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Security Watch: November 20, 2000

20 November 2000, Volume 1, Number 18
PUTIN OUTLINES SPECIAL RUSSIAN ROLE IN GLOBALIZATION. President Vladimir Putin told the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Brunei on 15 November that Russia has some very "practical" interests in the ongoing globalization process. On the one hand, Russia wants to be a full participant in the process because of its own natural and human resources. And on the other hand, Putin said, Russia wants its territory to become the site for two global transport corridors, one crossing the Caspian region north-south and a second crossing Siberia east-west. The use of such corridors, Putin said, would closer integrate Asia and Europe by reducing the amount of time needed to ship goods between the two continents. To make these corridors more attractive, Putin said, his government plans to further liberalize its economy and considerably reduce tariffs.

PUTIN TILTS -- AGAIN -- TOWARD ASIA. Whenever President Vladimir Putin travels to the West, he balances it with a trip to Asia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 November. Putin has already visited China, India, Japan, North Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia, and he will soon go to South Korea as well. The Moscow paper carried Putin's article "Russia: New Eastern Perspectives" on 15 November in which Putin laid out his vision for Moscow's policies in the region. Specifically, he called on the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries to invest in Russian ports on the Pacific and the Baltic and that these states use Russian air space as the shortest way to the U.S. He also suggested that Russia hopes to expand its energy exports to these countries as well as help some of them such as Vietnam and Indonesia develop their own oil reserves.

ROKHLIN'S WIDOW DENIES KILLING HER HUSBAND. Tamara Rokhlina denied prosecution charges that she killed her husband, General Lev Rokhlin, in July 1998, RIA-Novosti reported on 15 November. In her final statement to the court, she said that Rokhlin was killed by "those who were afraid of his revelations about Kremlin corruption," including his personal bodyguard, FSB officer Aleksandr Pleskachev. Meanwhile, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on the same day that Rokhlina not only admitted to investigators that she had killed her husband but told friends how she had destroyed evidence linking her to the crime. The paper quoted her friends as saying that she was a person of "rare coolness and cynicism" who was not willing to forgive any betrayal of marriage vows.

GAZPROM WON'T DEAL WITH GUSINSKY NOW. Alfred Koch, the chief of Gazprom-Media, told on 15 November that he was withdrawing from an agreement with Media-MOST because prosecutors have accused its head, Vladimir Gusinsky, of fraud. Koch said that Media-MOST would have to offer additional assurances to make the deal work. "Moskovskiy komsomolets" on 15 November suggested that Koch's action had a political basis: the paper said that the Kremlin is not prepared to tolerate Gusinsky remaining even temporarily in charge of Media-MOST, and it added that the procuracy had hinted to Koch that if he went ahead with the deal, Koch would become what the paper called the next "victim of justice."

BEREZOVSKY DECIDES EXILE BETTER THAN PRISON. Boris Berezovsky said through his Moscow lawyer, Semyon Ariya, that he "prefers to be a political emigre rather than a political prisoner" and therefore will not return to Moscow for interrogation in the Aeroflot case, Interfax reported on 15 November. Berezovsky's declaration followed a statement by Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasily Kolmogorov that Swiss documents in his possession "allow for the indictment of Berezovsky." Meanwhile, in a statement to the press, Berezovsky said he was remaining abroad because of "increasing political pressure" from Putin "personally." He added that Putin and his Unity supporters have not been shy in "taking money from his Swiss partners for their election campaigns." concluded on 14 November that Berezovsky has failed to decide whether he is a businessman with bad investments or a politician opposed to the country's president.

LUKASHENKA GRATEFUL TO SVR. Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka publicly expressed his gratitude to visiting Russian SVR chief Sergei Lebedev for the latter's "informational support in helping [Belarus] to survive in most difficult times," "Kommersant" reported on 10 November. Lukashenka also noted how pleased he was that the Russian foreign intelligence service was providing training for the Belarusian KGB. The Moscow paper noted that Lebedev was not in Minsk to receive such encomia but rather to discuss the integration of the secret services of the two countries and to prepare joint tactics for negotiations with Poland about the Russian gas pipeline to Western Europe.

CHEKISTS NOW CONTROL RE-ARMAMENT, WEAPONS EXPORT. President Vladimir Putin appointed Foreign Intelligence Service veteran Mikhail Dmitriev as the Defense Ministry official responsible for the rearmament of the country's defense forces and also for the exports of weapons and military technology, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Until August 2000, Lieutenant-General Dmitriev had headed the SVR's analytic information directorate, "Vedomosti" reported on 15 November. His appointment follows the consolidation of the Rosoboronprom under another SVR veteran, Andrei Belyaninov (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November 2000). Their appointments together give Putin direct control over these two key areas.

'EXPERTS' UNANIMOUS THAT POPE IS A SPY. Georgy Longvinovich, the chairman of a special "experts commission" convened to deal with charges against retired U.S. naval officer Edmond Pope, said that its members "unanimously" believe that the materials Professor Anatoly Babkin gave to Pope were secret, ORT reported on 15 November. Meanwhile, a witness for the prosecution said that statements on Pope's behalf by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proved that "Pope is not a simple businessman but rather a career intelligence officer."

SOME SCIENTISTS WANT MORE SECRECY. A group of Russian nuclear and military scientists has appealed to the Russian Security Council, the FSB, the Justice Ministry, and the Duma to improve the protection of state secrets and impose greater punishments on those who compromise such secrets, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 10 November. They said that such actions were necessary because of U.S. activities, including American pressure on Moscow regarding accused spy Edmond Pope.

