1. Russia/Chechnya : FROM UNDER THE RUBBLE
DISPATCHES FROM CHECHNYA no. 21
2. Ukraine : WHO'S AFRAID OF THE SDPU(o)?
By Ivan Lozowy
3.Azerbaijan: NO CHAOS EXPECTS THE COUNTRY
By Mustafa Hajibeyli
The humanitarian situation in the city of Grozny,
throughout the Chechen Republic, remains very grave. Landmines
continue to be used throughout Grozny, various neighborhoods are
subjected to regular artillery fire, and civilian casualties from
shelling and landmines remain high.
Russian military divisions periodically conduct so-called
"mop-up operations" throughout the city. During these operations,
dozens of people, most of whom are not guilty of any crime, are
arrested. Many of those arrested never return home, or return
severely beaten and crippled. At the end of last year, in the
Ivanovo neighborhood of Grozny, four men between the ages of 30
and 40 disappeared. Their mangled bodies were later found in a
forested strip on the outskirts of the city. Such events are not
uncommon. The Russian army frequently carries out round-ups in
various areas of the city. Most of the arrests made during such
raids are of people who are not registered to live in Grozny. Most
of those arrested are eventually released, often for a ransom, but
there have been instances where people arrested for lack of
registration permits disappear without a trace.
Throughout Chechnya, and in Grozny especially, "death
squadrons" - bands of armed men in masks - terrorize the
population. Any socially active citizen is in danger of being
killed in his own home in the middle of the night by one of these
Although there are a handful of officially registered
political parties and other organizations in Grozny, it is
impossible to speak of any real political life in the conditions
of continuing warfare. All of Chechnya's active non-governmental
organizations are based in Ingushetia or in Moscow. It is
impossible to imagine how the elections that the Russian
government is preparing to hold in Chechnya will be able to take
place under such conditions.
Occasionally, Russian forces station at the base in Khankala
will shell residential areas of Grozny, such as micro-regions in
the Lenin area and the community of Staraya Sunzha. At night there
is frequent disorganized weapons fire. Usually this comes from
drunken Russian soldiers at checkpoints shooting into the air, but
occasionally residential buildings are targeted.
The interim government of Chechnya, together with
representatives of the Russian military, has repeatedly announced
that the number of military checkpoints in Grozny will be
significantly decreased. In fact, their number has only grown in
the past few months. Guards at the checkpoints serve no law
enforcement function; they harass passing civilian motorists and
extort bribes, often closing roads in order to extract money from
local drivers. The checkpoints are nothing more than a source of
corruption and lawlessness.
Despite assurances from the official media that Grozny is
undergoing large-scale renovation work, the city remains in ruins.
All government and administrative buildings have been destroyed,
as have some 80 percent of residential buildings and half of all
schools, along with mosques, an Orthodox church, and a synagogue,
which before the war held a music school. Recently there has been
some restoration work on those school buildings that remain
standing. Damaged roofs have been replaced, heating systems have
been installed and cosmetic repairs have been made in the
classrooms. But this is practically all that has been renovated in
a city razed to the ground.
Nearly half of the funds earmarked by the Russian government
for rebuilding the economy and infrastructure of Chechnya never
leave Moscow. The money and supplies that actually make it to
Chechnya are embezzled by local officials. Corruption in Chechnya
occurs on a massive scale has taken on unprecedented forms. The
directors of several local ministries have gotten to the point
where they are demanding that their workers give up part of their
salaries, which are already very small and irregularly paid.
Private homes destroyed during the war are now being repaired
with better-quality materials. If they are repaired at all,
government housing receives only cosmetic renovations. Large
apartment buildings, where the sewage, water, electric and heating
systems have been completely destroyed, are having their walls
plastered and repainted. Such buildings remain unfit for
There is no sanitation system to speak of in Grozny. The
streets are littered with construction debris, rotting food and
all sorts of other wastes. Many roads are flooded with water from
the destroyed sewage system. The city's central market - the only
place where people from Grozny and the surrounding regions can buy
food - is particularly filthy. Vendors selling fruit, bread and
meat set up their stands amid piles of decaying garbage swarming
with stray dogs and cats. The likelihood of an epidemic is
extremely high. The city of Grozny has long maintained a
department of sanitation and epidemiology, but it no longer
functions. The lack of potable water poses a great risk to the
health of Grozny's residents. People in most of the city have
access only to well water, often from wells located more than 500
meters from their homes. People living in large apartment
buildings must carry their water up five or ten flights of stairs.
Water in these wells usually contains traces of petrole roducts or
is contaminated by sewage. Drinking such water causes serious
health problems, but so far there are no plans to provide the
residents of Grozny with clean and purified water. In northern
areas of the city, water is transported in cisterns and must be
Most homes and apartments remain unheated. Bombed out windows
have been replaced with plastic sheets, which let in little light
and provide no insulation. People live in sooty, filthy rooms,
which are often very damp as well because the roof leaks.
