C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 000932 



EO 12958 DECL: 04/03/2018 

Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reason: 1.4 (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: In separate conversations recently,
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Metropolitan Kirill criticized
the decision to recognize
Kosovo’s independence and sharply condemned plans for Ukraine
 to move closer to NATO. Solzhenitsyn, who is partially
paralyzed by a stroke,
 but remains alert and very engaged in current events, as his
 April 2 Izvestiya article on the Holodomor demonstrated,
 joined Kirill in voicing his
concerns about poverty and the widening gap between rich and
poor in Russia. Kirill again expressed optimism about prospects
for better relations
with Roman Catholic Pope Benedict and described his intention
 to attempt to jump-start an ecumenical dialogue under the
auspices of the UN and, in the United States, via
the National Council of Churches. Both Solzhenitsyn and
 Kirill were optimistic about prospects for Russia under Medvedev.
 End summary.

Solzhenitsyn on Town Hall Democracy, Medvedev, Kosovo,
Ukraine and NATO

¶2. (C) In a recent meeting, writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
received the Ambassador at his home outside Moscow.
Solzhenitsyn, who will turn 90 this December has been in
declining health for some time. A stroke has left his left
arm paralyzed and his hand gnarled, but Solzhenitsyn’s
legendary energy was undiminished, and he was alert,
 spoke clearly, and, as the conversation showed, actively
 engaged with the events of the day. With Solzhenitsyn was
 his wife Natalya, who followed the conversation carefully,
 and did not hesitate to contradict her husband when she thought
it necessary.

¶3. (C) As he had in a 2007 Der Spiegel interview, Solzhenitsyn
 positively contrasted the eight-year reign of Putin with those
of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, which he said had
“added to the damage done to the Russian state by seventy years
of Communist rule.” Under Putin, the nation was re-discovering
 what it was to be Russian, Solzhenitsyn thought,
 although he acknowledged that many problems remained; among
them poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor.

¶4. (C) Solzhenitsyn enthusiastically told the Ambassador of
the need to develop grassroots democracy through instruments
of local self-government. Recalling his time in
 the United States, Solzhenitsyn called the Vermont town hall
 meetings he had witnessed the “essence of democracy.” Putin’s
 decision, following Beslan, to have governors
 appointed instead of elected had been a “mistake,” Solzhenitsyn
thought. He also dismissed the on-again, off-again conversations
in Russia about the need to construct a  genuine party system as
 Solzhenitsyn thought it was necessary to elect officials directly,
 so that they could be held accountable for their actions.

¶5. (C) President-elect Medvedev struck Solzhenitsyn as a “nice,
 young man.” Solzhenitsyn had not met him, but he guessed he was up
 to the “enormous challenge of repairing the damage done to Russian
 citizens during the Soviet period.” His reference to the Soviet
 period caused Solzhenitsyn to worry that young Russians did not
sufficiently appreciate the dangers of Soviet communism.
It was essential, as well, that Russia re-assure the former
Soviet states that it fully appreciated how “deformed”
 the Soviet system was, and was aware of the crimes, like the
Holodomor, it had committed against Soviet citizens.
(Note: on April 2, Solzhenitsyn joined the debate here
about the famine in Ukraine in a brief article published in
 Izvestiya. In it, he recalls the 1921 famine that stalked
 the Urals and rejects the notion that the 1932 - 1933
 famine was a an act of “genocide” against the Ukrainian people.
 Solzhenitsyn’s article sparked a mini-controversy here,
 with Father Gleb Yakunin taking Solzhenitsyn to task
 for “attacking the first CIS state that condemned the
communist genocide.”)

¶6. (C) Solzhenitsyn repeated to the Ambassador his objection to
 independence for Kosovo. Why, he asked rhetorically, should the
Serbs be held responsible for the sins of Milosevic?
 He was critical of plans to move Ukraine closer to NATO, although
 he didn’t belabor the point. The more significant moment, he
 thought, was the reaction of the United States
after 9/11, when Putin attempted to extend a helping hand. He
 cooperated in paving the way for U.S. bases in Central Asia and
joined other foreign leaders in extending Russia’s condolences to
 the American people. Solzhenitsyn hoped  for a time when that
 spontaneous gesture by Putin would be fully reciprocated.

¶7. (C) Solzhenitsyn told the Ambassador that he continues to work
actively in the archives, and it was clear from the topical
references sprinkled throughout his conversation that he followed current events actively.

Google and Facebook rivalry takes centerstage

The relationship between the two Internet icons has become increasingly confrontational, and the battle will likely intensify on Monday when Facebook is expected to introduce a revamped version of its messaging technology that could pose a challenge to Google’s Gmail.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Google Chief Eric Schmidt will each take the stage, along with dozens of other Internet industry heavyweights, during the 3-day Web 2.0 conference that kicks off Monday.

