Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 31, 2000, p. 2

Today’s main news from the Russian White House is that acting President Vladimir Putin plans to carry out a 10% staff reduction among officials of the federal ministries. Yesterday Putin held a meeting concerning this issue right after the government meeting. The meeting was greatly anticipated, since everybody wondered if Putin would chair the meeting himself or would charge Kasianov with this task.

Putin chaired the meeting himself, since until his inauguration as president he is still the prime minister. Besides, he kept to his old habit of being late. He was 15 minutes late for yesterday’s meeting. Previously he could blame it on Boris Yeltsin, who liked to schedule an audience with the prime minister early in the morning; but now Putin is his own master.

First of all Putin assured Mikhail Kasianov that the work of the government has not been disrupted, despite two election campaigns in a row. And although, according to Putin, the Cabinet cannot stay out of politics, this time it managed to mostly deal with “managing the economy, finances and social services”.

Now Putin should appoint Kasianov as prime minister.

The acting President also noted that during the election campaign “we did not cheat people with empty promises”; however, he said that promises stipulated in the budget are to be implemented. The main aim of the future government will be to improve living standards in Russia.

Putin and all the ministers approved of housing reform plans for 2001-05. Putin once again showed his special affection for the army. In his words, “there will be no army reforms if we do not provide the military with accommodation”. He also promised to support the program of “accommodation certificates for the military”.

As far as Russians can remember, Mikhail Gorbachev once promised to give every Soviet family its own apartment by 2000. However, the new head of state is very cautious, just as any former intelligence officer. He says: “It is necessary to resolve the housing problem considering both the capacities of the state and the needs of the Russian people.”


Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 31, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday 20 guerrillas were released from the notorious detention cell in Chernokozovo, Chechnya. All 20 former prisoners used to be members of illegal armed formations. According to Valery Galperin, head of the temporary press-center of the Chief Penintentiary Executive department in Chechnya, they were held in the detention cell for some time, and then released after investigators found out that none of them committed any major crimes, which means their hands are not “stained with Russian blood”. This means that they all should be amnestied ,according to the December 1999 decree of the Duma.

According to an order of acting Prosecutor of Chechnya Vladimir Kravchenko, the criminal cases against these people have been dropped.

According to the Chief Penintentiary Executive department, prisoners are always amnestied “in groups”. Last time 28 guerrillas were released from Chernokozovo.


Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 31, 2000, p. 2

At a press conference yesterday US President Bill Clinton said that he hoped to have the same friendly relations with Vladimir Putin as he used to have with Boris Yeltsin. “I hope that my relations with President Putin will be good and I hope that my successor’s will be good with him,” said the head of the White House. At the same time, Clinton added that the US and Russia need to cooperate not only through “personal chemistry” between the heads of both countries. Moreover, in the old days these friendly relations did not prevent “friend Bill” or “friend Boris” from expressing numerous complaints against each other. So the main thing, according to Clinton, is the presence of national interests which would require both countries to cooperate in areas where Moscow and Washington have a mutual understanding, and to overcome any difficulties caused by disagreements. However, the US President did not say when he was going to tell Putin in person about his friendly feelings toward the latter; no date has yet been set for a meeting between the two leaders.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 31, 2000, p. 2

From now on, Pavel Borodin, Secretary General of the Union of Russia and Belarus, will not be able to spend his vacations in Switzerland, since an arrest warrant for Borodin has been issued there. So he’d better not appear in Europe.

It is hardly likely that the Swiss will be able to get Borodin out of Russia by force. Borodin has powerful means of defense and support; he has managed to maintain good relations with both old and new politicians. As for Russian investigators, they say nothing definite concerning this case. Deputy General Prosecutor Vasily Kolmogorov says that “no charges have been brought against anybody” and the Prosecutor’s Office received no documents from Switserland concerning Borodin’s case. Ruslan Tamaev, head of the investigation, reported that by June 8 the case would either be dropped or some specific people would be accused of specific crimes. In addition, there are reports of a thorough audit at the Department of Presidential Affairs, which was carried out by the State Auditing Commission. Borodin, of course, denies all accusations of money laundering.


