ONLY SNIPERS REMAIN IN GROZNY
Izvestia, February 3, 2000, p. 1
Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the western federal group in Chechnya, says the morale of the separatists is at its lowest.
Shamanov: Many guerrillas are refusing to fight on. The respect their commanders wield is falling.
Shamanov has no doubt that the federal forces will take Grozny.
According to the Russian military, the fall of Grozny is a matter of days. The latest reports indicate that the federal forces already control 50 per cent of the city proper, and “encounter almost no organized resistance”. The advancing federal forces sustain losses mostly because of sharpshooters; military sources say that there are many of them among the guerrillas.
At the same time, absence of “organized resistance” may indirectly confirm the statement of Malik Saidullayev, Chairman of the Chechen State Council, about the retreat of 2,000 Chechens from Grozny. In this case, it stands to reason to expect the separatists to give up the city in favor of guerrilla warfare.
Izvestia, February 3, 2000, p. 3
The counter-terrorist operation has finally affected the mobilizational resources of Russia. The acting president’s decree “On Conscription of Reservists for Field Training in 2000” is effective as of February 1. Almost 20,000 officers are supposed to be called up from the reserves.
STATE OFFICIALS LEAVE FOR CHECHNYA
Izvestia, February 3, 2000, p. 3
Acting General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov and Military General Prosecutor Yuri Demin flew to Chechnya on February 2 to inspect implementation of the law in the conflict area by prosecutorial structures. Ustinov also wants firsthand knowledge of the detention of Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky.
Justice Minister Yuri Chaika and Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin went to Chechnya on the same day to check on the treatment of people who have been arrested.
ON JAMES WOLFENSOHN’S VISIT TO MOSCOW
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 3, 2000, p. 1
The Moscow visit of James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, may be viewed as a kind of aftermath of the Davos Forum. Senior Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov emphasizes that it was precisely in Davos that everybody saw that Russia would not find itself in isolation. Moreover, foreign investors plan to work with and in Russia.
Before foreign capital flows in, however, the Russian government has to persuade the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to go on financing Russia.
The 2000 budget is such that Moscow cannot hope to pay its foreign debts this year without foreign loans. It is possible for Russia to find the $3 billion it is supposed to pay in March, but finding $10 billion more without deterioration of living standards is completely impossible. The delays with loans from the IMF and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development are actually dangerous because the London Club of commercial creditors may also refuse to consider the possibility of rescheduling. In this case, Moscow will have to pay $17 billion in 2000.
Wolfensohn says that the World Bank is prepared to discuss new parameters of the SAL loan, but they will take time. The credit line opened in August 1998 will end in December 2000. The matter concerns $1.1 billion.
ROADS FROM SOUTHERN CHECHNYA TO GEORGIA TAKEN BY RUSSIAN PARATROOPERS
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 3, 2000, p. 3
The provisional PR department of the federal eastern group reports that Russian paratroopers have cut the last roads leading from southern Chechnya to Georgia. A tactical force was landed at certain commanding heights in the Itum-Kali district. The Chechens clearly did not expect so bold a move. The paratroopers took the heights, established their positions, and mined the paths leading to the heights.
GEORGIA DOES NOT WANT BASAYEV ON ITS TERRITORY
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 3, 2000, p. 3
According to Levan Kenchadze, leader of the counter-terrorist center of the Georgian State Security Ministry, “Georgia does not want Shamil Basayev to recover on its territory.”
Kenchadze: During the war in Abkhazia in 1992-93, Basayev committed crimes on the territory of Georgia; he is wanted by Georgian law enforcement agencies.
TREASURY REVENUES 56 BILLION RUBLES FOR JANUARY
Komsomolskaya Pravda, February 3, 2000, p. 2
Senior Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has reason to rejoice. In January, treasury revenues amounted to 56 billion rubles; while only 49.6 billion rubles were expected. Even the government itself did not expect these results.
The Taxation Ministry says that neither Gazprom nor oil tycoons were pressured this time – they made all due payments of their own accord. Natural monopolies paid 31.4 billion rubles instead of the previously demanded 7.2 billion rubles, and Customs came up with 19.4 billion rubles.
Trud-7, February 3, 2000, p. 3
Gennadi Onischenko, Chief Sanitation Doctor, signed a resolution in January advocating emergency AIDS prevention measures. This move is ascribed to the deteriorating AIDS situation in Russia. In 1999, 14,980 HIV carriers were registered, which is 23.5 times more than in 1998.
CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION PASSES A SPECIAL RESOLUTION
Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 3, 2000, p. 2
The latest session of the Central Electoral Commission yesterday passed a special resolution on checks of signatures in support of candidates. Candidates will be denied registration if more than 15 per cent of signatures in their support are invalidated.
A source in the Central Electoral Commission says that not a single initiative group has submitted its collection of signatures yet. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s activists announced yesterday that they had compiled 721,000 signatures and checked 450,000 themselves.
SLAVNEFT PLANS TO EXPAND
Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 3, 2000, p. 2
Mikhail Gutseriyev, a former “Zhirinovsky hawk”, is now president of Slavneft, the Russian-Belarussian state-owned oil and gas company. Yesterday he delivered a program speech. According to Gutseriyev, Slavneft has already drawn up a development plan to 2010 which, specifically, will raise oil extraction to 20 million tons a year. At present, the company extracts only 6 million tons.
