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Security Watch: January 22, 2001

22 January 2001, Volume 2, Number 3
BORODIN DETAINED IN NEW YORK� The former chief of Boris Yeltsin's presidential property office, Pavel Borodin, was detained by U.S. officials at New York's JFK airport on 18 January because of an outstanding Swiss warrant, wire services reported. Borodin, who now serves as state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, is sought by the Swiss for his role in money-laundering schemes involving the Mabetex and Mercata companies. Last December, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office attempted to close that case by asserting that the Swiss had failed to provide the necessary documentation. Geneva prosecutor Bernard Bertosa told Interfax that he will insist on Borodin's extradition.

...PROMPTING RUSSIAN PROTEST. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called in U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins to demand "the immediate and unconditional release" of Borodin, Interfax reported. Ivanov said that Borodin had come to the United States on an invitation to attend the presidential inauguration. Other Russian and Belarusian diplomats and officials made similar statements. Meanwhile, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that he did not understand why Borodin was traveling without his diplomatic passport and why the U.S. would have given him a visa if it intended to arrest him at the border. But Yabloko leader and former Russian ambassador to Washington Vladimir Lukin said that the U.S. courts will examine this case according to law and won't be swayed by Russian protests.

BERLIN LOOKS INTO RUSSIAN MONEY-LAUNDERING. The federal prosecutor of Dusseldorf, Michael Schwarz, has launched an investigation into Russian money-laundering in Germany estimated to involve some $7.2 billion, "Spiegel," no. 4, reported. Among the Russian companies said to be involved are Norilsk Nikel, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin, and the TransWorldGroup, which is controlled by media magnate Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich.

MINATOM INTERROGATED ON ILLEGAL EXPORTS. The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office questioned Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov in connection with reports of illegal exports of technology and information which are subject to anti-proliferation protocols, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 January. The paper suggested that this probe was intended to signal to Washington that Moscow "cares" about non-proliferation issues. But according to "Vedomosti" on 17 January, Adamov believes that his being questioned reflected "intrigues by the foreign and domestic competitors" of his ministry, among whom he said number Anatolii Chubais.

CHEMICAL WEAPON USED IN MURDER OF BUSINESSMAN. Medical experts have concluded that businessman Ivan Kivelidi and his secretary were killed in 1995 by a special fluorine-based substance stolen from a chemical weapons center at Shchikhany, ORT reported on 17 January.

FSB OFFICER STEALS PALLADIUM FROM SUBMARINES. Prosecutors have accused an FSB officer and a garrison commander in Murmansk of stealing some 135 units of palladium from submarines slated for decommissioning, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 January. The two are accused of selling the valuable metal for enormous profits.

MOSCOW STEPS UP COOPERATION WITH PARIS� French Defense Minister Alain Richard met in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeev, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, and Duma Defense Committee chairman Andrei Nikolaev to discuss the ABM treaty and the broadening of Franco-Russian military contacts, reported on 17 January. Ivanov said after his meeting with Richards told Moscow and Paris have nearly common positions on the need to preserve the ABM treaty and that "in general, the two countries are not only historical but also political and military allies."

...AS IT PLAYS DOWN BUSH INTERVIEW. Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov also said at his press conference that Moscow is not worried by the statements of President-elect George Bush about the deployment of a national missile defense. He said that government must distinguish between campaign rhetoric and real positions. "We have no information about preparations for realizing these plans, nor do we have any information that the U.S. has begun consulting its allies and partner, including Russia, about such a strategy," Ivanov said.

MOSCOW TOUGHENS STAND ON KURILES� Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said that the four Kurile Islands are and will remain a part of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. He thus retreated from earlier Russian positions, including a 1956 Soviet-Japanese declaration concerning the return of at least two of those islands. "Without rejecting that declaration," Losyukov said, "we now view the Kuriles issue in the context of new geopolitical realities."

...AND ON CULTURAL RESTITUTION. Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said that Moscow would not allow any works of art captured by Soviet forces to be exhibited abroad lest they be seized by other governments or individuals making claims on them, Interfax reported on 16 January.

IRAN PUSHED TO SHIFT STANCE ON CASPIAN. The Russian presidential representative on Caspian Sea issues, Viktor Kaluzhny, said that he had used his visit to Tehran to call on the Iranian government to drop demands for sharing both the seabed and water of the Caspian Sea into five national sectors, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 17 January. He said that Moscow had already retreated from this position when President Vladimir Putin made a compromise with Azerbaijan and he urged Iran to follow suit because a "sectoral" approach is unrealistic. Kaluzhny added that Putin will make the same argument when he visits Tehran in March.

MOSCOW SET TO COUNTER ANY U.S. SHIFT ON IRAQ. reported on 18 January that the Russian government recognizes that Washington may change its approach to Iraq under the Bush administration. Consequently, Moscow has urged LUKoil to move quickly to tie up any loose ends on licensing accords lest they be lost later as a result of an American shift. Despite Baghdad's anti-American rhetoric, the news service said, Baghdad hopes to replace Russian oil contracts with more reliable and familiar Western oil corporations.

