20 August 2002, Volume 3, Number 28
FOREIGN POLICYKREMLIN MUM ON REPORTED IRAQ DEAL... Moscow offered a muted reaction to reports in "The Washington Post" on 17 August and by Reuters on 18 August that Russia is set to sign a $40 billion economic-cooperation package with Iraq, Russian news agencies reported on 19 August. According to the reports, the deal foresees cooperation over the next five years in such areas as oil, irrigation, agriculture, transportation, and electrical energy. Although no senior politicians commented on the reports, deputy chief of the presidential staff Aleksei Volin did say that "all agreements with Iraq are in strict compliance with international sanctions" against Baghdad and are based on "the logic of economic interests," ntvru.com reported. Oleg Buklemishev, economic adviser to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, confirmed to Reuters that Russia is preparing an umbrella economic package with Iraq that comprises 67 agreements.
...AS SKEPTICS DOUBT SUCH PLANS... Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, told Ekho Moskvy radio on 18 August that a far-reaching Russian-Iraqi economic accord is hardly possible for the simple reason that Baghdad "has no money for a deal." In a commentary, "Izvestiya" expressed doubt that Moscow will jeopardize good relations with Washington for the illusory economic benefits of trade with Baghdad. For some time, Baghdad has been trying to protect itself from the United States with a "Russian shield" by promising Moscow repayment of $8 billion in Soviet-era debts, "Izvestiya" wrote. This trick worked in the 1990s, but over the last couple of years, Russian oil producers have come to realize that Iraq is their competitor rather than a partner on world oil markets. Baghdad's reluctance to allow United Nations inspections has begun to irritate Moscow to such a degree that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in the spring refused to meet with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who made a stopover in Moscow after a visit to Beijing, "Izvestiya" added.
...AS SIBNEFT LOOKS TOWARD KUWAIT. Energy Minister Igor Yusufov announced that the state-controlled oil giant Sibneft intends to expand into Kuwait and will take part in a tender for the exploration of some of the country's northern oil fields, Russian news agencies reported on 19 August. Speaking after a meeting of the Russian-Kuwaiti intergovernmental commission on trade and technical cooperation, Yusufov said that Russia is interested in cooperation with Kuwait because the country is a key OPEC member. He added that Russia also would like to attract Kuwaiti investment not only into its energy sector, but also into the automaking, health-care, and tourism sectors.
PUTIN TAKES A SOBER LOOK AT UNION WITH BELARUS... President Vladimir Putin said on 14 August at a Kremlin meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka that "building a united state is a tense process that will not move along without disputes and difficulties," Russian news agencies reported. Hinting at Lukashenka's adherence to a state-controlled economy, Putin also said that the two countries should establish equal market conditions and ensure the rights both of citizens and of enterprises. Furthermore, Putin mentioned that Russia and Belarus have already introduced unified tariffs on railroad transportation and electricity, but that Belarus has failed to take this step concerning Russian transit cargos. Finally, in line with his earlier criticisms of Lukashenka's proposal to build the united state on the basis of the experience of the Soviet Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002), Putin remarked that the two countries will build a "unique state that has no analogue in history."
...AND INVITES BELARUS TO FORM FEDERAL STATE... Speaking at a Moscow press conference following talks with Belarusian Lukashenka, Putin said that Russia and Belarus could create a unified federal state, beginning with a May 2003 referendum in both countries, strana.ru, RIA-Novosti, and other Russian news agencies reported on 15 August. Following the referendum, Putin said, both countries could elect a joint parliament in December 2003, introduce the Russian ruble as the union's single currency as of 1 January 2004, and in March 2004 elect a president of the new state. Putin also stressed that the functioning of the new state's institutions should be in accord with the Russian -- rather than the Belarusian -- Constitution. "This is because Belarus is a unitary state while Russia is a federation, and the new country will also be a federation," Putin noted. "The time is ripe, and the elites and the people of both states are ready for such a march of events."
