RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 2, 2000, p. 1
The conflict within the office of Russia’s human rights envoy Oleg Mironov can hardly be described as trivial. The essence of it is that Mironov’s colleagues accuse him of violating the rights of his own subordinates. Ten staff officials have described this in their open letter to President Vladimir Putin. They emphasize that the foundation of this new institution in May 1998 was aimed at protecting human rights and civil liberties. However, the past two-and-a-half years of its operation have shown that it has been working despite Mironov, who took the post not because of his personal convictions, but for some other reasons. According to the authors of the letter, Mironov has never listened to his subordinates when forming an assessment of various events. His actions have started to reveal the “dual ethics of a manipulator and a political player.”
Mironov’s subordinates are also outraged at his numerous trips abroad, at the expense of the office. Mironov has visited Chechnya only once, and has been to only five Russian regions. At the same time, he has made 20 trips abroad to such places as the US, Argentina, Peru, a number of African countries, etc. According to Panasyutin, a staff member, the ombudsman chose countries where there are no large-scal human rights abuses.
FEDULOV BLAMES COMMUNISTS FOR RISING ANTI-SEMITISM
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 2, 2000, p. 3
Alexander Fedulov (Unity faction), deputy chairman of the Duma Legislation Committee, considers that “to stop anti-Semitic moods in society it is necessary to suspend the Communist Party.” He noted that General Albert Makashov, Duma deputies Viktor Ilukhin and Vasily Shandybin, and Governor Alexander Mikhailov of the Kursk region are Communists, although the party leaders have pretended to have nothing to do with their scandalous anti-Semitic comments. According to Fedulov, he has already tried to submit a draft resolution stating that the Duma condemns anti-Semitism and calling for the suspension of the Communist Party, but this draft was rejected on a technicality.
COUNTER-TERRORIST OPERATION IN MOSCOW
Segodnya, December 2, 2000, p. 1
According to our sources, an unprecedented counter-terrorist operation is currently being carried out in Moscow by the Moscow Main Interior Affairs Directorate. This operation has followed some reports that a series of terrorist acts may soon take place in Moscow.
Vasily Kuptsov, deputy chief of the Moscow Main Interior Affairs Directorate, held a meeting on Fridaty at which he cited an extremely important document. This is a telegram quoting a telephone conversation between two terrorists who were under surveillance at the time.
Our sources report that in his comments on the content of the telegram, Kuptsov said that new bombings may take place in Moscow. In connection with this, he is keeping the Moscow Police on alert.
EDMOND POPE’S LAWYER RECITES POEM IN COURT
Segodnya, December 2, 2000, p. 3
The defense summary by Edmond Pope’s lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, included a surprise. Along with his own words, Astakhov recited an unique appeal to the Moscow City Court, written in verse. He had composed his poem the night before the court hearing.
The lawyer appealed to the court to make a “disinterested and honest decision” and stressed that a person’s fate depended on this decision.
It is not yet known how the court responded to Astakhov’s poem. The lawyer said, “We have done everything possible to make the court take our arguments into account. We have done our best, since 20 years in jail means a death sentence for a person with cancer.” According to Astakhov, Pope’s state of health has sharply declined; he is complaining of headaches and frequent changes in blood pressure. However, doctors at the Lefortovo prison have said these are results of excessive coffee consumption. Astakhov did not comment on this conclusion.
65 MILLION RUBLES EMBEZZLED IN CHECHNYA
Kommersant, December 2, 2000, p. 3
On December 1, the State Auditing Commission published the results of an audit of the financial activities of the provisional government of Chechnya headed by Akhmad Kadyrov, and of the staff of Kadyrov’s predecessor, former presidential envoy in Chechnya Nikolai Koshman. According to State Auditing Commission chief Sergei Stepashin, 65.5 million rubles has been misappropriated in Chechnya this year. Stepashin blamed the Finance Ministry and the Economy Ministry for this misappropriation. The General Prosecutor’s Office will soon investigate.
Stepashin has also blamed provisional government of Chechnya for the misappropriation. According to him, the provisional government is responsible for the disappearance of over 27 million rubles, including 4 million rubles meant for state-sector employee wages (80% of Chechnya’s teachers haven’t been paid in five months).
