SERGEI YASTRZHEMBSKY: WE WON’T PERMIT A SECOND KHASAVYURT
Krasnaya Zvezda, October 13, 2001, EV
Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky considers that former leader of Chechen separatists Aslan Maskhadov lost the right to speak on behalf of the Chechen people long ago. Commenting on Aslan Maskhadov’s ideas about negotiations with Moscow expressed in his recent interview with Radio Liberty, Yastrzhembsky asserted that the Chechen people have made their choice already, “but separatists do not with to accept this choice.” The presidential aide is convinced that Maskhadov and his crew are not in the position to impose their terms on Russia: “Maskhadov’s hope for help from international intermediaries and participation of a third side in the dialogue is ephemeral and ungrounded.”
Yastrzhembsky has stressed that nobody intends to discuss relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria with Maskhadov. “We won’t permit a second Khasavyurt,” Yastrzhembsky said. The presidential aide also repeated that the only possible subject for negotiations with Chechen separatists is laying down their arms and returning to peaceful life – except for those guilty of bloodshed.
PONTOONS BEING CHECKED
Krasnaya Zvezda, October 13, 2001, EV
The press service of the closed administrative-territorial entity of Severomorsk has reported that the initial absence of information about the reasons for rescheduling the transfer of the Kursk submarine to the PD-50 dock has seriously worried local residents. The situation has been clarified by Chief of the Press Service of the Northern Fleet First-Rank Captain Vladimir Navrotsky. According to him, currently the pontoons and the Gigant-4 barge are being inspected: it is important that they should correspond to design objectives. Besides, drainage pumps of the pontoons are checked and the speed of water fillup and drainage of the pontoons is being calculated.
Both pontoons are moored to the Gigant-4 barge. The research vessel Semyon Dezhnev controls the radiation background on the territory of the salvage operation. Sensors are also installed on the corpus of the submarine. Currently, the radiation background is normal.
A large brigade of investigators is waiting for the transference of the Kursk to the dock. They will enter the submarine right after its drainage. Probably the brigade will be headed by General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation Vladimir Ustinov. He is convinced that the cause of the catastrophe of the submarine should be thoroughly investigated. The criminal proceedings on the accident include tens of volumes. Ustinov is of the opinion that the prospects of the investigation depend on what will be found on board the submarine.
PEACEKEEPERS COCKING THEIR GUNS
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 13, 2001, p. 2
The local fighting in the Kodor gorge, where Ruslan Gelaev’s international gang is confronting the Abkhazian Army, have excessively exacerbated Russian-Georgian relations. Having openly accused Moscow of “protecting the Sukhumi regime,” the Georgian parliament practically unanimously made a decision on withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia.
The international anti-terror operation has apparently untied hands of the Georgian government that has long been eager to deal with the mutinous republic of Abkhazia. Having received a carte blanche in Washington, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze factually supported the intrusion of a gang of gunmen into the Kodor gorge. The plan elaborated by Tbilisi is as plain as can be: gunmen were to arrange a small Dagestan in Kodor and then Georgia was to introduce its troops there under the plea of “restoration of the constitutional order in the self-declared republic.”
Shevardnadze is ready to let NATO troops use former Russian military bases at any moment.
The general mobilization declared in Abkhazia and involvement of artillery and aviation in the operation does not leave terrorists any chance to continue their defense at the foot of the mountain Sugar Head. However, Abkhazia will hardly be able to fight at two fronts. One of them is on the Georgian-Abkhazian border, where regular units of the Georgian Army have been concentrated already.
Abkhazian President Vladislav Ardzinba has appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to take urgent measures to prevent a new large-scale war in the region. The Kremlin has not given any official response so far. However, Russia’s borders with Georgia are being rapidly fortified. Extra units of the Internal Troops and over 50 armored vehicles have been introduced to Karachaevo-Cherkessia. The control of entrance of automobiles into the republic has been enhanced. The command of the North Caucasus Department of the Federal Frontier Service has coordinated with the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry a plan of retaliatory actions in case of the gunmen’s breakthrough to the Russian Federation.
Russian peacekeepers are being gradually involved in the conflict in Abkhazia. A post of Russian peacekeepers was fired on Thursday near the village of Djvari. This post controls the only road linking Georgia with the Kodor gorge. On Friday morning Abkhazian servicemen were attacked in the Gal District in the zone of responsibility of the 205th and 211th Russian checkpoints.
According to Commander of the Peacekeeping Troops General Nikolai Sidorychev, Russian servicemen are ready to react to any provocations. All their detachments are on the alert.