...AS ANALYST EXPLAINS PUTIN'S TACTICS... Putin added, however, that if the Belarusian leadership is not ready to move so rapidly, unification could be "modeled on the European Union." In that case, the integration process should be taken up by the union's parliament. However, the countries of the EU have similar economies, while Russia and Belarus have very different ones and these differences will create problems, gazeta.ru reported Putin as saying. Andrei Ryabov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, told "Izvestiya" on 14 August that Putin is using Belarus's isolated international and political situation to force Lukashenka to agree to a rigid unification model on Russia's terms. In doing so, Putin instantly transformed himself into the driving force of integration and Lukashenka into the "main dis-integrator," Ryabov continued. He added that if events proceed according to Putin's timeline, it will boost Putin's image during the 2004 Russian presidential campaign by portraying him as a "gatherer of the Slavic lands."
...AND BOTH CENTRISTS AND RIGHTISTS SUPPORT PUTIN'S PROPOSAL ON BELARUS. State Duma Deputy Gennadii Raikov, leader of the centrist People's Deputy faction, said on 15 August that he welcomes President Putin's proposal to accelerate the unification of Russia and Belarus on the basis of the Russian Constitution, polit.ru reported. "This is not an ultimatum, but a business-like offer to which Belarus should give a clear answer," Raikov was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, Deputy Duma Speaker and co-Chairwoman of the Union of Rightist Forces Irina Khakamada said that Putin's proposal does not reflect "imperial ambitions, but a path for the democratic development of the Russia-Belarus Union." "Moscow is giving Belarus a chance to get away from the path of Lukashenka, and if Belarus ignores the offer, Russia should refuse to play along with pretending to move closer," Khakamada said. However, a senior member of the Communist Party, Duma Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov, said that the United States and Germany pushed Putin to make such a proposal to Lukashenka. "The West does not like the fact that Russia has privatized 82 percent of its state property, but Belarus [has privatized] only 7 percent and that Lukashenka maintains collective farms and soviets," Lukyanov said.
RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS HOLD TALKS. Prime Minister Kasyanov met in Moscow on 16 August with Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh to discuss a number of bilateral issues, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Kasyanov reportedly asked Kinakh to prepare Ukraine's conditions for joining the Eurasian Economic Commonwealth. He also presented Kinakh with Russia's vision for a joint natural-gas consortium that eventually will include Germany as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002), AP reported. The two prime ministers expressed hope that the concept can be finalized in time for a Ukrainian-Russian summit scheduled for 7 October in Moldova on the sidelines of the CIS summit. Kasyanov also urged Kinakh to adopt an agreement on Soviet-era property abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2002). According to AP, Kasyanov said that Ukrainian ratification of the so-called "zero option" agreement is "fundamental" for Russia.
ENVOY BARGAINS WITH LITHUANIA OVER KALININGRAD. President Putin's special envoy on Kaliningrad, Dmitrii Rogozin, told journalists after his visit to the region and his talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on 11-13 August that he traveled to Kaliningrad by car in order to gain a better understanding of the exclave's problems, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported on 14 August. Rogozin also said that Russia may attempt to block Lithuania's entry into the European Union by not ratifying a bilateral accord on border delineation. Such a measure would make it impossible for Vilnius to comply with a European Union requirement that members have no outstanding border disputes. Rogozin added, however, that he hopes that Lithuania will agree to a compromise that will allow Russians free access to Kaliningrad.
RUSSIA DENIES VISA TO DALAI LAMA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov said that Moscow has decided "to refrain at this stage from hosting a visit of the Dalai Lama to Russia's Buddhist regions of Tuva, Buryatia, and Kalmykia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2002) because of the political nature of the visit, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 16 August. Apn.ru reported on 16 August that the visit was cancelled at the initiative of the Defense Ministry and its head, Sergei Ivanov, who was reportedly warned by his Chinese counterparts that it could jeopardize Chinese arms contracts to Russia worth $3 billion. Meanwhile, a group of Russian Buddhists organized a demonstration near the Foreign Ministry. About 30 demonstrators participated and police detained a number of them. A spokesman for the demonstrators said that similar protests were held in Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva, RosBalt reported. A spokesman for the Russian Buddhists, Jampa Timpley, said on NTV that the Foreign Ministry similarly refused to admit the Dalai Lama on 17 August 2001.
