|Plain Text - Entire Issue
1. AFP: Russia won't veto resolution: report.
2. AP: Report: Only one-third of Russian children are healthy.
3. Luba Schwartzman: TV1 Review.
4. AP: More Russian Soldiers Leaving Chechnya.
5. Financial Times (UK): Andrew Jack, Bank sits on study of gas pricing by Russia.
6. Novaya Gazeta: Roman Shelinov, WHO HAS STOLEN WHAT IN RUSSIA. Review of the annual report of the Prosecutor General's Office.
7. Financial Times (UK): Rafael Behr, Inside Russia: Setting hearts a-flutter.
8. Vadim Birstein: Remembering Stalin.
9. New York Times: Michael Wines, Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin's Hand.
10. The New York Times: Serge Schmemann, Poison May Have Caused Stalin's Death, but It Didn't Finish Him Off.
11. Versia: Oleg Lurie, STOLEN BILLIONS. The IMF loan that vanished has been found in Abramovich's Swiss company.
12. Gregory Kozlovsky: Robert Kaiser on Khrushchev's humiliating defeat.
13. AP: Russia Tries to Assure As Dollar Sinks.
14. RIA Novosti: HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS UPSET OVER "HEGEMONY OF ONE POWER" IN WORLD COMMUNITY.
15. RIA Novosti: LENT BEGINS FOR ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS.
16. The Times (UK): Clem Cecil, Shelves bare as Lent bites in Russia.
17. JTA: Lev Krichevsky, Interviews with Adin Steinsaltz, talmudic scholar, published in Russia.
18. BusinessWeek Online: Jason Bush, Foreign Carmakers Gain in Russia. The likes of Daewoo, Ford, Renault, and more can't produce fast enough.
19. Washington Post letter: Russian Nuke Reduction.
20. RFE/RL: Jeremy Bransten, Ukraine: Kuchma Says Reform Plan Would Shift Power To Parliament.
Russia won't veto resolution: report
March 10, 2003
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin had assured his US counterpart George W.
Bush that Moscow would not veto a UN resolution on Iraq pushed by the
United States, Time magazine reported today.
"The President had a conversation and got a different impression - not
Putin was with him, but that he's not going to veto," the news magazine
quoted an unnamed White House official as saying.
The United States, Britain and Spain have sponsored a draft resolution that
would give Iraq a March 17 deadline to comply with UN demands that it disarm.
Russian deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov said on Friday that Russia
would block an amended draft resolution setting a March 17 deadline for
Iraq to demonstrate to the UN Security Council that it was complying with
demands that it disarm.
Report: Only one-third of Russian children are healthy
March 10, 2003
MOSCOW - Only one-third of all Russian children can be considered healthy,
a decline of seven percent over the last 10 years, a senior official said
Monday, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
A countrywide pediatric health survey, carried out last year, found that
only 33 percent of the 31.6 million Russians aged 18 and under are in good
health, Deputy Health Care Minister Olga Sharapova was quoted as telling
The rest are suffering from some type of health problem. Officials in the
past have said the problems are primarily bronchial and respiratory
Sharapova told ITAR-Tass that poor adherence to sanitary and hygienic rules
in many schools were to blame. But she also said that improved diagnosis
meant that diseases were easier to recognize at an earlier stage, leading
to the increased numbers.
Last year, the Health Ministry carried out a countrywide checkup campaign,
aimed at helping the Cabinet reform the nation's cash-strapped pediatric
Russia's post-Soviet economic decline, the sharpest ever experienced by an
industrialized nation, triggered a severe health crisis.
State funding for health care has increased in recent years as the economy
has improved, but overall the public health system has continued to
crumble. Its deterioration, combined with widespread poverty, has left more
and more women with illnesses that affect their newborn children.
Compiled by Luba Schwartzman (email@example.com)
Research Analyst, Center for Defense Information, Moscow office
Saturday, March 08, 2003
- According to public opinion polls, almost two thirds of Russians
feel that March 8th, International Women’s Day, is an important
holiday. One percent refuses to recognize it -- some of these
respondents say that women should be honored every day.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Georgian President
Eduard Shevarnadze and Abkhaz Prime Minister Gennady Gagulia
in Sochi to discuss relations between Russia and Georgia and the
resolution of the Abkhaz problem.
- President Putin also met with Belarusian President Aleksandr
- A fire broke out in a building-supply store in the northwest of
Moscow. The fire has been neutralized. There were no victims.
- The pilot of an airplane flying from Nizhevartovsk to Moscow’s
Domodedovo airport found a note indicating that terrorists are
trying to take over the plane. The message was false. The note has
been submitted for investigation.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
- Another federal forces checkpoint in Grozny has been replaced
with a regular police checkpoint.
- State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev flew to Baghdad. He
will meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other
government officials to discuss the threat of an American invasion
- The last Russians wishing to return home arrived on the fourth
Emergencies Ministry flight from Baghdad. 117 people were
onboard. The fifth flight, scheduled for Monday, has been
cancelled, since the other Russian citizens have chosen to keep
working in Iraq.
- Astronaut Yuri Gagarin would have turned 69 years old today.
- The wall of a Moscow region apartment building collapsed. Two
people have been hospitalized.
- A major fire at the oil-storing facility of a local enterprise broke
out in Kemerovo.
- The flu epidemic is easing off throughout Russia. The only
region where the epidemic is on the rise is the Sakhalin Oblast.
More Russian Soldiers Leaving Chechnya
March 10, 2003
By ANNA MELNICHUK
MOSCOW (AP) - A train carrying Russian soldiers and military hardware
pulled out of war-ravaged Chechnya Monday, the final contingent to leave as
part of a planned troops reduction ahead of a constitutional referendum
The small withdrawal is part of an intense Kremlin effort to show that
security in Chechnya is improving, but fighting persists, as do allegations
of abuses by federal troops.
Chechen officials said Monday that Russian forces in two armored personnel
carriers opened fire on Chechen police in a village in the Grozny suburbs
overnight, killing two police.
Rezvan Masayev, head of the village administration, said federal forces
ignored police attempts to stop them at the entrance to Staraya Sunzha and
opened fire when another Chechen police patrol set off alarm rockets. After
wounding two police, the Russian soldiers got out of their vehicle and
allegedly killed the wounded police, Masayev said.
Ilgan Samigulin, head of the local police department, said the soldiers
came from Russia's main Khankala military base near the capital Grozny.
``The question is if they ever will be handed over to us,'' he said.
Russian officials have insisted that all troops who commit crimes against
Chechen civilians will face punishment. But the process has been
slow-moving and the abuses have alienated even Chechens who do not support
Meanwhile, more than 700 soldiers and some ten pieces of military equipment
left by train from the Khankala base, escorted by two armored trains,
according to Russian news reports.
``A missile division and several military units were withdrawn today, as
well as redundant military equipment and weapons,' the Interfax news agency
cited Col. Yuri Kostrovets, deputy commander of the combined federal forces
in the Northern Caucasus, as saying.
It was the third and final contingent of federal forces pulled out of
Chechnya in recent days, part of the government's pledge last week to
immediately withdraw 1,270 troops and 200 pieces of military hardware.
The withdrawal represents only a small part of the Russian forces currently
deployed in Chechnya, which military officials say is 80,000, but some
estimate at 100,000.
It comes ahead of a March 23 referendum on new constitution that will
subordinate this small southern republic to Russian federal law. Russian
officials have said the constitution will provide a legal framework for the
Chechen government and pave the way to future elections.
Russia's 1994-96 war in Chechnya ended in a withdrawal and de facto
independence for the separatist-led region. Russian troops return in 1999
after rebels launched an incursion into a neighboring region and after
apartment-house bombing that Russia blamed on rebels.
Financial Times (UK)
March 10, 2003
Bank sits on study of gas pricing by Russia
By Andrew Jack
The World Bank has suppressed an internal study contradicting European
Union claims that Russia should raise its domestic gas prices ahead of
joining the World Trade Organisation.
The analysis, which concludes that Russian prices are already close to
long-term marginal costs - taking into account production and future
investment - flies in the face of the EU argument that the domestic market
benefits from annual gas subsidies of about Dollars 5bn (Pounds 3.2bn).
The findings, prepared by bank officials and endorsed by a number of
investment bankers and independent economists to whom it was circulated in
recent weeks in draft form, are especially embarrassing because the EU has
made reform of the Russian energy market its key demand for endorsement of
the WTO membership bid.
