VISIT WORTH $1.5 BILLION OF INVESTMENT
Vremya MN, October 6, 2001, p. 2
October 5 was the last day of the official visit of Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani to Russia. According to a Russian participant in the negotiations between Mr. Shamkhani and the Russian delegation, this visit was important not only for development for Russian-Iranian military-technical cooperation but also for stabilization of the geopolitical status of the two countries. For this purpose, a long-term program for Russian-Iranian trade cooperation has been worked out. Iran is interested in both military and civilian products of Russian high-tech industries. According to experts, the value of Russian-Iranian military-technical cooperation over the next five years may amount to $1.5 billion.
RUSLAN GELAEV TAKES THE CHECHEN WAR TO ABKHAZIA
Izvestia, October 6, 2001, p. 2 EV
The guerrilla detachment which seized the Abkhazian village of Georgievskoe has been dispersed. According to Abkhazian Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba, there were about 400 extremists in the detachments and most of them were Chechens and Georgians. Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba added that there were also about 50 Russian citizens from Kabardino-Balkaria.
There was serious fighting near the village of Georgievskoe for two days. Before the fighting, the guerrillas had surrounded bases of Russian peacekeepers in the Kodor Gorge, seized the bridge and all heights around the village. The Abkhazian Foreign Ministry has done its best to find out who these guerrillas were, and what they sought to gain by this attack. Sergei Shamba is convinced that the guerrillas intended to seize Tsebelda, 40 kilometers from Sukhumi. The official announcement of the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry states: “These military units need a base not only for terrorist attacks and military operations against Abkhazia, but also in order to enter the Russian Federation via the Main Ridge of the Caucasus.”
The command of Russian peacekeepers considers that these guerrillas may have been led by Ruslan Gelaev.
Meanwhile, Georgia has not commented on this situation, since President Eduard Shevardnadze is now in Washington and has not sent any instructions so far.
According to the headquarters of the federal forces in Chechnya, Gelaev’s gangs in the Akhmet District of Georgia have been ordered to go back to Chechnya.
The guerrilla attack on Georgievskoe shows that Chechen guerrillas need a new refuge in case Russian troops oust them from Chechnya. It is not ruled out that Gelaev has decided to open a new front for attacking Russia: Abkhazia offers easy access to Sochi and then to Kabardino-Balkaria.
PROBLEM OF 77 DAYS TO BE SOLVED
Novye Izvestia, October 6, 2001, p. 1
According to our sources, President Vladimir Putin is prepared to extend the term of the Duma. This idea is said to originate with Sergei Shakhrai, former deputy prime minister.
If the schedule of federal elections is not changed, the parliamentary election will take place on December 21, 2003 and the presidential election on March 7, 2004. There will be only 77 days between them. This creates a problem for Russian politics.
Currently, there are two options for changing this situation. Supporters of the first alternative think it necessary to hold the parliamentary elections a year earlier, in December 2002. In this case the problem of servicing foreign debts, which will become the key issue in 2003, will not affect the results of the parliamentary election. But for this purpose it would be necessary to dissolve the current Duma, which is not that easy.
Supporters of the second option believe that 226 Duma deputies should realize that it is necessary to help the president, and resolve to disband the Duma.
Duma deputies are aware of the Kremlin’s plans. Communist (CPRF) faction leader Gennady Zyuganov was the first to show annoyance over these plans. The reason for his irritation is natural: if the Kremlin is actually planning an early parliamentary election, it is necessary to start preparing for it right now. So the Communists have begun to prepare for the election. Even if the parliamentary election is held in March 2002, the CPRF will gain 40% of Duma seats by its party list alone. Since the CPRF has strong regional branches, its single-mandate deputies may get up to half of Duma seats.
It is clear that the president and the progressive members of his team are aware of this situation. They will not take such a risk just for the sake of increasing the interval between the parliamentary and presidential elections. However, they can’t let the matter rest either. That is why Shakhrai has come up with his own idea. According to his proposal, both the presidential and parliamentary elections should be held on March 7, 2004. If the presidential election should coincide with the parliamentary elections, it would not make sense to reduce the president’s term in office. But if the term of the Duma is extended by two and a half months, deputies will only be glad.
