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Security Watch: January 22, 2003

22 January 2003, Volume 4, Number 3
DEFENSE MINISTER LAYS OUT NUCLEAR-DEFENSE CONCEPT. At a meeting of the Academy of Military Sciences in Moscow on 18 January, Sergei Ivanov said Russia's nuclear forces should serve as security against aggression, reported. "After 11 September 2001 and [the 23-26 October hostage drama in Moscow], it has become completely clear that the Cold War has been replaced by a new type of war, the war against international terrorism," Ivanov was quoted as saying. "No state has declared this war on us, but there are people and organizations that are carrying on hostile activities against Russia, including informational warfare."

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE DENIES HELPING CIA MONITOR NORTH KOREA. Boris Labusov, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), on 21 January categorically denied a report in the 20 January edition of "The New York Times" that claimed SVR agents in North Korea helped the CIA secretly monitor Pyongyang's nuclear program, "Izvestiya" and "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 21 January. According to "The New York Times," the CIA took advantage of its new "partnership relations" with the SVR in the mid-1990s to ask SVR officers based in the Russian embassy in Pyongyang to install surveillance equipment to detect the presence of krypton, a gas that it is emitted during the production of weapons-grade plutonium. "The information [in the report] does not correspond with reality," Labusov said. "We must assume that some forces in the United States fabricated this story specially at a moment when Russia is making intense efforts to defuse the tension around North Korea's nuclear program." However, Labusov told "Izvestiya," "We are cooperating with foreign intelligence services not against [particular] countries, but against [dangerous] developments."

PUTIN REVISES LIST OF TECHNOLOGIES BANNED FOR EXPORT. President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree that cuts back the list of nuclear technologies and equipment banned for export, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 January. An unidentified spokesman for the Atomic Energy Ministry told the news agency that restrictions on some unspecified dual-use technologies have been lifted because "they have become irrelevant for the security of the country and may be exported." International demand for Russian high technology has been growing in recent years. Putin's decree comes in the wake of reports that Russia will provide two nuclear reactors to Syria, reports that were initially denied by the Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 January 2003) despite credible reports that a deal with Syria had been signed (see article below).

ENVOY WORKS TO DEFUSE NORTH KOREA CRISIS. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov visited Pyongyang on 20 January as President Putin's special envoy and told reporters that his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was "successful and meaningful," ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Losyukov, who met with Kim for six hours, laid out a package of Russian initiatives intended to defuse the crisis triggered by North Korea's withdrawal last month from international nuclear controls. The Russian proposal includes maintaining the nuclear-free status of the Korean Peninsula through North Korea's pledge to observe all international nonproliferation conventions and its 1994 agreement with the United States on developing a nonmilitary nuclear program. The plan also includes a proposal to resume bilateral and multilateral talks including Japan, South Korea, and the United States on security guarantees for North Korea. Finally, it envisions the resumption of the humanitarian- and economic-aid programs that were functioning in North Korea before the current crisis began. Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage has said that if North Korea renounces its nuclear program the United States would consider guaranteeing that country's national security, Western news agencies reported on 20 January.

MOSCOW DISCUSSES IRAQ WITH IAEA... Speaking to journalists following a meeting in Moscow on 15 January with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei, Foreign Minister Ivanov said that Russia supports proposals to extend the mission of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov said that although inspectors so far have uncovered no banned weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they have not come to any final conclusions. "Russia believes any unilateral military operation against Baghdad without UN authorization would only exacerbate the already complicated situation in the region and undermine international stability...and the global fight against international terrorism," Ivanov said. He added that he has sent Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov to Baghdad within the framework of regular bilateral contacts. Saltanov will solicit Iraqi opinions about the 27 January UN Security Council meeting, at which the weapons inspectors will make an initial report. Asked how Russia will vote if the United States calls for the authorization of military strikes against Iraq, Ivanov refused to answer, saying only that he does not anticipate any vote on that question.

...AND WITH IRAN... First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzade met in Moscow on 15 January for discussions about Iraq, Afghanistan, and regional-security issues, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Following the talks, both sides called for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq situation and urged Baghdad to comply fully with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Aminzade also met with Foreign Minister Ivanov, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Saltanov, Duma Security Council Chairman Aleksandr Gurov, and CIS Executive Committee Chairman Yurii Yarov, ITAR-TASS added.

