|JRL #7084||Plain Text - Entire Issue|
1. BBC: Stephen Dalziel, End of run for Kremlin critic. (re
2. Prime-TASS: Gref says govt cannot stop subsidizing communal services soon.
3. Forbes magazine: Paul Klebnikov, Billionaires. Out Of The Ashes--Treasure.
4. pravda.ru: Forbes: Why are Russians Clever, But Poor.
5. Washington Post: Sharon LaFraniere, U.S. Adds Chechen Groups to Terrorist List.
6. Washington Post: Tom Malinowski, Overlooking Chechen Terror.
7. Interfax: Moscow offers Chechnya extensive autonomy.
8. Prime-TASS: Putin says Iraqi threat no more serious than some other states.
9. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: US Desire for WMD Monopoly Motive for Iraq War.
10. Los Angeles Times: David Holley, For Moscow, Veto Power Has Perks, Pitfalls. Russia could gain from U.S. if it backs Iraq resolution. A 'no' vote would create fallout.
11. BusinessWeek Online: Paul Starobin, Putin's High-Stakes Chess Game.
12. Kennan Institute event summary: A Decade of Russian Regional Democracy: Of the Governors, by the Governors, for the Governors? (Andrew Konitzer-Smirnov)
13. The Lancet (UK): Paul Webster, Infant mortality is falling in Russia, latest figures suggest.
14. RFE/RL Washington meeting invitation: Domestic Violence in Russia.
15. Vremya MN: Leonid Radzikhovskiy, An Energy Crisis. (Russians' Apathy Toward Coming Elections Viewed)
16. Interfax: Obscene language unacceptable to 92% of Russians - poll.
17. Financial Times (UK): Rafael Behr, Russia diary: Linguistic inflation.
18. Investors Business Daily: Brian Mitchell, New Allies Are A Collection of Old Communist Leaders.
19. Asia Times: Sergei Blagov, Caspian deal a step closer.
20. Transitions Online: Taras Kuzio, Apres Kuchma, a la Kuchma. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has a five-pronged strategy to take Ukraine to the post-Kuchma era--and to take him to a secure retirement.
March 1, 2003
End of run for Kremlin critic
By Stephen Dalziel
BBC Russian affairs analyst
One of the few independent Russian newspapers to take a critical approach
to the Kremlin has closed down.
Journalists at the Novye Izvestiya newspaper published a letter on the
front page of Friday's final edition, saying they were no longer able to
write what they believed to be necessary.
In the last two years there has been a string of closures of opposition
media in Russia.
"New Izvestiya" was founded in 1997 by journalists who left
a takeover battle
The immediate reason for the closure of Novye Izvestiya was the refusal of
its journalists to work there any more. They claim that a reshuffle of the
paper's staff carried out recently by the board of directors was done so
that the paper would project a more pro-Kremlin line.
As such, the Russian authorities can claim to have had nothing to do with
But this has been so in each of the cases in the past two years when a
media outlet has been shut down.
In April 2001, the television channel, NTV, was taken over by the media arm
of the gas giant, Gazprom, in what was supposed to be a business deal. The
result was effectively to censor the station.
A group of NTV's journalists set themselves up at the TV-6 station.
But that was closed down, even though the law used against it had ceased to
function by the time the case came to court.
The frequency now broadcasts TVS, which puts out a line fully supporting
The Russian media was exciting and innovative in the years just after the
collapse of the Soviet Union.
But during Boris Yeltsin's second term as Russian president, from 1996,
censorship began to creep back in.
The loss now of Novye Izvestiya will be seen by many as another step back
to the controlled media of Soviet times.
Gref says govt cannot stop subsidizing communal services soon
MOSCOW, Feb 28 /Prime-TASS/ -- The government will not be able to stop
subsidizing communal service payments in the near future, Russian Economic
Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Friday at the State Duma.
He made his comments during hearings dedicated to the consequences of the
housing and utilities sector reform.
“Politically and economically, we won’t be able to do so as many
for example war veterans and disabled people, won’t be able to pay the full
costs of communal services,” Gref said.
Gref said that one of the key goals in reforming the housing and utilities
sector is to provide selective instead of universal subsidies.
He said that last year the amount of subsidies provided to people from all
state budgets totaled about 2.5 billion rubles.
“We do not make a secret out of the fact that most people will stop
receiving compensation once the system of selective subsidizing is
introduced,” he said.
One of the most important points of the reform is to let people decide
themselves what company to choose as their communal services provider.
Responsibility for this decision is to rest with associations of housing
Gref said that it should be legally fixed that subsidies for communal
services are paid to associations of housing owners.
Currently, he said, in some Russian regions up to 40%-60% of subsidies
allocated from budgets are paid to companies providing services and not to
He also said that communal service providers should be determined at
tenders, adding that such practice could become a good impetus for small
Gref went on to say that contracts on providing communal services should
contain a clause saying that payments are to be cut by 50% if the quality
of services is different from what is fixed in the contract. If the quality
of provided services is significantly lower than what is stipulated by the
contract, it is the company that should pay to housing owners and not vice
versa, he said. (31.5762 rubles – U.S. $1)
March 17, 2003
Out Of The Ashes--Treasure
By Paul Klebnikov
Russia now has one of the world's highest number of billionaires. How did
so many rise out of such a shell-shocked economy?
Russia's economy may not have much to boast of these days, but it has
produced one of the world's largest crops of billionaires. FORBES GLOBAL
counts 17 Russian billionaires this year, up from zero in 2000. Only the
U.S., Germany and Japan have more. Considering the modest size of the
Russian economy these days, Russia may well have the highest
billionaire-to-GDP ratio in the world.
How can this be, in a nation that until recently has been on the decline?
Russia's flawed transition from communism to a market economy in the 1990s
was one of the most mishandled reforms in history. The country's GDP
declined by 41%, vast swaths of the economy were simply wiped out and the
majority of the population was plunged into poverty. In the midst of this
chaos a small group of insiders (nick-named the "oligarchs") figured out
how to buy the bulk of the country's natural resources from the state at
The 1990s asset grab did not make the oligarchs instant billionaires-only
potential ones. Potential wealth has been transformed into real wealth only
in the last several years, when many of the oligarchs forswore their old
pirate-capitalist ways and began paying attention to building shareholder
All but three of this year's billionaires derive at least part of their
wealth from companies that trade on Western exchanges. Now that many big
Russian companies have started publishing Western-style accounts, paying
dividends and respecting minority holders, equity markets have begun to
value the country's natural-resource wealth at something close to global
Leading the way in this transition is oil giant Yukos, the fiefdom of
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's wealthiest man. Just a few years ago
Khodorkovsky's outfit used to have one of the worst reputations for
corporate piracy. But since 1999 Yukos has made an about-face, switching to
U.S. Gaap accounts, issuing an ADR, bringing Westerners into top management
and onto its board of directors and paying out hefty dividends. Investors
have enthusiastically bought up Yukos' shares, pushing its market cap to
more than $20 billion.
Russia has become a safer place to invest. Witness BP's recent deal to
merge its Russian oil assets with TNK, a big private oil company jointly
owned by billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Viktor Vekselberg. The BP (nyse:
BP - news - people ) deal gives the combined company an enterprise value of
around $18 billion. With BP paying $6.75 billion in cash and BP stock to
Fridman, Vekselberg and their partners, the deal represents the largest
single investment in Russia to date.
While not exactly civilized yet, the Russian marketplace is benefiting from
the stability brought by the administration of President Vladimir Putin.
Gone is the gangster free-for-all of the Yeltsin era. Putin has chosen a
more measured pace of market liberalization, as well as more predictable
These days the oligarchs feel so secure that many have begun to divulge
precisely how much of their companies they own. Forbes first met Mikhail
Khodorkovsky in 1994, when he was head of a burgeoning banking and
commodities-trading empire. "I personally do not own a single share in my
company," he told us demurely. "I just have my salary and my car." Now
Khodorkovsky says that he owns 59% of his Group Menatep holding company.
It's the same story with Lukoil, Russia's largest oil company. For years
Lukoil officials denied our estimates that company boss Vagit Alekperov
owned 10% of Lukoil. Alekperov's stake was less than 1%, they claimed. Last
year, in a prospectus for a Lukoil share offering in London, Alekperov was
listed as owning 10% of Lukoil's shares, after all.
If you want a quick explanation of why Russia has produced so many
billionaires so quickly, you need look no further than the Russian stock
market. The RTS index is up 526% in dollar terms since the beginning of
1999. Sure, it helps that oil prices are the highest they have been in
decades. But a more civilized attitude to minority investors is just as
much a factor.
