THE TIMES SAYS RUSSIAN TROOPS ALREADY IN AFGHANISTAN

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THE TIMES SAYS RUSSIAN TROOPS ALREADY IN AFGHANISTAN

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 12, 2001, p. 3

The Times claimed yesterday that some Russian troops are already fighting with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

We contacted the Defense Ministry for comments on this sensational statement. Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Nikolai Deriabin categorically denied the report, saying that neither the 201st mobile artillery division, stationed in Tajikistan, nor any other Russian forces have crossed into Afghanistan, and there are no plans to do so.

Nikolai Deriabin said that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, addressing the Federation Council, stated very clearly and distinctly that nothing of the kind is happening, nor will it happen.

Ivanov also ruled out the possibility of sending Russian military advisers and instructors to help the Northern Alliance. We also managed to contact the headquarters of the 201st division in Dushanbe, who responded: “All regiments and detachments of our division are in their usual locations, no one has gone into Afghanistan, and we have no orders to do so.”

SCATTERED RUSSIANS

Tribuna, October 12, 2001, p. 1

The congress of ethnic Russians abroad opened in Moscow yesterday.

President Putin addressed the congress of ethnic Russians who live outside Russia’s borders. He said Russia must defend its compatriots, upholding the principle of equal rights with other citizens of countries where Russians have ended up due to various waves of immigration. Putin said Russia should defend these people “intelligently, persistently, and firmly”.

And those whom we can’t protect should be welcomed back to their historical Motherland. Putin said: “Russia has an interest in ethnic Russians returning to live here, based on economic and ethical reasons.” Over 600 delegates, representing ethnic Russian communities from 47 countries, gave the president a standing ovation.

DON’T PENSIONERS NEED GUARANTEES?

Trud, October 12, 2001, p. 2

Yesterday’s Cabinet meeting considered a bill on investing the superannuation component of the age pension. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov stressed that the government’s task is to ensure that the public is confident that superannuation funds will be secure and yield a good return. Kasianov said it will be essential to consider all aspects, both positive aspects and those which arouse concern.

Judging by the bill presented at the meeting, superannuation funds will be invested not only in government bonds, but also in the securities of Russian and foreign companies. Naturally enough, our citizens are concerned: how safe will their savings be? Government guarantees only apply to government bonds. It would appear that citizens will have to assume the risk in other circumstances. According to many economists, the government ought to extend its guarantees to all superannuation savings – at least in the initial phase.

However, yesterday the Cabinet approved a bill which contains no mention of full government guarantees. The bill will be finalized within two weeks, then submitted to the Duma.

JUDGEMENT DAY

Izvestia, October 12, 2001, p. 3

Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo arrived in Sochi yesterday morning, and immediately headed for the hanger where specialists are studying fragments of the Tu-154 airliner which crashed over the Black Sea last week.

According to Gleb Tutiev, spokesman for the disaster investigation commission, around 500 small holes have been discovered on the fragments. Experts believe them to be traces of shrapnel packed into the warhead of an S-200 missile.

Rushailo’s Ukrainian counterpart Yevgeni Marchuk also arrived in Sochi yesterday. He will probably be the first Ukrainian official to officially acknowledge Ukraine’s responsibility for the air disaster.

Meanwhile, various lawyers are already thinking abou the possibility of legal action against Ukraine, with the aim of obtaining compensation.

Sibir Airlines spokesman Mikhail Koshman said: “Once the commission officially finds that a missile brought down the airliner, we will immediately take legal action against Ukraine. It’s hard to say at this point how much will be demanded in damages, but it will probably be over $10 million.”

GELAEV MET WITH SHEVARDNADZE BEFORE GOING INTO ABKHAZIA

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 12, 2001, p. 3

The Chechen guerrillas planned to move through the Kodor gorge into Adler and capture the airfield there – a Budennovsk scenario. According to evidence from captured guerrillas, President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia was informed of these plans during a face-to-face meeting with guerrilla leader Ruslan Gelaev in September.

Ten Chechen mujahedin have been captured. They have revealed that the initial plan of their commander, Gelaev, was to attack the Russian peacekeepers. Then the guerrilla strike force was meant to move to Krasnaya Polyana, on to Adler or Sochi, capturing the airfield there and using it to demand another Khasavyurt agreement – that is, peace negotiations for the conflict in Chechnya. The captured guerrillas also said that the Georgian government had opened up a corridor for them out of the Pankisi gorge, and they were able to drive several hundred kilometers to the Kodor gorge.

Some confirmation of this information was received by Russian law enforcement agencies back in August. Police detained a wounded man in Pitsuind. His hands had been mangled by a bomb explosion. Incredibly enough, he survived; when he was able to speak, he related the entire story of an unsuccessful terrorist attack in which he had been involved.

The man’s name was Mamasakhlisi, a native of Abkhazia who enrolled at the University of Tbilisi in 1998. There he was recruited by the Georgian secret services. The student was supposed to take nine detonators and some plastic explosive and set up a number of bomb blasts in Pitsuind. When he arrived in that resort town, he prepared to plant the explosives in garbage containers along the beach. In his haste, he got confused and assembled the devices incorrectly. An explosion severed one of his hands and injured the other. The student passed out, and regained consciousness in police custody. Now he is giving evidence, and he is not concealing that the Georgian government was attempting to use these terrorist bombings to create friction between Abkhazia and Russia.

AGRARIANS DEMAND LAND REFERENDUM

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 12, 2001, p. 2

Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin says he will continue to push for a nationwide referendum on the use of land, despite “evident opposition to this from official circles”. Lapshin noted his regret that the Federation Council, which passed the Land Code this week, “failed to consider the reasons which many reasonable politicians have for insisting on a conciliation commission”. According to Lapshin, “all these events serve as further confirmation that a referendum on the use of land is necessary”.

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DIVIDED

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 12, 2001, p. 2

At a round-table conference yesterday, leaders of Russian human rights groups discussed the possibility of taking part in the Civil Forum, which is scheduled to take place in late November, at the initiative of the presidential administration. Despite a lengthy debate, the human rights activists failed to reach consensus.

Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev said: “By participating in a forum organized by the government, those NGOs whose reputations are already tarnished could find them tarnished still further.” But Kovalev also noted: “The government’s initial plan was to collect a controllable majority and marginalize all other human rights groups – but we have managed to disrupt that plan.”

However, representatives of some human rights groups remained determined not to compromise with the government under any circumstances.

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