Izvestia, March 31, 2000, p. 3

Yevgeny Primakov, leader of the Fatherland – All Russia alliance in the Duma and former prime minister, believes that currently the European Community should not apply any sanctions against Russia because of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya. In his interview with Interfax on March 30, he commented on the forthcoming discussion of this issue at next week’s PACE session in Strasbourg. He said: “It is necessary to consolidate our relations with Europe, including PACE. The confrontation which is currently being introduced into relations between Russia and Europe does not lead to any positive development of the situation in Russia, particularly in Chechnya; nor does it improve our relations with European countries.”


TVTs, Sobytiya, March 30, 2000, 14:00

At the government meeting on March 30, the main trends of housing reform over the next five years were discussed. Ministries and agencies will develop their own programs on the basis of this plan.

Starting the discussion, Vladimir Putin called on ministers to pay great attention to the program of housing reform, as one of the priorities of the government’s socio-economic policy. Putin announced that the first stage of housing reform has lasted for the past ten years, and has been completed. Over the next five years a set of laws will be developed aiming at simplifying the procedure of housing purchases. In particular, it is necessary to adopt a law on guarantees for property rights in connection with real estate, a law on home mortgages, and a law on renting accommodation.

An experimental home mortgage program has been successfully conducted in Moscow for several years. However, as Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has noted, not many Muscovites are able to take advantage of the mortgage system, since housing in Moscow is very expensive.


RTR, Vesti, March 30, 2000, 20:00

The fate of most officers of a special police detachment from the city of Perm remains unknown. Recently they were attacked on the border between the Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt Districts in Chechnya. Fighting near the village of Djanoi-Vedeno lasted all night. In the morning servicemen of the Interior Troops and Airborne Forces took the canyon where the Perm police officers had been surrounded. On March 30, 16 survivors out of 49 were found on the battlefield. Our correspondents tried to find out what really happened.

According to our sources, at 9:20 a.m. the military base received a report that the column of Perm servicemen had been fired on with guns and grenade-launchers on the border of the Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt Districts.

The column requested assistance, and a second column was sent at 11 a.m. Chechen guerrillas evidently expected the second column, and attacked it. A new battle started.

In the morning, detachments of the 66th Operative Regiment of the Interior Troops and a paratrooper battalion were sent to assist the first two groups. They found five Perm servicemen, and then 16 more soldiers. Three servicemen out of the 49 were found dead, and the fate of the rest is not known.

All through the night the federal forces attacked the area where Chechens were concentrated with artillery and aviation. A military operation is still being conducted there. According to expert assessments, there are about 100 people in the gang, and they are led by an experienced field commander, presumably Ruslan Gelaev. Actually, Gelaev’s signature code has been detected in radio transmissions, although it is not ruled out that guerrillas are thus trying to mislead federal troops.

As for the origin of such a large detachment of guerrillas in this district, it is not ruled out that some amnestied guerrillas were also in this gang. A month ago several dozen guerrillas surrendered in the Vedeno District, and some of them even joined the local forces for defending their villages. Marina Maltseva, Director of the Press Service of the Temporary Interior Affairs Department, has stated: “As far as we know, residents of Vedeno also took part in the battles, since we have already been told that some of the dead guerrillas have been mourned here.”

By order of Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Deputy Interior Minister Ivan Golubev and Commander of the Interior Troops of the Chechen Republic General Labunets have come to the area of the battle. The district is blocked off, and special forces are seeking Chechen guerrillas and the missing Perm police officers.


RTR, Vesti, March 30, 2000, 20:00

Herman Gref, head of presidential think-tank called the Strategic Developments Center, has announced that land needs to be involved in market turnover. He said, “This is a great investment resource, this is a precondition for a normal business climate in Russia.”