This year, for the first time, the wealth of Russia's billionaires is not
based solely on natural resources. A significant portion of Mikhail
Fridman's net worth derives from his stake in Vimpelcom, Russia's No. 2
cell phone company, while most of the net worth of newcomer Vladimir
Yevtushenkov is derived from his stake in MTS, the No. 1 cell operator.
This is a sign that, with the Russian economy in its fifth year of growth,
the country is finally creating a serious consumer market. Some of the
oligarchs' vast wealth, it seems, is starting to trickle down.
February 28, 2003
Forbes: Why are Russians Clever, But Poor
Official statistics in Russia reveals although insignificant, but still
notable improvement in wellbeing of ordinary Russians. It is reported that
real incomes of the population have allegedly increased (inflation rate
isn’t taken into consideration at that), and real basket of goods has
increased and ruble and currency deposits are said to have increased in
Russia’s Sberbank (Savings Bank). However, the matter of the fact is that
Russia holds stunning records quite in a different sphere: the number of
dollar multi-millionaires is increasing in this country every year.
America’s Forbes rated only seven multi-millionaires in Russia last year,
but this year the results has already increased up to 17. At that, majority
of the last year’s millionaires already doubled their fortunes.
Actual cash incomes of the Russian population after deduction of obligatory
payments and updated in accordance with the Consumer Price Index reduced by
29.1% in January 2003 as compared with the previous month, although they
are still 16.4% higher as compared with January 2002. This is reported by
the RF Statistics Committee.
An average income per head of Russians made up 3.868 rubles, which is 33.6%
more than in January 2002, but it is 28.3% less than in December 2002. It
means that on the New Year’s eve people saved some money to celebrate the
holiday very well, but when people spent their money, in January the
situation in the country got back to the previously fixed results (to the
poverty level of the previous year).
In accordance with the provisional data, an average accrual nominal wage in
Russia reduced by 861 rubles, or about 15%, in January 2003 as compared
with the previous month, and made up 4.877 rubles (it is 29.5% higher than
in January 2002). The actual average monthly wage in January 2003 reduced
by 16.6% as compared with December 2002 (which is at the same time 17%
higher than in January 2002).
The Russian Government estimated a living wage for the last three months of
2002 at the rate of 1.893 rubles per head; the living wage made up 1.817
rubles per head in the third quarter of the previous year.
Population with the average income lower than the living wage in Russia on
the whole reduced from 35.4 million people in the third quarter of 2002 to
30.9 million people in the fourth quarter of the previous year, which made
up 21.6% of the whole population of Russia.
What do we have as a result? Real incomes of the Russian population are
said to have increased by more than 16%; an income per head made up 3.868
rubles (it is a bit more than 100 dollars). The last year’s living wage
made up 1.808 rubles per month on average. Such are the conclusions of the
official statistics. This is how the whole of the country lived last year,
but not all people.
Every year America’s magazine Forbes publishes the list of the planet’s
richest people. This year the rating consists of 476 multi-millionaires
from 43 countries with their total fortunes at the rate of 1.4 trillion
dollars. As American experts state, Russian money-bags were the most
successful with “personal profiteering” this time. This might have been
considered pleasant but for one snag. Ordinary Russians cannot be proud of
the increasing number of Russian money-bags at the time when we see old
ladies begging everywhere in the streets and in the metro. And probably
these old women were selflessly working during WWII to help the country
beat the enemy. This must be a shame for some people to be so much rich at
the time when some part of the population is living below the poverty line.
As for the Forbes rating, president of the Russian oil company YUKOS
Mikhail Khodorkosvky, former owner of Menatep bank and the chief lobbyist
of construction of the Angarsk-Datsin oil pipeline going to China, takes
the 26th position. His fortune is speedily increasing. Forbes supposes that
the businessman grew two times richer within a year. The magazine estimates
his fortune at the rate of 8 billion dollars (the sum was 3.7 billion last
year). Then goes Chukotka governor, businessmen Roman Abramovich, the
actual owner of the Sibneft oil company, co-owner of the Russian Aluminum
holding (he is also said to be the chief “treasurer” of Yeltsin’s Family).
The businessman with his fortune at the rate of 5.7 billion dollars takes
the 49th position in the rating. Then, in accordance with the magazine’s
rating go the following Russians: Mikhail Fridman (4.3 billion,
Alfa-Group), Viktor Vekselberg (2.5 billion, TNK oil company), Vladimir
Potanin (1.8 billion, Interros), Mikhail Prokhorov (1.6 billion, Norilsk
Nickel), Oleg Deripaska (1.5 billion, RusAl), Vladimir Yevtushenkov (1.5
billion, Sistema financial company), Vagit Alekperov (LUKOIL, 1.3 billion
dollars), Alexey Mordashev (1.2 billion, Severstal), Leonid Nevzlin (YUKOS)
and Yeugeny Shvidler (each has 1.1 billion), Vladimir Bogdanov
(Surgutneftegas), Mikhail Brudno, Vladimir Dubov, Platon Lebedev, Vasily
Shakhnovsky (all are from YUKOS, each owns 1 billion).
Experts of the American magazine think that majority of the Russian
businessmen rated in Forbes for the first time were included into the
rating due to a sudden bounce of oil prices. In any other normal country
(Norway or Saudi Arabia) this advantageous price conjuncture would have
certainly improved living conditions and wellbeing of majority of the
population. But not in this country, where only few people made fortunes on
this favorable situation.
Translated by Maria Gousseva
March 1, 2003
U.S. Adds Chechen Groups to Terrorist List
By Sharon LaFraniere
Washington Post Foreign Service
MOSCOW, Feb. 28 -- The U.S. government today added three Chechen rebel
groups to its blacklist of terrorist organizations, saying their leaders
were linked to al Qaeda and were involved in the seizure of more than 800
hostages at a Moscow theater last October.
The decision gave a boost to the Kremlin's claim that Russia is fighting
more than just a separatist movement in its restive southern republic. It
comes as the Bush administration lobbies intensely for Russia's
acquiescence to a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would smooth
the way toward military action against Iraq.
The State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, on Thursday denied that
the timing of today's announcement was aimed at securing Russian support at
the United Nations, saying the United States had been evaluating the
Chechen groups for months.
Their identification as terrorist organizations gives the U.S. government
the right to seize any financial assets they hold in the United States, but
there is no indication the groups have any.
Russian officials have applauded the designation, saying it shows that
Washington has finally recognized the true nature of the conflict that has
raged in the republic for the better part of a decade, with a three-year
reprieve from 1996 to 1999 when Chechnya had de facto independence.
"This is good and long-awaited news," Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a top
spokesman, said last week after word of the decision leaked.
U.S. officials still contend that many Chechen rebels are waging a purely
separatist struggle that can only be resolved by a political solution. "It
remains our position that the broader conflict in Chechnya cannot be
resolved militarily," said Boucher. "We do not consider all Chechen
fighters to be terrorists."
The U.S. government added to its list only three of the most radical
groups, saying the leaders of those groups have ties to Osama bin Laden's
al Qaeda network or have claimed responsibility for acts that U.S.
officials consider to be terrorism.
The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen
Martyrs has about 200 fighters and, according to the State Department, is
led by Shamil Basayev.
He has said that he ordered a band of about 50 rebels to take over a Moscow
theater in October. In the resulting siege, 129 hostages died, most of them
from gas that Russian forces pumped into the theater. All the rebels died.
The other two groups are the International Islamic Brigade -- Basayev also
served as a leader of that group until a few months ago -- and the Special
Purpose Islamic Regiment, which was headed by Movsar Barayev, who led the
theater hostage-takers and died when Russian troops stormed the building.
In a five-page analysis of its decision, the State Department said Basayev
and another rebel commander known as Khattab asked bin Laden for help at
the start of the second Chechen war with Russia in October 1999. Bin Laden
promised the rebel commanders' envoys that he would send money and several
hundred fighters, the analysis said, quoting published reports.
It also said that Khattab, sometimes called a protege of bin Laden, sent
fighters to Afghanistan in October 2001 to help the Taliban movement that
then controlled most of the country. It said many of the Chechens in a
select al Qaeda brigade in Afghanistan were likely followers of Khattab,
Basayev or Barayev.
Khattab was killed by Russian forces about a year ago. Basayev is said to
be hiding in the mountains of southern Chechnya.
March 1, 2003
Overlooking Chechen Terror
By Tom Malinowski
The writer is Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
One measure of America's importance is the frequency with which countries
do outrageous things when they think Americans aren't watching. Saddam
Hussein used to do his worst when official Washington was on vacation --
his offensive into Iraqi Kurdistan during the final days of August 1996,
for example. North Korea may have provoked a crisis now because it sensed
the Bush administration was distracted by Iraq.
And how better to explain Russia's recent decision to end the mission of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Chechnya?
The OSCE mission was the world's eyes and ears on the ground in Chechnya --
its only real mechanism for monitoring the war and promoting dialogue.
