12 August 2003, Volume
PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA MIGHT JOIN ISLAMIC CONFERENCE.
Concluding a two-day visit to Malaysia on 5 August, President Vladimir Putin made the surprise announcement that Russia is considering joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Russian and international media reported. The OIC is an umbrella organization of 57 Muslim countries working "to safeguard the interests and secure the progress and well-being of their peoples and of all Muslims in the world," according to the OIC website (http://www.oic-un.org). Putin noted that Russia has more than 20 million Muslims, more than many OIC members, including Malaysia. On 5 August, Council of Russian Muftis Chairman Ravil Gainutdin wholeheartedly endorsed Putin's proposal. "That move would be especially important now that fighting with international terrorism is in full swing," Gainutdin was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS. Also on 5 August, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church told the news agency that Russia is a multiconfessional country and therefore "it would be quite logical for Russia to seek membership in European as well as Oriental organizations, including the Islamic Conference." The news agency also reported on 5 August that Putin confirmed that he will address the 58th session of the UN General Assembly in September.U.S. OFFICIAL IN MOSCOW FOR CONSULTATIONS ON IRAQ...
Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns met in Moscow on 7 August to discuss the administration and reconstruction of Iraq, Russian media reported. Fedotov told ITAR-TASS on 7 August before the talks that he would urge a greater role for the United Nations "in the process of restoration and settlement in Iraq." The two men also discussed the implementation of the "road map" peace process in the Middle East. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 August, Burns was expected to present a U.S. draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq and to discuss the possibility of deploying Russian security forces there....AS MOSCOW CALLS FOR NEW UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ.
Following his talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Burns on 7 August, Fedotov told journalists following the talks that the creation of the Iraqi Governing Council was a positive development, and said that the establishment of a legitimate Iraqi government will contribute to stability in the region, ITAR-TASS reported. Burns told journalists that Washington understands that Russian companies are interested in participating the reconstruction of Iraq. On 7 August, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the UN Security Council should adopt a new resolution on Iraq, on the basis of which a "political settlement" in the country would be established.MOSCOW URGES IMMEDIATE OPENING OF NORTH KOREA TALKS.
Deputy Foreign Minister Fedotov on 7 August called for beginning six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear program as soon as possible, Japan's HNK television reported. A transcript of Fedotov's comments on HNK was posted on the Foreign Ministry's website (http://www.mid.ru). "The crisis on the Korean Peninsula is rather dangerous. Now it is necessary to take urgent measures in order to prevent the aggravation of the situation just as a doctor does when he wants to prevent the outbreak of a disease," Fedotov said. Fedotov said Pyongyang has placed no conditions on the proposed talks, although North Korea has expressed a desire to hold a one-on-one meeting with U.S. representatives during the six-way negotiations. Fedotov repeated Moscow's position that security guarantees for North Korea must be provided in exchange for that country's dismantling of its nuclear program.
PROPOSED LEGAL MEASURES AGAINST TERRORISM CALLED 'REPRESSIVE.'
The Justice Ministry has completed drafts of a series of amendments to criminal legislation that would increase the harshness of punishment for crimes connected with terrorism, and human rights officials familiar with the work have called the initiatives "repressive," "Novye izvestiya" reported on 7 August. One proposed change is to increase the length of time a person suspected of participating in terrorism can be held without being charged to 30 days. Under the current Criminal Procedure Code, a suspect may not be held more than three days. Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva commented, "Russia's legislative base for the struggle with terrorism is already more than sufficient." The newspaper speculates that the amendments will be introduced to the State Duma this fall and will likely pass by a wide margin.RADICAL CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR TWO SUICIDE BOMBINGS...
In an interview with Shariat news agency posted on kavkazcenter.com on 8 August, radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Mozdok and Grozny on 5 and 21 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 23 June 2003). He said that in the first attack, a female suicide bomber killed 20 military personnel from the Russian military base at Mozdok, while in the second, 25 people died and 39 were injured when a truck bomb damaged a government building in Grozny. Pro-Moscow Chechen officials said only the driver of the vehicle and his presumed accomplice died in that blast. Basaev did not, however, claim to have masterminded either the 5 July suicide bombing at a rock festival in Moscow, or the 1 August truck-bomb assault on a military hospital in Mozdok, in which 50 people were killed....AS U.S. FREEZES HIS FUNDS.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ordered a freeze on 8 August of all financial assets belonging to Basaev, dpa reported. The United States and Russia have both designated Basaev's Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion a terrorist organization. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 8 August welcomed the U.S. decision as "good news," according to Interfax, as did Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov.MOZDOK BOMBING SUSPECTS APPREHENDED.
