TERRORIST ACTS IN CHECHNYA
Vremya MN, June 23, 2001, p. 2
On June 22, an attempt was made on the life of Bislan Gantamirov, inspector for the Southern federal district. His house in Grozny was fired on from grenade-throwers. Gantamirov was not hurt, but one of his bodyguards was killed. On the same day there was an attempt on the life of Colonel Mezhiev, Deputy Director of the Chechen Interior Affairs Directorate responsible for combating organized crime.
Another terrorist act on that day was against Shamsudin Dudaev, an officer of the security service of the Chechen administration. Some unidentified people in camouflage who were freely moving about Grozny in a car with tinted windows stopped Dudaev’s car and demanded that he lay down arms and let them inspect the car, having introduced themselves as officers of Russian special services. However, Dudaev realized that they were obviously guerrillas, and refused to obey them. Then they fired on him, after which he was hospitalized with many serious wounds.
On Tuesday, a series of terrorist acts took place in Gudermes. Guerrillas detonated three car-bombs there. Three civilians were killed, and about 40 people were injured. There could have been more victims in Gudermes if federal servicemen had not found a fourth car-bomb before it went off. Representatives of the Russian Interior Ministry assert that people suspected of these crimes have been arrested already.
On average, five servicemen die in Chechnya every day. They mostly fall victim to field mines.
According to Russian generals, the same number of guerrillas are killed every day. For instance, on June 22, a certain Djamandiev, Arbi Baraev’s deputy, was killed. According to law enforcement agencies, Djamandiev was involved with kidnappings. As for Baraev himself, he remains difficult to catch, like the other separatist leaders.
NO MONEY FOR THE CENSUS
Vremya MN, June 23, 2001, p. 2
The nationwide census scheduled for October 2002 may be postponed until January 2003, as Chairman of the State Statistics Committee Vladimir Sokolin has stated.
A week ago President Vladimir Putin asked Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov to chair the commission for conducting the countrywide population census and consider the possibility of its postponement. The president thinks it better to put off the census in order to prepare for it properly.
The president also intends to personally control the preparation for the action and include representatives of the Security Council and the Presidential Administration in the commission. According to the president’s plans, the first population census of new Russia should be performed at a high level and be an example for other countries to follow.
Officials of the State Statistics Committee assert that the president’s plans are surprising for them, since they have already elaborated a plan of corresponding activities for October 2002, and all the necessary documents are prepared and certified already. They have not heard anything about a probable postponement of the population census for 2003. However, Vladimir Sokolin has explained to his subordinates that the president has apparently decided that the State Statistics Committee is not ready for the population census yet and therefore is should be helped. Sokolin has also noted that the president’s decision may lead to allotment of extra money on this action. This will help the State Statistics Committee employ more people for participation in this action.
CIS ECONOMIC COUNCIL MEETS IN MINSK
Kommersant, June 23, 2001, p. 2
A meeting of the CIS Economic Council at the level of deputy prime ministers has taken place in Minsk. This meeting was devoted to six documents that are to be signed by CIS prime ministers soon.
The most interesting issue discussed at the meeting was a set of rules for customs control over intellectual property. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko says: “This decision is a significant step forward in a sphere that has been neglected by coordinated activities of CIS countries. Meanwhile, products of intellectual property developed over the past decade are valuable for many CIS countries. Therefore, the current agreement is the exact regulation of joint procedures of control over registration of products of intellectual property.” The new rules are aimed at coordination of activities of customs services that should prevent violations of intellectual property rights when newest technologies or other results of intellectual activities are imported from CIS countries.
The Economic Council also supported the initiative of Belarus on setting up the system of interstate leasing, abolishing barriers in the transport sphere, and setting up the council of finance ministers of CIS countries.
Deputy prime ministers of CIS countries also considered the concept of CIS interstate innovation policy up until 2005. They also considered recommendations for quoting of wholesale prices for services within development of the CIS anti-aircraft defense system.
Members of the CIS Economic Council also approved the draft agreement on compulsory insurance of passengers against accidents during international railroad journeys. According to this document, in case of an accident insurance is to be paid to any passengers or members of their families regardless of their habitat in the CIS.
CABINET TAKING UP JUDICIARY REFORM
Kommersant, June 23, 2001, p. 2
The Duma is actively considering the Cabinet’s legislative initiatives: the “anti-bureaucratic package” and the judiciary reform.
On June 22, the Duma Commission for Protection of Investors’ Rights discussed amendments to the Arbitration-Procedural Code necessary for investors.
