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Security Watch: March 5, 2001

5 March 2001, Volume 2, Number 8
ORTHODOX CHURCH SPLIT ON TAX REGISTRATION. A special conference of the Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox was convened to discuss a deep split among clerics concerning the introduction of a personal taxpayer number (the Russian acronym is INN), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 February. Some said that certain taxpayers might receive numbers including the anti-Christ seal of 666, and they called for blocking the introduction of INN. Others said that the tax number was simply a means of introducing a civilized tax system in Russia. The conference failed to bring the two groups together.

AN ADMIRAL FOR PRIMORSKII KRAI? Former First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Igor Kasatonov was nominated by the relatively unknown Movement in Support of the Navy as a candidate for governor of Primorskii Krai, "Segodnya" reported on 23 February. Last year, the same movement backed another admiral, former commander of the Baltic Fleet Vladimir Yegorov, who won the governor's office in Kaliningrad Oblast.

BND PREDICTS ESCALATION IN CHECHNYA, CENTRAL ASIA. The German foreign intelligence service BND foresees serious escalation of military activities in Chechnya, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, "Die Welt" reported on 14 February. It suggested that Russia should retain up to 40,000 troops in the North Caucasus to control the situation. In Central Asia, the BND suggested, armed groups from Afghanistan are likely to destabilize the situation further by the spring. Duma Security Committee chief Andrei Nikolaev told "Segodnya" on 25 February that the report must be taken very seriously.

MOSCOW TO DEMAND ARREST OF CHECHEN ACTIVISTS IN BRITAIN. Russian presidential aide for Chechen issues Sergei Yastrzhembsky told "Segodnya" on 20 February that Moscow will ask Britain to arrest representatives of "Chechen extremists" in the country. He said that adoption of a new British law on combatting terrorism gives Russia hope that "the British government will stop the activities of Chechen groups on its territory."

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE INCREASES ITS ACTIVITY IN U.S. President Vladimir Putin has secretly directed the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) and the military intelligence service (GRU) to increase their activities in the United States, "Rossiya" reported on 15 February. Putin's directive included orders to clarify the political context of statements by several members of the new U.S. administration and to track developments related to NMD. Sergei Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, is to coordinate this effort.

RUSSIAN MEDIA SAY HANSSEN'S ARREST 'INTELLIGENCE WAR'... "Segodnya," "Vremya Novostei," and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 February all speculated that the arresst of veteran FBI official Richard Philip Hanssen on espionage charges was the direct result of the defection of Russian UN mission staffer Sergei Tretyakov last fall. "Komsomolskaya pravda" -- which has a record of publishing disinformation from Russian intelligence sources -- however said on 24 February that Hanssen "in fact was not a Russian agent but rather the victim of a very long FBI sting operation." SVR spokesman Colonel Boris Labusov told RIA-Novosti that the "tradition of his agency as well as its counterparts in the other countries" is not to comment on such news as the arrest of Richard Hanssen. At the same time, he added, "the SVR sees intelligence activities as a form of protection of the national interests."

FSB RENEWS CASE AGAINST BABKIN. The FSB has launched a new round of interrogation of Professor Anatoly Babkin of the Bauman Higher Technical University, who was accused of espionage last year together with US Navy engineer Edmund Pope, reported on February 22. Earlier questioning was suspended after Babkin suffered a heart attack, but FSB officials insist that Babkin's health is now sufficiently improved to allow him to face investigators. The renewal of the case may in fact be in retaliation to the arrest of Hanssen in the United States.

KREMLIN ASSERTS CONTROL OVER PRIVATE SECURITY FIRMS. The state wants to transform the vast array of private security companies into a consolidated system of non-government security under the federal control, "Vremya Novostei" reported on 13 February. To that end, the government sent to the Duma amendments that would merge approximately 12,500 private security agencies into several conglomerates under the control of the Interior Ministry and the FSB. Some 65 percent of the 240,000 employees of these private agencies are former officers of power ministries.

