Accessibility links

Breaking News

Security Watch: December 20, 2001

20 December 2001, Volume 2, Number 47

The next issue of "RFE/RL Security Watch" will appear on 3 January 2002.
...AND LOOKS AHEAD TO START-3... Arriving on 17 December in Brussels to attend a meeting of the Permanent Joint Council for cooperation between NATO and Russia, and with his U.S. counterpart Donald Rumsfeld, Ivanov said that the goal of his talks with Rumsfeld was to explore the new format of U.S.-Russian relations in the wake of Washington's decision to pull out of the ABM Treaty, RIA-Novosti reported. Following his talks with Rumsfeld, Ivanov said on 18 December that the START-2 treaty has lost its significance after the U.S. decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. As a result, Russia considers it crucial to continue negotiations on a START-3 treaty, and to have a timetable for the further reduction of strategic arms under that treaty on paper when U.S. President George W. Bush visits Moscow next summer, Ivanov said. "Kommersant-Daily" commented the same day that, after being forced to retreat from his hard-line position on the ABM Treaty, Ivanov is now demanding negotiations on START-3 in a bid to reaffirm his earlier position. The newspaper said that, in particular, Ivanov would like to codify all further disarmament procedures, something the U.S. has considered as unwise and unnecessary in prior discussions.

...AS DUMA REJECTS APPEAL TO U.S. CONGRESS OVER ABM WITHDRAWAL... On 14 December, the Duma turned down a proposal by the Yabloko faction to send the U.S. Congress a letter stressing the Russian parliament's disapproval with Washington's decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, "there is no need" to send such a letter. Meanwhile Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky argued that the American initiative is beneficial for Russia as it "unties our hands."

...WHILE EXPERTS PONDER CONSEQUENCES. Institute of USA and Canada Deputy Director Viktor Kremenyuk said on 12 December that it would be perfectly legal under international law for the U.S. to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty, reported. But he added that Washington is not prepared to address Moscow's concern about the fate of the treaty, as it does not understand Russia's persistence in adhering to it. According to Kremenyuk, a U.S. decision to withdraw from the treaty could be a serious blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to improve relations with the United States, and as a result Russia could once again be alienated from the West. However, The chairman of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, Mikhail Margelov, said on 16 December to RIA-Novosti that Russia's reaction to Washington's decision was calm and reserved because a U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty was "long expected" and had been agreed with the Kremlin.

RUSSIA OFFERS ASSISTANCE TO U.S. FOR FIGHTING ANTHRAX. Valentin Pokrovskii, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, told RIA-Novosti on 18 December that Russian scientists have developed a new advanced vaccine against anthrax that they are prepared to give to the United States. In contrast to current vaccines that require six sessions for injections, the new product requires only two sessions, which speeds up the process of strengthening the immune system, according to Pokrovskii. Meanwhile, Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko said that Russia is also ready to send both its vaccines and unique samples of anthrax spores to the United States. "If the terrorist origin of the anthrax cases in America is proved, all of us should be ready for a mass vaccination of the population," he said.

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO IMPROVE RUSSIAN-AFRICAN RELATIONS... On 12 December, Igor Ivanov began a week-long trip to Africa during which he will visit Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, reported. The website said Ivanov's trip is not a routine diplomatic effort, but a manifestation of Russia's determination to strengthen its policy toward Africa after ignoring it for years. The website noted that this year Moscow has already received the presidents of Nigeria, Guinea, Gabon, as well as the Ethiopian prime minister. On his current trip, Ivanov will promote Russian arms and a joint venture in the natural resources sphere, according to

DUMA APPROVES RUSSIAN-IRANIAN TREATY ON FRIENDSHIP AND COOPERATION. The Duma ratified the "friendship" treaty between Moscow and Teheran signed by the heads of both states in Moscow in March, 2002 Russian news agencies reported on 19 December. Presenting the treaty to the Duma, Deputy Foreign minister Aleksandr Losyukov said that the document provides a broad basis for expanding Russian-Iranian military-technical and economic cooperation. He also mentioned that in addition to the nuclear power station in Busheira, Russia will supply reactors for other nuclear stations currently in the planning stages.

