Izvestia, March 23, 2000, p. 1

“Life itself has shown that this treaty was correct THEN, that it was probably the only correct solution…”

“The Constitution proclaims the equality of all subjects of the Russian Federation…”

“Tatarstan and Mintimer Sharipovich Shaimiyev understand it.”

With these words acting president Vladimir Putin opened a session of the organization committee for preparations for the 1000th anniversary of the Tatar capital, Kazan. Putin was referring to the treaty which Moscow and Kazan signed several years ago, and which clearly gave Tatarstan too much independence.

On the eve of the presidential election, Putin just had to visit at least one powerful republic with a competent president.

Shortly before Putin’s visit to Tatarstan, the Public Center called on Tatars to boycott the election. Shaimiyev endorsed Putin. Everyone expected that what Putin would say in Kazan would give some indication of the future relations of the federal center with powerful and much too independent regions. First and foremost, these regions are Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Putin was met in Kazan as if he were president already, but he made it clear that the political and economic privileges of some regions would soon be history.

“Everything should be brought into line with the Constitution,” Putin said. This means that Moscow may force Kazan to sign a new treaty with the federal center soon. It is reasonable to expect the same to happen to Bashkortostan. It is no coincidence that after his visits to Kazan and Nabereznhye Chelny, Putin flew to Murtaza Rakhimov in Ufa, Bashkortosta, though his schedule was supposed to take him elsewhere.

Before coming to Tatarstan, Putin visited Nizhny Novgorod, where he met with dozens of mayors of Russian cities at the conference of the Union of Russian Cities. The mayors had every reason to be satisfied, because Putin told them exactly what they had wanted to hear. Calling the conflicts between mayors and governors an absurdity, Putin paid a compliment to those present: “Your place in the scheme of things is special. Mayors and local legislators are the real foundation the economy rests on.” Obviously, Putin could have stopped there, but he got carried away and said that “mayors should be given powers as broad as they can wield.” Putin admitted that he was all for expanding the powers of local government, and promised to expand the powers of mayors following the election.

The fact is, Putin is waging war on certain governors. That is why he is seeking the support of mayors. These statements could just be slogans, and Putin may not intend to apply them in practice. But what if he meant business? Yeltsin’s words about sovereignty cost him dearly, and a year later he wished he had kept silent. Putin is in a better position than Yeltsin was in 1991: he does not have to throw anybody out of the Kremlin. The power hierarchy (it is split into the federal, regional, and municipal levels now) can be restored without much trouble as it is, but reliance on still-weak local governments may wreck the regional administrative mechanisms.

Only recently, governors were threatened with the idea that they would be appointed rather than elected. Many of them came to terms with it, and even offered variants of restriction of gubernatorial powers to the Kremlin. In return, they wanted only one thing: the right to appoint mayors.

Until recently, the Kremlin never responded to these proposals openly, but judging by Putin’s words in Nizhny Novgorod, the federal center has chosen a different way. This assumption is confirmed by the recent letter to Putin from four local government heads in the Republic of Mary-El. Its authors asked Putin to dismiss the president of their republic and introduce direct presidential rule (which is not envisaged by the local Constitution, by the way). It follows that the Kremlin is already playing the “mayor card” in its game against the governors.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 23, 2000, p. 2

The Yugoslavian army will become an “enemy” for almost 1,500 servicemen and 3300 armored vehicles for the next two weeks. The script stipulates actions to “repel a Yugoslavian invasion.” In this particular case, the NATO command is using the term “enemy” almost without the quotation marks…

Russia was also invited to flex its muscles together with NATO contingents, but Moscow politely refused. The Kremlin is of the opinion that participation in such exercises would be shameful for the Russian military. After all, the Serbians are more friends to us than enemies. Besides, even though NATO generals hotly deny the anti-Yugoslavian bias of the exercises, our command is aware of the true goals and objectives of the planned action. In accordance with the Resolution of the UN Security Council, Yugoslavian border guards and police should have entered Kosovo long ago for protection of the borders, churches, and monuments. Yet NATO – and specifically the United States – call the tune there nowadays, and Energetic Response 2000 is supposed to make it clear to Milosevic and the whole world how NATO peacekeepers will treat everyone who interferes in their zone of responsibility.

