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Security Watch: November 6, 2001

6 November 2001, Volume 2, Number 43
MOSCOW, WASHINGTON COORDINATE AFGHANISTAN POLICY. The Russian-American working group on Afghanistan co-chaired by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov took place in Moscow on 1 November, Russian agencies reported. The meeting occurred behind closed doors, but after the session, the two sides released a statement underscoring their agreement on all major issues, including opposition to any participation by the Taliban in a post-Taliban government. Meanwhile, Russian officials the same day denied reports that Russian planes had attacked Afghanistan and that Russian forces will soon go there, ITAR-TASS reported.

IVANOV REPEATS MOSCOW'S OPPOSITION TO ANY TALIBAN PARTICIPATION IN FUTURE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 29 October that Russia remains opposed to any participation of the Taliban, "even the so-called 'moderates,'" in a future Afghan government, Interfax reported. He said the majority of countries around the world share this point of view. Meanwhile, Russian Border Guards commanders reported that both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance continue to engage in cross-border drug trade, the news service said the same day.

PUTIN, SCHROEDER OPTIMISTIC ON ANTI-TERRORISM CAMPAIGN IN AFGHANISTAN. President Vladimir Putin said after his meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on 3 November that both of them are optimistic about the course of the antiterrorism effort in Afghanistan, RIA-Novosti reported. No one expected an immediate victory, he said.

MOSCOW SOFTENS ITS POSITION ON MISSILE DEFENSE. President Vladimir Putin told U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that military cooperation between the two countries is a crucial element of trust between the U.S. and Russia, Russian news agencies reported on 3 November. However, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that NATO is a Cold War "relic" that needs to be replaced or radically transformed. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 29 October that Moscow looks forward to progress at the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit in Texas and toward making relations between the two countries "stable, predictable, and constructive," Russian agencies reported on 30 October.

DUMA APPROVES MEASURE ALLOWING MORE RAPID DESTRUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS. The Duma on 31 October approved on third and final reading a measure allowing the authorities to destroy chemical weapons not only at the sites where such weapons are stored but at others as well, RIA-Novosti reported. This should allow Russia to make more progress on the destruction of the 40,000 tons of such weapons it now has at a limited number of facilities.

BRZEZINSKI EXCLUDES CONFRONTATION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND U.S. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 4 November, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said that neither Moscow nor Washington wants confrontation although he added that it remains unclear whether Russia genuinely wants to be a partner of the United States.

CHIEF RABBI WANTS LIFTING OF JACKSON-VANNIK AMENDMENT. Berl Lazar, the chief rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Russia, plans to appeal to U.S. President George W. Bush to ask the U.S. Congress to lift the restrictions imposed on Russia by the 1974 Jackson-Vannik amendment, Interfax reported on 31 October. Other Russian officials and U.S.-Russian trade associations want the amendment lifted because they say that "state anti-Semitism in Russia" is a thing of the past.

RUSSIA, BRITAIN AGREE ON AFGHANISTAN. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 31 October after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Moscow that the two countries have a common perspective on combating terrorism and the problems of a postwar settlement there, ORT television reported. Ivanov reiterated Moscow's position that it will not take part in military operations there.

RUSSIA, NORTH KOREA SIGN ENERGY ACCORD. Vostokenergo Director Viktor Manakov told RIA-Novosti on 30 October that Moscow and Pyongyang have signed an agreement on the integration of the electrical grids of the two countries. Russia will modify the existing North Korean network to bring it into correspondence with Russian standards.

CUBAN PAPER CALLS PUTIN'S RUSSIA 'A BRANCH OF IMPERIALISM.' Havana's Granma agency has carried two editorials attacking the foreign policy of Russian President Putin and his decision to close the Russian intelligence facility at Lourdes, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 October. Granma said Putin is transforming Russia into "a branch of imperialism." Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy on 28 October described Putin's decision about Lourdes as "Yankee-Si, Cuba-No."

