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Security Watch: August 13, 2002

13 August 2002, Volume 3, Number 27
PUTIN, KUCHMA EXTEND ENERGY COOPERATION AND PERSONAL FRIENDSHIP... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Moscow on 8 August for talks with President Vladimir Putin about implementing the Russian-German-Ukrainian agreement on forming a consortium for transporting Russian natural gas to Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002), Russian and Western news agencies reported. State-run ORT television and the daily "Izvestiya" both stressed Kuchma's policy of closer ties with Russia and noted in this context that Kuchma will also discuss the participation of Russian capital in the privatization of Ukraine's energy infrastructure, as well as the coordination of the two countries' economic polices in order to accede to the World Trade Organization. Russian media also mentioned Kuchma's desire to make Ukraine a full member of the Eurasian Economic Commonwealth (EEC), the trade alliance created by Moscow, and the fact that Kuchma arrived in Moscow with his wife, Lyudmila, on the eve of his 64th birthday, which he was to celebrate with Putin.

...AND SAY TRADE DISPUTE IS SETTLED... President Putin announced after the talks that he is grateful to Kuchma for quickly responding to his invitation to come to Moscow and resolve recent trade tensions, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 9 August. Relations have been strained since Russia introduced restrictions on imports of Ukrainian pipes earlier this month and Ukraine retaliated with barriers against 19 categories of Russian goods, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin announced that during the latest meetings, he and Kuchma decided to lift most of the new restrictions. He also said that he will sign a final accord on joint Russian-German-Ukrainian cooperation in natural-gas transportation at the CIS summit in Chisinau in October. The two presidents continued their talks on 9 August at Putin's residence outside Moscow.

...WHILE OTHERS DISAGREE. Despite the optimistic declarations, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August that Putin and Kuchma failed to end the trade war. Although the barriers against Ukrainian pipes and Russia goods were lifted, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, who took part in the talks, said that Ukraine has not agreed to lift a 30 percent duty on Russian-made automobiles, which is a sharp blow to Russian automakers. The BBC commented on 8 August that Kuchma's desire for closer links with Moscow conflicts with Ukraine's improving relations with the European Union. Kuchma is now faced with the choice of complying with EU economic standards or moving toward a closer economic partnership with Russia.

DEFENSE MINISTER IVANOV TAKES CHARGE OF CASPIAN MILITARY EXERCISES... Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was to direct personally the second stage of the Russian military exercises on Caspian Sea, the country's biggest maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002), RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported on 8 August. RIA-Novosti's report stressed the participation of a special task group that was created to cope with damage to seabed pipelines. It said the overall purpose of the exercise is to secure the region's oil production and transportation facilities.

...AND OFFICIALS STRESS RUSSIA'S PRESENCE IN CASPIAN REGION. Speaking in Astrakhan at a 9 August joint press conference with Astrakhan Oblast Governor Anatolii Guzhvin, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, and Caspian Fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Masorgin, Ivanov said that the exercises are designed to test the combat readiness of the Caspian Fleet, Russian news agencies reported. Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, commander of the Federal Border Guards Service, said the exercises demonstrate Moscow's determination to face up to the challenges of terrorism and poaching in the region. "We have no aggressive intentions here but are positioning ourselves as the guarantor of security. Russia's presence there is recognized and respected by all the states in the region," Totskii said.

DEFENSE MINISTER URGES PERMANENT MILITARY CONTINGENT ON CASPIAN... Sergei Ivanov, supervising a major military exercise on the Caspian Sea, said on 10 August in Kaspiisk that Moscow might create a permanent military group in the region because of "real" threats to its national security, and other Russian news agencies reported on 10 August. In Ivanov's opinion, units from Kazakhstan could form part of this regional military group. Admiral Muhammad Abrakhim Dakhkani, the Iranian military observer at the exercises, told RIA-Novosti on 10 August that his country will likely participate in the next such exercises.

...AND OPENS DUAL-USE FERRY WITH TURKMENISTAN. On 10 August, Defense Minister Ivanov took part in a ceremony inaugurating a new ferry service across the Caspian Sea between Makhachkala, Daghestan, and Turkenbashi, Turkmenistan, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 August. The ferry will have both military and civil functions. In times of military need, each ferry will be capable of carrying up to 60 pieces of military hardware and 200 troops. In peacetime, the ferry will transport Turkmen oil and liquid gas directly to Russia, circumventing Georgia and Azerbaijan. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been no direct ferry communication between Russia and Turkmenistan across the Caspian.

WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES WITH GEORGIA. Speaking in Kaspiisk on 10 August, Defense Minister Ivanov again argued that the threat posed by Chechen fighters ensconced in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge can only be dealt with by the use of military force, Caucasus Press reported. "They should be either extradited to the organs of [Russian] justice or their corpses should be presented for identification," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. Ivanov on 11 August visited Ingushetia to inspect a military regiment, the first Russian army unit to be deployed in the republic on a permanent basis, reported RIA-Novosti. "The task of the regiment is to react to the slightest attempt by terrorist[s] to penetrate Georgia," Ivanov said.

