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Security Watch: October 8, 2002

8 October 2002, Volume 3, Number 35
CIS ANTITERRORISM CENTER TO CREATE DIVISION IN CENTRAL ASIA. Speaking at a summit of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) leaders in Chisinau on 7 October, the head of the CIS Antiterrorism Center, Boris Mylnikov (see "RFE/RL Security Watch" 24 September 2001), announced that the center will create a division in Central Asia, Russian news agencies reported. Mylnikov said personnel for the center will be selected based on the "operative situation." He added that Kazakh Interior Minister Major General Birsultan Sarsekov was appointed his first deputy.

POLL SHOWS RUSSIANS DO NOT SUPPORT IRAQ... A survey of 1,500 people in various Russian regions, conducted by the Public-Opinion Foundation on 21 September, revealed that only 4 percent of Russians think that Moscow should support Baghdad in the event of a military conflict between the United States and Iraq, reported on 2 October. Furthermore, 33 percent of those polled think that Russia should not intervene if there is a conflict, while 45 percent think a peaceful solution should be found. Only 7 percent of those surveyed said Russia should back international pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, while a mere 2 percent support military intervention by the United States. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they believe Iraq is an aggressive state that supports international terrorism, while the same number said this is not the case. Finally, 57 percent of those polled said they were generally ignorant of the situation in Iraq, while 22 percent think that it is in Russia's interests to keep Hussein in power, and 24 percent think it would be better if he were removed.

...AS GOVERNMENT'S POSITION ON IRAQ SHIFTS. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 2 October that Russia does not object to new United Nations resolutions on Iraq, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "If new resolutions are necessary for the work of UN weapons inspectors, we will be ready to adopt them," Ivanov said, according to RIA-Novosti. Russian and foreign analysts interpreted Ivanov's statement as a step toward the U.S. position on the Iraq controversy. Previously, Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, had said Russia seeks a settlement of the dispute on the basis of existing UN resolutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). However, dpa reported on 3 October that Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov announced Russia is considering presenting its own resolution to the Security Council, which would offer a "package solution" to the dispute, including terms for the eventual lifting of economic sanctions. Saltanov also said that Russia categorically opposes the harsh U.S.-U.K. draft resolution, ITAR-TASS reported.

PUTIN, SHEVARDNADZE SOFTEN RUSSIA-GEORGIA DISCREPANCIES... Ahead of the CIS summit that began on 7 October in Chisinau, President Putin met with his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze on 6 October, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin said after the meeting that the two leaders discussed the main problems that exist between their countries, as well as cooperation in combating terrorism. Putin told journalists that relations between the two countries have recently fallen to their lowest level in the post-Soviet era, adding that he and Shevardnadze agreed to appoint permanent special envoys for resolving bilateral issues. Putin also announced agreement on intensifying contacts between the countries' secret services and on cooperation between their border-guard services, including jointly patrolling their common border. Putin expressed his satisfaction with the talks and said the "quality of bilateral relations" has improved, RIA-Novosti reported. However, the official press release issued by the Russian presidential press service following the talks stated, "Moscow reserves for itself the right to individual or collective self-defense if Georgia does not put an end to bandit assaults on the neighboring regions of Russian territory."

...AND PROSECUTOR-GENERAL FOLLOWS KREMLIN'S FLIP-FLOPS ON GEORGIA. Just hours after the appearance of reports that Putin and Shevardnadze managed to iron out some of the difficulties in relations between the two countries, Deputy Prosecutor-General Konstantin Chaika told reporters that his office found nothing criminal in Shevardnadze's conduct in negotiating a 1990 border agreement with the United States, reported on 8 October. Last month, the Federation Council asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to look into allegations of abuse of office stemming from the signing of the agreement delimiting the border between the two countries in the Bering Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 5 September 2002). Two hours after Chaika's statement, however, reports were issued that Georgia might suspend the previously promised extradition of suspected Chechen separatists, and the Prosecutor-General's Office issued another statement saying that the investigation into Shevardnadze's case is not yet complete and he remains "under suspicion."

