OPPOSITION WILL BE KEPT OUT OF NUCLEAR WASTE COMMISSION

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OPPOSITION WILL BE KEPT OUT OF NUCLEAR WASTE COMMISSION

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 24, 2001, p. 2

Today the Duma will consider the question of electing representatives of the parliament to the state commission for control over storing spent nuclear fuel, chaired by Academic Zhores Alferov. Under the presidential decree, the Presidential Administration, the Duma, and the Federation Council each have to assign five representatives to the commission. According to our sources in the Duma, a power-struggle for the posts is expected, since the coalition of four centrist factions – namely Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People’s Deputy, and Russian Regions – believes only members of factions which supported the law on storing spent nuclear fuel should be selected. Meanwhile, deputies of the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko, who voted against importing nuclear waste into Russia, insist on having some of their members on the commission.

NEW SCANDAL IN UNION OF RIGHT FORCES

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 24, 2001, p. 2

Viktor Pokhmelkin, senior deputy chair of the Union of Right Forces Duma faction says: “The majority of the faction’s deputies and the URF leaders support the government, and are drifting toward creating a branch of the Unity party on the basis of the URF.” Pokhmelkin arrived at this conclusion after URF members refused to vote in favor of more funding for science, culture, and the military reforms in the 2002 draft budget. At the same time, according to Pokhmelkin, the amendment in question was supported by the Yabloko faction and by 27 Communist deputies. Incidentally, the question of the “disastrous condition” of the St. Petersburg branch of the URF will be discussed at today’s session of the URF political board.

CAPTURED RUSSIAN OFFICER BECOMES A PRETEXT FOR KHATTAB’S PROVOCATION

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 24, 2001, p. 7

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will personally supervise measures to release Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Boryaev who has been captured by Chechen guerrillas. According to the Defense Ministry’s press service, law enforcement agencies and special services are doing their best to free the Russian officer, and excessive publicity could only worsen the situation. Lieutenant Colonel Boryaev, deputy military commandant of the Vedeno District, was kidnapped by guerrillas on September 29. The media learned of this over a week ago, but did not report it; partially because in a transcript of Boryaev’s interrogation by Emir Khattab, which had been handed over to the federal forces by guerrillas, the officer himself requested no media coverage of his captivity. The officer fears that something might happen to his wife, Inga, who lives in the Nizhny Novgorod region. However, Inga Boryaev eventually learned of her husband’s fate, after which the media considered it permissible to report the officer’s abduction. The Defense Ministry was forced to respond to the reports. Thus, the Chechen extremists’ action achieved its purpose.

THE LAST WORD

Izvestia, October 24, 2001, p. 3

The press service of the Railroads Ministry released a statement by the Railroads Minister Nikolai Aksenenko yesterday. The statement says that the railroads minister is planning to actively assist the General Prosecutor’s Office with the investigation currently underway against himself, and eventually to prove that allegations against him are groundless. Aksenenko stresses that this is his last official statement until the completion of the investigation.

When asked for comments, representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office told us that they view Aksenenko’s statement as a proposal for a “media ceasefire”. Our sources think the General Prosecutor’s Office is likely to accept the proposal. General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov is currently busy investigating the causes of the Kursk submarine sinking, and has no time for any media attacks against the Railroads Ministry. The general prosecutor is planning to return to Moscow no earlier than next weekend, and until then his subordinates are unlikely to take any action in connection with Aksenenko’s case.

THE CARROT AND THE STICK

Izvestia, October 24, 2001, p. 5

Yesterday, as Faryar Shirzad, US deputy secretary of commerce for imports, was visiting Moscow, the US International Commission arrived at the conclusion that steel imports are detrimental to the interests of American steel producers. Incidentally, Shirzad had arrived in Moscow to discuss the future of the metals trade, so the coincidence was rather symbolic. As yet, the US Administration has not named any specific planned measures to protect the US steel market – this will be done several months from now.

According to Maksim Medvedkov, deputy economic development and trade minister, this decision of the US may well result in losses for Russia in the steel market.

The Americans also prepared a “carrot”. The US Department of Commerce has started hearings on whether to recognize Russia as a country with a market economy. The results of the hearings are expected to be released in several months. The Russian delegation at the hearings hopes the results will be positive.

KURSK SALVAGE OPERATION

Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 24, 2001, p. 2

Despite optimistic forecasts from the operation managers, who had stated that raising the Kursk would take only hours, not everything went smoothly. As had been expected, bad weather forced changes to the operation schedule, and the Giant 4 barge failed to get out of the dock on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the Admiral Chabanenko vessel, anchored near Floating Dock 50, hosted a meeting attended by General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov, Senior Deputy Main Military Prosecutor Yury Yakovlev, and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Vladimir Kuroedov. The investigation groups were charged with establishing the causes of the submarine’s sinking.

Naval specialists were able to resume the operation only by midday, after weather had improved and the temperature stayed around zero degrees Centigrade. The main problem was that a major part of the Kursk’s conning tower had already been raised above water level. Lest the two cut-off struts on the barge holding the submarine’s stern should damage the conning tower, personnel lifted the barge’s aft by pumping water into its bow compartments. A radiochemical team was first to board the Kursk. Specialists bored holes in the hull of the sixth compartment, housing the reactor, and measured the radiation level within the sub. According to our source at the scene, radiation probes will be taken every two hours. Radiation levels in and around the Kursk are currently normal.

$10 MILLION FROM BIN LADEN

Trud, October 24, 2001, p. 1

According to Russian special services, Chechen guerrilla bands have recently received about $10 million from Terrorist Number One Osama bin Laden. In this connection, the federal forces in Chechnya expect guerrilla attacks to intensify in the near future.

According to the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, the money for Chechen terrorists was raised by the international extremist organization al Qaeda by selling 75 unexploded Tomahawk cruise missiles that were launched on August 20, 1998 during the US air strikes against bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, in response to the terrorist acts in Kenya and Tanzania.

RUSSIA TO PAY OUT DEBTS

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 24, 2001, p. 1

The Russian government does not rule out the possibility that part of Russia’s debts to the Paris Club of creditor nations may be repaid ahead of schedule, stated Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyinov during talks with his French counterpart Lionel Jospin.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin expanded on Moscow’s position: in a conversation with Jean Pierre Jouet, head of the French Treasury, he noted that repaying debts ahead of schedule from the budget is quite possible, and would allow Russia avoid the debt servicing peak due in 2003.

How much is Russia prepared to repay to the Paris Club in 2001-02? State officials cannot name any exact figures as yet: Kudrin says that “the amount of the early repayments has not yet been defined”. French sources believe the matter may concern $3-5 billion. World oil and gas prices later this year and in early 2002 may yet force some amendments to these forecasts.

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