Getting the OSCE monitors in was also the Bush administration's single
concrete achievement on Chechnya, an agreement it extracted from Russian
President Vladimir Putin before his first summit with President Bush in
2001. Now Putin has taken that one and only concession back, becoming just
the third European leader -- after Slobodan Milosevic and Belarus's
dictator, Alexander Lukashenko -- to try to kick an OSCE mission out of his
It's easy to guess what the opportunistic Russian leader is thinking:
Surely the Americans are too preoccupied with Iraq -- and with trying not
to seem so preoccupied with Iraq that they can't also focus on Korea -- to
make an issue of anything else now. And sure enough, the administration's
response has been as low-key as they come. U.S. diplomats quietly tried to
change Russia's mind, then took no for an answer and moved on. Instead of
winning concessions, the administration is granting them: Yesterday the
State Department announced it would place three Chechen groups on its list
of terrorist organizations -- a decision that may be objectively justified
but that Russia will see as a quid for its support on Iraq.
The message this sends -- that the United States can focus only on one
crisis now -- won't be lost on Russia or other countries. When war in Iraq
begins, look for Russia to push the envelope even further -- perhaps by
shutting down the remaining camps that shelter displaced Chechens and
pushing them back to the war zone. If Putin thinks the United States won't
notice, he's probably right.
Why should we notice? It's not simply that the torture and disappearances
committed by Russian forces in Chechnya bear such a sad resemblance to the
atrocities that trouble President Bush when committed in Baghdad or
Pyongyang. It is also because Russia has cast these cruelties as its
contribution to America's fight against global terrorism. And it is because
Russia's actions fan the flames they are meant to extinguish. They punish
Chechens whether or not they participate in terrorism, offering no
incentive to reject terror. They are forging a generation of young people
who know only violence, making them easy recruits for those who preach only
One reason little is said is that Chechnya breeds a sense of futility among
American officials. They want to do more than react to bad news; they want
to solve the problem, to find a comprehensive settlement. But this conflict
appears to defy solution. Both sides kill civilians. Both seem locked in a
mutual suicide pact of irrational behavior. So diplomats grow weary, then
disgusted, then uninterested.
In the meantime, with a few exceptions (including the current U.S.
ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Vershbow), American officials resist
publicly criticizing the Russian abuses they despair of ending. Speaking
out may "make us feel good," they say, but it does Chechen civilians no
good. Russia, they argue, will carry on no matter what Americans say. So
why antagonize a vital partner? Why provoke Putin into the fits of anger he
routinely, deliberately and shrewdly throws when outsiders dare to confront
him about Chechnya?
But if the Russian government truly doesn't care about what the United
States thinks and says, why does it schedule its most provocative actions
when America's attention is turned elsewhere? Why is it so intent on
expelling the few outsiders who can tell Americans what is happening in
Chechnya? Why does it go to such lengths to frame its actions with the
language and imagery of America's struggle with terrorism? Of course
American reactions matter to Russia. When Putin tried recently to use
Bush's statements on preemption to justify an attack on Georgia, he backed
off after the United States made clear its opposition.
The war in Chechnya may not end soon. But the mere fact that the United
States and the world are paying attention to what both sides are doing,
with energetic monitors on the ground and strong public statements from the
top, can still minimize the war's harm. The Bush administration must show
that it is neither too defeatist nor too distracted to try.
Moscow offers Chechnya extensive autonomy
GROZNY, Russia. Feb 28 (Interfax) - Moscow is willing to grant Chechnya
extensive autonomy within Russia, deputy chief of the presidential staff
Vladislav Surkov said on Friday.
"In future, an agreement to be concluded between the federal center and
the Chechen Republic may stipulate extremely flexible schemes for the
existence of the Chechen Republic as part of the Russian Federation.
Acceptable forms can be found even for those who haven't until now wanted to
see themselves as part of Russia," he said.
Surkov was speaking at a meeting in Grozny with the Chechen leadership and
governors of Chechen districts.
Putin says Iraqi threat no more serious than some other states'
MOSCOW, Feb 28 /Prime-TASS/ -- Russia does not believe that the threat posed
by Iraq to the world is any more serious than the threat from some other
unspecified countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Bulgarian
journalists Friday on the eve of his official visit to Bulgaria.
However, that does not mean that the "Iraqi problem" does not exist, he noted.
"We need to be sure that Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass
destruction, and if it does, they should be destroyed," he said.
"I am deeply convinced that whatever means we use, we should remain
the framework of international law," he added.
Putin admitted that there are some disagreements in the international
anti-terror coalition, however, it still unites the whole world against
Earlier Friday Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters in
Beijing that Russia could veto a new UN Security Council resolution, which
allows the use of military forces against Iraq.
Russian Daily: US Desire for WMD Monopoly Motive for Iraq War
26 February 2003
Report by Olga Dmitriyeva: "Trap for the Victors; British Experts
Predict Defeat for Bush and Blair After Victory"
London -- [passage omitted citing UK politicians
present and past and analysts on various aspects of Iraq crisis]. Is the
motive for the war which is being undertaken really to gain control of
one of the world's chief oil regions -- a country which every day pumps 2
million barrels of oil from its depths and intends to increase output to
6 million barrels in the next few years? Is it really to lay hands on a
state whose oil is coveted by the world's most envied economies since,
according to Iraq itself, 40 states have oil contracts or deals with it?
No, the experts say, that is too simplistic an approach.
The appetite for oil, although there is no denying that it exists, is
not the main reason for war. America's Achilles' heel is fear of losing
its monopoly over weapons of mass destruction. The desire to retain this
monopoly at any price, a desire typical of imperial thinking, and the
desire to disarm everyone else are the main motive for the campaign
How will the matter be resolved, as fortune tellers put it? Here's
how. There will be no second resolution on Iraq, Professor Garden [Sir
Timothy Garden of the Kings College Center for Defense Studies] believes,
but there will be war. Nonetheless even without that resolution the war
will hardly have illegal status: International lawyers will be happy to
give this war "cover" by declaring that resolution 1441 ensures the
legitimacy of military actions even more than a Security Council
resolution. So in that sense everything will be OK.
But if the United States and Britain "cheat" the United Nations so
cynically, what will happen to this, the world's most representative
institution? Essentially, authoritative observers say, henceforth the
United Nations will have no future. We are already attending its
Los Angeles Times
March 1, 2003
For Moscow, Veto Power Has Perks, Pitfalls
Russia could gain from U.S. if it backs Iraq resolution. A 'no' vote would
By David Holley, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW -- When Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov issued a barely veiled
threat Friday to use Russia's veto power against a new U.N. Security
Council resolution, he flashed what may be Moscow's biggest bargaining chip
on the Iraq table.
The U.S. and Russia appear to be in high-stakes negotiations over the price
of a "yes" vote from Moscow -- or the cost of a veto.
"The word 'veto' must have been uttered in order to use its threat and
certain concessions from the Americans," said Liliya F. Shevtsova, an
analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
The comments came after President Vladimir V. Putin's chief of staff,
Alexander S. Voloshin, held three days of talks in Washington this week
that are widely believed to have focused on how Moscow might benefit from
giving greater diplomatic support to President Bush's Iraq policy.
Those top-level but secretive discussions -- described by State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher as "very, very good" -- came after months of
high-pressure diplomacy, including subtle bargaining over issues such as
repayment of Iraq's debt to Moscow and future oil contracts.
Speaking at a news conference in Beijing on Friday, Ivanov said: "Russia
has the right of veto at the U.N. Security Council, and, if it is required
in the interests of international stability, it may use this right."
U.S. officials, however, say they don't expect a Russian veto -- and they
haven't been shy in telling Russia that its economic interests lie in
friendship with the new Iraqi government that would be installed after any
successful U.S.-led war.
"The arguments that we've made on economic grounds to the Russians are
anything like quid pro quos," a senior Bush administration official said,
speaking on condition that he not be further identified. "What we've said
is that if you are concerned with recouping your $8 billion in debts and if
you're interested in economic opportunities in liberated Iraq, it will be
helpful if you were part of the prevailing coalition. I think that's only
This "common sense," however, constitutes a veiled threat of its
Russia vetoes the Security Council resolution that sets the stage for
disarming Iraq by force, it may not get the money that Iraq owes Moscow and
may find itself frozen out of oil contracts both old and new.
"Our principle is that the oil assets and other assets of Iraq would be
turned over to the reconstituted Iraqi government as soon as we can do
that, and what the new Iraqi government does I suppose will be their
decision," the U.S. official said. "But I don't see why anybody would be
surprised that a new government in Iraq would look favorably on the people
that helped it get there.
