly documented and systematized. And the red flag
should be given a proper place in this system, because that was the colour of
the flag of our people's victory in the Great Fatherland War.

Draft laws on Russia's state symbols will be sent to the State Duma today.
The traditional Russian three-colour flag, the tricolour, is proposed. It's
already more than 300 years old. I shall be asking the deputies of the State
Duma to endorse the music by [Aleksandr] Aleksandrov, the tune of the former
Soviet anthem as the anthem. And I will be asking State Duma deputies to
endorse Russia's traditional two-headed eagle. It's about 500 years old.

Recently - [changes tack] since I have mentioned the red flag, it may become
the official banner of the Russian armed forces.

Particularly heated debates have been going on about the anthem recently, the
former Soviet anthem to Aleksandrov's music. We know the results of opinion
polls. The overwhelming majority of Russian citizens prefer this tune. It's
difficult to disagree with the view that not every problem can be resolved by
a simple arithmetic majority. But let's not forget that in this case we are
talking about a majority of the people. After all, it's for the people
precisely that state symbols are being sought.

I admit that the people and myself may be committing an error. But I want to
address those who disagree with this decision. I would ask you not to
dramatize events, put up insurmountable barriers, burn any bridges or split
society once again. If we agree that the symbols of the preceding epochs,
including the Soviet epoch, mustn't be used at all, we will have to admit
then that our mothers' and fathers' lives were useless and meaningless, that
their lives were lived in vain. Neither in my head nor in my heart can I
agree with this.

There was already a period in our history when we rewrote everything anew. We
can do the same today too. We can rewrite the flag, the anthem and the
coat-of-arms. But then surely we will become people with no memory of where
we come from.

Do you remember how loudly and eagerly we sang at one time that we will smash
everything to the ground and then will build another world where those who
were nothing will become everything [a quote from the Internationale]. We
know where that got us. So let's direct all our fervent energy and talent not
into destruction but into construction. And then I'm absolutely confident
that the majority of our ideas and desires will come to fruition and the
overwhelming majority of tasks that we set to ourselves will be carried out.
I'm convinced that we shall manage this.

******

#8
Russian intellectuals protest return of Soviet anthem
Interfax

Moscow, 5th December: Russian cultural personalities have appealed to
President Vladimir Putin through the newspaper `Izvestiya' to prevent the
approval of the music of the Soviet anthem as the new Russian anthem.

The signatories include writers Boris Vasilyev, Aleksandr Volodin, Aleksandr
Kushner, Boris Strugatskiy and Mikhail Chulakiy, historians Aleksandr
Panchenko and Marietta Chudakova, film-makers Gleb Panfilov, Andrey Smirnov
and Valeriy Todorovskiy, actors Galina Volchek, Kirill Lavrov, Yevgeniy
Mironov and Valentin Gaft, composers Andrey Petrov, Rodion Shchedrin and
Yuriy Saulskiy, ballet stars Yekaterina Maksimova, Vladimir Vasilyev and Maya
Plisetskaya, conductor Gennadiy Rozhdestvensky and others.

They all believe that the music "is one of the most striking symbols of the
bygone epoch and no new lyrics will be able to erase the words attached to it
that forever glorify Lenin and Stalin".

"It is dangerous to revive ghosts," they warn.

"The debate on the anthem has already split a nation in which the process of
reconciliation and consolidation had begun," the signatories note, adding
that they "will be unable to rise to their feet when the anthem is played."

In their opinion, the Patriotic Song by Mikhail Glinka has not just become
the anthem of the new Russia, but a symbol of the revival of a connection
between times, they said. "But those who long for the bygone epoch and dream
of avenging the decade of Russia's renewal need an emblem of revenge - and
that is the essence of the undertaking," their letter says.

"The head of state should realize that millions of countrymen (including
those who voted for him) will never respect an anthem trampling on their
convictions and insulting the memory of the victims of Soviet political
reprisals," the cultural figures insist.

"For the very reason that we have memory, we are convinced that all attempts
to seamlessly unite the history of Russia with the history of the USSR will
fail. The seams are there and they are still bleeding," the appeal says.

