SECURITY AT NUCLEAR INSTALLATIONS
Izvestia, February 13, 2002, p. 2
On February 12 in Chelyabinsk, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Pyotr Latyshev, presidential envoy for the Urals federal district, held an inter-departmental coordinative meeting on the development of the nuclear industry and ensuring radiation safety in the Urals federal district. The meeting was held in two stages, and journalists were asked to leave at the second stage, since the information under discussion was secret.
According to our sources, flaws in the physical protection systems at nuclear installations were discussed in the closed stage of the meeting, in connection with measures of counter-terrorist security taken nationwide. A representative of the Federal Security Service (FSB) even joined the meeting at this stage, though unofficially and without this being reported.
DESERTION BY SOLDIERS MIGHT BE A PRANK
Izvestia, February 13, 2002, p. 3
Early on the morning of February 12, Alexander Popov, 20, and Alexander Yefremov, 19, two conscripts serving with a unit of the Baltic Fleet stationed in the vicinity of Chernyakhovsk in the Kaliningrad region, deserted from the unit and took two guns with them.
Spokespersons for the Kaliningrad Regional Interior Forces Department issued a warning on local television about two armed deserters being at large. The fugitives are now being sought by forces of the Baltic Fleet, the military prosecutor’s office, the Interior Ministry, and the FSB.
Border guards have also been warned about the desertion: the unit from which the soldiers deserted is around 30 kilometers from the Polish border. However, the Russia-Poland border is reliably sealed, unlike the Russia-Lithuania sector, according to our sources.
The investigators do not have many theories.
“We gave up the hazing theory right away, since no such relations exist in this unit. Desertion for a prank is the main theory,” said Valentin Bondar, deputy military prosecutor at the Chernyakhovsk garrison.
THE SCENT OF COOPERATION AND POWDER
Izvestia, February 13, 2002, p. 4
A joint press conference by Afghanistan Defense Minister Mokhammad Fahim and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was held at the Interfax agency. This is the first visit to Russia by such a high-ranking official from Afghanistan since the early 1980s. Like his predecessors in Soviet times, however, General Fahim asked for weapons first – and only then was he ready to discuss issues of restoring Afghanistan’s economy.
“We are not planning to purchase new Russian arms,” said the defense minister of Afghanistan. “We have captured enough Soviet-made weapons and military hardware in battle against the Taliban; it will be enough to fully equip our armed forces. Nevertheless, we have a shortage of spare parts for this military hardware; it requires upgrades and repairs. That was the topic of my talks with mu Russian counterpart.”
The ministers did not specify the volumes of supplies or the value of the contract.
The availability of this military hardware does not mean that military advisors or instructors from Russia will go to Afghanistan. “This is out of the question at present, and I am certain this is not necessary at all,” said Ivanov.
According to Ivanov, Russia will help Afghanistan to create professional armed forces to keep the entire country under control. That’s when it will be possible to invest money in Afghanistan’s economy.
A RISE IN BUDGET REVENUES: AND WHAT ABOUT WALLETS?
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, February 13, 2002, p. 1
Deputy Finance Minister and chief of the Main Department for the Federal Treasury Tatyana Nesterenko has confirmed that federal budget revenues for January totaled 159.8 billion rubles, while budget spending was 79.8 billion rubles. This is due to businesses emerging from the shadow economy, according to the Finance Ministry.
However, economists consider this conclusion to be too hasty; they seek more utilitarian explanations. There is nothing sensational about the fact of a budget surplus in January. The main reason for the growth in tax receipts is purely technical, experts believe. The point is that from the start of 2002 part of the common social tax, which had previously been paid directly into the pension fund, is now being counted as part of budget revenues.
Moreover, redistribution of tax receipts from the regions has also contributed to the prosperity of the budget over the past few years. At the same time, the high inflation rate in January and the ruble’s abrupt drop against the US dollar could also have contributed to the impressive budget revenues. Thus, the money collected might be a temporary cover. This entire amount might be “dispersed” against the background of the following months, making it unnoticeable in the context of the year as a whole. The only thing left to do is to hope that none of this will happen.
THE LAST WORD IS WITH THE REFERENDUM
Trud, February 13, 2002, p. 1
Sergei Katanandov, prime minister of Karelia, has made a sensational statement: a decision to build a nuclear power plant in the Republic of Karelia, made before January 1, has been approved at the federal level. However, it has been revealed only now; and only after Katanandov, much concerned by constant inquiries from residents of Karelia, telephoned Moscow to receive confirmation of this fact. The federal targeted program “Energy-efficient economy”, scheduled for 2002-05 and until 2010, contains a paragraph on resuming work on designing the Karelian nuclear power plant.
“I can say with full authority that this issue was never agreed or coordinated with myself or any other members of Karelia’s government,” said Katanandov in this connection. Moreover, no thorough studies have been carried out, not even an environmental impact study. Therefore, Katanandov considers the decision to resume work on designing the Karelian nuclear power plant to be premature.
“If the decision made by the federal government is not reversed, I reserve the right to hold a referendum in Karelia,” Katanandov said.
THREE MEDIA MINISTERS IN CHECHNYA
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 13, 2002, pp. 1, 2
Wondrous things are happening in Chechnya. As a high-level commission headed by Russian Minister for Chechnya Vladimir Yelagin arrived in Chechnya, head of the Chechen administration Akhmad Kadyrov left the republic.
According to his itinerary, the main purpose of Kadyrov’s trip is to attend the inauguration of President Alexander Dzasokhov of North Ossetia and Alaniya. However, Kadyrov is accompanied by Bislan Gantamirov, who accepted the post of media minister for Chechnya two days ago. Therefore, it’s more likely that the main goal of Kadyrov’s visit to Vladikavkaz is to meet with presidential envoy Viktor Kazantsev, who is also attending the inauguration of Dzasokhov.
The unauthorized promotion of Gantamirov to the post of deputy prime minister and media minister is being described as no less than a slap in the face for Kazantsev. Nobody has dismissed Gantamirov as chief federal inspector; therefore the rumors of his new assignment are premature.
Kazantsev was infuriated over such negligence. At the same time, Gantamirov was accepting the post from acting media minister Konstantin Makeyev. Thus, the number of media ministers in Chechnya has reached three, since nobody has yet dismissed Vasiliy Vasilenko, the first media minister, who has recently been undergoing medical treatment in Stavropol.