A total of seven people have now been taken into custody on suspicion of involvement in the 1 August suicide bombing of a military hospital in Mozdok, Interfax on 8 August quoted North Ossetian Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiev as telling journalists. He added that the seven were not the perpetrators or organizers of the blast, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 6 August 2003).ARE CHECHEN OFFICIALS EVACUATING THEIR FAMILIES FROM GROZNY?
As the Chechen authorities imposed strict security precautions in anticipation of a major offensive to mark the anniversary of the start of the 1996 battle for Grozny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003), chechenpress.com reported on 6 August, citing unidentified "reliable sources," that many members of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration have moved their families from Grozny to northern districts of Chechnya for safety. The website said rumors of an imminent offensive by Chechen fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov are totally unfounded.
DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS MILITARY PROCUREMENTS TO BE CUT IN 2004...
The 2004 budget for military procurement will be just half of that for 2003, strana.ru reported on 5 August, citing Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksei Moskovskii. The current budget allocates 119 billion rubles ($3.9 billion). It will be the first time since 2001 that such spending has not been increased. Thanks to these increases, Moskovskii said, the military has been able to complete testing and begin production of 280 types of military equipment, including the Yakhont supersonic antiship cruise missile. RIA-Novosti, also citing Moskovskii, reported on 6 August that the navy will receive four new nuclear submarines by 2010. Moskovskii said these purchases will account for roughly 10 percent of the country's military-procurement budget. He added that the army will most likely not receive the new S-400 antiaircraft missile system until 2005, despite earlier reports that it might be deployed as early as this year. He said the S-400 exceeds the parameters of the S-300 by "two to 2 1/2 times."...AS GOVERNMENT PAPER LASHES OUT AT MINISTRY.
The Russian government daily newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 8 August published a long article critical of recent Defense Ministry statements about its military-procurement plans for 2004-10 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). The daily wrote that the Yakhont cruise missile, which Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Moskovskii lauded in comments earlier this week, will never be deployed in the Russian military because it is a purely export model. The paper also said Defense Ministry spokespeople have said the new generation T-95 tank will be demonstrated publicly as early as this year and deployed in the immediate future. The daily said, however, that the T-95 has not yet undergone even factory testing and, technically speaking, has not been developed sufficiently to have been formally given the name T-95. "Does the deputy defense minister really think that the country can be defended with an advertising brochure from Rosoboroneksport or with a wooden mock-up of a 'new-generation' tank?" the paper concluded.OFFICIAL: RUSSIA VULNERABLE TO AIR ATTACK.
Roughly 50 percent of Russia's airspace is not covered by the country's radar and tracking systems, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 August, citing Defense Ministry air-defense officials. "Regular radar monitoring is carried out only on the western and southern borders of Russia," Air Force commander Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov said. "In other regions, it is spotty. In the north, only one-third of the airspace is covered. In all, radar covers about 35 percent of the territory of the country." Defense Ministry air-defense official Mikhail Kizilov told the daily that President Putin has ordered the complete overhaul and modernization of the country's air-defense system and that process is already under way. He said Russian aircraft have been equipped with recognition systems and that next year the country will begin deploying the new, advanced S-400 antiaircraft missile system. He added that the Air Force's fleet of interceptors is being upgraded, although money for new aircraft has not been allocated.NEW UNIT OF TOPOL ICBMS NEARLY READY FOR DUTY.
A fifth unit of Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) will be put on active combat duty by the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August, citing Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Anatolii Grebenyuk. He added that a launch complex for Angara heavy missiles is being built at the Plesetsk cosmodrome, which is also upgrading its runway to accommodate new generations of aircraft and spacecraft. Grebenyuk said Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will inspect the work there in September.DEEP-DIVING SUBMARINE HEADS FOR THE SEAS.
In the presence of Russian Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, a new, top-secret nuclear submarine has been launched for testing at the Sevmashpredpriyatiya shipyard in Severodvinsk, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 August. The new vessel, identified as Project 210, is reportedly the world's deepest-diving nuclear submarine, and it is designed for scientific-research purposes and to conduct emergency rescue missions. According to the report, the project is being treated with the greatest possible secrecy and even many shipyard officials were denied access to the launch ceremony. "Izvestiya" reported that construction on Project 210 began in 1988, and was delayed throughout the 1990s because of funding shortages. Efforts in the late 1990s to interest the United States in funding the project were reportedly rebuffed. The new submarine is also reportedly the quietest in the Russian fleet.MINISTRY TO STUDY RADIOACTIVE-WASTE DUMPING IN FAR EAST.
