DUMA DEPUTIES HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE KURSK

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DUMA DEPUTIES HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE KURSK

Segodnya, September 16, 2000, p. 2

The Duma has decided not to carry out its own investigation into the causes of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster. The deputies contented themselves with approving a resolution, in which they require the president to include Duma faction representatives in the government commission for investigating the Kursk disaster. The Duma also approved the list of deputies to be included in the commission. Ilya Klebanov, deputy prime minister and chair of the commission, was invited to yesterday’s Duma meeting; he did not object to expanding the commission, but insisted on including in the commission only experts who have something to do with the fleet.

It turned out that there are lots of experts in naval issues in the Duma. Vasily Shandybin suggested that Klebanov should resign, since “the whole world knows that Kursk was sunk by an American submarine – it was reported in authoritative newspapers, Zavtra and Duel”. Shandybin’s faction colleague, Tatyana Astrakhankina made a suggestion of her own: some explosives were planted on the Kursk submarine; of course, it was done by the US…

Klebanov refused to resign. He told deputies that currently there are only three theories about the Kursk disaster left out of the the initial thirteen: a World War II mine; a collision with some underwater object; and an “emergency” situation in the torpedo section. So far, there is only indirect evidence for any of these theories.

According to Klebanov, the mysterious buoys of some submarine, noticed not far from the place of the disaster, “disappeared by themselves over a short period of time”. As for the emergency situation in the torpedo section, all attempts to model it in laboratory experiments have failed.

There was a proposal to request the US and British governments to allow Russian experts to examine their submarines that could have been in the Kursk’s training zone. Klebanov said that the Russian government has already sent a request, but so far, there has been no answer. Besides, Klebanov said that one of the countries – he did not say which – suggested signing an agreement on “permissible distances between submarines”.

Klebanov said he hoped the commission will be able to find out the cause of the Kursk tragedy after the scene of the disaster is examined with special equipment, which is currently on the research ship “Akademik Kadyshev”. According to Klebanov, the ship has broken a profitable contract, having ceased “taking tourists to the Titanic”; on September 23-24 the ship is expected to arrive in the Barents Sea.

SERGEI CHEMEZOV WANTS TO RUN ROSVOORUZHENIE

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 16, 2000, p. 1

Yesterday, Vladimir Artyakov, Promexport’s deputy general director, said it was necessary to monopolize Russia’s military-technical cooperation with foreign countries. Thus, Artyakov has become a mouthpiece of Promexport’s General Director Sergei Chemezov, who has long aspired to the post of Rosvooruzhenie boss. Chemezov believes that by the end of this autumn Promexport should be merged with Rosvooruzhenie. According to our sources, several weeks ago a draft of the presidential decree on establishing a joint special exporter of weapons and military equipment was sent to President Vladimir Putin. The situation is interesting because Proexport’s scheduled exports of weapons and military equipment for 2000 total $250 million; while Rosvooruzhenie’s exports will exceed $3 billion.

RUSSIA AND US ARE DISCUSSING SPACE ISSUES

Segodnya, September 16, 2000, p. 4

Yury Koptev, head of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, reported in his speech to the Duma during the meeting on “Maintaining Russia’s scientific-technical and production resources, which ensures carrying out manned space missions”, over 80% of Russian satellites now in orbit are obsolete. The issue of allocating an extra 1.5 billion rubles for the Russian federal space program in 2000 has not been resolved as yet. Members of the US Congress also discussed “space issues” this week. On Thursday the Congress passed a bill on allocations for NASA activities in 2001-02. According to Associated Press, the US government plans to allocate $28.7 billion for this period. The document also regulated the funding for the International Space Station (ISS). Both Russian and US legislatures are discussing space issues at the moment, while Russian and American astronauts are assembling equipment for the first long-term expedition to the ISS.

YABLOKO AND THE UNION OF RIGHT FORCES UNITED

Segodnya, September 16, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday the coordination council of Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces agreed on a single candidate from the two right wing parties, Yabloko member Anatoly Golov. He is supposed to replace former deputy Sergei Stepashin during the third Duma session; the latter has become head of the State Auditing Commission.

Besides, Duma deputy speakers Irina Khakamada and Vladimir Lukin, who chaired the meeting of the coordination council, agreed – on the basis of parity representation – on two candidates for elections to the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly. According to Lukin, “since Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces are planning to stand in the elections together, other deputies do not need to bother – we are also planning to win everything”.

FOREIGN VISITS AND FOREIGN GUESTS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 16, 2000, p. 1

According to our sources in the Russian diplomatic circles, as a result of the New York meetings of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, a number of agreements on visits by Russian senior officials to other countries have been concluded. In September, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov will visit Great Britain; and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will visit London in November. Besides, British Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to visit Moscow by the end of this year. Yesterday Alexander Yakovchenko, official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in New York, reported that Igor Ivanov had met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher; during the meeting the two foreign ministers discussed preparations for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s forthcoming September visit to Moscow. According to our sources, the visit has been scheduled for September 25. Approximately in mid-November Minister Ivanov is planning to visit Berlin. This visit is supposed to be a part of his European tour, in the course of which he will also visit Warsaw, as was agreed with Polish Foreign Minister Vladislav Bartoshevski. Ivanov also met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib; in the course of the meeting the ministers noted the importance of the forthcoming visit by King Abdullah II of Jordan to Moscow.