CHARGES FILED AGAINST SUTYAGIN. The Federal Security Service (FSB) has issued the final version of its charges against Igor Sutyagin, a scholar at the Moscow-based U.S.A. and Canada Institute, Interfax reported on 6 August, citing Sutyagin lawyer Vladimir Vasiltsov. According to Vasiltsov, the essence of the charges against Sutyagin remains unchanged, and he is charged with "high treason in the form of espionage for the United States." The charges were sent to him last week. According to on 6 August, the team investigating Sutyagin's case has been partially replaced following a Kaluga court's decision in December to send Sutyagin's case back for further investigation. Sutyagin has been held in prison without trial since 27 October 1999 and was recently unexpectedly transferred to Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, according to the site.

RUSSIA SAYS 'NO THANKS' TO PEACE CORPS. Moscow intends to reduce the number of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers working in Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported on 13 August. According to "Kommersant-Daily," 30 of 64 volunteers currently working in Russia have been refused visa extensions, in many cases because regional authorities complained about their lack of qualifications. According to "The Moscow Times" on 13 August, the Peace Corps has responded by deciding not to send an additional group of volunteers that had been scheduled to arrive in Russia in September. According to, the administration of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast sent a letter to the Education Ministry complaining that "volunteers do not know Russian and, in many cases, have little education." The site claimed that the Peace Corps acknowledges that about 90 percent of volunteers have no experience or certification for teaching -- the main activity in which the Peace Corps is engaged in Russia. Ekho Moskvy reported that "waiters and truckers" were teaching business in Khabarovsk and one volunteer in Voronezh was "more interested in UFOs than working with his students." "Kommersant-Daily" reported that one volunteer was a former officer of the CIA and another was arrested in Khabarovsk for being "overly curious."

RUSSIA MARKS SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF 'KURSK' DISASTER. Across Russia on 12 August, the country marked the second anniversary of the catastrophic sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine on 12 August 2000, which left 118 men dead, Russian news agencies reported. At the northern port of Vidyaevo, homeport of the "Kursk," relatives and other mourners lit candles and dropped flowers into the sea, dpa reported. In Moscow, a sculpture titled "The Mourning Sailor" was unveiled near the Central Military Museum. Another monument was also unveiled in Nizhnii Novgorod, which lost five local sailors in the accident. In St. Petersburg, where 32 "Kursk" crewmembers are buried, a competition is being held to design a monument as well.

RUSSIA, NATO BEGIN 'OPEN SKIES' PROGRAM. The Defense Ministry announced that a group of Russian military inspectors aboard an An-30 reconnaissance aircraft will begin monitoring military installations in several NATO countries between 5 and 10 August under the framework of the Open Skies Treaty, Russian news agencies reported on 7 August. The treaty has been signed by all NATO members, the East European members of the former Warsaw Pact, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. Although it was signed in 1992, it only came into force this year and envisages the visual inspection of military facilities of the former antagonists in the Cold War. The Defense Ministry added that the German Air Force will make similar overflights of Russia later this month.

INTERIOR MINISTRY ARRESTS MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY POSED AS POLICE GENERAL. Officers of the Internal Security Directorate of the Interior Ministry (MVD) have arrested a man who allegedly extorted money from businessmen by posing as an MVD general and a Hero of Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August. According to the police, Aleksei Sharokhvostov moved from Kazakhstan to Moscow in 2000, where he purchased at a market a complete general's uniform with a genuine Hero of Russia medal that belonged to a veteran of the fighting in Chechnya. Then, posing as an MVD general, he allegedly took bribes from businessmen in exchange for promising to help them settle various matters. Police are now investigating the origin of Sharokhvostov's armored Mercedes, which is reportedly so heavy that an MVD tow truck was unable to remove it.

OPEC SECRETARY SEEKS COMPROMISE ON QUOTAS, PRICES. OPEC Secretary-General Alvaro Calderon arrived in Moscow on 6 August for talks with Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Calderon said he wants to minimize the current disagreements over the volume of Russia's oil exports and the ideal global market price for oil, RTR reported. Calderon told journalists that while OPEC believes that oil should cost $22-28 a barrel, Russia prefers a lower range of $20-25. However, Calderon has hinted that he believes compromise is possible, as both sides are united in their desire to stabilize prices.

RUSSIA SHOWS INTEREST IN DEVELOPING STRATEGIC PIPELINE IN AFGHANISTAN... Experts from several Russian energy companies, including Itera and Rosneft, arrived in Kabul to investigate Russia's possible participation in the construction of a planned trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline that should stretch from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). Meanwhile, Rosneft's representative in Kabul, Zakir Kadyrov, said his company is already operating in Afghanistan.