The report was scheduled for publication as part of the bank's regular
quarterly economic review of Russia, but has now been twice postponed. A
decision to suppress the conclusion is believed to have been taken at the
top of the organisation, partly out of fears of damaging relations between
the World Bank and EU member states.
The World Bank has become sensitive about criticising its shareholders,
notably following a previous harsh criticism it made in a study of the EU's
agricultural subsidies. The latest revelations come as James Wolfensohn,
head of the bank, arrives in Moscow tomorrow for talks with local staff and
Russian government officials.
Julian Schweitzer, head of the World Bank's Moscow office, said Russian gas
price reform was being studied "as part of our work with the government on
trade, but we have not yet been able to reach any firm views on the
subject, which is still being discussed and debated within the bank".
Russian officials have long been under pressure to reform the country's gas
market, and even agreed to bring prices towards market levels during last
summer's EU-Russia summit, at which Russia was granted the status of a
Pascal Lamy, EU trade commissioner, calls Russian energy prices
"artificially low" and insists that Moscow must agree to end dual pricing
and bring tariffs towards international standards - as much as six times
current Russian levels. He also argues for the introduction of competition
in the market, which is dominated by the state-controlled monopoly Gazprom.
However, the World Bank study suggests there is no single international
market for gas, and normal world practice for a regulated monopoly should
be long-term marginal costs, which it estimates at up to Dollars 40 per
thousand cubic metres of gas for Russia, or less than twice current levels.
March 6, 2003
WHO HAS STOLEN WHAT IN RUSSIA
Review of the annual report of the Prosecutor General's Office
Author: Roman Shelinov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
THE ANNUAL REPORT OF THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE FOR 2002 -
ENTITLED "THE STATE OF LAW AND ORDER IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION" -
SEEMS TO BE PROMISING BUT INCOMPLETE. IT LACKS IS A SYSTEMATIC
ANALYSIS OF CORRUPTION IN RUSSIA; BUT SOME CONCLUSIONS MAY BE DRAWN.
The annual report of the Prosecutor General's Office for 2002 -
entitled "The state of law and order in the Russian Federation" -
seems to be promising but incomplete.
The report contains everything: impressive figures, reasonable
conclusions, criticism of ministries and departments, and fairly clear
proposals. Prosecutors have paid attention to extremism and
nationalism, noticed skinhead groups in Russia; mentioned assaults,
terrorism, military problems, Chechnya, refugees, budget issues.
The only thing the document lacks is a systematic analysis of
corruption in Russia.
Based on the prosecutors' report, we have ranked theft and
misappropriation in Russia in 2002, and compared these activities with
force majeur damages, to make it clearer.
So according to the report, the leaders of the ranking are some
"problematic" bankers, who stole 36 billion rubles from the state by
evading taxes - hence, some Russian bankers cause more damage than
natural disasters and ordinary criminals combined.
However, while prosecutors managed to retrieve 19 billion rubles
stolen by ordinary thieves, the bankers did not return a cent. They
avoid taxes, which raises the thought that something is wrong with the
tax departments. The conclusion is evident: Russian tycoons and state
officials have merged so closely that it is difficult to distinguish
Prosecutors sadly note that the commercial structures registered
in Kalmykia (a sort of offshore zone within Russia) did not pay 10.2
billion rubles in taxes - at the same time, 17.8 billion rubles was
collected for the local budget, and 13.2 billion rubles of tax breaks
were given. Half of the money evaded the federal budget under a
This has not added to the prosperity of Kalmykia, but its
unchangeable leader Kirsan Ilyumzhinov feels great. The prosecutors'
report does not say a word about him, his connections at the top
level, including Yeltsin's Family and some present officials.
Restoration of Chechnya is a separate, very beneficial and
profitable type of activities. Judging by the report, former Chechen
Healthcare Minister Magomadov (currently federally wanted), the local
capital construction department, and officials of the Shelkovo
district were caught misappropriating money. However, despite the
respect for prosecutor's experts, it is very difficult to believe that
money misappropriation in this area is estimated in dozens of millions
Only a criminal investigation on the Capital Construction
Department revealed 75 million rubles upward distortion. Is it the
limit? At the same time, Anatoly Popov, former head of the federal
enterprise "Directorship for restoration of the Chechen Republic" very
quickly became the chairman of the Chechen government having replaced
Mikhail Babich at this position. By the way, the latter is mentioned
at the multi-volume case on strange things while purchasing and
supplying food and uniforms for the Russian security services.
Apparently, this is not the right topic for a prosecutor's report.
It is very good and stealth in the army has also attracted
prosecutor's attention. Among usual colonels, captains, and junior
officers caught while misappropriating money, there are even several
generals: heads of departments and even commander of the joint
grouping for armament.
There is one strange thing here: one of the accused, Colonel
general Oleinik, a head of the Main Military Budget Management
Department, has many times told about his senior bosses, who ordered
him to sing the financial documents. His case reveals the names of
much more well known people. But for some reason, their criminal cases
did not go well, and unnecessary names did not get to the prosecutor's
Overall, the word "corruption" is used only on the last pages of
the report. In some cases it means a banal bribe taking; in others -
it is a terrible role of an ordinary policeman in destroying the
monitoring and managing bodies.
It is good that the reports mentions corrupt officials of higher
rank: former deputy chairman of the State Fishing Committee Dementiev,
who illegally allocated quotas at fishing of 610 tons of fish;
Lysenko, deputy general director of the Federal Food Corporation at
the Agricultural Ministry, who was sentenced to five years with
confiscation of properties. However, honestly speaking, are they the
real initiators of what is happening to the fishing quotas and the
The prosecutor's report does not even mention scandalous and
notorious cases. It does not say a word about Zakaev's case, or about
the investigation of notorious assaults. The cases of several former
and present ministers are also buried in the shade of fate (Adamov -
Nuclear Energy Ministry; Frank - Transportation Ministry; Aksenenko -
Transportation Ministry), although Duma deputies keep writing about
them to the Prosecutor General's Office.
Russian tycoons are also left aside - if they are not among the
unnamed "problem bankers". Even the case of exiled Berezovsky was not
From the outsides, it seems the Prosecutor General's Office is
artificially creating a positive background trying to encourage the
authorities and itself in at least insignificant initiatives. It is
good with little children who are encouraged towards future victories.
However, this is unlikely to work with the state machine - it is easy
to spoil an adult child.
THE RANKING OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR DAMAGES TO THE STATE'S FINANCES
IN 2002 (BASED ON THE MATERIALS OF THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE)
Unnamed problematic bankers who evaded 36 billion rubles in
Ordinary criminals overall - 19 billion rubles (retrieved by
Force majeur circumstances in the North Caucasus - 13 billion
Fires at weapon and ammunition storehouses of the Defense
Ministry (six in three years) - 10.9 billion rubles;
"Offshore" commercial structures, Kalmykia (tax evasion) - 10.2
Forest fires and illegal wood cutting - 7 billion rubles;
Soyuzplodimport company (acquired famous Russian vodka brands,
while they could have belonged to the state.) - 5 billion rubles;
Unnamed small privatizers, altogether - 2.5 billion rubles;
Rain freshet (Primorie region only, 2001) - 1.5 billion rubles;
Privatizers of the Zarubezhtvetmet foreign economic company - 1.2
Army thieves and peculators, altogether - 918, 5 million rubles;
Environmental violators - 490 million rubles;
Smuggling companies (one prosecutor's inspection lead to 200
criminal cases) - 300 million rubles;
Department of Capital Construction in Chechnya and unnamved
organization in the Rostov region (upward distortions on restoration
of the republic, one criminal case) - 75 million rubles;
Former deputy chairman of the State Fishing Committee Dementiev
(illegal fishing quotas) - 42 million rubles;
Former Chechen Healthcare Minister Magomadov (fraud restoration
contracts) - 35 million rubles;
Vodokanal department, Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic
(misappropriation)- 33.9 million rubles;
Military road construction department (upward distortion for
house construction) - 5 million rubles;
Gazigomadov, head of the Emergency Situation department,
Tsuntinsk district, Republic of Dagestan (fake restoration) - 2.3
Commanders of some Defense Ministry units (land leasing) - 2
Shelkovsk district, Chechnya (fake restoration) - 1.5 million
Colonel Serapin, Black Fleet chief engineer (wrote off four
aviation engines) - 1.2 million rubles;
Colonel Kovtun, main traumatologist of the Strategic Missile
Forces (insurance of non-existing soldiers with the Military Insurance
Company) - 1.1 million ruibles;
Officers of 24758 unit Votrich and Alsenov (fake travel
allowance) - 1 million rubles;
Head of the 507 pointing base (Nizhny Tagil garrison, sold
properties) - 980,300 rubles.