SUPREME COURT VOIDS VERDICT OF 'BRITISH SPY.' The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has cancelled the espionage conviction of Platon Obukhov and ordered a new trial, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 January. Obukhov's father, a former deputy foreign minister, told Interfax that his son is suffering from a mental illness. he added that Platon had earlier lost his job at the Foreign Ministry because he had given the hero of one of his books, a mafia chieftain, the name of his boss at the ministry.

MOSCOW SAYS GLUCK TO BLAME FOR HIS OWN KIDNAPPING. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said that U.S. assistance worker Kenneth Gluck bears some of the responsibility for being kidnapped since he had moved around Chechnya without notifying the Russian authorities and FSB guards, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. Yastrzhembsky added that Gluck's passport had expired and that he was travelling "at his own risk in a zone of counterterrorist operations."

HAS THE GRU MADE A DEAL WITH FORMER BRITISH SPY? London's "Sunday Times" on 14 January accused the GRU of helping to publish the memoirs of a former British intelligence officer. The paper said that Tomlinson had asked the Russian authorities for assistance in publishing revelations about Britain's secret services, including charges that these agencies were involved in killing Princess Diana in 1998. According to the paper, the GRU has set up a front publishing house and promised Tomlinson $50,000 for his book.

FORMER KGB CHIEF SEMICHASTNY DIES. Vladimir Semichastny, who headed the KGB from 1961 to 1967 and participated in the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev, died in Moscow at the age of 77 on 12 January, ORT reported. Semichastny -- who rose to the head of the Soviet agency at the age of 37 -- had a mixed record, ORT noted. On the one hand, he was responsible for persecuting Andrei Sinyavsky, Yuli Daniel, Boris Pasternak, and Josef Brodsky. On the other, he not only helped catch Western agent Oleg Penkovsky but also organized several "successful penetration operations" against Western intelligence services.

'TELEPHONE JUSTICE' CONTINUES AND EVEN EXPANDS. Boris Uvarov, a former senior investigator and prosecutor, said that Russian criminal groups are winning because law enforcement agencies remain subject to political manipulation, just as they were in Soviet times, "Segodnya" reported on 12 January. He said that Prosecutor-General's Office is subjected to the greatest pressure but that courts are affected too, including through the increased use of "telephone justice," in which judges are told by their political masters what sentences to hand down.

KREMLIN PREPARING TO CHANGE RUSSIAN TERRITORIAL MAP. Federation and Nationalities Minister Aleksandr Blokhin said that the presidential administration has cleared his bill that would allow for changing the status of federation subjects, "Segodnya" reported on 17 January. Blokhin indicated that the centerpiece of the measure is the "enlargement" of some subjects and hence the reduction in the total number by as much as two-thirds. He suggested that the implementation of this program would take some time.

PUTIN REWARDS ZHIRINOVSKY. President Vladimir Putin has given LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky the title of "honorable jurist," reported on 17 January. Since Putin became president, Zhirinovsky has become ever more visible and vocal and now serves as vice speaker of the Duma.

DUMA REFUSES TO RENAME RUSSIAN HOLIDAYS. The Duma has rejected calls by the presidential administration to rename the 7 November revolution anniversary as the "Day of Reconciliation" and the 12 June independence day as the "Day of Russia," "Vremya novosti" reported on 18 January. The previous names, "Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution" and "Independence Day" will be retained.

MEDIA-MOST FINANCE CHIEF ARRESTED. The Prosecutor-General's Office has arrested the chief of the financial division of Media-MOST, Anton Titov, and indicted him for the "plunder of alien property," Interfax reported on 17 January. Titov's arrest was followed by a subpoena for the first deputy director of Media-MOST, Andrei Tsimailo. A spokesman for the holding called the actions against Titov and Tsimailo an "act of political intimidation." "Vremya novosti" of 17 January added that the prosecutor's office arrested Titov because it "urgently needs an accomplice in the case of Gusinsky." The prosecutor's office said in its request for Gusinsky's extradition from Spain that the latter had "committed fraud in plot with others," wrote the newspaper.

MOSCOW MAYOR QUESTIONED IN MEDIA-MOST CASE. Chief investigator of the Media-MOST case, Valerii Nikolaev, told NTV on 15 January that he has questioned, in writing, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and the head of Moscow's finance department, Yurii Korostelev. Nikolaev said that both had been interrogated in connection with the case of Vladimir Gusinsky.

KREMLIN WOULDN'T HELP TED TURNER. The deputy chief of Russia's presidential administration, Dmitrii Medvedev, refused to give guarantees to U.S. media magnate Ted Turner that the Russian government will refrain from putting political pressure on NTV even if Turner purchased shares in that company, NTV reported on 17 January. Turner, who was interested in purchasing NTV shares, then decided not to do so.

