THE UNITY IS OUT TO COMMANDEER SOME INSTRUMENTAL DUMA COMMITTEES FROM THE COMMUNISTS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 1, 2002, p. 2
The initiative of Duma centrists eager to deprive Chairman Gennadi Seleznev of the decisive vote will have its logical continuation this week.
Pro-presidential factions and groups intend to initiate a revision of a package of rules in the Duma. According to a source in the upper echelons of the Coordinating Council of the four centrist factions, the process of revision will be put into motion one of these days. In the first place, the number of committees and commissions will be cut down. In the second, centrists will try to replace Communists chairmen of key committees. The initial plans of the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, and Russian Regions stand for disbanding two-thirds of existing committees because at least about one-third of such structures are performing the same functions (like the Social Policy Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee). Now that Alexander Shokhin is no longer chairman of the Banking Committee of the lower house of parliament, there are persistent rumors that this committee will be merged with the Budget Committee soon.
The source comments, however, that so dramatic a reduction of committees is hardly possible but the centrists will demand a reduction by one-third at least.
As for the replacement of leadership in the committees, the source says that appointment of one deputy or the other to the post of chairman in this or that committee should correspond with the numerical strength of his or her faction. When the package agreement was made, the Unity was far behind the communist faction. Not anymore, the correlation of forces is wholly different now. It does not take a genius therefore to see that it is the left who will be hit the hardest by the intended redistribution of portfolios.
By the way, the centrists do not intend to raise the matter of replacement of chairman of the lower house of the parliament.
AIRBORNE TROOPS ARE NOT A PART OF THE GROUND FORCES
Kommersant, April 1, 2002, p. 3
The inspection, which lasted three weeks, was summed up in a fifty-page report. It took Kvashnin three hours to read it aloud at the conference, with his own comments and evaluations. The commission gauged the combat readiness of the Airborne Troops (the major parameter) as satisfactory. According to Kvashnin, only one division (the 106th Division from Tula, the one inspected by Grachev), a brigade, and a regiment meet the requirements of permanent combat readiness units. Kvashnin reminded that the General Staff requires that the Airborne Troops have 80% of all divisions and 100% of regiments in a state of permanent combat readiness.
Kvashnin then proceeded to criticize organizational methods of combat training for poor technical facilities in testing sites and shooting ranges, for shortage of resources in equipment and even ordnance. When he was through with reading, Kvashnin made a promise that “in the summer training cycle all units of the Airborne Troops would be provided with everything necessary by 100%.” Kvashnin demanded from Airborne Troops Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Georgy Shpak a plan of correction of flaws uncovered by the inspection. Shpak has a week to present the plan.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov kept an eye on the inspection too. Like Kvashnin, he was not satisfied with the results of the inspection. INTERFAX news agency quoted Ivanov as saying that the Airborne Troops had turned into something for mere shows these last few years: on the one hand, they handled important tasks like peacekeeping missions, on the other, they concentrated on breaking bricks. At the same time, Ivanov made it plain that the Airborne Troops would retain their independent status. “The reports that the Airborne Troops are to be absorbed by the Ground Forces are rubbish,” he said.
RUSSIA PARTICIPATES IN THE FIDEA’2002 AEROSPACE SHOW IN CHILE
Gazeta, April 1, 2002, p. 3
FIDEA’2002 will mark the fifth attempt of Russian arms manufacturers and exporters to conquer the Latin American arms market. Countries of the region, Chile included, traditionally look up at the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and Germany in matters of military-technical cooperation, but Russia has already earned a niche in the market. It has the FIDEA shows to thank for this. Flights of MIGs and SUs were organized at previous shows. This time, the SU will display 18 types of fighters and ground-strafers in Santiago, and the MIG nine aircraft. The Yakovlev Design Bureau will be represented by a single aircraft, which has no analog the world over. The combat-training YAK-130 can imitate every modern fighter. Latin American states particularly like and know Russian helicopters. Modifications of the MI-17 have been used in Mexico, Nicaragua, Equator, Columbia, Peru, and Cuba for years. All of them are invaluable in combat.
Antiaircraft systems are displayed along with aircraft and helicopters at airspace shows like that more and more frequently. This time the Russian exposition includes Iglas, Antei-2500s, Tor-M1s, and Osa-AKMs, which are well known in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. A source from the Rosoboroneksport says that Russia’s chances of penetrating the local arms market are particularly good in this area. “The Igla has already proved its efficiency in Brazil, which means that we may rely on a similar contract with Chile as well,” a source said.
RUSSIA LIFTS BAN ON AMERICAN POULTRY IMPORT
Izvestia, April 1, 2002, p. 3
Russian-American consultations ended with the decision of the Ministry of Agriculture to lift the ban on poultry import from the United States as of April 10, 2002.
Vladimir Fisinin, Russian Poultry Alliance CEO, announced on March 28 that the ban would probably be lifted, but only if the US Administration accepted certain conditions. Moscow wanted the poultry farms whose products contained salmonella off the list of exporters and insisted on new quality certification. The American authorities must have accepted the conditions and the Ministry of Agriculture lifts the ban, INTERFAX news agency reports.
THE DUMA IS GOING IN FOR COMMERCE
Izvestia, April 1, 2002, p. 4
According to the addendum, the lower house of the parliament needs more than the available finances “to promote lawmaking processes in the Russian Federation in a planned and continuous manner.” The 2002 budget allocated 2 billion 72 million 554.9 thousand rubles for the Duma when the lower house of the parliament needs 15 tons of paper for every session. Shortage of funds regularly creates problems with transportation, communications, and even meals. The car pool mostly consists of rusty old Volgas and has to be renovated… The draft law is supposed to solve all these problems.