RUSSIA READY TO SELL INDIA NUCLEAR SUBMARINE. The deputy director of "Rosoboroneksport", Viktor Komarin told "Vremya Novostei" on 15 February that Russia is ready to sell the Indian navy a Russian-built nuclear submarine. Talks about doing so began in 1998 but were suspended when India joined the nuclear club. Earlier, in 1988, New Delhi rented a Soviet submarine.

GENEVA COURT ACTION DOESN'T AFFECT BORODIN CASE. The Geneva court has decided to lift the blocks it had imposed on all bank accounts belonging to the Switzerland-based Mercata Trading Company which has links to Pavel Borodin, "Segodnya" reported on 23 February. But this action will have no impact on the case against Borodin, who is still facing extradition from the United States to Switzerland, prosecutors said.

NEW CASUALTY IN WAR FOR RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM. Russia will demand extradition from France of the controversial aluminum trader Mikhail Zhivilo, ORT television reported on 22 February. Formally, Zhivilo was arrested in Paris on a warrant charging him with involvement in the attempted assassination of former Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev, "Vedomosti" reported the same day, in fact his arrest is part of a struggle for control of Russian aluminum exports. Zhivilo has brought a $2.4 billion suit against Mikhail Chornoi and Oleg Deripaska, who control the two largest Russian aluminum producers.

NO LIBERALIZATION IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTOR... Minister of Communications and Informatization Leonid Reiman told RIA-Novosti on 21 February that his agency would like to keep intact "natural monopolies" in the telecommunications area and will oppose alternatives being advocated by the Anti-Monopoly Ministry. Any additonal players in the market, Reiman said, would work against the development of Russian telecommunications.

...AS NEW MEDIA RESTRICTIONS APPEAR LIKELY. Deputy Press Minister Vladimir Grigoriev retreated from his own statement that the government plans to place a one-year moratorium of licensing new media outlets, "Vremya Novostei" reported on 21 February. But despite this withdrawal from a position he took in the 19 February "Financial Times," Grigoriev's plan looks more like a trial balloon than a mistaken statement.

DUMA TO DISCUSS RESTRICTIONS ON INTERNET. "Novaya gazeta" reported on 22 February that the Duma plans to discuss amending the law imposing state restrictions on the Internet. But the amendments will toughen the law rather than weaken it, the paper said, giving Moscow the right to impose the same restrictions on foreign information products coming into Russia as it does on domestic products. Indeed, the paper suggested that the Internet censorship model to be applied will come from China or North Korea.

POLICE CLOSE BEST RUSSIAN REFERENCE SERVER. The MVD Main Administration for Combat Economic Crimes closed public access to the biggest Internet-based informational system "Intergrum-Techno," reported on 21 February. "Intergrum-Techno" united over 700 official and commercial databases, including the State Committee for Statistics, Custom Committee, and newspapers "Kommersant" and "Argumenty i Fakty". The official reason for the action was "violation of third-party copyrights", but in fact, the MVD may have acted to become a player in the struggle for control of Inergrum-Techno after the death of its creator Yuri Polyakov last week.

IVANOV MEETS POWELL. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss "the points of cooperation with new U.S. administration," RIA-Novosti reported on 25 February. Talking to journalists afterwards, Ivanov noted that the two countries are not far apart on many issues but do disagree on several, including the ABM treaty and Iraq. Ivanov said that he had pressed Powell to intercede in the case of detained Russia-Belarus Union secretary Pavel Borodin even though Moscow understands that the Borodin case is a legal rather than a political matter.

A DUAL POSITION ON 'DUAL' TECHNOLOGIES. President Vladimir Putin told a Russian Security Council session that Russia will impose tight controls over the export of dangerous technologies, implying that not all Russian agencies had done so effectively up to now, reported on 23 February. But Council secretary Sergei Ivanov stressed that the most important aspect of a non-proliferation regime is not a ban but rather control over those items exported. Ivanov stressed, however, that Moscow seeks full cooperation with the U.S. and NATO countries "as it may face threats from proliferation in the future."

