29 July 2003, Volume
RUSSIAN POLITICOS REACT TO THE KILLING OF FORMER IRAQI PRESIDENT'S SONS.
The killing of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, will not improve the situation in Iraq, Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov said on 23 July. "The fact that Hussein's sons were not turned over to a court, but were killed during military actions shows that the country remains a long way from a genuine political process," Margelov told Interfax. The longer the fighting continues, he added, the more likely it is that Iraqi resistance will increase. Deputy Konstantin Kosachev (Fatherland-All Russia), deputy chairman of the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, said the killings were a morale boost for U.S. and British "occupation forces" that demonstrated the U.S.-led coalition's "toughness, consistency, and effectiveness" to the Iraqis. But the killing of Hussein's sons was also "outside the bounds of international law, like all of the Americans' actions in Iraq," Kosachev told Interfax. Meanwhile, political scientist Vladimir Maksimenko told Voice of Russia radio on 23 July that he believes the U.S. military command in Iraq has been ordered to "physically destroy" Hussein's family members to prevent them from talking.FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR NEW UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ.
Speaking at a conference in Moscow on 22 July, Igor Ivanov said that the United Nations Security Council should adopt a new resolution on Iraq in order to forestall negative developments in that country, RIA-Novosti and RTR reported. Ivanov said that the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, and argued that the process could be halted by the joint efforts of the international community and the Iraqi people. He proposed that a new resolution be adopted that would extend the provisions of UN Resolution 1483, set the date for the formation of a new Iraqi government, and ensure greater UN involvement in resolving Iraq's problems.FOREIGN MINISTRY URGES POLITICAL SETTLEMENT FOR KOREAN PENINSULA...
Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov warned on 23 July that an escalation of the tension surrounding North Korea's nuclear program could have "very negative" consequences, Interfax reported. "It is a very serious problem," Fedotov told journalists in Moscow. "All of this is taking place in the immediate vicinity of our borders and the consequences of a possible worsening of the situation, an escalation of tension, could be very negative," Interfax quoted Fedotov as saying. For that reason, he added, Moscow supports diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem. Another Russian deputy foreign minister, Aleksandr Losyukov, said in an interview published on 23 July in "Vremya novostei" that the situation on the Korean Peninsula has been deteriorating and there is the "hypothetical possibility" of a war. Losyukov tacitly criticized the United States for failing to back a Russian plan to resolve the crisis that would include Washington giving Pyongyang a "non-aggression" guarantee....WHILE PRIMORSKII KRAI BATTENS DOWN THE HATCHES.
Primorskii Krai, which borders North Korea, has been secretly training civil-defense personnel and checking bomb shelters, NTV reported on 23 July. The television channel quoted the region's governor, Sergei Darkin, as saying it can accommodate more than 200,000 refugees from North Korea. "We have a reasonably good system of civil defense in the territory," Darkin said. "It will allow us to control the situation in the event of any conflict. We know what is going on in North Korea, and we are ready for any possible developments. Thus, there is absolutely no need to excite passions on the issue." On 18 July, "Izvestiya" quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov as saying that Russia has taken precautionary measures to deal with any possible military conflict in the region, including one involving the use of nuclear weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003).MOSCOW CHAFES AT NEW U.S. VISA REQUIREMENTS.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said in Moscow on 22 July that the government is concerned about new, stricter requirements for Russian citizens seeking visas to travel to the United States, nns.ru and polit.ru reported. The new requirements will come into effect on 1 August. Under the new rules, all visa applicants will have to undergo a personal interview at a U.S. consulate. In addition, rules concerning visa photographs will also be stricter. The U.S. Embassy explained the measures as part of a general boosting of security measures and warned Russian citizens who intend to travel to the United States to make their plans well in advance. Yakovenko said that Russia will ask the United States to rescind the measures, as they do not promote the development of business and other contacts between the two countries.CASPIAN LITTORAL STATES HOLD FURTHER ROUND OF TALKS.