The draft law suggests seeking new financial sources in several directions at once. One of them is “leasing some premises of the Duma of the Federal Assembly.” The authors are pretty confident that a lot of private companies will office space in the Duma.
Two restaurants (of French and Japanese cuisines) are to be opened in the Duma. Stalls with locally-made goods and commodities will be opened in the lobby. At least two fitness clubs, a casino, and perhaps a striptease bar may be opened in the corridor between the old and new Duma buildings. The idea of opening a bar is lobbied by the LDPR but objected to by strait-laced People’s Deputy (the average age of its members is the highest in all of the lower house of the parliament).
According to Izvestia information, the Duma may refuse to stop at that. Some deputies want all of these recreational facilities opened at the Duma and made accessible free of charge. In this case, however, the law “On the status of deputy of the Duma” will have to be amended.
A VIP car pool will be formed for Duma deputies.
OIL PRICE GOES UP. BUT NOT FOR LONG
Izvestia, April 2, 2002, p. 1
Mikhail Perfilov, an analyst with Petroleum Argus, says that “escalation of tension in this region traditionally causes oil prices to go up because traders fear problems with oil deliveries.” The danger itself of the hostilities does not have any effect on oil production because oil is not extracted in Israel or Palestine.
All analysts agree that prices will go down soon. According to Perfilov, “traders will await further reports that may cause price to rise more. Something like reports on the movement of troops that may interfere with the movement of oil tankers.” Perfilov is of the opinion that the United States, the country on which a great deal depends on the market, is currently peaceful. It is America by the way that does not want higher prices right now. World powers will try to allay the conflict unless Israel resorted to the measures that might stir the whole world (like assassinating Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat).
KADYROV DETAINED AT CHECKPOINT
Izvestia, April 2, 2002, p. 3
A cortege of Kremlin-appointed leader of Chechnya Akhmad Kadyrov was detained yesterday at a checkpoint near the settlement of Novogrozny in the Gudermes district, INTERFAX news agency reports. Kadyrov was being driven from his native village of Tsentoroi to Grozny when, according to his press secretary Lechi Yakhiayev, servicemen manning the checkpoint demanded a special pass despite explanations about who was in the car. The servicemen fired shots to the air and Kadyrov was forced to get out of the car and call them to order. The cortege was permitted to drive on shortly afterwards. The command of the United Federal Group apologized to Kadyrov and assured that the culprits would be reprimanded.
Kadyrov views the incident as a “provocation aimed to embarrass him before the people standing nearby,” said Yakhiayev.
OPINION POLLS ON RUSSIANS’ ATTITUDE TOWARDS UKRAINE
Izvestia, April 2, 2002, p. 4
According to data compiled by the Public Opinion Foundation on the eve of the election, more than 50% of the 1,500 respondents in 100 townships and villages do not consider the outcome of election in Ukraine to be personally important. 51% of respondents retained their warm feelings to Ukraine over the last year. 32% admitted that their attitude deteriorated and 7% said they had never thought much of Ukraine.
This loss of sympathies is mostly ascribed to the “unrealized opportunity for developing rapprochement with Ukraine.” In August 2001 the number of Russians thinking that rapprochement was underway almost equalled that of the Russians who thought otherwise (34% and 37% correspondingly) but now the ratio is 25% to 54%.
When asked to depict an ideal model of relations between Russia and Ukraine, a lot of Russians still advocate a single state. This is, however, the first time this particular opinion would be polling less than 50% of the overall. Meanwhile, the number of advocates of life in sovereign states has doubled over the last six months and reached 14%.
The tendency towards rejection of the idea of a single state is demonstrated in all strata. Even among communist supporters, the major advocates of restoration of the Soviet Union, the idea polled only 70% instead of the previous 74%.
ANALYSIS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION IN UKRAINE
Izvestia, April 2, 2002, p. 4
Composition of the new Supreme Rada makes all sorts of alliances and counteralliances possible – the trio of leaders of (the communists, power party, and Viktor Yuschenko’s pro-Western bloc) can pull off some effective oppositional fighting. The voice of the For United Ukraine bloc will be loud indeed, a great deal of deputies on the list will be backed up by deputies from one-mandate constituencies.
What really counts, however, is that Ukraine is utterly split. Exit polls indicate that Yuschenko’s Our Ukraine party set records by gaining up to 50% of the votes in western regions and barely polled 6% in the eastern. The president’s For United Ukraine showed approximately similar results (in reverse and with a somewhat smaller amplitude). The bloc polled the majority of votes in the “Russian” north visited by Kuchma not so long ago (45.9%). In other words, no matter what course the Rada chooses – rapprochement with Russia or a drift to the West – it will be unpopular in any case. Experts are of the opinion already that this split will become Ukraine’s major problem in the coming years, a problem no less important than the choice of political course.
In other words, Moscow may forget its fears of Ukraine’s “dash to the West” in the wake of the election – anti-Russian moves in the parliament may be blocked by the Ukrainian communists and Kuchma’s For United Ukraine. Neither does Kuchma intend to alter the course for the time being. The country needs integration into Europe and rapprochement with Russia, he said the other day. Most probably, experts’ convictions that Kiev will retain its present course are correct. They say that cooperation with Moscow is a geographic rather than political factor, to be taken into account by the president and by the new parliament. And a hypothetical pro-Western course will remain a tool in domestic political wars and a convenient slogan of diplomacy used every now and then to test the reaction of Russia and European states and structures.