NEW YEAR’S EXCHANGE RATE
Komsomolskaya Pravda, December 29, 1999, p. 3
Yesterday the Central Bank of Russia set a record exchange rate for 1999: 27 rubles to the dollar. Last summer, the Director of the Central Bank had promised that ruble rate would not exceed this figure in 1999. So the promise has been kept.
Yesterday’s trading session on the Moscow Inter-Bank Currency Exchange, according to the results of which the Central Bank determines the ruble to dollar rate, was the last for 1999. For the next week, the exchange rate will depend not on the official economic data, but on the capacities of exchange office owners and dollar buyers. Russia will find out the new exchange rate only on January 6. It is likely that it will rise slightly, as usually happens after banks and the Exchange take their New Year vacation.
CANDIDATES UNDER PRESSURE IN MOSCOW REGION
Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 29, 1999, p. 2
Mikhail Men, a Yabloko member and a candidate for vice-governor of the Moscow Region, has denied rumors of serious discord in Grigory Yavlinsky’s movement.
“I know nothing about any discord in the faction,” he said. However, commenting on the results of the parliamentary election, he noted that they could have been more favorable for Yabloko, “if the leader had not made certain announcements, which sometimes were not submitted to the party’s and faction’s approval.” Men explained that he primarily meant “Yavlinsky’s insufficiently clear position” on the Chechen issue.
Speaking about the second round of the gubernatorial election in the Moscow region, Men admitted that both he and another candidate, Gromov, are coming under desperate pressure from the previous governor, Tyazhlov, and Gennady Seleznev, who backs him. According to Men, they want him and Gromov to withdraw their candidacies, “using their connections in economic and financial circles of the Moscow Region.” However, Men thinks it would be senseless to do so, since he has no doubts about Gromov’s success on January 9. There is only one thing that can prevent it: a low voter turnout. Men says that not everyone in the Moscow Region knows when the second round of the election will take place.
THE FIRST BLOOD
Izvestiya, December 29, 1999, p. 2
On December 28 a meeting of the commission for current issues presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko was held. The commission discussed relations between natural monopolies, the state budget, and consumers. According to preliminary data of the taxation department, which was presented at the meeting, in the first quarter of 2000 Russian Joint Energy Systems will transfer 2.3 billion rubles to the federal budget; and Gazprom will pay 23.7 billion rubles. It was decided to coordinate limits on energy consumption in accordance with specific norms before February 1. Ten days earlier, a list of state-funded organizations claiming subsidies is to be prepared. It was also announced that beginning in July 2000, the Defense Ministry would become a budget organization too.
A ROYAL PRESENT FOR MINERS
Izvestiya, December 29, 1999, p. 2
On December 28 good news was received from Washington: the World Bank has released a $100 million installment of a coal-mining loan to Russia. Thus, Russian miners got a royal present for the New Year, since the $100 million from the World Bank will be followed by the same sum from the Japanese government (the Japanese Ex-Im Bank has already asked for the money to be transferred). The miners will be able to live on the loan for at least half a year. Since the means from both the World Bank and Japanese government will be paid to the federal budget, the Russian government will be able to make the next repayment to the World Bank or to the IMF; and then to pay the miners in rubles, which will be collected as taxes and fees.
GANTAMIROV’S WILD DIVISION
Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 29, 1999, p. 1
According to official data from Chechnya, Bislan Gantamirov’s detachments will play the main part in the Chechen military operation. There are reports like the following: “Gantamirov’s militia is moving to the center of Grozny, in spite of fierce resistance from the Chechen guerrillas.” And Defense Minister Igor Sergeev reports that “Gantamirov’s militia have achieved a turning-point in Grozny.”
So we have a nice example of propaganda: the Chechen people have decided to fight against the insolent guerrillas themselves. Apparently, after the military operation in Chechnya is ended, it will be Gantamirov’s liberation army that will be committed to maintain public order in the republic. Gantamirov has already been appointed the first deputy representative of the Russian government in Chechnya.
However, one colonel was indignant when asked about “the militia”: “Who is Gantamirov? Nobody saw them on the frontline!”
“They will arrive in Grozny on the heels of the federal army and will be proclaimed the victors,” he added. “There are just a few hundred of these militiamen – and they make a mountain out of a mole-hill!”
Indeed, information about the strength of Gantamirov’s detachment is rather contradictory. At first it was said that 1500 – 3000 people joined his army. But now, only 700 Chechen militiamen are said to be attacking Grozny. Which means in reality there are no more than 300 – 400 people. It is difficult to say how many of them are taking part in storming Grozny.
