Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy


• • • • •

The ISCIP Analyst


Behind the Breaking News


Publication Series

• • • • •


Lecture Series


• • • • •

Search The ISCIP Analyst (formerly the NIS Observed):

The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume VII Number 7 (17 April 2002)

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Michael Comstock
Security Services by Fabian Adami
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Luba Schwartzman
Foreign Relations by Scott Bethel
Armed Forces by Walter Jackson

Newly Independent States

Western Region by Tammy Lynch
Caucasus by Miriam Lanskoy

Central Asia by Michael Donahue

Baltic States by Michael Varuolo

Links will not function until page is completely loaded.
Search Back Issues    Subscribe to NIS Observed

Back Issues

Volume XII
No.1 (27 January 2006)

Volume XI
No.4 (08 December 2005)
No.3 (17 November 2005)
No.2 (03 November 2005)
No.1 (20 October 2005)

Volume X
No.9 (11 August 2005)
No.8 (26 July 2005)
No.7 (8 June 2005)
No.6 (25 April 2005)
No.5 (6 April 2005)
No.4 (25 March 2005)
No.3 (4 March 2005)
No.2 (11 February 2005)
No.1 (31 January 2005)


Volume IX
No.19 (9 December 2004)
No.18 (10 November 2004)
No.17 (28 October 2004)
No.16 (15 October 2004)
No.15 (29 September 2004)
No.14 (15 September 2004)
No.13 (18 August 2004)
No.12 (4 August 2004)
No.11 (15 July 2004)
No.10 (23 June 2004)
No.9 (12 June 2004)
No.8 (12 May 2004)
No.7 (28 April 2004)
No.6 (8 April 2004)
No.5 (26 March 2004)
No.4 (5 March 2004)
No.3 (19 February 2004)
No.2 (06 February 2004)
No.1 (23 January 2004)


Volume VIII
No.20 (11 December 2003)
No.19 (20 November 2003)
No.18 (7 November 2003)
No.17 (24 October 2003)
No.16 (10 October 2003)
No.15 (25 September 2003)
No.14 (12 September 2003)
No.13 (22 August 2003)
No.12 (10 August 2003)
No.11 (10 July 2003)
No.10 (18 June 2003)
No.9 (28 May 2003)
No.8 (7 May 2003)
No.7 (23 April 2003)
No.6 (9 April 2003)
No.5 (26 March 2003)
No.4 (5 March 2003)
No.3 (19 February 2003)
No.2 (5 February 2003)
No.1 (22 January 2003)


Volume VII
No. 20 ( 18 December 2002)
No. 19 ( 4 December 2002)
No. 18 (20 November 2002)
No. 17 (30 October 2002)
No. 16 (16 October 2002)
No. 15 (25 September 2002)
No. 14 (11 September 2002)
No. 13 (21 August 2002)
No. 12 (24 July 2002)
No. 11 (10 July 2002)
No. 10 (12 June 2002)
No. 9 (22 May 2002)
No. 8 (1 May 2002)
No. 7 (17 April 2002)
No. 6 (3 April 2002)
No. 5 (13 March 2002)
No. 4 (27 February 2002)
No. 3 (13 February 2002)
No. 2 (30 January 2002)
No. 1 (16 January 2002)


Volume VI
No. 20 (12 December 2001)
No. 19 (28 November 2001)
No. 18 (7 November 2001)
No. 17 (24 October 2001)
No. 16 (10 October 2001)
No. 15 (26 September 2001)
No. 14 (12 September 2001)
No. 13 (21 August 2001)
No. 12 (1 August 2001)
No. 11 (10 July 2001)
No. 10 (13 June 2001)
No. 9 (23 May 2001)
No. 8 (2 May 2001)
No. 7 (18 April 2001)
No. 6 (4 April 2001)
No. 5 (21 March 2001)
No. 4 (28 February 2001)
No. 3 (14 February 2001)
No. 2 (31 January 2001)
No. 1 (17 January 2001)


Volume V
No. 19 (13 December 2000)
No. 18 (29 November 2000)
No. 17 (11 November 2000)
No. 16 (25 October 2000)
No. 15 (11 October 2000)
No. 14 (27 September 2000)
No. 13 (13 September 2000)
No. 12 (23 August 2000)
No. 11 (2 August 2000)
No. 10 (12 July 2000)
No. 9 (21 June 2000)
No. 8 (16 May 2000)
No. 7 (24 April 2000)
No. 6 (4 April 2000)
No. 5 (21 March 2000)
No. 4 (29 February 2000)
No. 3 (15 February 2000)
No. 2 (1 February 2000)
No. 1 (18 January 2000)


Volume IV
No. 20 (20 December 1999)
No. 19 (6 December 1999)
No. 18 (15 November 1999)
No. 17 (1 November 1999)
No. 16 (18 October1999)
No. 15 (27 September 1999)
No. 14 (13 September 1999)
No. 13 (31 August 1999)
No. 12 (4 August 1999)
No. 11 (14 July 1999)
No. 10 (23 June 1999)
No. 9 (2 June 1999)
No. 8 (10 May 1999)
No. 7 (5 April 1999)
No. 6 (5 April 1999)
No. 5 (22 March 1999)
No. 4 (1 March 1999)
No. 3 (15 February 1999)
No. 2 (1 February 1999)
No. 1 (13 January 1999)


Volume III
No. 18 (9 December 1998)
No. 17 (16 November 1998)
No. 16 (4 November 1998)
No. 15 (21 October 1998)
No. 14 (7 October 1998)
No. 13 (16 September 1998)
No. 12 (2 September 1998)
No. 11 (3 August 1998)
No. 10 (16 July 1998)
No. 9 (18 June 1998)
No. 8 (28 May 1998)
No. 7 (7 May 1998)
No. 6 (23 April 1998)
No. 5 (26 March 1998)
No. 4 (5 March 1998)
No. 3 (19 February 1998)
No. 2 (5 February 1998)
No. 1 (22 January 1998)


Volume II
No. 22 (4 December 1997)
No. 21 (20 November 1997)
No. 20 (6 November 1997)
No. 19 (23 October 1997)
No. 18 (10 October 1997)
No. 17 (25 Sep 1997)
No. 16 (9 Sep 1997)
No. 15 (20 Aug 1997)
No. 14 (6 Aug 1997)
No. 13 (23 July 1997)
No. 12 (9 July 1997)
No. 11 (18 June 1997)
No. 10 (4 June 1997)
No. 9 (21 May 1997)
No. 8 (7 May 1997)
No. 7 (23 April 1997)
No. 6 (9 April 1997)
No. 5 (26 March 1997)
No. 4 (5 March 1997)
No. 3 (19 February 1997)
No. 2 (5 February 1997)
No. 1 (22 January 1997)

Volume I
No. 4 (18 December 1996)
No. 3 (4 December 1996)
No. 2 (20 November 1996)
No. 1 (6 November 1996)

