KUCHMA’S OFFICE WAS BUGGED
Izvestia, December 14, 2000, p. 1
Nikolai Melnichenko: “I heard the president of Ukraine give a criminal order.”
Melnichenko, an officer of the Ukrainian Security Service, had been listening to what was taking place in President Leonid Kuchma’s office for months; and finally went public. According to his father, before his current position with the Ukrainian secret services Melnichenko had served in Moscow. He was involved in communications at the Kremlin. Specialists do not rule out the possibility that Kuchma’s office was not the first place to be bugged by Melnichenko.
According to Melnichenko, three people (Kuchma himself, head of the presidential administration Vladimir Litvin, and Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko) discussed terminating Georgy Gongadze, an oppositionist journalist who disappeared without trace over two months ago.
The shocking recording made by Melnichenko has been studied at the Institute of Applied Scientific Research in Holland. Its specialists say that the recording is authentic.
Melnichenko says he placed a digital tape recorder under the couch in the president’s office.
Melnichenko: “The conversations that were recorded are sufficient for the conclusion that acting for the benefit of Ukraine was the furthest thing from Kuchma’s mind.”
The officer himself is now in hiding abroad, but says he is prepared to come to Ukraine to testify against Kuchma. He warns that he has other evidence which no one will be able to refute.
Oleg Pisarenko, deputy chief of the presidential security service of the Ukrainian State Protection Directorate, confirms that a man named Melnichenko did work with this service, “in a technical capacity”. Melnichenko resigned in early November.
When members of the Ukrainian Supreme Rada were returning to Kiev after a meeting with Melnichenko abroad, they were searched on the pretext that they might be trying to smuggle something into Ukraine. The tape was damaged, but not irreparably.
GUSINSKY JAILED IN SPAIN
Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 14, 2000, p. 1
Investigator Balthazar Garcon, the same person who tried to jail Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, is back in the spotlight. Garcon ordered Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky jailed in Sotto-del-Real, 40 kilometers north of Madrid, Spain.
It seems that Madrid took a message from Valery Nikolayev, an investigator with the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, seriously – to the effect that Gusinsky was wanted for “major fraud”. The businessman was detained on December 12 in the spa town of Sotogrande. Garcon says the decision to jail Gusinsky was motivated by fears that he might escape Spain. Gusinsky himself claims that he is being “harassed for political motives” and that “all debts have been paid”. The crime with which Gusinsky is charged is punishable by up to six years imprisonment under Spanish law, and up to ten years under Russian law.
Sotto-del-Real is an ordinary jail for ordinary criminals. Foreign news agencies report that it was built only recently, and that certain prisoners merit individual cells there.
Spanish courts have 40 days to decide whether Gusinsky should be extradited. Interpol wants explanations from Moscow on why Gusinsky was put on the international wanted lists. The Interpol general secretariat quoted media reports which assume that Gusinsky is indeed being harassed for political reasons.
SENIOR MILITARY FINANCIER INVOLVED IN FRAUD?
Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 14, 2000, p. 1
Colonel General Georgy Oleinik, Chief of the Main Directorate of Military Budget and Finances of the Defense Ministry, has been charged by the Military Prosecutor General’s Office under Article 286 Part 3 of the Criminal Code (abuse of power with serious consequences). He is not allowed to leave Moscow. Therefore, the senior military financier’s involvement in shady dealing is all but proven.
The Military Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal investigation against a group of senior Defense Ministry officers in March 2000. The investigation looked at the transfer of $450 million of state funding to a foreign company, a founders of the Ukrainian Joint Energy Systems corporation, allegedly for some construction materials provided by the Ukrainians.
UNION OF RIGHT FORCES WANTS LENIN OUT OF THE MAUSOLEUM
Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 14, 2000, p. 2
Outraged over the decision to bring back the Soviet national anthem, the Union of Right Forces Duma faction has raised the issue of burying Lenin’s body.
An appeal to President Vladimir Putin to create a memorial center on Red Square in Moscow was proposed at the Duma Council yesterday. The Union of Right Forces wants to remove Lenin’s corpse from the Mausoleum, and give it decent burial.
Most Duma deputies, especially the Communists, object. Even Yabloko, the Union’s ally, will probably vote against the proposal. Sergei Ivanenko of the Yabloko faction says the problem is indeed serious, but this is not the right time to deal with it; and “it is wrong to barter the anthem for Lenin” (which is what the right essentially proposes). Yabloko was the only faction in the Duma to vote unanimously against the Soviet music for the national anthem.
“The World Jewish Congress thanks the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and its faction in the Russian Duma for its principled stand. The Congress backs up their stand on the matter. We cannot allow the body of Vladimir Ilyich Blank, the man history knows as Ulianov-Lenin, to be removed from Red Square.”
Telegrams like this have been sent to the Duma by Jewish public groups from Israel and the United States.
A FORTHCOMING VISIT
Nash Vek, No. 97, December 13, 2000, p. 1
George Munios of OPIC is coming to Moscow on Thursday. The amount of money the United States will channel into the Russian economy depends on Munios.
A slowdown in economic growth is expected in the United States, and investors will be looking for emerging markets. Russia is one of them. Western investors are pleased to see the Russian government sincerely trying to improve the investment climate in Russia. Between 1992 and 2000, OPIC invested more than $3.5 billion in over 100 Russian projects. Its current “Russian portfolio” includes twenty applications, to the value of $2 billion.
EDMOND POPE: AN UPDATE
Trud-7, December 14, 2000, p. 2
As soon as Pope’s trial ended, the presidential pardons commission unanimously voted to advise President Putin to pardon the US businessman. Even before that, the Kremlin received similar requests from US President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Putin’s statement in Magnitogorsk was fairly encouraging.
Putin: I can only make the decision after December 14, when the verdict comes into effect. I cannot afford to disregard the opinion of the intelligentsia, and do not want quarrels with the West.
It will not be very easy for Putin to order Pope’s release. Firstly, pardons are usually issued to people who plead guilty. Pope, in his letter to Putin, continued to plead innocent. At the same time, Pope did not appeal to a higher court; which, in the opinion of Viktor Zhulev of the commission, indicates that Pope accepts the fairness of the verdict. In any case, in Russia convicted criminals are pardoned only when they have served at least half of their term.
Moreover, in signing the decree on Pope’s amnesty, Putin will forego whatever chance there exists of exchanging him for Aldrich Ames, sentenced to life in the United States for spying for Russia.
All these political and humanitarian considerations have pushed into background Pope’s major interest and objective in Russia, the latest Russian underwater torpedo: the Shkval. To quote German newspaper “Frankfurter Allegmaine Zeitung”: “Solving the mystery of the only torpedo in the world capable of blowing up ships and submarines from a depth of 400 meters and a distance of 12 kilometers should become the foremost task of all NATO countries.”