Izvestia, August 23, 2002, p. 3

The Interfax news agency reports that an unidentified man threatened to detonate an explosive device outside the FSB public reception office yesterday. Interfax quotes a TsOS representative as saying that traffic police stopped a white Gazel car with Mordovian license plates on Bolshaya Lubyanka Street near the FSB building. The unidentified man told traffic police that the car was carrying 1.5 tons of explosives. He threatened to blow up the car unless he was permitted to meet with the nation’s top leaders. The area around the incident was cordoned off, traffic was diverted away from nearby streets, and people were kept at a safe distance. The unidentified man appeared to be aged around 40, of solid build; he was in an excitable state and very drunk. According to the TsOS representative, it was believed that an explosive device was attached to his body. After speaking with FSB personnel for over 90 minutes, the terrorist drove off toward Olympiiskii Prospect, where he was taken into custody.


Izvestia, August 23, 2002, p. 2

Russia’s former radioelectronic center at Lourdes in Cuba will now house a Cuban computer training center. According to the Cuban Education Ministry, the new center will train computing specialists; but some in Russia are certain that the college is just a cover for a new secret Cuban intelligence base.

A senior Russian foreign intelligence officer, who had been working at Lourdes until recently, told us: “The training center is probably just a cover. Although there is no electronic equipment left at the base, all the splendid infrastructure is still there, well hidden from prying eyes – and that is where a new Cuban intelligence center is probably being set up. Dozens of companies of Cuban special troops are deployed around Lourdes, closely monitoring the complex. It’s unlikely that they are guarding the students.”

According to some specialists whom we asked for comments, a new military base is being created at Lourdes. The Cubans already have several radio intelligence centers; so the new one will probably be used only for training specialists. They used to be sent to the Soviet Union for training, but this practice was discontinued in the 1990s.


Izvestia, August 23, 2002, p. 2

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has taken some banking executives with him on his official visit to China; their banks are supposed to service the anticipated increased trade between China and Russia. The bankers haven’t lost any time. Several agreements were signed yesterday between Russian and Chinese banks. The achievements of the Russian bankers in China promise the Russian banking sector a new currency to use as a method of payment and possibly a savings instrument: the Chinese yuan.

Three Russian banks were represented in the delegation: the Central Bank, Vneshtorgbank, and Vneshekonombank. The Central Bank “made friends” with the People’s Bank of China, signing an agreement on inter-bank payments for trade along the border. This would involve business owners opening bank accounts in their own currency – rubles or yuans – and being able to pay each other without using cash. At present, the agreement only applies to the Amur region and the Chinese province of Heiluntsian, but if it proves successful its scope may be expanded to other border regions.

According to a source close to the negotiations, the Central Bank is hoping that Chinese banks will in time start to exchange Russian rubles on their territory, and that all banks participating in the project will be able to buy and sell both currencies and transfer them across the border. If the project works, currency exchange centers will one day list the ruble-yuan and yuan-ruble exchange rate, and Russian banks would be able to accept deposits in Chinese currency.

Vneshtorgbank has more specific aims. It has agreed with the Industry and Trade Bank of China (China’s largest bank) to open a $200 million line of credit. The money is required by Russian importers to buy Chinese goods with insurance coverage being provided by China’s Sinosure insurance company. This is the first time that China will extend credit to a Russian bank without requiring guarantees from the Russian government.


Rossiiskie Vesti, August 23, 2002, p. 6

Some sensational news came out of Russia last weekend. The Iraqi Ambassador in Moscow stated that Russia and Iraq were preparing to sign an economic cooperation agreement worth $40 billion (or even $60 billion). According to him, this plan involves joint enterprises in oil refining, agriculture, transport and the power industry. It should be signed this September.

Given that the US administration is preparing a military operation in order to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, and counting on Russia’s aid, this move could substantially complicate relations between Russia and the US. Russia’s interest is understandable, from the economic point of view. Iraq owes Russia $7 billion, and the money would be very useful in 2003; but payment is hindered by UN trade sanctions.

Nevertheless, our sources in the Foreign Ministry say plan doesn’t violate the international sanctions regime. No defense industry cooperation is included in this program.

Some analysts believe that Iraq would be buying itself a form of shield against the imminent US military campaign. The deal with Moscow would mean that thousands of Russian specialists would go to Iraq’s most important strategic facilities in the near future. Any US air strikes would thus be directed at citizens of a nation which is an ally in the antiterrorist coalition.

This agreement is also very advantageous for the Kremlin. Baghdad is promising to grant Russian companies concessions to develop many high-grade oil deposits once the UN sanctions are lifted. Russian companies have already been permitted to drill in northern Iraq. Besides, it would be possible for Russia to resume arms supplies to Iraq. Another Operation Desert Storm will upset these plans. The future pro-US government of Iraq would make Iraq a strong rival of Russia. So we will support Saddam Hussein – and not only with Zhirinovsky’s visits.