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Security Watch: March 1, 2002

1 March 2002, Volume 3, Number 8

Starting with this issue, the rubric Law and Enforcement will appear in "RFE/RL Crime and Corruption Watch," while the renamed "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch" will publish more materials on terrorism and military affairs.
RUSSIA EXPRESSES WARINESS OF NEW U.S. MILITARY ROLE IN GEORGIA... Reacting to the announcement of a new U.S. effort to militarily train and equip several Georgian battalions for security operations in the volatile Pankisi Gorge, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Russian public ORT television on 27 February that a deployment of U.S. troops in Georgia would "further aggravate the situation in the region." Russian Defense Ministry officials also expressed apprehension over the U.S. grant of 10 UH-1 Huey combat helicopters to Georgia. Russia has repeatedly criticized the Georgian government for being unable or unwilling to stabilize the Pankisi Gorge and has recently offered joint security operations between Georgian and Russian forces.

...AND FEELS A BIT SLIGHTED. Foreign Minister Ivanov also told ORT that Russia has repeatedly offered its own military help to confront terrorist groups in Pankisi Gorge, but that Tbilisi declined it. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Volin, the deputy chief of the presidential staff said that the U.S. decision shows that the "international coalition will pay more attention to the Caucasian front in combating terrorism," reported on 27 February.

RUSSIA OFFERED GREATER INFLUENCE IN NATO, BUT NO VETO... NATO has offered to form a new NATO-Russia Council, or "NATO at 20," which would allow a Russian ambassador to attend meetings to discuss and make decisions on issues of mutual concern, according to "The New York Times" on 26 February. The NATO proposal will be the focus of the meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that was to open in Brussels on 27 February, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 February. "The idea is to pull Russia into a more permanent relationship with NATO without destroying the alliance as an instrument of collective military defense," a senior Western official told the U.S. daily. "There is a lot we can do with a Russia that isn't an enemy and is becoming more of a friend," the official added. However, Russia would not have veto rights and NATO decisions would continue to be made by the North Atlantic Council, of which Russia will not be offered membership. The new NATO-Russia Council would replace the Permanent Joint Council.

...AND DEFENSE MINISTER READY FOR NEW FORMAT OF COOPERATION WITH NATO... Sergei Ivanov said in St. Petersburg on 27 February that in the event that Russia and NATO ink an agreement on new forms of cooperation at the Atlantic alliance's ministerial meeting in Reykjavik on 14-15 May, both sides will bear responsibility for the implementation of jointly made decisions, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 February. Ivanov also expressed Russia's readiness to intensify its partnership with NATO, because new security threats are directed not only against members of the Atlantic alliance, but against the entire world.

...WHILE ZHIRINOVSKY TO HEAD RUSSIAN DELEGATION TO DISCUSS THE MATTER... Deputy Duma speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was to head the delegation assembled from both chambers of the Russian parliament during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting on 27 February, according to RIA-Novosti on 26 February. Aside from the main discussions on the NATO-Russia Council proposal, the delegation will also discuss the prospects of signing a formal agreement pertaining to the new relationship between NATO and Russia at the NATO summit in Reykjavik this summer. The Russian delegation was also to include Duma Defense Committee head Andrei Nikolaev and his deputy Pavel Bezborodov, deputy head of the Duma's Security Committee Vasilii Iver, and Viktor Ozerov, Aleksandr Dondukov, and Nikolai Tulaev from the Federation Council.

...AS HE RETURNS TO HIS FORMER SELF... Meanwhile, speaking at the LDPR's regional conference in Moscow, Zhirinovsky retreated from his recent repentance of his longstanding anti-American position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2001), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 February. "The United States is moving toward its crash. It has a huge army, a huge propaganda machine, and is trying to govern the world from one center. It will finish as badly as the Soviet Union and Bonaparte's France," he said.

...AND DUMA CRITICIZES HIS LIAISON ROLE WITH NATO. Russian news agencies reported on 27 February that State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said in Moscow that the decision to appoint Vladimir Zhirinovsky to head the Russian delegation during discussions with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that began on 27 February was not discussed or approved by the Duma. Yabloko faction member Vladimir Lukin, one of the leaders of Yabloko faction, added that he is bewildered by the decision, as first deputy speaker Lyubov Sliska is the Duma's permanent coordinator to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Meanwhile, Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy head of the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, said he is afraid that Zhirinovsky might undermine Russia's national interests.

