SECURITY OFFICERS JOSTLING FOR POWER IN UKRAINE
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 21, 2001, p. 7
The recent tape scandal in Ukraine has resulted in major staff changes; officers of the secret services are jostling for power. They are ousting outsiders from the security structures and placing “their own” candidates in top official posts.
The top candidate for one of the highest state posts is Yevgeny Marchuk, a former head of the Ukrainian Security Service and current secretary of the national security council. According to the reports about recent personnel changes in the Ukrainian corridors of power, Marchuk is placing his protegees in the key posts.
Interior Minister Yury Kravchenko has already been fired. Security officers who used to work with Marchuk – namely Yury Smirnov, police chief of Kiev; Deputy Interior Minister Gennady Moskal; and Senior Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Kornienko – are named among possible successors to Kravchenko. Moskal and Kornienko cooperated with Marchuk, then the president’s special envoy to the Crimea, when they worked in the Crimean police force. Smirnov became acquainted with Marchuk when appointed to his current post.
The Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office is also expecting some personnel changes. As Marchuk himself reports, General Prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko, who chose to take a leave of absence during the heat of the opposition unrest, will be dismissed for “serious errors” in investigating the death of journalist Georgy Gongadze.
Purges have affected not only the security structures, but also the ministries. Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Yermilov, reputed to be a supporter of the Donetsk lobby aspiring for power, has been dismissed. After this dismissal Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko claimed that there were no more officials in his government who oppose the president. Despite this statement, Yushchenko himself may well be dismissed in the near future – he has failed to ally with Marchuk, who is now trying to get rid of the prime minister with help of the parliament. The speaker of the Supreme Rada has stated that Yushchenko would be dismissed as soon as April.
KHATTAB ORDERED PLANE HIJACK IN TURKEY
Trud, March 21, 2001, p. 1
Almost immediately after the hijacking of a Russian Tu-154 airliner in Istanbul, reports came in that the hijackers were closely linked to the Chechen separatists. Now Russian law enforcement agencies have established that the order for the hijack came directly from Khattab, an international terrorist of Jordanian origin who is still fighting federal troops in Chechnya. This was reported Tuesday by presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky, citing intelligence reports. In this connection, the question of extraditing the terrorists from Saudi Arabia to Russia takes on extra significance. An investigation might shed more light on the criminal activities of not only Khattab, but also other Chechen field commanders. Such details are necessary not only for the sake of establishing the exact scale of the guerrillas’ outrages but also for the international community to realize at last the kind of threat the Chechen terrorists pose to the world. As Yastrzhembsky noted, after the hijack “many people, including those in the Middle East, have finally understood the threat Chechen separatism and terrorism pose to Russia and the rest of the world”. Therefore, Yastrzhembsky hopes Saudi Arabia will extradite the hijackers. However, the extradition request sent in last weekend still remains unanswered.
GAZPROM BOARD OF DIRECTORS AMID ANOTHER SCANDAL
Izvestia, March 21, 2001, p.2
On March 20, the Gazprom board of directors held a scheduled meeting. The agenda was disrupted by a scandal that broke out on the eve of the meeting between two board members – Boris Fyodorov, spokesman for minority shareholders, and Berkhardt Bergmann, Deputy Chairman of the Ruhrgas AG managing board and an honorary member of the Gazprom board of directors.
In an interview with the German paper “Handelsblatt” on the eve of the meeting Fyodorov accused Bergmann of “self-interested assistance” to the allegedly illegal activities of the managers of Russia’s gas monopoly. Although the Gazprom board has repeatedly decided against making any information about its meetings public, Fyodorov tells Russian and foreign media all the details of such meetings. The recent accusations addressed to Bergmann may result in harsh measures against Fyodorov by the Gazprom managing board. Representatives of Gazprom on the company’s managing board will most likely attempt to talk representatives of the state out of supporting Fyodorov’s candidacy when it comes to electing a new board of directors at the next shareholders’ meeting. On the other hand, just like last year, Fyodorov may be elected to the board by the 10% minority shareholders who are dissatisfied with the company’s policy. In addition, the fate of Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev is still unclear – so far Vyakhirev has not withdrawn his promise to resign this summer.
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO CONTRACT MURDERS
Izvestia, March 21, 2001, p. 2
On March 20, Alexander Kirushev, deputy head of the Main Criminal Investigation Department (MCID), held a news conference to share information about progress on some major cases. Among other things, Kirushev spoke about a new method of investigating contract killings.
Alexander Kirushev: According to statistical reports, the number of contract murders has decreased over the past year: in 2000, 386 such murders were committed, whereas in 1999 the figure was 591.
The MCID has shifted to new methods of operation. Several years ago, investigation of a contract killing would start with identification of the possible perpetrator. Now, investigators first of all focus on possible motives. That is why only a few days after the attempt on the life of Duma deputy Bashir Kodzoev, the MCID was able to provide a theory about the crime – the attempted murder was most likely connected to the deputy’s mediation in settling disputes over the Irkutskenergo company.
As for the investigation into the attempt on the life of Deputy Moscow Mayor Joseph Ordzhonikidze, we have already identified the criminals. Those are people Ordzhonikidze used to work with, most of them in the hotel industry.
We have solved several major crimes. Thus, we have detained a person suspected of serial killings of female university students in Barnaul. We have also arrested the so-called Kvashnin group – criminals who would kidnap young girls in Russian regions and force them into prostitution; girls who refused would be killed.
The murders of Vladislav Listyev, Galina Starovoitova, Uralmash General Director Oleg Belonenko, and Mikhail Manevich remain unsolved.
Last year, 146 contract killings were solved in Russia. The majority of such crimes (128 committed, versus 37 solved) were in Moscow; St. Petersburg is second (58 committed, ten solved); then the Moscow Region (13 committed, six solved); and the Saratov Region (11 committed, three solved). In the first two months of 2001, there have been 54 contract killings in Russia, and 28 of them have already been solved. In 12 cases, the hitmen killed children along with their parents.
HUNTING THE FIELD COMMANDERS
Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 21, 2001, p. 2
Another Wahhabi fundamentalist leader, Abdul-Malik Mezhidov, has been captured in Chechnya. Mazhidov, a close associate of field commander Ruslan Gelaev, and former deputy minister of Shari-ah security in the Maskhadov government, commanded a guerrilla unit during Shamil Basaev’s 1995 raid on Budennovsk. Four years later, in August 1999, he took part in the invasion of Dagestan. In the fall of 2000 Mezhidov’s fighters regularly devastated districts of Ingushetia, while their superior himself ran the Jamaad Islamiya terrorist training center.
Mezhidov was detained in Urus Martan by Russian troops. During the detention operation he put up armed resistance and was wounded. The details of the operations are undisclosed.
Mezhidov is also charged with kidnapping Deputy Interior Minister General Gennady Shpigun at Grozny airport on March 5, 1999. This crime was planned on Shamil Basaev’s orders. According to intelligence reports, General Shpigun died of a heart attack in the winter of 2000, when Mezhidov’s unit was en route from Shatoi to Itum-Kale.