Untitled Document



The uncertain future of Vladimir Rushailo

In the turbulent world of Russian politics, few are subject to as much speculation or bear as much legend as the current secretary of the Security Council, Vladimir Rushailo. He began his career in the perestroika-era Moscow Office of Investigations at the age of 24, and continued in the Ministry of the Interior (MVD). Rushailo rose to prominence fighting organized crime in the chaotic backwash that was created with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Russia's attempt to create a free market economy. He developed and led his own specialized unit within the MVD, the Regional Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (RUBOP), a unit whose reputation supposedly struck fear into the hearts of criminal syndicates. In a 1996 dispute with the MVD's leadership, Rushailo was ousted from his directorate, but later returned in triumph to head the MVD itself. His connection to oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, begun in 1998, is credited with providing Rushailo with the political capital necessary to head the MVD for two straight years (1999-2001) despite government changes. Indeed, cooperation between the two is suspected in a high-profile release of hostages in Chechnya. Moreover, Alexander Litvinenko, the FSB agent who defected to the West and works closely with Berezovsky, devotes several chapters of his book Assassinating Russia to sing the praises of the anti-organized crime unit of the MVD. According to Litvinenko, the MVD unit was actively investigating FSB complicity in crime and terrorism, including bombings in Moscow in 1994 and 1996. (Yuri Feltshinsky and Alexander Litvinenko, Blowing Up Russia, New York, 2002) Others claim that RUBOP and its city division, GUBOP, were themselves active criminal syndicates that competed against the FSB for turf. (EURASIANET, 1 Feb 02)


Over a year ago Rushailo resigned from the MVD in a mass power ministry departure. Shortly thereafter he was appointed by President Vladimir Putin to become the new Secretary of the Security Council while his predecessor, Sergei Ivanov, was appointed Minister of Defense. (REN TV, 1015 GMT, 3 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


This nominal promotion may have terminated Rushailo's career. This is indicated by four considerations: First, Rushailo is visibly connected to Berezovsky, a vocal critic of Putin's presidency; second, Sergei Ivanov is a member of the ubiquitous St. Petersburg group and has been referred to not only as a potential vice president, but a vice-Putin; third, the Security Council itself is an institution that "can be everything or nothing," a real center of power that in theory can rival that of the presidency or an official institution that is little more than a bureaucratic shell left behind once the real power has moved on; fourth, after Rushailo left, the MVD was reorganized and in effect made subordinate to and dependent on the FSB. (IZVESTIA, 28 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0329; via World News Connection)


In Putin's Kremlin it is accepted that the Yel'tsin-era appointees and members of the so-called Russian Oligarchy are on the way out, while the members of the St. Petersburg group are on the rise. Putin's logic in moving his collaborator in power, Sergei Ivanov, into the defense ministry and Rushailo into the Security Council is fairly simple. The influence of the Security Council relates to the ability of its chief to interact with Putin. Ivanov's power followed him to the defense ministry, while Rushailo's was tied to the MVD, which had been downgraded. Ivanov has been able to continue exerting a good deal of influence on Russian foreign policy and other matters of national security, while Rushailo gained only the empty shell. For Putin this transfer was ideal, for it prevented Ivanov from amassing too much real power (over the whole array of security services) in the Security Council, at the same time using this FSB man to keep a watch over the military. Additionally, it increased Putin's control over the military at a critical time and ensured that a potential rival, Rushailo, would not be fired in a blatantly political fashion; he was, after all, promoted. The end result was a net gain in Putin's own already tremendous power base.


In his first interview as the Security Council's head, Rushailo stated, "[C]ountering internal threats undoubtedly takes priority. The state's internal life requires continual attention and monitoring. Among the most serious threats I would include illegal trafficking in narcotics.... One other threat that is topical both for Russia and for the entire world community is international terrorism." (IZVESTIYA, 21 Jul 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Rushailo has made public announcements regarding this agenda throughout the year. He visited Central Asia following 11 September, and has attended all the necessary meetings with President Putin. However, he does not seem to be a driving factor behind Putin's administration.


To add insult to injury, Rushailo's RUBOP was dissolved summarily by his successor at the MVD, Boris Gryzlov, in a sweeping administrative reform. (KOMMERSANT, 22 Jun 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Recently, a document has surfaced in the MVD's Internal Security Directorate tying Rushailo to abuse of funds during his tenure at the RUBOP. The document's title leaves little to the imagination: "On abuse of power by former leaders of the Moscow Regional Directorate for Combating Organized Crime in the use of funds of the Assistance to Social Protection of High Risk Professional Groups charity fund." (VERSIYA, No. 14, 8-14 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) And most recently the General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) has amassed the power to coordinate Russia's various law enforcement agencies, taking even that hardly substantive role away from the secretary of the Security Council. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 12 Feb 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


In short, Rushailo has become increasingly sidelined, the political equivalent of a bench-warmer. His powers effectively have been stripped and there is the matter of a legal ax over his head. This is not something to be taken lightly given Putin's proclivity to using the prosecutor as a political weapon by enforcing laws selectively against those who challenge him. Excepting a radical reversal of fortune, Rushailo probably will continue to occupy his position until it serves Putin's purpose to remove him.



Recent developments in the executive

President Putin has vocally criticized the economic plan put forward by the cabinet, and has demanded that the "government must draw up more ambitious plans." This criticism came shortly before his annual address to the Federal Assembly, a much-anticipated event. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 10 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0410, via World News Connection) Putin must be coming to the realization that even his popularity eventually has to be backed up by substantial economic progress.


Putin hinted that a reorganization within the Kremlin is in the works: "The system (of government and administration) was formed in the past. It is functioning, more or less exists, but is increasingly at variance with the realities." (ITAR-TASS, 7 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0407, via World News Connection) What this means specifically was not elucidated, but it is probably a ploy used to frighten those on the periphery of Putin's circle into a greater degree of sycophancy and submission. It merely signals that Putin will continue to maneuver in ways likely to increase his own power.


by Michael Comstock <>




Spies everywhere: FSB sting allegedly exposes CIA espionage

Last Wednesday, an FSB officer appeared anonymously on state television to claim that the agency had foiled a major CIA espionage plot. According to the officer, the CIA operation was focused both on stealing Russian military secrets and on gaining information about the security relationship between Russia and the former Soviet states. (THE GUARDIAN, 11 Apr 02)


Specifically, the FSB alleges that the CIA was trying to obtain details of the Shkval rocket-propelled torpedo, which may be able to reach speeds four times as fast as those currently in service. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 11 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) This is the same program that allegedly was penetrated by former US Navy officer Edmond Pope, who was convicted of espionage in December 2000 before receiving a presidential pardon, and Anatoly Babkin, who is awaiting trial on charges of treason.


According to the FSB allegation, two CIA agents, David Robertson and Jungie Kesinger, posing as US diplomats, made contact with a lieutenant colonel who worked at the Russian naval weapons testing center at Issyk-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan. (KOMMERSANT DAILY, 11 Apr 02; WPS Russian Political Monitor, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


As yet, the identity of the lieutenant colonel has not been revealed. The story takes a strange twist, in that the FSB alleges that the officer did not give up information voluntarily, but rather, that Robertson and Kesinger spiked food and drink with psychotropic (mind-bending) drugs in order to extract information.


