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Security Watch: December 5, 2001

5 December 2001, Volume 2, Number 45
PUTIN PURGES NAVY COMMANDERS OF NORTH FLEET. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced after his meeting with the commander of the Russian Navy, Vladimir Kuroedov, and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov that he dismissed from office the commander of the Northern Fleet, Fleet Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, the Northern Fleet's chief of staff, Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak, and 12 other admirals for "serious violations in the functioning of the Navy discovered during the investigation of the incident with the nuclear submarine 'Kursk,'" Russian news agencies reported on 1 December. Although an investigation is ongoing, there is no substantiated proof that the tragedy was caused by a collision with another vessel, Putin added. Both dismissed admirals and their subordinates were known as staunch proponents of the "foreign submarine" version and lost their jobs because they continue to see NATO as the "Russian Navy's only threat and enemy," the BBC commented on 1 December. Meanwhile, the chief of the General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, confirmed to "Ekho Moskvy" on 1 December that Popov and Motsak were punished not for the "Kursk" disaster, but for general mistakes in commanding the fleet.

GENERAL STAFF SAYS RUSSIA DOES NOT NEEDS NATO. Russia's entry into NATO is not feasible since the country can defend itself on her own, the first deputy chief of the General Staff, Yurii Baluevskii, told "Krashaya zvezda" on 30 November. However, Russia wants to directly participate in security decisions in Europe. At the same time, the Russian military is engaged in a dialogue with its American counterparts which will intensify in 2002, he noted. Baluevskii also added that in purely military terms, the success of the campaign of the antiterrorist alliance in Afghanistan was predetermined, but this does not mean a complete victory over terrorism. The Islamic extremists, especially foreign mercenaries, will continue to resist and restoring security will not be an easy matter, concluded Baluevskii.

IF RUSSIA WANTS TO CHANGE NATO, IT SHOULD CHANGE HERSELF. Writing in "Nezavisimaya" on 26 November, military expert Sergei Sokut said that the desire of Putin's administration to change the nature of NATO is stimulated by the recent U.S.-Russian summit and requires a change in Russia's military doctrine, in particular anti-Western infrastructure and the composition of its armed forces. Thus, for example, Russia should drop as a priority the spending of the lion's share of its naval budget on the development of a nuclear submarine fleet oriented toward confrontation with the U.S. Navy. Only then can Moscow search for a "equal partnership" with NATO and "consideration of her national security concerns" without vetoing NATO's eastward expansion. Sokut also quotes a leading analyst within the Russian Foreign Intelligence, the SVR, who said he does not believe that NATO will manage to combine such expansion with a partnership with Russia in the war against terror.

PUTIN ASKS SECURITY COUNCIL TO UPDATE PROCEDURES FOR MOBILIZATION READINESS... Speaking at a meeting of the Security Council devoted to the mobilization readiness of the Russian armed forces, President Putin said mobilization procedures are outdated and do not correspond to current political and economic realities, Russian news agencies reported on 27 November. Putin added that, while Russia has abandoned central economic planning, it continues to use the old, inefficient, and unreliable system of military management for emergency situations. But, according to Putin, one should not explain Russia's desire to reorganize its military infrastructure in terms of recent international developments. "We are doing this not because of an emergency but because of an objective need for renewal," he said.

PREMIER SUPPORTS REVITALIZATION OF CIVIL DEFENSE... Speaking at a meeting with senior officers of the Emergency Situations Ministry, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that one of the main tasks of the ministry is to reeducate the population regarding civil defense and preparedness for critical situations, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 November. Although the civil defense system is still functioning, it requires an overhaul to remedy its inability to recognize chemical and radiological threats and weaknesses in communication and alarm systems. In an effort to improve the situation, the government has allotted the ministry 2 billion rubles ($690 million) for 2002, according to Kasyanov.

DEFENSE MINISTRY TO SCRAP RAIL-BASED STRATEGIC MISSILES... Russia has begun decommissioning mobile SS-24 strategic missiles on trains, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 November, citing the head of the company that is responsible for the project. Askond head Vladimir Andreev said that decommissioning the SS-24s is part of Russia's obligation under the START-1 treaty, and that the first train carrying missiles will be moved next week from the Plesetsk space center to a special facility in Bryansk.