RUSSIA TO HELP EUROPE RECOVER FROM FLOODING. Despite being struck itself by devastating floods this summer, Russia is sending equipment and experts to Germany and the Czech Republic to assist in recovery efforts from flooding there, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 19 August. The Emergency Situations Ministry will send 15 trucks loaded with water pumps to Germany, as well as a special mobile laboratory that is used to test the stability of flood-damaged buildings, Interfax reported. A team of Russian transportation experts has been dispatched to Prague to assist in repairing the Czech capital's damaged subway system, AP reported. "The question of assistance to other European countries is being considered," said Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.
MILITARYPUTIN PROMISES SUPPORT TO SUKHOI. President Vladimir Putin on 16 August visited Sukhoi, the biggest Russian military aircraft corporation, Russian news agencies reported. Putin said that aviation equipment composes 50 percent of Russian arms exports and that 45 percent of that equipment is produced by Sukhoi. The president also discussed the progress of the firm's fifth-generation Su-37 Berkut fighter. Putin noted that the Russian aviation industry, which employs more than 500,000 people, has good export prospects not only for military aircraft, but for civilian aircraft as well.
MOSCOW TO PAY DEBTS TO SOUTH KOREA WITH WEAPONS. Moscow and Seoul have reached an agreement to partially repay Soviet debts to South Korea with supplies of Russian heavy military equipment, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 August. The deal includes helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and ships worth $1.95 billion. Russia is also ready to transfer to South Korea advanced military know-how and is already training Korean submarine-building specialists in St. Petersburg. Seoul is interested in Russian weaponry in part because rival North Korea's military is equipped with Russian hardware, albeit obsolete.
NORTH KOREA'S KIM IN FAR EAST. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has begun his visit to Russia's Far East, Russian news agencies reported on 20 August. Kim's first stop is Komsomolsk-na-Amure, where he will tour the Amur Shipbuilding Plant and a local military aircraft factory. He will then visit Khabarovsk. According to Reuters, Kim will meet with President Putin in Vladivostok on 24 August.
U.S., RUSSIAN DEFENSE CHIEFS PREPARE FOR MEETING. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov held telephone consultations on 15 August with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in which they discussed preparations for a September meeting of the two countries' national-security chiefs, AP and other news agencies reported. The two agreed that the meeting in Washington will focus on security guarantees, arms proliferation, and the international war against terrorism. The Consultative Group for Strategic Security, which includes the two defense chiefs, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, was set up during the U.S.-Russia summit in Moscow in May.
BLACK SEA FLEET CANCELS MEDITERRANEAN EXERCISES. The commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, announced that his ships will not conduct planned exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, which were to have included visits to ports in France and Italy, because of a lack of fuel, Russian news agencies reported on 15 August. Komoedov said that he received this order from Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov. However, Komoedov added that to the best of his knowledge, the fleet has been fully supplied with fuel. Earlier this year, the Russian media reported on the alleged animosity between Kuroedov and Komoedov and wrote that Kuroedov was seeking to dismiss Komoedov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002).
SECURITY SERVICESFSB SEEKS NOVOSIBIRSK CAR BOMBER. The Novosibirsk territorial directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has appealed to the public for assistance in locating the person who left a homemade car bomb in a vehicle in the center of the city on 10 August, RIA-Novosti reported on 20 August. Speaking on local television, FSB spokesman Stanislav Chekalin showed a police identikit likeness of a male suspect who is accused of leaving the remote-controlled explosive near a 12-floor apartment building. Law-enforcement agents discovered the bomb and neutralized it. Chekalin added that investigators are still seeking to establish whether the incident is connected to organized crime or to terrorism.
