More evidence of FSB complicity
On 12 January, the Moscow Municipal Court convicted two men, Adam Dekkushev and Yusuf Krymshamkhalov on multiple indictments relating to their alleged direct involvement in the 1999 Moscow and Volgodonsk apartment bombings, in which 243 persons were killed. The two men were not only convicted of terrorism and murder, but guilty verdicts were also handed down for charges of illegal entry into Russia, membership in illegal organizations, and the illegal production, storage and use of explosives. Both defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, and were ordered by the court to pay 4.8 million Rubles ($140,000) in damages to the families of the victims. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 13 January 2004, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The FSB and the Russian Prosecutor have pronounced themselves satisfied with the verdicts, and with the investigation leading to the convictions. FSB spokesman, Sergei Ignatchenko, however, has noted that the alleged mastermind of the attack, Achimez Gachiyayev is still at large, and that the case cannot be fully closed until he is captured. (BBC MONITORING, 12 January 2004, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Gachiyayev is believed to have been initially sponsored by Khattab, who was killed prior to the bombings. (WPS-DEFENCE and SECURITY, 5 May 03, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The arrest and conviction of Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov, and events surrounding and directly relating to the trial deepen the suspicions voiced by some that the FSB was directly complicit in the bombings, which provided Putin with a convenient excuse to launch the current Chechen war. Furthermore, these same events add to concerns that President Putin, through the FSB, is returning Russia to the status of a police state.
The investigation of the bombings that led to the conviction of Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov were began in late 1999. This inquiry, led by the FSB and the Prosecutor's office, established that Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov fled to Pankisi Gorge in Georgia immediately after the attacks. It was from there that the two were extradited and returned to Moscow for trial in 2002. In April 2003, the Prosecutors office announced that the investigation was complete and that a trial would begin late in October. It is the events of early October in particular that are extremely suspicious.
Mikhail Trepashkin was to have been the lawyer representing one of the victims families in the courtroom. For ten years before entering the legal profession, Trepashkin served as an intelligence officer in the FSB. During the summer of 2002, Trepashkin was tasked with leading an independent investigation into the bombings for State Duma Deputies and Kovalev Commission members Yuli Rybakov, Sergei Yushenko, Sergei Kovalyov and Yuri Shchekochikhin. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 14 Jan 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database) According to Nikolai Gorokhov, Trepashkins assistant, it was during his investigation that Trepashkins suspicions over the FSBs involvement were first aroused. He planned at the trial of Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov, to bring his evidence to the judges attention. (Ibid.)
On October 22 however, a week before the trial was due to open, Trepashkin was stopped by the police and arrested. After being held for several weeks, he was transferred on December 15 to Matrosskaya Tishina Prison, where he is awaiting trial on the charge of divulging state secrets. According to his lawyer, the FSB claims that a search of Trepashkins home yielded 30 classified documents from his time as an FSB officer. (Ibid) According to Aleksandr Goldfarb of the Civil Liberties Foundation in New York, Trepashkin has suffered torture at the hands of his FSB jailers, including food, sleep and water deprivation, being handcuffed in stress positions, and being incarcerated in sub-zero temperatures. (INFO PROD-Strategic Business Information, 29 Dec 03, via RFE/RL, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) In the same interview, Goldfarb added that he believed that Trepashkin had been arrested because he "too deeply investigated the explosions of the apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999." (Ibid.) Trepashkins replacement was not permitted to study his files; thus, the evidence was not presented during the trial. Is it mere coincidence that, on top of Trepashkins arrest, several members of the Duma Commission were killed in 2003? Yushenko was murdered near his home in April 2003, while Shchekochikhin died from an apparent case of food poisoning later in the year. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 14 Jan 03, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
This is not the first time that allegations have been made about the FSBs complicity. Exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky and his ally, FSB Defector Aleksandr Litvinenko have repeatedly claimed that the FSB planted the 1999 bombs. Indeed, Litvinenko recently published a book detailing his allegations, titled "FSB Blows up Russia". Both have spoken about the trial and the convictions. Berezovsky has stated that the trial was a "show" (BBC MONITORING 12 Jan 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database), while Litvinenko claimed that Trepashkins arrest proved the FSBs involvement. (BBC MONITORING, 31 Dec 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Yet, even if their allegations are true, Berezovsky is tainted by his personal battle with Putin, as well as his alleged former dealings with Chechen terrorists. By extension, therefore, Litvinenko, because of his closeness to Berezovsky, is also tainted.
