The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume IV, Number 16 (18 October 1999)
Yel'tsin ill, defensive
Concerns over the state of President Yel'tsin's health resurfaced recently
as announcements about his need for a vacation were followed by news of
Yel'tsin's hospitalization with the flu. The president has been remarkably
low-profile since the start of the Chechen campaign, and this most recent
hospitalization raises new doubts about his governance of state affairs.
While he has been released from the hospital to recuperate at Gorki-9, the
question of just who is making critical political decisions remains open.
(INTERFAX, 1114 GMT, 11 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1011, via World News Connection)
One such decision is likely to result in another shake-up in the Kremlin
administration. Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, the president's representative to
the Federation Council, recently requested that the council take up the
issue of former Procurator-General Yuri Skuratov's dismissal. (ITAR-TASS,
1341 GMT, 11 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1011, via World News Connection) Khizhnyakov
was apparently prompted to this action by Kremlin Chief of Staff Aleksandr
Voloshin, who may well be sacked in the aftermath.
The Federation Council did vote on Wednesday, but chose once again not to
dismiss Skuratov. Skuratov, speaking to the council members, reiterated
his claims that corruption investigations reached the president's family.
The Kremlin press service issued a defensive refutation on Thursday, claiming
"The Russian president has never opened foreign bank accounts, and
he has never had, and doesn't have, any assets abroad." (UNITED PRESS
INTERNATIONAL, 1030 PDT, 14 Oct 99; via ClariNet) It should be noted that
Skuratov did not specifically mention the president and has, in the recent
past, remarked that Yel'tsin was not personally implicated in the investigations.
In a related story, the head of the Kremlin's economic management office,
Pavel Borodin, who is reported to be deeply complicit in the Mabetex corruption
investigation, spoke out last week to deny charges that he embezzled millions
of dollars. Borodin believes, as do most, that the investigations are politically
motivated and claims to "know who is ordering it." (INTERFAX,
1558 GMT, 8 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1008, via World News Connection) Perhaps
most interesting, considering the gravity of the allegations being launched
at the Kremlin, is Borodin's remarkable staying power. He may know a lot
more than just who is behind these corruption claims.
Security Council, Military-Industrial Commission meetings
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin presided over a 5 October meeting of the Security
Council at which the design of a new national security/defense concept was
debated. (ITAR-TASS, 0707 GMT, 5 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1005, via World News
Connection) Putin sounded the now familiar theme of the scourge of international
terrorism as prompting the need to reconsider means of protecting Russian
The following day, 6 October, Putin chaired a meeting of the Military-Industrial
Commission, which is tasked with the coordination of actions by the federal
executive organs in the development and financing of armaments and other
supports for the defense industry. There have been five previous meetings
of the commission, which is mandated to meet at least once a month; no details
of the agenda of this particular meeting were made available. (ITAR-TASS,
0723 GMT, 6 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1006, via World News Connection)
Chechen conflict spawns new government agencies
In an apparent effort to control media coverage of the military campaign
in and around Chechnya, Prime Minister Putin has ordered the creation of
an Information Center to provide reports and updates on events in the region.
The center will be run by a working group made up of personnel from the
new press ministry, the interior ministry, border guards, the State Television
Company, and the tax police, among others. (ITAR-TASS, 1657 GMT, 4 Oct 99;
FBIS-SOV-1999-1004, via World News Connection)
The prime minister has also decreed the creation of a special government
commission to oversee the "social rehabilitation" of the military-occupied
sectors of the Chechen Republic. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko
will head up the commission, which will initially deal with refugees displaced
by the bombings and later turn to re-building infrastructure. In announcing
the new commission, Putin stressed that Chechnya is still an integral part
of the Russian Federation. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 6 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1005,
via World News Connection)
Koshman appointed to 'liberated' Chechnya
Deputy Railways Minister Nikolai Koshman has agreed to become the Russian
government's representative to the so-called "liberated" areas
of Chechnya. (ITAR-TASS, 15 Oct 99; via nexis) Koshman, who will apparently
co-ordinate with the above-mentioned commission, is charged with supervising
the structures currently being established to consolidate Russian control
of the area.
Zdanovich: Terrorists hiding in Chechnya
Federal Security Services spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich stated definitively
on Saturday that the terrorists who carried out the September bombings in
Russia were currently hiding out in Chechnya, presumably in the sectors
not yet occupied by Russian troops. According to Zdanovich, "[T]hey
are in Chechnya right now because they were fulfilling orders that came
from there." (ITAR-TASS, 16 Oct 99; via nexis) Once again, the circular
logic which Russian officials apply to establishing the guilt and whereabouts
of the purported terrorists is on full display.
by Susan J. Cavan
Scandal prompts some concern over IMF tranche
The International Monetary Fund delayed a $640 million tranche of its most
recent loan to Russia in part due to fears that previous funds had disappeared
into privately held foreign bank accounts. Of $7 billion alleged to have
been laundered through the Bank of New York, investigators said they feared
at least $200 million had come from funds loaned by the IMF. (Associated
Press, 5 Oct 99; via nexis, and Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 1 Oct 99)
The accusations of money laundering unnerved Western bankers because evidence
suggested that both the Russian Central Bank and the Kremlin might be implicated.