...AND INCREASES NUMBER OF SPY SATELLITES. Russian Space Troops at the Plesetsk space center are ready to launch three modified Uragan communication satellites to beef up Russia's orbital reconnaissance system, Space Troops commander Anatolii Perminov told RIA-Novosti on 27 November. Unmodified Uragans had a lifespan not exceeding three years, while the new satellites can function in orbit for up to six years. Russia also wants to increase its number of military satellites, as one-third of those now in orbit have already exhausted their life spans, according to Perminov.

PUTIN ORDERED RUSSIAN AIR LIFT TO KABUL. At the same Security Council meeting, President Putin revealed that he ordered a military airlift involving 12 Il-76 military transport aircraft loaded with some 400 support and security staff personnel from the Defense, Foreign Affairs, Emergency Situations, and Health Ministries, as well as other government agencies, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 27 November. The planes landed at the former Soviet air base in Bagram. Putin said his order for the airlift was given following a request by Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani's government, and was carried out with the help of U.S. troops and Northern Alliance forces. One of the first tasks of the personnel will be to reopen the Russian Embassy and other missions in Kabul, "Vremya novostei" reported.

...AND NAMED AFGHAN WAR VETERAN TO HEAD RUSSIAN OPERATIONS... President Putin has appointed Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Colonel General Valerii Vostrotin to coordinate Russia's political, humanitarian, and organizational activities in Afghanistan, Russian news agencies reported on 27 November. A Soviet Airborne Troops veteran, Vostrotin made his name at the beginning of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979, when a group of KGB operatives and special forces troops stormed the palace of Afghan President Hafizulla Amin and killed him. Vostrotin, then a major, was the commander of one of the attacking units. Vostrotin served with Soviet troops in Afghanistan for 10 years, and was known as a very tough and cunning officer.

PREMIER SUPPORTS REVITALIZATION OF CIVIL DEFENSE... Speaking at a meeting with senior officers of the Emergency Situations Ministry, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that one of the main tasks of the ministry is to re-educate the population regarding civil defense and preparedness for critical situations, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 November. Although the civil defense system is still functioning, it requires an overhaul to remedy its inability to recognize chemical and radiological threats, and weaknesses in communication and alarm systems. In an effort to remedy the situation, the government has allotted the ministry 2 billion rubles ($690 million) for 2002, according to Kasyanov.

RUSSIA AND U.S. AGREE ON ENERGY, OIL PRICE POLICIES... Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko and visiting U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham discussed on 29 November Russian-American cooperation in energy projects, the current price of oil, as well as joint efforts on scrapping nuclear reactors from decommissioned Russian submarines, "Izvestiya" reported. The same day, "Vremya novostei" quoted Abraham as saying that the U.S. is in favor of consultations between Russia and other non-OPEC oil producers in an effort to stabilize oil prices.

...MAKE VAGUE PROMISE TO SUPPORT OPEC... Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, speaking in Tokyo as the head of a visiting Russian business delegation, said that next month Russia may eventually meet the demands of OPEC and reduce exports of oil substantially more than the present 50,000 barrels a day reduction, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. Russia is concerned not by the amount of the reduction in production, but that the price of oil stays within a range which Russia sees as $20-25 per barrel, Khristenko said.

...WHILE WORRIED BY PROSPECTS OF OIL PRICE WAR. The Russian government is seriously concerned that OPEC countries, which have failed to convince Russia to radically lower its oil exports, might change tactics and attempt to flood the world market with surplus oil from their reserves, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 November. Algerian Oil Minister Shakid Khalil added to those fears when he said in Paris on 26 November that if Russia continues to resist OPEC policy to reduce oil quotas, the organization will begin flooding the market with up to 5 million barrels of oil per day. Such a policy would quickly lead to an artificial oil glut, and stabilize oil prices at around $10 per barrel. In such conditions of hypercompetition with the world's leading oil producers, Russia would be faced with a situation in which production costs for one barrel of oil would exceed the selling price, "Kommersant-Daily" reported.

