SOUTHERN DEFENSE

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SOUTHERN DEFENSE

Izvestia, February 21, 2001, p. 4

The 40th meeting of the Council of Commanders of Border Services (CCBS) of CIS countries began with two unexpected events. First, delegates from Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan did not attend the meeting. Second, central Baku was blocked by Nagorno-Karabakh veterans demanding pension increases.

Police quickly dispersed the protesters. Resolving CIS border problems proved more difficult. The CCBS is actually an effective organization.

Bolat Zakiev, Director of the Kazakhstan Border Service, said that Moldova’s delegates did not come to the meeting because of some “technical difficulties,” which seems to be true. As for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, this action seems to be a demonstration of these countries’ response to the new approach to defending the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border.

The theme of the meeting was combating international terrorism, political separatism, and organized crime. The Russian delegation came up with a proposal on collective responsibility for the defense of the south of the CIS. The Tajikistan-Afghanistan border is now defended by Russia and Tajikistan.

The CCBS notes that all CIS countries should invest more in guarding the CIS southern borders.

However, Uzbekistan has closed its border with Tajikistan, saying that many terrorists and Islamic extremists are entering Uzbekistan from Tajikistan. Turkmenistan, on the contrary, has signed a peace agreement with the Taliban. The fact that Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan ignored the meeting in Baku indicates that these countries have different methods of countering international terrorism.

Meanwhile, a CIS Counter-Terrorism Center has beet set up in Baku. Its aim is to counter international terrorism and drug trafficking. However, it is not clear yet how this center will be funded.

GAZPROM CONTINUES BUILDING PIPELINE TO EUROPE

Izvestia, February 21, 2001, p. 5

Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev has met with Deputy Prime Minister Janus Steinhoff of Poland. Vyakhirev and Steinhoff discussed the construction of the second branch of the Yamal-Western Europe gas pipeline.

These negotiations may be viewed as the end of the conflict between Gazprom and the Polish government. At the end of 2000, Poland publicly refused to support construction of a pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Western Europe has persuaded Poland to back down.

SPY CAUGHT IN SWEDEN

Tribuna, February 21, 2001, p. 1

Officers of the Swedish security police have detained a person who has been charged with spying for Russia. An investigation is underway.

It is worth noting that this is the first time in 22 years that a person suspected of espionage has been arrested in Sweden.

MIR SHOULD FALL BEAUTIFULLY

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 21, 2001, p. 1

The Mir space station will fall to earth between March 13 and March 17. It is now descending at a rate of almost one kilometer a day.

Mir is presently at a height of 276 kilometers above the Earth. According to preliminary calculations, it will reach the critical height on March 8.

RUSSIA PAYS $600 MILLION TO THE PARIS CLUB

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 21, 2001, p. 1

After the meeting of G-7 finance chiefs in Palermo, Russia has made the first payment for 2001 on its debts to the Paris Club. The installment totals $600 million.

This money is 40% of the interest on the debts Russia was to repay in 1996-99. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has reported that the debts payments were postponed as a result of inter-governmental negotiations.

Russia has to pay the full amount of interest by the end of February: $1.206 billion. Although this is only an intention so far, it is very likely that Russia will make all repayments due in February. On February 20, the prime minister consented to accept the Duma’s proposed amendments to the 2001 budget. Kasianov also said, “We hope that on February 22 the Duma will pass this bill in all three readings at once.”

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