Once upon a time in Russia, when Boris Yel'tsin was
president and setting tanks on the parliament was not condemned as
"antidemocratic," political, and specifically electoral, campaigns
were waged last in public; the initial salvoes sounded in the corridors of the
few money-making industries of the Yel'tsin-era (quite literally in the 1996
struggle for control of Rosvooruzhenie,
whose chairman "got the message" and resigned after an unexploded
bomb was found in the hall just outside his office). Then, as now, recent re-election had rendered the President
a theoretical lame duck, and potential contenders jockeyed for position over
critical issues, such as the financial wherewithal to campaign effectively and,
of course, access to the media.
Then, a clan emerged from the Yel'tsin camp and was called
"The Family," as a reference to the unusual role played by the
President's daughter. Now, the
Kremlin, the remnants of The Family, and various bureaucratic groups each have
their own clan, and in some cases ideology, and are competing for spoils in a
re-division of assets. Most of the
media (if you will pardon the pun), have been sucked into the Kremlin orbit;
there are however a few, generally small, exceptions (such as Ekho Moskvy).
There was a minor, independent, not particularly liberal but
non-governmental, television station left in the public orbit. That is, of course, until last month,
when a blackout in Moscow caught Anatoli Chubais in the crosshairs for a second
time this year, Chubais "got the message" and his company, RAO UES
sold its interest in REN-TV to the state-owned (and more specifically, Kremlin
apparat-run) Gazprom. (For more on
the blackout and its fall-out, see Russian Legislative and Domestic Affairs
below). Chubais, who served as
regent during President Yel'tsin's long hospitalization prior to and following
his heart surgery in 1996, was a comfortable, perhaps even founding member of
the Family. Throughout Putin's
reign however, Chubais has walked a tenuous tightrope between clans. (1) The assassination attempt and the
blackout can both be seen as messages meant to concentrate his attention.
While a recent regular RAO UES Board of Directors meeting
confirmed Chubais as President of the electrical systems company and solidified
his control through the confirmation of his hand-picked team as board members,
the sale of REN-TV to a Kremlin clan/Putin ally, Aleksei Mordashov (Northern
Steel) suggests Chubais' continuing presence at RAO UES had a price. (2) And REN-TV might not have constituted the whole of the
cost: The electric company's
agreement this week to finish the Boguchany hydro-power project and aluminum
smelter with oligarch du jour Oleg
Deripasko (in fairness, Deripasko has been with Putin for years) also raises
questions of the quid pro quo. (3) And should Chubais appear among western political and
financial leaders earnestly explaining the necessity of amending the
constitution to keep Putin in power, or lobbying for support for a hand-picked
Kremlin successor in the face of a nationalist, perhaps even quasi-fascist
opposition threat, remember the bargain he evidently had to make this
summer—and be thankful that the parliament has only been turned into a
rubber stamp, and not a smoldering stump.
Gazprom and the state
Dmitri Medvedev might just be the dark horse candidate for
President in 2008. As Chair of
Gazprom and head of the Kremlin Administration, he wields tremendous power in
relative quiet. Control of
substantial financial assets coupled with proximity to the Kremlin inner circle
clearly are still reliable indicators of both current political clout and
future ambitions; the government's recent acquisition of a controlling stake in
Russia's gas conglomerate makes Medvedev, and his clan, a potent force in the
upcoming political stakes. (4)
Security Council's full agenda
The Security Council (SC) occupies an unusual place in
Russia's constitutional order: the
description of its role leaves enough room for interpretation to allow it to
function, at times, as little more than a talking shop with rare regular
meetings. Under forceful, and
usually well-connected leadership, the Security Council has brought together
the Kremlin's top players in decisions that can have the force of law.
Currently, the Security Council meetings have been regular,
frequent, and covering a broad range of issues: On 28 June, the SC met to discuss military reform (5); on 2
July, the SC took to the road, meeting in Kaliningrad as part of the city's 750th
founding celebration, to discuss the role of Russia's regions in achieving
"social and economic development goals" (6); and on 9 July, Putin
"had a conference with members of the Security Council" to discuss
migration policy. (7)
The natural curiosity arising from this flurry of SC
activity focuses on the policy, action, or results attributable to Security
Council decisions. While little
tangible effect has appeared as yet, the Secretary of the Council, um, ah yes,
Igor Ivanov, certainly will herald the news, when there is something to report.
(1) Current clan nomenclature, "liberal,"
"St. Petersburger," siloviki,"
etc. seems woefully inadequate to address the web of regional, professional and
financial ties that bind the current power elite.
(2) Aleksandra Samarina, The Price of the Top Job at RAO
Unified Energy Systems, Nezavisimaya gazeta,
4 Jul 05, p. 2 via Lexis-Nexis.
(3) Yulia Latynina, 2008 and the Lesser of Two Evils, Moscow
Times, 6 Jul 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) Moscow News, 29 Jun 05 via ISI Emerging Markets
(5) "Introductory remarks at the Security Council
session," President Putin, 28 Jun 05 via www.kremlin.ru.
(6) "Introductory remarks at the Security Council
session," President Putin, 2 Jul 05 via www.kremlin.ru.
(7) Itar-Tass, 9 Jul 05 via Lexis-Nexis. Interestingly, the SC Secretary was
listed third among SC members present at this session. In specifying discussion of migration
policy, this Itar-Tass report also noted that Presidential Aid Viktor Ivanov
and First Deputy Minister Aleksandr Chekalin,specifically, were involved on
By Susan J. Cavan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The people vs. Nur-Pashi Kulayev
From the moment he entered the courtroom in Vladikavkaz on
May 31, Nur-Pashi Kulayev was confronted by throngs of belligerent mothers
chanting "you should be killed and your body thrown to the pigs." (1)
It must have been quite uncomfortable for Kulayev, the sole (official)
surviving terrorist of the September 1-3, 2004 Beslan siege. Perhaps not as
uncomfortable as when he was dragged out from under a truck, beaten and
arrested by masked men (just a short distance from where 31 of his compatriots
and 330 civilians were massacred in a bloodbath pointless from every point of
view) but still quite uncomfortable.
Unfortunately for the Kremlin, in this show trial not
everything is going according to the script. The relatives of the deceased are
proving to be quite difficult to please, and Kulayev is not playing the villain
as they would have liked.
Public anger has been brewing as witnesses and Kulayev have
given testimony that contradicts the official line of the FSB and the
prosecutor general's office. The official parliamentary investigation shows no
signs of producing answers either; one member of the committee has already admitted
that the question the families of the victims want answered, namely, who is
responsible for the deaths of their children, "is the question our
commission probably won't be able to answer." (2)
In lieu of the truth, someone in Moscow must have convinced
the President that satisfying the families' lust for revenge by parading
Kulayev through court would provide sufficient closure. There was little to
stop Putin from keeping Kulayev in legal limbo indefinitely. Clearly, the
Kremlin thought it more advantageous to prosecute, convict, and officially
imprison Kulayev than to allow him to languish indefinitely.
Not surprisingly, many of the victim's families have seen
through the façade. Zalina Guburova, whose 10 year old son was shot in the
head, declared that "prosecuting Kulayev was like throwing us a bone, as
if to a dog." (3) "They've dumped the blame onto this one man;
they've found a scapegoat," said another voice from the crowd of relatives
and witnesses in the courtroom on June 15. The fake trial of the People vs.
Nur-Pashi Kulayev is quickly devolving into a very real trial of the People vs.
the Kremlin, the FSB and the MVD. Kulayev himself has become little more than a
footnote in the text.
