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Security Watch: November 6, 2000

6 November 2000, Volume 1, Number 16


KGB CHIEF SAYS TALIBAN BEING USED TO DEFLECT MOSCOW FROM CASPIAN REGION. Leonid Shebarshin told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 26 October that there are "forces which would like to use Afghanistan's problems to deflect Russian attention from the Caucasus and Caspian." And consequently, current Kremlin efforts to make contacts with the Taliban and with Pakistan are "a step in the right direction." That is especially true, he said, because "while the Islamic threat is a phantom, the oil-rich Caspian and Caucasus is a reality." In other comments, the former chief of KGB foreign intelligence said that both American and British governments had badly miscalculated in thinking that Russian counterintelligence is now "dead." The cases of Platon Obukhov and Edmund Pope, he said, "show just how wrong they have been." And Shebarshin concluded by praising Putin's use of former KGB officers in his administration as "both natural and reasonable," noting that many of them had already proved their worth in service to Russia.

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS CENTRAL ASIA IS 'CENTER OF WORLD TERRORISM.' During a visit to Tajikistan, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that "the center of world terrorism is shifting to Central Asia and that Russia, with its allies, should immediately begin to form a joint force to cope with this development," "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 28 October. He suggested that China, India, and Iran would also be interested in joining a regional security system. Sergeev pledged that Russia had no plans to leave the region but instead would work to "reinforce its presence by creating permanent military bases in Tajikistan and by launching a diplomatic offensive as well."

WITNESS SAYS 'SECRETS' IN POPE CASE WEREN'T. Professor Arsenii Myandin said that the information retired U.S. Navy officer Edmund Pope is accused of obtaining via espionage were unclassified and put in the public domain a long time ago, "Segodnya" reported on 27 October. Myandin, who designed the Russian naval missile "Shkval," said that he had lectured about it and even published all the details concerning this weapon in a book that was declassified in 1991. But Russian prosecutor Oleg Plotnikov said that Myandin's testimony had failed to convince him.


PUTIN USES GAS TO LIMIT EUROPEAN CRITICISM ON CHECHNYA. During his visit to Paris, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his ability to offer to supply EU countries with gas to limit their criticism of his policies in Chechnya. Both the European Union and the French government were very restrained in their criticism of Putin's approach in the North Caucasus, noted on 31 October.

PUTIN REACHES OUT TO UKRAINE, POLAND. After several weeks of pushing for a pipeline bypassing Ukraine, Putin said in Paris that Moscow has no intention of not using Ukraine's pipeline system to export Russian petroleum products, reported on 31 October. Putin said that he and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma have agreed on that, but he said that the existing Ukrainian network was too small to carry all the gas the Europeans would need. In addition, Putin stressed how much the new pipelines would benefit Poland: "Can you imagine to have nothing and then have a billion fall from the sky?" Putin asked rhetorically. But even as Putin was making these comments, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said that "a pipeline route via the Baltic seabed and Finland to Europe would be much more logical than the Ukrainian route," reported on 30 October.

PUTIN SEEKS EUROPEAN ALLIES AGAINST U.S. NMD PLANS. President Vladimir Putin said in Paris that he had gained French and EU support for Russia's opposition to the U.S. plans to modify the ABM treaty and build a new national missile defense, Interfax reported on 31 October. Invoking an economic argument on behalf of his views, Putin said that "there is a suspicion that with the help of NMD, the Americans hope to stimulate their domestic high-tech sectors and thus make Europe non-competitive." He thus echoed the 2 October comments in by Mikhail Delayagin, the director of the Institute of Globalization, that Washington's real goal in seeking to build NMD is to enhance U.S. technological superiority.

PUTIN PROMISES TO BACK THE EURO. President Vladimir Putin said in Paris that Russia will do "everything it can" to strengthen the euro and thus secure long-term financial and economic cooperation with Europe, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 October. Putin also endorsed the "rapid integration of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into the EU." The logic behind Putin's remarks is obvious: Moscow currently calculates its taxes on oil export revenues in the euro, and Russian would clearly benefit by having a common border with the European Union via Kaliningrad.


MAJOR RUSSIAN DELEGATION IN BEIJING. While Putin was in Paris, a large proportion of the senior members of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's government were in Beijing, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. The delegation was led by Deputy Prime Minister Lev Klebanov and includes Economics Minister German Gref, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, Energy Minister Aleksandr Gavrin, Transportation Minister Sergei Frank, Natural Resources Minister Boris Yazkevich, Science and Technology Minister Aleksandr Dondukov, and Migration Policy Minister Aleksei Blokhin. Klebanov is scheduled to discuss a Russian sale of early warning aircraft to the Chinese as well as civil aviation planes Tu-334 and IL-114, which are intended to squeeze Boeing out from the Chinese market. The infrastructure ministers are to focus on an agreement for a pipeline between Sakhalin and China.

RUSSIA INCREASE SHARE OF WORLD ARMS TRADE. Russia increased its share of the world arms trade from 4.4 percent in 1998 to 6.6 percent in 1999, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" reported on 27 October, but it still is in fourth place behind the U.S., the U.K., and France. Roosvooruzhenie chief Aleksei Ogarev said that if Turkey purchses Russian helicopters, Russian arms exports in 2000 will reach nearly $4 billion (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 30 October 2000). Meanwhile, Duma Defense Committee Chairman General Andrei Nikolayev told "Krasnaya gazeta" on 28 October that weapons sales are central to the conduct of Russian foreign policy because the countries that purchase arms will inevitably look to the country which supplied them for leadership.