Dispersal of the final tranche would depend on the Central Bank's willingness
to accept quarterly Western audits, switch to international accounting standards
and sell its stake in branch offices abroad. (INTERFAX, 0541 GMT, 30 Sep
99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0930, via World News Connection) IMF officials also said
they had been prompted to delay the loan by Russian reluctance to investigate
one of the banks believed to be involved. Although Central Bank chairman
Viktor Gerashenko called the IMF's demands "far-fetched and unrealistic,"
he said the bank would be willing to sell its international branches. (RFE/RL
NEWSLINE, 8 Oct 99)
Two Russians close to the Kremlin are suspected of money laundering. Leonid
Dyachenko, President Boris Yel'tsin's son-in-law, had two accounts in a
branch of the implicated Bank of New York. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR,
5 Oct 99) Sobinbank, alleged to have been at the heart of Russian money-laundering
operations, has on its board of directors Aleksandr Mamut, an advisor to
the head of Yel'tsin's administration. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 6 Oct 99)
Worries that the IMF tranche would help to pay for the war in Chechnya prompted
IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus to warn that if "the budget
is over-shooting because of an uncontrolled increase of military spending,
we shall interrupt our support." (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 13 Oct 99;
via ClariNet) The State Duma's conciliatory commission recommended a 22-percent
increase in the defense budget, while Duma Defense Committee chairman Roman
Popkovich said the conflicts in Chechnya and Dagestan would require an increase
in military spending of $4 billion rubles ($154 million). (RFE/RL NEWSLINE,
7 Oct 99)
'Clash of civilizations'? Russia's Chechen war wins friends in Middle
International reaction to the conflict in Chechnya showed no evidence that
the post-Cold War world order would break down along ethnic and religious
lines. The theory of "The Clash of Civilizations" might have predicted
that Muslim states would fall in behind their counterparts in Chechnya.
In fact, Russia's only critics were among the Western democracies. The Islamic
states offered almost no criticism -- indeed, Iran offered full-throated,
if somewhat hypocritical, support of Moscow's "anti-terrorist"
Western criticism was, admittedly, rather faint. A troika of European Union
commissioners on a 7 October visit to Moscow denied even the suggestion
that the EU had offered its mediation services (which Russia had, in any
case, pre-emptively rejected). (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 11 Oct 99)
US reaction was somewhat stronger. In his least optimistic assessment of
Russia to date, US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott admitted that
the future development of the Russian state was not inevitably towards liberal
democracy. The crisis in the North Caucasus was, Talbott said, "a moment
of truth for the new Russian state." (USIA, 1 Oct 99; via Johnson's
In the Middle East, on the other hand, the split between support or criticism
fell along strategic rather than ethnic or religious fault lines. Far from
condemning the oppression of fellow Muslims, the Iraqi government welcomed
Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny, pressing him to sign
new contracts to develop Iraqi oil fields in defiance of United Nations'
sanctions. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 8 Oct 99) Iranian Foreign Minister
Kamal Kharrazi praised Russia's campaign against terrorism and offered the
aid not only of his own government, but of the Iranian-led Organization
of the Islamic Conference as well. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 29 Sep 99)
Moscow uses grievances with American stance on ABM and Test Ban
Although American critics predicted that the US Senate's rejection of the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would provoke outrage abroad, the
Russian government was far more concerned to block all American attempts
to revise the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russian officials raised
the specter of nuclear instability and a breakdown of inspection regimes
required by other treaties. The Russians even suggested that they could
not be held accountable for their own actions if the Americans developed
and deployed a missile defense.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov began the international campaign with
a speech to the United Nations, in which he suggested that the ABM treaty
was a cornerstone of all arms control efforts, which would only remain feasible
"if the existing agreements in this field -- first of all the ABM treaty
-- are strictly observed." (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 1954 GMT, 21 Sep
99; via nexis) General Vladimir Yakovlev, chief of Russia's strategic missile
forces, went still further, suggesting that Russia would be forced to take
unspecified "countermeasures" if the treaty were abandoned. (AGENCE-FRANCE
PRESSE, 1308 GMT, 5 Oct 99; via nexis)
by Chandler Rosenberger
* * * * *
Don't worry, alliances are so passé
To assuage Western fears of a Russo-Chinese alliance, Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Grigory Karasin revealed that in Russia's view, axes, alliances,
and bilateral power struggles are "things of the past." (INTERFAX,
1754 GMT, 30 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0930, via World News Connection) In separate
interviews carried by the Russian and Chinese press, Russian President Boris
Yel'tsin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed the importance of a "new"
kind of partnership emerging with China based on mutual trust and multipolarism.
Both comments comes at a time when the press is abuzz with unsubstantiated
rumors about arms sales and alliances. (See The NIS Observed, 13 Sep 99.)
As with many rumors, they may contain some element of truth; although Russia
is far from forming an alliance with China, it is concluding some highly
visible arms and technology exchanges as well as improving the general trend
of its relationship with its neighbor. In this respect, the well-publicized
50th anniversary of Russo-Chinese diplomatic relations, recent joint naval
exercises, and friendly exchanges between Russian President Yel'tsin and
President Jiang Zemin are testaments to Ivanov's comment that "today
is the best period" of Russo-Chinese relations. (INTERFAX, 8 Oct 99;
via nexis) While the West shouldn't fear an old-fashioned, Cold War-style
alliance, a "new" Russo-Chinese partnership is emerging which
embraces multipolarism and a united voice on international issues. The policy
may be new, but the anti-Western tilt isn't.
by Sarah K. Miller
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE
The birth of another electoral bloc
It seems that anybody who is anybody has a political party or movement in
pre-election Russia these days. No wonder that the Kremlin wants one too.
In recent days, a seemingly spontaneous alliance of governors from 39 minor
regions has emerged which calls itself Unity (Yedinstvo), though its provenance
is linked to the Kremlin more directly that its leaders would like to admit.
The Kremlin connection is no secret. Yel'tsin pal and oligarch, Boris Berezovsky,
apparently has worked very hard to get this movement underway. He convinced
federal Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to head the movement. But when
an increasingly public tussle between the two became apparent, Berezovsky
suddenly departed for warmer climes in Italy and France to nurse a bout
of hepatitis. Berezovsky's removal from the scene might in fact have been
prompted by the Kremlin in order to forestall a Berezovsky-Shoigu rumpus
which might shake apart the nascent party.
In addition to the 39 gubernatorial signatories, a handful of minor parties
who are registered to participate in the upcoming election, is also involved.
This answers the vexing question of how a newly formed movement can participate
in the Duma elections after the registration dates are well passed.
