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The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume VIII Number 3 (19 February 2003)
 

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Michael Comstock and Scott C. Dullea
Security Services by Scott Fleeher
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Kate Martin
Foreign Relations by Ansel Thoreau Stein
Armed Forces by Steve Kwast and Dan Rozelle

Newly Independent States

Western Region by Nadezda Kinsky
and Scott Fleeher
Caucasus by Miriam Lanskoy

Central Asia by David Montgomery


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Volume XII
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Volume VII
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Volume VI
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Volume V
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Volume IV
No. 20 (20 December 1999)
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Volume III
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Volume II
No. 22 (4 December 1997)
No. 21 (20 November 1997)
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No. 6 (9 April 1997)
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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)

RUSSIAN FEDERATION
EXECUTIVE BRANCH
Subtle warning to the interior ministry
In a recent speech at the interior ministry, President Vladimir Putin warned that there is one area of Russian society that should not be touched: "I want to stress that the involvement of Interior Ministry officials in corporate wars and commercial disputes is especially dangerous. I ask you to keep away from them." Putin then went on to reassure officials about the ministry's much-anticipated reform. "Any possible actions concerning such an intricate and important body as the Interior Ministry must be double-checked and aim solely at raising its efficiency. There will be no revolutions, I say. Any moves will take the opinion of the ministry into consideration and will be very delicate," he said. What is most significant about his remarks is that he made them at all. Until now the Kremlin has been relatively tight-lipped about its internal housekeeping. Now there is little doubt that some reform will occur. And, regardless of how "delicate" is the reform that eventually takes place, it will be a significant event, given the ministry's importance. Thus, Putin delivered a double-headed warning: Stay out of the way of business, and get ready because change is coming. (TVS, 1200 GMT, 6 Feb 03; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Gazprom as a financial instrument of the executive
Meanwhile, the reform of energy giant Gazprom increasingly is being viewed as a sideshow to cover what is, in reality, a large-scale financial operation for indirect funding of President Putin's election campaign.

According to a recent report, the installation of Alexei Miller as head of Gazprom was intended to "preserve the company as the main political and financial resource for the Kremlin." Miller has attempted to achieve this purpose by defeating proposed reforms that would break up the corporation. (KOMMERSANT-VLAST, 3 Feb 03; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) However, Gazprom's financial problems are considerable, and reform is needed if it is to serve as a cash cow for the Kremlin. The real intention is to achieve the best way to keep Moscow's hands on the purse strings, while keeping the purse from becoming empty. Ironically, at the moment Gazprom's real value lies in its unreformed state: A radical change in gas prices is undesirable this close to an election year. Moreover, the oligarchs are kept at bay with the promise of reforms to come, from which inevitably they will benefit. Hence Putin's recent statement backing Miller can be seen as maintaining the status quo, for now: "The state does not support any plans to split or break up Gazprom." (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 17 Feb 03; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

by J. Michael Comstock (jm-comstock@msn.com)

* * * * *

PRESIDENCY
Putin's symbology goes abroad
From the beginning of his presidential term, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has employed symbolism to evoke memories of Russian and Soviet glory. As he nears the halfway point of his term, his utilization of historical imagery has moved to the international level, employing symbols that recall Peter the Great and Lenin (interchangeably), and demonstrating to his people (and the world) that Russia is back on the global stage.

A Putin cult has developed in Russia. Whatever the cause, the evidence is unmistakable. There is a pop song about him and any number of items bearing his image can be purchased (from carpets to pocket watches). The cult appears to have popular support. (A survey conducted in 2001-2002 by the Public Opinion Foundation [FOM] showed that 72.4% of Russians support the president and 27.3% of them are unconditionally loyal and would vote for him tomorrow.) (VREMYA NOVESTEI, 15 Feb 03; via Johnson's Russia List)

Putin is grasping for icon status by identifying his presidency with Russia's more powerful periods: On New Year's Day 2001, he reinstated the melody of the former Soviet (Stalin) anthem as Russia's new national anthem -- with different lyrics, of course (but at the Olympics, no lyrics are heard). In addition to this melodic symbol, Putin also has undertaken visible changes, such as restoring the Red Banner with a Soviet star as the Russian Army's official flag.

Such imagery is, perhaps, designed merely to cloak in patriotism what really are weaknesses in public morale and in military strength. Indeed, some argue that Putin's popularity is doomed to decline unless he begins to produce less symbolic and more tangible results. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 5 Feb 03) However, now Putin is taking the show on the road by incorporating his symbology into Russian foreign policy.

At a recent commemoration of the Battle of Stalingrad, Putin saw fit to use this ceremony to recall historic German-Russian ties, asking his compatriots to remember also the German soldiers who fought there (!) (ITAR-TASS, 2 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0202, via World News Connection) and noting how much the Germans (in the person of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder) respect their former adversaries. "Reconciliation and profound relations of friendly partnership originate from mutual sufferings of the past," Putin said. Russia and Germany will do their best to develop close relations, he added, "because it is our duty to the dead." The friendly gestures toward Germany over the past two years, which he emphasized in his post-September 11 speech at the Bundestag, signify the importance that Russia has placed on being as "European" as it viewed itself during the glory days of St. Petersburg as "Russia's window to the West."

The French-German-Russian axis, which he has helped to fashion, was taken out of Lenin's playbook by Putin. Lenin advocated the game of exploiting the "contradictions among the imperialists" -- playing the Western countries against one another until Russia could regain strength. (UPI, 13 Feb 03; via Johnson's Russia List) This type of foreign policy imagery has visible effect both on Russians and on the rest of the world. Riding the wave of these renewed Euro-Russian ties, in an 11 February French TV interview Putin reiterated Charles de Gaulle's acknowledgement that Russia is part of Europe. (BBC MONITORING, 13 Feb 03; via Johnson's Russia List)

Putin also has tried to demonstrate to his supporters at home and to his counterparts abroad just how important Russia is becoming by the company it keeps. He has hosted leaders from the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Pakistan, while Russian influence in areas such as India and China recalls the days of the superpower Soviet Empire.

