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Security Watch: March 4, 2003

4 March 2003, Volume 4, Number 9
MOSCOW STEPS UP DIPLOMACY ON IRAQ. President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone on 26 February with Chinese President Jiang Zemin to discuss the Iraq situation, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis on the basis of existing United Nations Security Council resolutions. On the same day, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov flew to Beijing for additional consultations on Iraq, as well as to discuss North Korea and bilateral issues, RIA-Novosti reported. Also on 26 February, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was expected to arrive in Moscow to meet with Putin about Iraq and their countries' position on the draft Security Council resolution introduced on 24 February by the United States, Great Britain, and Spain. Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, writing in the 25 February issue of the "Financial Times," said that Russia might support the U.S. position on Iraq if a postwar Iraqi regime pledges to pay Iraq's Soviet-era debts. Nemtsov said that the position of Russia's political elite is determined purely by pragmatism.

PUTIN, SCHROEDER PUSH FOR PEACEFUL SOLUTION ON IRAQ... Meeting with journalists following talks in Moscow with German Chancellor Schroeder on 26 February, President Putin said that "Russia is not ready to support any United Nations resolution that opens the way for the automatic use of military force against Iraq," ORT reported. Russia, Germany, France, and China continue to believe that a peaceful solution to the conflict can be found, Putin said, and this position -- "at least for now" -- is shared by the majority of the UN Security Council. Putin emphasized, though, that finding a peaceful solution depends primarily on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the extent to which Baghdad cooperates with the UN. Putin conceded that U.S. pressure has "made Baghdad more compliant." "Russia continues to stay informed about developments, as [former Prime Minister] Yevgenii Primakov recently met in Baghdad with Saddam Hussein, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is in Beijing, and my chief of staff [Aleksandr Voloshin] is in Washington," Putin said. "I will call U.S. President George Bush to brief him on my talks with Schroeder."

...AS PUTIN REJECTS REGIME CHANGE. President Putin told journalists in Sofia on 2 March that "international law" is the only basis for resolving the Iraq crisis, reported on 3 March. Putin said the international community cannot interfere with the domestic affairs of any country in order to change its regime and that the only legitimate goal the United Nations can pursue in this situation is the disarmament of Iraq. Putin added that leaders who violate laws should be punished by their domestic legal systems "except in very extreme cases." Foreign Minister Ivanov spoke by telephone on 1 March with the foreign ministers of several current nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, and Syria -- to discuss the Iraq situation, ORT reported on 2 March. Ivanov told his counterparts that Russia still believes in a "political/diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis along the lines formulated by the [25 February] joint French-German-Russian statement" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 February 2003).

POLITICIANS DIFFER OVER MOSCOW'S ROLE IN IRAQ CRISIS. Appearing on an NTV political talk show on 28 February, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said Moscow should veto the proposed UN Security Council resolution on Iraq sponsored by the United States, Great Britain, and Spain. Opposing Zyuganov on the same show, former Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Anatolii Adamishin said Russia should not take sides or "fight for peace." Russia should follow its national interests, he said, which means that Iraqi President Hussein should be disarmed, by force if necessary. State Duma Deputy Gadzhi Makhachev (People's Deputy) argued that Russian Muslims will be enraged if Russia sides with the United States. He added that hundreds of Muslims from his native Daghestan are ready to defend Iraq. Political scientist Natalya Narotsnitskaya said the best role for Russia is to convince the United States that "it has done enough, and to help the U.S. administration to find a face-saving way out." At the end of the discussion, viewers voted against supporting a U.S.-led military action in Iraq by a margin of 82 percent to 18 percent. However, a majority also expressed the opinion that Russia should avoid imposing a veto in the Security Council and should instead try to build up "an antiwar majority among council members."

MOSCOW WOULD HELP IRAQI REFUGEES. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said on 26 February that his ministry is ready to help refugees and displaced persons in the event of a U.S.-led military action against the regime of Iraqi President Hussein, reported. Shoigu said Russia would participate in humanitarian operations in the region under the aegis of the United Nations. "If the UN asks us and our government approves the request, we will provide humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Iraq," Shoigu said. He added that the Emergency Situations Ministry is already participating in relief operations in the former Yugoslavia and Central Africa and has offered to assist CIS countries in evacuating their citizens from Iraq. RTR on 2 March reported the arrival in Moscow from Iraq of 150 members of the families of Russian diplomats and workers. Another 700 Russian and Belarusian citizens will be evacuated through safe corridors to Jordan and Syria in the event of a military action. An agreement to this effect has been reached with the U.S. government, RTR reported.

