25 September 2000, Volume
PUTIN SEEKS TO RESTRICT YELTSIN'S IMMUNITY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent draft legislation to the Duma that could have the effect of making his predecessor liable to prosecution, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September. The draft bill provides budgetary support for Putin's 31 December 1999 decree granting Yeltsin personal immunity. On the one hand, the new legislation would prefer the grant of personal immunity to Yeltsin. But on the other, it opens the way for charges to be made against Yeltsin's family and hence against Yeltsin himself to the extent that he was involved with their activities, the Moscow paper concluded.
WESTERN INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS IN TATARSTAN BLOCKED.
Rovel Kashapov, the chief of the Tatarstan KGB public relations office told "Vremya MN" on 8 September that his service had succeeded during the past year alone in blocking espionage activity in that Middle Volga republic by intelligence operatives from England, France, Pakistan, and South Korea. Kashapov added that foreign intelligence services have intensified their efforts to gain information about the missile and aviation industries located there. Tatarstan is the only subdivision of the Russian Federation which has retained the Soviet-era name for its intelligence agency.ORTHODOX CHURCH AGAIN DENIES PATRIARCH WAS A KGB AGENT.
Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, told Interfax on 20 September that there was no truth to reports in the Western press that Patriarch Aleksii II had worked for the KGB. Chaplin said that such information was being disseminated by those interested in "weakening Russian Orthodoxy." He was responding to a report in the "London Times" the day before that the Russian Orthodox Church has evaded taxes on its extensive involvement in the international trade of oil, diamonds, cigarettes, and alcohol. Despite Chaplin's assertions, KGB documents published in 1992-93 showed that KGB officials routinely referred to Aleksii as "agent Drozdov."
KASYANOV PLAYS THE OIL CARD IN LONDON.
On a visit to London from 18-20 September that was supposed to focus on debt relief and additional Western loans to Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told his British counterpart Tony Blair that Russia was prepared to increase oil exports to Europe, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 19 September. Such an increase would undoubtedly help European governments currently under fire for rising gasoline prices, but it would also make those governments more dependent on Moscow's future good will. That Kasyanov intends to get something back was evident from what the paper said were his demands at the meetings: the release of a 500 million pound loan originally approved in 1997 as well as $620 million in additional loans for Gazprom, AvtoVAZ, and LUKoil from Western banks.CHINA WON'T BUY RUSSIAN POWER.
Li Peng, the leader of the Chinese legislature, told UES chief Anatoly Chubais that Beijing has no interest "at the moment" in purchasing Russian-generated electric power, "Kommersant" reported on 15 September (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," no. 8, 11 September 2000).
KOKH PLANS TO SELL MOST-MEDIA TO FOREIGN INVESTORS.
Alfred Kokh, the head of Gazprom-Media group, told RFE/RL on 20 September that his company plans to sell the assets of Media-MOST to international investors. He named Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch and Germany's Bertelsmann group as among possible buyers. He argued that Media-MOST is insolvent and owes not only $211 million to Gazprom but another $233 million to the government. Such indebtedness, he said, is to be found throughout the entire Russian media market. And the only way to overcome it, he insisted, is for foreign investors to become involved.PAVLOVSKY OUTLINES KREMLIN'S INFORMATION SECURITY PLANS.
Gleb Pavlovsky, presidential advisor and director of the Moscow Center for Efficient Policy, told polit.ru on 20 September that the Information Security Doctrine signed by President Putin earlier this month will allow the government to regain effective access to the population and lead to the "legalization of the shadow information market. He said that "for 10 years the state had been deprived" of direct channels of communications with the people and thus had been forced to make deals with information "brokers" like Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky. Such deals, Pavlovsky continued, have led to the formation of "enclaves" on Russia's territory which "pose serious threats to the country's national interests." To overcome this decade-long problem, he added, the state will begin "to consolidate its information resources and decide what it will keep in its own hands and what it will allow the market to control." (For additional details on this policy, see the "End Note below.)
DUMA SAYS 'NYET' ON MEDIA INQUIRY, IMMUNITY CHANGE.
The Duma voted down a Yabloko-proposed measure calling for investigation of the role of the Russian president and prime minister in intimidating independent mass media. And the Russian parliament also voted down a bill that would have restricted the immunity of Duma deputies. Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov told ORT on 20 September that the deputies do not seek to place themselves above the law but only to prevent themselves from becoming the victim of officials trying to intimidate them or settle scores through the legal system.DUMA REJECTS CALL FOR INSPECTION OF WESTERN SUBS.
The Russian parliament on 20 September rejected a resolution calling on the U.S. and British governments to allow Russian officials to inspect U.S. and British submarines which were in the Barents Sea at the time of the "Kursk" disaster. The resolution followed a report by "Segodnya" on 18 September that Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev had asked U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen for precisely that. And the rejected resolution reflects the continuing view among many Russian officers that the "Kursk" sank after colliding with a Western sub.MILITARY UNHAPPY WITH BUDGET ALLOCATIONS.
Andrei Nikolaev, the chairman of the Duma's defense committee, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 September that the Russian military finds the current draft budget "unacceptable." Nikolaev said that the reported 30 percent increase in the defense budget in fact reflects less an increase in specifically military spending than in the inclusion of non-military line items into the defense budget. Nikolaev said that he believes that the military budget should not exclude expenditures for peacekeeping operations, military reforms, or benefits to service. And he noted that military officers are counting on the government to spend more on the military given President Vladimir Putin's pledge "to restore the army, navy, and the state."
BEREZOVSKY LOSES AN ALLY AT THE PROCURACY.
