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Security Watch: April 8, 2002

8 April 2002, Volume 3, Number 12
RUSSIA, U.S. WORRIED ABOUT SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST... Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush on 2 April discussed by telephone the new cycle of violence in the Middle East and expressed their deep concern over the deterioration of Palestinian-Israeli relations, Western and Russian news services reported. The two presidents also discussed the coordination of bilateral and international efforts necessary to stop the latest confrontation. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry released an official statement warning about the rise of military tension on the Israeli-Lebanese border, RIA-Novosti reported on 3 April. The statement stressed that the emergence of an armed confrontation between Israel and armed Islamic groups within Lebanese territory could further destabilize the situation in the region.

...AS MARGELOV PESSIMISTIC ABOUT EXIT FROM PRESENT CONFRONTATION. Federation Council International Relations Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov told journalists on 3 April that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat will never agree to the exile offered to him by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because doing so would mean his political suicide, reported on 3 April. He added that, as an ambitious leader, Arafat will opt for the fate of a "shakhid" (one who commits suicide for martyrdom) as he already announced. On the other hand, according to Margelov, Israel will never liquidate Arafat physically because of the political consequences and risks involved. Finally, he said the United States is now unable to offer a workable solution because of too many conflicting political interests and goals. Therefore, the only hope is to wait for the moment when the inertia of violence exhausts itself, as no politician involved has demonstrated the ability or will to curtail it, concluded Margelov.

PUTIN MEASURES HIS APPEAL TO ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY TO STOP BLOODSHED... Speaking to journalists during his joint press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Sochi on 3 April, Russian President Putin said, "Russia regrets and mourns the victims from both sides, but it is impossible to reach political goals with the help of terror," ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Putin continued, "the actions of the Israeli side must be commensurate with the threats the state and its citizens are facing."

...AS FOREIGN MINISTRY AND RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH LEAN TOWARD PALESTINIANS. The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that Israeli troops vacate the Russian Orthodox church in Bethlehem that they occupied while pursuing armed Palestinian units, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 April. In an official note, the ministry asked Israel to leave Russian property in the church "untouched and unharmed." The same day, Patriarch Aleksii II warned Israel about "its responsibility to preserve places sacred to the Russian Orthodox Church."

PRO-KREMLIN POLITICIANS TRY TO CONVINCE U.S. OF NECESSITY OF ALLIANCE... Speaking in Moscow at a roundtable devoted to Russian-U.S. relations on 3 April, Kremlin political adviser Gleb Pavlovskii said that "America pays little attention [to the fact] that Russia is trying to move from a militarized life to a more peaceful state...and for the first time in many years is subordinating its foreign policy to domestic interests," reported the next day. Pavlovskii said that by virtue of certain political specifics it is difficult for Moscow to formulate its positions on its negotiations with Washington, adding that it would be more productive if Washington were to first present its proposals, after which the Russian side can respond. Addressing the same audience, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) head and deputy State Duma speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the time has come "to finish decisively with anti-American sentiments among the Russian political class and use the new geopolitical situation not for joint tactical interests and but strategic partnership."

...AS ANTI-AMERICANISM IS ON THE RISE. The number of Russians who harbor negative attitudes toward the United States rose from 20 percent in January to 41 percent in March, according to a poll conducted among 1,600 respondents by the VTsIOM public opinion center, reported on 4 April. At the same time, the poll found a dramatic drop in the number of those who consider relations between the two states as "friendly" (20 percent in January compared to 13 percent in March) or "normal" (42 percent in January, 29 percent in March). Russians remain perplexed as to whether the United States perceives them to be friends or foes -- 38 percent of the respondents believe that the two countries are "adversaries," 37 percent consider them to be "allies," and 25 percent do not have a definite opinion.

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW FOR TALKS ON ECONOMIC AND MILITARY RELATIONS. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said upon his arrival in Moscow on 4 April that he plans to discuss bilateral, regional, and international security issues with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, Western and Russian news agencies reported the same day. Kharrazi also said he will discuss several major joint projects in the conventional and nuclear power industry, aircraft manufacturing, and transport, as well as military and trade cooperation. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists that Moscow-Teheran ties will gain a solid legal foundation after ratification of the Russian-Iranian treaty, signed in March 2001, which should have happened during Kharrazi's visit, RIA-Novosti reported on April 4. Kharrazi's visit, planned initially for February, was canceled at the last moment (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 20 February 2002), reportedly in an effort to not harm U.S.-Russian relations.

