Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 18, 2002, p. 2

Moscow-based structures and wings of political parties and organizations are privileged. They are closer to the federal level of power and are therefore more noticeable when there is a quest for candidates to fill posts in the central structures of the party.

The conference of the Moscow branch of Yabloko confirms this assumption. The outcome of the conference showed that like any other Moscow-based structure, the Yabloko is in the grips of a serious personnel crisis, and telling a federal level of an organization from the regional one is virtually impossible. The re-election of Yabloko’s leadership confirmed this. Grigori Yavlinsky was re-elected chairman of the Moscow branch of the party. No alternative was available. Yavlinsky became leader of the Moscow branch on the eve of the election into the Moscow municipal parliament when Vyacheslav Igrunov quit the party, citing ideological discord. Six months have passed since then and Yavlinsky has failed to find somebody else worthy of the post. Yabloko activists assumed that the post might be offered to Aleksei Arbatov or Sergei Mitrokhin but both already have too much in their hands. Yabloko must have decided to breed a new generation of leaders. Yavlinsky now has six deputies, and the Political Council comprises 30 activists.

Addressing his colleagues, Yavlinsky assessed the state of affairs as optimistic and said that “a serious conflict was solved”, level of representation in the Moscow municipal Duma was retained, and membership in the party doubled. The Moscow wing of Yabloko drew a special program for future election campaigns and adopted a special declaration. Apart from municipal problems, Yabloko intends to solve problems relating to its potential electorate as well. According to party ideologist Mitrokhin, the mayor of Moscow will be asked to “establish a foundation for awards for truthful information on extortion and bribery” to “prevent corruption among municipal officials.”


Vremya Novostei, March 18, 2002, p. 2

The first Rokot booster satellite was launched for commercial purposes from the Plesetsk at 1221 hours Moscow time on Sunday. Official reports indicate that the GRACE-1 and GRACE-2 satellites were safely put in orbit. Weighing 432 kilograms each, the satellites were manufactured by Astrium (a German company) to be used by space agencies of the United States and Germany. Regardless of the success of the satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), the Russians consider the launch their success. This a success of the program of conversion of the old Russian ICBMs SS-19 Stiletto.

The reduction of the Russian strategic nuclear forces resulted in the appearance of four programs of conversion – Dnepr (on the basis of the heavy SS-18 Satan), Start (SS-25 Topol), Strela and Rokot (both on the basis of the Stiletto). According to Vladimir Yakovlev, the last Russian Strategic Missile Forces Commander-in-Chief, a successful implementation of the programs may earn the country “20 billion rubles” and keep the specialists and structures involved busy for years. Apart from that, Russia may expect indirect economic profits. It is supposed to destroy the ICBMs under the conditions of international pacts. Launching is the cheapest way of doing away with a missile and may earn the budget some money in case of a commercial launch.

All the same, the fate of the Rokot shows that elbowing one’s way into the space services market is not easy even with a reliable and cheap booster. The Russian-German Eurockot that was established for the project balanced on the verge of a financial collapse. Several years ago it invested almost $20 million in the construction of a Rokot launching complex in Plesetsk. The investment was considered promising in connection with the Iridium orbital group program. Unfortunately, Iridium went bankrupt and all but dragged the Rokot with it. It seems, however, that the Eurockot has survived hard times.


Vedomosti, March 18, 2002, p. A3

Defense Minister of India George Fernandez is expected on a visit to Moscow this Sunday. Like the Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad, Fernandez is an old partner of the Russian government and military-industrial complex. Mohamad’s visit never resulted in a contract for the SU-30 (even though Mohamad was visibly impressed by its characteristics), but Moscow expects Fernandez to do better than that. Some progress may be made in negotiations over the almost $1 billion worth of a contract for the sale of the aircraft-carrier Admiral Gorshkov to New Delhi even though the contract itself is unlikely to be signed. If the contract is signed, New Delhi will also buy MIG-29 deck fighters. Moreover, talks with Fernandez might help the Kremlin sell the SU-30s to Mohamad (India and Malaysia are regional partners). The SU-30 will be assembled in India by license, making it easier for Malaysia to ensure maintenance and availability of spare parts.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 18, 2002, p. 2

Central Bank Chairman Geraschenko has stepped down.

