RUSSIANS LIKE STABILITY MORE THAN THREATS
Trud, May 5, 1999, p.2
So the May celebrations are over. According to the Interior Ministry, they have been held in 259 Russian cities, towns, and settlements and have passed without any excesses, which is quite understandable. The statistics show that more Russians prefer opening the summer season with necessary work in their kitchen gardens to demonstrations, pickets, and meetings.
For instance, in Moscow, according to the Interior Ministry, only some 35,000 people have participated in the demonstrations, which is not very many for the city. And analysis of the events which have occurred in the meetings, points to rather significant shifts in the mindsets of Russian citizens.
Two May Day rallies by the opposition turned out to march through Moscow. One of them was organized by the left, which ended in the meeting at Teatralnaya Square, and the other was conducted by Trade Unions and members of the Otechestvo (Fatherland) movement, with a final meeting on Tverskaya Square. As it turned out, there is more than one opposition in Russia, as evidenced by both May Day rallies, in the number of participants, and the meaning intended by the organizers.
The left censured the Kremlin, as usual. The demand to remove the president from power was expressed in an appeal to the Russian electorate to urge their deputies to vote in favor of impeachment, for which, according to leader of the CPRF Gennady Zyuganov, everything has been prepared. The rally did not pass without threats of a direct appeal to the people if First Vice Premier of the Russian government Yury Maslyukov is dismissed.
Organizers of the procession arranged by the Trade Unions and the Otechestvo movement chose a different tone of conversation with their participants, and it seems to have been the right one. They decided to do without any political demands, restricting themselves to demanding the right to work and decent pay. Achievement of stability and development, creation of conditions for effective managing the economy, and normal fair working relations has become the main demand for Otechestvo and Union of Labor movements.
It seems no accident that the number of participants in the joint rally of Otechestvo and the Trade Unions was twice that of the rally conducted by the left. To all appearances, Russians like stability more than hysterical threats from the platform.
TERRORIST ACTS ON CHECHEN BORDER
Trud, May 5, 1999, p.1
The law enforcement agencies have thoroughly prepared for possible provocations and terrorist acts by Chechens during the May Day celebrations. Military installations, administrative buildings, schools, and hospitals have been surrounded by intensive police protection. In response to the recent threats of leader of the Chechen bandits Khattab to commit a series of subversive actions in the largest Russian cities, so-called “clean-ups” have been conducted in several regions, i.e. raids on places where thieves gather, and a mass attack on drug-dealers.
Nevertheless, it has proved impossible to avoid bloodshed. Early in the morning on May 3 a raid was organized on a police command post on the outskirts of the Galashki village near the Chechen-Ingush administrative border. It is thought that the attackers numbered about twenty people in khaki. In the ensuing fight, policemen were shot point-blank. Three Ingush citizens perished, one of whom was killed in his sleep.
A badly-wounded policeman said that the attackers were Chechens. Several hours later, the body of one of the bandits was found in the forest. In his pocket was a map of the area where the crime had been committed. Local residents said that the dead Chechen belonged to the extremist movement of Wahhabiyya.
Certain leading Russian politicians have already responded to this latest terrorist act. Ramazan Abdulatipov, Russian Minister for Ethnic Policy, believes that the situation in Chechnya can be settled only by declaring an emergency situation on the borders, which would require the enactment of a special law.
Sergei Stepashin, First Vice Premier of the government and Interior Minister, is very resolute. He said: “We will undoubtedly make an appropriate response. This provocation is connected with the fact that we are protecting the borders from bandits in Ingushetia also. But one should realize that bandits have no nationality, since Vaynakhs were killed…”
Stepashin intends to organize a retaliation against the terrorists jointly with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. As the minister has stated, in the near future the results of the cooperation will be clear.
MOSCOW IS NOT ALL OF RUSSIA
Izvestia, May 5, 1999, p.2
It can hardly be asserted that May Day rallies and demonstrations reflect the correlation of political powers in Russia to a true extent. It would be incorrect to speak about the complete victory of Otechestvo, Trade Unions, and the CPRF in the streets and the defeat of the NDR, Yabloko, and Right Cause movements, which have simply ignored the May Day celebrations.
According to the Russian Interior Ministry, 1,134 political events were held in Russia on May 1, and over 520,000 people participated in them. The largest rallies have been in the North Caucasus (106,200 people), and Central Russia (101,600 people) regions, and also in Siberia (50,600 people). In St. Petersburg, 12,000 people have participated in the demonstrations. In several regions trade unions and the Communists held joint May Day events, but the organizers of these events have never had the same purposes, and the participants have never had the same political views.