Much effort and no doubt cell-phone airtime was spent trying to coax Our
Home is Russia (NDR) into the alliance, but to no avail. Former prime minister
and the once and present head of the Russian natural gas monopoly Rosneft,
Viktor Chernomyrdin, still wants to go it alone. It would seem that nobody,
even former friends, wants to associate with Boris Yel'tsin, reeking of
only two percent approval ratings. Unity continues to court several prominent
NDR politicians, however: Mikhail Prusak (Novgorod governor), Dmitry Ayatskov
(Saratov governor), and Vladimir Ryzhkov (leader of the NDR Duma faction).
But perhaps the biggest problem may be that, if Unity summons up a respectable
degree of popular support, it would most likely come at the expense of Fatherland-All
Russia, YABLOKO, and NDR. The beneficiary could only by Zyuganov's communists
and agrarians, or Zhirinovsky's xenophobic nationalists. (MOSCOW NEWS, 13
Oct 99; via nexis)
Luzhkov's wife set to run for the State Duma from Kalmykia
Yelena Baturina, better known as Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's wife, has decided
to run for election to the State Duma from Kalmykia. Luzhkov supports her
She is, of course, welcome to run for office, but her independence from
her husband and his politics cannot but be subject to question. Those who
wish her ill will of course look for some sign that her run for office is
a simple attempt to gain parliamentary immunity, especially in light of
ongoing claims that her company, Intenko, was involved in illegal activity.
(See The NIS Observed, 4 Aug 99.)
Others may wonder why, if she desired to sit in the Duma, she did not run
from some Moscow district where she would most certainly have received favorable
treatment by the city government. Or, why not from Vladimir where she is
well known and has business connections? It appears that her brother, Viktor
Baturin, works in Kalmykia as the state advisor to the president of Kalmykia.
Previously it was he who represented Yelena Baturina's Intenko firm which
built Chess City -- the Russian chess capital. Her connections seem to be
everywhere. She is not a member of Luzhkov's Fatherland, though; her party
affiliations are as unclear as her reasons for running. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA,
21 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0921, via World News Connection)
by Michael DeMar Thurman
Russia-China military partnership growing
Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Mikhail Zakharenko led a two-ship visit
to Shanghai, China in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding
of the People's Republic of China. Also on the five-day visit's agenda were
meetings between Admiral Zakharenko and the Chinese Eastern Fleet commander
to discuss future cooperation in military affairs. The visit ended on 6
October with both Russian and Chinese warships leaving for a one-day exercise
at sea. (ITAR-TASS, 0620 GMT, 27 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0927, via World News
Connection) The exercise was not intended to be a demonstration of military
power, but it did constitute another step in the continuing process of "confidence-building
measures." Russia-China relations have been warming over the past decade
after a bitter 1960s split. (See The NIS Observed, 27 Sep 99.) Russian arms
sales to China are brisk as China's military moves towards modernization
with the goals of projecting power and influencing events throughout the
Western Pacific. The arms sales also provide a source of hard cash to Russia's
economy and help Russia's arms industry to stay afloat. Russia and China
believe they can mutually benefit from their partnership and challenge US
dominance in international affairs.
Budding friendship on the Black Sea?
Russia and Ukraine recently completed their second joint naval Black Sea
exercise, code-named "Peace Fairway-99." The neighboring countries
held their first joint naval exercise in 1997. This year, seven warships,
a submarine, combat aircraft, helicopters, and 150 marines represented Russia,
while two corvettes, a combat plane and helicopter represented Ukraine.
The ships conducted live fire drills, antiair and antiship exercises, as
well as search and rescue operations. They also landed marines in support
of a simulated peace-keeping operation. (ITAR-TASS, 1621 GMT, 22 Sep 99;
FBIS-SOV-1999-0923, via World News Connection)
The atmosphere between the two navies has shown marked improvement. In 1997
officers from both navies grumbled of being "ordered to be friends,"
however, the atmosphere in Peace Fairway-99 was more amicable. (Mayak Radio
Network, 1207 GMT, 24 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0925, via World News Connection)
The more friendly atmosphere may be the result of a series of agreements
between the countries which include division of the former Soviet Union
Black Sea Fleet, debt payments, Ukraine leasing shore infrastructure to
Russia, radio frequency usage, customs issues, and even medical assistance
to veterans and pensioners. (MOSKOVSKY KOMSOLETS, 8 Jun 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0608,
via World News Connection) Perhaps the Russian sailors will forget the one
week last winter when Ukraine halted supplies of water and electricity to
the Russian fleet at Sevastopol after Russia's debt to Ukraine reached 13
million rubles. (See The NIS Observed, 15 Feb 99.) As a tenant in Ukraine,
Russia can only benefit from a positive working relationship with the Ukraine
navy. Perhaps the Russian sailors will have a winter of uninterrupted water
Lethal missile boat in the works
Russia intends to test launch the supersonic SS-N-22 Sunburn antiship missile
from a prototype Molnia (Lightning) missile patrol boat designed by the
Almaz central sea design office and built by the Vympel shipyard in St.
Petersburg. The Molnia is a follow-on to the successful Soviet Tarantul-class
missile boats. The Molnia is intended for the export market and is expected
to displace approximately 550 tons, slightly more than the Tarantul class.
(ITAR-TASS, 1533 GMT, 28 Sep 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0928, via World News Connection)
The Sunburn missile has a top speed of Mach 3, the fastest flying speed
among all antiship missiles in the world. Due to its high speed, a defending
ship's reaction time is limited to 25-30 seconds, making it extremely challenging
to employ electronic countermeasures or shoot down the incoming missile.
In comparison, the French Exocet antiship missile, successfully employed
by Argentina in the Falklands conflict, gives an opponent about 120-150
seconds reaction time due to its much slower speed. (NOWA TEKHINKA WOJSKOWA,
March 1995; JPRS-UMA-95-023, via Military Analysis Network) Due to potential
buyer interest ,Vympel has already commenced construction of four Molnia
boats. Vympel can only sell its patrol craft to foreign buyers since it
is unlikely the Russian navy will procure new equipment in the near future.
