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The NIS Obvserved: An Analytical Review
Volume IV Number 14 (13 September 1999)

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Susan J. Cavan
Foreign Relations by Sarah K. Miller
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Michael DeMar Thurman
Armed Forces by LCDR James J. Duke Jr.

Newly Independent States

CIS by Sarah K. Miller
Western Region by Tammy Lynch
Transcaucasus by Miriam Lanskoy
Central Asia by Monika Shepherd

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Volume I
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No. 2 (20 November 1996)
No. 1 (6 November 1996)


Investigative confluence heightens sense of instability
Three once-distinct areas of investigation into financial impropriety have begun to converge in Western and Russian media reports, as questions of Kremlin involvement take center stage in each inquiry. The least threatening of the investigations appears to be the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal, which has sparked renewed interest in the use or possible misuse of IMF loans. Several prominent Russian politicians have somewhat successfully deflected questions about IMF money by citing domestic American political interests allegedly at play in an ongoing debate over the role of the IMF.

While a thorough tracking of the disposition of international loans, particularly the IMF $11.2 billion tranche agreed upon in July 1998, would likely reveal some misappropriation of funds, it cannot be assumed that fraud was necessarily perpetrated by the Kremlin or government. Anatoli Chubais' experience with the media last year provides a cautionary note: Although headlines flashed that Chubais admitted he "lied to the IMF," he denies that he said or implied any such thing. (OFFICIAL KREMLIN INTERNATIONAL NEWS BROADCAST, 23 Sep 99; Federal News Service, via nexis) Some media outlets may indeed be anxious to get somewhat in front of the story when international loans to Russia are involved.

The story that shows no sign of waning, however, is the Swiss investigation into Kremlin dealings with the Mabetex company. Recently, the fans on this flame have been stoked by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera (CDs), which published the names of some of the apparatchiks and their families who are currently under investigation. (CDS, Internet version, 3 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0904, via World News Connection) Those named include Kremlin Manager Pavel Borodin, his wife, daughter, son-in-law, associates and their families; former Customs Chief Anatoli Kruglov; as well as former Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets.

Mabetex is owned by Kosovar-Albanian businessman Bahgjet Pacolli, who was identified, also by CDs (25 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0830, via World News Connection) as having financed credit card purchases for President Yel'tsin and his daughters, Tatiana and Yelena. While the Kremlin has remained remarkably quiet on this particular turn in the investigation, Yel'tsin did apparently deny any involvement in this or the money laundering reports in a phone call to President Clinton. (WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING, 8 Sep 99; Federal News Service, via nexis)

Appointments noted
Former acting Procurator General Yuri Chaika was named last month to head up the justice ministry after the dismissal of the Stepashin government amid a swirl of allegations that Yel'tsin intended to use the justice ministry to influence upcoming elections. In a recent interview, Chaika attempted to put to rest the rumors about his employment shifts, including his removal from the prosecutor's office to the Security Council, and reassure the Russian public that the justice ministry would deal with political parties "within the powers designated by the federal law 'On Public Associations'." (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 2 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0906, via World News Connection)

Chaika also noted that his justice ministry "intends to significantly strengthen its monitoring" of parties for indications of extremism, including a ministry presence at all party and association events throughout Russia. Reassured?

Also of note is the appointment of yet another dismissed prosecutor, Georgi Chulgazov, as personal adviser to the current acting procurator, Vladimir Ustinov. (NTV, 1200 GMT, 3 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0903, via World News Connection)

Death toll rises as explosions now considered terrorist attacks
While the profusion of financial scandals produces a sense of instability in the governing structures, a far more serious concern is escalating tensions in the populace. The fourth explosion in Russia in two weeks prompts growing concerns of terrorist attacks linked to the violence in the North Caucasus.

In the wake of another attack on a Moscow apartment building, President Yel'tsin addressed the nation today, claiming that "Terrorism has declared war on us, the Russian people." (UPI, 0511 PDT, 13 Sep 99; via Today's explosion, which comes on the day set aside for mourning the victims of the three previous bombings, has already claimed more than 30 lives. The 8 September explosion in a Moscow apartment complex, which claimed at least 80 lives, the 31 August bombing of a shopping mall, which claimed one life, and the 4 September bombing in Dagestan, which claimed 64 lives, were to be commemorated in today's day of mourning. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 0450 PDT, 10 Sep 99; via

Today's bombing has forced a shift of emphasis from mourning to capturing the culprits involved and tightening security. The MVD initially identified a suspect in both last week's and today's apartment blasts as Mukhet Laipanov, who was said to have rented storage space in each building. MVD Chief Vladimir Rushailo later announced that documents identifying Laipanov must have been forged, as Laipanov was killed in a car accident in February. (UPI, 0511 PDT, 13 Sep 99; via

In a related note, the deputy minister for atomic energy, Yevgeni Fedorov, announced on 10 September that security arrangements for nuclear facilities would be strengthened in light of the increased threat of terrorism. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 0700 PDT, 10 Sep 99; via The prime minister has also held meetings with security chief Nikolai Patrushev to discuss the intensifying of security measures in Moscow, and President Yel'tsin today announced new emergency security procedures, but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.

by Susan J. Cavan

Sorting through the rumors

Russia's vigorous diplomatic efforts to strengthen economic and strategic relations in Asia have ignited the rumor mill again. (See NIS Observed, 1 Sep 99, for last month's rumor.) The new rumor, reported by a Hong Kong newspaper, concerns a tentative Russian agreement to sell two Typhoon-class nuclear submarines to China. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 2 Sep 99) The rumor surfaced after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov's visit to Beijing and President Yel'tsin's successful meeting with President Jiang at the Shanghai-Five summit in late August. Although the rumor has been denied by the Russian foreign ministry, it does draw attention to the economic nature of the "strategic cooperative partnership" formalized last spring. The countries have used this policy to promote their like-mindedness on issues such as Kosovo and multipolarism, but the real substance of the partnership is proving to be economic. Even as the submarine rumor was surfacing in the Chinese press, the Russian press revealed a real Russian deal to sell China up to 60 new Su-30 fighters, a lucrative arrangement for Moscow. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 29 Aug 99) Meanwhile, new deals are in the works even though President Yel'tsin may be unable to make his trip to Beijing this fall.

