SERGEY STEPASHIN RECEIVES NORTHERN STAR ORDER

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SERGEY STEPASHIN RECEIVES NORTHERN STAR ORDER

Izvestia, October 10, 2002, p. 4 EV

On Tuesday, at the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, Sergei Stepashin chairman of the Auditing Commission, received the Northern Star Order first class – the highest order of Sweden, which has been granted to foreign citizens only since 1975.

The ex-minister of the interior and the ex- prime minister of Russia, Sergei Stepashin received the decoration introduced by King Frederic in 1748 at the suggestion of the Swedish Parliament. The reason for awarding this order to Stepashin was cooperation between Russian and Swedish law enforcement agencies promoted by Stepashin in countering international organized crime (auto smuggling, in particular).

“I am especially glad to receive this decoration from a country I have always had great respect for,” said the newly-dubbed knight commander. “Sweden is an amazing country: power is not abused there for the sake of power.”

The decoration granted to the Russian official shows a white cross with golden crowns and a star against a blue background. It bears an inscription “Nescit occasium” (Knowing no downfalls). Stepashin has become the third Russian to receive this decoration. Two other Russian knights of this order, which has five classes, are Andrei Piontkovsky, a political scientist, and Irina Rodimtseva, head of the Moscow Kremlin Museum.

Pinning the decoration on the chest of Colonel-General Stepashin, the ambassador of Sweden, Sven Hirdman, warned his old friend that in the event of the recipient’s death the decoration is to be returned to Sweden. “This is done in order not to let it fall into the wrong hands.”

GROWTH OF NATO MILITARY SPENDING CONCERNS RUSSIA’S DEFENSE MINISTRY

Izvestia, October 10, 2002, p. 4 EV

The group of twenty will discuss military reforms in Russia and NATO at an international conference on “The Russia-NATO Council and defense reforms” which will take place on October 10 at the NATO Military College in Rome. The Defense Ministry’s finance manager, Lyubov Kudelina, and the deputy chief of the General Staff, Yury Baluyevsky, will make reports at the conference. Before he left for Italy, General Baluyevsky claimed that the military spending of NATO member states had been rising – and “it would be interesting to hear explanations from NATO partners on that score”. In the Russian general’s words, the defense spending of NATO’s newly admitted member-states – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – is also increasing, though it was claimed previously that after these countries joined NATO, their military spending would be curtailed.

SHOKHIN PROMISES TO RETURN TO POLITICS

Izvestia, October 10, 2002, p. 4 EV

Alexander Shokhin, former chairman of the Duma banking committee, who decided last March to work with the Renaissance Capital Investment Group, is not going to quit politics permanently. The question of giving up his seat in parliament was on the agenda at yesterday’s session of the Duma, according to the Interfax news agency. “I am not withdrawing completely from politics, but I am not going to return to the Duma sooner than several years from now,” Shokhin said, adding that the decision to change his occupation and go into business was due to the belief “that one has to change their mode of life at a certain moment in order to test oneself in other spheres”. The politician, who has been in the Duma for nearly nine years, admitted that he was abandoning the Parliament with some regret. “To change one’s mode of life is not an easy thing to do,” he said.

RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION STATE DESIGNING NEW BANKNOTE

Izvestia, October 10, 2002, p. 4 EV

The Bank of Russia will not put a 5,000-ruble note in circulation within the next 12 months, the bank’s deputy chairman, Arnold Voilukov, reported to Interfax Financial Information Agency. Previously, Central Bank officials had been speaking of possibly issuing this note before the end of 2002. Saying that the Central Bank had designed several versions of the note, Mr. Voilukov also said that currently counterfeit prevention measures are being worked out. “A 5,000-ruble note is a very attractive thing for counterfeiters. If the note is issued, it will require extra means of protection, which will take some time to develop,” he stressed. “As for the note’s design, a picture of Minsk or Brest may be printed on it, if union with Belarus goes ahead… Moreover, a special series of union state notes may be issued in future.”

RUSSIANS RATE FSB’S PERFORMANCE AS SATISFACTORY

Versty, October 10, 2002, p. 1

The Federal Security Service (FSB), the former KGB, has always been a topic for discussion. In pre-perestroika times it would be discussed in whispers – since then it has been discussed loudly, even too loudly. But despite the seeming abundance of information about this organization, its previous and current activities remain top secret.

Judging by the latest poll done by Public Opinion Foundation, 96% of Russian citizens have not come into contact with the secret service lately. The population and the security service seem to be existing absolutely independently of each other. Probably, this state of affairs would satisfy everyone, but for the sharp aggravation of the situation in the country. Russia’s troubles are well known: the unceasing war in Chechnya, terrorism, drug trafficking, crime. It is FSB who is in charge of these spheres and how soon these problems are solved depends on its performance which for the time being leaves much to be desired. 17% of Russian citizens think that FSB performs its duties very poorly. 29% of respondents rated it as satisfactory. Only 15% of those questioned granted good and excellent grades to the service; 39% decided to abstain from giving their opinion, presumably remembering that one had better keep well away from this organization.

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