RUSSIAN POLITICIAN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER MOLDOVAN PROTESTS... The head of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, Mikhail Margelov is bewildered by the mass demonstrations taking place in Moldova against the imposition of mandatory Russian-language classes in schools, reported 24 February. Margelov was quoted as saying that "the protests against the Russian language are strange; for example, in Yakutia [Sakha] there are three official languages -- Yakutian, Russian, and English -- but nobody goes to the streets to protest against English." On 22 February, the Moldovan government annulled its decision to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes, which will now be optional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2002).

...AND MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER SEEKS HELP FROM MOSCOW. Vasile Tarlev said following his talks in Moscow on 26 February with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov that his country wants Russian assistance in solving its debt issues with Paris Club states as well as its own internal economic problems, and ITAR-TASS reported. Kasyanov said Russia will help Moldova overcome its "temporary economic problems" by supplying the country with inexpensive Russian gas and electricity throughout 2002. He added that to this end Russia has already reached an agreement with Ukraine to transit electricity and gas over its territory for Moldova, which he said will reduce Chisinau's costs for Russian energy sources by 30 percent. Kasyanov also said that Russia wants to purchase shares in and reconstruct the Moldavian Hydropower Station, which he said would not only provide Moldova with cheap energy, but also give it the opportunity to make money from exporting electricity.

FOREIGN MINISTRY TAKES OFFENSE TO VATICAN'S TITLE... In an official statement released on 26 February, the Russian Foreign Ministry reprimanded the Vatican for using the Japanese name for the Sakhalin Islands in its title for newly appointed archbishops on that territory, NTV reported. The statement described Erhi Mazur's appointed title of "archbishop of Eastern Siberia and the Prefecture of Karafuto" as an unfriendly act and interference in Russia's internal affairs. The statement also said that Russian geographic names are "protected by law and their arbitrary substitution opposes Russian legislation and cannot be tolerated."

...AND UNDERGOES MORE RESHUFFLING. President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree relieving Aleksandr Avdeev of this post as first deputy foreign minister because of his transfer to a new, as yet unnamed, position, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 February. Avdeev had overseen Balkan policy among other things. According to the agency, Avdeev is a strong contender for the post of Russian ambassador to France. Putin also signed a decree appointing Valerii Loshchinin to the post of first deputy foreign minister, an office he will now hold simultaneously with the position of state secretary. Loshchinin was promoted to the post of state secretary last October after serving as a deputy foreign minister in charge of CIS affairs.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF UNFINISHED WORK IN CHECHNYA... Speaking at the meeting of the Russian Security Council devoted to the situation in Chechnya on 27 February, President Putin said he is very unhappy with the activities of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Finance Ministry, and the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya as far as stabilization in the republic is concerned, and "Krasnaya zvezda" reported. The situation in the republic reveals ambivalence on the part of those organizations, Putin continued. While there are signs of stabilization and reduced military activities, the Russian military and the FSB have not reached the goals set by the government. "The channels of arms and money supplied to the illegal bandit formations have not been completely disrupted, the most dangerous leaders of the formations have not been neutralized, and the channels for trafficking of foreign mercenaries have not been closed," he said. In the economic sphere, the president said that money being supplied to the republic through a labyrinth of federal and local organizations and banks have created conditions for misusing funds. In addition, the republic has very high unemployment and crime rates, Putin said.

...CALLS FOR MORE GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA IN REPUBLIC. Addressing the Council after FSB Director and Deputy Prime Minster Viktor Khristenko reported on the military and economic aspects of the Russian operation in Chechnya, Putin said in closing that he "thinks that the information vacuum in Chechnya is being filled too slowly," RIA-Novosti reported on 27 February. "Although ORT and RTR [television] and state radio [are broadcast], and newspapers and journals are issued in the 16 regions of the [Chechen] republic.... Information work remains [to be done] in the zone where counterterrorist operations are being conducted," he remarked.

FEDERAL FUNDS FOR CHECHNYA GO TO 'DEAD SOULS.' Federal law enforcement agencies have found that funds allotted for the restoration of Chechnya in 2001 have been plundered, reported on 25 February. So far, federal investigators have proved that some 91.3 million rubles ($3 million) were misspent, often through social benefit payments to deceased residents, or "dead souls," according to the website. While federal authorities sometime bring the perpetrators to justice, commented that they fail to end the practice "because there is no shortage of 'dead souls' in Chechnya while the war goes on."

