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Security Watch: November 5, 2002

5 November 2002, Volume 3, Number 39
DEATH TOLL OF FORMER HOSTAGES REACHES 120... Andrei Selkovskii, head of the Moscow City Health Department, announced on 4 November that the number of former hostages involved in the 23-26 October hostage drama who have died has reached 120, Russian news agencies reported. All but two of them died from the effects of the sleeping gas used by Russian special forces in the operation to end the standoff. However, reported that according to confidential information collected by the Health Ministry from Moscow hospitals, the actual number of dead is 140. The authorities will delay making the true figures public for as long as possible in order to avoid negative public-relations consequences, commented. A number of hostages who were released from the hospital have returned, complaining of dizziness and other ailments.

...AS RELATIVES OF FORMER HOSTAGES MAKE MISSING-PERSONS CLAIMS. A number of Muscovites have claimed that their relatives have been missing since the hostage taking, while the websites and have compiled a list of 140 missing former hostages. The Moscow office of the Prosecutor-General's Office, however, categorically denied mass-media reports about missing persons, saying that it has not received any such complaints, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 November.

EXPERTS DEBATE THE PERFORMANCE OF SECURITY SERVICES. An unidentified veteran of Israel's elite antiterrorism squad told RFE/RL's correspondent in Tel Aviv on 28 October that the special-forces operation to free the hostages was very successful because "never before in a single operation were so many hostages released and so many terrorists killed." He emphasized that the antiterrorism units faced an extremely difficult task, having to seize a building filled with 2 tons of explosives scattered in more than 30 locations, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. He said any such operation resulting in less than 30 percent casualties should be considered a success. However, dissident former Federal Security Service (FSB) Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, who was granted political asylum in Britain in 2001, said he sees the incident as a failure for the security services, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 28 October. He said he believes the hostage takers could not have pulled off such a raid in the center of Moscow without important accomplices within the security community. Litvinenko also finds it significant that, reportedly, no police or security agents died during the theater takeover. He said there are almost always police present at events such as this performance. However, there are no reports that the Chechen fighters encountered any police as they approached the theater or that any police officers attempted to resist them, Litvinenko said.

FSB ARRESTS INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICER WHO ALLEGEDLY HELPED THE HOSTAGE TAKERS. FSB agents on 28 October arrested a senior Interior Ministry officer who allegedly spoke by cellular phone to the hostage takers from the crisis-management headquarters during the hostage drama, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 October. An unidentified FSB spokesman is cited as reporting that the officer might have been able to reveal information about the preparation of the operation to storm the theater. The spokesman added that the FSB is looking for other possible moles within the law-enforcement agencies. Moscow's Interior Ministry reported on 28 October that three Chechens were arrested with weapons, explosives, and a plan of a Moscow railroad station, NTV reported. The Interior Ministry on 28 October also arrested in a Moscow hospital a Chechen woman who was among the released hostages, charging her with being one of the hostage takers, RTR reported.

BEREZOVSKII, PROKHANOV ACCUSE PUTIN OF INACTION DURING HOSTAGE CRISIS... Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii and Aleksandr Prokhanov, editor in chief of the nationalist newspaper "Zavtra," released a joint statement in London on 30 October accusing President Vladimir Putin and his direct representatives of failing to offer any solution to the Moscow hostage drama, reported. The statement was also signed by nationalist Duma Deputy Viktor Alksnis (independent). The authors said that such an audacious attack would have been impossible without the negligence or -- more likely -- the complicity of some officials. The statement blames the deaths of 117 -- at the time of the statement was written -- former hostages who died from the effects of the sleeping gas used by the security forces on the lack of coordination between law-enforcement officials and health-care professionals. Finally, it says the "vertical of power" that Putin has created has not passed this test, and the hostage crisis demonstrates that the president is not capable of protecting Russian citizens.