"And I think from an economic point of view, it's hard to argue with the
proposition that an Iraq whose oil supplies are fully integrated into the
international economy is a lot more likely to be able to service its debts
than an Iraq that's a pariah state."
Voloshin went to Washington to seek "guarantees of our interests in
said Sergei A. Markov, a Russian political analyst with good Kremlin
connections. "But this is a delicate thing." He cited a contract between
Iraq and Russian oil giant Lukoil as an example, and noted the difficulty
of ascertaining what a future government might do.
"How can we get assurance that guarantees remain valid once promises are
given?" Markov said. "How should a guarantee be reflected? Should we expect
Bush to stamp his presidential seal onto the Lukoil contract with Iraq?"
Markov expressed skepticism that Washington would honor any promises
concerning Iraqi oil.
"Only very idealistic people in Russia can believe that when it comes to
dividing the control over Iraqi oil resources, Bush will listen to Putin
rather than to his friends from Texan oil companies," he said. "The
Americans are not giving us any guarantees yet anyway."
Instead, Voloshin discussed potential payoffs in other areas, Markov said.
"For example, he might talk about uranium-related markets, about markets
for spent nuclear fuel, about acceptance of the Russian military-industrial
complex into NATO arms markets, about a change in U.S. policy toward
pipeline-laying consortiums," he said.
"I am sure that Voloshin also spoke about oil companies' interests and
guarantees for them too," Markov said. "But at this stage, I don't see the
way Bush can really give us any practical guarantees on this issue."
In a more political vein that some view as part of the Iraq bargaining, the
State Department said Friday that it has designated three Chechen rebel
groups as "terrorist organizations," a step Moscow has been urging. It
named the three as Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion
of Chechen Martyrs, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and the Islamic
U.S. officials said the three groups took part in the mass hostage-taking
at a Moscow theater in October, when 129 captives died, nearly all from a
sleeping gas that Russian forces used before they stormed the building. The
State Department also said the groups have ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist
network. Russia, which has fought two wars in the separatist republic of
Chechnya, is pressing for more groups to be placed on the list.
Shevtsova said it's a bit late for Russia to be haggling over economic and
political benefits in return for support on the resolution, because a war
is extremely likely and Russia won't want to go against the winners.
"The point of no return has been passed," she said. "The train
should end up on has already started off. And now Russia should be thinking
not about getting dividends, or bargaining with the U.S., but about getting
on that train and finding a seat."
February 28, 2003
Putin's High-Stakes Chess Game
By Paul Starobin
Starobin is Business Week's Moscow bureau chief
The Russian President is playing all sides on the issue of Iraq at home and
on the world stage -- and so far with aplomb
Like much of the rest of the world, Russia does not want this coming war.
The Kremlin views Saddam Hussein as containable, not an imminent threat. It
doesn't want to set a precedent for "regime change" as a policy practiced
by the U.S. or anyone else. It fears a backlash from Muslim countries on
its southern rim as well as its own Muslims -- 10% of Russia's population.
Besides, the tense status quo is enabling Russia's domestic oil producers
to reap a windfall from surging global oil prices. That could evaporate if
postwar Iraqi oil floods world markets.
So will President Vladimir V. Putin do all in his power to stop the war?
No. Putin knows that ex-superpower Russia can't keep the Bush
Administration from attacking and removing Saddam. Having staked his
presidency on a broad strategic partnership with America -- which he sees
as key to Russia's political and economic integration with the West --
Putin is not likely to let Iraq become a make-or-break issue.
That's true even though Russia is supporting a French-German proposal to
allow U.N. inspectors four more months to scour the country. Although
Russia probably won't vote in favor of a new U.N. Security Council
resolution authorizing force against Iraq, a veto is also improbable.
"Russia could [still] be the pivot in the Security Council for us," says
Samuel R. Berger, a former National Security Adviser. For now, though,
Russia is a charter member of the coalition of the sullenly resigned.
NOT A POODLE. If you think resignation is a simple role to play, just
check out the diplomatic dance Putin has been performing. He is not
bargaining, Turkey-like, for a huge package of economic aid. Instead,
damage avoidance is the strategy. He is taking pains to voice publicly his
differences with Bush's Iraq policy -- a stance that dampens criticism of
him from antiwar constituencies at home, as well as in Europe and the
Middle East. At the same time, he's trying to ensure that Russia's
interests are protected in a postwar Iraq.
It's a complex piece of public and private maneuvering that risks appearing
hypocritical -- and risks irritating Washington. But so far it seems to be
succeeding. On one front, Putin's high-profile stand with the French and
the Germans to give more time for the U.N. inspection effort sets him apart
from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Putin does not want to be
criticized, as Blair has been, as a poodle on Bush's leash.
With parliamentary elections this fall, Putin worries that his United
Russia party could suffer from too close an identification with the U.S. on
Iraq. That's also one reason he recently dispatched former Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov to Baghdad to urge Saddam to comply with the U.N. It was a
signal to Communists, with whom Primakov has close ties, that Putin is
trying hard to avert war.
OIL STAKES. But Putin is also keeping his lines open to Washington. His
chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, and a trusted emissary, Mikhail V.
Margelov, chairman of the foreign-affairs committee in the upper house of
Parliament, visited Washington the week of Feb. 24 to consult with top
White House and State Dept. policymakers on Iraq. For Margelov, the trip
was a continuation of what he calls a "triangular" discussion involving
Washington, Moscow, and London on key postwar issues. "We have to think
about the structure of the society and the government the international
community wants to see in Iraq," he says.
The Kremlin is also signaling its expectation that any future U.S.
occupation regime -- and any successor Iraqi government -- will be mindful
of Russia's economic stake in Iraq. Russia's largest oil company, Lukoil,
already has a $3.5 billion deal to develop one of Iraq's biggest oil fields
-- a contract signed with Saddam but still valid even if there's a regime
change, Russian officials insist. Iraq also owes Russia $8 billion in
Soviet-era debt, which the Kremlin expects to be honored.
For now, Washington and Moscow are not attempting to reach an explicit deal
on either of these matters, U.S. and Russian officials say. In part, that's
because U.S. officials do not want to be seen as carving up the spoils of
post-Saddam Iraq. However, Washington is offering quiet assurances that it
understands how important these issues are to Putin.
CLOSE RELATIONS. And on a related matter -- Moscow's concerns that a
postwar surge in Iraqi oil exports could depress global oil prices and harm
Russia's domestic oil industry -- Bush officials say they share the goal of
price stability in energy markets. "What we've told the Russians is that
we're prepared to take their interests into account," says a senior Bush
When the shooting stops, Putin will have to hope for sympathetic treatment
from Bush, with whom he has nursed a close relationship that survived
Washington's exit from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty last year. Bush
has not taken umbrage at Putin's criticism of his Iraq policy -- in
contrast to his disdainful reaction to the French and German opposition.
Indeed, Bush seems to feel for the Russian leader's predicament. With luck,
Putin's damage control may just work.
A Decade of Russian Regional Democracy: Of the Governors, by the Governors,
for the Governors?
February 10, 2003
In a recent seminar at the Kennan Institute, Andrew Konitzer-Smirnov, a
Kennan Institute Title VIII-Supported Research Scholar, examined Russian
regional politics with a special emphasis on electoral accountability. He
explained many of the current trends and dynamics surrounding the regional
electoral reforms taking place in Russia today, and outlined several
behavioral and institutional challenges facing Russian voters. Using
evidence gathered from the past decade of Russia’s regional executive
elections, he demonstrated that, while Russian voters cast their votes in a
way that promotes accountability, electoral institutions and processes are
“effectively blocking the manifestation of this voting behavior in election
Konitzer-Smirnov began with a brief explanation of the recent debate
surrounding regional elections. He stated that proposals have ranged from
the standardization of regional electoral laws to the elimination of
regional executive elections altogether. Konitzer-Smirnov noted that there
has been much discussion of individual, highly publicized scandals and less
focus on overall electoral trends and that this situation provides
rhetorical ammunition for opponents of regional executive elections.
Fortunately, he contended, economic data and a sufficiently large set of
regional elections allow researchers to better evaluate how well these
elections are performing an accountability function.
According to Konitzer-Smirnov, there are several criteria that a polity
must meet to achieve electoral accountability. First, voters must be able
to assign responsibility for policy outcomes. Second, voters must be able
to vote incumbents out of office and replace them with the candidates of
their choice. Third, incumbents must have incentives to seek reelection.
Finally, an opposition must be present to monitor politicians and inform
Konitzer-Smirnov explained that a multi-level government system presents a
number of “behavioral” challenges to the promotion of accountability. He
noted that voters might suffer from “federal confusion,” or the inability
to assign responsibility for outcomes to the appropriate levels of
government. The problem may be compounded by the fact that voters may be
influenced by the incumbent controlled media and lack the appropriate
information to assign responsibility. Finally, he stated that voters may
choose to focus on other issues rather than on incumbent performance.
