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Security Watch: September 26, 2002

26 September 2002, Volume 3, Number 33
RUSSIA, NATO BEGIN JOINT ANTITERRORISM EXERCISES. More than 1,200 troops from NATO member counties and Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry on 25 September launched the Bogorodsk-2002 antiterrorism drill in the Moscow Oblast town of Nogisk, Western and Russian news agencies reported. During the exercise, the joint force will respond to a hypothetical terrorist attack on a major chemical installation that causes a large number of casualties, serious environmental contamination, and widespread destruction of infrastructure. The exercise, which will also test the NATO civil-defense information system under Russian conditions, is headed by Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Lieutenant General Gennadii Korotkin. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the exercises are "a logical step in the new relations between Russia and NATO" under the agreement to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism that was reached at the Rome summit in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002), RIA-Novosti reported on 25 September.

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO MAJOR DIFFERENCES DIVIDE U.S., RUSSIA... Igor Ivanov, concluding a visit to Washington, said that Russia and the United States "have no serious differences on key issues and are ready for an enduring strategic partnership," RTR and RIA-Novosti reported on 21 September. He added that Russia has handed over to the United States information regarding "direct contacts between Georgian officials and terrorists," information that "demonstrates that Georgia either cannot or does not want to fight against terrorism." Ivanov also repeated Russia's opposition to any new United Nations resolutions on Iraq and to any unilateral military intervention there by the United States. In this context, Ivanov criticized the new U.S. National Security Doctrine, saying it moves from a policy of containing threats to one of preemptive strikes. Such a policy is "wrong," Ivanov said.

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER HIGHLIGHTS DIFFERENCES OVER IRAQ, GEORGIA... Also speaking in Washington, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Russia and the United States disagree about the situation in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 22 September. "Although the United States recognizes the seriousness of the situation, they call on us to be patient and to hold talks with Georgia on the problem," Ivanov said. Ivanov added that, although the two countries agree on many issues, including Afghanistan, he emphasized their differences concerning Iraq. He denied that there are any parallels between Pankisi and Iraq, saying that Russia has "clear evidence of a terrorist threat [from Pankisi], while the United States only shows historical data when talking about a threat from Iraq."

... THREATENS PREEMPTIVE STRIKE ON GEORGIA... Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Washington that Russia might launch preemptive strikes on Georgian territory if Moscow sees a threat, RTR reported on 19 September. "If we see bandits within 10-15 kilometers of our border, we will not wait until they cross it but will strike preemptively. We simply will have no other choice but to protect our national security and the lives of our citizens," Ivanov said. He also discussed a "security zone" along the border with Georgia that was proposed recently by leading Russian military commanders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2002). Ivanov said that such a zone could only be created by the joint efforts of both countries manifesting the political will to do so. He said that such a zone should be 20-45 kilometers deep depending on the local landscape and must be laid out away from settlements in order to avoid civilian casualties.

...AND DISMISSES GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S INVITATION TO SEND OBSERVERS TO PANKISI... Speaking at a news conference in Madrid, Sergei Ivanov confirmed on 23 September that Russia has been invited by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to send unarmed military observers to the Pankisi Gorge, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported. However, Ivanov said the invitation is not enough to assuage Russian concerns. "Our cooperation with Georgia can be reduced to a simple formula: how, when, and where to neutralize and destroy terrorists," Ivanov was quoted as saying. "All the rest is empty talk." Ivanov also accused Georgian authorities of allowing terrorists to leave Pankisi. He said Russia will continue to insist on Georgian compliance with UN resolutions on combating terrorism but added, "Russia will respect Georgia's sovereignty and has nothing against its entering any international alliance or against the construction of pipelines on its territory."

