SUKHANOV FORBIDDEN TO WORK
Vedomosti, May 18, 2002, p. A1
Having failed to block the election of Yury Sukhanov to the position of president of Slavneft, his opponents are now trying to paralyze his work. According to Sukhanov’s subordinates, these people are representatives of Mezhprombank. On May 17, a court decision was received by Slavneft, according to which Sukhanov has no right to head the company.
However, if Sukhanov is unable to fulfill his duties, he is most likely to be substituted by his protege Oleg Shchegolev, who comes from Sibneft too.
According to Slavneft Vice President Andrei Shtorkh, a representative of the court came to the premises of the company on May 17. He brought the decision of the court forbidding fulfilling decisions of the extraordinary shareholders’ meeting of the company of May 13. Mikhail Gutseriev was dismissed from the position of president of the company at this meeting, and Sukhanov was appointed instead of him. The decision was made on May 14 by the Ordzhinikidzevsky District Court of the city of Ufa to comply with the claim of a minority shareholder of Slavneft.
Shtorkh is sure that it is Mezhprombank that stands behind the decision of the court. This influential bank owned by Sergei Pugachev evinced interest in the oil company but failed to pass its candidate to the position of its president. Shtorkh has said, “Mezhprombank authorities do not even conceal their having to do with this affair: the court representative was accompanied by Dmitry Konyushkevich, chief of the department for special projects of Mezhprombank.”
Representatives of Mezhprombank deny any connection with the events at Slavneft on May 17.
IN FAVOR OF THE HONEST
Vedomosti, May 18, 2002, p. A1
The Duma has passed in the first reading the draft Code of Conduct for State Officials, although the government gave a negative resolution to it. The authors of the draft code are boasting of the fact that they have introduced the concept of the conflict of interests at state service. If the code is adopted, officials will be obliged to inform some “corresponding special agencies” about their and their colleagues’ commercial interests.
The code states that state officials’ personal interests should not collide with their duties. However, the code does not stipulate any new punishments for these infractions: it is only written there that an administrative worker should “mind the administrative and criminal responsibility.”
One of the authors of the bill, Union of Right Forces (URF) faction leader Boris Nemtsov, said: “The fight against corruption in the US and Italy started with the same document, and now developed societies are so confident about these issues that every attempt of Vice President Dick Cheney to influence the situation on the oil market causes a storm of criticism.” He has also said, “If the code starts working, at least ten officials of the government will be dismissed. After this code is adopted, the Russian society will gradually become allergic of officials’ lobbyism.”
Versty, May 18, 2002, p. 1
It is clear that during President Bush’s visit to Russia he will be received in the best manner and shown all Russia’s places of interest. However, it is doubtful that all the words said at official ceremonies about kind feelings between Russia and US are as sincere as they were in 1991. According to the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 70% of Russians had a positive attitude toward the US in 1991. Today, the rating of America has considerably declined in Russia. Only half of respondents retain warm feelings toward the US, whereas 41% (against 8% in 1991) describe their attitude to the US as “quite bad” or “very bad.”
A similar situation is to be observed in America. According to the Gallup service, only 52% of Americans view Russia positively, whereas in 1989 this figure was 62%. Around 40% of Americans have a negative attitude toward Russia (against 29% in 1989).
NEW RULES FOR REGISTRATION OF IMMIGRANTS
Izvestia, May 18, 2002, p. 3
On May 17, Andrei Chernenko, head of the Federal Migration Service of the Interior Ministry, announced that registration will be introduced this year for people entering Russia from countries with which Russia has a visa-free travel agreement. A special registration card has been developed for this purpose.
Yury Arkhipov, Deputy Chief of the Department for Immigration Control and Refugee Affairs: This card consists of two parts. The first will be taken by border guards after they make a mark certifying the person’s crossing the border. The other part should be kept by the foreigner. The date of entering the country and the date of registration will be recorded on this card. When the person is leaving Russia (no later than three months after arrival), the card will be collected. The migration process will not be made harsh. We just have to know how many foreigners are entering Russia.
AMERICAN INSTRUCTORS TO START TRAINING GEORGIAN SERVICEMEN
Izvestia (Moscow), May 18, 2002, p. 4
On May 17, head of the training program of Georgia’s servicemen US Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Voltemeer reported that training of Georgian forces by American specialists would start in a few days.
The inspection of the Georgian Army by the American military is only the start of a long-term program of training Georgian servicemen, which is worth $60 million. It is planned to train four battalions and one mechanized company (about 2,000 people all in all).
Voltemeer does not intend to go to the Pankissi Gorge. He has said that all the exercises will take place near Tbilisi.