Of course, Putin has shown that he knows the limits of this game of symbols. At home he coolly disagreed with a proposal to rename Volgograd and to call it Stalingrad once more. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 31 Jan 03) Underscoring his awareness, despite all the symbolism, of the need to demonstrate that one must keep one's distance from the atrocities of Russia's past, Putin recently signed legislation which restores the rights of underage children of Stalin-era victims. (ITAR-TASS, 10 Feb 03; via Johnson's Russia List)

What does President Putin's use of international and domestic symbols reveal? Is it purely camouflage for Russia's real status as an economic and political weakling? As he explained to the public before the Duma passed his bills on old-new symbols, "If we agree... that we should not use the symbols of past epochs, including the Soviet epoch, we will have to agree that our mothers and fathers have lived a useless, senseless life, that they have lived their lives in vain." (FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 5 Dec 00; via Lexis-Nexis) Statements of this kind ought to be considered in any analysis of what makes Putin tick and where he is leading his country.

by Scott C. Dullea (dulleas@bu.edu)


SECURITY SERVICES
Pasko is out...will Babkin remain in?

Not long after some degree of closure was achieved in the case of Grigory Pasko, accused of espionage, another high-visibility spy saga assumed center stage of the Russian media and the judiciary. Just days following Pasko's 23 January release, the re-investigation of the 73-year-old Russian scientist/professor Anatoly Babkin became public.

The Babkin case has been enveloped in the miasmatic shroud engulfing the security services (along with their enthusiastic colleagues at the justice ministry). Unfounded accusations, lengthy prison sentences, and charges ranging from neglect to torture are just a few of the allegations regularly leveled at the two agencies. Such public attention presumably is likely to be all the more unwelcome in light of recent calls by President Putin encouraging "respect for human rights" and "humanitarian treatment." Anatoly Babkin's professions of innocence and claims that he was forced (by the FSB) to confess to treason under duress (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis) are disconcerting for the FSB, the judiciary, and the president.

Babkin's rapid metamorphosis from respected scientist and esteemed professor (at the Bauman Technical University in Moscow) to enemy of the state began with his arrest in April of 2000. He is charged with treason, a charge that can lead to a prison sentence of between 12 and 20 years. (INTERFAX, 1611 GMT, 4 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0204, via World News Connection) This accusation stems from an FSB allegation that Babkin compiled and smuggled technical data involving the Shkval (Squall) missile system into the United States through Edmond Pope, who was accused of espionage (and later pardoned).

According to Babkin's defense attorney, the entire data collected and subsequently passed on to the University of Pennsylvania were part of an agreement between Bauman University and its American counterpart. (INTERFAX, 1611 GMT, 4 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0204, via World News Connection) The defense maintains that data transferred to the University of Pennsylvania were exchanged under the authority of a "special commission of the Moscow University," a claim which, once substantiated, should exonerate Babkin. (KOMMERSANT, 12 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis) The court did not allow a similar defense to succeed during Pope's trial, however.

There is the possibility that the material in question may have been so-called "dual-use technology." It appears that the scientific data at the heart of the indictment may not be limited to the advanced high-speed underwater missile known as the Squall, (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 11 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis) but in reality may also be applied to routine civilian applications such as fire fighting. (KOMMERSANT, 12 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis) This may pose a quandary for the presidential "apparat," in light of the recent loosening of restrictions involving a number of dual-use technologies. With symptoms of Spymania appearing ever more frequently in the headlines, and distrust running rampant through the Russian scientific community, evidence that would fully exonerate Babkin and prove that the data in question involved dual-use technology would hardly be welcome.

On 19 February, the Moscow Municipal Court found Babkin guilty of espionage and gave him a suspended sentence of eight years in prison. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 20 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis) The chief prosecutor had requested that the court take into account the defendant's failing health. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 11 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis)

by Scott Fleeher (gunpilot@military.com)


FOREIGN RELATIONS
The Moscow-Paris-Berlin pseudo-alliance

Much has been made in the last weeks of the Russo-French-German "alliance" that opposes the United States' position vis-à-vis Iraq. The coordination of these three powers reached its apex in the wake of Hans Blix's most recent report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). President Putin visited Berlin and Paris last week, prior to Blix's report, and declared (as has become fairly standard) that the strategic interests of each of the countries were aligned in perfect harmony. Russia's actions elsewhere, however, demonstrate differences between Russian, French and German foreign policies, with the exception of their opposition to American "hegemony." In fact, the recent Russo-Pakistani summit once again indicates Moscow's willingness to play both sides of the fence, given the situation.

The UN sanctions regime
Russian policy has been most visible in the context of the UNSC. President Putin joined Germany and China in backing a French proposal to expand weapons inspections so as to prevent the forcible disarmament of Iraq. The Russian foreign ministry subsequently announced that it planned to issue an official analysis (which, no doubt, will be less than favorable) of the evidence against Iraq that Secretary Powell presented to the UNSC. That analysis probably is intended to buttress Putin's stance that, while arms inspectors should review US accusations, he saw nothing to justify the use of force. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis)

Despite some Western analyses that view Russia as merely trailing behind France, there is evidence of Russian initiatives to counter American policy. For example, the Russian Ambassador to Iraq, Vladimir Titorenko, announced on 6 February that Iraq and Russia will sign contracts in the areas of energy, transport, communications and agriculture worth around $200 million. (INTERFAX, 1729 GMT, 6 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0206, via World News Connection) A day earlier, Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev had refused to rule out future cooperation in the nuclear sphere with Iraq. Quite the opposite, in fact. "If the sanctions are lifted, and Iraq shows an interest in creating nuclear technologies, then yes," Rumyantsev said in an interview with Vremya Novostei. (INTERFAX, 0947 GMT, 5 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0205, via World News Connection) On 10 February, the "after-sanctions-are-lifted" track led Iraq to announce the cancellation of LUKoil's contract to develop the West Qurna-2 oilfield. Iraq's acting oil minister, Samir al-Najm, claimed at the time that "LUKoil has fulfilled not a single commitment, in particular, not a single dollar has been invested in the contract over the past three years." (INTERFAX, 1227 GMT, 10 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0210, via World News Connection) One of Russia's motivations in its Iraq policy is to remove the sanctions regime and to exploit the economic opportunities that surely would ensue. If this happens, France and Germany may become competitors rather than continue their alliance. (Indeed, French and German companies generally have been willing to sell to Saddam Hussein's regime.)

