S-200 MISSILE PARTS SOLD AS SCRAP METAL
Izvestia, April 17, 2002, p. 2
According to an FSB officer, two cylindrical metal objects were found in late March on the premises of Nika Ltd. in Biisk, the Altai region. Each of them weighed two tons. The company’s employees called in the law enforcement agencies. Specialists identified the cylinders as parts of S-200 missiles. It turned out that there had previously been a scrap metal store there, and the missiles had been sold to it “by weight”.
Yesterday the FSB Altai region office provided the names of the people who brought the missiles to the store. However, the response from Moscow was that the cylinders are worthless, and there are no secrecy issues here. The collectors confirmed that they had found the scrap metal at a long-deserted test firing range.
PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY PROMOTES THE KURIL ISLANDS
Izvestia, April 17, 2002, p. 3
Konstantin Pulikovsky, presidential envoy for the Far East federal district, met with the president yesterday to report on the economic situation on the Kuril Islands.
Pulikovsky had just visited the Kurils. He visited three of the islands whose territorial status is being disputed by Japan: Shikotan, Iturup, and Kunashir.
According to Pulikovsky’s spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin, changes for the better can be seen on the islands. In the near future, the second power unit of the Mendeleyevo power station is planned. Construction of a heating main will be completed, which will enable the islanders to do without fuel from the mainland. The federal budget allocated 48 million rubles to reconstruct the Mendeleyevo airport. The island of Shikotan will at last have stable links with the mainland.
The population of the islands has not declined for two years. Last year, for the first time in the past decade, the birth rate exceeded the death rate on Iturup. Since 2000, the residents have again started to transfer money to the mainland. There are three Japanese-made cars per resident. However, these are rusting rapidly in the open air, as there is not enough money to build garages: building materials have to be brought across from the mainland.
THE GOVERNMENT’S GREAT SECRET
Izvestia, April 17, 2002, p. 6
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov held two meetings yesterday. Both were devoted to the draft budget for 2003. It is expected to be looked into at the Cabinet’s session on 06 June. The Finance Ministry has got already the outlines of basic parameters. However, they will be kept totally secret until the president’s address to the Federal Assembly (on 18 April). Otherwise, they might have to be publicly amended after this.
The Ministry of Finance told us that “the tasks of the budgetary policy are set by the president here. We are not even ready to say whether the budget for 2003 will have a deficit or a surplus until he delivers the address”. However, Putin is unlikely to suggest the Federal Assembly sign a deficient budget, reduction of social spending, and, for example, higher inflation rates. Although it is not yet clear what taxes will replenish the budget for 2003. There is a package of laws in the State Duma which is connected with canceling “turnover” taxes. Yesterday, the government introduced the draft law on the new taxation system for small business.
When the situation with taxes becomes clear, the budget’s backbone will be determined, the Finance Ministry people say. The “backbone” is to be produced to the government in May. There is still enough time for correctives.
Moskovskii Komsomolets, April 17, 2002, p. 2
The revolution in the Duma has finished. The aim now is to solve the problems it created, including that of temporarily leaderless committees which were abandoned by the communists and agrarians in a gesture of protest.
The situation has not yet become clear. The committee for affairs of women, family, and youth and the Mandate Commission are now without chiefs (their previous chiefs, Svetlana Goryachev and Vitaly Sevastyanov, were deprived of their posts by the decision of the centrists). At the same time, it is unclear who, if anyone, heads the committee for affairs of public associations and religious organizations, the culture and tourism committee, and the nationalities committee. The generous centrists left these for the leftists, but they rejected these posts. As far as we remember, they rejected every post in the Duma, including the speaker post. However, Gennady Seleznev remained in the speaker seat. As for the vice speakers, a communist and an agrarian, Gennady Zyuganov said these were “technical posts” and the protest did not concern them…Why are committee chairpersons liable to resign then?
However, the communists and agrarians drew their papers, recalling their people from the posts of committee chairpersons. The centrists are not hastening to decide on how to treat these papers. They hope that in a week or two, after the May holidays, everything will straighten out and the leftists will change their mind.
SELEZNEV STILL UNDER ATTACK
Moskovskii Komsomolets, April 17, 2002, p. 2
Trouble is again brewing for Gennady Seleznev. The other day, a few regional organizations of the communist party demanded the speaker be excluded from the party ranks.
We remind that the initiator of this step was the party’s Moscow city committee. It bureau is going to decide on the destiny of Seleznev on Friday. Now, the party people from the committees of the Nizhny Novgorod and the Leningrad regions, as well as the St. Petersburg city committee, are also out for blood. The cause for the increase is Seleznev’s refusal to submit to the party discipline and the will of the majority that insisted on his resignation from the speaker post. According to some data, regional leftists are firmly going to pursue banishing the Duma chief from the communist party. Other local communist organizations are also going to make similar statements very soon.
OPEC IS NOT OPEC WITHOUT RUSSIA?
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, April 17, 2002, p. 1
One might say Vladimir Putin’s phone conversation with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez of April 16 is of especial significance for Russia. A failed coup nearly collapsed the oil prices and could also ruin Russian-Cuban trade relations. All of this threatened Russia with billions of dollars of annual losses.
It should be noted that the conversation took place in 24 hours sharply after another unprecedented event had occurred: at the London international conference for development of the world oil and gas market US and British companies proposed to form a new OPEC with the obligatorily participation of Russia. However, this very idea was verbalized immediately following the events of Venezuela and aggravation of the split inside OPEC. These coincidences do not seem to be accidental.
Russia has not thus far reacted to a factual proposal of liquidating the club. The Energy Ministry of the Russian Federation refrains from any “comments on the subject.” Venezuela’s attitude toward this idea also remains unclear. However, the media in states of the Caribbean basin and Latin America assume that Moscow and Karakas will be discussing renovation of OPEC in its current state.
Under such circumstances, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Viktor Khristenko thinks, Russia “can review its long-standing decision on reducing its oil exportation by 150,000 barrels per day. It has been implemented thus far, but the issue will be finally solved by the middle of May.”
GREF FAILED TO AGREE
Tribuna, April 17, 2002, p. 1
An official visit by Economic Development and Trade Minister Herman Gref to the US was completed on April 16. The talks, mainly on the issue about access of the produce from the steel enterprises of Russia to the US market, were held in Washington with the US energy and commerce secretaries. Gref described the talks as “very productive.”
However, the agreements reached would not give the “green light” to Russian steel on US markets; more likely the reverse. Thus, within the framework of an anti-dumping investigation on cold-rolled steel, a week ago the US Department of Commerce decided to increase tariffs on produce from the states which haven’t obtained the status of market economies, primarily from Russia, around three- to six-fold. The new tariffs, which come into effect from April 26, are supposed to be retrospective and collected since January 26, 2002. As a result, Severstal alone, which is the largest supplier of cold-rolled steel to the US, will have to pay almost $13 million extra for the goods it had already dispatched to the US.