The 10th round of talks at deputy-foreign-minister level among the five Caspian littoral states -- Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan -- took place in Moscow on 22-24 July, Russian and Azerbaijani news agencies reported. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and presidential envoy for Caspian issues Viktor Kalyuzhnyi said on the eve of the talks that they would focus on narrowing disagreements over the draft Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian, Turan reported. Following the previous round of talks in mid-May, Kalyuzhnyi said consensus was reached on some 30 percent of that document. Kalyuzhnyi on 24 July played down the other littoral states' rejection of a Russian proposal to introduce a 25-kilometer coastal zone, saying that such disagreements are "normal." He said the next round of talks will take place on 8-9 September in Ashgabat. Interfax quoted Kazakhstan's First Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov as predicting that a compromise version of the Russian proposal will be discussed in late 2003 or early 2004. Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov told journalists on 24 July that Baku is happy with the outcome of the talks, and praised what he termed Iran's "constructive" position, Turan reported.
YUKOS HEAD SPEAKS OUT AGAINST PROSECUTORS...
In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti," No. 28, Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii criticized the Prosecutor-General's Office and the courts for their recent actions against his company. "I do not consider our prosecutors' office today to be a law enforcement organ," Khodorkovskii said. "I am not certain that it is engaged in protecting [people's] rights, and I do not have much faith in the independence of our courts." The oligarch alleged that the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Prosecutor-General's Office have formed a special team to deal with him personally....SAYS THAT HE IS NOT AFRAID OF PRISON...
In the same "Moskovskie novosti" interview, Khodorkovskii added that prosecutors and the FSB are lying to President Vladimir Putin in the materials they are providing him about the Yukos cases. "The reasons why the president might or might not interfere are the subject of a separate discussion," Khodorkovskii said. "However, I am absolutely certain that the president has not ordered that the situation should develop as it is." He said that he has decided to face the challenge and fight, even though he realizes that the struggle will be difficult and it is possible that he will be imprisoned....DEFENDS THE OLIGARCHS...
In the same "Moskovskie novosti" interview, Khodorkovskii said his company is the most transparent major corporation in Russia and that it has fully adopted internationally accepted accounting standards. He admitted that, bearing in mind the huge size of the company, it is always possible to find something amiss, but all the most dubious operations and deals were cleared up in 1999 when Yukos switched to the new accounting methods. Commenting on rising anti-oligarch sentiment in Russia, Khodorkovskii noted that Yukos is a major company with the ability to defend itself. "But consider for a minute the average person in the country. He is not as well defended as we are. Anyone who has a stall in a market or a privatized apartment or a dacha can simply be thrown in prison. In our case, colonel generals and lieutenant generals are acting. In their case, sergeants will come. There are a lot of them. Enough to go around."...AND COMMENTS ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION.
Khodorkovskii also said in his "Moskovskie novosti" interview that it is laughable to claim that he has any political power. "We have only one God -- the state, and we all place before it the sacrifices of our lives and of our children's lives, and we are grateful when it accepts them," Khodorkovskii said. "We ourselves believe that we have one tsar and that we are all fleas. And as long as we have this idea in our heads, there is no point in speaking about the power of the oligarchs or, even less, about democracy." However, he added: "As a citizen I not only have the right, but I am obligated to have my own political views and to defend them. If we do not do this, then our political life will be determined by the prosecutors."FORMER OLIGARCH CALLS FOR VELVET REVOLUTION TO AVOID CIVIL WAR.
"Kommersant-Daily" on 24 July published a long open letter by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, who owns the newspaper, attacking President Putin. In the letter, Berezovskii accuses Putin of launching in the spring of 2000 a "creeping anticonstitutional coup," which has involved a series of efforts to redistribute property -- the latest being the investigations into oil giant Yukos. These efforts, Berezovskii warns, could spark a civil war, just as occurred after the 1917 Bolshevik coup and the nationalization of private property. Berezovskii argues that Putin is supported largely by the state bureaucracy. He argues that the security agencies are divided about supporting Putin, with many powerful elements within them critical of the government for "giving too much to the United States and the West in general." He outlines the main political actors in the country -- including regional governors and regional political elites, the oligarchs, the military, journalists, and the intelligentsia -- and claims that support for Putin among them is weak. He calls for the organization of mass protests, recalling the examples of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the United States and the anticommunist protests that swept Central Europe in the late 1980s.PRIME MINISTER AGAIN CRITICIZES MOVES AGAINST YUKOS...
