RUSSIA ACCUSED OF WAR CRIMES IN CHECHNYA
Novye Izvestia, July 14, 2001, pp. 1, 2
Chechnya is again becoming the apple of discord between Russia and the Council of Europe. Lord Russell-Johnston, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has appealed to world leaders to maintain friendly relations with Putin, in order to influence the Russian president in favor of changing Russia’s policy regarding Chechnya. Lord Russell-Johnston stressed that the number of human rights abuses has increased in Chechnya over the past few months. The lion’s share of the blame for these infractions is laid on the Russian military, as in the recent search operations in the villages of Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk.
Lord Russell-Johnston said, “I hope the Russian government, at the very top, will condemn all human rights abuses in Chechnya.” Reports of new crimes prove Moscow’s reluctance to investigate infractions committed in the past. The chairman of the PACE considers that Russia’s refusal to charge those accused of human rights abuses in Chechnya is a violation of the obligations Russia has undertaken as a member of the Council of Europe and a signatory to European conventions on human rights and prevention of torture.
The PACE intends to intensify its public pressure on Moscow. A PACE delegation will be sent to Chechnya in mid-September in order to inspect the situation there. Then a joint meeting of the working group of the PACE and the Duma will be held in Strasbourg. The Chechnya issue is on the agenda for the autumn session of the PACE, in late September. The Russian delegation is again threatened with losing its voting rights. Members of the PACE may also demand that Russia be expelled from the Council of Europe. A group of Danish deputies intend to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights to put Russia on trial for “war crimes” in Chechnya.
FATHERLAND AND UNITY FORM AN ALLIANCE
Trud, July 14, 2001, p. 1
The Unity party and the Fatherland movement have formed a centrist alliance. At the inaugural congress of the new bloc, both declared their support for President Putin’s policies.
The alliance is based on the basic aims of Unity and Fatherland: improving living standards for Russian citizens, dynamic growth of the economy, strengthening the state’s role in economic reform, reinforcement of democratic institutions, and building a civil society.
Unity and Fatherland aspire to be a pro-government party. The government has tried to set up such a party several times, but failed each time. This time it may succeed, since the new bloc is based on the bureaucratic traits of the elite, not professional ones. The experience and other qualities of Unity leader Sergei Shoigu and Fatherland leader Yuri Luzhkov are evident, although they are different figures in the political arena. Both leaders have become co-chairmen of the bloc. The second congress of the bloc is scheduled for November. Problems and prospects of the bloc will be discussed in more detail at the second congress.
JAMES WOLFENSOHN TIRED OF SIBERIAN HOSPITABILITY
Kommersant, July 14, 2001, p. 2
On July 13, World Bank President James Wolfensohn completed his longest visit to Russia. Before his departure he met with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov at the Russian White House.
Although it is being said that Wolfensohn’s visit has been a failure, he thinks otherwise.
Wolfensohn noted at his meeting with Kasianov that methods of accountability for World Bank loan projects are working very well in Russia. He also stated that the World Bank penalizes those responsible for these projects if instances of corruption are disclosed in the course of audits.
Although the Cabinet has not confirmed the credit agreement with the World Bank which would provide $80 million for relocating citizens away from Russia’s Far North, Mr. Wolfensohn noted that this project is sure to be implemented, since Russia needs this money. After all formal details are settled, the World Bank will allocate the first installment of this credit.
NEW HEAD OF GAZPROM ASKS GREF TO AMEND DRAFT LAND CODE
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 14, 2001, p. 1
New head of Gazprom Alexei Miller has written to Economic Development and Trade Minister Herman Gref, asking him to amend one of the items of the new draft Land Code.
Miller disagrees with the item canceling Gazprom’s right to use land for construction, usage, or repair of gas system facilities, and making Gazprom rent this land or buy it.
According to Gazprom, it uses a total of 95,595 hectares. Around 86,000 hectares has been given to Gazprom for an indefinite period of use, and the rest is rented by Gazprom. The cancellation of the indefinite period agreement will increase the company’s land tax expenditures seven-fold.
Since Gazprom’s annual revenues are over $10 billion, such costs will not be fatal for it. However, Miller also had personal reasons for this request. Being a newcomer at Gazprom, he wants to demonstrate his authority to the old team of Gazprom top executives.
BUDANOV TO UNDERGO PSYCHIATRIC TESTS IN SEPTEMBER
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 14, 2001, p. 2
Last week the court ordered new psychiatric tests for Colonel Budanov, charged with murdering a woman in Chechnya. He will be tested at the Central Legal-Medical Laboratory of the Defense Ministry, based at the V.P. Serbsky State Scientific Center of Social and Legal Psychiatry in Moscow. Budanov’s defenders support this measure, while the lawyers of relatives of Elza Kungaeva are against it. According to one of them, investigators want to conduct the second psychiatric tests of Budanov in order to find him not guilty due to insanity.
Argumenty i Fakty, July 11, 2001, p. 2
Governor Roman Abramovich of the Chukotka autonomous district was summoned to the Kremlin last week. It is said that the unexpected invitation from President Putin made the executives of Sibneft, Abramovich’s oil company, very nervous. The issue here is that about a month ago, the General Prosecutor’s Office suddenly decided to act on a finding made by the Auditing Commission four years ago, which cast some doubt on the privatization of Sibneft. Abramovich has been interviewed by investigators twice in the past month, the second time just three days before his meeting with Putin.
The president’s conversation with the governor of Chukotka was surprisingly brief – the whole meeting only lasted 20 minutes, although Putin usually likes to spend no less than an hour with his visitors.