EX-SOVIET HOLIDAY CELEBRATED... On 23 February, Russia held its inaugural celebration of the nonworking holiday the "Defenders of the Fatherland Day," which was known in the communist era as "Soviet Army Day" and was named as a federal holiday last year by the Duma on the initiative of the presidential administration. In Moscow, members of Russian left-wing opposition parties led by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) organized a large march of supporters to commemorate the 84th anniversary of the foundation of the Soviet army and navy, BBC reported the same day. Speaking at a rally at the monument dedicated to popular Soviet military commander Georgii Zhukov, KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that "the Russian army has never been in such a difficult and dramatic situation as now." His comments were echoed by Viktor Anpilov, the head of the Working Russia movement, who said that "there is nothing to greet today, on 23 February, as the army has been looted and is now dragging out a miserable existence; its airborne and missile forces are deliberately being eliminated; while the U.S. is declaring war on the whole world." The rally was interrupted by the appearance of LDPR head Zhirinovsky, whose attempt to join the rally was thwarted by communists calling him a "government" agent and "Judas."

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER SPEAKS ABOUT THE STATUS OF HIS ARMY. In an interview Sergei Ivanov gave to "Krasnaya zvezda" on 22 February to commemorate Defenders of the Fatherland Day, he said that Russia "is not preparing for large-scale wars, but [its] requirements for the level of national defense capability are still quite high." Ivanov added that Russia's military doctrine rejects the "globalism of Soviet times," but at the same time the state should maintain the readiness of its armed forces, as Russia is a "vast land-based power with the longest borders in the world" that has neighbors "whose intentions are not always encouraging." He also said Russia should not disregard "its naval component, without which Russia would lose its status as a superpower," and that the air force has been neglected and under-funded over the last 10-12 years. Ivanov said that in the last two years the military budget has been increased by one-third, so the situation should slowly begin to show improvement.

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER PROMOTES MILITARY SPACE CENTER IN PLESETSK... Sergei Ivanov visited the military space center in Plesetsk on 26 February to observe the successful launching of a "Kosmos" reconnaissance satellite, and said afterward that Russia plans to send 10 additional military satellites into orbit this year, Russian news agencies reported. By 2005, all military and most civilian satellite launches will be transferred to Plesetsk and the standby launch center Svobodnii in Primorskii Krai from Russia's primary Baikonur space center, which Russia currently rents from Kazakhstan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 February. However, piloted space flights will continue to be launched from Baikonur (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2002). Meanwhile, the former head of the Svobodnii launch site, Aleksandr Vinidiktov, touted that site for the launching of new Russian satellites, most of which have already exceeded their intended life spans, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day.

...AND SAYS HE HAS NO REGRETS ABOUT LOURDES. Speaking to journalists in Plesetsk, Defense Minister Ivanov said he has no regrets about the closure of the Russian electronic intelligence center in Lourdes, Cuba, because the military has at its disposal "technical means that can well compensate for the loss," reported on 26 February. "There is no evergreen technical equipment, and with full confidence we can provide our [security] needs today without equipment that looked indispensable in 1961," he said. "We can achieve [the same results] today many times more cheaply, not to mention what will be possible five or 10 years from now," Ivanov added. The Russian military remains critical of the president's decision to pull out of Lourdes and the Cam Rahn Bay naval base in Vietnam, commented the same day. Lourdes provided Russia with electronic surveillance over much of the United States, while the Cam Rahn Bay was an important base for the Pacific Fleet's operations in Southeast Asia and around Australia.

LEFTIST MILITARY LEADERS SAY PUTIN'S POLICIES CATER TO U.S., OLIGARCHS... The newspapers "Sovetskaya Rossiya" and "Segodnya" published an appeal to Russian President Putin on 22 February that was signed by some of Russia's most famous generals and admirals, many of whom are retired. According to the appeal, Putin has failed to meet their expectations that he would "introduce order." They accused Putin of continuing the "criminal" course pursued by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, as evidenced by the liquidation of the spy center in Lourdes, Cuba, and by allowing U.S. troops on Central Asian territory. They also charged that the president has chosen the oligarchs, "who turn off the electricity to strategic military installations, over the Russian people." According to the appeal, "our people already know that socialism is better than capitalism, therefore we insist that in the nearest future a referendum be held in Russia on the restoration of the socialist system and planned-market economy, and the eradication of the criminal regime of the oligarchs." The appeal was signed by former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, Colonel General and former State Duma deputy Albert Makashov, army General Vladimir Arkhipov, and Lieutenant General Mikhail Titov among others.

