RUSSIAN FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE READY TO HELP MI-6
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 23, 2000, p. 2
If MI-6 officially requests help from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS) in the investigation of gunfire on the MI-6 headquarters in London, the FIS is ready to assist its British counterpart, a high-ranking official of the Russian foreign intelligence told our correspondent. This can be done as part of partner cooperation in the sphere of fighting international terrorism.
Obviously, the position of the FIS was prompted not only by corporate solidarity (MI-6 remains one of the main opponents of Russian security services), but also by realizing the scale of the threat posed by terrorist groups, including those which have bases and the necessary infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Apart from this, this suggestion should be considered in the context of constantly developing personal contacts between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Naturally, transfer of information about those responsible for planning and carrying out terrorist act in London to the British foreign intelligence service, if the FIS possesses such information, will be done in an impersonal form, without indicating specific sources in the FIS.
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO REVIVE PEOPLE’S PATRIOTIC UNIION
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 23, 2000, p. 3
The third convention of the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia (PPU), organized by the coordination council of the movement is being held on September 23. Eighty-nine regional branches will be represented by 267 deputies. Apart from them, about 100 guests will take part in the meeting. The convention will be devoted to consideration of the new development concept of the PPU. Besides, suggestions about making a number of structural changes to make the movement seem more like a party will be put to an open discussion. In particular, the charter of the movement will be amended, so that the PPU could independently participate in elections at all levels. The organizational structure of the movement is also planned to be altered, and the leadership will be partially renewed in order to make it more effective and transparent. All these innovations should contribute to the creation of a potent and stable coalition of left-wing patriotic and centrist forces on the basis of the PPU. The Russia left-wing democratic coalition, headed by Gennady Seleznev and recently registered by the Justice Ministry, is expected to officially join the PPU. On the eve of the convention, CPRF and PPU leader Gennady Zyuganov reported that the plenum of the Central Committee has actually approved the decision to accept Seleznev’s organization into the Union. However, the presidium of the Central Committee intends to closely supervise Russia’s activities, since many people, including CPRF members, suspect this coalition of attempts to organize an internal coup in the Communist movement.
TAX POLICE MOVES WESTWARD
Kommersant-daily, September 23, 2000, p. 3
The Federal Tax Police Service (FTPS) has started investigating owners of real estate abroad. Two hundred and ninety-eight Muscovites who own real estate in Spain were the first to “fall victim” to the audits, and this was only the beginning. Soon the FTPS could turn into the most powerful agency to spy on Russian citizens, both in Russia and abroad. Tax police officers have long complained that the legal framework defining their powers is too narrow, despite the fact that it is regularly expanded. First of all, the FTPS was granted the right to tap telephone conversations and inspect correspondence of tax payers. Then it was entitled to carry out legal proceedings on 29 articles of the Penal Code (only half a year ago there were two such articles). Still, the FTPS wants more: to be renamed as the Finance Police, as a minimum, and the creation of a more powerful structure on its basis – financial intelligence – as a maximum. In the opinion of the agency, this would enable it to obtain information about practically all economic operations, and, of greater importance, to develop its activities in new directions, primarily fighting money laundering, also abroad. The FTPS has already prepared some relevant draft laws.
MASKHADOV FOUND GUILTY BUT CANNOT BE DISMISSED
Vremya MN, September 23, 2000, pp. 1, 3
At a press conference on September 22, Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s provisional administration, at last demonstrated “material evidence” – the decision by the presidium of the Supreme Shari’ah court made in regards to Chechnya’s third president. In this document, nine Shari’ah judges denounced terrorism in all its forms, stated that the war declared by Maskhadov, Basayev, and Khattab is not “holy”, annulled Maskhadov’s edict to execute Kadyrov, and found Maskhadov guilty of inciting the second Chechnya war. Although the Shari’ah judges did a great service to Kadyrov, he will not introduce Shari’ah law in Chechnya. In his opinion, Chechnya must live only by secular laws; or, to be more exact, Russian laws.
