2 October 2002, Volume 3, Number 34
WAR IN CHECHNYARUSSIAN FORCES, CHECHEN SEPARATISTS IN FIERCE FIREFIGHT IN INGUSHETIA... Russian forces on 26-27 September engaged in a heavy battle near the village of Galashki in Ingushetia against a large unit of Chechen fighters reportedly under the command of field commander Abdul-Malik, Russian and Western news agencies reported. AP reported that 10 Russian soldiers were killed and 15 wounded, citing military sources. The same sources claimed that 50-80 Chechen fighters had been killed. According to a press release from the Russian joint forces in the North Caucasus, two pilots were killed when an Mi-24 helicopter was shot down by a Chechen fighter armed with a shoulder-launched antiaircraft missile, and at least two armored personnel carriers were also destroyed. According to Russian intelligence, Abdul-Malik's real name is Vitalii Smirnov, and he commands a detachment of 200-300 fighters. He is an ethnic Russian from the Chechen settlement of Kalinovskaya who converted to Islam in 1997, RTR reported. Chief of the General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin said that Abdul-Malik's detachment is surrounded by Russian forces and has taken heavy casualties. Kvashnin said he has personally taken control of the operation to liquidate the formation.
...AND ARMY CLAIMS FIGHTING IS OVER... Lieutenant General Valerii Gerasimov, commander of the 58th Army in the North Caucasus, said his troops have destroyed most of the Chechen detachment reportedly led by Abdul-Malik near the Ingush village of Galashki, Russian news agencies reported. Gerasimov added that Russian troops had captured six fighters, two of whom are Arabs. The prisoners reportedly said the unit had been based in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge and had entered Russia by paying $7,000 to local residents. They reportedly said that field commander Ruslan Gelaev was in overall command of the operation. Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii said his office has opened a criminal investigation into the Galashki fighting, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported on 26 September. Fridinskii said that preliminary evidence indicates the detachment of about 200 fighters crossed the Russian-Georgian border on 15 September.
...AS CHECHEN FIGHTERS DISPERSE... By 28 September, the Chechen fighters in Galashki had split up into small groups, Russian news agencies reported. Russian military officials said on 29 September the Chechens are pinned down in wooded upland terrain and are being subjected to steady artillery bombardment. They said Russian forces completely control the Chechen-Ingush administrative border, precluding a breakthrough by the remaining Chechen fighters into Chechnya. Late on 27 September, a group of some 20 Chechen fighters attacked the local police station in the village of Meskety, near the border between Chechnya's Kurchaloi Raion and Daghestan, taking three policemen hostage, Interfax reported.
...AND REPORTS OF CASUALTIES VARY... Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that 14 Russian servicemen were killed in the fighting and that about 40 Chechen fighters had been killed or wounded, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 27 September. According to chechenpress.com, about 30 Russian troops were killed or wounded during the fighting. The website also claims that seven pieces of heavy equipment were destroyed, as was one helicopter. The website also claimed that the Chechens attacked a group of Federal Security Service (FSB) officers near the village of Guni, killing five and wounding seven. RIA-Novosti reported that the FSB acknowledged the loss of four officers near Vedeno in Chechnya. Chechenpress.com also said that losses among the Chechen fighters amounted to seven killed and 10 wounded.
...AND BRITISH CITIZEN REPORTED KILLED IN THE FIGHTING... Russian soldiers near Galashki found the body of a man bearing a British passport with the name Gervase Roderick John Scott, AP and Russian news agencies reported on 26 September. Near the body, the soldiers also found a video camera and numerous videocassettes. Lenta.ru quoted a source in the presidential administration as saying that the security services "are now checking the authenticity of the document." AP reported that the British Embassy said it had been informed of the death of a British citizen but that it would release no information pending the notification of relatives. ITAR-TASS reported that Scott was a freelance journalist working with support from Frontline News, citing sources at the British media company. The same report cited authorities in Georgia as saying that the Georgian visa found in Scott's passport was valid and that he had entered Georgia legally as a journalist. "How he ended up in Ingushetia in the company of Chechen fighters is unknown to the Georgian Foreign Ministry," the Georgian official said. RTR added that individuals bearing Georgian and Turkish documents were also found among the slain Chechen fighters.