DESTABILIZATION OF GEORGIA NOT IN INTERESTS OF RUSSIA. Civil unrest and political crisis in Georgia is threatening a lasting destabilization of the country and poses a possible very negative effect on Russian interests in the region, the director of the Institute of Humanitarian and Political Research, Vyacheslav Igrunov, told on 3 November. Indeed, destabilization in Georgia may rapidly acerbate the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and as well provide more shelter and retreat to Chechen fighters detachments. All this could bring fatal consequences for Russia at a time when it is trying to "normalize" the situation in Chechnya, Igrunov stressed.

PAPER NOTES 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF REMOVAL OF STALIN'S REMAINS FROM MAUSOLEUM. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 October described the way in which Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was removed from the Red Square mausoleum 40 years ago on 31 October 1961. It noted that his reburial in the Kremlin wall was the only case in which someone's remains were interred there "without speeches, orchestras, and a farewell salute." Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" the same day reported that in January 1954, several months following Stalin's death, Soviet officials destroyed many of the archives and thus made future rehabilitations and prosecutions more difficult.

MILITARY COURT REFUSES TO REHABILITATE ADMIRAL KOLCHAK... The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Omsk regional and federal human rights organizations to rehabilitate Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, one of the most prominent leaders of the anti-Bolshevik White movement during the Civil War, reported on 30 October. Soviet ideologists painted Kolchak in the darkest colors, but since 1991, various people have sought his rehabilitation because of his contribution to Russian exploration and geographic science. But the Military Collegium said "Kolchak's scientific merits do not outweigh his crimes," the website reported.

...OR GENERAL VLASOV. The Military Collegium on 1 November refused to overturn the decision of a lower court that blocked the rehabilitation of General Andrei Vlasov and 11 of his senior officers who fought on the side of the Germans against the Soviet Union during World War II, ITAR-TASS reported. The appeal was launched by the monarchist Faith and Fatherland, but the collegium rejected all of the group's requests. "Rossiskaya gazeta" on 2 November commented that Vlasov remained a traitor.

MARKOV DENIES STATE WANTS TOTAL CONTROL OVER CIVIL SOCIETY. Sergei Markov, the coordinator of the Civic Forum, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 27 October that "it is naive to think" that the Russian government wants to put everything and everyone under total control. Markov said that what the government wants to see are "self-organizing" structures in society, not mechanisms created from above.

ANTIGLOBALIST PROTESTS FAIL TO MATERIALIZE AT DAVOS MEETING IN MOSCOW. The "massive demonstrations of antiglobalist activists" that the FSB has predicted over the last 10 days failed to materialize when only a few dozen people appeared on 29 October in quiet pickets at the site of the Davos World Economic Forum meeting in Moscow, RTR reported. Meanwhile, a group of Russian businessmen participating in the forum announced the formation of a public council to press for Russian entry into the World Trade Organization, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 October.

PUTIN URGED TO RESTRICT VIOLENCE ON TELEVISION. Shield, an organization of Moscow psychologists and psychiatrists, has appealed to President Putin to restrict violence on the major national television channels, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 November. The group said it is against censorship in general, but that fighting terrorism requires some restrictions on what television shows.

PUTIN SEES RUSSIAN ECONOMY GROWING. President Putin told the Davos World Economic Forum meeting in Moscow on 30 October that Russia's economy is on the upswing, that Russia will be able to get by without new loans, and that it will pay all its debts. He said Russia's main international economic priority is to join the World Trade Organization, but only if this can be accomplished under favorable conditions. He also called for more direct foreign investment such as Exxon has made in the Sakhalin-1 project.

RUSSIA TO COMPLETE PIPELINE TO PRIMORSK BY END OF YEAR. Yurii Sokolov, the head of the Baltic Pipeline System, has announced that the pipeline to the new terminal at Primorsk in Leningrad Oblast will go online before the end of the year and thus reduce or even eliminate Russia's dependence on access to Baltic ports, "Vremya novosti" reported on 31 October. The pipeline system will handle 18 million tons of oil a year, including oil from Kazakhstan, the paper said. But difficulties in handling rolling stock at Novorossiisk and Tuapse have forced officials to end the off-loading of railcars at both ports, problems that Russian ports encounter, "Vremya MN" reported on 31 October.