High-speed missile patrol boats would be suitable for many coastal nations.
The boats' relatively small size enables them to blend in with coastal merchant
and fishing traffic, making them difficult to locate and target. With a
skilled operator, Russian-built patrol craft armed with Sunburn antiship
missiles would be a significant threat to any seagoing adversary.
by LCDR James J. Duke Jr.
* * * * *
Summary of Russian military operations in Chechnya
On 1 October, Russian defense and interior ministry troops began ground
operations in Chechnya. These operations follow fighting in Dagestan last
month when Chechen militants crossed into Dagestan in an attempt to establish
an independent Islamic state. Russian forces were deployed into Dagestan
to stop the militants and forced them to retreat back into Chechnya. Additionally,
Russia has labeled these same militants as "terrorists." blaming
them for the recent spate of apartment bombings in Russia.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has identified two official objectives
for military operations. The first goal is to establish a security zone
around Chechnya to contain the militants and prevent their penetration into
neighboring territories: Stavropol Krai, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia,
and Georgia. The second objective is to destroy the militants/"terrorists"
and their ability to conduct operations against Russian interests and citizens.
Unofficial, but no less real, objectives most likely include a desire to
regain some credibility after the humiliating defeat of Russian forces during
the 1994-96 Chechen War, and a Russian need to re-establish a firm presence
in wavering North Caucasus territories. Putin made an intriguing statement,
that Russian forces would further "liberate" Djokhar-gala (Grozny)
if "real Chechens" request it. (BBC WORLD BROADCASTS, 1600 GMT,
12 Oct 99; via nexis) "Real Chechens" refers to a group of pro-Moscow
Chechen parliamentarians. (See further information under Caucasus section.)
Ground operations followed an aggressive air campaign over Chechnya which
Russian military leaders openly stated was patterned after the NATO air
campaign in Kosovo. (MOSCOW TIMES, 29 Sep 99; via nexis) Russian military
targeted militant camps and strongholds, logistic depots and routes, communications
infrastructure, and sources of militant financing. Russian officials reported
up to 50 sorties a day were flown primarily by SU-24 bomber and SU-25 attack
aircraft. Specific targets have included oil refineries, a television station,
a cellular phone exchange, and militant camps. Also destroyed was the Chechen
Air Force: one biplane and radar site at the Grozny airport. The "militant
camps" included villages in the Sharoi, Vedeno, Nozhai-Yurt, Gudermes,
Achkoi-Martan and Uras-Martan districts. Air strikes were also conducted
in the northern Shelkovskaya and Naurskaya districts in preparation for
the planned Russian ground offensive. It now appears, with the initiation
of the ground offensive, that the air campaign has changed from a strictly
strategic focus to more of support to ground operations. Strikes are still
occurring on strategic targets -- railway nodes, bridges, and targets along
the Terek River and in northern Chechnya for instance -- but they seem to
coincide more precisely with ground objectives and operations.
Russian ground forces moved in largely unopposed and now occupy the northern
third of Chechnya down to the bank of the Terek River. These defense ministry
forces are made up primarily of elements of the Russian 58th Army, North
Caucasian Military District, commanded by Lt Gen Gennady Troshev. Russian
forces are reported to number approximately 50,000 against an estimated
20,000 Chechens. (INTERFAX, 1332 GMT, 3 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1003, via
World News Connection) The 58th Army units are supported by interior ministry
law enforcement, lighter armed troops and border guards from the Federal
Border Guard Detachment at Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia. The federal border
guards have secured the southernmost sector of the Russo-Georgian border,
reinforcing control over key mountain passes and transportation routes.
Specifically these include the Dzheirakh and Zheyrakh gorges and accesses
to the Georgian military and Transcaucasus highways. Russian forces have
established forward lines along the northern bank of the Terek River in
northern Chechnya and defensive lines along the Chechnya-Dagestan border.
These defensive lines are described as three deep on the Dagestani side
of the border. The first line is made up of interior and joint police troops.
The second and third lines are composed of defense ministry forces. (INTERFAX,
0648 GMT, 3 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1003, via World News Connection) Federal
forces accompanied by artillery are also positioned on the western Chechen
border with Ingushetia. Fighting with Chechen forces has been reported along
the whole spectrum between fierce and light. The Chechens seem to be picking
their battles, retreating into the mountainous regions and then conducting
hit-and-run tactics. Last week the Russians reported they had surrounded
and had within their grasp Shamil Basaev, one of two leaders of the militant
cause, but apparently he slipped out. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 12
Oct 99) The most intense fighting to date, as acknowledged by both sides,
was on 7-8 October when Chechen forces crossed the Terek River and engaged
Russian forces on the northern bank in a four-hour battle around Ishcherskaya.
Russian military officials admitted to seven soldiers killed and 37 wounded.
Chechen killed and wounded figures were not announced.
Casualty figures difficult to ascertain
An accurate count of Chechen casualties, both civilian and militant, is
difficult to obtain. It is, however, safe to assume that civilian casualties
have been fairly high since a majority of air strikes have been carried
out in civilian-populated areas. Civilian casualty numbers, more so than
militant numbers, vary widely between Russian and Chechen reports. The Chechens
report numbers on the high side in order to exploit them as sympathetic
propaganda. The Russians, on the other hand, keep them low in order to maintain
support for military operations. Militant casualties are particularly difficult
to determine accurately. Because of the nature of guerrilla-type warfare,
it is often difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, the civilians
from the combatants. In addition, each side manipulates the numbers to gain
perceived "win points." Russian casualties vary between 156-243
troops (defense and interior) killed since fighting began against Chechen
militants in August, with over 800 wounded. So far, reports are between
30-40 dead since the Russian offensive in Chechnya began 1 October.
So what happens next?
