Scope and intensity of Kremlin cleaning eased; Berezovsky speaks
Amid flurries of rumor and speculation, many have wondered about the
likelihood and extent of President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin purge of Yel'tsin-era
officials. Several high-ranking figures were under intense scrutiny, particularly
Alexander Voloshin, the head of the Presidential Administration, who seemed
a likely target for firing. (IZVESTIA, 30 Nov 01; via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) Recent events have put this expectation largely to rest. Voloshin
has managed to retain his position. Moreover, in a significant ceremony,
Putin elevated former President Boris Yel'tsin to the Order for Services
to the Fatherland, First Degree. "I think this is right and symbolic
that it is in this particular surrounding that we are decorating the man
who has done so much for the CIS to be set up and gain strength...,"
Putin explained at the opening of the CIS meeting. (RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV [ORT],
30 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) As a Yel'tsin
era official, Voloshin may have received his unofficial acquittal in the
court of Putin's favor. The public's honors to Yel'tsin indicate that his
appointments are safe, for the time being at least.
Additionally, Putin has consolidated power further within the Federation
Council, following the resignation of Orel Region Governor Yegor Stroev,
who has served as the council's speaker for the past six years. It is important
to note that "Putin lavished praise on the out-going speaker,"
and that Stroev is not leaving office under pressure from the General Prosecutor's
office. (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
In fact, the deal which resulted in Stroev's resignation and his replacement's
nearly unopposed ascension mirrors in many ways Putin's own unexpected rise
to political potency. The new speaker of the Federation Council, Sergei
Mironov, is a former resident of St. Petersburg. He is expected to solidify
further the council's support for the executive branch. Since his "election,"
Mironov has suggested that the current presidential term might be extended
to five years (RUSSIAN TV, 8 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) The position of speaker for the Federation Council is understood
to be the third most powerful in Russia. This development leaves only Prime
Minister Kasyanov between the St. Petersburg Group and complete control
of Russia at this high level -- a fact not unnoticed by the pro-Kremlin
faction Unity. "All that remains is for [chairperson of the Legislative
Assembly's Budget Committee] Sergei Nikeshin to be named Prime Minister
and everything will be just fine," according to deputy Viktor Yevtukhov.
(ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
However, Kasyanov does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
He recently presided over the railways ministry's 2002 Investment Program
meeting, where he identified Minister Nikolai Aksonenko as a poor manager.
(Logically, Kasyanov could not serve as the implementer of Putin's will
in this case while at the same time being a target.) Aksonenko is an earlier
victim of Putin's Purge at the hands of the General Prosecutor's office.
Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies, said
it was unlikely that the railways minister would be imprisoned, despite
the threat of legal action: "They don't want blood, they need control
over the financial resources." (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 29 Nov 01; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database) While Aksonenko faces the harshest recent attacks
by the St. Petersburg Group, it seems unlikely that he will need to follow
his protégé, Boris Berezovsky, into exile. Thus not only the
scope, but also the intensity, of the purges appears to be lessening.
Berezovsky also has been in the media spotlight recently. Portraying
himself as an unappreciated visionary, Berezovsky said in a November interview,
"I'm convinced that those politicians who try to see forward and act
counting with the future are sure to be unloved." In the same interview
he cited the need for a viable opposition to Putin's domestic and international
agenda, and included this choice exchange:
"Berezovsky: Liberal reforms are incompatible with the authoritarian
system of government in Russia. It's necessary to return to the former political
system constructed by Yel'tsin.
Question: Do you mean oligarchic capitalism?
Berezovsky: Let's not discuss epithets. It is a fact that reformers have
managed to improve the situation in the country in the past 10 years by
means of large capitalists." (ARGUMENTY I FAKTY, 1 Nov 01; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database)
Putin responded through ITAR-TASS: "Society needs healthy political
competition more than a fruitless struggle which only weakens the state
system, spoils the authorities' image and distorts the basic democratic
principles." (ITAR-TASS, 1 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Although this comment was addressed to Putin's own supporters within the
Unity and Fatherland Union, it is probably the friendliest statement he
could issue on Berezovsky's vision. Then, on 4 December, Berezovsky published
an open letter to the Nezavisimaya gazeta newspaper in which he calls upon
"Voloshin, Anatoly Chubais, Mikhail Kasyanov, and others called 'the
Family' by Boris Yel'tsin's enemies" to resign en masse before Putin
can purge them, thereby creating the core of a new and powerful liberal
opposition to Putin. The grandiloquently worded letter also contained extensive
criticism of Putin's domestic and foreign policies and hearkened for a return
to the Yel'tsin era of governance. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 4 Dec 01; What
the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
No resignations have occurred to date. "Underappreciated Visionary"?
Perhaps. Critics have deemed Berezovsky's campaign to be empty of any real
ideology, and merely an attempt to recapture prestige for his own purposes.
(THE MOSCOW TIMES, 5 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) However,
in light of the fact that Putin has consolidated tremendous power, Berezovsky's
statements may still attract adherents.
by Michael Comstock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Services use 'war on terrorism' to expand their own scope
The security services of Russia are taking advantage of the "war
on terrorism" to expand their operations into Afghanistan. When Russian
Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov announced that Russia would continue its
goal of "liquidating the ringleaders" in Chechnya, he was drawing
a thin veil with which to shroud the recent activities of security elements
within Afghanistan. (ITAR-TASS, 0857 GMT, 6 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1206,
via World News Connection) On 26 November, 12 IL-76 military transports
landed and began to move in personnel from various ministries of the government.
(INTERFAX, 0802 GMT, 26 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1126, via World News Connection)
Included among the first representatives of the new Russian embassy are
members of the emergency ministry, federal security service and the foreign
intelligence service. This provides the leader of operations, Colonel General
Valeri Vostortin, many tools with which to further his mission of organizational
and restoration work while establishing contacts with the Northern Alliance.
(ITAR-TASS, 1529 GMT, 26 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1126, via World News Connection)
While denying reports that two airborne regiments were deployed along
with the embassy contingent, the Russian government has insisted that its
personnel are there solely to facilitate humanitarian missions. Although
this may be a priority for the personnel assigned to Kabul, it is not the
only one. There are early indicators that they have an additional tasking
Among the first 100 personnel to arrive in Kabul were members of the
GRU and SVR serving within the emergency situations ministry. They wasted
little time before commencing extensive searches of suspected Al Qaeda homes.
They are seeking evidence that will tie together Al Qaeda and various Chechen
leaders. Chief on their list of Chechen leaders suspected of cooperating
with Al Qaeda is the Saudi-born Khattab. (TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, 2 Dec
01; via lexis-nexis) The searches have yielded nothing that would connect
Khattab directly to Al Qaeda. (INTERFAX, 1735 GMT, 23 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1123,
via World News Connection) Despite this the GRU and SVR continue an aggressive
search program within Kabul in an attempt to gain information and to further
Russian influence within the coalition against terrorism. After all, as
an unidentified Russian intelligence officer said, "Afghanistan is
much closer to our border than it is to Britain and America. We have been
fighting Muslim terrorists for years." (TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, 2
Dec 01; via lexis-nexis) In this regard it can be assumed that Russia perceives
itself as playing a much greater role in the region in the future, and intends
to use the "war on terrorism" to further this objective.
by Mike Varuolo <email@example.com>
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Stroev certainly will not bite the hand that feeds him...
