Rodnaya Gazeta, August 15, 2003, p. 5

If there was an award handed out for the most reforms undergone by a Russian ministry or agency, the agency most likely to claim it would certainly be the Federal Security Service (FSB).

The president recently signed a decree on returning (if that term can be used) the border guards and the government communications service to their original environment, the FSB. For the past month, these special services have been back in their old home. Naturally, all this necessitated certain changes to the FSB itself. It became necessary to amend the FSB regulations.

On August 11, the president approved the new FSB regulations, as well as the new structure of FSB subdivisions. According to the new regulations, FSB director Nikolai Patrushev will now have two deputies – as well as one senior deputy who will also head the border guards service. Moreover, the staff will include a “secretary of state” with the rank of deputy director, and another deputy director.

All six heads of the most important FSB departments will also have the rank of deputy director. The sam applies to the head of the FSB inspection directorate. The president has “authorized the formation” of the FSB collegium, which will have 19 members.

At first sight, this seems an excessive number of deputies. For example, if we look at the staff of the KGB in 1954 (when it first became known as the KGB), there are fewer deputies. But on the other hand, if we compare the situation to the staff of those agencies which have now been “returned” to the FSB, we can see that there are fewer intermediate positions now. A current FSB employee told us that promoting department heads to the rank of deputy director will be helpful in dealing with day-to-day operations efficiently. If any unusual circumstances arise, these people can talk to political leaders directly, bypassing bureaucratic barriers.


Versiya, August 11, 2003, p. 20

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, all presidential candidates in Chechnya except Akhmad Kadyrov have agreed to boycott the election if the campaign makes use of dishonest methods. If it becomes clear by late September that this will not be a fair election, they will all withdraw from the race. This was announced in Moscow by Malik Saidullaev, a candidate for president of Chechnya. He claims that all the administrative resources of Chechnya are currently working for the benefit of Kadyrov alone. Allegedly, Kadyrov only appears to be on vacation: in fact, he and his son appear on television every day, declaring that Russia supports Kadyrov and everyone who votes against him will be “dealt with.” Allegedly, Kadyrov has sent out his people across Chechnya. According to Saidullaev, there are 4,000 to 5,000 of them, and most are former Wahhabis.


Inostranets, August 12, 2003, p. 7

Pavel Arseniev, head of the Russian office of the international Civil Liberties Foundation, has held a news conference in Moscow to talk about reforms in the Russian Armed Forces. He believes that “military reforms haven’t even started yet”, so “we have not created a new military.”

In Arseniev’s view, the “Pskov experiment” – in which it was planned to analyze the possibilities for contract service rather than conscription, based on the experience of one division – was no more than a “publicity stunt.” Arseniev says the main problem encountered by officers in the Pskov division was “ensuring that the contract personnel reported for duty in the morning.” Arseniev emphasized: “That division does not appear to be combat-capable. I wouldn’t care to have it defending me or my city.”

According to Arseniev, the main reason why military reforms are failing is that they have been entrusted to the Defense Ministry, which “has been placed in the position of Baron Munchausen, having to drag itself up by its own hair.”

Arseniev believes it would make more sense to set up a special agency: a state committee for military reforms that would focus on this issue just as the Economic Development Ministry handles economic reforms.

Overall, the Russian office of the Civil Liberties Foundation draws the following conclusion: “Vast leaps in quality are taking place elsewhere in the world, but our armed forces are rapidly disappearing. If this continues, the military will fall apart completely by 2008.”


Inostranets, August 12, 2003, p. 7

There are currently around one hundred organized crime groups operating across the territory of Russia. This was announced at a news conference in Moscow by Nikolai Ovchinnikov, head of the Interior Ministry’s main directorate for combating organized crime. According to him, efforts to eliminate the ten largest and most dangerous of these groups are being coordinated by the main directorate. In total, according to Ovchinnikov, police divisions for countering organized crime solved 255 banditry cases in the first half of 2003.

Ovchinnikov noted that contemporary gangs are characterized by the high level of organization and planning that goes into their crimes, as well as their audacity and cruelty. Gangs usually target private homes, commercial and banking structures, and vehicles. The criminals frequently make use of unusual methods of influencing their victims. For example, in March 2003 a business owner reported a robbery to the directorate for countering organized crime in the Samara region: the robbers had threatened him with firearms and a syringe of HIV-infected blood. The police investigation revealed a number of similar incidents across the Samara region, in which the bandits had taken their victims to remote areas at gunpoint, then made further demands, threatening to inject them with HIV-infected blood. As a result of police undercover work, eight members of an inter-regional gang were detained in the Samara region, including two women. Among the items confiscated from them were police uniforms, a large quantity of firearms, fifty photographs of intended victims, and two syringes full of a red liquid which the criminals had used to threaten their victims.


Inostranets, August 12, 2003, p. 7

A recent poll done by the Public Opinion Foundation asked what people think of Anatoly Chubais. Only 8% of respondents had a positive opinion of him; 51% had a negative opinion (calling him “an odious person” and even “an enemy of the people”). The remainder were uncertain.