RUSSIA TO UPDATE MISSILE FORCES IN REACTION TO U.S. ABM WITHDRAWAL... Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told top commanders of the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) on 17 December that the Russian leadership will proceed with plans to reduce and modernize those forces, according to RIA-Novosti. To this end, Russia has already deployed 30 new IBM SS-25 missiles ("Topol-M") and plans to deploy more. Although SS-25s constitute only a small fraction of Russia's RVSN, they are able to overcome any antimissile shield and can therefore guarantee Russian security for the next 25 years, according to Ivanov.

...SIGNS TREATY WITH PRETORIA... Meanwhile, arriving in Pretoria, Igor Ivanov signed with his South African counterpart Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma an accord on economic partnership and cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December. The two also signed an agreement on joint ventures in the diamond-mining sector and an agreement on military-technical cooperation. Ivanov told journalists that he also signed an agreement on diamond mining with neighboring Namibia when visiting that country the previous day. He added that further agreements will be signed.

...AND NEW DIAMOND DEAL WITH DE BEERS INKED. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced that the world's largest diamond trader, De Beers, and the Russian national diamond producer Alrosa signed an agreement in Yakutsk on 17 December regulating a new operational status of bilateral relations, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported the same day. According to the agreement, Alrosa will gradually scale down sales of diamonds to De Beers and increase its own supply to the domestic market. Moreover, Alrosa will gain the opportunity to develop its own distribution network abroad by utilizing the network established by De Beers.

PRIME MINISTER PUSHES RUSSIAN-BRAZILIAN HI-TECH TRADE... Prime Minister Kasyanov visited North and South America (see "RFE/RL Security Watch" 16 December 2001) where he met with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Vice President Marco Maciel on 12 December and discussed cooperation between their countries on constructing nuclear power plants and developing new types of nuclear fuel, Russian business news agencies reported. Kasyanov also said following the talks that Russia will help Brazil develop missile boosters to launch commercial satellites, while Brazil will allow Russia use of the launching pad Alcantara for commercial launches. In addition, Kasyanov said Russia is interested in selling jet fighters and combat helicopters to the Brazilian air force.

...TALKS OIL PRICES IN CARACAS... On the final leg of his American tour, Kasyanov discussed the stabilization of oil prices with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, RBK reported on 16 December. Kasyanov told Chavez, whose country currently holds the chair of OPEC, that while Russia's policy is to allow all oil-producing countries a free hand to decide what price they will charge for their oil, Moscow would prefer a fair price of between $22 and $25 per barrel. Kasyanov also discussed with Chavez bilateral deals, in particular an arrangement under which Venezuela will supply oil to Cuba as a way to meet Russian contractual agreements, while Russia will fill Venezuela's obligations to supply oil to its European customers. The details of this arrangement have been not made public, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 December.

...WHILE GAINING CONFIRMATION OF HIS POLICY FROM PUTIN. In an interview with the "Financial Times" published on 17 December, President Putin said Russia considers as a fair oil price for both producers and consumers a corridor ranging between $20 and $25 per barrel. However, although Russia is not happy with the present drop in oil prices, it has no special concerns about it, he said. Unlike some other oil-producing countries, "for us the oil sector is important, but it is not the only source of our profit," Putin added.

GAZPROM PUBLICIZES ITS STRATEGY. The annual meeting of the Gazprom board of directors made public the Russian gas monopoly's goals for 2002, Prime-TASS reported on 17 December. Those objectives include completing the major Yamal-Europe and Blue Stream pipeline projects, intensive exploration of the gas resources of eastern Siberia and the Far East, and building the infrastructure to export gas to South Asian markets.

GOVERNMENT MULLS OVER STATE MONOPOLY ON STRATEGIC GOODS. The Economic Development and Trade Ministry is having discussions with other state agencies on the possibility of introducing a state monopoly for some strategic goods, in particular for oil and oil products, "Vedomosti" and ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December. The ministry argues that such a state monopoly would increase control over export revenues and would therefore result in an increase in the volume of tax duties to be paid into the state budget.

