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Security Watch: October 30, 2000

30 October 2000, Volume 1, Number 15


FSB WARNS GOVERNORS AGAINST RESISTING MOSCOW. FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev said on 26 October that the Urals region and its capital Yekaterinburg have become a symbol "of corruption, drug trafficking, and organized crime," Region-Inform reported. Speaking to a power agencies conference devoted to the reorganization of territorial security councils, Patrushev said that Moscow will remove these bodies from the supervision of Yekaterinburg's leaders and take direct control of them. "Segodnya" reported on the same day that Patrushev's words were directed at Yekaterinburg Governor Eduard Rossel and represented a "warning to other governments who oppose President Vladimir Putin's federation reforms." The paper added that Moscow has already won some allies: the Yekaterinburg procuracy has already found that the subordination of the local security council to Rossel violates the Russian Constitution.

SMOLENSK VICE-GOVERNOR ARRESTED FOR ABUSE OF OFFICE. The Smolensk FSB have arrested the deputy head of Smolensk Oblast, Yuri Bobyshkin, on charges of "massive corruption and organization of the hired killing of a manager at a liquor factory," RIA-Novosti reported on 25 October. Smolensk Oblast prosecutor Yevgeni Agarkov told ITAR-TASS on the same day that Bobyshkin had also misused the regional office for foreign economic ties and investments.

POLITICS BEHIND SELECTIVE PROSECUTIONS. Moscow officials are charging more and more regional leaders with crimes, reported on 25 October. Within the last few weeks, federal investigators arrested a close associate of Mari-El President Vyacheslav Kislytsin, subpoenaed for tax evasion Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov, and stepped up a criminal investigation of Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi. What is striking is not the number of those charged, but that the charges have been lodged only against sitting officials who are running against candidates backed by the Kremlin.

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS ADMINISTRATIVE CODE. The Federation Council rejected a government-introduced administrative law code, Interfax reported on 25 October, because many of the members of that body believe that it sets excessive punishments for the violation of administrative rules. Chuvash President and Federation Council member Nikolai Fedorov, for example, complained that the proposed code imposes penalties on anyone who does not have an identification document when he or she is in public.


TAX POLICE SEEK INTELLIGENCE FUNCTION. Vyacheslav Soltaganov, the director of the Federal Tax Police Service, told RIA-Novosti on 26 October that his organization would like to create not only a "financial super police" (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 2 and 23 October) but also the creation of a special "financial intelligence unit. That 300-strong unit attached to the Ministry of Finance, he said, would analyze "all financial flows in the country" and collect information on all transactions exceeding $10,000. The new body, he said, would not have law enforcement powers per se, but it would be in a position to approve or disapprove of bank operations over $10,000, thus giving it enormous power over the economy.


170 OFFICIALS INVESTIGATED FOR 1998 DEFAULT. Vasilii Kolmogorov, the first deputy prosecutor general, told the Federation Council that his agency is "intensively" investigating 170 senior Russian officials for possible abuse of office via speculation in short-term government securities in advance of the August 1998 default, Interfax and NTV reported on 25 October. Kolmogorov said that among those under investigation are former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, Central Bank chief Sergei Dubinin and his deputy, Sergei Aleksashenko. Kolmogorov noted that prosecutors have not charged these people with "illegal economic activities and money-laundering" because of gaps in the country's legal code. He said that he hoped that investigations into the actions of the 170 would be completed within the next six months.

CORRUPTION OF KREMLIN FAMILY DESCRIBED. Philip Turover, a former officer of the Swiss Banco del Gottardo, told "Novaya gazeta" on 23 October that approximately 100 people around former President Boris Yeltsin, known collectively as "the Family," diverted tens of billions of dollars of Western assistance over the last eight years for their own use. He added that "the Family" has exploited virtually all Moscow financial institutions to this end and that current Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was directly involved. As to former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Turover said that in his case, "one can talk about hundreds of millions of dollars" diverted. The former Swiss banker said that he has proof that "the Family" diverted not only money from the IMF but also from the World Bank and from Western European government loans. Turover said that he will continue to cooperate with investigations abroad but will avoid going to Moscow. "If I arrive in Moscow, I will receive a bullet right at the airport," he concluded.