Two top government officials on 24 July criticized the ongoing criminal probes by the Prosecutor-Generals' Office into the Yukos oil company and its parent company, Menatep. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the Yukos scandal, which began with the arrest of Menatep board chairman Platon Lebedev in early July, "is not to the advantage of the country's image and is negatively influencing the mood of investors," Interfax reported on 24 July. Kasyanov reiterated his belief that economic-crime suspects should not be kept in jail while their cases are being investigated. Lebedev was denied bail on 23 July and remains in Lefortovo prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). Kasyanov earlier said he considers Lebedev's arrest an "excessive measure" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003)....AS DEPUTY ECONOMICS MINISTER WANTS POLICE OUT OF THE ECONOMY...
While not referring specifically to Yukos or Menatep, First Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov told reporters on 24 July that "law-enforcement structures must not be players on the economic field" and should "protect the constitutional rights of citizens...and nothing more," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 July. Sharonov called the Prosecutor-General's Office "a double-edged sword," Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii said in a news conference on 23 July that he fears the company could be subject to more arrests and searches. "The tension is rising," Reuters quoted him as saying....AND FINANCE MINISTER TRIES TO CALM INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS ABOUT INVESTING IN RUSSIA.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin during a working visit to Slovenia on 26 July stressed Russia's "steadily improving" investment climate in an apparent effort to calm investment jitters resulting from the recent official investigations into oil giant Yukos, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 July. Kudrin cited Finance Ministry statistics indicating that the influx of capital into Russia in the first half of this year amounted to $2.6 billion, while $2 billion left the country. According to government predictions, capital inflow will exceed outflow by $2 billion this year and by $4 billion in 2004. Kudrin noted that Russia lost $25 billion in 2000, $16 billion in 2001, and $11.1 billion last year. "Vremya novostei" commented, however, that Kudrin's optimistic prognoses were all based on an examination of macroeconomic trends over the last half decade and do not take into account changes in investor sentiment brought on by the Yukos affair, which, the daily said, "has today become an indicator of the process of reform in Russia for the entire world."LEADING LIBERAL SAYS PROSECUTORS ARE 'HUMILIATING RUSSIA' IN YUKOS AFFAIR...
Deputy Duma Speaker Irina Khakamada (Union of Rightist Forces, or SPS) said on 21 July that the investigations of Yukos are not linked to the alleged political ambitions of Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii or to the impending Duma election campaign, RosBalt and other Russian media reported. SPS is one of the political parties that Khodorkovskii has financed in recent years. Khakamada said the dispute is a new attempt to redistribute property by means of law enforcement agencies. Similar attempts are under way in many regions, but they have not attracted much public or media attention, she charged. Asked to comment on the effect of the Yukos scandal abroad, Khakamada said, "The involvement of the Prosecutor-General's Office in this case is simply humiliating for Russia."...AS ECONOMICS MINISTER URGES PROSECUTORS TO BE QUICK...
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref has stated that "those who participated in privatization honestly and acted according to existing rules have nothing of which to be afraid," strana.ru reported on 21 July. Gref said he hopes the Yukos controversy is short-lived and that it will be resolved quickly so that markets can return to normal. Otherwise, he said, it could cause great damage to many companies that had nothing to do with privatization. "I hope that the investigators probing Yukos understand this aspect," Gref said....AND ANALYST SEES YUKOS SCANDAL AS 'DISASTROUS.'