******

#9
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
December 4, 2000

INTERIOR MINISTRY SLATED FOR RESTRUCTURING. The Interior Ministry (MVD) is
reportedly set to undergo a restructuring which will likely take its
sub-units out of the hands of regional leaders and possibly bring the
ministry under stricter control by President Vladimir Putin. Last week,
General-Lieutenant Vyacheslav Brycheev, head of the MVD's department of
personnel and personnel policy, said that Putin would soon sign a decree
creating a "federal criminal committee" within the ministry. All of the
ministry's operational services--except for the anti-economic crimes, the
antinarcotics and criminal investigations departments--would be put under
this new committee, Brycheev said. The new structure would include the
anti-organized crime department, the internal security department and the
anti-high-technology crimes department, among others. According to one
account, the plan Brycheev outlined was a defensive move on the part of
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, made in response to a restructuring
plan being pushed by the "Chekists"--as the group of veteran St. Petersburg
KGB officers within the government and presidential administration is known
in the Russian press. The "Chekists" are said to be pushing for a plan by
which the MVD's main anti-organized crime department will be merged with
the anti-economic crimes, antinarcotics and anti-high-technology crimes
departments, and various sub-units of the Federal Security Service, to form
a new and separate federal anticorruption and anti-organized crime agency.
The rival MVD restructuring plans appear to be part of a broader struggle
between the "Chekists" and the "Family," the group of Yeltsin-era Kremlin
insiders who continue to wield varying degrees of power. Rushailo is said
to have become interior minister in part thanks to the efforts of Boris
Berezovsky, the powerful tycoon and "Family" member who more recently has
fallen out with Putin.

Regardless of whether Rushailo's restructuring plan or that of his rivals
prevails, the resulting new MVD committee or independent agency is likely
to have its own subdivisions in each of the country's recently created
federal districts and eighty-nine regions, which the federal budget will
fund. This will make it more difficult for regional political
administrations to wield the kind of influence over these subdivisions that
they currently have over the MVD's regional branches (Segodnya, Vremya
novostei, November 29; Izvestia, December 2).

******

#10
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
2 December 2000
The empire sinks back
As decay and disintegration gather pace in Russia, it is every man, woman
and child for themselves. Marcus Warren reports on the collapse of a
superpower. (markusw@rinet.ru)

WELCOME to Belevo, which has become virtually a museum under the open skies
whose unifying theme is the collapse and decay of the world's largest country
and the fate of those stranded amid its wreckage. Here the adventurous
traveller - intrepid enough to strike out 250 miles from the comforts of
Moscow into the forests - will gasp at the sight of the derelict bunkers and
the abandoned toys of war. He will listen, amazed, as the locals, who live as
well as work here, explain how their world is disintegrating around them.

Within the boundaries of this run-down garrison town, the northern landscape
- birch trees bending in the breeze juxtaposed with the ruins of what was
once a model anti-aircraft defence battery - is indeed picturesque. The
background noise to your visit, one of two extremes, will not lack for drama
either.

The first soundtrack might be the near silence of nature reclaiming her own,
her weeds, briars and shrubbery slowly overwhelming what remains of the
garrison. Alternatively, as on the day we turned up, echoing through the
woods will be the cannonades of a paramilitary police unit rehearsing on the
base's firing range for its next tour of duty in rebel Chechnya, thousands of
miles away in the sunny south.

The 22 families stuck in this hellhole do not charge for admission. Perhaps
they should. As an exhibit in Russia's huge outdoor pageant of decaying
grandeur, the hamlet of Belevo deserves a place of honour alongside any
number of sinking submarines, burning television towers, cities being closed
down and boarded up in the Siberian wilderness and strategic nuclear bases
having the plug pulled on them by the local power station for not paying
their electricity bills.

Here, the former superpower's decline is not a one-off news spectacular, but
a domestic disaster growing daily in scale and scope. And in Belevo, as
everywhere else across Russia, it is every man, woman and child for
themselves.

