US AND BRITAIN TO HELP RUSSIA
Trud, April 21, 2000, p. 1
In a telephone conversation this week, US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed a shared interest in assisting Russia to implement its economic reforms and improve its investment climate. The British prime minister briefed the US president on his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous day.
According to P. G. Crawley, a White House spokesperson: “Our interest in Russia, which is shared by the United Kingdom, is aimed at restoring international investor confidence in Russia, since this is the main force which can help Russia implement economic reforms and create normal market conditions.”
In his words, the US president and the British prime minister discussed “the economic challenges which Russia is currently facing”. In addition, “they discussed what assistance they could offer Russia”. Crawley stressed that “as we said before, we are ready to assist Russia”.
CIS SECURITY SERVICES UNITE AGAINST TERRORISM
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, April 21, 2000, p. 2
At a meeting of the council of security leaders of the CIS countries, regulations for combating international terrorism and the creation of a CIS counter-terrorism center were discussed. The council unanimously approved of the appointment of Major General Boris Mylnikov, first deputy head of the department for combating terrorism, as head of the new center.
In fact, this is a natural result of uniting efforts of CIS secret services for fighting terrorism. Putin rightly noted that currently the problem of terrorism has gone far beyond the capacities of individual states, and has become a common problem for all CIS countries.
The new center will be in Moscow.
UNIFICATION SYNDROME IN ARMENIA
Izvestia, April 21, 2000, p. 5
Thirty-eight Armenian parliamentarians united in a inter-faction deputy group and intend to push for Armenia to join the Union of Russia and Belarus. Their main goal is to make the Armenian government consider this issue as a “top priority”. The deputies are planning to participate in the forthcoming conference of the Parliamentary Council of the Union of Russia and Belarus, which is to be held in May, in Minsk. They are planning to work for Armenia to be given permanent observer status.
However, the advocates of uniting Armenia with Russia and Belarus have lots of opponents, who consider the “unification syndrome” as another political gamble, which could lead to losing state independence. The Armenian Foreign Ministry is obviously restrained concerning the idea of unification.
VODKA PRICE TO REMAIN THE SAME!
Izvestia, April 21, 2000, p. 3
On April 20, Tax Minister Alexander Pochinok said at a meeting with Russian producers of alcoholic beverages that no further increase in alcoholic prices are being planned. According to Pochinok, the new law on excise rates came into effect on March 1, 2000. The excise on tobacco products was doubled, the excise on spirits rose by an average of 40%, and the excise on beer rose by an average of 25%. Pochinok believes that these higher excise rates will be enough, and now it is necessary to learn how to collect them.
According to Pochinok, at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting it was said that in 2000 inflation will be much lower than predicted in budget. Since inflation is likely to be rather low, there will be no need to constantly increase excise rates.
2000 BUDGET OF THE RUSSIAN-BELORUSSIAN UNION DISCUSSED
Izvestia, April 21, 2000, p. 3
Pavel Borodin, State Secretary of the Union of Russia and Belarus, told Izvestia about the results of the recent meeting of the Russian-Belorussian working group for preparing the basic documents on the monetary issues of the Union. According to him, there are certain disagreements between Russia and Belarus; for example, concerning representation in the executive bodies of the Union power from Russia and Belarus. There are some disagreements about deputy chairs of the Union Council of Ministers; it has not been decided whether they should be introduced into the Permanent Committee (they have been members of the executive committee according to their positions). There are disagreements concerning the work schedule.
However, there are no fundamental disagreements which could threaten the union of the two states. The documents have already been prepared and coordinated, and they can already be used by the Union Council of Ministers, which is to hold a meeting on April 25.
On April 20, after First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov met with the Belorussian Finance Minister, it was announced that the Union’s 2000 budget will total 2.23 billion rubles. Russia’s share amounts to 1.45 billion rubles, and the rest is contributed by Belarus. The budget of the Union was discussed in detail during the meeting, since it contains a number of disputed items. Undoubtedly, it will be passed, and at yesterday’s meeting the finance ministers of the two states were deciding how much it is necessary to spend on each item. The budget is not a cow to be milked, and it is no use to simply give budget funds to all kinds of stock companies without any effective output or loans. Then it would look like charity, rather than budget expenditures.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, April 21, 2000, p. 2
According to the report of the Russian State Statistics Committee, in March the total wage arrears in Russia were reduced by 8.5%, and as at April 1, 2000, they amounted to 39.879 billion rubles.