...AS SPS LEADER SAYS SHEVARDNADZE MUST GO... Speaking to journalists in St. Petersburg, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader and Duma Deputy Boris Nemtsov said President Shevardnadze is not in control of the situation in his country and should resign to create room for a more "modern leader," RosBalt reported on 23 September. He added that it is senseless to ask Shevardnadze to bring order to the Pankisi Gorge, but it would also be politically insane for Russia to act there unilaterally. He urged the government to involve the United States in Russian-Georgian talks. Unilaterally pressuring Shevardnadze could create an effect similar to that observed when Western sanctions against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic provoked resistance even among those who opposed Milosevic.

...AS FOREIGN-POLICY ADVISER SUGGESTS JOINT U.S.-RUSSIAN OPERATION... Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, told RTR on 19 September that it would be good for Russia if Washington agreed to conduct a joint military operation to combat terrorism in the Pankisi Gorge. Karaganov said that the idea of a joint operation is useful if it is intended to put pressure on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze but that the two countries should be cautious about actually launching a military operation because it might easily escalate out of control.

...AND SAYS IRAQ WON'T LEAD TO U.S.-RUSSIA SPLIT. In the same interview, Karaganov said that he does not think the United States needs Russia's consent to act against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. If the United States decides to act, it can do so alone, Karaganov remarked. He added that even if such action led to a split between the two countries in the UN, it would not lead to a serious deterioration of bilateral relations. Both countries have long understood in which areas they can cooperate and in which areas they will differ, and they will proceed to interact within this framework, Karaganov said.

RUSSIA CALLS ON ISRAEL TO END RAMALLAH SIEGE. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov telephoned Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and urged Israel to end its siege of the West Bank compound of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September. Israeli tanks and bulldozers began demolishing the compound after two Palestinian suicide-bomb attacks on 19 September left seven Israelis dead and dozens wounded. Ivanov also called on Arafat and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa to "use all existing mechanisms to stabilize the situation." He said that the escalating conflict is blocking the new peace process that was agreed upon on 17 September by representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia.

ELITE FOREIGN-POLICY JOURNAL TO BE LAUNCHED. Russia's foreign-policy elite will soon have its own journal, "The Moscow Times" reported on 19 September. The bimonthly magazine will be published in English as "Russia in Global Affairs," as well as in Russian, and will have an initial print run of 7,000 copies. It is a joint project of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and "Izvestiya." The new magazine has also acquired the right to reprint articles from the U.S. journal "Foreign Affairs." It will be edited by former "Vremya novostei" editor Fedor Lukyanov, and its editorial board includes Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, President Vladimir Putin's foreign-policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, and Duma Deputy Speakers Irina Khakamada and Vladimir Lukin. Foreign board members include former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Harvard academic Graham Allison, and "Foreign Affairs" editor James Hoge. The first issue will appear in November.

PRESIDENT WISHES INTERIOR MINISTRY A HAPPY BIRTHDAY... President Putin sent his congratulations to the Interior Ministry on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of its founding, Russian news agencies reported on 20 September. He called on the ministry "to protect the country's stability, its citizens' freedoms, and a favorable business climate." Over its long history, the ministry has been headed by such different and controversial figures as Count Viktor Kochubei, tsarist minister Petr Stolypin, and Josef Stalin's henchman Lavrentii Beria.

...AS MINISTER CALLS FOR TOUGHER FIGHT AGAINST POLICE CORRUPTION. In his speech to a St. Petersburg conference marking the anniversary, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov called for an end to police corruption, RosBalt reported on 20 September. He said that the ministry must "quickly and pitilessly get rid of" those in its ranks who take bribes and do not manifest the utmost professionalism. "There must not be any monetary relations between employees of the law-enforcement organs and the citizenry," Gryzlov said.

PUTIN CREATES AGENCY TO FIGHT DRUG TRAFFICKING... President Putin on 24 September signed a degree on the creation of the State Committee for Combating Drug Trafficking within the Interior Ministry, Russian news agencies reported. According to the decree, the new agency will be headed by a deputy interior minister and will have an initial staff of 200. Speaking earlier the same day at a State Council session devoted to the narcotics threat Putin said drug trafficking is directly connected to arms dealing and international terrorism. "Drug dealers feed terrorism with their dirty money and contribute to the pockets of instability on Russia's border. It is not by chance that drug-trafficking routes coincide with those of illegal weapons trading and [illegal] immigration," Putin added.

