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Security Watch: February 22, 2002

22 February 2002, Volume 3, Number 7
GRU CHIEF IN WASHINGTON FOR TALKS ON TERRORISM. The chief of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, Colonel General Valentin Korabelnikov, met in Washington on 16 February with U.S. Joint Chief of Staff General Richard B. Myers and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Thomas Wilson to discuss cooperation among military intelligence agencies to combat international terrorism, ITAR-TASS and "The Washington Times" reported. Korabelnikov expressed his agency's interest in interrogating Russian citizens who were captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan fighting on the side of the Taliban. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 16 February mentioned that among the Taliban prisoners brought to the U.S. base at Guantanamo are two Russian citizens whose extradition Moscow will request.

MANILOV SAYS TALIBAN NOT DEFEATED. Valerii Manilov, former first deputy chief of the Russian Army General Staff and currently a representative of Primorskii Krai in the Federation Council, said in Moscow on 18 February that "the Taliban have not been destroyed yet and euphoria over the ultimate eradication of the nest of terrorism is unfounded," reported on 18 February. Under certain circumstances, "the Taliban still have resources and weapons to counterattack and then Russia will again find itself close to a dangerous enemy," he added. Manilov also said that Russia does not subscribe to the U.S. definition of Iraq, North Korea, and Iran as states which support terrorism. The official position of Moscow is that "the situation in these states may be normalized only by inviting them to participate in joint international projects," Manilov said.

EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS NOT PROTECTED FROM NUCLEAR TERRORISM. Aleksandr Koldobskii, the leading expert from the Moscow State Engineering and Physics Institute (MIFI), told a conference on nuclear terrorism held in Moscow on 19 February that he has no confidence that Russia and the rest of the world are sufficiently protected from the threat of nuclear terror, and ITAR-TASS reported. Koldobskii also said that in the years following the fall of Soviet Union, nuclear facilities in Russia were left practically unguarded and the thefts of fissionable materials multiplied by several times. Koldobskii added that he personally does not believe that reports about stolen weapons-grade radioactive materials have anything to do with nuclear terrorism because "it's simply impossible to steal the amount of plutonium needed for a bomb." But Koldobskii pointed out that among the some 700,000 people working for the Atomic Energy Ministry "one always can find a person who for money will give you access without asking questions or looking to see what you are taking away."

UN DISCUSSES ALLEGED BELARUSIAN SANCTIONS VIOLATION. A United Nations Security Council diplomat told RFE/RL on 19 February that the council's oversight committee on Iraqi sanctions reviewed the media report about violations by Belarus of the embargo against Baghdad. The report, which appeared in October in the newspaper "Belaruskaya delovaya gazeta," said 10 Iraqi officers were invited to take a training course in Belarus last fall. The diplomat said the committee will discuss the issue again and could request an explanation from the Belarusian government. Such a request would require unanimous consent from the 15 committee members and the diplomat said it is not certain whether all members favor further inquiry into the matter. Earlier yesterday, Belarusian media quoted President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as denying other reports that his government was involved in arms smuggling in breach of UN sanctions.

U.S., RUSSIA CONTINUE START-3 TALKS. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Oleg Chernov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov met in Moscow on 18 and 19 February with visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton to discuss radical reductions in strategic weapons, regional and international stability, and preparations for the Russian-U.S. summit scheduled for late May 2002, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 February. Moscow is trying to convince Washington to sign a treaty on "real and verifiable" reductions in both countries' strategic arsenals in the next 10 years to the level of 2,200-1,700 warheads, but understands that because of different approaches it may not be possible to sign such a treaty during the forthcoming summit.

RUSSIA AND CANADA PLAN TO EXPAND COOPERATION AND TRADE. Russian President Vladimir Putin said after his talks in Moscow on 14 February with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien that both countries have agreed to work out a political program of extended dialogue on strategic stability, defense, trade, and investments, Russian news agencies reported. Moscow and Ottawa also agreed to step up cooperation in the sphere of disposing of weapons of mass destruction, in particular, plutonium and chemical weapons, for which purpose Canada will provide Russia with $5 million. Putin also said that the two countries will strengthen their joint work in the Arctic, and that he has accepted Chretien's proposal to hold one of their future meetings at the North Pole. Meanwhile Chretien, who was accompanied to Moscow by a 300-strong delegation of Canadian businessmen, met the same day Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Following their talks, Kasyanov told journalists that he has a portfolio of trade and industrial contracts with Canadian businessmen worth $2 billion.

