Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 24, 2001, p. 1

The Japanese news agency Kyoto Tsusin has issued a scandalous report that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called annexation of the Kuril Islands by the USSR a mistake. Putin allegedly said it in his telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on February 13.

Right after this report was issued Yoshiro Mori personally announced, “I have never heard such words from the Russian president.” This rumor was also refuted by the Japanese foreign minister and the general secretary of the cabinet.

Such a unanimous reaction of the Japanese authorities to this report was positively taken by Moscow, since on March 25, Putin and Mori are to meet in Irkutsk. As a matter of fact, their conversation on February 13 was devoted to coordination of the date of their meeting.

There is another curious passage in this report, which has not been denied by anyone. Kyoto Tsusin has reported that Putin allegedly has serious differences with the Russian Foreign Ministry, since he disagrees with the ministry’s policy toward Japan.

In all likelihood, this report was aimed at checking Moscow’s reaction to Tokyo’s initiatives. It is not ruled out that some forces in Japan want Mori to propose to Putin first to admit that annexation of the Kuril Islands to the USSR after World War Two was an error. This conjecture may be proven by another phrase from the report. It is written there that Russia has proposed a compromise to Japan: to hand over two islands instead of four, but got a refusal. It is not clear why the news agency issued this unconfirmed report. Probably it was made to show that Russians are ready to part with some of their territory.


Kommersant, February 24, 2001, pp. 1, 2

Having returned from Chechnya to Moscow, “Novaya Gazeta” journalist Anna Politkovskaya has made a scandalous announcement that there is a filtration camp for Chechens on the territory of the 45th regiment of the Airborne Troops located in the Vedeno District. Soldiers of the Airborne Troops allegedly release hostages from this camp for a ransom.

Anna Politkovskaya has said, “I learnt about this camp from residents of the villages of Makhety, Khatuni, Tovzeni, and Selmantausen of the Vedeno District. According to Chechens, after each purge servicemen of the Airborne Troops bring local residents to the camp and demand a ransom, usually about $500, for each captive. If the money is not paid on time, the hostages are transported to Khankala, where they are dealt with as guerrillas.”

The journalist has reported that this camp has existed since autumn 2000, but nobody had known about it before her because this base is located in mountains.

About a month ago, local inhabitants wrote a letter to the Russian government, the Chechen Administration, and the Duma, in which they complained about this situation. They said in this letter that tens of their neighbors and relatives had disappeared without traces. Politkovskaya comes to the conclusion that they were probably killed because they were not ransomed on time.

Senior Deputy Chairman of the Administration of the Vedeno District Raibek Tavzaev has announced, “Politkovskaya’s announcements are lies and slander. I often visit bases of federal forces with Military Commandant Shchavelev and I am sure that the Vedeno District is one of the quietest in Chechnya.”

Meanwhile, similar reports had also appeared before. Chechens say that there are such camps not only on every military base but also at every district police department. Last year, near the village of Tangi-Chu, not far from Grozny, several pits with tens of corpses were found. Their hands were tied with barbed wire behind their backs. Although local inhabitants assert that these were Chechens tortured and shot by federal forces, prosecutors have failed to find out who committed these crimes.


Kommersant, February 24, 2001, p. 2

On February 23, the National Public Commission (NPC) for investigation of infractions of human rights in Chechnya reported on its work in 2000. The chairman of the commission told journalists that the state should “confess its guilt and pay damages to all residents of Chechnya who have suffered in this war.” The commission will soon submit the corresponding draft law to Parliament.

The NPC was initiated by Duma deputies in April 2000 to give an independent estimate of the social situation in Chechnya. Its chairman is Duma deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov, who is known for his meetings with Chechen guerrillas’s leaders. He states in his report that the main cause of the crisis in Chechnya is connected with inefficient administration. In his opinion, it is necessary to introduce the post of deputy prime minister in the republic and convene a State Council including representatives of different clans so that they will be able to agree with each other. He states that it will not do to counteract guerrillas by wiping them off the face of the earth.


Kommersant, February 24, 2001, p. 1

The Cheremushki Court of Moscow has forbidden a shareholders’ meeting of NTV scheduled for March 12 that was planned to be held in Gibraltar.

Gazprom-Media insisted on holding an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting, taking advantage of the arrest of 19% of NTV shares. After this measure Gazprom’s 46% of shares became the controlling stake for the time being. As a response, NTV decided to hold a shareholders’ meeting in Gibraltar, at which the frozen 19% stake could be used to vote, since NTV considers that these shares have been frozen illegally.

On February 22, Gazprom-Media appealed to the Moscow Arbitration Court to prohibit the shareholders’ meeting in Gibraltar, but the court did not comply with this claim. However, on February 23, the Cheremushki Court complied with Gazprom’s claim.