Major Felix Gorelik learnt that lesson three years ago when his anti-aircraft
unit was disbanded, the officers - most in their 40s and 50s - were dismissed
and they and their families were left facing the rigours of the Russian
climate and struggling to survive on their own with nothing but a small
pension. For more than two decades the base, home to more than 500 people in
the Seventies and Eighties, was considered one of the best-run in the army.
When it was shut down in 1997, Major Gorelik, like many others, was stranded.
'Every April I go to town to ask where we are in the queue for new officers'
flats,' he says. 'Every April I am shown into a room where a middle-aged lady
tells me that I have moved five places higher. I thank the kind lady, walk
out and come home in the knowledge that, given my number is in the 300s, we
may never get out of here.'

Home for Major Gorelik was originally Belarus, on the border with Poland. Now
it is a standard Soviet two-room flat with kitchen in Belevo which houses his
wife, Natasha, and two children, Oxana, 12, and Sergei, seven. Their flat is
on the ground floor of the squat two-storey block still owned by the
military. Natasha pads around their home in a dressing-gown and fluffy
slippers while her daughter peels cucumbers for the lunchtime salad. Their
son attempts to scale the narrow kitchen doorframe. A television has pride of
place in one corner but there is little space for much else in the room
except for sofas that double as fold-down beds.

No one is waiting for them back in Belarus, now a foreign country. The flat
is not theirs to sell but even if they could put it on the market, who would
buy it? Belevo has a small village store. But schools? The bus servicing the
nearest local school refuses to make a detour into the village to collect
pupils, forcing parents to escort their children to a bus stop a mile away.
To save petrol, they walk, using the car only for emergencies such as trips
to the doctor or hospital in town. At the bus stop, whatever the weather,
there is often a long wait. There is no strict timetable so, in winter, the
children can stand in the freezing cold for up to 40 minutes, waiting for the
bus to take them eight miles to the nearest town.

For two years after the base was shut down, Belevo was without electricity
because the underground cable that carried the power kept on being pilfered,
a phenomenon so widespread across Russia that whole towns are blacked out by
theft. What lies badly disappears, as the Russian saying goes. In other
words, anything that is not bolted or nailed down is stolen - and even then,
it usually goes missing, bolts, nails and all. The culprits are often
children, burnt, scarred for life and even killed when their determination to
strip power lines or pylons of metal exposes them to high-voltage wires.

As soon as the military moved out of Belevo, the scavengers moved in. In
fact, knowing the state of the Russian army, the soldiers and scavengers were
probably the same people. Wiring, window frames and panes, inner walls, even
the sand that served as bedding for the greenery on top of reinforced,
camouflaged bunkers has been pulled or forced out, smashed or has simply
disappeared. There is only one source of employment here: the boiler house.
Its enormous kilns dating from before the Industrial Revolution used to heat
more than 60 homes but now supply just over 20. From the boiler house the
heat flows the few hundred yards to the officers' flats, warming their
interiors to an average of 54F, cold enough to force the Goreliks to sleep
fully clothed throughout the winter.

Until recently, en route to the officers' housing, the heating pipes were
insulated with aluminium. Then, in June, a couple of strangers arrived in a
four-wheel-drive vehicle and casually, in broad daylight, stripped the
pipeline of its outer coating. No one asked what they were up to, although
the metal was presumably destined for the local scrap market. Did anyone try
to stop the thieves? 'Are you kidding?' asked Anatoly Strok, one of the
stokers. 'We had no idea what weapons they might have been hiding under their
car seats.' Now the pipes are encased in rubber which is far less efficient.

As for the flats themselves, Anatoly Gorev - the civilian in charge of
Belevo's infrastructure, such as it is - says, 'They were built with a life
expectancy of 20 years before they needed a complete repair. It's 28 years
since they were constructed. I reckon they have another five left in them
until everything - the plumbing, the sewerage - seizes up.'

For every minor advance on one front - the overhead electricity pylon, coal
delivered for the boiler-house - there are setbacks on all the others. Three
months ago the radio-telephone, Belovo's only link with the rest of Russia
other than the concrete flagstones connecting it to the highway a mile away,
went dead. Still connected to its car battery in Gorev's 'office' (an empty
flat littered with sunflower seeds and shovel blades), the phone emits the
odd crackle and buzz when taken off the hook. The prognosis is not
encouraging. 'It gave up the ghost as soon as it came back from repairs,'
says Gorev.

