"DIAMOND FRAUD OF THE DECADE" WRAPPED UP

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"DIAMOND FRAUD OF THE DECADE" WRAPPED UP

Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 20, 2000, p. 1

The Investigation Committee of the Interior Ministry and Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime has arrested an international gang which had specialized in smuggling precious stones out of Russia.

A source in the Investigation Committee says that the criminal group, including over 100 people, was formed almost a decade ago. It even included many senior officials, but its brain center did not operate in Russia. Only the “small fry” worked here. It was the foreign headquarters that worked out the routes of illegal deliveries of jewels to Europe, Canada, Israel, and the United States.

Most frequently, the criminals brought to Russia cheap gemstones from India and other countries. With directors of processing factories on their payroll, the criminals then bought perfect uncut diamonds and other gemstones, which were smuggled out of the country. Only the cheaper Indian stones were mentioned in official records.

Twelve criminals were arrested in Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Kolomna, and some other cities. Jewels worth $200 million were confiscated.

COMMUNISTS SUPPORT YAKOVLEV FOR ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR

Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 20, 2000, p. 2

Communist Party (represented by Yuri Belov, First Secretary of the Leningrad Regional Committee of the Communist Party) is the first and so far the only major political force to back Vladimir Yakovlev at the upcoming gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg. Two candidates, Yuri Belyaev (chairman of the National Republican Party) and Nikolai Bondarik (leader of the St. Petersburg nationalists), have withdrawn from the race, urging their supporters to vote for Yakovlev.

The Communists’ motives are quite clear. No other governor anywhere, even in the so-called “red belt”, has been so benevolent toward them.

GEORGIA BECOMES A FEDERATION

Izvestia, April 20, 2000, p. 3

The decision means that some changes will have to be incorporated into the Georgian constitution. Until now, Georgia did not include any autonomies.

Observers see political undertones in the decision, made only a few days after the re-election of President Eduard Shevardnadze. Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze was viewed as Shevardnadze’s rival in the presidential race. He was unlikely to win, of course, but he could poll enough votes to damage the illusion of nationwide love which Shevardnadze has fostered in Georgia. With over 70 per cent of votes in his favor, Shevardnadze can now afford some drastic measures with regard to Adjaria, Tbilisi’s major political headache.

This was a trade-off. Abashidze pledged not to strive for presidency, and Shevardnadze guaranteed security and prosperity to the clan of Abashidze-Gogitidze-Bakuridze (there are rumors in Tbilisi that only these people prosper in Adjaria these days).

THE ARMY WILL GET SOME NEW MILITARY HARDWARE

Komsomolskaya Pravda, April 20, 2000, p. 2

On March 31 we featured an article titled “The Unbeatable, Legendary, And Disarmed Army” by our observer Viktor Baranets, about growing arms exports and the pitiful amounts of the latest military hardware delivered to the Russian army.

The article was noticed by the Kremlin, Security Council, and the Defense Ministry (specifically, the article was laid on the table of Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, responsible for military-technical policy). Our correspondent was told at the Defense Ministry that the president-elect has issued instructions to make significant corrections in the troops armament program. Within the framework of defense procurement, the Russian Armed Forces will get thirty T-90C tanks and one hundred BTR-80A armored personnel carriers.

The tanks will be delivered from the Uralvagonzavod plant (Nizhny Tagil), and the armored personnel carriers from the Arzamass factory.

ANOTHER MAN FROM THE FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE IS PROMOTED

Komsomolskaya Pravda, April 20, 2000, p. 3

Vladimir Putin has signed a resolution appointing Sergei Verevkin-Rokhalsky as deputy minister of taxation. According to our information, this appointment was a concern to Tax Minister Pochinok – there are rumors that Verevkin-Rokhalsky may be promoted after May 7.

Verevkin-Rokhalsky studied in St. Petersburg and joined the KGB thirty years ago. Putin has known him for years. In 1993 Verevkin-Rokhalsky served in the Federal Security Service (FSB) on Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, and was appointed director of the Primorie (Maritime Territory) Directorate of the FSB in April 1999. He has frequently sided with Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko.