What is remarkable is the degree of pity shown for Kulayev,
perhaps out of sheer indignation at the lack of government transparency in the
case. In a series of surprises in late June, relatives of the victims, among
them the outraged and outspoken Committee of Beslan Mothers, turned on the
prosecutors at the Vladikavkaz courtroom. Committee head Susanna Dudiyeva,
addressing Kulayev directly, promised that "if you tell the truth, we are
ready to appeal for a pardon for you." (4)
How awkward for federal prosecutor Maria Semisynova!
Unfazed, however, she replied sarcastically that perhaps Kulayev's status
should be changed from defendant to victim. (5)
"We need him to tell the truth We need to be confident
he won't die of a heart attack or fall down the stairs," Dudiyeva
continued, appealing for protection of the defendant. Semisynova tried to
regain control of the crowd, reminding them just who had detonated the bombs in
the school, which ultimately killed most of the civilians. "Were these
people not terrorists?" she asked. (6)
They were, but that's not the point.
The point, as far as these relatives are now concerned, is
that no one in the government or the security services is being held
accountable for the botched rescue operation. Dudiyeva put it in simple terms;
"What we want to see is the heads of the security and law enforcement
agencies on trial." (7)
In a sign that things are spiraling out of the Kremlin's
control, a witness who was preparing to give evidence that contradicted the
FSB's narrative told the court that he had been approached at night by unidentified
agents, and ordered to "shut up, or be killed." (8)
Anatomy of an FSB failure
A devastating lack of coordination on the part of the
supposed rescuers at Beslan is supposedly one of the issues being addressed by
a parliamentary commission, due to report in October. For a day and a half
after the start of the siege, the security forces of the President of North
Ossetia, the regional division of the MVD, the regional directorate of the FSB
and the 58th army division were all conducting separate operations
in the area around the school. (9)
Two FSB counter-terrorism "experts" were
dispatched to Beslan from Moscow to help manage the situation. FSB Deputy
Director Vladimir Anisinov and first Deputy Director General Vladimir Pronichev
arrived on the scene at noon on the second day of the crisis. (10) General
Pronichev previously had commanded the "rescue operation" in the 2002
seizure of the Dubrovka Theatre (Nord-Ost), in which 170 civilians were killed.
After their arrival, the two presented North Ossetian
President Dzasokhov with an order from Prime Minister Fradkov which placed
Valeri Andreev, the regional FSB commander, in charge of the crisis at a joint
headquarters. According to Russian law, a headquarters should have been set up
as soon as possible, so it is unclear why this process took a day and a half.
Not necessarily surprising, but still unclear. (11)
It has since come to light that Pronichev and Anisimov were
themselves in control of the operation, though they operated from a separate headquarters
staffed by officials from Moscow, to which the local FSB had little access. It
now seems clear that Andreev was only nominally in command, but available to
serve as scapegoat when operations went awry.
In the aftermath of the debacle, Andreev was removed from
his post, but remained on active duty. (12) Dzasokhov was the subject of
repeated protests in the wake of Beslan, and eventually resigned for supposedly
unrelated reasons. Interestingly, Anisimov was quietly transferred to the
active reserve just a few weeks ago. Almost no information has surfaced about
the Anisimov transfer, and it is difficult to tell if it was with his consent.
Prosecution or promotion?
What makes Anisimov's retirement interesting is his close
association with Nikolai Patrushev. He was promoted to his current rank in
Patrushev's wake, and was long assumed to be one of "his people."
Anisimov served with Pronichev in the Karelian MGB, and the two are longtime
associates. It is unclear whether Anisimov's departure was caused by his
performance at Beslan.
Patrushev lost an associate, but does that mean that things
bode ill for him? His tenure of six years has been quite long by FSB standards
and has been characterized by numerous failures. Of course, his record is less
critical than his relationship with Putin. It is nearly inconceivable that he
would be removed for disciplinary reasons, as long as he retains the
President's trust. Rumors that Patrushev would leave the FSB to become deputy
prime minister surfaced in 2004, with Pronichev among those seen as possible
successors. This talk has subsided of late; Patrushev's record at the FSB may
have made him a political liability from the Kremlin's viewpoint, and eyes
already are turning towards the 2008 election (coronation?). (14)
reported on June 30 that there were rumors that Patrushev would be replaced by Rosoboroneksport Director General Sergei Chemezov within days. This
has not transpired, though it may have led some observers prematurely to speak
of "former FSB director
Nikolai Patrushev, now a State Duma deputy." (15) But on a presidential
visit to Dagestan just days ago, Patrushev and Pronichev accompanied Putin.
Fighting off the angry mothers' revolution
If Patrushev stays on at the FSB, he should not anticipate
ridding himself of the Beslan mothers any time soon. The Beslan mothers' desire
for the blood of the FSB and MVD was in no way sated by the retirement of
Anisimov, the resignation of Dzasokhov or the reassignment of Andreev.
"Our search for the truth will continue until the day we die," said
Guburova on June 24. (17)
Bowing to pressure from the mothers and others, Deputy
Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel publicly mentioned the possibility of FSB and
MVD leaders being prosecuted, promising that "the role of each of them
will be considered." He did not elaborate on whether he was referring to
regional or senior security service officials. (18)
The actual likelihood of dismissals is low; however, the
fact that such a development would even be suggested publicly by a senior
prosecutor indicates that Moscow might be feeling compelled to hold someone
accountable for the handling of the botched rescue operations. In addition to
the families, the government of North Ossetia is determined to serve its
constituents by finding the truth, before it gets buried.
The local investigation has refused to share information
with the federal authorities and is considered illegitimate by Shepel, probably
because it has come up with a laundry list of possible falsehoods in the
official FSB/Prosecutor-General storyline. Rather, the list more closely
reflects the testimony of Kulayev and some of the survivors, including:
- That a
list of the terrorists' demands was received by the FSB;
the army used tanks and flame throwers in storming the building, which was
the primary cause of the fire which killed many hostages;
there were significantly more terrorists than the government's number of
32, and that many of these escaped;
the terrorists hid most of their weapons in the school, then retrieved
them after entering the building. (19)
The result of these revelations has driven the mothers to
apply to the Prosecutor-General's office for criminal cases against Patrushev,
Pronichev, Anisimov, Andreev and MVD head Rashid Nurgaliev. (20) Thus, it might
be a advisable for Patrushev to stay atop his perch, where he will have the
power to diffuse the situation with covert agents, should it become necessary.
As if to guarantee that history will continue to repeat
itself, as Kulayev stood trial in Vladikavkaz, NTV Mir showed a story about an
anti-terrorism exercise in which the FSB was proud to announce that "the terrorists have been
captured and most of the hostages have been saved." People of Russia, you
may now rest easy. (21)
(1) Yana Voitova, The Moscow Times, 17 Jun 05 via
(2) Viktor Khamraev, Kommersant-Vlast, 20 Jun 05; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
(3) Tom Parfitt, The Observer, 26 Jun 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) Voitova, ibid.
(7) Parfitt, The Observer, 26 Jun 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(9) Khamraev, Kommersant-Vlast, 20 Jun 05; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) Nabi Abdullaev, The Moscow Times, 15 Apr 05 via
(13) Roman Shleinov, Novaya gazeta, 30 Jun 2005; WPS via Lexis-Nexis.
(14) Konstantin Demchenko, Russkii kurier, 22 Sep 04; WPS via Lexis-Nexis.
(15) RFE/RL Caucasus Report, 15 Jul 05 via
(16) Anatoly Medetsky, The Moscow Times, 18 Jul 2005 via
(17) Parfitt, The Observer, 26 Jun 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(19) Olga Allenova, Kommersant, 20 Jun 05 via http://www.kommersant.com/doc.asp?id_doc=585982.
(20) Kommersant, 22
Jun 05 via http://www.kommersant.com/doc.asp?id_doc=586367.
(21) NTV Mir, 1100 GMT, 3 Jun 05; BBC Monitoring via
By Maolmordha McGowan
Values for tomorrow's world?
