18 June 2002, Volume
PUTIN CAUTIOUS ON UNION WITH BELARUS...
President Vladimir Putin met in St. Petersburg on 11 June with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to discuss the introduction of a single currency within the Russia-Belarus union and elections to a union parliament, RIA-Novosti and the other Russian news agencies reported. The two presidents also discussed a unified customs and tariffs policy, as well the extension to Belarus of Russian energy prices. Putin remarked that progress on the union state depends not only on political and economic issues, but on public opinion as well. He noted that polls in Belarus show the country about evenly divided on the idea of union with Russia. Putin said that Lukashenka agrees with him that unification can only proceed in a way that does not contradict the national interests of either country....WHILE FLATLY REJECTING LUKASHENKA'S PROPOSALS.
Russian President Putin harshly criticized proposals by Belarusian President Lukashenka concerning the integration of their respective countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002), RTR and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 and 14 June. Speaking at the Bakulev Cardiological Surgery Center in Moscow, Putin accused Belarus of trying to recreate the USSR on the basis of Russia's economic might. "One cannot restore something like the USSR at the expense of Russia's economic interests, because that might weaken Russia," Putin said. "If Belarus, whose economy equals just 3 percent of Russia's, wants to guarantee its rights of veto, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, then Russia wants this too." Putin spoke out against creating a "supranational organ with undefined functions." It seems clear that Putin was displeased with the integration scheme proposed on 10 June by Lukashenka during their meeting in St. Petersburg, a scheme that has been largely endorsed in the past by former President Boris Yeltsin. Instead, Putin seems to be offering Belarus nothing more than the status of a subject of the Russian Federation, "Kommersant-Daily" commented.PUTIN, SCHROEDER, KUCHMA SIGN ENERGY ACCORD...
Russian President Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed on 10 June a trilateral accord on cooperation in developing and exploiting the pipeline infrastructure used to transport oil and natural gas from Russia through Ukraine to Western Europe, abnews.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 10 and 11 June. Speaking to journalists after the signing ceremony, Putin said that Germany's participation in the consortium will enable it to attract quickly the estimated $2.5 billion needed to reconstruct Ukraine's pipeline network. The addition of Germany to the new Russian-Ukrainian pipeline consortium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002) may mean the end -- for the present at least -- of proposals to construct a new pipeline through Poland and Belarus that would have bypassed Ukraine, "Vedomosti" wrote on 10 June. The reconstruction of existing pipelines is estimated to be only about half as expensive as building a new route, "Vremya novostei" added....AS RUSSIA PLAYS UKRAINE CARD IN KALININGRAD DISPUTE...
The Russian government is not concealing the fact that its switch away from routing energy supplies through Poland is connected with the hard line taken by Warsaw and the European Union on the Kaliningrad issue, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 June, citing an unnamed official in President Putin's administration. If Poland continues to rebuff Russian proposals for a visa-free transit corridor between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia, the official said, the country stands to lose this lucrative pipeline, as well as several billion dollars' worth of related development projects. The pipeline issue is political, not economic, and by dealing with Kuchma, Moscow is sending a clear signal to Warsaw that it expects a concession on Kaliningrad, the BBC's Russian Service commented on 10 June....WHILE KASYANOV PROPOSES HIS SOLUTION...
Speaking at a summit of Baltic region leaders in St. Petersburg on 10 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002), Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that Russia might agree to resolve the Kaliningrad issue if the EU offered to issue visas at the border for Russian citizens, nns.ru reported on 11 June. Responding to EU concerns about illegal immigration and drug trafficking through Kaliningrad Oblast, Kasyanov said that he does not believe that these problems are more pronounced in Kaliningrad than in other parts of the region. Therefore, he said, the EU has no grounds for its rigid position, Kasyanov argued....AND LITHUANIA SEES NON-VISA STATUS FOR KALININGRAD AS 'UNLIKELY.'
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said on 11 June after meeting with Prime Minister Kasyanov that Lithuania considers the creation of a visa-free transport corridor through its territory for Russian citizens to be "very unlikely," the RosBalt news agency reported the same day. "We are a small country and have no such corridors that can be removed [from national jurisdiction]," he said. Brazauskas added, however, that he believes a compromise on Kaliningrad will be found, and he repeated Lithuanian proposals for a simplified visa regime for Russian citizens.PUTIN LAUDS DEMOCRACY AND MULTIPOLAR WORLD ORDER...
Speaking at an Independence Day banquet in the Kremlin on 12 June, President Putin asserted that, for the first time in decades, Russia is not involved in any conflict with the world at large or any foreign country, Russian news agencies reported. However, he added that Russia must learn to protect its position in a world characterized by extremely cruel competition, especially economically. Russia has no special claims in the world, but insists upon treatment commensurate with its history, potential and enormous size, Putin said. "Russia is building a democratic society and seeks to be part of a democratic, multipolar world order," the president concluded....BUT ZHIRINOVSKII SAYS RUSSIA'S DEMOCRACY IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.
