Izvestia, March 24, 2000, p. 2

Leaders of the Penza Komsomol (Communist Union of Youth) branch have stated that they want their city organization to quit the Russian Communist Union of Youth (RCUY). Thus they show their objection to the general line of the Central Committee of Komsomol, which decided to endorse Vladimir Putin in the presidential elections. Having embarrassed the “opportunists”, the Penza young communist leaguers have decided to join the Union of Communist Youth, a structure which split from the RCUY.


Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 24, 2000, p. 3

A large group of federal forces have been trying to “gain control” of Komsomolskoye, the native village of field commander Ruslan Gelaev, for the past three weeks. Even after detachments of the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry entered the settlement after many days of air-strikes and shelling and captured over 100 guerrillas, combat still take place now and then. Guerrillas make their sallies mostly at night. Several attempts to leave the settlement in small groups have been stopped. According to the report of Stanislav Kavun, deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Interior Troops, about 50 armed guerrillas are still hiding in basements and other refuges. According to reconnaissance, their commander Galaev with his bodyguards left for neighboring Alkhazurovo or Goiskoye settlement.

Chechen guerrilla detachments, numbering over 1,000 people, are mostly concentrated in the mountainous regions of south-east Chechnya. The Basaev brothers and Khattab are also there. According to some sources, they are preparing to break out from the Vedensk region in two directions: to the south into Dagestan, and to the north into the flatlands of Chechnya. To prevent such attempts, the commandment of the federal forces has started a special operation for combing the regional districts of the Chechen republic. Russian reconnaissance is uncovering more and more cases of guerrillas entering Chechen settlements, pretending to be local residents, and trying to enlist in the local militia. For example, while considering the applications of candidates for the law enforcement bodies ofin the Vedensk region, it was found out that all the “candidates” were Shamil Basaev’s relatives and helped him directly in his terrorist operations.


Moskovskiy Komsomolets, March 24, 2000, p. 2

Reports of problems with the election campaign of the Communist Party leader are being confirmed not only by ordinary Communists, but also by the party leaders. On Wednesday Ivan Melnikov, deputy chair of the Communist Party Presidium (which is equivalent to Zyuganov himself), met with students of Moscow State University. The young people bombarded Melnikov with questions.

Melnikov had to admit that the Communist Party can afford to send its observers to only 30% of polling stations, and the remaining 70% are open to tampering with the results. That’s why the leaders of the party consider it necessary to cooperate with other candidates’ campaign offices, for example with the Yavlinsky campaign, in order to monitor the biggest possible number of polling stations together. Responding to a question about the reasons for the deterioration of relations between the Communist Party and politicians like Tuleev, Govorukhin, Podberezkin, and Baburin, Melnikov said that so far the personnel policy of the Communist Party was not up to the mark, since senior posts have been given to some people without thorough consideration. The students also made Melnikov admit that the National-Patriotic Union is dead.

In the end, the students had some fun. Melnikov started to criticize the introduction of individual tax numbers. “The Communist Party supports the position of the Orthodox Church, which disapproves of introducing such numbers. According to the church, accepting a number (which is said to be a code of three sixes, 666, the number of the Beast), means rejecting one’s Christian name…” said Melnikov.


Moskovskiy Komsomolets, March 24, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday the Justice Ministry was to register the new party of power, Unity. A day earlier, Unity’s leaders Shoigu and Gryzlov officially announced their political priorities. At the presidential elections, Unity will support acting President Vladimir Putin – which no one actually doubted. At the St. Petersburg gubernatorial elections, Unity will support Valentina Matvienko. If Unity has had no alternatives to Putin from the very beginning, this is not the case with deputy Prime Minister Matvienko. Putin’s silence on this issue has sparked new rumors. Now they say that Ms. Matvienko is just being used to frighten current St. Petersburg governor Vladimir Yakovlev, and after that she will be forgotten.

However, according to leaders of the newly-born alliance, Shoigu and Gryzlov, the decision to support Ms. Matvienko at the St. Petersburg gubernatorial elections was made on the basis of the decision of the Unity St. Petersburg branch. Does that mean that the rumor about improvement of relations between Putin and Yakovlev is only a rumor?


Moskovskiy Komsomolets, March 24, 2000, p. 2

Alexander Shokhin, chair of the Duma committee for banks and financial markets, announced that it is possible to bring “Russian dollars” back from abroad. It is only necessary to issue some more state treasury notes.

Mr. Shokhin’s suggestion, which he called the “euroruble”, is as follows: the government issues low-yield hard currency Eurobonds, which should be guaranteed by a consortium of major western banks and international financial organizations. The Russians eagerly pay out their hard currency savings ($70 billion), the holders of “Russian dollars” abroad also buy up the bonds ($200 billion more); a long and merry queue will bring the money to the Finance Ministry, which at once will invest it in industry and manufacturing. Everything is perfect! There is only one question: will Russians believe the government once again, and will foreign asset holders believe it after August 1998? The Duma deputy gives no response to this question…


Trud, March 24, 2000, p. 4

Over 800 foreigners from 53 countries and 65 international organizations have received accreditation to monitor the March 26 presidential elections in various regions of Russia.

The conclusions of the invited observers about the presidential elections are of great importance for Russia, which is interested in consolidating its image as a democratic state. No wonder that representatives of the most influential international organizations, such as the OSCE, the European parliament, the Council of Europe, who have already arrived in Moscow, are being treated as well as possible. They are planning to meet with acting President Vladimir Putin, the chairs of both houses of the Russian Parliament, outstanding Russian political analysts, human rights experts, and media representatives. European emissaries will familiarize themselves with the activities of the campaign offices of political parties, where they will be given an opportunity to get acquainted with the mechanisms of organization and financing for the current presidential election campaign. According to observers themselves, what interests them most of all are the Russian information systems for efficient vote counting.