Korean stability in Russia's hands
Russia hasn't limited its diplomatic efforts to China. Based upon its multipolar policy, Russia has expanded its Asian dialogue and, with China, has become the self-appointed promoter of Asian security. To that end, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's trip to Seoul concentrated on Russia's security concerns on the Korean Peninsula, including North-South relations and the possible expansion of US Theater Missile Defense (TMD). During his visit, the Koreans reassured Sergeev of their commitment to peninsular security, as well as their support for Russia's role in six-way peace talks that would run parallel to the four-way talks already in place. They also informed him that South Korea would not join the US-led TMD system. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 6 Sep 99; via However, as with relations with China, economic interests also motivate Russia's desire to develop what Sergeev has called "the closest possible cooperation ... in the defense and military-technical spheres." (INTERFAX, 1011 GMT, 3 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0903, via World News Connection) South Korea is, quite simply, another lucrative economic partner. According to the Russian military, Russia has delivered arms and military hardware worth $240 million to South Korea, including tanks, armored personnel vehicles, movable tactical rocket systems, and air defense systems. Russia's efforts, as Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin himself has said, demonstrate how Russia has "played, plays and will play a role in stabilization ... and resolution," of issues in East Asia. (ITAR-TASS, 0706 GMT, 3 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0903, via World News Connection)

by Sarah K. Miller

Incumbent governors manipulate local law in order to remain in office
The law is never an absolute; that is why judges are required to apply its general principles to specific situations. In Russia's regions, however, the law is not interpreted by the courts alone. The governors also participate.

In Omsk, the incumbent governor, Leonid Polezhaev, managed to change the date of the city's mayoral elections to coincide with the gubernatorial elections. The purpose was to prevent Polezhaev's only serious rival, incumbent Omsk Mayor Viktor Roshchupkin, from running against him. By changing the dates of election, Roshchupkin would have to forgo his safe mayoral position and risk losing against Polezhaev. Roshchupkin stayed where he was and both he and Polezhaev sailed to victory on 5 September. (ITAR-TASS, 1952 GMT, 5 Sep 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via nexis)

In Tomsk, the current governor, Viktor Kress, is being challenged by the former head of the Territorial Fund for Mandatory Medical Insurance, Aleksandr Deev. The election is scheduled for 19 September. Deev became famous for filing and winning a lawsuit against the territorial administration for its failure to properly finance Deev's Territorial Fund. He threatened to seize territorial assets to pay for the fund; he was then removed from his position. Presently six candidates have been registered to run. (INFO-PROD RESEARCH (MIDDLE EAST) LTD., 7 Sep 99; via nexis)

In the Maritime Kray, the gubernatorial election proceeds with its unique blend of legal manipulation. The current governor, Yevgeni Nazdratenko, managed to pass a law pithily titled "On the Election of the Governor." The law provides for holding the elections in only one round, and it prohibits candidates from giving a monetary deposit instead of submitting a required number of signatures. Nazdratenko argued that a multiple-round election is too expensive, and that a security deposit would allow any rich person to run for office, thus bypassing the influence of the voters. Nazdratenko fails to mention that a single-round election is easier to manipulate and since he commands only 40-percent support, he might not survive a second round. Also, an incumbent can challenge the validity of his opponent's campaign by questioning the authenticity of the sigantures the latter has collected. Therefore the requirement that each new candidate must present a certain number of signatures favors the incumbent. At the federal level, the security deposit option was instituted to prevent this from happening. (VREMYA MN, 23 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0823, via World News Connection)

The Yel'tsin-Mabetex-federal prosecutor triangle
It seems that the Federation Council is ready to accept acting Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika's resignation, due to his appointment as the minister of justice, while the previous prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, has won a case before the court. A Moscow court ruled that it was illegal to prolong for up to six months the case against Skuratov, especially considering that he has yet to be officially charged. The judges decision will most certainly be appealed.

The link between the Yel'tsin family and the kickback scheme set up by the Swiss construction firm Mabetex is what led to Skuratov's trouble when his investigation got too close to the family. Although Yel'tsin, his wife and his two daughters, Yelena Okulova and Tatiana Dyachenko, as well as the director of Mabetex, the Kosovar businessman Bahgjet Pacolli, deny any wrongdoing, it appears increasingly likely that there was some connection.

