PUTIN MEETS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF MOLDOVA

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PUTIN MEETS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF MOLDOVA

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 5, 2001, p. 4

On September 4, President Vladimir Putin met with President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova. According to most observers, a deterioration in relations between Kishinev and Tiraspol was the major reason for the Moldovan president’s visit to Moscow. After securing a meeting with the Russian president, Voronin presented Kishinev’s “calculations” about the whole range of bilateral relations. The main topics at the Moscow meeting were a fundamental agreement on friendship and cooperation, which Moscow and Kishinev have been trying to sign for a number of years, as well as energy supply problems. It is noteworthy that Voronin was elected as president of Moldova six months ago, but since then has met with Putin four times already (three times in Moscow and once in Sochi).

PEOPLE’S DEPUTY GROUP WANTS CHANGES IN THE DUMA

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 5, 2001, p. 2

Leader of the People’s Deputy group Gennady Raikov has stated that in the near future he intends to raise the issue of structural reforms in the Duma at a meeting of the coordination council of the Duma’s centrist coalition: the Unity and Fatherland – All Russia factions, and the People’s Deputy and Russian Regions groups. According to Raikov, he intends to convince members of the centrist coalition of the need to start implementing the plan for restructuring the Duma as soon as September or October. According to the plan, the number of Duma committees would be reduced from 28 to 12, and the principle of electing committee chairs would be approved. By the way, this month Vladimir Pakhtin, leader of the Unity faction, replaces Oleg Morozov, leader of the Russian Regions group, as chairman of the centrist coalition’s coordination council.

UNDERMINING A RAILWAY

Trud, September 5, 2001, p. 1

There was a huge explosion in the early hours of September 4 on the outskirts of the capital of Dagestan. Police Lieutenant-Colonel Abdulla Musaev, head of the press service of the Dagestani Interior Troops, comments on the details of the incident:

“The explosive device has disabled a sector of the North Caucasus railway, running along Ordzhonikidze Street, and along the coast of the Caspian Sea. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries, since neither passengers nor freight trains were passing by at the time.

“As specialists have established, two explosive devices with a combined force of around eight to 10 kilograms of TNT were triggered on the railway line.

Agents working at the scene assume that a freight train which passed not long before the explosion, could be the object for sabotage. It is being now elucidated whether this was a civil or a military train. According to another version, the explosion could have been prepared to harm passengers of the No. 55 train on the Baku-Moscow route, the time of its arrival in Makhachkala being dependent on the speed of passing through the customs control on the Russian-Azerbaijani border. In a word, the train may either arrive ahead of the schedule or be late, as happened on September 4. This time the train was two hours late, what could frustrate the criminals’ plot. It is not ruled out that the explosion was committed by the Chechen bandits or their hirelings”.

PRIVATIZATION OF OUTER SPACE

Izvestia, September 5, 2001, p. 1

On September 4, MirCorp president Jeffrey Manber announced an agreement on construction of the world’s first private space station. The Russian Aerospace Agency, the Energia Corporation, and MirCorp signed the agreement. The space station is expected to start operation in 2004.

Russian Aerospace spokesman Mikhail Sinelshchikov said: “Manber made his announcement. Our agency, as well as Energia, were surprised by the directness of his statement. There has only been an agreement to develop the idea of a mini-station. Marketing, technical solutions, investor response – all this is unknown. Manber’s statement is entirely his own viewpoint.”

The president of MirCorp mentioned the estimated cost of the project – $100 million. Much less money was found during the prolonged effort to save Mir. The Mir space station was in working condition, and it was simpler to tempt investors to allocate the money.

Energia owns a 60% stake in MirCorp. Large parcels of shares also belong to US companies Gold&Appel and Kathuria Holdings.

UNDERWATER CUTTING

Izvestia, September 5, 2001, p. 2

Test cuts in the hull of the Kursk nuclear submarine, using a cable saw, were made on September 4 at the bottom of the Barents Sea. The scheduled work on cutting off the first compartment of the sunken submarine started after the test cuts were viewed via video cameras.

The salvage operation will be completed between September 25 and October 2.

A press center for the Kursk salvage operation opened in Murmansk yesterday. The first video communication session of Vice-Admiral Mikhail Motsak, chief of the headquarters of the special expedition, was timed to coincide with the opening. At 3:20 p.m. Moscow time, four test cuts were made in the submarine’s hull, while the scheduled work of detaching the front part of the nuclear submarine was started at 5.20 p.m., Motsak said. Some time later special video equipment which makes it possible to monitor the quality of cutting was delivered to the sea floor. A cut about one meter long had been made in the submarine’s light outer hull by the time we went to print.

As Motsak said, no ammunition was observed along the cutting line. However, he confirmed that 22 combat missiles, stored in containers which were damaged in the explosion, are on board the submarine. According to Motsak, 20 torpedoes, which were on Kursk, are unlikely to have remained intact in the explosion, which happened in the first compartment. He said the submarine would most probably be delivered to the docks near the Roslyakovo settlement between September 25 and October 2.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Ilia Klebanov said in Novosibirsk that the entire operation would certainly be completed by September 25.

EVERYBODY GO TO SLEEP!

Moskovskii Komsomolets, September 5, 2001, p. 1

The State Auditing Commission has hastened to refute rumors that it plans to ban circulation of foreign currency in Russia.

No draft presidential decree on banning the circulation of foreign currency in Russia has ever been prepared.

However, such rumors may suffice to inflame the imaginations of nervous citizens. Supposedly, there’s no smoke without fire – and dollars must be handled with care. That was precisely the aim of those who encourage such rumors (the government or people close to the government in our case). That’s what they needed: to beat down the autumn demand for hard currency and slow the rate of inflation. The president could go ahead with staff changes if the inflation rate rises, whereas rumors are harmless: now they exist, and now they vanish. No penalty is attached to rumors.

A SURPRISE SPEAKER?

Moskovskii Komsomolets, September 5, 2001, p. 2

After Yevgeny Primakov resigned as leader of the Fatherland – All Russia faction, rumors resurfaced that he may become head of the Federation Council.

Yegor Stroev’s tenure as speaker is doubtful now: this autumn he will run for re-election as governor, and, according to the new legislation, governors cannot be members of the Federation Council. They must appoint representatives. According to our sources, the Kremlin has been negotiating with Stroev on the possibility for him to combine gubernatorial and senatorial functions. However, this may require amendments to Federation Council regulations (the pro-Kremlin Federation group has been working on this). Judging by Stroev’s statements yesterday, his mood predicts that he is more likely to prefer a quieter position as governor. “The Federation Council in its current form, with appointed delegates rather than publicly elected senators – and the State Council, which is deprived of any legitimacy – paralyze the work of the entire system of government,” said Stroev to journalists.

According to Stroev, it is “still too early” to speak of Primakov becoming speaker of the Federation Council. But Stroev has not denied the possibility. However, other regional leaders were more categorical. For instance, Samara governor Konstantin Titov said: “Primakov’s appointment as speaker would be a real windfall for the upper house.”

Thus, it now seems the fate of the main position in the upper house depends on the intentions of the two “fossils” – Stroev and Primakov. The latter has been keeping his plans secret so far.

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