RUSSIAN POLITICIANS ON RELATIONS BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BELGRADE

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RUSSIAN POLITICIANS ON RELATIONS BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BELGRADE

Segodnya, October 28, 2000, p. 2

Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee: Kostunica has chosen Russia for his first foreign visit because the new Yugoslavian authorities have realized that Russia has been supporting not Slobodan Milosevic but the whole Yugoslavian nation. However, this does not mean that we may rest on our laurels now. We have to set up contacts with the new government and help it solve the most topical problems that have not disappeared together with Milosevic: the problems of Kosovo and Montenegro, and a lot of other economic and political problems. It is important for Russia to remain a large-scale player in the Balkans. The West is attempting to oust Russia from the Balkans, and therefore the rivalry between Russia and the West will go on.

Alexei Mitrofanov, an LDPR Duma deputy: Kostunica’s victory has diminished the likelihood of a new massacre in the Balkans. Such a massacre would have been extremely unprofitable for Russia. At the same time, Yugoslavia led by Kostunica, which used to be an international problem, has become a regional problem. It was very profitable for Russia to take part in quarrels between Yugoslavia and the West. And now the prices have gone down. However, the West will only be cured of its allergy to Serbs in 200 or 300 years. Therefore, Russia will be needed as long as the West has problems with Yugoslavia. Kostunica does not make any errors so far. He has set up contacts with the authorities of Montenegro and socialists. Many observers used to think that he would take a saber and cut all his enemies. But he has not done it. Like Vladimir Putin, he agrees with the West but does not take any radical steps.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, Director of the Politika Foundation: After Milosevic’s retirement Russia has lost a partner in the Balkans that used to be supported by no one else but Lukashenko and part of the Chinese government. However, Russia has been spared a stumbling block in its relations with the West, and the possibility of a military intervention in Yugoslavia has been ruled out too. Besides, now it is easier for Russia to help Yugoslavia preserve its territorial integrity, which is Russia’s main geopolitical aim. Furthermore, Yugoslavia is no longer suppressed by economic sanctions, and there are a lot of opportunities for development of Russian-Yugoslavian economic relations.

ARAFAT’S RIGHT-HAND MAN IN MOSCOW

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 28, 2000, p. 1

On October 27, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mahmud Abbas arrived in Moscow. He came to Moscow on Arafat’s errand in order to discuss possible ways of resolution of the crisis in Middle Asia with the Russian authorities. On his arrival he met with the Russian president’s Special Envoy for Regulation in Middle Asia Vasily Sredin. The Palestine authorities are also eager to know from the horse’ mouth about details of Israeli politicians’ recent visits to Moscow (as is known, three prominent Israeli politicians, Bronfman, Peres, and Netanyakhu visited Russia in the past week). Sredin has stressed that it is necessary to put an end to violence in the region and create conditions for the both sides to sit to the round table.

RUSSIA MAY ASK THE IMF FOR $1.8 BILLION

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 28, 2000, p. 1

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin announced on October 27 that at the negotiations between the Russian government and the IMF delegation that will arrive in Moscow on November 7, the possibility of Russia taking out a new $1.8 billion loan will be discussed.

RUSSIAN MANUFACTURERS AFGAINST GOVERNMENT’S CUSTOMS POLICY

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 28, 2000, p. 2

Heads of textile and light industry enterprises have met with representatives of federal ministries and the Duma to discuss possibilities of changing customs duties.

At the start of September the government considered and partially approved a draft decree on changing customs duties. However, this decree has not been issued yet and is still disputable.

Manufacturers were talking about improvements in their enterprises and considerable tempos of growth of manufacturing turnover at the meeting.

However, the government’s reluctance to reduce customs duties on raw materials and equipment that are not produced in Russia make a lot of problems. General Director of the Moscow Wool-Spinning Factory Nina Bezuglova said that if customs duties on importing five tons Australian wool were reduced from 20% to 10%, it would be possible to produce extra high-quality pure woolen clothes, which would give the budget additionally $17 million a year.

The situation is being exacerbated also by the upcoming reduction of customs duties on importing readymade products of the textile and light industry and introduction of duties on import of cotton. General Director of Tverskaya Manufactura Vyacheslav Novikov has called these conditions “a running knot for the Russian producer.”

UNION OF RIGHT FORCES PROPOSES AMENDMENTS TO ELECTION LAW

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 28, 2000, p. 3

The Union of Right Forces (URF) Duma faction has proposed to introduce amendments to the current law on basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right to participate in referenda. According to the bill written by the faction, election commissions should have time limits on disqualifying a candidate from an election campaign. The bill says that the corresponding decision should be made no later than five days before the election. If the candidate wants the court to reconsider this decision, the court should made its final decision no later than three days before the election date.

CHERNOBYL LAW UNCHANGED

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 28, 2000, p. 3

On October 27, the Duma returned the bill on amendments to the current law on social welfare of Chernobyl disaster victims to the stage of preparation for the second reading. Not only parliamentary debates, but also demonstrations in the streets have been arranged to protest against this bill. The bill was rejected in the third reading on Wednesday, and some Duma deputies suggested that the work on this bill be started anew. However, the government insisted on returning the bill to the stage of preparation for the second reading, since this law is urgently needed. The minister for labor and social policy explained the reasons for this urgency to deputies on October 27. He also guaranteed that all the money the federal budget owes to disabled Chernobyl rescuers will be paid. The minister asked deputies not to delay on this bill; otherwise the government will have to pay out a lot of money after lawsuits.