So far at least, there is no evidence to suggest that Trepashkin has ties to Berezovsky, and as such, his evidence need not be viewed through that particular prism. Trepashkin, without doubt showed great courage in his decision to remain in Russia, in order to try to bring to light what now must surely be seen as criminal actions by government agencies. His incarceration provides compelling evidence that the FSB was concerned enough to prevent him from making his case.
Finally, in a related anti-terror operation, the FSB has begun to seize copies of Litvinenkos book claiming that it constitutes "anti-government propaganda". (BBC NEWS, 30 Dec 03; www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/33757705.htm) The confiscation occurred on 29 December, when a truck was stopped en-route to Moscow from Pskov, with 4,400 copies on board. (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 30 Dec 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The news agency which ordered the books, Prima, has stated that there was nothing illegal about the shipment, and that all "customs formalities" had been properly observed. (Ibid) As yet, there have been no other reported incidents of Litvinenkos book being seized: But the fact that this has occurred at all, marks yet another example of Putins tendency to authoritarianism. It is the first time that this has occurred in almost 12 years, and according to an unnamed human rights activist interviewed on Ekho Moscow Radio on 13 January, it marks a return to the darker aspects of Soviet rule. (BBC MONITORING, 13 January 04, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) At this point in time, it seems difficult to disagree with this conclusion.
By Fabian Adami (email@example.com)
Japan wants peace, Russia talks fish
Moscow refuses to take more than baby steps in its relationship with Tokyo. Although common interests and current diplomatic, economic and security conditions may be presenting the best chance yet to conclude the unresolved issues of World War II between Russia and Japan, (ASIA TIMES, 15 Dec 03 via Johnson's Russia List (JRL) #7469, 16 Dec 03) the Kremlin seems unwilling seriously to engage in the topic. Moreover, an opportunity to partner with Japan in order to counterbalance Chinese power in Asia does not yet appear to be part of Moscow's strategy. A phone call between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his Japanese counterpart Yoriko Kawaguchi in November 2003, in which Ivanov reportedly invited Kawaguchi to Moscow to discuss the Kurile Islands issue, sparked hope in Japan that the visits of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov in December 2003 and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the spring of 2004 to Tokyo would provide the venues for a peace treaty or at least some mutually acceptable agreement on control of the Kurile Islands. But Kasianov's 15-17 December stay in Japan provided no such occasion.
The visit, which marked Kasianov's first to Japan as prime minister and the first of any Russian prime minister in the past five years, was promoted as primarily devoted to economic issues. Tokyo again called on Russia to build the oil pipeline to Nakhodka for which oil-hungry Japan has been pushing, but Kasianov deflated any expectations of a peace treaty or pipeline decision when he announced that his trip would not untie any knots. (RIA, 15 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Rather, Kasianov proclaimed the fight against illegal seafood fishing is one of the most important topics for discussion, during his visit to Japan. (ITAR-TASS, 15 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Kasianov consoled the Japanese by explaining that the Angarsk-Nakhodka pipeline was not an alternative to the Angarsk-Daqing pipeline [the pipeline project desired by Beijing], but rather was an impetus to develop the resources of Eastern Siberia. (ITAR-TASS, 15 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Following his trip, the prime minister explained to journalists that significant foreign investment was necessary to expedite the development of the Eastern Siberian oilfields designated for the Angarsk-Nakhodka pipeline (ITAR-TASS, 25 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) a hint that Russia may be waiting for such foreign investment before committing to the Nakhodka pipeline project.