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova)
Financial Times (UK)
March 10, 2003
Inside Russia: Setting hearts a-flutter
By Rafael Behr in Moscow
Stalin, celebrating his 50th deathday, beamed avuncularly from newspaper
pages and TV screens last week.
Coverage of the man's life and works was comprehensive and largely balanced
between the people who think he was great and those who think he was great
but would have been more so were it not for that unfortunate episode with
the systematic murder of millions and the brutalisation of the nation.
There were disturbing opinion polls showing that the trademark moustache
and pipe combination still send septuagenarian hearts a-flutter.
The personality cult has deep roots. Just take a look at Mother Tongue, a
school reading primer for 6-year-olds published in 1948, of which I am now
the proud owner. Chapter 1, Lenin's schooldays. He is - guess what - a
brilliant student, best in the class. The comprehension questions at the
end test budding Soviet youth's appreciation of the dear leader's life
moral qualities. "From what is it clear that Lenin was predisposed to bring
Chapter 2, Stalin's school days. Joseph was also a top grade pupil. "His
favourite subject was geography." I bet it was. The little monster was
probably carving up maps of Central Asia and Poland before he was out of
But that was then. Whether or not the Stalin experience immunised Russians
against blind hero-worship is a moot point. Optimists say today's savagely
marketed Russia is too cynical for that. The cynics are not so optimistic.
An article appeared last week in Novye Izvestie, a tiny circulation
newspaper, chronicling what it called the 'Putinisation' of the country:
beatific portraits on bureacratic walls, adoring pop songs, sycophantic
biographies and poems. For the record, Mr Putin also did pretty good at
Novye Izvestie was mysteriously put out of business the following day. The
official reason was that the majority shareholder, one Oleg Mitvol, was fed
up with financial mismanagement. Some of the journalists say they were
silenced for lese majesté. Making things all the more murky, Mr Mitvol got
his shareholding in trust from Boris Berezovsky, Mr Putin's least favourite
media magnate and business oligarch. (Well, one of the least favourite.)
Mr Berezovsky, who is wanted on tax fraud charges in Russia, is in exile in
London. He accuses Mr Putin of doing bad things. Mr Putin counter-accuses.
Without a lawyer to hand I'll skip the details. Suffice it to say that all
kinds of chicanery could be going on down at Novye Izvestie about which we
humble masses, whether cynical or optimistic, will hear nothing and in
which considerations of free speech are less than paramount.
One news website reported at the end of the week that Mr Mitvol had in fact
handed over his controlling share in Novye Izvestie to one faction of the
paper's editorial team... which was itself a schismatic movement from
another paper, plain old Izvestie, which got caught up in a wrangle with
its own business oligarch...(and in case the picture isn't opaque enough,
there was a murky dollop of oil involved too).
The shares aren't much use without money. So for the time being there is no
Novye Izvestie. Newspapers which say rude things about Mr Putin are
generally an endangered species. TV stations that do so are extinct.
That leaves only the internet, where it is still just about acceptable to
say that there is something downright spooky about the way that
disrespecting Mr Putin is taboo these days.
But, I wonder, is it acceptable to say that even without an avuncular pipe
and a beaming moustache the dashing, straight-talking, fast-skiing,
non-drinking, only slightly balding Mr Putin could set septuagenarian
hearts a-flutter. Anyone know a good lawyer?
From: "Vadim Birstein" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Remembering Stalin
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
I would like to make short comments regarding the articles "A Crippling
Legacy..." by Masha Lipman, "...A Lesson For the West" by Anne Applebaum
(both in Washington Post) and "Stalin's reputation as a ruthless master of
deception remains intact" (The Guardian) by Robert Conquest. All three were
published on March 5 and were devoted to the 50-year anniversary of the
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's death. I still vividly remember the last
period of Stalin's regime, the years of Nikita Khrushchev's very restricted
(and not "radical" as Ms. Lipman wrote) destalinization, the years of
Leonid Brezhnev's revising the role of Stalin, the short period of the
dreadful State Security (KGB) head Yurii Andropov and now forgotten
Konstantin Chernenko and, finally, the years of Mikhail Gorbachev's
so-called glasnost and perestroika.
I think that while talking about Stalin, one needs to remember his
behavior. I will give a couple of examples.
Recently a drawing of Stalin made during ae presentation of Soviet
Financial Commissar, Nikolai Bryukhanov, at a Politburo meeting in 1930 was
declassified among other Communist Party documents. The drawing shows a
naked Bryukhanov hanging by his genitals. There is also an inscription in
Stalins handwriting: "To all Politburo members. For all his previous and
future sins, Bryukhanov should be hung by his balls. If they hold up, he
should be considered not guilty as if in a court of law. If they give way
he should be drowned in a river." At this meeting Bryukhanov was dismissed
from his position and moved to an unimportant governmental post. On
February 3, 1938, Bryukhanov was arrested, condemned to death on September
1, 1938, and shot immediately after the trial.
The second example. Most Russians and even some Western historians praise
Stalin for his leadership during WWII known in Russia as the Great
Patriotic War. The Russians still have a very vague knowledge about the
fight of the Western Allies against the Germans and Japanese in Africa,
Europe and the Pacific and rememberer only the Nazi invasion and the later
Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. While praising Stalin, people do not want
to see how Stalin carried out his military leadership and what price was
paid by Soviet citizens for his leadership.
According to Nikita Khrushchev, "when a military commander reported to
Stalin, Stalin used to say: 'Did you hit him in the face? He should be hit
in the face!' Therefore, to hit a subordinate in the face was considered
then a heroic action. And [the commanders] beat their subordinates up!" By
the way, Stalin used a humiliating Russian word for the face of a
subordinate, morda (refers an animal), and not litso, which is used for
There are many illustrations to this story in the recently released Russian
archival documents. In the autumn of 1941, General Andrei Yeremenko, then
Commander of the Bryansk Front, bragged: "With Stalin's approval, I've
beaten up commanders of several corps, and even smashed the head of one of
them!" However, in 1943, the same Yeremenko complained about the behavior
of his superior, General (later Marshal) Georgii Zhukov: "Zhukov is an
usurper and a boor, his attitude to me was very bad, inhuman. He destroyed
everybody who was in his way, and he treated me in the worst manner. . . I
have already worked with Comrade Zhukov and know him very well. This person
is horrifying and short-sighted. He is the highest careerist."
In the meantime, in the current Russia the conqueror of Berlin Marshal
Zhukov is considered a national hero, and his monument was erected in the
1990s in the center of Moscow. Here is an illustration how Zhukov treated
his servicemen. On September 28, 1941, he issued the following order:
"Explain all servicemen that families of those who surrendered to the enemy
will be shot to death and all prisoners of war who will return from the
[German] imprisonment will be also shot to death." No wonder that with this
attitude and behavior of Soviet military commanders under Stalin's
leadership, the Soviet losses during WWII were more than four times higher
than those of the Germans. This is especially tragic if one takes into
consideration that Adolf Hitler cared about his servicemen not more than
My second point is the transformation of the Soviet industry under Stalin's
rule that was, according, to my surprise, to the end of Robert Conquest's
article, a "better legacy" of Stalin. I do not see how this "better legacy"
can be distinguished from Stalin's "worst legacy," the killing of millions.
It is enough to look at the structure of the Soviet State Interior Ministry
(MVD) during Stalin's years. In January 1953, the year of Stalin's death,
besides the well-known GULAG (Main Directorate of [Labor] Camps), there
were 16 more directorates of labor camps within the MVD: Main Directorate
for Building Roads, Main Directorate for Building Rail Roads, Main
Directorate for Industrial Construction, Main Directorate for Special
Construction, Geological Directorate, Main Directorate for Mica Mining, the
Dalstroi (gold, copper, and uranium mining), Main Directorate for Asbestos
Mining, Main Directorate for Metallurgic Industry, Main Directorate of
[Labor] Camps for Oil Extraction and Oil Industry, Main Directorate for
Timber Cutting, five directorates on the construction of hydro-electric
power-stations in different geographic areas -- three in the European
Russia, in Siberia, and in Central Asia. In fact, the whole Soviet industry
and economy were based on and worked because of the slave labor of
prisoners in countless camps.
