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Security Watch: June 11, 2001

11 June 2001, Volume 2, Number 23
TIME TO CELEBRATE SOVIET UNION'S 80TH ANNIVERSARY. The Molniya plant in Chelyabinsk is preparing special watches to mark the upcoming 80th anniversary of the formation of the USSR in December 2002, reported on 8 June. Plant Director Pavel Bezgin said that the plant has gone into production of these anniversary timepieces because of the enormous demand for them.

SLAVIC CONGRESS CALLS FOR RUSSIA-BELARUS-UKRAINE UNION. More than 800 delegates from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and other countries assembled in Moscow at a Congress of Slavic Peoples, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 and 4 June. The meeting called for reaffirming national values and for closer integration of the three large Slavic countries. The delegates also called for the three republics to create an anti-terrorist organization and to oppose the operation of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The congress voted to form a Slavic assembly led by a collective leadership including Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Leanid Kozik, and Ukrainian writer Borys Oliynyk.

WHO IS BEHIND THE EURASIA MOVEMENT? An article in "Obshchaya gazeta" on 31 May said either the secret services or the Kremlin may be behind the establishment of a political group that contains such a broad range of people and ideas. The secret services may have been interested in creating "a tame party of their own which they can use for various propaganda projects," the paper said. But the Kremlin may have created the group as "yet another attempt to unite various voter groups under the president's banner."

COMMUNISTS TO STEP UP FIGHT AGAINST KASYANOV'S ECONOMIC POLICY. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has called on party members to wage an all-out offensive against the government's economic reforms, the party's website, reported on 6 June. Zyuganov said that the Kremlin has "so skillfully camouflaged" its "devastating liberal approach" that the "anti-people essence" of Kasyanov's government is not obvious to everyone.

MOSCOW RAISES OIL EXPORT TAX CONFIDENT IN STABLE HIGH PRICES. The minister of economic development and trade, German Gref, said that the government Commission for Protection Measures in Foreign Trade decided to raise oil export taxes from 22 euros to 30 euros ($20-$27), starting 1 July, Prime-TASS reported on 1 June. The measure should collect nearly an additional $1 billion a year. The government had held off doing so for a long time, reported on 3 June, because it was uncertain whether prices would remain stable.

FINANCE MINISTRY PRESENTS 2002 STATE BUDGET. The Finance Ministry on 5 June presented the outlines of the 2002 state budget to the cabinet, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 June. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the plan anticipates a surplus of 1.26 percent of GDP, and GDP of $300 billion. Its working assumption is based on an oil price of $22 a barrel. But even if oil falls to $17 a barrel, Kudrin said, the government will end the year without a deficit, as Putin has promised.

MOSCOW WILLING TO SHARE INFO ON FAST REACTORS. Russian Atomic Energy Ministry experts said that Moscow is ready to share its knowledge regarding fast reactors and closed-fuel cycle reactors with interested foreign countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. The experts made the comment after visiting Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil and said that any sharing would take place under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

250 JAPANESE BUSINESS LEADERS VISIT MOSCOW. President Vladimir Putin received a 250-strong delegation from the Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations (Keianren) on 7 June and told them that Russian-Japanese business relations come to the "state of practical realization," ITAR-TASS reported. The delegation was the largest in the history of bilateral ties between the two countries.

MOSCOW WORRIED BY OSLO'S PLANS ON SPITZBERGEN. Both "Izvestiya" and "Novaya gazeta" on 5 June said that Russian government officials are deeply concerned that a bill being considered in the Norwegian parliament may reduce Russia's rights in the Spitzbergen archipelago. The islands belong to Norway, but Russia is currently guaranteed coal mining and fishing rights there. Meanwhile, Norway announced plans to spend 1 million Norwegian crowns ($100,000) to develop the Solovetskii Islands near Arkhangelsk, Interfax-Northwest reported the same day.

DUTCH QUEEN MEETS WITH PUTIN. Making her first ever trip to Russia, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands met with President Putin and other senior officials in Moscow on 5 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin stressed that Russia is pleased by the level of bilateral trade -- now running at $5 billion a year -- and by the level of cooperation on environmental, scientific, and even political issues.

MOSCOW INTRODUCES VISA REGIME WITH HUNGARY. The press office of the Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 1 June that Moscow will impose visa requirements for Hungarian nationals on 3 June in response to a Hungarian plan to require visas for Russian visitors to that country. The ministry spokesman indicated that Moscow hopes that the two countries can reach an agreement soon to restore the visa-free regime that existed over the last decade.

