AN INTERVIEW WITH GAZPROM DIRECTOR REM VYAKHIREV

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AN INTERVIEW WITH GAZPROM DIRECTOR REM VYAKHIREV

Komsomolskaya Pravda, June 17, 2000, p. 3

Question: Rem Ivanovich, did you discuss with Vladimir Putin in Berlin the scandal with Gusinsky and Gazprom?

Rem Vyakhirev: We discussed these issues with Vladimir Putin.

Q: What arguments did he use?

Vyakhirev: I cannot tell you.

Q: Did you agree with him?

Vyakhirev: No, I didn’t.

Q: Did he agree with you?

Vyakhirev: He agreed with me because I’m going by the law.

Q: What about the president?

Vyakhirev: He is going by untrustworthy reports.

Q: Do you mean there is no truth in these reports?

Vyakhirev: Well, Gazprom has a debt. But the timing of the loans are different.

Q: Do you mean that Gusinsky was arrested for nothing?

Vyakhirev: These are different questions.

Q: Is it profitable for Gazprom to buy shares in Media-Most?

Vyakhirev: This is not a very important issue. It is an advantage to Gazprom to have shares in Media-Most, because thanks to them the media holding has never attacked us. We cannot quarrel, we can work together.

Q: Are you justifying Gusinsky?

Vyakhirev: I don’t know the details of his case. I don’t think he is a major criminal. It is easy to work with him.

Q: Does the Kremlin exert pressure on media?

Vyakhirev: I don’t think so. Frankly, I don’t care about this.

Q: Don’t you feel pressure from the president?

Vyakhirev: No, I don’t. I asked him yesterday: “Are you putting pressure on Gazprom?” He said: “No…”

MUFTI KADYROV HAS FOUND SUPPORTERS

Kommersant-Daily, June 17, 2000, p. 3

The Refakh movement considers Kadyrov’s appointment as head of the Chechen administration to be its own achievement. Leader of the movement Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov states that the idea to use the Islamic factor in settling the Chechen crisis was proposed by Refakh. He also added that the coming of a spiritual leader to power in Chechnya can consolidate society. At the same time members of Refakh agree that the number of Kadyrov’s opponents exceeds the number of his supporters, and it is possible that he will be dead before the president signs a draft decree on organizing interim government bodies in Chechnya.

Members of Refakh think that if he survives, Kadyrov should be given more powers than the present draft law stipulates. According to Khakim Sultygov, secretary of the Refakh’s commission for political settlement in Chechnya, the present document gives Kadyrov the right “only to appoint his secretary”. That is why Refakh intends to submit amendments that would give the head of the Chechen administration power to appoint his deputies (according to the draft law he must get approval from the presidential envoy for the North Caucasus federal district).

Refakh intends to submit another amendment. It concerns the creation of a representative body in Chechnya. This can be a state council which would unite authoritative politicians, including the supporters of Aslan Maskhadov. Sultygov said in an interview with “Kommersant-daily” that Refakh has already nominated for the state council Mairbek Vachagaev, Maskhadov’s representative who was amnestied last week; and Ruslan Alikhadzhiev, the speaker of the Chechen parliament, who awaits amnesty in the Lefortovo prison. Refakh thinks that the situation in Chechnya can be improved if the Russian president makes a statement about a referendum on the political status of the republic and on its new constitution.

ARMENIANS UNITE

Izvestia, June 17, 2000, p. 3

On June 16 a constituent meeting of the Union of Armenians in Russia was held in Moscow. This was another attempt by the Armenian diaspora to unite Armenian communities living in Russia.

In order to imagine what the Armenian diaspora in Russia means to Armenian people, we can consider one example. There are about 2-2.5 million Armenians in Russia and 3.4 million in Armenia. If the Armenians living in Russia united, they would become a significant political and economic force in Armenia and even in Russia. The Armenians living in Russia have tried to unite in the past, but all attempts to create various assemblies and organizations were unsuccessful. The founders of the Union of Armenians of Russia hope they will manage to achieve success this time.