The Kremlin must have decided that the Central Bank under Geraschenko is too independent. An independent banker with his own views on hard currency regulation and banking reforms is not very convenient for the powers-that-be in a country where everything is done the way the Kremlin wants it done.

As for Geraschenko’s successor Sergei Ignatiev, most experts agree that he will pursue a milder policy than that of his predecessor, an advocate of the notion of stable ruble. Ignatiev is thought to want to cancel altogether or lower the quota for the mandatory sale of hard currency to the budget by exporters. The dream of Russian business tycoons is about to come true.

Geraschenko’s resignation will provide an impetus to the banking reforms as well. Geraschenko did his best to protect the idea of the Central Bank’s holding of stakes in the assets of private banks, but Ignatiev will probably heed his bidding in this area.

In any case, Russia’s financial world is in for serious changes. A great deal in it has relied until now on Geraschenko and his personal respect. That is probably why many specialists refrain from comments for the time being. The Financial Times wrote with pathos but correctly that, “This is an end of a whole era. Mr. Putin is upping his influence again.”

The Financial Times is correct. It is the president’s policy to replace colossi with menial workers…


Izvestia, March 19, 2002, p. 4

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by sociologists of the Public Opinion Foundation, 52% of Russians assume that Russian-Georgian relations deteriorated within the last twelve months. Even more respondents – 58% – refer to Russian-Georgian relations as ‘bad’ when asked to give their evaluation.

On the other hand, only 15% of respondents say they relate towards Georgia in general negatively as against 41% who are of the opposite opinion. Moreover, the number of Russians who admit having negative feelings with regard to the southern neighbor has gone down by half since October 2001.

Sociologists ascribe these fluctuations in public opinion first and foremost to the fact that the major guilty party that is responsible for the deterioration of Russian-Georgian relations, Shevardnadze himself, was recently “revealed” and verbally “destroyed”.

According to the Public Opinion Foundation, Russians associate Shevardnadze almost exclusively with every negative feeling they can identify. 63% of respondents do not sympathize with the president of Georgia (elders amount to 69% in this category and individuals with higher education to 73%).

This is undoubtedly a peculiarity of the Russian mentality, but even though sociologists asked their questions about Shevardnadze the politician, respondents meant in their evaluation Shevardnadze the personality. Every fourth respondent dislikes the nature of the president of Georgia. “He does not have an opinion of his on”, “A political puppet”, “He will never miss a chance to do something nasty, given a slight opportunity” were the most frequent comments. Even the 7% of respondents who commented on the flaws of Shevardnadze the politician did not mince their words: “He pursues an anti-Russian policy”, “He does not care about his own people”, “When Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union, he was a bona fide politician, not anymore”. Every sixth respondent more or less emphatically advised Shevardnadze to step down.

Georgia’s drift from Russia hurts Russians so much because it is taking place firstly under a former politburo member (“We elevated him in the first place, and this is what we get in return”, they tend to think). Secondly, under a former foreign minister, a politician and diplomat who undeniably played his part in the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Just one five respondents is prepared to accept the conjecture that the Georgian-American cooperation aims first and foremost at the war on terrorism and local army training. 15% of all respondents suspect official Tbilisi of trying to solve its financial and foreign political problems in this manner.

20% of Russians are confident of the anti-Russian motives of the Americans’ appearance in the Caucasus (“They are here to attack Russian eventually”, “The Americans are out to weaken Russia”).

Generally speaking, sociologists split Russians’ attitude towards Georgia into several categories. The first category is factual, military-political, and negatively painted. The second is cultural-geographic, portrayed mostly positively. The third and the last is historical-nostalgic in manner. It is without a definite emotional undertone.