...AND AFRICAN COUNTRIES. Yukos, Slavneft, and other Russian firms have shown active interest in developing the energy infrastructures of some oil-rich African countries, the August edition of the electronic version of "World Energy Policy" magazine reported ( Slavneft hopes to invest up to $200 million in Sudan's oil sector, and Stroitransgaz is building a $79 million pipeline in Algeria. Stroitransgaz is also looking at energy projects in Mozambique and Ethiopia, according to the report. Meanwhile, Yukos is in negotiations with Libya and South Africa, while Tatneft is developing an oil project in Egypt.

PUTIN VETOES BANKRUPTCY LAW. President Vladimir Putin on 6 August vetoed a federal bill on bankruptcy, Russian news agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, Putin said the law needed to be fundamentally reworked because it is inconsistent with other federal laws. For example, the current version established only three kinds of priority creditors, while the Civil Code lists five. The law was approved by the State Duma in its final reading on 1 July and was adopted by the Federation Council on 10 July.

SENIOR OFFICIAL TO HEAD ENERGY SUBSIDIARY. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko was named chairman of the board of directors of Systems Operator-Central Dispatch Control of Unified Energy System (SO-TsDU EES) at the first meeting of the board on 6 August, reported the next day. EES head Anatolii Chubais was elected deputy chairman. SO-TsDU EES was formed in June as a wholly owned subsidiary of the state-controlled EES. "Creating a strict vertical structure for dispatching will ensure the reliable work of EES, which is an issue of primary importance for the government," Khristenko was quoted as saying.

RUSSIA TO INTRODUCE NEW CERTIFICATION, QUOTAS ON U.S. POULTRY. Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev announced that as of 15 September his agency will require new certificates for importing U.S. poultry that will correspond to "Russian sanitary norms," reported on 8 August. Gordeev added that he has informed the United States about this decision and his ministry is now briefing U.S. producers on how to comply with Russian standards. He also said that Russia intends to introduce quotas on poultry imports from all countries in order to support domestic producers.

MEDIA MINISTRY GOES AFTER ANOTHER NATIONALIST NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE. The Media Ministry on 8 August issued a warning to the Novosibirsk newspaper "Russkaya Sibir" in connection to two articles that it published this spring, and other Russian news agencies reported. The ministry judged that the articles inflamed ethnic tensions, which is a violation of Article 4 of the mass-media law. After a second warning, the ministry may ask a court to revoke a publication's registration. Meanwhile, a municipal court in Moscow granted a Media Ministry request to close down the nationalist magazine "Russkii khozyain." The magazine's deputy editor, Andrei Semiletnikov, has been charged with inciting racially motivated violence at a market in Yasenevo on 21 April 2001. The latest moves come in the wake of ministry efforts to close down the nationalist papers "Limonka" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002) and "Russkie vedomosti."

HACKERS STRIKE AT SATELLITE TV COMPANY. The NTV-Plus satellite television company has lost as much as $300,000 to computer hackers in Ivanovo who learned how to create false smart cards, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Genuine smart cards are produced in France and were developed for the banking industry. They had been believed to be 100 percent secure until false ones began appearing at markets in Ivanovo, Moscow, Vladimir, Kostroma, and Nizhnii Novgorod. According to the report, which cited local Interior Ministry sources, an unspecified number of hackers have been arrested and a criminal case against them is being developed.

SENIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL DISMISSES LEGALIZATION OF PROSTITUTION. A senior Interior Ministry (MVD) official on 8 August sharply denounced efforts by some Duma deputies to legalize prostitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2002), reported the next day. Anatolii Polyakov, head of the eighth section of the MVD's criminal manhunt department, said, "If we legalize prostitution, yet one more monster will arise with which it will be very difficult for us to struggle." He said that, far from legalizing prostitution, the country needs stronger laws against organizing and engaging in the practice. One of the co-authors of the bill that would legalize prostitution, Andrei Vulf (Union of Rightist Forces), responded to the remarks by saying, "We support the struggle against prostitution through its legalization." Vulf's views might run into obstacles at the Kremlin. In one of his meetings with Russian feminists in 2000, President Putin energetically rejected a remark that in Germany, a role model country for him, the prostitution is legalized. "Yes, but most women working in the German brothels are not German," said Putin. "So, we will wait until the Russian living standard will be higher."

THE DEATH OF POLITICAL SATIRE? Making fun of the authorities seems to be going out of style, according to a long feature in "Izvestiya" on 5 August. "In the West, there is another culture in which comedians make fun of everyone and everything. Here we only make fun of those who aren't dangerous," Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov was quoted as saying. The paper noted that the satirical program "Kukly," which was wildly popular during the era of former President Boris Yeltsin, has "turned into a bedtime story for grownups." "Practicing satire today is a joke," said comedian Vladimir Vinokurov. "I can't make myself beat the downtrodden communists. Everything that can be stolen has already been stolen. What is there to joke about."