UNITY FOR FATHERLAND
Vremya MN, July 21, 2001, p. 3
The recent constitutive congress of the nationwide alliance between the Unity party and the Fatherland movement lasted for only 46 minutes. Delegates made decisions on all issues unanimously. This unanimity did not surprise anyone, since many people consider a merger between Unity and Fatherland to be inevitable. Although only a coalition has been set up so far, political analysts believe that at the next congress, scheduled for November, a single party will be formed on the basis of these political entities.
The layout of forces in Russian politics will not change. This merger is more advantageous for Fatherland, since it has lost its former glory.
People in various regions have responded to this alliance in different ways. According to some observers, a merger will be quite painless in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was where the idea of the alliance was first mooted, a year ago. Local politicians claim that this idea originated with senior Moscow officials who come from St. Petersburg. At present, the leaders of the St. Petersburg branches of Fatherland and Unity are saying that they will launch a regional branch of the bloc in October. Thus, St. Petersburg will be a test site for new political projects.
BETTER TIMES IN STORE FOR THE LABOR CODE
Kommersant, July 21, 2001, p. 2
On July 20, Andrei Isaev, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Committee for Labor and Social Policy, announced at a news conference that the coordinated draft Labor Code adopted by the Duma in the first reading suits almost everyone. However, he noted, “Some intensive arguments with the Cabinet lie ahead for us.”
Disagreements between the Cabinet and labor unions have not been completely eliminated, even in the coordinated draft. Most of all, the Cabinet is displeased with two amendments introduced by labor unions. First, the unions propose that the minimum wage should be equal to the living wage (1,290 rubles a month). Second, according to the union amendments, employers should be fined for each day of delay in payment of wages: 1/300 of the Central Bank refinancing rate per day.
In the opinion of Vladimir Varov, Deputy Minister for Labor and Social Security, these additions will cost the budget 2.5-7.5 trillion rubles, as far as state sector employees are concerned. The budget does not have this money. Therefore, these standards of the new Labor Code may be implemented no earlier than in five years.
Andrei Isaev believes that by the second reading, the Cabinet will introduce its own amendments to the draft Labor Code.
Kommersant, July 21, 2001, p. 3
On July 20, police and the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Abdulla Yekhiev, aged 22, who has set something of a record for the number of terrorist acts organized in Chechnya and Dagestan. Overall, he has been responsible for over 40 acts of violence against servicemen and federal bodies.
Despite his age, Yekhiev is an influential figure among Chechen terrorists, and was even a member of the retinues of Shamil Basaev and Khattab.
The FSB points out that Yekhiev is known for his hatred of Russia and all Russians. He even refused to accept any payment for fighting with the separatists, saying he was fighting not for money, but for the idea.
In this connection, it is worth heeding some words at Kavkaz.org – a web site set up by Khattab’s people: “The Jihad will continue until Doomsday, and will not stop for a moment, even if Basaev and Khattab are killed.”
TRAINING CAMP FOR CHECHEN GUERRILLAS IN MOSCOW?
Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 21, 2001, p. 1
All you’ve heard about the upcoming troop strength cuts in the Russian Armed Forces isn’t true. The Armed Forces will soon get 90 new soldiers. This is not a very large number, but it is worth noting that these guys will be drafted from Chechnya. The Chechen company will joined the elite 27th Sevastopol motorized-infantry brigade based in Tyoply Stan, a district of Moscow. The morale situation in this brigade is easy to predict: it has been fighting in Chechnya, and three of its servicemen have been awarded the Hero of Russia decoration. One can only guess what the new Chechen recruits, aged 18 to 20, were doing at that time. How will they live in the same barracks with Russian soldiers?
The idea of drafting Chechens into the Russian Armed Forces came from Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin.
The Chechen company is to be a sporting detachment: to train athletes and sharp-shooters. According to our sources, the Chechen company will be funded by the Moscow Chechen diaspora.
There are many opponents of this idea. It is not clear, however, how Kvashnin will benefit from this project. There is no need to describe the reaction of officers of the brigade and residents of the neighboring military settlement.
KADYROV INTENDS TO APPEAL TO PUTIN
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 21, 2001, p. 1
Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the government of Chechnya, announced at the start of the scandal over search operations in the Chechen villages of Assinovskaya, Sernovodsk, and Kurchaloi that federal troops were to blame for looting and abuse of the local residents. Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov thought likewise. After that, a number of senior federal officials admitted that Russian soldiers violated the rights of local residents. Even General Vladimir Moltenskoi, Commander of the Joint Group of Federal Forces in Chechnya, was among those officials.
All along, Kadyrov has been insisting that conclusions should be made only after the end of the official investigation into the case.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov considers that there was nothing criminal in the military’s actions. The General Prosecutor’s Office has not laid charges against any of the soldiers in connection with this scandal.