MOSCOW PREPARES TO SEND NAVY TO THE PERSIAN GULF. Despite earlier denials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2003), Moscow will send a naval group to the Persian Gulf, "Izvestiya" reported on 3 March. The Pacific Fleet has finished preparations to send warships, including the cruisers "Admiral Pantaleev" and the "Marshal Shaposhnikov," to the Persian Gulf region, where they will rendezvous with a group from the Black Sea Fleet headed by the cruiser "Moskva." According to initial plans, the Pacific Fleet group should have set sail at the end of February, but now an unidentified source at the fleet's command in Vladivostok told the daily that the exact start date for the mission will depend on the situation in the gulf and on the decisions of the country's political leadership. During the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s, the Pacific Fleet protected Soviet shipping in the region, and in the 1990s, it helped monitor compliance with UN economic sanctions against Iraq, a fleet spokesman said.

CHIEF OF STAFF'S INFLUENCE GROWS FOLLOWING WASHINGTON MISSION. Presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin's recent talks with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2003) in Washington have considerably enhanced his influence in Moscow, "Vremya novostei" wrote on 28 February. Since 2000, Voloshin has been primarily responsible for improving Russian-Ukrainian relations, and his successes in this sphere have led to several other important foreign-policy assignments. Voloshin was sent to Washington to assess the possible costs to Moscow of vetoing a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq and to learn the extent to which Russian companies will be able to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq following a possible U.S.-led military action there, the daily speculated. TV-Tsentr commented on 28 February that normally such a mission would fall to Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, but Rushailo reportedly has not established sufficiently warm relations with U.S. national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, so President Putin sent Voloshin instead.

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL WILL SEEK TO COMPENSATE VICTIMS BY SEIZING PROPERTY OF 'TERRORISTS'... Vladimir Ustinov announced on 25 February that his office will seek to pay damages to the victims of the 23-26 October Moscow hostage taking by seizing the property of the Chechen fighters who carried it out, reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office is attempting to identify and seize the assets of all the "terrorists" killed during the incident and those of anyone convicted of providing them with transportation, weapons, shelter, or other assistance, Ustinov said. Ustinov also said that the actions of the security forces in ending the hostage drama were "proper and justified," though the sleeping gas that they used caused the deaths of 129 hostages. "There were mishaps during the rescue operations," Ustinov said, "but this happened because of the large number of parked cars near the theater that could not be removed because of concerns that they were booby-trapped."

...AND DESCRIBES RUSSIA'S WAR ON TERRORISM. Prosecutor-General Ustinov said that 360 crimes were registered in Russia in 2002 under the terrorism-related articles of the Criminal Code, reported. He added that terrorism-related investigations are currently being conducted in 16 regions. Ustinov also announced that he will personally head the prosecution team in the soon-to-begin trials connected with the 1999 apartment-building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk that left several hundred dead. Meeting in London with members of a public commission investigating the Volgodonsk bombing, self-exiled magnate Boris Berezovskii alleged that the Federal Security Service was involved in the October hostage taking, and AP reported on 26 February. Berezovskii said the hostage taking was "the logical continuation of the operation to blow up apartment buildings in September 1999." He alleged that the Moscow incident was "provoked by the special services, which managed to infiltrate a radical Chechen formation." The purpose of the act, according to Berezovskii, was to "torpedo the peace process in Chechnya, which would have marked the failure of Putin's policies."

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS AL-QAEDA NOT DEFEATED YET... Speaking to journalists in Baku on 27 February, Sergei Ivanov said the situation in Afghanistan is not yet stable and that the leaders of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are alive and planning new acts of terrorism, Ekho Moskvy reported. Ivanov said there are still terrorist camps in the mountainous areas of the country that are not controlled by government forces and that terrorists in Afghanistan continue to receive funding from their accomplices abroad. He added that Russia will do everything it can to help the Afghan Transitional Administration to combat terrorism, including providing financial assistance. On 26 February, President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Schroeder that for the first time, Russia will open its territory to allow truck convoys to transport German peacekeepers to Afghanistan.

...AS FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR LIMITS ON U.S. PRESENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA. Speaking during an Internet press conference with the "People's Daily" in Beijing on 27 February, Igor Ivanov said that Russia would like the UN Security Council to set up a time frame for the presence of U.S. forces in the Central Asian states, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that Russia views those forces strictly within the framework of the international antiterrorism coalition and that their purpose was to end the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Therefore, he noted, the U.S. presence in those countries should be linked to the mission of the international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan.

