GENERAL GROMOV LINKS CHECHNYA CONFLICT TO CASPIAN SEA OIL

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GENERAL GROMOV LINKS CHECHNYA CONFLICT TO CASPIAN SEA OIL

Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 3, 1999, p.2

A conference held recently at the Moscow Institute for International Affairs as part of the “National Potential of Russia at the Turn of the Century” project was primarily aimed at classifying Russia’s areas of tension. For the moment, Chechnya is the principal area of tension. General Boris Gromov made a sharp statement saying that “during the Istanbul summit the main question of the transport route for Caspian Sea oil was settled to Russia’s disadvantage, and this was the basic reason for the first Chechnya war.” According to Gromov, the situation in the rebel republic caused direct interference in Russia’s interior affairs and infringed upon the right of the US to maintain its status as the world’s only superpower. Conference participants agreed with the general that the knots of national contradictions in Russia can by no means be cut, but only carefully unravelled. All those present decided that this must become one of the main points of national information strategy.

JOURNALIST ASSAULTED IN TULA

Izvestia, December 3, 1999, p.3

An attack on Vladimir Uraev, a journalist with a local radio station, has taken place in Tula. He must have become a victim of the election campaign. Three men of athletic build assaulted him because, as they told him, one of the candidates for the Duma interviewed by Uraev had criticized Tula Governor Starodubtsev and Tula Mayor Kazakov. Legal proceedings have been instigated against the attackers.

SERGEI SHOIGU MEETS WITH HIS SUPPORTERS IN KURGAN

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, December 3, 1999, p.2

The second place occupied by the Bear bloc in recent public opinion polls with 14.7% of the vote “is not the limit of the bloc’s potential”, Sergei Shoigu, the leader of the bloc, stated at the meeting with supporters of the bloc in Kurgan. According to his estimate, “political circles in the capital do not take the Bear seriously, they do not wish to realize that our intentions are really far-reaching.” Shoigu recommended “some commentators from the capital” to attend at least one meeting of the leaders of the bloc with the electorate in the regions. He confirmed that he does not intend stand for the 2000 presidential elections and will support Vladimir Putin.

ANOTHER FANTASTIC LAW PASSED BY THE DUMA

Komsomolskaya Pravda, December 3, 1999, p.2

On the eve of the parliamentary elections, the Duma deputies surprised the electorate with a popular but absolutely unrealizable law. They decided to instruct the Savings Bank (Sberbank) to pay compensation for the losses of its clients who deposited money between June 21 and December 31, 1991. At that time the bank was a state institution, which is why the compensation should have come from the budget. But on June 21, the Savings Bank became a commercial bank. Therefore, it will have to repay the deposits, which have been eroded by inflation, out of its own funds, which is impossible at present. Thus, the law will never come into effect.

DUMA TO DECIDE ON RATIFICATION OF THE BLUE STREAM PROJECT

Tribuna, December 3, 1999, p.1

Yesterday the Duma studied materials concerning ratification of the agreement between the Russian and Turkish governments on deliveries of natural gas to Turkey within the framework of the Blue Stream project. Representatives of four Duma committees and deputies of various factions participated in the procedure. The plan was presented by Rem Vyakhirev, Chairman of the Board of Gazprom. According to the agreement, gas must be delivered to Turkey during 25 years of cooperation, which will bring $25 billion to Russia. The clause concerning a special tax regime for the project became the subject of heated disputes. However, tax breaks stipulated by the agreement will not cause extra expenditure from the federal budget. All those present unanimously approved of the project and spoke in favor of ratification. The final decision will be made at the Duma meeting today.

NIKOLAI VOLKOV RETURNS TO MOSCOW

Tribuna, December 3, 1999, p.1

Yesterday Nikolai Volkov, investigator of the General Prosecutor’s Office, returned to Moscow from an official trip to Switzerland. Dominic Raymond, official representative of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Switzerland, described Volkov’s visit and the work done as “useful”. He confirmed that interrogations of witnesses in which Volkov took part concerned the Forus and Andava companies in Lausanne, which are connected with the Aeroflot case involving Boris Berezovsky. At the same time, Reimon emphasized that no documents were given to the Russian investigator, since legal proceedings stipulated by Swiss law are still underway. As for new evidence of Berezovsky’s guilt, the Swiss representative stated that Volkov himself had denied the information which appeared in his interview with “Literaturnaya Gazeta”.

CAESIUM FROM PRIMORIE

Izvestia, December 3, 1999, p.3

According to unofficial information from sources in the Primorie Department for Civil Defense and Emergencies, customs officers in South Korea have intercepted a container of caesium at the port of Pusan. The radioactive material was delivered on the Esperanza-2 vessel. The container of caesium was not registered in accompanying papers. It is not yet clear which port the ship sailed from, but it is already known that it is somewhere in Primorie (Maritime Territory). The sender was a certain Global Trading firm.