In an interview with gazeta.ru on 28 July, Institute of Strategic Forecasting President Aleksandr Konovalov said the investigations into Yukos are "disastrous for business, for the authorities, and for the entire country." Konovalov noted that President Putin has spent considerable effort over the last three years creating a political "equilibrium" in the country and that those efforts have now been "undermined by people from his inner circle." He said that all talk of "boring elections" or "elections according to an inertial scenario" has vanished. Konovalov noted that Yukos has lost $19 billion in capitalization since the scandal began, meaning that government tax revenues and regional budgets will suffer. "Imagine that this winter is cold and instead of 15 freezing regions, we have 50," Konovalov said. "In this case, the authority of the government and confidence in the president will decline sharply just as the presidential election approaches." Konovalov also expressed skepticism about the independence of the judiciary, saying, "It is one of our weakest institutions." "As far as the prosecutors are concerned, they have become nothing but a tool in the hands of the presidential administration," he concluded.YUKOS SECURITY OFFICER REPORTEDLY DRUGGED IN PRISON.
Tatyana Akimtseva, a lawyer for Aleksei Pichugin, the senior Yukos security officer jailed on double-murder charges, alleged on 24 July that FSB interrogators had put "physical and psychological pressure" on her client, including the use of some type of narcotic. In one case, she said, Pichugin's coffee was apparently spiked, causing him to lose consciousness for a time and making him very ill. In addition, hypodermic needle tracks were found on her client's arm, Akimtseva claimed. Earlier in July, a group of State Duma deputies sent a request to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the FSB, and presidential human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov asking them to investigate complaints by Pichugin's wife and lawyers that police had used psychotropic drugs on Pichugin in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003).ACCUSATIONS ABOUT YUKOS SPILL OVER INTO THE URALS...
The leader of the public organization Chelyabinsk Against Corruption, Vladimir Filichkin, told reporters in Chelyabinsk on 22 July that in the mid-1990s the Chelyabinsk Oblast administration cooperated with Emitent, a financial structure controlled by Yukos, to "use" some 346.7 billion in nondenominated rubles for two years without paying interest on them, regions.ru reported, citing uralpolit.ru. Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Lieutenant General Oleg Chernov reportedly suggested the transaction to Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin, and the operation was performed with the assistance of Yurii Serov, who was then head of the oblast administration's construction directorate and who later became deputy governor. Local law enforcement officials investigated the transaction, and in 1998 some Emitent employees were arrested. Materials about the deal were sent to the oblast prosecutor, who in turn sent them to the local interior ministry, which then returned them to the prosecutor. The organizers of the financial deal were not interrogated, and no evidence of a crime was found, according to Filichkin....AND SCRUTINY THERE INTENSIFIES.
Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Urals Federal District Yurii Zolotov told reporters in Yekaterinburg on 25 July that his office has "serious questions to ask of large companies active in the Urals, not for the sake of a witch-hunt but to ensure law and order in the country," Interfax reported. Zolotov was responding to a question about an investigation into tax breaks granted to various Yukos-controlled companies by the town of Lesnoi in Sverdlovsk Oblast. According to Interfax, the investigation was sparked by complaints from State Duma Deputy Nikolai Daikhes (Communist), who is reportedly indignant of about tax-related offenses and the alleged collusion of law enforcement agencies in these crimes.AUDIT CHAMBER CALLS FOR REVISITING BASHKIR PRIVATIZATIONS.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 22 July, State Duma Audit Chamber auditor Vladislav Ignatov said the chamber has completed a probe into the privatization of state petrochemical companies in Bashkortostan and has found some flagrant violations of the law, Russian media reported. Ignatov said that Bashneft, Salavatneftorgsintez, and other companies were privatized by decrees from republican President Murtaza Rakhimov in the 1990s in violation of a law mandating that only the federal government can do so. These privatizations cost the federal budget at least $113 million, Ignatov charged, adding that "the results of such privatizations can and must be revised." He added that materials outlining all the violations have been forwarded to President Putin, Prime Minister Kasyanov, and the Prosecutor-General's Office.BRITISH FINANCIAL WATCHDOG PROBES CHELSEA SALE.