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER POSTPONES VISIT TO MOSCOW FOR 'TECHNICAL REASONS.' Iranian Foreign Minster Kamal Kharrazi's much anticipated visit to Moscow, initially scheduled for 19-20 February, was unexpectedly postponed, Russian news agencies reported on 19 February. On the eve of Kharrazi's expected visit, many leading Russian mass media reported that the Iranian foreign minister had arrived in Moscow for bilateral discussions. However, later the same day Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko announced that Kharrazi's mission was cancelled due to "the need to work out certain questions of bilateral cooperation." Remarkably, the announced program of Kharrazi's talks in Moscow included such issues as Russian-Iranian nuclear energy and military-technical cooperation and problems of the Caspian. Kharrazi also intended to discuss with the Atomic Energy Ministry possible buying of a second Russian-built nuclear reactor in addition to that at Bushehr now nearing completion. commented the same day that the visit was likely postponed by the Kremlin because it did not want to irritate the United States by highlighting Russia's good relations with Iran.

FORMER RUSSIAN PREMIER READY TO DEFEND MILOSEVIC. Chamber of Trade and Industry head Yevgenii Primakov said he is prepared to speak out in defense of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in his ongoing trial at The Hague's international war crimes tribunal, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 February. Primakov, who was prominent in diplomatic activity surrounding the Kosova crisis in 1999, added that the tribunal should take in account the positive role Milosevic played in negotiating the Dayton accords.

MILITARY COOPERATION WITH CHINA THREATENS RUSSIA'S NATIONAL SECURITY. Writing in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 5, military expert Sergei Orlov said that in becoming the No. 1 importer of Russian arms, China has led the best minds and weapon designers of the former Soviet military-industrial complex to ignore Russian interests and work to build up China's defense capabilities. Today, China is buying Russia's most advanced weaponry, while Chinese "head hunters" are carefully recruiting leading Russian scientists and research collectives that can fortify Beijing's ambitions to modernize its nuclear industry and develop its space program, including piloted space flights, Orlov said. At present, Russian military cooperation with China is based on several bilateral agreements and codified in a "friendship treaty" signed in July 2001, in which Beijing managed to incorporate maximum guarantees for itself while minimizing its own obligations to Russia. Orlov said that while it would be very shortsighted to judge China's intentions based only on such documents, it is clear that once Moscow helps Beijing reach its objectives, Russia's donor role will expire and subsequently Russian weapons in Chinese hands will pose a threat to Russia itself.

GOVERNMENT ADOPTS BILL ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko announced that at its meeting on 14 February, the government approved the draft of the Law on Alternative Service, reported. According to Matvienko, the term of alternative service will be double that of compulsory military service, and young men will be allowed to perform it at their place of permanent residence, "unless there is an urgent need to send them to other regions." The approval of the bill by the government is considered a major step towards its transformation into law, because its smooth passage through both chambers of the parliament is almost guaranteed, according to

POLAND RETREATS FROM LUSTRATION LAW... Poland's new parliament voted on 15 February to ease rules on what public officials must disclose about past links to communist secret services, amending a law the country's ex-communist President Aleksander Kwasniewski said was flawed and unfair, AP reported from Warsaw. The strict law was part of the recently ousted Solidarity government's efforts to come to grips with the country's communist past, but opponents, including Kwasniewski, said it went too far. Under the new rules, officials no longer will be required to disclose all ties to the old regime's intelligence, counterintelligence, or border guard services. They still must disclose links to the secret police, however, if they involved activities aimed at undermining anticommunist opposition groups, religious freedoms, or human rights. Kwasniewski proposed the changes after the Democratic Left Alliance, a party led by former communists, won national elections in September. However critics from the ranks of the Polish right and conservative opposition said the amendments rehabilitate the crimes of the communist secret political police because all it activities were directed to suppress freedom and it was the only meaning of its existence.