Meanwhile, speaking in Moscow at a Russia Day rally, Deputy Duma Speaker and leader of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovskii spoke disparagingly of Asians and Africans living in Russia, lenta.ru and other Russian news services reported on 13 June. Zhirinovskii said that they are poor, should not have more than one or two children and should "behave in an appropriate manner" or leave Russia. "The Russian people have the right to be masters of this country and should not support unwelcome guests," Zhirinovskii said. Lenta.ru also claimed that the LDPR has noticeably ratcheted up the anti-immigrant rhetoric on its official website (http://www.ldpr.ru). Neither the government nor President Putin's administration has commented on Zhirinovskii's openly racist campaign.DUMA URGES GOVERNMENT TO RENEGOTIATE BERING SEA BORDER.
During the same session, deputies voted in favor of a resolution calling on the government to renegotiate a 1990 agreement with the United States that defines the border between the two countries in the Bering Sea region, Russian news agencies reported. The nonbinding resolution, offered by Duma Security Committee members Aleksandr Gurov, Nikolai Kovalev, Viktor Ilyukhin, Aleksandr Kulikov, and others, calls the agreement "an unbalanced treaty that violates Russia's national interests, especially as far as fisheries are concerned." The resolution, which was supported by 327 deputies, also claims that the agreement illegally transferred nearly 24,000 square kilometers of Russian territory to the United States, causing $1.4 billion in damages. It calls on the government to "correct" the 1990 accord.
U.S. TO EXPEDITE EXTRADITION OF RUSSIAN GUANTANAMO DETAINEES.
The United States and Russia have reached an agreement under which Washington will accelerate the extradition of Russian citizens detained during the military operation in Afghanistan and being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, NTV and other Russian media reported on 11 June. According to Sergei Fridinskii, deputy prosecutor-general of the North Caucasus Federal District, three confirmed Russian citizens -- residents of Bashkortostan and Kabardino-Balkaria -- are being held, against whom Russian law-enforcement agencies have gathered enough evidence to issue indictments. Fridinskii also said that four other individuals are being held who are believed to be Russian citizens, although their identities have not yet been confirmed.FEMA, EMERGENCIES MINISTRY AGREE TO CONTINUE COOPERATION.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deputy Director Mike Brown and First Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Yurii Vorobiev signed in Moscow on 12 June a protocol of cooperation in 2002 and 2003, Interfax reported. According to FEMA, the protocol provides for exchanges of experts and information both to prevent and to cope with emergencies, exchanges of fire-fighting expertise, joint training, and coordination of international humanitarian missions. JAC
PETROZAVODSK TO HONOR ANDROPOV.
The government of Karelia announced that it has selected a winner among 12 projects submitted to a competition for building a monument to Yurii Andropov, the long-time KGB chairman and Communist Party Central Committee general-secretary who was leader of the republic in the 1940s, RosBalt and abnews.ru reported on 17 June. The monument depicting a young Andropov will be erected on Andropov Street in Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia. Russian security agencies and those nostalgic for the Soviet past consider Andropov a cult hero, while many others consider him primarily responsible for the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, persecution of Soviet dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s, and the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.KALUGIN TRIAL TO PROCEED IN ABSENTIA.
A Moscow city court ruled that it will hear the treason case of retired KGB General Oleg Kalugin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 28, and 30 May 2002) in absentia, RIA-Novosti and other news agencies reported on 13 June. According to Kalugin's lawyer, Yevgenii Baru, the court ruled that the case comes under the jurisdiction of the old Soviet-era Criminal Procedural Code, which will be superseded when a new code comes into force on 1 July. Kalugin, who currently lives in the United States, denies all the charges against him and maintains that the prosecution is a vendetta by former KGB officers for his writings about the agency.FSB OFFICERS ARRESTED FOR BANDITRY.
Two officers of the logistics department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) were arrested on charges of banditry and burglary, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported on 13 June. The two officers, who were identified only as V. Sinytsin and V. Chuev, were arrested as the result of a joint operation by the Interior Ministry and the FSB's Internal Security Department. No further details of the case were released.
COMMUNIST DEPUTY OFFERS HIS THEORY ON SOCCER RIOT...
State Duma Deputy Vasilii Shandybin (Communist) said in Bryansk on 11 June that he believes the Moscow riot following Russia's 9 June World Cup soccer loss was a "specially planned action, timed to coincide with the Duma's discussion of the law on political extremism," regions.ru reported. "It was a premeditated action following the adoption of the presidential law on the prevention of extremism in order to ban all patriotic parties and movements," Shandybin continued....AS DO OTHERS...