YELTSIN'S DAUGHTER DISCUSSES FATHER'S REIGN. In a rare interview published in "Ogonek," no. 43, Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, said that her father was ready to suspend presidential elections in 1996 but that she and Anatoli Chubais had talked him out of doing so. Often accused of being behind much of the corruption in the Kremlin during the Yeltsin years, Dyachenko praised many of the people of that period. She described oligarchs like Roman Abramovich and Aleksandr Mamut as "very modest, intelligent, and nice" people. And she said that Aleksandr Voloshin is "a very interesting personality with a good sense of humor." The publication of this interview reflects an effort by the Yeltsin entourage to maintain a high public profile even as Vladimir Putin moves closer to making a decision about their future fates.


PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA'S PROBLEMS AT HOME PRECLUDE INTERVENTIONS ABROAD. In an interview published in the French newspaper "Le Figaro" on 26 October, ahead of his meeting with EU leaders in Paris, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia will not impose its will on other countries. "While we want to remain involved in international affairs," he said, "we do not want to become involved with conflicts because we have more than enough domestic problems." He added that Russia would intervene in foreign conflicts only "if our immediate interest are involved and only if we are asked in by the conflicting parties." (For more on Putin's interview, see "End Note" below.)

RUSSIA TO SEEK DELIMITATION OF BLACK SEA BORDER. Following a special Russian Security Council discussion on relations with Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 23 October), Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Moscow will now seek to activate "talks on the delimitation of the Russian-Ukrainian border in the Azov Sea and Kerch Straits," and also seek to strengthen the legal status of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Ivanov added that he believed the two countries are now prepared to improve relations across the board and find "mutually acceptable" solutions to all outstanding issues.

RUSSIA, TURKEY AGREE ON ENERGY, MILITARY COOPERATION. During his visit to Ankara, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that the two countries have agreed to step up cooperation on energy distribution via the so-called Blue Stream pipeline and also to increase security cooperation to combat the common Kurdish threat, Russian and Western wire services reported on 24 October. He said that the Kurdish challenge to Ankara has made Turkey "understanding of Russia's position on Chechnya." Meanwhile, "Kommersant" reported that Moscow hopes to win a $4 billion tender to supply the Turkish Army with 145 Russian-Israeli combat helicopters, thereby freezing out a possible sale to Turkey of U.S. Bell helicopters.

DUMA TAKES UP ALTERNATIVE SERVICE BILL. Increasing draft avoidance has prompted Yuli Rybakov of the Union of Right Forces to introduce a bill allowing for alternatives to military service, Interfax reported on 24 October. Those individuals who do not want to serve in the military out of personal conviction would be allowed to work in social and health fields for a period that would be longer than military service schedules now. By requiring a longer period of service, the authors of this bill hope the authorities will be able to distinguish between those with genuine convictions against military service and those who are only seeking to avoid being part of the military for selfish reasons.

GAZPROM WINS VICTORIES AT HOME AND ABROAD. During October, Gazprom won some significant victories both inside Russia and abroad, reported on 25 October. On the one hand, it gained an EU endorsement for the construction of a pipeline bypassing Ukraine and gained Turkish support for the Blue Stream project. And it gained access to the privatization of Ukrainian and Kazakhstan pipelines at the same time. On the other hand, at home, Gazprom secured Anatoli Chubais's agreement to use Gazprom gas in its UES power grid.


DUMA REJECTS ZHIRINOVSKY'S POLYGAMY BILL. The Russian parliament has rejected a proposal by Liberal Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to allow for polygamy in order to reverse the country's disastrous demographic situation, reported on 24 October. Under its provisions, Russian men would be allowed to have up to five wives. Vice Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said in debates that she would vote for the measure if it was amended to allow women to have multiple husbands.