Supposedly uncovered by the FSB, the officer, now code-named "Viktor," became a double agent, and maintained contact with the CIA operatives. According to the FSB spokesman, the CIA, using a variety of dead-drops, "Sent him letters with secret writing which indicated his assignments and contained a certain sum of money." (THE GUARDIAN, 12 Apr 02) Allegedly, the sum received amounted to approximately $10,000, and he was to provide data on a variety of subjects, including the torpedo and Russia's new air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. (THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) According to the FSB spokesman, once enough evidence had been gathered, the agency moved to shut down the operation, preventing serious damage to Russia's national security. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 10 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Kesinger could not be prosecuted because she holds diplomatic immunity, but reportedly she has been forced to leave Russia due to the allegations. Robertson, the FSB claims, currently is in Kyrgyzstan, where he is working alongside US forces in the "war on terrorism," and thus is safe from prosecution. (THE INDEPENDENT, 12 Apr 02)


It is difficult to know what implications these allegations may have on US-Russian relations, especially since Presidents Bush and Putin are due to hold a series of meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg in less than six weeks. Both the US State Department and the CIA's spokesman at the Moscow embassy, Mark Mansfield, have declined to comment on the claims, while senior Russian officials have been at pains to insist that the episode has "absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming summit." (ITAR-TASS, 10 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Such statements, however, should not necessarily be taken at face value, especially in the wake of last month's meeting of intelligence officers in St. Petersburg. The allegations may be intended to create the perception that Putin's downplaying of friction with the West is unpopular among the security services, and that President Bush, therefore, must offer Putin larger rewards for cooperation with the United States. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 11 Apr 02)


by Fabian Adami <>





The less things change

Gubernatorial elections were held in the Lipetsk and the Pensk oblasts. Incumbents were victorious in both. Lipetsk Oblast' Governor Oleg Korolev received 73.04 percent while his closest rival, Lipetsk City Deputy Mayor Igor Polosin, obtained only 5 percent. The race in the Pensk Oblast' was close: Governor Vasily Bochkarev garnered 45.45 percent while his challenger, State Duma Deputy (Communist) Viktor Iliukhin, received 40.96 percent. (RIA, 0401 GMT, 15 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets, and ORT, 15 Apr 02; via


The more they stay the same

The Central Electoral Commission, which found no serious infractions in the conduct of the oblast' elections, has approved them. The situation is very different, however, in the Republic of Ingushetia, where an investigation has been initiated into large-scale vote-buying in last Sunday's first round of presidential elections. Pressure on the local electoral commission by the central and republic's governments is suspected.


Originally, there were 23 candidates in the first round of the elections, many running by virtue of the political trends they represent more than on individual merit. But only eight candidates finally appeared on the ballot. (One was disqualified and 14 stood down. Of those 14, 6 threw their support to ex-MVD Minister Khamzat Gutseriev.) The three main candidates were: Deputy Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Southern Federal District and Federal Security Service (FSB) General Murat Zyazikov, representing the Kremlin and promising to stabilize the situation in the region and keep it in line with the center's political line; Akhmet Malsagov, the current acting president of Ingushetia; and former interior minister of Ingushetia Khamzat Gutseriev. Gutseriev has the support of outgoing President Aushev, who nominated him for the presidency.


According to informed observers, "ousting Gutseriev was the most decisive move the Kremlin has made in regional elections." The Kremlin sought to install its own FSB man in Ingushetia because it is otherwise impossible to cloak in secrecy the outrages of the war in Chechnya and the dismal condition of the refugees. (MOSCOW TIMES, 8 Apr 02)


Gutseriev was registered as a candidate on 9 February, but didn't formally resign his MVD minister position until 7 March. This was brought up as a campaign irregularity in the Ingush Supreme Court. Moscow, however, grew impatient and preempted the local court. The Russian Supreme Court decided the matter in a speedy and efficient manner ­ and disqualified Gutseriev.


The other two candidates made it through the first round of the elections, but did rather poorly: Zyazikov (the FSB candidate) received 19.4 percent and Malsagov 17.3 percent. The voters apparently could see through Kremlin intrigues -- and gave State Duma Deputy (United Russia) Alikhan Amirkhanov 31.5 percent. The second round will be held on 28 April. (ITAR-TASS, 0151 GMT, 8 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0408, via World News Connection)



Even new languages...

Despite protests by Russian State Duma deputies and pro-Kremlin Chechen authorities, Radio Liberty promises to continue daily broadcasts on political, economic, cultural and ethnic issues in Russian, Chechen, Cherkess and Avar. (ITAR-TASS, 1325 GMT, 1 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0401, via World News Connection) The segments in Avar, Chechen and Cherkess are being produced by the bureau in Prague and broadcast over short-wave, whereas the Russian service is produced in Moscow and broadcast on local channels.


Presidential Aide Sergey Yastrzhembsky announced that Kremlin experts will monitor the programs and "respond in the framework of Russian legislation." He noted that "the North Caucasus is a very sensitive region for Russia and Chechnya is a painful point." (INTERFAX, 1643 GMT, 30 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0330, via World News Connection)


The Committee for International Affairs of the State Duma is working on a proposal to recall the Radio Liberty license for these broadcasts. The committee's deputy chair, Sergey Shishkarev, asserted that "broadcasts to the territory in which the antiterrorist operation is being conducted can be regarded as interference in our internal affairs." Moreover, "in view of the recent resolution of the US Congress on Chechnya," in which actions of the federal authorities were "unceremoniously criticized," it can be "surmised that information neutrality will not be observed in Radio Liberty broadcasts." (ITAR-TASS, 1209 GMT, 4 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0404, via World News Connection)


...Should follow the old rules

Around the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin also focused on media freedom. In an interview with Russian and German journalists in anticipation of his visit to a forum in Weimar, he declared: "If freedom of the press is understood as the freedom of some so-called oligarchs to buy journalists and impose their will on them in their group interests and advocate this road of oligarchic development, which has been inflicted on Russia during the last decade, if freedom of the press is understood this way, yes, it is in danger. If freedom of the press is understood as the ability of journalists and media teams to openly, freely and fearlessly express their viewpoints on key problems of development of the country and nation, to criticize the actions of authorities, to expect a corresponding response from the authorities, I am absolutely sure that such a state of affairs will be achieved in Russia." (INTERFAX, 1421 GMT, 7 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0407, via World News Connection)



What's better than a Communist Party?

On 3 April, State Duma deputies voted on the redistribution of committee chairs. The Communists lost seven of the nine seats and, along with the Agrarians, renounced the other two in protest. Three of the lost seats went to the Fatherland-All Russia bloc, two went to the Union of Right Forces and one each went to YABLOKO and Regions of Russia. The centrists charged that, for two years, the Communists and Agrarians delayed reforms in legislation. They expect the State Duma to become more efficient with the change in leadership. (ORT, 3 Apr 02; via


In response, the Communists and the Agrarians gave up their remaining posts, a move that was criticized by Chairman of the Russian State Duma (Communist) Gennady Seleznev. (ITAR-TASS, 1019 GMT, 11 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0411, via World News Connection)


Seleznev himself is at the center of a bigger controversy. After he was deprived of his casting vote (used to break parliamentary ties), there were rumors that Kremlin-faithful elements in the Duma would press on to oust him from his seat. Instead, the head of the staff of the State Duma, Leonid Troshkin, has resigned, asserting that he "could no longer carry out his duties in light of the complicated situation that had arisen around him," and that "for the sake of ensuring the stable and calm functioning of the administration," he was asking to be relieved of his duties. (INTERFAX, 1309 GMT, 6 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0406, via World News Connection)


Two communist parties!


