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Security Watch: October 29, 2001

29 October 2001, Volume 2, Number 42
TERRORISTS TWICE TRIED TO APPROACH RUSSIAN NUCLEAR STORAGE FACILITIES... Colonel General Igor Volynkin, the chief of the Defense Ministry's administration responsible for the Russian nuclear arsenal, said on 25 October that terrorist groups twice this year attempted to gain access to Russian nuclear munitions dumps, Russian news agencies reported. The first attempt took place eight months ago and the second two months later. Volynkin said his agency successfully repulsed the groups and is now putting additional security measures in place with the help of the United States. Volynkin said he does not exclude the possibility that terrorist groups may directly attack nuclear installations but does not believe they will succeed if they do.

...BUT MILITARY SAYS NO NUKES ARE MISSING. Igor Volynkin, the chief of the Defense Ministry administration responsible for security of nuclear facilities, said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 26 October that all talks about the disappearance of super small Soviet nuclear arms is "nonsense." He acknowledged that there exist some 84 such weapons but said that they had all been accounted for.

PUTIN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF MILITARY-TECHNICAL ACCORDS FOR ANTITERRORIST EFFORT. President Vladimir Putin told a 24 October meeting of the Commission for Cooperation with Foreign Countries that the terrorist acts of 11 September have increased the importance of Russia's military-technical cooperation agreements with other countries, Interfax reported. He said Russia must maintain high levels of quality and reliability because others depend on Russian weapons.

MOSCOW READY TO SUPPORT COUNTERTERRORIST EFFORT BUT EXPECTS WESTERN UNDERSTANDING ON CHECHNYA. In an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 October, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said that the main difficulty in combating international terrorism is that there is no agreed upon definition of terrorism. One example of differences of opinion about terrorism concerns Chechnya, where the West has been unwilling until recently to understand that Russia is engaged in a counterterrorist effort. He called on the West to end double standards in its assessment of events in Chechnya, noting that there has been some progress in that regard.

RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN TAJIKISTAN HAS NO PLANS TO HELP U.S. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 October, Lieutenant General Vladimir Popov, the commander of the Russian Defense Ministry operational group in Tajikistan, said that the forces under his command -- including the 201st Motorized Rifle Division -- have no plans to help the United States in the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan. He also said, "there is not a grain of truth in rumors" that the 201st MRD is now on high alert, but he added that the division "is one of the best formations in the Russian Armed Forces and is ready for all the tasks it is supposed to perform."

ANALYSTS ALSO WARN AGAINST ALLIANCE WITH U.S., SEE PROBLEMS AHEAD. Sergei Rogov, the director of the USA and Canada Institute, said on 25 October that Moscow must insist on serious economic concessions if it is to continue to support the American counterterrorist effort, reported. He said Moscow must demand the cancellation of all its debts. Institute staffer Andrei Gubkin went even further, saying that it is pointless to try to make a deal because Americans "have no notion of gratitude in their political culture." Gubkin's position was supported by other speakers -- including Kremlin media adviser Gleb Pavlovskii -- who said that the actions of the terrorists are more rational than are those of the American administration, which only seems able to react rather than pursue its own policy. Also on 25 October, "The Moscow Times," "Ekspert," "Novaya gazeta," and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" all carried articles suggesting that the American counterterrorist effort is going to encounter ever greater difficulties and generate more anti-Americanism among Muslims and other groups.

SHEBARSHIN SAYS U.S. FAR RIGHT, NOT BIN LADEN, MAY HAVE PERPETRATED TERRORIST ACTS. Leonid Shebarshin, the former head of Soviet foreign intelligence, said in an interview published in "Pravda" on 23 October that he does not exclude the possibility that "ultraright extremists" in the U.S. may have been behind the terrorist attacks of 11 September. He noted that certain investors appear to have made enormous profits by their stock manipulations immediately preceding the terrorist attacks, a possible indication that "someone knew about the operation in advance." Shebarshin added that up to now no convincing evidence has been made public that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attacks. He insisted that Russia must not -- under any circumstances -- allow itself to be drawn into participating in any U.S.-led counterterrorist operations.

RUSSIAN LIBERAL NEWSPAPERS INCREASINGLY ANTI-AMERICAN. Writing in the usually liberal "Obshchaya gazeta" on 25 October, Academician Sergei Alekseev said that in his judgment, "the so-called antiterrorist campaign led by the U.S. is, in the final analysis, directed against Russia." Moreover, Alekseev continued, by joining the antiterrorist coalition, Russia has put its own interests at risk. Meanwhile, Father Mikhail Ardov, of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, said in an interview published in "Novaya gazeta" the same day that the 11 September attacks were "an act of providence" to punish the U.S. for "its arrogance and betrayal of Christian civilization."