GOVERNMENT CONSIDERING CUT IN VAT. First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said on 30 October that the government is considering the possibility of reducing value added tax (VAT) from 20 percent to 16 or 17 percent if the 10 percent privileged VAT rate is not restored, ITAR-TASS reported. That privileged rate is what media outlets stand to lose in January 2002.

OPENING OF NEW GAS FIELD INCREASES GAZPROM'S PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY. The opening of a gigantic new gas field in the north of Russia will allow Russia to produce up to 530 billion cubic meters of gas each year, Interfax-AFI reported on 31 October. President Putin sent a message congratulating the company on the opening of this field.

RUSSIA DECIDES TO SUSPEND PALLADIUM EXPORTS. Valerii Rudakov, the head of the State Treasury, said on 1 November that Russia will suspend its exports of palladium temporarily because of the global recession and falling prices, Interfax reported. Russian exports account for approximately 70 percent of the world market.

300 YOUTHS STAGE POGROM IN MOSCOW AGAINST NORTH CAUCASIANS. Two people were killed and at least 15 were injured on 30 October when 300 young people burst into a Moscow market and beat people from the North Caucasus selling goods there, Interfax-Moscow reported. Militia officials stressed on 31 October that most of those involved in the rampage at the Moscow market, which resulted in the deaths of two men from the North Caucasus and more than 15 injuries, were soccer fans celebrating a victory, Russian and Western agencies reported. However, other officials noted that Russian National Unity militants were involved as well, Interfax reported.

ACTIONS OF 'YOUNG NAZIS' IN MOSCOW DECRIED. Officials, ethnic organizations, and parliamentarians have all denounced the Russian nationalist pogrom against people from the Caucasus that took place in Moscow on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2001), "Rossiiskaya gazeta," 2 November, reported. Prosecutors and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said they are convinced that the action was "well planned." Meanwhile, President Putin asked Justice Minister Yurii Chaika to speed up the work on the presidential bill to combat extremism, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. "Unfortunately, the efforts of the authorities in the struggle against extremism sometimes prove top be inefficient," he added.

IS ATTACK ON SHOIGU PART OF AN ANTI-YELTSIN OFFENSIVE? "Vedomosti" on 26 October suggested that the political pressure being applied on Emergency Situations Minister and Unity leader Sergei Shoigu appears to be part of a general offensive by President Putin's St. Petersburg group against the remaining members of former President Boris Yeltsin's entourage. Putin's entourage would like to see Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov take Shoigu's place.

RAILWAYS MINISTER FORCED OUT. reported on 29 October that Nikolai Aksenenko has been sent on "a very long vacation from which he will never return to his office." Aksenenko refused to act on the signals the Kremlin sent him last week that Putin's entourage wants him to resign, but by going on vacation, the website suggested, Aksenenko has now accepted the inevitable. The site added that it appears the Kremlin's "exhausting and chaotic operations" against Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky taught the Putin team a lesson in how to act and send another influential bureaucrat into retirement quickly and almost smoothly.

THREE RUSSIANS SENTENCED FOR SPYING... A Moscow court on 31 October sentenced Viktor Kalyagin to 14 years in prison for espionage on behalf of an unnamed country and handed brothers Aleksandr and Petr Ivanov prison sentences of 1.2 and 1.8 years for divulging state secrets, the FSB Public Relations Center told Interfax.

...AS HIGH-PROFILE SPY TRIALS CONTINUE. A Kaluga court resumed its closed hearings in the case of Americanist Igor Sutyagin, who is accused of spying for "a NATO country," ITAR-TASS reported. He faces 12 to 20 years if convicted. Meanwhile, on 29 October, the Military Tribunal of the Russian Pacific Fleet resumed its closed hearings of the repeat trial of Grigorii Pasko, a military journalist who is also accused of divulging state secrets. Pasko was convicted the first time around only of "professional negligence," and the FSB has successfully won a new trial against him on the more serious espionage charges.

