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Security Watch: October 8, 2003

8 October 2003, Volume 4, Number 40
MOSCOW DISSATISFIED WITH NEW IRAQ RESOLUTION. Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said on 3 October that Russia is not satisfied with the proposed U.S.-drafted UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, RTR and reported. Putin said Russia still hopes to play a greater role in the postwar restoration of the Iraqi economy than is envisioned by the U.S. draft. He said that he hopes that contracts concluded by Russian companies with the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will be respected. "The Iraqis have more trust for their traditional partners [Russia] than they have for those who now control Iraq," Putin said. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 5 October that a new resolution on Iraq should convince Iraqis that the international community is only interested in promoting democracy and economic development through the introduction of elections and a new constitution, and RIA-Novosti reported on 5 October. He added that it is important to avoid a security vacuum such as the one that emerged several years ago in Afghanistan. In the end, however, security in Iraq can only be maintained by the Iraqis themselves, Ivanov said.

RUSSIA CONDEMNS ISRAELI AIR STRIKE ON SYRIA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 5 October that Moscow is concerned by a 5 October Israeli air strike against alleged terrorist bases in Syria that was carried out in retaliation for a 4 October suicide-bomb attack in Haifa that left at least 19 dead, and other Russian media reported. "The extension of the geographic framework of the [Israeli-Palestinian] confrontation could involve other countries and lead to even more dramatic consequences in an already overheated situation," Yakovenko said.

PUTIN CRITICIZES U.S. VISA RESTRICTIONS AGAINST RUSSIANS... In an interview with "The New York Times," the Russia text of which was published at on 7 October, President Putin sharply criticized new regulations restricting the entry of foreigners into the United States. He said the consular officials at the U.S. embassy in Moscow ask Russians "stupid questions" such as whether they are prostitutes or if they are involved in terrorist organizations. "This is complete nonsense," Putin said, "which has nothing to do with the realistic tasks of combating terrorism." Putin said that U.S. security agencies should ask for information about Russian citizens from Russian secret services. "Nobody works better on our territory than our special services," Putin said.

...AS POLAND INTRODUCES VISAS FOR RUSSIANS. As of 1 October, Poland has introduced entry visas for citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov told RIA-Novosti. Razov noted that the move does not reflect the will of either Moscow or Warsaw, but is a requirement of the European Union, which Poland expects to join next May. Although the introduction of visas "is causing no enthusiasm," Russia has managed to reach an acceptable arrangement with Poland regarding the issuance of visas to its citizens, Razov said. The application process will be simple, and many categories of Russian citizens -- including businesspeople, government officials, students, people under age 17, and people over age 70 -- will be exempted from paying visa fees. Currently, about 3.5 million people a year travel between Russia and Poland, but the new visa system could cause this figure to fall dramatically, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September, noting that many small, private traders might stop making the trip.

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS ATTEND FOUNDING CONGRESS OF ARMENIAN DIASPORA ORGANIZATION... Presidents Robert Kocharian and Vladimir Putin attended the founding congress in Moscow on 6 October of the World Armenian Organization (WAO), a body founded by Union of Armenians of Russia Chairman Ara Abrahamian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Russian media reported. In an interview published in "Gazeta" on 6 October, Abrahamian listed the new organization's goals as strengthening Armenian statehood, achieving international recognition of the 1915 genocide, resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and creating an international holding company to promote trade and investment by emigre Armenians in the economies of Armenia and Russia. He predicted that Armenian entrepreneurs would provide start-up capital amounting to more than $100 million.

...AND PUTIN STRESSES RUSSIA'S COMMITMENT TO TRANSCAUCASUS PEACEKEEPING. President Putin said at the founding congress of the WAO on 6 October that "the transformation of the Caucasus region into an area of stability and economic cooperation is our most important common goal," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. "Russia is willing to continue acting as a peacekeeper in the settlement of conflicts in the Transcaucasus region together with its partners in the CIS," Putin said. A contingent of some 3,000 Russian peacekeeping troops has been deployed since July 1994 under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, and a smaller Russian contingent serves in the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia.

