Johnson's Russia List #7156 27 April 2003 firstname.lastname@example.org A CDI Project www.cdi.org [Contents: 1. RIA Novosti: THIS SUNDAY ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE CHRIST'S HOLY RESURRECTION, THE GREATEST RELIGIOUS FEAST. 2. Interfax: Some 63,000 believers attended Easter services at Moscow churches last night. 3. RIA Novosti: VLADIMIR PUTIN CONGRATULATES ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS AND ALL CHRISTIANS OF RUSSIA WITH CHRIST'S HOLY RESURRECTION. 4. Los Angeles Times: David Holley, Russian Gene Bank Faces Eviction. Keepers of the unique seed collection are fighting the order to prevent its destruction. 5. The Yomiuri Shimbun: Hiroyuki Fuse, Russia stumbles to regain prestige. 6. Rosbalt: Russians Overwhelmingly Support Government Position on Iraq War. 7. Financial Times (UK): Arkady Ostrovsky, Speaking Volumes. (re Berezovsky's library) 8. The Observer (UK): Moscow's most wanted man. Billionaire Boris Berezovsky remains defiant about efforts by his native Russia to extradite him on fraud charges. But he still fears the assassin's bullet, reports Nick Kochan. 9. UPI: Elizabeth Manning, Chernobyl legacy lingers. 10. AFP: Russian army puts up stiff resistance to end of draft. 11. Fred Harrison: SARS. 12. Interfax: Chechnya's rebuilding ineffective - chief Russian auditor. 13. The Sunday Telegraph (UK): Tom Parfitt, Russia strips 'untouchable' drivers of their sirens. 14. Financial Times (UK): Andrew Jack, OGI, Moscow. (re literary cafe) 15. The Guardian (UK): Travel: Russia: Storming the Winter Palace: Next month, St Petersburg celebrates its 300th anniversary. Security affairs editor Richard Norton-Taylor spends an exhausting but exhilarating weekend tracking down its tsarist and revolutionary past. 16. BBC Monitoring: Russia returns to the top of the world after lengthy absence - TV report. (Arctic) 17. Reuters: Tsar's freakshow helps fight Russian alcoholism. 18. The Economist (UK): A good man murdered. (re Yushenkov) 19. The Economist (UK): More power to them. (re oil merger) 20. Newsweek International: Eve Conant, Moscow in the Money. Russia is buzzing over big oil deals, and good times. 21. Wall Street Journal Europe: Vladimir Socor, In Case You Missed This Mega-Deal. (re Caspian energy resources)] ******** #1 THIS SUNDAY ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE CHRIST'S HOLY RESURRECTION, THE GREATEST RELIGIOUS FEAST MOSCOW, April 27 /RIA Novosti correspondent Olga Lipich/ - This Sunday, April 27, Orthodox Christians are celebrating the Holy Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the greatest religious feast. On the night of April 26-27 festive paschal services begin in all Orthodox churches at about 23:00. At midnight, with the chime of bells, the clergy and parishioners with lighted candles in their hands hold a religious procession. While glorifying the Lord, they go out of the church as if towards the Savior, circle around outside of the church and stop in front of the closed doors, as if in front of the entrance to the Tomb of the Lord. When the doors are opened, the faithful enter the church and the paschal chanting begins. The paschal matins are followed by the Divine Liturgy and the consecration of artos, special bread depicting the cross or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (it is kept at the church until next Saturday when it is given out to the faithful.) From the Day of Pascha to the day of Ascension, which is celebrated on the 40th day after Pascha, the believers greet each other with the following words: "Christ is arisen!" - "He has truly arisen!" After the paschal service the faithful break the fast, eating consecrated kuliches (Paschal cakes), painted eggs and baked paskha (normally prepared from cottage cheese). In compliance with the religious canons, in the second half of the day of Christ's Resurrection, the great paschal evening service in conducted in churches. In Moscow Patriarch Alexiy II will head the service in the Church of Christ the Savior (at 16:00). Pascha will be followed by the Holy Week. During the entire week paschal services will be conducted, and after each Divine Liturgy a religious procession will take place. The holy doors remain open because it is believed that on these days the holy heavenly world opens to Orthodox Christians. ******** #2 Some 63,000 believers attended Easter services at Moscow churches last night MOSCOW. April 27 (Interfax) - About 63,000 Muscovites attended Easter services at Moscow churches from 8 p.m. Saturday, until 6 a.m. on Sunday. From 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. on Saturday, about 146,000 people visited Moscow cemeteries, churches and monasteries, the Moscow police announced. Policemen guarded nearly all of Moscow churches and cemeteries. Easter services were conducted at 440 Moscow churches and chapels. Of the 560 Moscow churches, 30 have not yet resumed services; 34 church buildings still accommodate secular organizations and 52 churches are under construction. ******** #3 VLADIMIR PUTIN CONGRATULATES ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS AND ALL CHRISTIANS OF RUSSIA WITH CHRIST'S HOLY RESURRECTION MOSCOW, April 27 /RIA Novosti/ - Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated Orthodox Christians and the followers of other Christian confessions in Russia with Christ's Holy Resurrection, the press-service of the head of state has told RIA Novosti. The text of the congratulation says as follows: "I congratulate heartily Orthodox Christians and the followers of other Christian confessions of the Russian Federation with the Holy Resurrection of Christ! The state highly values the activity of the Russian Orthodox Church, the religious organizations of other Christian confessions traditional for Russia, which is aimed at fostering mutual understanding and tolerance in society, the strengthening of the family and the upbringing of the younger generation. The wide celebration of the Easter is the visible proof of the rebirth of the centuries-long Christian traditions in our country. Let this spring holiday enter your homes with peace and love, the hope and the good. I wish with all my heart Orthodox Christians and all those who are celebrating today the Holy Resurrection of Christ strong health, happiness and well-being." Vladimir Putin has also sent his greetings with the Holy Easter to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy II. The message, in particular, says as follows: "I would like to note your considerable contribution to the rebirth of the life of the Russian Orthodox Church and the development of state and religious relations. Today, with your active participation, the Church and the state continue to cooperate actively in the sphere of culture and education, enlightenment and charity. Your high authority as a religious figure and your rich pastor's experience contribute to the settlement of many social and moral problems of society, the preservation of peace and accord. ******** #4 Los Angeles Times April 27, 2003 Russian Gene Bank Faces Eviction Keepers of the unique seed collection are fighting the order to prevent its destruction. By David Holley, Times Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Scientists here at one of the world's largest gene banks starved to death during the 900-day siege of Leningrad, as this city was then known, rather than consume their collection's priceless seeds. At the time, Nikolai Vavilov, the institute's highly respected leader and most significant collector, had already been arrested after running afoul of a quack geneticist who caught the ear of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Vavilov, whose name the institute now bears, died in prison in 1943. The government-sponsored N. I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry survived these and other blows, including sharp funding cuts in the early 1990s. But now it is battling a new threat that it claims could hurt its collection more than anything that came before: a central government decree ordering it to hand over its two grand but rundown main buildings, located on one of this city's most picturesque squares, for other uses by the federal government. A move would inevitably result in the destruction of a significant portion of the institute's 330,000 genetically different samples, says Viktor Dragavtsev, its director, who is fighting in court to block the eviction order. Many of the varieties are traditional food plants or their wild cousins from remote places around the world, where it is now virtually impossible to find or gather new samples. The collection, gradually built up since 1894, is maintained by the periodic resowing of crops in special fields and greenhouses across Russia. It includes several billion seeds — most in small packets labeled only with codes, many of them frozen. Even if an appropriate new facility was available, the labor-intensive process of moving the frozen part of the collection while trying to keep seeds from defrosting would take five to six years, Dragavtsev contends. Many seeds would be destroyed, and the institute would lose track of the identity of others, he says. "When these packages are moved, they will absolutely for sure be dropped and spilled," he said. "And on a package, there's only a code. It can't be ruled out that codes will be confused." Collections like the Vavilov's are a key repository of the genetic diversity required for the development of new crops with greater resistance to diseases or pests, higher nutritional value, or other desired improvements. "Every day, 250,000 babies are born on the planet," Dragavtsev said. "By 2015, the population on Earth will be 8.5 billion people Gene banks are the main guarantee of food security in the world." The latest threat to the gene bank emerged in December, when Russian Prime Minister Mikhail M. Kasyanov signed a decree ordering the occupants of four buildings on St. Isaac's Square to relocate "in order to effectively accommodate federal administrative offices in St. Petersburg and provide effective state control over the use of unique historical monuments." No provisions were made for a new home for the Vavilov institute. Dragavtsev argues that local officials who hope to make money from the buildings' conversion were behind the decree. "I'm not convinced that Kasyanov actually knew that the plant-growing institute was located in this building when he was signing that document," he said. In fighting back, Dragavtsev doesn't hesitate to cite the institute's mix of misfortune and great contributions to science. He easily rattles off six occasions when the institute faced serious blows, starting with the 1930s' rise of Trofim Lysenko to a position of dominance in Soviet agricultural science. Lysenko's ideas about plant genetics were always scorned by