Despite the incremental progress in the peace treaty and pipeline issues, the Russo-Japanese economic relationship remains strong and was given a boost during Kasnianov's visit through a joint automobile venture paving the way for the manufacture of Japanese cars in Russia, the creation of a bilateral body to promote trade, the discussions of a joint venture for the production of a new kind of fuel which is an improvement on condensed gas, (RIA, 15 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) and an agreement on bilateral steps to combat illegal seafood fishing. Japan immediately took action in accordance with the seafood agreement when, for the first time ever, on 25 December, it expelled a Russian fishing vessel with suspicious documents from a Japanese port. (ITAR-TASS, 25 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Kasianov left Japan with words that may keep Japan's hopes alive for an eventual peace treaty and for the realization of the Angarsk-Nakhodka pipeline as he agreed with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the importance of [the] Japanese-proposed pipeline and also agreed to accelerate efforts for a bilateral peace treaty in line with an action plan signed by Koizumi and [Putin] in January . (KYODO, 16 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
On 3 January, the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced that talks between Moscow and Tokyo over the Kurile Islands would be held in the Russian capital in February 2004 at the director-general level. (KYODO, 3 Jan 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Russian media made no mention of any such talks, which, if they do materialize, may serve as a precursor to Putin's planned spring 2004 visit to Japan. It remains to be seen, however, if that scheduled post-presidential election trip will be more fruitful for Japan than past engagements or if the historical significance to Moscow of the Kurile Islands (together with Kaliningrad, Russia's last remaining acquisition from World War II) and its unwillingness to compromise its position vis-à-vis Japan outweigh the practical benefits of advancing the Tokyo-Moscow relationship.
Russian foreign minister in South America
Throughout 2003, Russia tried to remain a key player in global affairs by extending the reach of its influence through participation in regional organizations such as the creation of the Single Economic Space, expressing interest in signing onto the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and making a bid to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The year ended on a similar note with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's attendance as special guest at a December summit of Mercosur, the South American regional organization which comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and has Bolivia, Chile and Peru as associate members. His attendance at that summit in Montevideo, Uruguay was part of an 11-day trip to Latin America during which he also visited Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba.
The unspectacular substance of his meetings with his hosts comprised discussions of increased trade cooperation in the fields of space research, oil and gas, agriculture and others. The visit, however, was also an exchange of support as Ivanov extended Moscow's backing to Brazil as a potential permanent member of a reformed United Nations Security Council (UNSC) (GAZETA MERCANTIL, 22 Dec 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Databases) and sought out allies among the visited countries by comparing positions on the situation in Iraq, the need to restructure the UNSC, and the fight against terrorism.
Ivanov explained Russia's intentions in Latin America in an interview with El Mercurio: "Latin America is no longer an arena for competition between Russia and the USA, as it was in 'cold war' years. Unlike Soviet times, when cooperation was built sometimes on an ideological basis, Russia is now acting strictly on the economic basis [sic]." (14 Dec 04 via RIA, 14 Dec 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Indeed, although Russia's trade turnover with Latin America totals only four percent of Russian foreign trade, Moscow, evidently, does have hopes of an improved economic relationship there, as demonstrated by the recent creation of bilateral trade commissions between Russia and Argentina, Brazil and Chile and by Ivanov's sales pitch during his visit on behalf of various Russian industrial sectors. Additionally, his discussions in Venezuela resulted in the announcement that Venezuelan owned oil company PDVSA will sell its 50% share of Ruhr Oil Refinery in Germany to the Russian Alfa Group (BUSINESS NEWS AMERICAS, 24 Dec 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
However, clearly Moscow's economic activities are only the practical and more visible side of its interests in Latin America. Less tangible is Russia's desire to regain global power status, illustrated by its attempts to extend its influence worldwide through bilateral and regional relations. With the United States (U.S.) preoccupied in Iraq and in the war on terrorism in general, and considering the current diminished level of Western loyalty to Washington, Ivanov's visit to Latin America, traditionally the domain of U.S. economic and political leadership, has seized upon an opportunity to make trade and foreign relations inroads there.