The pressure against Seleznev is coming largely from members of his own party. On 10 April, the plenum of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) Central Committee voted 74 to 16 in favor of advising Seleznev to leave the position. (ITAR-TASS, 0925 GMT, 11 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0411, via World News Connection) Although Party Chairman Gennady Zyuganov denies this, Vassily Ponomarev, the head of the ideology department at the CPRF Moscow branch, even said that Seleznev may be expelled from the Communist Party for his lack of solidarity. (ITAR-TASS, 1832 GMT, 11 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0411, via World News Connection)


Since Seleznev has his own political movement, Rossiya, it is likely that if the rift between him and Zyuganov widens, it will be accompanied by a split within the Communist Party. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 9 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0409, via World News Connection)


Such a split would be good for the president, who has expressed the sentiment that Seleznev should stay at his post since his departure would challenge the voter-expressed support for the Communists (according to a public opinion poll, 34 percent of voters support the Communists, while only 21 percent support United Russia). (INTERFAX, 1125 GMT, 1 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0401, and INTERFAX, 1830 GMT, 4 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0404, via World News Connection)


by Luba Schwartzman <>




Russia still attempting to play a role in the Middle East

Though Russian foreign policy moves currently are not in the headlines, Moscow is still making every effort to be a player in the Middle East as well as in the question of Iraq. Russian foreign ministry officials are trying to support the Palestinian position despite the continued Palestinian use of terror as a principal weapon.


The Russians have been among the more vocal defenders of Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. In terms of the totality of the problems in the Middle East, the Russians are pressing for more international activity under the auspices of the UN. At the same time, the Russians continue to provide materiel and encouragement for the Iraqi government. The same holds true for the Palestinian Authority and its leader. Thus, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority can use Russia as a lever against the US and Israel.


Palestinian pals

Russia's lead spokesman is Andrey Vdovin, Moscow's special envoy to the Middle East, although Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov provides regular input; both have made similar appeals to the world community. "We demand the adherence of all parties to existing UN resolutions 1397 and 1402 and additional, enforceable resolutions to stop the violence," Ivanov said. (ITAR-TASS, 1735 GMT, 4 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Bowing to the Russian desire to play an increased role, the US has included the Russian envoy in the mediation talks. Vdovin has attended daily meetings with the so-called "quartet of mediators" -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. (ITAR-TASS, 1816 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The Russian envoy claims to be frustrated with the lack of progress and said, "the situation in the 'occupied territories' is extremely grave and there is little hope for improvement in the near term." (ITAR-TASS, 1620 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) He said there was not enough pressure coming from either the UN or the US to force the Israelis to comply with UN resolution 1402, which actually calls for an immediate cessation of violence as well as the withdrawal of Israeli forces. (ITAR-TASS, 1620 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) As a result he left the region in protest on 4 April for three days. (RIA, 2004 GMT, 5 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


The Russians continue their support for Yassir Arafat as a putative participant in negotiations. "We find it most desirable that Yassir Arafat, whom we believe to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, be given the opportunity to act as the head of the Palestinian National Authority," Ivanov said. Arafat has visited every Soviet and Russian leader since Brezhnev and has signed all Palestinian agreements of cooperation with Russia. (ITAR-TASS, 1735 GMT, 4 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


The Russians are faced with a perception problem in the current Middle East crisis. They have long favored the Palestinian side in this equation (see THE NIS OBSERVED, 3 Apr 02), yet cannot escape two critical factors. First, the Palestinian Authority, and specifically, Yassir Arafat, refuse to make any meaningful efforts to curb the suicide bombers. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 Apr 02) Second, Arafat repeatedly has been offered very favorable conditions, including a significant amount of land to establish a Palestinian state (as well as some very attractive offers of long-term economic development from the US and the EU). (US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 25 Mar 02) It is increasingly difficult to continue staunch support for the PLO under these circumstances; it is possible that Moscow will adopt a more pragmatic approach and, if the crisis escalates, may back away and allow the Palestinian Authority to take the consequences of its actions.


Protectors of Iraq

Moscow is clearer in its policy concerning Iraq. Russia is Saddam Hussein's staunchest backer and appears headed for an even deeper commitment. A series of meetings held in Baghdad between representatives of the energy sector from both countries yielded several key areas of increased cooperation. These included the construction of additional power generator facilities in Iraq by Russian firms as well as increased linkage in oil production. (RIA, 1201 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Further, the Russians have committed to long-term economic interaction in the "tens of billions of dollars."


Meanwhile, Moscow continues to lobby for Iraq. Another high-level economic delegation to Baghdad (led by Yuri Shafranik) noted that the UN sanctions against Iraq were "not working or are completely ineffective." (ITAR-TASS, 1630 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The Russians have long opposed the sanctions and have sought a relaxation of the restrictions on the Iraqi economy. The current Russian effort is to limit any US-sponsored expansion of the quantities and types of products on the UN restricted list. (RIA, 1944 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The delegation pledged "full opposition" from the Russian government to the sanctions and confirmed Russia's belief that lifting the sanctions entirely was the best approach. (ITAR-TASS, 1804 GMT, 2 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


The issue of sanctions makes for strange twists. The Iraqis have circumvented successfully the entire sanctions process for more than 10 years. Their oil production is at the same level it was in 1990 (before Desert Storm) while the amount of raw crude processed and exported actually has increased. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 Mar 02) European countries regularly have bought Iraqi oil and neighboring countries have mixed Iraqi oil with their own in an effort to disguise its source. However, the income derived from these exports has not translated into a healthy Iraqi economy; the per capita income of the average Iraqi plummeted from $3,104 in 1984 to $1,501 in 1999. (UN COUNTRY REPORT, 1999) Still, Iraqi leaders live lavishly and Saddam Hussein offers the family of each Palestinian suicide bomber $25,000. Russia also continues to supply the Iraqi regime with significant military hardware. Moscow just completed a deal to sell trucks and passenger vehicles to Baghdad. (ITAR-TASS, 0402 GMT, 12 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Iraq does not pay cash for purchases from the Russians, so there is a vested interest in Moscow to limit the sanctions.