Within the last month, Russia has attempted increasingly to
demonstrate a strong relationship with the "eastern vector" of
Russian foreign policy, specifically China. This was clearly on display during the Moscow-Beijing summit
between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao, late
in June, and also throughout the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization's
(SCO) July summit in Astana. Clearly, Moscow's increasing rapprochement with
China in terms of geopolitics, trade, and "common values" indicates a
desire for an alignment that would propel Russia into a stronger international
position, one that is directed less towards the West and more towards Asia.
Konstantin Pulikovskiy, Russian Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern District,
said as much: "The E.U. does not exactly like Russia. They are doing
everything to lower Russia's profile or its influence on European issues. This
is why it is very important that in the East, in Asia, we have a friendly
country – the People's Republic of China." (1)
Trade and geopolitics are key concerns in the bilateral
relations between Russia and China, and both leaderships are committed to
strengthening the Russia-China axis. Their influence within the SCO reflects an
effort to undermine U.S. influence, whether perceived or actual. During the
SCO, both Russia and China called for the U.S. to set a deadline for withdrawal
of its military bases in the region; Kyrgyzstan's president-elect and other
Kyrgyz officials reiterated this call, no doubt under pressure from Russia and
China. Other language emanating from the SCO criticized "outside
interference in nations' internal affairs." (2) This referred, no doubt,
to Western criticisms of Uzbek actions against demonstrators. Most recently,
Moscow described the U.S. presence as "non-regional," which echoes
official Iranian rhetoric against any Western presence in the Caspian Sea
region. (3) [For more on the SCO
summit, please see Military Affairs below.]
If U.S. influence should diminish in the Central Asian region,
who would be the primary beneficiary? During their summit in June, Putin and
Jintao claimed to have a joint philosophy, one that values the "cult of
human dignity" over "human rights," a key Western value. In a
joint document, the two leaders commented that "ideological, moral and
cultural values are growing in importance in the world today" and stated
that within the SCO, "security and economic development, yet also
ideology, are important." (4)
An ideological, as well as a geopolitical alignment, could be very
valuable for Russia in the short run, especially with trends showing China's
continuing ascendancy in the international arena. In the long term however,
Russia must realize that it will be overshadowed ultimately by this powerful
neighbor who seemingly shares the "values necessary for tomorrow's
Continuing controversy: Moscow and Tehran
Although Moscow continues to insist that cooperation with
Tehran in the nuclear sphere is conditional on transparency of policies,
respect of the IAEA and absence of a nuclear military program, it appears that
Moscow also is seeking new opportunities for nuclear partnership. Russia's top
nuclear official, Aleksandr Rumyantsev, head of Rosatom, stated on 29 June that Russia wanted to bid for
contracts to build more nuclear reactors in Iran. This underscores Putin's
remarks that Russia would continue its nuclear cooperation with Iran under its
new presidential leadership. (6)
As Moscow increases its ties to Tehran, it will have to deal not only
with U.S. objections but with the possible repercussions of having armed a
neighbor with nuclear devices.
During the recent G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland,
President Putin assured his G-8 partners that Russia will do everything
possible to ensure stable energy supplies. (7) This involves a series of proposed pipelines that are
projected to increase natural gas supplies to 40 billion cubic meters by 2010.
This includes a pipeline to the Far East, from Siberia to the Pacific, one from
Siberia to the White Sea to serve the U.S., and a Baltic pipeline that would
serve both the U.S. and Europe. (8)
The next G-8 will be held in St. Petersburg, and already Putin has
stated that the primary issues will be energy, security and education. In a
recent press briefing, Putin even invoked a higher power in connection to his
energy policies: "It was God's will to make [this] country the leader of
the market for natural gas, oil and nuclear energy, and to make this the main
Providential or not, energy will be not only a topic for
next year's summit but also for the "trilateral commission" meeting
of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, which will take place 19-21 July. The current
agenda focuses on cooperation among the countries' respective energy systems,
with the goal of uniting the energy systems of Europe and Asia. (10) The commission first met in Tehran in
Energy was also discussed during President Putin's recent
meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan in Sochi, the fourth such
gathering to take place in the last seven months. Economic interaction and
energy issues topped the list, as the two leaders continue seeking ways to
develop further cooperation. The Black Sea pipeline as a means to bring natural
gas to Turkey, a possible underground gas storage reservoir on Turkish
territory and joint efforts to bring electricity to Iraq were all covered by
the leaders. (11) Russia also
continues to encourage a settlement between Turkey and Greek Cyprus; Putin
reiterated his support of the United Nations Secretary General's approach to
the problem. (12)
Aliens in the European Parliament
The dispute continues within Japan and Russia over the
Japanese Northern Territories, the islands of the Kuril archipelago. However,
this time discussion was initiated by the European Parliament, which recently
demanded that Russian return the Northern Territories to Japan. The Russian
Foreign Ministry responded by saying this demand was "absurd," and
Vladimir Chizkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, added, "The European
Parliament seems to be living on another planet." (13)
(1) Interfax, 15 Jul 05 via Johnson's Russia List (JRL),
(2) "Russia Rejects U.S. Accusations of Bullying
Central Asia" (www.crosswalk.com/news/1340815.html).
(3) "Moscow Hardens Tone to Washington on Central
Asia," Eurasia Daily Monitor, 19 Jul 05, vol. 2, issue 139 (www.jamestown.org).
(4) RIA Novosti, 30
Jun 05 via JRL #9188 (www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/9188-32.cfm).
(6) "Iranian Nuclear Team in Moscow Seeking New
Partnerships," Eurasia Daily Monitor, 12 Jul 05, vol.2, issue 134 (www.jamestown.org).
(7) RIA Novosti, 8
Jul 05, 10:00 (GMT) via http://en.rian.ru/russia/20050708/40868273.html.
(9) RIA Novosti, 8
Jul 05, 21:40 (GMT) via http://en.rian.ru/russia/20050708/40874946.html.
(10) RIA Novosti, 19
Jul 05, 19:05 (GMT) via http://en.rian.ru/business/20050718/40928209.html.
(11) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,
18 Jul 05, Press Statement Following Russian-Turkish Talks via www.ln.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/english.
(13) RIA Novosti, 18
Jul 05, 20:55 (GMT) via http://en.rian.ru/world/20050718/40928781.html.
By Rebecca Mulder (email@example.com)
DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Anatoli Chubais, erstwhile
reformer and CEO of Unified Energy Systems of Russia (RAO-UES), came under
severe criticism because of the power outage that swept Moscow and several
neighboring regions on May 24 and 25. The outage affected at least four million
persons, with 20,000 stranded inside metro trains and 1500 caught in elevators.
In the Tula region, outages reached 90 percent of consumption volume. (1)
In his 4 June address to the Security Council, Putin ruled
out financial hardship as the cause of the outage. He cited RAO-UES's net
profit of 55 billion rubles last year and questioned how the company was
spending this money. (2)
Putin criticized Mosenergo, the company responsible for
operating the Moscow city and region power grids. Mosenergo executives called
for a substantial hike in fees following the power failures. Putin's response?
