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Security Watch: August 7, 2001

7 August 2001, Volume 2, Number 30
PUTIN WANTS ALL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO BE ON LINE. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered all government agencies to launch websites on the Internet and update them on a daily basis, "Vedomosti" and "Vremya novostei" reported on 27 July. Deputy presidential administration head Aleksei Volin said that those agencies which fail to update their sites on a daily basis will be considered as having "done nothing or nothing useful" that day.

RUSSIA EXPECTS MORE TOURISTS. Sergei Shpilko, the president of the Russian Association of Travel Agencies, told ITAR-TASS on 28 July that some 2.6 million tourists visited Russia in 2000 and that he expects that number to rise this year by 10-15 percent. At the same time, he noted, some 4.5 million Russians traveled abroad last year, and he predicted that number would grow by 10-15 percent in 2001. But recreational centers in Russia are likely to attract 35-40 percent fewer domestic clients this year, largely because of cutbacks in social service payments that had facilitated visits to them in the past.

CHURCH OFFICIAL'S POSITION ON CHECHNYA NOT 'POLITICALLY CORRECT.' In an interview with "Novaya gazeta" on 30 July, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, an official representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that the Russian Orthodox Church does not protest against the Chechen war because it considers the "integrity of the state" no less important than the value of the human life. He added that his statement might not be "politically correct and humanistic," but the church does not follow such guidelines. Chaplin dismissed as "myths" widely circulated reports that many Orthodox clerics collaborated with the KGB during the Soviet era.

KASYANOV SAYS TRANS-SIBERIAN TO BE KEY LINK IN EUROPE-ASIA TRADE. Speaking at a conference on the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 28 July that that railway continues to serve as "a powerful factor uniting the country and providing for its economic security," reported. He added that it will soon be extended both east and west and thus serve to link Europe and Asia via Russia.

ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTRY TO WOO BUSINESS IN NORTH KOREA. The Atomic Energy Ministry is interested in resuming cooperation with North Korea in the field of nuclear power and will propose several new projects to visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, an agency spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 2 August. These projects include the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Russian area bordering North Korea, so that the plant can supply energy to Russia across the frontier and therefore not antagonize the U.S., which is concerned about the spread of nuclear technology to North Korea.

MOSCOW SEEKS RECOGNITION AS MARKET ECONOMY. RIA-Novosti reported on 26 July that Russian officials have passed to visiting U.S. officials a 1,000-page memorandum explaining why the United States should recognize Russia as a market economy. Such recognition would aid Moscow's application to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), officials added. (An article in "Izvestiya" on 27 July noted that Western investors have shown increased confidence in Russian bonds far faster than have Russians themselves.) Prime Minister Kasyanov on 27 July said that joining the WTO would boost Russia's integration into the world economy, ITAR-TASS reported. But as WTO membership appears more possible, Russian firms are increasingly divided over whether it will benefit them, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. The paper outlined the arguments of what it called the "WTO optimists" and the "WTO pessimists."

RUSSIAN ALUMINUM GAINS FROM GUINEA PRESIDENT'S VISIT. During his visit to Moscow on 28 July, Guinean President Lansan Conte signed an accord with Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska giving Russia an expanded role in the development of bauxite deposits in Guinea, reported. Those deposits are estimated at more than 1 billion tons. Conte also met with Putin and signed a variety of economic and military cooperation declarations, Interfax reported the same day.

RUSSIA TO REACTIVATE SOVIET GLOBAL NAVIGATION SYSTEM. Rosaviakosmos head Yurii Koptev said on 1 August that the government plans to spend 26 billion rubles ($900 million) to reactivate and extend the global navigation system that was launched prior to the collapse of the USSR, Interfax reported. Under this project, the number of Russian telecommunications satellites will be increased from the current level of seven to 24. The project will be financed from both federal and regional budgets.