...AS QUESTIONS LINGER... RTR on 29 September broadcast videotape reportedly shot by Scott showing how the Chechen detachment crossed the Georgian-Russian border. RTR also showed an unidentified Chechen fighter who said that Georgian authorities helped the unit cross the border and that field commander Gelaev made the crossing with them. Meanwhile, NTV commented on 29 September that the appearance of about 100 Chechen fighters near Galashki left many questions unanswered. First, how could such a large detachment cross the border undetected? Second, if the fighters crossed the border two weeks ago as the Russian authorities allege, where have they been in the interim? Finally, NTV asked, where have the remaining fighters gone, since the Russian military has reportedly only recovered eight bodies and captured six prisoners?
...AND DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS THE BATTLE MIGHT BE THE LAST STRAW. Speaking to journalists in Warsaw, Sergei Ivanov said that if it is confirmed that the Chechen fighters entered Russia from Georgia, it might consume the "last drop of Russia's patience," Western and Russian news agencies reported on 27 September. "We will use all the avenues accepted by international law and United Nations resolutions on combating international terrorism," Ivanov said. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii reacted to a statement by Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Lasha Natsvlishvili, who told RTR on 26 September that his country's main task is to get rid of "unwanted guests" on its territory. "If they want to go back to where they came from, we find that natural and cannot prevent them from doing so," Natsvlishvili said. "Natsvlishvili's statement attests to either complete helplessness or extreme arrogance," Yastrzhembskii retorted. Gazeta.ru commented on 27 September that the Ingushetia fighting is a godsend for Russian generals who have been seeking a pretext for a military incursion into Georgia.
FOREIGN POLICYPACE WARNS RUSSIA AGAINST MILITARY INTERVENTION IN GEORGIA... The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted on 25 September a resolution proposed by the Georgian delegation that warned Russia to desist from any actions or statements that constitute interference in Georgia's internal affairs or that violate the country's sovereignty or territorial integrity, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported. The resolution included in the former category unilateral actions, including economic aid, in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. At the same time, the resolution called on Georgia to continue to cooperate with all interested countries to eradicate terrorism and not to provide either direct or indirect support to groups that seek to use force to resolve territorial conflicts on Georgian territory. State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, who heads Russia's delegation to PACE, complained that the resolution ignores Russia's right, as guaranteed by the UN Charter, to launch a preemptive strike on terrorist bases on Georgian territory in self-defense, ITAR-TASS reported. He accused PACE deputies of wanting to rewrite that charter and suggested that their unwillingness to confront "terrorism" could rebound on Europe, ITAR-TASS reported.
...AND ANALYST URGES FOCUS ON ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. Konstantin Zatulin, director of the CIS Institute in Moscow, said on 27 September that he categorically opposes preemptive military strikes on Georgian territory because they "could consolidate in a negative way the political forces around [Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze] and would bring no benefits to anyone," strana.ru reported. Instead, Russia should continue its information campaign showing Georgian "support for terrorists." He added that the Georgian government is more concerned about the long-standing problems of the separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia than about possible Russian military action in the Pankisi Gorge. Therefore, he concluded, the Kremlin should intensify direct contacts with the leaders of the separatist administrations in those regions.
PUTIN CALLS FOR SPEEDY RETURN OF UN INSPECTORS TO IRAQ... During a Kremlin reception for foreign ambassadors, including the ambassador from Iraq, on 26 September, President Vladimir Putin said Russia is for "the rapid settlement of the Iraq problem by political and diplomatic means on the basis of United Nations resolutions," Russian news agencies reported. He added that Baghdad's recent decision to allow UN weapons inspectors to return "has opened up a real opportunity for such progress," and he called for Iraq to implement the decision as quickly as possible. The same day, Putin discussed Iraq with French President Jacques Chirac, rusenergy.ru reported. The leaders discussed France's intention to submit its own resolution on Iraq to the UN Security Council, which France views as an alternative to a harsh U.S.-drafted resolution calling for the rapid forced disarmament of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime. The draft French resolution calls for "the gradual, multistage resolution of the Iraq crisis," according to rusenergy.ru.
...AS FOREIGN MINISTER OPPOSES U.S.-BRITISH RESOLUTION... Russia continues to believe that the immediate resumption of UN weapons inspections in Iraq is the quickest way to determine whether Iraqi President Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 28 September following a meeting in Moscow with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and Political Director in the British Foreign Office Peter Ricketts, Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov said that Moscow "is disappointed" with the U.S.-British draft resolution on Iraq and views it as "unrealizable."