PUTIN AND BERLUSCONI DISCUSS TRADE, SPACE COOPERATION. President Putin said after his meeting in Sochi with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that "Italy is the key partner of Russia in Europe" and that he is more than satisfied with his fourth meeting in one year with the Italian prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 April. Meanwhile, Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, told journalists that Putin is seeking Berlusconi's support for Russia's position on the Kaliningrad Oblast and Russia's prompt joining of the World Trade Organization. Putin also expressed strong interest in having the national space agency Rosaviakosmos join the consortium led by FiatAvia that is working on creating the new commercial missile booster "Vega," "Vedomosti" reported on 3 April.

RUSSIA WILL NOT ACCREDIT TRANSDNIESTER AMBASSADOR. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 28 March said it is not prepared to accredit Alexander Karaman as Transdniester ambassador to Russia, because diplomatic representation is only granted to countries with which Russia has diplomatic relations, Infotag reported. The ministry said Russia recognizes only the Republic of Moldova and would be ready to consider Karaman's diplomatic accreditation if and when it receives an official request "from the corresponding bodies of the Republic of Moldova." One day earlier, Belarus also refused to accredit the former Transdniester vice president, whom separatist leader Vladimir Smirnov appointed as ambassador to the two states.

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS GREECE IS THIRD-LARGEST IMPORTER OF RUSSIAN ARMS. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Athens after talks with his Greek counterpart Yiannos Papandoniou that the two countries have inked a plan for military cooperation and contacts in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 April. Russian-Greek military-technical trade has amounted to over $1 billion over the past 2 1/2 to three years, according to Ivanov, and Greece currently ranks third among buyers of Russian weapons after China and India. Ivanov added that Moscow hopes Greece will promote Russia's military integration into EU defense structures when Athens takes over the chair of EU in the second half of the year.

RUSSIA SETS UP NATO WORKING GROUP FOR FIGHTING TERRORISM. The Russian government has formed a working group to coordinate antiterror efforts with NATO, Deputy Foreign Minister Anatolii Safonov said on 28 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The group will organize various Russian federal agencies to facilitate better cooperation with the Atlantic alliance. Former NATO Deputy Secretary-General Sergio Vallazio said the successful operation against the Taliban has displayed the efficacy of close cooperative ties between Russia, Central Asian countries, and NATO, ITAR-TASS reported the same day.

PROGRESS ON U.S.-RUSSIA TALKS ON IRAQ. A U.S. State Department spokesman announced on 29 March that Washington and Moscow have agreed on a list of goods that can be supplied to Iraq without authorization from the UN Sanctions Committee, ITAR-TASS reported. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. and Russia have worked out "a new system" of supplies to Iraq, which he said should be approved by the UN Security Council by 30 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 27 March 2002).

FSB INVESTIGATES LEAK OF CLASSIFIED MOSCOW WATER SUPPLY MAPS. The Moscow and Smolensk regional directorates of the Federal Security Service (FSB) opened a criminal case for divulging of state secrets against a group of workers of the Vazuz hydrotechnical installation that supplies fresh water to Moscow and Moscow Oblast, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 April. According to an FSB spokesman, FSB officers found in an office at the Vazuz installation classified photocopies of water-pipe maps listed by law as states secrets, because such data poses a security risk due to the threat of terrorism. The FSB is trying to find out who made these photocopies and for what reason.

POLISH POLICE RECOVER FOUR STOLEN ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES. Police on 27 March found four Strzala (Arrow) antiaircraft missiles in a train at the railway station in Jaroslaw (southeastern Poland), Polish media reported. The missiles were stolen on the morning of the same day from a train traveling from Skarzysko-Kamienna (southern Poland) to Gdansk. "These missiles that were stolen near Lodz [central Poland] did not belong to the [Polish] army. These were missiles that one of the firms engaged in special trade wanted to export abroad," National Defense Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak said.