mainstream scientists, but he won Stalin's support with his ideological language and promises of quick results in developing improved crops — ideas that were enforced through political repression and had a devastating effect on Soviet agricultural productivity. Vavilov became the leader of scientists who dared stand up to him. "Lysenko branded Vavilov as the enemy of socialist agricultural principles," Dragavtsev said. Vavilov was arrested in 1940 and died three years later while still a prisoner. Of about 80 of his colleagues who were also arrested, half were executed by firing squad or died in prison, Dragavtsev says. Meanwhile, invading Nazi forces laid siege to Leningrad. "The staff of the institute was evacuated to the Urals Fifty staffers stayed behind at the plant industry institute," Dragavtsev said. "So they had packs of seeds right in front of them on their desks. But they didn't take a single seed, and 14 of them starved to death. But they managed to preserve the collection at the expense of their lives. It's a very tragic story." Dmitri V. Pavlov, a Soviet food-supply official in Leningrad during the siege, wrote about the institute scientists in a 1965 book, "Leningrad 1941: The Blockade." "Hardly able to move their feet, they came to the institute every day to work," he wrote. "The fate of the collection depended on their self-control. The proximity to grain and the duty of caring for it in the name of the future while slowly dying of starvation was inhuman torture. But by their solidarity and single-mindedness, the Vavilov collection, which took years to put together, was preserved for science and the future." Pavlov calculates that 31 institute employees died directly or indirectly of hunger. Three years after the war, ideologically driven disaster struck again. "The Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences had a session where real genetics was branded as a pseudo-science typical of the bourgeoisie," Dragavtsev said. "So the best scientists at this institute were fired. A number of them were arrested, and it was a tragedy again. It was only starting with 1957 that the institute began to regain its authority and prestige." Then, in the early 1990s, another blow landed as the Soviet Union collapsed and funds for the institute were slashed. The United States and other countries donated money and equipment, such as freezers, to help with the storage of seeds. "It's only due to the financial and material assistance rendered by the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Germany and Australia that we've managed to survive," Dragavtsev said. The next attack, he said, came two years ago, when some St. Petersburg officials decided to take over a graduate student hostel belonging to the institute. In describing that battle, Dragavtsev relates a tale only too typical of the mix of business, politics and criminality across contemporary Russia. "Tough guys with close-cropped hair came in Mercedeses and used crowbars to dislodge the padlocks and break the doors open, entered the building and took it," he said. "They put in new locks and actually told me not to come any closer to the building than [80 feet]." Dragavtsev's deputy, however, was a retired admiral, and the two decided to fight back. "So he telephoned and, in a matter of hours, he had two busloads of marines," Dragavtsev said. "I asked the marines to take all the people who were in the building at that time — the new 'owners' — and throw them in that puddle in the street. And they were thrown out. "After that, I hired 15 veterans of the Afghan war. They guarded the buildings for three months We won three court hearings at the court of arbitration and managed to defend our right to have that hostel." But Dragavtsev believes that this victory carried a bitter price, leading directly to the current crisis. "These guys who tried to capture the hostel realized it wouldn't be possible to defeat us just with the hands of thugs," he said. "The small alligators decided to get the help of a bigger alligator — Mr. Kasyanov. They think that the big alligator can take away these buildings, so they went to him for help. That's the scheme. That's how it worked These are the same guys. They're just putting the money in their own pockets." City officials reject such charges. "This decision is taken at a very high level, and I think that everything will be done in a proper and well-thought-through manner," Valery Nazarov, chairman of St. Petersburg's committee for managing state property, told Russia's TVS television. Local and federal officials also argue the buildings deserve better care than the current occupants have been able to provide. But Dragavtsev, who admits that he could never have fought back this way in Soviet times, isn't convinced. His appeal is now at Russia's Higher Court of Arbitration in Moscow, which is expected to rule on it soon. ******* #5 The Yomiuri Shimbun April 27, 2003 Russia stumbles to regain prestige By Hiroyuki Fuse Fuse is a senior editor of The Yomiuri Shimbun. Observing the machinations of European countries over the Iraq war, I was reminded of the Tripartite Intervention with Japan over a century ago. Germany, France and Russia, who opposed the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, happen to be the very same three European powers that demanded in 1895 that Japan give up the Liaodong Peninsula, acquired by Tokyo in winning the Japanese-Sino War. In the Tripartite Intervention, the three countries advocated "independence for Korea and peace in the Far East." Similarly, Germany, France and Russia opposed the Iraq war, justifying their stance on the basis of the need for a U.N.-led solution. However, their true aim seems to have been to secure their interests in and influence over Iraq, just as they did at the end of the 19th century. In fact, the oil interests France and Russia possessed in Iraq under the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are one of the major issues facing postwar Iraq. U.S. and British news media have ridiculed the three countries, calling them the "axis of weasels" with wry humor, claiming they not only utilized public antiwar sentiment to resist an early launching of the Iraq war, but that they also tried to steal the fruits of victory in Iraq once the war ended. Weasels are cunning fellows. Of course, there is a definite difference between the Tripartite Intervention and the "axis of weasels." While the demand by the three European powers 100 years ago was a matter of life or death for Japan, then a fragile developing country, threats from any country today seem little more than a battle waged by Don Quixote against the windmill that is the United States, the superpower that controls the world in the post-Cold War era. It is hard to understand why Germany, France and Russia resorted to such a reckless and hopeless challenge. Of course, one aim was securing their interests in Iraq. Another reason could be that their frustration and jealousy of U.S. unilateralism and hegemony had accumulated for years and finally exploded with the development of the Iraq problem. However, if you study closely the diplomatic moves made by Moscow as it tried to follow the path set by Germany and France, even sacrificing amicable relations with Washington, the possibility appears that Russia might have just miscalculated. The first idea supporting this hypothesis is that Russia may have thought a sudden rift between the United States and Europe would be a golden opportunity for it to enlarge its international influence after having been burned badly by such developments as the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Second, the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin half believed the United States and Britain would be bogged down in the Iraq war. It tried to regain its position as a "major power" by making itself available as a mediator if the United States and Britain ran into an impasse. According to news reports in Russia, the Russian military took pains to order its Black Sea Fleet not to speed up its scheduled departure for the Arabian Sea in early April, when Iraq was temporarily putting up strong resistance to U.S.-led forces. "Speculation by the staff office that the Iraq war will be prolonged is being proved correct," the local reports quoted the military as saying. Also at about the same time, the influential Independent Newspaper commented that whether Europe could profit from the war depended on how strong Iraqi resistance was. It sounded as if the newspaper hoped the war would be prolonged. Immediately after the start of the war, when European antiwar public opinion was at its height, Putin openly criticized the decision made by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and called it "politically wrong." Putin is a former member of the KGB, an intelligence organization of the former Soviet Union that took pride in having an extensive network of information, and a self-proclaimed realist. However, he appeared to have made a critical mistake in analyzing the European situation, the complexion of the Iraq war and the military power of the United States and Britain. If that is indeed the case, it is understandable that Russia, which was more shocked than Germany and France by the blitz-like victory of U.S. and British forces, tried to lead Germany and France in a new Tripartite Intervention in Iraq by hosting a summit conference of the three countries in St. Petersburg. Therefore, it is easy to predict that, at least until it recovers from the shock, Russia will continue playing to the gallery on international issues like North Korea's nuclear development in an effort to recover its sphere of influence and rein in the power of the United States. ******* #6 Rosbalt April 26, 2003 Russians Overwhelmingly Support Government Position on Iraq War MOSCOW, April 26. 74% of Russians think that the Russian government was correct in taking a position against war in Iraq, according to a recent survey by the Public Opinion fund. Only 11% think that the government took the wrong position. The supporters of communist Gennady Zyuganov (20%) more often than the supporters of other Russian politicians thought the Russian position in relation to the war was incorrect. Moreover, the survey showed that 10% of Russians think that the U.S. army liberated the Iraqi people, while 70% thought they were conquerors. According to 54% of respondents the Iraqi army did not show stubborn opposition to the U.S. soldiers and their allies. In addition, 28% of those questioned are convinced that the opposition was stubborn, and that opinion is especially popular among respondents age 35 and younger - 33%. Moreover, 54% of Russians thought that the Iraqi army would show stubborn resistance. 59% of questioned men and 60% of respondents with higher educations thought the Iraqi army would show stubborn resistance. 