On the same day, it was reported that Abramovich had sold his 42.5% stake in the ORT television network to Sberbank (the Savings Bank). Sources close to Abramovich say he sold the stake for the same price he paid last autumn to its former owner, Boris Berezovsky: $150 million. So Abramovich himself didn’t make any money on this deal, simply acting as an intermediary between the beleaguered oligarch and the state-controlled bank. As a result of his unselfish act, the number of state shareholders in ORT will soon increase substantially.
It would appear that Abramovich didn’t have time to tell the president all about his achievements as governor of Chukotka over the past six months.
These include building the first oil rig, intended to extract oil from beneath Chukotka’s permafrost. And plans to ensure gas supplies for Chukotka, hopefully to be found by the end of the year; and preparations to develop the Maiskoe and Kupolo gold deposits.
For the first time in several years, salary backlogs for doctors and teachers have been eliminated. Reindeer herders, usually paid in food and goods rather than money, are seeing wages for the first time: 15,000 rubles a month for directors of reindeer farms, 5,000 rubles a month for supervisors, and 3,500 rubles a month for ordinary workers.
Tax collection on the Chukotka Peninsula has quintupled since last year, mostly due to the salaries of staff Abramovich has brought in from his private companies. Abramovich now has to pay his personal income tax in Chukotka rather than Moscow – this alone has brought an extra $35 million into Chukotka’s coffers. This is an astronomical sum from the perspective of Chukotka residents. Abramovich only had time to tell the president how 8,000 children are being flown out of Chukotka for a summer vacation by the sea, for the second year in a row.
THE NEW "ENERGY" REVOLUTION
Vek, July 13, 2001, p. 2
It’s been a long wait for new sensations in Russian research, but it seems we finally have some. The RIA-Novosti news agency reports that a group of researchers from the Russian Natural Sciences Academy, headed by Academician Valerian Sobolev, wrote to President Putin on June 19 to inform him of some amazing discoveries: “They could mean a revolution in industry and the energy sector, and essentially change the world.”
Developing these discoveries would make it possible to give up traditional energy resources, create entirely new materials and technologies, and even build so-called “unsupported movement” aircraft, somewhat like flying saucers.
Academician Sobolev claims to have discovered a special electro-chemical process (researchers call it the “dilution process”), the end products of which are high-temperature materials in a new state.
What’s more, the discovery includes a new state of matter; a new class of materials; a new source of energy; a new method of generating cold plasma, and thus a new superconductor; and a newly-discovered magnetic charge. According to Sobolev, these discoveries open the path for “a whole range of new inventions”.
We asked the Russian Natural Sciences Academy whether Sobolev’s faculty had investigated these sensations.
“No, of course not,” replied Academician Albert Nikitin, head of the faculty. “We disapprove of such ‘sensations’. After all, how can you possibly take this seriously – claiming to have discovered a new magnetic charge…”
THE WAHABBIS REACH THE VOLGA
Vek, July 13, 2001, p. 3
Addressing a meeting of heads of law enforcement agencies, General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov spared neither his colleagues nor his subordinates. The figures he cited in support of his arguments were impressive. According to Ustinov, there are 1,500 Islamic religious organizations in the Trans-Volga federal district alone, or 200 per region. And although most of them try to abide by Russian laws, at least outwardly, in reality the situation is much more grim. With direct and indirect support from abroad, Wahabbis – the most radical Muslims – are gradually expanding their sphere of influence in these organizations.
For the first time, Ustinov named those who are behind Russia’s home-grown Wahabbis – and their goals: “The main goal of the extremists is to create independent states in those regions of Russia which have a predominantly Muslim population – states which would be aligned with extremist groups in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Turkey, and Pakistan.”
The danger remains that radical Muslims could seize power in certain Russian regions. The events of recent years show that extremist forces are attempting to detach some Russian regions – mostly in the North Caucasus – from federal influence. They set up many programs to teach Arabic, and promote Wahabbi ideas.
DUDAEV’S WIDOW IS NOW A TRANSNATIONAL RADICAL
Inostranets, July 10, 2001, p. 5
Alla Dudaeva, the widow of Dzhokhar Dudaev, first president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Mairbek Taramov, president of the Independent Union of Caucasus Journalists, and artist Shamsuddin Akhmadov have announced their intention to join the Transnational Radical Party.
This intention was expressed in a message to the Third Congress of the Radical Anti-Militarist Association (ARA), recently held in Moscow, which passed a resolution stating that “a campaign against the colonialist war in Chechya should be the top priority for Russian radicals and anti-militarists”.
Olivier Dupius, secretary of the Transnational Radical Party and member of the European Parliament, and Nikolai Khramov, coordinator of the Russian radicals, have announced that they welcome the message from Alla Dudaeva, Mairbek Taramov, and Shamsuddin Akhmadov, and view it as “a sign inspiring us to continue and intensify the battle to free Chechnya from the colonial oppression it has suffered for over 300 years – the battle we are fighting together with the people of Chechnya and with all those around the world who do not want to go along with attempts to keep this war quiet, as our nations are trying to do.”
DEFENSE MINISTRY CHANGES ITS VOICE
Itogi, July 10, 2001, p. 10
Following the dismissal of Valerii Manilov as deputy chief of the General Staff, there are more changes to come at the Defense Ministry. Leonid Ivashov, no less well known as a hawk, will soon lose his post as head of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation. The only difference is that Manilov has been sent into retirement, while Colonel-General Ivashov is being offered a choice of several positions – including deputy chief of staff for coordinating military cooperation within the CIS. It is worth noting that the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation, which has only been noticed of late because Ivashov was in charge of it, and was called “the military foreign ministry”, will be retained within the structure of the Defense Ministry. For quite some time, Manilov and Ivashov have been the voice of the Defense Ministry. Presumably, the ministry will now start to speak quite differently.