Since governors can no longer be members of the upper house of parliament,
Yegor Stroev, the governor of the Orel region, had to make a decision: give
up either his regional leadership or his position as chairman of the Federation
Council. On 29 November, Stroev asserted that "above all, he has to
be loyal to his people," and confirmed earlier reports that he would
not participate in the 5 December elections. (ORT, 29 Nov 01; www.ortv.ru)
As his replacement, he recommended Sergey Mironov, the St. Petersburg
legislature's representative to the Federation Council, whose candidacy
is believed to be endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mironov
worked with Putin in the office of then-St. Petersburg Governor Anatoly
Sobchak. It has been rumored that Putin recommended Mironov for the post
of legislative assembly representative to the Federation Council in the
spring of 2001. Mironov rejects those suggestions, but he does not deny
that some of his visions for the Federation Council fit with the president's.
The new chairman plans to focus on "economic questions, the budget
process, restructuring of industry, and tax policy," as well as "systematizing
Russia's legal field." To accomplish this, the frequency of meetings
will be increased to three per month. His statements also seem to support
Putin's propensity for centralization, although, unlike the president, he
would like to see Federation Council members elected rather than appointed.
(KOMMERSANT, 6 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Elected by a vote of 150 to 2, Sergei Mironov delighted many cynics with
one of his first pronouncements -- that the current four-year presidential
term in Russia should be extended by at least one year, to "allow for
a wider window of opportunity to carry out reforms in the country."
Mironov did include a disclaimer: "I would not say that such changes
would be made during Putin's presidency... I believe that four years is
not enough, whoever is the president," but most are convinced that
the Federation Council is now firmly under the control of the Kremlin. (ITAR-TASS,
10 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
...while the government will not protect those who criticize it...
Over the last few weeks, attacks on the employees of TV-6 have become
In October, the anchor of Zemlya-Vozdukh [Earth-Air] was stabbed twice
with a screwdriver (13 October) and TV-6 General Director Yevgeny Kisilev
was harassed (26 October) by "hooligans," the police maintain,
despite the fact that the hooligans themselves admitted that they were hired.
Then: On 19 November, unidentified persons threatened Sergei Bazhenkov,
the director of the Pilot TV company, which produces the program Tushite
Svet! [Turn Out the Light!], with physical injury. On 20 November, the
neighbors of Seichas [Now] correspondent Svetlana Kunitsyna stormed into
her apartment and brutally assaulted her. And on 25 November, the apartment
of Itogo [In Summary] anchor Igor Irteniev was robbed -- the burglary was
reported to have been strangely methodical.
On the night of 29 November, three men were waiting for Il'dar Zhandarev
in front of the elevator on the landing of his floor. They knocked him
off his feet, handcuffed him, taped his mouth and eyes and dragged him into
the stairwell. As they took his apartment keys out of his pocket they told
him that they were hired to do so, that his television shows -- Interesnoye
Kino [Interesting Cinema] and Bez Protokola [Without a Protocol] -- were
not to their liking, and that he needs to leave Moscow in two weeks. Zhandarev
was able to get to his feet and ring a neighbor's doorbell. In the meantime
the men stole $400, two cellular phones and a video camera from his apartment.
Police reports have been filed concerning all of the attacks and the
administration of TV-6 has asked the Moscow police department to analyze
carefully all of these assaults. TV-6 representatives do not dare accuse
the government of harassment -- instead they suppose that a rival company,
jealous of TV-6's recent success, is to blame. (NTVRU, 30 Nov 01; via www.ntvru.com)
A statement put out by TV-6 management, however, does accuse the authorities
of not taking any significant actions to stop the atrocities, and of upholding
LUKoil's actions to liquidate the television channel. (INTERFAX, 0605 GMT,
3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection)
...or don't support its preferred candidates
In the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Viktoriya-Press, a local newspaper critical
of the presidential election candidates, recently experienced both a boom
in circulation -- 205,000 copies -- and a surge of checkups by the local
prosecutor's office. Authorities even closed two radio stations belonging
to the same media company for a month on the pretext of paperwork (i.e.,
red tape while the stations sought permission to install a more powerful
transmitter) and arrested the general director of the company, Aleksandr
Glotov, and four journalists. In the prison cell Glotov had a heart attack.
No charges had been brought against him, and he was released from the prison's
hospital ward after signing a promise not to leave the city. (REN TV, 1000
GMT, 7 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Political mayhem in Yakutia
The election in Yakutia has been at center stage because the Kremlin
hoped to add the republic-controlled 32-percent packet of shares of the
ALROSA Diamond Company to the 32 percent already owned by the Federal Property
Committee in exchange for letting incumbent Mikhail Nikolaev run for a third
term in office. After Nikolaev refused, the Yakutian Prosecutor's Office
arrested several experts of his election staff, the Accounts Chamber has
accused him of embezzlement during the restoration of the city of Lensk,
and Vyacheslav Shtyrev, the head of ALROSA and a popular candidate who had
been eliminated from the presidential election for missing the registration
deadline, has been put back on the ballot. (IZVESTIYA, 3 Dec 01; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database)
Shtyrov has stated openly his opposition to the planned transfer of the
Yakut-held ALROSA stocks to a trust managed by the local Sakha-Invest Fund,
instead of the government, and expressed his willingness to cooperate with
the center. (IZVESTIA BIZEKON REPORT, 5 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets
ALROSA accounts for about 20 percent of world diamond production, provides
75 percent of the budget receipts in share royalties, and currently is negotiating
a $4 billion five-year agreement with De Beers. (VEDEMOSTI, 4 Dec 01; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database)
by Luba Schwartzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
NATO expansion (or is it enlargement?), Russia, and the rest of the story...
The evolving relationship between NATO and Russian remains a hot topic.
Over the weeks since the Bush-Putin meetings in Washington and Crawford,
Texas, the NATO-Russia relationship has taken center stage. Surprisingly,
this issue is getting more international press than any other, including
the ABM treaty status, nuclear force reduction, or even Russian contributions
to the "war on terrorism."
Chief among Russia's NATO suitors are British Prime Minister Tony Blair
and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson. (THE NIS OBSERVED, 28 Nov 01)
Initial proposals to deepen the existing working relationships between
the alliance and Moscow were nebulous to say the least. Prime Minister
Blair seized the initiative by making a bold proposal to institute a new
forum called the Russia-North Atlantic Council. (AP, 28 Nov 01; via yahoo.com)
The most interesting aspect of Blair's proposal is that it appears to have
come as a surprise to many of the 19 NATO members. (Jamestown Foundation
MONITOR, 28 Nov 01) Several alliance members, among them France and Germany,
appear to have been completely unprepared for Blair's radically more formal
relationship which envisioned a Russian voting role on some matters of NATO
policy. (ITAR-TASS, 1354 GMT, 30 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) Blair neither made it clear on which issues Russia might
vote, nor did he (more importantly) specify whether the Russians would have
the same veto power as NATO members. This issue has brought the most reaction
from alliance members.
