Izvestia, November 14, 2002, p. 3 EV

Late on Tuesday, deputy governor Mikhail Babich of the Ivanovo region was appointed prime minister of Chechnya. He replaced Stanislav Ilyasov who had assumed office of federal minister. Before the appointment in question, Babich had worked in the private sector, had successful experience in the election campaign team of Boris Gromov, held office of Moscow region deputy prime minister. Legal proceedings were instituted twice against Babich but in both cases the prosecutor’s office failed to provide any conclusive evidence.

The Chechen prime minister’s spokeswoman Alla Vlazyeva told us that both incoming and outgoing prime ministers are due in the city of Grozny late this week. “We have only seen Mikhail Babich on TV so far,” she said.

It was decided as far back as a month ago to appoint Babich prime minister of Chechnya, according to Governor Vladimir Tikhonov of the Ivanovo region. “We simply did not hurry to reveal the decision.” Currently, Babich is in Moscow. He will come back on Monday to hand over his responsibilities. Babich was recommended for the post of Chechen prime minister owing to his outstanding proficiency in financial and economic matters. This will do him credit in Chechnya where there is a great deal of embezzlement.

Babich, 32, was born in Chechnya. In 1990-1994 he served as senior officer in airborne troops. In 1995-1999 he worked in the private business sector, then held the post of deputy director general with state unitary enterprise “Federal Agency for Food Market Regulation” under the Agricultural Ministry. As a consequence of Boris Gromov’s win of a Moscow region governor election, Babich took office deputy governor, but was forced to quit soon: his name was mentioned in connection with misappropriation of U.S. humanitarian aid. A legal action was brought against him to be closed afterwards. After Babich became deputy governor of the Ivanovo region he was accused of embezzlement again but managed to emerge unscathed.


Izvestia, November 14, 2002, p.3 EV

Some 2,000 Chechen refugees that are currently staying in Ingushetia have sent an open letter to President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. They are applying for a refugee status and permission to reside in Kazakhstan. The Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan does not regard the Chechens as refugees, however, since all of them are citizens of the Russian Federation and no one drives them away from Russia. Besides, the Kazakh authorities have no confidence that no Chechen militants will penetrate into the republic under the guise of refugees. Despite this fact, representatives of the Chechen and Ingush diasporas are going to meet today in Astana with top officials of Kazakhstan in order to discuss a move of the first three hundred Chechen families from Ingushetia to Kazakhstan.


Izvestia, November 14, 2002, p. 7 EV

Many journalists have reported on the “Russian mafia” in the West. Meanwhile, at closer examination it emerges that it is nothing more than another myth. Statistics bear this out, as well as numerous faked scandals, involving current and former citizens of Russia, which have been exposed. Figures say that the Russian mafia is not a widespread phenomenon in Europe.

According to official data, Russian citizens account for as little as 2.7% of all crimes committed by foreigners in Germany. A great number of repatriates, including ex-USSR Germans, live in Germany at that. Besides, the German authorities regard all Russian-speaking people whose nationality has not been identified as Russians.

Does the Russian mafia exist in fact? Or is it a stereotype sustained by scare-mongering in newspapers?

“The Russian mafia operates on a large scale in France, Britain, Germany and Italy,” a well-known journalist for La Stampa (Italy) told us. “A lot of people come nowadays from Russia to Italy with huge amounts of illegal capital. It is not a matter of Russians as such, but of a country which has turned into a garbage heap. One can take illegal capital and launder it. Russia is a vast territory, a continental one at that, bordering on a drug production zone. This huge country lacks control. The Russian mafia is not an ethnic but a political consequence of Russia’s recent history.”

In the journalist’s opinion, Russians commit considerably fewer common crimes in comparison with people of other nationalities. Albanians hold the lead in Italy in this respect: they commit more savage crimes and appear in criminal news items more often.

“This is because they are poor,” the journalist says. “They commit petty crimes. Russians come to the foreground when it comes to millions of dollars. The Russian mafia accounts for crimes of different kind and scale. They buy up large pieces of land in the Mediterranean, in Tuscany. Their crimes are not for newspaper chronicles. A visa regime is no obstacle for them. They secured several passports long ago”.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 14, 2002, EV

A raid by secret services on the Versia newspaper’s offices in Moscow has had echoes in Russia’s regions. On November 12, editorial offices of all newspapers which had indulged in criticism of regional authorities were raided almost simultaneously. In Perm, Federal Security Service (FSB) officers raided upon the editorial office of the Zvezda newspaper; in Petrozavodsk tax police officials barred the operation of the Zvezda newspaper.

The operation in Perm opened with a five-hour search of the office of Zvezda chief editor Sergei Trushkin.

The search was conducted within a framework of a legal case instituted with regard to an article which is alleged to have disclosed a FSB secret agent. FSB officials claim that the journalist gave out a state secret. But no official clarifying statements have been released so far, however. Well-known citizens of Perm, including a Duma member Victor Pokhmelkin, have come out in support of the newspaper.

Similar events occurred in Petrozavodsk the same day. There censors were in camouflage and armed, however. Secret agency officers blocked the offices of the newspaper’s senior officials, after which the lieutenant-colonel who was in charge of the task force produced a warrant to search the editorial office. The newspaper’s management was asked to voluntarily hand over financial documents, “drugs, arms and ammunition”. But having found nothing illicit, tax police officers contented themselves with confiscating three PCs and several accounting reports. The search lasted till evening.

Yesterday, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament commissioned two of its committees – the ones on security and information policy – to check the legality of searches conducted by secret agencies in the editorial offices of newspapers Versia, Zvezda and Gubernia.

The international Civil Liberties Fund, based in London, released a statement yesterday with regard to amendments to a law on mass media and police raids on editorial offices of some Russian newspapers. The fund considers the amendments to be another attempt to stamp upon the freedom of speech and a new phase in Russia’s becoming a police state. The Fund will pay for the services of lawyers representing the interests of the press and some particular journalists in their legal disputes with the authorities concerning restrictions on freedom of speech.