About 170 delegates from 44 regions attended the meeting. The Union of Armenians of Russia was founded by Deputy Duma Speaker Artur Chilingarov (the highest-ranking Armenian citizen in Russia) and political analyst Andranik Migranyan. The meeting received messages of support from many national leaders. Pavel Borodin, State Secretary of the Union of Russia and Belarus, even attended the meeting. Borodin’s attendance is no coincidence: his friend Ara Abramyan is the president of the Union of Armenians of Russia.

THE GOVERNMENT ASKS THE OLIGARCHS TO DO THE ECONOMY A FAVOR

Izvestia, June 17, 2000, p. 3

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov noted at the beginning of a meeting with Russian banking tycoons: “Not only the creditor and the borrower, but also the banking sector and the state, must have confidence in each other.”

Twenty of the most influential bankers attended this meeting on June 16. Each person had his place. Director of the Central Bank Victor Gerashchenko was seated near Mikhail Kasianov. The meeting lasted over two hours, instead of the planned hour. The main topic of the discussion announced by the prime minister was how banks can work in favor of the economy by lending to the real sector. The speech of the prime minister abounded in “mutual goals for the future”, “prospects of the Russian economy” and “the consequences of the 1998 crisis”.

Rumors are circulating that Kasianov had two goals when he decided to invite the oligarchs. The main aim was to talk to the bankers about weakening the ruble. It was supposed that the bankers would start complaining about the excessively strong ruble, and after that Gerashchenko will have to bring the ruble down. Tatyana Paramonova, Gerashchenko’s deputy said after the meeting: “The ruble exchange rate depends on macroeconomic factors and the market.” This means that the current ruble exchange rate suits everyone. According to other participants in the meeting, bankers are satisfied with the ruble exchange rate. They are dissatisfied with quite a different matter. They tried to convince the government: it is an illusion that Russian banks are stuffed with money. They have some reserves, but not all that many.

The bankers will prepare proposals to the government and the Central Bank, taking in consideration the results of the meeting. As far as the situation in the real sector of the economy is concerned, Kasianov will have to organize other meetings with bankers in order to solve this problem.

MOLDOVA ASKS PUTIN TO INFLUENCE THE TRANS-DNIESTER REGION

Segodnya, June 17, 2000, p. 3

Vladimir Putin, who visited Moldova after his visit to Germany, was met in the renovated airport of Kishinev. About 15,000 police established order in the city, hundreds of foreigners who live in Kishinev illegally were deported. Vladimir Putin refused to visit the residence of the Moldovan president near Kishinev. Putin met with Lucinschi in Kishinev.

Vladimir Putin and Petru Lucinschi discussed relations between Moldova and Russia, and the problem of the Trans-Dniester region. Lucinschi said that now Russian-Moldovan economic relations will get a new boost. As for the Trans-Dniester region, Kishinev hopes that Vladimir Putin will help Tiraspol to become more accomodating. The leaders of the Trans-Dniester region were not invited to the meeting. The Moldovan president explained this by the fact that the region does not meet its commitments as fixed by the documents signed by the Russian president as a guarantor.

According to our sources, the president discussed the possibility of creating a military base in the Trans-Dniester region on the basis of the Russian group deployed in the region. Secretary of the Parliament Dumitru Dyakov said to a correspondent of “Segodnya” that this initiative was expressed by the Russian side. A couple of months ago the Moldovan prime minister Dumitru Bragish supported the idea of creating a Russian military base in exchange for free supplies of Russian gas. Negotiations on the creation of the military base began long before Putin’s visit to Moldova. Kishinev thinks that it is possible to create a military base in Moldova if Russia puts pressure on the leadership of the Trans-Dniester region. Leader of the Trans-Dniester region Igor Smirnov noted in an interview with a correspondent of “Segodnya” that Tiraspol will not change its position regarding this problem.

NO ONE BELIEVED GUSINSKY WOULD BE ARRESTED

Segodnya, June 17, 2000, p. 2

Igor Malashenko, deputy chairman of the Board of the Media-Most holding, returned from Berlin to Moscow without problems, despite the statement of lawyer Pavel Astakhov that the Russian special services planned to detain Malashenko at the airport. At the same time, the management of the Vnukovo airport refused to allow journalists into the delegation hall where it was planned to hold Malashenko’s press conference. The management explained that a Russian minister needed this hall.

