AN EYE FOR AN EYE

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AN EYE FOR AN EYE

Izvestia, September 13, 2002, p. 1 EV

Relations between the federal troops in Chechnya and Chechen police grew heated yesterday. A skirmish broke out right in the center of Grozny on Wednesday night. The soldiers of the Oktyabrsky district commandant’s office and Chechen police officers fired at each other.

A Kamaz truck carrying troops from the Oktyabrsky district military commandant’s office was moving along Pobedy Avenue at high speed. The truck suddenly swung out to the center strip and ran into a bus carrying local residents. Grozny administration employee Marina Tsaltsaeva, who had been in a window seat, was killed instantly; seven other people were injured. Chechen policemen – road service officers – arrived on the scene. Gunfire broke out almost at once.

Relations between the local police and the federal troops stationed in Chechnya are growing worse and worse; especially since they are subordinate to different commanders. And there has been no coordination yet.

The Chechen Interior Administration denies the story told by the military about the incident. They think that “unidentified people” provoked the skirmish.

Colonel Said-Selim Peshkhoev, Chechen Interior Administration Chief: A group of unidentified people in camouflage opened fire, somehow appearing on the scene of the accident. They killed my officer and a soldier. Then the policemen and the military fired at each other, as they though they were attacked.”

The colonel did not explain how a group of “unidentified people in camouflage” might move around in the center of Grozny, which is currently intensively patrolled.

The Chechen prosecutor’s office has not yet released the details of the incident, citing the secrecy of investigation.

POLITICIANS DISCUSSING "PUTIN’S ULTIMATUM"

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 13, 2002, EV

According to the Russian Constitution, the deciding vote on the issue of using military force beyond Russia’s borders belongs to the Federation Council. According to the procedures of the Federation Council (FC), the senators will be able to decide on the matter of sending Russian troops into Georgia as soon as the day after receiving a corresponding message from the Russian president with reasons for the decision.

FC Defense and Security Committee Chairman Victor Ozerov claims that Russia, like any other state, is entitled to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty. However, according to him this country should not take a stand like that of the US, which pursues its strategic interests without taking the UN Security Council into account. Ozerov left out the possibility that Russia will act in Georgia unilaterally, ignoring international law. Ozerov says: “The consequences in that case may be unpredictable, taking into account the US intentions to bomb Iraq. That makes a third world war quite probable.” In Ozerov’s view, if the president sends a request to the FC, which decides on the issues of war and peace according to the Constitution, the senators are unlikely to approve the participation of the Russian military in any operations outside the country without a UN Security Council mandate.

Commenting on the existing situation, FC Deputy Speaker Andrei Vikharev said that common sense should still prevail in relations between Georgia and Russia, though if it becomes necessary for Vladimir Putin to request the FC to approve the use of military force outside Russia, the upper house would undoubtedly support him. “Today, we do share the president’s responsibility for what is going on along the borders of our homeland,” Vikharev said. “We really do not keep the Russian-Georgian border completely sealed on our own, due to some its specific conditions. Only by joint efforts of Russia and Georgia can we restore order there. Therefore, I am sure that the following reasoning would be absolutely right: Georgian President Shevardnadze is naturally a wise politician, but there is a need to stop to demagoguery and resolve the situation via practical action. However, the warning issued by the Russian president is very important; therefore, I emphasize, if Vladimir Putin requests the FC to sanction the use of military force in Georgia, the senators will back him.”

In the view of FC International Affairs Committee Chairman Ramazan Abdulatipov, Vladimir Putin made it quite clear that if there was cooperation and joint action between Russia and Georgia against the terrorists, there would be no need for a unilateral Russian operation. Abdulatipov says: “Russia has to influence the settlement of the situation within Georgia more vigorously, because everything that is currently going on in that country results from many unsolved problems. Meanwhile, settling the problems with Abkhazia and South Ossetia is more urgent for Shevardnadze than fighting the Chechen rebels.”

MUCH ADO ABOUT A REFERENDUM

Trud, September 13, 2002, EV

Communist Leader Gennady Zyuganov is naturally annoyed at the intention of the centrists to pass a bill on banning referendums a year before parliamentary and presidential elections. He thinks the communist initiative to conduct a referendum has scared the Kremlin. Zyuganov has promised to collect 2 million signatures in favor of holding the referendum (on purchase and sale of land, nationalization of natural monopolies, and utility payments) before the law is amended.

Meanwhile, leading political scientists think that the communist action is doomed to fail. At a meeting of the Civil Debate Club, Politics Foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov said: “The communists can see for themselves that there will be no referendum.” The issues formulated require amendments to the Constitution or revision of the budget, but that cannot be done with the help of a nationwide poll.

As if to make the situation completely absurd, Liberal Democratic Party Leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky gave one of his unique commentaries on the communist plan. He said his party was also going to initiate a referendum on the most important government issues, and named eight items: abolishing the Federation Council, reducing the numbers of the Duma deputies, extending their terms in office, reuniting the former USSR by absorbing former Soviet republics into Russia, and more.

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