PUTIN SAYS HE'S FOR A FREE PRESS BUT� Addressing the chief editors of the Russia mass media, President Vladimir Putin said that reports about threats to the free press in Russia were "exaggerated," "Krasnya zvezda" reported on 15 January. He said that the government needs the kind of criticism the press provides. But Putin said, "when we talk about the unity of the Russian state, we should not forget that unity begins with words, from the formulation of the idea of unity," and the media bears responsibility for promoting that. Moreover, Moscow will continue to ban "the dissemination of illegitimate and extremist ideas" by the media, the president said. And Putin added that the government will seek to end the penetration of the media by "criminal elements."

PUTIN PRAISES MILITARY, SECURITY ORGANS. At a Kremlin ceremony at which 26 generals were promoted, President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian army in 2000 had "successfully fulfilled" its main mission by providing strategic deterrence, Interfax reported on 18 January. Moreover, it has done well in combating threats to the territorial integrity of the country in the North Caucasus. At the same time, he expressed his satisfaction with what he called "the efficient work" of the FSB and SVR during the last 12 months.


By Paul Goble

A Russian foreign policy analyst has urged Moscow to use its nationality policies at home to promote its foreign policy goals. But he has warned that the Russian government must at the same time take into consideration certain foreign policy challenges when dealing with its domestic ethnic minorities.

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 January, Igor Igoshin argues that those who view Russia's numerous ethnic issues as a purely domestic affair are deeply mistaken because "a number of foreign policy goals critically important for Moscow are connected in the closest way with the nationality question," the term Russians have used since the 19th century to denote interethnic issues.

Igoshin identified four such foreign policy issues. Two of these involve situations in which he argues the Russian government can use ethnic issues to promote its own agenda. And two of which confront Moscow with challenges it can only meet if it understands their implications for domestic interethnic relations and responds appropriately both at home and abroad.

The first of these issues, Igoshin says, involves "the support of the Russian-language population in the former Soviet republics." This is in the first instance a moral and ethical requirement because these people who were native to Russia were "practically thrown to their fates" in the early 1990s.

But, he adds, "this problem has another side as well." The Russian-speaking communities in many of the former Soviet republics form "a significant portion" of the population -- in Latvia, for example, some 34 percent in 1991. Such diasporas, Igoshin suggests "are capable of becoming a serious internal political factor in former Soviet republics which will have a positive influence on the relations" between these countries and Russia.

He pointedly notes that there are "many such examples" of diasporas having this effect: "The Jewish community of the U.S., which is much smaller in size, has exerted -- through pressure on the government -- the most powerful support of Israel over the course of several decades." Russian-speaking groups abroad, Igoshin says, are fully capable of playing the same role in what he calls "the near abroad."

Moreover, the use of such groups in this way, he suggests, is something Russia can do "despite the widespread view" of its foreign policy weakness. Russia's economic presence, its ability to direct the flow of goods across some countries but not others, and its ability to conduct propaganda, Igoshin argues, give Moscow the ability to have an impact on Russian communities abroad and through them on the governments of the countries in which they live.

The second of these issues, again one where Moscow can use its ethnic policies to promote its interests, involves the possible unification of Russia and former Soviet republics into a single state such as its ongoing efforts to form a new union state with Belarus. Obviously, Igoshin says, not all countries of this region are interested. Those that are are likely to become more so, he continues, if Moscow recognizes that "the nationality question is one of the capstones" of such a process.

To the extent it acknowledges this fact, Igoshin argues, "a most important task for Russia is the formation of conditions which will assist the further improvement of relations between the peoples of Russia and the states with which unification is really possible. Igoshin does not draw the obvious corollary that Moscow will have less interest in doing that with groups whose co-ethnics outside of Russia are not interested in unity.

The third area where Russia's nationality question takes on a foreign policy dimension, albeit a more defensive one, concerns what Igoshin calls "the sharpening of tensions in the southern direction," the rise of Muslim groups which threaten Russia's interests in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

He says that this threat to ethnic harmony within Russia is potentially so great, as Chechnya has already shown, that Moscow must be prepared to counter it even with non-diplomatic means including the actions of special services, military actions, and so on. Failure to do so, Igoshin says, will mean that it will be "simply impossible to defeat national extremism in Russia" itself.

And the fourth area he identifies is also one in which Igoshin argues nationality policy must play a role: countering what he suggests is "the extraordinarily complex problem" likely to arise in Russia's Far East. "The active resettlement into Siberian regions of representatives of neighboring states with more dense populations" -- by clear implication, the Peoples' Republic of China -- presents a threat to Russian control.

Indeed, he suggests that this influx of outsiders could lead to a situation captured by the old Soviet anecdote about a future BBC report that there has been "a stabilization of the situation on the Finnish-Chinese border."

On the one hand, Igoshin's argument is little more than a revival of an early Soviet approach in which the nationality question was always linked to colonial issues and a restatement of the frequent observation in other countries that foreign and domestic politics are inevitably interrelated -- especially as societies become more open.

But on the other hand, the appearance of this argument in such explicit form now suggests that Moscow is increasingly open to the possibilities of using ethnicity to promote its goals and also increasingly concerned that others may use ethnicity against Russia itself.