Moscow
MIN -2
MAX +3
Cloudy / 01:37 PM / Traffic

Waiting for Vladimir Putin

Putin the black belt. Putin the liberal. Putin the KGB man. Putinomics. Putinomania. From Minsk to Manhattan, journalists and academics are offering their weighty profiles of the man of the hour. Matt Bivens, who covered St. Petersburg for The Moscow Times when Putin was the deputy mayor, offers one more.



ST. PETERSBURG - Three journalists are sitting in the apartment of Alexander Belyayev. Their notebooks are out; their faces expectant. Belyayev sits in an armchair, looking relaxed in a flannel shirt. He is ready to tell all about Vladimir Putin.


Back in the days when Putin was the deputy mayor, St. Petersburg's two political giants were Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor, and Belyayev, the speaker of the city council. Sobchak and Belyayev frequently disagreed. On one occasion - when they were running against each other for the mayor's office - Belyayev announced he had information that both Sobchak and Putin owned ill-gotten property on the French Riviera. Putin sued for libel, but the case trailed off into technicalities and was dropped.


Andrew Higgins of The Wall Street Journal begins the interview by asking Belyayev for a yarky primer, a vivid example, perhaps an anecdote, that tells us something about the character of Deputy Mayor Putin. Belyayev stares off into space. "A vivid example ..." he says, thinking.


Belyayev's wife Inna enters to ask about tea or coffee. Everyone wants tea. She leaves. Belyayev, still staring off into the distance and frowning in concentration, repeats Higgins' request: "A vivid example ... one that describes his character ..."


The tea arrives. Soon the only sounds are the clinking of sugar being stirred into three tea cups and of Belyayev, still struggling to find "a vivid example ... a vivid example ..."


That's the uninspiring scene in St. Petersburg these days, where out-of-town journalists - foreign correspondents and Muscovites who have dropped in from the big national media - are tripping over each other. All are on a pilgrimage to the place where Putin grew up, literally and politically. And everywhere they go, one of their colleagues has been there first. A journalist settles into a chair to speak with a city council member, or the editor of a local newspaper, or a human rights activist - and in each case is promptly shown the business cards of those who have gone before - Segodnya newspaper, Vedomosti newspaper, The New York Times ... At the martial arts club on Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt where Deputy Mayor Vladimir Putin used to work out, the trainers meet a newspaper reporter with disgusted groans: "More journalists!" The trainers cheer up visibly for those willing to purchase reprints of the now-famous photos now on the wall, which show Putin sparring in his white judo robes.


When journalists meet, they try to exchange information, but end up exchanging only depressing accounts of how there's no information. Journalists get excited about the bad stories, but it's not just a lack of bad stories that disappoints - it's a lack of any real stories at all. Putin was "polite," "correct," "businesslike," "reserved," "competent" and hardly anyone will fess up to remembering a single thing he did, good or bad. Even those who praise Putin do so guardedly and vaguely.


Consider Alexei Liverovsky, a St. Petersburg lawmaker who is often described as a liberal, and who has been in opposition to the governor (the job used to be called the mayor), Vladimir Yakovlev. Liverovsky has worked with Putin in city government, and in an interview at his home - in a room decorated with towering bookshelves, a stuffed turkey, a stuffed squirrel perched on a fake tree branch and an oil painting of a dead rabbit lying next to a dead duck - he was unabashedly complimentary of Putin.


"This is a quiet man, a man of action," he said. He then allowed as how he and "Volodya" had even met in "informal situations, non-work situations."


Now that would be news: No one yet has owned up to hanging out with Vladimir Putin.


So what did they do together?


Liverovsky responds with silence.


No, really: What did you do? Play soccer? Share a cup of coffee at the city council cafeteria? Go hunting together for these creepy stuffed squirrels and turkeys staring down from the walls?


"Let's just leave it as a dry, 'We met in non-work situations'," Liverovsky finally and firmly concludes.


Yet There Are Stories


But wait: Here's an anecdote with a bit of stringy meat on its bones:


Back in 1991, Liverovsky headed a city committee charged with auditing a dam being built in the Gulf of Finland. The half-built dam by now is a well-known story. Its purpose was to prevent tide surges from coming back up the Neva River and flooding Leningrad. But it was shoddily built, so that the Gulf has patches of trapped and stagnating water.