LEON ARON: RUSSIA DOES NOT INTEREST AMERICAN VOTERS

Izvestia, October 28, 2000, p. 4

Just over a week is left before the presidential election in the US. The election campaign is very intense, and its result may become clear at the very last moment. Among the numerous topics of arguments between Al Gore and George W. Bush, Russians may be interested in those related to Russia. We interviewed Leon Aron, head of the Russian Studies Center at the American Business Institute.

Question: During the final debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush, the Russia issue was not discussed at all, although a number of US media outlets, in particular “The Washington Times,” continue writing about Gore’s links with corruption in Russia and Russia’s arms sales to Iran.

Leon Aron: In general, little attention has been paid to foreign policy during the current presidential race in the US. This is the first such campaign in the 25 years I have been watching presidential elections in America. A tiny scandal was started over Chernomyrdin and Russia’s arms sales to Iran. However, Governor Bush, who started this scandal, realized that he had got himself into a mess and calmed down. There is no point in continuing this scandal any longer. In reality, this scandal was viewed as a scandal only in elite circles of Congress. But the Republican majority in Congress does not have direct influence over George W. Bush. However, I understand the desire of Russian politicians to find a niche in the American election, and a measure of influence over it. This is a sort of professional hazard of politicians.

Question: However, recently several US media outlets reported that Chernomyrdin has admitted that his contacts with Gore were of a secret nature. Do you really think this scandal will have no continuation?

Leon Aron: As a matter of fact, Washington has long been aware of informal contacts between the two leaders. The Clinton administration tried to take into account Chernomyrdin’s arguments that millions of people are employed by the Russian defense sector, and that many of these workers are on the point of starvation. America complied with Chernomyrdin’s requests. However, it is difficult to be sure about the future, since American democracy does not have any exact pattern of development. But I think these affairs are past and forgotten for most Americans.

WORLD BANK FIGHTING POLLUTION IN RUSSIA

Vremya MN, October 28, 2000, p. 2

The World Bank has allocated $26.2 million to Russia to close seven chemical enterprises seriously damaging the environment. These enterprises can produce 140,000 tons of ozone-destroying substances a year, i.e. 47% of the world emission of these gases are produced in these seven enterprises.

According to the agreement this money will be spent on compensation to the Galogen company in Perm, the Khimprom and Kaustik plants in Volgograd, the Konstantinov Chemical Plant in the city of Kirovo-Chepetsk (Kirov Region), the Altaykhimprom company in Yarovoe in the Altay Territory, the St. Petersburg Applied Chemistry Research Center, and the experimental plant in the settlement of Redkino in the Tver Region.

According to the Montreal Protocol, Russia was to stop producing ozone-destroying substances by January 1, 1996, but failed to do it. In 1996, Russia got $60 million for conversion of enterprises using ozone-destroying substances. Vasily Tselikov, Deputy Chairman of the Interagency Commission for Ozone Layer Protection, says that this money has been spent on upgrading many enterprises using ozone-destroying substances.

GOVERNMENT TO CURB OIL DEALERS

Vremya MN, October 28, 2000, p. 4

On October 27, Fuel and Energy Minister Alexander Gavrin came to the Duma to have a talk with deputies about the current state and prospects of the fuel market and to learn their opinions on probable intensification of administrative measures in the fuel and energy sector.

Alexander Gavrin mildly but confidently assured that intensification of administrative measures for regulation of the fuel market is the governmental technique that will spare the country a lot of shocks.

Although fuel prices have been growing at a record pace and have considerably outrun all inflation forecasts, Gavrin is sure that if the government had not taken urgent measures, the situation would be even worse. By the way, last week’s data sounds optimistic: in 11 Russian regions fuel prices have decreased a little. However, this is quite natural, taking into account the seasonal factor.

However, the minister contradicted himself in his report from time to time. He said that the state intended to bring order to the oil market, and a few seconds later asserted that it was impossible to do that, since current law does not stipulate any mechanisms for directly influencing oil dealers. Thus, the minister indirectly admitted that the government would curb oil dealers by illegal measures. Answering deputies’ natural question about how the government would influence oil dealers, the minister honestly said, “We’ll just forbid them to export oil.”

ARRESTS BEGIN IN KADYROV’S RETINUE

Kommersant, October 28, 2000, p. 3

Former separatist field commander Salman Abuev has been arrested in Chechnya. Abuev has worked in Kadyrov’s Administration, and Kadyrov’s supporters have called this arrest pure provocation.

Salman Abuev, Former Director of the State Facilities Department of the Republic of Ichkeria, was awarded the rank of brigadier general for his activities in the first Chechen war. He did not take part in the second Chechen war but offered his services as a middleman in negotiations between the federal government and Aslan Maskhadov. When Ahmad Kadyrov was appointed head of the provisional government of Chechnya, Abuev became one of his supporters.

Djabrail Yamadaev, an influential figure in Chechnya, who is close to Ahmad Kadyrov, has told us that Abuev has been accompanying Kadyrov on all his recent foreign trips.

Abuev was detained in his native village of Alleroy.

Djabrail Yamadaev told us, “Two explanations for this event are possible. Abuev is from Maskhadov’s Alleroy clan, and Maskhadov’s people have framed Abuev in order to show how federal servicemen deal with turncoats. But it is more likely that this provocation was arranged by the Russian military themselves, since the Russian authorities seem to be eager to bring down Kadyrov now. For instance, General Troshev, who had been supporting Kadyrov, now often publicly criticizes him.”

Another reason for this incident may be related to the old conflict between Ahmad Kadyrov and his deputy Bislan Gantamirov. Gantamirov’s influence in Chechnya is increasing, and Abuev’s arrest is already called another victory for Gantamirov.

Ahmad Kadyrov, in turn, has promised his supporters that Abuev will be released, although “some people do not want it.”

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