RUSSIAN NAVY MAY NOT STAY AT CAM RANH BAY IF RENT IS TOO HIGH. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax on 1 June that Russia may not renew its lease in 2004 on the Cam Ranh Bay facility in Vietnam if Hanoi raises the rent significantly. Moscow has been using the base -- which was built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War -- since 1979 but now questions whether it can justify this expenditure.

MOSCOW CONDEMNS TERRORIST ACT IN TEL AVIV. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 2 June that Russia condemns the terrorist bombing in a Tel Aviv disco the previous day in which 20 people were killed and 90 injured and called for the toughest possible response, regardless of who is responsible, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that both sides in the conflict cannot allow terrorists to set the agenda by such acts. Ivanov said that he has personally called officials in the region and in the U.S. and that special Russian envoy Andrei Vdovin was to fly to the Middle East on 4 June for consultations.

SPACE TROOPS WILL LAUNCH 21 SATELLITES. The commander of the Russian Space Forces, Anatolii Perminov, said that his organization is currently only monitoring foreign space objects but will soon launch its own satellites, including telecommunications satellites.

IRAQ INTERESTED IN BUYING RUSSIAN TANKS. ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June that an Iraqi delegation attending the military hardware show in Omsk indicated interest in purchasing T-80U and T-90S tanks. The Iraqis also said they would like to purchase Strela-10M anti-aircraft missile systems. But they stressed that they cannot purchase either given the current UN sanctions against Baghdad. Meanwhile, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed that Russian oil companies distribute some of their profits to Iraq because of Baghdad's decision to suspend oil exports, Interfax reported the same day.

MOSCOW TO BUILD UP INDIAN MILITARY. Russian officials have agreed to sell India some $10 billion in weapons systems, including an aircraft carrier and the equipment for a modern national air defense system, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 6 June. Moreover, the two countries agreed to work together to develop a multifunctional military transport plane.

RUMYANTSEV SAYS ECOLOGISTS SERVING RUSSIA'S COMPETITORS. Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 7 June that protests by ecological activists and liberal politicians against the importation of nuclear wastes into Russia constitute "an action planned and paid for by Russia's competitors in the West."

NEW SUBMARINE A PRODUCT OF RUSSIAN SPYING. The Akula-2 class of midsized, super-quiet nuclear submarines is the product not of Russian shipbuilding but rather of Russian espionage, both RBK and RIA-Novosti reported on 7 June. They were built according to technologies stolen from the U.S. and Japan's Toshiba corporation almost 20 years ago. Two of the subs have already been built. Each carries 28 Granit cruise missiles.

OFFICIALS ACKNOWLEDGE NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SCIENTISTS. Gennadii Mesyats, the deputy president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, acknowledged that the Russian authorities have imposed new restrictions on scholars' foreign contacts, but he said that the state is "entitled to hold its scientists to account" and that "the whole business has been blown out of all proportion," "Izvestiya" reported on 1 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2001.) An article in "Vremya MN" the same day said that the rules represent "a throwback to the Soviet era" and will become obstacles to research. Meanwhile, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 22, reported that voluntary informers reporting to the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and other security agencies now number in the thousands.

RUSSIAN SCIENCE IN TROUBLE, SCIENTISTS ORGANIZE. The number of researchers employed in Russia has fallen from 2 million in 1990 to only 800,000 now, Russian scholars said at the meeting of the For Revival of Science Movement that was created on 2 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. The average age of scholars in the country is rising rapidly as young people choose not to go into this low-paying sector.

AMERICAN EXCHANGE STUDENT'S SENTENCE REDUCED. The Voronezh regional court on 7 June decided to reduce the prison term of U.S. exchange student John Tobin based on an amnesty, Interfax reported. Tobin, who was convicted of drug possession in April, is now to serve 12 months in prison rather than the 37 months the court of first instance sentenced him to. Tobin's lawyers said that they will appeal and seek the complete vindication of their client who continues to insist he is innocent of all charges.

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE FLIGHTS INCREASE NEAR RUSSIAN BORDER. Russian Air Force officials told Interfax on 4 June that foreign intelligence flights increased between 2000 and this year near most of the Russian border. The only exception, the officials said, was along the Russian-Chinese frontier.

FSB WANTS REVIVAL OF IN ABSENTIA TRIALS. Gennadii Solovev, the first deputy director of the Federal Security Service's Department for the Defense of Constitutional Order and Combating Terrorism, told Duma deputies investigating missing persons in Chechnya that Moscow should restore the practice of passing sentence on accused criminals in absentia, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 June.

RUMYANTSEV SAYS ECOLOGISTS SERVING COMPETITORS OF RUSSIA. Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 7 June that protests by ecological activists and liberal politicians against the importation of nuclear wastes into Russia constitute "an action planned and paid for by Russia's competitors in the West."