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA NOT READY TO MAKE CONCESSIONS ON ABM. While visiting military units in Kamchatka Oblast on 31 July, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov denied that Moscow is prepared to modify the ABM Treaty, ORT and RTR reported. Ivanov said that previous reports about Russia's readiness to compromise with Washington on this issue "are groundless since we do not know even theoretically on what basis a compromise would be formed" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001). Ivanov added that Russia will make no concessions to the U.S. as far as its national security is concerned.

PUTIN HOPES FOR GERMAN AGREEMENT ON RETURN OF CULTURAL VALUABLES. Putin told visiting Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber on 27 July that Moscow hopes that Germany and Russia will be able to reach agreement on disputes over the return of cultural valuables taken by each side during World War II, Interfax reported. Putin also said he is pleased that Bavaria has established close working ties with many of Russia's regions.

NEW RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR IN TEHRAN PROMISES COORDINATED EFFORT IN THE CASPIAN. The newly appointed Russian ambassador to Iran, Aleksandr Maryasov, said on 30 July that Moscow and Tehran have "similar attitudes" on basic foreign policy issues, such as the problems of the Caspian region and bilateral relations, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 July. In addition, he pledged that Iran and Russia will coordinate their policies in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

LIBYA SAID TO BE INTERESTED IN RUSSIAN PLANES... A spokesman for the Ulyanovsk-based aviation company, Aviastar-SP, which produces the Tupolev-204 medium-haul passenger airplanes, has announced that it is negotiating the sale of at least four such aircraft to Libyan Arab Airlines, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 July. The spokesman added that Libya also wants to send its pilots to Ulyanovsk for training.

...AS IS INDONESIA. Russia is offering to sell Indonesia Russian "Su-30" fighter jets for its air force in exchange for concessions and licensing of that country's mining and other natural resource extraction sectors, "Izvestiya" reported on 31 July. The newspaper quotes the commander in chief of the Indonesian air force, Hanafi Aznan, who said he would prefer to buy the Russian planes for the modernization of his country's air force. Because of the deep economic crisis and continuing U.S. embargo imposed on purchases of military supplies, the inexpensive Russian airplanes may prove very attractive to Jakarta, "Izvestiya" noted. All in all, the Russian military plans to sell to Indonesia over the next 10 years up to 500 aircraft at cost of $17 billion, according to the daily.

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS INCREASE PRESENCE NEAR SPITZBERGEN. Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) Commander Colonel General Konstantin Totskii told journalists in Murmansk on 1 August that his agency is going to strengthen its presence in the region of the Spitzbergen archipelago by sending a military ship there, RIA-Novosti reported. He added that the ship will escort Russian fishing boats on a permanent basis and prevent their detention by the Norwegian coast guard as has occurred in the past.

BAGHDAD WANTS TO BOOST COMMERCIAL CONTACTS WITH RUSSIA. Iraqi government spokesman Faiz Shakhin announced on 30 July at the Vienna headquarters of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that his government would like to ink new contracts with Russian oil companies, thus rewarding "Moscow's positive role in the failure of the 'smart sanctions' proposed by the U.S. and Britain," RIA-Novosti reported.

PUTIN SIGNS NEW NAVY DOCTRINE. While in Sevastopol on 29 July, President Putin signed Russia's new naval doctrine, which calls for the Russian fleet to be present in all the world's oceans and creates a new maritime collegium within the government to oversee the fleet's operations, reported. Navy commander in chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, stressed that the doctrine is destined to become a cornerstone of Russia's geopolitical strategy. Meanwhile, speaking at the ceremony on 29 July marking Russian Navy Day in Vladivostok, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said he will do "everything he can to restore the Russian Pacific Fleet" from its current sorry state, RIA-Novosti reported.

MEDIA REACT TO NEW NAVAL POLICY. The same day, "Izvestiya" reported that in order to implement the naval doctrine, Russia must find funds for about 300-320 modern warships, including 95 submarines and up to 95-100 large surface ships it will need over the next 15 years. Meanwhile, the commander in chief of the navy, Vladimir Kuroyedov, said three main entities will be responsible for implementation of the doctrine: the navy, the coast guard of the Federal Border Service, and the merchant fleet, 29 August RIA-Novosti reported.

