Trud, February 18, 2000, p. 1

On February 11-14, the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) did another opinion poll. One of the poll’s themes concerned the policy program of acting President Vladimir Putin.

Question: Recently Vladimir Putin declared that he will wait a little longer before announcing his policy program, to prevent it from “being attacked”. Which of the given opinions is closest to yours?

The program should be announced and people should be given the opportunity to discuss it. (29% of respondents)

It’s not the right time to announce the program and prompt criticism. (20%)

Putin has no program at all. (12%)

I trust Putin without having to see any program. (14%)

I don’t understand programs. (14%)

I am uncertain. (1%)

According to this poll, over a quarter of Russians (29%) think that Putin’s policy program should not only be announced, but also that there should be the opportunity to discuss it. Another 12% of respondents think that this document simply does not exist. However, every fifth respondent was against announcing the program, “in order not to provide the opportunity for criticizing it”. One-seventh of respondents said they trusted Putin, regardless of whether he has a program. Thus, the opinions may be divided into two almost equal parts. However, it should be mentioned that many people would like to become familiar with the document in which Vladimir Putin will present his opinion on economic and social development of Russia.


Izvestia, February 18, 2000, p. 4

General Alexander Zdanovich, head of the Program Managing Department of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSS), believes that there will be no large-scale terrorist acts on the upcoming anniversary of Chechen deportation, on February 23. He also noted that, in his opinion, statements of Chechen field commanders about their plans to carry out terrorist acts should be regarded as a form of psychological pressure. “We do not rule out some attempted terrorist acts in various areas of Chechnya, but there can be no question of a large-scale terrorist campaign. The separatists have neither the power nor the opportunity to do that,” said Zdanovich.


Izvestia, February 18, 2000, p. 4

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, assistant to acting President Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday in his interview with Interfax that a post of special representative for human rights in Chechnya is likely to be established. “This idea is currently being developed,” he said. He also stressed that if this decision is made, only a Russian citizen will be appointed to this position. Earlier, after negotiations with acting President Putin, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson cited the Russian party as saying that only a foreigner would be the representative.


Izvestia, February 18, 2000, p. 4

Igor Sergeev, Russian Defense Minister, says that the military phase of the third stage of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya is coming to an end. As he said on Thursday in Moscow, “the counter-terrorist operation in Dagestan, and then in Chechnya, is aimed at destroying the center of terrorist activities, which are dangerous not only for Russia but also for adjacent states”.

At a meeting in the Russian Army Cultural Center, Sergeev said that about 4,000 soldiers and officers have been awarded medals and decorations for “heroism” in the course of the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus; 30 of them were given the Hero of Russia award.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 18, 2000, p. 2

Russia and Belarus have not determined the conditions of their own union yet, but other states are already wishing to join them. This theme has already been discussed in Yugoslavia and Armenia. Now Kazakhstan is among the hopefuls too. Slavic groups in Kazakhstan intend to call on Nursultan Nazarbaev to hold a referendum on joining the Russia-Belarus union. However, the Kazakh President is not rushing into the union, believing that Kazakhstan should develop as an independent state. Strangely, the Kazakh Communist Party does not consider unification to be reasonable. Well, Russia has lost the confidence of communists.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 18, 2000, p. 2

The closer the elections come, the more active various pollsters and research groups become. Every day the media present new popularity ratings and all kinds of forecasts. And although it is useless to make plans in Russia, everybody, from pensioners to financial and political gurus, is trying to predict the course of the presidential elections.

The Kremlin and Putin’s milieu intend to win in the first round of voting. Zyuganov says this will never happen, and the victory (read 55% of votes) will be his. The official presidential race has not started yet, and the only way to promote a candidate is to boost a popularity rating. When people hear from morning until night that “there is the only real candidate”, some are getting used to this idea, others are starting to protest against it. Official ratings are countered with unofficial ones. The greatest sensations take place on the Internet. The virtual world openly opposes the real world. The Internet chooses Grigory Yavlinsky, the Yabloko leader.