"New" vs. "Old" NATO/EU/Europe
Vitaliy Tretyakov argued last week that the Russo-French-German alliance marked the beginning of Russia's integration into Europe and that this would lead to its entry into the EU by 2010. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 13 Feb 03; FBIS-WEU-2003-0213, via World News Connection) In his interview with France's Channel 3 two weeks ago, President Putin gave this prediction a bizarre basis when he claimed that the roots of the culture shared by Russia and France "are in the culture of Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece and Byzantium. That is what forms the basis of a future greater Europe." (ITAR-TASS, 1804 GMT, 9 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0209, via World News Connection) One should note that these "roots" are shared also by the United States, Muslim civilizations (Muslims transmitted the attainments of ancient Greece to Renaissance Europe), India via Alexander the Great's empire, etc. Just think: Russia in the EU by 2010, and the sky is the limit by 2015.

The agreement of policy between Russia, France and Germany is not about culture. It concerns, in Putin's own words, countering American "hegemony." "We believe here, in Russia, just as French President Jacques Chirac believes, that the future international security architecture must be based on a multi-polar world. This is the main thing that unites us." (ITAR-TASS, 1804 GMT, 9 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0209, via World News Connection) The problem is that Russia is pursuing this notion to the eventual detriment of its own security and that of many other countries.

Russian media coverage of the Aero India-2003 expo, which began last week in Bangalore, pointed out: "We sell India more advanced weapons than those the Russian Army has. And this is Right!" The process of selling India arms that supposedly are superior to weapons supplied to Russia's own armed forces is being linked in Moscow to the fight against a "unipolar" world. "Indian Air Force Su-30KI's will participate in the show. This is the best fourth+ generation fighter in the world, and even the Russian Army does not have any of them... . Are we doing the right thing in sending our best abroad? Of course... . First, it meets Russia's geopolitical interests. A strong India is a vital factor in regional stability and this completely fits in the doctrine of a multipolar world, which Russia holds to. Secondly, it develops our... technologies and production lines. New developments which are already rolled out and finished will sooner or later come to the Russian Army." (VREMYA MN, 7 Feb 03; FBIS-NES-2003-0207, via World News Connection) The success of the "sooner or later" policy is, of course, on full display in Chechnya (whose guerrilla chief Basaev previously, as a member of the GRU, had helped Moscow to tear away Abkhazia from Georgia).

Sitting on both sides of the fence
Moscow demonstrated its willingness to play both sides of the fence at the recent Russo-Pakistani summit. As recently as December, Putin declared absolute strategic coordination with India, Pakistan's chief adversary. During the summit, however, Russia announced its intention to put aside past disputes and focus on cooperation with Pakistan in a number of fields, including "in the energy, metal and telecommunications industries, in the aerospace sector, and in developing and implementing a number of infrastructure projects." (INTERFAX, 2104 GMT, 4 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0204, Via World News Connection) Perhaps the Russians are telling the Indians that all is fair in the pursuit of a "multipolar" world.

The survivability of the Paris-Berlin-Moscow troika is highly questionable. Germany's (temporary) moralist-pacifist posture, France's leadership illusion, and Russia's "we're still a player" stance may be hard to align in the future.

by Ansel Thoreau Stein (anseliscip@hotmail.com)


DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
POLITICAL PARTIES
Parties go out on a limb as branches face scrutiny
Although nearly a year still remains before parliamentary elections in December, Russia's political parties already are facing several challenges, from within and without, concerning their very existence - due to schisms and government investigations, as well as fluctuating popularity with the voters.

Not surprisingly, politicians are getting mixed messages. Government representatives may turn a blind eye to severely inflated membership totals; indeed, some parties reportedly keep a second and sometimes a third set of books with vastly divergent numbers - one for public consumption, via the media; one for the justice ministry; and one for internal use - without sparking an official examination. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 14 Jan 03) However, some lies are better than others. Party leaders apparently can fool the public about their level of support, but they have been warned that the justice ministry will be checking registration information. In particular, an official at the Central Election Board admonished party leaders to take the ministry's check on regional branches very seriously. "If the Justice Ministry finds that the data [are] fictitious, registrations of some of their branches may be revoked," Yelena Dubrovina said. (ITAR-TASS, 1824 GMT, 25 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0125, via World News Connection) Since parties seeking seats in the Duma are required to have branches in at least half of Russia's constituent territories, the loss of branches due to ministry investigations could result in loss of eligibility for appearing on the ballot. Minster of Justice Yuri Chaika reported that 50 parties already have been registered, with 29 of the 50 having submitted proof of the required number of branches.


At least one newspaper is looking at the justice ministry's activities with a jaundiced eye. Vremya MN claimed that centrist parties, not oppositional groups, should be wary of investigation: "An overabundance of allies worries the government more than the existence of political opponents." (VREMYA MN, 30 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0130, via World News Connection)

In the meantime, a number of parties have begun to align themselves into blocs in attempts to ensure crossing over the five-percent hurdle for party list representation in 225 seats of the Duma. (The other 225 seats represent single-member constituencies.) The Russian Party of Workers' Self-Government announced that it will join with (ex-Communist) Gennady Seleznev's Revival of Russia party once the election campaign begins. (ITAR-TASS, 1641 GMT, 25 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0125, via World News Connection) Liberal Russia Co-chairman Sergei Yushenkov subsequently called for "democratic" parties to create a single party list. Mikhail Prusak, governor of Novgorod and leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, expressed support for the idea, which he said would be discussed in March at the Congress of Democratic Forces. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 10 Feb 03)

The two parties most assured of seats, Unity Party and the Communist Party (KPRF), continue to do well in polls; a recent survey indicated that the former would have received 26 percent of the vote, while the latter would have received 24 percent of the vote, if elections had been held at the beginning of January. (ITAR-TASS, 1902 GMT, 30 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0130, via World News Connection) The Unity Party's results, moreover, indicated a slight rise in its popularity, which had been on par with the Communist Party in December.