PUTIN DECREES REORGANIZATION OF INTERIOR MINISTRY. Interior Minister Gryzlov told ORT television on 5 June that President Putin has signed a decree reorganizing his ministry. The decree divided the ministry into three parts: the criminal militia service; the public security service, which will include the traffic police, fire brigades, and passport and visa registrars; and the logistics service. The reorganization will immediately result in the dismissal of 500 people, Gryzlov said. The changes also call for the Interior Ministry to appoint all local police heads, something Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov immediately objected to, Interfax-Moscow reported the same day.

FSB TAKES CHARGE OF INTERIOR MINISTRY. According to an article in "Novye Izvestiya" on 7 June, generals from the Federal Security Service (FSB) are effectively taking over the Interior Ministry, despite the traditional mistrust between the police and the security organs. The paper added that this is in many ways a good step because the FSB is significantly less corrupt than the Interior Ministry has been. But the paper pointed to a danger: the imported FSB officers may assume total control of the Interior Ministry and their actions there may become a model for the takeover by the security agencies of other bodies.

HIGH COST TO DELAY WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM IN RUSSIA. Interior Ministry officials told "Argumenty i fakty," no. 22, that the creation of an effective witness protection program would cost approximately 5 billion rubles ($170 million). Because of that high cost, the weekly reported, officials do not believe that they will be able to start the program in even a minimal way until 2002.

CORRUPT JUDGES SAID 'LESSER EVIL' THAN STATE-CONTROLLED ONES. Tamara Morshchakova, the deputy head of the Constitutional Court, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 June that corrupt judges are "a lesser evil" than state-controlled ones because the former will reflect at least part of the will of the population while the latter can lead to tyranny.

PUTIN TELLS CABINET TO FIND MONEY FOR MILITARY PAY RAISES. President Putin on 4 June told his cabinet to find resources to raise military salaries to levels comparable to jobs in the civilian sector, Russian and Western agencies reported. "We are speaking about the fate of millions of people -- the military and their family members," he said. Putin also called for the 2002 budget to be balanced and "100 percent realizable."

PUTIN CALLS FOR FASTER REFORM OF MILITARY INDUSTRY. President Putin on 6 June told Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov that the government must speed up preparations for the reform of the military industrial complex, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, a Finance Ministry official told the news agency the same day that the government will spend $1.5 billion more on defense acquisitions in 2002 than it is spending this year.

PUTIN SEEKS TO BOOST DOMESTIC AUTO PRODUCTION. President Putin told a meeting of Russian automakers in Moscow on 6 June that he wants them to develop a modern and affordable car that ordinary Russians will be able to afford, reported on 6 June. Putin said that he will seek protectionist measures to allow the domestic car industry to expand, but he stressed at the same time that any customs barriers will not be so high as to prevent Russians from purchasing at least some imported foreign vehicles.

CABINET SEEKS TO PROTECT DEPOSITORS. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that the cabinet has prepared amendments to the banking law that will protect depositors in all banks, Interfax reported on 6 June. In an address to the Duma, Gref said that the government also plans to reduce the share of such accounts deposited in Sberbank as part of a more general effort to reduce capital flight.

PUTIN ATTENDS TOP SECURITY OFFICIAL'S FUNERAL. President Putin on 5 June took part in the funeral services for German Ugryumov, the deputy director of the Federal Security Service, Interfax reported. Ugryumov suffered a fatal heart attack in Chechnya last week. The vice admiral was in charge of the FSB Department for Protection of Constitutional Order and has under the his command all elite speznaz groups, including special task force "Alfa."

PUTIN VIEWS BEREZOVSKY AS 'A TRAITOR.' According to "Novaya gazeta" on 4 June, Putin has ordered the reopening of the criminal case against Sibneft's Roman Abramovich because the Russian president is angry at Abramovich's political pretensions. But at the same time, the paper said, Putin will not move against him as harshly as he has against Berezovsky, whom Putin views as "a traitor," a term to which the paper said Putin, as a former KGB officer, affords specific political connotations, rather than simply using it as an emotional evaluation.

ORGANIZED CRIME SEEN THREATENING GOVERNMENT. According to St. Petersburg's "Ekonomika i vremya" on 4 June, organized crime structures in Russia have concentrated so much power in their hands that they now threaten the country's political institutions. Criminal enterprises have increased their control of the economy from 27 percent of turnover in 1993 to more than 50 percent now, the paper said. Moreover, Russian criminal groups are now operating in 58 foreign countries, with significant footholds in the U.S., Israel, Turkey, Hungary, and Poland, among others. Meanwhile, in an article published in "Vedomosti" the same day, Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute of the Problems of Globalization, said that Russia's natural monopolies have so much power that they are dictating to the Kremlin.