The Russian military is concerned about the US military presence in Georgia. Many of them view it as part of the US expansion into Asia and other regions. Experts fear that Georgia’s policy regarding Russia may turn from unfriendly to hostile. However, President Vladimir Putin formulated Russia’s official viewpoint on this event in March 2002, when he said, “If Central Asian countries may do it, why can’t Georgia do it as well?”
Military experts are skeptical about future successes of Georgian troops. They note that in the Soviet Army Georgian commanders were never prominent. The most prominent representative of Georgia in the military field was Prince Pyotr Bagration, a hero of the war against Napoleon in 1812.
Today, the Georgia Army includes about 20,000 people (cf.: the Joint Group of Russian Federal Troops in the North Caucasus has about 100,000 servicemen).
MONEY FOR THE MILITARY
Krasnaya Zvezda, May 18, 2002, p. 1
On May 8, during the meeting with veterans of World War II, President Vladimir Putin noted that the plan of increasing the monetary allowance of servicemen increased by 23 billion rubles after it was coordinated with the government. According to him, the budget contains more modest figures, and so the government and the parliament are to decide where this money can be taken.
According to some observers, this money can be taken from the state reserve fund. According to Chairman of the Duma Committee for Budget and Taxes Alexander Zhukov, this fund contains about 100 billion rubles now. Other experts think that the government need not seek funds for this purpose because this sum will be covered by the expected surplus of the budget (it has exceeded 70 billion rubles already). Finally, the cabinet will try to find money for raising salaries of servicemen by means of redistributing expenditure items of the 2002 budget. All analysts are sure that money for the military will be found and the due payments will be made without arrears in the second half year.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin, suggestions on amending the budget will be submitted to the government before the end of May.
KASPIISK AVOIDED ANOTHER TRAGEDY
Novye Izvestia, May 18, 2002, p. 2
On Friday, the press service of the Interior Ministry of Dagestan reported that law enforcement agencies prevented another terror act in Kaspiisk (the previous one took place during the parade devoted to the Victory Day on May 9).
It is only known so far that the operation was performed by employees of Dagestan’s agency for fighting extremism and terrorism. The press service stresses that this operation was performed within the framework of the Whirlwind-Antiterror operation started after the terror act on May 9. The explosive aggregate was found in a Zhiguli automobile belonging to a resident of Kaspiisk. The aggregate comprised a MON-100 anti-infantry mine, electric fuse, and a remote control desk. If this self-made bomb went off, several people would be sure to suffer.
Law enforcement agencies suspect Chechen field commander Rappani Khalilov of organizing this terror act. He has been engaged in exploding vehicles for some time.
Another supposed member of the terrorist gang, Zaur Akaev, started firing at the moment of detention, in which he was wounded, and so he is giving evidence now from his hospital bed.
Meanwhile, Dagestan’s law enforcement agencies have not indicated a link between the explosion on May 9 and this forestalled explosion. They will comment on it in a few days.
BUDANOV BEING STEERED TOWARD A NOT-GUILTY VERDICT
Novye Izvestia, May 18, 2002, p. 2
The trial of Colonel Budanov continues in a Rostov-on-Don court. He is accused of murdering an 18-year-old girl. The hearings continue even though no representatives from the victim’s side are present: neither the parents of Elza Kungaeva, nor their lawyers, nor witnesses.
An interview with lawyer Leila Khamzaeva.
Question: Is this simply due to force of circumstances, or have you decided to ignore the court case?
Leila Khamzaeva: My father, the well-known attorney Abdullah Khamzaev, was acting for the Kungaev family; but he has been ill recently. Elza Kungaeva’s father has tuberculosis and is undergoing treatment. He could have attended the trial in a month’s time, but the Rostov-on-Don court decided that Colonel Budanov has been in custody too long, so the trial can go ahead without any representatives of the other side being present. Everyone has only one motive: to make things as easy as possible for Budanov. It’s as if he had committed a minor theft, rather than killing a girl. Nobody’s interested in what her parents think.
Question: Do you believe the trial will result in a conviction?
Khamzaeva: It certainly won’t. Right from the start, we suspected our efforts would be in vain. Everything pointed to that: the preliminary investigation and questioning of witnesses were carried out with a bias in the defendant’s favor. So as to minimize Budanov’s guilt as much as possible, and enable him to escape punishment. Someone thought up the story that Elza Kungaeva had been a sniper, and she had shot some soldiers from Budanov’s regiment. So Budanov was allegedly motivated by revenge for this.