The last straw for Kadyrov was the detention of six privates accused of committing abuses during the search operations. Kadyrov considers that not only soldiers, but also the commanders in charge of the search operations should be held accountable for these events. He is sure that the trust of the Chechen people can only be restored by punishing the commanders. Furthermore, Kadyrov intends to meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss the progress of the counter-terrorist operation in general, and the search operations in particular.
Thus, Kadyrov is unlikely to let Russian officials bury the scandal over the search operations. He is also prepared to go to Washington to tell the US administration about what is really going on in Chechnya.
KRESS INSTEAD OF CHUBAIS?
Vek, No. 28, July 20, 2001, EV
There is some talk in the corridors of power about Governor Viktor Kress of the Tomsk region being offered the post of chief executive at Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES).
Kress, former head of the Siberian Agreement Association, is the leading figure in the reserve of the president’s new team. There had been some discussion of including him in a new Cabinet and making him responsible for coordinating the federal districts. But it seems that systematic and persistent preparations have been underway for some months now to put Kress in charge of the RJES electricity monopoly. An indirect confirmation of this may be discerned in President Putin’s harsh criticism of RJES at his recent news conference. He said: “Unfortunately, RJES still hasn’t acheived its own targets for accumulating resources and reserves in the electricity system… The same applies to Gazprom, to a lesser extent.” And we all know what’s become of Rem Vyakhirev.
Kress has not been chosen at random. He is respected in the regions, he understands the fuel and energy sector, and what’s more, he has been studying these issues over recent months in the process of preparing an alternative restructuring plan for RJES. No exact date for the appointment of Kress is known as yet. It is likely to happen toward autumn, if it becomes clear that the regions have once again failed to make adequate preparations for winter.
A SHORT-TERM INTERESTS PACT?
Vek, No. 28, July 20, 2001, EV
The Bush administration has declared that the friendship pact signed by Moscow and Beijing is not very significant. The White House believes it relates to short-term interests, not the kind of long-term strategy which might be a cause of concern for the United States.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said: “The purpose of the agreement is to strengthen their international positions, and there isn’t much real content in it.”
Washington is much more interested in Russian arms sales to China. The volume of this arms trade has risen significantly over the past decade. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia became China’s major arms supplier. According to one senior official, Beijing has acquired some impressive hardware, including: four Kilo-class diesel-powered submarines, 48 modern Sukhoi-27 fighters, even more Sukhoi-30 fighters, and some modern bombers.
A senior US official says: “We’re keeping an eye on what they’re doing. Arms sales are the most important. These sales could continue even without the friendship treaty.”
According to analysts, both sides have some higher expectations for this treaty. From China’s perspective, this treaty provides an opportunity to show that it is capable of reaching agreement with another major power. Moreover, Beijing hopes to demonstrate its ability to make Russia forget about its European interests, and shift its attention to the east.
WHO BETRAYED BARAYEV?
Versiya, July 17, 2001, pp. 2-3
For obvious reasons, we’ll never get an official answer to this question. For obvious reasons, we will not reveal the name of the Interior Troops officer who provided us with his own theory on this score. According to our source, Arbi Barayev wasn’t betrayed at all; he just didn’t receive a warning about the forthcoming special operation in time, because the operation was prepared in strictest secrecy.
Most of the federal officers we spoke to noted that the “catch” has been fairly meager in recent search operations. Guerrillas leave villages before the federal troops arrive. Following protests by human rights groups, federal commanders have recently been obliged to inform village authorities in advance about search operations. This is the source of information leaks. An interesting case in point: on July 7, two weeks after the death of Barayev, Gamzan Gasayev, mayor of the village of Alkhan-Kala, was killed. The unknown killers left a message next to Gasayev’s body: “For Barayev”. It can’t be ruled out that Gasayev was the one who failed to warn Barayev of the forthcoming operation. However, according to our sources, Gasayev didn’t know about the operation. He was simply set up – in order to ensure the success of the operation.
PRIME MINISTER KASIANOV: POLL RESULTS
Versiya, July 17, 2001, p. 5
M. Volodarsky of St. Petersburg asks: “Does the public trust Mikhail Kasianov?”
As before, the answer appears to be no. Public opinion about the Cabinet has remained stable over the first half of 2001; this government body still lacks the confidence of the majority. Polls in late June showed that 39.7% of respondents have confidence in Kasianov’s Cabinet, compared to 41.4% in late April. This data was supplied by the independent research center Russian Public Opinion and Market Research (ROMIR – Gallup International).
DEATH PENALTY POLL
Profil, July 16, 2001, p. 2 EV
In a recent poll, the Public Opinion Foundation asked: Do you think it’s acceptable to sentence criminals to death? Most respondents (80%) said this is acceptable.