Now, it seems, Baghdad wants to form "an international coalition headed by Russia to prevent US aggression against Iraq," according to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. (ITAR-TASS, 0900 GMT, 7 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Aziz made this proposal during a roundtable meeting celebrating the 30th anniversary of the friendship and cooperation treaty between the two countries. His goal is to form a strong enough block to oppose any proposals to "increase sanctions or conduct attacks against Iraq." (ITAR-TASS, 0900 GMT, 6 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


There was no immediate response from the Russian side. However, it is very unlikely that Moscow would enter into a formal agreement, especially one obligating Russia to take military action in support of Iraq. First, the Russians have extremely limited power projection capabilities. In fact, Russia is greatly reducing its overseas presence by closing facilities in Cuba and Viet Nam. Second, Russia is not equipped to conduct operations in Iraq or any other desert environment -- its hardware has proven time and again to be unsuited for hot dusty climates. In addition the Iraqis, though close allies of the Russians, are not predictable and may commit themselves to more than Moscow could support. The Russians simply will continue to oppose sanctions in the diplomatic sphere only.


by Scott Bethel <>




Spring exercises

Spring is that time of the year when armed forces begin to flex their muscles, conducting both national and joint military maneuvers. One such exercise, titled "South Antiterror 2002," will be conducted in mid-April under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty (CST). The joint forces of Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will form the Collective Rapid Deployment Forces of the Central Asian region, and will combat a simulated enemy from the south (Georgia). Although open to all members of the CIS, only Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan expressed an interest in the exercise -- signifying the total collapse of the military component of the CST, according to some analysts, as many Central Asian countries re-orient their militaries away from Russia and toward the US and its West European allies. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 8 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)


Kaliningrad on the front line

The Baltic Fleet conducted a large-scale air-defense exercise under the watchful eyes of Northern, Pacific and Black Sea fleet commanders and the Caspian Sea Flotilla commander. The exercise featured a new automated command-and-control air defense system created by the Moscow Research Institute of Automatics and tested the Baltic Fleet's air defenses and anti-ballistic missile defense systems. The Baltic Fleet was the test-bed for fielding this new system; the exercise was completed following the recent NATO exercise Strong Resolve 2002, which simulated a NATO landing force of peacekeepers.


During the exercise, 170 different types of interceptors were used, including two S-200V missiles (the same type that mistakenly downed the TU-154 airliner over the Black Sea). To some observers the exercise resembled some episodes of past Balkan air strikes. With flight time from the nearest NATO airfields to vital Kaliningrad facilities just under one minute, response time is critical, as is a fully automated air-defense system. The test was touted as a success, but it is uncertain whether the navy can afford to purchase this system for all fleets. (ROSSIISKIE VESTI, 8 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) Although publicly NATO is no longer considered an enemy, this show of force perhaps demonstrates to the Russians their ability to fend for themselves, especially in light of NATO's likely expansion into the Baltic region.


New aircraft for the Black Sea Fleet

The Russian Navy's Main Staff of Aviation recently reported that the Black Sea Fleet may receive a new aircraft carrier variant of the SU-27 KUB fighter aircraft and attack helicopters as part of a 2004-2005 modernization program. The Baltic Fleet currently has aircraft carrier flight simulators to teach pilots the intricacies of such aviation. These simulators soon may be used in the Black Sea Fleet. (ROSBLAT INFORMATION AGENCY, 10 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) Carrier aviation is expensive, highly complex, and one area in which the Russian Navy never really excelled. With fierce competition for scarce defense budget dollars, the Russian Navy is ill advised to pursue these programs with many more critical programs to fund just to keep itself afloat.


A Russian albatross

Although details of his visit were kept secret, Russia's top Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov's visit to the Black Sea port of Taganrog early in April was to sign an agreement to procure an undisclosed number of A-40 Albatross seaplanes. Although nearly 20 years old, this large (86-ton) jet aircraft is capable of speeds up to 700 kph, can carry 70 passengers up to 6,600 kilometers and can land in rough sea conditions. Large seaplanes like the Albatross are used predominately for sea search and rescue by countries such as Japan and Canada; however, some Russian experts claim the Albatross is an excellent anti-submarine warfare platform since it can land at sea. They also state that the US lags behind Russia in production of jet seaplanes, citing several failed attempts by the US. (KOMMERSANT, 10 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) Only time will tell whether the Albatross will resemble its long-lived namesake or Coleridge's literary example of the immovable burden -- more precisely, one more funding yoke to hold down the Russian Navy's modernization efforts.


The US will need its shield

Andrey Nikolaev, the head of the Russian Duma Defense Committee, recently warned that the US plan to pull out of the 1972 ABM Treaty will result in another arms race. Americans want "to shield the territory of the United States with an antimissile umbrella, and make it invulnerable in the event of radical cuts in nuclear arms," Nikolaev said. In response to the US policy, "We should increase the threat in turn If you build up the shield, we will build up the sword," he suggested. (INTERFAX, 1134 GMT, 18 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0318, via World News Connection) Although clearly a lot of bravado, this type of rhetoric in the Duma, ironically, is part of the US motivation behind building up the shield.



Supply and demand

According to the director-general of Rosoboroneksport, Andrei Belyaminov, contracts delivering Su-family fighters to India and China accounted for half of the company's 2001 sales, totaling $4.2 billion. By 2008, as these existing contracts are completed, new demands for expanding and modernizing air defense systems and purchasing new naval ships likely will fill the gap. (IZVESTIA, 8 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)


As the leading Russian defense industry, Rosoboroneksport is capitalizing on the current political turmoil, seeking to increase demand for Russian-made aircraft, ships and air defense systems. However, improving the air defense capabilities of countries labeled by the US as harboring terrorists (such as Iran and Iraq), although profitable to Russia, will only promote regional instability. The presumed invincibility provided by Russian air defense systems actually may encourage more militant behavior.


Chinese destroyers

The winner of the $1.4 billion contract to build destroyers for China is Severnaya Verf Shipyard, according to documents signed by Director-General of the Russian Shipbuilding Agency Vladimir Posnelov. Final signatures of the Chinese and Russian governments are expected soon. The contract is retroactive to January, with ships commissioning required by 2006, so the timeline is relatively short. (DELOVOY PETERSBURG, 8 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) This is a boon to the Russian shipbuilding industry, although it is unclear how much spillover will result in new construction for the aging Russian Navy.


21st century corvettes

The St. Petersburg-based Central Maritime Design Bureau Almaz has long been the designer of naval ships. Almaz designed Russia's first generation corvettes, the Tarantul and Nanuchka classes, and the older Komar and Osa classes. Working on the premise that multipurpose corvettes and frigates will account for the major part of surface ships to be built in the 21st century, Almaz is developing an entire series of next generation ships. The new projects of the bureau include the DK500 light corvette and the heavier DK1000 and DK1900 series. The corvettes combine modern propulsion engineering technology with stealth to maximize speed, increase endurance and reduce detection: They will feature modular interchangeable weapons systems with multipurpose anti-ship, air defense and antisubmarine missiles launchers; a 100-mm gun; multi-purpose helicopter; and a state-of-the-art C3 control center. (MILITARY PARADE NO. 6, 10 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)


The DK series corvette is not only the right replacement to Russia's aging fleet, but also a future staple (with modifications) for export as well.


