SARATOV GOVERNOR AYATSKOV REFUSES PRIVILEGES FOR HIS REGION
Vremya MN, January 19, 2002, p. 3
Saratov Governor Dmitry Ayatskov has appealed to President Vladimir Putin to cancel the agreement on distribution of powers between the federal government and the Saratov Region. According to him, “it’s time to give up the obsolete agreement system and start living according to the Constitution and regional laws.”
This is the first case of canceling such an agreement at the initiative of a governor, since such agreements are mostly profitable for regions.
As is known, one of Vladimir Putin’s first campaigns on his position was that of bringing regional laws in accord with the Constitution. Presidential envoys for federal districts have often highlighted the discrepancy between regional and federal laws. They also scathingly criticized the system of agreements between the federal center and regions. Oryol Governor and former Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev have often criticized this system too, since it makes regions unequal in front of the federal government. But leaders of those regions that signed such agreements with the federal center have been trying to preserve their “special” position. Therefore, Ayatskov’s step could have seemed strange if the Saratov governor were not known for extraordinary statements and actions.
Vremya MN, January 19, 2002, p. 3
At the Duma’s plenary meeting on January 18, five bills were proposed for consideration. Later one of them was revoked by its author. Their fate was predetermined, since the Cabinet had recommended rejecting them. Such a recommendation is the same as an order for the four pro-government factions.
Among the bills submitted to the Duma the one developed by Ivan Grachev, Chairman of the Mortgage Commission, was viewed as the most “passable” by Duma experts. Grachev explained the need to pass this bill – after the decade of indiscriminate privatization – in his interview with “Vremya MN.” He consulted with foreign experts and drafted a document that would enable sensitive issues of nationalization to be resolved without violating the Constitution and the Civil Code, and without conflicting with the standards of international law. For instance, the document states that nationalization should be done only in exceptional cases, when it is essential for the state’s strategic interests. Unlike confiscation, it is allowed on a compensatory basis, and rights of the owners will be clearly described.
Grachev thinks that the urgency of this topic leads to propaganda speculations: he includes the bills of Zhirinovsky and Shandybin in this category.
But why has none of the bills pleased the Cabinet? It has been rumored in the Duma that the Cabinet has drafted its own bill that will be submitted to the Duma in the near future. Ivan Grachev denies this rumor. He also says, “Every time, the Cabinet makes it clear that it does not need the legislative branch: it is the best expert on everything itself.” The Cabinet tends to exclude the Duma from working on the most vital issues. According to Grachev, there are such trends in all nations, but the future of the parliament depends on the parliament itself. Since the coalition of four pro-presidential factions in the Duma was formed, opposition to the executive branch has practically ceased to exist.
INTERIOR MINISTRY MAY GET CONTROL OVER CHECHNYA
Izvestia, January 19, 2002, p. 2
On January 18, Deputy Presidential Envoy for the Southern Federal District Viktor Anpilogov announced to the ITAR-TASS news agency that in the near future the Interior Ministry would administrate the special operation in Chechnya instead of the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to his sources, the Regional Operative Headquarters for Performance of the Counter-terrorist Operation in the North Caucasus is working on the decision on changing the administration of the operation. Government officials deny this report. However, according to our sources, the government still intends to appoint a new administrator of the operation.
Anpilogov’s secretariat has failed to comment on the announcement of its chief.
The PR Department of the FSB Department of the Rostov Region has announced, “If the government makes a decision on transferring administration of the counter-terrorist operation to other agencies, we will obey to this decision.” A source in the local special services has expressed astonishment at the very fact of this announcement: “Such announcements should be made by the top-ranking officials of the nation.”
However, according to our sources, the appointment of a new person in charge of Chechnya may take place as soon as next week. Our sources in the Interior Ministry say that the only likely candidate for this position is Colonel General Ivan Golubev.
Yan Sergunin, Chief of the Secretariat of Ahmad Kadyrov’s Chechen Administration, has positively estimated this possibility. He has said, “This means that Chechnya is more intensively integrating into the constitutional space of the Russian Federation. In this case, it is police but not special services that will handle public order in Chechnya, like in any other region.”
Vladimir Ponomarev, Deputy Chief of the Interior Ministry’s department for the Southern Federal District, has reported that there is not any document to prove or disprove these rumors so far. According to him, it will be logical if the administration of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya is handled by the Interior Ministry, since temporary interior affairs departments are being replaced by permanent ones in Chechnya. Ponomarev believes that the final decision on this issue is most likely to be made in March or April but not in January or February.
In the opinion of independent observers, the change of administrators of the operation will not change anything. They say, “This is a purely propagandistic step. The situation is not changing: the war is underway involving all means and resources, but it is not called a war.”