41% of Russians think that despite the route of the Iraqi army and the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime the U.S. and its allies will experience armed uprisings in Iraq. 31% do not expect uprisings. 1,500 respondents took part in the survey held across Russia on April 19. ******* #7 Financial Times (UK) April 26, 2003 Speaking Volumes By Arkady Ostrovsky Boris Berezovsky has plenty of time for reading these days. In March, Berezovsky was arrested and released on bail in London after Russian authorities issued an extradition warrant charging him with fraud. The once powerful oligarch who expertly navigated the corridors of Boris Yeltsin's Kremlin, and helped advance Vladimir Putin's career before falling out with him, is thus restricted to the UK. He can thus only watch as the oil company he helped create - Sibneft - merges with Yukos to create a world oil giant. He has lived in the genteel ambience of Wentworth Park, a 240-acre estate in the heart of Surrey, for 18 months, yet most of the objects in the house, including many of the leather-bound books in the wood-panelled library, are relics of its previous owners. Berezovsky may own the house, but he does not seem to belong in it. His favourite book is Other Shores, the memoirs of Russia's greatest literary nomad, Vladimir Nabokov. "It resonates with my own life," he says. "I first read it when I was 21 but now, unable to return to Russia, I feel this book particularly acutely." Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago on the other hand, which defined an entire generation of samizdat-reading Russian intelligentsia, did not have much of an impact. "I was always more interested in the form and the language than in the content." By his own admission, Berezovsky never belonged to the circle of Soviet dissidents. Under communism, he was a mathematician, specialising in optimisation theory. When communism ended, he turned his tirelessly analytical mind to business, "optimising" his political contacts to gain control of old state enterprises and create a mammoth empire spanning media, oil and car-making. He then moved into politics, becoming, in the mid-1990s, the most powerful of Yeltsin's circle of plutocrat counsellors. It was during this period that he turned to Dostoevsky. "Nobody understood the phenomenon of freedom in Russia better," he says. When Berezovsky talks about The Brothers Karamazov and, more specifically, about Ivan Karamazov's poem about the Grand Inquisitor, he speaks faster and his eyes light up. "When I read it the first time, I was convinced that it was a dialogue between Jesus and the Inquisitor. The second time, I realised Jesus does not say a word. It is really a dialogue between the reader and the Inquisitor. Everyone has his own God and his own replies, but the Devil is the same for everyone." Berezovsky used a line from Ivan Karamazov's story as an epigraph for his recent pamphlet, "The Manifesto of Russian Liberalism". "There is nothing, and there never has been anything, more unbearable for a human being and for humanity than freedom!" During the mid-1990s, in the bloodbath of Russian politics, one other writer influenced Berezovsky. "Vladimir Lenin. Not as an ideologist, but as a tactician in political struggle. Nobody had a better perception of what was possible. He had a unique sense of moment and events. Lenin understood the psychology of a society." As for the other political writer most readily associated with Berezovsky, Niccolo Machiavelli, he is dismissive. Looking straight into my eye, he says firmly: "I have read Machiavelli. But I have not discovered anything new for myself." These days, Berezovsky is engrossed in Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. "Kundera has a great understanding of the relationship between a man and a woman: something I have never been good at. I understand people's intellectual qualities, but I am a poor judge of personal character." On this, perhaps, Berezovsky and Putin would agree. What's on the shelf 1. The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia by David Hoffman "David was a bureau-chief for The Washington Post in the late 90s and this is one of the best books in the west about that period. He understood the historic process. The oligarchs were only riding the wave of that process. He signed this book for me: 'To Boris Abramovich. This is your history and I am grateful for your help in telling the story.'" 2. Tragedies and Letters to Lucilius by Seneca "Seneca has been my desk companion since I was 16. I particularly like his letters to Lucilius. Each sentence contained a complete idea. I remember in one of the letters Seneca advised Lucilius: 'Don't waste your time reading everything that has been written.' And this was 2,000 years ago." 3. Marathon by Boris Yeltsin "This book was written by Yelstin's ghost writer. There is no Yeltsin in this book. Boris Nikolaevich was a figure of historic scale, whereas this book is written by someone who is only interested in Kremlin intrigue." 4. Plays by William Shakespeare "My dream of England has largely been formed by reading Shakespeare. I have always admired the independence of spirit in the English people, and Shakespeare showed this better than anyone else. My favourite play is Hamlet." 5. A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens "Dickens dedicated this book to his children. And since my children go to school in this country, it is also important for me from that point of view." The author joins the FT's Moscow bureau next month ******* #8 The Observer (UK) April 27, 2003 Moscow's most wanted man Billionaire Boris Berezovsky remains defiant about efforts by his native Russia to extradite him on fraud charges. But he still fears the assassin's bullet, reports Nick Kochan To describe this office as the Gulag of Mayfair is no exaggeration. The first ring of guards are planted in the middle of the pavement of a Mayfair street. The second ring appear out of the shadows when you approach the plain-speaking English porter. One guard, with a thick Russian accent, slips discreetly into the lift. Yet more guards, wired for sound, cluster around the office. The staff planted in the reception area speaking Russian glance up nervously at the visitor. A burly man called Vladimir, who hails from Moscow, steers you to one of many locked doors and departs. Inside a large but spartan office is Boris Berezovsky, sitting alone, shirt open, expectant. Could this low-key man be Russia's wealthiest individual, the once-powerful oligarch and financier of opposition to President Vladimir Putin, and the country's most wanted man? He speaks English fluently, but with a heavy Russian accent. 'I am trying to improve my English. I have been learning English almost all my life but never had so long to practise it.' He tells a scatological joke in perfect English, which he insists should not be repeated in print. In the meantime, he asks visitors to spell out difficult words which he jots down on a notepad. It remains to be seen how much time Berezovsky will have to perfect his language; the Russian authorities are seeking his extradition for a $13 million (£8m) fraud. His next hearing is on 13 May. Berezovsky's campaign to resist extradition and win political asylum is being masterminded by Conservative politicians and, in particular, the communications guru Lord Tim Bell. Berezovsky says: 'I have a lot of connections here, not so much with New Labour but with the Conservatives. Lord Bell for example.' Berezovsky says he has $1.5 billion invested outside Russia, and a similar amount invested in Russian business but he will not discuss his business interests. The reclusive and reticent émigré is a very different Berezovsky from the one who 10 years earlier proudly stalked the corridors of the Kremlin. Following a successful academic career as a mathematician, he showed great financial skills as well as the ability to charm and manipulate politicians. In due course, he was acknowledged as a power broker without equal, who used his television station to ensure the election of President Boris Yeltsin. He shared power with a group of other businessmen and, for a period, influenced the break-up of Russia's state sector. Berezovsky's particular prizes were the airline Aeroflot and the television station ORT. Between them, this group of businessmen owned well over half of Russia's entire GDP. But the arrogance implicit in the oligarchy has come back to haunt him. In response to widespread anger throughout Russia that seven 'oligarchs' contributed to the country's parlous economic condition, Putin is hunting down oligarchs and seizing their wealth. Businessmen who grasped the opportunities of a country experiencing lawlessness and political breakdown are now greeted with reactions from ridicule to bitter hatred. Does Berezovsky care? 'I don't care what people think about me. I just care what I think about myself.' He alone of this band of barons has put his head above the parapet. He is determined to go head to head with Putin, a politician whose presidential campaign ironically he supported both financially and in the media, and makes some damaging allegations. 