...AND SHARON FAILS TO CONVINCE PUTIN... Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Russian news agencies reported on 28 September. Sharon, who supports the hard-line position of U.S. President George W. Bush on Iraq, explained Israeli concerns over Russia's ongoing program of nuclear cooperation with Iran. Following a 3 1/2-hour meeting with Sharon on 29 September, Putin said that the talks had not changed Russia's position on Iraq.
...AS EXPERT URGES KREMLIN TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF U.S.-EUROPE SCHISM... Ivan Safronchuk, director of the Defense Information Center in Moscow, has said that "it is normal and even very desirable for Moscow to take advantage of differences that arise between the United States and Europe over the Iraq problem," polit.ru reported on 26 September. However, he cautioned, Russia should not overplay its hand and risk provoking "a strong retaliatory reaction." He recalled that Russia ineptly attempted to play upon such differences over the proposed U.S. missile-defense shield. Although Russia managed to garner some European sympathy for its views, the Kremlin's efforts were so clumsy and transparent that Europe ultimately would not risk quarrelling with Washington in order to back Russia, Safronchuk said.
...AS POLITICAL SCIENTIST EXPLAINS PUTIN'S TACTICS. As the United States pushes its initiative to remove President Hussein, Russia should adopt the tactic of buying time, said Yurii Fedorov, director of the Moscow Institute of Applied International Studies, speaking to the BBC on 27 September. On the one hand, because of its strong pro-Iraq lobby, Russia cannot vote in favor of the U.S.-sponsored resolution on Iraq. On the other hand, Putin cannot allow himself to antagonize the United States by voting against it. Russia's best tactic is to avoid voting at all, which is why Moscow is calling for a settlement based on existing resolutions, Fedorov said.
PRIME MINISTER DISMISSES EU'S KALININGRAD PROPOSALS... Mikhail Kasyanov, on a visit to Finland, said on 27 September that Russia cannot accept the latest European Union proposals regarding access to the Kaliningrad exclave after Poland and Lithuania join the union, RIA-Novosti reported. European Commission President Romano Prodi sent the proposals, which envisage issuing free EU transit documents to all residents of Kaliningrad Oblast and to Russian citizens who travel frequently between the exclave and the rest of Russia, to President Putin on 18 September. According to the proposals, the travel documents would be issued to all citizens appearing on a list compiled by the Russian government. However, Kasyanov said, "This offer, in fact, solves nothing and is just a well-packaged multiple-entry visa." Putin telephoned Prodi on 26 September and called on him to join "a joint search for a solution to the Kaliningrad problem despite existing differences," Russian news agencies reported.
...AND LEGISLATORS TALK TOUGH ON KALININGRAD... The State Duma held hearings on the issue of Kaliningrad Oblast and international aspects of Russia's national security on 30 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the Russia-EU summit scheduled for November might be in jeopardy because of the continued stalemate over Kaliningrad Oblast. He said that "if the summit [were to be] held tomorrow, then there [would be] nothing to discuss." At the same time, Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman and presidential envoy to the EU for Kaliningrad Dmitrii Rogozin reiterated that Russia will not drop its insistence on visa-free travel between Russia and the Kaliningrad exclave. Rogozin called EU proposals offensive to Russia and said the only concession Russia is ready to make to the EU is to close its southern borders entirely in order to stem the tide of illegal migration, gazeta.ru reported. Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels the same day continued to insist that Kaliningrad residents will need a special "travel pass" to cross EU territory after Lithuania and Poland join the EU, Reuters reported. According to the agency, the foreign ministers took note of a Russian proposal for nonstop trains between Kaliningrad and Russia but said a feasibility study for such a project will be undertaken only after EU enlargement.
...AND THREATEN TO REVIEW TERRITORIAL AGREEMENTS WITH LITHUANIA. During the same hearings, Vladimir Nikitin (Russian Regions) and Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) called on the Duma not to ratify a border agreement with Lithuania if Vilnius continues to resist Russian demands for visa-free access to Kaliningrad Oblast, gazeta.ru and RosBalt reported on 30 September. They also said that Russia should raise territorial issues concerning the area around the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda. Formerly a part of Germany, the area was designated an "international territory" following World War I and had a disputed status in the interwar period. The Soviet Union unilaterally gave this territory to Lithuania following World War II, and the deputies argued that this decision should be reviewed. Speaking after the Duma session, Russian Ambassador at Large Valentin Bogomazov stated that because the European Union is reluctant to meet Russian needs, Russia should make "extraordinary decisions" as far as Kaliningrad is concerned.