Given their vastly different platforms, it is unlikely that the increase in Unity's popularity is a result of KPRF supporters jumping ship. However, the Communist Party has been weathering several storms recently which could be affecting its popularity. Seleznev's departure, in response to attempts to remove him from the Duma speaker position, split the party significantly. Subsequently, curious allegations surfaced of secret backers of the party - straining the "politics make strange bedfellows" adage beyond all credibility -- while party leader Gennady Zyuganov strenuously denied that funding was forthcoming from self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky or from the YUKOS oil company. And, although he had publicly castigated Gennady Semigin, chairman of the Executive Committee of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia (of which the Communist Party constitutes a significant component), Zyuganov denied that the conflict between them would weaken further the KPRF. "All the tales that one or two people can influence the party's power are conjectures," Zyuganov said. The conflict with Semigin, he added, was "a new attempt to split our organization." (ITAR-TASS, 1831 GMT, 30 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0130, via World News Connection)

Such schisms may be the least of the problems facing the KPRF. Nezavisimaya gazeta, which is owned by Berezovsky, reached the bound-to-be-unnerving conclusion that the party should expect little media coverage as the elections approach, if the near-total lack of attention garned by Zyuganov's recent press conference is any indication. No coverage was seen on ORT, REN-TV or NTV; RTR quoted the party leader only minimally. Indeed, the only media outlet that provided substantive coverage was TV-Tsentr. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 4 Feb 03)

LEGISLATURE
Deputies say language law amendments are #@!%*#

On 5 February, the Duma passed the bill establishing Russian as the state language, mandating its use in all public areas. Two hundred and forty-eight MPs passed the bill, which bans the public use of invectives referring to citizens' race, nationality, occupation, social status, gender, language, religion or political convictions, as well as the use of foreign words and phrases if a Russian version exists. Interestingly enough, the bill also prohibits the use of obscenities in print and electronic media. (ITAR-TASS, 1653 GMT, 5 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0205, via World News Connection)

The ban on obscenities could have been problematic for journalists covering Duma proceedings two days later when some MPs tried to oust Vladimir Zhirinovsky on the grounds that he overstepped his authority by writing a controversial letter to US President George W. Bush concerning Iraq. Deputy Aleksandr Fedulov's strident defense of Zhirinovsky degenerated into a rant against Gennady Zyuganov and Gennady Seleznev, and then against the political niceties necessary for civil discourse. His obscenities-laced speech sparked the ire of a fellow MP, Vasily Shandybin from Bryansk, who walked up to Fedulov and grabbed the deputy by the lapels. Blows were exchanged before the deputies were separated. While Fedulov was punished for his use of profanities, Zhirinovsky defended his word choice. "The people speak this way, and we are representatives of the people," he explained. (ROSSIYKAYA GAZETA, 8 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0208, via World News Connection) Fortunately for the MPs, the recently passed language law had not been promulgated.

Moreover, it will not be promulgated in its present form, the Federation Council subsequently decided. After two Federation Council committees recommended a review by a conciliatory commission, the full council rejected the Duma-approved draft. Council Speaker Sergei Mironov reportedly said the law was "half-baked" and contained many flaws. (ITAR-TASS, 1005 GMT, 12 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0212, via World News Connection) The vote -- 126 against, 7 in favor, with 10 abstentions - indicated the council members' disregard for two significant portions of the bill: the ban on foreign words and phrases, and the prohibition of the public use of "non-standard speech." (INTERFAX, 1041 GMT, 12 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0212, via World News Connection)

MEDIA
NTV saga continues

Fallout from the ouster of Boris Jordan from his positions as head of NTV and general director of the Gazprom-Media board continues to spread. Last month NTV's Executive Board voted unanimously to express no confidence in the station's new director, Nikolai Senkevich, following his appointment of Aleksei Zemsky as first deputy director. Popular NTV host Leonid Parfenov explained that the board's concern centered on Zemsky's background as a producer of programs that focus more on entertainment than on news dissemination. "How this person can direct an information service is not understandable. The first deputy for broadcasting at NTV is first of all an information-service director," Parfenov told Vremya Novostei. "[E]ither [the staff] or the management has to leave" following such vote of no confidence, NTV Editor-in-Chief Tatiana Mitkova told Interfax. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 31 Jan 03)

In the face of such statements, the NTV leadership made it quite clear that, while the pen is mightier than the sword, the press release is mightier than the pen - especially when the pen is wielded by journalists. "The heads of the NTV open joint-stock company wish to say that there is no such element as a board in the composition of NTV. The shareholders, the council of directors and the television company's general director are its official bodies," an official statement read. "Resolutions and decisions by other parties speaking on behalf of NTV have no legal force." (INTERFAX, 1722 GMT, 30 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0130, via World News Connection) Newly named Gazprom-Media head Alexander Dybal suggested that Gazprom Director Alexei Miller should dismiss every member of the non-existent board except for the most popular journalists -- Mitkova, Parfenov and Savik Shuster. Dybal added, however, that he wanted to prevent an exodus of journalists from NTV. (INTERFAX, 0852 GMT, 5 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0205, via World News Connection)

In any event, Mitkova did not appear as the anchor of the evening news following the vote of no confidence. And Parfenov did leave, although that departure may be temporary. He reportedly asserted that "it is impossible to produce the program in these circumstances," and took an open-ended creative leave. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 8 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0208, via World News Connection) While still employed by NTV, he has received offers from the STS TV channel, which served as sanctuary for Yevgeni Kiselev two years ago when he left NTV. Parfenov was not the only person walking away from the channel. NTV deputy director Rafael Akopov resigned on 10 February. The channel's spokesperson did not provide further information about his departure. (INTERFAX, 1601 GMT, 10 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0210, via World News Connection)

Boris Nemtsov, leader of the parliamentary faction Union of Right Forces, summed up the mess succinctly: The "clumsy reshuffling in the staff is destroying this talented TV station not by the day but by the very hour." (INTERFAX, 1933 GMT 30 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0130, via World News Connection)

by Kate Martin (kmmartin@bu.edu)


ARMED FORCES
Russia continues to bully Georgia with military troops and weapons

If any leader of the former Soviet republics thought the collapse of the USSR meant freedom from occupation, he would be sadly mistaken. Russia has continued to maintain significant military troops, garrisons, ammunition storage facilities and peacekeeping forces in most of the ex-Soviet states. Moscow uses this military presence to enmesh itself in the geopolitical landscape of each region in a desperate attempt to maintain some relevancy. The recent string of events in Georgia's northern provinces illustrates this phenomenon.