News media reported that, in order to receive lucrative Russian construction contracts, Pacolli provided Yel'tsin and his family with $1 million in a Hungarian bank account as well as credit cards in each family member's name. Pacolli would pay their bills, even though Dyachenko reportedly spent thousands of dollars a day while abroad. There are renewed suggestions that Yel'tsin may resign before his term expires next summer in the face of this scandal as well as in response to the recent money-laundering scheme involving the Bank of New York which also seems to point toward Russia's First Family. (THE GAZETTE, 8 Sep 99; via nexis)

Registration of election blocs continues
At present, the following blocs have been registered: Yabloko public movement (the top three: Grigory Yavlinsky, Sergei Stepashin, and Vladimir Lukin); Russia's Working People -- for the Soviet Union bloc (Viktor Tyulkin, Anatoly Kryuchkov, and Vladislav Aseev); Our Home is Russia election group (Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Dmitri Ayatskov); Right Forces Union, which is comprised of Russia's Democratic Choice, New Force, Young Russia, and Lawyers for the Rights and Dignified Life of Man (Boris Nemtsov heads the list, while the names of the second and third persons on the bloc's list are not available); and Fatherland-All Russia bloc (Yevgeny Primakov, Yuri Luzhkov, Vladimir Yakovlev). (INTERFAX, 4 Sep 99; via nexis)

It is important to remember that, under Russia's new electoral laws, should one of the top three candidates on a party list resign or should 25 percent of the list leave, the entire bloc will be disqualified. The purpose of this rule seems to be to limit the tendency in Russian political parties and movements to splinter at the drop of a hat.

by Michael DeMar Thurman

No deal on arms control

Arms control negotiations between the United States and Russia are dormant. President Clinton and Russian President Yel'tsin agreed in June to discuss START-II ratification and possible amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty; however, START-II remains in the Russian Duma, facing significant resistance, and Russia has voiced opposition to any ABM treaty amendments. US and Russian inability to reach any agreement rules out new arms control treaties in the near future.

The 1993 START-II treaty reduces each party's nuclear warheads to about 3,000-3,500. The treaty passed the US Senate, but is stalled in Russia's parliament. In 1997 Clinton and Yel'tsin agreed to a START-III target of 2,500-2,000 warheads per side; however, Russia proposed slashing the number of warheads to 1,500 or fewer. Russia's economic climate prohibits replacement of its aging nuclear arsenal and maintenance of warhead levels exceeding 1,500. The proposal, therefore, would enable Russia to maintain numerical nuclear warhead parity with its associated political clout, despite drastically reduced and underfunded conventional forces. (WASHINGTON POST FOREIGN SERVICE, 31 Aug 99; via Washington Post Online) United States policy insists that Russia ratify START-II before proceeding with serious START-III negotiations. Russian media reports indicate this insistence may have backfired. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Sep 99; via nexis) Roman Popovich, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, stated, "They are trying to portray us as a country unwilling to divest itself of nuclear arms, a kind of nuclear monster that does not want to disarm.... They understand very well that if we do not ratify the treaty and do not achieve a simultaneous reduction of the maximum number of warheads, their nuclear strength will be four to six times greater than ours by 2008-2010...." (INTERFAX, 1356 GMT, 23 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0823, via World News Connection) START-III also faces opposition in the US; opponents fear START-III proposals would jeopardize the US nuclear advantage, and encourage other countries to seek the first-tier atomic power status. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Sep 99; via nexis) A 1,500- to 2,500-warhead limit would also place the US strategic nuclear triad's viability in question, requiring drastic force cuts or total elimination of land-, sea-, or air-launched nuclear weapons systems.

Fears concerning ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction technology proliferation have led to growing Congressional calls for developing and fielding a national missile defense. This prompted the Clinton administration to initiate discussions with Russia on amending the 1972 ABM treaty. The first formal discussions on this issue concluded 19 August with Russian threats of a renewed arms race. Grigory Berdennikov, head of the Russian delegation, said "the arms race may spread into space," and if the US deploys and national missile defense system, Russia "will be forced to raise the effectiveness of its strategic nuclear armed forces." (INTERFAX, 1443 GMT, 19 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0819, via World News Connection) The Russian military representative, General Leonid Ivashov, was more blunt; "There are no results whatsoever.... To destroy it [ABM treaty] is to destroy the whole process of nuclear deterrence." (ITAR-TASS, 0840 GMT, 20 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0820, via World News Connection) Russia's position is that any US effort to develop a national missile defense would constitute a violation of the ABM treaty. Some Western analysts dispute the relevance of the ABM treaty, claiming it is a Cold War relic, and recommend scrapping the treaty altogether.

The rocky US-Russian relations following the Kosovo bombing campaign, Russia's shaky economy, and the banking scandal allegations present additional hurdles to progress on arms control. With national elections looming on the horizon for both governments, each administration should note that time is running out to strike any arms control deal.

by LCDR James J. Duke Jr.

* * * * *

Defense minister visits South Korea
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev was in Seoul on 2-4 September to hold talks with senior South Korean officials on future arm sales and defense cooperation agreements. They did not reveal which specific weapon systems were discussed. The most interesting, but unconfirmed, reports include possible Russian diesel-powered submarines, fighter aircraft, and air-defense systems. Moscow has aggressively pursued military-technical relations with Seoul since at least 1991. According to Sergeev, Russia is ready for "the closest possible cooperation with South Korea in the defense and military-technical spheres." (INTERFAX, 3 Sep 99; via nexis) In addition to direct arms sales, Russia is interested in pursuing joint agreements for the development of military hardware. Senior Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov traveled to South Korea in June to discuss the possibility for technology-sharing and weapons production with South Korean representatives. The rationale goes something like this: Having South Korea manufacture components for Russian weapon systems destined for the highly competitive world arms market can prove more financially beneficial than producing them in what is currently a seriously ailing, financially hamstrung Russian defense industry.

Over the last several years Russia has delivered to South Korea a wide range of weaponry, including T-80U tanks, BMP-3 armored vehicles, Metis-M antitank missiles, "Igla" antiaircraft systems, and various munitions. Much of this equipment was delivered in partial repayment of Moscow's US$1.4-1.8 billion debt to Seoul. However, whether for profit or debt repayment, weapons delivery to South Korea plays successfully into Russia's strategy to gain a large foothold in the lucrative Asian arms market. So far, so good. In addition to South Korea, Russian officials are close to completing a contract with China for the sale of up to 60 Su-30 multirole combat aircraft (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 1 Sep 99) and are negotiating a potentially significant sale of combat aircraft to India.