A special expedition from the Emergency Situations Ministry on 10 August began searching the northern part of the Sea of Japan for locations where radioactive waste and other toxins might have been dumped, "Izvestiya" reported. At least until the mid-1990s, the Pacific Fleet dumped such waste from barges in the region, although fleet officials insist that such dumping was conducted in accordance with international law. The current expedition, which is being conducted under strict secrecy, will last until 15 September, the daily reported. Water, soil, and wildlife samples will be taken and analyzed for radioactive contamination. Pacific Ocean Oceanographic Institute Director Viktor Akulichev told "Izvestiya" that the ministry approached his institute last year about participating in the expedition, but the institute declined the invitation. In December 2001, military journalist Grigorii Pasko was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for passing on information about the Pacific Fleet's dumping practices to Japanese journalists.JOINT COSMONAUT-RESCUE EXERCISES TO BE HELD.
Russian, U.S., and Canadian rescue workers will hold joint exercises on 8-12 September in the Black Sea to practice rescuing cosmonauts who have conducted an emergency evacuation of the International Space Station, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. The exercises will involve ships and aircraft from the Defense Ministry and 20 rescuers from the United States and Canada, Colonel Valerii Brus was quoted as saying. According to the news agency, this will be the 10th consecutive year that such joint exercises have been held.
FORMER KGB GENERAL GETS U.S. CITIZENSHIP...
Controversial former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin has been granted U.S. citizenship, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported on 6 August. Kalugin, who has lived in the United States since 1993, was convicted in absentia in June 2002 of state treason and subverting the constitutional order and security of the country and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. Kalugin was accused of compromising several KGB agents and operations in the United States. In particular, Kalugin said on Soviet television in 1991 that the KGB helped to organize the killing of Bulgarian dissident Georgii Markov, who was poisoned in London in 1978. He also testified as a witness in 2001 in the trial of retired U.S. Army Colonel George Trofimoff, who was later sentenced to life in prison for spying for the Soviet Union. Kalugin told ITAR-TASS that he has not renounced his Russian citizenship, but has no plans to return to Russia....AS RUSSIA STILL WANTS TO SEE HIM BEHIND BARS.
Russia reserves the right to seek Kalugin's extradition, strana.ru reported on 7 August, citing a senior Justice Ministry official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). "There is practically no statute of limitations for the crimes that Kalugin committed and if he returns to the country he must serve his time," the official said. An unidentified source in the Prosecutor-General's Office told strana.ru that Russia has the right to ask any foreign state to extradite Kalugin, although he noted that many countries, including the United States, routinely refuse to extradite their own citizens. An informal poll conducted by Ekho Moskvy found that 55 percent of respondents consider Kalugin a traitor, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August.
PROSECUTORS SEARCH ANOTHER YUKOS-RELATED COMPANY...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 6 August searched the Moscow offices of Sibintek and seized 28 personal files of Rosprom and Yukos employees, Russian media reported. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office told ITAR-TASS that the search was carried out as part of the investigation into charges that Menatep Chairman and Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev embezzled about $300 million from the state in a 1994 privatization deal. According to "Vremya novostei" on 7 August, investigators also seized a number of computers and computer discs. The daily reported that Sibintek is a Yukos affiliate that designs software for the entire Yukos group, including Menatep. Investigators also reportedly seized the minutes of Yukos board meetings for 1993-99. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 August reported that prosecutors also seized a file of newspaper clippings relating to the Prosecutor-General's Office's cases against Yukos and its affiliates....AS YUKOS HEAD SAYS MERGER SPARKED PROBES...
In an interview with the "Financial Times" on 6 August, Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii repeated his opinion that the prosecutors' actions against Yukos are intended to block the company's impending merger with Sibneft. "By announcing the merger, we strengthened the position of one-half of [President] Putin's inner circle -- or at least that's what the other half thought," Khodorkovskii said. "They decided to take countermeasures." Sibneft is controlled by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich....AS MOSCOW COURT POSTPONES HEARING ON YUKOS COMPLAINT FOR THIRD TIME.
A Moscow district court on 6 August postponed until 13 August hearing a complaint from Yukos alleging that prosecutors illegally searched the company's Moscow offices on the night of 11-12 July, Russian media reported. The court, which met in a closed session, offered no reason for the postponement, although the previous delay was reportedly caused by the prosecutors' failure to submit the necessary documents, including the search warrant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). At the same time, the court rejected similar complaints about the 4 July search of Yukos affiliate M-Reestr and about another search at Yukos-Lizing.MINIMUM WAGE TO BE BUMPED UP AGAIN.