I think this story was started by Budanov’s lawyers, in order to transform a purely criminal case into a political case. Statements were made to the media, essentially aimed at moral support for the accused. Then there were demonstrations outside the court-room. For me, it doesn’t matter who the victim was in this case – a Chechen woman or a Russian woman or anyone else. I just feel sorry for the suffering of an innocent girl, and for her family.
Question: According to the official story, Budanov’s aggression was provoked when Kungaeva threatened him.
Khamzaeva: Yes, this was stated in the report of the official investigation. Kungaeva allegedly threatened to shoot his family. But there’s one point that’s being overlooked here. Elza Kungaeva couldn’t speak Russian.
If Budanov was out to arrest a sniper – even though this isn’t part of the duties of a tank regiment commander – why didn’t he find any evidence in her home, like ammunition, or a high-precision rifle? There was a gun in the corner of the next room, a gun for which Elza’s father, Visa Kungaev, has a permit. But no one was looking for that; neither was anyone looking for a sniper. It’s just that this story is being used as the basis for the defense version of events.
At one point, we suggested questioning the residents of Tangi-Chu, who know the Kungaev family well. They could clarify many points, and sweep the sniper theory aside. It’s clear to us that Kungaeva had nothing to do with the deaths of the soldiers from Budanov’s regiment. But the court decided then that summoning witnesses would be premature. And now that tests have found Budanov to be of unsound mind, there is no longer any need to summon witnesses. Although, to be honest, Budanov does not give the impression of being a person who lacks awareness of his actions.
SKINHEADS ARE A REAL FORCE FOR THE MAJORITY OF MUSCOVITES
Inostranets, May 14, 2002, p. 7
Last week, the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM) did an opinion poll in Moscow, devoted to the so-called “skinhead issue”. It turned out that the majority of Moscow residents disagree with statements of a number of Moscow police leaders, who say that the media invented skinheads and they do not exist as a social layer in Moscow.
Answering the question whether skinheads are a real force or a myth invented by the media, 58% of respondents said skinheads are a real force; 21% of respondents said it is a myth; 12% head nothing of skinheads; and 9% were unsure of their opinion.
Sixty three percent of respondents think skinheads are dangerous for public order; 20% disagreed with this statement; 5% were unsure of their opinion.
Answering the question on the position of the Moscow law enforcement bodies (the police, prosecutor’s office, the Federal Security Service) in relation to skinheads and other nationalistic organizations, 30% of respondents said the authorities are fighting against these extremist groupings. However, 41% of Muscovites believe the authorities give no attention to them; 7% of respondents accused the authorities of supporting skinheads and other ultra-nationalists; 10% of respondents were unsure of their opinion.
At the same time, 21% of respondents stated that skinheads protect interests of the Russian people and often do the work of the police; 64% disagreed with this; 15% of respondents were unsure of their opinion.
SPEAK OF IRAQ NOTHING OR GOOD?
Rossiyskie Vesti, May 16, 2002, p. 6
Over a long time the question when the military operation against Iraq is to start was he key topic in both Russian and foreign media. However, soon the discussions stopped all of a sudden. Evidently, much will depend on the results of May summit of Russian president Vladimir Putin and US President George Bush in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
However, there were two major conclusions. The first and the simplest was that Washington was unwilling to deteriorate the situation in the Middle East, where Israel, the closest ally of the US, may find itself in the firing line of Iraq, and the whole Arabian world will oppose to the United Stated. The second conclusion to some extent concerns the US global politics and is more related to Washington’s large-scale plans. First and foremost, it concerns the intention of the US to improve its relations with Islamic and Arab world, which is also caused by the Afghan operation against radical Islamists. Simultaneously, the US takes into account the “Russian component” of its politics: on the threshold of Bush’s visit to Moscow any unilateral action could break the scheduled discussion of a large range of issues. Moreover, the Iraq issue seems to be a serious irritant for US ally Turkey.
The Kremlin has many times called both Baghdad and Washington to be reserved – now it is the hostage of the situation. At the same time, it depends on Moscow’s agreement on actions of the international community whether they will be a success. Apparently, this circumstance stops the US. Discussion of the Iraq issue with the US president may become a complicated talk for Vladimir Putin. There is every reason to believe that mysterious silence on this issue of the media close to the US official circles is caused by unwillingness of the White House to “scare away” Moscow before time.
Many other things will also depend on the results of the Russia-US presidential summit. In any case, Moscow will try to distance from military or other force actions against Iraq. At the same time, it is important for the anti-Iraq coalition if it is established, not participation of the Kremlin, but its neutrality. Evidently, the fight for this neutrality is to be exhausting and to demand many concessions to Russia.