Mop-up operations continue in Dagestan... well, sort of...
Earlier assurances that Russian forces had successfully routed Islamic militants from the southern republic of Dagestan and simply had to clean up the mess were, as it turns out, a bit premature. Okay, way too premature.

Russian defense and interior forces remain engaged in heavy fighting with Islamic militants and are increasingly coming under criticism from senior officials. It is becoming more and more apparent that the Russian military has failed to defeat the militants since fighting began in August, drawing sharp criticism even from Russian President Boris Yel'tsin. On 8 September, Yel'tsin slammed military leaders by stating the army was mishandling the conflict in Dagestan. Yel'tsin further demanded "quick and tough action" against the rebels, saying Russia hadn't defeated them so far because of "military sloppiness." (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 Sep 99) The Moscow daily newspaper Izvestiya goes further to point out the incompetence of the governmental leadership as a whole in controlling the Dagestan situation. Quoting PM Vladimir Putin as saying there is no "entrenched warfare," the paper comments: "only insurgents relocating from one place to another. Only federal forces can't seem to keep up with them." (11 Aug 99) A true enough comment; however, Putin's understatement only serves to point out the failure of senior leadership to recognize the gravity of the situation and take appropriate action to normalize it.

Much of the criticism focuses on the failure of Russian military leaders to read correctly the strengths and intentions of the Islamic rebels. Having declared premature victory over the Chechens, they turned their forces too quickly to quelling a separate, but related, Wahhabi movement in central Dagestan. As a result, government forces now are engaged in a two-front fight: against the Chechen rebel forces led by Shamil Basaev, who entered Dagestan at the beginning of August; and against the Wahhabis in the mountainous central region.

It now appears that Basaev's earlier withdrawal from Dagestan (back into Chechen territory) under heavy pressure from government forces was not a sign of defeat as the Russian leadership wanted to believe. Rather, it appears Basaev's tactic was to assess initially the capabilities and resolve of Russian troops and then, using this information, fall back, regroup, and move back into Dagestani territory with sufficient rebel forces -- a tactic taken right out of the manual for guerrilla warfare. Chechen rebels have now re-entered Dagestan, moving into the western mountainous region of Novolakskoye. They are fortifying their positions and establishing protected supply lines. It appears they fully intend to stay and, so far, heavy bombardment by Russian forces has not been able to flush them out.

On the other front, the Wahhabis continue to thwart government forces in fighting centered around the villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi. Federal forces are finding tunnels and well-fortified positions in the hills surrounding the villages and are accusing local villagers of providing support for the rebels. Control of these villages has changed hands several times despite heavy bombardment by Russian warplanes and artillery, and heavy ground fighting. So far, the Wahhabis are not hoisting any white flags and government forces admit fighting is intense. At least one partial explanation for the failure of government forces to defeat the rebels quickly and decisively lies in the military strategy itself. What the Russian troops are facing is essentially highly fluid, loosely structured guerrilla forces fighting in mountainous regions with which they are intimately familiar. Throw against this the Russian deployment of heavy armor and artillery, and heavy emphasis on aerial bombardment -- great against open battlefields, exposed supply lines, and established troop concentrations and installations -- and one can, at least in part, begin to understand their ineffectiveness. An additional explanation is the switching of command and control for Dagestan operations. Initially, the defense ministry was placed in operational control. With the perceived withdrawal of the Chechen rebels, control was transferred to the interior ministry. Recently, control was once again transferred back to the defense ministry. (INTERFAX, 1604 GMT, 7 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0907, via World News Connection) This significantly complicates effective military planning and execution.

Russian officials' greatest fear is that the fighting in Dagestan will turn into another Chechnya, where in 1994-96 Russian military forces were drawn into a disastrous war with local insurgents resulting in unacceptably heavy losses. Parallels are already being drawn to Chechnya despite official assurances that the situation won't deteriorate to that level. According to press releases, Russian forces are in "the decisive stage of the liquidation" of the rebels. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, North European Service, 0831 GMT, 1 Sep 99; via nexis) They also continue to refer to military actions as mop-up operations. Reports of actual troop losses are hard to decipher; information is given in isolated reports, making totals hard to determine. Differing official reports put the number of deaths for government forces as high as 73 over 18 days of fighting. However, official reporting is notoriously understated and, as such, the number is most probably higher. What is clear is the fighting in Dagestan is not over and no definitive end is in sight. Russian forces will be committed for what is looking like an extended length of time with accompanying increases in death tolls. Will this be another Chechnya? For the time being, one should not place any bets against it.

by Lt Col Jill Skelton

Collective security sighted in Russia!
In late August, five Collective Security Treaty (CST) members successfully completed the Combat Commonwealth-99 joint air defense exercise, an indication that, despite its dwindling numbers, the CST is alive and protecting the commonwealth. In fact, since the spring withdrawal of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan, the remaining members have carried out two other exercises: an air defense exercise in Armenia and West-99, a large-scale field and air exercise held in June.

