NAVAL AUDIT ENDS IN A SCANDAL

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NAVAL AUDIT ENDS IN A SCANDAL

Izvestia, August 2, 2001, p. 2

It is no coincidence that the Military Prosecutor General’s Office became interested in the economic activities of military garrisons. Everything started with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov himself, who announced at his recent meeting with the Black Sea Fleet command that it was time to put an end to theft and embezzlement: the Defense Ministry would tighten control over the use of financial and material resources.

The military was permitted to engage in business activities from the start of Gorbachev’s perestroika. The Armed Forces were notoriously underfunded, but this permission resulted in a number of scandals and public trials of senior officers. Admiral Igor Khmelnov, Chief-of-Staff of the Russian Navy, and Konstantin Kobets, chief of the Senior Military Inspectorate, were convicted but amnestied. Over the last several years, the Defense Ministry has launched 27 criminal proceedings against senior officers.

Representatives of the Military Prosecutor General’s Office don’t doubt that most senior officers of the Leningrad Naval Base will also be let off the hook. Many officers there have state awards, have served in hot-spots, or have other merits they can draw on in order to be granted amnesty.

CHECHEN REFUGEES WILL BE GIVEN MONEY AND FOOD

Izvestia, August 2, 2001, p. 3

The RIA-Novosti news agency quotes Minister for Chechnya Vladimir Yelagin as saying that the process of returning Chechen “forced resettlers” from Ingushetia will be revived very shortly. The minister says that within the next two months over 15,000 families will return from the tent camps in Ingushetia to their homes in Chechnya, located in areas where hostilities were not too severe. Municipal and district administrations of Chechnya will pay benefits to all adults until they find steady jobs. Pensions and welfare payments will be available only at their places of permanent residence. According to Yelagin, each family can thus rely on receiving 1,500 rubles or more per month.

Humanitarian organizations will provide enough food to last former resettlers three months.

HUNGARY IS ABOUT TO ABANDON ITS RUSSIAN FIGHTERS

Izvestia, August 2, 2001, p. 3

Two delegations, from the United States and Sweden, visited Budapest last week. It seems that the Americans outmaneuvered the Swedes as lobbyists. Hungarian authorities appear to be in favor of leasing F-16s.

Hungary prefers not to mention the MIG-29s at all. In their current condition, the aircraft don’t meet NATO requirements.

Germany inherited 24 MIG-29s, and opted to upgrade them. The fighters were equipped with three fuel tanks instead of the original one, and with new communications and weapons systems. Together with their Russian partners, the Germans offered to upgrade the Hungarian MIGs – but Budapest found the price too high.

Actually, the quality of the Russian MIG-29 has nothing to do with Budapest’s decision. The matter really concerns the overall preferences of the Hungarian leadership in general, and Orban in particular. Orban is known as a nationalist, even in Hungary. His statements on Hungarian diasporas abroad have already cost Budapest its warm relations with Romania, Slovakia, and Yugoslavia. Neither is Orban above playing the “Russian card” – a safe move in Hungary, which dislikes its former Elder Brother.

ANOTHER RED HERRING IN THE AMERICAN MEDIA

Izvestia, August 2, 2001, p. 4

According to the article, the SS-25 was modified in response to Washington’s intention to quit the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The intelligence report cited by Gertz specifies that the tested missile was substantially different from traditional solid-fuel missiles. US intelligence believes that the SS-25 engine used oxygen from the air as fuel (this technology reduces the weight of the missile considerably). With such technology, the missile can fly at an altitude of about 30 kilometers, and a velocity of almost Mach 5 (i.e. five times the speed of sound). The range of a SS-25 is approximately 11,500 kilometers.

The Interfax news agency quotes reliable sources as denying the allegation. Sources say there have been no such tests, and there are no such technical projects. The Russian military and designers have learned the lesson of not responding to all the red herrings in the Western media. This is just an ordinary provocation, aimed at forcing the opponent to provide explanations – and inadvertently revealing the true state of affairs.

The subject of a strategic space bomber, capable of firing high-precision weapons systems against ground targets from an altitude of 60 kilometers, is currently fashionable in the United States. The Pentagon believes its velocity, 12.5 times that of strategic aviation bombers, would be the major advantage. The project has encountered serious technical difficulties, and its cost has been spiralling out of control. The project is on the verge of being shut down. So its designers are screaming about the terrifying new Russian SS-25 – which is their last line of defense against the shutdown.

Such articles are ignored in Russia. A Russian ICBM designer asks: Why design a manned space bomber when a missile with multiple warheads can accomplish the same task more easily? It would be easier, cheaper, and more reliable. In short, the arms race is on. Fortunately for the Russian budget, it is not a bona fide arms race – yet.

FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE CONVENES A CLASSIFIED MEETING

Izvestia, August 2, 2001, p. 4

The Federal Security Service (FSB) held a meeting of senior regional officers in Zheleznogorsk, near Krasnoyarsk, on Wednesday. The meeting was dedicated to preventing theft of precious metals and gems. According to RIA-Novosti, the meeting was also attended by representatives of the Russian Gokhran, special inspectorates, the Alros diamond company, and officials of the Ukrainian Security Service.

OPINION POLL RESULTS INDICATE…

Izvestia, August 2, 2001, p. 4

First and foremost, the news conference didn’t impress respondents too much, despite all the publicity. Moreover, 56% of respondents didn’t even know anything about the news conference. Only 8% admitted to having watched it from beginning to end; even though 72% of respondents still approve of the president and his performance, and 42% have confidence in him as a politician (the second most trusted politician, Gennadi Zyuganov, is far behind Putin – at 16%). It’s the usual story: “I don’t know about it, I didn’t hear it, but I support it wholeheartedly.”

The people’s eternal dream of low prices and a decent life is losing popularity. In the last six months, the number of respondents who are confident that the government should concentrate its efforts on reducing prices has fallen from 47% to 41%. In May, 36% of respondents thought that the Cabinet was about to make some progress on the economy. This time, such optimists number only 27%. At the same time, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov’s personal approval rating is 11% higher than that of the Cabinet as a whole (49% against 38%).

As for China, 46% of respondents believe it will become Russia’s friend, or at least an ally, in the new century. At the same time, 56% are apprehensive of China’s activities in the Russian Far East. How is it possible to be friends and allies, yet distrust someone at the same time?

A FEW FIGURES

Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 2, 2001, p. 1

Everyone knows how poor Russia is – or rather, how poor Russians are. Russia is ranked 71st in the world on living standards. The average monthly wage is only around $70.

In the meantime, the potential capacities for growth in the Russian economy and prosperity for Russian workers are colossal. Unfortunately, they are not being used.

There is a 14-fold income gap between the richest and poorest in Russia. At first sight, the explanation is simple – low wages which are tied to the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage wouldn’t have a positive impact on the average wage, but all kinds of fines (based on the minimum monthly wage) would only become heavier.

There is a solution. It is called the minimum hourly wage. In the United States, all employers – private or otherwise – can pay employees no less than $7.50 an hour. Alexander Pochinok proposed something like that, but the recommendation was ignored. Why? The government and monopolies don’t want it. They still want Russians to work harder, and get less for their labor.

INVESTIGATION COMPLETED

Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 2, 2001, p. 3

The Military Prosecutor General’s Office has completed its investigation into the activities of General Georgy Oleinik, former chief of the Main Directorate of the Military Budget and Finances at the Defense Ministry. He is charged under Article 286, Part 3 of the Criminal Code. Oleinik’s activities cost the defense budget $450 million. The general faces a prison sentence of up to ten years.

Actually, this is not the only financial scandal in the Defense Ministry, Sources in the Military Prosecutor General’s Office say it is investigating the activities of eight more senior officers. Major General Zolotopupov (unit commander in the Strategic Missile Forces) and Major General Isopov (Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Air Force) await trial in the near future…

But this doesn’t mean that none of these senior officers will be amnestied. Colonel General Anton Terentiev, former Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, was amnestied recently. In 2001, seven criminal charges against senior officers (nine in all) were dropped for various reasons. In 2000, two convicted generals were amnestied…

THE AIRBORNE TROOPS WILL RETAIN THEIR INDEPENDENT STATUS

Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 2, 2001, p. 3

According to our sources, almost all of the Airborne Troops will become permanent combat readiness units. This concerns four formations and nine regiments. For the time being, only one division and two regiments meet the requirements.

In the meantime, the Airborne Troops command is concerned about the shortage of junior officers, especially platoon commanders. Shortage of funds necessary for combat training is another headache. It is because of these shortages that the number of company tactical exercises has fallen.

The Defense Ministry is promising to improve funding.

TERRORIST IDENTIFIED

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, August 2, 2001, pp. 1-2

Yesterday the authorities identified the terrorist who hijacked a bus and took the passengers hostage in Nevinnomyssk. He was Sultan-Said Ediyev, a resident of Chechnya, according to Stavropol Prosecutor Robert Adelkhanjan. The body was identified by Ediyev’s brother and two uncles. By the way, Ediyev’s brother is currently in prison. He was convicted over an attempt to hijack a plane in Mineralnye Vody in 1994.

Ediyev’s body will be soon handed over to his relatives.

Vladimir Kravchenko, Chief of the Caucasus Directorate of the Prosecutor General’s Office: “We know for a fact that Ediyev acted alone. He didn’t have any accomplices.”

All the passengers returned to their homes on Wednesday. Some of them were slightly injured in the rescue operation.

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