In her article Ms. Lipman was wrong when she wrote that "today one is
to undertake archival explorations." Unfortunately, the documents most
important for understanding the past (especially of the former Ministry of
State Security, MGB) are still classified in such archives as the
Presidential Archive and the Archive of Federal Security Service (FSB); the
Archive of the Russian Foreign Ministry is also practically closed for
historians. However, Ms. Lipman was right when she praised the Memorial
Society for its "tremendous work to collect and analyze the evidence of
Stalin's crimes" and I am proud of having been a member of this group of
human rights activists. I do not think that in the current political
environment of Russia the Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ex-secret
service (KGB) officer, is seriously interested in opening the access to the
crucial documents about the crimes committed by his former agency in the
past. But, as we know well, without an open access to all archival
materials in Russia it is difficult to really ascertain the crimes of
And the last point. I completely agree with Ms. Appelbaum that Americans
must remember Stalin's time and that torture of any prisoner is morally
unacceptable. Ms. Appelbaum cited Sen. Jay Rockefeller who, discussing
interrogations of the al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed, said, "We
don't sanction torture," but there are "psychological and other ways we can
get what we need." I can address the reader to the instruction on
interrogation of Soviet citizens arrested on political charges dated 1947.
In this instruction, approved by Stalin and other Soviet leaders, Minister
of State Security (MGB) of the time, Victor Abakumov, wrote: "If the
arrestee does not give frank testimonies. . ., the investigator should use
compromising data from the previous life and activity of the arrestee, for
forcing him [to confess]. Sometimes, to fool the arrestee and to create the
impression that the MGB knows everything about him, the investigator should
remind him some intimate details of his private life, some vices which the
arrestee tried to hide from the others, etc. . . The MGB organs, following
the instruction of the Central Committee of the Communist Party dated
January 10, 1939, should apply measures of physical pressure [a Soviet
euphemism for torture--V. B.] to spies who have been exposed by the
investigation, to terrorists and other active enemies of the Soviet people."
This instruction is not in the past. Horrifying atrocities currently
committed by the Russian Federal troops in Chechnya (I address the reader
to Anna Politkovskaya's reports in her book in English A Dirty War: A
Russian Reporter in Chechnya, 2002 and the new book in Russian, The Second
Chechen War, 2003), including the FSB Special Troops (FSB is a successor of
the MGB-KGB), only because all Chechens are considered "terrorists," is a
direct continuation of the mentality created during Stalin's years. The end
of the Cold War did not end Stalin's legacy.
Dr. Vadim Birstein, the author of "The Perversion of Knowledge: The True
Story of Soviet Science" (Westview Press, 2001)
New York Times
March 9, 2003
Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin's Hand
By MICHAEL WINES
MOSCOW — Josef Vissarionovich Dzugashvili died 50 years ago last week, and
much of Russia still mourns. Those who do not live here may be forgiven for
As ruler of the Soviet Union from 1925 to 1953, Dzugashvili — or Stalin, as
the world knew him — systematically wiped out all rivals, built an
Orwellian police state and imprisoned and murdered millions of people, both
in Russia and in lands he later seized. So pervasive was his control that
his spies lingered in public toilets, waiting for the unwary to crack jokes
about his choke hold rule and thus guarantee themselves five years in a
Siberian labor camp.
His reign of terror began with the nightly disposal of a few corpses in a
Moscow graveyard. When the graveyards filled, a crematorium was built. When
its capacity was spent, the slaughter moved to suburban fields, where
victims stood in front of freshly dug trenches and were simply mowed down.
By body count alone, Stalin rivals Hitler — exceeds him, many say — as
most ruthless dictator of modern times. Yet last week, Gennadi Zyuganov,
the leader of Russia's Communist Party, compared Stalin to the great
figures of the Renaissance, and television abounded with sepia-toned
recollections of his rule. Two opinion polls in Russia found people split
over his legacy. In one survey, 1 in 4 judged him a cruel tyrant. But 1 in
5 called him a wise and humane leader.
One could accuse Russians of willful blindness, and for some, that may be
true. But demystifying Uncle Joe's place in the Russian psyche is hardly so
simple. Consider: most of Stalin's worst critics went to those fresh-dug
trenches, and most Russians alive today were born long after his horrors
faded into history.
Those who survived his reign are largely retirees who have reaped few of
capitalism's benefits. To most of them, life was better, far better, under
Stalin, as a Soviet saying went.
For the sizable cadre of nationalists, Stalin is the man who made Russia a
huge and fearsome power. For Communists, he is a symbol of lost glory. In a
country in which World War II remains the Great Patriotic War, Stalin is
remembered as the man who led the motherland to victory, and, some Russians
would say, saved it from even worse tyranny.
Those warm memories may fade. But Stalin was also a master propagandist, a
ruler who burned his all-knowing, all-powerful image into entire
generations' minds. "Like a dread spirit he hovered over us," one poet
wrote a decade after his death. "To others we paid no heed."
Many say Russians would feel differently had the country rooted out
Stalin's evil as Germany rooted out Hitler's, with war-crimes trials and
public expiations. It is a fantasy, says Yakov Y. Etinger, whose father,
Yakov, died in Lefortovo Prison in 1951, one of the first victims of
Stalin's Doctors' Plot, a supposed collusion in the 1940's by Kremlin
doctors to kill Communist leaders.
"The Nuremberg trials were organized by an occupation force, by the
who gained victory," Mr. Etinger said. "There couldn't be such a trial in
Russia, for a simple reason: who would be the judges?"
Who, indeed? In his masterful biography of Stalin, Edvard Radzinsky tells
of a factory manager summoned by Stalin for a meeting.
"When I felt his handshake, it was like being struck by lightning,"
factory manager recalled many years later. "I hid my hand inside my coat
cuff, got into my car and rushed home. Without stopping to answer my
worried wife's questions, I went to the cot where my small son was
sleeping, stretched out my hand, and rubbed his head with it, so that he
too would feel the warmth of Stalin's touch."
The New York Times
March 10, 2003,
Poison May Have Caused Stalin's Death, but It Didn't Finish Him Off
By Serge Schmemann
There's something satisfying in learning from a new book that Stalin may
have been the last victim of his own apocalyptic killing spree. All the
more so if the murder weapon, as recounted in "Stalin's Last Crime," by
Vladimir P. Naumov and Jonathan Brent, was in fact an anticoagulant with a
sci-fi name, warfarin. After the enormous suffering and death he dealt, his
death had to be bizarre; this was not some tin-pot duce to be dispatched
with a banal bullet to the head.
No. Fifty years after his death, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, son of an
impecunious Georgian cobbler and his deeply religious wife, has a secure
place in history as a dominant figure of the 20th century. With raw terror
as his primary tool, he bludgeoned the Soviet state into an industrial and
military giant, turned back Hitler's armies and confronted the West with an
existential threat. As many as 20 million of his countrymen perished in his
camps and purges, millions more on his battlefields.
Little wonder, then, that his name still arouses ambivalent feelings in his
homeland. More than half of Russians believe that his role in history was
great. If defined as a measure of degree, and not quality, that is an
understatement. So absolute was his control over his people's lives, from
their jobs to their thoughts, that the announcement of his death unleashed
a mass hysteria. For those who somehow survived three decades of purges,
collectivization, labor camps, famines and war, all under the ubiquitous
banner of "the father of peoples" and his bristling mustache, it was simply
unthinkable that there was any alternative to Stalin.
Harder to fathom is a Russian poll in which more than 36 percent of the
respondents said they believed that "on balance, Stalin did more good than
bad for the country." The first reaction is to suspect that Russia has not
really turned the corner, that there is still a tough core of die-hard
Communists who long to bring back the bad old days of informers, palisades
of missiles and a ruthless "khozyain," or master, at the top.
There are a few of those, but for the most part the attitude is not that
focused. Russians call it the "iron fist syndrome," and it existed even in
later Soviet times, when truck drivers would paste Stalin's portrait in
their windows, defying the total ban on any mention of the former leader.
This was really no more than a street-level longing for a Soviet Union in
which workers worked, wars were won and rotten bureaucrats were shot. And
that's what it seems to be today.
In 1990, when the Communist regime was collapsing, a survey found that only
6 percent of the public approved of Stalin. Eleven years later, it was 32.9
percent. The suggestion was that when Stalin was the symbol of a hated,
repressive system, he was universally reviled. But once that era was
history, he returned as an expression of protest and anger, as an
unarticulated longing for a simpler time.
