DUMA DOES NOT TRUST FOREIGNERS

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DUMA DOES NOT TRUST FOREIGNERS

Kommersant, June 22, 2002, p. 2

On June 21, after ten years of discussions, the lower house of parliament approved in the second reading the draft law on turnover of agricultural lands. However, the Duma allowed foreigners only renting land in Russia, which may hinder this draft law to come into effect.

During the preparations for the second reading, deputies of centrist factions agreed to prohibit foreigners and companied, whose capital consists of foreign capital by over 50%, to own agricultural lands in Russia. However, not all deputies supported their radical colleagues.

The Duma supported the strict version of the draft law allowing foreigners only renting land. The maximum term of rent for both Russians and foreigners is 49 years. The government will encourage renters and leasers concluding renting contracts for more than ten years.

Next week, the Duma is to adopt this draft law in the third reading. Then it may face some problems in the Federation Council. For instance, some senators may dislike the prohibitions of purchase and sale of agricultural lands by foreigners, since in some regions, e.g. in Tatarstan, land is widely sold already, and even to foreigners. Thus, the upper house may well decline the draft law.

AHMAD VALI MASUD: TALIBAN WILL NEVER RETURN

Izvestia, June 22, 2002, EV

The nationwide assembly of Afghanistan, Loya Djirga, has finished in Afghanistan. Ahmad Vali Masud, a younger brother of the late leader of the Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Masud and the leader of the forming National Movement of Afghanistan, has commented on its results in his interview to “Izvestia.”

Question: How do you assess the results of the past Loya Djirga?

Ahmad Vali Masud: Afghanistan’s people have long been deprived of such an opportunity to express their opinions about the fate of the country. I think Afghanistan has already begun to live calmly and peacefully. As for decisions made at the assembly, the main one was on appointment of Hamid Karzai head of the transition administration of the country. Many other issues were not resolved.

Q.: Can any results of the assembly exacerbate the situation in some provinces of the country?

AVM: No, I think the war is over in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s people will not conduct the war anymore. I think that the balance of ethnic groups is observed in the new government. Pushtus, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Khazarians, and other nations are represented there.

Q.: Do you think Taliban will return?

AVM: There will be no return of Taliban, religious extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan.

Q.: At the closing of Loya Djirga Hamid Karzai thanked the UN, the US, Japan, the UK, Germany, and France for assistance, but did not say a word about Russia. Is this a new policy?

AVM: Afghanistan is led by young politicians now. They must be in want of experience and wisdom. They do not know how to treat foreign countries. I think Hamod Karzai forgot Russia by chance. Russia helped us best of all in the hard years of fighting terrorism.

Q.: What kind of relations do you think should be between Russia and Afghanistan?

AVM: We have good friendly relations with Russia today, and we are interested in their development.

CHUBAIS WITHOUT BORDERS

Vek, June 21, 2002, p. 1

No wonder it’s been said that if the Soviet Union had survived, Anatoly Chubais could have become an excellent general or director of an industrial plant. The scope of his managerial talents has already spread beyond Russia’s borders: Chubais, head of Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES), the electricity monopoly, has started work on creating a Euro-Asian electricity supply alliance. For this purpose, he has visited Brussels and addressed the European Parliament. His speech bore the title of “Toward deregulation and integration of the post-Soviet and European electricity markets”. Chubais mentioned the idea of creating a unified electricity supply network among the nations of Europe and the CIS, which would “make it possible to optimize levels of pressure on the network and improve efficiency”. Chubais has been working on this within the CIS and the Baltic states. Metaphorically speaking, his actions may be described as re-creating the Soviet Union in a specific sector of industry.

It’s probably just part of his character. Observers pondering Chubais’s future have already started predicting his career moves. Nobody expects him to stay in the electricity sector. His starting position is impressive. Members of his former team – from Alexei Kudrin to Sergei Ignatiev – hold all the key posts in managing the Russian economy. The Union of Right Forces party is held together by his iron will. He remains a significant figure in lobbying, both in politics and within the bureaucracy.