Like West-99, Combat Commonwealth-99 was held in Russia, but this exercise was specifically intended to test the performance of the joint air defense umbrella members (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan), all of which remain signatories to the CST. Although the two previous exercises undoubtedly posited a Western aggressor, it was only at the most recent exercise that the Russian military acknowledged this, saying that a "western attacker from the North" had been simulated. (INTERFAX, 1713 GMT, 25 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0825, via World News Connection) The Russian commander in chief of the exercise, Anatoli Kornukov, elaborated by explaining that the enemy aircraft had been modeled on information gathered during US-led airstrikes against Yugoslavia last spring. (NTV, 0400 GMT, 26 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0826, via World News Connection)

Combat Commonwealth-99 not only was an operational success, but also compounded the policy message that Russia has been sending to the NIS and NATO. Within the CST group, the exercise was a successful test of both the fairly new S-300 system as well as the joint cooperation of the five air defense members. To the CIS "GUUAM" members who remain outside the CST, the impressive S-300 display also demonstrated the strategic protection that they sacrificed by refusing to be CST members. The demonstration apparently struck a chord with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk who observed the maneuvers; at the CIS defense ministers' meeting in Astrakhan after the exercise, he strongly suggested that all CIS members work jointly to create a viable air-defense structure. (ITAR-TASS, 1153 GMT, 26 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0826, via World News Connection) He did not, however, feel that Ukrainian CST membership was necessary to do this. Finally, in addition to revealing the strategic lessons learned from the Yugoslavia airstrikes, the exercise strike scenario -- which envisioned western attackers from the North -- re-emphasized Russia's opposition to further NATO expansion in the region.

Ukraine and Russia, sittin' in a tree
Ukraine last week confirmed what everyone knew: Chernobyl's last functioning reactor will not be shut down as originally planned by January 2000. The announcement comes as G-7 countries continue to delay implementation of their agreement to help Ukraine fund two replacement reactors. (For further background, see NIS Observed, 23 Jun 99.) Mykola Dudchenko, president of the state nuclear power agency, told reporters on 1 September that Ukraine needs the Chernobyl reactor to make it through this winter. (REUTERS, 1 Sep 99; via Russia Today)

President Leonid Kuchma has been warning for several years that Chernobyl's shutdown would be delayed if G-7 funding was not forthcoming. On 16 June, as part of the country's most recent effort to convince the G-7 to honor its commitment, Kuchma's spokesman, Oleksandr Martynenko, said Ukraine "is unequivocally linking the closure of Chernobyl to the beginning of operation of the compensatory reactors." (ASSOCIATED PRESS, AM cycle, 16 Jun 99; via nexis) Unfortunately, this warning seems to have fallen on ears in denial, and now Ukraine is following through on its statements. Thanks to its rapidly improving relations with Russia, however, the country seems to have partly solved one of its other main energy crises. At a meeting in Moscow, the Ukrainian and Russian prime ministers formalized an agreement that will clear a significant amount of Ukraine's gas debts to Russia. Valeriy Pustovoytenko and Vladimir Putin agreed that Ukraine will supply 11 "bombers" to Russia -- eight Tu-160 Black Jacks and three Tu-95MS Bears. (INTERFAX, 1727 GMT, 6 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0906, via World News Connection) The debt offset is believed to be between $70 and $75 million per plane. Russia claims that Ukraine owes $1.8 billion for gas arrears, but Ukraine recognizes only $1.3 billion.

The two men also apparently discussed a Russian offer to assist with the construction of Ukraine's replacement nuclear reactors, in lieu of the G-7 funding, and began final preparation of 17 agreements that will deal with outstanding Black Sea Fleet issues. (KIYEVSKIYE VEDOMOSTI, 30 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0902, via World News Connection) Russia always did know how to fill a vacuum.

Holding on by a thread Ukraine received a boost this week in its efforts to avoid debt default. The IMF announced that it would release the third tranche of its $2.6 billion Extended Fund Facility loan. The tranche totals $184 million -- slightly more than Ukraine had said it was expecting. IMF First Managing Director Stanley Fischer congratulated Ukraine on its progress in 1999. "Directors noted," he said, "that macroeconomic developments so far in 1999 have been better than expected, and that fiscal adjustment has been encouraging." (REUTERS, 8 Sep 99; via Russia Today)

The country has been denying rumors of an imminent debt default for several weeks, and is counting on the IMF tranche to top off reserves and help pay wage and pension arrears. The World Bank has also announced that it will release its next $100 million tranche.

At a campaign stop, President Kuchma explained another unique approach to avoiding debt default. He explained that once former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko is extradited from the United States to face embezzlement charges in Kyiv, the situation will be improved. Kuchma said that Lazarenko is believed to have stolen over $200 million from Ukraine, and when that money is returned it will be used to pay pension arrears. (UKRAYINSKE RADIO FIRST PROGRAM, 31 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0901, via World News Connection) Now, all they have to do is find that money. No problem. Sounds like a plan.

Back on the union track
According to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, work on the Union Treaty is being accelerated. (AGENCE-PRESSE FRANCE, 8 Sep 99; via nexis) Apparently, Lukashenka and Putin have a unique understanding of "accelerated."

Back in July, then-Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin arrived in Minsk and, to much fanfare, said, "The treaty with Byelorussia (sic) is ready. All will be decided within a month." He continued, "The treaty may be signed as early as this autumn [1999]." (NTV, 1200 GMT, 7 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0707, via World News Connection) Of course, that was one prime minister ago. Now, they're speeding things up to slow them down. Putin explained that Russia and Belarus will hold public referenda on the union question, but gave no dates for those referenda. (DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, 1343 CET, 8 Sep 99; via nexis) He said only that he "would like the signing of the union treaty to take place before the presidential elections." (AGENCE-PRESSE FRANCE, 8 Sep 99; via nexis) Those elections are scheduled for June of 2000.