U.S. FIRST LADY ATTENDS BOOK FESTIVAL IN MOSCOW. Laura Bush, wife of U.S. President George W. Bush, arrived in Moscow on 30 September to participate in a festival of children's literature organized by Lyudmila Putina, wife of President Putin, Russian and international media reported. Bush, who is a librarian by training, and Putina, who is a philologist, told journalists that the goal of the festival is to disseminate the idea that reading, language skills, and family education are part of the process of developing good values. The two first ladies were joined in Moscow by Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as the first ladies of Bulgaria and Armenia.

PUTIN UNVEILS RUSSIAN MILITARY-MODERNIZATION DOCTRINE... President Vladimir Putin told Defense Ministry officials at a 2 October conference that the military faces no more radical cuts, Russian media reported. "Since 1992 the armed forces have been cut by more than half," he said. "This is enough. This painful and difficult process is, for the most part, completed; the period of radical reform is finished," he said. The conference was dedicated to the publication of a doctrine for military reform that was drafted by the General Staff. According to the doctrine, by 2007 the military will have established a rapid-reaction force, completed its transformation into a contract-based army, and cut service terms by half, Putin noted. He added that he supports the idea of allowing CIS citizens to serve in the Russian military. Putin also said that Russia will develop its strategic missile forces and redeploy mothballed UR-100 NU strategic nuclear missiles (classified by NATO as the SS-19), which will enable the country to reduce its Strategic Missile Forces. He said the country has a significant supply of the Soviet-era ICBMs and that "their capabilities to defeat any missile-defense systems are unmatched," Interfax reported.

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER STRESSES CRUCIAL ROLE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS... During the presentation of the new doctrine on the same day, Defense Minster Sergei Ivanov said the role of nuclear weapons remains crucial to the country's defense and that there is even the possibility of transforming the "nuclear weapon into a real combat tool," RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that according to the doctrine, Moscow will not exclude the possibility of conducting preemptive strikes in various regions of the world if they are required to defend Russia's or its allies' interests. He noted that Russia currently does not face significant military threats, but that might not be the case in the future. Ivanov added that in addition to such external threats as the proliferation of nuclear weapons and international terrorism, Russia now faces new threats such as "intervention into her internal affairs by foreign states or by organizations supported by foreign states, [and] instability in its border regions resulting from the weakness of central governments [in some neighboring states]." The latter point appears to be a veiled reference to the putative Chechen guerrilla presence in Georgia.

...AND GENERAL STAFF PLEDGES RADICAL REFORMS IF NATO MAINTAINS OFFENSIVE POSTURE. The text of the doctrine contains a direct warning to NATO that if the Atlantic alliance remains a military entity with an "offensive military doctrine," Russia will radically revise its own military planning and organization, "Izvestiya" and Russian news agencies reported. "Russia is carefully following NATO's transformation, and expects it to put a complete end to direct and indirect elements of its anti-Russian policy, which includes [NATO's] military planning" and declarations, according to the doctrine. In addition, it states that Russia will consider the limited use of its nuclear strategic deterrence forces as an "element of national military strategy." The main goal of such a strategy is "preventing any form of power pressure and aggression against Russia and her allies." At the same time, Russia strives to further develop constructive political and economic relations with the countries of NATO and the European Union, according to the doctrine.

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA COULD USE FORCE TO DEFEND ITS COMPATRIOTS IN CIS. Speaking to journalists in Reykjavik en route to an official visit to North and South America, Sergei Ivanov expanded upon and even outlined situations in which Moscow might carry out a preemptive military strike under the terms of its new military doctrine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003), Russian media reported. Ivanov said Russia might carry out a preemptive military strike if there is a distinct, clear, and inevitable military threat to the country. Moscow might also opt for such a measure if it is threatened with reduced access to regions of the world where it has crucial economic or financial interests. Furthermore, Russia might use its military might within the CIS if a complex, unstable situation develops or if there is a direct threat to Russian citizens or ethnic Russians, Ivanov said. He added, however, that he sees no such threat within the CIS now and that military force would only be used if all other means, including the application of international sanctions, have been exhausted.

PUTIN CALLS FOR BOLSTERING BORDER SECURITY... Speaking at a Security Council meeting on 30 September, President Putin called for a new border-protection strategy, Russian media reported. Whereas now the country attempts to guard the entire border with an unbroken line of border troops, Putin suggested that in the future it concentrate resources on areas where there are perceived threats to Russia's national security. Among such threats, Putin named international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and illegal migration. He noted that among these threats only terrorism has a military component and said that therefore the military element of the border-protection forces should be reduced. He called upon the Foreign Ministry and the security organs to work more actively with foreign countries to delimit Russia's borders. Russia has a total of more than 61,000 kilometers of borders. Its longest border, 7,500 kilometers, is with Kazakhstan.