GOVERNMENT LOSES TO DUMA IN BUDGET FIGHT. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov succeeded in convincing the Duma to approve modifications in this year's state budget in order to allow Moscow to meet debt payments to the Paris Club of creditors, but most observers saw the process as the first serious political defeat of his government, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 24 February. The government had hoped to gain the funds it needed through the privatization of several industrial giants still state owned, but the Communists, OVR, and Agrarian Party deputies outfoxed the government by walking out at key moments and thus forcing the government to sacrifice the budget surplus to pay for the debts.


By Paul Goble

On the 57th anniversary of Stalin's mass deportation of the Chechen people in 1944, a Russian general has suggested that the current fighting in Chechnya more closely resembles the fighting that took place between Soviet forces and Baltic nationalists following Moscow's occupation of the Baltic states in 1945 than it does a guerilla war.

In an interview published in last week's "Obshchaya gazeta," Major General Vladimir Dudnik says that the ongoing conflict in Chechnya is not a guerilla war as most Moscow officials and commentators now suggest. Instead, he suggested, it is very much like the kind of conflict that took place between Baltic nationalists who retreated into the woods to resist Soviet occupation of their countries at the end of World War II.

That conflict, although little commented upon at the time, lasted more than a decade, Dudnik points out, and "the Baltic region was conquered only in 1956." But despite Soviet victories in that battle, Dudnik notes, Moscow ultimately lost that contest because Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian nationalists never gave up their desire for independence, and Moscow "let them go in 1991."

On the one hand, Dudnik's comments may appear to be little more than the complaint of an army officer who feels that his political masters have made a terrible mistake. After all, Dudnik spends much of his time complaining about President Vladimir Putin's decision to put the internal security forces rather than the army in charge of the campaign there. He suggests that the military "will never obey the Chekists."

But on the other hand, the general's remarks call attention to a broader effort among some Russian analysts to rethink the Chechen conflict both militarily and politically. In some ways, that discussion has been prompted by shifts in the way the fighting there has been discussed by Russian government officials.

At various times, Russian officials have described their efforts in Chechnya as combatting a guerilla war, conducting a counterinsurgency operation, and fighting international terrorism on Russian soil. Each of these terms reflects some of how the Russian government views the situation, but the use of so many terms suggests that Moscow is neither able nor willing to define the Chechen problem more precisely.

And that has provided an opening for the kind of analysis General Dudnik has made, an analysis that suggests that the roots of the Chechen challenge are inherently political and that Moscow will only be able to resolve that challenge through political rather than military means.

By drawing an analogy with the Baltic countries, Dudnik is implicitly warning Russian officials not to assume that victories on the battlefield or the arrest of Chechen leaders will end the Chechen yearning for freedom and independence. Such victories will only buy the Russian authorities a little time until the Chechens are able to resume their challenge to Moscow.

Chechen history would seem to provide ample support for Dudnik's analysis. In the 18th century, the Chechens resisted Russian encroachment under Mansur. In the 19th century, they supported Shamil in his fight against the Russian empire. In the early Soviet period, they resisted Soviet Russian reoccupation. And in 1933-34, they participated in a North Caucasus revolt against Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

When Stalin ordered their mass deportation to Central Asia on February 23, 1944, the Chechens fortunes appeared to be exhausted. Almost half of the Chechen men, women and children sent in boxcars from their ancestral homeland died either on the way or upon arrival.

But after Stalin's death, the Chechens returned. And as the Soviet Union collapsed, they declared their independence from the USSR. In the decade since, Russian forces have twice tried to break the Chechens to their will. And most recently, Russian President Putin has been claiming a kind of victory there as part of an effort to build his own authority.

But on this anniversary, Dudnik's words serve as a reminder of how far from defeating the Chechens Moscow still is. As the general points out, Putin may "need this war, but Russia does not." The price of continuing to pursue a political conflict by military means, Dudnik suggests, is simply "too high."