Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 215

As President Boris Yeltsin arrived in Istanbul yesterday to attend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit, Igor Malashenko, deputy director of the Media-Most holding–the media empire founded by the tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky–warned that Russia was moving toward “self-isolation.” In an interview with radio station Ekho Moskvy, Malashenko, who played a key role in Yeltsin’s 1996 re-election campaign, charged that powerful interest groups and politicians in Russia are working toward isolating it from the West. These groups and politicians–including tycoon and Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky and Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the Russian armed forces’ general staff–“have not learned to play according to the rules of the West, beginning with settling conflicts such as in Chechnya and ending with organizing elections and [their] attitude towards the media,” Malashenko said. More ominously, he claimed that there is a group of ambitious military officers who are seeking a role in Russian politics. Malashenko also referred to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, though somewhat more cryptically, saying that if Putin is elected president, the political regime in Russia “will radically change,” and that “a number of people” will be confronted not only with the problem of “political survival,” but “personal security.” While it is not clear which people Malashenko was referring to, his statement suggests that he believes that overt political repression would begin again in Russia were Putin to become the head of state.

Malashenko also criticized the military campaign in Chechnya, saying that it was impossible to believe “that the Russian military is making pinpoint attacks at terrorist positions when television shows multiple rocket launchers in action. It is technically impossible to make pinpoint strikes with Grad or Uragan [multiple rocket launching] systems” (Russian agencies, November 17).

Finally, Malashenko charged that the actions of media “controlled by the Kremlin”–apparently meaning Russian Public Television and several newspapers controlled by Berezovsky, along with the state-owned RTR television channel–“do not conform with the requirements of professionalism or the idea of professional decency.” Malashenko said that media should not be used “to literally wipe from the political map some political forces and create others from practically nothing” (Russian agencies, November 17).