In response, both Secretary-General Robertson and PM Blair have made
every effort to refine their proposals and to clarify their remarks. Robertson
visited Moscow on 23-25 November in an effort to solidify the growing relationship.
During the visit, he regularly affirmed the desire for NATO to deepen the
relationship between the alliance and Russia, and even committed NATO to
"represent no threat at all to Russia." (TV6, 1200 GMT, 23 Nov
01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) One noteworthy element
is that Robertson no longer refers to increasing NATO membership as "expansion"
but rather as the less-threatening "enlargement." (Jamestown Foundation
MONITOR, 5 Dec 01)
NATO has signaled its seriousness towards this new relationship by better
defining issues with which the Russians may play a role at the highest levels
of NATO. In a statement released at the end of the foreign ministers' meeting
at the North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO's highest decision-making body,
the issues for which Russian cooperative involvement is sought currently
were defined. Besides the struggle against terrorism, Russia and NATO suggested
that they could work together in such areas as crisis management, nonproliferation,
arms control, theater missile defense, search and rescue at sea, military-to-military
cooperation and civil emergencies. (AP, 7 Dec 01; via yahoonews.com) They
also moved closer to defining the so-called "19 plus 1" formula
for how the Russians would be given the right to vote, or to veto, in the
proposed new body. The NAC has deferred formalizing the new construct until
May when its next set of ministerial meetings is scheduled to take place
in Iceland. (REUTERS, 8 Dec 01; via yahoonews.com) There have been some
unsubstantiated reports in the press that the US, Poland, Hungary and the
Czech Republic have expressed the desire to slow down the formalization
of a NATO-Russian relationship. (REUTERS, AP, 7 Dec 01; via yahoonews.com)
However, it seems clear that from the NATO side there is concrete movement
towards a larger role for Russia in the alliance.
In Russia, however, Putin has been able to parlay the entire NATO issue
into another policy success for himself. He has kept the focus in his speeches
and press conferences on limiting the eastward expansion of NATO. (RIA,
0925 GMT, 29 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
He also has made it quite clear that Russia's movement towards NATO will
be on Moscow's terms. "....I would like to repeat again: Russia does
not intend to queue up for NATO membership," Putin said during a recent
public TV forum. (RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV, 1500 GMT, 22 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database) It is clear that he doesn't want to
seem too eager to be drawn into a Russian-NATO relationship not to his liking
nor one that he can't say is in the best interests of the state. It is
also unlikely that Putin will establish a broad NATO relationship at the
expense of bilateral relationships with individual NATO countries or allow
any close scrutiny of the Russian military. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 28 Nov
There has been remarkable solidarity in Russia concerning this rapprochement
with NATO. Even senior military leaders, who often have clashed with Putin's
military policy, appear generally to favor closer ties with NATO. During
some very pointed remarks General Staff Deputy Chief Colonel General Yury
Baluevsky said that he supported Putin's efforts and that "Moscow is
prepared to expand cooperation with NATO, as long as it is done under conditions
that safeguard Russian national security interests." (Jamestown Foundation
MONITOR, 5 Dec 01) Though Baluevsky was critical of Putin concerning possible
flexibility on the ABM treaty and reductions in warheads, he expressed the
defense ministry's general view that increased cooperation with NATO is
a good thing.
The future remains uncertain for NATO-Russian relations. However, there
are three major conclusions that can be drawn from the events so far. First,
the nature of the formal arrangements between the two countries will change
by the NATO ministerial meetings in Iceland next May. The particulars will
depend on events, personalities, and other exchanges occurring between now
and then. However, it is clear that the UK prime minister and the NATO
secretary-general want that relationship to be deeper and more formal.
Second, Russia, more specifically President Putin, is in no hurry to enlist
in NATO. He doesn't want to be tied down by the cumbersome alliance; it
is more useful to be courted and see what concessions he can garner in the
process. NATO's interest in Russia could be an effective springboard to
membership in the World Trade Organization or even increased levels of Russian
participation in the European Union. Finally, the US remains committed
to deepening its relationship with Russia. President Bush has stated repeatedly
his desire for increased cooperation with Russia and greater trust between
himself and Putin. However, a strong Russian presence in NATO dilutes US
primacy in Russian relations with the West and it introduces a complication
for US dominance in NATO. Though Blair and Robertson have claimed US support
for their initiatives, the US officials have been strangely silent regarding
changing the Russian-NATO relationship. How the US policy evolves will be
the lynchpin in its success or failure and will be the barometer to watch
until next May.
Russia in the Middle East -- stirring the pot...
In November Russian leaders met with King Abdallah II of Jordan. Abdallah's
visit was aimed at keeping Russia involved in the Middle Eastern peace negotiations.
The Jordanian monarch clearly stated that "Russia, side by side with
the USA and Europe must play a vital role to end the circle of violence
in the Palestinian territories and prepare the proper ambience to put the
peace process on the right track." (PETRA-JNA, 24 Nov 01; via ISI Emerging
The substance of the talks was limited, resulting in only a modest military-technical
agreement between the two countries which could result in a few million
dollars in arms sales, including some armored vehicles, tanks, and perhaps
some upgraded radar components for the Jordanians. (KOMMERSANT, 27 Nov 01;
BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The important aspect
of the meetings was the king's endorsement of a central role for Russia
in the Middle East peace process.
Abdallah views himself as the successor to his father King Hussein, and
in this role wants to be a voice for moderation, peace, and stability in
the region. However, he walks a fine line considering the large Palestinian
minority in Jordan and the fact that his reign is secured by a series of
alliances within his own country, most importantly with the Jordanian military.
It is crucial for Jordan to have Russia as a counterpoint to the dominant
US presence in the region.
It is also important for the Russians to play a major regional role.
First, by becoming a focal point in the volatile Middle East peace process,
Russia continues to push towards regaining the status of world power. Further,
by doing so Russia seems a significant player in an area where the US views
itself as the lead negotiator. Finally, active involvement in the Middle
East keeps Russia highly visible on the world stage, giving Moscow increased
prestige and power especially among developing nations.
King Abdallah and President Putin also touched briefly on both nations'
mutual interest in Iraq. In a joint statement, the two leaders said that
a continued push in the UN for a relaxation of sanctions and a concerted
effort to bring Iraq back into the family of nations is the "best approach."
(ITAR-TASS, 1052 GMT, 26 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) The meeting preceded the planned visit by Russia's ambassador-at-large,
Nikolay Kartuzov, to Baghdad.
During his Baghdad visit, Kartuzov expressed his desire to see sanctions
reduced and his opposition to altering existing restrictions on Iraq along
the lines of US-sponsored "smart sanctions" which are more flexible
and designed to increase or decrease pressure on Iraq depending on Baghdad's
compliance. (ITAR-TASS, 1202 GMT, 5 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) He also called the relationship between Russia and Iraq
"special" and hoped to see it continue to "deepen."