Environmentalists today disdain the dam, but in 1991, it was an open question. Experts came before Liverovsky's committee. "Some scientists said it was a good thing, a fine thing; others said it was awful. There were professors on either side. And I'm a politician in the middle. And I had to decide," Liverovsky said.


A typical story of tenderfoot intelligenty struggling along in power - until Liverovsky seeks the counsel of Sobchak's aide Putin, and gets some hard-nosed advice: "Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] said, 'You know, look at what's going on with the finances. Don't look at the ecology of the thing, look for financial abuses.' I don't know why he said that, but it led to great results." Liverovsky's committee looked, and found graft, missing money, missing equipment and other irregularities. The dam-building game was shut down.


So as early as 1991, Putin stood out from the other demokraty in St. Petersburg. In an era whose preoccupations were individual freedom, democracy, the market and the shiny new allies in the West, a wary Putin already understood about corruption. He was years ahead of his time.


He was also years ahead of his time in being implicated in formal corruption allegations. That this was a rare event in 1991 is clear from the newspapers of the day - which are filled with earnest articles about what life is really like in Cape Town, or how Poland defeated inflation and what Russia can learn from that experience.


One of the first newspaper headlines announcing, over a small story, that the city council is accusing the Mayor's Office of corruption comes in Nevskoye Vremya in March 1992 - under the wide-eyed headline: Kazhetsya, budet skandal. "It seems there will be a scandal."


Anatoly Sobchak in his day was lord and master of St. Petersburg. A law professor, he had in 1989 seized a nationally-televised pulpit - courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost - and pitilessly skewered the shortcomings of Communist Party rule. He became even more popular by heading a commission that investigated how 19 people were killed and hundreds injured when Soviet troops put down a protest in Tbilisi. Sobchak's commission quickly and boldly assigned blame to top generals.


Sobchak became so popular that when the Leningrad City Soviet was deadlocked over choosing its chairman - a job then equivalent to the office of mayor - they begged Sobchak to return and rule over them. He agreed. In quick succession there followed a democratic vote that both renamed the city St. Petersburg and established Sobchak as the first elected mayor, and then the fright-turned-joy of the August 1991 coup attempt. Throughout Sobchak was followed by his aide, Vladimir Putin; about two weeks before the coup attempt Putin became a deputy mayor. He was put in charge of the clunkily-named Committee for External Relations. (see sidebar, page V).


As the summer of 1991 wandered into the fall and winter, the Soviet Union was collapsing - and with it, the state-run system of supplying food to the major cities. Would Moscow and St. Petersburg starve? Many thought so. Western nations organized humanitarian aid deliveries. In Moscow, Yury Luzhkov was making a name for himself by scrappily reforming the city's vegetable supply system, a job he had begun back when Boris Yeltsin was the de facto Moscow mayor. "I didn't declare war on the system. I just stood up in defense of the vegetables," Luzhkov would later famously note in his memoirs.


Sobchak, by contrast, did declare war on the system - at least with his rhetoric. Mostly he left the vegetables to his deputies. They responded, as were many across the nation, by seizing upon another peculiarity of the economy: price controls, then Russia's answer to dot-com stocks.


Just as the Kremlin was ignoring the real value of the ruble to the dollar - insisting it was about 1:1 when on the street it was at best a 30th of that - it also kept prices on many goods fantastically low. Lumber, natural gas, aluminum - anyone who bought it here and sold it there could conjure fabulous wealth out of thin air. The most famous example is the old chestnut that the price of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes on Moscow's streets (about $1) was the same as the state-dictated price for three tons of crude oil. Those who bought oil here could thus sell it abroad for 300 times as much.


The trick was getting permission to ship anything across the border, past the vigilant bureaucracies of the Customs Committee and of a Soviet hanger-on, the Foreign Trade Ministry. Those who managed to play this game then make for the equivalent of a "Who's Who" of Russian power - from leading tycoons like Uneximbank's Vladimir Potanin and Sibneft's Boris Berezovsky to the late Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.


In the name of feeding the hungry, St. Petersburg also got involved. A committee headed by a deputy mayor, Georgy Khizha, wrote to the government of acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar asking for some oil export quotas: Oil could be taken from the refinery outside Leningrad, Kirishinefteorgsintez; sold in Europe somewhere for a 30,000 percent mark-up; and the resulting embarrassment of valyuta could be used to finance emergency food imports into St. Petersburg.