The press conference was held in the open air. According to Malashenko, the main goal of his trip to Madrid and Berlin was to draw the attention of the world to what happened in Moscow. Attacks on the media holding have become frequent. Acording to Malashenko, Media-Most executives had considered the possibility of Gusinsky’s arrest earlier, but “no one believed it would happen”. But as it turns out, anything is possible in Russia these days.

Malashenko does not know if President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the General Prosecutor’s Office in connection with the arrest. But he thinks that it is not out of the question that Putin did. From now on, lawyer Astakhov will always accompany Malashenko on all his trips in case he needs legal protection. Malashenko thinks that the law enforcement agencies can fabricate a criminal case against him, using drugs or arms. Nevertheless Malashenko noted that “the organizers of Gusinsky’s arrest did not manage to achieve their aim: to frighten us.” Malashenko said: “All companies which belong to Media-Most will continue working as before.”

MEDIA WILL NOT BE SILENCED

Segodnya, June 17, 2000, p. 1

The Union of Journalists said that the arrest of Vladimir Gusinsky “cannot be a non-political act”. The government has started to destroy the independent media under the pretext of “establishing order”. The authorities are breaking the law, the Constitution and international agreements. The Union of Moscow Journalists is alarmed by the arrest of Vladimir Gusinsky, and called it “an alarming and unprecedented event”. The Union appealed to the president and the government to take urgent measures in order to settle the matter. Journalists from other CIS countries expressed their attitude to what was happening in Moscow. The Union of Moldovan Journalists “is concerned about the fact that the Russian state bodies use Soviet methods for suppressing the independent media.” The Belarussian Association of Journalists supports the Russian media “in its determination to defend its rights” and demands that the government conduct a scrupulous investigation into the incident.

AGRICULTURAL UNION WILL BECOME THE BASIS OF A NEW PARTY

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 17, 2000, p. 3

On June 16 a meeting of the Russian Agricultural Union, in which 840 delegates from all Russian regions participated, was held in Moscow. Long before the beginning of the meeting, rumors appeared that representatives of the agricultural labor union and some politicians of the Russian Agrarian Party intended to use this meeting to form an alternative political movement to the Agrarian Party. No one doubts that despite obstacles to the creation of a new political movement, it will still be created on the basis of the agricultural labor union. Duma Deputy Alexander Tkachev said: “We need a political roof.” In addition, the political wing of the agricultural labor union is concerned about preparations for the next parliamentary elections being made by other political movements and parties. Nikolai Kharitonov said that “this meeting is a basis of consolidation of the Agrarian forces.” He does not consider the fact that the new political movement will be formed by the agricultural labor union to be an obstacle.

FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS DECISION OF INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 17, 2000, p. 3

The PR Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry distributed on Thursday a report entitled: “The decision of Carla Del Ponte, Prosecutor of the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, who refused to investigate the cases of international humanitarian law abuses by NATO in the course of the action against Yugoslavia, must be reconsidered.” This decision was taken on the basis of the report of the experts of the Tribunal. According to the Tribunal, a more detailed investigation of the military action and incidents is not needed. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the experts of the Tribunal justified the activities of NATO and its servicemen without giving any reason for this.

SENATORS LASH OUT AT PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE

Obshchaya Gazeta, No. 24, June, 2000, p. 2

Commenting on the presidential bill on forming the Federation Council, presidential representative in the Duma Alexander Kotenkov promised that as soon as parliamentary immunity is cancelled, 14-16 senators will be put on trial. According to him, everything is ready to take legal action.

The Federation Council believed this immediately. Senators called Kotenkov a rascal, and described his words as malicious. Simultaneously, regional leaders promised to sue Kotenkov for slander, as well as for disparaging the competence of the nation’s main legislative body.

All this makes us recall that many Japanese corporations have a special doll, which looks like the CEO. Any disgruntled employee can give the doll a good kick. Thus, the doll saves the real CEO from assaults. It seems the senators dreamt of saying to the president all the words they said to the presidential representative in the Duma. Unfortunately, the rules of the “palace game” do not allow quarreling with Vladimir Putin; he is still a “young president”.

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