Even before the United Nations inappropriately undermined Georgian authority and sovereignty by voting to extend peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia, (THE NIS OBSERVED, 5 Feb 03) Moscow was bullying Tbilisi with words and actions. Two weeks before the UN voted, the chairman of the Russian Duma defense committee, Andrei Nikolaev, met with the speaker of the Georgian parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze. At that meeting Nikolaev made Russia's stand very clear: "The UN monitors will leave the republic if Georgia refuses to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping contingent. This would be fraught with danger of a new war, and would aggravate the situation in the region," Nikolaev said. (ITAR-TASS, 1240 GMT, 22 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0122, via World News Connection) In addition to this barely veiled threat, Russia has undermined Georgian sovereignty by issuing Russian passports to over 80 percent of the Abkhaz population, supporting the ruble as the area's main hard currency and restoring railroad communication between Sochi and Sukhumi. All these actions border on annexation of Georgian territory by Russia. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze is furious but helpless. He cannot force Russia to withdraw its troops. (VREMYA MN, 1400 GMT, 5 Feb 03; WPS Defense and Security, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Between threats of military action, Russian President Putin keeps pretending to take the high road. "Russia will not insist on the peacekeepers remaining in Georgia if Tbilisi demands their withdrawal," he said. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 30 Jan 03)

On 3 February, President Shevardnadze proposed the replacement of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone. He suggested that the force should be modeled on one currently deployed in the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, which comprises Russian, Georgian and Ossetian service personnel. He went on to suggest that the EU might send troops from its rapid-reaction force and that Azeri troops serve in such an EU force. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 4 Feb 03) In the end, Shevardnadze would prefer any force but a Russian force that undermines his authority at every turn. On 6 February, he went so far as to announce that Ukraine and Uzbekistan are ready to take part in peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia. "Russian peacekeepers fail to cope with their duties and, regrettably, the UN Security Council does not pay enough attention to this circumstance," he said. Neither the meeting of the Georgian and Russian presidents nor the UN Security Council resolution has increased clarity regarding the presence and the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia. (WWW.CIVIL.GE, 6 Feb 03) Shevardnadze has very good reason to be frustrated. Russia has maneuvered him into a corner in Abkhazia and has acted against his wishes with military presence elsewhere in his country as well.

For example, Russian troops are still garrisoned in Georgia. Shevardnadze has been trying to get them out since the fall of the Soviet Union, but true to form, Moscow has not budged. President Putin talks about wanting to withdraw the troops. He even has allowed "serious" negotiations and timetables for withdrawal, but in the end the troops never leave. In the opinion of Nino Burdzhanadze, the Georgian parliament speaker, the issue of Russian military bases in Georgia "is the main irritant in relations between the two countries." "Russia has closed down only one out of its four bases in Georgia," Burdzhanadze noted. "In the opinion of Tbilisi, they could be closed down within the next three years, and not within the Moscow-suggested timeframe of fourteen years." (VREMYA MN, 1400 GMT, 5 Feb 03; WPS Defense and Security, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

To add insult to injury, Russia is sending weapons into South Ossetia. On 3 February, the Georgian foreign ministry accused Russia of deploying arms and military vehicles in excess of what Russia is permitted to have in the Caucasus under the revised version of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). Georgian media reported that Russia has provided South Ossetia with 19 tanks, 20 armored personnel carriers, several dozen grenade launchers, and a large number of submachine guns. (RUSTAVI-2 TV, 1400 GMT, 9 Feb 03; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Moscow's response continued to follow the pattern of intimidation and denial with which Georgia has been dealing for over a decade. Colonel General Nikolay Kormiltsev, commander-in-chief of the Russian Ground Forces and deputy defense minister, said, "there is not a single piece of military hardware in the zone of the South Ossetian conflict, which is under the control of the Russian peacekeepers in accordance with a resolution adopted by the heads of the CIS member states." (ITAR-TASS, 0748 GMT, 4 Feb 03; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) This is a classic Russian denial. The Russian peacekeeping troops may have signed the weapons and equipment over to local troops to avoid a "technical" violation of the CFE. In any case, the type and number of weapons in Tskhinvali, the capital of the self-styled South Ossetian republic, conclusively prove they came directly from Russia. Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, the Georgian president's personal envoy for the Ossetian conflict, told Civil Georgia press on 4 February that "there is no other way to bring such weapons to Ossetia [than from Russia]." (WWW.CIVIL.GE, 5 Feb 03)

Moscow's pattern of intimidation and military presence in Georgia holds true for many ex-Soviet states. It doesn't matter if the troops garrisoned in these states are well trained or well supplied. Their purpose is not so much military as it is political. As with Georgia, Moscow uses these troops to keep its fingers in the business of these states in hopes of maintaining influence and control.

It would be wise for the international community and the UN to stop looking the other way and start demanding that the Russians stay out of sovereign countries such as Georgia where they are not welcome. The precedents that have become habit now can only serve to destabilize a region of the world in desperate need of stability and genuine sovereignty.

by Steve Kwast (Kwast@bu.edu)

* * * *

Russia's conscription dilemma
Talk in some (admittedly small) political circles in Washington, DC, lately has centered on whether the United States should reinstate the draft. Perhaps those individuals doing the talking should invite representatives from Russia to share their knowledge of conscription's effects on a society and of a resulting military not wholly engaged in full-scale conflict.

For more than a decade, Russia has struggled to reshape its military into a more modern and effective fighting force. Few Russians dispute the present poor condition of its armed forces. Having inherited a force of 2.8 million from the Soviet Army, Russia now has approximately 1.1 million soldiers, sailors and airmen in its main armed forces, not including those in other agencies such as the border guards, the interior ministry and the railways. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 18 Dec 02; via Lexis-Nexis) Much of the decrease is due, obviously, to forces lost to countries that became independent in 1991.

At its current size, Russia's military is only slightly smaller than that of the US. However, while its size has decreased, the same cannot be said for the magnitude of problems its leadership faces. A large proportion is directly attributable to personnel: crime, drug abuse and desertion. Not surprisingly, many Russians now perceive that part of the solution lies in a volunteer military. They may be right. The unpopularity of conscription within Russia is becoming increasingly evident.