With the focus of US attention in its war on terrorism now turning towards
Iraq, this "special relationship" could prove to be a serious
sore spot in the thaw between Moscow and Washington. The Russian side has
long defended Iraq in the UN Security Council and has tried to torpedo sanctions
against Baghdad. However, if accusations made by the US that Iraq is supporting
international terrorism, or worse manufacturing and exporting weapons of
mass destruction, are proven publicly, then Russia may be forced to choose
between its old friend Saddam or its new partners in Washington.
by Scott Bethel <email@example.com>
Peacekeepers or occupation force?
Two years after Russia agreed to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova,
Moscow slowly is beginning to comply with the accords reached at the 1999
Istanbul summit by the Organization for Security and Cooperation on Europe
(OSCE). A substantial amount of the military hardware removed from Moldova
and Abkhazia is too old even to be sold, and will be scrapped or, in the
case of ammunition, exploded. According to OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff,
for the first time separatist authorities in Moldova refrained from preventing
OSCE mission members from reaching Kolbasna, as they have in the past, allowing
for the verification and inspection of the departing military trains. (ITAR-TASS,
1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline)
In Georgia, Russian troops are being renamed "peacekeepers"
at the Russian garrison at Gudauta. According to the Istanbul accords,
the base at Gudauta was to be turned over to the Georgian defense ministry
by July 2001. Instead, Russia merely has reclassified existing military
forces. (Of course, these are not peacekeepers in accordance with UN-recognized
definitions, since the units are composed entirely of Russian forces.)
This only impedes the peace process within Georgia. According to Georgian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikhuralidze, so far 375 servicemen from
the base have joined the "peacekeeping" force; there are still
600 Russian servicemen, 34 pieces of special machinery and 6 air-defense
systems at the base. "The stay of these servicemen in Gudauta is inconsistent
with the peacekeeping force's mandate because they are stationed outside
the security zone, which is far from Gudauta. Furthermore, Russia is ignoring
the provision of the Istanbul agreements under which the infrastructure
of the base must be handed over to the Georgian Defense Ministry,"
he said. (GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY STATEMENT, 16 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1116,
via World News Connection)
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the 1999 Istanbul commitments
concerning Russian troop withdrawal from Abkhazia have been honored "not
only de jure but also de facto." (INTERFAX, 5 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1105,
via World News Connection) Russia's view of "de facto" must be
different from that of everyone else present at the 1999 summit. In the
broadest definition of honoring the agreement, the basic assumption is that
sovereign Georgian troops would command the Gudauta base, which also could
support Russian peacekeeping forces if their presence was requested, which
of course it has not been. How effective have the Russian troops really
been in western Georgia? One recent example comes immediately to mind.
The Great Georgian Train Robbery
On a dark and stormy night, on 24 October, in the Georgian region of
Abkhazia, the first train robbery of the 21st century occurred. Gunmen
didn't just rob the military train bound for Russia, they stole it, along
with an undisclosed amount of Russian military hardware (including four
BUK surface-to-air missile systems worth an estimated 236 million rubles)
from the 50th Russian military base in Abkhazia. The alleged perpetrators,
according to Russian military personnel (who were unable to stop the hijacking),
were "armed Abkhaz men." In what can only be described as typical
"Keystone Cops fashion," the train left in an "unknown direction"
with lots of shots fired, but no one (miraculously) was injured. The entire
(600-strong) Russian garrison at Gudauta was unable to locate it for three
days. The train, along with the surface-to-air missile system, reportedly
was recovered, and subsequently departed for Russia on 3 November. (INTERFAX,
1156 GMT, 6 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1106, via World News Connection) It's
too bad no one thought to follow the train tracks.
Speaking of trains
Environmentalist groups such as Exotika and Greenpeace have long criticized
Russian handling of hazardous materials during transit. According to Exotika,
in Novouralsk in 1994 1,000 liters of a sulfuric solution containing uranium
accidentally spilt along the train tracks. But Energy Minister Alexander
Rumyantsev stated during a recent speech that "over the fifty years
of transporting nuclear materials not a single accident had occurred in
our [Russian] country." First Deputy Minister Valentin Ivanov also
refuted the Exotika allegations but did state that "all future details
surrounding trains and routes will remain secret." (IZVESTIA, 23 Nov
01; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Could the same
Russian guards who "lost" the train in Georgia have been reassigned
Northern Fleet shakeup
In one sweeping sickle-like motion, Russian President Putin has "purged"
nearly the entire senior leadership of the Russian Northern Fleet. The
shakeup occurred after a meeting between President Putin and Prosecutor
General Vladimir Ustinov (who has been heading the Kursk investigation).
The officers were dismissed, according to Navy spokesman Commander Vladimir
Kuroedov, for serious flaws "at all levels of the [Kursk] command system
and[those responsible for the] organization of training-combat activities."
Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov and Chief-of-Staff Vice
Admiral Mikhail Motsak headed the list of persons fired. All of the 14
senior officers dismissed were responsible for the planning, training and
combat readiness of the Kursk and her crew. Deputy Chief of the General
Staff Colonel General Vladislav Putilin and at least one Duma deputy, Andrei
Nikolaev, believe that underfunded military budgets often result in accidents
from poor combat readiness and added stress on military personnel. They
also predicted that more accidents are likely. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 4 Dec
01; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
President Putin also has stated that there is no substantiated proof
that the Kursk accident was caused by the collision with a foreign submarine.
Vice Admiral Motsak had been a vocal proponent of the foreign submarine
theory, seen by many as an attempt to shift responsibility away from the
navy, and to Russia's long-time enemies. But President Putin no longer
cites NATO as a threat to Russia, thus the need for a change of guard in
the Northern Fleet. (BBC, 1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline) Chief of the General
Forces General Anatoly Kvashnin stated that Popov and Motsak were punished
for general mistakes commanding the fleet, and not specifically for the
Kursk accident. (EKHO MOSKVY RADIO, 1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline)
Pacific Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Gennady Suchkov has been named as
the new Northern Fleet commander. (INTERFAX, 5 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline)
He will have his hands full leading the fleet away from the Cold War mentality,
while focusing on combat readiness, training and modernization issues.
In this case drastic changes in leadership were warranted, especially after
the continuous flow of negative media concerns on the state of the fleet.
In the submarine force alone, incidents have ranged from drunken brawls
to increased suicide rates to even criminal convictions of commanding officers.
Officers and gentlemen?
In many modern military, the officers are responsible for the health
and welfare of their troops, and are generally held to the highest standards
of personal conduct. According to Russian Military Prosecutor Justice Major
General Valery Suchkov, the "crime rate among officers is what worries
us. Over 100 officers were convicted [of crimes] over the last three years,
including 67 senior [officer] ones. The convicts include the commander
of a submarine force, two submarine commanders, and five unit commanders
... This year, we logged 17 corruption-related crimes. In percentage,
this is more than throughout the whole Far East Military District. Practice
shows that crooked officers act together with private organizations and
individuals dealing in equipment containing non-ferrous, rare, and precious
metals, etc." (BOEVAYA VAKHTA, 5 Dec 01; What the Papers Say, via ISI
Defense and Security Database) With over 100 Russian nuclear submarines
tied up, rusting away, is it any wonder that theft of nuclear material has
been a real concern? Although Russian officials are quick to say that such
theft is impossible in Russia, these acknowledgements continue to raise
doubts, rather then dispel Western fears.