...AS FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER TO LEAD NEW LEFTIST PARTY. The founding congress of the new left-wing Peoples-Patriotic Party held near Moscow on 23 February elected former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov as its head and adopted its program, RosBalt reported on 24 February. Although the new party will be more radical than the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, it will respect parliamentary democracy, Rodionov said. He added that the party has set up 70 branches throughout Russia, and that the party's main goal will be the preservation of a "united and indivisible Russia, [and to] ensure its economic security and a decent life for the people," RosBalt reported. Rodionov is a signatory of a recent letter published in "Sovetskaya Rossiya," condemning President Putin's policies.

RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL STILL LOOKING FOR ANSWERS TO 'KURSK' CATASTROPHE. Vladimir Ustinov told RTR on 25 February that if his office's investigation finds that any actions or inactions by officials led to the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, those responsible will be tried in court. However, when asked about what caused the explosion on board the submarine, he insisted that "investigators never said that an explosion of a torpedo initiated an even larger explosion that destroyed the submarine." He added that records removed from the "Kursk" make no mention of any emergency situation either on board or near the sub. Therefore, the ultimate answer might be found next fall, when the last compartment of the submarine will be lifted from the bottom of the Barents Sea, according to Ustinov.

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY TO TAKE CONTROL OVER IMMIGRATION POLICIES. President Putin signed a degree on 26 February that tasks the Interior Ministry with overseeing immigration policy, and reported. Deputy Interior Minister Andrei Chernenko was named to head the ministry's new Federal Migration Service. Chernenko told journalists that the service will coordinate the activities of federal and regional Interior Ministry branches on the implementation of immigration policies, initiate legislation on the problems of refugees and displaced persons, and be in charge of granting political asylum to foreign citizens and those without citizenship. Chernenko also said the president urged him "to work for securing the inflow of qualified cadres, which Russia needs."

MINATOM LOBBIES FOR IMPORT OF NUCLEAR WASTE. Speaking at an ecological conference devoted to the problems posed by nuclear waste, Russian Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Valerii Lebedev said on 25 February that Russia should take advantage of the money it can earn from importing foreign nuclear waste in order to earn enough to process its own waste, Interfax reported. He suggested that through these funds, Russia could build a second nuclear waste-processing facility to help ease the burden on the current facility, which he said is only able to process 200 tons of nuclear waste a year. However, Lebedev's plan will face strong opposition from environmentalists, reported the same day. Renowned ecologist Aleksei Yablokov argued that Russia should not import any foreign nuclear waste, saying that processing just 1 ton of spent nuclear fuel produces 4.5 tons of nuclear waste, according to the website.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS WIN RARE VICTORY AT RUSSIAN FEDERAL LEVEL. Russia's Constitutional Court ruled on 26 February that a government resolution allowing the storage of spent nuclear fuel from the Pak nuclear power plant in Hungary is invalid, Interfax reported. Residents of Chelyabinsk Oblast, along with the For Nuclear Safety movement and Greenpeace Russia, had filed the suit with the court against the government. For Nuclear Safety head Natalya Mironova said Hungary will have to take back thousands of cubic meters of highly radioactive waste. According to the agency, the Guinness Book of World Records lists Chelyabinsk Oblast as the territory with the highest level of nuclear contamination in the world.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AT MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROL OVER NATURAL RESOURCES. Speaking at the meeting of the State Council Presidium on 27 February to address the country's natural resource potential, President Putin said that country's natural resources are being exploited inefficiently, Russian new agencies reported. Putin said that most of Russia's 50,000 license holders for exploiting natural resources do not fulfill their obligations to the state. The president claimed that there have been no significant explorations undertaken for new resource deposits, that production is declining, and that equipment is worn out. Putin also said that the issue of the inefficient exploitation of natural resources must be solved between the federal center and the regions.