...AS GOVERNMENT APPROVES SECRET SERVICE REFORM. The Polish government has approved a special services reform bill according to which the State Protection Office (UOP) and the intelligence wing of the Military Intelligence Services will be disbanded and replaced by the Internal Security Agency and the Intelligence Agency, Polish and Western news services reported on 19 February. The two agencies are to be headed by civilians appointed by the prime minister for three-year terms. The act provides for the establishment of a mechanism for generating verified and synthesized reports for the central authority bodies on the most important issues in the country. The acting head of the UOP, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, said that such reports would be produced at dedicated meetings of selected groups of representatives of central bodies of the government administration with the head of the Intelligence Agency. The Polish Intelligence Agency will employ about 6,000 persons.

RUSSIAN SUSPECTED OF SELLING ARMS TO AL-QAEDA. U.S., British, and Belgian security services along with Interpol suspect retired Soviet army officer Viktor Bout of illegally supplying weapons to Al-Qaeda cells, reported on 18 February. Those services have long been tracking Bout's activities, but until recently had considered him to be a supplier of arms to Angola, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. However, one of Bout's business partners, following his arrest in Belgium last September, told investigators that Bout has provided weapons over the last two years to the Al-Qaeda network via his Air Cess Liberia company, which is based in the United Arab Emirates. If those claims are proven, it will not be easy to arrest Bout, as he holds at least seven different foreign passports and his current whereabouts are unknown, commented.

FSB SAYS IT EXPELLED NATO 'SPIES' FROM KALININGRAD OBLAST LAST YEAR. Georgii Kornilov, the head of the Kaliningrad Oblast's Federal Security Service (FSB) Directorate, told local journalists at a press conference on 19 February that last year his agency thwarted several spy operations by intelligence services from NATO states, Baltic News Service and reported the same day. "Seven foreign citizens were expelled as spies and entrance for them to Russia was closed," Kornilov added. He added that his agency together with other regional law enforcement organizations has managed to regain control over the oblast's economy and to expel organized crime groups from the region. Finally, Kornilov announced that he will leave his position, as President Putin appointed him earlier this month as the chief of the FSB's Transport Counterintelligence Protection Department within the central apparatus.

CITIZEN OF ARMENIA IS CHARGED WITH ESPIONAGE. The Armenian National Security Ministry is investigating a criminal case against Murad Bodzholyan, a citizen of Armenia, who was arrested on 26 January on suspicion of espionage for Turkey, reported " Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" No. 5. The National Security Ministry accuses Bodzholyan "in gathering and passing over secret political, military, and economic information to a Turkish intelligence organization. If he is found guilty, Bodzholyan could face the death penalty or from 10 to 15 years in prison.

ECOLOGICAL MONITORING SERVICE DETECTS RADIOACTIVITY LEAK IN MOSCOW. The Moscow state service responsible for monitoring radiation announced on 14 February that it has discovered the presence in the air over the northern part of the city radioactive isotope of iodine-131, "Komsomolskaya pravda" and NTV reported on 14 February. Although the current quantity of the isotope poses no immediate danger, greater concentrations in the air could prove very harmful to human internal organs and the hormonal system. The specialists say they cannot explain the presence of iodine-131 in the atmosphere other than by a leak from a nuclear reactor, and that they have already begun checking functioning reactors in research and medical institutions in Moscow.

KHRISTENKO ASKS EUROPE TO LIFT TRADE BARRIERS. Speaking at a roundtable of Russian and European businessmen in Turin on 17 February, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko sharply criticized the trade barriers imposed by the EU over the last few years on Russian goods and services, in particular quotas on the export of Russian steel and the ban on fights of Russian aircraft on European routes, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 February. Addressing the same forum, Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais said that European bureaucrats and businessmen are united in their reluctance to recognize the "market nature of the Russian economy." If the EU continues to do so, Russia may revise its contribution to European energy security and "find its way to world markets without Europe's help," Chubais said.