Currently Russian forces are firmly entrenched in northern Chechnya. Will
they cross the Terek and move south to the capital? Yes, the indications
are they will, for two reasons. First, they left the door open to do this
in their objectives. They want to destroy the militant threat in Chechnya
and, according to Russian leaders, Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov has
openly sided with the militants, declaring martial law and a "holy
war" against Russian forces. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE (North European
Service), 1456 GMT, 5 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1005, via World News Connection)
Second, there is the real question as to whether Russian forces, now that
they occupy Northern Chechnya, can sustain that occupation indefinitely
under current conditions. The realistic answer is no, despite the Russian
leadership's recent assurances of increases in the defense budget. For these
two reasons, credibility and sustainment, Russia perceives it must take
definitive actions to secure Chechnya and place it firmly back into its
by Lt Col Jill Skelton
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
The same old stagnation
Despite the diplomatic fanfare that accompanied the CIS summit in October,
once again another CIS summit has accomplished very little. For all of its
resolutions and joint programs, the main impediments to a functioning Commonwealth
endure; Russia remains a domineering voice and implementation is scarcely
ever realized. Such was the case on 8 October in the famous seaport Yalta,
where CIS prime ministers and foreign ministers met to discuss the CIS Free
Trade Zone (FTZ) and international terrorism.
The FTZ issue has plagued the CIS since the April 1994 summit at which it
was first introduced. Even now, despite several members' approval of the
conditions for an FTZ, Russian opposition prevents its establishment. At
the most recent summit, the members signed some FTZ documents which gave
the impression that some progress was made. But, on closer inspection, the
documents mean little as long as Russia continues to conduct economic practices
that prevent it. Specifically, Russia objects to taxation of the country
of destination rather than the country of origin on goods shipped amongst
CIS members. This measure would make the FTZ partners WTO-compliant, which
could break Russia's monopoly on CIS-produced goods. According to Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia is just acting "within the CIS on the
basis of its own national interests." (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR,
11 Oct 99) By doing so, Russia is not only carrying out its own interests
but sabotaging other member states' efforts -- with Ukraine at the helm
-- to create an FTZ. And yet, given the poor CIS implementation scorecard,
even with Russian support it is unclear how quickly FTZ could resuscitate
inter-CIS trade, which is already down by one-third since last year. (ASSOCIATED
PRESS, 8 Oct 99; via yahoo.com) Regarding the CIS joint initiative to combat
international terrorism, a similar story unfolds. Only a week after a joint
session of CIS interior ministers decided to create an ad hoc anti-terrorism
center, Putin announced that the CIS prime ministers were "unable to
announce any new anti-terrorism measures." (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 8
Oct 99; via nexis) In their haste to sign anything indicative of their resolve
to fight terrorism, the interior ministers failed to devise the functional
aspects of the new center, a problem that the prime ministers were not able
to resolve either. Regardless, the CIS prime ministers and the CIS foreign
ministers reaffirmed their intent to combat international terrorism within
Once again, the CIS has taken on reasonable tasks and had agreed on little
more than their theoretical importance.
by Sarah K. Miller
The next textbook written about how to hold a free, open, fair and effective
election should undoubtedly begin by saying, "Don't do it like Ukraine."
While the country has succeeded in amusing international pundits with its
Keystone Kop routines, its election process has descended into name-calling,
mudslinging, media suppression, apathy and now, assassination attempts.
On 2 October, two hand grenades were thrown at candidate Natalya Vitrenko
as she was stepping into her car after a speech to supporters in Krivoi
Rog (eastern Ukraine). Vitrenko was only slightly injured, but over 30 others
were more severely hurt, including a teenage girl who lost one of her legs.
(ITAR-TASS, 1953 GMT, 3 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1003, via World News Connection)
Immediately, the finger pointing began. Fellow presidential candidate Oleksandr
Moroz was involved. No, it was President Kuchma. Or, maybe it was Vitrenko
herself. Better yet, it could have been a NATO plot. Well, actually, no
one in Ukraine has pointed at NATO -- yet.
The one thing that is certain is that two men were arrested at the scene
and charged with a terrorist attack. There seems to be little doubt that
these men threw the grenades; the real question is who ordered them to do
it. As of press time, the person named as having ordered the attack is Sergei
Ivanchenko, the head of Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz's campaign
staff in Krivoi Rog. Sergei Ivanchenko's brother, Vladimir, was arrested
at the scene, along with Sergei Samilov. Both men arrested are reported
to be residents of Rostov in Russia, and were seen by numerous people throwing
the grenades at Vitrenko. Almost immediately after being arrested, the men
reportedly gave police Sergei Ivanchenko's name as the person who planned
the attack; he is currently on the run, and was last seen in Rostov.
It seems to have been very easy for police to solve this mystery, in a country
with an abysmal record for solving crimes against well-known individuals.
It is possible that the men involved simply do not possess the brightest
criminal minds. Or, the answer could be found somewhere in the statements
made by a number of presidential candidates following the attack.
Oleksandr Tkachenko was the most blunt in his response to the attack, calling
it "the work of the incumbent president's staff." (ITAR-TASS,
0956 GMT, 4 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1004, via World News Connection) In response,
President Kuchma ominously stated, "Remember that the thief always
shouts, 'Catch the thief!'" (INTERFAX, 1611 GMT, 4 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1004,
via World News Connection) Meanwhile, Moroz claimed that the attack was
aimed at derailing the joint candidacies of the "Kaniv Four,"
four leftist candidates (including him) who had joined forces to campaign
against Kuchma, and who, he said, had "confused all the plans of Kuchma."
(UNIAN NEWS AGENCY, 0930 GMT, 4 Oct 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts,
via nexis) However, candidate Oleksandr Bazilyuk noted that "every
candidate would benefit from a failed assassination attempt." (ITAR-TASS,
0956 GMT, 4 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1004) Vitrenko, for her part, covered
all of her bases by suggesting, "I will not blame or protect anyone.
