Accessibility links

Security Watch: November 13, 2000


13 November 2000, Volume 1, Number 17
DOMESTIC POLICY
PUTIN PLEDGES TO 'REESTABLISH' STATE BORDERS. During his visit to the Southern Federal District, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia at the present time "does not have full-fledged state borders but will re-establish them," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. Putin stressed that Moscow would continue to maintain "a very liberal attitude" regarding migration among the former Soviet republics but that it was essential that Moscow develop a coherent migration policy in order to "help solve many problems of the region as a whole." Moscow's denunciation of the Bishkek visa-free regime, Putin said, opened the way for the creation of such a policy, one that would be based on bilateral rather than multilateral arrangements (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 4 September 2000).

PUTIN SEEKS RETURN OF RUSSIANS FROM FORMER REPUBLICS. President Vladimir Putin is set to launch a program for the re-emigration of "millions of ethnic Russians from the former Soviet republics," Interfax reported on 6 November, as part of Moscow's effort to combat its demographic problems. According to the plan, which has the support of Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, the Russian government will provide "the maximum support to all Russians who have a natural desire to return to their homeland." This project, which could exacerbate ethnic tensions in many of the countries involved, supplements Moscow's current 3 billion ruble program to stabilize the birthrate and reduce life-threatening diseases.

PUTIN WANTS JUSTICE SYSTEM TO SPEED UP. "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 4 November that President Vladimir Putin continues to be unhappy with Supreme Court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev, whom he made responsible a year ago for an acceleration of the reform of the justice system. The paper noted that now Economic Development Minister German Gref is working on his own plan to restructure the Russian court system. Gref's plan reportedly includes ending lifetime tenure for Russian judges, reducing their service time to 15 years. Such arrangements, Gref argues, will reduce the corruption of judges and make them more accountable. One of its consequences, the paper notes, would be the ouster of Lebedev.

PUTIN CONSOLIDATES RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTING. President Vladimir Putin by decree has fused the two main state-owned enterprises involved in arms exports, "Rosvooruzhenie" and "Promexport," into a single new organization called "Rosoboronprom," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. The new entity, to be under the supervision of Andrei Belyaninov, is intended both to eliminate "unjustified competition" between the two that had lowered prices for Russian arms abroad and also to increase Russian arms sales.

MASS MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
TELECOMMUNICATIONS PUT UNDER CHEKIST. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has appointed Colonel-General Aleksei Shcherbakov to be first deputy communications minister, apparently making him responsible for controlling the country's telecommunications infrastructure, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. A KGB veteran, Shcherbakov until recently had been the first deputy of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). His appointment is another sign that Leonid Reiman, the communications minister, is turning his ministry into a "special service" for the Kremlin, "Profil," no. 44, suggested. Earlier this year, Reiman had authorized the introduction of government monitoring of telecommunications, known as SORM, and allowed the FSB to have anonymous access to the files of users (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 4 and 18 September, and 2 October 2000).

KREMLIN SEEKS CONTROLS ON UNCLASSIFIED INFORMATION� Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told "Vek," no. 44, that the new information security doctrine not only imposes constraints on dissemination of secret information but also on the use of unclassified information "obtained in an illegal way." In other comments, Ivanov said that he will seek to impose the same "rules of the game" for the 38 electronic and 66 print foreign-owned media outlets as enjoyed by domestic mass media. "Why," Ivanov asked rhetorically, "does Radio Liberty have unrestricted broadcasting rights in Russia while Russian Radio Mayak does not enjoy the same rights in America?" Ivanov also said that he will move to close press law "loopholes" to restrict "the misuse of press freedom."

...EXPANDS ROLE OF FAPSI. In the same interview, Ivanov said that Moscow will seek to sign the same type of information security accord it currently has with Belarus with at least some of the other CIS countries. He added that the role of the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information will play an expanded role in this area. In particular, he said, over the next six years, FAPSI will be responsible for the development of the information and telecommunications infrastructure of all government organs.

