Accessibility links

Breaking News

Security Watch: September 12, 2002

12 September 2002, Volume 3, Number 31
PUTIN TELEPHONES BUSH ON 11 SEPTEMBER ANNIVERSARY... President Vladimir Putin on 10 September interrupted his vacation in Sochi to telephone U.S. President George W. Bush on the occasion of the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin expressed his "sympathy and support for the American people" and reaffirmed his "personal solidarity and devotion to continuing the common fight against international terrorism," according to presidential Press Secretary Aleksei Gromov. Bush recalled that Putin was the first foreign leader to telephone him after last year's attack.

...AS MEDIA, POLITICIANS REFLECT ON EVENTS... All Russia's national television channels marked the 11 September anniversary with special programming and extended newscasts. RTR reminded viewers that 96 Russian citizens were among the victims of the New York attacks. State Duma Deputy and Deputy Chairman of the Union of Rightist Forces Boris Nadezhdin said that the significance of 11 September for Russia is that its leadership has reoriented its policies toward partnership with the West and active participation in the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition, reported on 11 September. Fatherland-All Russia official Konstantin Kosachev praised the Russian leadership for improving relations with the United States over the last year. However, he criticized the Bush administration for "irritating more and more countries because it is led by tactical, rather than strategic, interests" and "presenting the interests of that country as if they were the world's interests."

...AND MILITARY BEGINS ANTITERRORISM EXERCISES. The Defense Ministry announced on 11 September that it has begun exercises aimed at preventing and coping with aircraft hijackings, Interfax reported. According to Air Force Commander Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov, who is leading the drills, more than 30 airplanes and helicopters will participate in the exercise, together with units of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Emergency Situations Ministry. The exercise includes training in promptly informing the public about unauthorized flights and rehearsing measures to track and intercept such flights. Meanwhile, Moscow police reported that they have bolstered security around the U.S. Embassy, RIA-Novosti reported.

U.S., RUSSIA CONTINUE TALKS ABOUT IRAQ, IRAN... U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton arrived in Moscow on 10 September for talks with his Russian counterpart Georgii Mamedov within the framework of the U.S.-Russian working group on strategic stability, Western and Russian news services reported. It is expected that Bolton will again emphasize U.S. concerns about Russia's program of long-term trade with Iraq and its nuclear cooperation with Iran. In connection with this, Bolton will meet with Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev and Rosaviakosmos chief Yurii Koptev, AP reported.

...AS OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA WILL CONTINUE TIES WITH IRAN, IRAQ, AND NORTH KOREA... First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov told "Vremya novostei" on 11 September that, although Russia wholeheartedly supports U.S. antiterrorism efforts, "being in one coalition does not mean that all countries must be reduced to servile obedience." Trubnikov said that Russia has not been convinced by Washington that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein presents a threat and that Moscow would object to any U.S. military action against Baghdad. Trubnikov, who is a former chief of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), called Iran "an active and useful member of the antiterrorism coalition" and said Moscow will not sacrifice "the economic niche it occupies" with that country. Finally, he stated that North Korea is pursuing "the right line" in normalizing relations on the Korean Peninsula and "should not be pushed out of [this process]."

...AND OTHERS REPEAT OPPOSITION TO ATTACK ON IRAQ... State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists in Moscow that the Duma opposes any military operation against Iraq, Russian news agencies reported on 7 September. "The United States and Great Britain do not understand that Iraq is not Afghanistan and that plans for a U.S. military operation against [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein are not supported by the Islamic world, by Europe, or even by NATO," Seleznev said, according to RIA-Novosti. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Russia "is categorically opposed to any operation that is not sanctioned by the United Nations," RIA-Novosti reported on 7 September.

...WHILE PUTIN CONTINUES TO PUSH FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION... Speaking by telephone to U.S. President George W. Bush on 6 September, President Putin "expressed serious doubts" about the U.S. rationale for a possible military intervention in Iraq, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 7 September, citing the Kremlin press service. Putin called for "coordinated political and diplomatic efforts" to resolve the Iraq dispute. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters in Moscow on 8 September that intervention could endanger international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. "If, under the pretext of combating terrorism, attempts are made to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states, it will not only aggravate the situation in the regions where such attempts are made but can also inflict irreparable damage to the unity of the framework of the antiterrorism coalition," Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying.