When and if the referenda are held, it will be an interesting test, especially since the residents of Moscow may not be allowed to vote. The Moscow City Election Commission has refused to register a referendum submitted by State Duma member Nikolai Gonchar asking, "Do you regard it necessary that the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus unite into a democratic, federal and law-abiding state?". The commission ruled that the question violated Russia's constitution. Following accepted Russian form, the same question was accepted by the Kirov region election commission. (INTERFAX, 1310 GMT, 2 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0903, via World News Connection)

Regardless, union efforts move forward. "The Russian-Byelorrusian Union," Putin said, "is our historical chance and if we miss it -- this will be a mistake." (ITAR-TASS, 1835 GMT, 2 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0902, via World News Connection)

The rhetoric about Transdniestr continued this week from Russia, as President Boris Yel'tsin met with President Petru Lucinschi in Moscow. The meeting centered around the signing of an "economic cooperation accord," but included discussion about the remaining 14th Army personnel and weapons stationed in Transdniestr. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 2 Sep 99; via nexis)

Yel'tsin repeated previous statements that Russia supports a "united and undivided Moldova." (INTERFAX, 2 Sep 99; via nexis) That statement caused concern within the self-proclaimed Republic of Transdniestr. However, the statements are not new, and have never led to any change in the status quo.

Yel'tsin also proclaimed, "Not a single issue, and a lot of them piled up for us, remained hung-up or unresolved." (INTERFAX, 2 Sep 99; via nexis) Perhaps Yel'tsin forgot to tell this to President Lucinschi, who left with a number of unanswered questions. Neither Yel'tsin nor his spokesman explained when the remaining 2,500 Russian soldiers would depart the area, and what would be done with the nearly 40,000 tons of Russian weaponry still there. (INTERFAX, 6 Sep 99; via nexis).

Tiraspol has threatened renewed violence if there is any attempt to remove the weapons. After his meeting, Lucinschi noted that the number of weapons stockpiled in Russian depots are somehow "diminishing," although they have not been returned to Russia. (INTERFAX, 6 Sep 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via nexis) Yes, everything sounds completely resolved.

by Tammy Lynch

Whose mess is this?
For anyone who has ever owned a dog, this is not an unfamiliar question. One drags the offending and humiliated animal across the carpet to teach it that some things are bad. But if the puppy employed a speech writer, maybe his explanation would sound something like the following:

It was "a large-scale operation coordinated and agreed at a relatively high international level. It is aimed primarily against Russia, at expelling it from the Caucasus." That is how Ramazan Abdulatipov, a former deputy prime minister who was responsible for nationalities policy and is himself a Dagestan native, describes Shamil Basaev's raid on Dagestan. Giving a new spin to the domino theory, he continues, "whoever controls Avaristan controls Dagestan, and whoever controls Dagestan controls the Caucasus. Everything has been calculated to remove Russia from control of the resources of the Caspian Sea ...." (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 14 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0816, via World News Connection)

Similarly, Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov explained that conflicting geostrategic interests lie at the heart of the fighting in Dagestan. "There is a tremendous interest in the Caucasus which is a sphere of geopolitical and geostrategic interests of the whole world, the U.S. of course, West European countries and some others." (ITAR-TASS, 1546 GMT, 2 Aug 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0802, via World News Connection)

One newspaper gives a more precise accounting: Authorities in Makhachkala believe they have been betrayed by Moscow, left alone to fend off the advances of "Koran-toting long-beards, some kind of Arabs, and exotic Negros from the 'Islamic Way', the organization of Louis Farrakhan, an American equivalent of Movdali Udugov." (IZVESTIA, 11 Aug 99)

Even the level-headed Grigori Yavlinsky has urged the imposition of a state of emergency in certain districts to combat an international conspiracy. "An aggression of extremist terrorist forces, including international, is being staged against Russia." (TASS, 9 Sep 99; via nexis)

Other possible explanations include sponsorship by Osama bin Laden or Boris Berezovsky. Or perhaps the CIA, Louis Farrakhan, Boris Berezovsky, and Bin Laden are all in it together?

When asked if he has accepted money from those sources, Basaev commented that if he had sponsors with substantial means, "Russia would have ceased to exist long ago." In fact he evinces a comparatively clear-eyed view of reality: "The Russians claim that Dagestan is theirs. But is this how the state should treat its own population.... For a whole week, united in a single fist, the army and the Interior Ministry units have been pounding three small villages. What for? Because they want to live in a way different from theirs?" (LIDOVINY NOVINY, 9 Sep 99; via Johnson's Russia List)

Are Russian politicians looking for scapegoats? Are they trying to explain Russia's lack of military preparedness by reference to a vast array of powerful enemies? Do they believe their own propaganda? It's not possible to read their minds. All one can do is hope that a hand will reach out of the heavens, pick them up by their collars, drag them to Dagestan, and stick their noses deep into the mess they've made.

Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?
Do the presidents of some Caucasian states get certain ideas when they watch Shamil Basaev and Khattab repeatedly humiliate the Russian military? Surely Georgia and Azerbaijan have greater material resources than two Chechen field commanders. They also have international recognition, friendly diplomatic relations with the US and Turkey, and stacks of UN and OSCE resolutions proclaiming their territorial integrity.

At first glance it is somewhat surprising that neither the Shevardnadze nor the Aliev government has tried to use Russia's current preoccupation in Dagestan to reclaim their territory in either Abkhazia or Nagorno-Karabakh. Leaving aside the question of the use of force, surely their arguments against separatism are bolstered by Russia's current predicament. Yet, quite the opposite has happened. Both countries have softened their positions vis-a-vis the Russian-supported separatist movements.