The meeting of the parliamentary commission was attended by Deputy Director of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak, Chairman of the board of directors of Alfa-Bank Mikhal Fridman, Chairman of the Foundation for Protection of Investors’ Rights Dmitry Vasilyev, and representatives of the US Chamber of Commerce. Fridman announced that the main problem of business in the regions is the fact that cases are considered by the same judges in courts of first instance and courts of appeal. It is clear that in this case appeals are rarely allowed. Dmitry Kozak agreed with Mr. Fridman and promised that courts of appeal would be separated from courts of first instance.
However, it turned out that the judiciary system sometimes plays into investors’ hands. For instance, prosecutors are now entitled to interfere in conflicts taking any side. In this case plaintiffs are to pay 10% of the sum gained by the trial tot he fund of development of prosecutor’s offices established by the government on January 26, 2000. This situation makes it profitable for prosecutors to file an action in favor of commercial organizations. Dmitry Kozak noted on June 22 that it is necessary to limit the list of individuals and businesses, in favor of which prosecutor’s offices should be entitled to file an action.
WHO WILL INHERIT RUSSIA’S MILITARY BASES IN GEORGIA?
Trud, June 23, 2001, p. 2
On June 22, a round of negotiations on withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia took place in Moscow. The main topic of the round was the terms of the withdrawal of bases from Akhalkalaki and Batumi. Russian experts believe that it will take 14 years to perform the entire operation, whereas their Georgian counterparts consider that three years will do.
Earlier it was agreed that Russian military units would leave their bases in Gudauta and Vaziani until July 1. However, there have been some difficulties about withdrawal of military units from Gudauta. When equipment of the abolished paratrooper regiment was being withdrawn from its base, local residents blockaded the road. Most of them worked at the base and now they are unemployed. The same situation may take place in Akhalkalaki and Batumi. In any case, the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Adjaria have expressed their concern about the social situation that may be exacerbated after Russian troops are withdrawn from their Adjarian bases.
Russia also insists on guarantees that after its withdrawal from Georgia its barracks, testing areas, and aerodromes will not be used by third countries. Russia has enough reasons for its concern. Turkey has already invested a lot of money in re-equipment of a former Russian aviation base given to Tbilisi long ago. According to the Russian military, the recent Cooperative Partner 2001 NATO maneuvers conducted in the Black Sea are the next stage of development of a new military theater despite of their peacekeeping political camouflage.
THE POOREST OF THE RICHEST
Izvestia, June 23, 2001, p. 3
“Forbes” magazine has published a list of 538 billionaires in 46 countries. Eight of them live in Russia. Russians are basically among the third or the fourth hundred of the rating.
In 1997, five Russians were included in the “Forbes” rich list: Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vagit Alekperov, and Rem Vyakhirev. However, after the “black August” of 1998, Russians were off the list altogether.
According to “Forbes,” the richest Russian citizen is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the YUKOS oil company, who is worth $2.4 billion. He is 194th on the list. He is followed by Vladimir Potanin, president of the Interros holding ($1.8 billion, 272nd place), Vladimir Bogdanov, head of Surgutneftegaz ($1.6 billion, 312th place), former head of Gazprom Rem Vyakhirev ($1.5 billion, 336th place), Roman Abramovich ($1.4 billion, 363rd place), LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov and chairman Mikhail Fridman, who own $1.3 billion each and share 387th place on the list, and Russia’s Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin ($1.1 billion, 452nd place). The wealth of Russian tycoons is based mostly on banking or oil and gas.
“Forbes” assesses the assets of billionaires by calculating the total value of their property and shares. It does not disclose its sources.
DUMA DEPUTIES ON THE CABINET’S PRIVATIZATION BILL
Versty, No. 69, June 23, 2001, p. 2
The Duma has passed the bill on privatization proposed by the Cabinet and rejected the two alternative drafts. We have interviewed two Duma deputies about the Cabinet’s bill.
Viktor Opekunov, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Property Committee (Fatherland-All Russia faction): The importance of this bill is obvious, since privatization in 1992 was negatively viewed by the public, and it is necessary to introduce order in this sphere.
The Duma Property Committee supported the Cabinet’s draft, although the number of those who voted for it was slightly larger than the number of those who voted against it. Although this is a rather detailed document, we have decided to amend it significantly by the second reading. For instance, according to this bill, only the Cabinet would decide which enterprises should be privatized. The Cabinet would only have to report to the Duma on what has been privatized and how much has been gained from privatization of any particular enterprise.