DUMA SEEN READY TO MAKE RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE KNOWLEDGE MANDATORY FOR OFFICIALS. The Duma is currently considering and is likely to pass legislation making knowledge of the Russian language mandatory for all civil servants, reported on 22 October. The bill also calls for state support of the Russian language, which it characterizes as "a convenient and universal vehicle for the realization of human and civil rights."

PUTIN PLEASED WITH JOSPIN MEETING. President Vladimir Putin said on 23 October that he and other Russian officials had good meetings earlier that day with visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and had found agreement on almost all issues, including combating international terrorism and support for maintaining the 1972 ABM Treaty, Russian agencies reported. The French delegation and their Russian hosts also agreed on the need to destroy the economic infrastructure of international terrorism and to develop a distinctly European counterterrorist effort.

PUTIN, SHARANSKY AGREE, DISAGREE. President Putin met briefly with visiting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky on 24 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. The two found themselves in agreement about terrorism but in disagreement about Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. Meanwhile, three Duma deputies who recently visited Palestinian-controlled areas said in Moscow on 24 October that Israel has failed to fulfill its obligations to resolve the crisis there, Interfax reported. Paul Burdukov of the Agro-Industrial group, Nikolai Bezborodov of the Russian Regions group, and Viktor Cherepkov of the People's Deputy group accused Israel of aggression against the Palestinians.

MOSCOW OFFERS TOKYO A DEAL ON KURILES FISHING QUOTAS. Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Losyukov said on 22 October that Moscow will take into account Japanese concerns about Russian sales of fishing quotas near the disputed Kurile Islands if Japan will make reciprocal concessions, ITAR-TASS reported. Losyukov said Russia is especially interested in having the Japanese authorities take measures against Russian poachers who sell to Japan.

PUTIN, BERLUSCONI DISCUSS ANTITERROR EFFORT. President Putin on 25 October received Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss the international campaign against terror and the situation in the Middle East, RIA-Novosti reported. Putin aide Sergei Prikhodko said the two also discussed economic ties, as Italy has become Russia's third-largest trading partner in Europe.

PAPER SAYS U.S. HAS RECOGNIZED RUSSIA'S 'NATURAL DOMINANCE' OF CIS. An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 October said that "Washington [now] recognizes Russia's right to a 'natural dominance' in the post-Soviet states. An attempt at neutralizing Russian influence in the Transcaucasus has unambiguously failed. The West, the U.S. in particular, turned out to be too far away to establish absolute dominance over the region while Russia's rivals nearby showed themselves to be insufficiently strong and not quite experienced players. The Transcaucasus battle of three historical empires -- Russian, Turkish, and Iranian -- turned out to be lost by Tehran and Ankara and may be fully won by Moscow quite soon."

WILL RUSSIA REDUCE OIL EXPORTS? President Putin on 22 October received Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to discuss oil exports, RBK reported. Venezuela is currently the chairman of OPEC. Putin rejected an appeal by Chavez to restrict Russian oil exports, saying that he does not want to hurt the West at a difficult time. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that there may be another reason for Putin's refusal: many Russian wells are in such poor condition that it would be difficult if not impossible to restart them were they to be shut down for any significant period. But the same day, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said OPEC has not asked Russia to reduce oil exports, but that Moscow may choose to do so after the special session of OPEC in November, Interfax reported.

KASYANOV, JOSPIN AGREE ON NEED FOR COMMON ECONOMIC SPACE IN EUROPE. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin agreed on 22 October on the need to move toward a common economic space embracing both Russia and Western Europe, Interfax reported. Kasyanov welcomed France's support for Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization and said Moscow may repay some former Soviet-era debt ahead of schedule. Jospin said that there needs to be a political solution to the Chechen problem. The two also agreed on the need for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, the news agency said. Kasyanov also said that Russia plans to move gradually from the dollar to the euro in its international payments and reserve regimes, ITAR-TASS reported.

PULIKOVSKII UPBEAT ABOUT RUSSIAN-KOREAN RAIL, PIPELINE LINKS. Upon his return from a trip to South Korea, Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, said on 22 October that South Koreans are very interested in linking the rail and pipeline grids of that country with the Russian ones, RBK reported. Pulikovskii stressed that he is confident that closer links between the two countries will not negatively impact the volume of traffic through Russia's Far Eastern ports.

