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Security Watch: May 15, 2002

15 May 2002, Volume 3, Number 17
VICTORY DAY BOMB ROCKS CASPIAN PORT CITY. Forty-two people were killed, including 13 children, and roughly 150 wounded on 9 May when a powerful explosion ripped through a Victory Day military parade in the city of Kaspiisk in Daghestan, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The Caspian Sea port city is home to a brigade of Russian marines, and most of the victims of the explosion were servicemen, including members of a military band, according to Ekho Moskvy,, and The blast was caused by a landmine that was detonated by remote control, according to AP. President Vladimir Putin immediately held an emergency meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and the chiefs of the security agencies. At that meeting, Putin appointed the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Nikolai Patrushev, to head the investigation. It was the second major terrorist act in Kaspiisk in recent memory: in November 1996, 68 Russian Border Guard troops and members of their families died as the result of an apartment-building explosion.

...AS PUTIN CALLS FOR UNITY AGAINST TERRORISM� President Putin, referring to the Kaspiisk tragedy during his remarks to a Victory Day parade on Red Square in Moscow on 9 May, stated that "this crime was committed by scum, for whom nothing is sacred. And we have every right to deal with them just as we dealt with the Nazis, whose only goal was to bring death, to sow fear, and to murder," according to Putin called on the former members of anti-Hitler coalition to unite against the common threat of international terrorism. Referring to the gathered veterans of the war, Putin noted that they "did not wait for salvation from outside" and that their greatest legacy to the current generation is "unity and dignity." As in the USSR, Victory Day was celebrated across Russia with military parades and fireworks.

CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE CONDEMNS BOMBING... In a 10 May statement posted on, Akhmed Zakaev, who is Chechen deputy prime minister and President Aslan Maskhadov's personal representative, condemned the organizers and perpetrators of the explosion that ripped through Kaspiisk the previous day. Zakaev expressed condolences in the name of the Chechen government. Referring to media speculation that Chechens were responsible for the blast, Zakaev stressed that Maskhadov has issued instructions to his men not to engage in military operations in neighboring North Caucasus republics. He added that the Chechen side condemns any military action directed against the civilian population. Daghestan's State Council declared 10 May a day of mourning.

...AS RUSSIAN ENVOY SAYS IT IS TOO EARLY TO LAY BLAME ON CHECHENS. Russian presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev traveled to Kaspiisk on 9 May in the wake of the bomb explosion, as did Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev and Daghestan State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, Russian agencies reported. Kazantsev said on his arrival in Makhachkala that those who planned and carried out the bombing "are not humans. They are beasts," ITAR-TASS reported. But Kazantsev added that it is premature to assume that the perpetrators were Chechens. Magomedov discussed the disaster in a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin on 9 May. On 10 May, ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed Daghestan security service officials as saying that the detachment of field commander Rapani Khalilov may be responsible for the bombing. Khalilov, who was born in Daghestan, reportedly participated in the incursion into Daghestan in August-September 1999 masterminded in defiance of Maskhadov by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. The news agency also quoted Patrushev as saying that several people were detained in connection with the explosion, although he declined to provide any information about them.

FORMER KGB COUNTERINTELLIGENCE CHIEF CALLS FOR SEALING OFF CAUCASUS. A former chief of the KGB Third Main Directorate for Military Counterintelligence, Aleksandr Zhardetskii, called the explosion in Kaspiisk a demonstration of the "strength and range of Chechen fighters despite the death of [notorious field commander] Khattab" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 April 2002), reported on 9 May. Admiral Zhardetskii added that in his opinion "everything that is happening in all the North Caucasus originates from Moscow," saying he would advise President Putin to "carefully purge his apparatus." Furthermore, he also would advise Putin to "to seal off the Caucasus from bordering foreign territories, especially Georgia and Azerbaijan."

POWELL CONFIDENT TREATY ON STRATEGIC-ARMS CUTS WILL BE SIGNED AT SUMMIT... Speaking on Vladimir Posner's political talk show "Times" on ORT on 12 May, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed confidence that an accord on deep cuts in strategic nuclear arsenals would be signed at the Russia-U.S. summit in Moscow and St. Petersburg later this month. Powell also said that the accord should reflect the new relations between the two countries, which are now "friends and partners, not enemies." He added that, as far as U.S.-Russian policy goes, the Russian Foreign and Defense ministries probably have fewer policy differences with one another than the U.S. State Department has with the Pentagon. But he emphasized that different approaches toward Russia are part of the democratic process and that they help President George W. Bush to determine his political course.