He argued that, even if voters meet the established criteria and overcome
behavioral challenges, there are also a number of potential barriers raised
by election institutions and processes. Some of these include
incumbent-friendly election laws making it easier for incumbents to divide
the opposition and win with minimal levels of popular support. Other
challenges include the lack of viable alternatives, election fraud, and
various underhanded election tactics.
Konitzer-Smirnov finished by concluding that, despite their shortcomings,
Russia’s regional executive elections should remain in place. He suggested
some means to promote accountability including the standardization of
election laws and more clearly defined areas of policy responsibility. He
contended that the establishment of clearer jurisdictional responsibility
across levels of government would help eliminate much of the “buck passing”
that is so prevalent in most regional election campaigns. Finally,
Konitzer-Smirnov argued that the further development of civil society
(particularly the diversification of media structures) and transformation
of the existing political culture, while impossible to legislate, are
absolutely critical steps toward regional-level democratization.
The Lancet (UK)
1 March 2003
Infant mortality is falling in Russia, latest figures suggest
By Paul Webster
Government figures released this week at the annual Congress of Russian
Pediatricians in Moscow suggest that infant mortality dropped to 13·3
deaths per 1000 in 2002, a 23% decline since 1996. But in a worrying
development, the government says the number of child illnesses doubled
during the same period.
Deputy minister of health Olga Sharapova said checkups on 31·6 million
Russian children in 2002 found rapidly increasing levels of infectious
diseases, respiratory ailments, physical trauma, poisoning, growth
disorders, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
Sharapova highlighted young people's increasing difficulties with "older
people's diseases, especially heart and kidney disorders". But Sharapova
told The Lancet that the improved infant mortality figure validates
policies intended to bring Russia in line with the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development average of six deaths per 1000.
Efforts to improve maternity care are "showing results, thanks to new
technology in the maternity facilities, reorganisation of prenatal units,
and intensification of resuscitation efforts for underdeveloped newborns",
she said. The government is now planning reforms for the paediatric system,
including increases to paediatric budgets, and paediatricians' salaries,
A paediatric reform project in the Novgorod and Perm regions introducing
WHO-recommended antenatal, perinatal, and infant-care practices indicates
that healthy results will flow from clinical reforms even without more
money. "By dropping traditional clinical rules separating mothers and
children for a week after birth, we were able to promote breastfeeding on
demand," project director Natalia Vartepetova said. "We introduced basic
infection-control principles which demonstrated that infection control is
not about forbidding family visits, which puts further stress on women;
it's about washing your hands and limiting skin-to-skin contact." 2 years
after basic reforms were introduced, perinatal mortality dropped from 11
per 1000 to 5·6.
Elena Fokina, children's health director for UNICEF Russia, emphasises the
need to tackle malnutrition and iodine deficiency disorders among the 20%
of families below the poverty line.
At Moscow's Children's Hospital, chief haematologist Alexei Maschan agrees
that improving children's health depends most on alleviating poverty and
modernising clinical practices. But he adds that increasing funding for
facilities such as the Children's Hospital is crucial. Maschan points to
the hospital's bone-marrow transplant facility, built with money from
private donors, as an example. "It's the only facility like it in Russia,"
Moschan explains. "But due to a lack of funding for staff and operating
costs, we only operate at half capacity."
Maschan says that improving the reliability of paediatric data is another
area that Russia must bring into line with Western standards. A recent
study found that up to 68% of death and perinatal certificates are
inaccurate, and that the cause of death was misreported in up to 20% of
cases. "Until we establish reliable data collection", Maschan says, "the
government can't even claim its reform plans are based on solid evidence".
From: ZvanersM@rferl.org (ZvanersM@rferl.org)
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003
Subject: INVITATION: Domestic Violence in Russia
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
invites you to a briefing by
Executive Director, Women's Alliance (Barnaul, Russia)
Dealing With Domestic Violence in Russia
Friday, March 7, 2003
in Conference Room A (4th Floor) at
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
1201 Connecticut Ave NW
[entrance on Rhode Island Ave NW, next to St. Matthew's Cathedral]
According to official statistics, some 12,000 women a year are killed in
Russia by their spouses as a result of domestic violence. Local NGOs have
been publicizing the figure for years, and a growing number of women's
organizations throughout Russia have set up psychological support groups
and hotlines, as well as six shelters for abused women. But domestic
violence has not abated. Elena Schitova, who heads up one of these
groups, will discuss the scope of the domestic violence problem in Russia
and how her organization is working to put an end to this scourge.
Schitova is the Executive Director of Women's Alliance, a Barnaul-based
NGO focused on intervention in cases of violence against women in the
Altai and Siberian regions of Russia. Schitova is also the leading
specialist at the Women's Crisis Center in Barnaul and has been involved
in developing and implementing education programs about domestic violence
such as "Hot Line Counseling," "The Role of the Militia in Preventing
Domestic Violence," and "The Role of Lawyers in Preventing Domestic
Violence," among many others. She also escorts and represents domestic
violence victims in court, lectures on domestic violence at the Barnaul
Law University for future militia officers, runs support and self-defense
groups, and has participated in many publicity campaigns.
Ms. Schitova's visit in Washington is sponsored by Amnesty International
USA as part of its campaign to highlight human rights issues in Russia.
Please RSVP by Thursday, March 6, 2003 by email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
by telephone to Melody Jones at
(202) 457-6949, or by fax to (202) 457-6992.
Russians' Apathy Toward Coming Elections Viewed
25 February 2003
Article by Leonid Radzikhovskiy: "An Energy Crisis"
A crisis in political energy and will is the main
national achievement. It is called by other names -- "stagnation" or
"stability" (obviously, the stability of our system is possible only at
the bottom of the power pit!). But no matter what you call it, one
thing is important -- it is in this state of total political impotence
that the bridegroom-elector is forced to go to the elections of the
Strictly speaking, the bridegroom, in his present state, experiences no
embarrassment due to his indifference, it doesn't matter to him, but the
parties will have to take evasive action using some sort of as yet
completely inconceivable method, in order to attract even the scattered
attention of the bridegroom, "tired of mineral water." Yes or no, the
PR people are faced with creative work -- they can only rely on the
work's being handsomely paid.
The impotence of society -- if we need any more illustrations of this
condition -- is clearly obvious, if only in the way that Russia is
reacting to the Iraqi war. This is not the place to discuss the problem
in its essence. Suffice to state that most of the people in the world,
as we know, are dramatically against the coming attack of the United
States on Iraq. The anti-American moods in Russia are stronger than
anywhere in the world (not counting the Arab countries, of course).
Nevertheless, in Europe they stage demonstrations with hundreds of
thousands of participants, but in Russia no one lifts a finger. To
rephrase a classic, the Russians have skillfully opposed their energy for
anti-American inaction to the European energy of anti-American action.
The apathy with respect to domestic politics is even more persistent and
graphic. The situation of half-satiety-half-starvation, without any
distinct prospect in this or the other direction, which envelops the
half-lie of the politicians (it is clear that they are lying, but in what
respect -- you cannot grasp!), and the ironclad belief in the corrupted
state of all branches of authority have led to a completely fixed
atmosphere in society. Not only do the people have no faith in the
authorities (or in the opposition) and no irritation against the
authorities (or against the opposition), not even the last glass of cheap
ideological wine is left -- faith in a Miracle, faith in the next new
God, Tsar or Hero.
This faith-hope (or faith-fear) usually engendered political energy in
the masses. In 1985-1989, they believed this way in the "great Gorbi,"
in 1990-1993 -- in "tsar Boris." In the first elections to the Duma
some people believed in "Gaydar's reforms," and others -- in Vladimir
Yuristovich Zhirinovskiy. The 1995 elections were quite tainted, but
were moved at least by the energy of irritation against "drunken Yeltsin"
-- hence the "absurd" (in no way merited on its part) success of the CPRF
[RF Communist Party]. In the presidential elections of 1996, the energy
was two-fold -- the energy of fear in the face of the "Communists" and
the energy of hope for a new hero -- "tsar Lebed." Moreover, this
energy worked not only on him, it raised the overall interest in
elections, wound up general election intrigue and in the end helped
Yeltsin more than his own dances in front of the television camera. And
then everyone, of course, remembers the way, in 1999-2000, the people
were warmed up, again from two quarters -- against Primakov-Luzhkov and
There is nothing of this for the 2003-2004 elections. There is no enemy
against whom they hold "five-minute hatred" and publish the newspaper, Ne
Day Bog!, and there is no enchanting-new Inspector General (or even
Khlestakov) who, turning up from God knows where, will "suddenly" drive
out of her mind Marya Antonovna and her seemingly quite intelligent papa,
and all the rest of the Dobchinskoh-Bobchinskiys....