FSB CHARGES FBI WITH HACKING. The Federal Security Service has opened a case against FBI Special Agent Michael Schuler, who investigated two accused Russian hackers arrested in the United States in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2001), "The Moscow Times" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 16 August. The two Russians from Chelyabinsk, Vasilii Gorshakov and Aleksei Ivanov, were indicted by the FBI for breaking into the computer systems of American banks and stealing credit-card numbers. The case against Schuler was initiated by the territorial FSB directorate in Chelyabinsk and charges that Schuler illegally accessed Russian Internet servers to gather evidence against Gorshakov and Ivanov. The two were eventually lured to the United States and arrested. According to the FSB public-relations center, the case is "a matter of principle." "If FBI agents used hackers' methods against hackers, they might also use them on other occasions."
CRIME AND PUNISHMENTGOVERNMENT HANDS GAMBLING BUSINESS TO SPORTS COMMITTEE... Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a directive according to which all rights to license gambling businesses and bookmaking companies will come under the control of the State Sports Committee, gazeta.ru reported on 20 August. The directive says that revenues obtained should be directed to the development of national sports and physical education. Kasyanov's decision is a bureaucratic victory for the State Sports Committee, which has long lobbied for the measure. However, analysts have speculated that the association of the committee with the gambling sector might lead to the further criminalization of the sports sector, which is already regarded as one of the most criminalized sectors of the economy and a source for recruiting personnel for organized crime.
...AND READY TO LIBERALIZE PRECIOUS-METALS AND DIAMOND MARKETS. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has announced that the government intends to deregulate the diamond-export market and plans to transform the state-owned diamond monopoly Alrosa into a public company, gazeta.ru reported on 19 August. Speaking in the diamond-producing region of Sakha (Yakutia), Kudrin said that soon the government will publish new export quotas for Alrosa that will reduce its dependence on global diamond giant DeBeers. Similarly, the government wants to liberalize the export of precious metals and, as a first step, is preparing to declassify data about state reserves and the recovery volume of precious metals.
DUMA DEPUTY CLAIMS LEGISLATORS FALLING PREY TO CRIMINAL GROUPS... Boris Reznik, a member of the State Duma Committee for Combating Corruption, said that criminal groups have successfully lobbied parliament to pass a number of laws by bribing deputies, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 15 August. Reznik added that this practice has been stopped on only a few occasions, such as the bill that proposed cutting value-added tax (VAT) on rough diamonds, which was passed by the Duma in its first two readings in 2000. The anticorruption committee determined that cutting VAT on such a highly liquid commodity like diamonds made no economic sense, thus leading to the conclusion that those deputies who voted for the bill were likely bribed to do so. Only when the committee announced the link between this bill and spreading corruption was it blocked in its third reading.
...AND THAT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TURNING BLIND EYE TO CORRUPTION. In the same interview, Reznik said that when he first began working for the anticorruption committee, he was horrified by the volumes of evidence regarding corruption and abuse of office among members of the Russian government. Reznik said that the committee has repeatedly submitted this evidence to Prime Minister Kasyanov, but no action has been taken. Reznik added that corruption has become so widespread that even the investigation of corruption has been corrupted. He said that he was once approached by a high-ranking law-enforcement officer who said he had the numbers of foreign bank accounts owned by corrupt officials, but when Reznik asked to see the information, the officer demanded that he pay for it.
POLITICAL ECONOMYRUSSIAN HOLDING VENTURES INTO EUROPEAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET. "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 August and "Ekspert" No. 29 reported that Antel Holding, Ltd., a member of the Menatep financial group, which is controlled by Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovskii, has purchased one of Central Europe's largest telecommunications groups, KPNQwest Ebone Central Europe, B.V., which operates in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia under the brand name GTS, or Global TeleSystems. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Antel paid only 36.5 million euros ($35.7 million) for the group, while its previous owner, KPNQwest, which is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, paid 645 million euros. Antel chief executive Aleksandr Kabanovskii told journalists that while Menatep already has among its assets Russian fiber-optic-telecommunications operators Mokomnet, Metrokom, and Raskom, this will be its first venture in the European telecommunications market.