Here is the website of “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”: Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic Party) on 1.9%; Gennady Zyuganov (Communist Party) on 8.5%; Vladimir Putin on 39.2%; Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko) on 41.8%.

The rating on the Politics section of the Kulichki website: Zyuganov on 6%, Zhirinovsky on 10%, Putin on 24%, Yavlinsky on 27%.

Golden search site: Titov and Govorukhin both on 4%; Zhirinovsky on 0%; Zyuganov on 16%; Putin on 25%; Yavlinsky on 33%.

Virtual Elections site: Govorukhin on 0.57%; Skuratov on 0.77%; Zyuganov on 4.98%; Putin on 15.33%; Yavlinsky on 58.62%.

Infoline site: overall, Yavlinsky has six times more votes than Putin. Zhirinovsky is not in the charts at all; Zyuganov has a negative rating.

The data from the Rusinfo site turned to be the most surprising: Yavlinsky got votes at a ratio of 14:3 (Zyuganov), 14:2 (Zhirinovsky), and 14:1 (Putin). Thus, Yavlinsky got 14 times more votes than the other candidates.

There are fewer sites where Putin is leading, and Yavlinsky is a close second. It is obvious that not all Russians use the World Wide Web, but facts are facts. Besides, it is mostly young people who use the Internet, and they do not trust poll results seen on television.


Komsomolskaya Pravda, February 18, 2000, p. 2

On February 16, someone calling himself Shamil Basaev on the www.jikhad.org website appealed to all readers to kill acting President Vladimir Putin. Here is the text of the appeal: “The criminal Putin has been sentenced to death. The person who carries out the sentence will earn Allah’s divine favor. The blood of Chechen people will be paid for by Putin’s death. Notice is hereby given to all faithful Moslems that our Islamic organization will give a reward of $2,500,000 for fulfilling the fatwah (death sentence). Those wishing to find out more about the reward, fax +44 870 137-3118 or e-mail at fatwah@jikhad.org in Arabic, English, or Russian… ALLAH AKBAR! Imam Shamil Basaev, 8 Shavval 1429.”

As the online newspaper Gazeta.ru learned, the jikhad.org domain was registered on February 11, 2000 by the Cognigen Corporation ISP, Seattle, US. The customer and owner of the site is Exodus Communications Inc., Santa Clara, California.

The fax number starts with 44, which means that the fax machine is in Great Britain. The city code is 870, which is rather curious taking into account that Great Britain is currently changing its coding system, adding another 1, so the new code is 1870. So far, both codes work. The point is that code 870 works, but when dialing 1870 the answering machine says that “the number is not connected”. Three small towns – Benbekul, Kernan, and Gregory – possess both international codes.

So, we decided to check out how far the authors of this provocation or political joke will go in their game (it is difficult to believe that the author was really Shamil Basaev). And I sent a message: “I’m a reporter and rather frequently attend Putin’s press conferences in the Kremlin. So I have a real chance to fulfil the fatwah. I’m interested in details of paying the reward if I succeed. Reply to…” In four minutes I received an answer in two languages, English and Russian.


Russian Television, February 17, 2000, 19:00

The first candidate has been disqualified from the presidential race: the Central Election Commission has refused to register Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a candidate.

The issue of property has spoiled everything. In his property declaration, Zhirinovsky did not mention one of his son’s apartments, located in Moscow on Koshtoyants Street. The total living space is 38.4 sq. meters. Zhirinovsky even referred to it as a “miserable” apartment. However, neither this argument, nor attempts of LDPR leader to prove that it was not his son’s signature in the purchase and sale contract, appeared convincing to the CEC.


Russian Television, February 17, 2000, 19:00

On February 17 Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo showed us Bislan Gantamirov. Something mysterious had been happening for several days with the commander of the Chechen militia. On February 12 he was meant to come to Moscow for a press conference; however, the same day it was reported that Gantamirov had been admitted to a military hospital. He re-appeared on February 17.

Gantamirov: “I wasn’t wounded, I was having a pre-planned health checkup. I had not such a possibility for many years, and after Grozny was liberated, when there was a temporary lull between the first and the second stage of the counter-terrorist operation, I decided to make use of the opportunity.”