I am aware that each of the presidential candidates wanted me removed from
the political arena." (INTERFAX, 6 Oct 99; via nexis) That statement
was undoubtedly the truest spoken.
Perhaps part of the answer to this mystery will come only when the world
sees how strenuously the two men in custody are prosecuted, and if the police
make a vigorous effort to catch both Sergei Ivanchenko and anyone to whom
he may be reporting.
Meanwhile, the population of Ukraine has yet another reason to distrust
its politicians, political system, police and justice system. "There
is an overwhelming sense," stated an editorial in the Kyiv Post, "that
the case simply won't be solved." Perhaps even more sadly, the editorial
noted, "The circus-like atmosphere ... has led to the public not taking
the assassination attempt on the nation's leading presidential challenger
seriously." (KYIV POST, 14 Oct 99) The country's electoral and justice
systems, and the teenage girl who now has one leg, are, it seems, the real
casualties of this attack.
Bringing it to the people
This week, the residents of Belarus and Russia were able to see at last
what all the fuss is about. They finally were able to read the draft treaty
for the Russia-Belarus Union. As expected, the reaction of ordinary citizens
was muted, to put it mildly.
On 8 October, the treaty was published in Russia's Rossiyskaya gazeta, and
in certain un-named Belarusian press. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,
who has become one of the loudest and most ebullient supporters of the treaty,
called its publication the first step toward unification of the countries.
"I think history," he said, "is giving the two nations a
chance to be together and we should not lose it." (INTERFAX, 8 Oct
99; via nexis) Unfortunately, this excitement was not matched by most others
in the two countries, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Lukashenka said the
treaty did not go far enough, and continued his calls for merging the two
countries into one state with one government.
The governors of several Russian regions also voiced questions about the
draft treaty document, which includes broad general calls for a "common
economic space," "a single currency," and a "common
market." (ITAR-TASS, 1838 GMT, 11 Oct 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts,
via nexis) Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Ishaev said the treaty seems to be
"simply an extension of our good-neighborly relations with a sovereign
independent state." Not surprisingly, the president of Tatarstan was
more blunt in his assessment of the draft: "What kind of state will
this be, which will 'form a single economic space,' a 'single currency'
and a 'single body of power,' while each member will preserve full sovereignty?
What is this -- a wish to be a little pregnant?"
In reality, this much-heralded draft treaty seems to be almost identical
in character to the simple outline for unity signed by Presidents Lukashenka
and Yel'tsin in December 1998. For all their discussions and work on the
document, no specifics were created, and the actual "union" seems
just as far off as it did almost one year ago. There is one exception, however.
The two countries have now signed nine documents on military cooperation.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said the agreements "stipulate
the creation of a single regional anti-aircraft defense system, [and] the
drafting of a joint armaments program." (ITAR-TASS, 1329 GMT, 6 Oct
99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1006, via World News Connection) It seems that Russia
has achieved what must be its primary objective, without even creating the
union. Lukashenka will undoubtedly be waiting for his single union state
for quite a while longer.
Fingers on the triggers
The president and parliament edged closer to a showdown this week, as President
Petru Lucinschi continued with his plans to hold a referendum soon that
would substantially increase his power. Lucinschi has insisted that more
presidential powers are needed in order to overcome the country's financial
crisis. At present, the president has little ability to issue decrees or
executive orders, and has limited say in the formation of his cabinet.
Lucinschi had signaled that he would accept a compromise with parliament,
in lieu of a referendum, but no progress appears to have been made on that
compromise. Therefore, it seems -- at least for now -- that a referendum
will be held before the end of the year, asking Moldovans to amend the constitution
and make their country a presidential republic. With the exception of the
rights to appoint his own prosecutor-general and his own cabinet and to
issue more decrees, Lucinschi has not elaborated what other powers he would
be granted in this referendum. It is also entirely unclear, in a country
where a majority of citizens did not vote in the last regional elections,
whether the people will support him.
However, it is no secret that the president and parliament have been locked
in a struggle that has resulted in three cabinets in the last year, and
a virtual stop to government activity. The government has been unable to
deal with electricity and food shortages, and has been unable to unify its
position on the situation in Transdniestr. Can a presidential republic be
much worse? We may have the chance to find out before the start of the 21st
by Tammy Lynch
You've come a long way, baby!
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott addressed Russia's policies in
the Caucasus during a talk he delivered on 1 October at The John F. Kennedy
School of Government. The speech shows that, unlike the "see no evil"
posture which the administration adopted in 1994, this time around, it has
noted with disapproval the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Chechnya
and the discriminatory policies of the Moscow authorities which expel dark-skinned
people from the capital. Talbott termed the latter "not just an ugly
and atavistic development but an ominous one."
In closing his speech, Talbott advised the Russians to find a negotiated
solution. Peace will only come to the North Caucasus when the population
feels "as though they are
invested in Russia's future." This long-term goal requires "opening
a political dialogue with the more pragmatic leaders in the North Caucasus,
not antagonizing them or their populations." (USIA, 1 Oct 99; via Johnson's
While outlining these admirable goals, Talbott failed to specify what policies
the US will adopt to attain them. Clearly, by "pragmatic leaders"
he means Aslan Maskhadov, the democratically elected president of Chechnya,
recognized as such by President Yel'tsin. Will the American diplomats press
this point as Prime Minister Putin cobbles together a puppet government
under Malik Saidullaev? The members of this government were elected at gunpoint
in 1996 and their term expired in 1998. All of them reside in Moscow and
would be in grave danger if they actually tried to return to Chechnya. Clearly,
negotiations with Saidullaev as the Chechen representative would be a farce.
Still, there are indications that this is precisely the direction in which
the wind is blowing. Will Secretary Talbott dare to call a spade a spade?
Will NATO insist that Russia honor its treaty commitments?