ECONOMY MINISTRY PREDICTS GROWTH

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, April 20, 2000, p. 1

Economy Minister Andrei Shapovaliants will make his report “On economic development for 2001-03” at the Cabinet session today.

According to predictions, economic growth will reach 8 per cent by 2003.

REGUGEES ARE STILL COMING TO INGUSHETIA

Trud-7, April 20, 2000, p. 3

Despite some officials’ assurances that the military operation in Chechnya is over, refugees are still pouring into Ingushetia. The Kavkaz checkpoint alone lets almost 600 people through every day. All in all, there are almost 215,000 refugees from Chechnya in Ingushetia, according to Magomed Batygov, Director of the Ingushetian Immigration Service.

Batygov: They flee these unbearable conditions, they fear for their lives. The latest events show that there can be no guarantees of safety for civilians in Chechnya. Everything is all right in a village now, but tomorrow it may find itself in the center of hostilities again. Civilians fear the guerrillas and the federal forces alike.

It should be noted that the guerrillas deliberately send their families to Ingushetia to safeguard them and to create the illusion of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Officially, the Chechen who end up in Ingushetia are considered “victims of an emergency” and therefore do not have the status of forced resettlers, which would have meant certain privileges.

Nowadays, the government pays 35 rubles a day for every refugee, including 15 rubles for food. Despite all of that, nobody is in a hurry to return to Chechnya.

PUTIN MEETS WITH KASIANOV IN THE KREMLIN

ORT (Russian Public Television), News program, April 19, 2000, 15:00

Results of the trips to Ukraine and Belarus were discussed today at President-elect Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Senior Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov. According to Kasianov, a solution to the problems of Ukraine’s debts will be found in May. A session of the Council of Ministers of the Russian-Belarussian Union will take place next week. The Union budget and some issues related to establishment of power structures will be discussed.

The state of the national economy was also discussed at the meeting.

Kasianov: “Yes, we did discuss some economic matters with the president. First and foremost, the discussion was centered around the general situation and economic development in 2000. We have to remain within the budget specifications. The matter concerns macroeconomic indicators, the primary surplus, and so on. I mean that we have to accumulate enough funds to counter the negative consequences of falling oil prices. We cannot disregard this possibility, you know. The president-elect has authorized me to pursue a tougher budget policy.”

YURI SKURATOV’S DISMISSAL CONFIRMED

ORT (Russian Public Television), News program, April 19, 2000, 12:00

The Federation Council has agreed to the dismissal of General Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov. According to presidential representative Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, Putin’s appeal, that was forwarded to the Federation Council this morning, did not include any reasons, and merely cited the article of the Constitution according to which the head of state can request dismissal of the general prosecutor.

One hundred and thirty-three senators voted in favor, ten voted against, and six abstained. At least 90 votes were needed for Skuratov’s dismissal to pass.

It should be noted that the Federation Council itself must be fed up with the ambivalent situation around the General Prosecutor’s Office. That is probably why senators decided to pass the dismissal without any further ado. The whole matter was resolved within ten minutes.

Before the vote, Skuratov was given the floor. His short speech was fairly emotional. He said that he did not want to go, but would accept any decision.

For the time being, the General Prosecutor’s Office does not see any reason to drop charges against Skuratov.

NEW HEAD OF THE AUDITING COMMISSION

ORT (Russian Public Television), News program, April 19, 2000, 15:00

The Duma has dismissed Khachim Karmokov as head of the Auditing Commission. Two hundred and sixty-eight deputies voted in favor, 129 voted against, and one abstained. Sergei Stepashin was elected as the new head of the Auditing Commission.

Stepashin was nominated for the post by seven factions, and 309 deputies voted in favor of his appointment. The Communists chose not to do so, because Karmokov was their man.

Stepashin told deputies that he saw his major task as preventing state funds from being stolen by the underworld. Stepashin advocates close cooperation between the Auditing Commission and Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, and the General Prosecutor’s Office.

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