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Security Watch: June 4, 2002

4 June 2002, Volume 3, Number 20
PUTIN LASHES OUT AT EU LEADERS OVER KALININGRAD... At the 29 May opening of the ninth EU-Russia summit in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin was harshly critical of the EU's rejection of all Russia's proposals regarding visa-free travel for Russians traveling to and from Kaliningrad Oblast after the exclave is surrounded by EU member states, Russian news agencies reported. "I will put it even more sharply: They are trying to impose upon us an absolutely unacceptable solution," Putin told the EU delegation, which included European Commission (EC) President Romano Prodi, EU foreign and security policy commissioner Javier Solana, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Putin noted that residents of Kaliningrad would have to ask foreign countries for permission to visit their relatives living in other parts of Russia. "Today, when the funeral of the Cold War has already taken place, such a return to old positions is absolutely incomprehensible," Putin said.

...AS EU HAS ITS REASONS TO RESTRICT TRAVEL... Prodi, though, told dpa before the summit opened that the EU will be as flexible as possible on the Kaliningrad issue, but that there will be no unrestricted travel for Russians through Poland and Lithuania after they accede to the EU. The BBC's Russian service reported on 28 May that the EU is primarily concerned about the threat of organized crime and drug traffickers from Kaliningrad. Last year, about 10 million Russian and Belarusian citizens visited Poland under the current visa-free regime, the BBC said. Meanwhile, RTR reported on 29 May that hard-liners are urging Putin to combine Kaliningrad Oblast and Leningrad Oblast into a single subject of the federation, virtually transforming the Baltic States into an enclave of the new entity.

...SO KALININGRAD CONUNDRUM REMAINS UNSOLVED. The EU-Russia summit in Moscow ended on 29 May with a joint declaration in which the two sides acknowledged that they failed to find a compromise regarding the Kaliningrad problem and agreed only to further talks, Russian and Western news agencies reported. During the talks, President Putin referred to the Kaliningrad question as a defining issue in EU-Russian relations, while EC President Prodi said the problem can be resolved only "without causing damage to the security of either party."

EU PROMISES TO UPGRADE STATUS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMY... The joint declaration of 29 May also includes an EU commitment to recognize Russia as a full-fledged market economy within the next three months and to modify EU trade rules to reflect this new status, Western and Russian news agencies reported. The decision is a significant step toward Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), since the WTO only accepts countries with this status. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told RIA-Novosti that the granting of such status does not mean the automatic cancellation of antidumping measures, but it should simplify the process of investigating antidumping disputes. Putin stressed the practical importance of the measure. "There are 14 antidumping measures against Russian products in Europe and 100 worldwide. They have caused a $1.5 billion loss to the Russian economy," Putin said, according to Interfax. Some observers had expected the United States to grant Russia market-economy status prior to U.S. President George W. Bush's May trip to Russia, but the U.S. Commerce Department announced that it will not make the decision until next June (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 29 May 2002).

...AS RUSSIA, EU SPLIT ON ENERGY TARIFFS... Prodi also told journalists that energy issues were a main topic of the summit talks, dpa and other Western news agencies reported on 29 May. The EU believes that Russian domestic fuel prices should be increased and that domestic fuel subsidies are hampering Russia's effort to develop a full-fledged market economy, Prodi said. Lifting energy subsidies is necessary to gain EU consent to Russia's rapid accession to the WTO, noted on 29 May. However, "We do not even want to discuss bringing domestic tariffs for electricity and gas to international levels," the deputy head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Igor Yurgens, told the website. Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov added that Russia will not eliminate the price differences because the government considers them not a subsidy but a "natural advantage" vis-a-vis competitors. And former Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits, currently deputy head of Russian Aluminum (RusAl), told "Izvestiya" on 29 May that "energy in Russia will always be cheaper regardless of who regulates prices by virtue of advantages provided by nature."

...BUT SIGN A HOST OF OTHER DOCUMENTS. Russian and EU representatives also signed documents stressing cooperation on the crisis in the Middle East, the India-Pakistan conflict, and other regional conflicts, as well as on global energy issues. The two sides called on Pakistan to cease cross-border attacks in Kashmir. "Aware that terrorism is the common enemy of us all, we hope that both governments will make efforts to avoid a spiral of confrontation of unpredictable consequences," the statement said.

DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS WITH CHINESE LEADERSHIP... Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov arrived in Beijing on 31 May for two days of talks with Chinese military officials, Western and Russian news agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, Ivanov met first with Chairman Jiang Zemin and the two discussed the emerging strategic partnership between the two countries. Specifically, the two discussed regional security and cooperation in combating international terrorism, separatism, religious extremism, and organized crime. Ivanov is also expected to inform the Chinese leadership about the results of the recent U.S.-Russia and Russia-NATO summits and to discuss the impact of the impending U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. On 1 June, Ivanov will hold talks with Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian.