ENERGY MINISTER SAYS U.S. INVESTMENTS IN SAKHALIN WILL BE PROTECTED. Igor Yusufov told visiting U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham in Moscow that Russia will accelerate its creation of a legal basis for the protection of American investments in the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-3 hydrocarbon projects, ORT television reported on 27 November.

RUSSIA EXPANDS TRADE, POLITICAL CONTACTS WITH IRAN... State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin, who arrived in Tehran at the head of a large Russian trade delegation, stated that Russia is looking to rapidly expand joint economic and energy projects with Iran and to promote Russian investment in Iranian industries, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 November. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said in Moscow that following consultations with his Iranian counterpart Mohsen Aminzadeh, both countries have "consolidated their positions" on the creation in Afghanistan of a broad-based, multiethnic government and will cooperate with the world community in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking. Losyukov also said that Aminzadeh discussed the global efforts in the antiterror campaign with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov.

...AND ECONOMIC TIES WITH BAGHDAD... The volume of Russian-Iraqi trade exceeded $1.85 billion for the first 10 months of this year, Aleksandr Saltanov, the deputy foreign minister responsible for the Middle East and Afghanistan, said at a Moscow conference on Russian-Iraqi ties, RBK reported on 26 November. Total trade with Iraq constitutes about 60 percent of Russian trade with the Arab world, Saltanov said. He added that "politically and morally" Russia continues to support Baghdad's demand for the "complete lifting of the UN sanctions."

...WHILE REACHING COMPROMISE WITH U.S. ON IRAQI SANCTIONS. A compromise reached by the Russian and U.S delegations to the UN concerning so called "smart sanctions" against Baghdad allowed the UN Security Council to impose these sanctions until the second half of 2002, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 November. According to the compromise, Moscow agreed to adopt a list of more severe restrictions on imports to Iraq of dual civil- and military-use technology, including equipment from the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy. In return, the United States has softened its position on conditions for lifting the embargo against Saddam Hussein's regime.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT OFFERS FREE-TRADE ZONE TO UKRAINE... President Putin announced after meeting on 28 November with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma, who was in Moscow for the meeting of CIS leaders, that the two countries have agreed to sign a treaty on establishing a "free economic zone" within the next six months, RIA-Novosti reported. Ratification of Russian-Ukrainian accords last summer stimulated the development of trade relations between the two countries in many areas. Russia also offered to help Ukraine in the reconstruction of the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power plants, Putin added.

RUSSIA SIGNS ACCORD ON MAJOR PIPELINE TO SOUTHERN EUROPE. Energy Minister Yusufov and Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Slavko Linic signed a protocol of intent in Moscow to construct a strategic pipeline that would bring Russian oil through southern European ports to the world market while bypassing the overloaded Turkish straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 November. Meanwhile, YUKOS President Mikhail Khodorkovskii told "Kommersant-Daily" the same day that the oil-trading company will be responsible for Russia's role in the project. Khodorkovskii said the initial capacity of the pipeline will be 5 million tons and will gradually increase to 15 million. Khodorkovskii stressed that the pipeline, dubbed "Druzhba-Adria," will run through Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, and then Italy, giving his company access to the Adriatic Sea from which the oil can be shipped worldwide by tankers.

RUSSIA SHOWS INTEREST TO EURO, BUT STAYS LOYAL TO DOLLAR. While the European Union remains Russia's main foreign trade partner, over 70 percent of profits are held in U.S. dollars, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 November. Moscow banks have few private and corporate accounts in the euro, and offer interest rates of 2 percent less for savings accounts in the euro than those held in U.S. dollars. For this reason, despite seeing significant promise in the single European currency, experts do not expect the Russian confidence in U.S. dollars to diminish soon.

EXPERT PROPOSES THAT GERMANY WRITE OFF DEBT OWED BY RUSSIA... Speaking at a symposium on German investments in the Russian economy, the director of the U.S. -based EastWest Institute, John Mroz, said that Europe, and in particular Germany, could write off a large part of the Soviet debt it is owed by Russia, "Vedomosti" reported on 26 November. Mroz said Russia's contribution to the global antiterrorism campaign justifies such a measure "because the U.S., Britain, and to some extent, Russia bear a much greater burden of the fighting against terror than, say, Germany or Italy," the business daily quoted him as saying.