Well, there is nothing of this. And none is foreseen. There are the
parliamentary parties, well-known, like comfortable old slippers. There
is the hastily made-up party of power, which for some reason or other is
ashamed to call itself that. It would seem that there is something
similar in many countries with respect to the "normal" political life.
Why then have they not grown tired of parliamentary elections in 100
years, and why are we hopelessly yawning after 10 years?
The answer is banal to the point of tears: they have the same civil
society. In a civil society, under the conditions of continuous
competition between the parties, they somehow renew themselves, change,
in short -- live. In our country there is no society with marked groups
of interests, with the inverse connection "society -- parliament," etc.,
etc. The parties cannot be fed with the juices of civil society in view
of its absence, and they are therefore fed only with ordinary money. A
political party, however, absurd as it seems, is an ideological organism,
and money is a nonideological product. This sort of nourishment, of
course, serves the leaders in a purely physiological way, but their
parties will quietly die without any ideological fodder.
If there is no self-development, there remains in political life only the
administrative "push-pull," combined with the people's faith in a
Miracle, which, as determined in the Russian fairy tale, will "suddenly
come flying in." They usually compose this bewitching fairy tale for
elections: new Dorenkas create a new enemy and a new hero. But there
is none of that now: the administrative piston is meanwhile moving
without any ideological lubricant. If things go on like this, the
election campaign will let out a terrible gnashing sound and crawl along
until 14 December, like a tramway going through broken glass....
The authorities have no particular reason to worry, however: with any
alignment of events they will creep up to the elections with their 60-65
percent, no more than 3-4 percent will vote "against everyone," the party
of power, in view of the lack of competition, will most likely obtain the
necessary majority and the "obligatory opposition" will remain alive....
The "quality" of the electors will be awful, will take these bad voting
papers in their hands disgustedly, but after all, only the number of them
is important for the elections. In order to rouse the country, of
course, we need, not "Potemkin elections," but something directly the
opposite -- society breaking its way out of the power pit. Who worries
about these idealistic stupidities, however?
The administrative piston is so far moving without any ideological
Obscene language unacceptable to 92% of Russians - poll
MOSCOW. March 1 (Interfax) - Most Russians, 92%, consider unacceptable the
use of obscene language in the media, including television, radio,
newspapers and magazines.
These figures come from a poll conducted by the Public Opinion
Foundation on 1,500 Russians in mid-February.
More than half, 58%, agree that works of art, such as books, movies,
theatre shows and songs, containing swear words should be banned.
Among the respondents backing the suggestion, 42% use swear words.
At least 69% of Russians use obscene language.
However, the 24% who never swear oppose the ban on works of art
containing obscene language.
Financial Times (UK)
February 28, 2003
Russia diary: Linguistic inflation
By Rafael Behr in Moscow
There is either too much swearing in Russia these days or not enough, opinion
Opinion is also on its way to the statute books if a coalition of prudish
politicians and a foul-mouthed self-publicist called Vladimir Zhirinovksy get
Russia-watchers will remember Mr Zhirinovsky as the neo-imperialist bogeyman
who burst onto the public stage in a puff of xenophobia when the country's
first post-Communist parliament was elected back in 1993. He hasn't gone away
Instead Mr Zhirinovsky has made a career for himself as parliament's enfant
terrible-in-residence. He spits vitriol in carefully measured doses.
I caught the Zhirinovsky show first hand this week when he spoke out on a
bizarre legislative project that aims to ban swearing and foreign words from
The "Law on the State Language of the Russian Federation and Irregular
Terminology in the Mass Media" divided opinions in parliament's lower house
so effectively that fisticuffs broke out. It was then summarily dismissed by
the more sober upper house on the grounds that it was plain stupid. Too many
foreign words have infiltrated Russian. Try writing a constitution without a
word for 'constitution'.
So a new draft was required, which task Mr Zhirinovsky took in hand,
explaining at length his view on the matter. Foreign words, he said, are bad
(not Russian). But swearing is good (very Russian). He reinforced the case by
peppering his speech with the kind of luridly nuanced profanity for which the
Russian language is rightly admired by people who admire that sort of thing.
There does seem to be a lot more swearing on TV than there used to be. There
are also a lot more foreign words around. Fair enough, in Soviet days there
simply weren't words for things like 'the internet' and 'privacy'. There were
words for sex organs and bodily functions, but only for the amusement of the
But that doesn't explain the proliferation of a new breed of adjective, words
like 'elitarny' (elite) and 'stilny' (stylish), which have attached
themselves to everything from sushi restaurants to shoe shops.
These replaced 'modny' (a French borrowing meaning 'fashionable'), which was
already an implausible claim when slapped on cheap Belarusian footwear.
Before that was the wholly Russian 'kachestvenny' quality.
Once the high street has become elite and stylish to saturation point
retailers will presumably have to become 'exclusivny' and then, who knows?
This picture needs some economic context.
The rouble, driven by high oil prices, is currently appreciating against the
dollar. Foreign imports, driven out by the 1998 debt default and devaluation,
are making a comeback. Lucrative raw material exports are pumping liquidity
into the economy. Moscow services and retailers benefit, but domestic
manufacturing languishes unreformed and uncompetitive.
These febrile economic circumstances must be affecting the local tongue.
Russian, I contend, is undergoing linguistic inflation. Cheap foreign words
are being sucked in on the back of heavy exploitation of the language's
earthy natural resource - swearing.
If my analysis is correct, the interventionist measures being considered by
parliament won't solve the problem.
A more fitting model is offered by Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister. This
week he was plugging a scheme to protect the economy from its over-dependence
on high oil prices and their inflationary side effects. Mr Kudrin wants to
create a stabilisation fund that would cream off the revenues currently
earned on energy exports for use in leaner times to offset a budget shortfall.
It could work. Let the swearing go on, but for each piece of filth broadcast
the guilty media would commission a high-brow arts programme. These would
allow the language of Pushkin to compete more effectively with trashy foreign
imports. At the very least it will make Russian TV a f*** sight more
Investors Business Daily
February 25, 2003
New Allies Are A Collection of Old Communist Leaders
By Brian Mitchell
NATO may be out, thanks to France, Germany and Belgium. But, hey, there's
still the Vilnius 10 - a loose league of ex-Communist NATO wannabes in
This month they signed on to a statement of support for war with Iraq. They
won't be sending troops, of course. But at least they'll say they're on our
Public opinion is elsewhere in Eastern Europe. A recent poll by Gallup
International finds that "New Europeans" don't see the issue much
differently than the French and the Germans.
War with Iraq is most popular in Romania, where 45% are for it. It's least
popular in Bosnia, where 84% are opposed.
But since when did public opinion matter in Eastern Europe?
All but two of the Vilnius10 are run today by ex-Communists. For years
these men kowtowed to the Soviet Union. Now they're kowtowing to the U.S.
The two exceptions among the Vilnius10 are Albania and Latvia. Their
leaders all for war but aren't ex-Communists.
In the other eight - Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Macedonia,
Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia - it's "meet the new boss, same as the old
"It's not just that they were Communists - anyone could have been a
Communist - it's that they were very senior Communists," said John
Laughland of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. "In three or four of
the cases, they were actually the Communist bosses in their country."
Estonia's President Arnold Ruutel was president of the country's Supreme
Soviet. Lithuania's Primier Algirdas Brazauskas was the first secretary of
his country's Communist Party.
Romania's President Ion Iliescu founded Romania's Communist student union.
He later served as secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee.
Bulgaria's President Georgi Parvanov was too young to get far in the
Communist Party, until the party changed its name to the Bulgarian
Socialist Party in 1990. Parvanov is the first ex-Communist to be president
since the end of communism.
Slovakia's President Rudolph Schuster was a member of the Central Committee
of Czechoslovakia's Communist Party for 20 years. He attended his last
Communist Party meeting in 2000, boasting to the delegates, "I am proud of
what I did under the former regime."
The situation is much the same in Poland and Hungary. Large majorities
oppose war - 63% in Poland, 82% in Hungary - but their ex-Communist leaders
are backing the U.S.
The struggle to end communism in Poland pitted Lech Walesa, hero of the
Solidarity labor movement, against Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leszek
Miller. Kwasniewski was a career propagandist for the Communist regime.
Miller was a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee.
Today, Walesa is out, and Kwasniewski and Miller are back in. The first is
president; the second is prime minister.
Hungary's prime minister is Socialist Peter Medgyessy, who spied for the
Soviet-era secret police under the code name D-209. Medgyessy's election
last year was the second time the U.S. helped the Socialist Party back into
power in Hungary.