RUSSIA STEPS UP ATTACKS ON GENERAL KALUGIN... Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Nikolai Patrushev called former KGB officer Oleg Kalugin "a man who broke away with Russia, revealed its state secrets, and inflicted huge damage on this country," ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March. The FSB has asked Kalugin, a former head of the KGB's Foreign Intelligence Division who emigrated to the United States in 1995, to return to Moscow by 28 March. "I find it amazing that the FSB feels it can act in the United States as though it were at home," Kalugin said, adding that he has no intention of complying with the request. "I would not return to Moscow under any circumstances," he said. Since moving to the U.S., Kalugin has published a series of books critical of the KGB, and was a witness at the trial of a U.S. officer accused of spying for Russia. Patrushev evaded questions about whether Russia will ask Washington to extradite Kalugin, who has lived in the U.S. since 1995. "To ask for extraditions is a prerogative of the Prosecutor-General's Office. We will act in accordance with international norms," Patrushev said.

...WANTS TO QUESTION ANOTHER EX-FSB OFFICER... Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former FSB official who recently requested political asylum in Great Britain, will be summoned to Russia for questioning in the near future, Interfax reported on 27 March, citing law enforcement sources. Litvinenko is accused of "abuse of office, forgery, theft, and illegal possession of ammunition." Litvinenko is a close ally of embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who also resides in Great Britain, reported. Litvinenko says his family has been threatened because he knows details about the FSB's involvement in the September 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, reported the same day.

...AND BOTH COULD BE TRIED IN ABSENTIA... Even if they don't return to Russia, both Kalugin and Litvinenko will probably be tried in absentia before 1 July, when a new Criminal Procedures Code takes effect, Interfax reported on 28 March, citing anonymous sources in the Russian Supreme Court. The new code does not allow people to be tried in absentia.

...AS KALUGIN SAYS TREASON CHARGES ARE REVENGE. Kalugin said the Russian security services are trying to take revenge on him for testifying at the trial of U.S. Army Reserve Colonel George Trofimoff, Reuters reported on 27 March. Trofimoff, the highest-ranking American military officer convicted of spying, was sentenced to life in prison last September for selling military secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. "I simply confirmed what had been known already for years. I confirmed that I was his supervisor," Kalugin said, referring to his Soviet-era relationship to Trofimoff. Shortly after his election, President Putin publicly called Kalugin a traitor. In response, Kalugin called Putin a war criminal. "After that's simply unwise to go to Moscow under any circumstances," Kalugin said.

MOSCOW DOUBTS BRITISH SPY CHARGES. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia has not received any official notification from Great Britain regarding the arrest of a man accused of spying for Moscow, Interfax reported on 26 March. Ian Parr, an employee of the defense contractor BAE Systems, was arrested on 22 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 25 March 2002). In February, another BAE Systems employee, Rafael Bravo, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for an attempt to pass on military secrets to Russia. "These are all domestic spy games in Britain," Interfax quoted an unidentified Russian intelligence official as saying on 26 March.

SUPREME COURT REINSTATES MILITARY SECRETS ORDER... Russia's Supreme Court on 27 March overturned a lower court's ruling that invalidated a Defense Ministry order defining military secrets, Russian and international news agencies reported. Human rights activists described the Supreme Court's action as a blow to free speech. The military order contained a secret list of issues that it deemed illegal to disseminate. Rights activists say the order was the basis for a recent spate of espionage cases against journalists, academics, and others who have contact with foreigners. In September, a lower court struck down the order after an appeal from Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired naval captain and environmentalist. Nikitin spent 11 months in prison for co-authoring a report on nuclear pollution by the Russian navy. "Every researcher and in a risk zone because he may violate a secret order without knowing it," AP quoted Nikitin's lawyer Yurii Shmidt as saying.

...MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO CHALLENGE IT. The Supreme Court has declined Nikitin's appeal concerning the classification and transparency of governmental and presidential materials, and ruled that presidential decrees cannot be challenged by citizens in court, Interfax reported on 3 April. The decree in question, No. 763, was published by former President Boris Yeltsin in March 1996 and provided grounds for the publication of classified regulations dealing with state secrets. Over the last several years, many scientists and journalists, including Nikitin, have faced charges of state treason and espionage brought by the FSB after publishing such materials as allowed by the decree (see "Russia: Supreme Court Rulings Bring Hope to Pasko, Others Accused of Treason,", 14 February 2002). It is feared that the Supreme Court's decision will have a negative affect on the cases of military journalist Grigorii Pasko and scientist Igor Sutyagin.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT PUTS MORE LIMITS ON PRESIDENT'S RIGHT TO DISMISS ELECTED LOCAL OFFICIALS. The Constitutional Court upheld on 4 April the law allowing the president to dismiss regional leaders who have violated federal law on more than one occasion, RIA-Novosti reported. The bill was passed in the summer of 2000 as a key part of President Putin's federation reforms (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 May 2000). The court also confirmed the president's right to dismiss regional parliaments if they violate federal laws. At the same time, the judges imposed additional limitations on the president's right. For example, the original law required only one court to rule that federal laws had been violated more than once; now courts of three different jurisdictions including the Constitutional Court must render the decision. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 April, the law applies only to heads of regions elected after 16 October 1999. The presidential representative at the Constitutional Court, Mikhail Matyukov, welcomed the decision by saying that "it will strengthen Russian federalism and constitutional legality."