...AS FSB DIRECTOR FOCUSES ATTENTION ON SOUTHERN BORDERS. Speaking to reporters following the 30 September Security Council session, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev, whose agency controls the country's border troops, said the FSB will adopt differentiated approaches to guarding Russia's borders with Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and China in accordance with new threat assessments, RTR and RIA-Novosti reported. Moreover, the borders in the Caucasus -- especially the border between Chechnya and Georgia, where the threat of terrorism is very high -- will be more heavily guarded. Patrushev also expressed frustration with the Security Council's inability to define border policy, noting that the 30 September meeting was the 20th time the council had discussed the issue in the last 10 years. Commenting on that statement, TV-Tsentr said on 30 September that security officials should make no further mistakes in determining where security threats are and which countries are Russia's friends and which are not.

RUSSIA SELLS HELICOPTERS TO MALAYSIA. State arms exporter Rosoboroneksport has signed a $70 million contract to sell 10 Mi-171 military transport helicopters, RBK reported on 1 October. The deal follows a May contract worth $900 million for 18 modern Su-30 fighter jets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2003). Indonesia earlier this year signed a $192 million deal for Russian aviation hardware.

PROSECUTORS LAUNCH NEW SEARCHES IN YUKOS PROBE... Investigators from the Prosecutor-General's Office on 3 October searched the premises of a Yukos-owned business club and boarding school in Moscow, Russian media reported. According to Prosecutor-General's Office official Irina Aleshina, officers seized evidence of schemes to evade millions of dollars in taxes, RBK and reported on 4 October. Reportedly, the evidence was taken from Yukos computers seized during the searches. Aleshina said she found it strange that such files would be kept on computers at such organizations. A Yukos lawyer said the company will challenge the latest searches in court.

...AMID REPORTS ABOUT THE POSSIBLE SALE OF YUKOS STAKE TO EXXONMOBIL... ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, is in talks with Yukos to purchase a 40-50 percent stake of the embattled company for an estimated $25 billion, the "Financial Times" reported on 3 October. According to the daily, ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who arrived in Moscow on 3 October to participate in the World Economic Forum, is expected to meet with Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii and with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Deputy Duma Speaker Irina Khakamada, a leader of the Union of Rightist Forces, told journalists during the forum that there are links between the sale rumors and the prosecutors' latest moves in the Yukos probe, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 October.

...AS YUKOS HEAD SAYS HE WILL NOT FLEE RUSSIA... Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 6 October, Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii described the latest searches by prosecutors of offices connected to his company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003) as "a campaign of harassment," and reported. He said that he will not leave Russia, even if faced with the threat of arrest. "I am available to the investigation, and I am not going to fight against my state," Khodorkovskii said. He said that the only thing he can do as a company manager is to attract the attention of human-rights organizations to the situation.

...AND PUTIN SAYS YUKOS SHOULD 'CONSULT' WITH GOVERNMENT BEFORE SELLING SHARES. In an interview with "The New York Times" on 5 October, President Putin said Yukos has every right to sell some of its shares to foreign investors, although he added that "it would be the right thing to do to have preliminary consultations with the Russian government about this matter." Asked about rumors that U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil is looking to purchase a stake in Yukos, Putin said, "We favor foreign-capital involvement in Russia's economy.

SCANDINAVIA WORRIED ABOUT RUSSIAN OIL TERMINALS... Sweden, Norway, and Finland have expressed concern that the construction of new Russian oil terminals in the Leningrad Oblast town of Primorsk and in Murmansk will have a negative impact on the regions' environment, reported on 1 October. The three countries are trying to use EU mechanisms to have the entire region declared a sensitive ecological zone and to ban the construction of potentially hazardous industrial facilities there. Russia, however, has made enormous investments into the terminals and is determined to exploit its territory as it deems appropriate. The website noted that Russia's recent statements at an international conference on global climate change in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003) demonstrate the close linkage between ecology and politics.