Shipments of glass from humanitarian organizations are
appropriated by the local administration and sold in the central
market at commercial prices. Residents heat their houses using
small homemade gas jets, or they use their cooking stove as a
heater. Gas stoves are made by hand using a metal tripod
supporting a thin metal screen, heated by gas drawn directly from
a gas pipe through a rubber hose. These stoves are in fact very
dangerous, because if the gas supply is cut off during the night
and then turned on again, people in the house are in danger of
asphyxiation. Even without this problem, people wake up in the
morning with severe headaches from breathing air full of gas
Despite the horrible living conditions and constant danger,
people are returning to their half-destroyed homes simply to
escape the degrading and hopeless conditions in the refugee camps.
Many apartment buildings are surrounded by landmines or
contain unexploded bombs, shells, and missiles in their walls and
roofs. But if a few apartments in such buildings remain intact,
people live in them.
The ecological situation in Grozny also leaves much to be
desired. The city is enshrouded in a cloud of black smoke from
burning oil wells. Although the fires at most of the wells have
been put out, they flare up periodically and the thick black smoke
settles over fields already burned black by the war. In addition,
the crude extraction and refining of petroleum are causing
irreparable harm to the city. The illicit oil industry has become
a genuine disaster for Chechnya. The Russian army protects this
industry in return for payments from the owners of the wells.
The health care system in Grozny has not improved at all over
the past few months. Hospitals still lack the most basic medicines
and equipment, and patients must pay for their treatment. Many
people in the city are suffering from the most severe forms of
chronic diseases. Psychological and stress-related disorders have
also become common among the residents of Grozny. However, the
majority of them do not even intend to seek psychiatric help, some
because they are unable to pay, and others because they feel it
wrong to think about their psychological health when so many
people are dying around them.
One of the most troubling aspects of life in Grozny remains
the criminal situation. The city is swarming with police and
Russian soldiers, but criminals have free reign. Nearly every
night there is at least one murder, and bands of thugs roam the
streets looking for loot. Many crimes, including burglary and
murder, are committed by the Russian soldiers themselves.
Drug addiction, alcoholism and theft are becoming increasingly
common among young people. If previously this was characteristic
of out of work teenagers, now it involves even university
Nearly 70 percent of Grozny's adult residents are unemployed
and have no means to support themselves. Pensions have been paid
fairly regularly over the past few months, and these minuscule
payments are often the only source of income for an entire family
of 7 to 9 people.
Despite the inhumane living conditions, the people of Grozny
maintain the hope that one day the civilized world will remember
* DISPATCHES FROM CHECHNYA no. 21 published by LAM - Center
for Pluralisam , Grozny /Nazren and IDEE , Washington
Actually, everybody is. During a short span of several
the Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine ("o" for "obyednana" or
"united") has become the single most powerful political party in
Ukraine after the communists.
The SDPU(o) is in fact, not a political party at all in the
Western sense, but a "financial-industrial group," or clan,
masquerading as a party. The core of the SDPU(o) is formed by a
group of businessmen known as "the magnificent seven." The "first
among equals" in this group since its formation at the end of the
1980s is Hryhoriy Surkis, Honorary Chairman of the Dynamo Kyiv
soccer team. It was Surkis who used his connections with then Kyiv
city head Valentyn Zehursky (another of "The Seven") and contacts
in the U.S. and Israel to create a slew of companies named using
variations of "Ometa." One of the co-founders was the law firm
"BIM," run by a lawyer named Viktor Medvedchuk.
"The Seven" clan's first major interest was in the lucrative
petroleum import market, where Zehursky again played door-opener.
A pyramid scheme followed in 1993-1994. At around that time Surkis
was able to privatize the Dynamo Kyiv soccer club not without, as
is said, the help of the targetted use of violence and coercion.
At the time, any large business interest demanded connections with
the underworld. Surkis' younger brother Ihor, another "The Seven,"
was already charged with maintaining Mafia connections on behalf
of the Ometa group.
In 1994 "The Seven" founded the "Slavutich" concern and
expanded into the agricultural and metallurgical sectors, using
violence to assure profits in these chaotic but lucrative markets.
Slavutich was created as "The Seven's" spearhead for a serious
move closer to those in power. Surkis was accordingly named
Advisor on Economic Issues to then President - and now a leader in
the SDPU(o) - Leonid Krachuk.
Matters took a turn for the worse, however, in 1994 with the
election of Leonid Kuchma. "The Seven" had placed their bets on
their colleague Kravchuk and it took frantic lobbying,
Ukraine-style, including receptions at the Kyiv Dynamo club, to
fend off an investigation into the Slavutich concern's activities.