The wildest predictions have it that Chubais is aiming for the presidency – under the pseudonym of Boris Nemtsov. Not in 2004, of course, but in 2008.

Another theory is somewhat more realistic: that Chubais will finally turn his full attention to party-building on the right. However, this contradicts the assumption that Chubais is likely to recollect his “president-maker” habits and get involved in Vladimir Putin’s re-election campaign. On the one hand, we already know who will win the presidential election in 2004. On the other hand, there is the important question of who will stand closest at Putin’s side in the process of ensuring a no-contest victory.

Very few note the fact that Chubais, travelling as a private individual, is carrying out some sensitive missions connected with the European aspects of Russia’s foreign policy, including economic policy. Some believe that his efforts in this area cannot pass unnoticed.

KALININGRAD: WINDOW IS OPEN, DOORS ARE CLOSING

Vek, June 21, 2002, p. 3

(Comments by Sergei Shishkarev, Ph.D. (Law), deputy chairman of the Duma committee on international affairs.)

Russia has a thorny path in defining its place in the world. The leading democracies have abandoned all humanitarian rhetoric and show no sign of extending democratic rules into international politics – especially not that part of it where Russia is a player or where Russia’s state interests are at stake. One such issue is the future of the Kaliningrad region. Our European colleagues continue to insist on visa requirements for travel between regions of Russia separated from each other by the Schengen zone.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but Swiss citizens have the right to visa-free travel on the territory of EU member states, arranged through bilateral agreements.

Travel between West Germany and West Berlin (the zone occupied by the US, Britain, and France) was visa-free, due to a four-sided agreement dated 1971. Restrictions only applied to cargo trains. Passengers travelled freely, as befits honest burghers of the free, democratic world.

Some EU officials reason that visa-free travel would carry the risk of illegal migrants and assorted criminals entering the EU from Russia. For us, this is an indicator of their double standards. Some fraudsters who are wanted nationwide in Russia are granted Schengen visas by European consulates, quite officially.

According to its regulations, the European Union accepts as members only nations which are democracies, market economies, stable, and have no conflicts with their neighbors – including territorial disputes. But Lithuania does have such a dispute! Firstly, the Lithuanian parliament acknowledged it in June 2000 by passing a law on compensation claims for Soviet occupation. Secondly, the agreement on state borders between Lithuania and Russia has not yet been ratified; logically enough, given the lack of clarity on the first point.

But now could be the time for some diplomatic discussion of that law on compensation claims. Russia does have something to say. After World War II, based on the Yalta and Potsdam accords, the territory of Eastern Prussia was taken by the Soviet Union – acting within its rights as the victor state. After that – following a decision by Stalin’s government, which had occupied Lithuania – the Vilen territory with its capital at Vilno and the Memel territory with its capital at Memel (now Kleiped) became part of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, making up a good third of its territory. It wouldn’t be hard to calculate the current value of these territories; leading international experts could be called in, and adjustments could even be made to take good neighborly relations, peace, and regional political stability into account. For us – and for Lithuania’s future EU colleagues – it is essential to understand what kind of state Lithuania is, and how much its EU membership could end up costing the tax-payers of other EU members. Maybe the talks with the EU over Kaliningrad would then become irrelevant.

I shall anticipate the likely accusations of imperialist ambitions and territorial claims: we were not the first to raise this issue. Our Lithuanian colleagues have been insisting on discussing this matter, insisting loudly and for a long time. It would be most impolite of Russia to remain deaf to the requests of a neighbor.