Much of this is just as the U.S. has willed. Since the end of the Cold War,
the U.S. has spent billions of dollars to get the governments it wants in
Some of the money was funneled through two Cold War groups, the
International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.
Both are federally funded through the National Endowment for Democracy and
the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The $8 billion USAID also doles out dough directly to preferred customers
in country. For example, USAID's Polish American Enterprise Fund gave $240
million to "private citizens" in Poland.
The fund also gave over $200 million to the Polish American Freedom
Foundation, to foster "democracy and free markets." The PAFF does this with
the help of NGOs (nongovernmental groups) like the Open Society Institute
and the American Federation of Teachers.
The Open Society Institute, funded by billionaire financier George Soros,
has been perhaps the most active and most leftist NGO at work in Eastern
Europe. The institute has been especially busy pointing out good guys and
bad guys - the good guys get U.S. backing, the bad guys get the finger of
In Slovakia, the good guy was someone like Rudolph Schuster; the bad guy
was Vladimir Meciar. Meciar wasn't keen on joining NATO. He also balked at
selling off the country's gas, oil, and telecom industries to foreign
"I'm not saying that Mr. Meciar is the one to pull the country out of
mess, but it is the ruling coalition that is selling out everything to
please outside sharks," said John Vacval, Chicago businessman and president
of the Slovak World Congress Abroad.
Slovak voters gave Meciar's party the strongest showing last September, but
the other parties ganged up against him.
"I wasn't born yesterday, and I know very well what foreign countries
expecting of us," said one candidate. Asked to explain, he said, "No Meciar."
So don't think the words of support from the new/old nomenclatura of
Eastern Europe means their countries are behind us. They're just saying
"They're all a bunch of Commie hacks who are used to giving into to
whomever is the biggest bastard on the block," Laughland said. "It's all
about power, and they are political operators who sided with whoever is
strongest and most horrible at the time."
February 28, 2003
Caspian deal a step closer
By Sergei Blagov
MOSCOW - The decade-long dispute over how to divide the oil-rich Caspian
Sea may be settled soon, claims Russia, although statements by some Russian
officials indicate that Moscow still views itself a bit more equal than the
other four littoral nations.
The legal status of the inland sea could be agreed "within a year",
Russia's deputy foreign minister and Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhny
announced on Thursday, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the
special Caspian envoys of the five littoral states in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The meeting between the representatives of Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran,
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan "opened the way towards solving the Caspian
problem", Kalyuzhny was quoted as saying by the news agency RIA.
The other littoral states appeared to echo Russia'’s optimism. A draft
convention on the legal status of the Caspian is now being viewed
positively by all littoral states, Azerbaijani deputy Foreign Minister
Khalaf Khalafov said. The issue has been contentious since the collapse of
the Soviet Union in 1991.
Until then, the sea's status was regulated by treaties between the Soviet
Union and Iran. But the break-up of the Soviet Union led to the creation of
three new independent states bordering the Caspian Sea: Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. All of those countries now seek a share of its
Meanwhile, Moscow has raised fresh objections against new borders, naval
forces and underwater pipelines in the Caspian. Russia is against setting
up maritime borders in the Caspian as it would contradict the Kremlin's
idea "to share the seabed but not the water itself", Kalyuzhny said.
Kalyuzhny also stated that Moscow no longer supported Kazakhstan's plans to
create national naval forces, Kalyuzhny announced. No new military forces
are needed in the Caspian, he was quoted as saying by RIA. The
Russian-backed draft of the convention implies that the Caspian Sea should
However, Kazakhstan declined to accept Moscow’s rebuttal. Kazakh deputy
foreign minister Kairat Abuseidov stated that his country needed a naval
unit to combat terrorism, the drug trade and illegal migration.
Russian objections to the Kazakh naval plans came as a departure from
Moscow's previous supportive position. Last year, Russian officials
suggested that a joint military force, including Russia and Kazakhstan, be
created to safeguard Caspian security. Moscow also pledged to supply
Russian military hardware, including one naval vessel, to Kazakhstan at
Russia’s domestic prices.
In August 2002, Russia held unprecedented naval exercises in the Caspian
Sea, with the Russian Caspian flotilla's 60 vessels, some 10,000 servicemen
and 30 aircraft taking part. About 3,000 Kazakh servicemen or roughly all
country's naval personnel took part in the exercises, which involved joint
action with Russia's Caspian Flotilla.
Russia's Caspian flotilla has been a force for coastal defense and
waterways patrol. Following the division of the Soviet Caspian flotilla in
1992 between Moscow and Baku, Russia kept three quarters of the naval
vessels and personnel based in Astrakhan.
The Kazakh navy is based in Aktau and Atyrtau ports in the eastern and
northern parts of the Caspian. Kazakh naval forces include some 3,000
personnel, armed with 10 imported coast guard boats and five smaller vessels.
Tehran was prohibited from having a naval force in the Caspian Sea,
according to treaties between the USSR and Iran. However, in the wake of
the Soviet collapse, Iran has been reported to want to turn its Caspian
ports into naval bases.
Officially, Turkmenistan has no naval forces at all. However, Turkmenistan
reportedly procured 20 patrol boats from Ukraine. Turkmenistan has 20
Ukraine-built patrol boats, as well as one US-built vessel. Unlike
Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan owns naval facilities in Baku as well as a quarter
of the former Soviet Caspian flotilla. However, Russia reportedly acquired
the best vessels.
No to pipelines
Apart from insisting on its dominant military role in the Caspian, Russia
also suggests that any Caspian deal should protect Moscow’s oil transit
interests. "We view the construction of pipelines through the Caspian
negatively," Kalyuzhny told the meeting in Baku, adding that Russia would
seek a pipeline ban as part of a future convention on the Caspian Sea's
Kalyuzhny said that Moscow would seek to ban pipelines along the bottom of
the sea, an idea detrimental to a US-backed project to send Caspian oil to
the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Kalyuzhny cited environmental reasons as the
main argument for banning pipelines.
Construction on a pipeline between Baku and Ceyhan began last year, and the
first oil is scheduled to flow through it in 2005. The Kazakh port of
Aktau, across the sea from Baku, is to be linked to the pipeline by an
underwater line. The pipeline, which would circumvent Russia, is backed by
the US as a way to improve access to Central Asian oil.
According to treaties in 1921, 1940 and 1970, Iran controls just 13 percent
of the Caspian sea and is poised to benefit greatly from equal division.
After 1991, Iran suggested that the Caspian should be divided equally, with
the five littoral states each receiving 20 percent of the sea. Russia,
Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan support the so-called middle lines division
principle, which would leave Iran with the smallest part of the Caspian.
Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov is yet to change his opposition
towards bilateral Caspian deals. Moreover, Niyazov is reportedly due to
travel to Tehran on March 10, presumably to discuss a joint position on the
In the wake of a series of bilateral Caspian deals between Russia,
Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, widely seen as an alternative to an overall
agreement of all five Caspian littoral states, last October Kazakhstan
floated an idea of a trilateral agreement in the oil-rich region, backing
the Russian plan of "median line" division plan as a "just solution".
Kazakhstan is set to become a major beneficiary of the so-called median
lines division principle, which would leave it with the largest part of the
Caspian. Iran and Turkmenistan would be the losers of the median lines
In recent years, there have been repeated moves to resolve disputes over
the Caspian Sea. In May 2002, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his
Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a bilateral agreement on how
to divide the northern Caspian. The deal implies that three hydrocarbon
fields divided by the median line, Kurmangazy, Central and Khvalynskoye,
would be exploited on parity basis. Last October, Putin and Azerbaijani
President Geidar Aliyev signed a border agreement on defining the sea
border between their respective Caspian sections.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov traveled to Baku earlier in the week
to clinch a bilateral arms trade deal with his Azeri counterpart Safar
Abiyev. However, Ivanov pledged "not to sell destabilizing weapons" to
Ivanov dismissed talk of Russia’s long-standing bias in favor of
Azerbaijan’s foe, Armenia. No evidence has been found so far relative to
allegations that in 1993-1996 Russia supplied Armenia with arms worth of
US$1 billion, Ivanov was quoted by RIA as saying.
Ivanov also met Azeri Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zadeh to discuss Russia’s
Gabala radar station, which is located in Azerbaijan. Russian media outlets
have speculated that Moscow might want to use Gabala to monitor the US war
However, despite improving bilateral ties, Azerbaijan is yet to side with
Russia completely. The littoral states "are independent in issues relative
to safeguarding their security", Khalafov told journalists in Baku.
Presumably to illustrate the country’s independence from Russia, on
February 26 an Azeri court convicted three Azeri citizens of spying for
Russia and sentenced them to 10-11 years in prison. The men were found
guilty of providing the Russian military intelligence with information on
the deployment of troops and military equipment in Azerbaijan. Prosecutors
also accused them of providing information on Azerbaijan's oil pipeline
routes and situation around the Gabala radar station.