In the West, the conduct of officers responsible for the safekeeping
of nuclear weapons and capital ships has been inseparable from the sanctity
of national security. If senior officers who controlled nuclear weapons
and ships were selling everything that wasn't nailed down, it would have
monumental national security implications. Evidently, not in Russia. And
what happened to those responsible for the mismanagement of the Northern
Fleet? Ex-Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov has been named
to a top post in the atomic energy ministry. (RIA-NOVOSTI, 1 Dec 01; via
by Walter Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Taken together,
the area is geographically quite large, and is home to hundreds of millions
of persons. Yet, it seems to have developed an odd habit of becoming invisible
during certain times -- at least on some maps. Today is one of those times.
Take, for example, the following statement from Lord George Robertson,
the secretary-general of NATO, regarding the new NATO-Russia Council: "We
are now united in the war against global terrorism," he said, "and
we have a mighty obligation and duty to make sure that we don't throw away
the fruits of that cooperation, but that instead we build on it, and we
build a lasting relationship that will be in the interests of the people
of Russia and the people of Western Europe as well." Lord Robertson
indeed must have a very unique map. (FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 23 Nov 01; via
The peoples of the former Soviet Union (and its former satellites), however,
are perfectly clear about their geographic position. Despite recent attempts
to tone down the rhetoric surrounding the new NATO-Russia rapprochement,
they have been left scrambling to figure out where they fit in now. For
Ukraine, the short-term answer has become painfully clear -- in the arms
Ukraine's turn eastward did not begin after 11 September, of course.
Since last year's Gongadze scandal, it has been to President Leonid Kuchma's
great advantage to curry Russian support. To do so, he began turning his
back on policies that his country had previously seen as vital to its independence.
Closer military cooperation and increased Russian participation in privatization
were just two benefits allocated to Russian President Vladimir Putin for
his assistance. Still, Kuchma remained committed -- at least publicly --
to Ukrainian economic independence and integration into Western organizations.
He and the rest of his administration seemed to remain relatively supportive
of the country's position as a regional leader, following through with plans
for the institutionalization of GUUAM. Much of this commitment was produced
by steady behind-the-scenes pressure from Western officials and organizations,
coupled with financial incentives. Ukraine was valued as a "counterweight"
to Russia. "Engagement" with the country was seen as vital in
the world of geopolitics. Not anymore apparently -- at least for some.
Since the terrorist attacks on the United States, Western (and in particular
West European) attention has shifted into Russian pacification mode. The
Russian "sphere of influence" -- roundly rejected when Boris Yel'tsin
proposed it in 1992 -- has been de facto recognized. Russia is thanked
for "allowing" US and British planes to use Central Asian bases
in sovereign states. Russia is limply criticized for dropping bombs on
two villages deep within Georgian territory. Russia is praised for finally
fulfilling one part of an agreement to withdraw from Moldova (removing armaments),
while little is said about its failure to fulfill the other part (removing
troops) At the same time, attention becomes so concentrated on integrating
Russia into NATO that any focus on the countries in this sphere is severely
diminished (or worse, filtered through the eyes of Russia). Consequently,
President Kuchma has placed Ukraine firmly under the Putin umbrella. Recently,
following a meeting with Putin, Kuchma suggested the need for "closer
integration of the former Soviet republics," and announced that "the
disintegration of the Soviet Union and the resulting borders have created
big obstacles in our life." (ITAR-TASS, 1510 GMT, 29 Nov 01; Federal
News Service, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Russian-Ukrainian military cooperation has increased most substantially
since 11 September. The two sides have completed draft agreements detailing
"interaction on the arms markets of third countries," undertaking
"research in the development of new weapons," and setting up "cooperation
in repairing, modernizing and testing warships of the two countries."
(ITAR-TASS, 1434 GMT, 1 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1201, via World News Connection)
Additionally, ITAR-TASS has reported that Russia soon will begin "upgrading
MiG-29s for the Ukrainian air force to MiG-29 SMT." (ITAR-TASS, 1312
GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection) And, there
have been calls by some Russian officials for joint command posts for anti-missile
defense forces. (A&G INFORMATION SERVICES, 22 Oct 01; via InfoTrac)
The impact on Ukraine's participation in the Partnership for Peace program
has not been discussed, although one would imagine that the changing world
environment could lead to changes in the program itself.
Meanwhile, the Russian government is pressing on with its timeworn calls
for the elevation of Russian to a state language, and is supporting the
new NTV-Ukraine television station, which will go on the air in January.
"We consider ourselves the junior partner of the Russians," owner
and media magnate Vadim Rabinovich said. "Making a new television
program," he explained, "we know that 99 percent of Ukraine's
people want to watch Russian channels and read Russian newspapers. Ukraine
and Russia form their own media spaces, but it is impossible to break these
ties." (INTERFAX, 1705 GMT, 30 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1130, via World
News Connection) It is unclear where Rabinovich found his figure of 99%.
And Rabinovich has not explained how he will avoid the Ukrainian law requiring
that all television channels carry over 50% of their programming in Ukrainian.
But then again, the Ukrainian government hasn't challenged him or his plans.
The West (with the exception of the United States) also has not challenged
any of Ukraine's latest policy moves, even when given a simple opportunity
to do so. For example, over two years ago, as Ukraine began contemplating
Chernobyl's final shutdown, the country faced an emergency in its energy
sphere. Its arrears to Russia for gas and electricity were increasing exponentially,
and the loss of the energy from Chernobyl's one remaining reactor would
exacerbate its dependence on its neighbor. In order to convince Ukraine
to shut down the reactor, the G-7 countries agreed to help fund the construction
of two new reactors. After years of delays and wrangling, this was finally
supposed to be accomplished when the European Bank of Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD) offered a loan of $215 million.
While the European wrangling continued, Russia began expressing an interest
in assisting in the construction of the reactors. At the time, Ukraine
shied away from Russia's offer. But over the last year, the EBRD has been
pressuring Ukraine to increase electricity tariffs. Unless the country
agreed to do this, the organization said, it would not release the loan
money. Last week, Ukraine refused to meet the condition, and said it would
instead accept Russia's offer. "Now that the world economy is slowing
down," Kuchma explained, "our major and most energy-consuming
industries have reached the breakeven point of their profitability. If
we raise the tariffs, this will bring Ukrainian industry to ruin."
He added, "But we are ready to hold talks [with the EBRD]."