Russia's military is an overwhelmingly conscripted force; nearly 600,000 draftees serve a two-year enlistment. With an eligible age range from 18 to 28, it is almost impossible to avoid being called. However, the draft is so unpopular and feared that nearly 90 percent of eligible men evade it, relying on medical or education deferments. Even those without the option of deferment try to avoid service. According to Lieutenant General Vasiliy Smirnov, head of the General Staff's Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate, approximately 30,000 men dodged military service during the spring 2002 conscription period. In the fall of 2002 when 174,000 men were conscripted, another 21,000 avoided the call-up. (ITAR-TASS, 1245 GMT, 16 Jan 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0116, via World News Connection)

Bribery is perhaps the one tried-and-true method for avoiding military service. It is well known that "price lists" exist for the assistance of officials in avoiding military service. (ZOLOTOY ROG, 31 Oct 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) By one estimate, bribes to military district commissariat representatives amount to nearly $50 million a year. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 18 Dec 02; via Lexis-Nexis) In fact, bribery is so rampant that only the poorest and most alienated sections of society seem to be drafted. Nearly 20% are high school dropouts; 7% have prison records. (VREMYA MN, 30 Aug 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) Close to 33% of all potential recruits are found only partially fit for military duty because of health problems, and the rate at which drug abusers are conscripted is putatively over 20%. (THE NIS OBSERVED, 5 Feb 03)

While bribery is the surest way, other methods also exist to circumvent the military's quest for manpower. Thousands of conscription-age men are exploiting a legal loophole that allows them to avoid mandatory military service, opting instead to volunteer for service with the interior, emergencies or justice ministries by signing up for two-year stints as firefighters or policemen. The number of men doing so grew from 1,051 in 1999 to 7,234 in 2001, despite defense ministry assertions that the armed forces are supposed to get first pick of available conscripts. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 28 Jan 03; via Lexis-Nexis)

The military, of course, would like to close this loophole. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has notified President Putin that the actions of the interior and emergencies ministries conflict with federal law. But the shortage of manpower faced by these ministries makes it likely they will ignore any attempts to change the situation. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 27 Jan 03; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)

Another less subtle legal maneuver exists for those who find their name on the military commissariat's list of conscripts. Human rights activists are helping these men challenge the decisions of the commissariat in court. While the trial is underway, the potential conscript cannot be drafted. By the time the verdict is announced, the conscription period may have ended. (GAZETA, 21 Nov 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)

However, the most visible means of avoiding military service of late is simply to desert. Large groups of conscripts have left their units after being subjected to the brutal treatment often present in the military barracks. (THE NIS OBSERVED, 5 Feb 03) The hazing, bullying and nearly inhumane living conditions that exist are clearly the root of the resistance to mandatory military service. Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Right Forces, claims that 531 military members have been killed and another 20,000 injured as a result of bullying or hazing. (NTV MIR, 1630 GMT, 20 Dec 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Defense and Security Database) The military refers to similar figures, while the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers, a human rights organization, offers a much higher number of 4,000 deaths -- but those figures include all non-combat causes of death.

Regardless of the growing resistance to conscription, it is doubtful that Russia will end the practice any time soon. Even while pushing for contract or volunteer service, such as the 76th Airborne Division experiment, President Putin continues to advocate conscription. During a speech at the Ryazan Paratroopers School, Putin stated that, despite reforms, the conscription system will be retained indefinitely. This obviously sits well with the military. Despite the rising number of grossly unqualified recruits, military leaders insist that reforms must focus on the structures of the armed forces as well as new weapons and equipment. Left unsaid is a clear desire to retain the bloated Soviet military model with an enemy in the west. Even if President Putin were to achieve his goal of reforming the military and refocusing Russia's national security concept to oppose "terrorism," the General Staff undoubtedly would find a way to prove that "terrorism" can only be fought with millions of military personnel. (YEZHENEDELNYI ZHURNAL, 10 Dec 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Russian Political Monitor Database)

by Dan Rozelle (drozelle@bu.edu)


NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
WESTERN REGION
UKRAINE
Preparing the ground
On a recent visit to Washington, Our Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko made an appeal that the Ukrainian population not be forgotten when funding cuts to punish the Kuchma regime are undertaken. US policy was in line with that call; at the end of January the Bush Administration decided to divert funds originally intended for the Ukrainian government to non-governmental organizations. The funding cuts for Ukraine come as a result of the Kolchuga scandal which still has not been resolved to Washington's satisfaction. The diversion of the funds to NGOs, US State Department spokesman Louis Fintour said, "reaffirms that support for a stable democratic market-oriented Ukraine -- increasingly integrated into Euro-Atlantic institutions -- remains in the US interest." (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 3 Feb 03)

Viktor Yushchenko is the most popular figure of the Ukrainian opposition, and also the most pro-Western personality with his Our Ukraine party. His recent visit to the United States serves as contrast to President Kuchma's recent flirtation with Russia. Despite Kuchma's repeated statements about his intention to follow a pro-Western route in his foreign policy, his recent appointment as president of the CIS and celebrations of Russo-Ukrainian friendship jar with his moves towards European or NATO integration. These issues of foreign policy, however, are most meaningful in their domestic context -- the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. To Kuchma, the guarantee of some support after the election is absolutely vital. If he were to lose his position, he also would lose his presidential immunity, and thus become vulnerable to prosecution -- not only on corruption charges, unpleasant enough as they are, but on charges of murder concerning the yet-unsolved death of journalist Georgiy Gongadze.

There are other seemingly politically-motivated deaths for which he might be held responsible -- and they seem to be on the rise again in recent months. After several disappearances of journalists, another car accident on icy roads is arousing suspicion. Anatoliy Yermak, an opposition parliamentary deputy and one of the foremost fighters against corruption and mafia organizations, was killed in an 11 February crash. The interior ministry immediately opened an investigation, but its quick reference to dangerous road conditions seemed a little too handy -- whether because the idea of an opposition figure dying in a car crash is so familiar and bound to arouse suspicion or because a guilty hand may be involved. No doubt, the investigation will remain open and contested for a while to come.

Given the situation in Kuchma's Ukraine and his personal record of corruption and worse, it is evident that he needs to build for himself a reliable structure within which he can safely enter his life as an ex-president. His new CIS presidency will provide some legal and financial assurance. Even more reassuring would be the protection from Russia which he may hope to be enjoying if he can ensure being succeeded by a pro-Russian candidate -- though at the same time, to turn away from the West completely is economically and politically unviable even for Kuchma.

