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Security Watch: September 17, 2001

17 September 2001, Volume 2, Number 36
PUTIN OFFERS SYMPATHY AND SUPPORT FOR U.S.... In both a telegram and a telephone conversation to U.S. President George W. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, President Vladimir Putin on 11 September expressed his sympathies to Bush and the American people for what he called "these terrible tragedies" of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, ITAR-TASS reported. He and other Russian officials offered whatever assistance they could to help the United States find and punish those responsible. "There is no doubt that such inhuman actions must not remain unpunished," Putin said.

... CONDEMNS TERRORISM AND CALLS FOR COMMON FRONT AGAINST IT... In a special statement "addressed to the American people" carried on ORT on 11 September, Putin said that what happened in the United States "goes far beyond the borders of the U.S." Rather, he said, it is a clear challenge to all of humanity, and "this yet again underscores the importance of Russia's proposals to unite the forces of the international community in the struggle with terror, with this plague of the 21st century."

...AND SAYS TERRORIST ATTACK REFLECTED MISTAKES BY POLITICIANS RATHER THAN BY U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY. Putin visited Erevan and told journalists that the "situation in the world did not change in connection with terrorist acts in the United States, but a long time ago, but this transformation was commonly misperceived," reported RIA-novosti on 15 September. Putin added that "evil must be punished" in such a way that "we are not made to look like the bandits themselves." He also said that accusations of failure by the U.S. intelligence community were wrong. That community, he said, was simply not designed for this type of challenge.

PUTIN SPEAKS WITH BUSH ABOUT COOPERATION AFTER TERRORIST ATTACKS. President Putin on 12 September telephoned U.S. President George W. Bush to discuss expanding cooperation against terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said that the attacks could lead to greater cooperation between Russia and the United States "in the fight against international terrorism." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia believes there should be a G-8 summit on terrorism and a global system to counter terrorism. Vershbow said the U.S. would consider those proposals.

PUTIN ASKS GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE SECURITY, CHANGE ANTI-TERROR LAW. President Putin on 12 September directed his government to ensure that all security arrangements in Russia are working and to take steps to fill any gaps, RIA-Novosti reported. He specifically asked Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to ensure that Russian crisis-planning is in order and to offer assistance to the United States following the terrorist attacks there. Putin also met with the Justice Minister Yury Chaika and indicated that he wants to change Russian legislation on terrorism adopted this year, according to presidential press secretary, Aleksei Gromov, quoted by RIA-novosti on 13 September. In particular he wants provisions of the European Convention on Prevention of Terrorism and International Convention on Combat Against Financing of Terrorism to be incorporated into Russian law.

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE CALLS FOR ANTITERROR ALLIANCE... Sergei Lebedev, the director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said that the attacks on the U.S. highlight the global nature of terrorist threats, "Trud" reported on 12 September. He said that his agency is maintaining close ties with its American and European counterparts in order to counter the terrorist threat. Meanwhile, Yurii Drozdov, a veteran Soviet intelligence officer who earlier supervised the elite Vympel special forces group, said that the 11 September attack was carried out by individuals who know the weaknesses of the United States and who worked long and hard to perfect their operation. Because such an operation would have required much time, Drozdov added, the failure of U.S. intelligence services to detect it highlights their shortcomings. That could point to more problems ahead, he suggested.

... WHILE FSB SAYS IT THINKS IT KNOWS WHO ATTACKED U.S. A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) said on 12 September that his service strongly suspects that the Jamiya Al-Islamiya group -- based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia -- was behind the attacks on the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported. He added that this organization has both the financial resources and knowledge to implement such a terrorist action. "Izvestiya" reported the same day that an FSB official has handed over to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency its information on that group. Meanwhile, the FSB released information about its high success rate in identifying terrorist groups and preventing terrorist actions, Interfax reported the same day.

MOSCOW WANTS TO KEEP CHEMICAL WEAPONS FROM FALLING INTO TERRORIST HANDS. Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district and the head of the state commission overseeing chemical disarmament, said on 12 September that Moscow is prepared to discuss the acceleration of the destruction of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction in order to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, RTR television reported. Kirienko noted that chemical and biological weapons are the most dangerous as far as international terrorism is concerned.