The Russian Defense Ministry believes that the exercises will not enhance stability in the region, where clashes between the Serbs and Albanians (with NATO servicemen pointedly looking the other way) occur every day, and where noncombatants are still being murdered. Russia did everything it could to prevent the exercises: our official representative General Zavarzin “expressed his concern with regard to the planned exercises.”

A source in the Defense Ministry: This was all he could do.

Out to dominate in Kosovo, Washington deliberately escalates the tension. It is doing everything it can to force the Yugoslavian military (fed up with watching Serbs being murdered) to move in. Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry openly admit that if events continue along these lines, Russian peacekeepers will leave.

A source: Russia refuses to be a screen behind which NATO puts its plans into motion…


Izvetsia, March 23, 2000, p. 2

Detectives say that Trustkreditbank executives used dummy corporations to cash $20 million, which was later sent to Chechnya via couriers.

According to a source in the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, several searches were conducted on March 21 in the Khleb Rossii and IRS banks, at eight currency exchange offices, four private companies, and twelve apartments.

Viktor Martynov, PR Manager of the Interior Ministry’s Investigation Committee, says that the searches in the banks and apartments yielded 23 official stamps of nonexistent organizations. Forged documents, “black” accounting books, computer databases, and cash (1.5 million rubles and almost $67,000) were also confiscated. Twenty-five corresponding accounts were frozen.

Anatoly Petukhov, Senior Deputy Director of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime: It was a gang mostly comprised of Chechens…

Investigators monitored the activities of the gang for months, and discovered that the bank was receiving money the gang had extorted or received through all sorts of financial swindles.. The money was cashed in Trustkreditbank via dummy corporations and sent to Chechnya. In Chechnya, it was spent on weapons, food, and salaries to mercenaries and guerrillas. Investigation data indicates that over $20 million was cashed this way in 1999.

The following dummy corporations are in the focus of attention of law enforcement agencies: Rassvet-98, Servis-Snab, Oligarkhiya, Optimum-N, Paduga-Prim, and K-Trust…


NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, March 22, 2000, 10:00

Literally a few minutes before the deadline, presidential candidate Yevgeny Savostianov announced that he was out of the presidential race – and urged his followers to vote for Grigori Yavlinsky.

Question: What are you going to do now?

Alexander Veshnyakov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission: We received a proper document from candidate Savostianov to the effect that he was quitting the presidential race. The document was forwarded to us on time, and it will be at the top of the agenda at our meeting today. I do not have any doubts as to the outcome of the discussion.

Question: Does it mean that his request will be accepted?

Answer: Yes. Along with that, we are going to discuss the appeals forwarded to us with regard to candidate Grigori Yavlinsky and his election campaign…


NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, March 22, 2000, 14:00

Yevgeny Savostianov: I think it very important… I mean showing that millions and millions of Russians still have faith in their own strength and in democracy; that millions and millions do not want bureaucratic dictatorship or censorship. On March 26, these millions should summon their strength and support Grigori Yavlinsky, a candidate representing all democratic forces…


NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, March 22, 2000, 14:00

Acting commander of the united federal group General Gennadi Troshev has been hospitalized with a respiratory ailment, according to sources at the Caucasus Military District headquarters.

According to the sources, Troshev had a cold on Monday, when he was welcoming acting president Vladimir Putin at the Severny airfield.

Troshev stood in for commander of the united federal group Army General Kazantsev. The latter is on leave, as is commander of the western group General Shamanov.

For the time being, the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya is commanded by General Baranov, Chief-of-Staff of the united federal group.