The upcoming parliamentary elections will sooner or later separate politicians onto different sides of the barricades, which had already happened in Moscow, where the Communists and trade unions have not managed to negotiate any joint actions. Overall, 35,000 people have participated in rallies and marches in Moscow; 25,000 participated in the rally organized by Moscow Federation of Trade Unions and the Otechestvo movement on Tverskaya Square, and 10,000 participated in the joint action of the CPRF, National Patriotic Union of Russia, the Movement in Support of the Army, and other left-oriented movements on Teatralnaya Square. This fact has allowed Yury Luzhkov to draw the conclusion that May Day rallies in Moscow have rather precisely reflected the social moods in the capital of Russia.
Participants of the leftist groups rally once again appealed to the Russian electorate to urge their deputies to vote in favor of removing the president from office. According to Gennady Zyuganov, “everything is ready for the impeachment, and we will accomplish it”. It is remarkable that the left radicals (Labor Russia, Stalinists, etc.) have practically joined official rallies of the CPRF. On the one hand, one can speak about the unification of all the left powers under the banner of the upcoming impeachment; on the other hand, this fact reveals a peculiar crisis of ideas. The CPRF is in fact exploiting a trivial appeal of Anpilov: “Down with the anti-people regime!”
Against such a background, the Otechestvo movement has defeated the Communists. Having cleared his social-economic demands with the trade unions, Luzhkov has chosen a sure card for himself. However, Moscow is not all of Russia…
SUCCESSFUL ACTIONS OF CHERNOMYRDIN AS SPECIAL ENVOY
Russian Television, Vesti, May 4, 1999, 20:00
Victor Chernomyrdin, special envoy of the Russian president on regulating the Yugoslavian crisis, has conducted long and, according to Chernomyrdin, not unsuccessful negotiations in Washington with US President Bill Clinton, Vice President Albert Gore, and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. As Chernomyrdin stated at the end of his meetings in Washington, the result was far from a total turnaround, but Russia had concrete proposals to settle the conflict, and wanted these proposals to be carried out. Currently the special envoy of the Russian president is in New York, meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Chernomyrdin’s negotiations with the US administration continued late into the night on Monday. We had no clear picture of these negotiations, and therefore early Tuesday morning we asked Chernomyrdin to tell us about the course of the negotiations and whether any definite results were attained.
Chernomyrdin said: “The situation is very serious and the approaches to it are discussed very seriously as well. Everything is very complicated, but we are working on it and will continue our work. In the course of the recent negotiations Russia acted as an intermediary. We do not participate in the conflict, we didn’t start it, but we want the problem to be solved, since Europe is close to our country.”
A representative of the US administration said that discussions with the Russians would possibly be resumed within days or even weeks. It was reported in the US media that the US administration considers the fact that Victor Chernomyrdin is involved in looking for a peaceful settlement to the Kosovo conflict as a special envoy for Russia to be a positive factor. Participation of Russia and negotiations regarding this point have been fruitful over the last two weeks, stated sources in the White House.
At the same time, the proposals of the Serbian government do not yet entirely meet the requirements of the US and NATO. NATO is still convinced that international forces which should be sent to Kosovo will be effective only if they represent a military contingent of NATO.
On Tuesday almost all key figures of the negotiations between Chernomyrdin and the White House left Washington: the US president flew to Europe, Al Gore started his US tour, and Chernomyrdin is in New York meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
This day can be called the day that political diplomacy became active in the question of settling the Balkan crisis. In the morning, Russian Premier Yevgeny Primakov met German Interior Minister Otto Schily in Moscow. Both politicians agreed that the settling of the conflict should be taken back to political methods, and that the UN should assume a special role in it.
In Bonn, G8 representatives managed to agree to conduct on Thursday a meeting of foreign ministers of the eight countries, which will be dedicated to the Yugoslavian problem.
PRIMAKOV MEETS WITH GERMAN INTERIOR MINISTER
ORT, Novosti, May 4, 1999, 15:00
The only way to settle the crisis in Yugoslavia and the humanitarian disaster in Kosovo is to stop military operations in Yugoslavia and return to political means of action with greater participation by the UN. This was stated by Prime Minister Primakov at his meeting with German Interior Minister Otto Schily in Moscow. Journalists were allowed access to the meeting only for a few minutes, but the press service of the Premier reported before the meeting that issues of mutual cooperation between Russia and Germany and the situation in Yugoslavia would be the most important points of the negotiations. Sergei Stepashin, first vice-premier of the government and chief of the Interior Ministry, was present at the meeting.