...AND ANALYST BELIEVES THAT POSITION COULD SOFTEN. Yurii Fedorov, deputy director of the Moscow Center for Political Research, told the BBC on 8 September that sooner or later Russia's political elite would accept a U.S. military strike against Iraq. "Because Russia cannot prevent unilateral U.S. action, it risks antagonizing the United States without being able to provide any practical help to Iraq," Fedorov noted. The only reasonable alternative, Fedorov argues, is for Russia to reach agreement with the United States in order to pursue Russia's economic interests in post-Saddam Iraq.

U.S., RUSSIAN PACIFIC-REGION LEADERS TO MEET. Administration heads from the Russian Far East and Far North will meet in Anchorage, Alaska, with U.S. governors from West Coast states on 17-19 September, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 September, citing the Foreign Ministry. Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich, Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev, and Koryak Autonomous Okrug head Vladimir Loginov will participate in the gathering, which will also be attended by more than 300 U.S. and Russian businesspeople.

PUTIN PRESSURES GEORGIAN PRESIDENT... President Putin sent Eduard Shevardnadze on 5 September a response to the Georgian president's recent message on the heightened tensions between the two countries, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported the same day. In his message, Putin wrote that he is "seriously concerned by the further activity" of Chechen fighters on Georgian territory. Putin said Russia does not accept Georgia's "tactic of peacefully squeezing out the terrorists from the Pankisi Gorge" and "insists on decisive, concrete, and purposeful actions for the destruction of bandit formations." Putin also said Russia wants to see the Pankisi Gorge blocked and all the fighters there disarmed and turned over to Russia. He offered to send Russian security and law-enforcement officials to help Georgia achieve these goals.

...GENERAL STAFF DISMISSES GEORGIAN ANTITERRORISM OPERATION... Russia's military leadership doubts the effectiveness of the Georgian operation against terrorists and criminal elements in the Pankisi Gorge and sees it as "buffoonery and an imitation of a fight against terrorism," Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii, first deputy chief of the General Staff, told Interfax on 4 September. Baluevskii also said that he will send a delegation of Russian generals headed by Deputy Air Force Commander Colonel General Aleksandr Zelin to Tbilisi to prove to the Georgians that Russia has not bombed its territory.

...DUMA SUPPORTS FEDERATION COUNCIL'S ANTI-SHEVARDNADZE PUSH... Aleksandr Chernyshenko, deputy chairman of the State Duma's Committee on the Problems of the North and the Far East, said on 5 September that the Duma backs a recent Federation Council initiative to renegotiate the 1990 U.S.-Russian agreement delimiting the border between the two countries in the Bering and Chukchi seas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 September 2002), and other Russian news agencies reported. Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated that both chambers are united in the belief that "[former Soviet Foreign Minister] Shevardnadze sold out Russia's interests." Rogozin added that the problem of fishing rights in the Bering Sea is not "a territorial, but an issue-based question." He said that only U.S.-Russian cooperation can preserve the biological resources of the region.

...AND 'IZVESTIYA' PUBLISHES INTERVIEW WITH GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S ARCHENEMY. General Igor Giorgadze, the former head of the Georgia's secret service who is wanted by Interpol at Georgia's request for allegedly organizing an attempt on Shevardnadze's life, told "Izvestiya" on 5 September that he has numerous followers in Georgia and that Shevardnadze's adversaries are united. Giorgadze -- whose extradition from Russia has been repeatedly demanded by Tbilisi -- also denied that he had anything to do with the 1995 assassination attempt against Shevardnadze. "If I had organized his assassination, we'd be speaking at his graveside," said Giorgadze, who is a veteran of the Soviet KGB's special task force Cascade.

DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES MILITARY AID TO AFGHANISTAN. Sergei Ivanov visited Kabul on 6 September and announced after talks with Afghan administration head Hamid Karzai that Russia will assist in the modernization of the Afghan Army, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported on 7 September. Afghanistan's armed forces are almost exclusively equipped with Soviet-made weaponry. Ivanov said that in addition to spare parts and other equipment, Russia will supply fuel and will train Afghan officers. He added that initially the help will be provided as assistance, but that later it might be continued on a commercial basis.

GENERAL: RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR ARSENAL IS SAFE. Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 4 September, Colonel General Igor Volynkin, who is responsible for the safety of Russia's nuclear arsenal, said that over the last two years, the security measures around nuclear objects have been strengthened considerably, Russian news agencies reported. Volynkin said that access to the installations of the Defense Ministry's 12th Main Directorate, which is in charge of nuclear weapons, is so sophisticated that even within the directorate itself only authorized personnel have access to sensitive objects. Volynkin added that nuclear-weapons storage sites are guarded by special mobile units armed with the most advanced equipment and weapons provided with help from the United States.

DEFENSE MINISTRY TO INVESTIGATE MASS DESERTION IN VOLGOGRAD... Defense Minister Ivanov on 10 September ordered an immediate investigation into the mass desertion of 54 servicemen of the 20th Motorized Infantry Division stationed near Volgograd, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. The soldiers reportedly left their unit, which is assigned to the North Caucasus Military District, because of poor conditions and bad treatment in their unit. Forty-nine of the deserters were soon detained in Volgograd, saying they merely wanted to draw attention to the severe hazing to which they had been subjected by their comrades. According to Reuters, the unarmed soldiers left their base on 8 September after witnessing other soldiers being beaten. They walked all night to the offices of a nongovernmental organization in Volgograd to complain of conditions at their unit. Lieutenant General Vladimir Novikov, head of the Defense Ministry's Department of Safety, said that a criminal investigation had been opened against their commanding officer, who was not identified.

...AS SOLDIERS COMPLAIN OF HAZING... The 54 soldiers left their unit to draw attention to the systematic and severe beatings that they endured, reported on 11 September, citing a written statement that the men left with the nongovernmental organization Mothers' Rights. Tatyana Zozulenko, a spokeswoman for the organization, said that about 1,000 soldiers have left their units in Volgograd Oblast alone in recent years in order to seek Mothers' Rights' assistance. Chief Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov said that two commanders of the soldiers' unit, identified only as Lieutenant Colonel Kolesnikov and Major Shimov, have been suspended under suspicion that they personally took part in the alleged beatings, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 September.

...AS STATISTICS INDICATE POOR CONDITIONS IN RUSSIAN ARMY. According to data released by the Defense Ministry, just 2,265 soldiers have deserted from their units and remain at large since 1992, reported on 11 July. That figure is considerably lower than the estimate of 40,000 made by the nongovernmental organization the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers. In the first half of this year, 2,270 soldiers left their units without permission and 860 are still at large, Defense Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Moiseenko said. During the same period, 89 servicemen committed suicide, up from 70 during the same period in 2001, Moiseenko said. One hundred twenty-seven soldiers and officers died of other noncombat-related causes.

SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY INJURED IN AUTOMOBILE CRASH... Vladimir Rushailo suffered serious injuries in a car accident near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii on 9 September that left six dead, Russian news agencies reported. Among the dead were four officers of the Federal Protection Service and the Federal Security Service (FSB), including Colonel Yurii Sharov, head of the FSB's regional antiterrorism office. According to initial reports, a Toyota sport-utility vehicle driven by a man who was allegedly intoxicated plowed into Rushailo's motorcade at an estimated 80 kilometers per hour. The driver of the Toyota was also killed in the accident. Rushailo, who was on an inspection tour of the Far East, suffered a concussion and possible internal injuries to the chest. He was evacuated by special aircraft to Moscow where doctors consider his condition to be serious, but stable. Kamchatka Oblast Governor Vladimir Mashkovtsev and oblast legislature Speaker Nikolai Tokmantsev were hospitalized in serious condition as well. In all, nine people were injured. The FSB has opened an investigation.