...AND WITH SYRIA. Speaking to journalists in Moscow following talks with Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, Foreign Minister Ivanov said the two have coordinated their positions concerning Iraq and the situation in the Middle East, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov said a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East is only possible if progress is made simultaneously on the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian, and Israeli-Lebanese tracks. Responding to a Syrian journalist's question about whether Russia suspended the sale of Igla antiaircraft missiles to Damascus because of U.S. pressure, Ivanov said, "Russia makes such decisions based on its own positions and interests." Khaddam also met with President Putin and held economic talks with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Although both sides are eager to restore the vigorous economic ties of the Soviet era, there will not be any substantial progress until Syrian President Bashir Assad visits Moscow later this year, the BBC's Russian Service commented on 15 January.

DEFENSE MINISTER PROPOSES THREAT-REDUCTION TREATY WITH JAPAN... Sergei Ivanov told journalists following a 14 January meeting in Moscow with Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba that he has proposed signing a bilateral treaty on reducing military threats, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov also said he has invited Japan to take part in a major Russian Far East military exercise later this year. He noted that Russia has already concluded threat-reduction treaties with all its Asian-Pacific neighbors except Japan and North Korea. Ishiba told ITAR-TASS that his visit came under the framework of the Joint Action Plan signed earlier this month by President Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. One of the provisions of that plan calls for "defense and law enforcement cooperation."

...ANALYSTS DOUBT PROGRESS ON KURILE DISPUTE. Despite "unofficial information" prior to and during the Putin-Koizumi talks in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 January 2003) hinting at progress toward settling the long-standing Kurile Islands dispute, other recent indications seem to tell a different story, commented on 14 January. During a visit to Far East military bases in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 November 2002), Defense Minister Ivanov announced a major military exercise to be held in the Far East Federal District in August, an element of which will be simulating the defense of the Kuriles from foreign invasion. In addition, President Putin recently commented in reference to the islands that Russia "has already given up enough," the website continued. However, the website noted that although Japan wants the islands -- which were occupied by the Soviet Union following World War II -- returned, it is more interested in access to Siberian oil. Russia's position is also strengthened by North Korea's recent nuclear blackmail, a situation that causes Tokyo anxiety and that Moscow might be able to help defuse, the website added.

MOSCOW TO BUILD TWO NUCLEAR REACTORS IN SYRIA? The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on 14 January that Moscow and Damascus have reached an accord under which Russia will assist in the construction of a nuclear-power plant and a nuclear-powered desalination plant in Syria, and other Russian news agencies reported. Experts estimate that the value of such a deal could be as much as $2 billion, reported. Moscow's decision to provide such technology to Syria will no doubt irritate Israel, which has territorial disputes with Damascus, the website commented. These projects and other Russian initiatives in the region -- including the actual and proposed construction of several nuclear reactors in Iran -- will mean that there could be from eight to 10 nuclear plants in the Middle East. This could tie Israel's hands in the event that it seeks to conduct any military operations in the region and could complicate the Israeli-Arab conflict, argued. The presidential press service announced that President Putin was expected to meet in Moscow on 15 January with Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who will bring a special message from Syrian President Assad, RIA-Novosti reported. It was expected the talks would focus on the Iraq conflict.

MOSCOW DENIES REPORT ABOUT REACTORS FOR SYRIA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko on 15 January denied Russian and Israeli media reports attributed to him that Moscow and Damascus have signed an accord under which Russia would build two nuclear reactors in Syria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2003), and other Russian news agencies reported. Yakovenko said no talks have been held on the matter. The source of the initial reports was the Foreign Ministry's website, but the statement was removed from the site prior to Vice President Khaddam's visit, the "Financial Times" reported on 16 January.

FOREIGN MINISTER DENOUNCES U.S. CRITICISM OF IRAQ INSPECTORS. Igor Ivanov has expressed Russia's concern over what it perceives as Washington's mistrust of the activities of UN weapons inspectors, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported on 16 January. Speaking to journalists following a meeting with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini, with whom he discussed the Iraqi situation, Ivanov said Russia is worried by "the increasing pressure on the international inspectors and the heads of the inspection groups on the part of certain circles in Washington." "Some publications and official statements question the activities of international inspectors," Ivanov added. "Our duty is trust and support them."

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NAVY NOT HEADED TO THE GULF. Sergei Ivanov said during his 15 January visit to a Russian Space Force base in Moscow Oblast that Moscow will not send any ships to the Persian Gulf, despite recent media reports that it would (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2003), RIA-Novosti,, and other Russian news agencies reported. "We have no plans to send our navy or other units of the armed forces to the Persian Gulf," Ivanov said. "I am speaking on this officially." He added, however, that his agency has "very serious plans for improving combat readiness...and that includes sending ships to the Indian Ocean." Ivanov emphasized that this mission is not related to any possible military action against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

RUSSIAN OIL IS LIKE CHINESE RICE. Russia's delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year will have a much lower profile than past delegations have had, "Russkii fokus" reported on 18 January. The delegation will be led by Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref instead of by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. One reason for the new approach is that Russia, which is eager to join the World Trade Organization, will come under pressure by forum participants to increase domestic energy prices to global levels, Russian Aluminum Deputy Director Aleksandr Livshits told Ekho Moskvy on 18 January. However, asking Russia to do so is the same as asking China to sell rice domestically at international prices, the former finance minister said. The World Economic Forum will open on 23 January.