Russia will almost certainly raise its monthly minimum wage to 600 rubles ($19.80) from 450 rubles as of 1 October, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told journalists in Birobidzhan on 6 August, Russian media reported. Mironov said the size and timing of the increase have been agreed upon by all the relevant authorities. The minimum monthly wage, upon which the calculations for many Russian social payments are based, was last raised from 300 rubles to 450 rubles on 1 May 2002, ITAR-TASS reported.
SOMEONE WANTS TO KILL THE MESSENGER...
All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) Director Yurii Levada told reporters in Moscow on 5 August that the leadership of his organization will change in about a month because several unidentified politicians are dissatisfied with the results of the center's research, polit.ru reported. "These results interfere with the prestige of the political parties, but it is not our fault that the public doesn't like everything." Levada told Ekho Moskvy that a new board of directors for the center is currently being formed and will include representatives of the presidential administration and the Labor and Social Affairs and Property Relations ministries. National Strategy Council Deputy General Director Iosif Diskin told apn.ru that VTsIOM's results are always lower for the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party than those of the Public Opinion Foundation. He added that the academic community considers VTsIOM the most objective....AS ANALYSTS SEE MOVE AS ATTACK ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION.
A number of leading experts on 11 August commented in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" about reported government efforts to establish a new management board for VTsIOM. At a press conference on 5 August, VTsIOM Director Levada said forces within the Kremlin are pushing to name a new board for the center, which is a state enterprise despite its wide reputation for independent analysis. Center for Political Technologies Director Boris Makarenko told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that VTsIOM should have been privatized long ago. He noted that in recent years VTsIOM has enjoyed complete freedom in its research and has gained an international reputation for accuracy and responsibility. Center for Political Technologies Director Makarenko speculated in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 11 August that under a new management board comprising representatives of the executive branch, VTsIOM will become "just another element of 'managed democracy.'" Merkator Group head Dmitrii Oreshkin said that "a structure will be created that will be almost the same [as the old VTsIOM] but that will do what is necessary at the moment when it is necessary." Strategic Studies Center head Andrei Piontkovskii said the move "is an element of the purging of the entire information arena before the elections."NOTED JOURNALIST SAYS HE'S QUITTING TV.
Well-known television journalist and former Editor in Chief of NTV, TV-6, and TVS Yevgenii Kiselev told Ekho Moskvy on 10 August that he will no longer be involved in covering politics as a journalist. "Working as a political analyst after the amendments to the election legislation have been adopted is senseless," he said. He also denied rumors that he plans to run in the 7 December State Duma elections. Instead, Kiselev said he will make documentary films.ANALYSTS BREAK WITH COUNCIL THAT ISSUED REPORT OF 'OLIGARCHIC COUP.'
Several leading political analysts have issued an open letter disassociating themselves the National Strategy Council, the think tank that issued a controversial report in May warning of an impending "oligarchic coup," "Moskovskie novosti," No. 30, reported. Analysts Boris Makarenko, Mark Urnov, and Liliya Shevtsova -- all of whom have previously participated in National Strategy Council activities -- wrote that council General Director Stanislav Belkovskii and Deputy General Director Iosef Diskin overruled the opinions of other council members and "turned the council into a public-relations agency for a group of Kremlin purgers." The analysts denounced a recent proposal by Diskin calling for the Constitutional Court to review the privatizations of the 1990s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003) as "an action consciously aimed at the economic isolation of the country from the outside world." They further charged that the council has become "a tool of the redistribution of property" and that it has "divided and politicized the expert community." Finally, they concluded that the current investigations into Yukos "have revealed the absence of structural mechanisms for defending the market and political freedoms" and called on analysts to address this problem.ANOTHER LEADING PROFESSOR KILLED IN MOSCOW.
Grigorii Bondarevskii, a distinguished professor and member of the Academy of Scientists, was killed in Moscow on 7 August, presumably the victim of a robbery, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and gazeta.ru reported on 11 August. Bondarevskii, 83 years old and a noted Islamist who was an adviser to the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, was struck several times on the head with a blunt object in his Moscow apartment, which police say was then robbed. Bondarevskii often commented on events in Chechnya, the rest of the Caucasus, and Iraq. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Bondarevskii's desk had been searched and that his mobile phone was taken during the robbery, meaning that the attack could have been motivated by a desire for information. More than half a dozen leading scholars have been killed in Russia in the last two years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July and 22 November 2002), and no one has been arrested in any of those cases, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported.