OIL PRESSURE ON RUSSIA INCREASES
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, May 17, 2002, p. 2
The past few days have been marked by unprecedented pressure on Russia from the OPEC member states. They have again been trying to persuade Moscow to extend its “export self-restraint” until August and thus take part in the game being played against the industrially developed nations. Supposedly, in the very near future the developed world will face an acute oil shortage. Therefore, the price of oil will rise to $29-30 per barrel, as compared to the current price of $26-27, and huge profits will become possible.
The choice of timing is no coincidence. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has scheduled a meeting for May 17-20 with representatives of the Russian oil industry, at which a decision must be made: whether to follow the commitments made to OPEC and continue restricting oil exports to 150,000 barrels a day. It is clear that the Cabinet will have the final say.
By the way, according to the most conservative estimates, the latest increase in taxes on oil exports (they will more than double from June 1, to $20.40 a ton) will earn the Russian treasury at least $600 million in petro-dollars, if prices remain at least at the current level (about $27 a barrel).
MI-24 HELICOPTER CREW THREATENED WITH EXECUTION
Izvestia, May 17, 2002, p. 2
Field commander Abu al-Walid (who has replaced Khattab, eliminated by the Russian special services) announced on May 16 via the website of the Chechen guerrillas that crewmembers of a Mi-24 helicopter, servicemen of the North-Caucasus regional department of the Federal Border Guard Service, who have been missing since February 3, would be executed within 72 hours.
Al-Walid once again mentioned the names of the crewmembers and the hull number of the helicopter. However, he didn’t provide any audio or video evidence that the pilots are alive and are his captives. Most likely, the guerrillas only have the ID papers of the Mi-24 helicopter crew, who are already dead.
FSB GENERAL ACQUITTED OF ELECTION ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Izvestia, May 17, 2002, p. 3
On May 16 there was an assassination attempt on Anatoly Makarenko, deputy governor of the Smolensk region. The car in which the official was traveling to work came under machine-gun fire. The driver was killed; Makarenko escaped with slight injuries. The victim immediately accused General Victor Maslov – head of the Smolensk Regional FSB department and candidate for governor – of arranging the assassination attempt.
Maslov heads the Smolensk Regional FSB Department and is the chief rival of incumbent Governor Aleksander Prokhorov at the impending elections. The opposition between the governor and members of the security structures goes back much further than the start of the election campaign. On Wednesday the Regional Internal Affairs Department launched criminal proceedings against Prokhorov (for non-targeted use of funds); on May 16 the regional court was due to consider an appeal from Maslov’s campaign office to have the governor disqualified from the elections. For the time being, the chances of Prokhorov and Maslov are seen as almost even; and under the circumstances, any emergency might swing the balance in favor of either candidate.
A BELATED OUTCRY
Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 17, 2002, p. 2
CPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov has demanded that President Vladimir Putin hold “urgent consultations” with both houses of the Federal Assembly in connection with the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
The Communist leader said this in a telegram to President Putin. In his demands, Zyuganov refers to the Article 3 of the law ratifying START II, which says: if the United States withdraws from the ABM Treaty, the Russian president “will ensure that urgent consultations are held” with the Duma and the Federation Council.
“We insist that the federal law be observed,” the CPRF leader demands.
Strangely enough, Zyuganov didn’t make any such demands immediately after the US announced its intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty; he has started to be persistent only a few months later, after moving into “hardline opposition”.