KARAGANOV CHARACTERIZES CIS DECADE AS FIASCO. On the eve of the CIS summit, Sergei Karaganov, the chairman of the influential Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, told on 7 October that the CIS has failed as an alliance and that the only role it played was to dampen the shock following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said the CIS cannot play the role of an integrating mechanism because all CIS states have their own political and economic-development priorities and are in various stages of economic reform. He noted that while integration would presumably envisage economic expansion, the CIS states have over the last decade experienced a shrinking of their economies. At the summit, the leaders of 11 of the 13 CIS member states are expected to focus primarily on cooperation in combating both terrorism and the trafficking of illegal drugs and in jointly protecting their borders, according to Russian media. The two-day meeting marks the 10th anniversary of the CIS.

PUTIN ASSURES LUKOIL ITS INTERESTS WILL BE PROTECTED IN IRAQ. President Putin has assured the management of LUKoil, which has several billion dollars' worth of contracts with Iraqi oil companies, that even if Saddam Hussein's regime is toppled, the company's interests in Iraq will not be damaged, the "Financial Times" quoted LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov as saying, reported. Meanwhile, LUKoil spokesman Mikhail Dolgov confirmed that the Russian government has promised that during its negotiations with the United States over the Iraq issue, it will defend LUKoil's interests as the "top national priority," reported on 7 October. The website also quoted Dolgov as saying the Iraqi government has tried to persuade his company to restart suspended projects before UN sanctions are lifted but that LUKoil "does not want to compromise Russia's status as a member of the UN Security Council."

RUSSIA TO CREATE OIL RESERVE TO STABILIZE GLOBAL MARKETS... Speaking at the U.S.-Russian energy forum in Houston, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said on 1 October that Russia has sharply increased oil production this year to 378 million tons, compared to 348 million last year, Russian news agencies reported. Likewise, gas production increased to 588.5 billion cubic meters, up from 581.3 billion in 2001. Yusufov also said that oil production will continue to grow over the next few years to enable Russia to develop a strategic oil reserve. During a visit to the U.S. strategic oil reserve in Freeport, Texas, Yusufov said Russia's reserve will not be created just to meet the country's domestic needs but also to help stabilize international energy markets. TNK head Semen Kukes said that Russia will lobby to have Urals crude -- which is lower in quality than Brent crude -- quoted on the London Oil Stock Exchange soon. Kukes said that Russia could be capable of supplying up to 1.1 million barrels of oil per day to U.S. markets by 2007.

...AS U.S., RUSSIA AGREE ON JOINT ENERGY POLICIES. In a joint statement following the conclusion the energy forum, representatives of the two countries pledged cooperation in boosting global energy security and stabilizing world energy prices, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 October. Both countries will work to diversify oil supplies and to create a good investment climate for joint projects in Russia and in third countries. The U.S. Export-Import Bank signed deals with LUKoil, Yukos, and Sibneft under which each company will receive a $100 million loan to purchase U.S. drilling equipment, NTV reported. Rex Tillerson, a senior vice president at ExxonMobil, which is involved in a project to develop oil fields near Russia's Sakhalin Island, said that, with U.S. expertise, Russia can double its oil production, reported on 3 October.

QUOTAS ON FOREIGN WORKERS TO COME IN 2003. Russia will introduce quotas for foreign workers, and RosBalt reported on 2 October, citing Minister Vladimir Zorin, who oversees the government's nationalities policies. Zorin said that an overall quota of 500,000-700,000 workers will be introduced next year, with the exact number and timing to be determined at a meeting of the government's migration-policy commission on 7 October. Zorin said the commission will create a working group to set sub-quotas for particular regions in cooperation with local authorities. He added that there are an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants currently in Russia, while about 350,000 ethnic Russians legally migrate to the country each year.

RUSSIAN MILITARY NEARS DEAL FOR DEVELOPING AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEM. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 October that Russia is close to inking a $4 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates that would help finance the next generation of the Russian air-defense system. According to the daily, the U.A.E. would provide funds to Russian defense contractor Almaz for research and development of a unique antiaircraft system that would be supplied exclusively to the Russian military and the U.A.E. In order to carry out such a large contract, Russia plans to create a new defense concern called Antei-Almaz, which would be under the supervision of the deputy chief of the presidential staff, Viktor Ivanov, according to the newspaper.

SUTYAGIN SCORES LEGAL VICTORY WITH SUPREME COURT BUT REMAINS BEHIND BARS. The Supreme Court on 2 October overruled the Moscow Municipal Court's August decision to prolong until 8 October the imprisonment of Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the Moscow-based USA and Canada Institute, RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). Although the court did not grant Sutyagin's request to be released immediately, Sutyagin's lawyers nevertheless called the decision a legal "breakthrough," according to Ekho Moskvy. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999 on accusations of passing secret information to the United States. Last December, a court in Kaluga Oblast agreed to a prosecution request for a new investigation of the case against him, during which time he was ordered to remain in custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001).