RUSSIA, U.S. DISCUSS STEEL EXPORTS DEAL. Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov on 23 October met with U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Faryar Sherzad in Moscow to discuss a voluntary Russian reduction in the export of steel to the United States, RBK reported. Washington is concerned about Russian dumping of steel on the American market and has threatened to impose punitive tariffs. Medvedkov said Moscow would like U.S. assistance to retrain any Russian steel workers laid off as a result of any compromise on exports.

PUTIN, KASYANOV FOCUS ON BANKING SECTOR. The cabinet on 24 October discussed a plan for the development of the Foreign Economic Bank and reviewed the current activities of the Foreign Trade Bank, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov then discussed these issues with President Putin, the news service said. Meanwhile, the Moscow Arbitrage Court the same day declared MOST-Bank, formerly the flagship of Vladimir Gusinsky's empire, bankrupt, Russian agencies reported. Also on 24 October, prosecutors charged Aleksandr Alekseev, the deputy head of the Moscow city branch of the Russian Central Bank, with failing to demonstrate due diligence when processing a large loan, Russian and Western agencies reported. The same day, Putin chaired a session on questions of Russia's military-technical cooperation with foreign countries, Interfax reported.

KUDRIN SAYS BIG BUSINESSES OPPOSE WTO PLANS. In an interview carried by Interfax on 24 October, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said "a new situation" has arisen in Russian politics. Earlier, he said, "liberals in the government were opposed by communists, but now big businesses, which always helped us [in the past], have begun to restrict our actions in the spheres of their interests," including taking the steps necessary for Russia to join the World Trade Organization. He said that these businesses are, in effect, sabotaging Russia's efforts to join the WTO.

GOVERNMENT APPROVES REFORM OF VNESHEKONOMBANK. The government on 25 October approved a plan to divide Russia's Vneshekonombank into a commercial bank and a government agency for serving foreign debts and liabilities, ITAR-TASS reported. The plan will be finalized on 1 December and go into effect in the first quarter of 2002, the news service said. Also on 25 October, Yurii Ponomarev, the head of Vneshtorgbank, said he supports the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's proposal to acquire a 20 percent stake in his institution, Interfax-AFI reported.

PUTIN STEPS UP OFFENSIVE AGAINST YELTSIN HOLDOVERS. "Zhizn," No. 43, said President Putin and his Leningrad group are going on the offensive against Yeltsin-era officials and especially against those with connections to magnate Boris Berezovsky. Among the targets of the campaign, the weekly said, are Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin, and Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo. Prosecutors announced the same day that they plan to charge Aksenenko with additional crimes that could land him in prison for 10 years if he is convicted.

DEPUTIES SPLIT ON WISDOM OF HAVING THE INTERIOR MINISTRY CONTROL MIGRATION. Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Duma International Relations Committee, said on 22 October that he believes Moscow must tighten restrictions on issuing entry visas in order to prevent illegal immigration, RIA-Novosti reported. He added that he welcomes the transfer of migration policy to the Interior Ministry, as he believes that agency could do more to block a further influx of illegal immigrants. But Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the same day that transferring control over migration to the Interior Ministry will lead to a deterioration of conditions for forced migrants, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry officials said they will pursue a "respectful" approach in their dealings with immigrants, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 October.

SELEZNEV SAYS TERRITORY'S VOTES IN FEDERATION COUNCIL SHOULD REFLECT POPULATION. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said on 23 October that the current arrangement in the Federation Council is "not quite fair," and that the country's electoral system should be reformed in such a way that the number of deputies from a given territory in the upper house of parliament should reflect the size of its population, ITAR-TASS reported.

CORRUPTION SAID TO THREATEN RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY. Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said this week that bribes and other forms of corruption now threaten Russian security at least as much as terrorism does, "Trud" reported on 24 October. He added that corrupt links between business and the state bureaucracy represent a "fifth column" that could undermine the state from within. Another aspect of this problem, Ustinov said, is the embezzlement of state funds: he noted that his office has charged 14 parliamentarians at the federal and regional level, 302 bankers, and 21 state officials with misappropriation of funds.

PROSECUTORS CONFIRM ARREST WARRANT FOR BEREZOVSKY... Prosecutor-General Ustinov confirmed on 22 October earlier media reports that his office has issued a warrant for the arrest of embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky in connect with the misuse of funds at Aeroflot, RTR reported. Ustinov said that Berezovsky will be arrested if and when he returns to Russia.

