FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE STARTING TO OPERATE IN RUSSIA
Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 2, 2002, p. 2
On February 1, the “financial intelligence,” i.e. the Financial Monitoring Committee (FMC), started to work in Russia. The idea of setting up the FMC had not appealed to anyone before February 1. Heads of security agencies had been saying in public that they would agree with it somehow, but shrugged their shoulders in private conversations.
Doubts of security ministers are natural: foundation of the new federal agency with excessively wide powers is viewed by them as an attack on their own powers. Ordinary people, too, associate the committee with the desire of the government to subject everything in the country to total state control.
The committee has a right to get any financial information about any person or enterprise working in the company. Its employees are entitled to ignore such concepts as the secret of bank deposit or a tax declaration. In other words, they may interfere not only in businesses but also in private life of Russian citizens.
Head of the FMC Viktor Zubkov has announced that not a single company will be able to refuse to cooperate with his intelligence. Otherwise, the committee may appeal to a corresponding agency with some “information supplied with arguments,” and the activity of this company will be discontinued.
Time will tell if this committee will be of any use. So far, billions of dollars have been moved away from the country without any problems. Meanwhile, small businessmen have had a lot of problems, for they have been had to make excuses for nearly every transaction.
THE PARLIAMENT HAS MATURED
Versty, February 2, 2002, p. 2
Around 54% of Russians do not know what the Federation Council does, as recent public opinion polls show; while 63% do not know that procedures for selecting members of the upper house have been changed. Taking into account that 16% of respondents had no opinion on the first question, and 13% on the second, the situation is impressive. Approximately 70-75% of our compatriots do not know what the Federation Council is or what its functions are.
Senators, who were radiantly reporting elections of deputy speakers and chairmen of the Federation Council committees, should take this into account.
Over a short period of time S. Mironov made at least three statements, which perplexed the people and the sense of which many people tried to perceive. The first passage concerned extension of the presidential term in office up to seven years. The second was related to passing a part of Moscow’s functions to St. Petersburg, and in his third statement S. Mironov openly supported military reporter Grigoriy Pasko, accused of espionage.
Nobody is likely to reveal a secret saying that no person in Russia apprehends Speaker Mironov as an independent political figure. His mediate contacts to the president, via the Northern capital, seem to be eloquent and decisive factors to many. Therefore, any statement of this politician has been interpreted thoroughly and comprehensively.
Another touch: the Federation group, an analogue of the Unity faction in the Duma seized power in the Federation Council immediately after it had been reformed. He Federation united the overwhelming majority of new Federation Council members and almost prepared many staff resolutions of the house. The group has been dismissed now, since establishment of groups or factions is barred in accordance with the new house regulations.
Speaking about the new membership of the house, Mironov pointed out that 64 senators are graduates, 71 members possess experience of parliamentary work, and 49 had headed enterprises or organizations. The new principle of forming the Federation Council brought former governors and presidents into the upper house. Large and smaller businessmen, partially forgotten but formerly rather influential politicians of the federal level, appeared in the building on the Dmitrovka. As the skeptics correctly predicted, a huge part of new senators, representing Russia’s regions in the upper house are residents of the capital, somehow or other connected with presidents and governors.
This seriously irksome for the provinces discrepancy is striking. Not in vain, Speaker Mironov in person, and a series of deputies of both houses stated that the principle of forming the upper house must be changed in the course of time and the senators must be elected like, say, Duma deputies. However, the Parliament is unlikely to have time for the new law of electing members of the Federation Council within four-five years.
“Another step on the way of developing Russia’s parliamentarism has been made,” Sergei Mironov thinks. The new membership of the Federation Council will doubtlessly provide for the same political stability of the Kremlin as the Duma is doing now.
PERSON OF THE DAY
Vremya MN, February 2, 2002, p. 1
Yuriy Chayka defended special dangerous offenders, who are not such actually. The flaws of the criminal legislation bring to an artificial growth of the number of habitual offenders, the minister of justice said yesterday.
According to his statistics, before the acting Criminal Code had been adopted in 1997, some 7,000 habitual offenders had been in prison and three-four strict penal colonies would suffice to locate all of them. As of now, we have 42,000 of special dangerous offenders already, and this figure may increase to 50,000 by the end of the year if the things go on like this.
According to the minister, he already reported to the president about a necessity to amend the sanctions envisaged in the Criminal Code and the law of criminal procedure in order people who committed medium gravity crimes for a few times would not be referred to recidivists. “If we allot a person who has stolen a sack with potatoes for three or four times, this is a legal nonsense,” Yuriy Chayka is confident. Meanwhile, almost one-third of recidivists have been condemned for repeated thefts.
The minister of justice also emphatically said in favor of abolishing the death penalty in Russia – he is confident of the fact that lifetime conviction is an efficient extreme penalty, what proves the people’s reaction to the court verdict in the case of terrorist Salman Raduyev; despite even the fact that the Dagestani people suffered much from this bandit, the sentence to lifetime conviction was “perceived adequately” in the republic.