...AS ACCIDENT STIMULATES RUMORS ABOUT HIS RESIGNATION. While Rushailo recuperates, his duties at the Security Council will be taken on by his first deputy, Vladislav Sherstyuk. In recent weeks, there have been rumors that Rushailo might step down soon and might possibly be named an ambassador. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 9 September that Rushailo's health might now serve as a convenient pretext for his resignation from the Security Council.

DUMA DEPUTY KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT... State Duma Deputy Vladimir Semenkov (Unity) was killed on 5 September in a road accident near the city of Achinsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai, and other Russian news agencies reported. Semenkov, who was elected to the Duma as a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia before switching to Unity last year, was driving his Toyota when it collided with a truck on a highway. Semenkov was taken to a hospital, where he died without regaining consciousness. According to AP, Semenkov's car veered into the oncoming lane just before colliding with the truck.

...AS IS GENERAL... Major General Valerii Gertsev, chief of Russia's Rocket-Artillery Force, was killed on 11 September in an automobile accident near Gatchina in Leningrad Oblast, and other Russian news agencies reported. According to the report, Gertsev's vehicle collided with a truck while illegally attempting to pass another car.

...WHILE NOVGOROD MAYOR VICTIM OF HIT-AND-RUN. Novgorod Mayor Aleksandr Korsunov was killed on the evening of 8 September on the territory of an administration-run resort by an unidentified man who ran him down with Korsunov's own car, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 9 September. According to RIA-Novosti, a man has been arrested in the case. Oblast Prosecutor Anatolii Chugunov has declined to comment on that report. Chugunov also declined to speculate on whether the incident was a contract hit. Korsunov was the only mayor serving on a commission headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak that is charged with drafting a new law on local self-government. That draft law, which is supposed to be presented to President Putin on 13 September, includes a number of controversial provisions, including an option to replace elected mayors with hired managers. Korsunov resolutely opposed the draft, which he said is "unacceptable to the majority of mayors" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2002), reported.

SENIOR RAILWAYS OFFICIAL KILLED... Nikolai Glubokov, a senior Railways Ministry official who was head of the state enterprise Passenger Services Directorate, was stabbed to death in his Moscow apartment on 9 September, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. Glubokov's body was found by his son, covered with more than 30 stab wounds. According to Glubokov's son, some valuables were missing from the apartment and robbery might have been the motive for the murder. On 20 August, the deputy head of the Moscow Railway, Sergei Paristyi, was shot dead outside his Moscow apartment building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002).

...AND CHECHEN DISTRICT HEAD MURDERED... Akhmar Zavgaev, the head of Nadterechnyi Raion and brother of former pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev, was killed on 9 September when gunmen opened fire on his car, Russian agencies reported. His secretary also died in the attack, for which the Chechen resistance military leadership claimed responsibility in a statement posted on the same day. Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov described Zavgaev as an experienced administrator and his murder as a great loss for Chechnya, Interfax reported. Former Russian administrator in Chechnya Nikolai Koshman said part of the blame for the murder lies with local military prosecutors' offices, which are responsible for the security of local officials. For the past two months, Zavgaev had dispensed with bodyguards, according to ITAR-TASS.

...WHILE GUNMEN FAIL TO KILL GROZNY MAYOR. Oleg Zhidkov escaped injury on 7 September when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his motorcade as he was heading west to Ingushetia, ITAR-TASS reported. But an escorting vehicle was seriously damaged and one traffic police officer was wounded. Zhidkov said the following day that he does not believe the attack was directed against him personally, but that militants simply opened fire on the motorcade from forest cover.

FSB SAYS APARTMENT-BOMBING SUSPECT HIDING IN GEORGIA... Lieutenant General Ivan Mironov, head of the FSB's Investigative Department, told journalists that the main suspect in the case of the 1999 apartment-building explosions in Moscow and other Russian cities, Achemez Gochiyaev, is hiding in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 September. Speaking on the eve of the third anniversary of the explosions, Mironov said the FSB has enough evidence to indict Gochiyaev. commented on 9 September that the FSB does not know where Gochiyaev is hiding and that the statement that he is in the Pankisi Gorge is simply part of a recent campaign of pressure against Georgia.