...FURTHERS MILITARY TRADE, COOPERATION... Defense Minister Ivanov completed a three-day visit in Beijing during which he hold talks with Chinese counterpart Chi Haotian and also met with Chairman Jiang Zemin. Jiang and Ivanov discussed the recent U.S.-Russia and Russia-NATO summits, regional security, and cooperation in combating international terrorism, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 2 June. Ivanov also signed several documents expanding bilateral military ties, pledging the supply of new Russian weapons to China, and training Chinese officers in Russian military academies, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 2 June. China is the leading purchaser of Russian arms, spending about $1 billion per year and accounting for up to 40 percent of Russia's annual arms exports, Interfax reported on 1 June. Arms account for about 20 percent of the trade between the two countries. On 3 May, the state arms-export agency, Rosoboroneksport, signed a $1.5 billion deal to supply China with eight Project 636 submarines equipped with Club missile systems, Interfax added.

...AND STRESSES STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF BILATERAL TIES... Ivanov told journalists in Beijing on 1 June that his talks in China touched on not only military and security matters, but geopolitics and economics as well, ORT and ITAR-TASS reported the next day. "It is quite clear that China is our privileged strategic partner in Asia, and Russian politicians who stress Russia's orientation toward the West are mistaken," Ivanov said. "Russia is pursuing a multi-vector policy aimed at strengthening security and stability, first of all with its neighbors."

PUTIN PUTS RELATIONS WITH CHINA ON A HIGHER LEVEL THAN THOSE WITH THE UNITED STATES... In an exclusive 30 May interview for Chinese media, President Putin said Russia's recent strengthening of ties to the United States and NATO "does not mean that we are neglecting relations with China," RTR and reported on 30 May. "[Last year] we signed a friendship treaty with China on the initiative of our friend Jiang Zemin, and that means that our relations with China are by nature higher than those with the United States," Putin said. He added that he is pleased that Jiang will attend this month's Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia, and said that "we still ought to improve our relations and fill the treaty with specific content."

...WHILE NEWSPAPER SAYS ALIENATION BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BEIJING IS GROWING. It is certainly possible to dispute Putin's statement that relations with China are a higher priority than relations with the United States, as both Moscow and Beijing have tilted increasingly toward Washington over the last year, editorialized on 30 May. The newspaper noted that Chinese media hardly paid any attention to the Sino-Russian friendship treaty compared to the euphoria exhibited when China was admitted -- with U.S. support -- to the WTO. Moreover, Chinese state planning organs view Russia alongside Eastern Europe and Latin America as just one of several new markets to be exploited. At the same time, the paper wrote, Moscow's policy is increasingly designed to satisfy the U.S.

ZHIRINOVSKY SUGGESTS RETURNING KURILE ISLANDS TO JAPAN... Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the deputy Duma speaker and head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) told journalists in Moscow on 31 May that Russia should return to Japan the disputed Kurile Islands in exchange for "big investments in the Russian economy," Russian news agencies reported on 31 May. Speaking before an official trip to Tokyo, Zhirinovsky claimed that Japan has about $100 billion worth of free capital that "can work on the Russian market," and that he will discuss his proposal and other options for resolving the Kurile problem with senior officials in the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Zhirinovsky's remarks are noteworthy because he often launches trial balloons prior to foreign-policy shifts. For example, in December he signaled important changes in Russia's policy toward the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 17 December 2001).

PUTIN SEEKS TO MEDIATE INDIA-PAKISTAN CONFLICT... Russia criticized Islamabad on 3 June for late-May missile tests, even as the Kremlin continues its efforts to mediate the current crisis, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "Against the background of the conflict, Pakistan's testing of [nuclear-capable] rockets was a provocative gesture," Defense Minister Ivanov said, according to Interfax. Ivanov, who was visiting China over the weekend, said "both Moscow and Beijing will undoubtedly play an especially important role" in resolving the crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf arrived in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for a regional security conference. President Putin is expected to hold separate talks at the conference with Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, but a face-to-face meeting between the two is considered unlikely.