...WHILE NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS THAT U.S. SHOULD DROP SOVIET DEBT, INVEST IN RUSSIA. Russia expects U.S. Congress to write off part of the Soviet debt to the United States or convert the money owed into a program for development of democratic institutions during forthcoming discussions on U.S. foreign aid, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 November. According to one of the circulating proposals, one-third of the debt would be spent to support independent mass media in Russia and another third would be used to help curtail Russian technological projects with Iraq and Iran that could have dual military and civilian uses. The final third should be invested in the Russian economy, the newspaper reported.

RUSSIA REPORTS SUBSTANTIAL INCREASE IN TRADE WITH EU. According to a report published by the European Union statistics agency Eurostat and cited by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 27 November, Russia has posted the highest growth of any country in its trade with the EU over the first eight months of this year. Over that time period, Russian trade with the EU increased by 45 percent, followed by China by 28 percent, and the Czech Republic by 20 percent. Russia also drastically increased its trade with countries that are candidates for EU membership, especially Poland. Russian-Polish trade has grown 62 percent over the last two years, according to the agency.

RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS TO WEAR UNIFORMS. The Russian government has decided that Russian ambassadors and senior diplomatic personnel will be required to wear uniforms, "Kommersant" reported on 23 November. Initially, the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MID) wanted Russian couturier Vyacheslav Zaitsev to design a dark-colored uniform with gold trim, such as existed under the Soviet regime, but after Zaitsev refused the offer the MID turned to designers who specialize in uniforms.

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH THREATENS TO EXCOMMUNICATE SCIENTISTS INVOLVED IN CLONING RESEARCH... The Russian Orthodox Church has responded strongly to recent reports of human embryo cloning in the United States, saying it will excommunicate any Russian scientists engaged in such research, as well as persons who receive or use cloned stem cells for medical treatment, Interfax reported on 27 November. "We unconditionally condemn therapeutic and reproductive cloning," Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Father Anatolii Ilin told the agency.

...AS EXPERTS PROCLAIM 'CLINICAL DEATH' FOR CIS. A group of intellectuals who gathered in Moscow on 27 November for a conference organized by the Russian political club Civic Debates and devoted to the 10th anniversary of the creation of the CIS, came to a consensus that the CIS failed in all but one respect -- the relatively peaceful disintegration of the Soviet Union, reported. Sergei Markov, the director of the Center for Political Research, said the Russian elite is to blame for the fiasco of the CIS, as it was unable to formulate its own interests over the two decades leading up to the collapse.

MVD FIGHTS CORRUPTION WITHIN ITS RANKS. Addressing hearings in the Duma, Deputy Interior Minister Yevgenii Solovev said over 10,000 officers have been put on trial since the beginning of the year, "Izvestiya" and ORT television reported on 22 November. Among those officers, 2,700 have been sued for corruption. "Criminals now consider [acquiring] protection [krysha] from the Interior Ministry [MVD] as often as from the criminal world," Solovev said. In the first nine months of this year, organized crime groups made 820 attempts to infiltrate the MVD. Solovev, who himself has worked for 20 years in both the MVD and the FSB, said the MVD has asked its Internal Security Service to launch an investigation into the matter and that the FSB now screens all applicants for positions within the MVD.

PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE INVESTIGATES STATE CUSTOMS COMMITTEE... The Prosecutor-Generals Office has filed official charges of abuse of office against Aleksandr Volkov and Marat Faizulin, two high-ranking officers of the State Customs Service Committee (GTK), RBK reported on 29 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2001). The two are accused of smuggling contraband furniture worth several million dollars in the early 1990s. "Vremya novostei" said on 29 November that the charges are an attempt by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Federal Security Service (FSB) to put pressure on the GTK and its head, Mikhail Vanin, who is considered to be a holdover from Boris Yeltsin's presidency. However, "Kommersant-Daily" said on 27 November that it believes the action is aimed at Nikolai Patrushev, the director of the FSB, and his deputy for economic security, Yurii Zaostrovtsev. The company implicated in smuggling the contraband furniture is owned by Zaostrovtsev's father, while Patrushev was responsible for supervising the Customs Service at that time.

