NEGOTIATIONS OVER EDMOND POPE UNDERWAY

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NEGOTIATIONS OVER EDMOND POPE UNDERWAY

Izvestia, October 12, 2000, p. 1

Pope, owner of the private company TechSource Marine Group Ltd. and formerly a naval intelligence officer, was arrested on April 5, 2000, during a meeting with a representative of the Russian defense sector. A search of his apartment yielded “plenty of materials, including state secrets”. The papers found there included, specifically, documents on the latest high-speed underwater missile Shkval (according to one theory, the Kursk submarine was lost due to an unsuccessful launch of a Shkval). Pope was charged under Article 276 of the Criminal Code (espionage). The trial will take place on October 18, and Pope may actually get a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Vladimir Putin’s interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” was interpreted in the United States as a veiled agreement to exchange Pope for someone involved in the recent spy scandals, someone like Aldrich Ames, for example. Actually, Putin was not specific at all.

Federal Security Service officials admit off the record that the US government would be only too glad to have Pope released, with the presidential campaign in the United States in full swing. Negotiations over Pope’s exchange for someone or something else (some political dividends in Russian-American relations) are actually underway. Most likely, Pope’s fate will be decided either shortly before – or right after – the presidential election in the United States.

MISSION TO THE MEDITERRANEAN CALLED OFF

Izvestia, October 12, 2000, p. 1

Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov says that the planned mission by the Northern Fleet to the Mediterranean “is unlikely to take place within the next twelve months.”

A group of up to twelve ships, including heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky and aircraft-carrier Admiral Kuznetsov with a regiment of SU-33 deck fighters, was supposed to set out in late October.

A source in the Navy says that the no-go order is not directly associated with the Kursk disaster. Most likely, the decision should be ascribed to the general condition of the Navy and its resources. Unfortunately, the Navy is in no condition to sent surface warships and submarines, its combat nucleus, thousands of miles away.

ROMAN ABRAMOVICH WANTS ALL OF THE CHUKOTKA PENINSULA

Izvestia, October 12, 2000, p. 2

Businessman Roman Abramovich became a Duma deputy for the Chukotka district in December 1999. Now he says he will run for Chukotka governor in the election scheduled for December 24, 2000.

At first sight (as far as Moscow-based political consultants are concerned), Abramovich will find it fairly easy to collect 60,000 votes in his favor. It will be even easier for him if incumbent Governor Alexander Nazarov (who polled 65% in 1996) should decided against running for re-election.

THE ORT SAGA CONTINUES

Izvestia, October 12, 2000, p. 2

The public was informed yesterday that Boris Berezovsky is prepared to sponsor the ORT network, once the shares are transferred into trust management.

The Interfax news agency reports that Berezovsky may pledge to cover 49% of ORT’s financial shortfall – but only if he is advised to do so by shareholders of the Teletrust company (the company which will be formed to manage the shares). Previously, private shareholders had financed 100% of the TV network’s deficit. In fact, Berezovsky’s terms are somewhat different from what was announced yesterday. The businessmen will do so if the state covers the remaining 51%.

It is hard to say what impact Berezovsky’s latest idea will have on the situation. All would-be participants in Teletrust agree that it will have no effect…

RUSSIA AND KAZAKHSTAN WITH BAIKONUR IN BETWEEN

Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 12, 2000, p. 2

Every year Russia is supposed to pay $115 million for the use of the Baikonur space center. At the same time, Russia also supports several thousand Kazakh citizens living nearby.

When troop strength at Baikonur was cut to one-third of its former numbers, Kazakhs promptly moved into the apartments vacated by Russian officers. There are 80,000 residents at Baikonur nowadays and Russians account for only 43% of them. Kazakhs settled in almost a third of the town’s apartments. They do not bother to pay rent or the cost of utilities.

The major headache is theft of power cables laid across the steppe. Without them, all aerospace equipment becomes so much useless scrap.

Every now and then Russian servicemen use an armored personnel carrier for “safaris” across the steppe to protect at least the boosters on the launchpad. The police have a helicopter for patrolling. Skirmishes sometimes occur. But even when the scavengers are caught, Russian police are forced to hand them over to the Kazakh authorities and law enforcement agencies.

The outcome is simple – the thieves “pay compensation for the damage” (something like 30 rubles for two meters of cable), and return to the steppe, where everything begins all over again.

ANOTHER TOPOL SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED FROM PLESETSK

Tribuna, October 12, 2000, p. 1

Colonel Ilshat Baichurin of the Strategic Missile Forces PR department says that a 16-year-old Topol ICBM (an RS-12 missile) has been fired from a mobile launcher.

The launch was needed to confirm the reliability of the ICBM and the possibility of extension of its service lifespan.

Baichurin says that the target on the Kamchatka Peninsula was hit.

THE CUSTOMS UNION: ANOTHER ATTEMPT

Tribuna, October 12, 2000, p. 1

Vladimir Putin has admitted during a visit to Bishkek that the Customs Union established five years ago never worked properly.

The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan met in Astana this week and signed a treaty establishing the Euro-Asian Economic Community to replace the former Customs Union.

The Euro-Asian Economic Community will retain the structure of the Customs Union – the State Council, Committee for Integration, and the Parliamentary Assembly.

All decisions will be made by the Integration Council, by a two-thirds majority. Russia will control 40% votes on the Council, Kazakhstan and Belarus 20% each, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 10% each (in proportion to the financial contributions of these countries).

Eighty percent of the region’s economic resources are Russian, but use of this ratio would have resulted in the Kremlin dictating terms, according to sources close to President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

THE TUNNEL WILL BE BUILT

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 12, 2000, p. 1

In talks with Kim Yun Chee, South Korean Minister of Construction and Transport, Russian Railroads Minister Nikolai Aksenenko was quoted as saying that “construction of the tunnel under the Tatar Straits connecting the continent and Sakhalin Island” would begin in late 2001.

ANOTHER PRISON AMNESTY?

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 12, 2000, p. 1

Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin says another prison amnesty may be declared.

The Russian penitentiary system is in dire straits. Every year, prisons and labor camps accommodate 5 million people (2 million of them in temporary detention cells). Their capacity is considerably smaller.

Kalinin: There are plans to reduce the number of prison inmates by 200-250,000 but this is not a solution. We need to pass the draft law on 59 amendments to the Criminal-Procedural Code.

AIDS UPDATE

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 12, 2000, p. 2

Doctors have registered 33,000 new cases of HIV infection across Russia in 2000. Moscow and the Moscow region are most affected, with over 20,000 HIV-positive people registered over the first nine months of 2000.

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