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DATE=8/31/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / AUGUST EVENTS NUMBER=5-46952 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: ///// RE-PRINTING AS BACKGROUND REPORT. ///// INTRO: Russian newspapers are dubbing this past month "Black August" - because of three major disasters. Moscow Correspondent Eve Conant reports politicians and average Russians alike are arguing that August was not a month of accidents. Saying instead, it is a sign that Russia's infrastructure, society, and economy are in a dire state almost 10-years after the fall of the Soviet Union. TEXT: As the smoke was still rising over the Ostankino television tower, President Vladimir Putin warned, in his words - this emergency highlights the condition of our vital facilities and our entire nation. /// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// Mr. Putin says - the government must not neglect Russia's large-scale problems. Only economic development can help us avoid accidents in the future. August began with a fatal bombing in a busy underground passageway in Moscow. But that crisis was soon overshadowed by the tragic sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk which plunged to the bottom of the Barents Sea, taking the lives of all 118-crewmen with it. Briefly diverting attention from that was this week's devastating fire at Moscow's main T-V tower, which blacked out television reception for millions of Moscow viewers. Each crisis overshadowed the next. Each revealed, in different ways, the underlying faults in the Russian system - inadequate police surveillance, a lack of discipline and training in the armed forces, a lack of technological progress, and the seeming unwillingness of Russia's leaders to take responsibility or tell the truth. /// OPT /// Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov explained the series of disasters as a metaphor for the faults of the Kremlin administration. /// OPT // ZYUGANOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE /// Mr. Zyuganov says - we are realizing the sober truth; that we are on a terrible path. Unless citizens become active, nothing will ever improve. If people enter the government in order to plunder, then it is not a real government. /// END OPT /// But Dimitry Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center says that while President Putin has survived the disasters politically, the series of accidents underscore how poorly equipped his administration is to deal with emergencies. /// TRENIN ACT /// I think that this, as we used to say in the past, is no coincidence. Mr. Putin, who is riding high in the opinion of most people, may crash to the ground if this series of events continues to show the incompetence of exactly the same elements in which Mr. Putin wants to build his new Russian state - the security services, the military, and various state bodies. /// END ACT /// For many, President Putin's slow response to the sinking of the submarine Kursk, and the lack of information about the fate of the 118-seamen inside, revealed him as a supporter of a strong state who, above all else, is determined to protect its prestige - even at the expense of its citizens. /// OPT /// Twenty-nine-year-old housewife Svetlana Alyokhina says she and her friends lost respect for President Putin after he refused immediate offers of help from the West to save the crew of the Kursk. /// OPT // ALYOKHINA ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE /// /// OPT /// She says - President Putin could have saved those men. They were not criminals, they were the best citizens we have. But he rejected the help - which makes us think that no one is trying to protect us. It is as if they want to destroy us. /// END OPT /// Thirty-two-year-old Andrei Elansky says President Putin should not be judged for the disasters, that he simply inherited a bankrupt country. /// ELANSKY ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says - this was going to happen anyway - it is a consequence of our old system. Everything is rotten and nothing is being fixed. So it all collapsed this August. Political analyst Dimitry Evstafiev says that the August events above all should serve as a warning to the Russian government that it can no longer rely on Soviet-era technology or resources. /// EVSTAFIEV ACT /// It brought Mr. Putin and his government to the point of a choice, whether to continue the line `everything is business as usual' and continue to exploit Soviet assets, or to begin a new investment policy in infrastructure. That is one of the most important results of the fire in Ostankino. /// END ACT /// Most importantly, he says, Russia's cash-strapped government simply cannot financially or politically afford any more disasters such as the fire, the bomb attack, or the sinking of the Russian navy's pride - the Kursk, and its entire crew. (SIGNED) NEB/EC/JWH/RAE 31-Aug-2000 12:05 PM EDT (31-Aug-2000 1605 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .