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Security Watch: December 3, 2002


3 December 2002, Volume 3, Number 43

NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch" will appear on 17 December.
FOREIGN POLICY
PRESIDENT TO BOLSTER 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH CHINA... President Vladimir Putin on 1 December arrived in Beijing for a three-day official visit, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin met the same day with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who will be stepping down from his post in the spring. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Putin said that there are no "points of irritation" in Sino-Russian relations and that the talks were "very friendly, but extremely businesslike." The presidents signed a joint declaration committing both countries to "deepening [their] strategic partnership." Both Jiang and Putin called for a reduction of tensions between North and South Korea and for the normalization of relations between Pyongyang, Tokyo, and Washington. The purpose of Putin's visit is to correct an imbalance in relations between Russia and China that emerged following recent Kremlin agreements with Washington and NATO, the BBC commented on 2 December. Putin intends to bolster Russia's position in China's changing political landscape. Russia is the only country with which China has signed a strategic-partnership treaty. Putin will also seek to cement his ties with Vice President Hu Jintao, who took over from Jiang as head of China's Communist Party last month and who is expected succeed Jiang as president, ORT and "Izvestiya" added on 2 December.

...AND DISHES OUT THE PUBLIC RELATIONS. In an interview with Chinese central state television CCCT on 30 November, President Putin stressed his family's interest in Chinese culture, ORT reported the same day. Putin said that one of his daughters is studying Chinese and the Chinese martial art of wushu. Putin also said that he attributes his high popularity rating in Russia to the fact that he has brought stability to a people who are weary of constant reforms since 1985. "God forbid that you live in a time of change," Putin said, quoting a Chinese proverb. He added, however, that stability does not imply stagnation or decay. He concluded that he manages to get a lot done because he enjoys what he does.

RUSSIA, JORDAN CALL FOR POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN IRAQ. Speaking to journalists after a Kremlin meeting between President Putin and Jordanian King Abdullah II on 26 November, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov emphasized that the two leaders are calling for the strict implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, gazeta.ru reported. The two countries see this as "the way toward a political settlement, rather than a war." Asked if Russia is deviating from a policy of tacit consent for a possible U.S. military action against Iraq, Ivanov said Russia continues to believe "there is no military solution to the Iraqi problem." He added that the world should judge Russia's position on Iraq by its deeds. This is King Abdullah's fourth visit to Russia this year. The Jordanian monarch, who is related to the Saudi royal family, has been a staunch opponent of using military force against Hussein.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
RUSSIA AND CHINA LOOK FOR QUANTUM LEAP IN TRADE. Russia's Vneshtorgbank has signed a memorandum for a $300 million credit line with the Bank of China and other Chinese financial institutions, nns.ru reported on 2 December. This increases China's total credit line to Russia to $500 million. Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev, who is accompanying President Putin, said his ministry is hoping to get an order to build three new nuclear reactors in China. "Russian-Chinese nuclear cooperation is permanent and serious," Rumyantsev said. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 December that the two countries have ambitious plans to boost bilateral trade, which they hope will someday reach the level of Japanese-Chinese or U.S.-Chinese trade.

PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR ARCTIC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Speaking to a meeting of the government's Council for the Far North and the Arctic in Salekhard on 26 November, Mikhail Kasyanov said that organ was created in order to improve cooperation among the federal government, the legislature, the regional authorities, and the peoples of the Far North in developing Russia's northern and Arctic regions, Russian news agencies reported. Kasyanov said that the region is crucially important for Russia because it contains the country's main reserves of natural gas and strategic metals, including nickel, cobalt, platinum, and palladium. Although only 1 percent of the country's population lives in the region, it produces 22 percent of its exports and 11 percent of the national income, Kasyanov said. He urged greater international cooperation in developing the Arctic, including joint projects to protect the environment, joint development of transportation corridors, and joint exploration of the continental shelf. Russia intends to play a more active role in the Arctic Council, an international forum that includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the United States of America, and Russia.

RUSSIA CREATES A 'NOBEL PRIZE' FOR ENERGY. State Duma Deputy Zhores Alferov (Communist), who is vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a Nobel Prize laureate, announced that Russia has created a prize called "Global Energy," which will be the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for energy and will be awarded annually in St. Petersburg, RosBalt reported on 21 November and ORT reported on 25 November. Alferov said that the funds for the $900,000 prize have been provided by Gazprom, Unified Energy Systems, and oil giant Yukos. The prize will be awarded by an international jury of 25 specialists, including five Nobel Prize laureates, headed by Alferov. The first Global Energy laureate will be named in May 2003 to mark the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg.

REPORT: OLIGARCHS ARE BLOCKING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Russia's major financial and oligarchic structures are blocking the development of small and medium-sized business, KM-News reported on 27 November, citing a study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). According to the EBRD's annual country report, the country's largest concerns are actively blocking the shift of resources away from the natural-resources sector toward the development of high technology. They also systematically destroy entrepreneurial initiative. The report singled out the leading oil and metals companies as wielding enormous political and economic power at all levels of the state. The report urged the government to curtail the influence of the oligarchs in order to facilitate balanced economic development.

MILITARY
PUTIN SAYS ARMY SHOULD FOCUS ON TERRORISM... Speaking to a gathering of senior military officers in Moscow on 26 November, President Putin said the fight against international terrorism is their highest priority and urged them to cooperate more closely with law enforcement agencies, Russian news agencies reported. Putin also noted that the military experienced a large number of accidents and mishaps this year and said, "The country needs armed forces that can guarantee its security today and not just tomorrow," according to polit.ru. He added that the military must tighten its control over its finances and that this is the reason why some portions of the military budget have been declassified in the 2003 state budget. He concluded by giving an overall positive evaluation of the military's performance this year and said, "Public confidence that the armed forces are getting stronger and coping with the task of defending the nation's security is increasing," according to polit.ru.

...AND BACKS DEFENSE MINISTRY'S REQUEST TO RESTORE THE RED STAR. Addressing the same meeting, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov formally asked President Putin to restore the red star as the symbol on the military's red banner, nns.ru reported on 26 November. "The star is a sacred concept. Our grandfathers and fathers fought for this star, and we already have it on our epaulets," Ivanov said. The president then asked State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, who were also in attendance, to prepare the necessary legislation. Leon Trotsky introduced the red star as the symbol of the Red Army in 1918. In December 2000, Putin signed a decree restoring the red banner as the Russian Army's official flag.

GENERAL LAUDS INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS. Army General Vladislav Tikhomirov, commander of the Interior Ministry's internal troops, announced that he currently commands 193,000 men and that the number will be reduced by 3,000 as the force is transformed into a National Guard (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October and 20 November 2002), RIA-Novosti reported on 28 November. Tikhomirov added that he believes his forces did a good job in 2002, despite "the expansion of international terrorism" and the increase of tensions in some regions of the country. He said that his force assigned 4,200 troops to protect strategically important installations in 2002 and began the creation of six new special-forces units. Tikhomirov said the ministry's internal troops lost 133 men this year in Chechnya.

SECRET SERVICES
FSB CONTINUES SEARCH FOR BAIKAL INFORMATION LEAK. Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in Irkutsk Oblast on 25 November searched the offices of a firm called Sosnovgeos, which allegedly provided classified topographical information to a local environmental group (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 26 November 2002), lenta.ru reported on 26 November. The agents are investigating whether Sosnovgeos provided information about the topography in the vicinity of a chemical plant in Angarsk to Baikal Ecological Wave, whose offices were searched on 22 November. The FSB refused to comment on the results of its search of Sosnovgeos.

FSB TO REINDICT KRASNOYARSK SCIENTIST. Vladislav Dobrov, deputy head of the investigative department of the Krasnoyarsk branch of the FSB, has said that his office will reindict local scientist Valentin Danilov in connection with suspected espionage for China, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 26 November. Danilov was arrested in February 2001 on suspicion of transferring classified information about a Russian satellite to Chinese intelligence agents. In September, a krai court found the FSB's case inadequate and sent it back for revision. The court also released Danilov from pretrial custody (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 26 September 2002). Dobrov told the newspaper that the FSB has more than enough evidence for a new indictment both for espionage and for fraud.

PROSECUTORS CONFISCATE EKHO MOSKVY TAPE. Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov told journalists on 26 November that an investigator from the Prosecutor-General's Office had confiscated an audiotape containing an interview with one of the Chechen fighters involved in the 23-26 October Moscow hostage drama, newsru.com reported. Venediktov said that he voluntarily handed over the tape, but noted that prosecutors had prepared a protocol saying the tape had been "confiscated."

INFORMATION AND PUBLIC POLICY
PUTIN VETOES MEDIA-LAW AMENDMENTS... President Putin on 25 November invited the heads of Russia's leading media corporations who had earlier appealed to him to veto proposed amendments to the law on the mass media that would have regulated coverage of antiterrorism operations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002) and informed them that he had granted their request, Russian news agencies reported. Putin said he had sent a letter to State Duma Speaker Seleznev and Federation Council Chairman Mironov explaining that the proposed amendments would not help the state combat terrorism but would instead introduce censorship. He asked the legislators to create a conciliation commission and, together with representatives of journalists, to work out new amendments. ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, speaking on behalf of the journalists present, told Putin that some "unwitting mistakes" were made during coverage of the 23-26 October hostage drama in Moscow, but that "they were not conscious actions, but rather misunderstandings about how to behave in such situations."

...BUT DOES NOT CONCEAL HIS IRRITATION WITH JOURNALISTS... Speaking to the journalists gathered at the Kremlin, Putin said that he is not fully convinced of their argument that the problems with the hostage-drama coverage were all the result of unintentional mistakes, RTR reported on 25 November. He said that one television channel showed movements of special-forces units just moments before the beginning of the operation to storm the theater where Chechen fighters were holding more than 700 hostages in deliberate violation of an agreement between journalists and the staff of the operation command center. He noted that this action could have led to a terrible tragedy. "There was the desire to increase ratings and to make money, but this should not be done at the price of the blood of our people, assuming that they see them as 'our people,'" Putin said. The president also did not hide the fact that he was annoyed by the communication between journalists and the hostage takers. "It is not the mass media but the special services that should save hostages. The mass media should inform [the public]," Putin said. "The main weapon of terrorists is not bullets or grenades but blackmail, and there is no better means for blackmail than turning a terrorist act into a public spectacle," Putin said.

...WHILE MEDIA BOSSES STRIKE CONCILIATORY TONE... ORT General Director Ernst told journalists following the meeting with Putin that the public should not interpret the president's veto as a victory of journalists over legislators, ORT reported on 25 November. It is, rather, an opportunity for legislators and journalists to work together to elaborate a reasonable professional code for journalists in extreme situations. He added that a corresponding professional code should also be created for law enforcement agencies. Among the media leaders who met with Putin were VGRTK President Oleg Dobrodeev, Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Venediktov, "Komsomolskaya pravda" Editor in Chief Vladimir Sungorkin, "Gazeta" Editor in Chief Raf Shakirov, and "Moskovskie novosti" Editor in Chief Viktor Loshak

...AND AGREE WITH KREMLIN ON NEW MEDIA LAW. The Industrial Committee of leading media corporations and the government and Duma have agreed that a new mass media law should be adopted rather than simply amending the old one, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 November. According to committee head, ORT General Director Ernst, the new media law will not directly restrict the activity of journalists, but it will contain reference to the law on combating terrorism and other relevant legislation. Ernst said that in addition to the new law, the journalistic community will draft and adopt a voluntary code of professional conduct for the coverage of extreme situations.

TRENDS AND IDEAS
PEOPLE'S PARTY CALLS FOR DEATH PENALTY, CRIMINALIZING HOMOSEXUALITY. Speaking to the founding congress of the People's Party of the Russian Federation (NPRF) in Moscow on 30 November, party leader and Duma Deputy Gennadii Raikov (People's Deputy) said the NPRF will call for the recriminalization of homosexuality, newsru.com reported the same day. He added, however, that the party's focus will be on revitalizing family and spiritual values. Raikov also said that, although it is desirable to ban the death penalty in countries where murder is an extraordinary thing, Russia needs it because there are more than 100,000 murders there each year.

UPPER CHAMBER ENDORSES CYRILLIC-ONLY BILL. The Federation Council on 27 November passed a series of amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that would require all alphabets of such languages to be based on the Cyrillic alphabet, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 122 in favor, three opposed, and five abstentions. The Duma passed the amendments on 14 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). "This federal law only strengthens the graphic basis of these languages and only when their written form is used as a state language," said Valeriya Kadokhova, chairwoman of the council's Committee on the Federation and Regional Policies. "The right of the republics to establish their own state languages remains intact." Refqet Altynbaev, who represents Tatarstan in the council, spoke against the measure and said it violates the constitution. Karelia's representative Yurii Ponomarev said the mandatory use of Cyrillic would hinder the development of the Karelian language. "Some words would simply lose their meaning," he said.

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