ANOTHER GENERAL ENTERS POLITICS. Lieutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov, whose name has been linked with atrocities in Chechnya, has registered as a candidate for Ulyanovsk governor, "Kommersant" reported on 25 October. Shamanov will oppose incumbent Governor Yuli Goryachev, whose supporters believe that a Shamanov victory would lead to a reversal of privatization and greater authoritarianism there. But the general has received support from the regional branch of the Union of Right Forces, which said that Shamanov has "experience not only in the military but in the command of people and equipment."

PUTIN'S JUDO BOOK CONTAINS HIS POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. The "Severnyi Komsomolets" publishing house has issued a new judo handbook prepared by Vladimir Putin and two others, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 October. The book, printed in Finland, contains a line which the paper said could serve as Putin's political credo: "The winner of any fight is not the strongest but the most patient."

STEPASHIN WARNS AGAINST EXAGGERATING CORRUPTION. Sergei Stepashin, the chief of Russia's Audit Chamber, said that the problem of corruption in Russia "must not be exaggerated," ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. Stepashin has some experience in minimizing corruption: From 1993-95, he shut down investigations of corruption in the Group of Russian Forces in Germany.

MOSCOW TAKES OVER STAROVOITOVA MURDER CASE. The office of the Russian Prosecutor-General has taken over from the St. Petersburg FSB the investigation of the November 1998 murder of Duma member and long-time human rights activist Galina Starovoitova, Interfax reported on 23 October. The regional FSB had detained 18 people in the case but had not identified those responsible. The case had been under the control of Viktor Cherkesov, long-time St. Petersburg FSB chief and now presidential envoy to the Northwest super district. By coincidence, Cherkesov flew on the same flight with Starovoitova from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the day of her murder.

DUMA DEPUTIES SEEK OBSERVERS IN U.S. ELECTIONS. A group of Duma deputies has proposed a bill calling for "international supervision of the U.S. presidential elections," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Izvestiya" reported on 27 October. The deputies argue that because of the unique role the United States now plays in the world, American elections cannot be considered an "internal affair" of the United States and should be put under "international control." The deputies called on the UN, the OSCE, and the Organization for African Unity to send observers to monitor the vote. The bill, which seems certain to die, reflects the growing anti-Americanism of many Russian politicians.


By Victor Yasmann

In advance of his Paris summit with the leaders of the European Union on October 30, Vladimir Putin has redefined his foreign policy agenda for European audiences. And his ideas as presented in the French newspaper "Le Figaro" are thus rather different than those he presented in a CNN interview to an American audience. While in the U.S., Putin attempted to remain neutral on most questions, though now for Europe, he has outlined far more specific goals in dealing with European affairs and provided far more explicit statements concerning his domestic approach.

Putin argued that Europe and Russia should be playing a bigger role in the Middle East than they now are. He then addressed French objections to his policies in Chechnya by repeating his argument that "the threat of international terrorism" justified his position and arguing that had Russia not acted against Chechnya when it did, radical extremist Islamist groups might have emerged more prominently in the Middle East.

Turning to the question of corruption in Russia, Putin acknowledged that law enforcement agencies in his country are "weak" and have not been effective. But he denied that there was a mafia. But, paradoxically, he said that the mafia is an element of democratic societies while in totalitarian ones "like fascist Italy," it was quickly uprooted. At the same time, he explicitly ruled out solving the problem by force alone. He said that force could be used and noted that he had warned the oligarchs that "we only keep a stick in our hands, but if we use it, it will be only once and right at the head."

Putin was particularly assertive about what he believes is the need to rein in freedom of the press. He paraphrased -- quite incorrectly as it happens -- Thomas Jefferson's observation that "full freedom of the press will deprive the rest of society of its freedoms." He said that in his view, "everybody must be equal before the law -- including the mass media."

Given such explicitness, European commentators are unlikely to claim that Putin is an enigma. He has staked out his positions clearly and now European leaders will have to respond.