MEETING OF THE UNITY BLOC
ORT, Novosti, December 28, 1999, 12:00
The Unity movement has called on all Russian citizens to support Vladimir Putin at the upcoming presidential election. This is the resolution unanimously adopted by the participants of today’s meeting of Unity.
Several key issues concerning the future of the Unity faction were supposed to be discussed at today’s meeting: summing up the parliamentary election results, elections of the faction leader and the faction’s candidate for the post of Duma speaker. The meeting began at 10 a.m. At the very beginning, those present decided to reform the bloc into an interregional movement which is supposed to support Putin at the presidential election. The meeting participants released a corresponding statement and called on Russian citizens to support the current prime minister.
The government does not intend to divide Duma deputies into friends and enemies, but it counts on the support of the Unity faction, Putin said. He presumes that Sergei Shoigu, who is number one on Unity’s federal list, should retain both the posts of Emergency Minister and the leader of the movement. Representatives of the Unity movement hope that a considerable number of independent deputies will join them in the Duma. The planned number of members of the Unity faction is 72.
NEWS FROM GROZNY
NTV, Segodnya, December 28, 1999, 12:00
The principal military actions in the North Caucasus are now developing around Grozny and in the southern mountain regions of Chechnya. Russian aviation continues to launch air-strikes against guerrilla detachments and their bases. Yesterday guerrilla bases in the Shatoi and Vedeno districts and the Argun canyon in the mountain part of Chechnya were bombed. According to the military, the bases of such field commanders as Khattab, Basayev, and Arsanov are located in the Shatoi district.
According to the latest data, Aslan Maskhadov’s headquarters in the mountains was destroyed. The military notes that the resistance of the guerrillas in the southern direction has noticeably weakened. In recent days the guerrillas have experienced serious shortages of food and ammunition, since the federal forces are primarily targeting their storage facilities.
The tactics of the federal units in the southern direction remain the same: artillery and aviation strikes make the militants retreat further in the mountains and prevent terrorist groups from breaking into the flatlands of Chechnya, which are already liberated by the federal forces. The guerrillas try to break through to Grozny every night, but the city is encircled by the federal forces and all such attempts are suppressed.
The operation to liberate Grozny from bandit formations is still underway. Hard fighting is taking place in the Khankala, Staraya Sunzha, and Staropromyslovsky districts. The guerrillas continue to strongly resist the federal units. The city is well defended: fortifications have been built, almost all approaches to the city are mined. All this complicates the advance of the Russian forces and the Chechen militia. According to Beslan Gantamirov, the militia recently established control over the Staropromyslovsky district of Grozny, but the federal command must check this information. According to the military, a large number of guerrillas – from 1,500 to 2,000 people – are concentrated in the city, and they can counter-attack at any moment.
Defense Minister Sergeev told the Interfax agency today that the Russian detachments and Gantamirov’s militia have reached a radical turning-point. According to Sergeev, the federal units have suppressed the main centers of resistance in the Chechen capital, although the military in Mozdok, where the staff of the Russian group of forces is located, is cautious in its comments concerning Gantamirov’s claim that his detachment has managed to establish control over the Staropromyslovsky district of Grozny. Detachments of field commanders Basayev, Raduev, Arsanov, and Khattab have reportedly left the Chechen capital. They are now reported to be located in the settlement of Dochu-Borzoi in the mountains, and are preparing for a partisan war.
VALERY MANILOV ON THE SITUATION IN GROZNY
ORT, Segodnya, December 28, 1999, 15:00
Colonel General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the General Staff, spoke about the situation in Grozny today. Grozny is besieged, and the noose is tightening. Today the Russian forces are 2-4 kilometers from the center of the Chechen capital. About 1,500 guerrillas are in the city at present. This was reported by Colonel General Manilov. According to him, 61% of residential districts in Chechnya are under the control of the federal forces. About 7,000 bandits have been destroyed. Manilov states that the communication system of the guerrillas has been practically destroyed, and serious damage has been inflicted on their material and technical resources. The general denied reports about a missile strike which allegedly destroyed Maskhadov’s headquarters. There is no so-called Maskhadov’s headquarters, the general remarked. There is a group of people in Chechnya who are rushing around the republic in search of salvation. Basayev, Khattab, and Maskhadov do not stay in one place for more than two or three hours. However, Manilov said, the military possesses information about their routes and temporary locations. The general also said that when the operation in Chechnya is completed, a division of armed forces, a brigade of Interior Troops and a group of border guard troops will close the Chechen border against penetration of bandits, money, arms, and ammunition from abroad.