...TO REPEAT SOVIET EXPERIENCE ON RECONCILIATION BETWEEN INDIA AND PAKISTAN... Meanwhile, a former translator for the Soviet leadership, Viktor Sulhodrev, noted that Russia has experience with successful mediation between India and Pakistan reported on 2 June: In January 1966, the Kremlin invited to Tashkent then-leaders of India Lal Bakhadur Shastri and Ayub Khan, and Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin had to shuttle between the residences of two politicians, who did not speak each other for two weeks until they signed a reconciliation document. Putin would have a tough time repeating the success of Kosygin, as Russia has neither the influence nor the weight it had in Kosygin's time, "Novye izvestiya" opined on 31 May.

...AS MOSCOW SAYS THERE WILL BE NO EMBARGO ON ARMS TO INDIA. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said on 30 May that Russia does not intend to impose an embargo on supplying military equipment to India, RIA-Novosti reported. He said an embargo could not change the situation significantly since India's military capacity greatly exceeds that of Pakistan. Instead, Losyukov urged the international community to continue pressuring both sides to refrain from escalating regional tensions. The Foreign Ministry announced on 1 June that it will not follow the lead of the United Nations and some Western countries by evacuating its personnel from Pakistan.

MARGELOV ASKS U.S. CONGRESS TO END JACKSON-VANIK RESTRICTIONS. The chairman of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs, Mikhail Margelov, sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, in which he called on the United States to lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment, RIA-Novosti reported on 31 May. Margelov called the measure "a relic of the Cold War" and added that lifting the restrictions would enhance "confidence and cooperation between our countries." He added that the continued enforcement of the amendment is impeding the functioning of the U.S. Senate-Federation Council Group, a body that coordinates contacts between the two upper houses and of which both Biden and Margelov are members.

...AS OFFICIAL QUESTIONS U.S.-RUSSIAN BERING SEA BORDER AGREEMENT. Yevgenii Nazdratenko, head of the State Fisheries Committee, called on local leaders in the Far East to pressure Moscow to reject a 1990 agreement with the United States that demarcates the U.S.-Russian border in the Bering Sea, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 31 May. Nazdratenko said the agreement, which has not yet been ratified by the State Duma although the United States considers it legally valid, unfairly gives the United States fishing rights over 50,000 square kilometers of waters that should belong to Russia. He noted that depleted fish stocks in Russian waters left hundreds of Far-Eastern fishing boats idle this year. Nazdratenko called on local leaders to push for a discussion of the agreement in the next session of the Duma.

LEADERS DISCUSS CONTINUING INTEGRATION WITHIN CIS. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Belarusian Prime Minister Henadz Navitski met in Moscow on 30 May to discuss the next steps in the economic integration of the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders laid out a detailed agenda for the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Russia-Belarus Union, scheduled for early June. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met in Moscow with Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau within the framework of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko. The ministers discussed the developing integration processes within the CIS and created a plan of interaction between the two foreign ministries for the remainder of the year.

LUKOIL MAKES BIG MOVE INTO CYPRUS OIL AND GAS. Vagit Alekperov, president of the Russian petrochemical giant LUKoil, said in Moscow on 28 May that his company has won a government tender to develop a network of gas stations in Cyprus and now controls over 25 percent of the island's oil market, Prime-TASS reported. Alekperov also said that LUKoil plans further expansion in the Cyprus oil market, including in the areas of oil storage and transportation. Finally, he reported that his company already owns 23 percent of the Greek state oil firm Hellenic Petroleum and has major shares of the oil markets in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland and Bulgaria. LUKoil also owns 1,500 gas stations in the United States.

PRESIDENT URGES TIGHTER FEDERAL CONTROL OVER STATE REVENUES. President Putin sent his annual budget message (see to the State Duma on 2 June, Russian news agencies reported. In the message, Putin proposes introducing rigid central controls over regional finances in order to build a new "centripetal" Russia, "Izvestiya" wrote on 3 June. The paper argues that Putin is seeking to radically curtail regional financial independence. In his message, Putin also calls for more precise definitions of the regions' areas of financial responsibility and for removing the burden of local community services from the federal budget. Previously, attention was devoted to delineating mechanisms for distributing budgetary resources; now, Putin said, the main goal should be precisely determining local and national budgetary obligations. Putin also called for adopting a three-year budget rather than the current annual budget, saying that such a move would result in improved financial planning, "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 June.

WTO MEMBERSHIP SAID TO BE IN COUNTRY'S NATIONAL INTEREST. Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said on 2 June that accession to the WTO is important for Russia's national security, ITAR-TASS reported. Rushailo noted that within the framework of the WTO, "countries agree virtually all the main questions connected with the regime of international trade in goods and services" and "it would be wrong to stand aloof from processes of hammering out such decisions," according to the news agency. He added that some countries are trying to impose demands of "a political nature," adding, "Naturally, Russia cannot accept such conditions." Rushailo said that membership will be advantageous to Russia because it "will help to end discrimination against Russian goods...and will also increase the export of ready-made goods."