Indian submarine exports

The Russian defense industry seeks to capture a portion of the 24 new submarines India plans to purchase by 2030. The director of Russia's shipbuilding company Admiralteiskie Verfi, Vladimir Alexandrov, reported that successful negotiations with the Indian Navy were held last year to build six Amur-class diesel submarines. The actual contract could be signed this fall. Although France reportedly also is close to signing a contract with India for six submarines, this apparently doesn't diminish the prospects for Russia given India's total requirements. The first two Amur submarines have been under construction for several years. One (named the St. Petersburg) is being built for the Russian Navy and one for export (to help pay for the navy's submarine). Russia plans to commission the St. Petersburg by the spring of 2003 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its namesake city. India is insistent that the first submarine must be completed within 18 to 24 months, and the second Amur-class submarine likely can meet that requirement. This 10-year project would bring in close to $2 billion in sales for the Russian defense industry. (VEDOMOSTI, 10 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)


The prospects for shipbuilding look good, and this should benefit the Russian Navy as well. Modern technology combining the traits cited in the corvettes and the stealthy diesel technology of the diesel submarines definitely meet the demands of foreign navies throughout the world. This can only improve the Russian shipbuilding base and, more importantly, the likelihood of future Russian Navy acquisitions.


3rd PlaceGreece

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Greece is the third largest importer of Russian arms after China and India. After meeting with his Greek counterpart, Yiannos Papandoniou in Athens, Ivanov stated that the two had signed a plan promoting Russian-Greek military-technical cooperation for 2002. Over the past 2 1/2 years, Greek imports of Russian arms have exceeded $1 billion. Russia anticipates Greek promotion of Russian defense industry exports to EU countries once Greece takes over the EU chair for the second half of the year. (ITAR-TASS, 5 Apr 02; via RFE/RL Newsline)


by Walter Jackson <>






To Iraq with love?

Just when it may have seemed that President Leonid Kuchma had heard the last from unauthorized biographer Mykola Melnychenko, the former presidential bodyguard who taped the private conversations of his boss is back. On 12 April, Melnychenko reportedly told a US federal grand jury that his recordings contain conversations about at least one illegal arms deal with Iraq. Although grand jury proceedings generally are secret, Melnychenko discussed his testimony on a German radio program. Kuchma, he said, is heard on the tapes discussing the delivery of a "Kolchuga" radar system -- designed to detect "stealth" aircraft -- to Iraq. Melnychenko also said that a CIA representative at the same hearing confirmed the existence of a Kolchuga system in Iraq.


This is an issue that has been percolating for some time; officials have long wondered behind closed doors about the nature of the Ukrainian-Iraqi relationship. In fact, a UN weapons inspector in 1998 told the Financial Times that he and his colleagues had located information suggesting illegal arms shipments to Iraq by Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. But until this year, the issue has remained largely speculation and out of public view. These recordings have the potential to change that. More importantly, they have the potential to create much more of an international problem for Ukraine than Melnychenko's other recordings regarding Kuchma's alleged complicity in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze.


Melnychenko's testimony supports the earlier statements of parliamentary deputy Oleksandr Zhyr, who announced the existence of such a recording in Kyiv on 13 March. At the time, Zhyr was chair of the commission investigating Kuchma's possible involvement in the Gongadze affair. He soon became interested in other conversations on the tapes, however. "The commission," he said, "has tapes that have to do with arms exports to Iraq worth $100 million in violation of international resolutions banning arms exports to that country. President Kuchma personally approved these exports." (INTERFAX, 14 Mar 02; via lexis-nexis) Zhyr's attempts to have the matter discussed publicly in parliament, however, were rebuffed by a slim majority of his colleagues. Still, he gave several press conferences and clearly irritated Kuchma with his questions.


The president reacted venomously to Zhyr's charges. He called the accusations part of a "propagandistic campaign" that should be "flushed like filth into the sewer," and contemptuously dismissed suggestions that the Kolchuga system had been used to help shoot down a US plane. (FINANCIAL TIMES, 28 Mar 02; via lexis-nexis) He and his allies also organized a major campaign during the recent election to divest Zhyr of his parliamentary seat. They seemed to succeed initially, although the Ukrainian Supreme Court several days ago upheld Zhyr's complaints of irregular voting activity and invalidated the victory of his opponent. Votes in several constituencies will now be recounted.


The president also continues to suggest that Melnychenko's tapes have been altered to implicate him unfairly. But he has yet to provide any evidence that the tapes have been modified. Additionally, several other officials have authenticated their own (much more benign) recorded conversations with Kuchma.


Unfortunately, authentication of the alleged Iraq conversation will not be possible. Days after Zhyr announced plans to bring the issue before parliament, Valeriy Malev, the director of the Ukrspecexport company and the man reportedly heard on the tape planning the arms deal with Kuchma, was killed in a car crash. Originally, authorities blamed Malev for the crash, but eventually suggested that it may not have been his fault. Regardless, Malev is conveniently dead, a point Zhyr loudly proclaimed in Ukraine. "Just days before Malev's death, the president was informed that the commission, including its chairman, had documents concerning the president's conversation with Malev on arms exports to Iraq. The president knew that I would not conceal this information," he said. (INTERFAX, 13 Mar 02; via lexis-nexis) Zhyr also undoubtedly made plans to begin using public transportation.


Whether Malev's death was simply a strange coincidence likely never will be determined, of course. But US officials seem intent on discovering the truth about Kuchma's possible involvement in illegal arms dealing. What they will do with the information is the question. If the Kolchuga case is proven, some type of sanctions could be implemented. This is always a possibility, and one that should concern Ukraine. But it is likely that US officials will want to keep the issue as quiet as possible, especially following the success of reformers in the recent election. Why agitate for reform when reform seems to be happening on its own? More likely, Kuchma's international pariah status will be underscored, the situation will be used domestically by his opponents, and Western officials will sit back and wait for the next presidential election. The outcome of that election will then dictate whether these latest allegations will become part of history or be resurrected for further investigation.



Slow degeneration into violence


It has taken months, but it seems that violence finally has become a regular feature of the conflict between Moldova's government and its determined and surprisingly resilient opposition. In the last several weeks, we have seen the disappearance of the country's most respected opposition leader, arson at the opposition headquarters, a possible attempted abduction of another opposition leader, the bombing of the Communist Party newspaper offices, and a near riot between opposition and government-supporting protestors. But at least the activity is keeping government officials busy; they certainly haven't been spending much time implementing legislation, economic policies or social plans. In fact, it seems that all governing has now ceased in the country, leaving its people to muddle-through on their own.


What officials have been doing lately is attempting to convince the Council of Europe's rapporters for Moldova that everything is the opposition's fault. Take, for example, the disappearance of the deputy head of the Christian Democratic People's Party (CDPP), which is the organizer of opposition demonstrations. Vlad Cubreacov was on the front lines of several human rights issues in Moldova. He was the highest ranking lay member of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (Romanian Patriarchate), speaking out against Moldovan attempts to thwart the church's registration. He represented Moldova in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), spoke out against the government's attempts to clamp down on the media, vigorously opposed russification, and loudly protested against the recent plan to introduce compulsory Russian-language instruction in schools.


