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Russia Report: September 20, 2001

20 September 2001, Volume 1, Number 22
RUSSIAN POLITICIANS REPOSITION THEMSELVES IN WAKE OF ATTACK ON U.S. Although Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref promised that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. would have no effect on the Russian economy and Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said that no changes, even in Russia's foreign policy, should be expected, don't believe them. President Putin was among the first foreign leaders to extend his condolences to the American people, and the reverberations of the event rippled just as quickly through the Moscow political scene in a multitude of different directions, affecting not just Russian national security policy but domestic economic political policies.

The list of policies that may now undergo review is a long one. Even before the attacks, it was already clear that the draft 2002 budget's basic parameters would face challenges from the State Duma. But now, advocates for higher defense and security spending have new ammunition. And those groups supporting a greater Russian activism internationally have found an impetus for a new push. The military campaign in Chechnya is widely expected to intensify, as Union of Rightist Forces Duma faction leader Boris Nemtsov abruptly abandoned his quest for a negotiated peace in Chechnya.

With regard to next year's budget, Duma Defense Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Andrei Nikolaev announced on 17 September that his committee will insist on increased expenditures for defense spending. While this was likely to happen anyway -- Nikolaev pleaded for higher defense spending last year -- he will now have more allies in his quest. On 18 September, Duma Deputy Chair (Unity) Lyubov Sliska also called for higher defense spending, while Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev spoke in favor of increasing funds for combating terrorism. Russian intelligence services can also more convincingly make their own case for greater resources in light of the failure of their U.S. counterparts to predict or prevent the attacks. As Aleksandr Zdanovich, the head of the Assistance Programs Directorate of the Federal Security Service, noted on 13 September, "There is an old axiom, you know: Truly professional secret services prevent crimes, and all the others investigate them after the fact." The implicit argument is that intelligence is not something worth skimping on.

The oil-price spike following the attacks may also benefit those seeking higher defense expenditures. Duma Banking Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Aleksandr Shokhin noted that if the oil prices had remained at the level of 11-12 September, then additional budget revenues could have run into billions of dollars. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin and others have insisted that any oil-price increase is likely to be a temporary phenomenon, but most analysts believe that the opening of a U.S. bombing campaign would likely return prices to the high levels recorded last week.

But even without the aid of higher oil prices, the Duma's Budget Committee, as has been its custom, was already prepared to argue with the government over the draft budget's key parameters. Committee experts believe that Russian GDP in 2002 will be 400 billion rubles ($13.6 billion) higher than the cabinet's figures indicate, that is 11 trillion rubles versus 10.6 trillion. So as has been done in the past, the government may be able to "find" additional money for defense by redoing its calculations. Another potential source of cash may be money set aside for education and court reforms. Although deemed high priority, these reforms are multi-year projects which cabinet ministers, faced with what seem like more immediate pressing problems, may decide to postpone one more year.

A more general consequence of the events of 11 September may be the heightened awareness among Russian policymakers and public of the tight linkage between the fortunes of the Russian economy and that of the U.S. "Izvestiya" noted on 15 September that "the crash of the dollar could practically destroy our financial system." While this is probably an overstatement, it is a fact that Russian Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko along with other economic policymakers across Russia spent a considerable amount of time on 11 and 12 September talking up the dollar. The Central Bank also intervened rubles Moscow's currency exchange to support the dollar.

In the sphere of foreign policy, Russian policymakers adopted a kind of "told you so" stance toward the 11 September events, calling attention to President Putin's previous calls for world states to unite against terrorism. Likewise, opponents of the U.S. plans to development a national missile defense emphasized the wisdom of their opposition to that plan, since the system would not have been able to prevent the attack on the World Trade Center.

At the same time, other Russian policymakers saw new opportunities for Russia resulting from the U.S.'s inevitable reconcentration of its resources on combating terrorism. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii suggested that Russia can now act as a gendarme for Europe. Although widely regarded as a buffoon in the West because of his frequently outlandish public statements, Zhirinovskii, in some analysts' view, often functions a mechanism for the Kremlin to float ideas. While that is hard to prove, it is true that Zhirinovskii's faction in the Duma has over the years consistently supported Kremlin policies.

The U.S.'s new focus on terrorism is also expected to give the Kremlin more latitude in resolving the conflict in Chechnya. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov declared on 13 September that he hopes the world will now understand what Russia has been up against in Chechnya. And news reports in Russian media have trumpeted alleged links between Chechen military commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab and international terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Sensing a shift in the public's mood, Union of Rightist Forces leader Nemtsov revised his recent position calling for negotiations with Chechen leaders, telling "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 13 September that in light of the terrorist attacks, talks with Chechens are now "impossible." Nemtsov explained that he "never advocated negotiations with [Chechen President Aslan] Maskhadov or with terrorists." "They should be destroyed -- that's the long and short of it.... But once all of the ringleaders have been taken out, we may talk to representatives of the Chechen people. Waging a war on a whole people is impossible," he said.