EXPERTS SAY INFLATION MEANS FAILURE OF RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICY... In January 2002 Russia experienced an inflationary catastrophe, the seriousness of which is not realized either inside the country or abroad, Institute of Globalization Director Mikhail Delyagin is quoted as saying by "Obshchaya gazeta" on 14 February. Indeed, in January the government sharply increased tariffs for communal services, railroad transport, telephone calls, medicines, and print production, he continued. In addition, there was also a 16 percent jump in the price of fruit and vegetables. All this sent the annual inflation rate to 30 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002), and this figure means the complete failure of the government's whole economic course, concluded Delyagin. Meanwhile, ex-Finance Minister and member of the Duma Budget Committee Mikhail Zadornov called on the government at a press conference in Moscow to "publish the real figures for inflation and prognosis of its growth linked to the increase in tariffs," reported on 14 February. Zadornov added that he is not sure that government can do this, but he is sure that the government will fail to attain its goal of 3-4 percent economic growth this year because of accelerating inflation.

...AS PUTIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER INFLATION. Speaking at a meeting of Premier Mikhail Kasyanov's cabinet on 18 February, Russian President Putin demanded that the government tighten financial discipline and take measures in response to the "recent change in microeconomic indicators," RIA-Novosti reported. Putin added that "there are certain seasonal fluctuations in the economy," but that "the situation is not catastrophic." The government should nonetheless pay more attention to the timely payment of salaries and pensions, as they are crucial to social welfare and the well-being of the population, Putin said. Despite his optimistic tone, Putin is clearly concerned by the inflationary surge, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented on 18 February. Rising inflation caused by the rise in tariffs on services on "natural monopolies" could cancel out the increase in social security payments and thus generate risk of political and social tensions, the newspaper noted.

RUSSIA TAKES STEPS TO FACILITATE WTO ENTRY. Maksim Medvedkov, the deputy minister of economic development and trade, announced on 19 February that by mid-March the government will make "minor adjustments" to several sectors of its economy aimed at aiding Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), reported. The changes will primarily affect banking, insurance, equities, audits, telecommunications, transport, and tourism. He added that by that date Russia will have formulated its position on how to modify its agricultural market to meet WTO requirements.

CHUBAIS WARNS OF STRUGGLE WITHIN KREMLIN LEADERSHIP. In a profile of EES head Chubais published in its edition for 17/18 February, the "Financial Times" quoted him as openly admitting that there is a danger Russia may be transformed into a "police state," and that there is a fight under way within the Kremlin leadership between those who favor such a development and those who oppose it. "It is serious. There are political forces not far from Putin who would support exactly that style of development for Russia," Chubais admitted. But he added that there are also political forces who strongly oppose that option, including the Union of Rightist Forces. Chubais also said that he admires Putin, whom he thinks "is making courageous long-term decisions in economic and foreign policy."

KLEBANOV DEMOTED. At the recommendation of Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov, President Putin relieved Ilya Klebanov of his position of deputy prime minister on 18 February, leaving him with the post of minister of industry, science, and technology, Russian agencies reported on 18 February. An unnamed source on the presidential staff told the same day that Klebanov lost his position simply because of his bad work record. First, he irritated the Kremlin last year by his botched attempt to sell Russian MiGs to Austria, and embarrassed Putin by involving him personally in that deal. Second, Klebanov promised in 2001 to sell the aircraft carrier "Admiral Gorshov" to India for $1 billion but failed to do so. Third, he publicly boasted that last year Russia would become the world's second-largest arms exporter, but according to preliminary estimates Russia only ranked fourth, the source said. Klebanov's demotion will strengthen the position of Kasyanov, who will take under his direct control the Railways and Atomic Energy ministries previously supervised by his deputy, predicted. Both ministries are soon to undergo reforms and privatization. The assets of the Railways Ministry are valued at $10 billion and those of the Atomic Energy Ministry at $3 billion, added.

BOOK SWAP NETS SOME COMMUNIST CLASSICS. The pro-Kremlin political youth movement Moving Together completed on 14 February its exchange of books by modern authors for Russian classics, Interfax reported. The movement offered the reading public in various cities the opportunity to turn in books by modern popular authors such as Viktor Pelevin and Vladimir Sorokin, which the activists deem "intellectually marginal," and receive in return Russian classics by authors such as Ivan Bunin and Anton Chekhov. Moving Together Press Secretary Denis Zaitsev told the agency that some 6,700 books were collected, including some 97 by Karl Marx.