The Democratic Russia party, never strong, has beendecimated by its enemies. Its most attractive leader, State Dumadeputy Galina Starovoitova, was murdered last month outside herapartment in St. Petersburg. Her aide Ruslan Linkov, stillrecovering from wounds he suffered in that attack, said last weekthat he hopes to rally the party by gathering in the earlyleaders of Russia’s pro-democracy movement. But those with greathopes in 1991-1992 have not fared well. Anatoly Sobchak, formermayor of St. Petersburg, was accused of corruption and fled toParis last year. Sergei Stankievich, deputy mayor of Moscow underLuzhkov’s predecessor and later a member of the Duma, was accusedin 1995 of taking a $10,000 bribe. When the Duma stripped him ofimmunity he fled to Poland. Last week the Polish government,evidently convinced the charges against him are bogus, grantedhim status as a political refugee. His return to Russia remainsin question.
NOTES–New Year’s in the Caucasus: Recent press reports announce thewounding of three policemen by a land mine in Dagestan on NewYear’s Day; the killing of five persons January 3 in Ingushetiaduring a shoot-out between rival gangs; and the killing of fourpolice officers in an ambush in Ingushetia January 4.–Economic forecasts: The International Monetary Fund projects an8.3 percent drop in Russia’s gross domestic product over thecourse of 1999, following an estimated 5 percent drop in 1998.The Russian government itself projects a drop in 1999 of about 3percent. The chairman of the budget committee in the Duma lastweek said the recession should end in the first half of the year.He forecast a 2 percent increase for GDP in 1999…. TheInternational Monetary Fund says its projection of 59 percentinflation in 1999 is “optimistic.” Former First Deputy PrimeMinister Boris Nemtsov does not share that optimism. He isprojecting inflation of 90 percent. Inflation is now running ataround 10 percent per month, or over 300 percent at an annualizedrate.–Booze: Russia’s government has taken action several times torestore a state monopoly over the production and sale of alcohol,most recently in presidential decrees in December 1996, andSeptember 1998. Prime Minister Primakov complained to a specialcommission last week that illegal production and import continue,costing the government 30 billion rubles ($1.5 billion). TheMinistry of the Interior estimates that alcohol poisoning killed