DEFENSE MINISTER DETAILS MILITARY REFORM EFFORTS. Speaking to journalists during his visit to the Siberian military district on 2 August, Sergei Ivanov said that within the framework of military reform, housing and public utilities that are now under the control of the Defense Ministry will be transferred to the control of municipal authorities, RTR reported. In addition, as of July 2002, all servicemen will be brought up to the level of civil servants, which means that their base salary will be raised but they will have to start paying taxes as well as pay rent and public utilities.

FSB CONCERNED ABOUT CRIMINALIZATION OF GOLD AND DIAMOND BRANCHES. Officers from 23 territorial directorates of the Federal Security Service (FSB) got together in the closed city of Zheleznogorsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai to discuss measures for the protection of the Russian gold and diamond producing industries, Radio Mayak reported on 1 August. In particular, officers want to prevent the industries from being infiltrated by organized crime groups. According to FSB information, some criminal underworld leaders have already taken control of some important production and financial institutions involved with gold mining and the extraction of precious stones, which the agency believes poses a serious threat to the Russian economy.

FSB DENIES MEDIA REPORT ON ITS ECONOMIC ROLE. The Federal Security Service (FSB) on 29 July denied a report in "Argumenty i Fakty," on 27 July, that Yurii Ovchenko has prepared an FSB paper calling for a radical change in Moscow's economic policy away from privatization and toward greater currency controls. In a statement, the FSB said that Ovchenko has never been employed by the agency and that the FSB had nothing to do with the report on economic policy to which the "Argumenty i Fakty" article refers.

GRYZLOV NAMES NEW HEADS FOR FEDERAL DISTRICTS... Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced on 30 July that President Putin has appointed the chief of Perm Oblast's Interior Ministry Directorate, Yurii Skovorodin, as the head of the ministry's directorate for the Siberian federal district. In addition, the head of the Khabarovsk Interior Ministry Directorate, Anatolii Zolotarev, will now head the ministry's directorate in the Far Eastern federal district, Interfax reported. Gryzlov also revealed that one reform his agency will undertake will be to make the selection of new officers competitive, rather than continuing with the "routine recruiting" that is done today.

...AND TAKES MVD OFFICERS TO TASK. Speaking to the police officers in the Central federal district on 2 August, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that an insufficient budget, old equipment, and miserable salaries prevent his agency from serving the Russian population, as it should, Interfax reported. At the same time, "society will not allow us to increase our personnel since it has already reached 1.9 million persons," Gryzlov said. Therefore, he declared that the agency could only improve its overall performance by increasing the personal contribution of every officer.

TAX CHIEF PROPOSES FINANCIAL AMNESTY. In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 31 July, Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev said that he is inclined to support an amnesty for Russian illegal capital, because such a policy is consistent with Russian President Putin's economic program, which has lightened companies' tax burden and liberalized hard currency regulations. Bukaev suggests that the amnesty be structured so that the owner of illegal capital would pay the 13 percent income tax and transfer his funds to a bank account that is "transparent" or can be monitored by Russian financial agencies. Bukaev added that he is impressed by the positive experience of Kazakhstan. The capital amnesty there in June-July resulted in the return of some $480 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001).

INVESTIGATION CONCLUDED IN HIGH-LEVEL CORRUPTION CASE. The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 2 August that it has completed its criminal investigation on suspicion of bribery, embezzlement, document forgery, and abuse of office against the former head of the State Statistics Committee, Yurii Yurkov; the director of the committee's computer center, Boris Saakyan; and eight other persons, ITAR-TASS reported. The Federal Security Service's Economic Crimes Department in 1998 for selling classified or confidential economic information arrested Yurkov and his colleagues. Also arrested with Yurkov were two officers from the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI). A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said a military court would hear the "Yurkov case" because it involves intelligence officers.

GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS... President Putin has signed a decree raising the minimum pension by 10 percent to 660 rubles ($23), ORT reported on 1 August. The increase will affect about 18 million pensioners, although the recent hikes in the cost of utilities and rent may wipe out any gains.

...REDUCES TAX ON OIL EXPORT, IMPORT OF INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT... Aleksei Kushnarenko, the secretary of the government commission for foreign trade and custom tariffs, announced on 1 August a reduction of the duties on the import of technical equipment from the current level of 10-15 percent to 5-10 percent that will take effect one month from the new regulation's publication, Interfax reported. The rating cut covers equipment for the automobile, machine building, textile, and food industries. According to Kushnarenko, the announced import tax reduction is a preparatory step for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization.

...AS TAX COLLECTIONS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS. Addressing a press conference in Moscow on 1 August, Economic Development and Trade Minster German Gref announced that tax collection in the first six months of this year exceeded the projected level by 30 percent, Interfax reported. He added that the increased collections were the result of the incipient tax reform, the aim of which is to create a favorable investment climate and provide the conditions for allowing "businesses to emerge from the shadows."

MOSCOW SAID DENYING VISAS TO NGO WORKERS. According to a report in "The Moscow Times" on 27 July, the Russian Foreign Ministry is currently denying visas to foreign nongovernmental organization workers if they have been involved in Chechnya or in other areas in ways that Moscow views as a security risk. Valentin Gefter, the head of Moscow's Human Rights Institute, told the paper that "visa denials for certain groups, like human rights activists and environmentalists, have become systemic; but I wouldn't connect them with Putin -- they started before his coming into power."

SALVATION ARMY WILL CHALLENGE COURT-ORDERED CLOSURE. The Moscow division of the charitable and religious organization Salvation Army will ask the Russian Constitutional Court to probe the legality of the regulation under which authorities can decline to reregister religious organizations on the basis of their formal title, attorneys for the organization told RFE/RL on 30 July. Moscow authorities last year refused to reregister the Salvation Army, which already has missions in 16 Russian cities, under the pretext that "it is a military organization."

PROSECUTION WITNESS ADMITS SUTYAGIN DID NOT PROVIDE STATE SECRETS. At the closed trial of academic Igor Sutyagin in Kaluga Oblast, witness for the prosecution Colonel Sergei Koshelev said that, in the opinion of the Defense Ministry, Sutyagin damaged Russia's security "by trading information about its weapons to foreign countries," Interfax reported on 30 July. In a vague statement, Koshelev noted that although "the information supplied by the defendant to foreign countries did not contain secrets," it provided insight into the army's combat readiness.

NEW RULES ARE IMPOSED ON JOURNALISTS COVERING CHECHNYA. The Russian command in Chechnya has imposed new and more restrictive rules on journalists working in the war zone, and that has prompted a protest by the Union of Journalists of Russia, Interfax reported on 27 July. The new restrictions, the union spokesman said, will deprive journalists of the possibility of any independent reporting on the conflict and mean that only the government's upbeat assessments will reach the public. According to an NTV report on 26 July, the Russian military even plans to set up its own alternative military broadcasting studio to provide its own film on the conflict, Reuters reported.

GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES NEW INFORMATION PORTAL. As part of its cooperation with the World Bank under the program, "Electronic Russia," the federal government has launched a major new information server and search engine called the Russian Development Portal, ITAR-TASS reported on July 30. The portal -- which can be found at -- has 27 different sections as well as powerful Russian- and English-language search engines.

TV HEAD SUMS UP STATE OF MASS MEDIA. In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 31, Oleg Poptsov, the president of TVTsentr, argues that since the fall of communism, four trends have emerged that threaten the development of Russia's independent mass media. First, the cohesiveness of the Russian media as a professional community has been destroyed over the last two years. Second, the mass media have lost their function as a means of expressing public opinion. Third, the mass media have become overcommercialized. And fourth, society itself has become de-intellectualized and degraded. As a result, Poptsov concludes, public opinion about Russia's mass media is that "the second oldest profession has now moved closer to the first oldest than ever before."