And echoing concerns expressed in the U.S., political scientist Yelena Shestopal argued in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 September that an intensified battle against terrorism in Russia may lead to "some restrictions on civil rights and liberties." She notes that Russia's executive branch will have to take the lead in the battle since "the problem of terrorism is not solved by laws." Such a prediction should provide little comfort to those observers who had already noted a tension between the Putin administration's rhetorical emphasis on establishing a rule of law state and its efforts to centralize decision-making, squash independent media, and selectively enforce laws aimed at the Kremlin's political opponents. (Julie A. Corwin)

KREMLIN MASTERMINDS SPLIT IN YABLOKO? The specter of a split within Yabloko's ranks appeared earlier in September when the former chair of the Yabloko's Moscow Youth organization, Andrei Sharomov, openly sided against Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii in a long-standing conflict between Yavlinskii and Yabloko Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Igrunov. The episode started when Yavlinskii fired Sharomov for an unauthorized absence from work. Sharomov told Ekho Moskvy on 8 September that the firing was unjust, since he had been on a business trip, attending a youth seminar in Irkutsk. Sharomov announced he has filed suit against Yavlinskii, seeking reinstatement in his position. The suit was scheduled for a hearing on 5 October, according to the website But Sharomov apparently couldn't wait and announced on 10 September that he was resigning from all organizational structures of Yabloko in an act of protest against Yavlinskii's "authoritarian" rule, "internal party repression and campaign of persecution."

Three days later, in an interview with the state radio station Radio Rossii, Sharomov changed his story completely. Rather than being fired, he said he had resigned in protest over an attempt to paint Vyacheslav Igrunov as "an enemy of the people." Six members of Yabloko's Youth party in Moscow had reportedly given Sharomov on 3 September a text disparaging Igrunov, which Sharomov said that he could not support. Calling Igrunov "one of the architects" and "founding fathers" of Yabloko, Sharomov lamented that "unfortunately, Grigorii Alekseevich has chosen the path of authoritarianism." He also noted that public support for Yabloko is "two times less than it was a year ago."

In a long interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 September, Igrunov painted a similarly bleak picture of the party, saying that it is populated more and more by people who use it "to make money, work with Yavlinskii, and access his funds." According to Igrunov, about half a dozen people who have been with Yabloko since its beginning have left. Igrunov also claimed that Yavlinskii resisted holding a party congress immediately after the December 1999 State Duma elections because at the time "his critics were too strong." Igrunov claims Yavlinskii now wants to hold a party congress as quickly as possible so that a new Central Council of the party can be selected which is subordinated to his will. Both Igrunov and Sharomov are or were members of Yabloko's Central Council.

There are various theories about what caused the original falling-out between Igrunov and Yavlinskii. For example, the government news agency RIA-Novosti claimed on 18 September that Igrunov started to "express his sharp criticism of Yabloko's leadership when, in his opinion, in 1993 it became confrontational." However, in the interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Igrunov himself traced the conflict to Yavlinskii's announcement in the State Duma that no one from Yabloko would enter into the government of then Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov despite an almost unanimous decision by the party's Central Council that any offer of a position would be examined on an ad hoc basis. When Igrunov complained, Yavlinskii reportedly responded, "Isn't my opinion for the party enough?" "When I answered that was insufficient, he began to regard me as [his] enemy," Igrunov recounted.

Leader of the Yabloko's press service, Yurii Shein, has acknowledged that a "conflict between Yavlinskii and Igrunov exists" but denies that there is any kind of repression of free speech within the party, or any kind of split. According to Shein in remarks to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 September, Sharomov's unauthorized absence "for 2.5 days" was due to a trip to Amur Oblast to participate in the election campaign of a candidate with whom Yabloko has no connection.

Shortly after Sharomov's announcement of his "resignation," Igrunov announced that he will resign from all positions in Yabloko on 10 October. Given his extremely negative assessment of the party, it's not clear why he didn't resign much earlier. Boris Berezovskii's "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which has provided extensive coverage of the Igrunov-Sharomov conflict, suggested on 12 September that the timing of Igrunov's resignation is linked to upcoming elections for the Moscow City Duma. According to the daily, Yavlinskii will try to use this election on Igrunov's turf to show "what an incapable person Igrunov is."

Sergei Mitrokhin, a Duma deputy and supporter of Yavlinskii, has put forth another theory: He believes Sharomov and Igrunov are fulfilling a Kremlin-backed plan to split Yabloko. According to Mitrokhin, the new organization called Civic Forum, which he described as being set up by Igrunov and Sharomov, is "an absolutely pro-Kremlin organization." Igrunov does serve on Civic Forum's organizational committee, and Civic Forum's links with the Kremlin are well established. And "Vremya Novostei" reported on 7 September that Igrunov, together with unofficial Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlovskii and deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov, conducted negotiations with non-governmental organizations in an attempt to persuade them to attend the Civic Forum congress in November.