"Izvestiya" on 11 June printed comments by a police officer who was on the scene during the rioting, in which he wondered where rioters procured the sledge hammers and gasoline that they used to vandalize cars and storefronts. "Who brings a sledge hammer to watch a soccer match," the unnamed officer said. Russian national soccer team coach Oleg Romantsev told ITAR-TASS on 12 June that, "someone is apparently trying to link the ugly incident to soccer," but "it was prepared [by people] who used the game with Japan as a pretext." Other political figures, including Prime Minister Kasyanov, have also expressed doubt that the rioting was spontaneous (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). The anti-extremism bill was passed in its first reading on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2002), and the Duma is now considering amendments prior to the bill's second reading....AND COPYCAT ANTI-SEMITIC SIGN REMOVED...
Police in Moscow located and removed an apparent anti-Semitic booby trap that was virtually identical in appearance to one that seriously injured a woman on 28 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002), dpa reported on 13 June. Officials used a robot to pull down the sign -- which bore the slogan "Death to yids" -- and the object attached to its base proved not to be an explosive. Commenting on the incident, Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said that "extremism is the greatest danger facing our country today," Interfax reported....AS DUMA TABLES RESOLUTION AGAINST EXTREMISM.
The State Duma rejected on 14 June a draft resolution against anti-Semitism, nationalism, and extremism proposed by Deputy Andrei Vulf (Union of Rightist Forces), Russian news agencies reported. The resolution would have called upon President Putin to take urgent measures against a spate of recent extremist incidents. Vulf reminded deputies of the 27 May incident in which a Muscovite was seriously injured when attempting to remove a booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). He also mentioned a 30 May incident in which vandals wrote anti-Semitic slogans on a memorial plaque on the Moscow house where Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov lived. However, speaking against the resolution, Communist Deputy Yurii Nikiforenko said that it "ignores the negative consequences of Zionism." Fellow Communist Ivan Nikitichuk said that in Russia anti-Semitism is "inflated," while the problems of the Russian people "are kept quiet." After some discussion, the Duma decided to table Vulf's resolution.
ITALIAN POLICE CRACK RUSSIAN ORGANIZED-CRIME RING.
Italian law-enforcement authorities announced that they have exposed a vast international network that was involved in laundering illegal funds from Russia, nns.ru and Western news agencies reported on 11 June. About 50 people in several European countries have been arrested during Operation Web, which was conducted jointly with law-enforcement agencies from Germany, France, Switzerland, and the United States. Italian officials added that the money-laundering pipeline, which was allegedly directed by Igor Berezovskii (no relation to the tycoon Boris Berezovskii), operated via falsified import-export deals and that many of those arrested are Russian citizens. Authorities estimate that the network laundered about $3 billion between 1996 and 1998.FEDERATION COUNCIL POSTPONES VAVILOV'S CONFIRMATION.
At the request of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, the Federation Council on 14 June declined to confirm the mandate of controversial former Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, who was named on 28 May as the Penza Oblast legislature's representative to the chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002), regions.ru and RIA-Novosti reported. Vavilov, who has been named in numerous corruption investigations stemming from his time in office under former President Yeltsin, addressed the council and said that a number of complaints about his nomination had been sent to Ustinov's office by members of the Penza Oblast legislature. "In order to avoid a public airing, I am asking you to support the prosecutor-general's request and to postpone my confirmation for two weeks," Vavilov told the senators, according to regions.ru.CHIEF MILITARY PROSECUTOR STEPS DOWN...
The Federation Council on 14 June accepted the resignation of Deputy Prosecutor-General and Chief Military Prosecutor Mikhail Kislitsyn, Russian news agencies reported. According to lenta.ru, Kislitsyn asked to be relieved of his duties because of poor health. The website also speculated that Prosecutor-General Ustinov will nominate either Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov or Deputy Prosecutor-General in the Southern Federal District Sergei Fridinskii to replace Kislitsyn....AS RESIGNATION LINKED TO PROBE OF WOULD-BE SENATOR.
The 14 June resignation of Chief Military Prosecutor Kislitsyn may have been linked to his role in the investigation of controversial former Deputy Finance Minister Vavilov, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Kislitsyn had been investigating the former chief financial officer of the Russian Army, Georgii Oleinik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001), who was accused of illegally transferring $450 million in federal funds to a Ukrainian company in 1996. In May 2001, Kislitsyn stated that Oleinik testified that all the documents concerning the transfer were prepared by Vavilov when he was serving as deputy finance minister. However, just before Kislitsyn's office prepared to indict Vavilov, he fell ill and entered the hospital. Later, the investigation of Vavilov was dropped and earlier this year he testified as a witness in the Oleinik case, which resulted in Oleinik's receiving a three-year prison term.INTERIOR MINISTRY: CHECHEN REBELS GETTING FUNDING FROM RUSSIAN BUDGET.
