DEMOGRAPHIC CATASTROPHE EXPECTED IN RUSSIA
Vremya MN, September 30, 2000, p. 1
The issue of the impending demographic catastrophe has become extremely popular since President Putin began his annual address to the Federal Assembly with the words: “We are under a threat of becoming an aging nation.” According to the State Statistics Committee, in the first half of 2000 the population of Russia declined by 425,400; as at July 1, 2000 it was 145.1 million. The number of deaths was 80% higher than the number of births. And this lamentable trend will persist. Recently, the Economic Development Ministry prepared a forecast of Russia’s population in 50 years. It will be 94 million: 52 million fewer people than today. The fact that funding for this area has been provided in full lately confirms that we are on the verge of a catastrophe. Health Care Minister Yuri Shevchenko points out that over the past two years 68.3 million rubles has been invested in issues linked with maternity and childhood.
RUSHAILO DEFEATS ALL BANDITS
Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 30, 2000, p. 1
At a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Interior Ministry Academy on September 29, Vladimir Rushailo made a sensational statement: his agency has got on top of the crime situation in Russia. “Never before has such a quantity of police forces been used for securing public order and fighting terrorism,” Rushailo added. It’s true. Since last year’s bombings, police forces in Moscow and throughout Russia have been working in a self-destructive way: with endless “strengthening” and “special operations” which totally exhaust people physically and emotionally. However, the authorities can hardly boast of anything but mass personnel shifting. Talented commanders win not by numbers, but by skill.
Still, nothing can reduce the optimism of the Interior Minister. “Over the past two years, we have noted a decrease in the crime rate,” he stated. Mind you – not an increase in sensational crimes solved, but an increase in the number of criminals jailed… Moreover, where did Rushailo find information about a decrease in crimes committed? By the end of 1998, over 2 million crimes were reported, 60% of which were serious. Twenty-four thousand people were killed. In 1999, 3 million crimes were registered and 31,000 citizens fell victim to murders or murder attempts, which is 5.4% more than in 1998. So, there is no trace of a decrease. The year 2000 is not over yet. Crime analysts know that the highest number of crimes is registered in the cold seasons, which means that much lies ahead of us, despite the minister’s “May” mood.
GERASHCHENKO MAY BE "PUSHED AWAY" FROM MONEY
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 1
The president’s conclusion on deputies’ amendments to the law “On the Bank of Russia” has been submitted to the Duma. Vladimir Putin suggested his own version of some clauses of the law. If deputies agree with it, nothing will be left of the current independence of the Central Bank and the empire of state banks owned by it. All leverage of influence over the national economy will finally be grasped by the executive branch.
At present, the Central Bank of Russia is absolutely independent (at least, from the legal standpoint) from the executive branch. At the same time, it is the largest financial holding in Russia: it owns 99.99% of shares in Vneshtorgbank (Foreign Trade Bank), over 57.66% of shares in Sberbank (Savings Bank), and large stakes in the capital of five Russian banks abroad. Both the Duma and the Cabinet dislike it, but, until now, they could not succeed in depriving the Central Bank of its status. Still, now everything may change. If deputies listen to the president’s conclusion, little will be left of the Central Bank’s current greatness.
President Putin suggested in his conclusion that the Bank of Russia should be turned into a state enterprise. However, the clause according to which federal agencies have no right to intervene “in the Central Bank’s implementation of its legally confirmed functions and powers” cannot be extracted from the law. Still, the status of a state enterprise implies at least the subjection of the Central Bank to one of the three branches of government. Since the suggestion was made by the president, it is obvious that this will be the executive branch.
MOSCOW SYMPATHIZES WITH THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE OF AFGHANISTAN
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 3
On September 29, a personal representative of President Burkhanuddin Rabbani of Afghanistan completed negotiations in Moscow. Over a few days he has tried to convince the Russian government to help the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and strengthen pressure on the Taliban via the UN. However, Russia has to consider the real situation: the Taliban is close to establishing control over all of Afghanistan, and soon it will be necessary to start a dialogue with it. Many countries have already understood this. At the same time, the Taliban has been successfully converting its military advantages into diplomatic ones. Abdurrakhman Zakhid, deputy foreign minister of the Taliban government, was received at the US Department of State and held official talks there. The deputy foreign minister of Italy himself came to Kabul and stated that the Rome authorities may consider recognizing the Taliban government. Already, the Taliban government has been recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Russia also has to change its attitude toward the Taliban. Recently, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a special presidential representative, visited Pakistan. Moscow is trying to establish contact with the Taliban via Islamabad in order to convince it to cease hostilities and support for Islamic extremists in Central Asia and Chechnya. In such conditions, representatives of the Northern Alliance can only count on sympathy and – if the situation becomes worse – on political asylum in Russia.
NEW SATELLITE WILL TAKE PHOTOS OF AFGHANISTAN
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 3
Yesterday, at 1.30 p.m. Moscow time, a Soyuz-U carrier rocket was successfully launched from the Baikonur launch pad. It put the Kometa military cartographic satellite No. 20 into the orbit. As our correspondent learned from well-informed sources at the Defense Ministry, the main goal of the satellite is photographing of the territory of Afghanistan and adjacent states, and also Yugoslavia. The data received from outer space will be used as the basis of topographic maps drawn up at the Russian General Staff.
