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Security Watch: September 9, 2003

9 September 2003, Volume 4, Number 36
RUSSIA SUPPORTS U.S. RESOLUTION ON IRAQ... Speaking to journalists on 5 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia conditionally supports the U.S.-sponsored draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, Russian and Western media reported. The draft envisages an expanded role for the United Nations in postwar Iraq. According to the BBC on 5 September, Ivanov said the draft reflects the principles that Russia has long held, although the document still needs some serious revisions. Ivanov added that Russia will make a final decision on the issue after the Security Council sets the conditions for the international stabilization force. During a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia on 30 August, President Vladimir Putin said he "sees nothing wrong if [a peacekeeping contingent] is under U.S. command."

...BUT SAYS IT NEEDS 'SUBSTANTIAL' REVISION. Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov has said that the majority of UN Security Council members feel that the ideas contained in a U.S.-proposed resolution on Iraq need "clarification and revision," some of it "very substantial," Russian and international media reported on 8 September. He said that "in principle" a meeting of Security Council foreign ministers about the resolution "could be useful," but that "a lot of work needs to be done" to bring the positions of the Security Council members closer together in order to ensure that such a meeting would have results. Fedotov's comments followed those of his boss, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who said on 5 September that while the U.S. draft needed some serious revisions, it reflected principles that Russia has long held (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003). Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 8 September during a visit to Budapest that he hoped an agreement on a resolution strengthening the role of the UN in Iraq would be reached in the near future, Interfax reported.

RUSSIA MIGHT SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ... Russian officials have hinted that their country will support a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq as long as it provides for a greater UN role in that country's rebuilding, international media reported on 5 September. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters on 4 September that Russia might be open to contributing troops to a multinational force in Iraq in the near future, AP reported on 5 September. Ivanov said Russia's decision will be contingent upon the final version of the U.S.-proposed draft resolution. "Everything depends on the unity of opinion in the UN Security Council on whether it will be really able to influence the development of the situation in Iraq," he said. Foreign Minister Ivanov told reporters in Tashkent on 5 September that "Russia has always supported the soonest possible restoration of Iraq's sovereignty and the establishment of legitimate power bodies in that country for solving all problems of postwar reconstruction, including security problems," Interfax reported. "Moscow has always wanted the UN to play the key role in this process in Iraq," he added. President Vladimir Putin said on 30 August that Russia would contribute troops under U.S. command if the Security Council approved such a measure.

...IN MOVE THAT SEEMS TO BREAK RANKS WITH FRANCE, GERMANY. The statements on Russian troops in Iraq seem to contradict a joint statement issued just hours before by French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Russian media reported on 4 September. That statement rejected a Washington proposal that any UN-mandated peacekeeping forces be under U.S. command. Until now, the positions of Russia, Germany, and France on Iraq have been closely coordinated. Foreign Minister Ivanov on 3 September spoke by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell about ways of bolstering the role of the UN and the Security Council in postwar Iraq, international media reported.

LIBERAL ANALYSTS SAY IRAQ SITUATION IS NOT 'RUSSIA'S MISTAKE.' Liberal military journalist Aleksandr Golts told on 4 September that Defense Minister Ivanov's statement seems "irrational and bizarre." He said that it would be illogical for Russia to send peacekeepers to support the coalition operation in Iraq after being so critical of that operation for so long. He added that it would be a mistake to get involved in an operation with unclear prospects, especially now that some of the bad predictions about the situation in Iraq now seem to be being realized. Another liberal expert, retired Major General Aleksandr Vladimirov, told the BBC on 5 September that Russia should not send troops to Iraq. Even several thousand additional troops cannot resolve the country's domestic political problems, no matter what countries they come from, he said. Iraq is not Russia's war and it is not Russia's mistake, Vladimirov added

IS RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION DEAD? Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 6 September that no agreement to introduce the Russian ruble as the single currency of Russia and Belarus will be signed in the near future, reported. He said no agreement can be reached because of Minsk's insistence that Russia adopt a constitutional act on the formation of a union state before a common currency can be introduced. commented on 6 September that Kasyanov's statement means that the idea of the Russia-Belarus Union is dead. After eight years of discussions, the two countries have failed to form a functioning joint parliament or a unified customs space. They have even failed to agree on jointly protecting their interests in foreign markets. No signed and ratified bilateral agreement has been produced, indicating the presence of irresolvable differences, the website concluded.

