PUTIN’S RATING REMAINS HIGH

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PUTIN’S RATING REMAINS HIGH

Izvestia, January 18, 2000, p. 2

Had the presidential election taken place on January 16, 58 percent of Russians would have turned up at their polling stations and 56 percent of them would have cast their votes for acting president Vladimir Putin. In other words, Putin would have won handsomely in the very first round, according to a survey conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center. The survey was conducted among 1,600 adults.

Putin’s rating has not changed since last week when a similar poll equally rated his popularity at 56 percent.

A RALLY AGAINST THE WAR IN CHECHNYA

Izvestia, January 18, 2000, p. 3

A rally organized by the local organization of the All-Tatar Public Center took place in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny. The protesters screamed to show their solidarity with the Muslim brothers in Chechnya and demanded for immediate negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov by the Russian supreme leadership.

According to a coordinator of the All-Tatar Public Center, “We are worried about the attitude of the locals with regards to the problem. Our rallies are usually attended by thousands, but only about 500 people turned up this time”.

CIS SUMMIT WILL DISCUSS THE ISSUE OF A FREE TRADE ZONE

Izvestia, January 18, 2000, p. 7

Seventeen issues including establishment of a free trade zone within the framework of the Commonwealth will be discussed at the CIS summit which will begin in Moscow on January 25. Yuri Yarov, Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, announced before his meeting with Ukrainian Premier Vladimir Yuschenko that the heads of states will also discuss problems relating to the completion of the process of reorganizing the CIS bodies, report on implementation of decisions concerning the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, and some issues on stability in the Trans-Dniester region. Speaking about the treaty on a free trade zone, Yarov said that it had already been ratified by eight CIS countries out of eleven. Three other countries (Russia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) would ratify it in the near future, according to Yarov.

RIGA’S TRACE IN STAROVOITOVA’S ASSASSINATION?

Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 18, 2000, p. 2

One Konstantin Nikulin, former serviceman of the RIGA OMON, is in custody in one of Riga detention cells. He is suspected of having played a part in the assassination of Galina Starovoitova, a deputy of the Russian Duma. In the past Nikulin was wanted in connection with the charges against former servicemen of the Riga OMON and was detained last November in Riga. A search conducted in his apartment produced an expensive and rather rare German handgun USP (9 mm). Latvian law enforcement agencies are now expecting results of the ballistic test from Russia. A USP handgun was used by the assassins who shot Starovoitova in the head on November 20, 1998. The deputy’s assistant, Ruslan Linkov, was wounded with shots from the same gun. (Initially, Starovoitova was shot from an Agran automatic rifle).

According to operational data, Nikulin fled Latvia and became a member of some St. Petersburg gang specializing in assassinations. When many gangsters were arrested early last year, Nikulin hit the road. He hid in Russia at first and then returned to Riga where the law enforcement agencies had already been alerted and waiting.

ANOTHER SCANDAL IN ST. PETERSBURG

Tribuna, January 18, 2000, p. 2

Another scandal is brewing up in St. Petersburg. The idea of combining the presidential and local gubernatorial elections has been buried for good.

Gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg was once scheduled for December 19, the day parliamentary election was conducted in the country. The idea was quite reasonable. The city would have save millions of rubles, but Yabloko faction and a few other groups objected to it.

According to the legislation, combining presidential and gubernatorial elections would have been possible had the local legislature endorsed the appropriate law before January 17. Despite truly titanic efforts of Yabloko and their “partners” from the Legality faction headed by deputy Sergei Mironov, the law was endorsed in the first reading on January 13 and stuck there. Mironov and Co failed to turn up at the Saturday session. Consequently, the second and third hearings never took place, and the gubernatorial election will not take place on March 26.

PAKISTANI MERCENARIES IN CHECHNYA

Rossiiskaya Gazeta,, January 18, 2000, p. 2

Last week almost 300 mercenaries from Pakistan joined the detachment of field commander Gilayev. According to the headquarters of the untied federal group in the Caucasus, the news was confirmed by several sources, including a war prisoner.

The military did not say anything about the route the Pakistani mercenary took to get into Chechnya. It is only announced that arrangements were made for them by Magomed Dzhabrailov and Adam Maashev of the so called Ministry of Shar’ah Security.