With reports swirling that Yahoo Inc is being eyed for a takeover by private equity firms, possibly in coordination with AOL Inc or News Corp. Yahoo Inc CEO Carol Bartz’s talk at the conference on Tuesday will also be closely watched.

And investors hoping for an eventual wave of initial public offerings by a new generation of fast-growing Web start-ups will keep an eye on appearances by executives from Twitter, Zynga and LinkedIn.

But all eyes will be on Zuckerberg and Schmidt, and the pitched struggle for Web surfers’ time online, advertising dollars, and increasingly costly Silicon Valley talent.

Investors are waiting for details of Google’s social networking strategy. Google has acquired several small social networking companies in recent months and Schmidt has said the company would begin to add social “layers” to its existing products in the fall.


Google’s Internet search engine and Facebook’s social networking service have grown into billion-dollar businesses, amassing vast numbers of users. Now, the two are increasingly on a collision course.

“Once you have that many (users), you want to try to be all things to all people in some sense …, and I think everything falls out of that,” said a person familiar with Facebook’s thinking.

“They have similar aspirations and goals,” the person said of Google.

The latest flashpoint appears to be email, with Facebook due to unveil “across the board” changes to its messaging service on Monday, according to the source.

Blog TechCrunch reported on Friday that Facebook will unveil a full-fledged Web email product, along with “” email addresses for users, and noted that the product is referred to within Facebook as a “Gmail-killer.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.

Last week, Google began blocking a Facebook feature that allows users to automatically import Gmail contact data into the social networking service. Google accused Facebook of siphoning up Google data without allowing for the automatic import and export of Facebook users’ information.

They are also increasingly vying for engineering talent in Silicon Valley. This week, Google internally announced plans to boost salaries by 10 percent, according to media reports, in a move viewed as an effort to staunch an exodus of engineers and managers to Facebook.

But the social network itself lost a star engineer on Friday, when Paul Buchheit said he was leaving Facebook to join Y Combinator, a firm that invests in and provides services for technology start-ups.

Buchheit, who worked at Google from 1999 to 2006, is best known as the creator of Google’s Gmail. But he would not discuss any Facebook product plans when reached on the phone on Friday.

When reports of Facebook building an email product first surfaced in February, Buchheit said he was not working on anything related to email at Facebook and that he didn’t plan to.

Mudslides devastate China town

Image: A view of a massive mudslide running through the county-seat town in Zhouqu county in northwest China

ZHOUQU, China — The death toll from a massive landslide triggered by floods in China’s northwest has risen to 337, the country’s state media said on Monday.

The Communist Party chief of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province also told the state-run Xinhua News Agency that more than 1,100 people were still missing.

The disaster struck Sunday as a debris-blocked swollen river burst, swamping entire mountain villages in the county seat of Zhouqu and ripping homes from their foundations.

It is the deadliest incident in China’s worst flooding in a decade.

Meantime, rescuers armed with little more than shovels searched for hundreds of people after a torrent of mud engulfed the town, tearing down homes and filling the streets with sludge.

Upstream from the disaster, demolition experts and geologists were working frantically to drain a lake that had built up behind a barrier of landslide blockage.

With more rains forecast for this week, there would be fresh tragedy if the unsecured dam bursts, creating a new mud flow.

The region is dominated by steep and barren hills.

Troops, police and firefighters deployed
Premier Wen Jiabao visited the disaster-hit town on Sunday, to survey the wreckage, promise government help, console survivors, and urge rescuers and engineers to work as hard as possible to save lives and prevent fresh tragedy.

China has deployed all the resources of a powerful central government to battle a string of natural disasters in recent years — flooding, quakes and landslides — winning popular support for both the military and the leadership.

Six thousand troops, police and firefighters worked through the night to dig out survivors, though the slurry of mud that devastated the worst-hit areas dimmed hopes of finding many alive under the wreckage, and complicated rescue efforts.

Over a meter deep in many areas, the mire has made it almost impossible for rescue teams to bring in vital heavy equipment.

As of Sunday night, more than 1,240 people had been rescued from among the debris or were plucked from the top of buildings where they had taken refuge from the onslaught. Over 100 were injured, 29 seriously.

Streams of refugees trekked out of the area, some carrying a few possessions they had managed to salvage, others with a grimmer load — the bodies of loved ones killed by the sludge, the official China Daily newspaper said.

Power lines are down in two-thirds of the county, and water up to 13 feet deep is still surging through some parts of town, the official Xinhua agency said. At least 45,000 people have been evacuated, including the residents of downstream towns thought to be at risk from a fresh mudslide.

The Ministry of Finance has set aside 500 million yuan ($74 million) in emergency funds for the region.

The Agriculture Ministry has also sent protective equipment and disinfectant to an area with large numbers of livestock — there are many nomadic Tibetan herders living there — to help battle possible epidemics caused by dead animals.