First of all, the government will save at least $2 billion. Besides, this combination of elections would be extremely advantageous for the president, since the pro-presidential parties would benefit most of all. Independent parties will be flattened, since their leaders would be simultaneously running in the presidential election and trying to get their parties into the Duma.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RECEIVES IRANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 6, 2001, p. 1
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has met with Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani. After their talks, Igor Ivanov announced that Russia “is actively cooperating with Iran and other countries in the search for a political resolution to the situation in Afghanistan.” According to Ivanov, the main topic of the talks was consequences of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11. He has said, “These tragic events have should that it is necessary for the international community to unite its efforts to combat terrorism.”
The Russian foreign minister has noted that Russia and Iran successfully cooperated on resolution of the military conflict in Tajikistan. Therefore, “Russia is interested in developing friendly and mutually profitable relations with Iran.”
24TH CONFERENCE OF EUROPEAN JUSTICE MINISTERS IN MOSCOW
Vremya MN, October 6, 2001, p. 3
On October 5, the 24th conference of European justice ministers ended in Moscow. Combating international terrorism was the key topic of this conference. The conference resulted in the resolution appealing to countries included in the Council of Europe and those having the status of observers to ratify all international treaties related to combating international terrorism.
Currently, it is necessary to perfect the legal basis for combating terrorism, as Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Hans Krueger has told journalists. There are many international agreements aimed at development of international cooperation in this field. However, it has turned out that some of them are obsolete already. Besides, here is a lack of common standards in this sphere. As a matter of fact, there is not even a distinct definition of terrorism.
Russian Justice Minister Yury Chaika held 15 bilateral meetings with his European counterparts within this conference. At the conference seven interagency agreements were concluded, and one interstate agreement with Estonia on transferring prisoners for serving prison terms.
EDUARD SHEVARDNADZE SCOLDS RUSSIA FOR CHECHEN WAR AND DOUBLE STANDARDS
Kommersant, October 6, 2001, p. 3
On October 5, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze completed his visit to the US. Being the first CIS president who visited America after the terrorist attacks of September 11, he used his trip to explain his disagreements with Moscow to Americans.
After receiving an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, Shevardnadze made a speech there. He discussed the situation in Chechnya and noted that many Chechens, supported by “foreign forces”, participated in the war in Abkhazia and were noted for their cruelty. Thus, Russia’s efforts have allegedly boomeranged on Russia.
In his speech at John Hopkins University, Shevardnadze accused Russia of having a policy of double standards. In his opinion, Moscow is trying to take advantage of the events of September 11 to enhance its pressure on Tbilisi. He said that on the one hand, Russia is conducting a war against Chechen separatists, and “on the other hand, it has left borders with the separatist regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia unguarded.” He also said that Russia has repeatedly bombed Georgian territory along the Chechnya sector of the Russian-Georgian border.
In conclusion, Shevardnadze said that Russia is blocking the UN resolution on the status of Abkhazia as a region of the Georgian federation.
ANTONIO VICTORINO: SIGNALS FROM MOSCOW ARE POSITIVE
Izvestia, October 6, 2001, p. 4 EV
European Union (EU) Commissioner Antonio Vitorino has visited Moscow and taken part in the 24th conference of European justice ministers. We interviewed him about the work of European justice ministers on the long-term program of combating international terrorism.
Question: What issues did ministers discuss?
Antonio Vitorino: I introduced two proposals on behalf of the European Commission: the first one is related to the legal definitions of terrorism and sanctions for terrorist acts. I’d like these proposals to be reflected in laws of the 15 countries included in the EU.
The second proposal was a uniform standard for European arrest procedures. This would replace the current system of extradition adopted by EU countries.
Question: What are the main directions in the battle against terrorists conducted in Europe?
Vitorino: There are four such directions. First of all it is necessary to cut the financial roots nourishing international terrorism. Then it is necessary to review definitions of the basis concepts in this field. The third direction is improvement of cooperation between law enforcement agencies of separate countries and coordination of efforts of intelligences of EU countries. And the fourth direction is improvement of cooperation between judiciary organizations.
Question: What difficulties in the justice field were mentioned at the conference?
Vitorino: We have estimated the difficulties in implementation of courts’ decisions and found a number of common hindrances. For instance, there are some problems about transference of judiciary documents from one country to another. Another problem is connected with translating from one language to another. There is also a problem of guarantees of rights of the accused, mainly the lawyer’s services.
However, all EU countries intend to do their best to improve the system of fulfillment of court decisions. I think this is the main result of the conference.
Question: Does the Russian judiciary system correspond to the standards of the EU?