(STB TV, 1700 GMT, 3 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Unfortunately, there would be no immediate talks, and at this point it
is unclear what the talks would accomplish. Shortly after Ukraine's announcement,,
the EBRD spokesman questioned "whether it is worth pursuing the project
in its current form." More importantly, when questioned about Russia's
involvement, he seemed uninformed. "We do not understand," he
said, "what Russia can contribute to the completion of the reactors,
which technologies or conditions." (ONE PLUS ONE TV, 1730 GMT, 5 Dec
01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging markets Database)
The EBRD may not understand Russia's future contribution, but the significance
of the EBRD's contribution should have been very clear. With Western financing,
Ukrainian reactors remain a Ukrainian project and a Ukrainian asset. Ukraine
would be given a small piece of energy independence. Without the financing,
the project becomes yet another Russian project on Ukrainian soil. The
EBRD's actions may ensure that this is exactly what it will become.
As NATO countries work to create a new relationship with Russia, it is
imperative that they not forget the countries in the middle -- the countries
that fought so long for independence. Indeed, this year, Ukraine has chosen
an eastward path. If Western countries continue to focus only on engaging
Russia, that choice likely will continue indefinitely. But if the country
is pressured and coddled and given the necessary incentives, it has some
of the greatest potential in the area, both domestically and as a regional
guarantor of stability.
Not so long ago, analysts and politicians asked, "Who lost Russia?"
It would be lamentable if, three years from now, those same analysts and
politicians found themselves asking, "Who lost Ukraine?"
Despite Alyaksandr Lukashenka's increasing attempts to silence members
of the media and opposition, a small group of dissidents continues to fight
for attention. Although in today's climate very little attention is forthcoming,
dissent persists. The family and friends of missing journalists and politicians
are among the most vocal.
On 9 December, 400 people formed a human chain -- called the "Chain
of Concerned People" -- in central Minsk during an "unauthorized"
protest. The wives of missing businessman Anatol Krasowski, opposition
leaders Viktor Gonchar and Henadz Karpenka, and journalist Dmitri Zavadsky
were among the protesters, and they once again called on officials to investigate
the disappearances of their husbands. Their calls fell on deaf ears, of
course. The wives suggest that even many Belarusian citizens seem to have
accepted Lukashenka's claims that he has no knowledge about the cases.
The wife of Karpenka, however, sadly predicted that in the future "many"
Belarusians will be forced to deal with "the questions that are now
haunting the families of the dead." (BELAPAN, 1506 GMT, 9 Dec 01;
BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
by Tammy M. Lynch <email@example.com>
More bombings in Pankisi
According to information provided by Georgian border guards, on the night
of 27 November Georgian territory was bombed by Mi-24 helicopters and Su-25
fighter aircraft. The planes intruded 50 km inside Georgian territory.
First, the village of Birkiani in Akhmeta District was bombed and then the
Mta-Tusheti province was attacked. Thirty-six shells hit the village the
Omalo alone. Villagers fled their homes and two shepherds reportedly were
According to Georgia's air traffic control, there is video evidence which
documents the movement of the aircraft. The air traffic control radar screen
recorded the violation of Georgia's airspace at 2120 local time [1720 GMT].
The duty controller noticed initially four and then another two aircraft
in the northern section of the country's airspace. "The six aircraft
entered Georgian airspace from the direction of Nalchik. At the end of the
20-minute operation, the group of fighter aircraft disappeared in the direction
of Russia. "
The bombed areas were inspected by officers of the Georgian State Border
Guard Department and the Ministry of State Security, as well as the president's
representative in the province of Kakheti. "The area was shelled with
NURS-type rockets. Anti-tank shells were also used," Korneli Salia,
chief of staff of the Georgian border troops, said. The fragments will
be presented to Russia.
Asked by the Georgian television correspondent, Giorgi Tskhvitava, "Do
you think it was Russian aircraft that bombed the area?" Salia responded
that, "No one else in this region has aircraft capable of flying at
night." (GEORGIAN TELEVISION, 1600 GMT, 28 Nov 01, and KAVKASIA-PRESS,
1150 GMT, 28 Nov 01; BBC Worldwide Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Georgia signaled that it was taking measures to protect itself against
future attacks. The country's armed forces were placed on combat alert
and anti-aircraft units were deployed in the Pankisi and Arkhoti gorges.
According to unnamed senior military officials, other defense ministry
units also will be deployed there in case of urgent needs to protect the
region. (GEORGIAN TV, 30 Nov 01; via BBC Worldwide Monitoring)
Shevardnadze in Moscow
While attending the CIS summit in Moscow, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze
said he had decided not to broach the subject of the bombardments at the
main meeting. He would discuss it privately in the now traditional one-on-one
meetings with the Russian president. Shevardnadze told journalists that
this was not the first time that Russian planes bombed Georgian villages,
that no one was hurt (in contradiction of earlier reports - ML), and that
he proposed a joint Russian-Georgian commission to investigate the matter.
Putin commented that "it is necessary to investigate this more thoroughly
and perhaps not even wait for the next time. We hope that nothing like this
will ever happen again." Then Putin went on to question, "what
kind of bombing was it if air strikes were delivered on settlements and
no one was hurt?"
Having said that, Putin segued into retelling dubious reports (emanating
from Russian security services) to the effect that Chechens and Arabs had
clashed in the Pankisi gorge. This, too, according to Putin, should be
studied carefully. (FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 30 Nov 01; BBC Worldwide Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The new joint commission may prove to be a convenient way to ignore or
suppress the ample evidence provided by Georgian border guards. Potentially,
it also could play a more sinister role, the one mapped out by Putin: It
could become the vehicle by which Russia gains access to the Pankisi Gorge
with Georgia's acquiescence.
In a post-summit interview with Moskovskiye novosti, Shevardnadze hinted
that an agreement with regard to Pankisi has been reached. "As for
the Chechen problem, Vladimir Vladimirovich is well aware of our difficulties
and he understands that we cannot conduct a large-scale military operation
in an area inhabited by civilians [with] 7,000 refugees, including militants.
But we worked out mechanisms for solving that problem together. I won't
tell you all the details, but the public in Russia and Georgia will soon
learn about it."
Shevardnadze also said that Gelaev's October excursion into the Kodori
Gorge was prompted by a "provocation." According to him "Gelaev's
people were told that they would leave Abkhazia for the North Caucasus through
a mountain pass. Instead, they encountered fire. I was told that Russia
had guaranteed them safe passage." Reportedly, Gelaev's unit could
not get to Russia from the Pankisi Gorge since that section of the border
is well-protected and -monitored. Hence, the promise of safe passage back
to Russia through Abkhazia enticed him to leave the Pankisi Gorge. (MOSKOVKKIYE
NOVOSTI, 4-10 Dec 01; Kremlin Package, via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
For more about the October incident see THE NIS OBSERVED, 24 Oct 01.)
Feeble international response
Although it was widely anticipated that US Secretary of State Colin Powell
would discuss the bombing of Georgian villages during his Moscow visit on
9-10 December, he apparently failed to do so. Last month, the State Department
statement indicated that US officials would raise the matter with their
Russian counterparts. However, there has been no indication in the US or
Russian media that any US figure, including Gen. Powell, has discussed these
matters with Russian authorities.