RUSSIAN ECONOMISTS PREPARING FOR CRISIS
Kommersant, December 2, 2000, p. 3
On December 1, economists celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Transition Economy Institute founded by Yegor Gaidar. Free-market economists gathered to celebrate it, but they could not do so without a tiff. They started to argue about who should take responsibility for the new economic crisis that seems to be inevitable.
Economists wondered whether the current economic policy in Russia is right. Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov said the government is wrong to ignore the “three specific features of the Russian economy: its modest macroeconomic results, its openness, and its dependence on world markets. Then Illarionov called on the government to pay off foreign debts in full, and give up attempts to have them rescheduled.
WILL THE RUSSIAN-BELARUSSIAN UNION HAVE AN ARMY?
Komsomolskaya Pravda, December 2, 2000, p. 2
A Russian-Belarussian Regional Military Group (RBG) will soon be set up, with 50,000 personnel. The RBG will be comprised of several detachments of the Belarussian Army and some troops from the Moscow Military District.
It is worth noting that the Belarussian Army is a significant force these days: it has 80,000 personnel, 2,500 armored combat vehicles, 1,800 tanks, 1,600 artillery systems, 175 anti-aircraft missile systems, over 50 fighter jets, and about 100 operative-tactical missiles.
The RBG Operative Staff has already been set up. It consists of officers and generals from the Russian and Belarussian Defense Ministries.
DUMA UPSETS CABINET AND CENTRAL BANK
Izvestia, December 2, 2000, p. 3
On December 1, the Duma considered the draft 2001 budget in the third reading. The results of the vote were not known as we went to press. However, the draft budget is likely to be passed.
The third reading is the most difficult procedure, since at this stage money is distributed within budget expenditure items. It’s no wonder that over 5,000 amendments have been listed for the third reading.
However, it is impossible to suit everyone’s interests.
The Duma passed an amendment forbidding the Cabinet to restructure the Finance Ministry’s debt to the Central Bank, 15 billion rubles, as market securities. This amendment had been introduced by Sergei Glazyev, chairman of the Duma Economic Policy Committee. After this amendment was passed, Central Bank deputy chief Tatiana Paramonova arrived at the Duma and convinced deputies not to pass another of Glazyev’s amendments, prohibiting the Central Bank from issuing bonds.
However, another Cabinet-unfriendly initiative was supported by the Duma: the ban on privatization of major state-owned enterprises, i.e. those with assets over $150 million. Thus, such companies as Rosneft, Slavneft, LUKoil, and Gazprom cannot be privatized in 2001.
Rossia, No. 5, November, 2000, p. 3
According to the State Statistics Committee, at the end of October 2000 the number of unemployed in Russia was 7.198 million, or 10% of all able-bodied citizens. The State Statistics Committee says that in October the number of unemployed increased (in September there were 7.15 million unemployed people in Russia). Thus, about 50,000 people lost their jobs during that month.
RUSSIAN PARATROOPERS FACE CUTS
Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, No. 45, November, 2000, p. 2
According to our sources in the General Staff of the Airborne Forces, the paratroopers are soon to lose 5,500 personnel. By the end of this year, the 10th paratrooper regiment is to be disbanded in Abkhazia, as well as 237th regiment in Pskov, and 283th Aviation squadron in Podolsk. After the cuts, the Airborne Forces will still have four divisions and one brigade, but their total troop strength will be 32,000 (about 4% of the Armed Forces). According to official data, there are now 37,500 paratroopers; almost 15% of them are involved in peace-keeping operations, mostly outside Russia.
In order to increase the response readiness of the Armed Forces, it is planned to relieve the paratroopers of peace-keeping functions by 2005.
In order to strengthen Russia’s defense capacity, the General Staff is planning to establish a number of special armed groups, called “peacetime permanent-readiness troops”. The Airborne Forces are supposed to form the nucleus of these troops. However, the General Staff of the Airborne Forces objects to losing the peace-keeping functions. And one argument in support of keeping these functions is the economic argument. According to Airborne Forces analysts, the total cost of transforming the paratroopers into infantry, including retraining, re-equipment, transportation, re-arming, etc., will be about 900 million rubles. This sum would be sufficient to maintain the Russian peace-keepers in Kosovo for two years.