On 8 October US State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that
Russia complies with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty in the
overall ceilings, but has exceeded the flank limitations. "We are talking
about many, many hundreds of pieces of equipment over the limits in the
armor-combat-vehicle category," Rubin said. (US DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
PRESS BRIEFING #128, 8 Oct 8 99; via www.state.gov) He also pointed out
that Russia has been exceeding the treaty limitations "for some time,"
which implies that the violations pre-date the war that started in September.
Clearly, if Russia violates a part of the CFE treaty, IT VIOLATES THE TREATY,
and it hardly matters that it is in compliance with its other provisions.
Moreover, Rubin's remarks betray a kind of great power arrogance that has
persisted even as empires have crumbled: "The Russians have promised
to provide us additional information about their military activities in
Chechnya with regard to these treaty limitations." The sentiment echoed
in Russia, as Col-Gen Leonid Ivashov said that Russia was notifying NATO,
India and China about it's treaty violations. As long as the "big boys"
exchange information, the smaller states have nothing to fear. "We"
are not the ones that require full disclosure; the treaty violations don't
jeopardize the security of US borders. Russia owes explanations and assurances
not just to the major world powers but to its southern neighbors, Georgia
The head of the main directorate of international military cooperation of
the Russian defense ministry, Col-Gen Leonid Ivashov, discussed these matters
at an 18 October press conference, saying essentially that the treaty violations
should be treated "with understanding" because they are brought
on by "extraordinary circumstances" and the signatories had been
informed of the infractions. (INTERFAX NEWS AGENCY, 1036 GMT, 15 Oct 99;
Under the terms of the treaty, given the extraordinary circumstances, Russia
may notify other signatories that it is withdrawing from the agreement.
Russia is unwilling to take that course because it would allow NATO to alter
the ceilings on the territories of its new members. Instead, according to
Ivashov, Russia stands ready to convene "an extraordinary conference."
Clearly the Russian side would use a meeting of that sort to legitimate
an even greater military presence in the Caucasus. In 1996 Russia convinced
the other signatories to re-negotiate the 1990 treaty to increase the number
of armaments it can deploy on its northwestern and southern flanks. On that
occasion the West steamrolled over the vehement objections of Russia's neighbors
-- Ukraine, the Baltic states and the Caucasian states -- the parties most
directly threatened by increases of weaponry near their borders. There is
the danger that the upcoming OSCE meeting in Istanbul, which was expected
to finalize the treaty, could become yet another round of CFE revision.
Amnesty International issues appeal to Russian government
In a 1 October statement Amnesty International protested the loss of civilian
lives, the unfolding crisis of internally displaced persons, and the "propiska"
or residency permit system in the capital. The policies recommended by the
human rights body would protect civilians and bring Russia in compliance
with international human rights legislation. The following represents a
partial and slightly edited list of the measures listed in the report. (EUR/46/34/99,
1 Oct 99)
· The Russian military should take sufficient precautions to protect
civilians in selecting and vetting targets, in choosing the timing of its
attacks, and in giving an advance warning to civilians.
· As a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Russia should
abide by its promises to honor international human rights legislation.
· The government should immediately take steps to recognize all civilians
fleeing the conflict area as internally displaced persons and provide them
with the necessary services.
· The government should take measures to stop the campaign of intimidation
against Chechen civilians and other people from the Caucasus.
· The Russian authorities should hold a comprehensive and impartial
investigation into the allegations of targeting civilians and civilian sites
in the course of the bombing of Chechnya and bring all military and government
officials responsible to justice.
by Miriam Lanskoy
Kyrgyz, Uzbek planes bomb rebels in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
During the first few days of October unmarked planes dropped several bombs
on rebel groups in southern Kyrgyzstan, as well as in the Garm, Tajikabad,
and Jirgatal districts of eastern Tajikistan. Kyrgyz Presidential Press
Secretary Kanybek Imanaliev told journalists on 4 October that the bombing
raids were undertaken jointly by the Uzbek and Kyrgyz air forces. (RFE/RL
NEWSLINE, 4 Oct 99) The same day, a spokesman for the Uzbek foreign ministry
informed ITAR-TASS that his government had no knowledge about the bomb attacks
on eastern Tajikistan, in which a number of people were killed. (RFE/RL
NEWSLINE, 5 Oct 99) The Tajik foreign ministry sent an official letter of
protest to the Uzbek government on 6 October, condemning the raids which
may have dropped as many as 80 bombs on Tajikistan's eastern districts.
(RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 7 Oct 99)
This is the second time in recent months that the Uzbek air force has attacked
Tajik territory, apparently both times with the approval of the Kyrgyz government,
and it does not bode well for the way in which future Central Asian conflicts
will be resolved. The Uzbek government has already repeatedly demonstrated
how little respect it has for the sovereignty of its neighbors' territory,
and although the Kyrgyz government has thus far succeeded in retaining control
over its ground operation against the rebels, it may not be for much longer.
In recent days, Uzbekistan's President Karimov once again openly criticized
the tactics being used by the Kyrgyz military, in a televised address to
his country's citizens. He expressed disdain for the Kyrgyz leadership's
lack of resolve in neutralizing the rebel groups and stated that the insurgents
should be destroyed, not simply forced back into Tajikistan. President Karimov
made this statement shortly after announcing that he had canceled a planned
12 October trip to Bishkek. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 14 Oct 99)
Kyrgyz government claims success against rebels on two fronts
Despite the fact that Kyrgyz government officials have steadfastly denied
they would engage in any type of discussions with rebel group leaders in
southern Kyrgyzstan, it seems that the "unofficial negotiations"
which parliament representative Tursunbai Bakir Uulu and human rights activist
Tursunbek Akunov have been conducting with the insurgents have finally borne
fruit. Although news reports differ dramatically on precisely which hostages
have been set free, as many as seven may now be able to rejoin their families,
including a number of policemen and the commander of Kyrgyzstan's interior
ministry troops. The fate of the four Japanese geologists is still unknown.