NUCLEAR-SECURITY CHIEF SLAIN. The head of the Atomic Energy Ministry's International Center for Nuclear Security, Sergei Bugaenko, was found dead in the stairway of his Moscow apartment building on 27 February, Russian news agencies reported on 28 February. According to the police, the 68-year-old Bugaenko apparently surprised burglars breaking into his apartment and was killed by a blow to the head from a blunt object. However, police are also investigating the possibility that Bugaenko's killing is related to his professional activity, reported. The International Center for Nuclear Security was created on the basis of a U.S.-Russian bilateral agreement in 1996, and Bugaenko was named its director that year. The center maintains a database of Russian civilian nuclear facilities, carries out research, and coordinates the activities of the Atomic Energy Ministry and the U.S. Department of Energy.

MOSCOW POLICE PREPARE FOR CHEMICAL ATTACKS... All Moscow and federal Interior Ministry troops patrolling the streets and the subway in the capital are now equipped with gas masks and other means of defense against chemical attacks, "Vremya novostei" reported on 27 February. The Emergency Situations Ministry has advised residents of the capital to purchase gas masks. The ministry has also prepared recommendations on how to act in the event of chemical or biological attacks that will soon be posted in public places and distributed to residents.

...AS ENVOY RAISES ALARM ABOUT LAX SECURITY IN ULYANOVSK OBLAST. At a conference of law-enforcement officials in Ulyanovsk, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko said that strategic facilities in the oblast are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, Interfax reported. Kirienko said that mock bombs had been planted at key facilities and that none of them were discovered as quickly as they should have been. In one case, a breach in a facility's barbed-wire perimeter fence was only noticed after 90 minutes. Mock bombs planted at a railway station, downtown market, and a meat factory in the town of Dimitrovgrad went undiscovered, Kirienko said.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO BULGARIA... Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Sofia on 1 March for a three-day official visit to Bulgaria, Bulgarian and international media reported. During the first days of his visit, Putin met with President Georgi Parvanov for talks that focused on the Iraq crisis and on bilateral economic relations. The visit was the first visit by a Russian head of state in 10 years and coincided with celebrations marking the 125th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule by Russian troops. On 3 March 1878, a peace treaty was signed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in San Stefano, which created a Greater Bulgaria that included territories in present-day Macedonia and Greece. The peace treaty was revised at the Berlin Congress later the same year, dividing Bulgaria into a small principality and a province that remained under Ottoman rule.

...SAYS DIFFERENCES REMAIN OVER IRAQ... President Putin said after his meeting with President Parvanov on 2 March that the two countries' positions on Iraq do not fully coincide, but he underscored that every country has the right to formulate its own foreign policy, BTA reported. Putin and Parvanov agreed that EU candidate countries were placed in a difficult position by the EU's delay in establishing a unified position on Iraq. The two presidents stressed in a joint declaration the need for cooperation within the framework of the United Nations in taking on global challenges such as international terrorism and organized crime. They lauded improved Russian-Bulgarian relations, which were strained over the past few years by strong anti-Russian sentiments within the previously governing conservative Union of Democratic Forces. "Today, Russia and Bulgaria understand that our relations must be free from ideological layers and stereotypes from the past," quoted Putin as saying during a meeting with leading parliamentarians.

...AND PLEDGES ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND DEBT REPAYMENT. Putin told a joint news conference with President Parvanov on 2 March that investment in the Bulgarian energy sector is of key interest to the Russian economy, BTA reported. The transit of Russian gas via Bulgaria to neighboring countries is to be increased by one-third, according to Putin. The Russian president also spoke about Russian gas giant Gazprom's interest in the privatization of the state-owned Bulgargaz company and in the expansion of the Bulgarian pipeline network. Parvanov added that Russia is also interested in participating in the proposed modernization of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant and in the construction of a planned second nuclear-power plant near Belene. Finance Minister Milen Velchev said after meeting with his visiting Russian counterpart Aleksei Kudrin that Russia is ready to repay in cash those debts to Bulgaria that cannot be settled in kind because of price differences.

FRENCH ULTRANATIONALIST SPEAKS OUT IN RUSSIA. Speaking on prime-time state ORT television on 25 February, the right-wing leader of the French National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, called on Russia to join with France to veto the draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq submitted on 24 February by the United States, Great Britain, and Spain. Le Pen, who was invited to Moscow by People's Will Party leader Sergei Baburin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2003), said he views U.S. policies negatively in general. He agreed, however, with the ORT moderator that those who oppose U.S. policy in Iraq are not against the United States but are supporting it by trying to keep the country from making a grave mistake. Le Pen noted that he had been given an unusually warm reception in Moscow since his arrival on 20 February, having been invited to give numerous interviews with mainstream media outlets and to attend many political events.