...AS IGOR IVANOV NOT SURE ABOUT FORM OF BILATERAL ACCORD... Also appearing on Posner's "Times" talk show, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the two countries have yet to agree on whether the pending U.S.-Russian accord will take the form of a treaty or an agreement. "If it is a treaty, it would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature for ratification. If it is an agreement, only a simply majority [will be needed]. Taking into account the importance of the problem, we prefer a treaty," Ivanov said.

...AND DENIES NUCLEAR-TESTING REPORT. Ivanov also rejected an 11 May report in "The New York Times" that cited U.S. intelligence sources who claimed that Russia is planning to resume nuclear testing at the Novaya Zemlya test ground. "Such statements are unfounded," he said, adding that the Russian government intends to ask the U.S. administration to look into the source of the report. He said that unfortunately "such reports are often groundlessly repeated" in congressional committees.

RUMYANTSEV TO PRESENT NUCLEAR COOPERATION PROPOSAL... Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev arrived in Washington on 6 May for a week-long series of meetings with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and other officials. He was expected to present them with a proposal for cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Western and Russian news agencies reported. "We want an agreement that will provide a durable foundation for cooperation," the news agency quoted Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Yurii Bespalko as saying. Bespalko also told AP that Russia's ongoing program of nuclear cooperation with Iran was to be a "major subject" of Rumyantsev's talks. "The Americans are always talking about Iran. There are many issues we want to clarify," Bespalko said, according to AP.

...AS BOTH SIDES CREATE JOINT GROUP TO FIGHT NUCLEAR TERRORISM. Abraham and Rumyantsev announced at a joint press conference in Washington on 9 May that they agreed to tighten the security of radioactive material and to create a joint group to combat nuclear terrorism, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to the men, the group will create a registry of potential sources of fissile materials that might enable terrorists to make so-called "dirty" nuclear weapons. Such weapons do not have the explosive yield of other nuclear weapons but are designed to maximize the spread of dangerous radiation and can be made from more easily obtainable materials. The potential sources of material for such weapons could include medical equipment using radioactive isotopes and compact nuclear electrical-power generators, Reuters reported.

MOSCOW RESUMES SUPPLIES OF URANIUM TO U.S.... Russia has resumed supplies of low-grade uranium recovered from decommissioned nuclear warheads to the United States, according to Atomic Energy Minister Rumyantsev, the Agency of Military News and Finmarket reported on 8 May. The uranium, which will be reprocessed for use as fuel in nuclear-power plants, is part of a 20-year contract under which Russia will supply the U.S. with 500 tons of processed, weapons-grade uranium in exchange for $500 million. At the end of January 2001, Moscow suspended supplies in a dispute over U.S. efforts to reduce the price of the overvalued uranium. However, Russia has since reached agreement with Washington and the deliveries have been resumed.

...AND LAUNCHES BOEING-MADE COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE... The press office of the Russian Space Defense Forces announced that it successfully launched on 8 May the U.S. telecommunications satellite "Direc-TV," which is designed to render digital-television signals for North America, RIA-Novosti reported on 8 May. The satellite, which was made by Boeing, has 48 transponders and should serve at least 15 years.

...YET IGOR IVANOV WORRIES ABOUT AMERICA'S GLOBAL ROLE. Speaking at Stanford University, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 6 May that Russia is striving to establish new relations with NATO and that such relations "will be an important element of the system of comprehensive security throughout the Euro-Atlantic space," RIA-Novosti reported on 7 May. Ivanov also said, however, that Russia is concerned by U.S. claims to "absolute leadership in the world [based on its] constantly growing military potential." He said that the "formation of a one-dimensional world order does not have historical prospects."