Gaidar's government agreed, and on Nov. 21, 1991, the St. Petersburg Mayor's Office was given export quotas for 100,000 tons of diesel fuel. Armed with that document, Kirishinefteorgsintez successfully sold the fuel abroad - and then laconically announced it was keeping all of the money.


Investigations by the City Soviet and by local media all concluded the city got, as the daily newspaper Smena put it, "not a kopeck," and that the Sobchak administration did nothing to correct this. (Putin later disputed this, telling reporters that City Hall had argued with Kirishinefteorgsintez and browbeat them into buying some symbolic shipments of animal fodder and meat for the Leningrad Region. But even he conceded it was a less-than-inspiring performance.)


So Deputy Mayor Khizha struck out of the export quota game - and in the final days of 1991, Deputy Mayor Putin stepped to the plate. "The only possible source for bringing food to the region in January-February 1992 would be import shipments," Putin wrote in a December letter to Gaidar asking for new export quotas.


The letter asked not just for oil, but also for specific quantities of lumber, aluminum, cement, precious metals and more. The letter said these various raw materials could be sold abroad to the tune of $122 million, as part of "barter deals" to bring food imports back into St. Petersburg.


The letter also expressed concern, in the wake of the Kirishinefteorgsintez fiasco, about how to "establish operative control" over the transactions; Putin asked that the right to issue and oversee much of the legal documentation be granted to his City Hall foreign relations committee.


Why all this talk of barter? Why not just sell the materials abroad - and then use the money to buy food?


Barter was popular as a way to get around the restrictive Soviet-era laws governing use of hard currency; in many cases, barter was sought because it is notoriously opaque and provides lots of opportunity to siphon off profit.


Whatever the logic was behind Putin's barter schemes, it made sense to Prime Minister Gaidar, who on Dec. 5, 1991, scribbled "agreed" on Putin's letter. That same day the letter was approved by then-Foreign Trade Minister Pyotr Aven (the man who now heads mighty Alfa Bank). Putin was handed, courtesy of a Russian government order, export quotas for 150,000 tons of petroleum products, 750,000 cubic meters of timber, 14,000 tons of rare-earth metals and 30,000 tons of ferrous metals, 20,000 tons of cement, 1,000 tons each of copper and aluminum and more. The timber quotas alone were equal to the amount of wood going abroad annually through St. Petersburg's ports and train stations, according to the newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskiye Birzheviye Vedomosti.


Putin's committee set to work. In just four days it signed 19 contracts with, as the newspaper Smena put it, "various commercial structures." These were obscure businesses, some of them founded mere months earlier: Nevsky Dom. Tamigo. The Mezhdunarodny Kommerchesky Tsentr, a.k.a. Interkomtsentr. Dzhikop. Kompleks. Sansud. And so on.


In describing his job as deputy mayor, Putin had emphasized his role as a watchdog for the private sector - as someone with the resources and the mandate to research potential partners for the city and its business people. (again, see sidebar, page V). This was the same savvy former KGB man who had advised his colleague Liverovsky to follow the money if he wanted to understand the problems with the Leningrad Dam; the same deputy mayor still smarting from the Kirishinefteorgsintez fiasco and telling the prime minister he could "establish ... control" over matters.


So did Putin research these companies? He said he did. In an interview with Smena, he said the export-quota opportunities had been advertised in the local media, and he described weeding out one company that responded to an ad but which Putin doubted was serious.


But of those he did select, in those four frantic days, "Not one of the companies who received licenses for taking materials out of the country was involved in producing those materials," according to Smena, and "practically none of them ... was known in the city as a serious commercial structure."


Dzhikop, to take an example, was registered in October 1991. Two and a half months later it awarded export quotas for rare-earth metals.


Rare-earth metals are a group of closely related rare metals. Some are magnetic; some are radioactive; all have wonderfully obscure names: praseodymium, europium, terbium, yttrium, ytterbium, cerium, samarium, lanthanum and so on.


The contract between Putin's committee and Dzhikop laid out all the details nicely and neatly: How many kilograms of what metal would be sold for what price, and what percent of those earnings would go to buy food for St. Petersburg. It was all very simple math - and none of it added up.