PUTIN SAYS MILITARY SHOULD NOT BE A 'BURDEN' ON THE ECONOMY. Speaking to a Security Council meeting in Moscow on 25 February devoted to national-security policy, President Putin said defense spending must not be "a burden for the people or become an obstacle to economic growth and social recovery," and other Russian news agencies reported. "Today, it is not the quantity but the quality of weaponry that gives the state the ability to defend itself," Putin said. The Security Council adopted a draft military-technical policy for 2003-15 that was prepared by council First Deputy Secretary Vladislav Shersyuk. Shersyuk said that the current critical situation in the military-industrial complex is determined by four factors: the decreased volume of research-and-development projects, the low volume of weapons procurements, the rapidly increasing obsolescence of industrial equipment, and the departure of specialist workers from the sector. He added that the new policy concept enumerates measures for surmounting these difficulties.

PUTIN TRANSFERS REBELLIOUS GENERAL TO OBSCURE KREMLIN POST. President Putin on 25 February appointed Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, formerly the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, as presidential adviser with responsibility for Cossack affairs, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported, citing the presidential press service. Putin signed a decree the same day abolishing the presidential administration's directorate for Cossack affairs and dismissing its head, General Petr Deinekin. The functions and staff of the department will be transferred to the offices of the presidential envoys to the federal districts and other agencies within the presidential administration. Troshev will coordinate the activities of registered Cossack communities through the envoys' offices. In 2001, Putin named another general as a presidential adviser: Then-Defense Minister Igor Sergeev was appointed to oversee an interdepartmental group on strategic stability (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 April 2001) and has been little heard from since.

THREE AZERBAIJANIS SENTENCED FOR ESPIONAGE. Following a one-week trial, Azerbaijan's Court for Particularly Serious Crimes passed sentence on 25 February on three Azerbaijanis found guilty of spying on behalf of Russian military intelligence, Turan reported on 26 February. The court established that Seyar Ahundov, Sergei Namazov, and Mubariz Ahundov were recruited by Russian military intelligence in the 1980s and that between 1993 and their arrest in July 2002 they provided information on the political situation in Azerbaijan, military sites, and the state of the armed forces. Interfax, however, on 18 February quoted an unidentified Russian Defense Ministry official as denying that the three men had any links with Russian military intelligence. Seyar Ahundov and Namazov were each jailed for 11 years and Mubariz Ahundov for 10.

COLONEL ACCUSED OF SPYING FOR U.S. The Moscow Military District Court on 27 February began closed-door hearings in the case of Colonel Aleksandr Zaporozhnyi, who is charged with espionage for the United States, RIA-Novosti and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Zaporozhnyi, who worked for an unspecified Russian intelligence agency, was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2001. The FSB has alleged that over a period of five years, Zaporozhnyi handed over to U.S. agents secret information about Russian intelligence agencies and their activities.

RUSSIA'S BILLIONAIRE CLUB BOOMS. Seventeen Russians made the "Forbes" magazine list of the world's 476 billionaires, the magazine reported in its March issue. Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii ranked 26th with an estimated net worth of $8 billion, followed by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor and Sibneft co-owner Roman Abramovich (49th with $5.7 billion); Alfa-Group President Mikhail Fridman (68th with $4.3 billion); and the chairman of the board of Tyumen Oil Company, Viktor Vekselberg (147th with $2.5 billion). Other Russians on the list include Norilsk Nickel CEO Mikhail Prokhorov, Sistema CEO Vladimir Yevtushenkov, steel giant Severstal head Aleksei Mordashov, Sibneft's Yevgenii Shvidler, Yukos's Leonid Nevzlin, and several major Yukos shareholders. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 28 February that, although the total number of billionaires globally is declining, Russia's tally has grown. Three years ago, there were no Russians on the list, while there were seven in 2001 and six in 2002. Russia currently places fourth in terms of its number of billionaires, after the United States, Germany, and Japan, and ranks first in terms of its billionaire-club growth rate. Twelve of Russia's billionaires come from the oil sector, and "Forbes" explains the rapid growth in the country's billionaire club both in terms of rising global energy prices and of the increasing transparency of Russian companies.

GOVERNMENT PREPARES FOR ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF POSSIBLE WAR. Speaking to a conference of investors in Moscow on 26 February, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the government will create a stabilization fund to help neutralize the impact of any drop in global oil prices as a result of a possible U.S.-led military action against Iraqi President Hussein, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 February. Kudrin predicted that oil prices will continue to rise over the next couple of months and could reach $39-$40 a barrel. During this time, a special stabilization fund should be created, he said, to mitigate the consequences of any subsequent drop. Each dollar that oil prices fall means a 0.5 percent decline in Russia's gross domestic product, Kudrin said. If prices reach $18 a barrel, the government would begin drawing from the stabilization fund. To create the fund, the government will raise oil-export taxes and seek other revenue sources, Kudrin said. He did not specify how much the export tax, which currently stands at $25.90 per ton, would be raised.