...AS HIS AIDE OUTLINES THE SCOPE OF DRUG PROBLEM... Deputy chief of the presidential staff Aleksandr Abramov, who heads a special working group evaluating the country's antidrug policies, said his group has suggested draconian antidrug laws and new legislation aimed at preventing drug addiction. Abramov, for instance, advocates creating a legislative basis for compulsory medical treatment for drug addicts. He estimates that 3 million-3.5 million Russians regularly use illegal drugs and at least 5 million young Russians have tried narcotics at least once. RIA-Novosti on 23 September quoted an unidentified State Council source as saying: "Drug addiction is a youth problem that is directly linked to the development of the state. Further deterioration can lead to the loss of an entire generation, which will cause far-reaching social and economic problems for Russia."

...AS CHINA SENTENCES RUSSIAN CITIZEN TO DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING. An unidentified 24-year-old female resident of Primorskii Krai has been sentenced to death by firing squad in the Chinese city of Kunmin for drug trafficking, and other Russian news services reported on 24 September. According to the report, the woman was initially involved in prostitution in Beijing, where she met several Azerbaijani citizens who hired her as a drug courier in China. Despite pleas from Russian diplomats, Chinese officials have refused to intervene in the woman's case. However, the court also sentenced her to a two-year probation period during which she will be held in a local prison. If she completes the probation period without incident, her death sentence will be reviewed.

KREMLIN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DZERZHINSKII RESTORATION... A senior official in the Putin administration has spoken out against a proposal to return the monument to Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii to Moscow's Lubyanka Square (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, and 18 September 2002), NTV reported on 19 September. Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, said the proposal "is not good" and can only bring "unnecessary disruption to society." Russian Patriarch Aleksii II also spoke out against the proposal as being unnecessarily divisive, Interfax reported on 20 September. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that he supports the idea, RosBalt reported on 19 September. He noted that the monument is in excellent condition and that its restoration will not turn Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov "into a second Dzerzhinskii."

...BUT NEARLY HALF OF MUSCOVITES SUPPORT DZERZHINSKII RESTORATION. Forty-four percent of Muscovites favor restoring the monument to Dzerzhinskii that was dismantled in August 1991, reported on 23 September, citing a poll of 500 respondents by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). Thirty-six percent of respondents oppose the proposal, which was put forward by Moscow Mayor Luzhkov on 13 September. A similar poll in 1998 found that just 27 percent supported restoring the statue and 56 percent were opposed. VTsIOM stressed, however, that the poll was conducted before Putin administration officials expressed their opposition to the initiative.

COURT ORDERS ACCUSED SCIENTIST RELEASED PENDING TRIAL. A court in Siberia has ordered the release of scientist Valentin Danilov, who has been jailed since February 2001 on charges of spying for China, AP and Russian news agencies reported on 25 September. The decision is unusual because Russian courts have generally declined to release prisoners who are being held pending investigation and trial. Researcher Igor Sutyagin, for instance, has been held without trial since October 1999 while being investigated for allegedly passing military secrets to the United States. Danilov's trial was suspended earlier this year when the court ordered prosecutors to reinvestigate it. That investigation was completed in August, but the court has not yet set a date for the resumption of the trial, AP reported.

LUKOIL EXECUTIVE REAPPEARS AS STRANGELY AS HE DISAPPEARED. LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura, the No. 2 person in Russia's largest oil company who was kidnapped on 12 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002), was released by his as-yet-unidentified kidnappers on 25 September, Russian news agencies reported on 26 September. Reports about the release, including the motive for the kidnapping, the identity of the kidnappers, and the conditions under which Kukura was released, varied widely. "Kommersant-Daily" cited unnamed investigators working on the case as saying the kidnapping was staged by LUKoil itself for internal reasons. reported that the abduction was genuine and that LUKoil paid a ransom of $3 million and 3 million euros to secure Kukura's release. expressed skepticism over the entire incident, arguing that the commercial secrets that Kukura possesses are worth billions of dollars, not millions. The website concluded that it is very unlikely we will ever hear the true story about this case from investigators or anybody else.