RUSSIAN OIL TO BE EXPORTED TO U.S. VIA ALASKAN PIPELINES? The Foreign Ministry's press service distributed an official statement on 22 February that said the strategic energy priorities formulated during the meeting early this month between U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Prime Minister Kasyanov "make Russia and the United States natural and efficient partners in energy dialogue, as both countries share joint approaches and interests," RIA-Novosti reported. "Kommersant-Daily," No. 7, commented that the new U.S. energy strategy seeks to lessen the country's dependence on foreign oil by developing Alaskan oil fields and diversifying suppliers, and that Russia may be able to usurp Saudi Arabia's role as a primary supplier to the U.S. market. The weekly added that the plans include the delivery of Russian oil from the Sakhalin Islands to Alaska, which is why Exxon-Mobil and Royal Dutch/Shell have already announced their intentions to speed up multibillion-dollar investments in the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 hydrocarbon projects.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES NORTH-SOUTH TRANSPORT CORRIDOR. The Federation Council ratified the agreement for the development of an international North-South transport corridor that was signed by Russia, India, and Iran in September 2000, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. The head of the Federation Council's Foreign Relations Committee, Mikhail Margelov, said the agreement will pave the way for goods from India and the Arabian Peninsula through Iran and the Caspian region to Russia and Europe, and vice versa. According to the agreement, all signatories to the agreement will get relief from import tax and customs duties, and will provide multiple-entry visas and other privileges to personnel involved in the project. The new route is expected to reduce transport costs by 20 percent, and delivery times by 15-20 days compared with the old route via the Suez Canal. Margelov added that Russia expects to make an additional $5 billion to $6 billion a year in transport revenues from the new route.

RUSSIAN COURT SENTENCES 'TERRORIST' CABLE THIEVES. A court in Arkhangelsk Oblast has sentenced several local residents found guilty of stealing communications cables to two to seven years in prison for "terrorism," RosBalt reported 25 February. According to local Interior Ministry investigator Irina Zaostrovtseva, the thieves were sentenced in line with a recently introduced article to the Criminal Code that classifies causing repeated disruptions to the functioning of vital federal facilities as terrorism. The pilfering of electrical cables and other sources of metal for sale to scrap traders is popular in Russia's regions.


By Victor J. Yasmann

A bat flying over a globe has been the emblem of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the General Staff of the Russian Army for a long time. In Soviet times, the GRU military intelligence traditionally was at the odds with the more powerful KGB, which used as its emblem a sword and shield. In the decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, both the GRU and KGB successor service have preserved almost intact their antagonism and their old symbolism. One episode which exposed their diverse interests was the recent clash between the GRU and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI) over the closure of the Russian electronic intelligence center in Lourdes, Cuba.

As it turned out, the initiative to close the Lourdes spy center was the initiative of the GRU, which acted through General Staff Chief Anatolii Kvashnin and without consulting with its colleagues in the SVR and FAPSI. In doing so, the GRU began a political intrigue over redistribution of the Russian military budget to its benefit. As a matter of fact, Kvashnin and GRU chief Valentin Korabelnikov believed that the main and immediate security risks for Russia come not from the West and NATO, but from the perimeter of the Russian frontier in the south and the east, i.e. from the frontiers with the Central Asian and Caucasian states and China. To monitor situation there the army and the GRU urgently need to replenish the constellation of Soviet-made military spy satellites, most of which have already exhausted their resources, making the Russian army blind and deaf. The need for updating the technology of national reconnaissance was so urgent that the GRU was prepared to sacrifice the electronic listening center in Lourdes, which cost from $200 to $300 million and targeted solely on electronic espionage against the United States.

In contrast to the GRU, the SVR and FAPSI were very interested in the Cold War relic in Lourdes. In addition to the ability to eavesdrop on most private and government telecommunication channels in the U.S., the SVR and FAPSI were able intercept most of the U.S. business communication, thus extending the range of its economic espionage against the U.S. Finally, SVR and FAPSI were stuck with Lourdes because spy satellites are outside their control anyway, being under supervision of the Defense Ministry.

To trump the SVR and FAPSI, the GRU attracted to its cause Defense Minister Ivanov, who agreed that the money Russia was spending on Lourdes might be much better invested into intelligence tools allowing it to control the situation on its own frontiers. Putin liked this argument, and calculated that dismantling Lourdes might bring him extra points in building a new relationship with the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush, especially after the events of 11 September 2001. In October 2001 he announced at a meeting in the Defense Ministry that Russia will withdraw from Lourdes. Since that time, the SVR and FAPSI have tried, if not to torpedo, at least to sabotage the decision. They organized disinformation "leaks" to the mass media, saying that, in fact, Russia paid no cash for Lourdes as all expenses came on account of Cuba's debt to Russia. Or that the United States paid nothing back to Putin for his gesture or, finally, that Russia simply has no funds to withdraw its personnel and equipment from Lourdes.

Despite of all these efforts, Defense Minister Ivanov confirmed on 27 February in St. Petersburg that Russia is ultimately withdrawing from Lourdes and that he has no regrets on this decision. Remarkably, a couple days earlier, the Russian intelligence site announced that the GRU had decided to replace its symbolic bat with the Russian double-headed eagle.