A number of reports indicate that the kidnappers are demanding $2 million
in ransom in return for their release. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 18 Oct 99) However,
an anonymous source in the Kyrgyz security services claimed that they had
been set free on 16 October in a village close to the Tajik border. (INTERFAX,
1751 GMT, 16 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1016, via World News Connection) The
rebels claim to have killed one hostage some time before 4 October, according
to Mr. Bakir Uulu (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 15 Oct 99), perhaps as a reprisal for
the bombing raids conducted against the insurgents by the Uzbek air force.
The Kyrgyz government has claimed complete victory over the rebels on the
military front. On 16 October General Abdygul Chotbaev, who has been supervising
the military operation against the insurgents, informed press agencies that
the rebel groups had been pushed entirely out of Kyrgyz territory. (ITAR-TASS,
1259 GMT, 16 Oct 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-1016, via World News Connection) However,
if the rebels are continuing to hold the Japanese geologists hostage, a
fact on which all news sources except the unnamed Kyrgyz security force
official seem to agree, then it is too early to proclaim the rebels' defeat.
Furthermore, for nearly the past two months the insurgents have been able
to cross the Kyrgyz-Tajik border at will, despite the increased security
measures which both the Kyrgyz and Tajik governments have allegedly taken
in order to seal the border. This would indicate that the rebels' current
retreat may be only temporary.
by Monika Shepherd
Parliamentarians lend support to Chechnya
Members of the three Baltic parliaments have spoken out in defense of Chechens
during the current bombing raids by Russia, much as the Balts had done during
the Chechen war a few years ago. Vytautas Landsbergis, chairman of the Lithuanian
Seimas, issued the strongest statement, condemning the Russian actions and
voicing his suspicions of Moscow's stated goal -- to eradicate terrorism
-- and of the bombings in the Russian capital that have been cited as precipitating
the attack on Chechnya. "[I]f the Russian leaders had been planning
such actions and an invasion, then the bombing of residential houses in
Russia was simply needed to build up the public opinion for such actions
not only in Russia but in the West as well," he said. (BALTIC NEWS
SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 27 Sep 99) Landsbergis rejected attempts
by journalists and politicians to compare US and NATO air raids against
Yugoslavia, Iraq and militant Moslem groups in Afghanistan with Russian
attacks on Chechnya. His colleagues in the Seimas, including the secretary-general
of the International Parliamentary Group for Chechnya's Problems, also condemned
Russia's actions, and have called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to participate
actively in the initiation of peace talks. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT,
1600 GMT, 28 Sep 99)
Reflecting its neighbor's commitment to keep the Chechens' plight in the
forefront of international attention, the Latvian Saeima also has a support
group. According to MP Juris Vidins of the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK party,
the support group's main goals are to achieve Chechnya's de jure recognition
and to speak out on behalf of Chechnya in the Council of Europe. (BALTIC
NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 7 Oct 99)
Concern for the plight of the civilians being bombed also came from Tallinn.
A statement issued by the Estonia-Chechnya parliamentary caucus advises
Moscow to heed calls by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to begin negotiations
to end the crisis. "We don't want to see a sequel to the aggression
committed against the Chechen people in 1994-1996 and to genocide...,"
the statement reads. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 27 Sep
99) Estonian President Lennart Meri reiterated his countrymen's hopes of
a quick start to peace talks, and voiced the belief that the OSCE and the
UN should take a public stand on the war. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT,
1000 GMT, 6 Oct 99)
The talk of the town
Language continues to be the subject of discussion, as reports are published
about fluency levels. One of the saddest commentaries about such fluency
comes from Estonia, where the Ministry of Education recently reported that
less than one-third of the 110 headmasters in the country's Russian-medium
schools can speak Estonian at the level required for educators. (BALTIC
NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 20 Sep 99)
The international community continues to lend assistance with much-needed
language classes. Estonian Education Minister Tonis Lukas announced a cooperative
venture with Canada concerning the teaching of Estonian to non-Estonians.
Four joint language teaching projects are planned for the coming year, Lukas
said. In addition, Canada is sponsoring a school for Russian students, with
Estonian as the language of instruction, in the predominantly Russian-speaking
populated city of Narva. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1800 GMT, 24
Sep 99) Moreover, the Denmark foreign ministry state secretary announced
an additional grant of US$100,000 to Latvia for a national language program.
(BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 20 Sep 99) International interest
remains quite apparent: During a meeting in New York, where she was attending
the UN General Assembly, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga met with
several of her counterparts, as well as with UN Secretary-General Koffi
Annan, to discuss the country's controversial language law, which she returned
to parliament for revision this summer.
With the number of language programs now in existence or planned, however,
it appears that an absence of will may be the largest stumbling block for
those who do not speak the official language of their countries of residence.
Many may believe (in defiance of reality) that the squeaky wheels will get
not only grease but also, perhaps, a revocation of the language laws. Toward
that end, Russian-speaking politicians plan to protest in court one aspect
of Estonia's language law which prohibits election posters in Russian. The
argument, according to the electoral alliance People's Trust, is that the
Language Department is depriving non-Estonian citizens of the right to obtain
information in a language they understand. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT,
1800 GMT, 20 Sep 99) The eagerness of Russian-speaking citizens to participate
in the electoral process is admirable, but that admiration is offset by
concern about their apparent unwillingness to participate in the society
in which they live.
Clearly, language is not the only obstacle that the Baltic countries must
overcome to achieve integration of Russian speakers into society. And it
is not simply a problem involving older, settled persons. A poll conducted
by the Baltijas Datu Nams company noted feelings of estrangement on the
part of students attending Russian-language schools in Latvia. Only one-third
of the students polled considered themselves to be part of Latvia's community.
Still, fluency levels apparently are higher in Latvia: Most headmasters
are fluent in the state language and 74 percent of Russian-speaking schoolchildren
also can speak the language quite well. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT,
1300 GMT, 21 Sep 99)
by Kate Martin