Vitorino: You see, I don’t work as a supervisor in Russia. Fortunately, the system of the European Commission for Human Rights includes the Human Rights Court also known as the Strasbourg Court. This court may reconsider any decision of national courts.
I think our contacts with Russia are fruitful. Signals from Moscow seem to be positive. Of course, there is a lot to be done yet. For instance, we are deeply involved with resolution of the key issue of education of judges. We are aware of the Russian Federation’s need of upgrading of the professional level of judges. I may assure that the EU will help Russia solve this problem by means of the TACIS program and some other programs.
Question: What do you think about the proposal of Russian Justice Minister Yury Chaika to transfer 14,000 foreigners serving the prison term in Russia to their native countries in exchange for 4,300 Russians serving prison terms abroad?
Vitorino: I haven’t heard of this proposal, but as far as I know, such issues are usually resolved at the bilateral level.
Question: Do you view illegal migration from Russia as a threat to other European countries?
Vitorino: First of all, I’d like to note that there are no official statistics on illegal immigration. But in any case, this is a rather important problem requiring concrete actions from both sides. Meanwhile, legal immigration to Europe may be extremely precious for the economic and social development of the EU. The main point is that it is necessary to let immigrants be adapted to their new environment as soon as possible.
EUROPEANS LIKED THEIR VISIT TO RUSSIA
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 6, 2001, EV
We interviewed Justice Minister Yury Chaika about the 24th conference of European justice ministers held in Moscow.
Question: It is the first time that the conference of European justice ministers has been held in Moscow. How did your European counterparts rate the level of its organization and its results?
Yury Chaika: Their assessments were all high. The conference even issued a special resolution expressing its deep gratitude to the Russian government for the excellent organization of the 24th conference in Moscow and for its hospitality.
Question: The agenda of the conference was changed. Did it lead to any arguments?
Chaika: Justice ministers of European countries could not disregard the recent tragic events. A number of countries, including Russia, place the issue of fighting international terrorism on the agenda. By the way, this issue caused the most active debates. Participants of the conference issued a resolution on development of international contacts in this field. It was also decided to discuss at the next conference what should be done to fulfill these decisions.
Question: You also had personal meetings with your European counterparts within this conference. Did you achieve mutual understanding?
Chaika: Our dialog was very constructive. It will undoubtedly help us protect rights and interests of our countrymen abroad. For instance, the meeting with my counterpart from Estonia was very productive: at the end of it we signed a joint agreement.
LEFT OR RIGHT?
Versty, October 2, 2001, p. 1
Large sections of the electorate are perplexed and embarrassed. The party reforms initiated by the Kremlin seem to have deprived the citizens of their accustomed guidelines. This is the conclusion of the Public Opinion Foundation’s latest poll, dedicated to the left, the right, and the centrist forces. Results show that over 60% of respondents are still uncertain about their party preferences; 19% support the views of the left, 9% are ready to support the right, whereas 11% uphold centrist views. However, it seems that even those who have determined their preferences have not yet decided why they have done so. Only 32% supporters of the left managed to give any reasons, such as “restoring the Soviet Union,” “improving living standards,” “abolition of private property.” Great confusion is observed among supporters of the right. Only about 24% of them could give any reasons. The centrists seem to be a complete disaster: only 14% of respondents think they understand the policies of centrist parties.
WHO HAS NURTURED THE TERROR?
Novoe Vremya, September 30, 2001, p. 19
At present, Russia’s population includes 85% ethnic Russians, 5% Ukrainians, 4% Tatars, 1% Belorussians and 1% Jews.
In a recent poll, 86% of respondents said their ethnicity creates “neither advantages nor problems” for them; 3% of respondents said their ethnicity creates problems for them, whereas 4% noted that their ethnicity provides some advantages.
At the same time, assessing inter-ethnic relations in Russia on the whole, around a fifth of respondents say they are good. More specifically, 1% of respondents consider them to be “very good,” and 21% think they are “good”; around 46% think they “tend to be bad,” and 16% think they are “fairly bad.” Another 16% were uncertain about inter-ethnic relations in Russia. On the whole, the majority of respondents are concerned about the state of inter-ethnic relations in Russia. Around 24% of respondents say they are “seriously concerned” about relations between various ethnic groups in Russia, 38% do not seem to care about such problems a lot, 22% say they “are slight concern” about such things, and 16% say they do not care about such problems at all. Assessing various serious social problems, some 10% of respondents consider “aggravation of ethnic conflicts” to be the major problem in Russia.