PUTIN TRUSTS THE GERMAN PRESIDENT
Izvestia, September 4, 2002, p. 3 EV
Russia and Germany have accumulated a unique record of cooperation, and in this the field of culture is “like yeast in dough”. This upbeat statement was made after talks between President Vladimir Putin and Johannes Rau, the president of Germany. Putin stressed that Moscow’s attitude to Berlin “is not affected by circumstances”. In other words, the outcome of Germany’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 22, will not have an impact on dialogue with Russia.
Every effort was made to ensure that Rau’s visit to Moscow was pleasant. Putin even admitted to promising to shield him from any awkward media questions: “I have just told the president of Germany that we will not torment him with the Kaliningrad issue.” The reason is that despite Rau’s high status, his powers are limited; all decisions and declarations are made by the chancellor. In Germany, Rau is viewed as something like “the voice of ethics” and someone who carries out necessary representative functions.
Thus, Rau is not authorized to announce any changes in the position of Germany or the European Union, or propose any initiatives. However, the issue of Kaliningrad was discussed during the talks. Rau said that a package of proposals would be developed by the end of September; proposals which would meet “both Europe’s interests and Russia’s legitimate wishes”. In return, Putin publicly stated once again that in his view, resolving the Kaliningrad problem requires “political will, nothing more”. This time, Putin clearly distinguished two components: the Kaliningrad enclave as the immediate problem, and visa-free travel between Russia and Europe as a future goal.
GOLOVLEV MURDER CASE UPDATE
Trud, September 4, 2002, p. 2
Anatoly Bragin, chief prosecutor of the Chelyabinsk region, has expressed his regret over the murder of Duma member Vladimir Ivanovich Golovlev. In Bragin’s opinion, it would have been preferable to see Golovlev on trial: he allegedly misappropriated over 2 billion rubles.
According to Bragin, there is clear evidence that over 2 billion rubles passed through Golovlev’s hands, and that he received bribes totalling around 12 million denominated rubles.
Golovlev’s personal fortune, in bank accounts abroad, is estimated to be around $100 million. This information comes from foreign law enforcement agencies who are working with those banks, which is further proof of how serious the allegations against the notorious member of parliament are.
According to Bragin, eleven Russian companies are also involved in this case. No charges have yet been laid; the investigation continues, in Russia and abroad. A separate investigation has been started into the activities of Dudin, Golovlev’s “cashier”, now on the run.
Bragin considers that this case, now being prepared for submission to the courts, is not confined to the Chelyabinsk region; its threads lead to the very top. Although no names are being named before the case goes to court, Bragin says there are a number of Duma members and senior state officials involved. This is supported by the fact that there has been pressure from above on the Chelyabinsk prosecutor’s office since 1999. And it would be naive to think that the financier of two parties – the Union of Right Forces and Liberal Russia – acted alone.
Why was Golovlev shot? Probably because of his business dealings. A substantial amount of shares in privatized enterprises, which Golovlev had obtained unlawfully, were re-sold to structures linked to organized crime. Due to action taken by the law enforcement agencies, some of those shares have been returned to their lawful owners. So the criminal underworld might have taken measures to eliminate the key figure in this affair. Bragin believes that any attempts to suggest that this murder was a political assassination are unfounded.
A BLOW TO THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
Trud, September 4, 2002, p. 2
Ukraine’s National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council has issued instructions for all Ukrainian-made programs to make a transition to using the state’s official language within the next year. In other words, these programs would cease to be broadcast in Russian. In Kiev, this is being seen as another attack on the Russian language.
“Golos Ukrainy”, the parliamentary newspaper, was harsh in its assessment: “This decision has baffled Ukrainian television viewers and radio listeners”, it says in an article headlined “Total Ukrainization of Channels”. It quotes Alexander Yakovenko, an official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, as saying that Moscow is concerned about millions of ethnic Russian in Ukraine, as well as many Ukrainians for whom Russian is the first language, having a decreased opportunity to receive information in their native language.
“Den”, another Kiev-based paper, interviewed Oleg Mironov, Russia’s human rights ombudsman, on the topic of “derussification” in Ukraine. This is not confined to television and radio broadcasts. Russian-language education is being cut back; history is being revised – presented in distorted form in syllabi and textbooks. Mironov cites some remarkable figures: “Ten years ago, there were 155 Russian-language schools in Kiev alone; last year this was down to ten, and now there are eight. The closure of Russian-language media outlets is likewise disturbing.”
The Russian Embassy in Ukraine also expressed concern, as did representatives of ethnic Russian organizations in Ukraine.
Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov discussed all these issues during his meeting with Supreme Rada Speaker Vladimir Litvin. The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament said: “We have reached full mutual understanding in the humanitarian sphere.” That remains to be seen.
RUSSIAN SOLDIERS SUSPECTED OF KILLING CHECHEN POLICE
Izvestia, September 4, 2002, p. 1 EV
Last night a Kamaz truck exploded on the outskirts of Shali in Chechnya, killing eight policemen, most of them ethnic Chechens. Law enforcement agencies say the explosion was caused by a powerful landmine planted by guerrillas. However, another theory has it that the truck came under fire – from grenade-launchers operated by the federal troops.
According to the initial theory put forward by the Shali administration, the explosion was caused by an artillery charge hitting the side of the road. Abdullah Sabiev, deputy mayor of Shali, says the gunfire came from outside the town, from the direction of the Defense Ministry’s 70th regiment.
However, Nikolai Kostiuchenko, prosecutor of Chechnya, denied all accusations against the federal troops.
Nikolai Kostiuchenko: “Our group has returned from Shali, and we no longer have any doubts that this was a terrorist attack. Fragments of the device and parts of a remote-controlled detonator have been recovered. We have no information about any artillery fire in the area.”
However, the administration of Chechnya isn’t rushing to any conclusions.
Akhmad Kadyrov: “I have taken charge of the investigation personally, and members of my commission have also visited the scene. I’ll say this much: we will be looking at both theories, and the final answer will be given after thorough investigation.”
GUSINSKY’S STAKE WILL BE BOUGHT OUT
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, September 4, 2002, p. 1
Gazprom announced on Tuesday that Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Gazprom-Media general director Boris Jordan had met to discuss completing the process of buying out Vladimir Gusinsky’s stake in Gazprom-Media. During the meeting, both emphasized that the deal will increase the capitalization of the companies that make up Gazprom-Media and turn them into more attractive investment prospects. Miller and Jordan also noted the improvement in the financial position of the Gazprom-Media companies over the past year, and discussed further investment plans for the holding.