PUTIN IS VULNERABLE TOO
Argumenty i Fakty, August 1, 2001, EV
According to our sources, President Putin has 44 personal bodyguards, while the Federal Guard Service (FGS) has a total of around 10,000 personnel. These security measures are not excessive. For example, during the CIS leaders summit at Yalta in summer 2000, the Ukrainian Security Service reported that certain terrorists – presumably Chechens – were preparing an assassination attempt on one of the summit participants. It wasn’t hard to guess who this might be. The Chechen guerrillas sentenced Putin to death back in October 1999, and later announced a bounty of $2.5 million.
POLL RESULTS: FOREIGN POLICY
Profil, July 30, 2001, p. 2 EV
The National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) has done a poll to find out what people think Russia’s foreign policy priorities should be over the next ten to 15 years. The highest proportion of respondents (31%) consider that Russia should aim to regain the superpower status once held by the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, 16% of respondents consider that Russia ought to give up its ambitions abroad and focus on dealing with its domestic problems; and 6% think the main short-term goal should be leadership within the CIS.
POLL RESULTS: MEDIA CENSORSHIP
Novaya Gazeta, July 30, 2001, EV
The possibility of media censorship being introduced is a concern for a significant number of Russian citizens. According to polls done in May, almost half of respondents (48%) are prepared to approve some sort of preliminary checking or censorship of media items, in order to guarantee their objectivity. Opinions on this are strongly correlated with age: half of young people would not approve of such censorship, but only 31% of the elderly. The correlation with education levels is similar: the more education people have, the less likely they are to approve of censorship.
But a significant majority would be prepared to approve censorship aimed at safeguarding public morals: three-quarters of respondents are in favor, regardless of their age or education levels. Over 60% of respondents across all categories see a need for censorship to ensure “objectivity of information and a balanced evaluation of current events”. However, there is not much support for introducing any kind of political censorship. Only a quarter of respondents consider it acceptable to use censorship for protecting senior public officials from criticism (57% disapprove). Slightly more respondents (30%) consider it acceptable to censor media reports “which run counter to state ideology and the nation’s political course” (50% disapprove).
FEDERAL TAX POLICE SERVICE IMPROVES RESULTS
Kommersant-Vlast, July 31, 2001, p. 20 EV
The Federal Tax Police Service main directorate for the Central federal district presented its results for the first half of the year on July 25. The results were impressive: 15 billion rubles was retrieved from tax evaders, or 440% more than for the same period of last year.
The highest levels of tax evasion were recorded in industry (30.9%), wholesale and retail trade (29.4%), services (12.5%), and construction (12%). Mediator services accounted for only 2.7% of tax evasion cases.
ELENA BONNER CONDEMNS THE WEST
Inostranets, July 31, 2001, p. 7
Human rights activist Elena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, has criticized the world community’s stance on the war in Chechnya.
Speaking in Washington last week to a group of members of Congress and the National Democracy Foundation, Bonner said the West is using double standards, “ignoring the genocide directed against the people of Chechnya, while condemning similar events in other regions of Europe”. According to Bonner, it’s impossible to discuss the human rights situation in Russia until the conflict in Chechnya is resolved by humanitarian means. She compared the response to events in Chechnya with the world’s initial response to the Holocaust, when “many people simply couldn’t believe that the Nazis had killed millions of Jews”.
RUSSIANS PREFER MONEY-LAUNDERING IN MONTENEGRO
Inostranets, July 31, 2001, p. 8
The latest news is that 12-18% of all transactions between Russian banks and banks abroad involve Montenegro. According to the Economic Analysis Center, this “offshore country” is currently the most popular among Russian bankers.
However, Yugoslavian businesspeople prefer to get their money-laundering done further from home – namely, Cyprus. According to the Yugoslavian Central Bank, most of the $4 billion which has vanished from that country was transferred to Cyprus.
According to some Finnish analysts who are studying financial dealings between Russians and Yugoslavians, Cyprus also has some information about Russian money-laundering, but no charges have yet been laid on the basis of this. It seems that Cyprus, which is among the top candidates for European Union membership, doesn’t want to spoil its reputation.
INTERNET USE: MODESTY BECOMES RUSSIANS
Kommersant-Vlast, July 31, 2001, p. 58 EV
Russian Internet users may congratulate themselves on being ahead of their Western counterparts. Last week, MASMI Research released the results of a study which clearly shows how our Internet users are better.
Firstly, 68% of Russian Internet users have a college degree, whereas the figure in Europe is only 48%.
Secondly, Russian Internet users usually go online in order to find specific information; but for European users, the most frequent purpose for going online is to check their email. It would be nice to think this indicates a higher level of curiosity among Russians.
Thirdly, Russian Internet users spend more time online than European users, on average: 49 minutes versus 41 minutes.
And finally, Russian Internet users concentrate on their Internet activity more. Over half of them do nothing else when they’re online, whereas their European counterparts usually listen to music, talk on the phone, or even watch TV.
What can we conclude from all this? MASMI Research draws the following conclusions: “The behavior and demographic structure of Russian Internet users are characteristic of countries where Internet use is at a fairly modest level.”
MOSCOW’S NEW POLICE CHIEF: THE CHALLENGES
Argumenty i Fakty, August 1, 2001, EV
At an expanded meeting of Moscow’s Main Directorate of Internal Affairs (MDIA) on July 27, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov introduced senior Moscow police officials to the new MDIA chief: Major-General Vladimir Pronin, formerly head of the Internal Affairs Directorate for Moscow’s south-east. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was consulted in advance on the new appointment, and made no objections to Pronin as a candidate.
Nevertheless, the interior minister told those assembled in no uncertain terms that their workload would increase in the near future: Muscovites have ceased to trust the police. Around half (!) of Muscovites who are victims of crime simply don’t turn to the law enforcement agencies for help. Why not? Because it’s become the “fashion” at police stations to let around a third of reported crimes go unregistered.
Gryzlov also noted unsatisfactory performance by police street patrols, as well as in the areas of white-collar crime and drug-related crime.
What’s more, ethnic criminal groups run protection rackets at virtually all of Moscow’s produce markets and bazaars.
At present, there are 21 organized crime groups operating in Moscow, and seven of these are ethnically-based.
Over the past six months, 51,718 crimes have been registered in Moscow. Of these, 86 were cases of murder or attempted murder (including the recent contract killing of Leonid Oblonsky, deputy prefect of Zelenograd, who wanted to unite several Zelenograd produce markets into one). There were 79 armed assaults, and 54 abductions. Moscow’s detectives have managed to solve less than a third of these crimes.