"I'm certain that this is a protest reaction, nothing more," Sergei
the head of the Political Surveys Institute, told the newspaper Trud. "The
people are tired of self-loathing. They want patriotism. They want to be
able to be proud of their country. There is nothing really wrong with this
Besides, before getting too worked up about Russian attitudes toward
Stalin, it is worth remembering that "Uncle Joe" was not always the same
demon in our eyes that he is today. The New York Times of March 6, 1953, in
which Stalin's death got a banner headline, made no mention of the purges
or the gulag. But it did declare that his death "brought to an end the
career of one of the great figures of modern times -- a man whose name
stands second to none as the organizer and builder of the great state
structure the world knows as the Soviet Union." Eleven years earlier Time
magazine had named him its Man of the Year, noting that "the trek of world
dignitaries to Moscow in 1942 brought Stalin out of his inscrutable shell,
revealed a pleasant host and an expert at playing his cards in
international affairs. At banquets for such men as Winston Churchill, W.
Averill Harriman and Wendell Willkie, Host Stalin drank his vodka straight,
talked the same way."
The fact is that a figure whose will plays so huge a role in history cannot
be reduced to a single category, not even evil. Among Stalin's predecessors
in the Kremlin, Peter the Great also dispatched a sizable number of his
subjects in pursuit of glory and power. That may explain why Stalin
exempted Peter from the ash heap to which he relegated most other czars. We
can hope that it is another version of Peter the Great -- the Westernizing
reformer -- whose portrait hangs on President Vladimir Putin's wall.
March 3, 2003
The IMF loan that vanished has been found in Abramovich's Swiss company
Author: Oleg Lurie
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
ALMOST FIVE YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE THE NOTORIOUS AFFAIR OF THE $4.8
BILLION IMF LOAN INSTALLMENT THAT VANISHED. MIKHAIL KASIANOV IS PRIME
MINISTER, ROMAN ABRAMOVICH IS THE CHUKOTKA GOVERNOR, BORIS BEREZOVSKY
HAS BEEN EXILED. NOW THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE HAS RE-OPENED THE
Remember how a few years ago all sorts of government officials
and associated media were all claiming in unison that the $4.8 billion
IMF loan installment received just before the crisis of August 1998
had been used in full and for the intended purpose? That may well be
true, but the term "for the intended purpose" is interpreted somewhat
differently by the IMF and Russian officials. Thus, the naive IMF
views "for the intended purpose" as referring to stabilization of the
ruble; but Russian players seem to interpret it as the hasty
distribution of foreign billions into the pockets of all and sundry.
However, both the IMF and Russian officials are quite correct in
saying the loan was "used in full" - all the money is long gone.
Over several years, various Russian agencies - including the
prosecutor's office, the Central Bank, the Federal Security Service,
and others - have been diligently searching for the $4.8 billion of
the first IMF loan. Of course, they did not find it. As Russia is a
lawful state, the presumption of innocence immediately came into
effect, and auditors gladly reported to one another and to the media:
no one stole the IMF money. Since no one stole it, the billions must
have been spent for the intended purpose: in order to stabilize the
ruble. Consequently, no one is to blame for the 1998 crisis.
However, recently a new circumstance was discovered - it is
rather sad for those, who had something to do with "proper" usage of
the loan. The matter is that the Swiss Prosecutor's Office which was
still investigating the notorious IMF loan case has presented a very
interesting scheme which distinctly shows how and where the money had
When I saw this scheme, I asked a top official at the Swiss
Prosecutor's Office for comments. He said, "This is the real scheme
how the IMF loan was stolen in 1998. We checked every structure and
made sure that the money had gone this or that way. However, in order
to unseal banking accounts and to carry out other investigation
actions, we only need a request from the Russian Prosecutor General's
Office. Upon receiving the request, we will be able to take the
financial documents from banks and to prove that the IMF loan was
Besides, the Swiss official said, "We have already sent the
scheme to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office through investigator
Nikolai Volkov. Apparently, the document got lost among multiple files
- that time Volkov was taking to Russia a complete dossier for
Berezovsky. That is why we will again send an official request to
While the Swiss Prosecutor's Office is preparing the documents
for the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, we will publish the
scheme ahead of the unhurried Swiss police and will give some
explanations. I hope the Russian Prosecutor General's Office will send
a request to the Swiss Prosecutor's Office after this publication.
Moreover, the Swiss are prepared to check the facts of the
I understand that it is very unpleasant to carry out a criminal
case where such figure as Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov may be
involved: in 1998, he headed the delegation that agreed on the loan
with the IMF. According to the scheme, while the loan was transferred
to different loans, Kasianov was the deputy Finance Minister in charge
of foreign loans. According to the Central Bank and the Finance
Ministry, not a single cent could be transferred to any banking
account without an order from an official in charge of foreign loans.
Thus, 100% of the 1998 IMF loan was transferred by an order from
The first $4.8 billion IMF loan was formed at the account No.
999091 at the US Federal Reserve Bank on August 14, 1998. It was
transferred not to the Central Bank of Russia, but for some reason to
the Republik National Bank of New York, owned by Edmond Safra,
suspected by the FBI of laundering Russia's criminal money.
Further on, according to the Swiss scheme, mysterious things
started happening to the IMF money. Instead of transferring $4.8
billion to Russia, the Republik National Bank of New York transferred
the money through its Swiss Creditanstalt Bankverein branch to several
directions which have nothing to do with the Russian budget.
First, $2.35 billion were transferred to the Bank of Sydney
(allegedly situated in Australia). However, the Swiss police found out
that the Bank of Sydney had nothing to do with Australia but was
registered in an offshore area and functioned from July 1996 to
September 1998. Thus, a month after the loan was transferred, it
disappeared. According to our Italian and Russian colleagues, part of
the money transferred to the Bank of Sydney was placed in an account
of a company which was 25% owned by a daughter of President Boris
Yeltsin. We also know that right after August 17, Sergei Kirienko,
prime minister at that time, urgently flew to Australia for a
Second, $2,115 million was converted into pounds sterling and
transferred to the National Westminster Bank - here the trace of the
Third, $780 million and $270 million was transferred on August 14
and August 18 respectively to the Credit Suisse bank. These two
transfers attracted the attention of Swiss investigator Loran Casper-
Anserme in 1998, who together with Geneva prosecutor Bertrossa
instigated the IMF loan investigation. At present, the Swiss
Prosecutor's Office has the fullest data on this part of the loan.
Forth, the most interesting and most thoroughly scrutinized
transfer: $1.4 billion were transferred to the notorious Bank of New
York and further to its Geneva branch Bank of New York-Intermaritime.
The money entered the account of a Russian "United Bank" owned by
Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky. At that time, there were no
conflicts between the two tycoons.
Subsequent events were very rapid.
The IMF money was immediately transferred to the account of the
Swiss RUNICOM company, owned by Roman Abramovich.
More details about the company: RUNICOM SA is registered in
Switzerland at De Mulen Street, 1. It belongs to present Chukotka
governor and billionaire Roman Abramovich. Since 1996, a whole train
of unsightly stories has followed RUNICOM SA. British special services
have the best report on the company's activities. They published the
report on the Compromat.Ru website, "As a result of RUNICOM SA
Director Roman Abramovich's swindling in the course of privatization
of the state-owned Sibneft company in 1995-97, the Russian state
received $2.7 billion less." According to Russian and Swiss experts,
the over $100 million annual profit of the Omsk oil refinery belonging
to Sibneft that were earlier spent on restructuring, social needs, and
development, are now transferred to such structures as the RUNICOM
Swiss trading company. The profit of the Noyabrskneftegaz company is
also transferred there. RUNICOM also pays for these enterprises'
exports - and Abramovich is still the president of the company.
It is very interesting that RUNICOM has had a bad reputation
since cooperation with the state-owned Rosneft company. RUNICOM was
long the sole oil-trader of the Purneftegaz (a branch of Rosneft)
company and owed approximately $10 million to it for the already
supplied oil. Moreover, according to some data, the contracts between
Purneftegaz and RUNICOM were drawn so that it was possible to get the
debt only through a court. At the same time, the court trial is rather
complicated as there are at least five RUNICOM companies registered in
Switzerland, Britain, and other countries including offshore areas.
Turning back the 1998 IMF loan, after the $1.4 billion were
transferred to RUNICOM owned by Abramovich nothing special happened
beside the economic crisis in Russia.