For example, 7 kilograms of scandium (a metal used, among other things, as a component of alloys in metallic baseball bats) sold for 72.60 DM a kilogram ought to bring in 508.20 DM (about $250). The city's contract with Dzhikop plugged in those figures, multiplied seven times 72.60 and somehow got ... 1,452 DM ($725). Three times as much. The contract blithely reported Dzhikop would sell 8,260 kilograms of zirconium (it's used in everything from camera flashbulbs to nuclear reactors) at a price of 142.20 DM a kilogram, for a total earning of 1,166,040 DM (about $580,000) ... but even with an abacus in 1991, 8,260 x 142.20 equaled 1,174,572 DM, a difference (in the other direction this time) of 8,532 DM.


And so on, down through the contract - with line item after line item somehow not adding up - and then the sum of all of those incorrect subtotals also not adding up.


And that was just one contract. Other contracts were equally riddled with willfully bad math - a situation that, as Smena noted, made it easy for either side to declare the contract non-binding.


In fact, of the 19 contracts struck, more than half lacked the signature and stamp of one of the two parties. Many had missing page numbers, or page numbers out of order, or handwritten corrections entered into the typed texts. Most of the contracts lacked any price information at all. One contract handed Interkomtsentr the quotas for 150,000 tons of oil - but somehow the accompanying licenses ended up with Nevsky Dom. Another contract set the price of sugar to be bought abroad for the city at $280 a ton - prompting Birzheviye Vedomosti to quip that the city had haggled its way to "a sweet death" given world sugar prices of $200 a ton.


Putin had billed his export-quota barter deals as "the only possible source for bringing food to the region in January-February 1992." In the end, they fell through, and the purported $122 million worth of quotas Gaidar granted the city translated into ... two tankers of cooking oil bought within the confines of the CIS, courtesy of Tamigo, which trundled into St. Petersburg on Feb. 3, 1992. The arrival of this cooking oil was a sufficient triumph for Putin to write Gaidar on Feb. 6 to inform him of it.


The Angry Aftermath


The City Soviet was outraged, and in 1991 it still had some power. It launched a formal investigation and demanded to see the export-quota contracts. Putin's committee, citing "commercial secrets," dragged its heels. But eventually, at City Soviet chairman Belyayev's insistence, the mayor's office surrendered up much of the documentation. (It was published extensively in local media in March and April 1992.) The City Soviet then hired its own experts to check some of the prices - and announced that Putin's committee was pricing some of the rare-earth metals at 1/20th of their value, and in some cases 1/2,000th. On the rare-earth metals contracts alone, the deputies concluded the city was being stiffed for 14 million DM (roughly $7 million).


This, the most straightforward and easily-labeled of the City Soviet's allegations, became the symbol of the affair. Now it was "the rare-earth metals scandal." Coincidentally, that also happened to be one of the easiest allegations for Putin to dismiss - as he did, rather well, when asked about it by Smena in April 1992. "You and I aren't going to solve this question now," Putin said then. "Specialists will have to make their conclusion. Metals prices, particularly for the rare-earth metals, move up and down on world markets, and on the domestic markets they jump around so that you simply can't follow them."


The City Soviet accused Putin and his committee of trying to obstruct their investigation, and recommended to Mayor Sobchak that Putin be sacked for his involvement in the entire dubious export-quota fiasco. They also put their conclusions into a formal report delivered to the St. Petersburg prosecutor and to the Gaidar government.


And that was pretty much the end of it. Sobchak declined to sack Putin. The mayor instead accused the City Soviet of making groundless and incompetent accusations, and suggested they were grinding a political ax.


Putin, it must be added in fairness, put up a spirited and detailed defense of his conduct. The City Soviet may have accused him of obstruction - but Putin could fairly say that he promptly appeared on the floor of the Soviet to answer questions in a formal inquiry, and that he also made himself available for substantial interviews with hostile newspapers like Smena. He gave patient-sounding and detailed answers (even if they shaded into the realm of evasion.)


Putin insisted that food imports would have come pouring in had not the Customs Committee and other bureaucrats at the border balked at the idea of a St. Petersburg deputy mayor having the power to issue export quota documentation. "In fact nothing was ever realized from our contracts," he told Smena, because both the customs and then the local representative of the Foreign Trade Ministry interfered.


"This situation is explained only by one thing: A desire on the part of the Administration for Non-tariff Regulation (that's the former Licensing Committee of Russia) not to let its monopoly on handing out [export] licenses slip through its fingers."