"This looks like sheer blackmail in a pursuit of corporate interests at
the expense of customers, or the whole society, in fact." (3)
Putin also emphasized the need for executives within RAO-UES
who are not merely good economists, clever administrators, or real estate
aficionados. Instead, he called for personnel that "understand[s] the role
of a small screw in the country's vast energy system...[and is] able to
identify on time the problem with a dirt-cheap transformer and to foresee the
havoc its improper maintenance may produce." His comments were hardly
profound or original, but apparently necessary, given that wear and tear on the
machines is thought to be the culprit behind the outages. Putin cited several
problems within the current energy system, concluding, "All of it
testifies to problematic management." (4)
Given this criticism from the chief executive, it is
scarcely surprising that there were calls for Chubais' removal. On 27 May, the
Duma refused to include on its agenda a bill calling for Chubais' resignation
put forward by 90 deputies, primarily from the nationalistic Rodina
(Motherland) bloc, although it did not eliminate the possibility of a
parliamentary inquiry at the time. In a 28 May interview on (at that time)
RAO-UES-owned REN-TV, Chubais refused to step down as head of RAO-UES because
of the protests staged by the Communist, Yabloko and Rodina parties. He went on
to accuse Rodina of masterminding the attempt on his life that occurred on
March 17. (5)
The hubbub resulted in a
parliamentary investigation, which declared Chubais free of responsibility for
the power failures. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov attacked the investigation,
declaring that any investigation that found Chubais not responsible was not an
"objective" investigation. (6)
The investigation has lead to inquiries about the salaries of UES
executives and top management. (7)
The Rodina (Motherland) bloc requested Chubais' removal but was
defeated. The Communist party, ever one to seize an opportunity, staged a
protest on 7 June that called for Chubais' resignation. (8)
Chubais has said that obsolete equipment and employee
mistakes were responsible for the problems at Moscow's Chagino electrical
sub-station. UES has stated that it will provide compensation for all legally
demonstrable damages resulting from the May 25 power outage. (9)
owned by Vladimir Potanin's company Prof-Media, is being bought by the
state-owned Gazprom Media Holding Company. Some critics allege that this
purchase constitutes the state's move toward controlling newspapers in the same
way that it currently controls the television market. For example, the
television channel NTV, renowned for its unflinching coverage of the first
Chechen war, was another media source to "benefit" from Gazprom
ownership. Gazprom acquired a controlling stake in NTV in 2001 and subsequently
altered the station's hitherto independent programming. The changes were
accompanied by high staff turnover. Similar changes in editorial staff are
widely predicted for Izvestiya following
the completion of the Gazprom takeover.
newspaper owned by exiled Boris Berezovsky, is experiencing a shake-up in its
editorial staff. General Director Andrei Vasilyev and chief editor Aleksandr
Stukalin are being replaced, according to Berezovsky.
UES-RAO has sold its 70 percent controlling interest in
REN-TV, but the new owners are not what was expected. Yevrofinans Bank had been
negotiating to purchase REN-TV for several years. That deal apparently was
shoved aside, however, as UES-RAO, in the name of divesting itself of
"non-core assets," sold its stake for $100 million to
Severstal-Group. The remaining 30 percent stake, held by the president and
general director, was sold to RTL Group, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG. The
current President Irena Lesnevskaya and General Director Dmitri Lesnevsky
announced to staff members that they would stay on for a transitional period.
It remains to be seen how brief that transition will be. (10)
North Ossetia president resigns
Aleksandr Dzasokhov, the former President of North Ossetia,
has taken a position as North Ossetia's representative for the Federation
Council. Taimuraz Mamsurov, the region's parliamentary speaker, succeeded
Dzasokhov as the region's leader. Dzasokhov has been under intense domestic
pressure since the terrorist attack in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September. At
the time, he attempted to divert attention from himself by dismissing his
entire ministerial staff. The continued pressure from his constituents has made
Dzasokhov a political liability. Technically he is removing himself from
office, however the Kremlin was almost certainly involved in the decision.
Union of Right Forces update
The newly-elected head of the
democratic party Union of Right Forces (SPS), Nikita Belykh, faces the
challenge of making SPS electorally viable. He stressed in a 30 May interview
that SPS is operating on a timeline that threatens to reduce its effectiveness
if it does not compete successfully in the next parliamentary elections.
"I for one understand clearly that if we fail to secure a convincing victory
at the 2007 elections, it will be very difficult for us to talk about prospects
for the following five or 10 years," said the new leader. (11)
Belykh anticipates soliciting
funding from medium-sized businesses (a sector that is notoriously underdeveloped
in Russia), theorizing that those entities are more likely to be interested in
politics at the regional level. Among the challenges SPS faces are a lack of
unified and well-organized support in the regions; Belyk admitted that links
between regional branches of SPS are weak, as are connections between the
regions and the party's central organization. (12)
New head of press service
Yevgeni Revenko, first deputy director of the government
press service and former host of NTV's Vesti Nedeli, has been appointed deputy director of the
department of mass communications, the media, culture and education as well as
head of the press service. According to Revenko's boss, Denis Molchanov, one of
Revenko's primary responsibility's will be "developing and conducting
unified informational government policy." (13)
(1) Electricity Boss Chubais Blames 'Wear and Tear' for
Moscow Blackout," ITAR-TASS, 20 Jun
05 via World News Connection.
(2) "ITAR-TASS Carries
'Full Text' of Putin's Speech on Moscow Blackout," ITAR-TASS
4 Jun 05 via WNC.
(5) "Interfax Financial
& Business Report for 01 Jun 05," Interfax, 31 May 05 via WNC.
(6) "Moscow mayor doubts conclusions of Duma
investigation of power outage," ITAR-TASS, 14 Jun 05 via WNC.
(7) "Duma wants to know incomes of UES top
management," ITAR-TASS, 8 Jun 05
(8) Natalia Slavina, "Communists, Left-wing Parties
Demand Chubais' Resignation Report," ITAR-TASS, 7 Jun 05 via WNC.
Financial and Business Report for 27 Jun 05," 24 Jun 05 via WNC.
(10) Sergey Varshavchik,
"Kremlin's Approval of REN TV Sale to Severstal, RTL Groups
Surmised," Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta,
7 Jul 05 via WNC.
(11) "Russian radio program interviews head of liberal
party on ideology," Mayak Radio, 30
May 05 via WNC.
(13) "Journalist Evgeniy Revenko became the head of the
Russian White House press-service," Economic Press Review, 3 Jun 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
By Robyn Angley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The battle for Central Asian security
On July 5, the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO) held its first summit since the Kyrgyz
revolution and the suppressed uprising in Uzbekistan's city of Andijan. The
presidents of all member countries, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
and Uzbekistan, took part with observers from Mongolia, Iran, India and
Pakistan. Their joint declaration
called for coalition forces to set a date for leaving Central Asia.
Currently, Uzbekistan hosts approximately 800 U.S. troops at
the Karshi-Khanabad (K2) airbase.
Kyrgyzstan is home to about 1200 coalition forces located at the Manas
airport, while approximately 200 French Air Force troops are stationed at the
Dushanbe airport in Tajikistan.
The SCO joint declaration
reiterated the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial
integrity, mutual non-aggression and non-interference. These concepts have formed the basis of
China's "New Security Concept" since they were introduced by then
Premier Zhou Enlai at the 1955 Bandung Conference and have been included in
other SCO declarations.
Additionally the declaration indirectly criticized the U.S. stance on
democracy, saying that it is the "countries' right independently to choose
ways of development based on their specific characteristics." (1) In post summit press conferences, most
SCO member presidents highlighted this element rather than the call for
coalition troop withdrawal. Chinese
leader Hu Jintao said "the fate of Central Asian countries is in their own
hands and they are wise and capable enough to sort out their domestic problems
on their own." (2)
In regard to the coalition troops,
the SCO declaration specifically stated, "Considering that the active
combat phase of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan has been completed,
the SCO members deem necessary that the coalition countries involved should set
the final dates for their temporary use of those infrastructure installations
and stationing of their troops on SCO member countries' territories." (3) The SCO assessment of Afghanistan's
security situation seems politically, rather than militarily, based, since this
year has been the costliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the start of
combat operations in 2001.
Thirty-five U.S. military personnel have been killed in the increasing
violence leading up to Afghanistan's parliamentary elections in September.
