Russia in the Early 1990’s Part 6

In the following year, 1999, all the elements of the profound and complex crisis – relating to the political-institutional and economic-financial fields, as well as those that concerned both the international position and the identity of the Russia – came to light in a convulsive and dramatic way. First of all, with a succession of revelations, very serious scandals exploded which, touching closely the very centers of power, showed how the links between criminal organizations and politics had reached increasingly less bearable levels of a real ‘moral question’. In a first phase, with the defenestration, carried out through blackmailing methods, of the prosecutor Ju. Skuratov, who appeared strongly committed to the fight against corruption at the top of the state and, at the same time, with the opening a series of judicial initiatives against leading figures in public life (B. Berezovskij, A. Bykov, S. Stankevič and others), the tendency to suffocate, or at least to limit, the scope of the scandal seemed to prevail, which will re-explode in the most vigorous way in the months of August and September, directly involving, on the one hand, for a series of obscure episodes on which the Swiss judiciary, the president himself and his family were also investigating, and on the other, when they came to light disturbing episodes concerning speculative operations, as well as many private banks, even the central bank. In fact, it turned out that the latter, using funds from Monetary Fund loans, he had transferred billions of dollars to the United States where he could count on the complicity of officials from local financial institutions.

According to, the international dimension assumed by the scandal came to determine, together with the blocking of the credits of the International Monetary Fund, a sharp worsening of relations between Russia mediation carried out in the second half of April, on behalf of El´cin, by Černomyrdyn in Belgrade to induce Milošević to withdraw troops from Kosovo after the military intervention of NATO. Welcomed by the governments and political forces of the West, the Moscow’s initiative had, however, been strongly criticized at home by the majority of the Duma – which, in order to show solidarity with Milošević, had come to propose that Serbia become part of the established union between Russia and Belarus – and by public opinion at the within which nationalistic and anti-Western thrusts prevailed. These pressures then found a new impetus when Yel´cin replaced Primakov, who had hitherto enjoyed the substantial support of the communist and nationalist opposition, with S. Stepašin (May 19). While with the birth of a new center-left coalition formed by Primakov, by the mayor of Moscow Ju. Luzkov and a group of governors in rupture with Yel´cin, the campaign for parliamentary elections began, the crisis that was to lead to the second Chechen war. The new Chechen crisis markedly changed the situation also in Moscow – where Yel´cin, who had also overcome the rocks of impeachment unscathed., quickly lost consensus and was invited from various quarters to resign due to the succession of news on the scandals – and was used, if not provoked – as was claimed by many – by the forces engaged in the struggle for power. At the beginning, the decision to intervene again with weapons in the Republic of the Caucasus was motivated by the needs of the battle against terrorism and against Islamic fundamentalism after the 5 August groups of Chechen Wahhabi independence activists had occupied some villages in the neighboring Dagestan. Three days later Yel´cin removed Prime Minister Stepašin and replaced him with V. Putin, head of the Security Services (the former KGB). In response to a series of terrorist attacks attributed to Chechen terrorists (but also, by many, to the Russian security services) which took place from 31 August to 16 September causing over 200 victims, there was the 23 September, with the bombing of the Chechen capital Groznyj, the beginning of a bloody air war. The declared objective of the central power, with the growing support of almost all political forces and the population, was that of “annihilating terrorists wherever they are”, as Prime Minister Putin stated. However, starting from 1 October, when Russian troops crossed the Chechen border, the conflict took on the aspect of a war for the reconquest of the rebel Republic, thus effectively canceling the treaty of 31 August 1996, containing the commitment to define by 2001 the definitive location of Chechnya. Rejecting – because it is considered an inadmissible internal interference – any proposal coming from the West (OECD, Council of Europe, G 7) for a political solution to the crisis to be embarked upon, and hindering the humanitarian aid initiatives launched or proposed at international in favor of the civilian population, particularly the wounded and refugees (over 200. 000 Chechens had taken refuge in nearby Ingushetia), Prime Minister Putin thus made military operations take on ever larger dimensions. The turning point of the war and the nationalist, substantially anti-Western wave that accompanied and supported it, determined a clear and rapid change in the orientations of the voters. In the elections of 19 December the communist Zyuganov succeeded in keeping (with 24, 2 %) a relative majority, but a resounding success it achieved the Unity Party, founded only three months before the minister of civil protection S. Šojgu in support of Putin, while the party of Luzkov-Primakov, which only a few weeks earlier was considered the winner, was defeated with the 13th,1 %. After the defeat of his opponents, seizing the favorable opportunity and having obtained every guarantee as regards immunity, on December 31, 1999 El´cin suddenly left the scene, indicating Putin as his candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for March 26. 2000. Thus ended the first phase, the one dominated by the Yel´cin presidency, of the life of the new Russia. With the new political equilibrium born from the December elections, political stability could be said to have been acquired. But to testify to the extent and severity of the damage caused in the social fabric both by the failure of the economy to take off and by the affirmation of corruption at every level, there was also the daily reality of an ever-increasing and increasingly fierce crime. Finally, despite the fact that, at the end of bloody fighting, Russian troops managed to occupy Groznyj at the beginning of February 2000, the question of the ‘holding’ of the Federation within the borders of December 1991, above all, but not only, as far as the Caucasus area was concerned, at the beginning of the new century it was far from resolved. This was the legacy that El´cin’s Russia left to Putin, elected president on March 26 in the first round with over 53 % of the votes on the wave of a desire for recovery and not hidden aspirations to the idea of ​​relaunch of a ‘great Russia’.

Russia in the Early 1990's 6

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