Success according to Moscow
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has patted itself on the back for its 2003 accomplishments. Not surprisingly, Moscow has taken credit (sometimes justifiably, sometimes less so) for some key international events of the past year. Following is an abridged version of Russia's most important foreign policy events of 2003 as listed by MFA spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenk in an interview last month. (RIA NOVOSTI, 27 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
UN Security Council Resolutions 1483 and 1511 were adopted, providing a way out of the very acute Iraqi crisis and at the same restoring the unity of the international community."
2. "Russia (
) [helped] avoid the erosion of the nonproliferation regime and [reduced] tension surrounding the issue of transparency for Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs." "It was precisely in Moscow that a representative of the senior Iranian leadership announced that it would fulfill the demands of the International Atomic Energy agency."
3. "New steps were taken to develop CIS integration, [including] the signing of the agreement on a single economic space incorporating Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan [and the establishment of] an international regional body, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
4. "A peaceful settlement of the acute political crisis in Georgia [was reached]."
5. "The adoption of UN Security Resolution 1815, which unanimously supported the "road map" to a Middle East settlement
6. "Participation in the Islamic Conference Organization (OIC) summit
7. "The decisions made at the Russia-E.U. summits in St. Petersburg and Rome enabled [Russia] to raise the level of its strategic partnership with the European Union."
8. "[The] lifting of visa barriers between Russia and the E.U. [have produced their first visible results]. [Agreements on simplifying travel procedures
have been reached with Germany, France and Italy."
9. "A mechanism has been developed to simplify travel for Russian citizens to and from Kaliningrad Region via Lithuania."
10. "[A] council of heads of entities of the [Russian] Federation was established under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry".
11. "At Russia's initiative, the 'human rights and terrorism' resolution
was adopted at the 58th session of the UN General Assembly."
Mr. Yakovenko is entitled to his view of Russia's successes, but so is the rest of the world. Taking credit for providing a way out of the acute Iraqi crisis and restoring the unity of the international community overlooks the fact that Moscow was in favor of allowing the Iraqi crisis to continue, with Saddam Hussein at the helm, and that its alliance with "old Europe" during the pre-war debate exacerbated the very split in the international community that Yakovenko is crediting Moscow with alleviating. In time, the Kremlin's deeper involvement in and support of Saddam's regime may be revealed, as indicated by reports that American authorities have corroborated illegal arms sales to Iraq prior to the war. (LOS ANGELES TIMES, 10 Jan 04 via JRL #8008, 10 Jan 04) Moreover, although Moscow's contributions to establishing the six-party dialogue with North Korea are evident, it is more difficult to accept the view that its cooperation with Iran, which enabled Tehran to have a nuclear program in the first place, created the transparency necessary to ease the tensions of that crisis.
Yakovenko presents rather flimsy evidence of Russia's Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) integration success; the Single Economic Space (SES) is unlikely to develop into a successful, European Union- (E.U.) type organization any time soon, and it is even more difficult to imagine the CSTO operating as an effective, united and organized military alliance. More prominent CIS events in 2003 were Moscow's fallout with Minsk over the Kremlin's discontinuing Gazprom's subsidized gas prices for Belarus, Russia's continuing delays in the withdrawal of forces from Transdniester, and a narrowly averted military conflict with Ukraine over the Kerch Strait affair.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's claim to have contributed to resolving the revolution in Georgia was acceptable, but Moscow has not yet played all its cards in that game. In Malaysia, President Vladimir Putin's attendance at the OIC summit in October, though no doubt beneficial to Moscow's desire to bond with the Muslim world, proceeded rather awkwardly as Putin's host, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia, proclaimed to the summits audience and the world, that Jews rule the world by proxy. (BBC NEWS WORLD EDITION ONLINE, news.bbc.co.uk, 21 Oct 03)
Moscow's achievement of lifting visa barriers between Russia and certain E.U. countries was indeed a success, but not because it helped to unite Russia and the E.U., rather because these bilateral arrangements help to split the E.U. and create for Russia the ability to have non-uniform standards for its relationships with different E.U. member states.