(4) On 28 June 2005, a U.S. helicopter providing support for a U.S. Special
Forces reconnaissance team was shot down, killing all sixteen personnel onboard. Three members of the four-man team were
also killed in the same battle.
The losses were the heaviest in a single combat incident for U.S. forces
in Afghanistan since 2001.
The assessment also represents a
fundamental change in Moscow's position. In late June, Defense Minister Sergei
Ivanov told the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) that "We [Russia] know that the
single-minded and plan-based training of terrorists for their future export
continues in Afghanistan at this time. The recent events in Uzbekistan are
graphic evidence of this. We have sufficiently reliable information that all
that occurred in Andijan was inspired from the territory of Afghanistan. A
group of armed militants of Islamist organizations, the Taliban included, had
long been preparing an invasion of Uzbekistan." (5) Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed
this claim in late June. At the
same NRC meeting, Defense Minister Ivanov alleged that the situation in
Afghanistan currently is not significantly better than it was under Taliban rule,
and that the operation had not yet approached the "culminating
The United States immediately rejected the proposal to set a
deadline for troop withdrawal.
U.S. State Department spokesman Scott McCormack told reporters that the
military presence in the region "is determined by bilateral agreements,
under which both counties have concluded that there is a benefit to both sides
from our activities." (7)
U.S. Defense Department spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said that regarding
the base in Uzbekistan, "It's a decision the Uzbek government has to make
as to whether or not we would continue to operate from that." (8)
The French military attaché in
Tajikistan commented to Interfax that "the situation in Afghanistan is far
from being ideal despite certain democratic changes, including the
parliamentary elections." (9)
He added, "France does not seek domination in Central Asia. NATO
does not think that the CSTO is an enemy, and the CSTO should feel the
While not an ultimatum, the declaration represents a
convergence of interests of all SCO member countries. In the wake of the allegedly Western-sponsored Kyrgyz
revolution, the uprising in Andijan in May and Western requests for an outside
investigation, it has become clear to Central Asian countries that their
multi-vectored foreign policy may no longer be an option. Their "all encompassing"
definition of counter terrorism is significantly different than the Western
definition. The once muted Western
criticisms of human rights abuses and limited political participation in
Central Asia are now mounting.
With the Kyrgyz Revolution still fresh in their minds, the Central Asian
leaders do not see this as a time to embrace democracy or human rights. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov said
some outside forces were joining radical Islamists "to create instability
and undermine the region economically in order to impose their own development
Russia would also like to see an end to the western military
presence in Central Asia. Moscow
has lost influence in other post-Soviet regions due, in part, to the
"color revolutions" and does not want to see that trend continue. Russia has made several political and
military maneuvers to strengthen its influence in Central Asia since the
deployment of U.S. forces into the region: It opened Kant Airbase in Kyrgyzstan in October 2003;
resolved the basing issue for the 201st Motorized Rifle Division;
and established a new permanent base in Tajikistan. Russia also established a Collective Rapid Deployment Force
in Central Asia based on forces in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the
legislature passed increasing incentives for bilateral relations with Central
Asian countries. Apparently, this
SCO declaration represents the next logical step for Russia.
China does not want to see an ongoing Western military
presence in Central Asia; it is interested in assuring its own influence in the
region in order to utilize the major oil and gas resources in the future. China also is looking to strengthen the
security apparatus of the SCO, where it has a significant voice.
Potential versus reality
While considering the security
aspects of this summit, the question lingers as to whether the SCO could, or
would, fill the U.S.'s military position in the event of a coalition
withdrawal. Iran, India and
Pakistan joined the SCO as observers.
If they become full-fledged members, the group will represent half the
world's population, which suggests its significant potential, at least
Mohammed Khoshchehreh, an adviser
to Iranian president-elect Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, said on 8 July, "the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization may become stronger militarily than
NATO." (12) On 14 July, Duma
Deputy Speaker and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir
Zhirinovsky proposed transforming the SCO into a military alliance that could
be "a counterweight to NATO."
"In 10 years, an allied army of such an alliance will have both a
qualitative and quantitative edge over NATO," he projected. (13) The president of the Academy of
Geopolitical Problems, Leonid Ivashov, went even further saying that, "at
this stage the SCO is fully able to assume responsibility for security in this
The deputy director of the
Strategic Research Center in Tajikistan, Sayfullo Safarov, offered a differing
view. On 7 July, he said that
"the pace of mutual cooperation between the SCO member states would not
enable them to counter international terrorism and the increasing flow of drugs
on their own. ... Moreover, the latest events in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have
shown that the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization
member-states lack effectiveness and precision in tackling military and
political issues. I am therefore ready to say that it is premature to impose
such requirements on the U.S. and NATO military, because the SCO member states
have not created appropriate conditions for maintaining security in the Central
Asia region." (15) Safarov
believes that no one can guarantee the Central Asian states protection against
the drug and arms trades, human trafficking and the infiltration of religious
and extremist organizations into the Central Asian states.
The SCO's future position in Central Asia also may depend on
member country ideas about military forces and security. At the G8 summit, President Putin
stressed that the SCO was not a military bloc. He added that all practical military issues in Central Asia
were considered in the format of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister
Sergei Razov said, "Military cooperation does not rank among the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization's priorities." (17)
The Central Asian authoritarian governments' inclination to
resolve domestic political problems under the guise of combating terrorism will
only lead to more harsh criticism from the West. Whether this criticism will lead eventually to the end of
U.S. forces in the region remains to be seen. The Central Asian governments will continue to find open
arms and loud support from both China and Russia, but it is questionable
whether this verbal support will translate into tangible security or even
Coalition forces brought down the Taliban, marginalized the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, killed its leader Dzhuma Namangani, and
established a secular regime in Afghanistan. Neither China nor Russia is capable of achieving that level
of success with its current force structure. Neither the SCO nor CSTO has resources in the Central Asian
theater to reliably defend borders against Islamic extremist incursions. Moscow and Beijing always appear to
Central Asian leaders as far more palatable security options than Washington or
Brussels, due, in part, to the Western push for democratic and market-oriented
reforms. Therefore, the SCO member
countries' desire to maintain the political status quo most likely will
undermine regional security in the long term.
(1) "Central Asia summit urges U.S. pullout", AP,
6 Jul 05 via edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/kazakhstan.summit.ap/index.html.
(3) Interfax, 5 Jul 05 via Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 2,
Issue 130, 6 Jul 05.
(4) "Setbacks for U.S. forces
in Afghanistan," Reuters, 12 Jul 05 via
(5) "NATO Has Been Asked To
Leave Central Asia," Gazeta.ru, 6 Jul 05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0706 via
World News Connection.
(7) "U.S. Rejects Setting Central Asia Withdrawal
Date," AP, 6 Jul 05 via
(8) "Central Asia summit urges U.S. pullout," AP,
6 Jul 05 via edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/kazakhstan.summit.ap/index.html.
(9) "Tajikistan France
Servicemen NATO-CSTO Opposition is Wrong," Interfax, 14 Jul 05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0714
via World News Connection.
(11) "Central Asia summit urges U.S. pullout," AP,
6 Jul 05 via edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/kazakhstan.summit.ap/index.html.
(12) "Russia: Iran Views
Shanghai Body as Counterbalance To NATO," Interfax, 8 Jul 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0708 via World News Connection.
(13) "Zhirinovsky Calls for
Military Alliance of Russia, China, and Central Asian States," strana.ru,
14 Jul 05 via RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 9, No. 132, Part I, 15 July 05.
(14) "Russian MP Urges
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan To Request U.S. Base Withdrawal," RIA-Novosti, 6
Jul 05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0706 via World News Connection.
(15) "Tajikistani Analyst
Says Shanghai Body Not Ready To Assume Security Duties," Avesta, 7 Jul 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0707 via World News Connection.