FSB DETERMINING PRIORITIES
Izvestia, January 19, 2002, p. 2
On January 18, a meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) was held. Chiefs of regional FSB departments, as well as representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Justice Ministry, Defense Ministry, and other agencies attended this meeting. Its participants summed up results of activities of the special service in 2001 and determined priorities for 2002.
According to FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, among Russia’s “prime external threats” are activities of foreign intelligences. In 2001, FSB managed to catch red-handed ten foreign citizens who worked for foreign intelligence services.
Not all spies are foreign citizens. As we have been reported in the PR Department of FSB, in 2001, seven Russian citizens trying to set up contacts with intelligences of Israel, Kuwait, North Korea, Iran, and Turkey were disclosed. Most of them are employees of state agencies and security agencies. Over 100 such officials were detained for undermining the country’s economy from within helping organized criminal communities gain control over fuel and energy enterprises, the metallurgic sector, and the sector of raw materials.
Another priority for 2002 is combating international terrorism in the North Caucasus. Patrushev said that the work in Chechnya is not over, since Basaev, Khattab, and Maskhadov have not been seized and taken to court so far.
FOREIGN MONEY TO PAY FOR EDUCATION IN RUSSIA
Kommersant, January 19, 2002, p. 2 EV
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has approved an agreement with the World Bank for a loan to reform the education system. Russia will get a 17-year loan of $50 million, to be spent on purchasing computers and schoolbooks for rural schools in three regions and for conducting the education reforms. The planners of this reform will get half of the money.
However, the Russian government needs to carry out a number of formal procedures to get this money. For instance, the loan must be approved by the prime minister, and then the Cabinet must sign an agreement with the World Bank on distribution of this loan. This, the fact that Kasianov has approved this agreement means that Russia will soon get the loan.
The money will be divided between three regions – the Yaroslavl and Samara Regions and the Republic of Chuvashia – and the authors of the nationwide education reform. Therefore, the money will be repaid both by the federal government and by regional authorities.
END OF KHATTAB
Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 19, 2002, p. 2
Neither journalists nor numerous analysts have managed to determine why Chechen guerrillas went into Abkhazia. However, recently we managed to learn something about a secret plan for founding an “Abkhazian Islamic Republic”.
According to documents found during the latest search operation in the Vedeno district of Chechnya, Gelaev’s incursion into Abkhazia was thoroughly analyzed by Chechen guerrilla leaders. After that a secret meeting of the most influential terrorists took place. According to the documents, among the participants were Khattab, Basaev, chief of Khattab’s intelligence Abu Yakub, and Khattab’s deputy Abu al-Walid. To all appearances, there was also a person from the Georgian Interior Ministry at the meeting.
Terrorists chose Abkhazia counting on strong support from Georgia, especially Georgian special services. Thinking that their task is the political cover of the operation, Georgian special services agreed to some very risky provocations. For instance, many people remember the scandal over bombings in Georgia’s highlands in November 2001. At that time, Kakha Sikharulidze, spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry, even threatened to bring NATO troops into the region in order to “stop Russia’s aggression.”
However, the terrorists’ archives show that the Georgian authorities should have appealed to a psychiatric clinic rather than NATO. For instance, one of Gelaev’s letters to Maskhadov says that Georgians have not kept their promise in full: they were paid for three helicopters, but only two of them were operational. In another such message a certain “Koba” is mentioned: apparently Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili. And the two helicopters mentioned in the messages were the two helicopters that fired on Georgian territory from the Russian side.
COMMUNISTS HOLD A CONGRESS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 19, 2002, p. 2
On January 19, the extraordinary eighth congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) will take place in Moscow. This congress will be devoted to transformation of the basic communist organization into the party in accordance with the new law on political parties.
The issues of transformation of regional branches of the party, the party’s regulations, its program, and reelection of the Central Committee are on the agenda of the congress. However, since this is an extraordinary meeting and is not dictated by political necessity, it is less important than some plenary sessions of the party.
About 270 delegates from 88 regions will participate in the congress.
The CPRF’s members do not expect any principal changes in the program of their party, as well as in its senior authorities.
According to our sources in the CPRF, the Central Committee of the party is most likely to be fully reelected. Since this is an extraordinary meeting, the principle of obligatory rotation of the Central Committee will not be applied this time.
Unlike previous congresses of the party, this one will be held behind closed doors. It will not be accompanied by any public demonstrations either. In fact, since the Land Code was passed by the Duma, the public activity of the CPRF has declined considerably; this is partly supported by opinion polls. For instance, according to opinion polls conducted by the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), Gennady Zyuganov’s rating has fallen to 13%. Besides, the pollsters say the CPRF is currently supported by only 21% of voters. However, our sources in the CPRF doubt the truth of these figures: “VTsIOM often overstates our rating and then, closer to elections, starts showing an alleged decline.”
Genaddy Zyuganov is optimistic about the party’s position in Russia. He said, “The Communists look at what is going on in Russia more soberly, and soon the whole nation will study their program of overcoming the crisis.”