However, soon after the crisis some people started asking
"unnecessary" questions: how did the money get to Abramovich. Why did
the fuss concerning "Kasianov's" IMF loan was gone so soon. Why did
the Russian investigation come to a dead end and the Swiss police know
That is when troubles started happening to the excessively
curious people. Investigator Nikolai Volkov, who joined the Swiss
investigation concerning the loan was immediately dismissed from the
Prosecutor General's Office with a blacklist. Everyone is familiar
with the sad story of Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov, who instigated
the case on criminal misappropriation, some excessively curious
journalists had their bones broken. As for western bankers who decided
to report to the FBI on loan swindling, it was even simpler with them
- they were killed.
DEATH OF SAFRA BANKER
On August 14, 1998 the Russian IMF loan is transferred from the
account No 999091 at the US Federal Reserve Bank to the account No
608555800 at the National Bank of New York owned by a world's greatest
banker Edmond Safra. From the Republik National Bank the money is not
sent to Russia as expected but transferred to different foreign banks
and remain in Switzerland, England, and even Australia while on August
17, a greatest financial crisis happens in Russia and it still feels
Soon, the events in the US started resembling a bad action.
OUR DOSSIER: Safra founded and headed the Republik National Bank
of New York and for many years was listed among the richest people in
the world. In December 1999, Safra died in his Monaco residence under
very strange circumstances.
After the IMF loan left the Republik National Bank of New York
and almost traceless disappeared in western financial structures, the
billionaire became concerned about the money - before he had been
accused of laundering Russian money. According to numerous foreign
media, Safra understood that the disappearance of the money caused the
financial crisis in Russia and addressed to the US FBI saying he was
ready to show how Russian officials were laundering the $4.8 billion
of the IMF stabilization loan. Safra regularly talked with FBI
investigators for almost a year: the billionaire was trying to clean
his bank from suspicions. By summer 1999, the relations between Safra
and the FBI became rather favorable and he started giving concrete
evidence on how the money was laundered and on who did it: he revealed
the names of Russian top officials and tycoons and the scheme of
stealing the money. The Swiss Prosecutor's Office joined the
investigation. That's when he was killed. However, before, Edmond
Safra had several strange meetings. In summer 1999, he spent several
days in Moscow: he met with Roman Abramovich, Boris Berezovsky, and
some top officials from the Finance Ministry. The talks were rather
tense and it seemed to Safra's surrounding that he was threatened. The
last day of his staying in the Russian capital Safa asked to increase
In early autumn 1999, unofficial representative of Russian
officials and currently a "London exile" Boris Berezovsky visited
Safra in his south France residence. He and another man talked to
Safra in private for three hours. The talk was again tense and after
it upset Berezovsky left for his Antibes villa.
In December 1999, an impossible thing happened: Safra's bunker
started burning and while extinguishing the fire the billionaire's
dead body was found in the bathroom. According to investigation, Safra
died during an assault.
Bertrossa - former Geneva Prosecutor General who started the IMF
loan laundering case - thinks that Safra was killed because of his
revelations to the FBI and the Swiss Prosecutor's Office investigating
the disappearance and laundering of $4.8 billion of the IMF
According to an FBI officer, the terrible death of Edmond Safra
eventually frightened heads of banks through which the money was
laundered and many witnesses of this fraud are afraid to give evidence
mistrusting the US witness protection program. However, Bernard
Bertrossa is still convinced that the Swiss Prosecutor General's
Office will be able to complete the investigation and to have the
guilty punished. Many bankers and officials have already had a chance
to see that Bernard and his successors do not waste words and probably
soon Abramovich and Kasianov will be unable to go further than
friendly China and Korea as there are always free bunks at the Geneva
EPILOGUE WITH HOPE
Almost five years have passed since the notorious IMF loan.
Kasianov has become the prime minister, Abramovich is the Chukotka
governor, Berezovsky has been exiled. For a long time, Russians in
both the Prosecutor General's Office and the Kremlin did not remember
about the disappeared loan.
However, things are changing - lately, the Russian law
enforcement bodies have also changed. For instance, the Prosecutor
General's Office has withdrawn the criminal case No. 18 /221050-98 "On
misappropriation of the IMF loan" and started scrutinizing it.
There is a new president in Russia, and I think it is more
important for him to find the truth than to keep any old promises to
the "Family". Moreover, as far as I can recall, Putin promised
immunity only to Yeltsin himself, not to his Family and close
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova)
Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2003
From: Gregory Kozlovsky <email@example.com>
Subject: Robert Kaiser on Khrushchev's humiliating defeat
In his review of William Taubman's biography of Nikita Khrushchev, Robert
wrote (JRL #7095):
When Kennedy reacted much more aggressively to the missiles than
expected, setting up a naval blockade around Cuba and implicitly
war if they weren't removed, Khrushchev quickly folded his cards. On the
of the crisis, Oct. 25, 1962, he told his comrades that "we must
missiles to make Cuba into a zone of peace." He was humiliated, but
nuclear war was
I thought it was a firmly established fact that the Russians removed the
after having their main demands satisfied, which were a) non-invasion
Cuba, valid, by the way, till today, b) the removal of American missiles
Very far from a humiliating defeat. The version of events Mr. Kaiser
advances was, at
the time, a propaganda line for internal American consumption.
Russia Tries to Assure As Dollar Sinks
March 9, 2003
MOSCOW (AP) - The finance minister urged Russians not to shift their
savings out of dollars Sunday, saying there is no need to worry about the
U.S. currency falling dramatically despite recent declines.
Russia is the biggest dollar economy outside the United States, and by some
estimates its citizens have tucked away as much as $40 billion in
mattresses, closets and shoe boxes.
Most Russians keep their savings in dollars because of the instability of
the ruble since the Soviet Union collapsed. The Russian government also is
dollar-dependent, with most hard currency reserves held in dollars and the
Russian ruble unofficially pegged to the dollar.
But the dollar has lost ground in financial markets lately against the euro
and even the ruble, leaving many nervous about keeping their savings in
``We can of course talk about some speculative fluctuation, but I would
calm everyone: the dollar will not fall dramatically, and to run away from
investment in dollars is not necessary,'' Finance Minster Alexei Kudrin,
who also is a deputy prime minister, told state-run Rossiya television.
Kudrin expressed confidence in the powerful U.S. economy and predicted ``no
dramatic fall of the dollar.''
Bad news about unemployment in the United States last week sent the euro to
its highest point against the dollar in nearly four years.
The euro hit $1.1064 in trading in Frankfurt, Germany, after news the U.S.
unemployment rate increased to 5.8 percent in February as companies slashed
308,000 jobs - the steepest one-month slide since November 2001. Economists
had forecast gains of 20,000 jobs.
Economists attribute the rise more to dollar weakness than euro strength,
since growth prospects are dim in Europe as well.
Kudrin's Sunday interview was on a weekly program aimed at reaching a wide
audience. It marked the second time this year the minister has sought to
ease concerns about the dollar's fall.
HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS UPSET OVER "HEGEMONY OF ONE POWER" IN
MOSCOW, MARCH 7. /FROM RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT OLGA LIPICH/ - Patriarch of
Moscow and All Russia Alexy II is upset over the "hegemony of one power"
which is observed in the world community. He stated this at the meeting with
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iraq to Russia Abbas Halaf.
If the USA begins war operations against Iraq "civilians who are not in
least involved in the conflict and want to see their future without a war
will perish", the head of the Russian Orthodox Church emphasized. "Old
people, women and children will suffer first of all", he said.
The Patriarch recalled that "the so-called 'pinpoint strikes' of the
aviation in Yugoslavia caused death of civilians and destruction of national
holy places". "Furthermore, these 'pinpoint strikes' often did not attain
military targets at all - civilian facilities were affected by them", he
Alexy II also pointed out that war operations in Iraq can adversely affect
the situation in the Middle East as a whole. "Many nationalities professing
different religions live in that region, and the interests of many states are
intertwined there", he stressed.
LENT BEGINS FOR ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS
MOSCOW, March 10. /RIA Novosti corr. Olga Lipich/. - The Season of Lent
starts today for Orthodox Christians.
The 40-day Great Lent, as it is called in the Orthodox culture, is one of
the four principal many-day fasts. Lent is followed by the Passion Week,
which is Lenten too - in commemoration of the last earthly days of Jesus
Christ and his Sorrows.