AMERICA’S SUPPORT

Zavtra, June 20, 2002, p. 1

Sources close to the Kremlin report that during his visit to Moscow, President Bush conveyed to President Putin a kind of plan for future cooperation between Washington and Moscow: more of an ultimatum than a plan. According to this report, five demands were made of Russia: support for the US strike on Iraq; a complete halt to the arms trade with Iran; no union between Russia and Belarus, repudiation of President Lukashenko; keeping as far away as possible from the European Union; and giving preference to US corporations in the forthcoming “privatization” of the Russian defense sector. In exchange, there would be full US support for the “personal power” of Putin, as Yeltsin was supported in 1995-96, including regular installments of dollars to plug the holes in Russia’s budget and support the ruble; as well as confirmation of Putin’s status as a full representative of the “global community” with respect to Ukraine and Belarus.

RELATIONS WITH BELARUS AND GERMANY

Zavtra, June 20, 2002, p. 1

Addressing a group of medical researchers during a visit to the Bakulev Institute in St. Petersburg, President Putin unleashed a torrent of criticism against Belarus and President Lukashenko. This made the deterioration in relations between Russia and Belarus very clear; but it doesn’t signify a real change of direction in Russian foreign policy, or a warning to the banking alliance of V. Kogan and Sergei Pugachev. It was more of an attempt to rectify relations with Germany, which have worsened due to the Kremlin’s entirely pro-American agenda. What Germany is being offered as a “sweetener” is full control over exports of Russian natural gas to Europe via Ukraine, and Russia’s rejection of any move to diversify export routes (the option of a gas pipeline across Belarus and Poland, and a freeze on construction of the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey).

DOCUMENTARIES AND POLICIES

Zavtra, June 20, 2002, p. 1

An unprecedented CNN documentary, made at the behest of the New York Times and AOL, which openly criticizes Russia’s policies in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, has been broadcast around the world, becoming a powerful media strike at the Kremlin. It reflects interests of US political forces which oppose the official policy of Washington. According to our analysts, this could not only lead to the resumption of a large-scale military operation in the North Caucasus, but also serve as a means of “binding” Putin’s Russia to the Bush administration in order to “restructure the world order”, involving the separation of Russia into several quasi-states.

CHUBAIS CLIQUE IS TAKING OVER

Zavtra, June 20, 2002, p. 1

According to a source linked with the security structures, a recently-formed alliance of “Yeltsin’s Family” with Anatoly Chubais’ group has enabled Mikhail Kasianov, Alexander Voloshin, and Anatoly Chubais to concentrate almost all leverage involved in running the country in their hands – Putin is left with only “representative functions”. Under these conditions, the St. Petersburg team finally had to surrender their positions and now they have to carry out the orders of Chubais’ clique, which the Kremlin only “transmits”. This is the real reason behind the incident involving explosives on a billboard along the road to Vnukovo airport, and the riots in central Moscow.

TYCOONS AND PUTIN

Zavtra, June 20, 2002, p. 1

According to a Kremlin source, during the latest meeting between Vladimir Putin and Russian tycoons, the president was directly told that they would not support him in the next election. The main reason is said to be the discontent of Yeltsin’s clan with the attitude of the Kremlin’s new master in relation to proteges of the previous president, primarily Mikhail Kasyanov. Putin is said to be planning to dismiss Kasyanov and appoint Kudrin instead. The president is hesitating; if he appoints Kudrin as prime minsiter, on the one hand he facilitates the promotion of Kasyanov by tycoons for the next presidential elections; but on the other hand, he deprives himself of reliable financial support. Currently, Kudrin controls many financial channels, which makes it possible to use them during the presidential election campaign. However, if Kudrin is appointed as prime minister, he will lose direct control of financial means and this is likely to lead to unpredictable results….

AT THE REAR

Nezavisimoye Voeynnoe Obozrenie, June 21, 2002, p. 1

On June 13, head of the Armed Forces rear, Deputy Defense Minister Army General Vladimir Isakov stated that a united system of logistics and supplies for the Russian security structures is to be introduced gradually, in accordance with the plan approved by the government for 2002-05. Logistics bodes are to be optimized and reduced, and most of them duplicate each other. Isakov announced that logistics arrangements of the security structures are currently being inspected, in order to start the cuts at the end of the second quarter. The state aims to save up to 6 billion rubles due to these measures.

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