PUTIN SETS UP FINANCIAL MONITORING BODY, NAMES PETERSBURG COLLEAGUE TO HEAD IT. President Putin on 1 November issued a decree setting up a Financial Monitoring Committee within the Finance Ministry, Russian agencies reported. Putin named Viktor Zubkov, with whom he worked in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s, to head the committee with the rank of first deputy finance minister. The committee is charged with tracking financial flows that may involve criminal activities. A graduate of a Leningrad agricultural school, Zubkov worked in the agriculture section of the Communist Party oblast organization in that city. He met Putin in 1992 when they both worked in the city's Mayor's Office. In 1993, Zubkov became chief of the St. Petersburg Tax Inspectorate and since 2000 has been chairman of the regional organization in the northern capital of the Unity Party.

JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS RUSSIA MUST DEFEND PRISONERS' RIGHTS OR THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE WILL. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 1 November that his agency is obligated to do "everything possible" to ensure that the criminal justice system protects the rights of prisoners, because if Moscow doesn't, "then the Council of Europe will take up the issue," Interfax-AFI reported. He said that possibility makes it a question of "the prestige" of the state. Chaika added that the government has allocated 350 million rubles ($12 million) for the reconstruction of prisons and interrogation facilities in 2000 alone, the news service reported.

STEPASHIN STRESSES INDEPENDENCE OF AUDIT CHAMBER. In an interview published in "Gazeta" on 1 November, Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said his agency plans "90 percent of our own work," with the remainder being done at the request of Duma deputies and Federation Council members. He added that President Putin has asked the Audit Chamber to check certain agencies but that the chamber has proceeded entirely independently.

MORE BODIES, EVIDENCE RECOVERED FROM 'KURSK.' Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said on 30 October that investigators have found another farewell letter by one of the lost crew members of the "Kursk" submarine and also recovered logbooks from the hull, RTR reported. The same day, both electronic and print media outlets in Russia continued to report that the evidence found so far increasingly points to a collision with a foreign submarine as the cause of the sinking of the Russian submarine in August 2000. As of 30 October, officials have removed a total of 59 bodies from the "Kursk," Russian and Western agencies reported. Thirty-two of them have already been identified, and some were buried the same day, Interfax reported. The same day, six more missiles were removed from the "Kursk."

KLEBANOV SAYS 'KURSK' EXPLOSIONS MADE SAVING THE CREW IMPOSSIBLE. Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Klebanov said on 29 October that the explosion of one torpedo in the "Kursk" submarine set off others and made it impossible to rescue any of the crew, Russian and Western news agencies reported. At the same time, he said, it remains unclear what caused the initial explosion, with existing evidence pointing both toward and against some outside impact. Meanwhile, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said that the submariners had lost the chance to evacuate themselves with the help of a special salvage camera when it was destroyed by what he called "a powerful hit" from the outside.

DUMA TO CONSIDER APPROVING SPACE DEFENSE ACTIVITY. The Duma Defense Committee has introduced a bill that will allow for the deployment of Russian military hardware in space, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. If this bill is adopted, it would represent a retreat from Moscow's proposals, introduced by Foreign Minister Ivanov at the United Nations, for the complete demilitarization of space.

PUTIN SAYS MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX 'ARCHAIC.' President Putin told a joint meeting of the presidium of the State Council and the Russian Security Council on 30 October that the country's military industrial complex is "archaic and does not correspond to contemporary military-political tasks," Interfax reported. He noted that only 20 percent of plants are functioning and that many must be closed down. He called for the introduction of modern management methods to improve the situation. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Trud" the same day, Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov said that a special organ should be created to coordinate the activities of the military-industrial complex.

RUSSIA SELLS $150 MILLION WORTH OF MILITARY HELICOPTERS TO IRAN. "Vedomosti" reported on 1 November that Rosoboroneksport has signed a contract to supply 30 MI-8 military transport helicopters to Iran. The total value of the deal was estimated at $150 million.