But, as has so often been the case, enemies from the nomenklatura
come to terms in order to share the pie, as it were. Kravchuk made
up with Kuchma, who in turn became a friend of "The Seven." In due
course, links were established with Yevhen Marchuk, currently the
influential head of the National Security and Defense Council.
Their political cover reinstated, in the second half of the
1990s "The Seven" moved aggressively into the oblast energy
sector, natural monopolies which share more than 50% of the
country's GDP. Assistance was provided by then Prime Minister
Valeriy Pustovoitenko who, for example, in the fall of 1998 handed
over to Surkis' closed joint-stock company "Ukrainian Credit Bank"
25% of state shares in the Kirovohrad, Ternopil and Kherson oblast
energy companies. By mid-1999 Surkis had a controlling stake in
almost half of all the oblast energy companies.
In addition to the companies already mentioned, "The Seven"
also reportedly control:
- most of the deep water ports in the Odesa, Kherson and Mykolaiv
- the Zhydachiv Cellulose Paper Factory, the country's only
producer of newspaper print;
- the "Rosynka" soft drink concern;
- the majority of petroleum processing plants;
- the Zaporizhya Ferro-alloy Factory;
- "Dniprospetsstal" metal factory.
But even this commercial oligarchy is overshadowed by the
Surkis clan's dominance in the mass media. "The Seven" control:
- the "Kyivskiye vedomosti" and "Den" newspapers;
- the national "Inter" TV channel;
- the "TET" regional Kyiv TV channel;
- the national TV channel "1+1" (along with former political
partner Oleksandr Volkov). To top it all off, Oleksandr Zinchenko,
a close confidant of "The Seven," is Chairman of parliament's
With such an all-encompassing approach to business, the media
and politics it is no wonder that the SDPU(o) is seen as seeking
not merely to "come to power," but to privatize the entire
The political imperative is a relatively recent add-on. It was
only in 1996 that Surkis joined the Social-Democratic Party,
quickly subsuming it and driving out its two founders, Yuriy
Buzduhan and former Justice Minister Vasyl Onopenko.
Since then the SDPU(o)'s financial base has allowed it to
expand exponentially across the country. In 1998 the SPDU(o)
"coincidentally" received 4.01% of the vote, passing the 4%
minimum threshold in only 4 of Ukraine's 26 oblasts with a
whopping 38% in its home base Zakarpaty oblast. Today the party
has headquarters with premises and paid staff down to the raion
level (there are over 600 raions in Ukraine). The SDPU(o)'s media
dominance drones out a daily dose of propaganda unmatched by
anyone except for "Bankova" - the President's administration.
Small wonder, then, that other forces-that-be have gone into
opposition to the SDPU(o). The privatization of a series of oblast
energy companies has been reversed. Pustovoitenko's formerly
helping hand has turned into a fist since his National Democratic
Party joined the "For a United Ukraine" election coalition.
Unprecedentedly, "For a United Ukraine" is headed up by
Presidential Administration head Wolodymyr Lytvyn with Prime
Minister Antoly Kinakh in the second slot (which accurately
indicates their relative political weights). Joining them are
Mykola Azarov, with his powerful tax administration empire, and
Vice Prime Minister Wolodymyr Semynozhenko as well as former Vice
Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko with his Labor Ukraine party, which
includes the young oligarch Andriy Derkach, a son of the former
head of the secret services. All this to oppose the SDPU(o). That
the SDPU(o)'s opponents have banded together does not bode well
for its prospects during the upcoming March 31 elections.
Probably the SDPU(o)'s greatest setback, however, has been the
December 13, 2000 removal of Viktor Medvedchuk from his post of
First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, or parliament. The
vote was painstakingly prepared over the course of two months with
the assistance of Kyiv mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko (as a recent
"tape" scandal graphically demonstrated) and Speaker Ivan
Pliushch, who had definitely begun to "feel the heat" from the
SDPU(o) group. Given Pliushch's bad health, Medvedchuk had in fact
come to run the parliament as he saw fit. Medvedchuk's removal
thus dealt a serious blow to the SDPU(o)'s image as a "winner" and
removed a linchpin in its political cover. But, most importantly,
the setback strikes directly at the SDPU(o)'s long-term strategy:
to see Medvedchuk elected President of Ukraine.
To overcome the drawbacks of its front-runner position and go
to the next level, "The Seven" - the SDPU(o) - Surkis' clan - must
claim the country's top post, without which all their gains to
this day will remain unconsolidated. Kuchma has in recent years
cooled to the SDPU(o), correctly seeing their meteoric rise as a
danger to himself. Conversely, Medvedchuk's ouster was an all-too
clear reminder to the SDPU(o) crowd that, without the presidency,
their future remains uncertain as well. One thing is certain, the
SDPU(o)'s future is sure to be spectacular, one way or the other.