MOSCOW PROTESTS RFE/RL'S NORTH CAUCASUS BROADCASTS. The Russian Foreign Ministry has handed over an official protest to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in connection with the beginning as of 3 April of RFE/RL broadcasts to the North Caucasus in the Avar, Chechen, and Circassian languages, Russian news agencies reported. Aleksandr Volin, the deputy chief of the Russian presidential staff, told ORT on 3 April that the broadcasts may have a "vegetative effect on the security not only of Russia, but the other countries of the regions, as U.S. officials, due to insufficient language skills, can hardly control the content of the broadcastings that could became a channel for extremist views." However, the beginning of broadcasting, especially in the Avar language, caused "real enthusiastic excitement among the people of Daghestan, among which Avars comprise the biggest ethnic group, Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 April.

DUMA REVOLUTION SWEEPS AWAY COMMUNISTS' STRONGHOLDS... State Duma deputies voted on 3 April to overturn the so-called "package agreement" negotiated two years ago distributing chairmanships of the lower chamber's committees and commissions, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2000). As expected, the Communist Party faction lost control over seven of nine committees, according to ITAR-TASS. The vote was 251 in favor, 136 against, with seven abstentions, according to Interfax. The Communist chairmen of the exempted committees, Viktor Zorkaltsev of the Public and Religious Organizations Committee and Nikolai Gubenko of the Culture and Tourism Committee, announced their resignations. And the Communists' traditional ally, the Agro-Industrial group, gave up its control over the Nationalities Committee, while group leader Nikolai Kharitonov refused to oversee the Women and Youth Affairs Committee, as well as the Duma mandate commission.

...AS LEFTIST PARTIES BECOME 'HARD OPPOSITION'... Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that his party will go into strict opposition to the authorities, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Zyuganov said that from now on, all responsibility for events in Russia will be that of the president, the government, and the Duma majority, according to the bureau. He also said that the Communists and the agrarians will not boycott Duma sessions but will use the Duma as a forum to explain their position. Meanwhile, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a member of the Communist faction, said that he remains in his post but will think about his future, "Izvestiya" reported on 3 April. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, sources in the Communist Party's apparatus said that Seleznev promised to leave his post if the party made such a decision.

...AND MEDIA SHED LIGHT ON THE MOTIVES OF THE PARLIAMENTARY PLOT. commented on 4 April that behind the decision of the presidential administration to topple Communists from the leadership of principal Duma committees stands the secret opinion polls conducted by the government public monitoring services, which allegedly revealed that the popularity of the Communists and their allies is much higher than pro-Putin centrist parties led by Unity. And commented the previous day, "Those who are rejoicing in the fall of the Communists in the Duma and the emergence of 'a pocket Duma' have overlooked an important thing: through this plot Putin's regime has ended power sharing within the Russian government."

RUSSIA, VIETNAM TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov completed a three-day visit to Vietnam with a pledge to boost trade between the two Cold War-era allies, Russian and international news agencies reported on 28 March. Vietnam and Russia hope to increase bilateral trade to between $700 million and $800 million this year, up from $571 million in 2001, Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said. Kasyanov and Phan signed a deal granting Vietnam $100 million for the construction of two hydroelectric power stations in the province of Gia Lai.

PUTIN PUSHES TAX REFORM FOR SMALL BUSINESS. The Russian government will propose a bill simplifying tax payments for small and medium-sized businesses, President Putin said on 28 March. Putin said the government will submit the bill to the State Duma on 10 April, Interfax reported. The law would simplify the tax payments for businesses with 20 employees or fewer, and revenues of less than 10 million rubles ($322,000) a year. Small and medium-sized businesses account for only one-third of all businesses in Russia, and employ 10 percent of the workforce.

