BELARUSSIAN PRESIDENT’S SUDDEN DEPARTURE SPARKS RUMORS

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BELARUSSIAN PRESIDENT’S SUDDEN DEPARTURE SPARKS RUMORS

Izvestia, January 25, 2001, p. 2

Lukashenko’s press secretary Nikolai Borisevich told us that Lukashenko decided to return to Minsk early because program of the visit had been completed. “Besides, President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan made a stopover in Minsk en route to Davos. Before the visit of the Belarussian delegation to Moscow, Mr. Akayev’s associates contacted us and asked for a meeting between our presidents. Consent was granted. As for the Belarussian president’s planned press conference, it will take place later, in Minsk,” Borisevich explained.

Nothing in Lukashenko’s behavior Tuesday morning indicated that he planned to leave for Minsk that evening.

One of the official theories suggests that Lukashenko was hoping for a meeting with Vladimir Putin, to discuss Pavel Borodin’s arrest in the United States. But the meeting never took place – so Lukashenko took offence and left Russia. Unofficial sources also say that after Lukashenko’s visit to Russia a week ago, when he attended the opening of a Belarussian culture festival, his administration in Minsk received a telephone call from the Russian presidential administration. In the conversation that followed, Minsk was asked to prepare such visits more thoroughly, in advance; and to try to leave ice hockey games out of the schedule. It seems that the Kremlin did not know then that another visit was imminent.

Moscow might have been annoyed by Lukashenko’s return exactly a week later. Only this attitude could explain the fact that Lukashenko was greeted by minor functionaries at the airport.

THE DUMA REJECTS SHOIGU

Izvestia, January 25, 2001, p. 2

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov was expected to present this report, but he chose to send Shoigu in his stead. The Duma put the matter to the vote, and 377 deputies voted for turning Shoigu down and inviting Kasianov again. Five deputies abstained.

Meanwhile, Kasianov’s decision to send Shoigu to the Duma appears quite reasonable. Shoigu is head of the inter-departmental commission on the prevention of emergencies.

We have learned the contents of the report Shoigu intended to deliver. He planned to talk about the concept of preventing emergencies, about the Emergency Ministry’s strategy in this area, and about the condition of the Cabinet’s reserve funds. Shoigu was to talk about establishing cooperation with other ministries and departments as well (defense, transport, finance, and so on).

The increasing scale and severity of disasters in Russia is ascribed, to some extent, to sociopolitical problems – economic development, demographic problems, and immigration. Hence the specific emergencies. For example, forecasts for 2001 indicate more frequent emergencies at drinking water pipelines and similar infrastructure. Man-made disasters could be particularly frequent in February – explosions and fires in apartment buildings, industrial sites, and pipelines. Up to 50 emergencies a month are feared, a 10% rise against last year.

THE LATEST FIGHTING IN GUDERMES, CHECHNYA

Izvestia, January 25, 2001, p. 2

Chernetsky claims that a special operation which followed the fighting in Gudermes resulted in the detention of one guerrilla. The captive said that the skirmish had been planned to coincide with the PACE session, where the voting rights of the Russian delegation might be restored. Something does not add up here. The PACE delegation led by Lord Judd had already left Chechnya, and was in Strasbourg. Who was the intended audience?

There is another theory, from Nikolai Britvin, an aide to the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district. He believes that the fighting at the Gudermes hospital was between the federal troops and Chechen police guarding the hospital. This assumption is supported by an announcement of the municipal Internal Affairs Department to the effect that police officer Doveltukayev suddenly opened fire on the territory of the hospital.

When we approached him for comments, Britvin denied assumptions about a skirmish between federal troops and the Chechen police. He says that “the theory of cruelty in the barracks is more plausible.” Law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident. The Chechen prosecutor’s office also denies the theory that Russian federal troops and Chechen police fought each other.

FIRST APPOINTMENT TO CHECHNYA’S CABINET

Izvestia, January 25, 2001, p. 3

Khamzat Idrisov has become senior deputy prime minister in the Cabinet of Chechnya, headed by Stanislav Iliasov. The decree was signed by Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Akhmed Kadyrov. Before the appointment, Idrisov was Kadyrov’s assistant. He will now be in charge of construction issues in the Chechen Cabinet.

Kadyrov believes that the Cabinet will be fully formed by mid-February.

PUTIN’S RATING REMAINS HIGH

Izvestia, January 25, 2001, p. 4

Vladimir Putin’s approval rating remains high. The Interfax news agency reports that 76% of respondents approve of his performance as president, against 68% last month. Meanwhile, 18% of respondents disapprove of his performance, against 23% in December. Putin’s rating nowadays is the highest ever, according to a survey done by the National Public Opinion Research Center on January 22.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov’s rating crept up as well – 47% of respondents support the prime minister, against 43% last month. For the Cabinet on the whole, these figures are 43% and 38% respectively; for the Duma they are 27% and 22%; and for the Federation Council 30% and 24%.

THIRD ATTEMPT ALLOWED

Izvestia, January 25, 2001, p. 4

Yesterday the Duma adopted in the second reading amendments to the law on general principles of organization for regional governments. The amendments make it possible for certain regional leaders to run for a third term in office.

Two hundred and forty-two lawmakers voted in favor.

Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Duma Committee on Regional Policy said, “What the Duma has done is allow many regional leaders to run for a third, or even a fourth, term in office… After eight or ten years in office, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and other leaders could still run for reelection.”

FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE MOVES INTO CHECHNYA

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 25, 2001, p. 1

Rear Admiral Herman Ugryumov, deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), will head the operational headquarters for withdrawal of troops from Chechnya and the transfer of the operation to counter-intelligence. Ugryumov is head of the FSB Counter-Terrorist Center.

EXPANDED MEETING OF THE JUSTICE MINISTRY BOARD

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 25, 2001, p. 1

The Board of the Justice Ministry has held an expanded meeting. Justice Minister Yuri Chaika addressed the Board, saying that there are currently 56 parties, 150 political associations, and over 153,000 public organizations in Russia.

RESTORING THE COURT SYSTEM IN CHECHNYA

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 25, 2001, p. 2

Question: During their previous trips to Chechnya, Lord Judd and other officials of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe always regarded the absence of courts in Chechnya as a serious violation of civil rights. The system of courts has been restored now. What impression did this make on the visitors?

Alexander Gusev: I think Lord Judd was impressed when he saw working courts in Chechnya this time.

Question: Favorably impressed?

Gusev: Sure. There are now ten district courts, and the Supreme Court in Chechnya. They are located in the Nadterechny, Naur, Shali, and Gudermes districts. Twenty-two judges, a third of them women. Lord Judd was particularly amazed to discover that all judges are ethnic Chechens.

Question: And who is the chief justice of Chechnya’s Supreme Court?

Gusev: Ziyavdi Saidovich Zaurbekov, former deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court. He is a professional.

Question: Was membership of any particular clan (teip) taken into consideration in the appointment of judges?

Gusev: No. Judges should make decisions regardless of these considerations.

MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO SLOW DOWN

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, January 25, 2001, p. 1

Putin announced at a joint press conference that Russia had at least three reasons to desire a Middle East settlement. Firstly, “we are concerned about migrants from the Soviet Union and Russia who have found themselves at the epicenter of the conflict.” Secondly, “the region is fairly close to Russian borders”; and thirdly, “if the forces favoring the conflict and the war grow stronger, and the forces of peace weaker, radicalization of forces with influence in some Russian regions will grow.”

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