DUMA DEBATES THE LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES

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DUMA DEBATES THE LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES

Izvestia, February 8, 2001, p. 2

Debate on the bill in its first reading was closely watched by all players in the political process. There are 190 socio-political organizations in Russia, and 57 of them are parties. If the presidential version of the bill is passed, only a dozen political parties will remain.

Central Election Commission Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov was the first to be given the floor. Veshnyakov promoted the presidential draft. “We have prepared a text which is as much in line with existing socio-political conditions as possible,” he said. Veshnyakov explained the origins of some clauses in the bill which have irritated lawmakers so much. The clause on minimum membership numbers for parties was taken from similar laws in Mexico and Portugal. The Duma didn’t seem to care. Most deputies were discussing their own problems with their neighbors. Speaker Gennadi Zyuganov was even forced to call the session to order.

Zorkaltsev spoke after Veshnyakov. He moved that the lower house of parliament should pass the bill in its first reading.

The authors of the alternative drafts spoke next. Oleg Shein of the Russian Regions faction emphasized that his version of the bill paid special attention to the development of regional and inter-regional parties. Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent member, promoted his own version – which advocates less state control over political parties. Sergei Yushenkov of the Union of Right Forces condemned the bill proposed by the Central Election Commission. “If the law is passed in this form, we can forget about an opposition arising in Russia,” he said. His own bill includes virtually no clauses on state control over party-building or the platforms of political parties.

BEREZOVSKY IS OUT TO BUY NTV

Izvestia, February 8, 2001, p. 4

Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky says he intends to start negotiations with a Western bank with the option of buying out the NTV network’s $262 million debt, the ITAR-TASS news agency reports. Berezovsky says in his open letter to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs that he has decided to “heed the appeal from Yelena Bonner, the Russian Union of Journalists, and the Glasnost Foundation concerning raising funds to support NTV.” Moreover, Berezovsky is offering the network “a $50 million loan” immediately.

The letter states: “Acting through my agents, I am starting negotiations with Credit Suisse First Boston to buy out Media-Most’s debt to it. This way, I hope to have the financial and legal pressure of the state lifted from Media-Most, to eliminate all motives apart from the financial in the state’s battle against NTV.”

NAZDRATENKO OFFERED A POST IN MOSCOW?

Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 8, 2001, p. 2

Political analysts and observers had a field day trying to guess exactly what job had been offered. Various theories were offered – from Goskomrybolovstvo (the State Fishing Committee) to the Foreign Ministry.

But according to our information, Nazdratenko shouldn’t get his hopes up. In July 1998 his press secretary announced on Primorye television that then-prime minister Sergei Kirienko had pleaded with Nazdratenko to become deputy prime minister – but, as a true patriot, Nazdratenko had turned the offer down. Sources close to Kirienko told the story differently. Nazdratenko had approached the prime minister and then-director of the presidential administration Valentin Yumashev, trying to persuade everyone that he was ready to “work for the nation” in Moscow. Kirienko and Yumashev promised Nazdratenko to think about it. That was all.

History is repeating itself. According to our information, Nazdratenko either invented the president’s proposal to move to Moscow for a job, or misunderstood the president. Allegedly, Nazdratenko asked Putin’s permission to come to Moscow; and Putin said that he did not have any objections. It was probably this part of their conversation that Nazdratenko mistook for a job offer.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT PULLING OUT FROM CHECHNYA

Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 8, 2001, p. 2

When the planned partial withdrawal is completed, the united federal group in Chechnya will be 50,000 strong, including the units stationed there on a permanent basis. This figure includes troops from the Defense Ministry, Interior Troops, and the police.

The General Staff must be naive to think that 50,000 men will suffice to maintain law and order in the restive region.

As the official data states, the united federal group now has about 80,000 men. Half of them are Defense Ministry troops.

FIRST CONTRACTS SIGNED

Izvestia, February 8, 2001, p. 2

Rosvooruzhenie spokesman Aleksei Kudryashov: “The Air India 2001 international exhibition is taking place in India, not far from the city of Bangalor. Organization of such exhibitions is a tradition, and Russia has demonstrated its best achievements there.”

The contract for the first five KA-31s was signed two years ago. Five more helicopters are to be delivered to New Delhi in line with the recent deal.

NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE: AN UPDATE

Trud-7, February 8, 2001, p. 3

The major prerequisite for Russia’s “asymmetric” response is clear: the response should be relatively cheap. Measures will probably be taken on the ground, not in space. First and foremost, Russia can increase the number of warheads on its ICBMs, to guarantee that the American missile umbrella will be pierced. When the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed in 1972, the United States already knew that Star Wars programs could not be effective – precisely because it would be impossible to guarantee defense against the Soviet Union’s 15-20,000 nuclear warheads. Now that Russia has considerably fewer warheads, Washington is tempted to pursue a unilateral strategic advantage.

We cannot build new missiles quickly. Money is the problem. The Defense Ministry therefore decided to replace single warheads on the Topol-Ms with three MIRVs. START II does not prohibit it. Tests will not take long, and the Topol-Ms with three MIRVs each will have a short acceleration period (only two minutes). The older SS-18s, the Pentagon’s old headache, require five minutes. It follows therefore that the Topols have a better chance of piercing the hypothetical US missile defense system.

The Russian military also thinks that we can also deploy a new strategic system on nuclear submarines of the Yuri Dolgoruky class.

Russian strategic aviation (the famous TU-95 MSs and TU-160) is about to receive a new long-range guided missile. It is hardly a coincidence that Russian TU-95 MSs are flying over the Arctic again. This is the shortest route from their bases to cities in the United States.

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