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Security Watch: September 11, 2001

11 September 2001, Volume 2, Number 35
CABINET BACKS CONTINUED RUSSIAN PRESENCE IN ANTARCTIC... The Russian cabinet on 5 September decided to maintain a Russian research presence in the Antarctic in order to defend what it called "Russian national interests," RIA-Novosti reported. The agency said that Moscow now plans to spend $10 million next year, down from the $12 million a year it spent prior to 1998 but significantly above the $4.5 million it is spending this year. Evacuation of existing stations there would cost Moscow an estimated $120 million.

�AS MOSCOW SEES STRATEGIC AND TOURIST INTERESTS THERE. Russian polar explorer Andrei Kapitsa told the BBC on 6 September that Moscow has strategic interests in the Antarctic because its Mirnii station serves as part of Russia's strategic early-warning system, and because many in Moscow believe that other countries will seek to claim parts of Antarctica in order to be able to extract the natural resources there. Meanwhile, "Rossiya" reported the same day that the Russian government also hopes to promote tourism to the region and to make money in the process. Last year alone, the paper said, some 30,000 tourists visited Antarctica.

RUSSIA PLANS TO BUILD 'ORBITING HOTEL' FOR SPACE TOURISTS. Russian aerospace corporation Energiya on 4 September announced that it has come up with plans for a special "space hotel" that will be the first stop for paying space tourists on their way to the International Space Station, reported on 4 September. The mini-space station will hold three to five space tourists as well as provide a jumping-off point for privately funded research projects.

COSSACKS AGAIN PERMITTED TO WEAR TRADITIONAL KNIFE. Prime Minister Kasyanov has signed a special directive allowing members of Cossack communities to wear the kinzhal, the traditional Caucasian dagger, RTR television reported on 5 September. The station said that the document carefully lists precisely what kinds of weapons can be worn when and appears to have been influenced by President Vladimir Putin.

RUSSIA, CHINA TO COOPERATE IN DEVELOPING TRANSIT CORRIDORS. Chinese railway officials met with their Russian counterparts in Moscow on 4 September and agreed that the two countries will work together to build the East-West and North-South transportation and trade corridors that President Putin has proposed, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, in Khabarovsk, officials from northeast Asia met to discuss the development of the East-West corridor, Interfax-Eurasia reported the same day. The day before, Russia's First Deputy Railways Minister Aleksandr Tselko announced the formation of a trilateral board that will supervise the linking of the Trans-Siberian to the rail systems of the two Koreas, RIA-Novosti reported.

PUTIN WANTS SUPER -RAPID RAIL LINK TO EU VIA FINLAND. During his visit to Finland, President Putin said he wants to promote the rapid construction of a high-speed train link from Perm through Moscow and St. Petersburg to Helsinki, RBK agency reported on 2 September. Putin said this link could become a major channel for moving goods between Russia and the European Union.

LUKOIL PLANS TO EXPAND OPERATIONS IN EASTERN EUROPE. LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov said on 31 August that his company plans to broaden its operations across Eastern Europe, Interfax reported. He said that LUKoil has done well in that region and that consequently it will seek expanded positions there, especially in Poland and the Czech Republic.

CENTRAL BANK NOT SHIFTING FROM DOLLARS TO EUROS. Viktor Gerashchenko told Interfax-AFI on 3 September that his agency will continue to use the dollar as its basic hard-currency holding and has no intention of purchasing additional euros at this time. He also said that he favors making it easier for Russians to open bank accounts abroad and expanding ties with banks in the other member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

PUTIN PROMISES TO PROMOTE PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST... President Putin on 4 September told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Russia plans to take on a larger role in promoting peace in the Middle East, is disturbed by current developments, and believes that the Mitchell Plan as accepted in principle by the parties should serve as the basis for an agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported. Sharon welcomed Putin's statements, said that economic ties between the two countries are growing, and invited Putin to visit Israel.

...AND TO OBSERVE NON-PROLIFERATION REGIME -- BUT RETAINS TIES WITH IRAN AND IRAQ. After his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, President Putin said on 4 September that he "understands" Israeli concerns about Russian military sales to Iran and Iraq, Russian television reported. But Putin said that Moscow is staying strictly within the limits of existing non-proliferation agreements and is selling arms only to make money. Indeed, Putin said, Russia's ties with the Arab and Muslim worlds may allow Moscow to make a larger contribution to the peace process in the Middle East.