'Putin tried to destroy all my business in Russia.' The way Berezovsky lost his 49 per cent stake in his television channel (51 per cent had remained in state ownership) particularly hurts him. When he refused to hand over the shares, Putin had his business partner Nikolai Glushkov arrested, Berezovsky alleges. Putin's head of administration summoned him to the Kremlin and offered him a deal: return the shares and Glushkov would be released. Berezovsky agreed on the condition that the government repaid some of the $380m he had invested in the TV company. The government repaid $170m and Berezovsky handed back the shares. Glushkov remains inside, a fellow defendant with Berezovsky, accused at that time of milking the national airline, Aeroflot. Berezovsky now questions who owns the television station shares that were transferred to the government. He says: 'I know that there are companies which I don't own any more because other people took them.' He argues that a similarly murky fate has befallen MostTV, the television company formerly owned by another oligarch, Vladimir Gusinsky. While Berezovsky throws mud at Putin, the president has plenty of dirt to sling back. The principal target is his role in the management of Aeroflot which Berezovsky bought from the government for a knock-down price. It looked to many like a sweetheart deal between Yeltsin and his favourite businessman. The Russian prosecutor has targeted $600m of foreign exchange revenues put into a consolidated Swiss account, called Andava and held at Union Bank of Switzerland in Lausanne where it is managed by a discreet Swiss trading house, Andre et Cie. The prosecutor's investigation into the relationship between Andava and Aeroflot resulted in criminal charges in Russia. But Berezovsky says KGB resentment, not any judicial motive, is driving the case as the security agency used the foreign exchange prior to his takeover, to pay their international operatives. The security service is similarly fired up by his handling of foreign exchange earned by his car company Avtovaz. Swiss authorities have frozen an account called Forus, which contains $50m of Avtovaz money deposited in Switzerland, and are investigating the case. With these financial investigations hanging over him, it is little wonder that Berezovsky sought safety abroad. It is also not surprising that he takes up political cudgels against Putin. Berezovsky says he is considering standing for the duma (the Russian parliament) at the next election. In 2001 he founded his own party, Liberal Russia, to oppose Putin, and promote free-market policies. Berezovsky says he has spent $10m on funding opposition to Putin to date, and says he may spend up to $100m on further political funding. He also funds the Russian Green Party. However, the leaders of Liberal Russia are dwindling in desperate circumstances as one by one they fall victim to the assassin's bullet. Most recently, one of the party's founders, Sergei Yushenkov was murdered a fortnight ago in front of his home in Moscow. Berezovsky says: 'The shooting is a message to society, and to me personally. It is not the first time I have been threatened. I am worried, but I am not changing my mind.' Nine years ago, Berezovsky's chauffeur had his head blown off by a bomb intended for his employer who walked away unscathed. The cool was typical of the man. Berezovsky is arguing in his case against extradition that his life would be threatened if he were forced to return to Russia to face charges. In the light of the most recent murder, this argument gains weight. Who can deny that the security guards at that Mayfair office look like a sensible precaution? Profile Born Moscow 1946, father an engineer, mother a nurse Career 1963-1989, student and then professor at Moscow University; 1989-1995, established and ran one of Russia's largest car dealers, Logovaz; 1993, met Boris Yeltsin, subsidised publication of his biography; 1993-1996, acquired then relinquished Israeli citizenship; 1994, car bomb killed driver; 1995, acquired stakes in ORT TV and Sibneft oil company; 1997, acquired Aeroflot; 1999, arrest warrant issued in Aeroflot case, then withdrawn; 2000, leaves for France; 2001, arrives in UK; 2002 Moscow issues arrest warrant for alleged £8m fraud; 2003 arrested in London ******* #9 Feature: Chernobyl legacy lingers By Elizabeth Manning UPI Deputy International Editor April 26, 2003 It was only a test during routine maintenance, in fact a test of an emergency back-up system, that snowballed into what became the world's largest nuclear accident in the early hours of April 26, 1986. Seventeen years later, the survivors of the Chernobyl reactor explosion marked the day Saturday with wreaths and scattered protests that their governments have forgotten them. In Ukraine, President Leonid Kuchma laid flowers on the country's memorial gravesite in Kiev, the capital, and residents lit candles during a requiem service. Some 140 kilometers (90 miles) to the north, in the town built near the now-shuttered plant to house its workers, hundreds gathered in Slavutych's main church shortly after 1 a.m. to commemorate the exact hour the 2,000-ton lid of Chernobyl Reactor No. 4 was hurtled into the air. On Friday several dozen of the surviving "liquidators" -- the dark term for those who took on dangerous clean-up work in the weeks and months after the accident -- paraded outside Ukraine's government center. Inflation has reduced their health pensions to sums from about 150 hryvynas (about $30) down to as little as 5 or 6 hryvnyas per month. Only about half of the 700-strong 731st Battalion of Chernobyl liquidators are still alive, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported their former commander as saying. In a Saturday service, one of the original firefighters spoke to mourners at the Kiev monument. "We did not think about the consequences when we were in Chernobyl fulfilling the tasks set to eliminate the aftermath of the accident," said Serhiy Krasylnykov, head of a Chernobyl victims group. "We were not striving for awards. We simply fulfilled our civic duty." Many of the first wave of workers who rushed to contain the explosion died within hours from the radiation pouring from the shattered reactor. To date epidemiologists place the total deaths somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000, many of which critics say could have been avoided by early safety measures. Moscow, then the capital of the Soviet Union, did not admit the accident for hours even among local populations, nor the scope of the devastation for several days. Meanwhile, people in nearby communities sunbathed and picnicked in the unusually warm spring weather around the May Day holiday, exposing themselves to the flow of radioactive particles ultimately carried by winds for hundreds of miles from the site. Iodine pills to protect from thyroid cancer were not distributed for days and in some cases weeks, when the therapeutic window was largely past. According to a study published in a July 1999 issue of the journal Cancer, the rate of thyroid cancer among Ukrainians age 15 and younger increased 10-fold in the years following the accident. The rate of 4-6 cases per billion in the five years before Chernobyl ballooned to 45 per billion from 1986 to 1997. All told, about 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) were contaminated by radiation in Russia and almost 100,000 square kilometers in Ukraine and Belarus, according to Tass figures. After years of debate, the final reactor of Chernobyl was shut down in December 2000. These days, the plant is quiet. It is not at rest, however. The structure built to contain the still-smoldering and deadly wreckage is in danger of collapsing. Called the sarcophagus, it stands as the world's greatest challenge in civil engineering and was constructed with determination and human as well as financial cost. But the crushing loads and high radiation have taken their toll. Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev warned Saturday that "nobody has inspected these walls in detail. We do not know what reactions are taking place under the shield," originally built to last five years, he said. A new structure will likely cost $150 million or more, funds that Ukrainians and even the Russians say they simply do not have. A collapse would not revisit the cataclysm of Chernobyl but would more likely spread a cloud of radioactive dust and panic throughout the region. "Doctors proved that fear and 'radio-phobia' cause more harm than actual radioactive contamination," said Rumyantsev, according to an Interfax translation. Russian KGB Documents declassified earlier this month suggested a record of problems at Chernobyl's four reactors, ranging from inconsistent performance to equipment failures. ****** #10 Russian army puts up stiff resistance to end of draft MOSCOW, April 25 (AFP) - "There has been, is, and always will be a draft in Russia," a top army general boomed Friday as the country faced a June 1 deadline set by President Vladimir Putin to reform a military built on Soviet-era equipment and bogged down in Chechnya. Reforms were first launched by former president Boris Yeltsin in 1996 at the bloody end of the first Chechnya war and have since been reintroduced and abandoned on several occasions. It hinges on a Russian admission that it can no longer afford to support a 1.1-million-strong military while also developing and building weapons to replace the outdated Soviet ones. The latest plan pits a military brass bent on keeping the draft because it fears few would want to serve in Russia's dilapidated army by choice against liberals lobbying for a small professional army and a quick end to conscription. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stepped into the debate Thursday by saying he preferred to cut back conscripted army service from two years to one. But Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov responded that the idea might work -- but no sooner than in four years. Ivanov is Russia's first civilian defense minister and a close Putin ally charged with overseeing army reforms. But analysts agree that he has run into stiff resistance from hawkish army generals taught in the Soviet era and keen to preserve the military at its current size. Many seem convinced that ending the draft would spell the army's ruin. Smirnov, the top Russian general in charge of the call-up and staffing, said Russia's main goal was to have 176,500 professional soldiers and colonels permanently stationed in hotspots like Chechnya by the end of 2007. "The first ones to be switched to contract service will be troops permanently stationed in Chechnya and surrounding regions," said the general. He added the military wanted to make sure that untested young conscripts -- many of whom never properly learned how to fire a gun -- are not sent into Chechnya or other war zones. "Twenty percent of the army never graduated from grammar school and we have people who cannot read," conceded Smirnov. The general staff in part admits to accusations from liberals like deputy Boris Nemtsov that the military is largely staffed by "unemployed thugs and former prison inmates." Smirnov released a report showing that 39.5 percent of soldiers and recruits who joined the armed forces last year had no employment or secondary education. That figure compared to just 3.6 percent in 1988. And Smirnov appeared to concede that the finances of the latest stab at army reform do not yet add up. Russia must find the cash not only to pay for professional soldiers but also research and development as well as housing and retraining of reduced troops. The general staff is requesting 138 billion rubles (4.4 billion dollars, 4.0 billion euros) over the next four years to implement its plan. The plan would see professional troops paid up to 8,000 rubles (about 260 dollars) a month compared to the current 2,800 rubles. He said Nemtsov's idea of quickly switching all soldiers to professional service and paying them about 3,500 rubes is "impossible" because nobody would fight in the army for such pay. But reports said that Kasyanov appeared to favor the Nemtsov plan because it seemed cheaper and more effective. The Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported the finance ministry Thursday volunteered to allocate only a third of the sum requested by the defense ministry. No formal decision is expected before June 1 but Nezavisimaya said that Kasyanov has "refused to approve the army reform plan offered by the defense ministry." ****** #11 From: "Fred Harrison"