In recent weeks Aliev has indicated his willingness to seek compromise on Nagorno-Karabakh through confidential one-on-one meetings with his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian. A series of three such meetings, initiated by the US and hosted by Switzerland, has for all intents and purposes replaced the OSCE process and has produced a subsidiary meeting of the respective defense ministers. Although the sides have revealed little substantive information about the content of the talks, rumors abound in both countries. Fears that Aliev has given away too much engendered substantial protests from the opposition political parties.

The format of the talks deprives Russia of the key role it had played under the earlier OSCE Minsk Group process. During his visit to the region, Foreign Minister Ivanov conceded that the new format has many advantages and agreed to abandon the "common state" formula. (ITAR-TASS, 0841 GMT, 3 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0903, via World News Connection) It is worth noting that the Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan has called for a return to mediated talks while Armenian and Iranian representatives have discussed the possibility of Iranian mediation. (AZG, 3 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0903, via World News Connection, and INTERFAX, 9 Aug 99; FBIS-NES-1999-0809, via World News Connection) Perhaps Aliev does not want to jeopardize the tenuous gains of the recent direct talks by taking any vigorous action.

Recently Georgia has likewise made important concessions to Russia by prolonging the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. For two years Georgia had conditioned the mandate's renewal on the implementation of a CIS decision by which peacekeepers would take on additional responsibility for resettling refugees and patrolling the disputed areas. The mandate's renewal without such measures represents a major concession. Some have reported that Georgia agreed only after having been advised to do so by Western powers. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 10 Sep 99) Perhaps the West has advised Shevardnadze and Aliev to pursue only very mild policies and not to seek any major gains. In the absence of Western support, the presidents hesitate to risk any decisive action.

During his visit to Georgia Ivanov displayed some of Russia's most offensive attitudes by insisting that the Russian military bases remain and that a portion of Georgia's CFE quota be transferred to Russia. In addition the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaders were given an indication of Russia's capabilities when unidentified planes bombed villages in Georgia and Chechnya in August. The Russian defense ministry initially denied responsibility for the strikes, prompting Izvestia on 27 August to report that a "UFO Bombed Chechnya."

by Miriam Lanskoy

Political repression in Uzbekistan produces repercussions in Kyrgyzstan

The groups of insurgents which began entering Kyrgyzstan's southeastern Batken District at the beginning of August appear to be composed primarily of Uzbek citizens who first fled to Tajikistan last spring in order to escape mounting political repression in Uzbekistan. In the wake of the 16 February bombings in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's President Islom Karimov began targeting not only opposition members themselves, but also their friends and families, arresting and detaining thousands of people throughout the republic.

Uzbek and Kyrgyz government spokesmen have claimed that the hostage-takers consist of Muslim extremists not only from Uzbekistan, but also from Afghanistan; they reportedly have ties to the Muslim rebels in Dagestan and are being partially funded by the internationally known terrorist, Osama bin Laden. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev went so far as to state that the insurgents' forces also include Arabs, Chechens, and Tajiks, while an article in an officially sanctioned Uzbek newspaper accused the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) of arming and supplying the hostage-takers. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 9 & 10 Sep 99, and RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 10 Sep 99) President Karimov recently told a group of foreign diplomats that the insurgents' actions in Kyrgyzstan are part of a much wider international Islamic conspiracy by Muslim terrorists whose ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 9 Sep 99)

By making these types of statements, President Karimov has neatly absolved himself and his government of any responsibility for the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbek president continues to ignore the fact that most of the insurgents appear to be from Uzbekistan, and that the few demands that they have thus far put forward in their negotiations with the Kyrgyz government are either for safe passage back to Uzbekistan or for the release of certain political prisoners being held by Uzbek authorities. Neither of these two requests supports the theory that the hostage-takers are merely agents acting on behalf of terrorist leaders outside the country: In fact, both demands serve to underscore the rebel groups' links to Uzbekistan. Furthermore, the insurgents appear to consist of a number of groups, not all of which are necessarily working together or represented by the man known as Tahmir Faruq or Azirsham, who thus far is the only rebel leader to have been identified by name. Faruq/Azirsham is said to be a member of Juma(boi) Namangani's extremist Muslim opposition group (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 7 Sep 99), but neither the Uzbek nor Kyrgyz government has thus far substantiated this claim. Faruq/Azirsham himself has also given no indication of what, if any, ties he might have to other opposition organizations.

In fact, thus far there is very little verifiable information available about who the insurgents are and precisely what it is that they want. They appear to have established ties to local Batken District residents, through whom they are able to buy food and medical supplies for themselves and their hostages. On the whole, the hostage-takers seem to be interested in preserving a good relationship with local residents and in obtaining their cooperation and sympathy. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 7 Sep 99) It is possible that some of the insurgents may have relatives among the local population, which could help explain why they chose to occupy that particular area of Kyrgyzstan. Their links to Tajikistan may also be more familial than political; while it may be true that individual members of the UTO are aiding the rebels, this may be more the result of family loyalty rather than political solidarity.

In any case, the insurgents' actions to date speak far more of a desperate need for food, shelter, basic medical attention, and the wish to return to their homes than of the desire to create an Islamic state in Central Asia. They have asked that they be permitted to return to their home republic, Uzbekistan, where they face certain arrest. Perhaps, in order to avoid further conflict and bloodshed, the Uzbek government should permit their return and begin coping with some of the more unpleasant consequences of its own policies.