RUSSIA, CHINA READY TO SIGN PIPELINE ACCORD. Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said after talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wu Yi in St. Petersburg on 5 September that the two countries are ready to sign an agreement calling for the construction of a natural-gas pipeline between the two countries, RIA-Novosti reported. Klebanov said that the accord will be signed on 8 September when a Chinese government delegation arrives in Moscow.

CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS JOINT POSITION ON WEST'S HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN. Speaking to journalists after a plenary session of the meeting of CIS foreign ministers in Moscow on 5 September, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the meeting focused on the prevention and settlement of conflicts in the region, joint counter-terrorist efforts, and coordinating foreign-policy positions in advance of the UN General Assembly session later this fall, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ivanov said that the West often criticizes Russia and the Central Asian states for human rights violations, and that Moscow would like the CIS countries to adopt a common response, the BBC reported the same day. Ivanov also expressed the hope that the UN General Assembly would adopt a resolution in support of the 1972 ABM Treaty, Interfax reported.

MOSCOW AGREES ON NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS IN MACEDONIA. Foreign Minister Ivanov told visiting U.S. and OSCE delegations on 6 September that Moscow agrees with the need to place international observers in Macedonia after the mandate of NATO forces there expires, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that Russia believes that the territorial integrity of Macedonia must be preserved and that the international community must do what it can to promote interethnic harmony and stability.

MOSCOW PREPARED TO EXPAND COOPERATION WITH COLOMBIA. Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 6 September after meeting with Colombian Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernandez de Soto that Moscow is pleased by Bogota's support of Russia's position on the need to preserve the 1972 ABM Treaty, and will seek to increase its trade and other ties with that South American country. Such ties, Ivanov continued, will inevitably gain momentum after President Putin's visit to Bogota "in the near future."

KREMLIN PREPARES RESPONSE TO BEREZOVSKY TO USE YELTSIN POLITICALLY. Embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky reportedly plans to use former Russian President Boris Yeltsin against President Putin, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 4 September. Under Berezovsky's alleged plan, Yeltsin would become the honorary chairman of an anti-Putin "people's movement" to be financed by Berezovsky. But the paper said that the Kremlin is preparing a response: It is considering dispatching Yeltsin as ambassador to Beijing, not only keeping him out of Russian domestic politics but putting him closer to the Chinese medical treatments he has reportedly found so useful.

PAVLOVSKII SAYS PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY TO END NEED FOR NGO HELP FROM ABROAD. Gleb Pavlovskii, the Kremlin media adviser who has assumed the leadership of the program to form a People's Assembly embracing the non-governmental organization sector in Russia, told RBK on 6 September that the creation of this body will eliminate any need for foreign assistance to NGOs, such as that now being provided by George Soros and the Ford Foundation.

LUZHKOV OFFERS TO BUY CRUISER FROM UKRAINE. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and his administration have proposed to Prime Minister Kasyanov that the city help purchase the cruiser "Admiral Lobov" to help develop the Black Sea Fleet, Ekho Mosk reported on 6 September. Such a ship, Luzhkov said, will enable Russia to project power into the Adriatic and beyond.

RUSSIAN POSTAL SERVICE TO BE PRIVATIZED. Deputy Communications Minister Anatolii Kiselev said on 5 September that his agency will transform the country's postal service into a state corporation and then in 2004-05 privatize it as a joint-stock company, RIA-Novosti reported. Meanwhile, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said the same day that he will invite foreign consultants to help the postal service make this transformation, Interfax reported.

MOSCOW 'ANALYTICAL CENTER' SAYS WESTERN AGENCIES PLOTTING AGAINST LUKASHENKA. An unidentified Moscow analysis center has prepared and published in the Belarusian mass media a report that claims that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Britain's MI-6, and Germany's BND have agreed on a special plan called "White Stork" that is intended to promote popular hostility against Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in advance of presidential elections there, "Trud" reported on 5 September. The center further claimed that the plan is being implemented in Minsk by OSCE representative Hans-Georg Wieck who, "Trud" reported the center as saying, is in fact "a longstanding German spy." Meanwhile, RTR television reported the day before that Lukashenka said Russian intelligence has provided him with information showing that Michael Kosak, the U.S. ambassador in Belarus, is leading the plot against him.

