GANTAMIROV ADVOCATES OUTLAWING WAHHABI ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM

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GANTAMIROV ADVOCATES OUTLAWING WAHHABI ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM

Izvestia, February 10, 2000, p. 2

Bislan Gantamirov, Senior Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative of the Russian Government in Chechnya, advocates outlawing Wahhabi ideas on the territory of Chechnya.

He released a statement cited by INTERFAX news agency to the effect that “the tragedy of the Chechen people is rooted precisely in Wahhabi ideas… This alien religion was enforced from outside by all sorts of emissaries and extremists…” According to Gantamirov, “it is Wahhabi fundamentalism and its followers” that blocks the path to national reconciliation in Chechnya. Gantamirov sent his proposals on the matter to the Chechen parliament elected in 1996.

NEW ACCELERATION BLOCK DESIGNED

Izvestia, February 10, 2000, p. 3

The Lavochkin Company in Khimki near Moscow has designed and assembled a new acceleration block called Fregat.

The Fregat is universal. It may be used as the upper module of virtually all Russian boosters (‘Soyuz’, ‘Zenit’, ‘Proton’ and even the ‘Angara’ which is under development). For the time being, there are plans to use it with the ‘Soyuz’, still the most reliable booster in the world.

The block has another distinctive feature as well. It will be able to retrieve satellites from orbit, as the American space shuttle does.

PUTIN IS READY TO VISIT JAPAN

Izvestia, February 10, 2000, p. 4

There are persistent rumors that the Japanese Foreign Ministry has all but ignored the visit of Senior Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov in January. At the same time, Kasianov told the Japanese that their dream was coming true: acting president Vladimir Putin was prepared to visit Tokyo before the meeting of the G-8 in Okinawa scheduled for mid-July.

Why is Putin in such a hurry to come to Japan, where sooner or later the matter of the Southern Kuriles will be raised? First and foremost, he would like some information on the G-8 meeting, where he will meet with leaders of the developed world.

If Putin so much as hints at the possibility of some progress in the peace negotiations, the Japanese will surely do everything they can for him.

Some analysts believe that with Russian-American and Russia-NATO relations deteriorating, Putin may give some serious thought to fortifying the Asian flank, and to finding new friends within G-8. Moscow also appreciates the fact that Japan remains the only country still lending to Russia.

ECONOMY MINISTRY DISCUSSED BUDGET FUNDS

Izvestia, February 10, 2000, p. 5

An expanded meeting of the Economy Ministry on February 9 discussed budget funds. Officials believe that sharing the money among the federal center and the regions is impossible without a political “stick” to be used whenever necessary.

Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Kudrin admits that “the problems of distribution of revenues between the center and the regions, and that of improvement of inter-budget relations, are very pressing”. Kudrin says the budget deficits of those regions which are net recipients of funds (there are over 70 of them) will amount to 100 billion rubles, and surplus of budgets of the donor regions will amount to the same sum in 2000.

It seems that the government is about to come up with some political solution to the problem. It is not a coincidence that Kudrin mentioned the fact that ten Federation subjects were now providing 60 per cent of all federal budget revenues, and advocated “increase of centralization of the revenues”. In other words, the government intends to confiscate surplus money from the wealthy regions, in order to hand it over to the poorer regions. An operation like that has to be approved at the very pinnacle of political power.

POLL RESULTS ON PUTIN

Trud-7, February 10, 2000, p. 2

This poll was done by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center between January 28 and 31.

Question: Some Russians fear that Vladimir Putin is now controlled by the same group of people who controlled President Yeltsin until recently. Do you think that there may be something to these fears?

Yes: 40%

No: 39%

Uncertain: 21%

PUTIN MEETS WITH ACADEMICS TO DISCUSS CHECHNYA

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 10, 2000, p. 1

Acting President Vladimir Putin has met with researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences. The situation in the Caucasus and methods for its resolution were discussed.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS IN RUSSIAN CITIES

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 10, 2000, p. 1

One-seventh of the territory of the Russian Federation is environmentally hazardous, according to Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, Chairman of the Russian State Environmental Committee.

Danilov-Danilyan said at the expanded meeting of the State Environmental Committee board that the air in 185 Russian cities contained much higher levels of toxins than are consistent with safety standards.

AN UPDATE ON INFLATION

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 10, 2000, p. 1

Inflation in January 2000 amounted to 2.3 per cent, against 8.4 per cent registered in January 1999.