...AND CLAIMS KASPIISK TERRORISTS WERE TRAINED IN GEORGIA. The FSB believes that the men who carried out the 9 May terrorist attack in Kaspiisk that killed 45 people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002) received special training in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, and other Russian media reported on 6 September. According to Mironov, the men who have been arrested in connection with the Kaspiisk bombing told investigators they received "special explosives-mines training" in Georgia. Mironov said that alleged training was conducted by "Arab mercenaries."

PUTIN MAKES APPROACH TO POLAND, LITHUANIA... President Putin has sent messages to his Polish and Lithuanian counterparts informing them about proposals he has made to the European Union concerning transit between the Kaliningrad exclave and the rest of Russia in the event of EU expansion, reported on 5 September, citing the presidential press service. In his letters, Putin wrote that he hopes Poland and Lithuania, "as good neighbors to Russia and as EU candidates, will demonstrate a readiness for constructive dialogue on the Kaliningrad problem."

...AS LUKOIL, YUKOS MAKE THEIR OWN OVERTURES. Vagit Alekperov, chairman of oil giant LUKoil, met on 4 September in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller to discuss his company's plans to buy Poland's largest oil refinery, Rafineria Gdanska, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported on 5 September. Although no details of the talks were released, LUKoil's intentions have many opponents in Poland. The local firm PKN/Orlen has asked the government not to approve LUKoil's bid and instead to restructure the entire Polish oil sector. PKN/Orlen is, however, also engaged in partnership negotiations with the Russian firms Yukos and Surgutneftegaz, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 30 August. Meanwhile, Yukos took control of Lithuania's national oil company, Mazeikiai Oil (Mazeikiu Nafta), following a government decision not to buy a 26.85 percent stake formerly held by the U.S. company Williams International (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August and 4 September 2002). The move gives Yukos a 53.7 percent stake in Mazeikiai Oil.

GAZPROM, LUKOIL TO EXPLORE CASPIAN TOGETHER. Gazprom and LUKoil signed an agreement on the joint exploration of oil and gas fields in the northern and central parts of the Caspian Sea, reported on 5 September. The Caspian agreement is part of a broader accord on strategic partnership between the two energy giants signed by Gazprom Chairman Aleksei Miller and LUKoil head Alekperov on 27 August. Under the accord, Gazprom will transport condensed natural gas recovered by LUKoil from northern Russia, including the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

OLIGARCHS LISTED AMONG THE YOUNG AND RICH. The September issue of "Fortune" magazine lists five Russian businessman among the world's 40 richest people under the age of 40 living outside the United States. Yukos Chairman Mikhail Khodorkovskii heads the list with a personal fortune estimated at $7.2 billion. Sibneft shareholder and Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich was listed fourth with a fortune estimated at $4.2 billion; Alfa-Group President Mikhail Fridman was ranked ninth with $2.1 billion; and Russian Aluminum co-owner Oleg Deripaska made the 13th slot with his $1.5 billion. Finally, MDM-Group President Andrei Melnichenko was listed 24th with a fortune estimated at $380 million.

FINANCE MINISTER: CAPITAL FLIGHT ON THE DECLINE. Capital flight from Russia will be significantly less this year than in previous years, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 7 September, reported. Kudrin said that capital flight in 2002 will amount to $9 billion-$10 billion, a significant decrease compared to recent years. In 2001, capital flight from Russia was estimated at about $20 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). Kudrin attributed the reduction to increased confidence in the Russian ruble, which he said is a result of the government's policy of balanced budgets.

PROSECUTOR TO LOOK INTO FOREST FIRES... Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov announced that his office is investigating the passivity of regional authorities in connection with the massive forest fires that have engulfed Moscow Oblast and left Moscow choking in smog (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2002), RTR reported on 5 September. Ustinov added that after the investigation, "appropriate decisions" will be made regarding the possible filing of criminal charges. Moscow Oblast Prosecutor Eduard Denisov told RIA-Novosti that more than 3,000 oblast officials will face administrative sanctions for their ineffective handling of the fires.