IMF ASSESSES RUSSIA

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 16, 2000, p. 2

On Friday board of directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a meeting to consider the current state of the Russian economy. A delegation of IMF analysts worked in Moscow in summer 2000, and of course, they could not help noticing Russia’s successful results for the first six months of the year (first of all, good implementation of the budget). The IMF experts also reported on the moderate forecasts of 4% economic growth in Russia for 2001; the Russian government is quite content with the figures and is currently trying to convince Duma deputies not to increase the estimated budget revenues for 2001. Russia needs the IMF’s approval of its government economic program not only in order to receive loans from the IMF, but also to get a chance to reschedule its debt to the Paris Club of creditors.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS MILITARY REFORMS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 16, 2000, p. 2

According to our sources, the Security Council is actively preparing for a meeting which is to take place in late September. At the meeting it is planned to consider the possible directions of military reforms in Russia. So far the exact date of the meeting is unknown, it will be determined by President Putin. The Security Council is to consider further reduction of troop strength by 350,000 from 2001 to 2003. According to anonymous sources in the Defense Ministry, the parameters of the forthcoming reduction are as follows: infantry will be reduced by 180,000; the Navy is to be reduced by over 50,000; the Air Force will be reduced by about 40,000. Despite the statements of the top military officials that there are no disagreements with the General Staff about the reform of the Strategic Missile Forces, the Defense Minister and the chief of the General Staff are still disputing the fate of the troops. The General Staff suggests the SMF should be transformed into a branch of the Armed Forces by 2001, and merged with the Air Force by 2006.

At the same time the leadership of the SMF regard this decision as preliminary; besides, they are objecting to another suggestion from the General Staff – to withdraw the Military-Space Service from the SMF and to subordinate them to the General Staff.

Still, the fate of the SMF is not to be the key topic of the Security Council meeting. The Security Council will make more specific the July decisions on distribution of administrative and executive power in the Russian Armed Forces. It is not rules out that personnel changes and issues will ne also considered at the meting.

According to expert assessments, the proposals to simultaneously dismiss Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin are unlikely to be realized. At least, Kvashnin will keep his position.

VESHNYAKOV PROPOSES TOUGHER ELECTION RULES

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 16, 2000, p. 3

Alexander Veshnyakov, chair of the Central Election Commission, has suggested a kind of “election code” should be considered; in some Russian regions there are similar things already. According to Veshnyakov’s plan, regional election commissions should receive data not only on the property and the income of a candidate, but also on bank accounts, securities, and financial commitments. According to Veshnyakov, the federal law “On Banks and Banking” needs to be amended; in particular, it concerns examining receipts and movements of money through candidates’ bank accounts , as well as presenting this data upon request to the Central Election Commission or regional election commissions. In order to exclude illegal collection of signatures in support of candidates to stand in the elections, Veshnyakov suggests the signatures to be collected at special stations monitored by observers.

Veshnyakov also visited Cherkessk, the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, in order to make sure the election commissions are prepared for December 10 elections of the Duma deputy from the Karachaevo-Cherkessia republic, as well as election of the Cherkessk mayor. The parliamentary elections are to be held as a result of Boris Berezovsky’s abdication; the mayor are to be held because Stanislav Derev, former head of the city administration, has been appointed as an aide to the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district.

NEW FINANCE MINISTER TO BE APPOINTED?

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, September 16, 2000, p. 2

According to some Internet sources, the presidential administration is preparing a decree on appointing Andrei Vavilov as Finance Minister.

According to the same sources, incumbent Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin will remain deputy prime minister and will focus his attention on monitoring the whole financial sector of the government. According to the utro.ru newspaper, a number of regional governors, and many business leaders actively support appointment Vavilov as finance minister. According to smi.ru, Vavilov is greatly respected in President Putin’s team. According to some sources, the Kremlin regards Vavilov as a first-rate expert in the area of inter-budgetary relations; it is also believed that he would be able to find a compromise with regional governors in the course of debates on the 2001 budget. Besides, Vavilov has good relations with some European and US financial circles, which means he is able to effectively conduct negotiations with Russia’s potential creditors. By the way, Vavilov is well-known not only in the Kremlin: in 1996 he was in charge of funding Yeltsin’s presidential election campaign, and currently is on friendly terms with many leading Russian politicians.

GANTAMIROV WILL GO INTO BUSINESS

Vremya MN, September 16, 2000, p. 2

Bislan Gantamirov, former deputy head of the Chechen provisional administration, has returned to Grozny after two days in Moscow. Gantamirov held talks with representatives of the presidential administration and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Gantamirov told us that as a result of the talks, the six heads of district and city administrations who had been dismissed by Akhmad Kadyrov have been restored to their positions.

Gantamirov says he will never work with Kadyrov again and will never leave Chechnya. He also says that he not dismiss the Chechen militia because of his conflict with Kadyrov. As for his plans for the future, Gantamirov says that since he is now an ordinary Chechen, he will start a business: he plans to open a chain of stores.

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