CABINET WILL DISCUSS THE CAUCASUS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 10, 2000, p. 1

The Cabinet will discuss a draft federal program of economic and socio-political development for the Caucasus over the next five years.

The draft document will be presented by Alexander Blokhin, Minister for the Affairs of the Federation and Ethnic Affairs. Urgent restoration of the Chechen fuel and energy sector will also be discussed.

DUMA DEALS WITH PERSONNEL ISSUES

ORT (Russian Public Television), News program, February 9, 2000, 12:00

Three hundred and thirty-eight deputies attended the plenary session today, including those from the “parliamentary minority”.

In accordance with existing agreements, Boris Pastukhov of Fatherland – All Russia became chairman of the CIS affairs committee. Boris Nemtsov (Union of Right Forces) and Sergei Ivanenko (Yabloko) called for a debate on Friday regarding the detention and exchange of Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky – but the Duma voted the move down.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky: We saw him (on TV) this morning. He is safe and sound, he does not demand or need anything, so I fail to see the motives behind our deputies’ demand. He is there of his own volition, after all.

Former justice minister Pavel Krasheninnikov of the Union of Right Forces became chairman of the legislative committee.

Today, the Duma is supposed to adopt two resolutions – on fertilizer for agriculture and on the situation around the arrest of an AN-26 crew in India. Deputies intend to appeal to the Indian government for leniency towards the Russian pilots.

NEW DETAILS ON THE MISSING JOURNALIST

NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, February 9, 2000, 06:00

We have obtained a videotape showing Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky. He says that the tape was filmed on February 6, i.e. after the exchange. The journalist hopes to return home soon.

Babitsky: February 6, 2000. I’m all right, more or less. Time is the only problem, because as things are now, I cannot get home immediately. Everything is as all right as it can be in a war. Those around me try to help me. The only problem is that I would like to go home, I want all this to end. Do not worry. I hope to come back soon.

The circumstances in which the tape made its way to Radio Liberty are rather mysterious. At about 9:30 p.m. on February 8, a man entered the BBC office in Moscow. Introducing himself as Aleksei, he said he had a tape showing Babitsky. A correspondent of the BBC Russian Service suggested taking the tape directly to Radio Liberty. He says that a Mercedes 600 with mud-smeared red-and-white license plates was already waiting below. Apparently, the car’s plates were Belarussian. Inside was a man in Russian Interior Troops uniform. The man introduced himself as Maiarbek, and said that the Chechen separatists had Babitsky. According to Maiarbek, the tape had been brought to Moscow that day.

In the meantime, the tape itself raises more questions than it answers. First and foremost, Babitsky does not clarify exactly where he is – with the guerrillas or with somebody else. He merely mentions some men who are nearby, and adds after a fairly long pause that they are trying to help him. The journalist himself says that the tape was filmed on February 6, i.e. three days after the exchange. Right after that, Babitsky mentions that he has problems with time (dates?) and that he cannot be with his family now. Apparently, he is being detained. How than should we interpret the phrase “We do not abandon our own” uttered by a masked person who took Babitsky in return for Russian servicemen? And finally, Babitsky does not confirm that the exchange was voluntary. Deputy Interior Minister Ivan Golubev appeared on the “Glas Naroda” (Vox Populi) talk show on February 8 and confirmed that the federal forces had obtained Babitsky’s consent to the exchange.

Golubev: The decision on the exchange was made by the Interior Ministry, among others. To a certain extent, I was also involved in the matter. He was released with the permission of the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Chechen Prosecutor, and exchanged of his own volition – I know this for a fact – for Russian servicemen. He did give his consent in writing, you know.

CORTI: THIS IS AN OPERATION OF THE SECRET SERVICES

NTV (Independent Television), “Segodnya” program, February 9, 2000, 12:00

The latest video footage of missing Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky raises new questions.

A BBC correspondent and the man with the tape were driven to Radio Liberty in a Mercedes 600 with mud-smeared licence plates, probably of Belarussian registration. There was another man in the car. He wore Russian Interior Troops uniform and introduced himself as Maiarbek. Maiarbek said that Babitsky was in the Chechen guerrillas’ hands and that the tape was brought to Moscow on February 8.

Mario Corti: As I see it, this is an operation of the secret services. I mean that I do not think that those who offered the tape were representatives of the Chechen guerrillas. Most probably, they represented the other side. For example, they might have been representatives of Gantamirov’s militia.

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