The inhabitants of this, a near desert island set in an ocean of forest and
indifference, are not given to philosophising about their fate. They have a
sense of pride too. My suggestion that there is a hint of Robinson Crusoe is
firmly but politely rejected by Major Gorelik. 'No, I can't say we are like
Robinson Crusoe. That would be an insult.'

Something in the Russian psyche snapped this August. It was not just the
impotence of the authorities when faced with the challenge of saving the
118-man crew of the nuclear submarine, Kursk, or the Kremlin's shameless
lying about the sailors' fate that shocked and outraged the nation. Nor was
it only the humiliating contrast between the rescue attempts by their own
divers (dressed like characters out of Jules Verne) and those of their
Norwegian counterparts (with their time-coded remote-control imagery,
computerised command room and unflappable professionalism) that chastened
Russians watching the tragedy on television.

The discovery that the pride of the submarine fleet had sunk to the bottom of
the Barents Sea like a stone, entombing everyone on board, was traumatic
enough. But what the saga revealed about the rotting state of the navy and
the misery of being a service family above the Arctic Circle was worse. In
the words of one visitor, the Vidyaevo garrison on the Kola Peninsula, where
the Kursk and its crew were based, looked so miserable it was reminiscent of
a Chechen village stormed by the Russian army.

After he had observed all this and more, something snapped in a young
midshipman from the Northern Fleet. He had been agonising over whether to
resign from the navy for some time. Now his mind was made up. Ours was a
chance encounter on the bus from Vidyaevo to Murmansk, capital of the Russian
Arctic, from where he would continue the journey to his home in Kursk, the
city, to prepare for the final break with the military.

'What I thought would happen - if not with the Kursk, then with some other
vessel - has happened,' says Vladimir. 'For me, this is the last straw.'
However, his account of life with the Russian navy was not just a lament
about lack of funding for the military and the squalor of surviving when back
on dry land. Everywhere, at every level, whether in the military or civilian
hierarchy, the same attitude prevailed, one that destroyed any hope that the
wear and tear inflicted on the country by its poverty could ever be put
right, the midshipman said. It was a mindset born of decades of practice
during Soviet times at deceiving everyone above or below you in the
bureaucratic chain of command, either for the sake of a quiet life or, more
lucratively, to fill one's pockets at others' expense.

'When they say that the Kursk was the best submarine in the fleet, I just
laugh,' he says. 'The navy's ruling principle is that every vessel is the
best in the fleet. That's what the inspections and the reports all say. So it
must be true. All these exercises and manoeuvres are done on paper, ticked
off by one officer, who sends it to his superior who sends it to his
commander right till the very top. In fact, everything is being pilfered from
the ships - batteries, wiring, the lot. It rarely gets replaced. And as for
the exercises, once the paperwork has been filed, the admirals can get on
with the real business of the day, which is a spot of crab fishing.'

At the only school in the village of Pesochnoye, some 20 miles from the
abandoned garrison at Belevo, an element - looking like it has been extracted
from a giant kettle - runs the length of a pipe bolted to a block of
concrete. When connected to the mains, the contrivance gives off a feeble
imitation of warmth.

Upstairs Lyudmila Avdonina is setting final-year pupils their homework.
Title: 'What is happiness?' There is no do-it-yourself radiator up here and
therefore no heat whatsoever. To protect themselves from the cold the pupils
are wrapped in scarves, overcoats and woolly jumpers, but the smell of
teenage body odour still wafts through the classroom.

There is peeling paint on the school's exterior and curling linoleum along
its corridors. A wall in the dormitory where the juniors have their afternoon
nap is pockmarked with damp stains, yet this block was built only 14 years
ago. The school was designed for more than 1,000 boys and girls. But there
have never been more than 500, and now the numbers are down to 300 as parents
up and leave this godforsaken village to eke out a living elsewhere. Who
would have thought that the full-length windows running along the outside of
the school block and its inner courtyard would ever be a liability? That
there would be no heating for the school even for the start of winter?
Unthinkable, surely.

