Some Russian media are coming into conflict with the government over the issue of casualty figures. On January 23, NTV television, the flagship of Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most empire, reported on its weekly news analysis program “Itogi” that the real number of Russian soldiers being killed in Chechnya may be ten times higher than the official figure. The channel reported that as many as thirty, and sometimes fifty Russian soldiers are being killed each day in Chechnya. The total figure, it claimed, is probably higher, given that the statistics do not include Interior Ministry troops killed in action. NTV’s correspondent reached his conclusion concerning casualty figures after speaking with visitors to morgues, employees at railway cargo terminals and employees in a Defense Ministry forensic laboratory. The channel also reported that the government had barred it from official press trips to Chechnya in retaliation for broadcasting an interview last week with a Russian officer who discussed large-scale casualties (NTV, January 23; Moscow Times, January 25).
Vladimir Kozin, a Foreign Ministry official, charged in an article published yesterday in the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta–part of Boris Berezovsky’s media empire–that Western television and radio stations are “consciously distorting the situation in the North Caucasus” by giving airtime “exclusively to the Chechen separatists and their allies.” Kozin called for an “information blockade” against Western journalists, who, he wrote, are engaged in “subversive work” in Chechnya and neighboring regions (Nezavisimaya gazeta, January 24).
SHEVARDNADZE FORMULATES POLICY AXIOM.