Aleksei Orlov, chief of the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Economic Crime, said that Chechen fighters are receiving funding from a number of sources within the territory of the Russian Federation, RTR reported on 13 June. Orlov said that some of the funding is money stolen from federal budgetary funds earmarked for reconstruction in Chechnya and some comes from commercial sources. Orlov also claimed that Chechens receive income by spreading counterfeit U.S. dollars produced in Chechnya throughout Russia, Africa, and Europe. He added that his agency is currently engaged in measures to locate the sources of this counterfeit money.
GOVERNMENT LIBERALIZES IMPORT OF ELECTRONIC APPLIANCES.
A new regulation from the State Customs Committee will simplify or lift controls on the import of more than 50 categories of electronic equipment for personal use as of mid-July, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 8 June. The regulations, which are designed to reduce opportunities for corruption among customs officials and which come into effect 30 days following their publication, affect devices such as audio and video equipment, personal computers, cameras, household appliances, and watches.SIBERIAN ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT PLAN ENDORSED.
The government has approved an economic-development strategy for Siberia covering the next 20 years, Russian news agencies reported on 10 June. The plan calls for the more even development of the entire region and the elimination of economic differences among its territories. It envisages the sustainable development of mineral resources as the main generator of revenue, but promotes a gradual reduction of this sector in favor of high-technology industries. The strategy also calls for "alleviating the negative natural and climatic conditions" in the region, but does not state explicitly what will be done to alter the climate.GOVERNMENT PREPARES FOR 2003 BUDGET.
The Finance Ministry on 10 June submitted to the cabinet its draft parameters for the 2003 federal budget, Russian news agencies reported. According to Prime-TASS, the new budget will have a surplus of 99.13 billion rubles ($300 million), or nearly 1 percent of projected GDP. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that the proposed budget parameters will ensure macroeconomic stability, the stable allocation of budgetary funds, and the absence of deficit spending, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. Gref cautioned, though, that 2003 will be a difficult year in terms of foreign-debt payments. "All of us will have to tighten our belts," Gref said. Meanwhile, an unnamed official in the Finance Ministry told ITAR-TASS that the federal budget surplus for 2002 is expected to be 1.65 percent of GDP.FINANCE MINISTRY HAILS INVESTMENT GROWTH.
For the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the inflow of capital to Russia exceeds capital flight, Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev told ORT on 11 June. Ulyakaev attributed the growth in foreign investment to the widespread perception that Russia has become a less risky investment target. He added that he expects the country's hard-currency and gold reserves to continue to grow and that the exchange rate will not exceed 33 rubles to the U.S. dollar at the end of the year.
PUTIN CALLS ON CULTURAL ELITE TO HELP RUSSIA FIND 'ITS ORIENTATION.'
Speaking to members of Russia's cultural elite at a state awards ceremony in the Kremlin on 12 June, President Putin urged artists not to yield "to commercial temptations and replace the truth of life with the primitive exposure of human vices," ORT and Russian news agencies reported. "You should help society find its orientation, show it examples of morality, civility, and courage," said Putin to his audience. Responding to a remark by filmmaker Aleksandr Sakurow that "there are too few talented people," Putin interjected that there are "145 million" talented people in Russia.PATRIARCH PUSHES FOR OWNERSHIP OF CHURCH LAND.
Patriarch Aleksii II on 11 June called on the State Duma to affirm in the new land code the Russian Orthodox Church's ownership of lands currently being farmed by its monasteries, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The patriarch noted that monks farm the land not only for their own benefit, but to feed pilgrims and the poor, and that their ability to continue this practice should be codified. He added that, because of their expertise and long experience, the clerics are a positive example of "assiduous relations with the land." Prior to the 1917 October Revolution, the Orthodox Church was one of the largest landholders in the Russian Empire.CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ALLOWS SINGLE-CANDIDATE ELECTIONS.
The Constitutional Court ruled on 11 June that it is legal to hold second-round elections with just one candidate on the ballot if all other contenders withdraw from the race, gazeta.ru reported. The court ruled on a case involving an election last year in Tula Oblast, in which incumbent Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev was to compete in a second-round runoff against Andrei Samoshin. Three days before the poll, however, Samoshin withdrew his candidacy, as did all other first-round contenders in what was widely interpreted as a bid to halt the vote because the election law bans single-candidate elections. However, the Constitutional Court ruled that candidates have the right to withdraw their candidacies, since there is no basis to compel people to run for office. Gazeta.ru commented, however, that by establishing this precedent, the court might have created a loophole that will legitimize single-candidate elections.