RUSSIA AND AUSTRALIA AGREE TO BUILD JOINT SPACE CENTER. Russian and Australia have agreed to jointly construct a space center on Australia's Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, "Kommersant-Daily" quoted Rosaviakosmos space agency head Yurii Koptev as saying on 18 December. According to the contract, beginning in 2004 Russia will launch commercial satellites from the center using its Aurora booster rockets. As part of the deal, Australia will be allowed use of Auroras, but that right cannot be transferred to third parties. Koptev said the cost for constructing the space center will be about $500 million, and that both sides will contribute to its funding.

MOSCOW LAYS PLANS FOR BRIDGE TO CRIMEAN PENINSULA. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 12 December that he and Leonid Hrach, the leader of Ukraine's Crimean Autonomous Republic, and Oleh Osadchyy, the mayor of the Crimean city of Kerch, reached agreement on establishing a shareholding company for the construction of a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula and Russia's Krasnodar Krai, RIA-Novosti reported. The construction of the six-kilometer bridge over the Kerch Strait is expected to begin in the summer of 2002, and the $1.2 billion cost of the project will be covered by private Russian investors. Luzhkov said the "bridge between Ukraine and Russia is more than a technical project, but a symbol of the unity of two peoples."

EURASIAN LEADER CRITICIZES COMMUNISTS, PRAISES PUTIN. Writing in "Literaturnaya gazeta," No. 50, Aleksandr Dugin, the controversial leader of the Eurasian party, said that both Russia's ruling class and its political opposition have experienced extreme difficulties in their efforts to be the leading political force in the country. Dugin said that as one of the biggest factions in the Duma, the Communist Party has failed to create an attractive informational outlet to promote its views nationwide. On the other hand, he argued, the moderate nationalists have shown themselves to be out of touch with reality. He said that while those movements were able to hamper the efforts of liberal "reformers," they have not been able to present their own positive programs. According to Dugin, President Putin found the most success when he publicly stated that modern Russia should absorb all periods of her history, including the Soviet one, and proclaimed the sentiment shared by Dugin's Eurasian party that "Russia should exist as a great power, or not at all."

ZHIRINOVSKY FAILS TO CONVINCE HIS OWN PARTY TO ALLY ITSELF WITH WEST. Speaking on 13 December at a Liberal Democratic Party of Russia congress, party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called on delegates to change the "anti-American and anti-Western provisions in the party program" and join the coalition with "Europe, North America, and NATO," RIA-Novosti reported. However, the congress delegates rejected Zhirinovsky's proposal, arguing that after 10 years and more than 150 party documents stressing its anti-Western stance, it is impossible to change the political platform overnight, NTV reported the same day. However, the party congress did adopt two other Zhirinovsky proposals -- to transform the Federal Assembly into a one-chamber parliament, and to restore the KGB.

WORLD CONGRESS OF PEOPLES OF RUSSIA OPENS IN MOSCOW. President Putin and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II were present at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on 13 December for the opening ceremony of the World Congress of Peoples of Russia, ORT television reported. Addressing the congress, Putin said that in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States, Russia should present itself as a "model of tolerance and spirituality." Putin said Russia is historically a place where "Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism have peacefully cohabited." The congress adopted a resolution condemning religious sects and "immorality in culture."

MOST RUSSIANS IGNORANT OF CONSTITUTION DAY. According to the results of an opinion poll published by on 12 December, the vast majority of Russians do not consider Constitution Day to be a holiday. Of 1,500 respondents, 67 percent consider the commemorative day for the signing of the Russian Constitution in 1993 to be just another day off. Only 20 percent view it as a holiday. In addition, 47 percent said they consider the constitution purely as a formal document, and 55 percent said they know nothing about the basic statutes of the document.

RUSSIA REQUESTS DEADLINE EXTENSION FOR CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION. Deputy Security Council Secretary Oleg Chernov told journalists on 11 December that Russia has asked its international partners to postpone the completion date for the destruction of its 40,000-ton chemical weapons arsenal from 2007 to 2012, Russian news agencies reported. Chernov said the original deadline is unrealistic because of organizational and financial difficulties, and that in order to fulfill its obligations Russia needs an additional $3 billion, 30 percent of which it hopes to receive from the West, primarily the United States. He noted that the process will include not only the destruction of the arsenal, but also the dismantling or conversion of 24 chemical weapons-production facilities.