Slavneft intends to build new refineries, Gutseriyev says. Construction of a refinery will begin in Yaroslavl in 2001.
A NEW SECRET SERVICE MAY BE FORMED IN RUSSIA
Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 3, 2000, p. 3
Rumors that the powers-that-be will soon form a new agency to combat corruption began long ago. Moreover, the documents on which its activities will be based are being drawn up now. According to our information, a narrow circle of security ministers got together on Monday evening after the expanded meeting of the Justice Ministry Board and discussed the future agency, a Directorate for combating corruption in the corridors of power.
Supposedly, the new agency will coordinate the efforts of the prosecutor’s office, Federal Security Service, Federal Tax Police, Interior Ministry, and other structures combating state corruption. Apart from the prosecutor’s office, all of them will be accountable to the new agency, which will be empowered to execute financial control, use firearms and wiretapping, and make arrests (on the basis of warrants issued by the prosecutor’s office). Supposedly, the new agency will also handle the witness protection program, which was planned long ago but has not been implemented. Most probably, it will be comprised of: almost all the staff of the Federal Tax Police Service; the FSS Department of Analysis, Forecasting, and Strategic Planning; and some Interior Ministry directorates, including the economic and internal security structures. There are even rumors about the approximate numerical strength of the future agency – 1,700 officials.
Those behind the idea believe that the agency will report directly to the president.
Theoretically, such an agency may actually become a barrier against corruption; but only if it restricts its activities to the given functions and avoids transforming into a means of harassment.
A similar agency was planned by the Presidential Security Service when it was headed by Alexander Korzhakov. Its legal basis was drawn up by Korzhakov’s deputy Lieutenant General Georgy Rogozin. He is frequently seen in the Kremlin these days, and does not conceal the fact that many of his former ideas are being used.
According to our sources, however, a new group of planners was set up. It is coordinated by Viktor Cherkesov, Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service. Observers do not rule out the possibility that Cherkesov is one of the candidates for the post of head of the new agency.
Acting president Vladimir Putin instructed Presidential Chief of Staff Alexander Voloshin to draw up a legal act for the new secret agency, and wants the matter debated by the Federal Assembly before March 26. This is one of the major elements of Putin’s election campaign. If everything goes according to plan, the new agency will begin its work on September 1, 2000. It will not be accountable to governors or other regional bosses. Planners of the project believe that only a rigid vertical command structure (like in the former KGB) will create a truly powerful organization.
PUTIN’S NEGOTIATIONS WITH ALBRIGHT TAKE LONGER THAN PLANNED
NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, February 2, 2000, 14:00
According to the protocol, the meeting between acting president Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright was supposed to last only forty minutes; but actually it lasted three hours. Albright was even forced to cancel, or at least postpone, her press conference and a meeting with business leaders at the Mariott Hotel.
Essentially, Putin disregarded the traditional diplomatic niceties and immediately outlined the major problem affecting current Russian-American relations. This is Chechnya. In the course of her stay in Moscow, Albright has frequently reiterated Washington’s fairly tough stand on the Russian-Chechen conflict. Addressing Russian youth this morning, she announced that nobody doubted Russia’s right and duty to combat terrorism on its territory, but emphasized that the world has grown more and more concerned about the costs of the conflict, meaning the loss of human life and the loss of respect Russia commands among the international community.
A well-placed and reliable source in the Kremlin says that in his conversation with one of the most respected representatives of the US Administration, Putin openly announced that Russia’s position with regard to Chechnya would remain unchanged regardless of pressure – whether this takes the form of EU sanctions and statements, or economic sanctions imposed by the United States. According to Putin, Albright and the US Administration must accept this state of affairs and build their relations with Russia on exactly this basis.
It is common knowledge that Albright came to Russia to meet Putin in person, as acting president and the most probable next Russian president. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was also present at the Putin-Albright talks.
Ivanov: The conversation lasted almost three hours. With the whole complex of problems discussed today taken into consideration, even that time was not sufficient. First and foremost, both Moscow and Washington reiterated that they viewed bilateral relations between our countries as being of paramount importance.
Ivanov confirmed that preventing any further deterioration in Russian-American relations was Putin’s major aim at the talks. It appears he has succeeded in doing so.
COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES IN THE REGIONS CONTINUES
ORT (Russian Public Television), News program, February 2, 2000, 09:00
The Russian Central Electoral Commission is inspecting the lists of signatures collected in support of candidates for president. Graphologists have been invited to participate. The election campaign began early, and the number of signatures required has been decreased from a million to 500,000. Not more than 35,000 signatures are allowed to be collected in any given region.
SKURATOV: EVERYBODY IN THE KREMLIN HAS PROBLEMS WITH THE LAW
NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, February 2, 2000, 14:01
Yuri Skuratov, general prosecutor relieved of his duties: Everybody in the Kremlin has problems with the law. It is common knowledge that there are some materials implicating Voloshin. Nobody cares. There are materials on Abramovich, another member of the so-called Family. Again, nobody seems to care. There are materials on Mamut. They were revealed by the media, and that was that. I do not mean to say that everyone is a criminal there, but since the materials exist, they should be investigated, right?