FOREIGN INVESTORS' PARADISE NOW CONSIDERED BANKRUPT? The city of Novgorod is essentially bankrupt, with debts amounting to 67 percent of its revenues, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 January. If the local-government reform currently pending in the Duma were already enacted, then external administration over the city's finances would have to be introduced. Although the oblast has long enjoyed a favorable reputation among investors, foreign investment in the region overall fell by 41 percent last year compared with 2001. According to the daily, the poor state of the city's finances was revealed during last month's mayoral race by one of the candidates, Vladimir Kondratev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 2002). The daily suggested that Kondratev, backed by several major local entrepreneurs, participated in the mayoral race as a kind of warm-up for the oblast's gubernatorial election in September.

RUSSIA, NATO SIGN ACCORD ON WEAPONS STANDARDS. State Standards Committee (Gosstandart) Chairman Boris Aleshin and John Clark, chairman of NATO's Group of National Directors on Codification, have signed an agreement on the incorporation of Russia's military-industrial complex into NATO's codification system, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 January. "This development will open up tremendous prospects for us in markets that were previously impenetrable," Aleshin said. Beginning in 2004, all Russian weapons exports will feature NATO classification. The accord was necessitated by the fact that up to 40 percent of the arsenals of Greece and some other NATO member countries in Central Europe are made up of Russian arms and spare parts, the daily commented.

...AND COMMENTS ON MISSILE DEFENSE. During the same press briefing in Sofrino, home of the space force's 9th Division, Defense Minister Ivanov announced that Russia plans to develop a new strategic aerospace-defense system, Russian news agencies reported on 15 January. He added that the country's economic situation dictates that the new system be based on existing technologies. Ivanov also said it is possible Moscow will cooperate with the United States in the development of its national missile defense (NMD), but that such cooperation will only be possible if the systems are not directed against one another and if a legal framework for such cooperation is created. He said Washington's NMD plans do not threaten Russia at present or in the foreseeable future, but that some elements of the proposed system "raise questions."

COMMANDER HAILS NAVY'S RETURN TO OCEANS... Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, commander of the Russian Navy, has confirmed that "the 2003 military budget allows for the conduct of military exercises by all Russia's fleet commands," reported on 16 January. Kuroedov stressed the importance of the Pacific Fleet exercises scheduled for later this year. He also said that no Russian ships will be sent to the Indian Ocean before the end of February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2003). Kuroedov's aide, Captain First Rank Igor Dygailo, added that the navy's operations in the world's oceans -- rather than just in the seas near Russia's borders -- "is a normal activity for the realization of Russia's naval doctrine," the website reported. President Putin signed that doctrine in July 2001, and it calls for Russia's fleets to be present in all the world's oceans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 July and 24 August 2001). Retired Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, a leading Russian military strategist, said he welcomes Russia's possible return to the Indian Ocean, continued. Ivashov, known as a defense hard-liner, said the navy should be present everywhere, especially in regions facing potential crises.

...AS GENERAL STAFF PREPARES CALL-UP DRILL... Lieutenant General Vasilii Smirnov, head of the General Staff's Main Mobilization Directorate, announced on 16 January that the Defense Ministry is ready to begin a short-warning drill in which two brigades of reservists will be called to active duty in a simulated emergency, reported. The exact date of the drill is being kept secret even from the commanders of the country's military districts. Reserve soldiers and sergeants up to the age of 50 and officers up to the age of 65 will participate in the mock mobilization.

...AND GOVERNMENT BOOSTS DEFENSE ORDERS. Speaking to journalists after a cabinet meeting on 16 January, Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Vladislav Putilin announced that the government has decided to increase state defense purchases by 33 percent this year compared with 2002, reported. Sixty percent of the 2003 military budget, or 109.8 billion rubles ($3.41 billion), has been allocated for procurements, Putilin said. Putilin, who formerly served in the Defense Ministry as the head of the General Staff's Mobilization Department, was appointed to the Economic Trade and Development Ministry in July despite the fact he has no background in economics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). To prevent the misuse of funds, the government has ordered that all procurements be conducted without intermediaries, Putilin added. He also said the military will get about 200 new types of equipment in 2003, with special attention paid to antiterrorism equipment.