The Azerbaijani official circles have always campaigned
for the need of "an iron hand" in the government to
keep the stability in the country. Presenting President
Heidar Aliev as a "worldwide famous" policy-maker and able
to still keep the stability in the country only as a result of his
service has become a part of the propaganda course carried out at
a government level. Sometimes it was even openly stated that the
"happy" days of the Azerbaijani nation will continue until the
completion of Aliev's presidency term, and then there will reign
confrontations and chaos in the country. The mentioned thesis has
been reflected at the campaign held with the official media
outlets, billboards covering all the corners of the republic,
textbooks published during the term of the existing government,
and even at the ABC books.
Such a campaign is not held only within the country: Heidar
Aliev, each time facing the pretensions of the influential
international organizations concerning the limitation of
democracy, majority of prisoners, and other matters in the country,
is stating in his meetings with the foreign diplomats that the
"stability" has been formed in the country as a result of his
political course. In other words, by saying "stability" he
considers the endurance of his authority and presents it as a
compensation of limitation of democracy. Mr. Aliev repeatedly
shows an example as evidence that there did not exist any
stability in Azerbaijan until his coming to power. It should be
truly noted that this campaign appropriate for all the
authoritarian regimes has not remained without an effect: the
lower layers of the society, as well as people living with the
stereotypes formalized during the 70 years of communist regime
have fallen under the influence of the mentioned campaign much
more. Unfortunately, there has been even observed indifference in
the position of the developed countries and international
organizations with respect to the fate of democracy in Azerbaijan.
Several observers have related this fact with the interest of the
West in protecting the "stability" in Azerbaijan.
But in fact, the situation is so as the official circles
presented. Heidar Aliev is right only in one matter; that the legitimate
government was not able to rule the country normally
until he seized the power. At that point, the destructive forces
in the country were patronized by Aliev in Azerbaijan and special
intelligence agencies of Iran and Russia in abroad. It is not
accidental that colonel Surat Huseinov, who committed a revolt
in the country in June 1993, was just armed by Russia. And that
just Aliev had got the profit at the final result from
overthrowing the legitimate power.
Now the situation is completely different. Various factors and
the development of political processes show that Azerbaijan does
not need "an iron hand" either now or in the post-Aliev period.
The country is rapidly integrating to the West, in general to the
world community both in the economic, political, cultural, and
other fields. And it makes inevitable the formalization of analogical
political regime in Azerbaijan. The society is completely ready to
formalize its legitimate government bodies and establish a democratic
regime in the country through civic ways. The factors confirming
it are as follows:
- First, the Azerbaijani nation has much liberated from the
stereotypes of the Soviet period. There has grown up a young
generation having modern manner of thinking. The last
parliamentary elections showed that the political culture, in
particular, the culture of election has developed much in society.
So, the opportunity of Aliev authorities to falsify the next
elections as the previous ones is limited;
- Second, the support of the democratic camp among the society
has strengthened. The tasks of society and the opposition have
been clearly identified. The civil servant potential of the
democratic camp that should realize these tasks has extended much.
Despite of all the pressures of the government, the democrats have
not lost the will of struggle, instead has become strong and
experienced in light of this limitations. The opposition has been
organized, there has been created a political power center like
the Democratic Congress and corporation center like the United
Opposition Movement at this camp. Leaders of the distinguished
political parties have concluded an agreement on partnership in
the nationwide issues. Joint consultations of the leaders have
become an ordinary case. There has begun clarifying the
imaginations not only about the contours of future power, but
about its political course and governing methods, as well: the
common held public opinion in this matter is that t ext government
will not be monotonous- here will be represented tens of political
parties gathered around several political forces. In other words,
the local democratic forces are completely ready for the
- Third, the attention of the international organizations
and Western powers has increasingly turned toward Azerbaijan. The
country has been accepted to the Council of Europe and all the
leading political forces have taken obligations before this
organization. Just as a result of recommendations of the Council
of Europe, the local legislation has been seriously improved and
met the civic standards. The problem is that these laws do not
function and it is related with the name of Aliev authority;
- Fourth, the very important factor is the large amount of
investment of the West in Azerbaijan . This factor means putting an
end to the destructive actions of the definite Russian circles and
Iran in Azerbaijan.
Everybody already understands that the way leading to the
development of the country passes though democratic elections. In
fact, the regular concern on breaking the stability just appears
as a result of illegitimacy of the existing power in Azerbaijan.
The next presidential elections will, perhaps, be the last stage
on the way of establishing democracy in the country. That day is
not so far.