...AS PUBLIC STANDS BEHIND THE PRESIDENT... Despite the continuing controversy over the use of sleeping gas by security forces to resolve the hostage standoff, President Putin's popularity rating remains extremely strong, Russian news agencies reported on 30 October. According to a poll of 1,600 respondents conducted by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) between 25-28 October, 85 percent of Russians support the president's actions during the Moscow hostage crisis. Eighty-two percent said they judge the actions of the security services as "very good" or "good." Just 10 percent judged them as "poor." Likewise, 76 percent gave the mass media high marks during the crisis, while 18 percent said the media performed "poorly." Nine percent of the 1,600 respondents expressed "sympathy and understanding" for the actions of the hostage takers, and 1 percent said they "respect" them.

...AND BACKS HARSH REACTION. According to the same poll, 54 percent of respondents answered affirmatively when asked if Russia should respond to the hostage incident by taking "decisive measures against Chechen fighters similar to those undertaken [in Afghanistan] by the United States following 11 September 2001." Thirty-six percent answered negatively. Forty-six percent of poll respondents said Russia should continue the war in Chechnya, but 44 percent called for the initiation of peace talks to end the fighting. At the same time, 49 percent agreed that federal forces in Chechnya are acting "not firmly enough," while just 9 percent agreed that they are acting "too firmly." Eighteen percent said the only way to end the conflict in Chechnya is to "wall Russia off from Chechnya and give the republic its independence."

DUMA BANS RETURNING BODIES OF KILLED 'TERRORISTS'... The Duma on 1 November passed in all three readings an amendment to the law on terrorism that authorizes the government to refuse to return the bodies of those killed during antiterrorism operations to their families, and other Russian news agencies. The amendment also allows the government to refuse to divulge to relatives where those killed have been buried. Corresponding amendments to the law on interment and burial were also adopted. If passed by the Federation Council and endorsed by the president, the amendments will apply to the Chechen fighters killed during last month's hostage crisis in Moscow.

...AND TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER MEDIA REPORTING ON ANTITERRORISM OPERATIONS... State Duma deputies on 1 November passed in their third and final reading amendments to the laws on the mass media and on combating terrorism, Russian news agencies reported. If adopted into law, the amendments will make it illegal to publicize any information about technical methods and tactics used during antiterrorism operations, reported. They also ban the publication, broadcast, or posting on the Internet of any "propaganda or justification" of extremism. They forbid the publication of personal information about security-forces personnel or anyone assisting them in conducting antiterrorism operations. Finally, the amendments would outlaw the publication of information about building weapons or explosive devices. The amendments needed 226 votes to pass and received 231, with 106 deputies voting against. They were supported by the Unity faction, Fatherland-All Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), People's Deputy, Russian Regions, and the Communist Party. Deputies from the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko either opposed the amendments or abstained from voting.

...AS SOME THINK THE MEASURES ARE TOO HARSH... Liberal Russia co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov said on 1 November that the amendments will hinder "responsible journalists" and give a "green light" to those who are just "re-broadcasters for the authorities," reported. Likewise, Deputy Boris Reznik (Russian Regions), who is deputy chairman of the Duma's Information Policy Committee, said the amendments are "bad for society" and urged deputies to return them to the stage of first reading. Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii told before the Duma vote that he does not consider the amendments necessary and that his ministry is ready to defend the media from calls for stricter control.

...BUT LEADING JOURNALIST SAYS CENSORSHIP ACCEPTABLE DURING CRISES... Noted television anchorman and president of the Russian Television Academy Vladimir Pozner endorsed "censorship constraints on the mass media during wartime, including during the war against terrorism," reported on 29 October. However, he added that since there currently is no appropriate law, journalists should not be punished. "If a journalist sees that the government is lying, he should report this, if he has solid evidence," Pozner said.

...AS PSKOV RESIDENTS SIC THE FSB ON LOCAL JOURNALIST. Several residents of Pskov telephoned the local office of the FSB on 27 October with complaints against a local radio journalist who reportedly advocated independence for Chechnya, reported, citing the Pskov Information Agency. According to one of the callers, Dmitrii Osherov said "offensive" things about the special-forces operation to release the hostages, offered justifications for the hostage takers' actions, and said Russia "should give Chechnya its independence and let them live as they please." It was unclear from the report whether the FSB intends to investigate the complaints.

MEDIA MINISTER EXPLAINS HOSTAGE TAKERS' 'MEDIA PLAN' AND MINISTRY'S ACTIONS DURING CRISIS. In a long interview with "Izvestiya" on 31 October, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin assessed the role of the mass media during the recent Moscow hostage drama as "positive." Lesin also alleged that the hostage takers "had a worked-out media plan" and had studied the Russian media in advance. "They actively manipulated the situation. They really did watch television [during the crisis] and not just one channel, but several," Lesin said. "They selected channels, correspondents, newsmakers according to a previously determined plan." Lesin also said: "I began to control the work of the mass media within 15 minutes after the beginning of the tragedy. I instantly contacted all the television networks and we began to discuss what to do." He said that he held continuous consultations with the heads of national media outlets throughout the 56 hours of the standoff. Deputy Media Minister Seslavinskii, in his interview with, also said that during the crisis, the ministry used "personal interaction between the heads of the ministry and media managers."

PUTIN SAYS ARMY WILL PLAY GREATER ROLE IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM... During a cabinet meeting on 28 October to discuss the recent hostage crisis in Moscow, President Putin said that Russia "is now paying the price for the weakness of the state and the consequences of its inaction [in the past], but the country will reach no 'understandings' with terrorists nor surrender to their blackmail," ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Putin also said Russia will more actively use its army to combat international terrorism and that he has already issued instructions to that effect to the General Staff. "If anyone uses weapons of mass destruction or the equivalent against our country, Russia will respond with measures commensurate with the threat wherever terrorists, the organizers of their crimes, and their ideological and financial supporters might be," Putin said. Earlier this month, influential political consultant Gleb Pavlovskii wrote that the Kremlin considers suicide bombers to be a new type of weapon of mass destruction (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 15 October 2002).

...AND ORDERS REVISION OF NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT. During a 29 October Kremlin meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, and other security chiefs, President Vladimir Putin ordered a revision of the country's National Security Doctrine in the wake of the hostage crisis in Moscow, "Izvestiya" and other Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Defense Minister Ivanov stressed the increased role of the army in the international aspects of combating terrorism, saying the government believes that threats to Russia's national security -- including those from abroad -- are growing and that Russia is prepared to use military force not only against terrorists but also against those who sponsor or finance them. Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee, told "Izvestiya" that the revised doctrine will require changes to the laws on state secrets, on security, on defense, on state borders, on states of emergency, on combating terrorism, and many others.

NATIONAL GUARD TO BE CREATED. Major General Tatyana Moskalnikova, head of the Interior Ministry's Main Legal Directorate, described on 29 October sweeping reforms of her ministry in the context of the reorganization of the country's defense and security complex, reported. As part of the reform, the Interior Ministry's approximately 20 divisions of internal troops will be transformed over the next few years into a national guard. Moskalnikova also said a federal police force will be created that will be responsible for ensuring public security and fighting crime at the national level. In addition, there will be a federal investigative agency. Other functions currently fulfilled by the federal Interior Ministry will be delegated to municipal police, Moskalnikova said.