DUMA DEPUTIES WANT TO ESTABLISH STATE MONOPOLY ON OIL EXPORTS
Izvestia (Moscow), February 2, 2002, p. 2
An idea for implementing a state monopoly on oil exports has been discussed vigorously in the Duma corridors, Izvestia sources at the Duma reported. According to the deputies, this measure would profit additional $5 billion to the state treasury.
Communists Nikolai Arefyev and Nikolai Kolomeitsev, deputy of the People’s Deputy group Sergei Zagidullin and Sergei Neverov, and also independent deputy Yevgeniy Ishchenko became authors of the draft law of implementing the state monopoly on exports of certain categories of wares. As they all think, the state monopoly must in particular cover the exports of oil and gas condensate, natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, timber and precious stones. In the annotations the deputies note that suppliers of these goods systematically garble the export value of the goods “for the purpose of concealing a part of the profits from taxation, and decreasing the export duties paid.”
It is proposed to establish the monopoly by means of creating special state unitary enterprises. These very structures, according to the scheme of the deputies, would be in the future deal with exporting strategic goods. Such enterprises would conclude contracts with organizations, having contracts for supply monopolistic goods outside Russia. At the same time, the exports must be carried out at prices of at least 80% of the level of the average prices on the world stock exchanges.
By the highest standards, the oil industry is the only considerably free industry, exports in which must be controlled. The primary reaction of oilmen to the proposals of deputies was surprise and distrustfulness. He oilmen think that the industry is bereft of the state’s attention already. Firstly, all oil supplies are regulated by the government commission for accessing the major pipelines, which has been quarterly doing the schedules of exports and see to them. Secondly, oil is transited abroad via the system of Transneft, which is a natural transport monopoly.
TWO BEARS IN THE SAME MINISTRY
Izvestia (Moscow), February 2, 2002, p. 4
The 10th congress of the Republican party, at which party leader and Duma deputy Vladimir Lysenko will announce a merger with the Forward Russia movement led by Boris Fedorov, will take place today. Despite its name, the party hopes to establish itself close to Yabloko and the right-wing parties in the political scene. The “republicans” consider United Russia to be their antagonists.
A bear under the Russian flag is the party’s emblem.
According to the deputy, the republicans will first try and convince United Russia of a necessity to remove the animal from the emblem of their party, and in case it fails maintain for their rights in all instances, right up to the court. The matter is not about the emblem alone – the Republican party does not approve of the United Russia’s supporting the presidential initiatives: the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, and social reforms. Despite its name, the party places itself among the right wing of the political scene and thinks that Yabloko and the URF can become its allies.
A hundred and a half of delegates represent almost a half of Russia’s regions, where the party groups retained. Members of the party think that the party will have a slightly over 10,000 members after the unification, what s sufficient for registration with the Justice Ministry. Moreover, the republicans are trying to attract kindred political movements, which have no chances to be registered as parties, into the party. The regulations will be amended at the congress, but no plans to change directives of the program – all supplements are only summoned to bring the documents in the accord with the requirements of the law of parties.
However, the chances of the republicans to pass into the house are small even after the re-registration. The party has no huge sponsors. The Republican party hopes to attention of the financial circles, while now the delegates even dine at their own expense at the congress.
MIKHAIL KASYANOV WARMS UP BEFORE THE FORUM
Kommersant, February 2, 2002, p. 1
On the morning of February 1, Vice President Dick Cheney received Mikhail Kasyanov. Cheney’s location is kept secret, for the sake of security. Following September 11, this has to be done constantly. However, in order to establish personal contacts with the prime minister of Russia, the vice president came out of hiding for a while.
Cheney and Kasyanov discussed strategic security, disarmament, combating terrorism, and also cooperation between Russia and NATO within the framework of the new structure – the “Twenty,” which is being proposed by Moscow. The subject of the “axis of evil,” which consists of three countries – Iran, Iraq, and North Korea (according to a definition from President George W. Bush) was also discussed.
However, trade and economic relations were the main topic in the negotiations between the prime minister and vice president. Kasyanov proposed Richard Cheney to get rid of “the vestiges of the Cold War” – the Jackson-Vanik amendment and limitations for exports of high technologies into Russia – as soon as possible. Kasyanov had conversed on the same topics with leaders of the US Jewish organizations and received assurances of help. Cheney also promised his support to Russia in this issue. There is a hope that the US Congress might abolish the notorious amendment already at its spring session.
Quite naturally, the energy topic was discussed also. Before becoming US Vice President, Cheney had been vice president of a large energy company, Halliburton. Kasyanov promised to study the Bush-Cheney energy strategy, scheduled until 2020.
On the threshold of the negotiations late on Thursday night Prime Minister Kasyanov had met with US business leaders. The US-Russia business council organized this meeting at the most expensive hotel in Washington. Kasyanov addressed the executives, expressing the same ideas he later presented to Cheney and had discussed with Don Evans just before the meeting: the Jackson-Vanik amendment, abolishing limitations of exporting high technologies into Russia, and elimination of anti-dumping barriers (“Russia’s economic growth will be more substantial without them”).