...AS PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMIC AIDE SPEAKS AGAINST KYOTO PROTOCOL. Speaking at the Moscow climate-change conference on 29 September, presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov said the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to limit emissions of gases believed to cause global warming, treats Russia unfairly, and other Russian media reported on 30 September. Illarionov also said that some Russian financial-industrial groups that are lobbying for Moscow to sign the protocol "do not understand the consequences of this step." He said that the United States withdrew from the protocol in 2001 because Washington believes it is detrimental to the development of its economy. "The question arises whether Russia is richer than the United States [and can afford] to ratify the protocol," Illarionov asked rhetorically.

RUSSIAN MARKET HITS RECORD CAPITALIZATION. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced at a 2 October cabinet session that the Russian equities market this month reached a record level of capitalization, RTR and ORT reported. According to Kasyanov, capitalization currently stands at approximately $200 billion, compared to the previous record of $150 billion reached in 1997. Kasyanov also said the growth rate of Russian securities is the highest in the world and noted the government's successful implementation of tax reforms. Today's level of tax collection is 96 percent, he said, while in 1996 it was only 60 percent.

MOSCOW AND PARIS AGREE TO BOOST AEROSPACE COOPERATION. Prime Minister Kasyanov announced after meeting with French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin in Moscow on 6 October that the two countries have agreed to use the French space center in French Guyana to launch Russian Soyuz spacecraft, Russian and Western media reported. The 300 million euro ($352 million) project will be bankrolled by the European Union, with France allocating half that sum. The French space center is close to the Earth's equator, meaning that launches from there are much more economical than launches from the Russian cosmodrome at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Kasyanov said.

INTERIOR MINISTER ACCUSES BANKERS OF LAUNDERING $258 MILLION. Boris Gryzlov on 6 October told journalists that the Interior Ministry has completed an investigation into seven employees of Sodbiznesbank and Eurotrust who are accused of laundering $258 million, reported. The cases have been handed over to the courts. Sodbiznesbank was created in 1991 to promote small businesses and boasts about 35,000 clients. Gryzlov added that he had spoken to Financial Monitoring Committee Chairman Viktor Zubkov about changing the punishments for criminal money laundering to make any such operation severely punishable regardless of the amount of money involved.

DEPUTIES CALL FOR NEW INVESTIGATION INTO 1993 EVENTS. A group of State Duma deputies headed by Sergei Glazev (Communist) and Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) have introduced a bill calling for a new investigation into the October 1993 confrontation between President Boris Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet, Russian media reported on 6 October. The bill calls for the government to identify those responsible for igniting the confrontation and to evaluate the legality of actions taken by state officials. It also calls for 4 October to be made a state holiday called Constitutional Defender Day. Glazev told journalists that he realizes that the Duma and the Constitutional Court closed the book on this matter in 1994 when they amnestied all those involved, but he added that a new hearing is necessary to determine how to pay compensation to victims of the events. First Deputy Duma Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unity-Unified Russia) said the bill has been placed on the Duma's agenda and it will be heard on 10 October together with another bill sponsored by Yabloko that places responsibility for the tragedy on both sides in the conflict.

COMMUNIST LEADER LASHES OUT AT PUTIN... Speaking in Moscow on the 10th anniversary of the October 1993 confrontation between President Boris Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 3 October criticized President Putin as "the successor of Yeltsin's cause and course," Russian and Western media reported. He said that the brutal crackdown on the Supreme Soviet led to a chain of violent events including two wars in Chechnya that have taken more than 100,000 lives. Putin has continued these policies and bears full responsibility for their consequences, Zyuganov said.

...SO DOES FORMER VICE PRESIDENT... Former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, one of the leaders of the anti-Yeltsin forces in 1993, told NTV on 3 October that he and his supporters tried at the time to warn the country of the plans for "robber privatization." He said that Yeltsin's main criticism of Rutskoi's side in the 1993 confrontation was that it was hindering reform and privatization. Now, however, everyone sees the results that such privatization has produced, Rutskoi said.

...AS INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED AGAINST HIM. The Interior Ministry's Central Federal District's criminal-investigation unit announced on 30 September that it has opened a criminal investigation against former Vice President and former Kursk Oblast Governor Rutskoi on charges of abuse of office while he was governor, RBK reported. Rutskoi stands accused of misappropriating a multimillion-ruble loan issued by Pareks Bank in 1997-98 to his administration.