...AS OTHERS ALSO JOIN IN THE BLAME GAME. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 5 September, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov blamed the government for allowing the fires to spread, RTR reported. Communist Duma Deputy Vasilii Shandybin said that he believes the fires "were intentionally arranged." Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Yurii Vorobev criticized Moscow Oblast officials for their thoroughly incompetent handling of the fires, reported.

PROSECUTORS TO INVESTIGATE SPS LEADER'S ALLEGATIONS OF PHONE TAPPING. The Moscow Oblast Prosecutor's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the appearance in the media of transcripts of telephone conversations held by State Duma Deputy and Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2002), reported on 9 September. Oblast Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov said the investigation has been opened at Nemtsov's request. "The goal of the investigation is to establish who was directly responsible for using technical means to eavesdrop on Nemtsov's telephone conversations," Avdyukov said. He added that the investigation will also look into accusations of eavesdropping made by other political figures, but he did not name any of them.

NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK TRIAL TO BE OPEN. The trial in Saratov of writer and National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov (whose real name is Eduard Savenko) and five fellow party members will be held in open court, Ekho Moskvy,, and other Russian news agencies reported on 9 September. The Saratov Oblast Court, which had earlier ruled at the request of the FSB that the trial would be held behind closed doors, reversed itself and ruled that sessions will be open to the media when the trial resumes this week after a two-month break. Limonov and his colleagues are accused of acquiring weapons with the goal of preparing terrorist acts and of creating illegal armed formations, although they deny the charges. Limonov and one other defendant, Sergei Aksenov, are also accused of calling for the violent overthrow of the government. The National Bolshevik Party newspaper "Limonka" was closed down in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002). Limonov has been held since 7 April 2001.

WRITER APPEALS TO PRESIDENT. The full text of an open letter from writer Viktor Yerofeev to President Putin was printed in "Vremya MN" on 5 September. In the letter, Yerofeev draws the president's attention to the recent actions against contemporary writers by the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2002). He notes that Walking Together has created a list of "harmful" writers and has interfered with the presentation of new books, in addition to urging criminal cases against writers Kirill Vorobev and Vladimir Sorokin. "Does this violence against the creative personality not remind you of Germany in the 1930s?" Yerofeev writes. He adds that he is not writing "in order to break off relations with the authorities, but so that the authorities would understand and think about what is happening in Russia. In the center of Moscow, books are being destroyed and writers are being brought into court. This situation is absolutely not normal." Yerofeev predicted that there will be "show trials" against writers this fall. Sorokin supports Yerofeev's initiative, reported. "All this reminds one of the dark times when writers were destroyed," he was quoted as saying.

'SOMEONE LIKE PUTIN' COMPOSER ANNOUNCES WHAT IS COMING NEXT. In a long interview with on 5 September, composer Kirill Kalashnikov described how he wrote the music to the pop song "Someone Like Putin," the first release by the all-female band Singing Together that is currently receiving a lot of play on Russian radio stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002). Kalashnikov said that he wrote the song in about an hour and that the song was not written "to convey some super-social meaning," but rather "from the perspective of light humor." As for the future, Kalashnikov said Singing Together will prepare a Spanish-language version of "Someone Like Putin" and an antiabortion song that "will speak of the positive role of motherhood and, maybe, if you think on a global level, influence questions of the demographics in our country." Another song in the works will have "an antimilitary character," Kalashnikov said. Asked about the effect of "Someone Like Putin" on the public, the composer said: "We are not using nefarious methods to influence the conscious mind. Other agencies are doing that. We simply wrote a good, happy tune."

NATIONALIST TO PUSH FOR REFERENDUM ON ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM. Deputy Duma Speaker and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii has said that his party will try to force a referendum on "substantial changes of legislation regarding the downsizing of the state apparatus and the enlarging of the country's territorial-administrative divisions," Russian news agencies reported on 11 September. He said that a referendum is necessary because it has been impossible over the last nine years to push the required legislation through the Duma. In a recent question-and-answer session with (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002), Zhirinovskii detailed his proposal to merge the present 89 subjects of the Russian Federation into 15 entities (gubernii), as well as to abolish the Federation Council and cut the state bureaucracy by 80 percent. He said that the money saved could be used to increase the budgets of security and law-enforcement agencies.