At the 28 November daily briefing, State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher commented that, "We have some confirmation that there were
helicopters that entered Georgian air space from Russian territory, subsequently
attacked areas on the Georgian side of the border in what's known as, I
think, the Pankisi Valley, Pankisi Gorge. There are unconfirmed reports
now of two deaths on the ground in the course of these attacks. We have
consistently supported the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of
Georgia. We are deeply concerned about these intrusions which undermine
stability in this region, and we've raised the situation at senior levels
with the Russian government in the past and will do so again in the near
On 4 December, the ministerial council of the OSCE discussed the events
in Georgia and adopted a decision. However, there is barely a mention in
regard to the two most serious issues for Georgia's security: the repeated
bombings of Georgian territory by Russian aircraft, and the refusal of the
Russian side to abide by OSCE-sponsored agreements to close its military
bases on Georgian territory.
The decision applauds Russia and Georgia for setting up a joint commission
to investigate the bombardments of Georgian villages. However, the OSCE
easily could obviate the need for this commission. The OSCE has a monitoring
mission on the border between Georgia and Chechnya. If the OSCE would make
public the results of this monitoring, it would shed light immediately on
the confusing and conflicting claims. This is precisely the purpose of
having an objective international presence in a volatile area. All that
the head of the OSCE mission to Georgia, Jean-Michel Lacombe, could bring
himself to say was "we have noticed some unusual movements and the
bombing of Georgian territory. " (GEORGIAN TELEVISION, 1600 GMT, 28
Nov 01; via BBC Monitoring) This reticence renders OSCE activities useless.
Now the OSCE ministers speak of expanding the border monitoring mission
to cover the Ingush segment of the border. This, too, will be futile if
their findings are kept secret.
Similarly, the ministers made no mention of the fact that Russia has
violated its promise to return the Gudauta base to Georgian control by 1
July 2001. Instead, the OSCE foreign ministers "look forward"
to an "early transfer" of the base to Georgian authority.
The decision says :
1. We express our firm commitment to support the independence, sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Georgia (....)
2. We welcome developments in the peace process in Tshkhinvali region/South
3. We reconfirm the leading role of the United Nations in Abkhazia, Georgia
and the importance of the Geneva process as the main framework of negotiations.
We condemn the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter on 11 October and urge
the honest fulfillment of all agreements, including, inter alia, the Moscow
Cease-fire Agreement of 14 May 1994. We call for the resumption of a constructive
dialogue aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement, including defining
the political status of Abkhazia as a sovereign entity within the state
of Georgia. (...)
4. We acknowledge the significant contribution to stability and confidence
in the region made by the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation along the border
between Georgia and the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. We direct
the Permanent Council to examine proposals to extend the Border Monitoring
Operation to the Georgian border with the Ingush Republic of the Russian
5. We welcome the progress made this year towards meeting the commitments
made in Istanbul on the future of Russian forces in Georgia. The closure
of the Russian base at Vaziani and the withdrawal of the equipment from
the Russian base at Gudauta were important steps forward. We look forward
to the implementation of the other Istanbul commitments. We call for the
resumption of the Georgian-Russian negotiations concerning the elaboration
of appropriate transparency measures with regard to the closure of the base
at Gudauta. We hope for an early legal transfer of the infrastructure of
the former Russian military base at Gudauta. We also look forward to an
early agreement on the duration and modalities of the functioning of the
remaining Russian military facilities. We welcome the contributions made
by Participating States to the voluntary fund to support the withdrawal
from Russian facilities, and agree to consider on an urgent basis proposals
from the parties for the use of the fund.
6. We welcome the aspiration to good-neighbourly relations and development
of co-operation that was manifested at the meeting between the President
of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze,
on 30 November 2001, as well as the agreement to establish a joint commission
to investigate the reported cases of bombardments in the border areas of
the territory of Georgia. (STATEMENT OF THE MINISTERIAL COUNCIL, DECISION
2, 4 Dec 01)
The decision barely mentions the UN helicopter that was shot down over
Georgia in October. The UN Observer Mission in Georgia refuted Abkhaz claims
that Chechens were responsible for the 8 October crash of the UNOMIG helicopter:
"[T]here is not enough of a basis for the conclusions made by the Abkhaz
probe into the disaster, in particular, for the statements that it was
downed by Chechen rebels from Ruslan Gelaev's group."
"Moreover, the results of the technical examination of the helicopter's
debris, which is now being conducted by the Ukrainian administration, are
still not known," the mission's press release says. "Before making
any conclusions, the UNOMIG thinks it fit to wait for the results of the
work of the above-mentioned commission...." ( INTERFAX, 1450 GMT, 30
Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1130, via World News Connection)
by Miriam Lanskoy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Democracy can wait
Several weeks ago, Kazakh Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev demanded
that several senior ministers, including the deputy prime minister, be removed
from their posts. Toqaev threatened that, unless the officials were dismissed,
he himself would resign. These ministers, have, with "considerable
regret" on the part of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, been removed
from their positions. (CENTRAL ASIA CAUCASUS ANAYLYST, 5 Dec 01)
The ministers were members of a recently formed movement, "Democratic
Choice," which mandates the formation of an independent judiciary as
well as an increase in parliamentary powers. Under the country's constitution,
support for such a movement is illegal, and members of the government must
"adhere to a single view." (FBIS-SOV-2001-1129, 29 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1129,
via World News Connection)
There are indications, however, that the forced resignations were not
simply the result of political intrigues between Nazarbaev, Toqaev and Democratic
Choice, but rather were part of a larger web of intrigue involving the president's
The president's son-in-law, Rahat Aliev, held the post of deputy chairman
of the National Security Committee, but was pushed to resign from this post,
supposedly because he had become estranged from Nazarbaev's daughter. (EURASIA
INSIGHT, 27 Nov 01; via Eurasianet) However, if Nazarbaev's relationship
with Aliev had become strained, it certainly did not remain so for long.
A mere four days after his resignation, Aliev was appointed deputy commander
of Nazarbaev's Presidential Guard. (CENTRAL ASIA CAUCASUS ANALYST, 5 Dec
The real reason for Aliev being shuffled around may lie in his links
to the media. Nazarbaev's family (but most especially his daughter, Dariga
Nazarbaev, and her husband, Aliev) own and control most of the country's
media organizations, including Alma Media, Kazakhstan Today, and the country's
leading TV Station, Khabar. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 27 Nov 01; via Eurasianet)
Several leading members of Democratic Choice had been trying, through outlets
favorable to them, to break that media control. It is obvious, since Aliev's
resignation on 14 November came days before Toqaev's ultimatum, that Nazarbaev
wished to ensure that his son-in-law remained politically untarnished.