Great Britain's Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced that it is investigating the ownership of Chelsea Village, the company that owns the Chelsea Football Club, London's "Evening Standard" reported on 24 July. Roman Abramovich, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug governor and leading tycoon, announced earlier this month that he had bought a 50.09 percent stake in the soccer club (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Investors who own more than 3 percent of a firm in the United Kingdom are legally required to disclose this fact publicly. The FSA, however, said it has received evidence "that some of this information may have been inaccurate" and that it is "concerned that as a consequence the market may have been misled as to the true ownership of Chelsea Village." However, "there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the parties involved in the takeover," the evening daily reported.NATIONAL ADVERTISING MARKET CONTINUES STEADY RECOVERY...
The size of the advertising market in Russia during the first six months of 2003 was between $1.16 billion-$1.18 billion, which represents a 32 percent increase over the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the Russian Association of Advertising Agencies. Internet advertising experienced the biggest jump, 75 percent, but television advertising continued to constitute the biggest share with 38 percent of the total market. Before the economic crash of 1998, nearly $2.5 billion a year was being spent on advertising in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). Advertising in Russian media totaled the ruble equivalent of some $1.5 billion in 2001, up about 43 percent from the previous year....BUT BENEFITS SLOW TO TRICKLE DOWN TO REGIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS.
The regional advertising market did not experience any growth in the first six months of 2003, according to ITAR-TASS. It remained at its previous level, accounting for a 25 percent share of all media spending.
NAVY DAY THROWS SPOTLIGHT ON COUNTRY'S FLEETS.
Russia on 27 July celebrated Navy Day with ceremonies at port cities around the country, Russian media reported. President Putin congratulated the navy on the occasion, saying that the fleet "boosts Russia's defensive potential and increases its authority as a great naval power," RTR reported on 27 July. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov inspected the Leningrad Military District and the Northern Fleet, which was celebrating its 70th anniversary the same day, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 July. Ivanov praised the fleet for its increased activity, noting that 80 percent of the country's sea-based nuclear deterrent is concentrated in the Northern Fleet. He said that fleet ships completed 816 military exercises in the first half of this year. Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 28 July, emphasized that Russia remains a global power. "If anyone threatens Russia's sovereignty, then Russia will strike -- including through its naval forces -- at any point on the globe," Kuroedov said. "Everyone must understand this. We will also provide assistance to our citizens wherever they might need it." In another long interview with the Defense Ministry daily "Krasnaya zvezda" on 28 July, Kuroedov outlined the navy's plans for new-generation submarines and frigates and for a new corvette-class antisubmarine vessel. In both interviews, Kuroedov emphasized the navy's role protecting Russia's economic interests and natural resources.PUTIN SIGNS DECREE ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE...
President Putin has signed a decree on the organization of civilian service as an alternative to compulsory military service, Russian media reported on 22 July. The decree will take effect on 1 January 2004. The State Duma passed the law on alternative civilian service in June 2002, and it is also scheduled to come into effect on 1 January 2004 (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 June and 10 July 2002). However, in order for the law to be implemented, a number of normative acts and decrees need to be developed, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" explained on 23 July. According to the government daily, the most important step is delineating areas of responsibility among the various federal agencies. Under the decree, the Labor and Defense ministries are authorized to organize civilian service....AS LABOR MINISTRY DOES WHAT IT CAN TO MAKE THE ALTERNATIVE UNAPPEALING.
Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, whose ministry is responsible for organizing alternative civilian service for conscripts, told ORT and "Izvestiya" on 22 July that most young men who opt for alternative service will be given heavy manual labor, including working for polar expeditions or doing sanitation work at hospitals. "Even if their convictions preclude these young men from serving in the army, they do not prevent them from doing heavy labor," Pochinok said. He predicted that the numbers of men opting for alternative service will not be high, ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 out of an annual draft of 150,000. State-run RTR television commented on 22 July that the Labor Ministry's list of positions qualifying for alternative service was based on two criteria: low prestige and low wages. State-run ORT speculated that conscientious objectors might not be pleased with their choices after they have been sent to labor somewhere in Siberia for 3 1/2 years.FORMER DEFENSE MINISTRY CFO GETS FIVE YEARS.