Most importantly, Cubreacov's Western education and depth of experience made him Moldova's most respected player on the international scene, and he used that respect to further his opposition agenda. He was much more successful than the government would have liked. His representation of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (Romanian Patriarchate) at the CE European Court of Human Rights led to an order that the church be registered. When the government tried to outlaw his party, the CE came down squarely on his side. His encouragement of journalists to protest their treatment before the CE Board for Mass Media was undoubtedly another irritant, particularly to a government that no longer has many options for international cooperation. And on the day before his disappearance, Cubreacov had found another cause -- what he called the "groundless" expulsion of Romanian diplomat Ion Ungureanu. Cubreacov was quoted extensively on the issue on non-state-owned television. (PROTV, 20 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via lexis-nexis)


Now, however, Cubreacov is missing, and it is highly unlikely that he will return. But, don't blame the Communists in power, authorities cautioned. The case is a "provocation" aimed at "destroying the government's image," Viktor Stepanok, the leader of the Communist faction in parliament, explained. (GLOBAL NEWS WIRE, 27 Mar 02; via lexis-nexis) Surprisingly, the CE does not seem impressed. Two representatives of the body recently finished a fact-finding mission in Moldova, and are expected to suggest that PACE pass a tough resolution about the situation. In fact, Moldova will be at the top of the agenda at a PACE meeting on 24 April, when the assembly will discuss "the functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova." (DRAFT ORDER OF BUSINESS, PACE, 25 Mar 02)


Seemingly not satisfied that its reputation is damaged enough, the government also attempted to accuse CDPP leader Iuri Rosca and Cubreacov's replacement, Valentin Chilat, of attacking a group of policemen. Unfortunately for the government, after journalists interviewed a number of witnesses, it became clear that plain-clothed security officers had attempted to force Chilat into a car after assaulting him. Rosca, along with several bystanders, was able to intervene and the officers fled. (AP FLUX, 6 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Around the same time, the headquarters of the CDPP was victimized by arson and, undoubtedly in retaliation, the Communist Party newspaper office was bombed. Luckily, no serious injuries resulted from either event.


The Communists now appear to be attempting to counter the CDPP demonstrations -- still attracting anywhere from hundreds to thousands of protestors every day -- with demonstrations of their own. So far, they have had limited success.


So, with all of this activity, the government of Moldova has stagnated, while citizens living away from the protests and rhetoric simply try to survive. It is probable that the country will default on its foreign debt shortly, and survival will become even more difficult. "When there's something to eat, I call our son to the table, and when there isn't, I don't, " Tatjana Zoti recently told the Associated Press. "Rare are the times when we feel we have eaten enough." (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 0331 EST, 15 Apr 02; via lexis-nexis)


by Tammy M. Lynch <>





Ivanov's adventurism in Kodori

Whatever doubts may have persisted about Russia's sponsorship of the Abkhaz rebel regime were dispelled last week when Russian "peacekeepers" staged an incursion into Georgian territory in the Kodori Gorge on 11 April. After UN and Georgian politicians reacted with outrage and indignation, the Russian force withdrew on 14 April claiming that its sole purpose was to set up a checkpoint. It seems more likely that the maneuver was a test of Georgia's (and its allies') ability and determination to defend against a new offensive. The incursion was clearly coordinated with the separatists, who threatened to stage a new offensive. (PRIME-NEWS, 1315 GMT, 16 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Signaling that last week's incursion is just the beginning of a new Russian offensive, an unrepentant Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters on 15 April that "our peacekeepers will continue in the future to patrol, control and monitor what takes place in the conflict zone as a whole and in the Kodori Gorge in particular." (RUSSIA TV, 15 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) On the following day, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told Moscow's REN TV that Ivanov is the main culprit behind the crisis. Shevardnadze also expressed doubt that Ivanov would be punished for his role in the affair. (REN TV, 0900 GMT, 16 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Similarly, Georgia's popular television station, Rustavi-2, suggested that the Russian force (which actually had come from Gadauta, not Sukhumi), had ambitious plans. "The withdrawal of up to 80 soldiers who had arrived in Kodori without permission, and nearly five tons of ammunition started in the evening. Four helicopters had to make a total of 16 flights to complete the withdrawal. The Georgian military were saying openly today that, given how the Russians were armed, their goal was not merely to set up an observation post." The same station reported that, in addition to Georgian parliament deputies who flew to the scene, "during its entire stay, the Russian platoon was being watched by almost 1,500 armed Georgians." Georgia's politicians and security service passed the test and succeeded in preventing an escalation. (RUSTAVI-2, 14 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Georgian military went on alert last week, bringing the two countries to the brink of war, when Russian "peacekeepers" from Abkhazia staged an incursion into the Kodori Gorge. The Russian force, estimated in size from 78 to 200 persons, arrived by helicopter, with fighter plane escort, and set up camps in two locations in the gorge. As ITAR-TASS phrased it, the outing was a "productive mission" because it proved that Georgian and Chechen militants are in the gorge. (ITAR-TASS, 15 April 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Try as they might, the Russian and Abkhaz representatives can't legitimize their incursion by referring to the presence of armed Georgians. First of all their presence does not contradict the agreement concluded with UN mediation on 2 April. Gia Baramidze, a member of the Georgian parliament's Committee for Defense and Security, explained that "Units of the Georgian Defense Ministry have been withdrawn from here [Kodori]. No one has prohibited the keeping here of [Georgian] border guards and internal troops. Thus, armed people will naturally remain here, but not the units of the Defense Ministry." (RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV (ORT), 1700 GMT, 13 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


Moreover, the incursion demonstrates that stability can be achieved only if the Georgian military and security services continue to prevent such provocations from escalating. The Georgian military moved into the gorge in October 2001 after a group of irregulars, rumored to include Ruslan Gelaev and other Chechen fighters, staged an attack against Abkhazia. The presence of the Georgian forces stabilized the situation, which became aggravated again only after the Georgian regular military was removed on 10 April, leaving only border guards in the gorge. (PRIME-NEWS, 1045 GMT, 10 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


The whole incident is deeply reminiscent of the 1992-1993 war, when Russian special forces fought on the side of the Abkhaz rebel minority which ethnically cleansed the majority ethnic Georgians from the region. Hence it outraged Georgian public opinion already deeply wounded by 10 years of Russian-sponsored separatist conflict. In the days following the Russian incursion, the Georgian parliament renewed its calls for a removal of the Russian "peacekeepers" and suspended discussion of a treaty on relations with Russia. (RUSTAVI-2 TV, 1300 GMT, 12 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


For his part, President Eduard Shevardnadze flew to Kodori and spoke to President Putin on 13 April, urging him to pull back the troops and threatening to terminate the Russian peacekeepers' mission in Abkhazia if they did not return to their original positions. (KAVKASIA-PRESS, 0935 GMT, 13 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


On 12 April the Chief UN Military Observer, Major General Anis A. Bajwa, expressed concern about the Russian incursion:


"I have been informed by Georgian authorities that this morning six Russian helicopters landed about 80 troops in the Adjara village in the Upper Kodori Valley and that those troops began to build fortifications while two MI 24 gunship helicopters continuously provided air cover. Later, on inquiring it was confirmed by CIS PKF [peacekeeping force] that they had undertaken this operation in order to establish a Check Point in Adjara.