INVESTIGATOR NAMES NAMES IN STAROVOITOVA, MANEVICH CASES. Police have identified two suspects in the 1998 murder of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported on 20 September. The head of the Interior Ministry's (MVD) Criminal Police, General Mikhail Nikoforov, said in St. Petersburg on 19 September that domestic and international arrest warrants have been issued for two Russian citizens that he identified only as Musin and Stekhovskii in connection with the case. He also said that "there is information" that two other Russians, identified only as Kalyagin and Maksimov, were involved in the 1997 murder of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Mikhail Manevich. Other unidentified MVD officials with whom "Kommersant-Daily" spoke were completely surprised by Nikoforov's statements and said that he had spoken prematurely. "By giving out this information, the general has, in the opinion of investigators, literally warned those who are wanted, and now getting to them -- and, through them, to those who ordered the murder -- will be more difficult," the newspaper commented.

NEWSPAPER SECURITY CHIEF MURDERED IN PENZA... The head of the security department for the newspaper "MK v Penze," part of the "Moskovskii komsomolets" group, was murdered on 21 September, Regnum reported on 23 September. Igor Salnikov was shot twice in the head and chest by an unknown assailant as he returned to his home in Penza with his wife, who was not injured. According to the report, Salnikov's was the fourth media-related murder in the city since last July.

...AS IS FAR EAST PROFESSOR... Sergei Melnik, a professor of pathology at Vladivostok State Medical University, was shot dead in his office at the university on 25 September, and other Russian news agencies reported. The 56-year-old professor was shot three times in the chest by an unidentified assailant during a break between classes. ITAR-TASS reported that the gun was apparently equipped with a silencer. In addition to heading the university's pathology department, Melnik served as the chief pathologist for the Primore Krai administration and was the director of a private company.

...AND VOLGA REGION BUSINESSMAN. Yurii Gashimov, general director of the private company Samarskie Avtomobili, was murdered in Samara on 25 September, and other Russian news agencies reported. A grenade was fired through the windshield of Gashimov's car at a downtown intersection. His bodyguard and two bystanders were hospitalized. Samarskie Avtomobili is primarily engaged in the retail sale of foreign automobiles, Interfax-Eurasia reported.

RUSSIANS PREFER THE EURO. The euro has become the foreign currency of preference for Russians, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 18 September. The daily cited the Central Bank in reporting that Russians are now buying about four times as many euros as they are selling and are selling twice as many dollars as they are buying. Russian banks are importing roughly twice as many euros as dollars. To some extent, however, the demand for euros is explained by the summer vacation season, although recent developments with the euro-dollar exchange rate have also played a role.

ANTIMONOPOLY MINISTRY WANTS MORE CONTROL OVER OFFSHORE CAPITAL. Deputy Antimonopoly Minister Andrei Tsygankov said on 24 September that his agency will propose new legislation giving it the legal basis to obtain complete information about Russian companies registered offshore, and other Russian news services reported. At present, financial-industrial groups in the petrochemical, coal, metallurgy, and automotive sectors, as well as companies in other industries, can easily hide their capital offshore. Therefore, the Antimonopoly Ministry needs additional authority in order to prevent companies from misusing their often dominant market positions.