We did not share this considers from the very beginning, and have introduced an amendment according to which decisions on privatization of natural monopolies should be made by the Duma. Privatization of strategic enterprises will be handled by the president personally, and other enterprises should be handled by the Cabinet.
Nikolai Arefyev, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Property Committee (Communist faction): All the three bills are basically equal. It would be better to pass none of them, retaining the old law on privatization. This law has been ignored by the Cabinet right from the start. The Cabinet has not prepared a single privatization program. Why should we obey violators of the law?
The Cabinet does not like being monitored by Parliament as far as privatization is concerned. That is why it has changed the current law. Our bill preserves control of the state and Parliament over privatization. This is fundamentally important, since all of us are witnesses of the privatization of 1999, as a result of which only 70,000 enterprises are owned by the government, including enterprises of the military-industrial complex and natural monopolies. Now the Cabinet wants even these enterprises to be privatized, and the Duma is preventing it from carrying out their privatization.
The Cabinet is trying to return the chaos of 1992. If this bill is adopted, it will be possible to privatize anything – although the Cabinet has promised that the president will issue a decree listing strategic enterprises. However, nobody knows when this decree will be issued. Besides, a presidential decree is not equal to a law.
DEPUTY APPLIES FOR ASYLUM
Inostranets, June 19, 2001, p. 7
Vladimir Gilgenberg, a deputy of the Primorye Territorial Duma and a former candidate for government of the territory, has sent George W. Bush and Gerhard Schroeder letters requesting political asylum in the US or Germany.
According to the deputy, “The power in the Primorye Territory is seized by criminal groups acting together with law enforcement agencies.” Mr. Gilgenberg also claims that after he announced he would run for governor, the Vladivostok police detained his son Alezander and the latter’s friend and “beat them severely for an entire night, trying to force them into confessing to the alleged robbery of an old woman”. Gilgenberg’s wife filed a relevant appeal with the local prosecutor’s office but still has not received any official reply.
On June 7, officers of the Vladivostok City Interior Department confiscated an entire issue of the paper “Dalekaya Okraina” owned by Mr. Gilgenberg. According to the deputy, the confiscated copies contained operative information about links between one of the candidates for Primorye governor (a Mr. Darkin) and members of organized criminal groups. “This candidate’s election staff discussed the possibility of killing me,” wrote Mr. Gilgenberg in his messages to the US president and the German chancellor.
SOLZHENITSYN TO BE DEPRIVED OF NOBEL PRIZE?
Inostranets, June 19, 2001, p. 7
The other day an initiative group led by Alla Dudaeva, the widow of the first Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudaev, addressed the Nobel Prize Committee with a call to strip Alexander Solzhenitsyn of the title of Nobel laureate in connection with his speeches in favor of restoring capital punishment for “terrorists”.
The authors of the address consider that “being an intelligent, predictable, and consistent person, Mr. Solzhenitsyn is quite aware of the possible consequences of restoration of capital punishment in Russia, and his speeches are nothing else but a well-measured step prompted by his political views.”
The authors of the address also claim that “Mr. Solzhenitsyn, together with other activists, is an ideologue of the so-called Eurasianism movement” serving as evidence of “new ambitions of the ‘new’ Russia which pose a great threat to the peoples of Europe and the world”.
RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES ADDRESS G-7
Inostranets, June 19, 2001, pp. 4-5
The Russian nationwide committee For Cessation of Hostilities and Establishment of Peace in Chechnya has appealed to the leaders of the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, the US, and Japan to take resolute measures to stop hostilities and prevent human rights abuses in Chechnya.
The committee has already appealed to President Vladimir Putin and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov to start peace negotiations. Maskhadov has displayed his readiness to start a dialog with the Russian government without any preliminary conditions at the end of April, whereas Putin has not responded to this proposal.
The appeal to G7 leaders on the eve of the Genoa summit is not a desperate action but an attempt to pressure the Russian government by means of the international community, as Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev has noted. He has said, “Since the military operation was resumed in Chechnya, democratic countries have tried to influence Russia by diplomatic methods a lot of times. However, they have realized that such measures have no effect and pretend that there are no law violations in Chechnya.” In Kovalev’s opinion, the Genoa summit should make the Russian government take the necessary measures to stop the hostilities in Chechnya. Kovalev has noted that according to the latest polls by the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 58% of respondents are against continuing the military activities in Chechnya, and only 34% believe that the “counter-terrorist operation” should be seen through to the end.