(16) "Russian Leader Says
SCO's Request on Afghanistan Coalition Troops Normal," ITAR-TASS, 8 Jul
05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0708 via World News Connection.
(17) "Russian Defense
Official Says Military Cooperation Not Among SCO's Priorities,"
Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, 8
Jul 05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0708 via World News Connection.
By Kyle J. Colton (email@example.com)
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Yushchenko undercutting Moldova in Transnistria?
On 15 July, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met with
the self-proclaimed leader of the separatist republic of Transnistria,
juridically part of Moldova.
Following the talks, Yushchenko's press office released a glowing review
of the meeting. "The parties
agreed to act conjointly to settle the Transdniester conflict," the
communiqué said. Further, the president's press service noted, "Mr.
Smirnov fully supported Ukraine's action plan [to end the separatist
conflict]," and "said it was the first time this topic was discussed
Mr. Yushchenko's Moldovan counterpart, President Vladimir
Voronin, could not have been pleased.
This private meeting with Yushchenko provides Smirnov with a sheen of
legitimacy repeatedly rejected both by Moldova and the international
community. To date, the only other
head of state who has met individually with Smirnov is Russian President
Vladimir Putin, whose tacit support for the separatist republic has been
criticized by everyone from Moldovan officials to the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to the Council of Europe.
But not by Yushchenko.
Apparently, during his meeting, Yushchenko shied away from the topic of
Russian troops on Transnistrian territory. The country reportedly still maintains between 1,300 to
2,000 troops and a significant stockpile of ammunition and armaments in the
separatist enclave, and has made no attempt to live up to previously signed
international agreements to withdraw.
Instead, Russia has renamed its troops
"peacekeepers," and claimed that they are there to stabilize the
situation in the enclave. Moldova,
however, claims that the troops do little more than prop up Smirnov's
administration, while facilitating smuggling of goods and women between Eastern
Europe and the West. Human rights
organizations and the OSCE have generally supported Moldova's contentions on
this issue, particularly regarding what has become known as the Transnistrian
"black hole" of smuggling.
In fact, the region has developed such a reputation for smuggling that
the Economist recently referred to
Transnistria as "a big, ugly smuggling racket with a piece of land
attached." (2) Yushchenko
does not appear to have spent considerable time in his meeting with Smirnov on
this issue, however, judging from Smirnov's support following their talks.
The meeting between Smirnov and Yushchenko came at a time
when tensions over the status of Transnistria are particularly high. Just days before his warm meeting
with Yushchenko, Smirnov announced that he had approved the creation of a
"public militia," organized "for the purpose of cooperating with
the Transdniester Armed Forces in state defense." At the same time, Smirnov asked Russia
to increase the number of its troops within the territory to 2,400. These moves were necessary, he
said, because of possible "provocations from Moldova." During the same interview, Smirnov
reiterated that Transnistria "won't become a part of Moldova, and such a
variant is excluded." (3)
One wonders then to what
Smirnov agreed during his meeting just days later with Yushchenko.
While most observers welcomed Yushchenko's initiative to
jumpstart talks that have been stalled since 2003, the president's plan seems
unlikely to resolve the frozen conflict and may even exacerbate the situation
by angering both Romania and Moldova.
In fact, since the plan's public unveiling, Moldova's position has
hardened considerably. The
country's leadership reportedly is concerned that Ukraine's plan may lead to
the de facto partition of the country
with permanent intervention in Moldova both by Russia and Ukraine.
Moldovan officials express particular concern about the
absence in the plan of a requirement that Russia's troops be withdrawn from Moldovan
territory. Moldova's stated
position is that there can be no settlement of the Transnistrian issue until
these troops are removed. Yet, this point is passed over in Ukraine's plan,
which instead calls for a vague "internationalization" of
Additionally, Ukraine's proposal would allow Transnistrian
officials to have input into, and perhaps veto power over, international
agreements signed by Moldova.
Moldovan officials fear that this would forever end their goal of joining
both NATO and the E.U., since Tiraspol is ardently opposed to both ideas.
The plan also calls for Transnistria's status within Moldova
to be determined by this fall, with "Elections to be held soon to
Transnistria's Supreme Soviet, the representative body of the Transnistria
region of Moldova, on the basis of a legal status of Transnistria." (4) National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko,
the man who drafted Ukraine's plan, has suggested that such elections could be
held as soon as November of this year, conveniently overlooking the fact that
there is no internationally accepted legal basis for them. Tellingly, Smirnov
eagerly agreed to these elections.
He has already invited "international observers" to monitor
the poll, which as yet has no set date. (5)
Moldova has reacted strongly to the idea of quick elections
within Transnistria. In its
response to Ukraine's suggestion, Moldova's parliament wrote, "It is
impossible to conduct free and democratic elections in the Transnistrian
region, given that the Moldovan constitution's norms and international
democratic standards are not observed, that political pluralism and freedom of
speech is missing, and heterodox beliefs are repressed." (6)
Moldovan officials rightly suggest that, should an election
be held in this type of environment, it runs the risk of legitimizing an
entrenched authoritarian regime, blunting international pressure on Smirnov
(who would be the recognized elected leader), and freezing the Transnistrian conflict
for years. Alternatively, should
the election not be recognized as valid by international observers, Smirnov
would be given yet another pretext to reject future international cooperation.
Yushchenko himself should be intimately aware of how elections
are conducted in Transnistria, thanks to seven polling stations set up for
Ukrainian citizens during the recent Ukrainian presidential election. Oksana Bilozir, the godmother of
Yushchenko's children and the current Minister of Culture, served as a coordinator
of monitors in Transnistria. She
returned to Kyiv with a litany of complaints.
She said, "We anticipated the possibility of rigging,
which is why we sent two journalists and one foreign observer to each polling
station. All cars were stopped,
people were arrested, video cameras with which they were supposed to record
violations were broken. Journalist
Klebanskyy was deported within on hour, and when he crossed the Ukrainian
border he was followed by the warning that he would be killed if he decided to
come back." Bilozir also
reported that the head of the Dniester Ukrainian Association, who was serving
as an official Yushchenko observer, was severely beaten by being kicked in the
face, while numerous other observers were detained and deported. (7)
Yushchenko's plan has spurred a barrage activity within
international organizations involved in the issue. Most of the activity has angered Moldovan officials,
as—like Ukraine's plan—it has often occurred without consulting
On July 7, the country's representatives walked out of a
meeting of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE after a resolution on the
issue failed to refer to Transnistrian representatives as
to Christian Democratic Party Leader Iurie Rosca, the resolution "put at
equal terms Chisinau's legal authorities and the criminal Transnistrian
separatist regime." (8)
Officials also responded angrily when the OSCE resolution did not predicate
Transnistrian elections on the withdrawal of Russian troops and the eradication
of Transnistria's intimidating and omnipresent secret services. After the meeting, Moldovan
officials were said to be concerned that the OSCE seemed more responsive to
Russia's suggestion of a federalized Moldova with Russian troop presence since
the Yushchenko plan was released. (9)
On June 9, Moldova's parliament overwhelmingly passed a
package of documents in response to Yushchenko's plan. Although the documents diplomatically
state that the parliament "highly appreciates Ukraine's offer," they
clearly do not embrace the main tenets of the plan. The parliament states clearly that it is in support of
future elections in Transnistria, but in exchange, demands the withdrawal of
Russian troops from Transnistria by the end of 2005. (10)
Here, Moldova may be attempting to emulate the tactic used
by Georgia in forcing Russia to promise to withdraw its troops. However, because Russia provides
virtually free energy directly to Transnistria and because the enclave can
procure its supplies through illicit channels, Moldova has less leverage over
its separatist republic than Georgia has over its own separatists. As such, Moldova's demand is likely to
In June, Voronin traveled to Strasbourg for talks on
implementation of the new E.U.-Moldova Action Plan,
and asked for assistance in removing Russian troops from his country's
troops have no official status. They are in the territory of the republic of
Moldova illegally," he said.