POLITICAL ECONOMYU.S.-RUSSIAN ENERGY FORUM OPENS IN HOUSTON... Speaking in Washington, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that at an upcoming energy forum in Houston, the United States and Russia will attempt to coordinate their positions regarding world oil prices in the context of a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq, Russian news agencies reported on 30 September. The forum, which was initiated during the May U.S.-Russia summit in Moscow and opened on 1 October, is co-chaired by Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. It will bring together leading oil-industry experts, investors, and executives from both countries, including the heads of Russia's energy giants Yukos, Rosneft, and TNK. It is expected that participants will discuss the sale of Russian oil on U.S. markets and the coordination of U.S. and Russian interests if Iraqi President Hussein is toppled, the BBC commented on 1 October.
...AS RUSSIAN COMPANIES LOBBY FOR OIL EXPORTS TO U.S.... At the forum, Russia will present proposals regarding the supply of Russian oil to U.S. markets, strana.ru reported on 1 October. One proposal drafted by LUKoil is known by the name "northern supplies" and includes the construction of a modern supertanker terminal in Murmansk. From there, oil would be transported via Arctic routes to the United States. The plan also calls for the exploitation of a new oil terminal in the Leningrad Oblast town of Vysotsk, which is being built by LUKoil. A second proposal is being lobbied by Yukos and envisages using the existing Druzhba-Adria continental oil pipeline and -- following reconstruction -- the Croatian port of Omishal as an oil terminal. Yukos already sent three oil-tanker loads of oil to the United States this year. Russian oilmen realize that because of high transportation costs, Russian supplies to the United States will only make economic sense during periods of high world oil prices. However, they believe that political considerations could make the possibility more realistic, strana.ru commented.
...AND OIL-EXPORT DUTIES HIKED. The State Customs Committee increased oil-export duties on 1 October in accordance with a government order issued in September, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Duties were raised from $21.90 to $29.20 per ton and will apply to all exports to countries outside Russia's customs union with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENTSOME DETAILS EMERGE IN LUKOIL KIDNAPPING. LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura, who was kidnapped near Moscow on 12 September and released on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 26 September 2002), was kidnapped by a criminal group that specializes in abducting businessmen for ransom, the head of the Interior Ministry's Organized-Crime Department, Aleksandr Ovchinnikov, told journalists on 1 October, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Ovchinnikov said the alleged leader of the group and two other men are now wanted by Interpol. Ovchinnikov also said that no ransom was paid, despite earlier media reports that the company paid $3 million and 3 million euros. Ovchinnikov said that this amount was demanded, but that the kidnappers apparently felt the police were closing in on them and so released their hostage, strana.ru reported. "Izvestiya," citing the results of its own investigation and interviews with unidentified law-enforcement officials, alleged on 1 October that Kukura was kidnapped by members of the Moscow Oblast police and that most of the time he was held in a village in Belarus.
AIR FORCE OFFICER KILLED; SECRET PAPERS MISSING. Air Force Colonel Nikolai Panachuk was killed in Kaluga Oblast and unspecified secret documents were stolen from him, gazeta.ru reported on 26 September. According to the report, Panachuk left his base near the town of Vorotynsk for Vyazma several days ago, but he never arrived there. His Mercedes was discovered wrecked and abandoned on 18 September near the village of Nikolaev. His body was found nearby two days later, and police suspect that robbery was the motive.
TRENDS AND IDEASIS MOSCOW MAYOR USING DZERZHINSKII AS A POLITICAL TOOL? Yurii Luzhkov reiterated his desire to see the downtown Moscow monument to Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii restored and called for a citywide referendum on the issue, izvestia.ru reported on 29 September. Luzhkov's proposal was endorsed by Moscow City Duma Speaker Vladimir Platonov, who said he believes the majority of Muscovites support the restoration. In addition, the idea of a referendum was supported by Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov, who has opposed restoring the monument and who believes city residents support his position. He said that SPS has collected 110,000 signatures opposing restoration of the statue. According to Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Endowment, Luzhkov is using Dzerzhinskii as a political tool in his confrontation with the right wing of the Russian political establishment, particularly, Unified Energy Systems chief Anatolii Chubais and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. By raising the symbol of Dzerzhinskii, Luzhkov hopes to mobilize the political left, Ryabov said, according izvestia.ru.