COMMITTEE TO LOOK INTO FINANCING OF TERRORISM. The government's Financial Monitoring Committee has begun investigating financial operations that are allegedly supporting terrorism, reported on 1 November. Committee Chairman Yurii Chikhanchin told the website that the committee's formal authorization to conduct such work will be approved as of 1 January and that in the meantime his office is compiling a list of organizations and foundations "suspected of financing terrorism." Chikhanchin said that his committee will look into alleged links between the Chechen fighters who took more than 800 people hostage in Moscow last month and a number of foreign countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

MASKHADOV'S ENVOY WARNS MORE 'TERRORIST ACTS' POSSIBLE... In telephone interviews with Reuters and dpa on 26 October, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's envoy, Akhmed Zakaev, predicted that radical Chechen fighters who do not acknowledge Maskhadov's authority might undertake new acts of terrorism in an attempt to force Russia to withdraw its troops from Chechnya. He said the possibility cannot be ruled out that they might try to seize a nuclear-power plant with catastrophic results not only for Russia but for all of Europe. Zakaev also said he fears the Russian leadership might retaliate for the hostage taking with large-scale reprisals against the Chechen community in Moscow.

...AS RUSSIA BOOSTS SECURITY AT NUCLEAR PLANTS. Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev told journalists in Moscow on 30 October that his agency is focusing on strengthening "the security of nuclear objects against terrorist fanatics" in the wake of the 23-26 October hostage drama, reported. The ministry has created a permanent crisis-management center headed by Deputy Minister Anatolii Kotelnikov. Rumyantsev said that security personnel and Interior Ministry troops protecting nuclear-power plants are on full alert. Former Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Romashin, who was in charge of security at the ministry, said statements by some Chechen fighters threatening to attack Russian nuclear-power plants are "paranoiac," "Trud" reported on 1 November. "They are exaggerating their capabilities and are mistaken if they think Russian nuclear-power plants are guarded as poorly as theaters," Romashin said. "I would like to warn them that no one will treat them considerately on our territory. They will be destroyed."

NEW MILITARY OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA. Speaking to journalists in Khabarovsk on 3 November, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russian troops have begun "large-scale and tough but precisely targeted operations in all areas of Chechnya," Russian news agencies reported. He said the decision to launch the operation was made because the ministry is "receiving more and more information that on the territory of Chechnya -- and not only there -- new preparations are being made for additional terrorist acts." "In some villages, there have been reports of the recruitment of suicide attackers," Ivanov added. Ivanov also said all troop withdrawals from the republic have been stopped. Meanwhile, the deputy commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya, Colonel Boris Podoprigora, reported that Chechen fighters used a shoulder-launched missile to shoot down an Mi-8 helicopter on 3 November, killing all nine men on board.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S ENVOY DETAINED IN DENMARK... Chechen Vice Premier Zakaev has been arrested in Copenhagen, where he attended the World Chechen Congress on 28-29 October, and remanded in custody for 13 days, Reuters and dpa quoted Danish officials as saying on 30 October. The arrest was reportedly made at the request of the Russian government, which has asked that Zakaev be extradited to Russia, where he might face charges of complicity the hostage taking by Chechen militants at a Moscow theater. Zakaev has repeatedly denied that Maskhadov or members of his government played any role in, or had any prior knowledge of, that assault. Speaking in Grozny, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov expressed satisfaction at Zakaev's reported detention, adding that Danish authorities should have also arrested all other participants in the congress, reported.

...AS RUSSIA PRESSES FOR HIS EXTRADITION. The State Duma will demand Zakaev's speedy extradition, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists on 30 October, according to Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said the legal basis for the extradition is sound and accused Zakaev of "armed insurrection, organizing illegal armed formations, and assaults on the lives of state officials." ITAR-TASS on 28 October reported that Moscow had presented Danish authorities with dossiers on 77 Chechens who took part in the World Chechen Congress and whom the Kremlin accuses of involvement in terrorism.

HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN WARNS AGAINST ANTI-CHECHEN HYSTERIA... Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov said on 30 October that he is concerned about the likely increase in anti-Chechen sentiment in the wake of the hostage crisis and the subsequent activity of the military and security forces, Ekho Moskvy reported. "In Russia, there are enough ultra-patriots who are ready to defend the interests of Slavic people by exploding our country and casting it into the abyss of interethnic strife," Mironov said. He added that there are no legal grounds for expelling Chechens from Moscow or other regions and that the heightened security measures must not violate constitutional norms. President Putin was briefed on anti-Chechen incidents by the Interior Ministry and the FSB on 30 October, RIA-Novosti reported. "I have just been acquainted with the alarming information of the Interior Ministry about the increased threats against Chechens.... Under no circumstances can we allow this negative turn of events or give in to the provocations that are being pushed upon us. We do not have the right to permit injustice," Putin said.