Subject: SARS Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 David - I know there are some Russia-interested public health and medical professionals who read JRL. Given that places as remote from China as Ireland, Switzerland, Romania, Brazil and South Africa have reported cases of SARS, is it at all likely that China's big nieghbor Russia would have absolutely none? I note that Isvestia is quoting a health ministry official as stating, "Our fellow countrymen have absolutely no fear of coming down with atypical pneumonia." Should we take heart from this bravado or are next week's headlines going to be about another Russian coverup? Rgds Fred Harrison Ansdell Associates www.ansdell.ru 45 Russell Square, London WC1B 4JP Office: +44(0)20 7431 7517 Fax: +44(0)20 7681 1229 ******* #12 Chechnya's rebuilding ineffective - chief Russian auditor MOSCOW. April 26 (Interfax) - Chechnya's rehabilitation has been "extremely" ineffective, just "a few buildings" have been restored in the entire region, and a lot of money has been lost via mistakes, stolen, misused or used ineffectively, Russia's chief auditor said in a Saturday television program. "The programs that are planned for the restoration of Chechnya are being implemented extremely ineffectively. "Ninety-five percent of the money that has been allocated has been put to use. This is a fairly high proportion, but in real terms only 30% of facilities have been restored: funds have been smeared around a tremendous number of facilities, not a single industrial enterprise is being restored. "There's no real restoration, a few buildings [have been restored], and mainly it's Stalingrad ruins, a depressing picture," Sergei Stepashin, head of the Russian Audit Chamber, told Russia's Rossiya television. Stalingrad, today called Volgograd, is a Russian city devastated by the Germans during World War II. He said the Chamber had found out that more than 20 million rubles had been lost via mistakes by accountants or finance officials, misused, or spent ineffectively. He suggested that a clear investment program be devised for Chechnya to eliminate "the factor of social tension and instability." There are about 400,000 unemployed in Chechnya, according to Stepashin. "And then we ask why people go to the mountains, and why we can't take Maskhadov or Basayev," he said. Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev are separatist leaders. ******* #13 The Sunday Telegraph (UK) April 27, 2003 Russia strips 'untouchable' drivers of their sirens By Tom Parfitt in Moscow Russia's top executives and mafia bosses face a clampdown on some of their most cherished perks: the sirens, flashing blue lights and government licence plates which make their cars "untouchable" by traffic police. Lawmakers in the Duma have approved a bill restricting use of "special signals" to emergency vehicles and a handful of ministerial cars, in an effort to end a black-market abuse that enables almost 4,000 private cars to flout the rules of the road. Although the perk is officially granted only to high-ranking state functionaries, tycoons and criminals acquire the necessary permits and equipment from corrupt bureaucrats for the equivalent of £1,300. Lights and sirens on blacked-out saloons can scatter traffic on Moscow's clogged boulevards in seconds. Cars with government markings speed through red lights with impunity. Viktor Pokhmelkin, a state Duma deputy who proposed the legislation, said that the misuse of the privileges had to be stamped out. Flashing lights or migalki became indispensable for Russia's elite in the 1990s. Sergei Kiriyenko, who became prime minister in 1998, reportedly used them on his saloon to avoid being late for Western movies showing at the capital's Radisson Slavyanskaya hotel. Russia's notorious traffic police, the GAI, instinctively step aside at the first sign of a flashing blue light or the wail of a siren. Newspapers can often predict the downfall of a politician by the removal of his migalki. The mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, recently lost his after a bitter dispute with the Kremlin over new appointments to the city administration. Mafia gangs rely on migalki and counterfeit or stolen government licence plates to avoid being stopped or searched. Roof-top lights can be bought for as little as 300 roubles (£6) in outdoor markets, and the money for a permit to use them is paid to corrupt bureaucrats who register the vehicle with a state agency. "It's easy," one government official said. Despite his low rank, he acquired migalki to use when he is late for work. "All that's needed is money and connections," he said. "You hand over the cash and then you're untouchable on the street." Mr Pokhmelkin vowed to wipe out the corruption after estimating that there were 3,884 cars in Russia with "special signals", compared with just 124 in the Soviet era. About one third are in the Moscow area. "Nowhere else in the world is there such a quantity of migalki," he added. "In many countries, not even the highest state officials have them. The President of the USA doesn't and neither does the Queen of England." ******* #14 Financial Times (UK) April 26, 2003 BOOK REVIEWS: Shelf Life - OGI, Moscow Andrew Jack A short walk from the bolshoi in central Moscow, a studenty corner cafe is capitalising on the city trendsetters' growing taste for coffee and contemporary literature. With bright orange chairs, chrome walls, exposed concrete beams and soft Arabic music penetrating the smoke-laden atmosphere, OGI looks like something out of underground Manhattan in the 1980s. This being Russia, there is a well-stocked bar too. Customers nibble at OGI's hallmark cheap Russian pies at tables scattered with newspapers, while behind them some 4,000 books - as well as an assortment of magazines, videos and CDs - are on sale around the clock. "Books have become trendy," says Vladimir Soldatov, a recently graduated physicist turned bookshop manager. "A lot of our clients are from the Moscow Architectural Institute, and design academies. There are also computer chat groups that meet here." There's no shortage of such Russian greats as Dostoevsky on sale, mostly bought by foreigners visiting or living in Moscow. Locals often buy foreign classics - from Hemingway to Aleister Crowley. Many of his customers, he says, are inspired by the recommendations of Afisha, a weekly listings magazine. Translations of modern foreign writers - Frederic Beigbeder, Michel Houellebecq, Douglas Copeland - are popular. Russians such as Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin and the pseudonymous Boris Akunin have become modern classics. For those in search of contemporary fiction, he advises Fox Mulder Looks Like a Pig, by Andrei Gelasimov and Last Petal by Sergei Kuznetsov. Andrew Jack, OGI, 12 Bolshaya Dmitrovka, 007 095 229 3453 ****** #15 The Guardian (UK) April 26, 2003 Travel: Russia: Storming the Winter Palace: Next month, St Petersburg celebrates its 300th anniversary. Security affairs editor Richard Norton-Taylor spends an exhausting but exhilarating weekend tracking down its tsarist and revolutionary past BY RICHARD NORTON-TAYLOR The most striking features of St Petersburg are the stunning vistas. Turn a corner and you see a cathedral, its towers and gilded domes shining in the bright light. Turn another and you catch the tall steeple of the Admiralty. Turn again and your eyes capture the gentle colours of a bridge across a canal lined by rows of pastel-coloured buildings. And then there is the Winter Palace. Take a brief rest. Your senses will need it after almost a surfeit of paintings in the Hermitage museum, of which the Winter Palace forms one part. Look out of the window and you are greeted with the sight of the river Neva. Twice the width of the Thames in central London, it flows gently in summer, and in winter is covered with thick snow. When we were there in January, with the temperature at -25C, groups of young people were walking across the Neva as the sun, even in winter, caught the tops of the church towers and the dark facade of Peter and Paul Fortress, a former prison and garrison whose cathedral is the burial place of the Romanovs. A little to the east, the cruiser Aurora is anchored. From here, at 9.45pm on October 25 1917, sailors fired the cannon to signal to the Bolsheviks to storm the Winter Palace. But back to the Hermitage. You need two visits at least to take in Leonardo da Vinci's Madonnas, a gallery of Rembrandts - including the Return Of The Prodigal Son and Portrait Of An Old Man In Red - and works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Titian, El Greco, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Cezanne, Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Sisley, together with a room of Gauguins and much more. Don't take a guided tour; you need to take your own time. In winter at least, and if you are early enough, maybe in summer, too, you have the rooms almost to yourself. When we were there, during the school holidays, groups of Russian children and students - for whom admission is free - were packing the entrance. But they had come to see, or were shown, only the rooms and relics of their country's past tsarist splendour, not west European paintings. You can rest with lunch or supper at the Literaturnoe at 18 Nevsky Prospekt. This establishment, damned, wrongly in my view, in the 2001 edition of the Rough Guide, like many in St Petersburg, is difficult to spot, with a small entrance leading to the cellar of nondescript buildings. I started with warm baked crab, a wonderful appetiser for the fish and meat dishes washed down by strong but refreshing Georgian wine. In a discreet corner, a trio played classical music. After a brief kip in the hotel, we returned to the Hermitage, this time to the theatre built for Catherine the Great, to see Swan Lake and an astonishing performance by Alexandra Iosifidi. Russian prima ballerinas seem so much more expressive, tactile even, than their British counterparts. In 1991, a hotly disputed referendum registered a 51% vote in favour of changing back the city's name from Leningrad to St Petersburg. The remarkably close result echoes the turbulent history of Russia's former capital, which prides itself on both its tsarist and revolutionary past. Statues of Lenin abound along with those of monarchs. On May 27, St Petersburg celebrates its tercentenary. The squares, statues and buildings are being spruced up for the event. "It will be full of heads of state, with no ordinary tourists," said our guide. The end of May is the start of the season, midsummer, of the "White Nights". If in winter the snow gives the city an almost fairytale appearance, the