BELARUS
New start

German Ambassador Eberhard Heyken arrived on 9 February as head of the Minsk OSCE mission amid rumors that the mission's hands were severely tied by the agreement with Belarus that had opened the way for the OSCE's return.

His arrival was immediately preceded by an assessment of Belarus by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus. Its chairwoman, Uta Zapf, noted on 7 February that there were "no sufficient grounds" for allowing Belarus to become a member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, given its lack of progress on issues of media freedom, treatment of trade unions and local election campaigns. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 7 Feb 03) The working group's last assessment, in May 2002, on a lack of democratic progress in Belarus, contributed considerably to the break in relations between the OSCE and Belarus, and the eventual expulsion of the OSCE mission in Minsk. It now remains to be seen now whether Heyken and his team fare better than their predecessors, as the West continues to ostracize Belarus under Lukashenka.

Lukashenka initially spoke with restraint of the new mission. "I hope very much that we will not have conflicts like those with the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group led by [Hans Georg] Wieck." (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 3 Feb 03) He also took a symbolic step back from his Russian ties, stating his concern about the Belarusian population's lack of enthusiasm for the proposed union with Russia. Lukashenka seems to remain intent on keeping the process of integration going rather than seeing an integration or alliance come to fruition, which may paint him into one corner.

Heyken most recently served as the German ambassador to Ukraine (1996-2000). The Minsk office's mandate is quite tame and does not address many important issues that have generated international concern -- most notably, the lack of any mention of human rights standards or the monitoring of press freedom. Members of the Belarusian opposition have been particularly critical of the new mission's potential. They have, however, voiced approval of the working group's findings on Lukashenka's Belarus. Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka reportedly said he welcomed the decision since it confirmed Europe's opposition to the authoritarian regime of the Belarusian president. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 13 Feb 03)

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's working group's decision as well as the beginning of a new OSCE mission can help Lukashenka to counterbalance Russian overtures during talks on the proposed union state, from which he appears to be backing away at the moment. With continued distancing of the West from Belarus, however, Lukashenka will be hard-pressed to find an alternative source of the economic and political support that he and his country need.
by Nadezda Kinsky (nkinsky@bu.edu)



CAUCASUS
Who appointed Maigov?

On 12 February Salambek Maigov announced that he had been appointed by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to be his representative to Russia. Maigov is a long-term resident of Moscow, where he heads the Anti-War Congress. (EKHO MOSKYY, 13 Feb 03; via echo.msk.ru) There remain some doubts about the authenticity of the appointment which, according to Maigov, was communicated to him by a fax on 3 February, but has not been announced on the Chechen government website Chechenpress or confirmed by any of Maskhadov's other representatives. Maigov says that he does not replace Akhmad Zakaev, who remains Maskhadov's representative in Europe and is currently undergoing extradition hearings in London. Rather, Maigov apparently replaces Mairbek Vyachagaev, who had been Maskhadov's Moscow representative but has relocated to France.

When asked about his current occupation, Maigov told Ekho Moskvy that he is a "businessman" and a political activist. Maigov, who holds a Ph.D. from the prestigious Institute of International Economics and International Affairs (IMEiMO) -- once headed by the KGB's Yevgeni Primakov -- has many diverse political connections which place him squarely within the Moscow political elite. Citing an unnamed "veteran military analyst," RFE/RL reported that Maigov is a "former Military Intelligence (GRU) officer." (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 14 Feb 03) Fellow IMEiMO affiliates Primakov and Anton Surikov pursued careers in the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and GRU, respectively. Maigov, a political opponent of both Dzhokhar Dudaev and Aslan Maskhadov, did not fight in the first Chechen war and there are no warrants against him in Russia. In 1997 Maigov ran unsuccessfuly for the Chechen presidency.

Since the start of the present war he has headed the Anti-War Congress in Moscow and has consistently called for dialogue to end the war and drawn attention to the plight of civilians in Chechnya. (See, for instance, his commentary, "The counter-terrorist operation has reached a dead-end," NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 22 Sep 00) In this capacity he has shared the podium with such stalwarts of the democratic movements as Sergei Kovalev of Memorial, Lev Ponamarev of Za prava cheloveka, and Anna Politkovskaya of Novaya gazeta. At the same time, Maigov is a member of the executive committee of the Eurasia party, which is inspired by the neo-fascist theories of Aleksandr Dugin. The co-chairman of the Executive Committee of the Eurasia party is none other than Pavel Borodin, the former head of the Kremlin's Control Commission. In 1999 Borodin was indicted in Switzerland in a massive corruption scandal that threatened to engulf Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, Yel'tsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and other members of the presidential administration. In 1996, in his first Kremlin appointment, Vladimir Putin was Pavel Borodin's deputy.

Why would a successful businessman with powerful contacts accept such a challenging and potentially dangerous appointment? Maigov says that his nomination was supported by "high-ranking Russian officials." (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 10 Feb 03; via Lexis-Nexis) In his interview with Ekho Moskvy, Maigov said that his appointment was negotiated over a three-month period and that Borodin had been fully informed. He also indicated that he would like to hold talks with representatives of Putin's administration and hinted that he has proposals from Maskhadov. Maigov refused to comment on whether Maskhadov remains committed to Chechnya's full independence. On the following day, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin's chief spokesman on Chechen affairs, said that "I think one can talk to him [Maigov] as to a private individual, not as Maskhadov's representative." (TVS, 1200 GMT, 14 Feb 03; BBC Monitoring, via Lexis-Nexis)

GEORGIA
Shevardnadze bows to US pressure
On 13 February Richard Boucher, the US State Department's spokesman, called on Georgia to extend Russia's peacekeeping mandate in Abkhazia: " The current mandate of the Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping Force in Abkhazia expired at the end of December, 2002. The United States supports extending the Force's mandate for another six-month period." (WWW.STATE.GOV) As reported in the 5 February issue of The NIS Observed, Georgia's National Security Council had identified three conditions under which it would extend the CIS mandate: Russia must stop granting passports to Abkhaz citizens; train traffic between Sochi and Sukhumi must cease; and the peacekeepers must assume responsibility for the Gali district. Boucher mentioned only one aspect of these criteria, "We fully understand the concern of the Georgian government about recent unilateral actions on Russia's part such as reopening the railway line from Sochi to Sukhumi. The United States believes that no one should engage in activities that would appear to enhance the separate status of Abkhazia and render the negotiating process more difficult." On 15 February, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze bowed to the pressure, explaining, "The US and friendly countries are once again asking Georgia to extend the peacekeepers' mandate." (ITAR-TASS, 15 Feb 03; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