...AND VOLSKII CALLS FOR CHECHEN TRUCE. Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Chairman Arkadii Volskii, who in 1989-90 headed the Special Administration Committee formed to govern the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and who participated in Chechen peace talks in 1995, told Ekho Moskvy on 1 November that the Chechen conflict can only be resolved through peace talks, Interfax reported. He said that as a necessary precondition for such talks, the Russian military should declare a truce and that representatives of Chechen clans should participate in the peace talks with Russian officials who have experience in such negotiations, including former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov; the minister in charge of nationalities policy, Vladimir Zorin; and presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev. Volskii did not exclude the participation of the OSCE in such talks. Also on 1 November, Human Rights Ombudsman Mironov similarly advocated beginning peace talks with those commanders subordinate to President Maskhadov who want to negotiate, Interfax reported.

RUSSIA WILL PARTICIPATE IN PRAGUE NATO SUMMIT... Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 1 November that President Putin has instructed him to attend the NATO summit in Prague on 21-22 November at which it is widely expected a number of Central and Eastern European countries will be formally invited to join the alliance, ITAR-TASS and the Foreign Ministry's website reported. "President Putin has asked me to take part in events within the framework of the NATO summit," Ivanov said. "We are also discussing the possibility of holding a foreign-minister-level meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Prague." Previously, the Kremlin had said Russia would not attend the summit because Moscow opposes NATO expansion, particularly the inclusion of the Baltic states.

...AND SAYS U.S., RUSSIAN POSITIONS ON IRAQ NEARING. At the same news conference, Foreign Minister Ivanov said the positions of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq are growing closer, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. The main remaining difference is the issue of using force to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Russia, France, and China continue to demand an additional authorization of force in the event that Iraq fails to comply with a new UN resolution, while the United States and Great Britain are seeking a resolution that includes authorization for the automatic use of force. Ivanov's statement might indicate that Russia is ready for further compromise on this issue, the BBC commented.

RUSSIA OBJECTS TO ANTICIPATED RESTRICTIONS ON SHIPPING OIL VIA TURKISH STRAITS. Union of Russian Ship Owners Director Vyacheslav Zamoryanov told Interfax on 29 October that his organization opposes reported Turkish plans to impose new restrictions on shipping through the Turkish straits. Those restrictions would ban oil tankers more than 200 meters in length from passing through the straits and prohibit the passage of tankers through the straits at night, according to a Caspian Pipeline Consortium press release quoted by the Caspian News Agency on 16 October. Zamoryanov attributed the anticipated restrictions, of which his union has not yet been formally notified, to Turkey's support for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline as an alternate route for the export of Caspian oil.

INFLUENTIAL ANALYST HINTS MOSCOW MAY JOIN ANTI-HUSSEIN COALITION. In an interview with RosBalt on 29 October, Kremlin political adviser and head of the Foundation for Effective Politics Gleb Pavlovskii said that President Putin's recent statement declaring an offensive against the organizers and financial supporters of international terrorism might include Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "Iraq is conducting a hypocritical policy. It admitted that it is developing nuclear weapons only when it was caught red-handed. And it supports terrorists who are killing people in the Middle East by paying money to their families. In so doing, [Iraq] supports this horrible business, the business of blood" while at the same time representing itself as a "friend" of Russia, Pavlovskii said. Pavlovskii stopped short of saying that Moscow might participate in military intervention in Iraq. Asked if Putin's statement means that Russia would join an anti-Hussein coalition, Pavlovskii said he only knows of "an antiterrorism coalition" and that he hopes Baghdad will unambiguously distance itself from all forms of terrorism.