ADAMOV WANTS UES DISMANTLED. Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov has called for the dismantling of the United Energy System headed by Anatoly Chubais and the re-nationalization of the country's power grid, reported on 14 November. In a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Adamov said that Russia needs such a policy to "get out from under the influence of foreign shareholders in UES." In a separate statement to ORT, Adamov said that his agency could play precisely that role. In other comments, he noted that for the first time since the end of the USSR, Moscow is set to open a new research center to design the next generation of nuclear reactors.

SPECIAL ECONOMIC PLAN FOR THE KURILES. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that Moscow has decided to launch a special economic program for the Kuriles to ensure that they will remain part of Russia, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 November. This program shows, the paper said, that Moscow has no intention of negotiating even their partial return to Japan anytime soon. Kasyanov said that the new program is intended to remind the residents of the Kuriles that they are not isolated from the rest of Russia. And he added that the Kuriles are worth this effort because of their importance to the country's national defense and fishing industries.

KIRIENKO ABOLISHES BASHKORTOSTAN JUSTICE AGENCY. Sergei Kirienko, presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, has reached agreement with Bashkortostan's president, Murtaza Rakhimov, to abolish that republic's Justice Ministry and transform it into a regional department of the federal Justice Ministry, reported on 14 November. In practical terms, this will make it virtually impossible for Bashkortostan to adopt laws different from federal legislation and will mark the end of a system under which Bashkortostan issued its own foreign passports. As replacements, residents will get Russian passports with a page printed in the Bashkir language and with Bashkir symbols.

PAVLOVSKY SUGGESTS ZHIRINOVSKY BEHIND REGIONAL REFORMS. Gleb Pavlovsky, the man behind many of President Vladimir Putin's reforms, told on 14 November that the formation of seven super-districts arose in part from ideas first presented by Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky on the need to return to pre-1917 arrangements. Pavlovsky added that these reforms were also intended to change power relations in the country by weakening the oligarchs, many of whom sit in the Federation Council. He noted that in the end, the regions will not have any independent power "beyond the competence of the center."

CRISIS BEHIND CUTS IN RUSSIAN MILITARY. A deep crisis in the Russian military has forced Moscow to declare as policy something which it appears powerless to prevent, the further reduction in the size and power of the country's armed forces. At present, "Vek" wrote in no. 45, more than 49 percent of the families of servicemen live below the poverty line, with as many as 80 to 90 percent unable to afford decent food and clothing. Over the last five years, the paper added, the salary of captains has fallen from $150-170 a month to approximately $100. Two-thirds of junior and mid-grade officers have no housing. More than 90,000 officers are on waiting lists for state housing. Heroism is necessary in soldiers, "Vremya MN" noted on 11 November, but the country must do something soon to overcome "this unnecessary heroism."

DEFENSE MINISTER, SRF CHIEF DIFFER WITH PUTIN. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that Putin's proposed reduction in the Russian and American nuclear arsenals to 1,500 warheads would be acceptable only if the 1972 ABM treaty remained inviolate rather than modified, as Putin's aides have suggested were such cuts to be made, Interfax reported on 15 November. Meanwhile, Strategic Rocket Forces commander Vladimir Yakovlev told Russian journalists that he and his fellow officers have serious doubts that the military balance can be maintained if the ABM treaty is modified. He suggested that Putin's proposal should thus serve as an invitation for dialogue rather than the basis for a new agreement.

AUDIT CHAMBER FINDS IRREGULARITIES IN FOREIGN DEBTS. "Sovershenno sekretno" reported in issue no. 11 that Audit Chamber investigators have found serious irregularities in the documentation of the government's foreign indebtedness. After the default of 1998, the journal said, investigators found that several banks with close ties to the government used advance information to get rid of debt before the default and then purchased paper at a huge discount which allowed them to make enormous profits and avoid equally enormous losses

GOVERNMENT WANTS TO DIRECT SURPLUS TO FOREIGN DEBT. The Russian government is pushing the Duma to direct 70 percent of the $3.5 billion surplus to serve the foreign debt, "Vedomosti" reported on 10 November. The head of the Duma finance committee said that the amendment, which has already been approved on the first and second reading, shows that the government is hiding the actual surplus from the legislators and that its behavior is "scandalous."

FSB RAIDS VERSIYA OFFICES. Officers of the FSB and the military procuracy searched the offices of the investigative journal "Versiya" and interrogated journalist Dmitry Filomonov concerning the publication by that magazine of a satellite photography allegedly showing a damaged U.S. submarine in Bergen after the sinking of the "Kursk" in the Barents Sea, "Segodnya" reported on 11 November. Norwegian experts have said that the photo is a fax and includes a Norwegian vessel which sank four years ago. The photograph may have been leaked to the paper by the military, which maintains that the "Kursk" sank as a result of a collision; the FSB appears interested in protecting President Vladimir Putin from international criticism, reported on 13 November.

JOURNALISTS CONTINUE TO INVESTIGATE BOROVIK'S DEATH. Investigative journalist Dmitry Filomonov said that his journal "Sovershenno sekretno" will continue to investigate the death of its founder, Artyom Borovik, reported on 14 November. Borovik died in a mysterious plane crash in Moscow in March 2000. Filomonov said that he could not yet prove that the crash was the result of a "terrorist act" but that he would present data to support that conclusion. Earlier, "Versiya" had suggested that Borovik's plane might have been brought down by technology created for KGB secret operations (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 18 September 2000).

RUSSIA HAS RICH PEOPLE TOO. Deputy Tax Minister Dmitry Chernik told "Obshchaya gazeta" on 9 November that Russia has poor people but it also has many wealth ones as well. According to his data, Chernik said, there are several billionaires, some 4,000 multimillionaires, and 40,000 "very rich people." He noted that tax collection among this group had improved dramatically with the introduction of new regulations and especially personal taxation numbers.