FOREIGN MINISTERS INITIAL NEW NATO-RUSSIA COUNCIL AGREEMENT... The foreign ministers of Russia and the 19 NATO member states approved in Reykjavik, Iceland on 14 May an agreement on the creation of a new NATO-Russia Council that will reflect the formal partnership between the two sides, Western and Russian news agencies reported the same day. Speaking after the signing, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the new council should be granted full legal status at the NATO-Russia summit in Rome on 28 May. The new council will function on the basis of consensus within a limited range of issues including the fight against terrorism; the nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; missile defense; peacekeeping; and managing regional crises, and reported. The agreement does not give Russia any voice in matters beyond this fixed range of topics, nor does it give NATO any say in matters concerning Russia's national security.

...AS FOREIGN, DEFENSE MINISTERS LAUD THE AGREEMENT. In his comments on the agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said it would be wrong to try to figure out who will benefit most from the accord, "as it is beneficial to all sides," reported on 15 May. Ivanov also noted "the new council heralds a new step in the development in accord with the realities of the post-Cold War era," but he added that Russia has not withdrawn its objection to NATO's expansion plans. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the new agreement is a recognition of reality and will serve to enhance Russian national security, and reported on 14 May.

RUSSIAN CHIEF OF STAFF NEGOTIATES WITH NATO IN BRUSSELS. Chief of Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin arrived in Brussels on 7 May for talks within the framework of the standing Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council about the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 7 May. Kvashnin also was to discuss with top NATO military officials the opening of a NATO communications mission in Moscow at the end of this month, as well as a reduction of Russia's military presence in Bosnia and Kosova.

RUSSIA TAKES UP KALININGRAD VISA ISSUE WITH EU DIRECTLY. Speaking in Vilnius on 3 May, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov spoke against the introduction of a visa regime for residents of Kaliningrad Oblast to travel to Lithuania, Interfax reported. Earlier, the Lithuanian government said that from mid-2003 it will have to stop granting Kaliningrad residents the right to visa-free travel because of the country's impending membership in the European Union. According to Gusarov, Moscow has sent to Brussels some specific suggestions for resolving this problem, and it still waiting for a reply. "This question depends on the political will of the leadership of the European Union," Gusarov declared.

'SOLIDARITY' DELEGATION LEAVES FOR IRAQ. A delegation comprised of members of both chambers of the legislature, representatives of many Russian regions, and others arrived in Baghdad on 6 May to attend a 7-9 May conference on solidarity, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The conference has been held annually since 1999, and this year its slogan is: "The blockage and aggression against Iraq is a problem for the whole world." It is viewed as significant because the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are expected to begin discussion of a new draft resolution on Iraq that will introduce changes to the oil-for-food program.

DEFENSE MINISTRY ON THE HUNT FOR YOUNG OFFICERS. The Defense Ministry is preparing a raft of new measures directed at bolstering the armed foes, reported on 9 May. According to the website, military officials are planning to increase the term of service for graduates of military academies from five to 10 years. In addition, the ministry is considering the possibility of concluding five-year contracts with students of the civilian higher-education institutions that have military departments. Military officials believe that these measures would help resolve the problem of providing the armed foes with enough younger officers.

SECRET SERVICES SUPREME COURT REINSTATES MILITARY-SECRETS ORDER... In a decision that was harshly criticized by free-speech advocates, the appeals board of the Supreme Court on 7 May reinstated a military-secrets order that had served as the basis for the espionage conviction of journalist Grigorii Pasko, Russian and Western news agencies reported the same day. In February, the court's military collegium overturned the 1996 Defense Ministry order in response to an appeal from Pasko, who is serving a four-year prison term in Vladivostok. On 7 May, the appeals board also rejected a Defense Ministry appeal of a February ruling that a 1990 order forbidding service personnel from having contacts with foreigners while off duty was illegal. Civil-society advocates had hoped that the previous ruling on the military-secrets order might lead to the release of Pasko, researcher Igor Sutyagin, and others charged with espionage. "This is a bad day for freedom of speech and of law," said Pasko's lawyer, Yurii Shmidt, according to AP. "The court came under intense pressure from the Defense Ministry and the FSB [Federal Security Service]. They got what they wanted."

...AS AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO HOLD SCIENTIST ACCUSED OF ESPIONAGE... The press office of the Kaluga Territorial Federal Security Service (FSB) Directorate announced on 7 May that the Prosecutor-General's Office has extended until 30 June the term for preparing a case against Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin, who is charged with treason for allegedly spying for the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 Mah, and 3 and 23 April 2002), Russian news agencies reported the same day. Sutyagin, who was a researcher with the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada and who was arrested in October 1999, denies the accusations and maintains that all his contacts with foreigners were professional in nature and that he only exchanged openly available information with his colleagues.