GAZPROM SELLING ITS MEDIA
Vremya MN, October 13, 2001, p. 1
On October 12, the board of Gazprom decided to develop a plan fpr funding its branch TV and radio companies, newspapers, and magazines. This plan will also determine the order of selling or transference for management of those media that require a lot of expenses. In January 2002 this plan should be presented to the Gazprom board of directors.
It is not quite clear so far if Gazprom’s block of shares of NTV will be sold. However, Gazprom is most likely to sell these shares. Before the board meeting its Chairman Alexei Miller met with representatives of the collective of NTV and told them that the concern intended to sell all its media assets.
In November 2000, Gazprom and Media-Most signed an agreement stipulating the selling of a block of NTV shares consisting of 25% plus one share to an “internationally acknowledged investor or a portfolio investor.” However, this transaction was failed.
The price of the 65% of NTV shares belonging to Gazprom is difficult to calculate more or less precisely, since the ownership of 19% of shares included in Gazprom’s block is being considered by the court. But in any case, Gazprom could have at least $200 million for the blocking interest of NTV.
On October 12, General Director of Gazprom Media Alfred Koch wrote a resignation report. However, in the middle of the day he was summoned to the Kremlin, and after that he may well take his report back.
Along with NTV, Gazprom owns shares of some other branch enterprises of Media-Most, e.g. the close stock companies NTV-Plus, TNT-Teleset, Echo of Moscow, and the publishing house Sem Dnei. Besides, Gazprom possesses shares of the radio stations Sport-FM and RDV, the TV company AST-Prometei, and the newspaper “Tribuna.” Gazprom also owns some journals dealing with the gas industry: “Gazovaya Promyshlennost,” “Factor,” and “Gaz I Kapital.”
The dissolution of the old NTV caused the growth of rating of TV-6. NTV lost its individuality and its popularity. All experts agree that Alexei Miller was too late to sell the media business of the gas giant. This fact questions manager’s capabilities of the president’s protege and sheds light of some peculiarities of the president’s personnel policy.
Being a representative of the “market generation,” Alfred Koch has failed to put up with Alexei Miller, who was put to Gazprom to enhance the state’s control over the gas giant. Meanwhile, Miller has displayed only his inability to conduct an effective market policy so far.
KWASNIEWSKI GOES TO MOSCOW
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 13, 2001, EV
Next Monday, Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski will arrive in Moscow with a one-day working visit. He will attend the opening of the Days of Polish Science and hold talks with President Putin. “Owing to the two presidents’ efforts, Russo-Polish political relations are currently excellent,” Stanislaw Chosek, a former Polish Ambassador to Russia and now the Polish president’s advisor for international issues, told our correspondent. “Without Russia, European integration will be incomplete. Therefore, the European economic and political structures simply must accept Russia. The recent events, first of all the forming of the anti-terrorist coalition, serve as evidence that a second stage of political and military transformation has started in Europe.”
The impending visit of Moscow by President Kwasniewski and President Putin’s visit to Warsaw planned for next January will draw the bottom line under the period of improvement of Russo-Polish relations.
EVANS GOES TO MOSCOW
Vremya MN, October 13, 2001, p. 1
US Commerce Secretary Don Evans gave ITAR-TASS an exclusive interview for our paper. On the eve of his visit to Moscow as the head of a delegation of American business executives, scheduled for October 15 through 19, Mr. Evans noted that “the current Russian leadership is good and Russian economy is recovering”.
Question: Are you planning to meet with President Putin?
Don Evans: As far as I know, there will be such a meeting.
Question: Does this mean that your visit partially has to do with the preparation of the impending Shanghai and Washington presidential summits? What issues, in your opinion, merit being discussed at such a top level?
Don Evans: In July 2001, I told President Putin I would like to head a delegation to Moscow to consist of representatives of small and medium American businesses. We would like to give Russian executives the opportunity to start a dialog with their American counterparts, for the latter to explain to the Russians how to manage companies, increase their power, thus boosting the national economy. As for any specific issues, those might be our support to Russia’s possible joining the World Trade Organization and the high praise for Russia’s achievements such as the fiscal reform, legislative protection of property rights, and the tough financial and budgetary discipline recently enforced.
Currently, we are seeing a global dialog over the steel trade. We will certainly discuss this topic and also issues of power engineering. In particular, agreements on production division are crucial for American executives and investors.
Question: Both Moscow and Washington reiterate that Russia should join the WTO, in general terms. The Russian side, however, asserts it faces stricter membership terms than any other country has. For instance, Moscow must bring all its legislation into compliance with WTO norms even prior to joining the organization. Is this a sort of misunderstanding?
Don Evans: I can only confirm that there are the same rules for all countries, and the WTO will neither toughen nor loosen them with regard to Russia.
Question: You have repeatedly stated that international commerce should be led in a fair environment. But how can Russia possibly observe this requirement with regard to both American manufacturers and America’s foreign trade partners when it comes to, say, steel trade?
