, a member of the “party of war” that backed the 1994-1996 attack on Chechnya. Stepashin, like President Vladimir Putin a product of the Soviet KGB and a veteran of St. Petersburg politics, served as interior minister in the mid-1990s and briefly as prime minister in 1999. Now he is head of the Audit Chamber, an agency like the United States General Accounting Office that examines federal expenditures for waste and fraud.

Stepashin found fraud aplenty when he looked at the $46 million in the 2000 federal budget for reconstruction in Chechnya. “The situation is simply pathetic,” he told reporters. “Nothing is being rebuilt, and nothing works.” A Chamber report says Chechnya has no roads and no electricity. There are also no farm tools, which may not matter because there is no money for seed. Teachers have not been paid since June.

Where did the money go? Stepashin accused unnamed high officials in the ministries of finance and economic development of stealing the money. He also charged the Kremlin’s Quisling administration with misappropriation of funds, including funds specifically earmarked for doctors and teachers.

But the Kremlin’s watchdog barks like a Baskerville hound. Stepashin’s remarks and the Audit Chamber’s report were covered at length only in the English-language Moscow Times. Major media like Izvestia said not a word, though some small-circulation papers carried a sentence or two on an inside page.

The theft of funds for Chechnya may be news but it is not novel. Money for the reconstruction of Chechnya was looted on a grand scale–probably the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars–during the Yeltsin era. The main culprits were First Deputy Prime Minister