It was kind of Yakovenko to spell out the MFA's success stories of 2003, however, foreign affairs analysts would have been more grateful for his vision of 2004. No doubt, a candid version of a list of such predictions for the new year would include: Reform of the United Nations Security Council, further integration of the Russia's near-abroad including departure of U.S. forces from the Caucasus and Central Asia, membership in the World Trade Organization without compliance with the E.U.'s demands for lowered energy rates, and a quick hand-over of power in Iraq from the U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqi authorities, so that Russia can get back in business there. Even without the benefit of a list from the MFA, such goals are likely to be evident in Moscow's international activities over the next 12 months.
Moscow watches for signs from Tblisi
The direction that the new Georgian leadership takes in its relationship to Russia is of concern for Moscow, which has done what it could to nudge the fledgling administration in Tblisi toward a more pro-Russian policy. Following the November 2003 revolution in Georgia and the overthrow of President Eduard Shevardnadze, there was little real competition for the presidency; despite reports that Moscow may have considered supporting the former Georgian KGB-chief, Igor Georgadze, the election of U.S.-schooled lawyer and opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili was something of a fait accompli. Moscow's approach thus became one of taking measures to influence the incoming president's attitude toward Russia without arousing suspicion from the West.
The Kremlin first angered Tblisi by inviting representatives of Georgia's two secessionist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and of separatist Adjaria to Moscow, and then by announcing a simplified visa regime for the residents of Adjaria. The latter step, Adjarian officials countered, should not be seen as threatening to Georgia, but rather as a sign of what could be between Russia and Georgia as a whole. (ITAR-TASS, 9 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Another message came from one of Moscow's most notorious "pro-integration" statesmen, Yevgeni Primakov, who reminded Georgians: If the new Georgian leaders changed the balance in favor of the West, [thereby] diminishing the relationship with Russia, in his view, Russia would not continue to support these new leaders, and they should remember that it is not the USA that supplies electricity and gas to Georgia [to heat their homes]. (RIA, 9 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The military factor was reiterated in a Nezavisimaya gazeta article which argued the implausibility of Georgian military action against the secessionist regions considering the Russian military presence, the strength of the regions' own militias and the deplorable state of the Georgian armed forces. (8 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Russian Duma Deputy Andrei Kokoshin stated in a TV interview that it would be logistically and financially impossible to withdraw Russian forces from Georgia anytime earlier than the already announced ten years. Moreover, he stated, the Russian bases provide work for a significant number of Georgian citizens and, if the withdrawal of troops and hardware were sped up, this would leave such persons without a livelihood. (CHANNEL ONE TV, 9 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via JRL #8008, 10 Jan 04) I'm sure most Georgians are thrilled to know the Russian Duma has such concern for them.
Now that the election is over, Moscow appears to be watching for signs of Georgia's first move. Thus far, the statements of the new Georgian president, though not overtly negative toward Russia, are unclear at best. President Saakashvili insists that one of (emphasis added) the main priorities of Georgia's new leadership is to establish much closer, warmer, and friendlier relations with the Russian Federation (RADIO MAYAK, 5 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database), and that the new Georgian authorities are taking "neither a pro-American nor a pro-Russian stance". At the same time, he said, the Russians do not understand well enough that Russia is not an overlord and we are not colonies". (RIA NOVOSTI, 7 Jan 04 via JRL #8005, 8 Jan 04)
By Scott C. Dullea (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Its our ball and you cant play
In a remarkable display of democratic brotherhood (or, maybe not), the head of the central executive committee of United Russiawhich obtained enough seats in the December 2003 Duma elections to hold an absolute majority, and even to pass constitutional changesis unwilling to build a consensus with his fellow parliamentary members, or, for that matter, the millions of Russian voters (well over 60%) who did not vote for United Russia. According to Yuri Volkov, he doesnt have to. In fact, he barely acknowledges the existence of much competition.