While personally motivated tampering with the government is worrisome
in and of itself, the timing of such action provides the greatest pause
for thought. The attempt by Nazarbaev to tighten his power comes at a time
of great US involvement in Central Asia. Indeed, US Secretary of State Colin
Powell visited Almaty between 9 and 10 December and met with Nazarbaev,
less than two weeks after the purge of senior government officials. There
was every indication that the war in Afghanistan was discussed, but little
mention of the status of democratization. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 10 Dec 01; via
It was to be hoped that US involvement in the region would lay the foundations
for democratization. Tragically, it seems that the opposite is true.
by Fabian Adami <email@example.com>
Return to oppression, under the veil of counter-terrorism
As a full and committed partner in the "war on terror," Uzbekistan
stands shoulder to shoulder with the nations of the world fighting the common
enemy and keeping the world safe for freedom-loving peoples. At least that's
the claim of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his largely state-controlled
media services. However, behind the publicity shots and officially released
statements of "common goals" of "peace and stability"
lie sinister-looking signals of a return to authoritarian, and even dictatorial,
By now it is common knowledge that the October agreement between the
United States and Karimov included American security guarantees in exchange
for the use of military facilities for launching offensive operations against
the Taliban. However, this agreement seems to have sent the Uzbek president
a message that, with America looking after his external security, he could
focus entirely on internal security, and in any manner that he chooses.
As a result, since the 11 September attacks, and under the guise of fighting
terrorism, President Karimov has taken serious steps to solidify his power
for the long term and to restrict further basic freedoms in Uzbekistan.
Long a target for the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the
government in Tashkent has taken the 11 September attacks as the most recent
excuse to crack down on freedom of speech and religion. In an apparent
"house-cleaning" that stems from a failed 1999 assassination attempt
on Karimov, the Uzbek government has requested the extradition of dissident
and writer Mohammed Solih from the Czech Republic. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 4
Dec 01; via Eurasianet) Such tactics to eliminate opposition leaders are
common, as are claims of mass arrests and show trials with pre-determined
Beginning a governmental public relations offensive in recent weeks to
improve the image of his regime for the international community, the Tashkent
press has been complicit in publicizing Karimov's humanitarian strides,
both real and imagined. In his never-ending effort to be seen as an "enlightened"
despot, President Karimov recently supported legislation to cut the number
of offenses in the Uzbek criminal code that carry a death sentence from
eight to four. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 27 Nov 01; via Eurasianet) Opponents
and global activists still claim, however, that the death penalty is used
to oppress religious and political dissenters.
In his most recent gesture to the international community, President
Karimov reached a deal with US Secretary of State Colin Powell to open the
Friendship Bridge, connecting the Uzbek and Afghan banks of the Amu Darya
River. By opening the bridge, which had remained closed for four years,
President Karimov apparently has reduced the transit time for humanitarian
assistance between Termez, Uzbekistan, and the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif,
a major refugee center, by 10 days. (BBC WORLD SERVICE, 9 Dec 01; via BBC
Taken at face value, these two "humanitarian" gestures have
improved the quality of life for the people of the region, and demonstrate
a positive change in the often-criticized Karimov government. However,
not satisfied simply with the "quality" of his rule, President
Karimov has searched for some creative ways to get his hands on a more lasting
authority. On the eve of Secretary Powell's visit, the Uzbek parliament
endorsed a proposal to make Karimov "president for life." (EURASIA
INSIGHT, 7 Dec 01; via Eurasianet) While no doubt Secretary Powell was
impressed with the irony that the first American Congress had discussed
bestowing George Washington with the same honor, the secretary noted the
current state of political affairs in Tashkent. Despite offering assurances
that America's commitment to the region would be long-term, Powell voiced
concerns about human and political rights and the slow pace of democratization
in Uzbekistan. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 9 Dec 01; via Eurasianet) Secretary
Powell's words surely offer hope to the citizens of Uzbekistan and human
rights groups around the globe who, heretofore, have been somewhat alarmed
with the United States' apparent willingness to play quid pro quo with anyone
willing to help in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Despite these strong words by Secretary Powell, however, America has
a long history of mutually beneficial relationships with less-than-savory
governmental leaders. And as long as there remains utility in a relationship
with President Karimov, one shouldn't expect little things like "human
rights" or "democracy" to get in the American government's
way. While internally the state-controlled press continues to put Karimov's
spin on domestic and international affairs, the average Uzbek and informed
international observer can see clearly what has happened with increasing
frequency in Uzbekistan since 11 September. Suppression of basic freedoms,
elimination of enemies, and movements towards dictatorship seem to be in
fashion this season in Tashkent.
by Michael Donahue <firstname.lastname@example.org>
OSCE missions expected to close
As the OSCE offices in Estonia and Latvia prepare to close their doors,
these two Baltic states face one of the most serious challenges to their
bid for European Union (EU) membership and NATO accession. Both countries
have undergone immense scrutiny for their policies concerning the Russian-speaking
minorities who reside within their borders. Now the OSCE is content that
Latvia and Estonia are in compliance with acceptable standards; however
Russia adamantly rejects the OSCE claims and continues to assert that there
is a serious problem in the area.
In Estonia, the OSCE has monitored the situation since 1993, and feels
that the OSCE mission there has fulfilled its mandate. The mission points
to the decision to repeal the Estonian Language requirement for parliament
candidates as clearing the last stumbling block to full compliance with
the mandate. This stumbling block was removed on 21 November and it now
seems clear that the mission will be closed by the end of the year. (ETA,
1420 GMT, 26 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1126, via World News Connection) Meanwhile,
the situation in Latvia is not as clearly defined., Besides receiving sharp
criticism from Russia, the OSCE mission has come into conflict with the
Council of Europe and its findings. (BNS, 0745 GMT 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203,
via World News Connection)
The Council of Europe claims that Latvia is still not fulfilling its
human rights responsibilities. The latest charge is that the Latvia police
have been using methods of investigation that are incompatible with acceptable
standards, such as beatings, electric shock, and asphyxiation, when questioning
suspects. (LETA, 1421 GMT, 23 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1123, via World News
Connection) The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of
Internal Affairs have denied the accusations. However, these charges support
Moscow's claims that the Baltic states are not respecting the rights of
the Russian-speaking minorities.
The Russian foreign ministry, on 28 November, claimed that "European
institutions still have much serious work to do in Latvia." (BNS, 1028
GMT, 29 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1129 via World News Connection) The Foreign
Ministry goes on to note that the conference on bilingual education, held
in Riga the week of 21 November, shows that little progress has been made
in the area of education because the methods being used are unscientific
and undeveloped. Furthermore, the conference purportedly demonstrates that
there is a political voice within Latvia which the authorities cannot ignore.
Despite these recent public disagreements over the findings of the international
communities, the OSCE will consider the fate of its missions on 20 December.
(BNS, 0745 GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection)
The OSCE already has decided that the offices are no longer relevant.
Yet while the outcome of the meeting appears to be predetermined, serious
discussion may ensue as to whether the closing of these missions promotes
security and cooperation within Europe.
The debate could have far-reaching implications for Estonia and Latvia.
Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzin, alluded to the main issue at stake,
when he stated, "Russia's opinion on human rights in Latvia has been
different from that of the EU for a long time but Latvia sought membership
of the EU, not the CIS, therefore it is the EU position that matters to
the Baltic State." (BNS, 0745 GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via
World News Connection) Invitations to join the EU and NATO could hinge
on which perception of the human rights situation is believed. While the
OSCE decision would affirm its belief that acceptable standards have been
reached, the closing of the mission offices will not close the debate.
by Michael Varuolo <email@example.com>