Fast means not only giving up certain food, but also quitting all bad
habits and entertainment. Any fast aims at exercising in abstinence,
cleansing the soul of passions and sinful thoughts, and subjugating the
body and the soul to the spirit.
That's why it's a sin to be angry or lose heart just as it is to drink wine
or eat meat during the fast.
The Holy Fathers of the Church, when discoursing on the observance of
bodily fasts, called themselves "not body-killers, but sin-killers." Since
olden times in Russia seriously sick people, pregnant women, nursing
mothers, warriors, workers of hard physical labor and travelers were
allowed not to observe the fast.
As a rule, Orthodox believers dedicate one of the six Lenten weeks /more
often, the first one/ to strict observance of Lent and regularly go to
church, after which they confess and receive Communion on Saturday or Sunday.
The Times (UK)
March 10, 2003
Shelves bare as Lent bites in Russia
From Clem Cecil in Moscow
EMPTY Moscow shelves looked like a throwback to the hungry Eighties at the
weekend as Russians celebrated the last days of Pancake Week and prepared
for the strict Russian Orthodox Lenten fast.
The fast is being observed increasingly by a younger generation in search
of God or simply a slimmer figure.
Pancake Week, or Maslenitsa, was celebrated throughout Soviet times, but
since it was made a public holiday after perestroika it has become hugely
popular as a celebration of the coming of spring and the beginning of Lent.
The parks of Moscow were full of families gorging themselves on pancakes
served with cream and honey or home-made jam yesterday.
Many vowed that this was to be their last treat until Orthodox Easter on
April 27. The Russian Orthodox calendar contains several periods of
fasting, but the Great Fast before Easter is the longest and most severe:
meat, fish and dairy products are forbidden, as are strong spirits.
Fashionable Moscow restaurants and hotels have created special Lenten menus
to cater for a growing clientele who observe the fast.
“These are not always religious people, but often those who wish to appear
religious,” said Andrei Makhov, the head chef at Moscow’s prestigious Café
Pushkin, who yesterday prepared to stop making pancakes and start preparing
Café Pushkin, whose normal menu features extravagant dishes such as Braised
Cocks’ Combs, provides a full Lenten menu. Here affluent Russian
businessmen can be spotted eating spinach soup and buckwheat with
mushrooms, in place of Beluga caviar and foie gras. “There are glaring
contradictions as many customers order Lenten food and drink it with
vodka,” a waiter said.
The Lenten menu is reminiscent of a peasant’s diet: potatoes, barley,
beetroot, onions and mushrooms. The fashion is not confined to expensive
restaurants. Student cafés, too, have been stocking up on the basic
ACROSS THE FORMER SOVIET UNION
Interviews with Adin Steinsaltz, talmudic scholar, published in Russia
By Lev Krichevsky
MOSCOW, March 9 (JTA) — A collection of interviews with a Jerusalem-based
talmudic scholar has hit Russian bookstores. “Conversations With Rabbi Adin
Steinsaltz” contains 40 interviews that Moscow-based journalist Mikhail
Gorelik conducted with the rabbi. The newspaper columns that the book is
based on are published across the former Soviet Union, making Steinsaltz
arguably the best-known representative of Judaism to Russians.
The project began in early 1997 when a Moscow newsweekly, Novoe Vremya,
agreed to run a column of conversations with a rabbi.
The decision stirred a controversy among the editorial staff of the
magazine, known primarily for its strong political analysis, said Alexander
Pumpyansky, the magazine’s editor in chief.
“This was a risky project,” he told JTA.
“Some insisted that we should rather give the floor to an Orthodox priest
if we decided to run a column by a religious leader.”
Gorelik said he would have preferred to have the rabbi’s column come after
a similar column by a cleric from the Christian or Muslim faith, because
both of those religions enjoy a much larger following in Russia than Judaism.
But a search for a non-Jewish cleric willing to contribute a regular column
that would match the editor’s journalistic criteria was unsuccessful.
The project, originally planned to last for a year, is still running, with
several dozen interviews published and reprinted — mostly by Jewish
newspapers — across the former Soviet Union.
“To a wide non-Jewish audience, this column is exotic stuff,” says
Alexander Frenkel, a leading Russian Jewish bibliographer based in St.
Petersburg. “Yet it can be of interest to anyone who is open and has at
least some interest in Judaism.”
Steinsaltz, 66, best known for his translations of the Talmud into modern
Hebrew, English and Russian, has served as a spiritual leader for Jews in
the former Soviet Union since 1995.
He said the goal of the interviews and ultimately of the book was to offer
the readers a glimpse into how Judaism sees the world.
“I wanted to have people try to look at the world around them through
Jewish eyes, “ he told the guests that attended last Tuesday’s book party
at the Moscow Institute for Jewish Studies, the center for Steinsaltz-led
educational projects in the former Soviet Union.
The book has it all: conversations about women, money, soccer and wine.
Gorelik said the only thing he avoided was asking direct questions about
Judaism, since he assumed that is what Steinsaltz is typically asked about
Despite the nonspiritual choice of topics, the book abounds in biblical and
talmudic references as well as historical anecdotes and literary allusions.
Pumpyansky noted that the column, which has become his magazine’s signature
style, has generated very little negative or anti-Semitic feedback from the
readers — much to the surprise of many observers.
One expert explained the success of the project as stemming from Steinsaltz
“There is hardly any other Jewish writer in Russia today whose spiritual
authority and ability to address a general audience would match that of
Steinsaltz,” said Semyon Charny, a Moscow journalist covering Jewish topics
for both the general and Jewish media.
MARCH 17, 2003
Foreign Carmakers Gain in Russia
The likes of Daewoo, Ford, Renault, and more can't produce fast enough
By Jason Bush in Vsevolozhsk
A few years ago, Victor Tsernialov, a 36-year-old Moscow software
consultant, scraped together enough money -- $6,050 -- to buy a new car. He
chose a 1999 Russian Lada -- and has regretted it ever since. The car had
engine troubles on the drive home and cost him $1,800 in repair bills in
the first year. "The servicing of Russian cars is very bad: 'Soviet'
loutishness, poor quality spare parts, and high prices," he fumes. No
wonder, then, that last year Tsernialov paid $14,800 in cash to buy one of
the very first Focuses to roll off the line of Ford Motor Co.'s (F ) new
factory in Vsevolozhsk, an hour's drive north of St. Petersburg.
The rising affluence of middle-class car lovers such as Tsernialov explains
why Ford and other multinationals are doing a brisk business in Russia.
Sales of new foreign cars were up by 40% last year, to 110,000. Daewoo was
the No. 1 foreign make, at 12,418 cars, followed by Skoda, Renault, and
Toyota (TM ). Ford, which invested $150 million to build its new plant, has
had orders for 11,000 Focuses since production started last August. That's
nearly three times the number of vehicles Ford sold in Russia in 2001
before the plant opened, and a year ahead of initial forecasts. "We have
one major problem," says Murray Gilbert, manager of the new factory. "Our
marketing and sales colleagues can sell more cars than I can make."
Ford's new local production gives it a big advantage over most foreign auto
makers who ship their product in: It doesn't have to pay hefty 25% import
duties. So far, the only other global carmaker to have invested in Russian
production is General Motors Corp. (GM ), whose new factory, a joint
venture with Russia's Avtovaz, opened last September. But other investors
are following. On Feb. 26, Renault announced the biggest foreign investment
yet seen in the Russian car industry. It's spending $250 million on a
Moscow factory where Renault plans to produce 60,000 sedans a year starting
in 2005. "Russians crave cars. They like cars. They want cars. And we
believe we have a good product," says Renault CEO Louis Schweitzer.
It's easy to see why auto makers believe Russia is a good bet. Car
ownership has doubled in the past decade, to 141 cars per 1,000 people, and
it may double again in the next one. "Global manufacturers have to find new
growth markets, and one of these is Russia," says Vladimir Savov, an
analyst at Brunswick UBS Warburg. Russia's own car manufacturers -- notably
Avtovaz, maker of the Lada -- still control some 90% of the market. But the
Lada's poor reliability is legendary, and its appeal is fading fast. While
demand for foreign cars is booming, sales of Russian cars slumped 10% in 2002.
There's a problem for foreign manufacturers, though: Many of the foreign
autos sold in Russia are secondhand, which helps local dealers but does
little for the auto makers. "It is the plague of the automotive industry
here," says Heidi McCormack, general director of GM in Russia, who
criticizes the favorable tax treatment given to secondhand imports. Used
cars are subject to duties depending on age and engine size but are exempt
from the 20% Value Added Tax if imported individually. Under pressure from
struggling local carmakers, the government last year raised import duties
on older cars. Industry insiders expect that these higher levies will be
extended to all used cars over time.
