BABITSKY TO BE CHARGED WITH USING A FALSE ID
Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 7, 2000, p. 2
The investigation into Andrei Babitsky’s case is over. Investigators have failed to prove him a “traitor”; thus, all the court will have to consider is a fake passport.
The investigators have gathered a large file of various documents, which aim to prove that the Radio Liberty reporter “deliberately used false ID papers”. The ID in question is the one Babitsky presented to a police officer in Dagestan. The penalty for using a false ID is three to six months of imprisonment. The allegations that Babitsky passed information to Chechen guerrillas have been thoroughly investigated, but have not been confirmed. That’s why the court will only consider the false ID charges. Babitsky and his lawyer are now studying the case materials.
WHO’S TO BLAME FOR RISING INFLATION?
Izvestia, July 7, 2000, p. 2
Yesterday President Vladimir Putin met with Viktor Gerashchenko, head of the Central Bank. There is every reason to believe that the president will have to act as arbitrator in the conflict between the government and the Central Bank.
All this week Putin has been asking why the inflation rate has risen to 2.5% for June. The government informed the president, who is not very strong on economics, that the Central Bank is to blame, since it has been buying up dollars on all foreign currency exchanges, thus making commercial banks increase their ruble reserves.
Yesterday Gerashchenko had a chance to tell the president in person why the Central Bank had behaved in such a way. The paradox is that the inflation rate has risen since the Central Bank started enthusiastically carrying out the government’s wishes: not allowing the ruble to firm.
According to Russia’s top banker, if not for the Central Bank’s actions, the exchange rate would now be 26 rubles to the dollar rather than 28. But in its calculations for the 2000 budget, the government had estimated an average exchange rate of 32 rubles to the dollar.
Thus, we have a paradox: the government wants the ruble to be weak, and openly pushes the Central Bank to fight the rise of the national currency. The attempts of the Central Bank to carry out the government’s orders are causing inflation to rise. Both the Central Bank and the government are getting a good scolding from the president.
NEW ATTACKS ON MEDIA-MOST
Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 7, 2000, p. 1
Yesterday the authorities resumed their campaign against the Media-Most holding. This time the victim was Vladimir Gusinsky’s assistant, Mikhail Alexandrov. He was arrested in his apartment yesterday morning, on a warrant issued by the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Alexandrov, 42, is the closest aide of the media magnate, and has been working with Gusinsky for a very long time. Gusinsky has often joked that he and Alexandrov have been “partners in crime since 1937”. This is a reference to the fact that when Gusinsky’s grandfather was executed and his grandmother sent to a labor camp, his mother was brought up in the Alexandrov family.
It was in Alexandrov’s office that cartridges for Gusinsky’s award pistol were found during the first search at Media-Most. Right after that, the General Prosecutor’s Office instituted a criminal case, in which the Media-Most head was named as a witness.
Yesterday the apartments of Alexandrov and his parents were searched. According to Deputy General Prosecutor Vasily Kolmogorov, Alexandrov is charged with “illegal purchase, transfer, sale and possession of firearms”. In Kolmogorov’s words, Gusinsky’s assistant has nothing to do with the case against the Media-Most security service.
It is now being decided what penalties Alexandrov will face. He has not yet been allowed to see his lawyer.
However, the situation is easy to predict. The conflict between Media-Most and the Kremlin is far from over. The authorities have simply changed their tactics. Whereas previously the targets were mostly major figures – Gusinsky and Malashenko – now the authorities have extended their activities to the minor players.
NO CORRUPTION AMONG KGB OFFICERS
Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 7, 2000, p. 1
The Russian authorities seem to have decided to completely reorganize the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to confidential sources, the government plans to abolish all regional FSB departments. FSB officers will report directly to the central FSB headquarters, according to their specialization. For example, regional anti-terrorism departments will report to the Department for Combating Terrorism at FSB headquarters.
Obviously, these reforms will make corruption among the KGB officials impossible, since the FSB departments will become fully independent from local authorities. Moreover, as soon as any KGB officer is suspected of being engaged in any dirty dealing, he can be quickly transferred to another region.
IMPLACABLE FRIENDS OF THE MEDIA
Trud, July 7, 2000, p. 1
The Union of Russian Journalists has launched a campaign entitled “Enemies of the Russian Media”. Each month, the Center of Radical Journalism will name the people who are judged to have a negative impact on the activities of the Russian media.
Igor Yakovenko, General Secretary of the Union of Russian Journalists, explained that currently there are 15 experts and eight regional civil rights organizations which are concerned with keeping the activities of the regime within the law, including freedom of speech. Later the number of experts will increase to 100. The commission of experts will consist of 80 editors-in-chief representing both national and regional media, and also the deans of media studies faculties.
Igor Yakovenko said that since the law on the media was passed in 1991, 117 journalists have been killed on the job. According to Yakovenko, the restoration of censorship and persecutions of journalists has currently become the norm. That is why such actions are needed. At the same time, Yakovenko noted that the Union of Journalists “is not reinventing the wheel”, because such actions are carried out around the world. As for specific candidates for the title of “enemy of the Russian media”, Yakovenko named Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov, Governor Dmitry Ayatskov and other well-known regional and federal leaders.
A DISGUSTING WEBSITE
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, July 7, 2000, p. 2
The website of the of the Federal Investigations Agency contains hundreds of names, files on individuals, information about relatives, wiretap transcripts, and so on. A fountain of dirt has been operating for several days already. So what?
Sergei Agafonov, a Moscow journalist, learned from us that there was a file on him on the site. He did not want to comment on the text, but said: “This is disgusting.”
Vsevolod Bogdanov, Secretary of the Union of Russian Journalists, does not remember anything about a particular telephone conversation bugged by the creators of the site two years ago. He is on the phone all day; this is natural because of his duties. But he will continue saying what he thinks, regardless of whether his talks are bugged. However, he does think it is disgusting. Despite this, Bogdanov opposes licensing requirements for websites, and supports freedom of speech.
On July 7 three new famous names appeared on the site. Objectively speaking, the information on them was not very interesting.
MAKASHOV WANTS TO GET INTO THE DUMA
Trud, July 7, 2000, p. 2
The Samara Regional Court has declared invalid the results of the December 1999 parliamentary election in the Promyshlenny district of Samara. General Albert Makashov was the front-runner in that campaign, until he was disqualified a few days before the poll for alleged financial irregularities. An issue of “Boevoy Listok”, for which the general paid in cash, was the formal cause of the refusal of the election commission. In accordance with election regulations, the general was supposed to pay for campaign materials via a bank account. The regional court supported this decision by the regional election commission. But the Supreme Court did not agree with this decision, and the Samara court had to declare the decision of the election commission invalid.
Several have passed since that incident. Last Wednesday (on July 5) the regional court had to make another decision about the fate of the general. The results of the December vote were annulled, and the election commission will have to hold new elections in the Promyshlenny district. It is clear that Albert Makashov will be the main candidate.