FSB SAYS IT EXPELLED SOUTH ASIAN SPY FROM RUSSIA. A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) said on 5 September that FSB officers have broken up an espionage operation by an unnamed South Asian country and have secured the expulsion of the foreign nationals involved, Interfax reported.

CHINESE PLANE VIOLATES RUSSIAN AIRSPACE. The Defense Ministry said that a Chinese aircraft briefly violated Russian airspace over the Altai mountains on 2 September but passed back into China before any Russian planes were scrambled to intercept it, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The violation highlights both the collapse of Russian radars in that region and the reluctance of the military to do anything that might undercut friendship with Beijing, the paper suggested.

PUTIN DECREE OPENS DOOR TO FREER ARMS TRADE. President Putin has signed a decree that clearly defines the types of military equipment and systems available for export and the countries to which such materiel can be exported, "Vremya novostei" reported on 4 September. While many of the specifications remain classified, this document is truly "revolutionary," the paper said, both because of what it reveals and because it specifies that companies that comply with its provisions will no longer need to get government approval on a case-by-case basis for their sales abroad.

PUTIN SENDS MORE MONEY TO NUCLEAR FUEL PRODUCER. President Putin has signed a decree providing more money to the state nuclear fuel-producing monopoly TVEL, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 September. The additional money is to come not from the budget but rather from transfers from other federal enterprises, the paper said. Putin is seeking to increase TVEL's capitalization, the paper added, in order to increase the market value of the company's shares and thus allow the state to sell some of these shares for the buyout of other enterprises in the nuclear industry that are not yet under complete state control.

DEFENSE MINISTRY CALLS FOR MODERNIZING RUSSIAN TANKS. General Sergei Maev, the head of the Defense Ministry's directorate responsible for tanks, said on 6 September that his agency is launching a program to modernize Russia's T-72 tanks to bring them up to the level of the T-90, NTV reported. Maev said that at present, only one in every five Russian tanks meets modern specifications. Modernizing existing tanks, he added, is much more rational and inexpensive than replacing them.

PUTIN NAMES LEFTIST POLITICIAN TO HEAD STATE BROADCASTING SYSTEM. President Putin on 1 September named Gennadii Sklyar, the current deputy governor of Kaluga Oblast who has longstanding ties to various left-wing groups, to head the Russian Television and Radio Network, ORT television reported. Sklyar began his career during the Soviet era as a Komsomol official in a secret defense telecommunications enterprise. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Duma, in 1995 as a candidate of the nationalist Congress of Russian Communities and in 1999 as a member of General Andrei Nikolaev's bloc. Sklyar is a frequent contributor to "Sovetskaya Rossiya" and "Pravda," reported on 3 September.

YASTRZHEMBSKII WANTS TIGHTER STATE CONTROL OVER MEDIA REPORTS ON CHECHNYA. Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, said on 31 August that many journalists have made poor choices and have included statements by anti-Moscow Chechens in their reports, Russian and Western news services reported. As a result, he said, "the law must regulate this question." He said that the government "must respond to every case" when journalists violate the rules and report what the "bandits" are saying. Yastrzhembskii also condemned the 1996 Khasaurt accords between Moscow and Chechnya as "treason" and said they will not be repeated. But "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 August carried an interview with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who said that talks will eventually end the war and that Russia should "summon the courage and arrange a moral Khasaurt."

NEW TARIFF BOARD WON'T CONTROL COMMUNICATIONS CHARGES. German Gref, the minister for economic development and trade, said that the newly created Unified Tariff Board will control charges for all natural monopolies, except for those in telecommunications, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 September. Gref said that Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, who has the ear of President Putin, has succeeded in getting his sector excluded from oversight by the new board.

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY TO OPEN 1,860 PUBLIC INTERNET ACCESS POINTS BEFORE END OF YEAR. Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said on 5 September that his ministry plans to open 1,860 public Internet access points by the close of 2001 to attempt to meet rising demand for access, Interfax reported. He said that "the growth of the Internet in Russia is constrained by the price of computers," and consequently the government wants to allow people to share government-owned computers.