The office of the Russian Prosecutor-General fired Nazir Khapsirokov, who had run that agency's property management department and who has close ties to financier Boris Berezovsky, "Moskovskie novosti" reported on 18 September. A native of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Khapsirokov helped Berezovsky to be nominated to a Duma seat from there. He also reportedly was involved in the ouster of former Prosecutor-General Yury Skuratov in 1999.CORRUPTION CASES LINKED.
Many of the most notorious corruption cases in Russia involve one and the same set of people, prosecutors have determined, according to "Moskovskie novosti" on 18 September. The same names have figured in the Golden Ada, Mabatex, and Mercata trading company cases, according to materials Swiss investigators have sent to Moscow. Moreover, money raised from these various actions are reportedly being used to buy land in California for 18 senior Russian government officials.SWISS URGE MOSCOW TO SPEED UP INVESTIGATION...
Swiss federal prosecutors Valentin Roschacher, Loran Casper-Ansermet, and Daniel Devaud have visited Moscow to ask that the Russian government accelerate its investigation into money-laundering through Swiss banks, Russian and Western agencies reported 14-16 September. While in the Russian capital, the Swiss presented Russian officials in the Office of the Prosecutor-General and at the FSB with additional materials concerning the scandals involving the Bank of New York, Aeroflot, Mabatex and Mercata trading. But the Swiss journalists indicated that they left with the impression that Russian officials are in no hurry to proceed and that anyone showing initiative in the investigation of these cases is likely to be fired, just as have the four leading Russian investigators in the past....TO THE INCREASING IRRITATION OF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS.
Russian officials "simply do not know how to stonewall troublesome Swiss requests" about these scandals, "Kommersant" reported on 15 September. According to smi.ru, which is controlled by the Kremlin's Gleb Pavlovsky, "because of their lack of domestic problems or for other unknown reasons, Swiss investigators have taken up the investigation of Russian cases, even though no one has asked them to." Meanwhile, Pavel Borodin, one of the objects of these investigations, told "Tribune de Geneva" on 19 September that the investigators are subjects of manipulation by "those who paid them money--in particular, the owners of NTV television channel." And Moscow's "Argumenty i fakty" commented ironically in its no. 38 issue that "The Swiss are indeed intervening in our internal affairs. Because Russia is a free country in which everyone has the right to steal to the degree set by the importance of the office he holds."WESTERN THREATS WON'T GAIN POPE'S RELEASE.
A Moscow court has again refused to release retired U.S. Navy officer Edmund Pope, who is accused of espionage, so that he can receive medical treatment, ORT reported on 20 September. The court said that he was not ill enough to justify his lawyer's request. Meanwhile, smi.ru said on the same day that Moscow should ignore U.S. protests in the matter. According to that site, "American threats of ending business contacts are not serious. The U.S. has blocked Cuba, but that has not prevented Europeans and Americans from visiting that island and even buying property there." Hence, threats in this case should have no effect, the site said.COMMUNISTS TO CELEBRATE VICTORY OVER HORDE.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has appealed to "all patriots" to celebrate the 620th anniversary of the battle of Kulikovo field, in which Russian forces defeated the Mongol hordes. In a 16 September letter carried on http://www.kprf.ru
, the KPRF said that the battle represented a "manifestation of Russian character and [its] will to victory." The presidential administration dispatched Georgy Poltavchenko, the governor of the central super-district, to represent President Putin at this celebration, the site reported.
THE KREMLIN PROPAGANDIST DRIVE INTO INTERNET
By Victor Yasmann
In addition to moving against media outlets via administrative, economic, and legal means, Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime is also increasing the number and volume of pro-government information outlets in the print, electronic, and Internet spheres. Its activities on the Internet have so far drawn little attention but they may provide a clue as to the Kremlin's future plans for the rest of the media.
In September, the government set up a portal on Runet that reflects the Kremlin's perspective. Among the materials carried on that site is GazetaSNG.ru -- which is devoted to Moscow's views about the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In its 19 September version, this site carried an article asking "Why are the Americans Defending Democracy in Central Asia?" The answer the site provides suggests that the U.S. has created groups of democratic activists there in order to ensure that their rights will be violated and thus justify Western intervention in the lives of these countries.
The man behind this and other similar websites is Putin's media adviser Gleb Pavlovsky. He told monitor.ru on 20 September that he welcomed what he said was the belated adoption of the new Russian Information Security Doctrine, which he said "should prevent the situation from arising in which any person with a certain amount of money can have a significant impact on the political agenda and views of the population at large." According to Pavlovsky, the state is absolutely defenseless against such "uncontrolled" information flows. The Information Ministry and FAPSI can handle only a few aspects of this "threat," he said. Consequently, Pavlovsky argues that the Russian state must create a single information center inside the presidential administration, a center he presumably would head.
One of the projects such a center would oversee, Pavlovsky suggested, is the maintenance of his current pet Internet project, the creation of what he calls "a Russian CNN," "Vremya MN" reported on 19 September. To be based initially on the web at strana.ru, this project will unite all state-owned or state-controlled media outlets at a single, gigantic multimedia site.
That will allow the Kremlin to ensure that it gets its message out, Pavlovsky told the paper. He added that the organizational structure of strana.ru will follow that of Putin's new seven super-district regional administrations. In other comments, Pavlovsky denied reports that there is a secret provision within the state budget dealing with the mass media, but he acknowledged that his own Center of Efficient Policy has had some help in gaining control of the biggest Russian news portals, including Lenta.ru, Vesti.ru, Smi.ru and the electronic version of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," known as ng.ru