Kyrgyzstan's crisis offers chance for expansion of Uzbek influence After three weeks of unsuccessfully attempting to locate and subdue insurgent groups which began penetrating its territory on 6 August, the Kyrgyz government has requested military aid from Russia. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 27 Aug 99) The Uzbek air force, apparently at the Kyrgyz president's request, had already taken action against the insurgents on 15 August, when Uzbek planes bombed a portion of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in Batken District, ostensibly in order to destroy the insurgents' forces. At least four bombs also found their way across the border into Tajikistan, landing near the town of Jirgatal, but fortunately causing no fatalities. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 17 Aug 99) In a second bombing raid on 29 August, Uzbek planes killed up to 12 local Kyrgyz residents and destroyed 40 houses, drawing a protest from the Kyrgyz government. The following day Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev made a statement in which he declared that Kyrgyz military forces were capable of finding and defeating the hostage-takers on their own, while Boris Silaev, the Kyrgyz first deputy prime minister, met with Russia's defense minister in order to discuss military aid options. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 30 & 31 Aug 99)

Over the past few weeks, the Kyrgyz government has rejected any further military assistance from the Uzbek government, but has allowed those Uzbek troops already on Kyrgyz soil to aid in the effort to subdue the insurgents. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev agreed to aid Kyrgyzstan against the rebels, but only in the form of military equipment and supplies. No additional Russian troops will be sent to Kyrgyzstan and the border guard detachments already there are continuing to proceed with their scheduled withdrawal. In recent days, the Kyrgyz government has claimed that it has driven all but 200-300 of the insurgents out of the country and back into Tajikistan. Unfortunately, the rebels continue to hold at least 14 hostages, including four Japanese geologists.

The Uzbek military, which is not renowned for its patience in these situations regardless of whether civilian lives are at stake, has been pursuing the strategy of finding and then simply destroying the hostage-takers, wasting no time on such niceties as hostage negotiation. The Kyrgyz troops, on the other hand, have repeatedly been ordered by President Akaev not to endanger the lives of the hostages. The Japanese government, which is one of Kyrgyzstan's most important financial backers, is quite concerned about the lives of the captive geologists and has set up an office in Bishkek solely for the purpose of handling the hostage situation. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 27 Aug 99)

President Akaev's administration thus finds itself in very delicate and potentially disastrous circumstances. Uzbekistan's troops are the strongest and best equipped in Central Asia, whereas Kyrgyzstan's army lacks adequate ammunition and equipment, which it now hopes to obtain from Russia. The area of Kyrgyzstan that the insurgents chose to invade is located in very mountainous terrain, and simply gaining access to the villages controlled by the rebels has been an extraordinarily difficult task. In the absence of Russian troop aid, the Kyrgyz government may be forced to rely on Uzbek units to neutralize the rebels, which could cost the lives of the hostages. Furthermore, the Uzbek government is clearly growing impatient with both Kyrgyzstan's military ineffectiveness and Tajikistan's seeming unwillingness to interfere with the insurgents. Shortly after the 15 August bombing raids, the Uzbek president, rather than apologizing for the damage caused by the four bombs that fell on Tajik territory, rebuked the Tajik government for being unable to exercise control over its own borders. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 20 Aug 99) On 9 September one of Uzbekistan's official newspapers directly accused the Tajik opposition of aiding the rebels in Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 10 Sep 99) Should the Kyrgyz military fail to gain a decisive victory over the hostage-takers soon, the Uzbek government may simply decide to act on its own initiative and launch additional bombing raids against the insurgents, both on Kyrgyz and Tajik soil.

The hostage crisis in Kyrgyzstan has made the Kyrgyz government's many weaknesses clearly visible, especially its shortcomings in the military sphere, and may have provided President Karimov's administration with a golden opportunity to expand both Uzbekistan's military and political influence in Central Asia. Claiming that the current crisis has put all of Central Asia at risk, President Karimov has a unique chance to demonstrate his country's military might to the other Central Asian regimes, none of which is capable of responding in kind.

Prospects for free and fair 1999 elections in Kazakhstan rapidly dimming

Kazakhstan is scheduled to hold elections for both its houses of parliament within the next several weeks. Elections for the upper house, the Senate, will take place on 17 September, while elections for the lower house, the Mazhlis, are slated to occur on 10 October. (TURKISTAN NEWSLETTER, 7 Aug 99) For a brief period, it seemed that these elections might offer Kazakhstan's main opposition parties a genuine chance to compete for political power. Amendments to Kazakhstan's election laws passed last summer reduced candidates' registration fees and eliminated the restriction which barred anyone who had been charged with an administrative offense within the past year from running for political office. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 20 Aug 99) In the face of these changes, hope was once again raised that such well-known opposition activists as Aqezhan Qazhegeldyn (leader of the People's Republican Party) and Petr Svoik (chairman of the opposition movement Azamat) might be permitted to participate in the parliamentary elections.

However, on 16 August Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission refused to register Petr Svoik's candidacy for the Mazhlis (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 17 Aug 99), and a few weeks later banned Qazhegeldyn and two members of the Workers' Party from the Mazhlis elections. Qazhegeldyn was found ineligible to seek parliamentary office, due to his having been held in contempt of court last year. Of the two Workers' Party members, one was prohibited from running for office due to his having been sentenced to one year in prison for insulting the honor and dignity of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the other because he had been convicted of placing flowers at the foot of a monument to Lenin. All of these crimes are considered administrative, rather than actual criminal offenses under the current Kazakh judicial system. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 9 Sep 99) A fourth opposition party member, Zhaqsybai Bazylbaev, who leads the Alash Party (a Kazakh nationalist party), withdrew his candidacy for the Mazhlis after he received a number of threatening telephone calls. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 8 Sep 99)

Thus, it seems that the current Kazakh government has no more intention of permitting genuine competition in the upcoming parliamentary elections than it did in the most recent presidential elections.

by Monika Shepherd

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