The development of further ties between Igrunov and the Kremlin may add weight to Mitrokhin's claims, but decisive proof of a "plot" will likely prove elusive. In the meantime, Yavlinskii, who had earlier complained about the central media's complete failure to give any coverage of Yabloko, is back in the public eye. As the analytical website noted on 10 September, Yavlinskii had all but disappeared from central media outlets in recent months. (Julie A. Corwin)

COMINGS & GOINGS CONFIRMED: President Putin signed a decree on 12 September naming his appointees to the presidential commission on human rights, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Putin confirmed its previous head, Vladimir Kartashkin, and named as the commission's members writers Leonid Zhukhovitskii, Boris Vasilev, and Nikolai Shmelev, artist Georgii Zhzhenov, head of the main administration for educational work of the Armed Forces General Vitalii Azarov, along with deputy ministers from the ministries of Justice and Labor. Writer Fazil Iskander, who was first appointed in December 1997, was not reappointed. Valentina Melnikova, head of the Soldiers' Mothers' Organization, was also not reappointed.

IN: Ermitage Museum Director Mikhail Piotrovskii was elected as chairman of the board of directors of Russian Public Television on 14 September. First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii was elected as his deputy.

POLITICAL CALENDAR 19 September: Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Washington, D.C., to discuss strategic stability with U.S. counterparts

19 September: Meeting in Moscow of Russian-American working group on Afghanistan, which U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will attend

19 September: Official opening ceremony scheduled for State Duma's fall session

20 September: Meeting of the presidential commission for defining responsibilities of the regions and federal center headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak will be held, according to ITAR-TASS

23 September: Gubernatorial elections in Rostov Oblast

24 September: PACE session on Chechnya will be held in Strasbourg

25 September: Date by which the "Kursk" submarine will be lifted from the floor of the Barents Sea, according to Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov on 4 September

25 September: Deadline set by President Putin to finish all restoration work in Sakha (Yakutia) following severe flooding there in May of this year

25-27 September: President Vladimir Putin to visit Germany

25 September: Democratic Party of Russia to hold congress in Moscow

25 September: Presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko to address the Executive Council of the Organization for Banning Chemical Weapons in The Hague, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 September

26 September: Chiefs of the general staffs of the armed forces of CIS states to meet in Moscow to discuss coordinating anti-terrorism efforts

26 September: OPEC members will meet

28 September: State Duma scheduled to consider the draft 2002 budget in its first reading, according to ITAR-TASS on 4 September

29 September: People's Deputy will hold founding congress in Moscow to transform group into a party

Second half of September: Union of Rightist Forces will open the group's West European headquarters in London

Second half of September: Security Council to hold meeting to discuss measures to combat drug trafficking and the spread of drug addiction

End of September: The cabinet of ministers will examine the question of reform of the country's banking system, according to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 16 July

End of September: International conference on "Indigenous Peoples, Oil, and the Law" to be held in Khanty-Mansiisk, according to the website

End of September: Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani will visit Moscow, according to the "Teheran Times" on 11 September

October: Agrarian Party to begin gathering signatures to support holding a nationwide referendum on the buying and selling of land, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 5 September

2 October: EU-Russia summit to take place in Brussels

7 October: State Duma by-elections will be held for the single-mandate districts in Amur and Arkhangelsk oblasts. Two seats were vacated when former State Duma Deputy Leonid Korotkov was elected governor of Amur and Deputy Aleksandr Piskunov was named an auditor at the Audit Chamber

13 October: Fatherland will hold a congress to reorganize the movement into a party

14 October: State Duma by-elections will be held in a single mandate district in the city of St. Petersburg for the seat vacated by Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin

20-21 October: President Putin will take part in the ninth informal summit meeting of the Asia Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai, according to ITAR-TASS on 2 July

Middle of October: State Duma will consider a new version of a law on reforming the election system, according to Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 11 September

27 October: Unity party to hold its 3rd Congress in Moscow

28 October: Gubernatorial elections in Orel Oblast

End of October: French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to visit Moscow

November: Federation of Independent Trade Unions to hold congress in Moscow

November: Unity and Fatherland to hold unification congress in Moscow

16-17 November: Civic Forum, a gathering of more than 250 NGOs, to be held in Moscow

30 November: CIS summit to be held in Moscow

End of November: Fatherland to hold an all-Russian congress of agrarians, according to TV-Tsentr on 3 August

1-12 December: International chess championship to be held in Moscow, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 August

16 December: Presidential elections in Chuvash Republic

28 December: Duma's fall session will come to a close, according to ITAR-TASS on 13 July

January: Presidential elections in North Ossetia