...AND CHARGES AGAINST AKSENENKO. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 22 October that Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko has been indicted for the misuse of $500 million in funds, reported. The spokesman added that Aksenenko's ministry underpaid its taxes and illegally purchased apartments for its managers. Aksenenko, for his part, said that the charges have been the result of a frame-up outside the prosecutor's office, Interfax reported.

KOZAK SAYS RAILWAYS MINISTER TRIED TO OBSTRUCT JUSTICE. Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy chief of the presidential administration and head of the Commission for Legal Reform, said on 23 October that Railways Minister Aksenenko's appeal to President Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov against the Prosecutor-General's Office was "wrong, illegal, and Soviet-like," RIA-Novosti reported. Aksenenko has been charged with corruption, and he has complained that the country's political leadership has not supported him in fighting the charge.

THREE SENIOR CUSTOMS OFFICERS FIRED FOR CORRUPTION. Customs Committee chief Vanin announced that he has fired three senior customs officials in the Northwest Directorate because they falsified reports about the transit of nonexistent goods in order to pocket customs duties, the Interior Ministry website reported on 24 October.

PUTIN REVERSES HIMSELF ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURES. Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, said President Putin has prepared some 80 new amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, including one that would reverse his position in one important area, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 October. A year ago, Putin pressured the Duma to approve a provision allowing judges to initiate criminal procedures without reference to prosecutors, but now he is backing an amendment that would restore the role of prosecutors in launching criminal investigations.

PUTIN BACKS SALARY INCREASE FOR MILITARY. According to "Izvestiya" on 23 October, Deputy Defense Minister Lyubov Kudelina has reported that President Putin has approved a recommendation from the ministry to increase the salaries of soldiers at the beginning of 2002 as part of the antiterrorist and military reform efforts. Paychecks for those serving in combat zones will rise 70 percent, and commanders in these hot spots will get even higher raises. At the same time, "Vremya MN" noted the same day that the proposed increases are less than those required to make up for inflation and more funds will be required to meet these increases than the 2002 budget specifies.

MOSCOW TO REINTEGRATE ARMENIAN DEFENSE INDUSTRY STRUCTURE INTO RUSSIAN ONE. The Russian and Armenian governments have agreed to incorporate Armenian defense enterprises into the Russian military industry complex by allowing Moscow to acquire 100 percent of the shares in the Armenian plants, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October. Russia plans to purchase approximately 30 Armenian firms for a price of $94 million.

CHIEF OF STAFF PLEASED BY RUSSIAN-CHINESE REGIONAL COOPERATION. General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the Russian General Staff, said in Beijing on 22 October that Russia and China have "a common outlook toward many major international issues and make joint efforts to protect peace and stability in the region and on the planet as a whole," ITAR-TASS reported. Both countries, he said, oppose "a monopolar world."

INDIAN SUBMARINE TESTED IN BALTIC SEA. A Kilo class submarine built in Russia and sold to India was tested by Indian naval personnel in a Baltic Sea exercise earlier this month, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 18 October. The paper noted significant media attention to the exercise but not to the Indian-manned submarine's role in it.


By Victor Yasmann

In an interview published in "Ogonek," No. 43, Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Colonel Yuri Perfilev said that he knows "very well" the close associate of Osama Bin Laden who organized the 11 September attacks on the United States. That man, Imad Fayez Mugniyah, now heads the pro-Iranian Hizbullah's foreign operations department, but in the 1980s, Perfilev said, Mugniyah helped to organize the suicide attacks on the U.S. Marine base in Beirut and the hijacking of an American airliner in 1985.

Perfilev said that Mugniyah was also responsible for the kidnapping of four Soviet diplomats taken from the USSR Embassy in Lebanon in September 1985. Perfilev himself led the special operation that secured their release and at that time he first came across Mugniyah, who was serving as a bodyguard for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and who organized the seizure of Moscow's diplomats in order to force the Soviet Union to put pressure on Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. Arafat, Perfilev said, did not know about that plot but "objectively" it coincided with the PLO leader's interests.

In fact, when Perfilev appealed to Arafat to help get the diplomats released, Arafat sent Mugniyah to help -- though he did not help much, Perfilev said. But Perfilev reports that he was able to establish direct contacts with Hizbullah and said that led to the release of the three of the four diplomats -- after Moscow threatened to have a "stray" missile hit Iran in the event of a refusal. Unfortunately, Perfilev continued, one of the diplomats had been killed by the terrorists before he could secure their release.