"In earlier discussions I had advised the Commander of the CIS PKF, Maj. Gen Evteev to seek agreement of all the concerned parties for the re-establishment of such a Check Point,. [in particular, Georgian Defense Minister] Lt. Gen. David Tevzadze.


"It is to my total surprise, therefore, that the CIS PKF decided to undertake the establishment of this Check Point immediately in an aggressive and combative manner, which is against the norms of peacekeeping. Deeply concerned about the effect of such operation on the UN-led Peace Process, and opposed to the manner in which this action has been conducted, I strongly urge the leadership of CIS PKF to immediately withdraw and act only in a manner mutually agreed and acceptable to all parties. I emphasize on them the importance of resolving this new situation peacefully, preventing any degradation of the security situation and any harm to the peace process."(UN PRESS STATEMENT, 12 Apr 02; via


In addition, on 14 April Putin spoke to US President George Bush about a whole spectrum of issues in US-Russian relations ranging from arms control to cooperation in resolving regional crises. It's not clear whether the crisis in Kodori Gorge was explicitly mentioned. (ORT, 12 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)


The timing of the new escalation comes just as the US is about to deploy its train and equip mission to Georgia and raises concerns that Russia is punishing Georgia for seeking military cooperation with the US. As reported in the previous issue of the NIS Observed (3 Apr 02) the Russian government intimated that it would use the US deployment as an excuse to delay further the withdrawal of its bases from Georgia. The new escalation in the Kodori Gorge can be interpreted as another tactic to delay the US deployment.


by Miriam Lanskoy




The changing face of Central Asia

Since the American "war on terrorism" began more than seven months ago, much has changed in Central Asia -- mostly for the better. Increased foreign investment and humanitarian aid, renewed diplomatic ties to the West, and more-detailed coverage of the plight of the region's peoples have created the conditions for a more prosperous future for the area. A great deal of "credit" must go to Osama bin Laden and his patron Taliban government in Afghanistan, without which the United States never would have become involved in the region. It is largely through the American-led coalition that progress toward democratic governance and more civil societies has been made.


Less than a year ago, political opposition in Central Asia was both scarce and dangerous. Indeed, in Uzbekistan alone political opponents were either in prison, in exile, or in hiding until recently. However, President Islam Karimov, who was roundly criticized for his government's human rights abuses (including controlling the press and oppressing political opposition) as recently as his visit last month to Washington, seemingly has softened his hard line. In a press conference last week, President Karimov officially welcomed exiled political opponents, provided they had not previously engaged in terrorist activities. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 13 Apr 02; via Eurasianet) While such a restriction on the return of exiles to Uzbekistan is understandable on the surface, given the fact that Karimov has employed a very loose definition of terrorism since 11 September, it may amount to no exiles being allowed back into the country. However, even if a limited number of exiles is allowed to return and they can engage Karimov in substantive and open debate on political differences, will this be enough to generate adequate Western enthusiasm for the prospects of true democracy in Uzbekistan? Unfortunately the answer may be no, because a number of other positive steps that the Uzbek government has made recently have gone largely unnoticed in the West.


In Turkmenistan President Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov had ruled almost entirely unopposed for years, with opposition groups marginalized by strict control of the press and political subjugation. As a result of the "war on terrorism" and the hundred-fold increase of reporters and international attention to the region, however, the opposition has been emboldened and armed with significant firepower.


Boris Shikhmuradov, the leader of the Turkmen opposition, recently received major international support in light of the accusations that President Niyazov has been involved heavily in the heroin trade. Shikhmuradov has good reason to feel upbeat about his chances for success in Turkmenistan: Niyazov's cult of personality has been fading as of late and he has provided very limited assistance in the coalition war effort. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 15 Mar 02; via Eurasianet) With the neighboring Taliban government ousted and the war seemingly winding down in Afghanistan, the United States and its coalition partners may be more willing to support what once would have been considered as too destabilizing in the fragile region -- the toppling of the Turkmen government and the establishment of a true democracy. Certainly a pro-Western democracy under Shikhmuradov with the energy resources that Turkmenistan claims would be better received than an ambivalent dictatorship under a druglord. While regime change in Turkmenistan is far from a certainty, it is much closer today than it was on 10 September.


The obvious losers to date in the "war on terrorism" are indisputably al Qaeda and the Taliban government. The not-so-obvious losers, however, have to be the established governments in Central Asia, as increased aid and international attention have strengthened opposition groups and destabilized authoritarian regimes.


by Michael Donahue <>





Neighbors can be difficult

For the Republic of Lithuania, dealing with a neighbor that is sometimes unfriendly is a daily chore. Those who believe Russia might be Lithuania's most unfriendly neighbor might want to consider its other "favorite" neighbor -- Belarus. Since regaining independence, the two countries have traveled in markedly different directions. Lithuania is trying to distance itself from Russia as it attempts to join both the European Union and NATO, while Belarus has moved closer to Russia in an effort to rejoin with its former imperial master in a union.


Lithuanian-Russian disagreements focus on very tangible issues, such as the cross-border movements of Russian forces to the enclave of Kaliningrad. Belarus poses quite a different challenge to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to the frequency with which the two neighbors are at odds. Disagreements have been common in the last several years, but this past April has seen a dramatic upturn in the number of difficulties between the two countries.


The first problem developed on 3 April when Belarusian customs authorities raised the issue of truck transportation violations. Despite a negotiated comprehensive agreement on International Road Transport System (TIR) regulations, the Belarusian customs office has tightened border-crossing procedures and handed the government of Lithuania a bill for millions of dollars worth of fines. (BNS, 0907 GMT, 3 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0403; via World News Connection) The conflict over transit agreements could affect both economies, since Belarus represents Lithuania's fourth largest trading partner.


Then, Lithuanian media stepped up their campaign on behalf of several Belarusian journalists being tried in Minsk. The journalists, from the Hrodna-based newspaper Pahonya, are charged with defaming the president in articles written prior to the September 2001 presidential elections. (BBC, 11 Apr 02; via lexis-nexis) Their case, like many others in Belarus, has been followed closely by the Lithuanian Journalists' Union. Through a statement to the Belarusian Embassy in Vilnius, the journalists have condemned Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's continued restrictions on freedom of the press. (BNS, 1250 GMT, 9 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0409; via World News Connection)


For every action there appears to be an opposite reaction, and in this case the reaction came in the form of official complaints from the government of Belarus to Lithuania. The complaint alleges that Lithuania maintains a policy towards Belarus that is not only inconsistent but also not independent. (BNS, 1432 GMT, 11 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0411, via World News Connection) The spokesmen from the Belarusian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Pavel Latushka, did not elaborate upon the charges. Apparently perplexed by the accusations, Lithuania again asserted its position of patiently waiting for democracy and human rights to prosper in Belarus while continuing to propose initiatives for cooperation. (BNS, 1432 GMT, 11 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0411, via World News Connection)


by Michael Varuolo <>

 About Us Staff Contact Home Boston University