RUSSIA DECLASSIFIES 'STEALTH' WARSHIP. Russian naval designers have created a new advanced warship code-named "project 20380" that utilizes stealth technology, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 December. The new ship has a cruising speed of 30 knots and a range of 4,000 kilometers, and is armed with the Yakhont offensive missile system and Medvedka antisubmarine missile system. The news agency said the new Russian ship has no equivalent in Western navies because they have no defense against Yakhont missiles.

BEREZOVSKY ACCUSES FSB OF ORCHESTRATING APARTMENT EXPLOSIONS... Speaking via telelink to a conference on Civil Society and Human Rights on 14 December, embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky accused the Federal Security Service (FSB) of being behind the explosions of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in August and September of 1999, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Berezovsky said that while he "could not say that Putin gave the order for this operation [or] that Putin personally commanded this operation," he is convinced that the FSB is responsible for the explosion and is ready to meet with "those people in court."

...AS POLITICAL ANALYST NAMES HIM AS ACTIVE PLAYER IN THE GAME... In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, political analyst Andrei Pointkovskii pointed out that although federal authorities have launched a federal search for Berezovsky, they have not sent a corresponding inquiry to Interpol to arrest and extradite him. "This creates the impression that there is some kind of strange game continuing between the authorities and Berezovsky," he continued. When asked whether the so-called St. Petersburg group within the Kremlin might be trying to use Berezovsky to squash the "Chekist" group of intelligence and former intelligence officials, Pointkovskii declined to comment.

...FSB CHALLENGES HIM TO APPEAR IN COURT... FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said that the recent statement made by embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky accusing the FSB of involvement in the explosions of apartment buildings in 1999 in Moscow and Volgodonsk "is complete nonsense," ORT reported on 16 December. Zdanovich added that the FSB will not initiate legal proceedings against Berezovsky in a foreign court for his "absurd allegations," but will challenge him in a domestic court if he returns to Russia.

...AND CHUBAIS SAYS BEREZOVSKY HAS LOST SENSE OF REALITY. Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the Union of Rightist Forces, Anatolii Chubais, told RTR on 16 December that he is surprised by Berezovsky's behavior. "It is striking how such a smart person as Berezovsky can so completely lose his understanding of what is going on at home after having spent a relatively short time abroad," Chubais commented.

FSB REPORTS ON SPY ACTIVITY. Addressing the Russian media on 18 December, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev said his agency this year "exposed 130 officers of foreign intelligence services, prevented the spying activities of 30 of them, and caught 10 foreign citizens red-handed in acts of espionage," reported. In addition, Patrushev said the FSB arrested seven Russian citizens for spying for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq.

COURT ASKED TO GIVE ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST NINE YEARS IN PRISON... The military prosecutor in charge of the espionage case against former military journalist Grigorii Pasko demanded on 13 December that the court give Pasko a nine-year prison term, ITAR-TASS reported. Pasko has been accused of collecting classified information about the Pacific Fleet and passing it on to Japanese journalists. This is Pasko's second trial. The court in Vladivostok has adjourned until 17 December, when Pasko's lawyers will make their arguments.

...AS PASKO PROMISES NOT TO ACCEPT GUILTY PLEA... Meanwhile, Pasko addressed the court on 18 December as his espionage trial came to a close, Russian agencies reported. In a short speech, Pasko denied disclosing classified materials to Japanese media and charged that the FSB falsified some materials in the case. He added that he will appeal a guilty verdict all the way to the Russian Supreme Court and if he fails there, he will then go the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The military court in Vladivostok is expected to deliver its verdict on 25 December, according to NTV.

...AND NEWSPAPER SAYS CASE TO CONTRADICT EARLIER SUPREME COURT DECISION. The military prosecutor's request that Grigorii Pasko be handed a nine-year prison sentence for espionage in his trial in Vladivostok contradicts the decision by the Russian Supreme Court last November to throw out charges that the military journalist disseminated classified Defense Ministry data, "Izvestiya" said on 13 December. The daily argued that, because the current indictment accusing Pasko of divulging state secrets was based on that data being classified, he must immediately be released, along with scientists Igor Sutyagin and Vladimir Danilov, who are accused of the same "crime."