MILITARY AND SECURITY
SERGEI IVANOV RANKS SECURITY THREATS. In his "Vek," no. 44, interview, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov ranked the threats to Russia as being "the expansion of NATO eastwards, international terrorism and the concept of humanitarian interventions, which, he said, "derives from a world view which ignores the opinions of others." He said that among the country's most pressing internal threats were Chechnya and the efforts of some governments to use sovereignty declarations to undermine the constitution. Ivanov said that in this area the situation has been "improving" since Vladimir Putin became president. He also noted that the Strategic Rocket Forces will not be incorporated into the air forces until 2006 and that the reduction of the SRF will reflect only the decommissioning of older ICBMs.

SECURITY WORKERS, DRAFTEES, CONVICTS TO BE FINGERPRINTED. President Vladimir Putin on 8 November signed a law requiring the fingerprinting of security agency employees, law enforcement officers, soldiers and sailors, those convicted by a court, and those claiming refugee status, Interfax reported. The Interior Ministry will retain the fingerprints of all those processed except for the employees of security agencies.

MOSCOW INSISTS 'KURSK' SANK AFTER COLLISION. Vice Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the "Kursk" investigation, told ORT television on 8 November that divers had found "a big dent and scratches" on the hull of the Kursk consistent with the theory that the submarine sank after colliding with a foreign vessel. But if Klebanov suggested that a collision was only a hypothesis, an unnamed spokesman for the Russian navy told Interfax on 3 November that as far as his service was concerned, "the issue of a collision is not a version but a position."

DUMA ACTIONS
UNITY INTRODUCES RESTITUTION BILL. The pro-government Duma faction "Edinstvo" (Unity) has introduced a bill calling for restitution to the owners of property forcibly nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and afterwards, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 November. The newspaper suggested that one of the principal beneficiaries would be the Russian Orthodox Church, which could then claim many pieces of property not yet returned to it. The bill's prospects for passage have been improved by a provision within it limiting its applicability only to property "not in use and not reconstructed by the state."

CEC DRAFTS BILL ON POLITICAL PARTIES. Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, told Russian agencies on 1 November that his organization has submitted a bill that would transform the country's political scene by increasing state regulation of the functioning of political parties by the Justice Ministry and the Audit Chamber. Under the bill, only political parties registered by the state could nominate someone for public office. Moreover, regional political associations would be abolished. That provision, polit.ru noted on 4 November, almost certainly would lead to a new confrontation between Moscow and regional officials. Nonetheless, Union of Right Forces leader Irina Khakamade said the bill had good chances because it reflected "the interests of the Kremlin and the communists," Interfax reported on 6 November.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
LUKOIL ENTERS U.S. MARKET. LUKoil has entered the U.S. market by acquiring Getty Petroleum Marketing for $71 million, Finmarket reported on 3 November. Under the terms of the deal, LUKoil will gain control of 1,300 gas stations in the eastern U.S. BP is also involved; it will supply gasoline for LUKoil-Getty in a swap arrangement under which LUKoil will provide gas for BP stations in Russia.

DUMA DEPUTY URGES BACKING THE EURO. Sergei Shiskarev, the deputy chairman of the Duma Foreign Relations Committee, said that President Vladimir Putin's support for the euro reflected "the long-term interests of the Russian economy," ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. He noted that the U.S. share of the world's GDP is only 20 percent but that 80 percent of world trade is denominated in dollars. Such an "imbalance," Shishkarev said, "will bring a financial cataclysm to Russia if Moscow does not switch to the euro in its transactions."

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
70 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SAID TO BE CORRUPT. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Aleksandr Gurov said that approximately 70 percent of all Russian officials are involved in corruption, APN.ru reported on 4 November. Gurov, who made his name in the struggle against organized crime, said that this situation can be corrected only by reducing the amount of contact between the government and the economy. Legal means are necessary, but a situation in which corporate registration requires a businessman to meet with bureaucrats in 30 different offices almost ensures that corruption will continue.