LUKOIL HAS HIGH HOPES FOR IRAQ. LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov told a news conference in Moscow on 31 October that he expects Russia's government to protect the interests of Russian companies in the Middle East no matter how the situation concerning Iraq evolves, reported. He added that when UN sanctions against Iraq are lifted, LUKoil plans to export about 180 million barrels of oil from the country over the first three years. He said the company plans to invest $65 billion to $70 billion in the project.

MINISTRY CALLS FOR LIFTING VEIL OF SECRECY. Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov has asked the government to declassify information about nickel and cobalt production, "Vedomosti" reported on 31 October. The move primarily concerns leading producer Norilsk Nickel, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros group. Artyukhov argued that declassifying the information would make the sector more attractive to foreign investors and increase Norilsk Nickel's capitalization.

REVISED BANKRUPTCY BILL BECOMES LAW. President Putin on 29 October signed into law new legislation on bankruptcy, and other Russian news agencies reported. The new law, which was passed by the Duma on 27 September and by the Federation Council on 16 October, spells out the rights and obligations of debtors and creditors throughout the bankruptcy procedure and is designed to put an end to often-violent divisions of property. The law also includes binding arbitration procedures and a financial-recovery mechanism.

EXPERTS SAY MOST SECTORS OF ECONOMY DIPPED IN OCTOBER. The Institute of Transition Economics stated in its monthly report that most sectors of the Russian economy experienced decline in October, reported on 29 October. The energy, machine-building, and food sectors were the only ones to experience overall growth for the month, and October demand for labor was the lowest for the 1999-2002 period, with the exception of the forestry industry.

FSB SEARCHES NEWSPAPER OFFICE... Federal Security Service officers on 1 November searched the offices of the weekly newspaper "Versiya" for several hours, Russian news agencies reported. According to TVS, the FSB officers confiscated a server, the computer used by the editor of the national-security desk, and the personal effects of several newspaper staffers. Editor in Chief Rustam Arifdzhanov told TVS that the FSB officers produced a document concerning a criminal case opened in connection with an article published in the newspaper's 27 May edition about the construction of housing on sites formerly used for secret establishments. However, Arifdzhanov claimed that all of the information in that article had come from open sources. He charged that the raid was actually intended to prevent the publication of an issue entirely devoted to the recent hostage crisis in Moscow, as well as to send journalists the message that "times are changing and you have to behave more quietly."

...AS JOURNALIST ORDERED TO PAY COMPENSATION. A Moscow district court on 4 November ordered muckraking journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein to pay 100,000 rubles ($3,333) in compensation for "moral harm" to the former deputy head of Moscow's Interior Ministry, Vasilii Kuptsov, and other Russian news agencies reported. The court found that a story published in "Versiya" in June 2001 that accused Kuptsov of assisting an organized-crime group, accepting bribes, and covering up crimes had no basis.

SOME JOURNALISTS EMBRACE CALL FOR MEDIA-ETHICS CODE. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 31 October published a lengthy transcript of remarks by journalists, state officials, and media experts who attended a 29 October roundtable to discuss the lessons of the recent hostage crisis. Speaking at that roundtable, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii urged journalists to develop an unwritten code of conduct for crisis situations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). "Izvestiya" television critic Irina Petrovskaya similarly cited the "completely obvious" need to work out rules for covering extraordinary situations, but she emphasized that such a system should be self-imposed by journalists, not enforced by censors. The Union of Journalists has long promoted a general "journalists' code of ethics." Various documents containing recommendations for journalists working in "hot spots" or covering wars have been published in Russia as well (see the website of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations,

ELECTION CHIEF TO WATCH HOW THEY DO IT IN THE U.S. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 3 November flew to the United States to observe Congressional elections there on 5 November, and other Russian news agencies reported. He is traveling with a delegation from the Association of Election Officials of Central and Eastern Europe.