AN APPROVED COMPROMISE

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AN APPROVED COMPROMISE

Izvestia, November 14, 2001, p. 2

The draft of the new Customs Code was discussed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. The draft was approved, and will soon be submitted to the Duma for further approval. A new code is required because the previous edition, passed in 1993, is considered outdated; in part, it could create obstacles to Russia joining the World Trade Organization.

Actually, an attempt to draw up a new Customs Code was undertaken in order to meet WTO standards and the requirements of international customs organizations. However, some liberal initiatives, which had been discussed for over a year, were not included in the final version of the document. According to the new edition – despite complaints from other departments, particularly the Economic Development Ministry – the State Customs Committee will retain the functions of both currency surveillance and search and investigation activities.

UNRANSOMED OFFICER

Izvestia, November 14, 2001, p. 3

The Kavkaz radio station reported yesterday that Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Boryaev, deputy commandant of the Vedeno district of Chechnya, has been executed. This happened after the guerrillas who had abducted him changed their demands several times. The press services of the Defense Ministry and the North Caucasus military district have not confirmed this report.

On September 29, the officer was escorting a group of elders from Vedeno in a funeral procession to Shali. Their bus was stopped during the journey; several guerrillas boarded it and suggested that the lieutenant colonel “should get off without any fuss.” Two days later the Vedeno commandant’s office received a ransom demand of 300,000 rubles. Boryaev’s friends collected the required sum, but the exchange failed. The guerrillas refused to take the money, and demanded the release of over 20 Chechens who had been detained in clean-up operations.

Afterwards, the guerrillas changed the terms of exchange once again, adding a few other names to the list, bringing it to over 25 people.

An officer from the military prosecutor general’s office of the Vedeno district, who wished to remain anonymous, told us that they had managed to find only 11 people from the list; what’s more, two women from the list are under investigation for major crimes. Two field commanders were also on the list. These terms turned out to be unacceptable to the federal authorities. The negotiations continued until Sunday, which Khattab had named as the deadline.

We were told at the press center of the Defense Ministry: “Efforts aimed at liberating Boryaev are now underway. As for the report from the Kavkaz center, we have no comments to make about that.”

STROEV IS STILL LEGITIMATE

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 14, 2001, p. 3

The issue of replacing Yegor Stroev as speaker of the upper house will not be raised at today’s meeting of the Federation Council, despite the fact that Stroev has been re-elected for a third term as governor of the Orel region. Both the Federation group and senators who are not members of this pro-presidential group have expressed unwillingness to consider this issue before January. Mikhail Margelov, a coordinator of the Federation group, said, “We will not raise this issue and will not allow it to be raised by anyone else.”

However, the fact that Stroev will be “left alone” until the new year, when he will be forced to resign from the Federation Council (under the law on selection procedures for the Federation Council), became clear almost a month ago. According to our sources in the Presidential Administration, the Kremlin considers the Orel governor a suitable candidate for the speaker’s position. Moreover, no one wants any disturbances among the senators now, just before debates on the draft 2002 budget; but they would be inevitable if there was a need to choose a new speaker.

GANTAMIROV’S ULTIMATUM

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 14, 2001, p. 7

Bislan Gantamirov, chief federal inspector for the Southern federal district, yesterday made his harshest statement in two months on the question of negotiating with the Chechen separatists: no negotiations with Maskhadov and his envoys on any (!) issues would take place; we will not permit that.

Since President Putin proposed that leaders of the Chechen guerrillas should contact his envoy Victor Kazantsev in order to discuss issues of disarmament and returning to peaceful life, no progress has been achieved in this cause except occasional telephone contacts between Kazantsev and Aslan Maskhadov’s envoy Akhmed Zakaev. However, the initial absence of protests against such contacts within this period has given way to statements that negotiating is unacceptable. Quite naturally, such statements have been made by the military, and also by head of the Chechen administration Akhmet Kadyrov and his associates. However, Gantamirov’s statement is the most categorical. What about disarmament and returning to peaceful life? As Gantamirov explained: “There will be contacts, but only after terrorism and separatism are swept away completely.”

THE KURSK: NO SECRETS REVEALED AS YET

Trud, November 14, 2001, p. 1

Yesterday another body of a crewmember from the Kursk nuclear-powered submarine was identified. It was seaman Maksim Borzhov, who was drafted into the Northern Fleet from the Vladimir region. Thus, 55 crewmembers whose remains have been recovered from the explosion-damaged compartments of the submarine have been identified. One body found in the Kursk is still unidentified. Overall, 118 people were aboard the submarine during that fatal voyage.

Meanwhile, the investigation group still has a great deal of work to do on the submarine. Blockages continue to be demolished in the second and third compartments. Justice Colonel Vladimir Mulov, military prosecutor of the Northern Fleet, has admitted that there is almost no chance of finding any more bodies. As Mulov said, the wreckage is “solid compressed metal.”

Unfortunately, hopes that a logbook found in the fifth compartment would help to shed light on the mystery of the disaster have proved unjustified. The information in it is only related to the status of a power system on the Kursk, and “is purely of a technical nature”, said Admiral Popov, Commander of the Northern Fleet. According to Ilia Klebanov, head of the government commission for investigation into the Kursk disaster, there is a better chance that significant data will be received after a series of experiments and calculations are completed in St. Petersburg. The committee has been given two months for that. “I cannot say for certain, but we may receive information which would permit us to learn the reason for the Kursk’s sinking,” said Klebanov.

SENSATION CANCELLED

Tribuna, November 14, 2001, p. 1

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller’s return from his brief sick leave has aborted any rumors of his possible dismissal. Shareholders link their hopes for consolidating and developing the company with Miller, and the hopes are proving justified.

The day before yesterday Miller participated in President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Slovakian President Rudolf Schuster, at which a wide range of political and economic issues, including those connected with natural gas, was discussed.

Thus, Miller remains head of Gazprom, as before; whereas those who rushed to spread rumors of his alleged dismissal have had to resign. A senior official from the Presidential Administration, who handed dubious information over to the Strana.ru website, has already been sacked.

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