MEETING OF THE GOVERNMENT

ORT, Novosti, December 2, 1999, 12:00

A meeting of the government was held today. The main item on today’s agenda was the development strategy for the metal industry. Vladimir Putin stated that this branch of industry is very important: it brings in over 20% of the total amount of hard currency in federal budget revenue. The prime minister remarked that this year some positive changes in the metal industry have been observed.

Vladimir Putin: I must draw your attention to the fact that during the past several months we have observed considerable improvement in the metals sector. A 10% growth is being observed in ferrous metals, and about 12% growth in non-ferrous metals. At the same time I would like to remind you that we have reached only half of the level of metals output in 1990. Can you imagine the extent of the decline?

Putin also said that the principal aim for the moment is to ensure an increase in production, which is impossible without upgrading equipment. In addition, the question of metal exports was raised.

Putin: I have spoken about export-oriented industry sectors. Their condition is good and bad at the same time, since our production is oriented towards export to a large extent. On the one hand, it’s good that our products are entering world markets in such large quantities – but we must be careful, because our domestic industry must have a sufficient supply of metals.

Prior to the meeting, the prime minister met with executives of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. Russian White House officials say that this meeting is evidence that the government is going to actively support projects involving foreign capital. Consortium executives assured the prime minister that the project will be completed according to schedule.

This afternoon the prime minister will depart for Saransk, the capital of Mordovia, where he is to participate in the meeting of the Council of the Bolshaya Volga (Big Volga) association. Putin is also to meet with Nikolai Merkushkin, the head of the republic.

YEVGENY PRIMAKOV ON RELATIONS WITH THE KREMLIN

NTV, Segodnya, December 2, 1999, 14:00

Yevgeny Primakov, leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance, made some new statements today concerning relations between the alliance and the Kremlin.

Yevgeny Primakov: There is no end to dirty conspiracies against our movement. We are the principal target. Doesn’t the electorate understand why? All these swindlers are simply afraid of us. They know that if we succeed, if we get enough votes, we will fight thieves, we will fight corruption, and so on and so forth.

Primakov made this sharp statement at a meeting of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. According to the OVR leader, in the near future his movement is going to submit specific facts concerning certain people to the Central Election Commission and the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Primakov: I maintain that this is a real crime, since we possess specific facts, drawn from many locations, that certain people from the Kremlin administration are approaching our associates from regional electoral lists and suggesting that they withdraw. They try to use the money of oligarchs to bribe them. We have evidence.

Corruption was one of the main subjects on the agenda of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. At this traditional meeting, economists and politicians have prepared a joint appeal to the future president of Russia. Regardless of who will win the upcoming elections, he will have to face the problems which the participants of today’s discussion consider to be of top priority. Many of them state that our country will be able to effectively fight corruption only if the executive branch of state power dares to carry out a purge similar to that conducted in Italy in the Clean Hands operation, or in the US where a similar secret operation was performed under the code name Sheik.

However, Nikolai Kovalev, former head of the Federal Security Service (FSS), believes that the current system will try hard to resist all attempts to fight corruption, and this struggle will be more heated than the confrontation of the superpowers during the Cold War.

NEWS FROM THE NORTH CAUCASUS

ORT, Novosti, December 2, 1999, 15:00

According to military reports, today units of the united group of federal forces in the North Caucasus blocked the Argun canyon from the north-east and south. This operation is being conducted against the background of ceaseless skirmishes with the guerrillas, who have created several strongly fortified bases around Argun. Moreover, mobile groups of Basayev’s associates, at the rear of the federal forces, regularly attack their positions and organize acts of terrorism on the roads.

Groups of guerrillas have been carrying out reconnaissance in liberated areas. During the past two days, paratroopers have detained three young scouts who were collecting information about the location of federal units.

Gennady Troshev, Commander-In-Chief of the united group of the federal forces:

Fights in the Alaroi and Tsentoroi districts were the climax of the operation. We destroyed over a hundred guerrillas in these fights. The guerrillas even abandoned about 40 bodies, three field commanders among them.

Today a storming battalion, reinforced by armored vehicles, occupied positions on the western outskirts of Argun. According to intelligence officers, there are still many guerrillas in the town, but the troops are not entering it for the time being.

The so-called Committee-27, organized by the local residents, reported its readiness to liberate the area from guerrillas by itself in order to avoid destruction and casualties. The federal Eastern group command approved of this initiative, but at the same time, it is not concealing its hard line.

Gennady Troshev: Our principle remains the same: if we are fired on from a certain house – we will destroy this house. If we are fired on from a whole residential district – the whole district will be destroyed.

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