The activities of Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES) were viewed negatively by 38% of respondents and positively by only 15%. And 23% said they had never heard of RJES. Actually, some of those who are negative about RJES say they dislike it because it is a monopoly, and there should be no monopolies. In other words, one of the postulates of the market economy – vigorously promoted by Chubais himself – is working against his popularity in this case.

Meanwhile, another Public Opinion Foundation poll questioned 130 experts and analysts; their attitudes to RJES were different (mostly positive) and so were their opinions of Chubais (almost equally divided, with negative views slightly ahead of positive views).

Nevertheless, many political analysts believe that despite the highly unfavorable opinions of Chubais held by most Russian citizens, the election prospects of the Union of Right Forces (URF) could be improved by giving him third place on its electoral list. They say that in doing so, the party would “disarm” before its voters, so to speak: rather than trying to give the impression that Chubais only has an indirect link to the URF, it would be better to come out in the open and say that the URF is the party of Chubais. Such a direct approach could have a positive effect, and the URF would win the favor of those who don’t want to vote for the top two names on the list, but who are impressed by Chubais’s image of an “iron reformer” who is prepared to tackle any obstacle in order to achieve his lofty goals. Positive descriptors applied to Chubais by respondents included the following: clever, knowledgeable, professional leader, and cunning (in the good sense of the word).


Zavtra, August 14, 2003, p. 1

According to reports from Tashkent, the Americans’ handover of control over the cities and central regions of Afghanistan to NATO forces represents a model of transferring an occupation to an international basis; a model that could be used in Iraq and Central Asia as well. But the Americans have no intention of giving their “allies” access to the most lucrative sectors of local economies (drug production in Afghanistan, petroleum in Iraq); instead, allied forces will primarily be used as “cannon fodder.”

According to reports from Baku and Ashkhabad, American intelligence services have moved on to the next stage of Operation Crescent of Instability, aimed at establishing total control over Caspian Sea oil. Their agents are funding and inciting public unrest in Azerbaijan in connection with the “coronation” of Ilkham Aliev, son of Geidar Aliev. Similarly, the “Nakhichevan clan” is receiving funding and verbal support; its members already consider themselves Washington’s viceroys in the Caucasus. Conflict between the government and the opposition, with a high number of casualties, is meant to become a pretext for sending US military contingents into Azerbaijan. The recent murder of Nadirshakh Khachilaev in Dagestan reportedly served the same goal; it could disrupt peace between ethnic groups in Dagestan and create a new hotbed of tension in the Caucasus. On the other side of the Caspian Sea, in Turkmenistan, there are plans to “topple the regime of drug trafficker and dictator S. Niyazov (the Turkmenbashi)”; for this purpose, in the lead-up to President Putin’s visit to Washington all available media channels will be used to transform the image of Turkmenistan’s leader into “another General Noriega.” However, in order to counter these plans, talks are underway in Ashkhabad with representatives of Iran – discussing the possibility of bringing Iranian special troops onto the territory of Turkmenistan, as a guarantee against US aggression.

According to reports from New York, the designation of Shamil Basayev as an international terrorist by Washington, as well as information about blocking his accounts in American banks, is the price the Bush administration has decided to pay the Kremlin for its consent to Russian armed forces taking part in the occupation of Iraq. An agreement to that effect should be reached during Putin’s visit to Washington in September.

According to sources close to the Kremlin, intensive consultations are underway in Putin’s inner circle: the topic is redistribution of the oligarchs’ property and methods of preparing it to be handed over to “strategic foreign investors.” According to the same sources, during the May summit in St. Petersburg Putin was given a list of the priority assets in Russia for American monopolies; first among them is the Russian oil sector, especially the YUKOS oil company. By this reasoning, the September meeting in Washington ought to include a progress report, currently being prepared by Putin’s inner circle.

The publication of a well-argued article in “The Financial Times” about how Roman Abramovich and the rest of “Yeltsin’s Family” are taking their capital out of Russia has been supported by reports that Abramovich, governor of Chukotka, was forced to buy the Chelsea football club; meanwhile, the Family’s second oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, is prepared to sell his auto industry assets to a company controlled by Sergei Pugachev, known to be close to President Putin. This “Book of Exodus” now being written as we watch is meant to facilitate the transfer of the oligarchs’ fortunes (up to $200 billion, according to our experts) to Western banks, thus also supporting the liquidity of the existing international financial system. The other side of the coin involves Russia’s natural resources deposits and lucrative sectors of industry being transferred to the direct control of Western transnational corporations.

Negotiations conducted by representatives of the Kremlin administration with the aim of creating a “Sergei Glaziev bloc” have been completed successfully; this has led to some reshuffles in the ranks of the United Russia party and public expressions of outrage from People’s Party leader Gennadi Raikov at the “defector” Dmitrii Rogozin, who has impugned the honor of the structure he leads. According to our experts, Raikov viewed this maneuver, which came as a surprise to him, as evidence that his Kremlin bosses are taking up a new political project – a move that greatly reduces the chances of the People’s Party making it over the 5% threshold in the December elections.