DEFENSE MINISTRY SUES FORMER CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has ordered that a suit be filed against Colonel General Georgii Oleinik seeking the payment of $60 million in compensation for damages incurred to the ministry when Oleinik served as its chief financial officer, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 October. According to the suit, the losses resulted when Oleinik sold allegedly undervalued ministry bonds to a commercial bank. Oleinik was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for embezzling $450 million in Defense Ministry funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 August 2002), but he was amnestied in August.

THIEVES CONDUCT THEIR OWN AUDIT. Unidentified thieves broke into the Moscow apartment of the head of the State Audit Chamber Inspectorate, Aleksandr Ryabenko, and made off with cash and jewelry worth $120,000, RosBalt reported on 3 October. Ryabenko filed a report with the police on 2 October saying that the robbery occurred sometime between 30 September and 2 October. In his report, Ryabenko confirmed the value of the stolen property.

MVD GENERAL FOUND DEAD. Interior Ministry (MVD) Major General Nikolai Nino, who was director of Moscow's TsSKA sports club, was found dead on 1 October in a hotel room in Nizhnii Novgorod, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported the next day. According to RosBalt, Nino was scheduled to defend his dissertation at the Interior Ministry's Nizhnii Novgorod Academy on 2 October on the subject of defending Russia's economic security. Prior to his appointment to head TsSKA on 6 June, Nino headed the Interior Ministry's economic-crime department. RosBalt reported that a note was found in Nino's hotel room that read, "It seems that I am incurably ill." There were no signs of violence, and the cause of death has not yet been determined. Local prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation.

INFORMATION-AGENCY HEAD KILLED IN VLADIVOSTOK. Sergei Akhapkin, general director of the Primore Information Analysis Agency and a former krai administration official, was shot dead near his home in Vladivostok on 2 October, Russian news agencies reported the next day. According to, Akhapkin was shot six times from a handgun by an unidentified assailant who fled the scene. Akhapkin served as the chairman of the krai's Architecture and Capital Reconstruction Committee until February, when he left to head the information agency. His company is developing a cross-border trade facility between Pogranichnii and the Chinese town of Suifenhe that will feature a hotel, a shopping mall, and a business center. On 20 June 2000, while he was heading the architecture committee, Akhapkin narrowly escaped a murder attempt in which a still-unidentified gunman fired eight shots at him, all of them missing their target.

SUSPECT NAMED IN LUKOIL KIDNAPPING CASE PROCLAIMS HIS INNOCENCE. One of the three men named by investigators as suspects in the kidnapping case of LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 26 September and 2 October 2002) appeared in Moscow on 1 October and vehemently denied any involvement, NTV and other Russian news agencies reported. Armenian businessman Gagik Bgdoyan, who along with two Ukrainian citizens was named publicly as a suspect in the case, told NTV that he was in Armenia during the time that Kukura was missing. He said that he will go to prosecutors accompanied by NTV journalists to declare his innocence. He admitted that he knows one of the other suspects named, a man who once worked for Bgdoyan as a driver.

COURT RULES SUSPENDED SENTENCE SUFFICIENT FOR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT MURDER. The Moscow Municipal Court on 1 October upheld an earlier court decision sentencing former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov to a 6 1/2-year suspended sentence for organizing an attempted murder, Radio Mayak reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). Bykov was found guilty of plotting to kill his former business partner, Pavel Struganov.