ANOTHER MARK TERMINATED

Trud, January 19, 2000, p. 1

Artur Fritsler, General Director of Tomskgazstroi, was murdered yesterday in his flat in the town of Strezhevoi, Tomsk region. The businessman was assassinated at about 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Investigation is underway. Law enforcement agencies are confident that Fritsler was marked for assassination.

Tomskgazstroi was regularly contracted by Gazprom and Yukos oil company. Not so long ago the company won a contract to build a pipeline across the territory of the region.

YABLOKO AND UNION OF RIGHT FORCES ARE ABOUT TO UNDERGO A TRANSFORMATION

Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 18, 2000, p. 2

At a closed session on Sunday Yavlinsky’s supporters opted for a dramatic reorganization. The decision is ascribed to the outcome of the last election. The situation in the country has changed, necessitating changes in approaches to solving existing problems. Yabloko and its leader prepare themselves for a new electoral campaign and thus decided it was time for a new tactic and strategy.

A novice on the political arena, the Union of Right Forces also plans to undergo a transformation. The decision is ascribed to the recent election as well. Having secured the electorate’s support, leaders of the Union of Right Forces resolved to form a broad “democratic movement” in the country. At the upcoming presidential election, the movement will probably back up Vladimir Putin rather than its own candidate Konstantin Titov.

BOOS: FLUCTUATIONS IN THE RUBLE/DOLLAR EXCHANGE RATE ARE AN AFTEREFFECT OF LACK OF PROFESSIONALISM

Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 18, 2000, p. 2

Georgy Boos says that the fall of the ruble against the dollar was easily predictable. In 1999, the difference between export revenues and import expenses amounted to $30 billion. The country’s gold and hard currency reserves should have increased by approximately the same sum. However, they went up only by $1 billion. Besides, the Central Bank loaned $9 billion to the government to pay its foreign debts. Where are the remaining $20 billion?

RUSSEL-JOHNSTON MEANS BUSINESS

ORT (Russian Public Television), News program, January 17, 2000, 15:00

Negotiations between acting president Vladimir Putin and Lord David Russel-Johnston, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe continued today in the Kremlin. Russel-Johnston came to Moscow with a rather harsh view of the European community with regard to Russia’s actions in Chechnya. In fact, the issue of suspending the country from the Council of Europe may be brought up.

Besieged by reporters at the airport, Russel-Johnston announced that he did not rule out the possibility of Russia’s membership being suspended and that the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly would directly depend on Moscow’s stand with regard to Chechnya.

Russel-Johnston changed his tone after a conversation with Chairman of the Federation Council Yegor Stroyev today.

Russel-Johnston: It is too early to talk about a suspension. This is but my first day in Moscow.

Apparently, the visitor did not want to make any hasty statements before his meeting with Putin (he went to the Kremlin right from the Federation Council). Putin was quoted as saying at the beginning of the meeting that situation in Chechnya remained tough but was under the control of the federal forces. Russia appreciates the worries of the West but wants the West to meet it halfway.

After that, negotiations continued behind closed doors. Tomorrow a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly and Russel-Johnston will go to the Caucasus in the company of Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo.

Most probably, the leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly will formulate its position with regard to the Chechen problem sometimes close to its winter session which is slated to begin in Strasbourg on February 24.

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SEES THE STATEMENT OF THE TALEBAN AS MEDDLING IN THE DOMESTIC AFFAIRS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, January 17, 2000, 14:00

The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement today in reaction to the decision of the Taleban movement to recognize Aslan Maskhadov’s regime, calling it a meddling in the domestic affairs of the Russian Federation.

Moscow intends to respond to the demarche adequately. Specifically, it is going to demand from the UN Security Council harsher sanctions against the Taleban. Initially, the sanctions were imposed last November on the grounds of Taleban’s support of international terrorism.

TWO MORE MEMBERS IN THE UNITY FACTION

NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, January 17, 2000, 14:00

The Unity faction in the new Duma is two deputies stronger now. Vladimir Ryzhkov officially announced that he and Viktor Chernomyrdin had decided to join the faction.

Ryzhkov: Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin and your humble servant applied for membership in the Unity faction in accordance with a decision our presidium made a week ago. The leadership of the Unity and specifically Sergei Shoigu officially proposed to us to join them. We were made to understand that our views and those of Unity are identical on very many key issues.

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