summer brings its own attractions. It was difficult when we were there to get to Tsarskoe Selo, Rastrelli's magnificent palace 16 miles south of the city, built by Peter the Great for his wife, Catherine. Even more difficult in winter, when the gulf is iced over, is a trip to Kronstadt, Peter the Great's sea fortress, which also played a significant role in Russia's revolutionary past. However, it is easy, whatever the weather, to walk around the centre. We stayed opposite St Isaac's cathedral, a 19th-century monstrosity built after Russia's defeat of Napoleon. Russian guides, like those everywhere, rattle off statistics - the cupola is exactly 101.5 metres high, we are told. You can stimulate your imagination as you walk down the nearby Malaya Morskaya. It is an unimpressive street now, but No 10 was the residence of Princess Golitsyna, believed to be the subject of Pushkin's short story, The Queen Of Spades. On the other side, at No 13, Tchaikovsky died in October 1893. Nikolai Gogol lived in No 17 between 1833 and 1838, when he wrote, among other works, The Government Inspector and Diary Of A Madman. Not to be missed is The Church of the Spilled Blood, also called the Church of the Resurrection of Christ. Outside and inside alike, it is lavishly decorated. It was built over 24 years on the spot where the reformist tsar, Alexander II, was assassinated in March 1881. Between 1930 and 1970, the church was used as a storehouse. Just across the road, there are lines of small wooden stalls with souvenirs, including political variations of the traditional wooden interlocking matryoshka dolls. For a wide range of more expensive souvenirs, including glassware, make your way back to the Nevsky Prospekt. Across the road is the Strogonoff Yard, where there is also a lively cafe. Further east, a cab drive away, is the Smolny complex, including a superb baroque, light blue and gold convent building designed by Rastrelli. Next door, the Smolny Institute was a school for young ladies-in-waiting for the tsarinas before it became the headquarters of the Bolshevik central committee. We took a metro ride to Dostoyevskaya station to visit the Dostoyevsky museum, once the great writer's house. A right turn out of the station, towards the museum, is a thriving market with stalls piled high with cream, vegetables and fruit from all over Russia. Just to the left of the station, in a little square, stands the writer's statue. His museum is well kept and wonderfully informative. The study is as it was when he collapsed after stretching for an ink bottle which had fallen on the floor, his lungs weak due to heavy smoking. On the bottom of a tobacco box there is a note written by his daughter, Liubov, on the day of her father's death. "January 28 1881," it says. "Papa died at a quarter to nine." A good way to celebrate the writer is at the Idiot cafe, south of St Isaac's at No 82 Naberezhnaya (nab) reki Moyki. A bell tinkles as you open the small door on to a friendly greeting by staff and a free glass of vodka. It is frequented by students (including foreign ones) who come here to fill up on a range of dishes. I would recommend the borscht or pancakes. St Petersburg already has the inevitable McDonald's, and western and Russian entrepreneurs are bringing with them flashy neon lights and characterless shops. Also, it is advisable to check before you rely on your guidebook for restaurants - one billed as an old Russian family-run establishment turned out to be a modern Japanese eaterie. It was open but empty. ******* #16 BBC Monitoring Russia returns to the top of the world after lengthy absence - TV report Source: RTR Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1000 gmt 26 Apr 03 Presenter: Following a long break, Russian polar explorers are resuming large-scale development of the Arctic. Twelve participants from a high-latitude expedition have rehoisted the state flag at Russia's first drifting polar station, North Pole-32 Russian: Severnyy Polyus-32 - SP-32 . The station stands on an ice floe 150 m. from the North Pole, the point at which all of the earth's meridians meet. Over the course of the next six months, the scientists will be studying the Arctic Ocean and its atmosphere. The resumption of permanent monitoring in the Arctic Ocean is extremely important for mainland weather services, guaranteeing navigation through the Northern Sea Route and assessing mineral reserves on the Arctic shelf. I remind you that our country started developing the Arctic basin in 1937, when the first mobile expedition left for the drift of the Arctic Ocean, and the world's first polar research station, North Pole-1 Russian: Severnyy Polyus-1 - SP-1 , was opened. Artur Chilingarov, captioned as president of the Russian association of polar explorers, head of the North Pole-32 drifting expedition, also deputy speaker of the State Duma: This is our Arctic, this is the Russian Arctic, and the Russian flag should be here. And so we hoisted the Russian flag here today. And we're not going anywhere. As I understand it, this is also politically important, and it's an educational and patriotic objective. Let people dream not only of being managers, let's have as many people as possible becoming polar explorers. I think that, once you've been here, and you already are here, you'll also want to fly here and tell of these lads' hard work. Vladimir Koshelev, captioned as head of the North Pole-32 polar research station: First of all, we've spent a long time getting to this point, but, in general, it was a huge joy. You see, this is our work, and we know how to do this, and we know how to do it pretty well. This is our life. Russia's a northern country, so we felt a lot of enthusiasm. In the same bulletin, Russia TV reported that President Vladimir Putin had sent the explorers his congratulations on their return to the North Pole. The channel quoted part of his message, which reads: "It is important that, after a 12-year break, Russian scientists have returned to the North Pole, continuing the traditions laid down by several generations of legendary polar explorers." ******* #17 FEATURE-Tsar's freakshow helps fight Russian alcoholism By Jeremy Page LYUBERTSY, Russia, April 27 (Reuters) - Peter the Great would have been proud. The Russian schoolchildren huddled together in silence, eyes goggling at the collection of deformed human foetuses started by the tsar almost 300 years ago. "You see, kids," whispered Tatyana Borisova in the soft tones of a children's storyteller as she pointed to the "Cyclops" -- a stillborn baby with a single eye in the middle of its forehead. "This is what can happen if you mess around with drugs and alcohol." For one young girl, it was all too much. She asked for permission to leave but passed out as she headed for the door. The stomach-churning collection of preserved mutant babies and pickled body parts is part of the Kunstkammer, Russia's first museum, which the tsar founded in 1714 to combat superstition and promote scientific education. Three centuries later, the "anatomical rarities" exhibition -- part freak show, part medical study -- is being used in a "shock tactics" campaign to combat drug and alcohol abuse. Russians drink some 15 litres of pure alcohol per head each year, one of the highest rates in the world, and by some estimates one in seven Russians are alcoholics, experts say. Male life expectancy has plunged to under 59 since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. And a country where drug abuse was virtually unknown in Soviet times now has three million drug users -- about two percent of the population. DESPERATE TIMES Borisova, the administrator of the exhibition, says desperate times call for desperate measures. "Unfortunately, so many children are surrounded by drunks on the street or even in their homes," she said. "We should show this to children and show them what organs look like and what happens to our body if we use certain substances." The Kunstkammer is based in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St Petersburg -- the former Russian capital which celebrates its 300th anniversary in May. But 40 exhibits are touring Russian cities to promote health education, much in the spirit of Peter the Great, Borisova says. Captivated by all things European, the tsar started the collection after visiting the museum of a brilliant Dutch anatomist, Frederik Ruysch, in Amsterdam in 1697. He bought Ruysch's entire collection of pickled body parts and encouraged Russians to contribute human and animal abnormalities, determined to show visitors such phenomena were not the work of the devil, but of nature. The result is one of the most bizarre museums in the world -- its German name reflecting the European influence on Peter. As well as the Cyclops, it includes Siamese twins, a two-faced baby known as a "Janus," a "mermaid" with a fleshy tail instead of legs, and a double-headed calf. Another highlight is the skeleton of a giant named Bourgeois, whom Peter brought back to Russia from the French port of Calais. ON THE ROAD This month, the exhibition was in Lyubertsy, a town of concrete high-rise buildings and simple wooden houses just outside Moscow, with a poor record of substance abuse. The poster outside the Lyubertsy House of Culture has an unashamedly "Roll-up! Roll-up!" ring. "You will see the Siamese twins, the cyclops, the mermaid, the two-faced baby and other anatomical rarities!" it proclaims. But once inside, the 300 schoolchildren and dozens of curious adults who visit every day listen to Borisova patiently preaching the virtues of temperance. "You should talk with them not to scare them, but to let them draw their own conclusions," she said. "You should tell them about our ecology and about unhealthy lifestyles." Judging by their reactions, her unorthodox approach -- P.T. Barnum meets Betty Ford -- is getting the message through. "Well, this shows me that you should never smoke, use drugs or drink if you want to have a normal child or a normal career," said Natasha, a third-grade student. Even a couple of swaggering teenage boys said they would think twice before lighting up a cigarette or cracking open a beer after seeing the disintegrated lungs of a smoker and the bloated liver of an alcoholic floating in formaldehyde. "We already smoke and drink," said 14-year-old Yevgeny Ganin. "It's normal for kids our age. But I think vodka can be dangerous and I stay away from drugs." Police in Lyubertsy say most addicts are aged between 16 and 30, and 80 percent of cases involve heroin. President Vladimir Putin last year called drug addiction in post-Soviet Russia a social disaster and launched a national agency to lead a crackdown on drug trafficking. POLITICAL SUICIDE But tackling alcoholism is more problematic given the enduring popularity of vodka, the national drink. Alcohol is