PUTIN SIGNS LAW ON PROCEDURE FOR ALTERING BORDERS. On 18 December, President Putin signed a federal constitutional law "on the order of adopting and establishing new federation subjects," Interfax reported. The bill was approved by the State Duma on 30 November and by the Federation Council on 5 December. Under the law, if two or more federation subjects would like to merge, then the issue must first be put to a referendum for citizens within the relevant regions.

INTERIOR MINISTRY CREATES STATE DATABASE ON RUSSIA'S POPULATION. The Interior Ministry announced that by 2004 it plans to create a computerized database named the State Population Register that will list all Russian citizens and foreigners living on the territory of the Russian Federation, RBK reported on 14 December. The rationale cited for establishing such a register was social security needs, but the database will also be available to law enforcement and medical institutions. It will cost 3.5 billion rubles ($116 million).

AUDIT CHAMBER FINDS RUSSIAN NUCLEAR WASTE PROCESSING IN CRISIS. The Audit Chamber announced that, according to a recent probe it conducted, national facilities dealing with spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste are in a critical condition, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 December. Thus, most of the storage facilities for nuclear waste are filled almost to capacity, the equipment belonging to such facilities is in need of urgent repair and modernization, and their safety systems are not adequate to protect the population and environment of surrounding areas.

A NEW JOB FOR PRIMAKOV. Former Prime Minster Yevgenii Primakov was elected chairman of the Russian Trade and Industry Chamber at a congress of that organization in Moscow on 14 December, Russian news services reported. In his address to the chamber, Primakov said he sees his mission as promoting cooperation between the business community and the government, mediating disagreements between business elites, and advancing Russian economic interests abroad. Primakov also noted the crucial role the chamber will play after Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization.

FINANCE MINISTRY PLANS TAX REDUCTIONS. Finance Minister Kudrin announced on 18 December that his government is planning to annul the highway-use tax in 2003, and to cancel the 5 percent sales tax in 2004, RBK news agency reported. There are also plans in the works to cut rates for the top tier of the social security tax, and to lower the value-added tax, Kudrin added.

DEPUTIES REJECT ANTI-MOONSHINE BILLS. State Duma deputies approved on 13 December, on the first reading, a constitutional law allowing regional parliaments and local governments to display the Russian state flag on their buildings on a constant basis, reported. Some 302 deputies voted in favor of the bill. Previously, the flag was only allowed to be displayed on state holidays. The same day, deputies rejected two bills that would have amended the Criminal Code by imposing criminal penalties on producers of moonshine (samogon). Authors of the bills, proffered by the Bryansk and Kostroma oblasts legislatures, complained that action was needed as whole villages are addicted to alcohol. However, both presidential representative to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov and governmental representative to the Duma Andrei Loginov argued against the bill, according to ITAR-TASS. Loginov noted that "half of rural residents make moonshine, and giving new powers to law enforcement bodies could lead to more cases of misuse of power."

AEROFLOT CASE HEADING TO COURT. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS on 18 December that the office has transferred to court the Aeroflot case in which three men are accused of siphoning $252 million from the airline's assets. Nikolai Glushkov, a former first deputy director of Aeroflot; Aleksandr Krasnenker, the company's advertising director; and Roman Sheinin, the director of the United Financial Corporation, are all close associates of embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky, who controlled Aeroflot until 1999. The same day, the Prosecutor-General's Office indicted in absentia another of Berezovsky's associates: former TV-6 board Chairman Arkadii Patarkatsishvili. He is accused of attempting to organize escape plans to free Glushkov from custody. Berezovsky's status in the Aeroflot case is unclear. Although the Prosecutor-General's Office did not produce a direct indictment against him, it has issued an international arrest warrant against Berezovsky for ignoring a subpoena.

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS DEAD CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER RUNS COUNTERFEITING OPERATION. Colonel Sergei Skvortsov of the Russian Interior Ministry's department for economic crime told a press conference in Moscow on 13 December that 30 percent of the counterfeit dollars confiscated in Russia so far this year were printed in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said his ministry has established that the center for counterfeiting operations is located in Shali, southeast of Grozny, and added that Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev is directly connected with such operations. Baraev was killed in June 2001 during a special operation by the FSB and OMON troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001).