FOREIGN MINISTRY HOPES ROAD MAP WILL SURVIVE ABBAS RESIGNATION. Russia's Foreign Ministry reacted to the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas by saying it hoped the new Palestinian government would follow a responsible course and continue to follow the road map, which calls for establishing a Palestinian state by 2005, Interfax reported on 8 September. Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said that the change in the Palestinian Authority's leadership was taking place against "a highly alarming regional background" of Palestinian terrorist attacks and harsh Israeli actions and that among the most pressing tasks was to take decisive actions against extremists -- an apparent reference to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yakovenko also criticized the calls made by several Israeli cabinet ministers to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Meanwhile, Dmitrii Rogozin, chairman of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said Abbas's resignation was less a matter of his weakness than of Arafat's "astute planning," Interfax reported on 8 September. Rogozin called Arafat an "irreplaceable figure" in the attempts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Arafat has opted for an extremely wise, and, I would say, centrist position in the Palestinian movement, and has regained positions many thought he had lost," Rogozin said. Arafat has nominated Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmad Korei to replace Abbas.

EXPERTS QUESTION OFFICIAL VERSION OF SUB DISASTER... An unnamed high-ranking Russian Navy officer told AFP that the 30 August sinking of the decommissioned K-159 nuclear submarine was not the result of negligence as was officially announced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003), reported on 3 September. The tragedy, in which nine crewmembers died, occurred because of a leak in the vessel's hull. The source said the submarine's commander, second-rank Captain Sergei Lappa, was informed of the leak and sought the permission of Northern Fleet command to have the K-159 towed to shallow water close to a nearby island, but he was ordered not to do so. Independent military journalist Pavel Felgenhauer has refuted the Northern Fleet's statement that there was a severe storm in the area of the Barents Sea at the time of the sinking, "Novaya gazeta" reported. He said that the weather at the time was calm. "In such weather, one can go for a swim," Felgenhauer said.

...AS PROSECUTORS FILE AN INDICTMENT. Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov announced on 3 September that an indictment has been filed for "violations of navigation rules" against second-rank Captain Sergei Zhemchuzhnyi, who was in command of the K-159 towing operation, reported. Military prosecutors have sealed all documents relating to the K-159 from the navy's Moscow headquarters, as well as those in the Leningrad Military District, the news agency added.

ANOTHER HELICOPTER ACCIDENT KILLS NINE... All nine passengers and crewmembers aboard a Ka-32 helicopter were killed in a 4 September crash about 55 kilometers away from the southern city of Sochi, Russian media reported, citing the Emergency Situations Ministry. Sochi city prosecutor Aleksandr Sergienko has reportedly arrived at the crash site to head the investigation. The accident is the latest in a series of tragedies that have struck Russian civilian and military aviation in recent years. On 26 August, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was an eyewitness to the mid-air collision of two Mi-24 military helicopters near the Far Eastern city of Ussuriisk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003). The Sochi crash occurred on the eve of the arrival in Sochi of President Vladimir Putin, who plans to vacation there for a few days, and reported on 4 September.

...AS MILITARY RELEASES FIGURES ON AVIATION LOSSES. Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 2 September, the head of Russia's military flight-safety service, Lieutenant General Sergei Solntsev said the country has lost more than 100 military airplanes and helicopters in noncombat-related incidents over the last three years, reported. Solntsev did not say how many people have been killed, and he stressed that his figures cover only state-controlled military and civilian aviation. He said that the figures also do not include losses in Chechnya, which are counted separately. In Chechnya, he said, there have been nine incidents this year, including five caused by fire from the ground. Eighty percent of noncombat-related incidents are caused by "the human factor," Solntsev said.

GENERAL'S WIFE CONFESSES TO KILLING HUSBAND... Volgograd Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Mikhail Murzaev on 1 September announced the arrest of Irina Moiseeva, the widow of local garrison commander Major General Sergei Moiseev, Russian media reported. Moiseeva has reportedly confessed to the killing that day of her husband. Moiseev, 41, was the commander of the 20th Guard Motorized Infantry Division and was found dead from a single shot fired from his own sidearm in his apartment. Murzaev said that Moiseeva told investigators she shot her husband during a domestic quarrel. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists that Moiseev's killing demonstrated "no signs of terrorism or criminal involvement and has social origins," reported on 1 September.

...IN CASE REMINISCENT OF ANOTHER GENERAL'S. In July 1998, the popular State Duma Deputy Lieutenant General Lev Rokhlin, who was a predecessor of Moiseev's as Volgograd garrison commander, was killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). His wife, Tamara Rokhlina, testified that she killed him "for reasons of personal enmity," reported. She later recanted her testimony, saying that she incriminated herself because she feared the three unknown masked men who she said killed her husband might harm her family. In November 2000, Rokhlina was convicted of the murder and sentenced to eight years in prison, but the Supreme Court overturned that verdict in June 2001 and ordered a new trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). That trial is still being heard, having been repeatedly delayed by Rokhlina's poor health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003).