PUTIN CANCELS YELTSIN DECREE ON RFE/RL MOSCOW BUREAU. President Putin on 4 October canceled a 27 August 1991 decree by former President Boris Yeltsin that guaranteed the legal and operational status of the Moscow bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Under Yeltsin's edict, the Russian government provided conditions for RFE/RL's journalistic activities "because of its role in the objective coverage of the march of democratic processes." Putin did not issue any statement in connection with the cancellation, but the Kremlin's information office said Yeltsin's decree was revoked because it had "lost its original significance," RIA-Novosti reported. According to the unidentified spokesperson, Yeltsin's decree was originally intended to demonstrate Russia's commitment to freedom of the press and to enhance Russia's image abroad. However, because of the progress of economic and political reforms in Russia since then, the decree put RFE/RL in "a privileged position compared to other foreign mass-media outlets working in Russia," the Kremlin statement was quoted as saying. Moreover, the statement continued, RFE/RL's editorial policies, "despite the end of the Cold War," have in recent years become "biased," especially those of its "Chechen" and Ukrainian services. Ever since Yeltsin's decree, nationalists, Communists, and other reactionary elements have regularly called for an end to RFE/RL's activities in Russia. The Kremlin conducted campaigns of pressure against RFE/RL in 2000 in connection with the case of RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii and his coverage of the Chechnya conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 2000) and this year in connection with RFE/RL's decision to begin broadcasts in three North Caucasus languages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 25 April 2002). The Foreign Ministry said that Putin's decree is purely a technical measure designed to give equal status to all foreign media outlets in Russia and does not constitute a reaction to RFE/RL's policies, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 October.

GOVERNMENT TO ROOT OUT ILLEGAL MULTIMEDIA PRODUCTION. Speaking at a government session devoted to the protection of intellectual property, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that 50 percent of videocassettes, 65 percent of audiocassettes, and 95 percent of DVDs produced in Russia are made illegally, while the illegal multimedia market is worth about $5 billion a year, RTR reported on 3 October. He said it is remarkable that while in the past most unlicensed multimedia products were imported into Russia, now they are produced domestically. This booming black market is robbing the state of significant tax revenues, Kasyanov noted. He urged the government to address the problem systematically by keeping better track of audio and video production, creating an efficient legislative framework for copyright issues, and improving the coordination of government agencies dealing with intellectual-property protection.

SENATOR URGES REVISION OF LAW ON MASS MEDIA. Federation Council Information Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Yevgenii Yeliseev said on 2 October that the current law on the mass media must be changed in order "to increase compliance with the constitution and the Civil Code," RIA-Novosti reported on 3 October. He said an amended law must address issues such as the quality of information, and it must define different types of information, including drawing a distinction between commercial and noncommercial information. In the past, efforts to change the law have been counterproductive, because they treated information from the positions of the producer and distributor, not the user, Yeliseev said.

GOVERNMENT TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER SCIENTIFIC-INFORMATION TRANSFERS. At its 3 October meeting devoted to intellectual-property rights, the government approved measures for tightening state control over the transfer abroad of scientific and technical information, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported. The government ordered the Justice, Industry and Science, and Property Relations ministries and other state agencies to increase supervision over information generated by research and development conducted with federal funds and told them to submit plans for achieving this goal by 25 December. A State Audit Chamber probe in July found that federally funded intellectual projects brought the state just 5 percent of anticipated revenues.

BEREZOVSKII SAYS COMMUNIST OPPOSITION IS BETTER THAN NONE. An interview with Boris Berezovskii was published in "Zavtra," No. 40, in which the self-exiled media magnate and oligarch expresses his desire to support the left and the antipresidential opposition, including the Communist Party. Aleksandr Prokhanov, the publisher of the anti-Western and pro-imperial weekly, conducted the interview. Berezovskii touted the role that he played in defeating the Communists in the 1996 presidential elections and his self-described part in selecting Putin as former President Yeltsin's successor in 1999. Berezovskii said he believes he made a mistake as far as Putin is concerned because Putin's victory was "not a victory of an ideology or a variant of [national] development, but a victory of the special services, and a victory of the special services is a tragedy for any nation." Berezovskii said that all opposition is suppressed under Putin, leading him to the conclusion that the Communist Party is not the greatest danger to Russia and that it is better to have Communist opposition in the country than none at all. Berezovskii repeated his long-standing claim that the Federal Security Service provoked the second Chechen war in 1999, a hypothesis shared by Prokhanov in his book "Gospodin Geksogen" ("Mr. Hexogen") (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 12 June 2002).

MORE DEMOGRAPHIC BAD NEWS. Russia's demographic crisis got worse in the first half of 2002, according to the government's Center for Economic Reforms, reported on 2 October. During this period, the country's population decreased by 385,600 to 143.3 million. In the same period, the death rate increased by 5.3 percent to 49,900, including 35,600 deaths from heart and circulatory-system diseases, 4,400 from respiratory ailments, 2,700 from digestive-system illnesses, and 1,300 from alcoholism. The marriage rate during the period fell 4.1 percent, and divorces were up 20.3 percent. The statistics showed that small increases in the birthrate and in migration are not significantly affecting the general demographic decline.