However, the issue of oil was really interesting for US business leaders. They were beware that Russia would increase oil production and exports sharply while the energy demands would be covered at the expense of nuclear power plants. However strange it might seem, this question did not surprise Kasyanov. He only reminded US executives that the current share of energy output from nuclear power plants in Russia is only 16%, but added that in the future Russia would increase both extraction and exports of oil, and increase is position on the oil market.
As for the short-term outlook, say, for the current year, Kasyanov refrained from any forecasts. He only expressed the hope that the US economy would resume growth, which would mean stabilization of oil prices.
SERGEI IVANOV TO TEACH THE GERMANS TO COMBAT TERRORISM
Kommersant, February 2, 2002, p. 8
On February 1, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov set out for Western Europe. He will visit Munich and Rome, where he will participate in international conferences and speak on how to combat terrorism.
The 38th Munich conference on security policy issues will be the most representative. Over 200 representatives of European states, including defense ministers and foreign ministers of NATO member states and participants of the Partnership for Peace program, and also some countries of America and Asia, were invited to take part in the conference. Mr. Ivanov, who flew in Munich on February 1, will today present his report about military structures counteracting international terrorism. Chairmen of the Duma committees for international affairs and defense, Dmitriy Rogozin and Andrei Nikolayev respectively, are also supposed to shed light on the Russia’s position of combating terrorism. At the same time Mr. Rogozin intends to forward proposals, developing the initiatives of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for Russia joining the resolution of international security problems by 19 NATO member states.
Besides, Ivanov’s bilateral meetings with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Behari Mishra, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, and also German Defense Minister Rudolph Sharping, who had even postponed his visit to Afghanistan for the sake of participating in the conference.
On February 3 Ivanov will leave Munich for Rome. In the capital of Italy he will participate in the traditional Russia-NATO international conference. “Just like in Munich, in Rome the focus will be on issues related to goals and actions of the military in the cause of combating international terrorism,” said spokesperson for the minister Colonel Nikolai Deryabin.
JOURNALISTS’ UNION OF RUSSIA PROPOSES A NEW POLICY FOR MEDIA
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 2, 2002, p. 2
A new meeting of the working group, devoted to preparation for the third session of the nationwide Democratic conference has taken place. As has now been finally decided, on February 18 representatives for 22 public organizations and political parties will gather to discuss the problems of the freedom of speech and the situation in Russia’s media. Aleksei Simonov will be given chairmanship at the meeting, and Igor Yakovenko will proceed with a report. The working group has already prepared a draft brief statement regarding TV-6 network, and if the majority signs it, it will be published soon.
Chief reporter Igor Yakovenko insists on a necessity for “uniting efforts” for resolution for specific issues, emphasizing that the democrats “need the support of power, society and politicians.” However, Yakovenko does not seem to be creating illusions about an opportunity to reach a consensus with the authorities, since, in his opinion, the federal information policy has acquired “traits of pseudo-openness and propaganda” recently, while “the policy of controlled democracy in the media sphere has come true.” In his speech at the Democratic conference he intends to propose also his own program of measures.
Yakovenko sees a necessity for inventorying media and remain only those, which would be enough to publish the state’s official documents, under control of the authorities. Moreover, he proposes to ban advertising in the state media. Finally, according to Yakovenko, creation of an establishment of public TV and radio broadcasting (this requires at least one TV channel and one radio frequency) is also of principal importance for mending the situation.
TEN PERCENT ACTIVITY
Vek, No. 5, February 1, 2002, p. 4
According to Alexander Oslon, head of the Public Opinion Foundation, only about ten percent of Russian citizens constantly keep abreast of all public and political events in Russia. The rest of the population barely tries to understand them, unless there is an extraordinary event. Here is a graphic example: according to the polls of the Public Opinion Foundation, only about ten percent of Russian citizens are aware of the latest changes in the Federation Council.
ABM + ABM = START III
Vek, No. 5, February 1, 2002, p. 4
According to Alexander Vasiliev, Ph. D. in political science and a participant in the START I negotiations, at present there is an impression that lately the Russian foreign policy is following the forced decisions of the US. He thinks that Russian foreign policy was very weak while discussing the project of the ABM Treaty with the Clinton administration. Then, this issue could have been resolved rather favorably for Russia – it was only necessary to accept some amendments to the treaty. However, the Russian government refused to accept the amendments, as a result the Bush administration had a chance to do what has been done.
If we look closely at the US actions, it is obvious that they are all based solely on US interests. If Russia is presented with proposals for a new form of relationship that is based on unilateral actions, why not use these proposals – on the condition that they meet the interests of Russia. Then, no one will be able to accuse Russia of following the US.
Vasiliev considers it very hard to predict the further development of the dialogue between Russia and the US in terms of START. According to him, now everything depends on the Russian government. Relations with the US are most unlikely to radically improve or deteriorate in the next ten years – but at present Russia has a chance to improve them. The worst scenario would be if Russia starts some complicated game with China or the European Community in order to limit US influence around the world. Then, Russia will lose out: it will waste its energy, resources, and time on attempts that will only disappoint us once again.