GRYZLOV SAYS TERRORIST NETWORK HAS BEEN UNCOVERED. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced on 8 September that investigators probing the suicide bombing at a rock concert at the Tushino airfield outside Moscow on 5 July and a bomb blast outside a downtown Moscow cafe four days later had uncovered an "organized crime group constituting a terrorist network," Interfax reported. The Tushino attack killed 15 people, while the blast in downtown Moscow killed a Federal Security Service bomb disposal expert who was trying to defuse an explosive device dropped by a suspected female bomber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 10, and 11 July 2003). Gryzlov, who was on a working visit to Perm, said that practically all of those involved in the network had been identified, and that some had been detained while others were still being searched for.

MOSCOW DENIES REPORTS OF STEPPED-UP INTELLIGENCE WORK. Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) spokesman Boris Labusov denied on 4 September a report published in "Jane's Intelligence Digest" that his agency has intensified its activities in Europe and, especially, Great Britain, reported. "Jane's Intelligence Digest" cited former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, who was granted political asylum in Britain in 2000, as saying that President Putin has ordered the SVR and the FSB to step up recruitment efforts among members of Russian emigre communities and to bolster espionage activities. Labusov noted that Litvinenko has close ties with former oligarch Boris Berezovskii, who is locked in a conflict with the Kremlin, and said the statements are merely "fulfilling the orders of his master."

RUSSIA, SAUDIS SIGN OIL ACCORDS. Saudi Arabia and Russia signed an oil-industry cooperation agreement on 2 September during a visit to Moscow by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Russian and international media reported. After talks between Abdullah and President Vladimir Putin, the two countries' energy ministers signed a five-year gas-and-oil cooperation deal. The agreement calls for joint ventures in oil-and-gas exploration and research, according to a text released by the Russian government and cited by news agencies. Saudi Arabia and Russia are the world's two leading oil producers. Abdullah's visit is the first by a Saudi crown prince since 1932. Other items on the agenda for the talks include postwar Iraq, the Middle East peace process, and Moscow's allegations that Saudi charities are financially supporting Chechen militants.

OIL OUTPUT, EXPORTS SOAR. Exports through Russian oil pipelines reached an all-time high in August, and output reached the highest levels since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian and international media reported on 2 September. The state-owned oil-pipeline monopoly Transneft exported 3.58 million barrels per day in August, an increase of 100,000 barrels per day over July, Reuters reported. Russia's oil output in August rose to 8.6 million barrels per day, compared with 8.5 million in July. The export and output figures were released as a high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Moscow for talks on postwar Iraq, the Middle East conflict, and an energy cooperation deal. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi arrived in Moscow on 1 September. Russia is the world's No. 2 oil producer after Saudi Arabia.

RUSSIA EXPANDS RELATIONS WITH BULGARIA... Speaking to journalists in Sochi following talks with Bulgarian President Georgii Parvanov, President Vladimir Putin said that, after a decade of cool relations, the two countries have agreed to expand trade relations and economic cooperation, reported 7 September. Russia has agreed to help Bulgaria modernize a nuclear-power station and to upgrade its Soviet-produced MiG fighter jets. Bilateral trade is expected to reach $1.4 billion this year, while direct Russian investments in Bulgaria will reach $500 million, including investment in the Western Siberia-Southern Europe strategic oil pipeline. LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov, who participated in the talks and whose company will be the operator of the projected pipeline, told that the pipeline will run from Western Siberian to Novorossiisk, then across the Black Sea to the Bulgarian and Greek terminals of Burgas and Alexandroupoli. From these ports, tankers will ship the oil to the east coast of the United States.

...AND NORTH KOREA. Presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii told journalists on 7 September that his region plans to expand economic relations with North Korea, including expanding electricity exports to the Korean Peninsula as part of an integrated Far Eastern energy system, Interfax reported. Pulikovskii was speaking on the eve of a visit to Pyongyang to participate in celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of North Korea. He is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, to whom he will convey a message from President Putin and with whom he is expected to discuss the international conflict over North Korea's nuclear program.

RIGHTS GROUP CALLS ON GREECE NOT TO EXTRADITE GUSINSKII. A group of Russian human rights activists -- including Yelena Bonner, the widow of physicist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov -- have called upon Greece not to extradite former Media-MOST owner Vladimir Gusinskii to Russia, Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 September. The group, called Common Action, says the charges against Gusinskii are politically motivated, and his extradition would make Greece responsible for participating in the repression of a Russian citizen. Gusinskii was arrested on an international warrant at the Athens airport on 21 August after arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv. Russian authorities have accused the former media tycoon of fraud. He was granted bail on 29 August pending the disposition of his case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August and 2 September 2003).