'I am a person of the past,' says Elvira Korableva, the deputy headmistress,
a portrait of Lenin's wife - a noted educator in her time - peeping down at
us from behind a pile of books in her office. 'Of course, we understand that
any reforms don't come without a cost. We have tried our best to keep pace
with the changes but the one thing that really sabotages us is the lack of
technical support.'

In Pesochnoye, lack of technical support does not mean being deprived of a
connection to the internet. For a teacher it means receiving a third of one's
salary (only 15 a month anyway) weeks late; there is no cash to pay them on
time.

As for the heating, it is only just above 40F outside as autumn fades into
winter, and the same temperature inside the school. The school boiler is on
the territory of the village's privatised porcelain factory, now in
receivership. The gas company has cut off supplies after failing to be paid
yet again. The local council claims to have transferred emergency funds to
the factory to start up the boiler, but it gets no warmer in the school
corridors.

And yet the most tangible evidence of the crisis is to be found in the
exercise books that Mrs Korableva keeps in her office. Here she has the lists
cataloguing the scale of the village's collapse. One records every pupil
eligible for free meals. The qualification: a family income of less than
7.40 a month. One third of the pupils are entitled to it but the school can
only afford to feed one quarter of those. And another list details the
schoolchildren excused from PE. She reads out the ailments they suffer from:
kidney complaints, stomach upsets, stomach diseases, diabetes. 'There never
used to be so many,' she says. 'It's the diet, you know.'

What are the prospects for a school leaver from Pesochnoye? 'All I know is
that, when I leave, I want to live as far away as possible,' says Anastasia
Yestafieva, one of the teenagers set 'What is Happiness?' for her homework.

As effectively as the battlements of any walled medieval city, the 10 lanes,
vertiginous flyovers and elegant bridges of the orbital motorway skirting
Moscow keep all barbarians at bay. The Russian capital suffers provincials
only reluctantly. They are allowed in and out but obtaining a permit to live
in the metropolis is almost as difficult now as it was in the communist era.
Quite right too, most Muscovites would chorus. Why should they share what
they now regard as their birthright, a city that looks and feels more
prosperous and western than at any time in its history, with people who,
though fellow citizens, might as well be foreigners?

It is another country out there beyond the ring road. And the vantage point
from which Moscow's privileged residents prefer to watch that freak show is
the sofa in front of the TV. Radioactive waste, death and destruction in
Chechnya, the odd case of cannibalism, a national population declining by up
to one million every year and power cuts blacking out the Pacific coast for
hours on end, all these horror stories are best observed from the safety of
their own living-room.

And yet on the last Sunday in August the illusion that the decay rotting the
fabric of so much of Russian life could be halted at Moscow's city limits was
finally destroyed. The victim this time was television itself.

As if zapped one by one, Moscow's TV channels went off the air, their signals
replaced by a blizzard-like screen of nothingness. Moscow's TV tower, the
highest structure in Europe, was on fire, and within hours all the channels
were out of action. Completed in 1967, at a time when Russian technology
really could compete with the West's, the Ostankino tower was supposed to be
indestructible, a monument to science and progress, strong enough to
withstand earth tremors and hurricanes. The architects never imagined that
the most serious threat to its survival would come not from outside but from
within, a fire that thrived on the effects of neglect, lack of maintenance
and old age.

By nightfall the mast was a flaming torch in the darkness and a draw for
thousands of Muscovites marvelling at this bizarre event. If they could not
enjoy their Sunday evening TV, they would have much more fun waiting for the
city's television tower to topple over - and watch the spectacle live. One
witness was horrified at their voyeurism. 'You would have thought it was the
greatest show on earth,' recalls Anatoly Sokolov, whose flat overlooked the
scene. 'If they could have paid to watch the sinking of the Kursk in the
Barents Sea, they would have flown up there as well.'

To the disappointment of the spectators but the relief of the authorities,
the towering inferno did not turn into a mass funeral pyre for the people of
north Moscow. It took more than 24 hours, but the blaze was finally
extinguished - or rather, it burnt itself out. Two people, including a
fireman, were killed. The mast survived and the TV channels have now
returned. But the greatest show on earth, as Russia's technological meltdown
bids fair to become, continues.


******


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