...WHILE FSB KEEPS AN EYE ON DEFENSE MINISTRY. The FSB has increased its control over the Defense Ministry and placed its senior officers under surveillance, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 November. The reason cited for this development is that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, once considered to be close to President Putin, has failed to consolidate his control over the Defense Ministry and Putin has lost confidence in him. In particular, Ivanov was unable to lessen the influence of Chief of General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, who is represented in the second tier of power within the ministry. The split in the Defense Ministry is delaying reforms, which are needed to maintain troop morale and the loyalty of the military electorate. For these reasons Putin asked the FSB to keep an eye on the armed forces, the newspaper speculated.

RUSSIAN COURT CONFIRMS DECISION TO LIQUIDATE INDEPENDENT TV-6 OWNER... On 26 November, the Board of Appeals of the Moscow Arbitration Court confirmed the 27 September decision of a first-instance court to liquidate the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), which owns TV-6, Russian agencies reported. An administrative complaint against MNVK had been filed by LUKoil-Garant, a subsidiary of LUKoil, which owns a 15 percent share of MNVK. LUKoil-Garant claims its rights as a minority shareholder were violated when MNVK contracted a 255 million ruble ($7.5 million) debt in January 2001 and income generated by advertising substantially decreased over the past few months. TV-6 officials deny the charge, saying the television network is profitable. Media magnate Boris Berezovsky owns the remaining 75 percent in the network through three shareholders, which include the financial industrial group LogoVAZ (26.5 percent), the private Delfin Company (25.25 percent), and 11 percent by Berezovsky himself. Lawyers for TV-6 said they will appeal the decision, ITAR-TASS reported.

ARABS WANT TO INVEST IN RUSSIAN MEDIA. The ambassador of the Palestinian Autonomy in Moscow, Khairi Oridi, told "Izvestiya" on 30 November that many Russian newspapers are too pro-Israeli and to change this situation Arab capital might invest in Russian mass media. Oridi added that investments would go to "purely Russian newspapers friendly to Arabs."

DUMA LEGISLATORS SUGGEST CRIMINALIZING DISRESPECT FOR STATE SYMBOLS. The Duma Legalization Committee has initiated a bill that would make showing lack of respect for the state anthem, seal, and flag a punishable criminal offense, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 November. The bill would include an amendment to the Criminal Code that would allow for the punishment for such offenses with stiff fines or a prison term of up to two years. A spokesman for the committee said he foresees that "insulting the state anthem" will require additional definition because, in contrast to the other state symbols, "it has no physical form."

NATURAL RESOURCES MINISTRY VERSUS GAZPROM'S MONOPOLY. Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov stated that Gazprom's monopoly of the energy market in Russia is "absolutely artificial and temporary," "Izvestiya" reported on 29 November. The only part of Gazprom that can be considered a natural monopoly is its network of pipelines. All the rest is a product of the political and economical situation in Russia in the 1990's, he added. Gazprom currently owns 157 licenses for the most productive deposits of hydrocarbons in the country, and such a situation cannot be tolerated for very long, according to Artyukhov. One of the tasks of his agency will be to help Russia to divest Gazprom of its holdings. This means that within a few years several competitors must emerge to challenge Gazprom for the common good, Artyukhov concluded.

DUMA ADOPTS PACKAGE ON LEGAL REFORM... On 27 November, the Duma approved on final reading a legislative package aimed at reforming the legal system in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The package extends professional requirements for judges, establishes norms for disciplinary and criminal responsibility; sets the retirement age at 65 years of age; and will introduce jury trials nationwide beginning in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2001). The legislation also introduces public competition for judicial offices for the first time in recent Russian history.

...AS MVD WANTS TO CHANGE LAWS ON FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY AND STATUS OF FOREIGNERS. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said at a hearing in the Duma that because of the expanded functions of his agency, his experts are drafting amendments to the laws of assemblies and manifestations, individual identification documentation, and the status of foreigners and refugees. Gryzlov explained that the essence of these amendments is to streamline current legislation and keep it in line with constitutional norms. Gryzlov also said the additional areas of responsibility that the MVD has been granted give his organization the right to initiate legislation.