sold 24 hours a day from kiosks around Lyubertsy -- as in most of Russia -- and a litre costs just over $1. Beer is regarded by many as a soft drink. Moscow's city government is considering ending round-the-clock alcohol sales because boozing is draining the economy and driving away tourists, a Moscow newspaper said this month. But such moves are fraught with political risk in Russia -- especially with a presidential election set for early 2004. In the 1980s, attempts by then president Mikhail Gorbachev to curb alcoholism by slashing vodka output and destroying vineyards only caused widespread derision and a surge in production of moonshine. Shocking as the Kunstkammer exhibition may be, pessimists argue that drinking has always been part of Russian culture and always will be. After all, legend has it that when Peter the Great opened the museum, he had to entice visitors by offering them a free shot of vodka. ******* #18 The Economist (UK) April 26, 2003 A good man murdered POLITICAL killings in Russia are rarely political. Ten members of the Duma, the lower house of parliament, have been murdered in the past ten years, plus a host of sundry other officials. Though the cases are rarely solved, most carry a strong whiff of corruption or business disputes. But Sergei Yushenkov, a Duma member shot dead on April 17th outside his home, was--so everyone says--clean. Compare his murder with that of another Duma member, Vladimir Golovlyov, co-chairman with him of the small Liberal Russia party. Colleagues at first denounced that killing last August, a few months after the party was founded, as an attempt to intimidate the opposition. But a consensus quickly grew that Mr Golovlyov might well have died for murkier reasons: as the head of a privatisation scheme in the early 1990s, he was alleged to have embezzled large sums of money from people whose power later grew as his did not. After Mr Yushenkov's death, in contrast, politicians of all stripes lined up to attest to his honesty and lack of interest in business, and to hint at political motives. He had a history as a dissident: first as a Soviet army colonel who publicly argued for military reform, then as a legislator who criticised authoritarian tendencies in post-Soviet governments. He had lobbied against the military campaigns in Chechnya. After a series of apartment-block bombings in 1999 that killed 300 people, Mr Yushenkov and a handful of other deputies began investigating allegations that they were not, as claimed, the work of Chechen terrorists, but of the authorities themselves, eager to stoke popular support for the second campaign in Chechnya, which began shortly afterwards. Mr Yushenkov kept plugging away at the theory, and last year he helped Boris Berezovsky, an exiled business magnate and Liberal Russia's main financial backer, to distribute a film about it. That connection means that even if business or personal reasons were not behind Mr Yushenkov's death, there is no shortage of conceivable political ones. Supporters of the bombing conspiracy theory think he was getting too close to the truth. Others point to his public falling-out with Mr Berezovsky, whom he expelled from Liberal Russia after the tycoon voiced support for the Communists. Mr Berezovsky, himself an arch-enemy of the Kremlin, claimed that the rift between the two men was exaggerated, to allow Liberal Russia to win official approval as a party, which it had trouble getting because of its links with himself. Some devious minds think Mr Yushenkov was killed specifically to cast suspicion on Mr Berezovsky. There are more pedestrian theories. On April 23rd police arrested a young man fitting the killer's description, whose father had been jailed a few years previously for making threats against Mr Yushenkov. Revenge, they said, could be the motive. Few people, however, doubt that the murder was indeed a contract killing: mainly because, as in many such cases, the killer left the gun behind. While contract hits are not as frequent as in the wild days of the early 1990s, a steady trickle of fairly high-ranking officials, along with many smaller fry who do not make the news, are still shot to order every year. And the gunmen are hardly ever caught, probably because whoever ordered the hit has the power to thwart the investigation. The only other victim to match both Mr Yushenkov's level of respect and his reputation for cleanliness was Galina Starovoitova, an MP who championed human rights and was shot dead in 1998; only last year were six men arrested for the murder, and whoever ordered it is still free. The chances of Mr Yushenkov's killers being caught, let alone the man or men behind the murder, are probably no greater. ******* #19 The Economist (UK) April 26, 2003 More power to them JUST two weeks ago, rumours abounded that a big international oil company would buy Sibneft, a medium-sized Russian firm--taking a lead from BP, which acquired 50% of Tyumen Oil Company in February. But on April 22nd Yukos, Russia's biggest producer of oil, and Sibneft announced that they would--minority shareholders willing--be tying the knot. Rather cheekily, they describe their new firm, YukosSibneft, as a "new international super-major". In terms of reserves or crude-oil production, that is true: it will probably top both ChevronTexaco and TotalFinaElf. But it will be no match for firms such as BP and Exxon Mobil that are much more diversified, both in business and geographical terms. YukosSibneft will still make most of its money from pumping out and exporting crude. That, to some analysts, makes the business logic behind the merger a little shaky. Both firms could arguably have done better by joining forces with a globally integrated foreign firm than with a Russian one. Russian oil firms are relatively cheap partly because they are so focused on crude. And they have more than enough oil already--their problem is getting the stuff out of the country. The state-owned pipeline system is overstretched, and there has been no louder critic than Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos's boss, of the Russian government's stubborn refusal--until recently--to allow private hands to build and own more pipelines. The terms of the deal, announced hurriedly and with little detail, also raise some suspicions. Yukos, says James Fenkner at Troika Dialog, a Moscow investment bank, has a history of buying cheap. Yet it paid a premium for Sibneft, already the most expensive firm on the market per barrel of reserves. (It generates more cash per barrel than its rivals, counters Adam Landes of Renaissance Capital.) And the proposed terms of the deal look pretty cushy too: $3 billion in cash to the main Sibneft shareholders, Roman Abramovich and his associates, for a 20% stake (the rest to be converted by a share swap), plus extra-large dividends to Yukos shareholders before the deal is completed. "The smart money may be getting out," says Mr Fenkner. The goal, at best, may be to prevent the main shareholders losing out from a future drop in oil prices, as well as to allow Mr Abramovich--never an oilman at heart--a graceful and well-cushioned exit. The merger's other result, though, will be to prevent foreign firms from snapping up a large Russian oil stake for the time being. YukosSibneft will probably be too big to devour in the foreseeable future, and there are no other likely candidates. "A barrel of Russian oil in the ground," points out Eric Kraus at Sovlink, another investment firm, "is worth about a quarter of what it would be on the books of a globally integrated firm." There are rumours that the Kremlin put pressure on Mr Abramovich not to sell to a foreigner. Whether or not that is true, the powers-that-be are undoubtedly happier for Russian firms, rather than foreign ones, to control the nation's cheap oil. And Mr Khodorkovsky too is bound to be pleased. Just a week earlier the government reversed its position on pipeline ownership, giving him and his peers a provisional green light to build a 2m-barrel-a-day link from the oilfields of Western Siberia to the northern port of Murmansk. Now he will be the boss of a company worth around $35 billion, some 30% of the Russian stockmarket, and with more political clout than ever. He has said he will retire in 2007 and has been giving money to various political parties. Whatever his ambitions may be, he is now better placed than ever to realise them. ******** #20 Newsweek International May 5, 2003 Moscow in the Money Russia is buzzing over big oil deals, and good times By Eve Conant He needs no further introduction in Moscow, but Europe’s richest man under 40 still likes to advertise. Green-hued billboards marking the 10-year anniversary of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s oil giant, Yukos, crop up every few hundred meters on Moscow’s busiest roads. The latest shows a sparkling gas pump pouring fuel into a symbol of Russian national pride: a space rocket in midlaunch, spitting fire. The message: riding an oil boom, Russia is regaining its lost status as a world player. MOSCOW HAS BEEN abuzz since last week, when Khodorkovsky, a 39-year-old billionaire, announced plans to acquire a smaller rival, Sibneft. The $15 billion union creates a new Russian icon, a home-grown megacompany that will own the second largest oil reserves in the world after ExxonMobil and pump more oil than ChevronTexaco. It also thwarts the ambitions of the world majors trying to break into Russia’s market. Both Royal Dutch Shell and France’s TotalFinaElf were rumored to be angling for a deal with Sibneft, too. The new company, YukosSibneft Oil, will be the world’s sixth largest producer, pumping 2.3 million barrels of oil a day, about the same as Kuwait or pre-war Iraq. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov excitedly called YukosSibneft a “flagship” of the Russian economy, even though it doesn’t formally exist yet. Russia’s oil industry has been basking in the global limelight ever since 9-11, which redoubled concerns over dependency on the Middle East. In the age of terrorism, Siberia doesn’t look like the wild, wild East anymore. Oil production is rising again after a long slump, fueling a boomtown optimism throughout Russia. Petro dollars have erased fear of another embarrassing international default, like the one Moscow forced on the world in 1998; the Central Bank now sits on foreign currency reserves of $55 billion. According to Hermitage Capital Management, a Moscow investment bank, Russia has become one of the most sound emerging-market economies, with healthy trade and budget surpluses and GNP growth of 6.5 percent. The danger is that Russia could become a petrol economy stumbling from crisis to crisis with an entrenched oil elite. The Yukos-Sibneft deal puts $3 billion, a sum equal to 1 percent of Russian GDP, into the pockets of a small group of tycoons led by Sibneft’s major shareholder, Roman Abramovich. And it comes only two months after BP paid $6.75 billion for a joint venture with Russia’s third largest oil producer, Tyumen Oil, which is also dominated by a few magnates. “Oil mergers in the last three months have put $6 billion into the bank accounts of less than a dozen Russian citizens,” says James Fenkner, head of research for Troika Dialogue, a private investment company. The fact that the boom is increasingly an all-Russian affair is a switch. In the 1990s, foreigners lost millions in Russian markets, while Russian tycoons sent their money offshore. “Nowadays the largest foreign direct investment in Russia comes from Cyprus and the Netherlands, which is essentially Russian money being recycled back into Russia,” says Hermitage CEO William Browder. A case in point is Mikhail Fridman, the chairman of Alfa Bank and one of the oligarchs who amassed fortunes after the Soviet collapse. “If I can invest here and my money will make an annual, say, 10 percent profit, why keep it in a Swiss bank account for 1 percent interest? It’s not a question of emotions, it’s simple math,” says Fridman, who is unsentimental about selling Russian assets. He was one of the big players behind the sale of Tyumen Oil to BP. Many Russians are more emotional about their oil wealth. The BP deal was a global stamp of approval for doing business in Russia, but political considerations are making homegrown sales much more attractive. “Yukos and Sibneft elbowed out all the foreigners,” says Fenkner. It’s not clear how deeply the Kremlin was involved, but the result helps protect President Vladimir Putin from charges that Russia is selling off its natural wealth as he prepares for elections later this year. After Tyumen Oil, there may be political room for one more big foreign sale, says Browder. Any more “would be like selling Rockefeller Plaza to the Japanese.” Fortunately, analysts say Russia’s fundamentals are improving along with its mood. The YukosSibneft deal sent shares in Russian oil soaring last week; the Russian market has risen 500 percent in dollar terms since 1999. But what strikes Fridman are the signs of stability, like healthy cash reserves. “I don’t believe in boom-time anything,” because of the crashes that follow, he says. “What is much more exciting is steady, stable growth. From that point of view, I think we’re finally getting started.” There is a huge to do list, from reforming market dysfunctions left over from the Soviet era to finding new sources of wealth beyond oil. But it is nonetheless conceivable that after the boom will come normal times, which would be a real novelty after all the turbulence in Russia. ******** #21 Wall Street Journal Europe April 25-27, 2003 In Case You Missed This Mega-Deal By VLADIMIR SOCOR Mr. Socor is senior fellow of the Washington-based Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies. While Europe was sleeping--and America fought in Iraq--the Kremlin has taken a major step toward monopolizing the transit of Caspian energy resources, thus adding to Europe's dependence on energy supplies from Russia (and, at the same time, reducing hopes for Afghanistan's future development). That step would merge Turkmenistan's immense deposits of natural gas with those of Russia, into one export pool under Russian control. Turkmenistan holds the world's third-largest proven reserves of gas (after Russia and Iran), but the Turkmen deposits are not fully explored or even prospected. Turkmenistan's gas export potential, however, is of an order of magnitude roughly comparable to Russia's. Turkmen gas output (54 billion cubic meters in 2002, 68 billion anticipated for 2003) can, with relatively modest investments and in short order, be restored to the late Soviet-era level of some 90 billion cubic meters annually, almost all of which would be available for export. Russia's current gas exports are not much larger at approximately 110-115 billion cubic meters annually, with a steady tendency to decrease. On April 11 in the Kremlin, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Saparmurat Niazov--along with Russia's Gazprom and the Turkmen state gas company--signed a set of agreements which, if implemented, would create a permanent Russian lock on Turkmenistan's gas resources and exports. Turkmenistan is to deliver 2 trillion cubic meters of gas to Russia for a 25-year period, 2004-2028. Annual deliveries are to grow from a relatively modest 6 billion cubic meters in 2004 to 80 billion cubic meters in 2009. Under the agreements, Russia would in 2004-2006 pay Turkmenistan a paltry $44 per thousand cubic meters, made almost risible by the stipulation that only $22 would be paid in cash, and $22 in the form of Russian-made goods and services of a quality not marketable elsewhere for currency. By contrast, Gazprom sells its gas to European countries at prices ranging from $90 to $120 per thousand cubic meters--all cash. Thanks to the agreement just signed, an increasing proportion of Gazprom's deliveries to Europe will consist of Turkmen gas. The Russian state monopoly will rake in the differential. Gazprom's purchase price for Turkmen gas is to be recalculated in 2007 taking into account the dynamics of international prices--thus suggesting a possible adjustment by Russia of both the purchase price to Turkmenistan and the resale price to Europe, while basically retaining the existing differential. At the signing ceremony in Moscow, Mr. Putin explained how the massive inflow of Turkmen gas will "benefit the Russian economy: it solves such an important problem as the energy balance in the country, demonstrates that Russia will without doubt honor its gas supply obligations [to Europe], and will help Russia develop an energy partnership with the European Union." Translation: First, the low-priced Turkmen gas will fill a growing proportion of Russia's internal consumption requirements, freeing up a correspondingly growing proportion of Russian gas for high-priced export to the West. Second, Gazprom will draw on Turkmen gas in order to honor Gazprom's supply contracts with European countries, earning windfall profits even if Russia's gas output and exports stagnate or decline. And, third, by quasi-monopolizing the transit and marketing of Turkmen gas to points west, Russia will be strongly placed to mobilize European Union investments in order to upgrade Gazprom's aging network of transit pipelines across Russia's territory. The Kremlin and Gazprom also count on European investments to overhaul the Soviet-era pipelines that run from Turkmenistan, via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to Russia, plugging into Gazprom's network. Those pipelines across Central Asia are currently capable of an annual throughput of some 50 billion cubic meters of gas, which is about half of their Soviet-era capacity. Mr. Putin apparently reckons that once Russia controls the transit of Turkmen and other Central Asian gas, the European consumer countries will have to foot the bill for bringing that gas to Russia. And that's not all. The easy availability of Turkmen gas will enable Russia to postpone the high-cost development of Arctic and Siberian gas projects, such as the Shtokman and Yamal fields and pipelines. It will also enable the Russian government to perpetuate nonmarket arrangements, such as the state-imposed cap on the price of gas on the internal market at a mere $21.50 per thousand cubic meters. This price is so low in relation to the extraction and transportation costs of Russian gas that even Gazprom ends up starved of investment funds. This is one reason why the Kremlin would like to reach into the European Union's pockets for investment in Russian gas development projects. It would be a form of EU subsidy to a giant unreformed sector of Russia's economy. At present, the EU has strong objections to Russia's artificially low internal price for gas. This practice cuts substantially the production costs of Russian industrial goods, thus enabling exporters to undercut West European industries in EU and other markets. This is why the EU calls for long-overdue reforms of Russia's gas sector, as an important precondition to Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization. Now, however, the easy availability of low-priced Turkmen gas will act as an added disincentive for Russia to reform its internal gas market, and may make it more tempting for it to compete unfairly against European goods in European markets. A little more than a year ago, Mr. Putin had called for the creation of a cartel of natural gas exporting countries, to consist of Russia and three former Soviet-ruled countries in Central Asia, foremost among them Turkmenistan. Dubbed an "OPEC for gas," the basic idea is to turn Russia into the sole route for Central Asian gas to Europe, killing the alternative plan for a westbound pipeline out of Turkmenistan. That U.S.- and British-supported project had envisaged a trans-Caspian pipeline for Turkmen gas going west, via the South Caucasus and Turkey and on to the Balkans, on the shortest possible route to European markets. The erratic Mr. Niazov ultimately scuttled that project through outlandish financial demands and capricious gamesmanship with the consortium. The Kremlin then stepped in with an offer that the isolated Turkmen dictator could hardly refuse. With this, Moscow seems to be winning on another front as well. Turkmenistan's mega-deal with Russia might leave insufficient Turkmen gas for export to and through Afghanistan and Pakistan (at commercially attractive prices). That project is strongly supported by the United States and by the Afghan administration of President Hamid Karzai. It is meant to give Turkmenistan an outlet to the Indian Ocean and to provide a vital source not only of energy, but also of transit revenue in hard currency to Afghanistan. It can also form a major nation-building tool in Afghanistan, with the incentive for tribes and warlords to cooperate in the trans-Afghan pipeline project. For its part, Russia favors a project to supply Iranian gas to Afghanistan. The two-fold goal is to send Iranian gas away from European markets--preserving those for Russia--and to enable Iran to increase its influence in Afghanistan to the West's detriment. They never stopped playing the zero-sum games. With the recent Kremlin agreement with Turkmenistan, elements of the wider Russian strategy are already in place. ****** Web page for CDI Russia Weekly: http://www.cdi.org/russia Archive for Johnson's Russia List: http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson With support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the MacArthur Foundation A project of the Center for Defense Information (CDI) 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington DC 20036