Still, tariffs won't change the essential problem facing Western producers:
Although affluence is rising, it still takes the average Russian the
equivalent of five years' income to buy a Western-made car. That's why some
foreign carmakers are building cheaper models. GM has adopted a local
Russian design, the $8,000 Niva SUV, rather than introducing one of GM's
own models. Renault will develop a new sedan targeted at low-income buyers
in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Financing is another hurdle in a country where cheap credit is scarce.
Carmakers are working with local banks to develop financing schemes. Ford
owner Tsernialov points out that the interest on a car loan was 25% in
2001. Today, it's about 10%. Bit by bit, a modern auto market is taking
March 10, 2003
Russian Nuke Reduction
The argument that Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs are faltering
[op-ed, March 4] does not withstand scrutiny.
In one decade, for less than is being spent this year on missile defense,
CTR has eliminated 6,032 nuclear warheads, 495 intercontinental ballistic
missiles and 438 ICBM silos, 103 bombers, 510 nuclear air-to-surface
missiles, 369 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 408 SLBM launchers,
25 ballistic missile submarines, and 194 nuclear test tunnels or holes.
Has some CTR money not achieved its intended results? Absolutely. That is
why we support congressional oversight of the program.
The United States faces a range of threats from stateless terrorists and
rogue nations. We have a new relationship with Russia and an opportunity to
improve global security. But Russia maintains the world's largest arsenal
of weapons of mass destruction and materials. This is not lost on the likes
of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. For less than one-half of 1 percent
of what the United States spends on defense, we can help eliminate the risk
of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons falling into the wrong hands.
So it is in our direct security interests to invest more, not less, in
preventing rogue leaders and terrorists from gaining access to Russia's
weapons, weapons materials and weapons know-how.
U.S. Representative (D-S.C.)
U.S. Representative (D-Calif.)
The writers are members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Ukraine: Kuchma Says Reform Plan Would Shift Power To Parliament
By Jeremy Bransten
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has unveiled a series of proposals he says
are designed to shift the balance of power away from the presidency in favor
of parliament. Kuchma's constitutional-reform package, outlined in a
television address on 5 March, incorporates some ideas initially advanced by
the opposition. But Kuchma's opponents say his proposals fall short of what
they are seeking and will mean that most power in Ukraine continues to remain
with the presidency.
Prague, 7 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, long
accused by the opposition of centralizing power and actively stifling reform,
set out to prove his critics wrong this week.
Kuchma, in a televised address on 5 March, unveiled a comprehensive package
of constitutional amendments that he said would shift the balance of power in
Ukraine away from the presidency toward the legislature. Kuchma said his
proposals, if approved by parliament, would transform the country into a
"parliamentary-presidential" republic, striking a more equitable balance
between the interests of the executive and legislature. "What is the point of
switching from a presidential-parliamentary model to a
parliamentary-presidential model? In brief, the presidential-parliamentary
model played a very important historic role, especially in the first years of
statehood. It provided stability to both society and the state. But today, it
is absolutely clear that the present constitution, in spirit, presupposes a
mechanism of checks and balances between the legislative and executive
branches of government," Kuchma said.
Under the Kuchma reform plan, the president would retain the right to appoint
the ministers of defense, interior, emergency situations, and foreign
affairs, often referred to as the "power" seats in the cabinet. All other
ministers would be appointed by parliament, giving legislators greater
control over such areas as economic and social policy.
The prime minister, while nominated by Kuchma, would continue to require
parliamentary confirmation. Parliament itself would acquire a second chamber,
which Kuchma said would ensure greater representation of the country's
regions. Direct democracy, he said, would be strengthened by the institution
of binding referendums, whose results would become law automatically.
Kuchma appealed to citizens directly in his television address to support his
plan: "I ask all those who are not indifferent to the future of Ukraine, to
all those who are interested in safeguarding democracy and the development of
our state: Take an active part in the discussions on this extremely important
But many Kuchma opponents have expressed reservations about the proposal,
calling it too little, too late -- a last-minute attempt to avert more
protests and resuscitate the president's tumbling popularity.
Kuchma's plan, they say, waters down proposals originally put forward by the
opposition and will in fact do little to redress the balance of power away
from the presidency.
Maksim Strikha of the Kyiv-based Institute for Open Politics spoke to RFE/RL:
"This is not about a switch from a presidential-parliamentary republic to a
parliamentary-presidential system but rather about a switch from today's
hypercentralized presidential dictatorship to incorporating certain elements
of a presidential-parliamentary republic."
Strikha said the fact that under Kuchma's plan, the president would retain
most of the key powers he currently has, means the proposal is mostly
cosmetic. "The president intends to retain the right to nominate the prime
minister for parliamentary approval. This means that no politician can become
premier without being first nominated by the president. The president intends
to have the right to dissolve parliament. He wants to retain the right to
appoint four so-called power ministers without parliamentary approval: the
minister of defense, the foreign minister, the interior minister, and the
minister for emergency situations. Finally, the president wants to retain the
right to appoint regional governors," Strikha said.
By saddling parliament with responsibility for the troubled economy while
retaining his grip on the "power" ministries and regional leaders, the
president, Strikha argued, might actually strengthen his hand.
In addition, Strikha said, creating a second chamber of parliament -- to be
staffed by regional leaders -- could actually serve to weaken the overall
power of the legislature, as does the introduction of binding referendums.
"With these differences in the way both chambers are formed, this creates --
given Ukrainian conditions -- a constant conflict between the two chambers,
which weakens parliament as an institution. In addition, Kuchma's proposal
envisages automatically making the results of referendums into binding laws,
without parliamentary approval. This means that the president, having
retained control over the "power ministries," and having retained his
executive chain of command in the regions, will always be able to institute
anything he wants through a referendum," Strikha said.
Mykhaylo Pohrebinskyy, adviser to the presidential chief of staff, disagrees.
He said the opposition proposal, originally floated by former parliamentary
chairman Oleksandr Moroz and his associates, would shift power too radically
to the legislature. Kuchma's proposal, he said, is better-balanced. "The
proposal put forward by Moroz and others is a proposal to switch to a pure
parliamentary system where the president ceases to be an active political
player. The president's proposal is a compromise under which the president
remains relatively strong and the prime minister becomes relatively strong
and independent from the president, drawing his power from the parliamentary
majority," Pohrebinskyy said.
Pohrebinskyy said that in future -- if Kuchma's plan is adopted -- the
parliamentary majority will be a better reflection of the will of the voters
since Kuchma's proposal calls for the lower chamber of the legislature to be
elected on a purely proportional basis. At present, only half of the chamber
is elected proportionally, with seats assigned to parties according to the
percentage of votes they received nationwide, with the other half elected
from single-mandate constituencies.
Pohrebinskyy also noted that Kuchma's plan calls for local governors to be
nominated by the prime minister before being confirmed by the president,
ensuring a closer link between regional leaders and parliament.
Pohrebinskyy said some elements of the president's proposal will likely have
to be altered to gain parliamentary approval, notably the idea of a second
legislative chamber. But he is optimistic that with some work, the proposal
could pass by year's end. "I think that once this proposal is restructured in
a more realistic fashion, in a compromise fashion that can suit the
parliamentary majority, it may have a chance to pass, but not earlier. I
think it unlikely that the idea of a second chamber, for example, will be
approved," Pohrebinskyy said.
Kuchma will need 300 votes in the 450-seat parliament for passage, and with
some 200 skeptical deputies in opposition ranks, he lacks sufficient votes at
Strikha said that perhaps Kuchma's aim is to gain time and goodwill and not
necessarily to pass any major reforms before the end of his term in the
autumn of 2004. "If he [Kuchma] truly attempts to stick to all the procedures
and deadlines, to conduct a national discussion, then to put the proposal to
parliament, then present it to the Constitutional Court and await a verdict,
then back to parliament for a first reading with amendments, then another
reading with amendments, the whole procedure will not be completed before the
end of the president's term. And some experts say the aim is perhaps to put
the brakes on this reform," Strikha said.
Whether meant in earnest or as a tactical gambit, Kuchma's proposal appears
to put the initiative back in the president's camp, posing a challenge to the
opposition and protesters trying to unseat him.
(Julia Zhmakina and Alexander Narodetsky of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
contributed to this report.)