PRESIDENT PUTIN TO VISIT INDIA
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 2
President Putin’s visit to India begins on Monday. During the course of the visit, a bilateral agreement on strategic partnership is to be signed. Besides, deliveries of Russian weapons to India and joint projects in gas, oil, and nuclear energy will be discussed in Delhi. However, the two countries expect new investments, first and foremost.
What can we expect? First of all, an increase in deliveries of Russian weapons to India. According to information from Ilya Klebanov’s staff, this time four large-scale projects are to be approved in Delhi. An agreement on licensing production of Su-30 MKI fighters in India is called “the project of the century”. The value of the deal is $4 billion, and the project must be implemented within ten years. The problem of selling the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft-carrier cruiser to India should be solved in Delhi. Besides, direct selling and licensed production of 300 T-90 tanks is estimated to be worth $1 billion. And, finally, India counts on 18 Smerch salvo fire systems ($83 million).
The Indian private sector is also showing an interest in Russia. This means not only deliveries of traditional Indian exports to Russia, since India does not only produce medicines and tea. According to the Indian media, the value of software produced in India amounts to $50 billion a year. Part of it goes to Russia. The Sun group of companies created the Sun Capital Partners investment fund in Russia, where $155 million has been accumulated. The fund invests money in Russia’s projects involving the Internet and the “new economy”. However, the “new economy” is still exotic for Russia. At the same time, Sun invests money in a Russian brewery (15% of the market).
HUBERT VEDRINE LEAVES RUSSIA
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 2
A two-day Moscow visit by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine ended yesterday. When summing up the results of the visit, Vedrine pointed out that there has been no chill in relations between Paris and Moscow. On the whole, the visit contributed to activation of Russian-French relations. In the course of the visit, a trend toward improvement was even noted. Yesterday’s meetings were largely devoted to bilateral relations with a special emphasis on the economy. Two Russian deputy prime ministers joined the negotiations – Viktor Khristenko, who recently held talks at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, and Ilya Klebanov, in charge of defense issues. Besides, Vedrine met with heads of a number of French firms working in Russia, and with Russian business leaders.
The results of negotiations summed up by Vedrine at a press conference enabled him to state that at the current stage of Russian history, “at the beginning of Putin’s presidential term, France and other European countries must adjust their policies to the reality of Russia’s political life.” One of the main questions is “what can European countries do to support modernization of Russia in all aspects”.
As for practical results of negotiations, an agreement has been concluded on holding a meeting of an intergovernmental commission chaired by the prime ministers of Russia and France, along with the October summit in Paris. This meeting has been set for December 18.
ELECTION COMMISSION THREATENS COURT ACTION AGAINST TATAR PRESIDENT
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 2
Alexander Veshnyakov, head of the Central Election Commission, has accused the State Council of Tatarstan of breaking federal election law. In the opinion of the CEC head, transferring the election of the head of the republic from March 2001 to December 24, 2000 is illegal. However, in fact, the Moscow leadership is disturbed not by the date of election in Tatarstan, but by the fact that President Mintimer Shaimiyev intends to win it for the third time.
Veshnyakov is sure that setting the day of election in Tatarstan three months earlier is illegal. Moreover, he already informed “all interested parties” of his opinion. At the same time, Veshnyakov realizes that the CEC is not entitled to cancel a decision by the state authorities; this can be done only through the courts. However, Veshnyakov, who is used to his opinion being always taken into consideration, is very resolute. In private conversations with representatives of the Tatarstan government, he issued a clear warning: if the decision to hold a pre-term election is not cancelled, “they will be pursued by court cases up to the very day of the vote”. It is not ruled out that the CEC may appeal to the Constitutional Court.
The State Council of Tatarstan is in a hurry: Moscow has been actively campaigning to bring regional laws into compliance with federal law. Until the Tatarstan constitution (which permits more than two presidential terms) is considered in court, the republican authorities hope to hold the election.
PEDOPHILES THREATENED WITH JAIL
Kommersant-daily, September 30, 2000, p. 7
Officials of the prosecutor’s office of the town of Torre-Annunciata in Italy, together with their Russian counterparts, have detained 11 people (three of whom are Russians) on charges of distributing pornographic video materials involving children via the Internet. According to the Italian police, about 2,000 people are involved in this ring.
Lately, pornographic films with children from Russia have flooded Europe; and officials in Germany, Finland, the USA, Austria, and other countries appealed to the Russian State Department for Fighting Organized Crime. Producers of child pornography may be sentenced to ten years of imprisonment in Italy.
JOINT RESISTANCE TO THE TALIBAN
Vremya MN, September 30, 2000, p. 2
On September 29, a meeting of secretaries of Security Councils of the states which are signatories to the Collective Security Treaty was held in Moscow. Among the participants there were representatives of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan; and Ukraine as an observer. The main issue discussed at the meeting was the situation in Central Asia. According to Sergei Ivanov, secretary of the Russian Security Council, during the meeting a separate discussion was devoted to the situation along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. Secretaries of Security Councils have a clear understanding of the danger posed by Afghanistan to CIS countries. According to Russia’s representative, there are about 30,000 mercenaries from various countries, including ethnic Chechens, in Afghanistan. Ivanov holds that the forces of the 201st division and border guards in Tajikistan are sufficient to control the situation. If the situation becomes more acute, the group can be rapidly reinforced, Ivanov said.