...AND FSB COUNTERINTELLIGENCE WARNS ABOUT FOREIGN-INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITY. In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 7 May, FSB Deputy Director Colonel General Oleg Syromolotov said that the FSB's Counterintelligence Department performs the same tasks as its predecessors, the KRO of OGPU and the KGB's Second Main Directorate. However, he denied frequent public accusations that his service initiated a "spy-mania" campaign, saying that Russia remains a priority target for the intelligence services "of the majority of foreign countries." He said that their activities in Russia have become "more aggressive, conspiratorial, and sophisticated." He also said that because of his agency's efforts, the special services of Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia have lost valuable informants in Russia. He also complained that many Russian officials themselves initiate contacts with foreign secret services and that, over the last two years, the FSB has exposed 11 such persons.

THIEF EXPOSES YAWNING SECURITY GAPS AT NUCLEAR-SUBMARINE BASE. The case of a thief in the northern city of Severodvinsk has raised serious questions about security at two of the country's most important defense contractors, reported on 10 May. According to the website, a local court in October sentenced 24-year-old Andrei Vekshin to three and a half years in prison for breaking into the top secret Severomorskii Mashinostroitelnyi Zavod (Sevmash) and the Zvezda nuclear submarine shipyard and stealing computer equipment. During the court hearings, it was revealed that Vekshin managed to penetrate the maximum-security perimeters of both defense contractors repeatedly since 1996. He was never caught but eventually surrendered himself to the authorities, reported. According to the website, officials at the facilities do not believe that Vekshin was a spy or that he was connected with any terrorist groups.

CRIME PROBLEM CONTINUES TO WORSEN. More than 38 million Russians suffered as a result of crimes last year, according to Presidential Ombudsman for Human Rights Oleg Mironov, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. Mironov said that more than 150,000 people had been killed or seriously injured as a result of criminal activity and that the problem continues to get worse with each passing year. Mironov said that he believes that Russian citizens are "not protected against terrorist acts and crimes," despite the fact that "the Interior Ministry is now larger than the Defense Ministry."

PUTIN AGAIN DEMANDS UPWARD REVISION OF ECONOMIC GROWTH RATE. At a government meeting on 6 May, President Putin once again demanded that the cabinet revise upward its projected rate of economic growth, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Referring to his repeated criticism of the government's economic-development plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 April 2002), Putin said: "I have been asking this for a month already, but I still have not seen new figures." Putin also noted that many officials, including Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, were absent because of Easter vacations. He added that he will speak with Kasyanov and Kudrin about the matter soon.

RUSSIAN ENERGY GIANTS MAKE LIST OF 500 LARGEST GLOBAL COMPANIES. Four Russian energy companies have been included in the "Financial Times" list of the 500 largest global corporations, "Vremya novostei" reported on 13 May. Yukos, with a total capitalization of $18.7 billion, was the highest-ranking Russian company in 227th place. Gazprom ranked 250th, while Surgutneftgaz came in 344th and LUKoil came in 362nd. The newspaper noted that the appearance of the Russian companies on the prestigious list can be attributed to the relative reduction in capitalization of leading transnationals because of the downturn in the global economy and the relatively rapid growth of the Russian energy companies. Meanwhile, the magazine "Kommersant-Dengi" will publish its lists of the world's largest companies, Europe's largest companies, and Eastern Europe's largest companies on 15 May, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 May.

JAPAN SAYS ANTI-POACHING MEASURES SHOWING RESULTS. Japan's recent efforts to cut down on the number of Russian fishing boats smuggling crab and other seafood into Japanese ports have led to significant reductions in poaching, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May, citing Japan's fisheries department. According to the department's statistics, 271 Russian fishing boats entered the seven ports of Japan's Hokkaido Island in April, which is just 40 percent of last year's total. Of those, 45 were found to have false documentation. However, the department reported that many of the ships that were allowed to unload in Japan were later found to have false customs declarations. Of the 37 declarations checked, only three proved to be authentic, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency also noted that the year's quotas for crab have been used up and all further deliveries will be considered contraband.