U.S. CONGRESS DEFENDS DEMOCRACY IN RUSSIA
Segodnya, October 14, 2000, p. 1
Some US members of Congress have reminded Russia that it can keep its membership in the G-8 only if the Kremlin adheres to democratic standards. Democrats in Congress submitted Resolution No. 425 to the House of Representatives. The document includes a list of standards and principles of democracy which are not observed, or openly violated, in Russia – with the consent of the authorities, or even initiated by the leadership. These included: the ongoing war in Chechnya, ousting Boris Berezovsky from the media industry, and raids by of state agencies against the Media Most holding and its owner, Vladimir Gusinsky. The authors of the resolution do not call for expelling Russia from the club of world powers. They only suggest that President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright should inform Moscow of the opinion of Congress, leaving them an opportunity to take further action. Those behind the document are confident that a similar resolution will be submitted by the Senate in the near future.
“What is happening in Russia today proves that it is not ready to participate as an equal in meetings between other G-8 countries, each of which has a broad network of democratic political institutions, and a market economy,” Thomas Lantos told our correspondent. “I am very disturbed by the fact that President Putin and his government seem to be involved in a series of actions aimed at eliminating all independent media outlets, especially those whose news programs criticize the actions of the government.”
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 14, 2000, p. 1
The “Akademik Keldysh” research vessel worked at the site of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster from September 27 to October 2, and recently returned from the Barents Sea. The expedition did not draw any sensational conclusions. Scientists and divers on board the ship examined the sunken sub, but did not learn the cause of the disaster. Anatoly Sagalevin, head of the expedition, reported that divers lifted parts of the light (external) hull of the submarine to the surface and opened the hatch of the sub. However, they did not find any bodies. Radiation levels near the reactor section of the sub remain normal. At present, the sub is covered with a 2-meter layer of silt and sediment.
The government commission investigating the circumstances of the sub disaster has analyzed the information brought back by the “Akademik Keldysh”, but did not draw any new conclusions. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, head of the commission, reported that there are still three basic theories: a collision with a World War II mine, a collision with another vessel, or an emergency on board the Kursk itself. As a result, there was an explosion equivalent to 100 kg of TNT, after which the sub hit the sea floor; then there was another, more powerful, explosion.
According to Klebanov, before the sub reached the seabed, the crew in the first four, or maybe even five, compartments were already dead. According to the roster, there were 7 sailors in the first section, 38 in the second, 24 in the third, 13 in the fourth, 15 in the fifth, 8 in the sixth, 9 in the seventh, and 5 in the eighth compartment. Referring to the upcoming operation to recover the bodies of the crew, Klebanov said that “this operation will not necessarily be 100% successful”.
Apart from this, the deputy prime minister reported that 60 square miles of the seabed around the destroyed sub have been inspected, but no fragments of the hull of another sub which may have caused the disaster have yet been found. However, according to our information, some debris of unknown origin was found near the Kursk and recovered in late August. So it is unclear what was being sought this time.
STATES PLAY OFF KEY
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 14, 2000, p. 2
A week ago pro-Bush Republicans slung a lot of mud at Democrats by releasing a huge report in which Al Gore was reminded of his past cooperation within the framework of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission. Cooperation with the “corrupt former prime minister Chernomyrdin, who earned over $5 billion through fraud during the privatization of the energy industry following the break-up of the USSR.” (“Washington Times”)
Yesterday Chernomyrdin and the IMF had to refute the accusations. Thomas Dawson, an IMF spokesman, said that his organization does not have any evidence of IMF funds being diverted into the pockets of the former Russian prime minister. And Chernomyrdin himself stated in an interview with our paper: “I am greatly surprised by the statements of George W. Bush, both about myself and about such a prominent and respected organization as the IMF. It does not behoove a politician aspiring to the US presidency to make such statements, even in a moment of madness. I cannot call his statements anything other then gibberish. I intend to sue, in order to defend my reputation as an individual and a politician. Duels are not customary today. But I expect an apology!”
Mr. Chernomyrdin hopes that “the American public will be outraged by Bush’s dirty attack”. In fact, the American public hardly notices a battle for the reputation of a former Russian prime minister. However, if there is a court case, the Russian public will learn much that could be interesting…
TERRORIST ACT AVERTED IN THE NOVOSIBIRSK REGION
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 14, 2000, p. 2
Last Thursday two residents of the settlement of Pashino, in the Novosibirsk region, were detained on charges of preparing a terrorist act at an electrical substation of the Iskra military plant. On that day, local residents phoned law enforcement agencies and reported noticing two masked men armed with grenade launchers near the plant. An operative group directed to the site detained the criminals, aged 25 and 19. Seven RPG-26 grenade launchers were confiscated from them. As it was learned later, the weapons has been stolen from the depot of one of the military units located in Pashino. One of the detained men confessed that he had stolen the weapons. The young men also said that at first they intended to commit terrorist acts at several departments of the Iskra plant, but finally opted for the substation which supplies the settlement with electricity. The explosion at the plant was mainly intended to distract the attention of law enforcement agencies from an attempt to rob an armored van which was to bring 5 million rubles to the plan that day, for wages. One of the detained men worked as a loader at the plant, so he knew when the van was to arrive.
Currently, the police and the Novosibirsk department of the Federal Security Service are investigating the attempted terrorist act. Although both men confessed to preparing a subversive act, legal proceedings have been instigated on charges of possessing weapons without a license.
FOSTER HOMES AT MILITARY BASES
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 14, 2000, p. 2
Last week the Russian government passed a regulation on the status of wards of military bases. Thus, the housing and education of orphans and children from broken homes at military bases has been officially confirmed. As Captain Valery Shablikov, head of the main orphanage department of the Armed Forces, informed our correspondent, a draft order by the defense minister to make this regulation valid has already been prepared. According to the department, about 60 orphans have been adopted by military bases to date. According to analysts, after the relevant order by the defense minister is issued, their number will increase up to 3-5,000.
LEGAL REFORM BEGINS WITH LEGISLATION
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 14, 2000, p. 3
Russian law enforcement has traditionally preferred punitive measures. But lately, the process of reforming law enforcement agencies has not only been accelerated, but the approach toward this sphere of state regulation has changed radically. New normative codes (the Penal Code, for instance) are gradually preparing the ground for redistribution of power between various law enforcement agencies. This redistribution is mostly in favor of the system of courts of general jurisdiction and the Justice Ministry. Evidently, attempts to restrain the punitive powers of the General Prosecutor’s Office, and to make investigative agencies independent from the Interior Ministry, will continue.
The powers of the General Prosecutor’s Office may also be restricted as a result of the united efforts of the Justice Ministry and Viktor Pokhmelkin’s draft law, prepared by Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces. Recently, the Assembly of the Justice Ministry approved a new version of the bill “On Justice”. In part, the Justice Ministry intends to establish a monitoring system for compliance of regional laws with federal legislation and the Russian Constitution. Thus, representatives of the Justice Ministry will have the right to appeal in court against regional laws which contradict federal law, bypassing the General Prosecutor’s Office. Pokhmelkin’s bill is liable to simply destroy the General Prosecutor’s Office as an independent agency, proposing to make the general prosecutor subordinate to the president. This innovation may prevent the General Prosecutor’s Office from taking legal action against high-ranking state officials, including the prime minister and the president.
SOLZHENITSYN AS THE CHIEF ADVISER
Izvestia, October 14, 2000, p. 1
Following the president, and according to his suggestion, Governor Roketsky of the Tyumen region has turned to writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn for spiritual support. He did it by phone. The servile ardor gripping officials after orders from their superior, and even a public visit by the President to the Writer, is taking grotesque forms. The appearance of a person who only recently was consistently taught to consult Lenin on all occasions, and is now listening to the recommendations of Solzhenitsyn on how to develop his fiefdom, is nothing but a farce. Of course, Solzhenitsyn remains a creative thinker, even in the sphere of economic development: he has invented some kind of fictional reality which is interesting to read and exciting to hear, but which should be very cautiously implemented (if at all). Considering the specific features of Russian officials – who can worship religious, party, and anti-party gods equally – nothing positive can be expected from this new “Soviet Republic”.
TV HITMAN’S NEW CONTRACT
Izvestia, October 14, 2000, p. 2
Reforms are underway in national television. Sergei Dorenko, taken off the air on the ORT network, will soon appear on the TV-6 channel. According to our information, a group of former ORT staff has been called to develop TV-6. The group is headed by Mr. Dorenko, who will have his own current affairs show.
GERASHCHENKO STAYS ON
Kommersant-daily, October 14, 2000, p. 1
On October 13, Vladimir Putin met with Viktor Gerashchenko, head of the Central Bank. Their personal conversation was needed to resolve the conflict caused by the preparation of a new version of the law on the Central Bank after the president had submitted his amendments. The meeting ended with a victory Gerashchenko – a commission to work on the amendments has been created. It includes representatives of the Central Bank, the presidential administration, and the Duma.
Gerashchenko did not argue with the suggestion that the Central Bank should limit its participation in commercial banks. A curious picture can be observed. The Central Bank has defended its independence, but in the near future the appearance of Russia’s banking system will be defined by state banks.
If Gerashchenko’s opinion turns out to be the key factor in appointing the main state banker, a strategic alliance between him and the president is highly likely. They have much in common: both are supporters of the state, but currently profess free-market values (for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons). Gerashchenko agrees to issue as many rubles as necessary to buy oil dollars – as long as oil prices are sky-high.
SERGEI IVANOV TO DEFEND KALININGRAD
Kommersant-daily, October 14, 2000, p. 3
On October 13, Sergei Ivanov, secretary of the Security Council, arrived in St. Petersburg in order to check readiness of law enforcement agencies of the North-Western district to defend national security. “In our country, internal threats are now more urgent than external ones,” he stated.
Ivanov held a meeting of security representatives – heads of the Federal Security Service, Federal Border Guard Service, Interior Ministry, Tax Police, and the Customs Service. When the meeting was over, Ivanov told journalists that issues of state security had been discussed at the meeting. Apparently, the main threat to national security is “crime, drug trafficking, heroin – which drastically destabilizes the situation in regions; customs duties; and the timber trade”. Security agencies are especially disturbed by the situation in Kaliningrad. There is little doubt that the first steps will be linked to the upcoming gubernatorial election in the region. Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, who was also in St. Petersburg yesterday, pointed out, “Cherkesov has one problem in the district – the election in Kaliningrad – but he will cope with it, with the help of the president.” On October 14, Ivanov discussed this problem with Admiral Vladimir Yegorov, commander of the Baltic Fleet, a gubernatorial candidate.
Ivanov believes that another threat to national security is posed by the triad of terrorism, aggressive separatism, and religious extremism. According to him, this danger was taken into consideration when the concept of national security was prepared.