MOSCOW COURT TO REVIEW APPEAL OF CONVICTED U.S. SPY. A Moscow Oblast court will hear the appeal of Viktor Kalyadin, the head of an electronics company who was sentenced in October to 15 years in prison for espionage for the United States, Kalyadin's lawyer, Ludmila Trunova, told RIA-Novosti on 30 May. She also said that since he was imprisoned, Kalyadin has undergone heart surgery once and urgently needs another operation. Kalyadin was convicted of divulging state secrets and handing over top-secret military information to U.S. intelligence agents.

FSB INTERCEPTS DEADLY TOXIN BEFORE IT REACHES TERRORISTS. Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives arrested a security officer at a facility decommissioning old nuclear submarines after he and several accomplices tried to sell approximately 5 kilograms of thallium, an extremely dangerous toxic metal, reported on 30 May. The thallium, which was removed from the submarines' oxygen-generating equipment as part of the decommissioning, is so toxic that just 0.0004 milligrams of it in a cubic meter of air is considered an environmental hazard. Therefore, the amount of thallium seized in this operation would have been enough to poison the entire population of Moscow, the website noted. The investigation is still under way and most of the details have not been released, but it is known that Al-Qaeda terrorists studied the use of numerous deadly toxins, including thallium.

RUSSIAN ISLAMIC LEADER ASKS PUTIN TO PURGE COUNTRY OF WAHHABISM... Speaking at a roundtable in Moscow on the theme of "Islam Against Terrorism" on 29 May, the Ufa-based chairman of Russia's Central Muslim Religious Board, Talgat Tadzhuddin, and about 20 other Islamic leaders from a number of regions across Russia adopted an appeal to President Putin asking him to step up the struggle against international terrorism, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Tadzhuddin said that supporters of Wahhabism -- which he called "pseudo-Islamic provocateurs" -- "represent a threat to any type of government" since they do not recognize any other response but violence toward nonbelievers. According to Interfax, Tadzhuddin implied that it was Wahhabites who helped finance the terrorist attack on the Daghestani city of Kaspiisk on 9 May that left 43 dead.

...AS POLITICAL ENEMIES CHARGED WITH 'WAHHABISM.' In an interview the previous day with "Gazeta," Tadzhuddin claimed that Wahhabism is "being spread in an almost open manner in Tatarstan." For example, according to Tadzhuddin, the Bolgar mosque in Kazan was stormed in October by dozens of extremists shouting "Allah akbar!" According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, one of Tadzhuddin's close supporters, Ferit Salman, the former head of the Bolgar mosque, was removed from his position by Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board in 2000 for opposing the board and urging it to submit to Tadzhuddin's centrally based Muslim board. In interviews with the Russian press, Salman has accused the Tatarstan board of having ties with foreign, extremist Muslim organizations.

JUSTICE MINISTER CONDEMNS ANTI-SEMITIC EXPLOSION... Justice Minister Yurii Chaika called the 27 May explosion of an anti-Semitic booby trap near Moscow that cost a young woman an eye (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 May 2002) an "extremist act that must be severely punished," Russian news agencies reported on 28 May. Chaika also called on the State Duma to immediately adopt a law on extremism. The Israeli Embassy in Moscow expressed its "indignation at the anti-Semitic incident" and said that it hopes the Russian authorities will make every effort to identify and punish the perpetrators. The embassy added that it will monitor the investigation closely.

...AND JEWISH COMMUNITY DEMANDS RESIGNATION AT INTERIOR MINISTRY. Moscow's Jewish community and the Russian Jewish Congress (REK) are demanding that Gryzlov dismiss Interior Ministry (MVD) Colonel Nikolai Vagin for trying "to justify or downplay the activity of extremists and anti-Semites," Russian news agencies reported on 30 May. Vagin told "Izvestiya" on 29 May that the booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign that severely injured Tatyana Sapunova on 27 May does not fit into the category of "incitement of national hatred." Vagin said the slogan "Death to yids" that figured on the sign "applies to everyone, not only to Jews." REK Chairman Yevgenii Sanatovskii and the chief rabbi of Russia, Adolf Shaevich, said in a statement that Vagin's statement is no less outrageous than the explosion itself.

MUSCOVITE KILLED BY BOOBY-TRAPPED MOBILE PHONE. A woman was killed on 1 June when an explosive device concealed in a mobile phone went off as she attempted to turn the phone on, Russian news agencies reported the same day. Olga Trishina died while her husband, Aleksandr, who told authorities that he found the phone at a Moscow subway station, was injured in the incident. A police spokesman said the explosive device was similar to booby traps used by the warring sides in Chechnya, reported.

