THE ARMY AND NAVY WILL GET THEIR NEW TOYS IN 1999
Izvestia, July 20, 1999, p. 1
Financial difficulties notwithstanding, the Armed Forces will get their new toys in 1999. According to Colonel General Anatoly Sitnov, Armaments Commander of the Armed Forces, ten Topol-M ICBMs will be bought and made combat-ready. The Air Force will get a new TU-160 strategic bomber, and the Anti-Aircraft Forces some new radar installations.
Reports of INTERFAX news agency indicate that the Navy will receive a new nuclear submarine, a big ASW ship, a missile carrier, and a landing boat. One hundred armored personnel carriers, tanks, and mobile artillery pieces will be bought for the general assignment forces.
Ten satellites will be bought for the Defense Ministry.
FIRES IN RUSSIA: AN UPDATE
Izvestia, July 20, 1999, p. 1
Forest fires are raging across Russia. According to a Federal Forestry Service press release on July 19, 886 forest fires were registered throughout the country on July 18.
The fire-fighting effort involves 8,500 people, 112 aircraft, and 1,425 vehicles. Since the fire season began, a total of 21,437 fires have been reported.
PROMINENT JOURNALIST MUGGED
Izvestia, July 20, 1999, p. 1
Anatoly Yezhelev, Vice President of the International Confederation of Journalist Unions (only recently chairman of the St. Petersburg Journalists Union and a reporter for “Izvestia”) was mugged on July 18. Kicking Yezhelev several times (breaking a leg and knocking out some of his teeth), the attackers ran away with a package of documents they withdrew from his shirt. Yezhelev claims that the documents were purely personal.
These days, Yezhelev is head of the informational-analytical team of Vadim Gustov’s campaign headquarters for gubernatorial elections in the Leningrad region. Law enforcement agencies do not rule out the possibility that the attack might be related to this aspect of the victim’s activities. An investigation is underway.
ONISCHENKO: THIS IS CONGOLESE-CRIMEAN HEMORRHAGIC FEVER
Izvestia, July 20, 1999, p. 2
As of July 19, 38 children and 52 adults were hospitalized in the settlement of Oblivskaya, Rostov Region. Six people, including three children, have already died. Gennadi Onischenko, Senior Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation, flew to the Rostov Region.
Onischenko believes that we are dealing with Congolese-Crimean hemorrhagic fever transmitted by insects and domestic animals. At least 15 kinds of this fever have been registered in Russia so far…
FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE CONDUCTS A SPECIAL OPERATION IN IZHEVSK
Izvestia, July 20, 1999, p. 2
The Federal Security Service conducted a special operation in the city of Izhevsk during which illegal workshops manufacturing firearms were wiped out.
Sources in the PR department of the Udmurtian Republican Directorate of the Federal Security Service maintain that several private homes were raided and every one of them had a workshop manufacturing firearms, usually with silencers. Experts believe that the spare parts previously stolen from nearby firearms-manufacturing factories would have sufficed for 15 submachine guns and 20 pieces more. Informers and operational data indicate that the firearms were meant for the underworld, both in Udmurtia and beyond.
YELTSIN SIGNED OVER 20 LAWS ADOPTED BEFORE THE PARLIAMENTARY VACATION
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 20, 1999, p. 1
President Boris Yeltsin signed more than 20 laws passed by the Russian parliament before the vacations.
According to the presidential PR department, some of the laws introduce corrections into the 1999 budget. The “package” of laws is related to social matters: the law “On State Social Support”, amendments of some articles of the law on pensions, addenda to the law on social protection for disabled persons, and others.
AMERICAN-UKRAINIAN EXERCISES PLANNED
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 20, 1999, p. 1
Later this week, the United States and Ukraine will organize exercises in the Mediterranean within the framework of the NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program. Diplomatic sources are quoted as claiming that the exercises will take place between July 21 and 24.
MOST RUSSIANS DISLIKE THE PURELY WESTERN WAY OF DEVELOPMENT
Delovoi Vtornik (supplement to “Tribuna”), July 20, 1999, p. 1
Not so long ago the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center conducted a poll. Respondents were approached with the question “What kind of state would you like Russia to be?” As it turned out, the idea of development along purely Western lines is not very popular with Russians. At the same time, most Russians do not want a return to what it was only recently.
an empire and monarchy as before 1917: 3%;
a socialist state with Communist ideology (like the USSR): 22%;
like countries of the West but with its own way of development: 40%;
a country with a unique regime and way of development: 22%;
do not know: 13%.