LABOR MINISTER TO SEEK QUOTAS FOR FOREIGN LABOR. Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said his ministry will call for the introduction of quotas for foreign workers in order to regulate the labor market, the news weekly "Itogi," No. 33, reported. Such measures can help protect the sectors of the labor market that Russia would like to preserve for domestic workers and correct the situation in sectors experiencing labor shortages, Pochinok said, noting that Russia has a shortage of manual labor. The minister also said that Bangladesh's ambassador to Russia has proposed organizing the migration of 2 million Bangladeshis to Moscow to work as laborers. "Bangladeshis are excellent workers. They do not drink, smoke, or use drugs, and they are cheaper than Turkish workers," Pochinok said. He noted, however, that 2 million is too many for Moscow alone. "We should look to other regions where they might go, as we are interested not only in having them come, but also in making sure they return home in a timely manner," he said.
PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHES CONSIDERATION OF 2003 BUDGET. Prime Minister Kasyanov opened a government discussion of the draft 2003 budget on 14 August by stating that future budgets might not show surpluses, strana.ru reported the next day. He said that, although surpluses are currently needed to help the country cope with its foreign debts, "as soon as we pass through this phase...we might need to reduce taxes to allow the private sector to finance expenditures that the state cannot handle effectively." He also noted that the government and the Central Bank have agreed on the draft budget for next year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002) and urged the Duma to adopt it. Kasyanov said that one of the government's top priorities for 2003 is to reduce inflation to about 9 percent, AP reported. He said that he expects inflation in 2002 to be about 14 percent. The government concluded its consideration of the draft budget on 15 August and adopted it.
OFFICIAL: RUSSIA FACES FIVE-YEAR DELAY ON WTO MEMBERSHIP. Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister and Russia's envoy to the World Trade Organization Maksim Medvedev said in a 16 August interview with "Gazeta" that if Russia does not enter the WTO next year, its accession will likely be delayed until at least 2007. "In 2004, there will be a new Duma and presidential elections in Russia and the United States. The negotiating resources of our partners will be overtaxed because 2004 will see the conclusion of the global round of WTO negotiations," Medvedev said. He added that it would take Russia at least a year to bring its legislation into accord with the new WTO standards and only after that can accession talks begin again. Even if the talks go smoothly, he concluded, Russia could enter the WTO only in January 2007.
RUSSIA MARKS 10 YEARS OF A MARKET ECONOMY. Russia marked the 10th anniversary of the privatization voucher on 14 August, Russian news agencies reported the next day. On 14 August 1992, then-President Boris Yeltsin signed the order endorsing the plan proposed by then-State Property Committee head Anatolii Chubais. Under the program, all 144 million Russians received vouchers with a nominal value of 10,000 rubles (about $40) to invest in state-owned enterprises. According to rtr-vesti.ru, about 25 million Russians invested in investment funds and about 40 million invested directly in enterprises, often in the ones where they worked. The remainder sold their vouchers for cash. The program resulted in a massive -- and often corrupt -- privatization process and the emergence of the oligarchs. By 1995, the number of private enterprises in Russia exceeded the number of state enterprises, and the private sector accounted for about 70 percent of Russia's GDP, according to RTR. According to "The Moscow Times," Chubais invested his voucher in the First Voucher Investment Fund, from which he continues to receive an annual dividend of about $1.50.
RUSSIA PLANS TO IMPROVE CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY. Federal Security Commission head Igor Kostikov has said that Russia, following the example of the United States, will increase the responsibility of executives managing publicly traded companies, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 14 August. Early in its fall session, the State Duma is expected to approve a new law on the equities market that will improve the fiscal responsibility of Russian companies and help bring them into line with international standards. The next step, Kostikov added, will be the country's complete transition in 2004 to international accounting standards.
