THE CAUCASUS BEFORE A THAW

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THE CAUCASUS BEFORE A THAW

Vek, No. 7, February 15, 2002, p. 4

The terms and conditions of future presidential or parliamentary elections in Chechnya have not been determined yet, but the election race has already started. This time clan or family identity is of no importance, as criminal lawlessness in Chechnya that has actually turned into a civil war has made family and clan relations very obscure.

The two major competing parties are led by Akhmand Kadyrov and Beslan Gantamirov – both politicians are well known and have high popularity ratings even at the federal level. However, there are also other politicians who are currently building up authority as leaders. Salambek Khadzhiev, Lechi Magomadov and apparently Ruslan Khasbulatov support Beslan Gantamirov: the political pensioners realize it is very hard to compete with the charisma of the young leader. Kadyrov in turn has his predecessor Doku Zavgaev as a supporter, which is a strong political move. Despite his fame, Aslanbek Aslahanov is still a politician who keeps to himself. He is a bright speaker, an irreconcilable critic of federal policy in Chechnya; but the mission of ruling the devastated republic seems to be very hard for him.

WHY DOES WASHINGTON NEED A MILITARY MEGA-BUDGET?

Vek, No. 7, February 15, 2002, p. 5

In the lead-up to President George Bush’s visit to Russia, the US Senate is discussing the budget presented by President Bush. The main feature of the budget is a sharp increase in defense spending: it will total $379 billion, while security spending will amount to about $50 million. Even by US standards, such a level of defense spending is very high.

According to Yury Davydov, an associate member of the Russian Military Sciences Academy, theoretically, the basis for US action is an intention to ensure national security on a purely independent basis, instead of depending on allies or on a nuclear balance between Russia and the US. So first, Washington is trying to protect the nation from any possible threat. Secondly, the US is obviously trying to decrease the military opposition factors that played a role during the Cold War: nuclear and missile weapons, army reform in accordance with the new challenges. All this demands vast spending on defense. The third factor, rarely mentioned by Russian journalists, is that the US government is planning to direct two-thirds of defense spending toward so-called social issues: increasing military wages, and so on. Besides, the US is reevaluating its military strategy and is trying to find possibilities to act unilaterally if necessary. Another point: the current growth in defense spending has a clear economic component: America is extremely close to recession and the US economy needs some stimulation. Following tradition, the US concentrates all attention on carrying out some large-scale program that involves different areas of industry in order to do this. This time it is an attempt to establish a national missile defense system and it is very important that it is the state which will finance the project as this will make it more valuable for society. Flow-on effects from this project will be useful for other areas of the economy.

BETWEEN REVOLUTION AND GEOPOLITICS

Vek, No. 7, February 15, 2002, p. 5

Judging by the number of articles and statements of politicians in the western media, the West is paying special attention to the presence of the US military in Central Asia. This region is becoming more important for Washington every day, as shown by the fact that President George Bush plans to increase financial and military aid to the countries that were at the front of the anti-terrorist coalition. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are among such countries, and they consider this aid as an example of unprecedented rapid and close integration with the US. Andrew Cuchins, a defense analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, recently said that the US is very serious about the prospect of military cooperation with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan: it means long-term location of US military contingents in these countries. Besides, it is not ruled out that the US military will be charged with stopping drug trafficking across these borders. According to some western observers, there are other reasons that might explain the willingness of the US to stay in Central Asia as long as possible, besides the Afghan anti-terrorist operation. However, this is likely to create some unexpected situations and unpleasant surprises for the US. According to Mr. Mark White, a professor at the London School of Economics, the main danger for the US may be not the governments of the Central Asian countries, but the reaction of the citizenry. This means that if the US contributes to evolving the present political regimes in these countries and democratizing them, this may be very handy for certain internal forces. Apparently, this is the main reason why Washington is trying to work out more arguments that would be able to more convincingly justify its presence in the region.

THE FAMILY CONCENTRATES FORCES AGAINST THE KREMLIN

Zavtra, No. 7, February, 2002, p. 1

According to confidential inside sources, the conference of the Union of Right Forces on the issue of freedom of speech was initiated by Anatoly Chubais and head of the presidential administration Alexander Voloshin. As a result, a ‘tycoon project’ was announced that is supposed to support Yevgeny Kiselev’s team and demonstrate the total mobilization of forces that are to some extent connected with Boris Yeltsin’s Family. Boris Berezovsky is to be involved as well, as a red rag for the Kremlin. The president’s speech at an expanded board meeting of the General Prosecutor’s Office proves that the Kremlin views the threat as extremely serious: Vladimir Putin seemed to be at a loss and lacking self-confidence during his speech.

WASHINGTON IS TO ATTACK IRAQ

Zavtra, No. 7, February, 2002, p. 1

The official US strike on Iraq is likely to be carried out in late March or early April, right after President George Bush visits Beijing and the Pacific region. According to leading analysts of the Bush administration, the trends on global financial and stock markets “can be broken only by a strong move”. According to the same source, the recent visit by Vice President Dick Cheney to London focused on coordinating this issue with the European Community…

MASKHADOV’S GUERRILLAS DEMAND AN INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION

Inostranets, February 12, 2002, p. 7

Ilyas Akhmadov, Aslan Maskhadov’s envoy to Europe and North America, has had a letter published in The New York Times demanding an international investigation into the 1999 explosions in Moscow.

Akhmadov stresses: “Although the Russian authorities never found those responsible for the explosions of apartment blocks in Moscow in 1999, they never hesitated to blame the Chechens for this.” According to him, “We must thank Boris Berezovsky, an exiled entrepreneur, for pointing out that all the evidence in the explosions shows that the Federal Security Service was involved in organizing them.” Akhmadov says: “An international investigation into the explosions would be a great start in amending an unpleasant side effect of the war against terrorism – in some parts of the world all Muslims are being called terrorists.”

On February 1 The New York Times published an interview with Boris Berezovsky, who stated that there is as much evidence of the FSB being involved in the explosions as the US has for Osama bin Laden being involved in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Berezovsky promised to publish the evidence within the next few weeks.

LAWS AGAINST TORTURE

Inostranets, February 12, 2002, p. 7

The Duma legislation committee is preparing to consider in the first reading two amendments to the Criminal Code, increasing penalties for the use of torture.

The first bill is proposed by deputy Yury Rybakov; it says that officials, as well as their subordinates, will be held accountable for causing psychological suffering to a person in order to make them give evidence or do anything else against their will, or for the purpose of punishment. According to the bill, the penalty for such actions would be three to eight years imprisonment with the loss of the right to hold certain jobs or perform certain duties for up to three years. Torture that damages health or is especially cruel, or applied to pregnant women or minors, will carry a penalty of five to twelve years imprisonment.

The author of the second bill, Viktor Sheinis, also suggests making amendments to the same item and excluding item 302 part two (forcing people to give evidence through the use of violence). Sheinis proposed that the penalty for torture should be seven to ten years imprisonment; causing mid-level damage to health would carry a penalty of ten to fifteen years imprisonment; causing serious damange to health or death would carry a penalty of 15-20 years imprisonment or a life sentence. At present the penalty for torture stipulated by item 302 part two is two to eight years imprisonment.

AUDIT CHAMBER WILL MONITOR REALTY DEALS

Vremya Novostei, February 18, 2002, p. 2

The Audit Chamber will be able to monitor all deals involving realty when the appropriate law is adopted.

The Duma has already approved in the second reading an amendment to the law on state registration of realty deals. The amendment is unlikely to encounter problems in the Federation Council or presidential administration. Sergei Stepashin of the Audit chamber has been quite busy lately in his efforts to smoothen relations with the senate and the Kremlin.

The amendment puts the Audit Chamber on the list of government structures to be informed of all deals involving realty. At first, the law stated that the documents specifying ownership and information on the contents of the documents should be forwarded only to the owners of the property. The law later permitted the said information to be passed on to state power structures of Federation subjects and local self-rule bodies, structures for state statistics and land control, courts, and taxation and law enforcement agencies. Last March, the Anti-Monopoly Ministry and its territorial structures was put on the list as well.

THE AUDIT CHAMBER MEETS TO DISCUSS ISSUES OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Vremya Novostei, February 18, 2002, p. 2

The board of the Audit Chamber met on Friday to discuss the use of budget funds by this federal agency in providing legal protection for intellectual property of military, special, and dual application.

According to Auditor Alexander Kushnar, the federal budgets in 2000, 2001, and 2002 did not specify any earnings from intellectual property. Neglecting direct instructions from the government, the Agency has stashed earnings from IP in private banks like the Moscow Business World.

PREMIER KASIANOV WILL NOT VISIT HUNGARY

Rossiya, February 18, 2002, p. 2

Premier Mikhail Kasianov was supposed to make a visit to Hungary this spring. The premier however cancelled the visit because of Hungary’s “non-constructive position” on matters of foreign trade and state debts.

The problem is rooted in the following. Official Budapest heartily dislikes the fact that Russian exports to Hungary account for 98.5% of Russian-Hungarian trade turnover and that Hungarian-made goods have virtually no place on the Russian market. Irked, Hungary has been doing its best to restrict import from Russia. Moreover, Budapest is of the opinion that it is high time Russia began making ‘civilized’ purchase of Hungarian goods. At the same time, Hungary refuses to view deliveries of Russian goods like cars as a way of paying state debts.

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