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ELENA BATURINA, WIFE OF THE MAYOR OF MOSCOW
NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, July 17, 1999, 22:00
Always carefully staying out of spotlight until now, Elena Baturina, Yuri Luzhkov’s wife, gave her first TV interview in the wake of the recent scandal. The other day law enforcement agencies confiscated documents from the office of Inteka, Baturina’s company.
Baturina: A check of the bank accounts of the company I own is attributed to the criminal proceedings. More than two weeks ago we were informed by the Vladimir Federal Security Service that they confiscated our documents in relation to the scandal in which Russian money was being transferred to Swiss banks. Allegedly, some sums went through my company’s bank accounts. There has never been anything like that: we have never had anything to do with such companies… I mean no contracts, not even protocols on intentions… That is why we protested…
Baturina is stone-cold certain that Inteka never broke the rules, and specifically has never had anything to do with the companies whose activities are now being investigated by law enforcement agencies of the city of Vladimir.
Baturina: We work with plastics, it’s a very narrow and highly specialized business. Our products must have been seen by many on the NTV network… Specifically, when they showed the Luzhniki complex. The plastic chairs there are made by our company. Along with that, we make buckets and all that stuff. Perhaps they think we launder money in the buckets we manufacture…
According to Baturina, her company already appealed to the prosecutor’s office but has had no reply so far. Baturina herself does not doubt that law enforcement agencies will never find anything, because there is nothing to be found, and she is fairly ironic.
Baturina: I have already chosen my vocation. It’s business. Plus the presidency of the Russian Riders Federation. As it is, I have too much on my plate to think about going in for other activities either in Russia or abroad…
ORT LAUNCHES INFORMATION WAR
NTV (Independent Television), “Itogi” program, July 18, 1999, 21:00
Last Friday, ORT (Russian Public Television) declared an information war on Media-MOST, NTV (Independent Television), and Gazprom. This is clearly a move by ORT owner Boris Berezovsky, particularly since he himself admits as much. Read his interview with “Vremya MN”, published on Tuesday under the title “All They Can Do Is Kill Me”. In the part of it dedicated to the MOST group, Berezovsky gives an almost verbatim account of what was said on the “Vremya” TV program and threateningly adds that normalizing relations with Gusinsky and his media group is completely impossible. It does not take a genius to understand that the whole matter is rooted in the situation Berezovsky has found himself in.
Investigation of the Aeroflot case, in which Berezovsky is implicated, has been extended by five months.
A corruption case of unprecedented scope is brewing. The originals of financial documents the Swiss prosecutor’s office intends to hand over to its Russian counterparts are a serious matter.
What really irks Berezovsky is that his clout with the Kremlin is diminishing. Roman Abramovich, Berezovsky’s protege and owner of Sibneft, is now playing the part of eminence grise. Abramovich has effectively elbowed his political godfather into the background. Kremlin insiders maintain that Berezovsky may restore his influence and consolidate his position again only if he manages to deal with three persistent pains in the neck: establish control over Gazprom, which is now distrusted by the Kremlin; silence NTV, which has always been disliked by the Kremlin (to put it mildly); and remove Luzhkov from the presidential race, because the Kremlin openly fears him.
It certainly seems that the Kremlin has once again concentrated all its power on fighting NTV. Reports in the media indicated last week that the editorial offices of all media owned by Media-MOST (NTV, “Segodnya” newspaper, “Itogi” magazine, “Echo of Moscow” radio) are now being checked by the Federal Security Service and the Tax Police, on the personal orders of Alexander Voloshin, Director of the Presidential Administration. It was also rumored that Voloshin promised Mikhail Yuriev, Duma Deputy Chairman, the post of deputy premier if he manages to organize the work of a group of lawyers who succeed in finding sufficient reason to justify revoking NTV’s broadcasting license. Last but not least, some rumors in the media indicated that plans are being made to nationalize NTV.
In 1994, it was Korzhakov who was the driving force behind the struggle against NTV, the MOST group, and Gusinsky. These days, we have another Korzhakov: Voloshin. It is Voloshin and not Berezovsky who stands behind this whole information war. To a certain extent, Voloshin is a unique figure. One can have different opinions on his predecessors like Sergei Filatov or Anatoly Chubais, but it is impossible to deny that when they were appointed they were already well-known politicians.