More 'Non-Standard' Projects


The "rare-earth metals scandal" came as a last hurrah of St. Petersburg glasnost. Even as it was unfolding, a dramatic shift in Mayor's Office-City Soviet relations was in motion. Gone where the days when City Soviet deputies would plead with law professor Sobchak to come rule over them; fading just as fast where the glasnost-tinged days when any City Soviet deputy and any serious journalist could ask for, and receive, detailed financial or budgetary information. Soon there would be no future "rare-earth metals scandal", if only because no one would ever enjoy easy access to the documents and be able to check the math.


Sobchak had been elected mayor on June 16, 1991; already by June 26 he was complaining to Nevskoye Vremya at a press conference, "Today any deputy can come to any [Mayor's Office] official and demand any kind of document. I will forbid officials of the Mayor's Office to accept questions from deputies that don't directly concern the district they were chosen to represent."


This was particularly startling when it came to the city's budget.


With each passing year, the Sobchak administration would hand the City Soviet an-ever shorter and less-detailed budget; when lawmakers complained, deadlock would ensue. When Boris Yeltsin dispersed and then shelled the national parliament, Sobchak eagerly followed suit and busted up his own legislative critics. The City Soviet was renamed the Legislative Assembly; under a scheme drawn up by Sobchak, lawmakers met once a week, on Wednesdays, and they were encouraged to have a second job. Soon they were being asked to approve "city budgets" that were laughably vague.


"That was where you could see the liberalism of Sobchak and his team in question," remembered Igor Artemyev, St. Petersburg's leading representative of the Yabloko party. Artemyev was in 1994 and 1995 chair of the Legislative Assembly's budget committee. It was a frustrating job. "[Sobchak's office] wanted the budget closed and kept to just two or three pages."


Emblematic of this new tight-lipped Petersburg style was a bizarre incident in 1993 involving Lev Savenkov, one of Sobchak's deputy mayors. Savenkov was arrested trying to smuggle out of the country eight grams of a substance he identified as a newly-invented radioactive isotope, osmium-187.


Osmium can be found on the periodic table; it is used in the powder investigators use to dust for fingerprints, and in the hard metal tips of fountain pens.


But osmium-187? Then as now, no one has ever come up with a very good explanation of what exactly it is. Perhaps it was a brilliant new invention; perhaps it was a hoax. Either way, Savenkov went to jail for smuggling.


What makes this otherwise-obscure tale fascinating is that Savenkov claimed osmium-187 was developed by one of several secret scientific projects run by the St. Petersburg Mayor's Office under the auspices of Deputy Mayor Putin - and, in a little-noted interview, Putin confirmed that.


The Nevskoye Vremya newspaper in March 1994 published an investigative report on the Savenkov/osmium-187 affair, pairing side-by-side interviews with Savenkov and Putin. Savenkov, in a rambling way, tells the paper how in 1992 he was desperate to find some investment for his beloved, inflation-ravaged, poverty-stricken city.


First he hit upon the idea of organizing a traveling exhibit of great paintings in the collections of the city's leading museums, the Hermitage and the Russian Museum; the mayor's office would take out an insurance policy on the paintings; that policy could then be put up as collateral for bank loans; those loans could then be invested in into "reconstructing quickly-profitable enterprises in the food and tourism industries;" and once the food and tourism rubles started flowing, the loans could be paid off.


"It's practically a risk-free project," Savenkov says, then adds mournfully that he couldn't convince the mayor.


"I started looking for other sources of funding for the city budget," Savenkov continues, and he recounts stumbling across a private company involved in "industrial optics and machine-building."


Savenkov names the company only as "the corporation," a precaution he explains as necessary because "the workers of 'the corporation' were an object of serious interest on the part of Western special services," and also because any of the mighty scientific discoveries they were on the verge of making would need to be kept quiet until properly patented.


Savenkov says he and "the corporation" agreed to work together: He would get the mayor's office to find money and contacts to develop their plans; in return they would send some of their future profits either to the city budget "or a special off-budget fund."


Together "the corporation" and the Mayor's Office set up a new joint company, Savenkov continues, although like "the corporation" itself this new company also must remain in the shadows to foil the CIA and others; however, it was all under the control of the external relations committee of Deputy Mayor Putin.


By the spring of 1993, "the corporation" has developed high-tech optics that Savenkov arranges to be shown around in Finland. Orders come pouring in - too many for "the corporation" to handle. Money is desperately needed, to buy more equipment to make more high-tech optics. ...