$100 BILLION LAUNDERED IN RUSSIA IN ONE YEAR. Pino Arlacchi, the chief of the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, told an international conference on the shadow economy in St. Petersburg on 5 June that up to $100 billion was laundered in or through Russia during a recent 12-month period. Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov called for the adoption of uniform anti-money laundering legislation around the world. Gryzlov said there are now 451,000 registered drug abusers in Russia, but Arlacchi said the actual number of addicts is more than 1 million.

MOSCOW MAY BE DROPPED FROM MONEY LAUNDERING BLACK LIST. Interfax-AFI on 5 June reported that according to the Bloomberg agency, the G-7 countries recognize that Russia is working hard to combat money laundering and may consider dropping it from the list of countries considered to be world centers of such activity.

SUPREME COURT RELEASES ROKHLINA, ORDERS NEW TRIAL. The Russian Supreme Court on 7 June voided the conviction of Tamara Rokhlina, ordered her released from jail, and called for additional investigations and a new trial, ITAR-TASS reported. Rokhlina, who is expected to be released after a few days, was convicted last year of murdering her husband, Duma deputy Lev Rokhlin, in 1998. Meanwhile, prosecutors said that they plan to bring another appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to have the 7 June decision itself voided.


By Paul Goble

A Russian military analyst has suggested that Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden is behind the recent increase in Uighur assertiveness and that as a result, the Uighur national movement now threatens not only China but also the countries of Central Asia, Russia, and the West as well.

Writing in the current issue of Moscow's "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," Pyotr Sukhanov argues that Uighur activism is no longer only a threat to Chinese control of Xinjiang, the place where most Uighurs live, but also to Central Asia as a whole. He says that this reflects the increasingly Islamic dimension of what had been an ethno-national movement. And he implies that this Islamization of the Uighur cause is the product of its ties with Osama bin Laden.

Many of the seven million Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province, an area the Uighurs and other Turkic groups refer to as Eastern Turkestan, have resisted both Bejing's control of the area and even more the influx of ethnic Chinese into the region. And over the last five years, Uighurs have stepped up their efforts to drive out the Chinese, including the use of violence against Chinese officials.

According to Sukhanov, this turn to violence reflects the increasing role that he suggests Islam now plays in the Uighur national movement. He argues that "the most active organization" of Uighur separatists is the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, a group he says has up to 600 fighters who have been trained in Islamist camps in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Chechnya.

The activities of this group, Sukhanov continues, are coordinated by the Islamic Council in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which was organized by bin Laden and the Taliban movement that controls most of that country. And because the Uighurs are increasingly Islamist, Sukhanov suggests, they are now threatening not only China but Central Asian countries in addition.

Sukhanov says that "the plans of the Uighur separatists now are connected with the seizure of power of Islamist groups in the Central Asian countries of the CIS because without a reliable rear area their struggle [for the independence of Eastern Turkestan] is condemned to defeat." And as part of that effort, he continues, the Uighur Islamists are stepping up their activities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Most of the Uighurs in those two countries fled there in the early 1960s when Beijing began to impose tighter controls over the region. Now, there are approximately 250,000 Uighurs in Kazakhstan and 50,000 in Kyrgyzstan. Even Uzbekistan has a small community -- 14,000 -- of Uighurs.

China has pressured both Astana and Bishkek to tightly restrict the activities of Uighur separatists and also to deport to China Uighur activists who have fled from Xinjiang in recent years. And both countries have been willing to do so because of their additional concern that instability in Western China could spark a new influx of refugees into their countries and lead to instability in Central Asia as a whole.

Uighur activism in Xinjiang has been on the rise for some time, but few observers have stressed the Islamist dimension of their movement. Nonetheless, Sukhanov almost certainly is correct in pointing to an ever greater Islamic aspect to the Uighur struggle.

Not only do Islamist groups appear to provide the only allies that the Uighurs can count on, but Chinese repression of the Uighur community has disrupted the traditional transmission of culture there and hence created a class of young men available for Islamist mobilization.

But there may be a larger purpose behind Sukhanov's article. By invoking the name of Osama bin Laden -- who American authorities say is the mastermind behind terrorist attacks on American installations -- Sukhanov appears to be seeking broader international understanding for and even cooperation in Moscow-led actions against Islamist groups in Central Asia.

Sukhanov's discussion of the Islamist dimension of the Uighur movement may become a self-fulfilling prophecy with the Uighurs having even fewer non-Islamist places to turn to for support and thus becoming even more Islamist than they are at present.