Everybody knew, for example, that Yumashev had spent ten years at Yeltsin’s side and was his unofficial advisor. In other words, all these appointments were motivated by these considerations whether the rest of the country liked it or not. On the other hand, Voloshin’s appointment was a clear case of Lenin’s slogan that “even a cook is capable of running the country”. To tell the truth, Alexander Voloshin has never been a cook. He did work with Berezovsky, however, and became known in certain circles as a man of Berezovsky and Abramovich. Voloshin hates to be reminded of it, but at a certain point in his career he did head the Esta company, which was directly associated with Berezovsky’s notorious AVVA.
It was Voloshin’s company, acting on behalf of AVVA, that serviced one of AVVA’s largest deals with Chara Bank, a villainous financial pyramid. In the deal, Chara invested most of what it had collected from trusting Russians (over $5.5 million, in fact) in AVVA shares. After that AVVA quietly disappeared, and Chara soon went broke. This saga is an episode in the criminal proceedings against Chara… By the way, Voloshin is implicated in another criminal case as well, which was never finished: the deals of Agropromservis. This is the man who now heads the presidential administration, a position which demands a lily-white person. How can it be possible? The answer is simple. The Kremlin is said to value Voloshin as an obedient and loyal servant who is always ready to follow any order from the presidential inner circle…
Concluding the commentary directed against Media-MOST and Gazprom yesterday, the “Vremya” anchorman was blunt.
Pavel Sheremet: The executive branch of the government intends to have the pre-election situation in the country under its control…
Nothing else need be said. Only two financial and information resources are still beyond the Kremlin’s control: Gazprom and Media-MOST. Hence everything now being broadcast on ORT.
It was reported on “Vremya” that it remains to be seen whether or not Media-MOST will transfer another $15 million to the Finance Ministry as loan repayments. In fact, the sum was transferred to the Finance Ministry in full on Thursday, and everybody knows that.
Actually, a week ago ORT went so far as to announce that Gazprom is actually worth just over a billion dollars, while Russian Joint Energy Systems is worth even less than that, somewhere around $850 million. In reality, however, these two companies are worth between $15 and $18 billion each according to various estimates.
If we get down to figures, here is something exclusive, something nobody has announced yet. Last summer a group of major investment banks prepared our company (NTV, that is) for listing on one of the world’s largest stock exchanges in order to sell a package of NTV shares to the highest bidder. Well, NTV alone was estimated to be worth between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion. This figure was even registered with the US Federal Securities Commission. Shortly afterwards the same banks officially estimated Media-MOST to be worth between $1.8 billion and $2.2 billion.
Enough of economics, let’s get back to this whole political mess. All grudges against him notwithstanding, President Yeltsin is a big-league politician, and on the eve of ending his term in office he must be thinking of eternity now: his place in history, stepping down quietly and with dignity, handing over power to a worthy man, that sort of thing. At least, so one would like to believe. Alas, nothing indicates that the presidential inner circle is now thinking of these things.
What is happening now boils down to this: whether Russians will chose their next president by democratic procedures, or have it all done for them by a narrow circle of Kremlin functionaries who would not balk at making Aksenenko president and Voloshin his premier just in order to retain their positions near the feeding trough.
AT THE GOVERNMENT PRESIDIUM SESSION
NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, July 19, 1999, 12:00
Chaired by Premier Sergei Stepashin, the scheduled government presidium sessiont took place at 10 a.m. today in Moscow. Those present discussed the problem of the so-called Northern deliveries .
Stepashin suggested dividing responsibility between the federal center and the regions.
Stepashin: I think the problems implied here are the responsibility of the regional leaders as well. The use in the regions of the budget sums set aside for the Northern deliveries is unsatisfactory, let’s face it. The same can be said about the control established by the federal power structures. Hence the constant delays. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the regional authorities intend to leave and spend the winter elsewhere.
Yes, federal authorities are responsible for the Northern deliveries timetable. We are going to stick to the schedule and do not plan to dodge responsibility. At the same time, regional authorities are also responsible, and shifting responsibility in such matters is a crime…
It was reported at the presidium session that over 500 million rubles which the federal center transferred to the Northern regions were misused in 1998. The federal center may enlist the services of the General Prosecutor’s Office to discover what happened to the money.