Apres Kuchma, a la Kuchma
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has a five-pronged strategy to take
Ukraine to the post-Kuchma era--and to take him to a secure retirement.
by Taras Kuzio
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a Resident Fellow at the Center of Russian and East
European Studies at the University of Toronto.
TORONTO, Canada--Ten months ago, the Ukrainian opposition emerged from
parliamentary elections with a majority of votes. But since then, the
opposition has found itself kept at arm’s length from power by a shifting
grouping of pro-presidential forces, while the Ukrainian parliament, the
Rada, has been unstable and under threat from an increasingly aggressive
executive formed by supporters of President Leonid Kuchma.
It has been a period in which the country and the Rada have, in effect,
been held hostage by President Leonid Kuchma. The president, discredited at
home and abroad since November 2000 by the “Kuchmagate” tapes, is now
concentrating on how to gain immunity after the constitution forces him to
retire in October 2004. But how to gain immunity and how much chance does
he have of succeeding?
The problems Kuchma faces come down to the division of Ukrainian politics
into two camps and their own internal divisions. The ideologically driven
parties on the left (the Communist and Socialists) and right (Our Ukraine
and Yulia Tymoshenko)--who to varying degrees oppose the executive--won a
majority in the popular vote but, after constituency elections were added,
fell short of a majority of seats.
The backers of the executive lie between the left and the right. They term
themselves “centrists,” but this is a misnomer for parties devoid of
ideology who provide an umbrella--or, kryshy (roofs)--for business and
regional groups. They are, in more than one sense, the “parties of power.”
They were trounced in the nationwide vote--the pro-Kuchma bloc For a United
Ukraine (ZYU) and the Social Democratic United Party (SDPUo) attracted just
18 percent of the vote in the proportional half of the elections--but
allied “independent” candidates won most seats in constituency elections.
The elections may have been inconclusive but did indicate an upturn in the
fortunes of the anti-Kuchma camp. Moreover, immediately after the elections
the ZYU disintegrated into seven factions within parliament. Yet eleven
months later, the anti-Kuchma camp’s influence on policy and the political
climate effectively remains much as it was before the elections. The reason
lies in the five-pronged strategy adopted by the executive to control the
transition to the post-Kuchma era.
The first step of the pro-Kuchma forces was a classic move: They targeted
the seats of power and placed their own officials there. In May 2002, the
head of the presidential administration, Volodymyr Lytvyn, was elected by
only one more vote than was required to be Rada speaker, a position that
gives him the power to determine the parliamentary agenda. Lytvyn had
headed the ZYU bloc, which came third in the proportional lists with only
11.8 percent of the votes. On the economic front, the National Bank--in
December, after some irregular voting procedures--went to Srhiy Tyhipko
from the Dnipropetrovsk clan, Labour Ukraine.
The second step in the strategy has been to remove any independent
editorial policy on television. In the summer, the presidential
administration’s Information Policy directorate, headed by Serhiy Vasiliev,
began a two-step policy. On the home front, it sent unsigned and unsourced
instructions to television stations outlining what they should cover and
what they should ignore. The opposition have since been effectively shut
out of television. On the international front, in a step out of George
Orwell’s 1984 Vasiliev began compiling weekly reports of “criticism” of
Kuchma in the media, sending these to the Council of Europe to prove that
censorship does not exist in Ukraine. At the same time, Vasiliev began
cultivating the Ukrainian diaspora media in a move reminiscent of Orwell’s
Ministry of Truth by asking it to reprint his digest suitably entitled
“Good News from Ukraine.”
A third element of the campaign has been divide and conquer the opposition.
Kuchma has tried to divide the left and right wings of the opposition by
playing on the unwillingness of many national democrats in Our Ukraine to
have anything to do with the Communists, who in had in April 2001 voted
with the ‘centrists’ to remove the government headed by Viktor Yushchenko.
There have also been attempts to reduce support for the national democrats
in the west and for the Communists in the east. In the west this tactic
aims to drive a wedge between the two parts of the right-wing opposition,
Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and the radical populist Tymoshenko, deputy prime
minister between 1999 and 2001 in the Yushchenko government. In
mid-February, for example, more than two million false Our Ukraine leaflets
were circulated in western Ukraine, a Yushchenko powerbase, claiming that
Tymoshenko’s real aim now is to prevent Yushchenko’s election to the
presidency. Who was behind it is of course unknown, but the fingers point
to the president’s administration.
In the east, the executive is repeating a tactic already used by Kuchma in
the 1994 elections, cozying up to Russia and integrating more with the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the closest thing to the Soviet
Union that now exists. In January, Kuchma became the first non-Russian to
be elected to chair the CIS Council of Heads of State, and in February
unveiled plans to revive the moribund CIS (by, for example, creating a CIS
Both of these regionally focused campaigns have been coupled with greater
surveillance of the opposition since the mass anti-Kuchma protests in March
2001 and September 2002, with the pressure also being felt by student and
opposition activists and even priests. Meanwhile, the authorities continue
to try and press “corruption” charges against Tymoshenko. These are not
spontaneous steps by local administrations or the judiciary: Documents
leaked in late 2002 showed the Interior Ministry instructing local state
administrations and security on steps to be taken against the opposition.
THE DECISIVE BATTLEGROUND
In these areas it has scored successes. However, the battle over the next
year and a half may well be won and lost on the success of two other
tactics adopted by pro-Kuchma forces.
One is its strategy of transforming Ukraine into a
parliamentary-presidential republic, moving from the semi-presidential
system that Ukraine has operated under since June 1996. This change, on the
face of it, increase the level of democracy in the country. This is the
system used, for example, in most countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
It is the opposite of system elsewhere in the CIS, where a
super-presidential system is the rule (Moldova is the other exception).
But why the sudden enthusiasm for political reform from a group not seen as
stalwart defenders of democracy? Indeed, Kuchma tried to force through a
return to a super-presidential system in a referendum in April 2000, and
just last year--in the election campaign--the ‘centrist’ ZYU backed
There are two reasons for the new-found enthusiasm for political reform.
The first, as Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk admitted to a U.S.
official late last year, is to ensure that even if Yushchenko were to win
the presidential elections in 2004 he would have little executive power, as
most powers would by then have been transferred to a Rada controlled by
Lytvyn and his pro-presidential majority. The second is to divide the
opposition as the Communists’ 60 and the Socialists’ 20 deputies might be
tempted to back the “centrists.” Those votes would be vital: The
“centrists” command 230 votes but need 300 to force through constitutional
This highlights the fifth strategic goal of the centrists: to form a
majority in the Rada without Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine, a majority
that will stick together. After the 2002 elections, the imminent creation
of a pro-presidential majority was announced on many occasions, but
internal contradictions and hostilities in the pro-presidential camp
prevented it from crystallizing. Indeed, the tensions prevented a new
post-election government from being formed until November, when the prime
minister became Viktor Yanukovych, formerly the governor of the Donetsk
region and a close associate of a group of regional magnates known as the
Donetsk clan. As prime minister, he is now best-placed for victory in the
presidential elections. The tensions within parliament were finally
overcome sufficiently to form a majority in December--only to break up
after one week, when the SDPUo began claiming that it had been “betrayed”
by other “centrist” factions. SDPUo faction leader and former President
Leonid Kravchuk was particularly vicious about Lytvyn, who in turn (like
the Donetsk clan and, in passing, Yushchenko) dislike the Kiev clan that
dominates the SDPUo.
Still, the pro-presidential forces could command a majority--if only on
paper and if only thanks to 32 deputies who left opposition ranks last year
after pressure from various law-enforcement bodies. The pressure--which
included threats by the tax offices to close down the businesses of people
who all happened to support the opposition--has been such that even the
pro-presidential Agrarian Party admitted that “upholding the constitution
and respective legislation remains a serious problem for the state law
enforcement organs.” In a poll conducted to coincide with a specially
convened commission to look into the charges, 67.7 percent of
parliamentarians said they believed that the law-enforcement bodies had
infringed on their rights as deputies.
The question is when, if ever, the majority might move from paper to
reality. If forming a lasting majority seems to be impossible at present, a
majority might form on an ad hoc basis, to pass particular laws. This could
be the case with the draft law currently before the Rada granting Kuchma
immunity from prosecution after he steps down in 2004.
Ideologically amorphous and dominated by businessmen who feel that Rada
work is secondary (since 1990, they have had the worst record of
parliamentary attendance), the “centrists” know that if Kuchma does not
receive immunity then they themselves will likely come under threat after
he leaves office. That should concentrate their minds--and, until their
minds are concentrated, we can expect to see more pressure on the media and
opposition, as well as political tinkering.