RUSSIAN INSPECTORS TO EXAMINE U.S. POULTRY PLANTS. A team of Russian inspectors plans to visit the United States to examine poultry production and transportation facilities and determine if they meet Moscow's health and sanitation standards. David Hegwood, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, made the announcement on 28 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Hegwood said the inspections are part of an agreement between Washington and Moscow to lift a ban on U.S. poultry imports to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 2002). Hegwood said the inspectors will visit the United States sometime in the next week, but Russian officials said the date for the inspections has not been determined.

RUSSIA'S NOISY JETS GET REPRIEVE. The EU has agreed to slightly ease its noise restrictions, allowing some Russian jets to continue landing at European airports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2002), reported on 28 March. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko has been negotiating with European officials over the noise ban, which goes into effect on 1 April. Russia earlier threatened to ban certain European jets from its skies in retaliation for the EU regulations.

U.S. GRANT TO RUSSIA SUSPENDED. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has suspended an $868,000 grant intended to develop Russia's Urengoi gas field, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 March. The grant, given to an international consortium of companies called Itera, was announced in February, and was intended to finance feasibility studies for the Urengoi gas field. It was suspended when the U.S. State Department learned that the field's ownership was under dispute.

SIBERIAN, FAR EAST OFFICIALS REACH OUT TO ASIAN COUNTERPARTS. A delegation from North Korea will visit the cities of Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and Blagoveshchensk from 4 to 12 April at the invitation of presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 2 April. The delegation will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Jo Chang-Dok. Jo will discuss bilateral trade and investment issues with Pulikovskii, as well as future transportation projects. Meanwhile, in Tokyo on 2 April, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met with Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin, who led a delegation of oblast industrialists to Japan, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to Kawaguchi, 20 percent of all Russian exports to Japan come from Irkutsk Oblast. The last time the oblast sent a delegation to Japan was seven years ago.

TRANSNEFT TO INVEST IN SIBERIAN OIL PIPELINE. Speaking at a press conference in Vladivostok on 3 April, Anatolii Bezverkhov, the head of the Strategic Development Department of the major state-run pipeline operator Transneft, said his company plans to invest about $5.2 billion to lay the "Eastern Siberia-Pacific" oil pipeline, reported on 3 April. According to Bezverkhov, the 4,000-kilometer oil pipeline will be designed to bring Russian hydrocarbons to the Pacific coast for export to Southern Asia, where demand for oil is growing by 9 percent annually. The construction of the pipeline will begin in 2004, and its projected turnover is 50 million tons of oil a year, he added.

RUSSIAN MURDER RATE RISES... Murders in Russia increased by 1,740 cases in 2001 over the previous year, RBK reported on 28 March. Anatolii Naumov, a representative of the Criminology and Law Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, announced the statistics at Federation Council hearings the same day. Naumov said the increase in murders is connected to social, economic, political, and moral decline in Russia.

...AS POPULATION TO SHRINK. Russia's population is expected to shrink by 30 percent to 101.9 million people by the end of 2050, the State Statistics Committee said on 28 March, AP reported. The committee also worked out best-case and worst-case scenarios. Under the best-case scenario, the population would only decrease to 122.6 million people by 2050, but under the worst-case scenario it would fall almost 47 percent to 77.2 million people, Interfax reported. The prediction of 101.9 million people by 2050 is considered the most probable outcome, according to the committee.

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE RESUMES INVESTIGATION OF TYUMEN OIL COMPANY. The division of the Prosecutor-General's Office in the Central federal district announced that it is reopening the investigation of alleged fraud during the 1997 privatization of 40 percent of the shares of Tyumen Oil Company controlled by the financial-industrial group Alfa, "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 April. The initial investigation, which focused on several high-ranking Russian officials including former Energy and Fuel Minister Yurii Shafranik, was opened in 2000 by the Interior Ministry, but was closed shortly thereafter due to political pressure from "above," according to the newspaper.

DOES PUTIN MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS? According to a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation, 46 percent of Russians believe that Putin is unable to make decisions by himself and is under the influence of other people, RBK reported on 26 March. Conversely, 43 percent said Putin makes decisions on his own. The survey was conducted from a sample of 1,500 people from 100 cities in 44 Russian regions. The individuals and groups believed to be influencing Putin included the Kremlin administration, the oligarchs, former President Boris Yeltsin's family and cronies, and the law enforcement and security services.