DEFENSE MINISTER CLAIMS CHECHEN FIGHTERS SEEKING TO OBTAIN TOXINS... In yet another example of Russian officials' systematic demonization of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 14 January that a manual on the production of toxic substances, including ricin, was found on the body of a Chechen fighter loyal to Maskhadov who was killed in Chechnya several days ago, Interfax reported. Ivanov said Russia has evidence that Chechen "terrorists" are trying to acquire toxic substances. Also on 14 January, senior Moscow security official Viktor Zakharov told Interfax that Interpol has informed his department that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev has threatened to perpetrate a new terrorist attack in Moscow. Basaev belatedly claimed responsibility for the October hostage taking at a Moscow theater (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002).

...AS MINISTRY SAYS CHECHEN FIGHTERS DO NOT HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS... Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Kotelnikov has written a letter to the State Duma in which he states that Chechen fighters do not have any nuclear-weapons capability, reported on 14 January. Responding to an inquiry from Duma Security Committee Chairman Aleksandr Gurov, Kotelnikov said that there is no chance the Chechen commanders have sufficient weapons-grade fissile material and the high technology necessary to produce a standard nuclear bomb. However, it is possible that they could deploy a so-called dirty bomb, using conventional explosives to disperse low-level radioactive contamination over a wide area, Kotelnikov said. Although the destructive power of such weapons is limited, they can provoke mass terror and panic, he said.

...AND EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA DEFENSELESS AGAINST NUCLEAR TERRORISM. Vladimir Slivnyak, co-chairman of the international environmental organization Ecological Defense, told that existing security systems do not protect Russia against nuclear terrorism. According to Ecological Defense experts, the two most likely threats of nuclear terrorism are an attack on a nuclear-power plant and the use of a "dirty," or radioactively contaminated, bomb. Slivnyak said that to attack a nuclear-power station it is not necessary to penetrate the plant itself but merely to cut off its power-supply system. Nuclear-power plants receive electricity externally through supply systems that, as a rule, are in very poor condition. Slivnyak mentioned that a 1993 wind storm knocked out power to the Kolskaya Nuclear Power Station, very nearly causing a major catastrophe. He added that it would be relatively easy to destroy the control centers of several old Soviet-era reactors. As for dirty weapons, Slivnyak said that radioactive materials such as cesium-137 and spent nuclear fuel are practically unguarded.

FSB PREVENTS TWO MOSCOW CAR-BOMB BLASTS... Officers of the Moscow Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) found two cars containing plastic explosives in a Moscow garage, Russian news agencies reported on 16 January. One of the bombs was built into the car's gasoline tank, while the other was in the trunk of the other car. Both devices also included metal balls intended to increase damage and casualties from the explosions, the FSB's press service reported. The explosives were disarmed without causing any injuries, and the agency is investigating the owners of the garage and the cars.

...AS MAYOR, FSB WARN ABOUT POSSIBLE TERRORIST ACTS IN MOSCOW. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 16 January that he intends to introduce additional security precautions against possible terrorist attacks in Moscow, TV-Tsentr reported. The measure will include developing sources of information within "terrorist and criminal groups," Luzhkov said. Lieutenant General Viktor Zakharov, head of the FSB's Moscow Directorate, told a meeting of the city administration on 14 January that Interpol has provided information indicating that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev is planning a terrorist act in the capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2003). Zakharov noted that Basaev has taken responsibility for the 23-26 October hostage taking at a Moscow theater that took the lives of 129 civilians, most of whom were killed from the effects of the sleeping gas used by security forces during the storming of the building.

MOSCOW REJECTS RESTORATION OF DZERZHINSKII STATUE. A special commission of the Moscow City Duma voted to reject a proposal by Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to restore a statue of Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii to the spot on Lubyanka Square where it stood prior to 1991, reported on 21 January. The commission ruled the restoration would mark the reinstallation of "a symbol of terror, concentration camps, and the persecution of the intelligentsia." Commission member Nina Moleva said the commission also feared that restoring the statue would be a prelude to returning the square's Soviet-era name -- Dzerzhinskii Square. Luzhkov first proposed restoring the monument on 13 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, 18, and 20 September 2002). The statue was removed from the square in August 1991 following the collapse of an attempted coup against then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. At that time, Luzhkov was deputy chairman of the Moscow City Council, and he played an active role in removing the statue. After it was removed, it was quietly taken to a park where many Soviet-era statues have ended up and was repaired. Advocating its restoration, Luzhkov called it "an impeccable sculptural work" and said Dzerzhinskii deserves to be honored for helping homeless children and restoring the railroad system.