A Russian scenario averted or imagined?
In the summer of 1999, Russian President Boris Yel'tsin taught his CIS colleagues a lesson in how to leave office without relinquishing power. Yel'tsin struck a deal with his chekisty: He would elevate them to political power and, in return, they would guarantee immunity for him and his family. Several appointees of the old regime would remain in place to oversee the implementation of this deal. Many aspects of this model can be applied to Georgia and Azerbaijan, where aging presidents are nearing the end of their terms.

The recent allegations that a "velvet coup" has been narrowly averted in Tbilisi suggests that such scenarios are being considered there. The story broke with an attack on an opposition candidate, David Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights party. His office (located in the most central and tightly secured part of Tbilisi) was ransacked by 20 -30 assailants in broad daylight who threatened Gamkrelidze at gunpoint on 3 February. Opposition political parties responded to this attack with a statement that "the attackers must have received at least tacit approval from the government" and a call for a swift investigation and trial of the assailants. (For an eyewitness account, see Irakly Areshidze "Attack On Opposition Party Offices Raises Instability Fears In Georgia," EURASIANET, 3 Feb 03; via www.eurasianet.org)

On the following day, Rustavi-2 television reported that several top officials, including State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze and Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili, had met informally with leaders of the pro-Shevardnadze party, Citizens Union Georgia, to plot a constitutional coup that would unseat President Shevardnadze in favor of Jorbenadze. (In the summer of 2002, Shevardnadze had endorsed Jorbenadze as a potential successor.) Opposition politicians, including Zurab Zhvania of United Democrats and Mikheil Saakashvili of the New National Movement, said they had heard about such preparations. For his part, Shevardnadze dismissed these rumors, saying that the procuracy would conduct its own investigation. (WWW.CIVIL.GE, 11 Feb 03)

In a recent article on Civil Georgia, commentator Jaba Devdariani suggests that the rumors of a coup plot amount to a "storm in a teacup." If Zhvania and Saakashvili were aware of such a plan, how could Shevardnadze have failed to notice? Moreover, with a disapproval rating of over 65%, Jorbenadze is hardly a popular figure. Shevardnadze may have indicated a preference for Jorbenadze precisely so that he may absorb the energies of the opposition, reasons Devdariani.

by Miriam Lanskoy


CENTRAL ASIA
Central Asia and Iraq

Central Asia is uneasy about the implications an American military action in Iraq might have on the stability of the region as a whole. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has offered to negotiate with Iraq, while Kyrgyzstan continues to refuse the use of its air bases for any military effort against Iraq. The reasoning on both accounts appears to be largely influenced by oil contracts and the fear of increased regional instability, as well as by Russia's stance.

The issue of instability
Kyrgyzstan, which hosts the largest US military base in the region, not only has denied the US and allied forces permission to use Kyrgyz bases to launch operations against Iraq. (ITAR-TASS, 1552 GMT, 12 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0212, via World News Connection) Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov expressed Kyrgyzstan's support for the positions of Germany, France and Russia on the Iraq crisis. A possible motive behind this was reflected in a statement made by Aitmatov: "Kyrgyzstan, a neighbour of Afghanistan, is not interested in the weakening of the attention of the world community to the building of [the] post-conflict society in Afghanistan." (ITAR-TASS, 1418 GMT, 12 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0212, via World News Connection)

Kyrgyzstan's concern may be genuine. There are fears that the new constitution may deepen the North-South division within the country (EURASIANET, 11 Feb 03; via www.eurasianet.org) and that opposition claims of the recent referendum being rigged may contribute to instability. (INTERFAX, 1426 GMT, 6 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0206, via World News Connection) Furthermore, the activities of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) reportedly are growing in response to Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek efforts to control religious expression. (EURASIANET, 8 Feb 03; via www.eurasianet.org)

The issue of oil
In a 5 February joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Nazarbaev announced his willingness to help persuade Iraq to disarm and to mediate between Iraq and the US. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 7 Feb 03) The following day, he met with Pope John Paul II to solicit support for the idea of holding a conference of leaders of the world's major religions in Kazakhstan. On 13 February, Nazarbaev hosted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Almaty, following a conference of Central Asian Muslim leaders that had called for an international forum to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. A statement from the participating leaders said that they "absolutely and unconditionally condemned terrorism in all its forms, irrespective of motivation." (HA'ARETZ, 14 Feb 03; via www.times.kg)

Nazarbaev's efforts seem directly related to the fear that an American victory in Iraq could upset the oil market. Kazakhstan's economy is intimately linked to the development of oil and gas resources and there is a concern that a US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein could result in lifting restrictions on Iraq's oil exports. (It is worth noting that, with Hussein in power, France and Russia have the largest interests in the Iraqi energy sector and stand to gain the most should Iraq's relations with the world be normalized.) The fear is that lifting the limitations on Iraqi exports would lead to a drop in oil prices. And were global oil prices to drop, Kazakhstan would have difficulty meeting its budgetary obligations, while Russia might move to protect its own interests by impeding the access of Kazakh oil to the world market. (EURASIANET, 13 Feb 03; via www.eurasianet.org)

To secure Russian interests, Kazakhstan has allowed Russia's LUKoil to expand activities in Kazakhstan. (INTERFAX, 1200 GMT, 10 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0210, via World News Connection) LUKoil also has opened an office in Uzbekistan to help accelerate its development of the Kandim oil and gas fields. (INTERFAX, 1440 GMT, 4 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0204, via World News Connection) And further adding to Russia's foothold in the Central Asian energy sector, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has offered Russia's Gazprom the opportunity to develop jointly Turkmenistan's section of the Caspian Sea. (ITAR-TASS, 1608 GMT, 10 Feb 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0210, via World News Connection)

by David W. Montgomery (dwm@bu.edu)

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