Parlamentskaya Gazeta, March 24, 2000, p. 2

Last Thursday the Central Election Commission (CEC) considered the request of presidential candidate Yevgeny Savostyanov to withdraw his candidacy, which was the top issue on the agenda of the meeting. After the meeting, Sevastyanov told journalists that he was the founder of Russian democracy and the entire right wing of Russian politics. And just as any loving parent, he decided not to interfere with his children’s careers. He had prepared three written requests to withdraw from the race: on behalf of himself, Konstantin Titov and Grigory Yavlinsky. In the end, only his own candidacy was withdrawn, in favor of Yavlinsky. Savostyanov is quite satisfied and happy, since now he can return to the treasury all 400,000 rubles of the money allotted for his election campaign. Another interesting point of the CEC agenda was discussion of some issues of Yavlinsky’s election campaign. The CEC decided that it would be absolutely useless to start a fight over this in the last days of the election campaign, at least from the point of view of legislation.

An attempt by Yevgeny Skornyakov, head of the Kirov regional election commission, to report on ratings of presidential candidates was sharply interrupted by Veshnyakov. It is unknown whether Moscow has already decided everything considering ratings, or the CEC members have ratings of their own. Anyway, it is rather suspicious that their rating is exactly the same as the national rating: 52.3%. This time the CEC again separated politics and real business. This was the final meeting of the CEC during this presidential race.


ORT, Novosti, March 23, 2000, 15:00

On March 23, acting President Vladimir Putin conducted a governmental meeting.

This meeting was the last before the presidential election, and it is possible that at the next governmental meeting personnel issues will be discussed. A new president tends to form a new government. However, the topic of the election was only briefly mentioned at the meeting. Summing up the results of his recent tour around Russian regions, Mr. Putin asked ministers not to interpret the achieved agreements as election campaign moves.

This concerns the inter-budgetary relations between the federal center and Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. To all appearances, the Finance Ministry’s problems with this are already over. The leaders of the republics agreed to work within the uniform legal territory of the Russian Federation, which is most important for strengthening the state, according to Vladimir Putin.

There were also two issues connected with living standards in Russia on the agenda of the governmental meeting. The first issue was the concept of healthcare for the next five years. In this connection Vladimir Putin stressed that the death rate in Russia is 50% higher than in developed countries. Mr. Putin asked the Healthcare Ministry to clarify the issue of free medical service. He also wished the authors of the concept to be closer to the people.

Vladimir Putin: “I will quote one fragment from the concept so that you will try to understand what it means: ‘A uniform multi-scale state of the organism and forms of a human’s life that provides physiologically grounded continuity of life and sufficient satisfaction with the state of his/her organism…’ Guess what that is? I think only Healthcare Minister Yury Leonidovich Shevchenko knows what it is. It is a definition of health.”

However, the healthcare minister was not offended, nor did he surrender. He just said, “Terminology is an international requirement.” Yury Shevchenko also called on everyone to look after their health, in order not to spend money on medicines. He also assessed Vladimir Putin’s health as a doctor, at the request of journalists: “He is an absolutely healthy man. May God preserve his health as well for many, many years.”

The last issue discussed at the governmental meeting was the draft program for the economic development of ethnic minorities in Russia’s North. Some 45 billion rubles will be spent on this in the next decade. This will be money from federal and local budgets.


ORT, Novosti, March 23, 2000, 15:00

On March 23, the General Prosecutor’s Office refused to institute criminal proceedings, due to the absence of direct evidence, in connection with the anti-terrorist exercises conducted by the Federal Security Service (FSS) on September 22, 1999 in Ryazan.

Legal proceedings will not be instituted in connection with the bomb scare in an apartment building at 16/14 Novoselov Street in Ryazan, orchestrated by the FSS. Investigators of the General Prosecutor’s Office examined the materials of the case in Ryazan and came to the conclusion that the actions of security services officers, aimed at checking the efficacy of measures for preventing possible terrorist acts, were performed within the law.

After FSS Director Nikolai Patrushev officially announced that special exercises were held in Ryazan, several media organization conducted their own “independent” investigations. Referring to the Ryazan incident, “Novaya Gazeta” directly accused the FSS of arranging and setting off the apartment block explosions in Moscow and Volgodonsk.

After that the NTV television network made a special program called “Independent Investigation” with practically the same intention: it is the FSS that is guilty of the explosions. Again the program is full of distortions of facts and even outright lies. Participants in the program, residents of those apartment blocks, confirm it.

Another TV provocation was the report on the Segodnya program on NTV about Russian servicemen allegedly selling Grad launchers to Chechen gunmen. In this program events that took place three years ago are presented as events of the current campaign. On March 23, Main Military Prosecutor Yury Demin called this material deliberate falsification. One can suppose that customers of these reports and journalists themselves were pursuing some political aims, as Yury Demin has announced. No comments are necessary here. What aims can be pursued by people who intend to cause friction between the public and the Army?


ORT, Novosti, March 23, 2000, 12:00

Detachment of federal forces have started a special operation for “purging” the mountain part of Chechnya, as Interior Minister Vladimir Rushaylo has announced. The operation is aimed at finding and destroying the remaining bases of the rebels.

Basaev and Khattab concentrate their forces in the south-east of the republic in order to later move to Dagestan. The number of extremists in the Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt Districts totals 1,000. Russian aviation and artillery are destroying them from the air.

The so-called “purge” of the village of Komsomolskoe is underway. According to the military, about 50 intransigent separatists remain there.