KAZANTSEV REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE MASKHADOV’S EMISSARY

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KAZANTSEV REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE MASKHADOV’S EMISSARY

Argumenty i Fakty, No. 47, November, 2001, p. 4

Some details are available of the recent meeting between Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy for the Southern federal region, and Akhmed Zakayev, emissary of ex-president of Chechnya Aslan Maskhadov wanted by the federal center for banditry.

The meeting took place in the VIP lounge at the Sheremetyevo-2 Airport. “I represent President of Ichkeria Aslan Maskhadov,” Zakayev began. “I do not know that president,” Kazantsev replied. “I’m a deputy prime minister of the government of Ichkeria,” Zakayev offered. “I do not know that deputy prime minister,” was the response. Perplexed, Zakayev gathered his wits and put a sheet of paper on the table with the conditions of the peaceful settlement. They are the same old ones – withdrawal of the troops, recognition of Chechnya as a sovereign and independent state, etc.

According to our sources, Kazantsev spent the last three days before the meeting in regular telephone conversations with Zakayev, getting instructions from President Putin every now and then. It should be noted that Maskhadov and Zakayev disassociated themselves from notorious warlords Khattab and Basayev which means that the notorious terrorists had not participated in preparations for the meeting. It seems, however, that the Chechen negotiators are forced to tolerate the terrorists out of the feelings of ethnic solidarity and even to coordinate military actions with them.

Closer to the end of the end of the meeting Kazantsev repeated for Zakayev’s sake the Kremlin’s position: settlement in Chechnya should begin with disarming and arrest of notorious ringleaders.

After Moscow, Zakayev planned to visit London where businessman Boris Berezovsky resides. Berezovsky is also wanted by the federal authorities.

Last but least. According to unofficial reports, Kazantsev’s meeting with Zakayev was to take place before the Russian-American summit so as to enable Putin to demonstrate Russia’s goodwill in the matter. It did not play out, however, and the meeting all but became pointless. Hence the lack of any results.

PRESIDENT PUTIN ON THE QUESTION OF SENDING TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN

Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 22, 2001, p. 3

Question: How does your promise not to send the army to Afghanistan correspond with your latest words – and those of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov – that whenever necessary, Russia is prepared to assist the Americans with search-and-rescue operations?

Vladimir Putin: It does correspond. First and foremost, we take a fairly active part in the international war on terrorism. I have already mentioned exchange of information and air corridors for transports carrying humanitarian cargoes.

I do not mention it frequently, but we all know that a great deal of Russian servicemen are quartered in the region. They number 12,500 men of the 201st Division and 10,000 Russian border guards. That makes 22,500 men, a considerable contingent the region owes its stability to. Among other factors, of course.

As for rescue missions. We are prepared to carry them out, say, in Tajikistan where our troops are quartered. We are also prepared to carry them out in Afghanistan using our capacities there. I man our relations with the Northern Alliance too. There are other capacities as well but I would not like to dwell on them right here and now.

DUMA TO DISCUSS THE COURT REFORMS PACKAGE

Izvestia, November 22, 2001, p. 1

This is how the ideologue of the juridical reforms and Deputy Director of the Presidential Administration, Dmitry Kozak, sees it – and this is how the draft law phrases it: in order to instigate criminal proceedings against a judge, the prosecutor’s office needs approval from a board of three judges. After that the prosecutor and the board approach the qualification board for the permission to press charges. This compromise was reached at a special conference convened by President Vladimir Putin who was approached by judges initially dissatisfied with this “encroachment” on their prerogatives. At first, everybody seemed satisfied with it. Apparently not anymore.

Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai was quoted as saying yesterday that the juridical reforms should be initiated immediately.

Judges may object, but it is highly unlikely that the Duma will torpedo any of the draft laws. The centrist majority is determined to vote “aye”. The opposition, communists and agrarians, were persuaded to play along too, yesterday.

“We do not plan to take a stiff position in the matter of juridical draft laws in return for budget concessions,” said a source close to the upper echelons of the Communist Party.

CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS DISCUSS COOPERATION

Izvestia, November 22, 2001, p. 2

Practical cooperation changed greatly with disintegration of the Soviet Union and never stopped. Almost 2,200 enterprises are involved in it. Abandoning cooperation is something impossible. End products of the Ukrainian aircraft engine manufacturer depends on Russian materials by 90%. Almost all Russian helicopters use Ukrainian engines.

Russian authorities fear, and not groundlessly, that vacuum in the sphere of military-technical cooperation may be filled with subjects far from friendly towards the Commonwealth. The Czech Republic made an agreement with Georgia for a large consignment of T-55 tanks $135,000 apiece. It costs Russia considerable segments of the market.

The United States may become an even more dangerous rival. It offers leasing arrangements to poor states. Washington has already tested the arrangement with former states of the Warsaw Pact and found it effective. In the Commonwealth, similar offers were made to Georgia. Uzbekistan may also get similar offers. American and Turkish specialists are already modernizing former Soviet airfields in this republic, making them compatible with NATO standards.

FINANCE MINISTER ADDRESSES THE DUMA

Izvestia, November 22, 2001, p. 5

Kudrin admitted that there is the opinion in the government that Russian oil will be sold at $14-18 a barrel in 2002. It means that the oil price at $18 a barrel the government used to consider the worst should be considered the best now. The government promises to keep up all its promises provided oil goes at $18.50 a barrel but says there will be no budget surplus in this case.

If oil goes below $14.50 a barrel, Russia may be forced to appeal to the International Monetary Fund for new loans.

THE VISIT OF THE KING OF JORDAN TO MOSCOW LASTED 15 HOURS

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 22, 2001, p. 1

King Abdullah II came solely for negotiations with President Vladimir Putin. The conversation lasted over two hours and was centered around the most pressing problems – war on terrorism and the latest developments in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.

Leaving Russia, King Abdullah II was quoted as saying that Russia has played an important role in the Middle East settlement.

ON PRESIDENT PUTIN’S VISIT TO NOVY URENGOI

Trud-7, November 22, 2001, p. 3

“A great complex, a great deposit, and great results,” Putin said. “What counts is that domestic technologies and materials are used there.”

A broad spectrum of problems related to the strategy and conditions of the gas sphere was discussed in Novy Urengoi.

The president announced that mediators in his opinion were taking too much, both in the country and abroad. Here is a simple example. In some European countries Russian gas is sold at two or three Gazprom export prices. If they buy gas at such prices, it is great but why does the Gazprom sell it so cheap. And where is the difference?

Russian gas reserves are estimated at 210 trillion cubic meters, one-third of world reserves.

AN UPDATE ON THE PRICE WAR BETWEEN RUSSIA AND OPEC

Trud-7, November 22, 2001, p. 3

According to OPEC, Russia should cut oil export by almost 200,000 barrels per day. OPEC Arab states threaten otherwise to let oil prices drop to $10 a barrel. This is precisely what it is, a threat as far as Russia is concerned. When Brent went down to the all-time low $17.6 a barrel last week, Prime minister Mikhail Kasianov said the oil production and export in Russia are “determined by the government in accordance with proposals made by Russian companies.” it was a clear signal to the world that nobody was going to dictate Russia’s behavior in the global oil markets.

Kasianov’s sharply-worded statement was meant for OPEC and some Russian oil companies that opted for a compromise with the cartel. All analysts started speculating on the upcoming price war between Russia and OPEC and on its possible consequences.

Most experts believe that Russia stands to lose in the detente more than it may hope to gain.

In any case, the rice war objectively benefits developed countries only, the ones that are solving their own economic problems through cheap exported fuel. As for the pragmatical Americans, they finally have their chance of showing obstinate OPEC its proper place in the greater scheme of things. An oil alliance of Russia and the United States is not so far-fetched an idea under the circumstances. Washington cannot be absolutely sue of the Arab sheikhs now that is involved in an counter-terrorism operation against a Moslem country.

It is in Russia’s interests not to drive for a hard bargain or allow its relations with OPEC to deteriorate into an open confrontation. Maintaining even relations with the cartel, it should withstand all pressure. It is only then that Russia will command respect with the Arab world and with the West.

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