The second sensation at Kadyrov’s press conference was his reported intention to check Chechen militia forces in order to find “whether they are members of terrorist groups”. Kadyrov seems to be sure that the dismissal of Bislan Gantamirov’s supporters from the militia will neutralize his rival in fighting for leadership in the republic. Thus, Kadyrov can dissolve the whole of the Chechen militia, which he himself is trying to form. And those who are insulted and oppressed join the opposition, as a rule. Kadyrov has not yet established good relations with the influential Yamadayev brothers (supporters of Malik Saidullayev in fighting for power in Chechnya), and Supian Taramov’s gunmen battalion in the Vedeno region. The latter is supported by the General Staff, which does not like Kadyrov.
However, Kadyrov told us that the situation has changed: “the Yamadayev brothers were fighting on my side, since the first days of the war, but then they were confused by Saidullayev. Now they understand this. As for Taramov, recently his people visited me and said that he is ready to cooperate.” If Kadyrov fails to unite the three armed (pro-Moscow) groups around himself, the fight for power in the republic could shatter the fragile peace established in Chechnya.
VLADIMIR PUTIN WILL SELL WEAPONS TO INDIA
Vremya MN, September 23, 2000, pp. 1, 3
As a result of a trip to India made by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, with the purpose of preparing for Putin’s visit to that country, it was announced that the official meeting will include signing a number of arms trade agreements. In particular, the parties intend to sign intergovernmental agreements stipulating the delivery to of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, with 46 MiG-26K ship-based fighters. Experts estimate the value of the contract at over $1 billion. Issues of the upcoming purchase by India of 100 of the latest T-90S Russian tanks, and licensed production of about 200 tanks of that type, are also expected to be discussed. Another largest joint project of recent years, stipulating delivering Su-30 modernized multi-purpose fighters to Delhi, with subsequent licensed production of such planes in India at a value of over $1.8 billion, will also be discussed in the course of negotiations. Klebanov, who returned to Moscow on September 23, announced that India wishes to buy from Russia an extra supply of Smerch salvo fire systems. The value of the deal could be about $83 million.
Over the past 40 years, Russia has delivered weapons to India to the total value of $30 billion. Thus, 70% of the weapons used by the Indian army are of Soviet and Russian production. Annual deliveries of Russian weapons to India amount to about $1 billion.
PENSIONS TO INCREASE THREE-FOLD OVER A DECADE
Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 23, 2000, p. 2
The government has announced the beginning of pension reforms. The most optimistic forecast is as follows: in 2010, the average pension in Russia will have increased more than three-fold; it will amount to 3,000 rubles a month, and will exceed the subsistence level for pensioners by 40%. Over the next year, pensions are supposed to increase by 35-40%. However, having heard about bright promises to pensioners, skeptics recalled the well-known saying of Khrushchev: “The current generation of Soviet people will live under Communism.” Besides, there is a pessimistic forecast as well: after 2006, the number of Russian pensioners will start to increase, and the number of working people will reduce, deductions to the Pension Fund will reduce, and there will be no question of any real grants for the older generation. In order to avoid such a development, the government intends to start opening individual superannuation accounts for citizens from 2002. The majority of those who are working today will be urged to pay part of their wages into these accounts. As a result, they will receive two pensions: a state pension and “self-accumulated” superannuation. The government has no plans to raise the pension age, but it has another idea: to pay extra pensions to those who voluntarily agree to postpone getting their pension papers for a few years.
A TURNING POINT IN THE MEDIA-MOST CASE?
Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 23, 2000, p. 6
On September 22, court officers began freezing securities of the Media-Most holding. As news agencies reported, this is being done according to a decision by the Zamoskvoretsky Court of Moscow, issued on September 20: the shares of 30 enterprises included in the holding, i.e. the Media-Most private company, the NTV public company, the NTV Plus private company, the Seven Days Publishing House and others, have been frozen.