The Moscow Military District Court on 24 July convicted Colonel General Georgii Oleinik, formerly the Defense Ministry's chief financial officer (CFO), of abuse of office and sentenced him to five years in prison, Interfax reported. Oleinik, who was also stripped of his rank and state awards, was found guilty of selling $54 million in Defense Ministry domestic bonds to Voyenbank for $4.5 million in 1998 and doing so without getting permission from the Central Bank and then-Defense Minster Igor Sergeev. Oleinik intends to appeal the verdict and the court did not accept a $60 million civil claim against him by the Defense Ministry, Interfax reported. Oleinik was convicted and sentenced in 2000 to two years in prison for embezzling $450 million from the Defense Ministry, but he was amnestied last August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 August and 4 October 2002).CONTROVERSIAL PARATROOP COMMANDER TO RETIRE, CONSIDERING ENTERING POLITICS.
Airborne Forces commander Colonel General Georgii Shpak said in a 28 July interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that he will retire when he turns 60 in September. The decision came following a meeting with Defense Minister Ivanov about six weeks ago, Shpak said. Shpak said he planned to run for the State Duma from a single-mandate district in Pskov but Unified Russia has nominated another Airborne Forces general who is reportedly close to Interior Minister and party head Boris Gryzlov to run in that district. He added that he might join the party list of "a left-centrist party" or that he might be willing to accept a position in government. Shpak has reportedly long had strained relations with Chief of the General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2003).ARMY OFFICER SENTENCED FOR MURDER OF CHECHEN WOMAN.
The North Caucasus Military District Court in Rostov-na-Donu handed down a 10-year prison sentence on 25 July to Colonel Yurii Budanov after convicting him of the March 2000 murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Russian media reported. Prosecutors had demanded a 12-year sentence, while Budanov's lawyer argued that he should be acquitted. In an earlier trial on the same charges, Budanov was acquitted on the grounds that he was temporarily insane at the time of the killing. The Russian Supreme Court overturned that verdict in February and ordered a retrial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January and 3 March 2003). Chechen Nationalities Minister Taus Dzhabrailov said the verdict shows that the human rights situation in Chechnya is improving, while Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Chechnya's deputy to the State Duma, and Chechen Mufti Akhmed Shamaev both argued it is too lenient, Interfax reported. In Moscow, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Ekho Moskvy on 25 July that the verdict does credit to the Russian legal system and will not negatively affect the reputation of the Russian Army.
TERRORIST BOMBS FOUND IN VILLAGE NEAR MOSCOW.
FSB bomb-disposal specialists have defused explosive devices found in the garage of a home in the village of Tolstopaltsevo on the outskirts of Moscow, newsru.com reported on 25 July. The devices, which were discovered on the evening of 24 July, were allegedly being stored for future use in attacks in Moscow. Among the devices were at least three explosive belts of the type that have been used by Chechen suicide bombers, including the two female suicide bombers who blew themselves up at a rock festival outside Moscow on 5 July, killing 14 people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2003). On 10 July, another such belt exploded when an FSB bomb-disposal expert tried to defuse it after its owner, whom the FSB later identified as a 22-year-old Chechen woman, threw it on a street outside a restaurant in downtown Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003).INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS TERROR SUSPECTS HAVE BEEN NABBED.
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 23 July that an unspecified number of people suspected of possible involvement in terrorism have been arrested in a number of Russia's major cities, Interfax reported. "We have discovered individuals who were in these cities for reasons they could not substantiate, and we suspect them of involvement in terrorist groups," Gryzlov said, speaking to journalists in the Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy. Several "ethnically based organized-crime groups" with Chechen members have been uncovered in the suburban Moscow districts of Domodedovo and Pavlov Posad, Gryzlov said, adding that the groups were suspected of involvement in terrorist activities because members were found in possession of large quantities of weapons. He also said that "a number of terrorist acts" have been thwarted as a result of a decree he signed following the 5 July suicide bombing at a rock concert in Moscow.RAILCARS LOADED WITH EXPLOSIVES BREAK LOOSE.
