ESTONIA EXPELS TWO RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS

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ESTONIA EXPELS TWO RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS

Izvestia, September 1, 2000, p. 3

Yesterday Estonian authorities accused two Russian diplomats of “activities incompatible with their status”, and suggested that they should leave Estonia within 48 hours. Russia made an appropriate response the same day.

The Estonian ambassador to Russia was invited to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was told that in order to take appropriate measures, Russia would expel two Estonian diplomats within 48 hours, since their activities were “incompatible with their status”. Moreover, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the actions of the Estonian authorities were “a deliberate provocation”, which would cause a serious deterioration in Russian-Estonian relations.

Both the Russian and Estonian sides are at present refusing to comment on the bilateral expulsion of diplomats. The names of the diplomats have not been revealed either. The Estonian security police are also refusing to comment.

It is highly likely that this time the “spy scandal” has been caused by a recent “quarrel” within the Estonian government. On the same day that the Estonian government charged Russian diplomats with spying, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Estonian Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus signed in Pskov an agreement on cooperation between the Russian and Estonian Interior Ministries for 2000-01. The action of the Estonian Foreign Ministry has been nothing more than a counterstrike at the Estonian Interior Minister. The point is that it is the KAPO security police that deals with intelligence in Estonia; this department is part of the Estonian Interior Ministry. Thus, Interior Minister Loodus would hardly have signed agreements with Russian Interior Minister Rushailo if he had known about the imminent expulsion of Russian diplomats.

YELTSIN COULD HEAD THE STATE COUNCIL

Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 1, 2000, p. 2

Before leaving for Samara, President Vladimir Putin met with former president Boris Yeltsin at his residence.

According to our sources, during the meeting the incumbent and former presidents discussed the creation of the State Council. The new body is likely to deal with “long-term” issues: for example, it will have to deal with bringing regional laws into compliance with the federal Constitution. However, many governors do not like the fact that the State Council will only have an advisory role. The Kremlin understands this distaste very well; so it has been decided to introduce a “significant person” into the new body. Boris Yeltsin is a very good candidate for this role. According to our sources, President Putin discussed this issue with the former president: Yeltsin was offered the position of first secretary of the State Council. Yegor Stroev, current head of the Federation Council, is likely to be appointed as the second secretary of the State Council. Yeltsin has requested some time to consider the offer.

RETRIEVAL OF BODIES FROM SUBMARINE TO BEGIN SEPTEMBER 25

Izvestia, September 1, 2000, p. 2

According to Captain Vladimir Navrotsky, head of the North Fleet press service, retrieval of the bodies of the Kursk sailors will be started on September 25. Both Russian and Norwegian rescuers and divers will participate in the operation. Russian and Norwegian divers will first gather in Norway, where North Fleet divers will undergo medical tests and special training. As yet it has not been decided how the divers will enter the sunken submarine: they will have to either cut special holes in the hull, or enter through the emergency hatch in the ninth compartment.

UNION OF RUSSIA AND BELARUS TO BREAK UP?

Trud, September 1, 2000, p. 2

Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Union of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Aksenov, executive secretary of the parliamentary assembly, and Vladimir Nikitin, head of the budget and finance committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of Russia and Belarus, announced at a press conference yesterday that the recently established Union of Russia and Belarus is in danger of breaking up.

According to Borodin, the Council of Ministers has only been working on economic issues; in particular, all the necessary documents on the operation of the joint currency printing center of the Union have already been signed. He also announced that Russia will provide Belarus with a $200 million and 4.5 billion ruble stabilization loan, in order to equalize the national currencies and to prepare them for “merging”. So far, this has been the only success of the Union…

According to Borodin, the main obstacle to the creation of the Union of Russia and Belarus is the Russian criminal underworld, which is not at all interested in seeing tough, clear, consistent regulation of customs, tax, and financial relations established between Russia and Belarus. According to Vladimir Aksenov, the Russian-Belarussian bureaucracy ought to become the major lobbyist for a real Union, but it does not yet exist…

TOUGHNESS AND FLEXIBILITY OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY

Trud, September 1, 2000, p. 2

A press conference in Rostov-on-Don has covered the first hundred days of Viktor Kazansev’s work as the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district.

According to Kazantsev, his major objective is to facilitate a peace settlement in the North Caucasus, and to ensure economic stability in the region. The presidential envoy said that attempts to negotiate with guerrilla leaders would lead to nothing. In his words, it is possible to speak either of their unconditional surrender or of their complete destruction. At the same time, the past hundred days have proved that Kazantsev’s toughness does not interfere with his political flexibility. Answering a question about handling the disagreements between Kadyrov and Gantamirov, Kazantsev said: “I’m sure they will not fight each other.” Speaking about the conflict between Derev and Semenov in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, the presidential envoy said: “So far, I have managed to contain their conflict, but not to make them friends.” The presidential envoy is also concerned that the channels of “external weapons supplies” for the separatists have not been cut yet.

COMMUNIST LEADER GENNADY ZYUGANOV VISITS BELARUS

Izvestia, September 1, 2000, p. 3

Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Russian Communist Party, is currently in Minsk at the invitation of the Belarussian Communist Party. During the meetings with Belarussian leaders and his party colleagues, the leader of the Russian Communists discussed issues of bilateral integration and the elections for the Union Parliament, which are likely to be held in 2001.

It is interesting that Zyuganov was invited to Belarus by Viktor Chikin, the leader of the Belarussian Communist Party, which supports the policies of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. However, Zyuganov is also planning to meet with the leader of another Belarussian Communist Party (there are two of them), which opposes both the current regime and its ideological colleagues. Meanwhile, according to many observers, the major objective of Zyuganov’s visit is the meeting with the president of Belarus, and that the timing of the visit has also been thoroughly planned. August 30 was Lukashenko’s birthday; he turned 46. Zyuganov must have hoped that on his birthday Lukashenko would resolve and discuss all issues more effectively. According to Zyuganov, he and Lukashenko discussed questions of the integration of Russia and Belarus and the obstacles to this integration. Lukashenko agreed with the Communist leader that at present the “efforts to establish the Union of Russia and Belarus have led to nothing” and that integration has never been so far off as it is now. He also said that customs barriers between Russia and Belarus have now been almost restored.

NORWEGIAN DIVERS ARRIVE IN ST. PETERSBURG

Tribuna, September 1, 2000, p. 1

A team of Norwegian divers has arrived in St. Petersburg. They will be training together with their Russian colleagues at the Leningrad naval base, before descending to the sunken Kursk submarine in the Barents Sea.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, both Russian and Norwegian deep-sea divers will participate in retrieving the bodies of sailors from the Kursk. Russian divers will work with Norwegian equipment, since Russia has no equipment like this at all. It can now be said that preparations for retrieving the sailors from the seabed have started.

Five Norwegian deep-sea divers have started training together with Russian divers before descending to the bottom of the Barents Sea. They are supposed to train for a month. The details of the future operation will be given in subsequent editions of our paper.

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