MILITARY CHIEF SAYS ARMY IN CRITICAL CONDITION. Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin said on 30 May that the situation in the Russian Army is worse than critical and that if emergency measures are not taken "the declining level of its combat readiness may became irreversible," Russian news agencies reported. Speaking at a conference in Moscow, Kvashnin also stated that the military "is riddled by embezzlement and plunder, while among the officer corps a spirit of permissiveness prevails." He said that to correct the situation "one should raise salaries for officers to make them double the country's average wage, otherwise in three to five years we will have no officers corps at all." Kvashnin said these issues would be discussed at a special meeting of the Security Council on 31 May.

PUTIN CONSIDERS CRIME A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE COUNTRY... Speaking at a Kremlin meeting devoted to combating organized crime, President Putin told law-enforcement representatives that "crime in the country continues to increase at an alarming rate," RTR and RIA-Novosti reported on 31 May. The situation is very bad, and, despite all efforts, there has been no perceptible change, Putin said. In the first quarter of the year, crime increased in 28 subjects of the federation, Putin noted, adding that in Moscow and Pskov Oblast, crime rose by 90 percent. "All this means that crime remains a serious threat to the [national security of the] country and citizens are overwhelmed by insecurity over their own safety," Putin concluded.

...AND SUGGESTS REMEDIES. Putin suggested that law-enforcement agencies take active measures to get rid of those "who turn their service into a form of business," RIA-Novosti reported on 31 May. He also suggested that regularly rotating personnel both in Moscow and the regions would help combat corruption by disrupting longstanding ties between officers and other interests. This practice, known as "rotation of cadres," was a standard anticorruption practice of the Soviet-era KGB.

FSB GENERAL TAKES CHARGE OF RTR'S REGIONAL RELATIONS. FSB Lieutenant General Aleksandr Zdanovich, who formerly served as the service's chief spokesman, was appointed as deputy director of the VGTRK state broadcasting company, which runs the national television channel RTR, Russian news agencies reported on 3 June. Zdanovich is a KGB veteran who joined the Soviet secret police in 1972. From 1995 to 1999, he worked as the head of the FSB Public Relations Center and since then has been chief of a newly created entity called the Directorate of FSB Programs Promotion. As VGTRK deputy director, Zdanovich will be in charge of resolving conflicts between RTR's many regional subdivisions and local authorities, reported. RTR's editorial content is controlled by the federal government and the views expressed on its programs frequently clash with the opinions and policies of local officials. speculated that the "unusual" appointment was made because "soon there will be a series of regional gubernatorial elections, in connection with which the heads of VGTRK subdivisions might come under pressure from regional heads."

NEW OWNER TO REPLACE ALL 'OBSHCHAYA GAZETA' JOURNALISTS. "Obshchaya gazeta" Deputy Editor Vitalii Yaroshevskii told journalists in Moscow on 30 May that publication of the weekly newspaper will be suspended until the fall and that, in the interim, the entire editorial staff will be replaced. Yaroshevskii also revealed that the paper's founder, Yegor Yakovlev, sold it to Vyacheslav Leibman, who owns an oil-export company and has personal ties to the family of St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. Leibman told "Ekho Moskvy" on 30 May that he intends to make the paper more "fashionable" and to strengthen its editorial staff by bringing on journalists from "Kommersant-Daily" and "Versiya." Since its creation in August 1991, "Obshchaya gazeta" has been one of the country's most respected liberal publications, featuring critical examinations of the Kremlin's Chechnya and human rights policies. Until now, the paper was one of the few national media outlets not controlled either by the state or by one of the oligarchs.

UPPER CHAMBER SPEAKER CALLS FOR NEW MEDIA LAW. Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, speaking to journalists in Moscow on 30 May, called for an overhaul of the country's law on the mass media, Russian news agencies reported. According to RosBalt, Mironov said, "The current law does not reflect the realities of the times," noting that it was adopted in 1991. He said the "economic and political situation" in the country has changed since then and that "the law should be neither harsh nor permissive."

'MISS UNIVERSE' TO REMAIN AT INTERIOR MINISTRY. Oksana Fedorova, a 24-year-old Interior Ministry senior lieutenant from St. Petersburg, won the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico on 29 May, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 30 May. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov congratulated Fedorova, saying her success proved that "Russia's police force is not only the most reliable in the world but also the most beautiful," RIA-Novosti reported. Gryzlov also said he is pleased that Fedorova will remain with the force despite her new prominence and announced that she will be promoted to captain.