Local residents of the village of Elban near Komsomolsk-na-Amure in Khabarovsk Krai on 224 July discovered five derailed railcars loaded with tons of explosives, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported on 28 July. The railcars, which reportedly broke loose from the Voskhod munitions plant while unattended, contained 26 tons of antitank mines and 160 tons of explosives. Police evacuated nearby residents and put the explosives under guard, although authorities said there is no danger of an explosion. An investigation into the incident is under way.PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CHECHNYA SAYS NGOS MIGHT BE ABETTING CHECHEN TERRORISM...
In a statement issued to mark the first anniversary of his appointment as President Putin's commissioner for human rights in Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov proposed auditing the finances of human rights NGOs active in Chechnya on the grounds that some of them, which he refrained from identifying, might have ties to terrorist networks, according to Interfax on 22 July and "Vremya novostei" on 23 July....AS DUMA DEPUTY CHALLENGES THAT CLAIM.
In a commentary to grani.ru reposted on chechenpress.com, Duma Deputy and human rights activist Sergei Kovalev (Yabloko) took issue with the allegation by presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov that unnamed human rights NGOs operating in Chechnya might have links with "international terrorism." Kovalev argued that Sultygov should either specify which organizations he suspects of maintaining such contacts, or issue a public apology. He characterized Sultygov as a man who changes his views in accordance with those of his employer at any given time, noting that as a member of former Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev's staff, Sultygov supported introducing sharia law in Chechnya and granting Chechnya state sovereignty.
NEW BORDER-GUARD SERVICE GETS STAFFED UP.
President Putin made a series of appointments on 26 July to staff the new border-guard service, which, according to a decree issued in March, is now a unit of the FSB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March 2003), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July. When that decree was issued, Putin appointed former border-guard commander and army General Konstantin Totskii to be Russia's liaison to NATO and named Totskii's former deputy, Colonel General and FSB Deputy Director Vladimir Pronichev, to head the new border-guard service within the FSB. On 26 July, Putin named six new deputy chairmen of the new border-guard service: Colonel General Mansur Valiev, former head of the Far Eastern Federal District border-guard service; Lieutenant General Vladimir Rozhkov; Lieutenant General Aleksandr Manilov; Major General Aleksandr Mizon; Major General Nikolai Rybalkin; and Major General Viktor Trufanov, who formerly served in the central apparatus of the FSB. At the same time, Putin named Lieutenant General Gennadii Loginov to head the Northwest Federal District border-guard service. Loginov previously served in the central staff of the Federal Border Guard Service in Moscow.JAILED SCHOLAR/SUSPECTED SPY DEMANDS JURY TRIAL.
Lawyers for political scientist Igor Sutyagin, who is accused of espionage, have asked that he be given a jury trial, Interfax reported on 21 July. Anna Stavitskaya, one of Sutyagin's lawyers, told reporters that Sutyagin's only chance of getting a fair verdict rests with a jury. Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva noted that Sutyagin is the only Russian citizen accused of espionage in recent years who remains in custody. She asserted that Sutyagin never had access to classified information and obtained all of his information from open sources. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999 on suspicion of treason and has remained in jail ever since, despite a 2 October 2002 ruling saying that his detention is illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). Sutyagin was a researcher at the U.S.A. and Canada Institute.TAX-POLICE CORRUPTION CASE HEADS TO THE COURTS.
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 21 July handed over to the Moscow Municipal Court the case of Major General Sergei Platonov, a senior officer of the former Federal Tax Police Service, newsru.com reported. Platonov was arrested in March on suspicion of corruption, after reportedly being caught red-handed in his office accepting a bribe of $25,000, and is currently being held in Lefortovo prison. Platonov maintains that he is innocent and says that the money was a debt that was being repaid to him. Although Platonov's case is not formally linked to other recent anticorruption efforts, observers have noted that the case will be heard in a civilian court, which will ensure maximal publicity. Normally, cases involving law enforcement officers are heard by military courts.