Don Evans: The principle of fair game is crucial for development of a global economic system. Everybody must be sure they are playing according to the same rules.
Question: Certain trading partners of the US assert that certain American regulations, for instance, the anti-dumping measures, conflict with WTO norms. Do you think it possible that such regulations will be revised?
Don Evans: Only on the condition that the fair play principle is observed. Incidentally, if all countries play according to the same rules, there will be no need for certain additional means of regulation at all. Nowadays, however, there is no fair play. Sometimes, for instance, companies make use of government subsidies, thus obtaining an unfair advantage over US manufacturers.
WHICH FAITH WILL SAVE US
Novoe Vremya, October 14, 2001, EV
In Russia, a country which had formerly been almost completely atheist, over half of citizens have identified themselves as believers during the past decade.
The percentages haven’t changed much over the last few years: polls show 51% Orthodox Christians, around 2% other branches of Christianity, 3% for Islam, 0.5% for Judaism, 0.5% other religions, 34% atheists, and 10% agnostics.
There isn’t much correlation between religious belief and educational levels, although the proportion of believers is over 60% among the minority of people with an incomplete high school education. Religious belief is correlated with age: 67% believers among people over pension age, 47-48% believers among those aged 18 to 35. Religious belief is much more widespread among women, with 64% of women identifying as believers, compared to only 40% of men.
Contrary to common assumptions, rural residents are not significantly more religious than urban residents. However, religious belief differs substantially between regions, with 66% believers in the Trans-Volga area of Russia, compared to only 44% in north-western Russia. Belief is not strongly correlated with income levels; 60% believers among low-income groups, and 49% among people who are comfortably off.
Based on a number of polls, 19% of respondents say they were members of the Communist Party in Soviet times. Now, however, only about 1.5% of Russian citizens are members of any political party at all; of this 1.5%, over 60% are members of the Communist Party. A look at the ideological legacy reveals the following picture. The poll question was: “Which ideas would now be capable of uniting the Russian people?” Thirteen percent of respondents named communism and socialism; only 3% named religion; 7% named capitalism and a market economy; and 6% named democracy.
The concept of Russia’s uniqueness as a nation, which goes through periods of popularity, was named by only 5% of respondents as a unifying idea. Around the same number, 6%, named Russia’s role as a mediator between Europe and Asia. But the strongest response, 35%, was in favor of “the revival of Russia as a mighty global power”.
WHAT CAN STOP AIDS?
Megapolis-Kontinent, October 14, 2001, p. 2 EV
At present, about 250,000 HIV-positive people are registered in the CIS countries. However, this is only official statistics, which usually reflects only 10% of reality. This is caused by the fact that calculations in the number of former Soviet republics are carried out occasionally, for instance when a patient needs an operation or a blood transfusion. For example, officially only 33 people with AIDS are registered in Tajikistan, 99 ill people are registered in Kyrgyzstan, there are 16 and 335 AIDS-infected people in Armenia and Azerbaijan respectively. Moldova and Belarus reported entirely different statistics: there are 1800 and 3766 AIDS-infected citizens in these countries respectively. At present Russia registers 146,840 AIDS carriers. The majority of the ill people live in the Moscow region, Moscow, the Irkutsk region, and St. Petersburg. Overall, there are currently 36 million HIV-positive people in the world.
ANOTHER BEREZOVSKY SCHEME
Stringer, No. 10, October, 2001, p. 2 EV
On the first day of the autumn session, Duma deputies were confidentially presented with a letter from Boris Berezovsky, the full text of which is available in the Documents section on the www.stringer-agency.ru website.
In short, Berezovsky’s letter is another scheme against President Vladimir Putin. The tycoons still puts stakes on the loyal to him regional governors, forst of all Yakovlev, Titov, Rossel, Lebed, Fedorov, Nikolaev, and Shaimiev. Berezovsky emissaries held strictly secret discussions with the aforementioned regional leaders, the letter reveals their names: Abramovich, Alekperov, and Mordashev. The governors are supposed to organize mass actions against the center this fall, while the escaped tycoon will she light on the people’s dissatisfaction in the media he controls.
DEFENSE SPENDING TO BE HALVED
Stringer, No. 10, October, 2001, p. 2 EV
The Cabinet has approved the federal targetted program for reforming and development the defense industry in 2001-06.
The basis of the reform is merging the enterprises of the military-industrial sector in 36 holdings, which will be divided into three groups depending on the area of the industry: manufacturing arms, weapon systems, and components. The aim of the reform is to concentrate production, material, and financial resources of the defense industry. According to expert appraisals, only about 50% of the existing 1,700 military industrial enterprises are to survive.