The director of the press service of Media-Most has called this decision incompetent, since the court did not have a right to judge this claim at all.


Segodnya, February 24, 2001, p. 4

The Duma is working on a draft law that will deprive people with a criminal past from entering government. According to the sources, the draft law envisages amendments to the laws on presidential and parliamentary elections and on basic electoral rights of citizens. According to these amendments, people tried for major crimes will not be allowed to run in federal elections. It is also planned to work out corresponding standard acts regarding local and regional elections.


Segodnya, February 24, 2001, p. 5

The Russian government is currently seeking money for payment of debts to the Paris Club. However, it could receive up to $5 billion a year of additional tax revenues if it canceled tax breaks for oil extracting companies.

According to our sources, in 1999, budgets at all levels failed to receive at least $2 billion in taxes. In the first half of 2000 this figure exceeded $2.3 billion.


Novye Izvestia, February 24, 2001, p. 1

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, half of Russians consider the US to be an unfriendly state. However, 32% of respondents are sure of the opposite.

Most of Russians (58%) know that the capital of the US is Washington. Among respondents with a higher education, 84% gave the correct answer. Some 18% had other beliefs: mostly New York was mentioned. About 23% of respondents do not know the capital of the US.

One-third of Russians (34%) were unsure about where the US is – or gave a wrong answer.

Giving their first associations with the US, 26% spoke of a highly developed economy. Only 5% called America a superpower, and another 5% called it the “global policeman” wanting to subdue the whole world.

Some 16% called the US Russia’s enemy, a country arousing such feelings as irritation, indignation, malice, and hatred.

Only 12% of respondents have positive feelings toward the US. They called it a really democratic country with freedom, observance of human rights, and respect for people.


Profil, No. 6, February, 2001, p. 2

The National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) recently did a poll on reactions to the detention in the United States of Pavel Borodin, Secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union. Results show that 37% of respondents don’t care about the arrest; 12% even said they were pleased; 20% of respondents were indignant. Seventeen percent of respondents said they were surprised by the whole situation, and 14% were unsure. When asked how this event might affect Russia’s reputation, 26% of respondents said that Russia’s reputation is already so bad that nothing could make it worse.


Profil, No. 6, February, 2001, p. 2

The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) has done a poll, asking: What do you understand by the term “liberal ideas”, what do you think it means? Forty-nine percent of respondents said they had never heard this expression before; 14% were unsure if they knew it at all; only 17% of respondents risked trying to interpret the term. According to 6%, liberalism is “a state based on the rule of law, where all the laws are strictly observes, there is separation of powers, and individual rights and liberties are respected; there is private property.”

Eight percent of respondents expressed a general opinion of liberal ideas, saying “these are ideas which lead to progress”. Two percent had a very low opinion of liberal ideas, describing them as “poison for human beings” and “empty rhetoric”. And 1% said that “liberal ideas” are the ideas of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia.


Nezavisimoe Voennoye Obozrenie, No. 7, February, 2001, p. 2

The recent strategic command-staff training exercises, held from February 13 to 16, were supposed to demonstrate Russia’s readiness to make an adequate response to the new US administration’s proposed national missile defense. The script for the exercises was classified; however, according to analysts, the military practised procedures for a full-scale nuclear war.

Apparently, the first phase of the hypothetical conflict was only shown on maps; the military started exercises from the stage of exchanging nuclear strikes. The Air Force was the first to go into action: there were several long-distance flights to the east and west. These flights were the ones that caused a stir abroad, and drew accusations that Tu-22MZ bombers, escorted by Su-27 fighters, had violated Japanese airspace. Simultaneously, strategic bombers flew along the coast of Norway. According to our sources, just like in June 1999, the Norwegian anti-aircraft defense system identified the Russian bombers “too early”.

Then the land and sea components of the Russian Armed Forces went into action. On February 16, the Strategic Missile Forces and the Navy almost simultaneously carried launched ballistic missiles targeted at a test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula. A Topol RS-120M intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from the Plesetsk space center; while a missile of an unidentified type was launched from the Barents Sea. This was the 77th launch of a Topol.

At the final stage of the exercises, long-distance aviation was also involved: Tu-95MC and Tu-22MZ carried out tactical and combat-training launches of X-55 and X-22 cruise missiles in the southern training zone. According to some sources, these launches coincided with the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as the use of a warning system which detected the launches.

The Defense Ministry has judged these exercises to be successful. However, what’s really striking is that much less has been revealed about them than about similar exercises in previous years. Apparently, those who are pushing for more secrecy at the top are gaining the upper hand.