BACKERS OF ANTICORRUPTION BILL TO TRY FOR 11TH TIME TO PASS IT. The Duma has included a draft bill on corruption for consideration in the near future, the 11th time that it has done so without success, former Interior Minister and Duma Security Committee member Anatolii Kulikov said in an interview published in "Tribuna" on 31 October. He said the parliament needs to approve the measure because Russia's direct losses from corruption total at least $15 billion a year and its indirect losses in terms of loss of public and investor confidence in Russia and its government are even greater. In other comments, Kulikov said corruption has not declined under President Putin but only taken other forms, with the government drawing on the shadow economy to increase its own revenues.

WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION REGISTERED IN USE OF IMF LOANS. A probe into the way in which Russian officials handled loans from the International Monetary Fund found widespread corruption, "Novaya gazeta" reported on 29 October. The paper noted that much of the corruption involved a small, 53-person office called the Federal Center of Project Financing that does not have any rules for keeping track of how the loans, all of which passed through its hands, were distributed. The paper noted that this center gained the status of an open-share holding company when the current chief of the Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, was prime minister.

U.S. CASE AGAINST RUSSIAN HACKERS SAID ILLEGAL. The Chelyabinsk regional office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has concluded that the American indictments of Russian hackers Vasilii Gorshkov and Aleksei Ivanov for breaking into computer systems and stealing credit-card numbers are illegal, "Chelyabinskii rabochii" reported on 1 November. The FSB offices said that the methods employed by the U.S. law enforcement agencies were "illegal and criminal," including what the FSB called "the unauthorized entry into the virtual space of Chelyabinsk Oblast" in Russia.

DEPUTY GOVERNOR IN ST. PETERSBURG DISMISSED PENDING OUTCOME OF BRIBERY INVESTIGATION. St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev has been suspended from his duties following orders from the Prosecutor-General's Office for the Northwestern federal district, Interfax reported on 30 October. The St. Petersburg governor's press service told the agency that Malyshev will be suspended for the duration of the investigation into whether he accepted a bribe, but his suspension is not an acknowledgment of guilt. News of the Prosecutor Office's investigation surfaced last July, when some media reported that investigators are particularly interested in Malyshev's relationship with several city banks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001).

PROSECUTORS INVESTIGATING NUMEROUS STATE AGENCIES. Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Biryukov on 31 October confirmed that prosecutors are currently investigating several corruption cases involving officials at the Central Bank, the State Customs Committee, the Emergency Situations Ministry, the Railways Ministry, and the State Fisheries Committee, Russian news agencies reported. But the only official charged so far, the spokesman said, is Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko. Biryukov added that some 15,000 officials were charged with corruption-related crimes in 2000, Interfax reported. The activities of the prosecutors combined with those of the Audit Chamber prompted the authors of an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 October to conclude that the Kremlin is using these institutions as a means to change the government. And an article in "Izvestiya" on 31 suggested that the proposed financial intelligence service might be used in the same political way.

PROSECUTORS WON'T OPPOSE RESTORATION OF DEATH PENALTY. Deputy Prosecutor-General Biryukov said on 31 October that prosecutors won't object if the Duma decides to pass legislation ending the current moratorium on the use of the death penalty, RIA-Novosti reported. The Council of Europe has made that suspension and ultimate abolition of the death penalty a condition of membership, but since the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States polls suggest ever more Russians back the use of this form of punishment.

75 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS TAKE BRIBES. "Kommersant-Vlast" reported on 30 October that recent surveys show that 75 percent of all Russian officials take bribes but only 0.4 percent of them are punished in any way. The weekly noted that bribing all those willing to take money requires $49 million a month, more than the cost of keeping them all in custody for 15 days.

MIRONOV WANTS OMBUDSMAN FOR MEDIA. Oleg Mironov, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation, told journalists on 29 October that he believes there should be a similar official to protect the mass media, RIA-Novosti reported.