Wage arrears were reduced most of all in social services, by 24.4%. In the industrial sector the wage arrears fell to 31.958 billion rubles; in other sectors – to 1.397 billion rubles.
The state-sector debt in social services was reduced by 32.6%, to 3.821 million rubles; in the industrial sector by 8%, to 2.207 million rubles; in other sectors – by 23.3%, to 1.036 million rubles. Private sector wage arrears were reduced by 3.9%, and as at April 1, 2000 totaled 32.815 billion rubles.
The State Statistics Committee recorded a decrease in total debts in 85 regions of Russia, and a decrease in wage arrears in 81 regions.
NEW MISSILES IN RUSSIA’S ARSENAL
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, April 21, 2000, p. 3
The Air Force commander-in-chief and the commander of the long-range aviation have decided to test missiles with non-nuclear warheads in the course of the military exercises that are now being held in the south of Russia. It is the first time that X-55 missiles will carry non-nuclear warheads. The strategic missile-carriers will be targeted at one of the testing areas. Being aware of the combat capacity of X-55 missiles, Russian military experts are saying that Russia’s arsenals will be filled with non-nuclear strategic high precision weapons.
Initially, X-55 and X-55CM missiles were built to be launched from Tu-160 and Tu-95 MS strategic missile carriers. According to strategic aviation pilots, this sharply diminished the combat capacities of the missiles, since they used to carry only nuclear warheads. The choice was not wide: either to attack the enemy with a nuclear missile, or to use dozens of tons of conventional bombs.
The Russian military drew appropriate conclusions rapidly from NATO’s disgrace in the Balkans. Up-to-date technologies make it possible to make do with conventional weapons in those spheres that used to require nuclear weapons. Having analyzed the experience of missile use in the Balkans, Russian designers developed non-nuclear warheads for such missiles. As a result, the Russian Air Force acquired high-precision weapons that make it possible to hit targets that used to be considered invulnerable for airplanes with conventional weapons until recently.
Having ratified START II, the Duma has automatically opened the way toward the next such treaty, START III. Tu-160 and Tu-95MS are not covered by START II, and they will not be covered by START III either, since they will cease to be strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Russia has acquired an opportunity to preserve its strategic aviation fleet.
MILITARY PLANS OF BELARUS
NTV, Segodnya, April 20, 2000, 14:00
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has once again confirmed that there are some agreements between Russia and Belarus, according to which a joint troop force should be deployed along the western border of the union state. The troop numbers suggested by Lukashenko are fantastic: 300,000 people. The grouping is to be equipped with up-to-date weapons.
The first time Lukashenko made such an announcement was in his annual presidential address to Parliament on the eve of Putin’s visit to Minsk. After this statement analysts were racking their brains over how this agreement might be implemented. The fact is that the entire Belarussian Army consists of 80,000 people, and it is not clear where the extra 220,000 could be housed. And if this grouping is actually to be equipped with up-to-date weapons, why so many soldiers?
In an interview with Orel Television, Lukashenko said: “In 1999, by order of two presidents, Boris Yeltsin and Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian Defense Ministry developed a number of specific plans, which they have presented to us. The documents stipulate the structure, personnel schedule, number, location, and activities of the grouping. After a certain period of time these documents have been finalized. We have met with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin since his election, and have decided to establish this regional grouping. This document may be legally confirmed at the end of May or in early June, at an ordinary meeting of the Superior State Council.”
There are no reports that Putin and Lukashenko discussed establishment of a new military grouping at their recent meeting in Minsk. However, some Belarus media have reported that the authorities of the Moscow Military District are getting ready to send their detachments to Belarus.
NEW FIELD COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA
RTR, Vesti, April 20, 2000, 20:00
We have managed to interview Aslan Khambulatov, a commander of a Chechen militia regiment. He said: “It is rumored that there is a certain Taranov, who is saying that he will disband all Gantamirov’s militia units. He is assembling an army and intends to pay 900 rubles a day to his soldiers. He must have a lot of money. He has bought jeeps and weapons, and we have no jeeps yet. But we’ll see if he will actually disband Gantamirov’s militia units.”
RUSSIAN CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA
RTR, Vesti, April 20, 2000, 20:00
Since the beginning of the current campaign in Chechnya, 2,144 Russian federal servicemen have been killed and 6,325 wounded. These are joint figures from the Defense and Interior Ministries.