DEFENSE MINISTER IVANOV EXTENDS SYMPATHIES TO MASSOUD SUCCESSOR. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov sent his condolences in connection with death of Northern Alliance and anti-Taliban military leader Ahmed Shah Massoud to his successor, General Muhammad Fahimkhan, radio "Mayak," reported on 14 September. "I am sure that our cooperation in setting stability and peace in Afghanistan will go on," wrote Ivanov, according to "Izvestiya" on 16 September. Ivanov also stated that he is against U.S. retaliatory strikes from within CIS states. "I do not see any ground even for hypothetical military operations [by the] USA and NATO from the territory of Central Asia countries that are part of the CIS," RIA-novosti quoted Ivanov as saying on 15 September. Meanwhile, a leading Russian military expert, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, told Interfax that the assertion that Massoud's death dramatically increases the threat to the Russia and Tajik borders is an exaggeration. He said that if the anti-Taliban alliance preserves it internal structure, it will leave no chance to establish control of all of Afghanistan.

FORMER FSB DIRECTOR SAYS U.S. RETALIATION FOR ATTACKS COULD BE BAD FOR RUSSIA. Former FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev, now a Duma deputy, said on 13 September that an American retaliatory strike against Afghanistan would lead to refugee flows northward that could destabilize the countries on Russia's southern border, "Ekho Moskvy" radio reported. Meanwhile, Chief of General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin said to "Radio Rossii" on 14 September that the Russian military has not discussed any joint operations with the Pentagon.

RUSSIA KEEPS TROOPS ON AFGHANISTAN BORDER READY. Defense Minister Ivanov also ordered Valentin Orlov, commander of the 201st division of the Russian Army deployed in Tajikistan, to bring his units to full combat alert in connection with the situation in the regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. Because Taleban could hardly plan any assault as they themselves brace for a possible U.S. strike, Ivanov's order means the Russian government together with the Iran and Pakistan are positively responding to Washington's request to seal borders with Afghanistan, commented on 16 September.

'VEK' PRAISES PUTIN FOR REAL REFORM BUT CALLS FOR MORE DEMOCRACY. According to an article in "Vek," No. 35, President Putin has carried out genuine reforms rather than engaging in the "planned catastrophe" style of the Bolsheviks or former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's neoradicals. But up to now, the weekly said, Putin has pursued change on the basis of his own bureaucratic instinct rather than from any understanding of the needs of a democratic society. And in the future, it added, his call for an efficient state could be justified only if the president supplements it with a call for "efficient democracy."

FAR EAST FORUM DISCUSSES CHINESE THREAT. Ethnic Russians living outside Russia and Russian citizens attending a forum on the Russian Far East in Vladivostok have called on the State Duma to declare the region a "high-risk" territory, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. Participants in the forum declared that the region's demographic problems are particularly pressing as more than 600,000 people have left the region and the death rate is double that of the birth rate, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the daily, demographic pressure from China is being felt all the more strongly, since around 150 million people live in that country's northeast provinces compared with just 6 million Russians on the Far Eastern territory. Currently there are tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants in the Far East, but "obviously the Chinese will become more and more numerous." The daily continued: "Therefore in the distant future, Russia without any war could lose its eastern regions."

RUSSIA SEEKS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OF ITS ECONOMIC INTERESTS IN ARCTIC. The Natural Resources Ministry announced that Moscow will ask the United Nations Commission on the Continental Shelf to legally demarcate Russia's Arctic Ocean border 200 miles from the shoreline, RIA-Novosti reported. That will give Russia a legal basis for exploiting the oil and gas beds on the shelf and also serve as a means to block any NATO involvement on the Spitzbergen Archipelago.

KASYANOV, CHINESE PREMIER SIGN ENERGY ACCORD. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji have signed an agreement calling for the construction of a 2,400 kilometer oil pipeline from the Russian city of Angarsk to the Chinese city of Datsin, RIA-Novosti and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 September. The Chinese government also designated Gazprom as its major foreign gas supplier after British Petroleum withdrew from most Chinese deals, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told the news service. Zhu said that Beijing would like to see bilateral trade increase, but at the same time he called for greater controls over "gray" trade along the border that neither government is currently able to tax.

KOREAN EXTENSION OF TRANS-SIBERIAN PLANNED. A Russian Railways Ministry spokesman said on 10 September that ministry experts have now earmarked a path for an extension of the Trans-Siberian railway to link up with North Korean lines, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that eventually Moscow hopes that the rail lines of the two Koreas will be joined together.

KASYANOV PLEDGES TIGHT ECONOMIC POLICIES. Speaking to a group of international investors in Moscow on 10 September, Prime Minister Kasyanov said that his cabinet will continue to pursue tight economic policies, work to improve the investment climate, adopt a unified plan for reforming the banking system, and make debt repayment a priority, Russian agencies reported. He also said that the current favorable economic conditions will allow Moscow to make all its debt payments in 2002 and to raise the funds needed to meet its peak debt repayments of $19 billion in 2003. The same day, Kasyanov signed a decree endorsing the federal program's integration of science and higher education, Interfax reported.