RUSSIA COULD SUPPLY 15 PERCENT OF U.S. OIL NEEDS. Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii said on 26 February that Russia hopes to become one of the leading suppliers to the U.S. oil market, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia could ultimately supply between 1 million and 2 million barrels of oil a day to the United States, about 15 percent of that country's current demand. Khodorkovskii said that currently the main constraint on Russian oil exports is a dearth of export-pipeline capacity. However, that problem is being solved by projects to build a pipeline from western Siberia to Murmansk and another from Angarsk to Datsin in China. The Murmansk project is intended to boost exports to the United States, while the Datsin project is targeted toward China and the Far East. Khodorkovskii said the cost of transporting oil from Murmansk to the East Coast of the United States is about $8 a barrel, which is comparable to the cost of transporting oil from the Middle East to the United States. He added that Russia is capable of extracting 9 million to 10 million barrels of oil per day for the next 30 years. "Argumenty i fakty," No. 8, wrote that before the end of the year, Yukos -- Russia's largest oil company -- and U.S.-based Exxon will sign a multibillion-dollar strategic partnership similar to the one signed earlier this month between British Petroleum and Russian oil majors Sidanko and Tyumen Oil Company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003).

GOVERNMENT TO BEGIN NEW STAGE OF PRIVATIZATION. Addressing a cabinet meeting on 27 February, First Deputy Property Relations Minister Yurii Medvedev said that the state still controls about 9,000 enterprises that account for about 30 percent of the country's gross domestic product, reported. In addition, the state holds stakes in an additional 3,000 publicly traded companies, including several dozen in which the government has 100 percent stakes. In 2003, the government intends to privatize 193 enterprises and sell share packets in 164 publicly traded companies, Medvedev said. The state hopes to receive about 51 billion rubles ($1.65 billion) for these deals, plus 40 billion rubles in dividends and rent payments. Medvedev added, though, that the government does not view privatization as a revenue strategy but as a powerful tool for stimulating economic growth.

ONE-THIRD OF RUSSIANS VIEW STALIN POSITIVELY... Thirty-six percent of respondents in a national survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation on 22 February said that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin did more to benefit Russia than to harm it, reported on 27 February. The foundation surveyed 1,500 adults in cities throughout the federation. Twenty-nine percent of the respondents said Stalin did the country more harm than good, and 34 percent could not say either way. Those who view Stalin positively most often cited his role in the Soviet victory in World War II and the "law and order" he maintained in the country. Those who view him negatively blame him for ruling by means of mass terror, for unleashing genocide against his own citizens, and for failing to prepare the country for the Nazi invasion in 1941.

...AS INTEREST IN DICTATOR BOOMS ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Stalin's 5 March 1953 death, the Russian State Archive, the archive of the Federal Protection Service, and that of the FSB have prepared a unique exhibition covering notable events of the Stalin era, RTR reported on 27 February. The exhibition will present for the first time recently declassified documents and medical analyses that purportedly refute the theory that Stalin's entourage might have poisoned him. Other documents concern the so-called Doctors' Plot, an anti-Semitic campaign launched in the last days of the Stalin regime, purportedly at the dictator's personal behest. The exhibition will also present some of Stalin's personal effects, gifts that he received, and letters from Soviet citizens expressing their feelings about his death. The state news agency RIA-Novosti will be selling rare digitized photographs of Stalin via its website (

TALKS HELD ON CENTER-LEFT COALITION. Aleksandr Dugin, leader of the imperialist Eurasia party, told on 25 February that his party is holding talks with Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's Party of Russia's Rebirth on the possibility of creating a center-left coalition to participate in the December State Duma elections. Dugin said the coalition's ideology will be neither communism nor social democracy but rather Eurasianism, the union of Islam and Christianity, patriotism, and social justice. He added that fellow Eurasia party leader Telget Tajetdin, the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, will meet with Seleznev to discuss further a possible joint platform. In the past, Dugin has called for an alliance "of all Eurasian forces to oppose the 'Atlantism' represented by Britain and the United States." In "Izvestiya" on 21 February, he said that the present joint opposition of France, Germany, and Russia to U.S. policy in Iraq is the first sign that such an alliance is emerging. Analysts believe that the proposed Dugin-Seleznev coalition is a Kremlin effort to attract support away from the Communist Party.