HAVANA TOUR

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HAVANA TOUR

Izvestia, February 16, 2002, p. 1

A U.S. military spokesmen confirmed yesterday that there were citizens of European states among the prisoners taken from Afghanistan to the Guantanamo military base, Cuba. Pentagon representative Lieutenant Colonel Bill Costello told ITAR-TASS there were even some Christians among the 254 prisoners. Another U.S. government representative said two of the detainees might be Russian citizens, according to provisional reports. The Russian embassy in Cuba confirmed that two Chechens really were at the Guantanamo base. However, the U.S. military has detained several dozen more Chechens, Russian citizens, in Afghanistan – and they are currently waiting to be sent to Cuba, according to our sources. The Federal Security Service (FSB) has already responded to an enquiry from the U.S. special services about Russian citizens who were fighting in Afghanistan. A group of Russian security officers may soon go to Cuba to identify the Russian prisoners. However, officials have refused to make any comments. It looks like no relevant department knows what Russia should do in this situation. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky says the fate of the Russian citizens should be decided in cooperation with the U.S. government. Afghan officials have long been warning that Chechen guerillas were fighting in Afghanistan. Between 700 and 1,000 Chechens are said to have been among the Taliban who came to Afghanistan in 2001 when Russian troops put pressure on the separatists in Chechnya.

PROXIMITY TO POWER ENDANGERS REPUTATION

Novye Izvestia, February 16, 2002, p. 2

A January opinion poll proved the greatest failure ever for the Union of Right Forces (URF). Only 4% of respondents expressed a liking for the party and said they would vote for it if the Duma elections were held next Sunday. Eleven percent of respondents said they would vote for the URF in October 2000, and 9% in October 2001. And it was still 6% (enough to get the URF into the Duma) even in December 2001. The URF strategy for boosting its rating is unusual: distancing itself from from the president. The party’s leaders see the cause of the popularity decline in the fact that their policies have started to draw closer to Putin’s. The URF’s Emulation of the president has proved to be good for Putin, but bad for the URF.

PUTIN PROCLAIMED A STRATEGIC EXECUTIVE

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 16, 2002, p. 2

Yury Luzhkov’s creative energy will soon seriously alarm the Kremlin. If the statement he made yesterday is taken literally, the conclusion should be drawn that Vladimir Putin has actually given consent to changing the Constitution. Speaking to United Russia members, Luzhkov said Russia needed a federal constitutional law on the head of state. This law would specify the role of a president as a strategic bearer of executive power, as well as the nature of his relationship with other branches of power, including the Cabinet. The president himself has a;ready been acquainted with this initiative and thinks this law is necessary, said a representative of the pro-government party. However, the president’s version says that current objectives for the parliament remain as before: Hands off the Constitution”.

CANADA-RUSSIA: A NEW TURN OF COOPERATION

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 16, 2002, p. 3

Representatives of Russian and Canadian companies signed about 50 important trade agreements and contracts yesterday, to the total value of around $1 billion, although they had originally planned it to be about $2 billion. Moscow and Ottawa adopted a plan for extending bilateral cooperation aimed at “formation of diversified relations oriented toward a long-term perspective, as well as strengthening political, economic, and cultural ties” between the two states. The dialogue on strategic stability and enhancing cooperation in disposing of chemical weapons will also be extended. Canada is going to supply around $5 million in funding this process in Russia. Besides, there will be interaction and exchange of experience in combating organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption. Russia and Canada intend to take measures to ensure an increase in bilateral trade and investment. Cooperation on various technical assistance programs will be continued. Special attention will be paid to the oil and gas, mining, and transport sectors.

BATTLE ALERT

Izvestia, February 16, 2002, p. 1

Gennady Gudkov, a member of the Duma security committee, said yesterday that Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin has given a secret directive to disband the Tbilisi garrison and command of the Russian forces in the Trans-Caucasus (GRVZ) by September this year. The troop withdrawal is being prepared in a “battle alert” mode. At the same time, Kvashnin’s directive runs counter to the president’s decree “On creation of the GRVZ” and lets down Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who has repeatedly stated he would not permit an uncivilized withdrawal of Russian troops from the Trans-Caucasus. Almost 5,000 soldiers and officers have become hostages to the unreasoned decisions of their commanders, while the Russian forces in the Trans-Caucasus have been essentially left without leadership.

DUMA FAVORS THE DEATH PENALTY

Novye Izvestia, February 16, 2002, p. 2

The Duma is calling on President Putin to restore capital punishment in Russia. Yesterday the Duma asked the president not to present the European convention on abolition of capital punishment in peace-time for ratification in the Duma. The point is that the deputies will not be able to refuse Putin if he does, but many are most reluctant to vote in favor of the convention.

Meanwhile, unprecedented legislative activity has broken out in the Duma over the issue of capital punishment. URF deputy faction leader Boris Nadezhdin will introduce an amendment to the Criminal Code establishing penalties “for insulting the president”. The penalty would vary from 15 years in prison to execution. This is meant as a joke by the Duma’s liberals. However, the current membership of the Duma might mot get the joke – and could actually pass the bill in three readings.

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