On the same day, unknown sources in the General Prosecutor’s Office were quoted as saying that criminal proceedings may be instigated on charges of transferring Media-Most assets abroad. Prime Minister Kasianov reported that on Saturday he invited Media Minister Lesin to explain why he had signed a dubious agreement between Media-Most and Gazprom Media (the notorious Appendix No. 6, where the development of legal proceedings against Gusinsky was allegedly proclaimed to depend on his “loyalty and ability to make concessions”). The president himself asked the prime minister to clarify this matter.
The conclusion to be drawn from all this is as follows: some kind of turning point in the Media-Most scandal is expected this weekend – shares will be frozen; “fraudsters” prosecuted; the minister rebuked, or maybe he will have more serious problems… At any rate, the corridors of power have been full of rumors about Lesin’s dismissal.
KADYROV WILL NOT RESTORE ISLAMIC COURTS
Novye Izvestia, September 23, 2000, p. 2
Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s provisional administration, has denied reports that he allegedly suggested restoring the Shari’ah court system in Chechnya. As Kadyrov said, “I did not suggest anything of the kind.” He explained that the Shari’ah court was “the power which supported Maskhadov”. According to Kadyrov, he only proposed to members of the Shari’ah court to “tell the truth about the war in Chechnya and Maskhadov’s actions, and then disband”. The head of the Chechen administration did not support the idea of restoring the federal post of deputy prime minister for issues of Chechnya. “It is incorrect to introduce the post of a deputy prime minister if there is a head of administration and the governmental commission headed by Khristenko,” Kadyrov pointed out. Neither did he support the idea of forming a State Council of Chechnya from representatives of various clans.
Versty, September 23, 2000, p. 1
Ramazan Abdullatipov recently remarked that Putin’s high popularity rating reflects not an assessment of the president’s activities, but the degree of expectations and hopes of Russian citizens. However, judging by latest opinion polls done by the National Center for Public Opinion Research, the spectrum of public sentiment is changing from bright to more gloomy colors. A third of respondents doubt that the current leadership will manage to improve the condition of Russia, and 14% consider the situation in Russia to be “critical and extremely dangerous”. Almost a fifth of respondents do not rule out the possibility of mass unrest. Chechnya disturbs people greatly: 50% of respondents are concerned that there is no end to the war and terrorist acts; 41% are disturbed by heavy casualties among federal troops; and 26% worry about civilian casualties. The number of those who support continuing the hostilities has fallen by 20%.
The authority of both the legislative and executive branches has declined. The parliament, which has barely had time to start work, is reproached by 63% of Russian citizens. Forty-eight percent of respondents do not approve the work of the Cabinet; 33% disapprove of the Federation Council; 36% complain about the work of presidential envoys in federal districts. It is logical that confidence in the president is also declining: half of respondents agreed with the statement that “the Russian people are tired of expecting some positive changes in our lives from Putin”.
SEASONAL BUDGET CONTEST OPENS
Novye Izvestia, September 23, 2000, p. 2
The Duma has set about considering the national budget for 2001. According to the law, within a month after the draft budget has been submitted to parliament, deputies must start discussing it at plenary meetings. This term has expired, but there is nothing to put to the vote, because Duma deputies have not managed to reach an agreement with the executive branch on the most fundamental issues.
Still, on September 22 debates on the 2001 budget began in the Duma. However, they were held in the form of the “Cabinet report on results of social and economic development in the first half of the year”. The prime minister delivered a very optimistic speech, according to which over the past eight months industrial production growth has reached 10%, and the GDP in the first half of 2000 increased by over 7%. The prime minister assessed the social and economic condition of Russia as “stable, with signs of improvement on the majority of economic indicators”. The government used this optimistic tone to strike a blow at Duma deputies: all this success, in Kasianov’s opinion, might be undermined if deputies continue to call for an increase in revenue and spending budgeted for the next year.
Everything sounded very convincing, but it is unclear whether deputies were convinced. The problem is that most of them now need to lobby for specific expenditure issues via the budget; and what is the hypothetical “plan of expected revenue and expenditure” suggested by the government? It is not enough to cover numerous commitments given by deputies during the parliamentary election. There is no doubt that the main fight with the government is still to come.