(11) He reiterated the position
in July. "We can't see any
political or geopolitical reasons for the presence of Russian troops on the
territory of Moldova," he said.
"The place of troops in the security zone in Moldova must be
occupied by observers, acting under an international mandate." (12)
Since Yushchenko's plan was released, most international
organizations have responded gingerly such requests for assistance. Although
the E.U. has agreed to assist minimally in the monitoring of a portion of the
Transnistrian border, a large-scale mission by the E.U. or OSCE seems unlikely.
The E.U. has shied away from such large-scale bordering missions in the past,
and the OSCE bureaucratic system means it would need Russian support for such
an idea. It appears that the international community may be collectively
sighing with relief that Ukraine has taken over leadership on this thorny
issue, and are happy to allow the country to do so. Discussions are continuing
over whether the E.U. and the US will participate in talks over the situation,
as Yushchenko has suggested, and Smirnov reportedly has agreed. Indications at
the moment are that they will not.
Yushchenko must know, however, that Chisinau will
never—perhaps politically can never—agree
to his plan as proposed, and as accepted by Smirnov and Russia. Yet, the plan was announced, placing
Yushchenko's supposed ally Voronin in an awkward and difficult position. So then, what is the purpose of this
plan? Was this a carrot to Russia,
which has announced its wholehearted support? Perhaps it was a bone to the Donbass business entities that
are said to profit from the Transnistrian smuggling trade? Or perhaps Yushchenko truly believed
that this plan was the best option.
Moldovan newspapers, rallying around their president, have
suggested that the plan was designed to benefit businessmen surrounding
Yushchenko – in particular Poroshenko, who, Flux claimed, "has business interests in the
Dniester region." (13) While not impossible, this claim seems
questionable. But, it clearly demonstrates the emotional and unyielding
response of many in Moldova to Yushchenko's proposals. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian
president, the almost unanimous response to his plan within Moldova has been to
unite against it.
Regardless of why the plan was offered, the dynamic of the
Transnistria conflict has changed as a result. Is it any surprise, then, why Igor Smirnov was so happy to
embrace Yushchenko's plan?
(1) Official website of Ukrainian President Viktor
Yushchenko, 14 Jul 05; via www.president.gov.ua.
(2) The Economist, 29 Jan 05.
(3) Novie izvestia,
11 Jul 05; What the Papers Say, Part B via Lexis-Nexis; ITAR-TASS, 12 Jul 05
(4) Eurasia Daily Monitor, 27 Apr 05.
(5) ITAR-TASS, 15
July 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) Moldovan Parliament's
Statement on Principles and Conditions to Democratise (sic)
Moldova's Transnistrian Region, 9 Jun 05 via www. foundation.moldova.org.
(7) Ukrayina Moloda,
23 November 05; via Lexis-Nexis.
Reporter.MD, 7 Jul 05 via Politicom.moldova.org.
(9) See www.oscepa.org
or www.moldova.org for the text of the
OSCE parliamentary assembly, 14th annual session, Washington DC,
Resolution on the Republic of Moldova.
(10) Moldovan Parliament's
Statement on Principles and Conditions to Demilitarization
of Moldova's Transnistrian Region, 9 Jun 05 via
(11) E.U. Observer, 9 Jun 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) Novie izvestia,
11 Jul 05; What the Papers Say, Part B via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) Flux, 24 May 05; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
By Tammy Lynch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kyrgyz elections: arise President Bakiev
Almost three months ago, in what amounted to a popular
rebellion rather than an organized revolution, the government of President
Askar Akaev collapsed. Ten days ago, on 10 July, elections to choose a new
President were finally held in the Kyrgyz republic.
In the immediate aftermath of the rebellion, the Kyrgyz
Parliament appointed an interim government consisting of Former Interior
Minister Feliks Kulov, opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiev and former Foreign
Minister Rosa Otunbayeva. (1) The Parliament's leadership selection was an
extremely prescient move based on the situation in the country at the time.
Many of the demonstrations against Akaev had started and been at their
strongest in the Southern regions, especially in Bakiev's strongholds of Osh
and Jalalabad; Kulov's center of support lies in the North, around the capital
Bishkek. As such, the new leadership served to provide an image of national
Initially, it seemed that both Bakiev and Kulov would stand
for the Presidency. Bakiev announced his own candidacy within days of the
creation of the interim government, while Kulov came forward somewhat
later—having been forced to wait until the Supreme Court nullified the
charges levied against him by the Akaev regime. (2) The prospect of a
potentially (nationally) divisive Presidential race was averted on 13 May, when
Kulov announced his withdrawal from the campaign. Under the terms of an
agreement reached with Bakiev, Kulov was appointed Acting First Deputy Prime
Minister, and guaranteed the post of Prime Minister—with increased powers
of appointment—in the event of a Bakiev electoral victory. (3) It is
important to note that the Bakiev-Kulov alliance also was geared towards the
broader regional situation, namely the unrest in Uzbekistan, and its potential
effects on Kyrgyzstan through that country's considerable Uzbek minority. (4)
The "interregnum" period in Kyrgyzstan has not
been entirely peaceful. The country has witnessed several high profile murders,
including those of Usen Kudaibergenov (a film director and ally of Kulov) and
Member of Parliament Jyrgalbek Surabaldiev. There have been several attacks on
Bakiev's campaign headquarters by opponents (5), while on 17th June,
after several days of protests, demonstrators stormed the Parliament building
in Bishkek to protest the exclusion of Urmatbek Baryktabasov from the election.
Apparently, authorities discovered that Baryktabasov holds Kazakh not Kyrgyz
citizenship, a fact which, if true, would provide legitimate grounds for
exclusion. (6) Of deeper concern to authorities—if the allegations are
proven—is that an investigative reporter claims to have discovered that
Baryktabasov, a close friend and ally of former President Akaev, may have been
using funds funneled by the latter to pay protestors to disrupt the electoral
process. (7) In any event, the interim government was quick to re-take the
Parliament building, ordering some 1,000 riot police officers to the scene to
clear the building. Reports indicate that law enforcement officers were armed
only with riot shields and batons, not firearms, and that the protestors were
flushed from the building with teargas. (8) The fact that police officers were
only lightly armed may indicate that the government had decided to minimize
violence as much as possible in the run up to the polls.
The registration of candidates for the election officially
ended on 7 June. By the end of the day, a total of seven candidates had
accumulated the required 50,000 signatures. Bakiev's main competitors were:
Zhusupbek Sharipov (former governor of Jalalabad), Tursunbay Bakir-uulu (former
Kyrgyz Ombudsman), Keneshbek Dushebayev (former Interior Minister), Akbaraly
Aitikeev, Jypar Jeksheev and one female, Toktayym Umetalieva. (9)
Campaigning for the polls officially began on 14 June,
and ended a day before the election, on 9 July. (10) In the week since the polls, the OSCE has released its
preliminary observations of the election. Compared to previous election
reports, on Kyrgyz and other Central Asian elections, this report was quite favorable.