HIV INFECTIONS RISE IN RUSSIAN PRISONS. Nearly one in every six Russians -- some 8,000 in all -- who are suffering from HIV or AIDS are in Russian prisons, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 26 October. Aleksandr Borodulin, the deputy chief of the medical service of the Main Administration for Corrections, said that this is becoming a security problem. When inmates become convinced that they will die from AIDS and that as a result "they have nothing to lose," they become uncontrollable. He said that his agency had asked the Duma to pass special legislation about prisoners infected with HIV but that the legislature had not responded. "At present," he said, "we can do nothing for these prisoners because we have only 400 rubles ($14) a year for the medical treatment of each of them."

JUSTICE MINISTER SEEKS TO REDUCE PRISON POPULATION. Vladimir Yalunin, who heads the Russian prison system, told RBK on 1 November that there are now too many people in Russia's prisons -- some 929,000 -- and that he wants to reduce the total by 350,000 over the next two years. He added that he would support an amendment that would allow early release even for those sentenced to life in prison.

SECURITY SERVICES SAID TO FRONT FOR ORGANIZED CRIME. Half of the 11 largest private security firms which employ some 200,000 men now serve as fronts for organized criminal groups, Nikolai Pershutkin, the head of the Interior Ministry's Main Administration for Public Order, told "Kommersant" on 19 October. He said that his agency recently cancelled some 2,000 licenses for private security firms and had confiscated 20,000 weapons and 300 kilograms of explosives. In addition, he said, his agency had cracked down against illegal wiretapping by these groups.

HIGH TECH DEFENSE WORKERS AID CRIMINALS. The Interior Ministry's Department R for Combatting High Tech Crimes has arrested a group of secret defense institute scientists for supplying criminals with a device that allowed them to monitor hundreds of cell phones at once, "Tribuna" reported on 21 October.

80 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN WEALTHY LIVE IN MOSCOW. Four out of every five wealthy Russians live in the country's capital, Natalya Rimashevskaya, the director of the Institute of Social-Economic Problesm of the Population, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 30 October. She said that she used $3,000 a month family income as the cutoff point for the wealthy and noted that 400,000 Muscovites have incomes of that size or more. But she noted that the average income for all Russians is still less than 70 percent of that in 1997 before the August 1998 financial crash.


DRAFT NATIONALIZATION BILL SENT TO DUMA. Sergei Molozhavyi, the deputy minister of property relations, told "Izvestiya" on 31 October that his agency had submitted a bill to the parliament that would allow for nationalization of privately-held companies. He said that the government has no plans to nationalize anything now -- there is no money for that, he told the paper -- but the new bill is needed to ensure that the government will have the capacity to do so if it needs to take this step in the future.

PUTIN SUSPENDS DEFENSE INDUSTRY PRIVATIZATIONS. President Vladimir Putin has issued a decree that effectively stops any new private investment in the country's military industry complex, "Kommersant" reported on 26 October. The decee specifies that all existing and new defense sector companies should reserve 51 percent of their shares for the state. The chief supporters of this decree -- Deputy Prime Minister Lev Klebanov and Presidential Administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin -- thus preserve the dominance of the old clans over the largest portions of this industrial sector, the paper said.

PUTIN GIVES GENERALS GREATER POWER ROLE. The Soviet leadership always looked on senior military commanders with suspicion, but President Vladimir Putin has opened the way for generals to assume new political roles, "Versty" reported on 28 October. Senior military officers not only preside over five of the seven super districts, but they occupy 50 of the deputy slots in the Duma. Moreover, the paper noted, they chair several major parliamentary committees. One of the reasons for this is that the military is the only institution which has preserved its cadres since the collapse of Soviet power. Political analyst Aleksandr Tsypko echoed this notion in the 1 November issue of "Literaturnaya gazeta." He said that "the arrival of generals in public politics reflects democratic norms since it transforms their hitherto hidden powers into visible ones."

CAUSES OF 'KURSK' SINKING STILL DISPUTED. Dmitri Kolesnikov pointed out in the 28 October "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that the Russian navy had not released the entire text of the notes of "Kursk" seaman Dmitri Kolesnikov lest they show that those who believe a disaster caused the collision were completely wrong. Meanwhile, the former chief of the KGB Analytical-Information Directorate, KGB General Nikolai Leonov, told told the e-magazine "Russkii dom" No. 10 that he believes the "Kursk" sank after a weapons test. Were the accident the product of a collision the authorities could easily have released pictures showing that, he said.


SECURITY COUNCIL SEEKS TO REIN IN FOREIGN MASS MEDIA. The Russian Security Council is drafting amendments to the country's media law that will significantly rule the role of the 1,157 foreign mass media organizations which currently operate in Russia, "Segodnya" reported on 1 November. A Council official, Anatoli Streltsov, said that the amendments should give "priority to Russian journalists in obtaining information and operating in the economically most significant sectors of the information market." In addition, the author of the Information Security Doctrine said foreigners should not be allowed to own more than 20 percent of any Russian news outlet. The paper reported that some in the presidential administration oppose the Security Council's proposals because they believe that domestic Russian journalists are "just as dangerous" as their international counterparts.

FEDERAL, CAPITAL POLICE DISPUTE MOSCOW BLAST. Interior Ministry investigators believe that the August 2000 bomb explosion in central Moscow which claimed 12 lives was the work of criminal gangs seeking to settle accounts with one another, Interfax reported on 31 October. But the Moscow city government takes a different view, arguing that the bombing was the work of Chechens whom Moscow officials seek to expell from their city. The presidential envoy to the Central Super District, Viktor Poltavchenko, has retreated from his earlier demand that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov abolish the unconstitutional registration requirements for Moscow residents. Now, Poltavchenko says, the central government will not oppose even the filtration zones that Luzhkov's people have used to screen out "unwanted" residents," reported.