ECONOMICS ADVISER CALLS EES A 'NATIONAL SHAME.' Speaking at the Baikal Economic Forum in Irkutsk, Andrei Illarionov, economic-policy adviser to President Vladimir Putin, lashed out at Unified Energy Systems (EES) and its head, Anatolii Chubais, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 19 September. Illarionov said that incompetence and lack of professionalism in the EES management has led to a critical situation in the country's largest monopoly. Over the last 18 months, EES shares have dropped 60 percent and the company has lost $6 billion in assets and market capitalization, Illarionov said. He described the situation as "a national disaster and a national shame" and said that it indicates management's disregard for its shareholders, including its biggest shareholder, the state. "Four years managing a company is enough time to show what is what," Illarionov said. In any other country, he added, the management of such a company would resign. EES board member Andrei Trapeznikov was quoted by "The Moscow Times" as saying that "management has made some miscalculations," but that the company's operations are sound. Trapeznikov said Illarionov is "incompetent in this subject."

MOSCOW HAILS KOREAN RAIL LINK... President Putin on 18 September congratulated North and South Korea on the establishment of a direct rail link between the two countries, RosBalt reported. Putin hopes that the development will be the first stage in the creation of a rail corridor across Russia from South Korea to Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 26 August 2002). In his message, Putin said that Russia is ready to do everything possible to work with both countries to realize the transport corridor "as quickly as possible."

...AND PROMISES TO MODERNIZE RAIL LINKS TO NORTH KOREA... Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev announced in Nizhnii Novgorod on 21 September that in 2003 his agency will upgrade the 240-kilometer link between the Trans-Siberian Railroad (TransSib) and the North Korean railroad system, Russian news agencies reported. Fadeev also said that TransSib is currently carrying about 90,000 containers per year, although it has a capacity of about 1.5 million. He revealed that Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and China are in the process of creating a transcontinental transport consortium with the potential to bring Russia several billion dollars of annual revenue. Fadeev said that his ministry's short-term goal is to increase cargo on the line from Asia to Europe to 150,000 containers per year and from Europe to Asia to 50,000.

...AS CARGO MOVES INTO THE FAST LANE. The first express container train from St. Petersburg to Khabarovsk departed on 22 September, RosBalt reported on 23 September. The train, which is carrying 123 containers, will make the trip in nine days and 13 hours, compared to the normal traveling time for freight trains of 20-25 days. According to railroad officials, the new express freight trains will depart from both cities once each week.

CYPRUS TO REQUIRE VISAS FOR RUSSIANS. At the beginning of next year, Cyprus will introduce visas for Russian citizens, reported on 20 September, citing RTR. Visas are being introduced as part of Cyprus's efforts to join the European Union. More than 150,000 Russians visit the island country each year, adding about $170 million to the local economy. Therefore, the government intends to make the new visa procedure as simple as possible. cited the Cypriot Trade, Industry, and Tourism Ministry in reporting that the new visas will not cost more than 10 Cypriot pounds ($17) and will be issued immediately upon application.

NTV JOINS U.S. CABLE NETWORK. NTV, Russia's third-largest national television broadcaster, has announced that it has signed a contract with EchoStar, one of the largest U.S. satellite-television operators, reported on 24 September. Under the deal, EchoStar will make NTV programming available to U.S. viewers. Subscribers to EchoStar's cable system DishNetwork will receive NTV as part of their basic package and other cable clients will be able to purchase it.

PSYCHIATRIST SUGGESTS HOLDING TV JOURNALISTS RESPONSIBLE FOR BEING DEPRESSING. Data suggest that the mental health of Russians has worsened in recent years, and Yurii Polishchuk, director of the clinical department of the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Psychiatry, believes that the press and television have played a significant role in this process by increasing the flow of "negative information," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 19 September. At a recent meeting at Moscow's House of Journalists, Polishchuk called for "enforcing the articles in the law on mass media that assign responsibility for inflicting damage to people's health." "The Russian Constitution has articles that confirm the right of Russians to protect their health, not only their physical but also their psychological and spiritual, moral and intellectual well-being," he said. However, Tamara Naumenko, a sociologist at Moscow State University, suggested that if the actual number of crimes in the country declined, then the coverage of crime in the media would also decline.