FOREIGN MINISTRY INDIGNANT AT STATEMENTS BY U.S. OFFICIAL
Izvestia, September 19, 2003, p. 3 EV
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated yesterday that Moscow resolutely objects to attempts by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the forthcoming presidential election in Chechnya. According to the Foreign Ministry, Pifer’s speech to the Congress Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe was “thoroughly unobjective and tendentious, abounding in statements that contradict the real state of affairs in Chechnya, and not in keeping with the degree of understanding which has been achieved between Russia and America.”
ATMOSPHERE OF TRUST AT CIS SUMMIT IN YALTA
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, September 19, 2003, EV
CIS presidents gathered in Yalta for this year’s third CIS summit. This time, ten out of the twelve CIS heads of state are attending the summit. Azerbaijan is represented by Prime Minister Ilkham Aliev, since President Geidar Aliev is undergoing medical treatment in the United States. President Saparmurat Niazov of Turkmenistan is not attending either; he is on vacation by the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan government sources commented: “Ashkhabad continues to give priority to the development of bilateral intergovernmental relations and participation in specific projects within the CIS economic zone which are in the interests of Turkmenistan.”
The heads of state are due to meet today. They are expected to approve a plan of measures aimed at making economic cooperation within the CIS more effective over the period to 2010. The decision to draw up this plan was made a year ago at the CIS summit in Chishinau, Moldova. Simultaneously, preparations have been made to form a united economic zone among Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Based on agreements between the largest economies in the CIS, “the parameters have been coordinated for a breakthrough to a higher level of integration by means of forming a united economic zone.”
Yesterday’s events at the Yalta summit included meetings of the CIS prime ministers’ council and foreign ministers’ council. Meeting at the Livadiiskii Palace, the foreign ministers considered over twenty issues relating to CIS activities and building up a basis of agreements and legislation for cooperation purposes.
The first item on the agenda was choosing a new chairman of the CIS foreign ministers’ council. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko was elected. In his opening speech, he noted that the central issue at the meeting would be cooperation between CIS nations and strengthening the atmosphere of trust among CIS members. The ministers discussed a draft of a resolution to be issued by the CIS heads of state council, on distribution of powers among CIS executive bodies. This is intended to relieve today’s meeting of the CIS heads of state council from the need to consider a number of secondary issues.
In addition, the foreign ministers looked at a draft resolution on setting up a CIS joint commission for countering illegal migration. Another important item on the agenda was controlling the sale of Igla and Strela portable surface-to-air missile systems within the CIS. The foreign minister also considered the question of sending CIS observers to Chechnya for the presidential election on October 5, and to Russia for the parliamentary elections on December 7.
SWAN SONG: TU-160 BOMBER CRASHES IN THE SARATOV REGION
Moskovskii Komsomolets, September 19, 2003, EV
A Tu-160 strategic bomber jet crashed yesterday near the town of Stepnoe in the Saratov region. This type of bomber can carry 22.5 tons of bombs and 12 cruise missiles. The plane had taken off from the Engels airfield (base of the 22nd heavy bomber aviation division) after undergoing maintenance. The four-man crew were flying the aircraft on its the scheduled route. It is already known that at 10:30 a.m., before the crash, the crew reported that one of the engines was on fire. Then communications were lost, and the bomber crashed around 11 a.m.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces confirmed that all four crew-members were killed: the commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Yuri Deineko; second pilot Major Oleg Fedunenko; and two navigators, Major Grigori Kolchin and Major Sergei Sukhorukov.
The Tu-160 has been flying since 1987. Around 30 such aircraft have been built; only 14 of these have been used by the Russian Armed Forces. They are valued at around $400 million each. Until yesterday, there had been no Tu-160 crashes. It is worth noting that the plane’s fourth engine had recently been replaced, and the Tu-160 was making its flight especially for the purpose of testing that engine.