Izvestia, December 20, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday all the police departments of Russia were informed about a plane hijacking by terrorists. A cargo-and-passenger plane flying from Novosibirsk to Ufa was sending alarm signals. As it turned out, at that time the pilots did not even guess that something was wrong aboard the plane.

The Federal Security Service at once activated its special Nabat plan for trapping the hijackers. However, it soon turned out that the signal was false. The pilots learned of the event from the ground services, when they were asked what the demands of the terrorists are. According to the State Civil Aviation Service, the signal must have been caused by one of the pilots accidentally pressing a special button. Every year, the Emergency Ministry receives about 20,000 such false alarms. There are two reasons for this: first, out-of-date equipment; and second, pilot error. It seems the careless pilot will be fined.


Izvestia, December 20, 2000, p. 3

On December 19, the Tatarstan State Council, which is currently bringing Tatarstan’s laws into compliance with the federal Constitution, passed a new version of the law “On the President of the Republic of Tatarstan”. The residential qualification was removed from the law (previously, candidates had to live in Tatarstan for at least 10 years); age requirements were amended (now candidates may run from the age of 30, instead of 35). However, Tatarstan deputies refused to cancel the regulations specifying that the president of Tatarstan must speak two languages – Tatar and Russian – despite all objections of the prosecutors. The point of the objection is that according to the Russian constitution, all restrictions on citizens based on languages are prohibited. Obviously, the issue of languages will be resolved in the courts.


Izvestia, December 20, 2000, p. 3

On December 18, three bodies of federal servicemen were found 500 meters from a Russian checkpoint at the Verkhny Alkun village in Ingushetia, which is situated right on the border of Chechnya. Alexander Godovalov, Ivan Bykov, and Alexander Ivanov were all aged 19.

Almost right after the bodies were found, an urgent Perekhvat (Trapping) plan was announced in the district. As a result, Magomed Latarov, a 22-year-old resident of the Lazovskya village, was detained. In his car, the police found two automatic rifles and a machine gun.

According to the Interior Ministry of Ingushetia, there were five people who gunned down the servicemen of the special detachment of the 99th division. The prosecutor’s office of the Sunezh district considers that the main reason for killing the servicemen was an attempt to steal their weapons.

According to the PR department of presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Ingushetia, a neighbor of Chechnya, has long been a concern for the federal government. First of all, because Chechen separatists can cross the Ingushetia border with no problems at all, and use Ingushetia as base to rest and regroup. At the same time, it was especially mentioned that Chechen guerrillas who are resting in Ingushetia are trying to involve Ingushetia in the military activities against the federal forces, thus trying to expand the zone of the military operation against the separatists.


Izvestia, December 20, 2000, p. 2

The State Auditing Commission has reviewed how funds for food supplies for the Russian Armed Forces in 1999 and in the first three quarters of 2000 have been used.

It turned out that military personnel are being fed products that are long past their use-by date. In some military units, the commanders even decided to use reserve stock. Meanwhile, 280 million rubles, allocated especially for buying food for Russian soldiers, has disappeared – nobody knows where. The State Auditing Commission has sent the results of its audit to the President, to the Duma, and to the Federation Council.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 20, 2000, p. 2

Notorious tycoon Boris Berezovsky has resumed his contacts with the leaders of the Chechen guerrillas. As he announced in his interview with the Financial Times, he intends to become an intermediary in settling the Chechen conflict and to communicate with as many separatist leaders as possible, including Maskhadov and Basaev. According to Berezovsky, he used to stay in touch with them before, but then broke the connections “at Putin’s order”. Obviously, by resuming his “mediation activities” Berezovsky wants to gain an image as a peacekeeper in the West. However, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky announced yesterday that “any dialogue, any contacts with the leaders of the guerrilla detachments, including Aslan Maskhadov, are impossible on principle. Consequently, any mediation is out of the question – we don’t need it, no matter who initiates this, including political emigrants.” Yastrzhembsky clearly announced the position of the federal government on the illegal armed formations: “Speaking about Basaev, international practice recommends no negotiations with terrorists.” However, the Kremlin has a different attitude toward Maskhadov: according to Yastrzhembsky, if Maskhadov is ready to surrender, the Kremlin is ready to negotiate about this.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 20, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday the Duma postponed debate on the Labor Code until next year, having concluded that the government had lost to the labor unions in the battle for public opinion. The current Labor Code was created about 30 years ago, and is now hopelessly out-of-date. The government has prepared a bill for a new code. However, the Duma had three more bills for consideration. One of them, which was written by labor union leaders and supported by the Communists, turned out to be the major rival of the Cabinet’s bill. The Labor Ministry, which prepared the bill, placed an emphasis on the “interests of economic growth”. Thus, the Cabinet’s bill would allow employers to hire all employees on fixed-term contracts, thus, constantly threatening employees with “non-extension” of the contract. This would make it possible to dismiss people without preliminary agreement with the labor union. As a result, all Duma factions were against the Cabinet’s bill, even the Union of Right Forces, known as the most ardent supporter of the free market.

The Cabinet understood that its bill had failed, and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov send a letter to the Duma asking debate on the Labor Code to be postponed until next year. Now a joint Cabinet-Duma-union commission will be established in order to try to reach a unanimous decision.