POLITICAL ECONOMYREAL FOREIGN INVESTMENT DECREASING. Despite optimistic reports by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, real investment in the Russian economy is not increasing, but declining, according to this month's data from the State Statistics Committee, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 August. According to the figures, total foreign investment in the first half of the year increased by 25 percent over the same period in 2001, but 60 percent of this sum (over $6 billion) comprises credits from foreign banks. At the same time, capital investment -- the basic indicator of trust in the national economy -- fell by slightly more than 25 percent to $1.87 billion. Portfolio foreign investment decreased by 16.7 percent to $199 million.
TRENDS AND IDEASELEVEN YEARS ON, RUSSIANS PONDER THE COUP. More than half of respondents to a recent survey were unable or unwilling to say with which side of the 1991 attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev they sympathized at the time, lenta.ru reported on 19 August. This week marks the 11th anniversary of the ill-fated coup attempt. According to the national survey conducted by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), 41 percent of respondents said that they were unable "to make sense of the situation" at the time and another 25 percent declined to answer the question. Sixteen percent said that they sympathized with the coup plotters, and 18 percent said that they supported Gorbachev and those who opposed the coup. In Moscow on 19 August, about 500 people gathered near the White House to mark the anniversary. On 20 August, a memorial for the three people killed during the anticoup protests will be held.
ON ANNIVERSARY OF FINANCIAL CRISIS, PUBLIC FEARS A REPETITION... Four years after the August 1998 financial crisis, Russians continue to believe that the hard times are not necessarily in the past, RosBalt reported on 18 August. According to a national VTsIOM survey, 46 percent of respondents believe that a similar crisis could happen again within the next year, while 33 percent said that history will not repeat itself. The survey also found that when the crisis hit on 17 August 1998, 49 percent of the population had no savings at all, 28 percent had some savings in banks, and 11 percent kept their savings in cash. Of those who had savings, 58 percent lost everything, 16 percent received "a small amount of compensation," 5 percent got about half of their savings back, and 11 percent had the majority of their savings returned to them.
...AS GOVERNMENT CERTAIN THAT RECOVERY IS COMPLETE. Finance Minister Kudrin said that economic indicators for the first half of 2002 give every reason to believe that the post-1998 recovery has been completed, RTR reported on 19 August. Kudrin noted that the country's gold and hard-currency reserves stand at more than $42.3 billion, a record for the last 10 years. He also pointed to the relatively stable dollar-ruble exchange rate and Russia's success in coping with its foreign debt. Deputy chief of the presidential administration Volin told RTR that personal savings have grown by nearly 51 percent, reaching $7 billion. He added that the crisis marked the end of the "speculative economy" and that over the last four years, business engaged primarily in investment in the real economy.
FAR EAST LEGISLATORS CALL FOR EXTENDING PUTIN'S TERM. The legislature of Magadan Oblast on 19 August sent a nonbinding resolution to the State Duma urging the national legislature to begin the process of extending the presidential term of office from four years to seven, ntvru.com reported. In order to do so, it would be necessary to amend Article 81 of the Russian Constitution. The Magadan initiative was framed as support for President Putin. "Today, aside from the current president, Vladimir Putin, there is no one capable of uniting all the positive forces in the country," the resolution reads. "Considering the current situation, we believe that the four-year term of President Vladimir Putin is too brief to solidify the positive results and make the further development of the country irreversible." Putin's popularity rating continues to hover at around 70 percent.
NATIONALIST LEADER WANTS TO HELP RUSSIANS RETURN HOME. Deputy Duma speaker and head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovskii, on a tour of the United States, urged Russians living in America to return home, strana.ru and RIA-Novosti reported on 19 August. Speaking in Boston, Zhirinovskii said that the Russian-speaking community forms "America's elite." "I've understood from my meetings with the diaspora that young people would like to return, but many are put off by the process for returning, getting the documents," Zhirinovskii was quoted as saying. "We intend to help them and to facilitate the work of emigre associations." Zhirinovskii then traveled to New York, where he intends to meet with UN officials to discuss Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.