At this point in Savenkov's wild tale, Nevskoye Vremya breaks in to ask plaintively: Why didn't you just allocate some city money if it was such a great project?


"Standard solutions were completely unsuitable here," Savenkov replies airily. "Then we would have had to ask the City Soviet to approve financing of the project. That would have involved making public all of the commercial details of its development - and along the way showing our cards to our competitors. What's more, experience of working with the council members has shown that nothing unusual, nothing that goes beyond the conventional boundaries, ever gets approved by them."


Yes, well. They were all probably communists. But if the City Soviet couldn't think outside the box, Savenkov could. To make an already long (and barely plausible) tale short, Savenkov concluded that to fund his industrial optics invention he needs another new invention.


"Analyzing the world market, I was struck by operations with stable isotopes among the rare-earth metals. The most interesting were the isotopes of osmium, cesium, rubidium and a few others," he says.


"I won't explain now my reasons - I think they are already clear to the attentive newspaper reader. But I was certain that this scientific-technical task [of creating an entirely new category of rare-earth metal] could be accomplished by the workers of 'the corporation'."


Savenkov maintains that this is exactly what happened - and then, he was so excited he lost his head from patriotism and tried to sneak the new osmium isotope abroad so as to have it certified and patented in the West. "I forgot that initiative can be punished," Savenkov laments.


So what did Deputy Mayor Putin think? Was this true?


Yes indeed. "The work of Lev Vitalyevich Savenkov with osmium is not the first or the only attempt to find non-standard financing sources for the city's needs, particularly in the supplying of the city with food," Putin says.


Putin recounts that he and Sobchak first gave consideration to Savenkov's Hermitage-paintings-for-insurance-policy- for-bank-loans-for-tourism-investment s cheme.


"That was a fairly balanced project as to its costs and profits," Putin recalled. "But the opinion of my committee was negative. I am certain: We cannot risk our cultural valuables to solve mere, excuse the expression, 'sausage questions'."


Disappointed, Savenkov moved from high art to high-tech. Putin tells the story pretty much as did Savenkov.


"[With Savenkov's 'corporation'] we drew up a project for the creation of a joint stock company," Putin said.


"It was understood that some of the shares would belong to the city. Correspondingly, some of the profits were to come to the city budget. The realization of this plan required the special permission of the government, and in some cases of the Central Bank."


Mistakes were made, however. As Putin sees it, his biggest was that he was ... not trusting enough.


He was skeptical at first when he was told Savenkov and his kept scientists had created something called osmium-187. After Savenkov's arrest, however, Putin said he became a believer in osmium-187 when "workers with the MBR [as the FSB was then known] acquainted me with the documentation."


Putin tells Nevskoye Vremya he has since met with the inventor of osmium-187, and discussed his work with him; and that this scientist is still working for the mysterious joint venture set up between St. Petersburg City Hall and the secret "corporation."


Now there are a million questions one might ask about this. Just for starters: Why is the St. Petersburg City Hall setting up secret companies? Who is keeping track of money that goes into Savenkov's "special off-budget fund"? And what is it with Putin and the rare-earth metals anyway? And how come no one else in the world has ever heard of or isolated anything called osmium-187 (even now, seven years after Savenkov's arrest)?


Nevskoye Vremya does not ask these questions; instead, the newspaper expresses concern at "rumors" that the KGB crowd has taken the laboratory where osmium-187 was developed under its wing: "Couldn't it turn out that the benefits of this amazing discovery will now not come to our city?"


Putin, the former KGB colonel, stiffly turns this aside.


"The workers of those organs have the same concerns as you do. They understand that the discoveries in questions, including the method for obtaining osmium-187, can realistically help Petersburg overcome its economic crisis," he answers. He continues, "The people working in the law enforcement organs live among us. As they stand on guard of the law, they think not only of the interests of the state as a whole, but also of Petersburg, of the interests of city residents. I would not search for enemies among the workers of these organs."


(Continued)

From the Web

Dear reader,

Due to the increasing number of users engaging in personal attacks, spam, trolling and abusive comments, we are no longer able to host our forum as a site for constructive and intelligent debate.

It is with regret, therefore, that we have found ourselves forced to suspend the commenting function on our articles.

The Moscow Times remains committed to the principle of public debate and hopes to welcome you to a new, constructive forum in the future.

Regards,

The Moscow Times