THE BABKINS VERSUS THE FSB
Izvestia, February 20, 2002, p. 3 EV
On February 19 the Meshchansk inter-municipal court started considering a lawsuit against the Federal Security Service (FSB) filed by Galina Yashina – the wife of alleged spy Anatoly Babkin. Babkin’s case is a spin-off from the highly-publicized Edmond Pope case. Yashina wants the FSB to return 160,000 rubles, her share of the money confiscated during a search of Babkin’s apartment on April 3-4, 2000. According to Yashina, she needs the money for an eye operation, since her eyesight is drastically deteriorating. The court hearing has begun despite protests from the FSB, which claims the case should not be considered as a matter of civil law.
GUERRILLAS WITHOUT PASSPORTS
Izvestia, February 20, 2002, p. 3 EV
On February 19, 105 out of the tens of thousands of forced migrants from Chechnya who are living in tent camps in Ingushetia were issued with new-format Russian identity papers, and can now return to their homeland. It is not yet known how long the remaining refugees will have to wait.
As of now, there are around 140,000 refugees in Ingushetia. “Some are leaving, but many are arriving – a constant balance of migration is observed; thus, 105 passports is a drop in the bucket,” says Lidiya Grafova, chairwoman of the coordination council for assisting refugees and forced migrants, member of the working group of the Geneva conference for repatriation and integration of forced migrants in the CIS.
Grafova: “Many of them do not have identity papers: they have been burned, confiscated, or stolen. People there have more serious problems than getting identity papers – there are frequent interruptions with gas and power supplies. They are hanging by a thread, and even new identity papers will be of no use in this situation – they will read ‘Chechnya’ in the ‘place of birth’ column, which is now worse than any stigma in Russia.”
THE POOR HAVE BECOME POORER
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, February 20, 2002, p. 4
Around 24% of Russian citizens, or 34.8 million people, had incomes below the poverty line in the fourth quarter of 2001, which is 5 million fewer than in 2000.
Studies done by the Nationwide Living Standards Center show that last year there was an overall rise in living standards in Russia. Real incomes increased by 5.9%. However, the picture in the regions is contradictory: purchasing power increased in 65 regions, but fell in 23 others, including some relatively successful territories (Tyumen and Perm regions, Yamalo-Nenetsk and Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous districts, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania). The situation in the Far East, Southern and Trans-Volga federal districts is the most difficult. However, the most disturbing aspect is that the greatest decline in purchasing power (32.4%) was observed in the relatively poor Koryak autonomous district. The federal government attributes this to a lack of initiative on the part of the regional administration, which has got into the habit of waiting for assistance from the federal government.
RUSSIAN STEEL WILL BE ALLOWED INTO EUROPE
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 20, 2002, p. 2
The government commission on joining the WTO, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin, met on February 19. After the meeting, Maksim Medvedkov, Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade, said discord between ministries and departments involved in negotiating the process of Russia joining the WTO should be eliminated by March 14.
Meanwhile, the Economic Development Ministry will submit a draft of a new three-year agreement on the steel trade with the EU for consideration to the government commission on cooperation with the EU. The document envisages increasing the export quota for Russian steel by almost one-third from the start of 2002, compared to quotas for 2001 (an average of about 840,000 tons for the year). In 2003-04 the export quotas will be increased by around 2.5% a year.
MOSCOW AND ASTANA DEVELOP COOPERATION
Trud, February 20, 2002, p. 1
Another meeting of the intergovernmental commission on cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan took place in Moscow on February 19. A broad range of issues was covered, including methods of implementing programs for border zone and trade cooperation, maintaining and operating the Baikonur space center, cooperation in the fuel and energy sector, and extending transport and communication links. For instance, a long-term intergovernmental agreement on transit for Kazakhstan’s oil across Russian territory was discussed.
On the eve of the meeting, Kazakhstan’s new ambassador to Russia Altynbek Sarsenbaiyuly had met with Deputy Foreign Minister Valeriy Loshchinin in Moscow. The Foreign Ministry press center reported that they confirmed “unity in approaches to combating international terrorism and extremism and strengthening stability and security in Central Asia”. There was emphasis on “essential coordination of both countries’ activities aimed at strengthening the CIS, the Collective Security Treaty, and the Eurasian Economic Community”.
A FASCIST INSPIRATION
Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 20, 2002, EV
In this last month of winter, public attention has once again been drawn to the existence of neo-Nazi skinheads. Although the young fascists had been quiet since the memorable bloody pogrom they staged in Tsaritsyn on October 30, several disturbances have recently been caused by skinheads in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov announced in early February that “Moscow’s law enforcement agencies have learned to prevent the unlawful activities of these extremist youth groups, by infiltrating their ranks”. Moreover, the security services have allegedly “learned to predict their actions”. Well, now all they have to do is learn to defend Muscovites and visitors to the city from the unplanned escapades of lone skinheads…
We can assume there will soon be a new wave of skinhead activity. The skinheads always “emerge from hibernation” when the weather grows warmer. They don’t like winter, spending it indoors and “blooming” in the spring. What’s more, they link spring with Hitler’s birthday on April 20. And they really want to show off in front of the television cameras.
It’s worth adding that according to Moscow police, in the capital and the Moscow region there are now up to 10,000 youths aged between 14 and 20 who consider themselves to be skinheads.