The OSCE noted that: campaigning had been free of government interference;
there had been a real exchange of ideas between candidates during live
televised debates; the Central Election Commission had, at the very least,
attempted to show impartiality by moving out of Government House for the
duration of the process; freedom of congregation and expression were respected
throughout the process and finally, the government had taken account of the
considerable Uzbek minority by having the debates broadcast with Uzbek language
dubbing in the Southern part of the country. (11)
According to the preliminary results issued by the CEC,
voter turnout reached record levels with 74.6% of the country's population
voting. (12) Bakiev reportedly received 88.9% of the vote, with the second
placed candidate, Tursunbay Bakir-uulu receiving just under 4%. (13) The OSCE
did note some irregularities during the election, including an inflation of the
turnout figures. These irregularities likely served to inflate Bakiev's poll
numbers to their reported levels. It should be noted however, that the OSCE
believes that Bakiev would still have carried the election by a considerable
margin without turnout inflation. (14) The improvements in Kyrgyzstan also have
been noted internationally, with the U.S. State Department praising a
"calm and peaceful" vote and noting that Kyrgyzstan had made
"tangible progress" towards meeting OSCE and other international
Bakiev's first action as President-elect was to sign a
decree in line with their agreement, appointing Kulov as Acting Deputy Premier.
Kulov is expected to become Prime Minister when Bakiev officially is
inaugurated President—probably early next month. (16) A cabinet has not
yet been formed, and the government has not made any serious policy decisions, save to state (as a participant in the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization's recent joint declaration) that it requires
clarification from Washington on a timetable for closure of the U.S. base near
Bishkek. (17) It is important to note that the Kyrgyz government has not
indicated that it wishes to end its cooperative relationship with the United
States. On a recent visit to the U.S., Acting Foreign Minister Otunbayeva
stated that Kyrgyzstan wished to strengthen bilateral relations between the two
countries (18), while also noting that Russia remains an "important
strategic ally" to the Republic. (19) These statements would seem to
indicate that the new Kyrgyz government will seek to assess each policy
anew—on its merits and weaknesses, rather than simply to continue the
policies of its predecessor without question or consideration.
Throughout early May, protests—largely peaceful in
nature—had been occurring in the Uzbek town of Andijan. The
demonstrations were held to protest the innocence of several local men held on
charges of membership in Islamic extremist groups. On 12 May, large crowds
began to gather in the center of Andijan, calling for President Karimov's
resignation, as well as railing against the government's economic policies,
which keep a large percentage of the rural population languishing in extreme
Throughout the day, government forces were observed moving
into position around the town's central square, effectively sealing the
protestors into a "controllable" area. Early on the morning of 13 May, these troops began firing
indiscriminately into the crowds, making no attempt to separate innocent bystanders
from protestors. As the crowds tried to exit the square, troops moving in
vehicles pursued them, firing as they moved. (21) In a new detail documented by
the OSCE in its report of the incident, evidence emerged that witnesses had
spotted snipers on rooftops, using high powered rifles to kill victims missed
by the roving troops. (22) The troops involved apparently were Special Forces
Units (Bars & Skorpion) belonging to
the Interior Ministry. (23) The
day after the forced dispersal of the demonstrators, government forces
initiated a massive cleanup operation, moving bodies to mass graves in the
environs of the town.
President Karimov's immediate assertion during a press
conference on the morning of 14 May was that the demonstrations had been
orchestrated by Islamic extremists, linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan, for
evidence of which he cited "recorded" telephone conversations between
the "terrorists" and their controllers. (24)
Since the Andijan incident, the Uzbek government has stuck
to its story. The Uzbek Prosecutor General's office announced that an
investigation had "established" that Hizb-ut-Tahir had sent
"armed" and "trained" detachments numbering some twenty
people into Andijan with the specific goal of causing unrest and violence. (25)
The official Uzbek version of events has been supported by the Russian
government. On 29 June, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated during a meeting
that Russian intelligence had known of the planning for Andijan, and that it
too had evidence that the "terrorists" had ties to Afghanistan. (26)
As is to be expected, the regime in Uzbekistan is using
events in Andijan as an excuse for a broader crackdown. Reports from various
sources indicate that multiple Uzbek human rights activists, including those
working for foreign organizations (such as the London based Institute for War
and Peace Reporting), and journalists have disappeared, been publicly arrested
or are subject to visible surveillance and harassment by the Secret Services.
Karimov's assertions regarding the incident in Andijan have
been the target of some skepticism internationally. As a result, several world
leaders, including President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, have attempted
to persuade the Uzbek President to allow an independent international
investigation. (28) Senior legislators
from the United States have added their voices to pressure Karimov, notably
Senator John McCain, who in an Op-Ed piece in the Financial Times, urged reform
and an investigation. (29) Karimov—with Russia's support—has flatly
rejected the possibility of an inquiry.
The Uzbek President's behaviour since Andijan could be
described as somewhat schizophrenic. On the one hand, Karimov has rejected
calls for an independent investigation; he is apparently the prime force behind
the SCO's request for a timetable of U.S. base closures in Central Asia (30),
and has intimated, conspiratorially, that Western journalists were secretly in
Andijan prior to the protests, in order to give negative coverage to the
regime's response. (31) On the other hand Karimov has issued an invitation for
any members of the U.S. Congress or human rights activists who "spoke
about the Andijan tragedy so unceremoniously" to attend the trial, (32)
promising that it will be "open" and fair. (33) Clearly, such
"promises" are designed to attempt to ensure that Uzbekistan remains
a valued friend in the Global War on Terror—and as such, the recipient of
millions of dollars in aid—while also "preempting" what Karimov sees as "Western
meddling" designed to provoke or foment a "color" revolution in
Uzbekistan, and to remove him from power.
See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume, X, Number 7 (8
See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume X, Number 6 (28
See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume X, Number 7 (8
Central Asia Report, 19 Jun 05; Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
Weekday Magazine—Kyrgyzstan, 17 Jun 05; Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 2, Issue
Weekday Magazine—Kyrgyzstan; 17 June 05, Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
"International Election Observation Mission; Presidential
Election, The Kyrgyz Republic, 10 Jul 05. Statement of Preliminary Findings and
Magazine—Kyrgyzstan, 14 Jun 05; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
Election Observation Mission; Presidential Election, The Kyrgyz
Republic, 10 Jul 05. Statement of Preliminary Findings and
Magazine—Kyrgyzstan; 11 Jul 05, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
Election Observation Mission; Presidential Election, The Kyrgyz Republic, 10
Jul 05. Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions," www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2005/07/15625_en.pdf.
(15) Weekday Magazine—Kyrgyzstan,
11 Jul 05; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(16) AKIpress News Agency
website, Bishkek in Russian, 12 Jul 05; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets
(17) INTERFAX, 11 Jul 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0711 via World News Connection.
(18) INTERFAX , 15 Jun 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0615 via World News Connection.
(19) ITAR-TASS, 14 Jun 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0614 via World News Connection.
(20) See NIS Observed: An
Analytical Review, Volume X, Number 7 (8 Jun 05).
On the Events in Andijan, Uzbekistan, 13 May 2005," Page 14 via www.osce.org/documents.odhir.2005/06/15233_en.pdf.
(23) Eurasia Insight, 13 Jul 05
via Eurasianet www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav071305_pr.
(24) See NIS Observed: An
Analytical Review, Volume X, Number 7 (8 Jun 05).
(25) KABAR News Agency, 23 Jun
05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0623 via World News Connection.
(26) ITAR-TASS, 29 Jun 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0629 via World News Connection.
(27) TCA-Uzbekistan, 7 Jun 05;
The Times of Central Asia via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(28) See NIS Observed: An Analytical
Review, Volume X, Number 7 (8 Jun 05).
(29) "When Decency and
Expediency Clash," Senator John McCain, 14 Jun 05; The Financial Times.
(30) AGENTSTVO VOYENNYKH
NOVOSTEY, 6 Jul 05; FBIS-SOV-2005-0706 via World News Connection.
(31) UzReport Daily, 29 Jun 05;
UzReport via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(32) ITAR-TASS, 28 Jun 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0628 via World News Connection.
(33) INTERFAX, 29 Jun 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0629 via World News Connection.
By Fabian Adami
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