BANK HOPES RUSSIANS WILL BUY GOVERNMENT BONDS. Vneshekonombank spokesman Andrei Remnev said his bank is working with the government to liberalize regulations governing the purchase of Russian Eurobonds, Prime-TASS reported on 10 September. Existing regulations do not allow Russian citizens to purchase most of these issues. But once those regulations are changed, he said, Russian citizens will be allowed to purchase some if not all types of Russian government bonds.

KASYANOV TO CHAIR NAVY COLLEGIUM. Prime Minister Kasyanov announced on 10 September that he will chair the newly created Navy Collegium of which Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Transportation Minister Sergei Frank, Energy Minister Igor Yusupov, and Navy commander Vladimir Kuroedov will also be members, Russian agencies reported. The new agency is to oversee broad issues of the development of Russia's naval operations and strategy.

PUTIN VOWS TO LOOK INTO DENIAL OF TRANSIT VISA TO DALAI LAMA. A spokesman for Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said that President Putin has promised to look into why the Foreign Ministry denied a transit visa to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 September. Ilyumzhinov reportedly raised the issue with the Russian leader, and Putin said he will seek to "resolve the issue positively."

G-7 KEEPS RUSSIA ON MONEY-LAUNDERING BLACKLIST BUT DOES NOT IMPOSE SANCTIONS. The G-7's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on 7 September did not drop Russia from the "blacklist" of countries that have failed to do enough to combat money laundering. But in recognition of Russia's recent adoption of a law on money laundering, the FATF did not impose any sanctions on Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported.

PRIMAKOV WANTS KREMLIN CORRUPTION CASES TO BE FULLY INVESTIGATED. Yevgenii Primakov, the former leader of the Duma Fatherland-All Russia faction, said on 7 September that he believes that the major corruption investigations launched when he was prime minister in 1999 will be carried forward, RTR television reported. Without the completion of these investigations, Primakov said, Russia cannot move forward. He added that President Putin is the man to do it, and that Putin is rapidly distancing himself from some of those who helped make him president. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day said that corruption has "grown into a threat to Russia's national interests," but that it cannot be effectively fought until the government creates an adequate legal basis for doing so. The following day, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" commented that "almost every CIS member country has former high-ranking officials on trial for corruption."

JAPAN ARRESTS RUSSIAN CAPTAIN FOR DRUG SMUGGLING. Russian customs officials said on 7 September that Japanese police arrested the captain of a Russian ship on 1 September for allegedly carrying Iranian opium to Japan, AP reported. Meanwhile, on 8 September, the Japanese coast guard rescued 29 crew members from a Russian fishing vessel before it sank, ITAR-TASS reported the next day.

MORE THAN 30,000 RUSSIAN ENTERPRISES IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS. Industry, Science and Technology Minister Dondukov said on 8 September that more than 30,000 Russian enterprises are in one stage or another of bankruptcy proceedings, and that the government is creating a special fund to deal with the problem, RIA-Novosti reported. The federal government will supervise the fund, he said, but its budget will largely be supplied from private sources.

SUCCESS OF NEW FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY QUESTIONED. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 September that the Kremlin decrees making the newly created Committee on Financial Monitoring at the Finance Ministry the sole agency to keep track of money laundering is unlikely to achieve the government's aims. That is because, the paper said, the new agency will only collect information and not have any law-enforcement powers.

NEW BOARD ELECTED AT ORT. A general shareholders meeting of Russian ORT television on 8 September elected a new 11-member board, including President Putin's personal press secretary Aleksei Gromov, Deputy Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii, and North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, ITAR-TASS reported. Among the non-governmental representatives are filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovskii, and publisher Vitalii Tretyakov. On 14 September the board elected as its chairman Piotrovskii, leaving aside hopeful candidate Tretyakov, reported NTV.

FORMER 'NEZAVISIMAYA' EDITOR SAYS BEREZOVSKII PEOPLE WANT TO KILL HIM. Vitalii Tretyakov, the founder and former editor in chief of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said that associates of embattled magnate Boris Berezovskii have threatened his "physical liquidation" if Tretyakov does not give up his rights to the paper, "Vremya novostei" reported on 8 September. But the deputy director of Berezovsky's LogoVAZ groups, Yulii Dubov, denied the charge and said he spoke with Tretyakov about protecting the former editor's interests after Tretyakov left the paper, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day. Dubov suggested that Tretyakov is "inventing" threats in order to generate sympathy for his position.

ALFRED KOCH STARS IN 'GREED.' Alfred Koch, the head of GazpromMedia, took on a new role on 9 September when he hosted NTV's new gameshow "Greed," "Vedomosti" reported the following day. After defeating media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, the paper said, Koch did not know what to do next and has apparently decided to try his hand as an entertainer.