TAX POLICY CHIEF CALLS FOR FINANCIAL AMNESTY. Vyacheslav Soltaganov, the director of the Federal Tax Police Service, told RIA-Novosti on 3 November that a "financial amnesty" is a necessity. Such a measure will lead to the repatriation of capital and convince Russian businessmen that they can keep their capital in Russia without fear. This idea was first proposed by oligarch Boris Berezovsky in the "Financial Times" in June. At that time, Berezovsky argued that all large fortunes in Russia can be categorized as "illegal" because the country's laws are "unenforceable." But neither Soltaganov now--nor Berezovsky then--made a careful distinction between illegally exported capital and funds stolen directly from the state.

ANNULLING 'LOANS FOR SHARES' DEAL URGED. Yuri Boldyrev, the deputy chairman of the Audit Chamber, told "Segodnya" on 4 November that the infamous "loans for shares" deal of 1996 is legally "null and void" and should be reversed. Boldyrev, who led the investigation of the affair, noted that the government illegally deposited $600 million of its own funds in commercial banks and then subsequently discovered that this money had disappeared under the cover of the "loans for shares" deal.

MILITARY
OFFICERS TO BEAR BRUNT OF MILITARY CUTS. More than 65 percent of the planned reduction in the Russian armed forces over the next three years will come in the officer corps, Interfax reported on 31 October. Among them will be 380 general officer billets and 240,000 other officers, 30 percent of whom are now colonels and lieutenant colonels. Pravda.ru said on the same day that President Vladimir Putin clearly means business but that he has not yet said what he intends to do with these hundreds of thousands of forcibly retired officers.

SECRET SERVICES
FAPSI DENIES ROLE IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN. Boris Kartamyshev, the FAPSI director in Kursk, told "Izvestiya" on 31 October that charges by defeated former Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi that his agency had orchestrated Rutskoi's defeat were "a matter of misunderstanding." Kartamyshev said that his group had nothing to do with monitoring the vote and that the numbers he had given the then-governor came from television. Kartamyshev's denial is unlikely to convince many: FAPSI not only monitors but effectively controls the computerized electoral system in Russia -- and, as a former vice president, Rutskoi certainly knew this better than many others.

PUTIN READY TO DEAL WITH BUSH OR GORE. President Putin said he studied the electoral programs of both presidential candidates and found out that George W. Bush and Al Gore have a "good attitude toward Russia," Interfax reported on 8 November. He remarked that both programs "clearly, understandably, and precisely speak of developing relations with Russia," an approach that he says Moscow appreciates.

END NOTE
MOSCOW ANALYSTS TILT TOWARD BUSH

By Victor Yasmann

Throughout the U.S. presidential campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained that he did not want to interfere in the process. And he now says that he is prepared to deal with either George W. Bush or Al Gore once the U.S. result is finalized.

But most Russian analysts have already tilted toward Bush either because they expect him to emerge victorious in the final count and want to be on the winning side or because they have decided that his views will better serve Russia's interests. This tilt also appears to reflect three other factors as well: Putin's own approach of consolidating power without significant reference to Washington, the frustration and even hostility many Russians appear to feel regarding the United States, and the general worsening of relations between the two countries.

Russian political figures have been remarkably explicit about their feelings concerning the two American candidates. Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said that he prefers a Bush win because "despite their tough talk, the Republicans are easy to deal with," ITAR-TASS reported. Other Russian political figures and analysts said much the same thing. Reform Fund President Vyacheslav Nikonov said that "the victory of George Bush is far from being the worse case for Russia because he and his advisors are very pragmatic people," smi.ru reported. Aleksandr Yakovlev, one of the forefathers of perestroika, added that "Republicans will bring more certainty to U.S. foreign policy and, in addition, they stand for more economic freedom." And Globalization Institute Director Mikhail Delyan argued that "a victory by George Bush will be in Russian interests because he stands for international stability and against intervention in Russia."

The director of the Institute of the USA and Canada, Sergei Rogov, was perhaps the most explicit of all. He concluded that "the Republican president and the Republican Congress will provide a radical advance in Russian-American relations, including positive shifts in the economic sphere." Finally, the director of the Institute of Globalization, Mikhail Delyagin, said "a victory by George Bush will be in Russian interests because he stands for international stability and against corruption in Russia."

XS
SM
MD
LG