"At present, there are two parties in Russia: one is the [Communist Party of the Russian Federation, KPRF], a moribund party, and the other one is ours, which is gaining power. The Rodina bloc captured enough votes and we are certainly ready for constructive cooperation with them. As for that bloc's destructive initiatives, our party is ready to fight them. From my point of view, the Rodina bloc is a PR bubble project hyped in the past three weeks. In fact, Rodina, the SPS (Union of Right-Wing Forces), and Yabloko are television projects," he said. (Rossiyskaya gazeta in Russian 18 Dec 03 p. 3; FBIS-SOV-2003-1219 via World News Connection.) So there.
Fortunately for the other deputies elected to parliament, Volkov wont be in charge of the roll call. In fact, four factions were registered at the first session of the new Duma at the close of 2003: United Russia (304 members, led by Boris Gryzlov), the KPRF (52 members, led by Gennady Zyuganov), the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) (36 members, ledofficiallyby Igor Lebedev and unofficially by his father, Vladimir Zhirinovsky), and Motherland (Rodina) (36 members, led by Sergey Glazyev). In addition, there are 22 "independent" MPs. (ITAR-TASS in Russian 1227 GMT 29 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1229 via World News Connection.) The number of members in the United Russia faction continued to grow after the election, and now includes some independent deputies. (ITAR-TASS 1651 GMT 26 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1226 via World News Connection.)
Aside from the smug joy in the United Russia camp, the reaction to the election results has been mixed. The Communist Party and YABLOKOparties that expected a much better showing than published by the Central Election Commissioneach sought to lodge complaints. (Vedomosti, 11 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1212 via World News Connection.) These parties were not alone in their dissatisfaction. While the OSCE condemned the process almost immediately after the polls closed (See The NIS Observed, 10 Dec 03), others waited a little while. Eventually however, over 300 complaints were filed, mostly by district electoral commissions, particularly in Bashkortostan, Karachai-Cherkessia, Krasnodar Territory, Astrakhan Region and Moscow, according to Central Electoral Commission secretary Olga Zastrozhnaya. (ITAR-TASS in Russian 0954 GMT 19 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1219 via World News Connection.) And while Zastrozhnayas boss, CEC Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, validated the results of the election, he did note the "the violation of the principles of objectivity in presenting information in (
) the state mass media sources." (ITAR-TASS in Russian 1021 GMT 26 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1226 via World News Connection.) He did not, however, mention any penalty for that behavior, so any improvement is unlikely.
As for the future of the parties who failed to overcome the five-percent hurdle to obtain seats via party lists, YABLOKO leader Grigori Yavlinsky asserts that preserving the party (with himself at the head) is the priority now, and that YABLOKO will remain an opposition party outside parliament. (ITAR-TASS in English 1640 GMT 9 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1209 via World News Connection.) A party congress held after the election confirmed that agenda; members refused to vote out Yavlinsky as leader of the now-marginalized party. (ITAR-TASS in English 2131 GMT 20 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1220 via World News Connection.)
Not so comfortable in the drivers seat are the three leaders of another party that did quite poorly, the Union of Right Forces (SPS). Boris Nemtsov said a new democratic party should rise out of the ashes of the SPS and YABLOKO debacle. Nemtsov and his colleagues at the helm of SPSIrina Khakamada and Yegor Gaidaralready have submitted their resignations from the top posts. "[This] resignation is not a simple gesture, it is an invitation addressed to new people to join us," Nemtsov said. "We need restructuring. Without it we shall have no future," he said. (ITAR-TASS in English 1514 GMT 16 Dec 03 FBIS-SOV-2003-1216 via World News Connection.) Members will decide whether to accept the resignations at a party congress later this month.
Yet Russias politicians have little time to dwell on the parliamentary elections that are now part of history. Rather, most are turning their attention to the next racethe presidential elections set for March 2004. Nemtsov said he hopes the democratic forces will join and select a single candidate (Ibid.) however, such a consensus has managed to elude the two democratic parties for years, and continues to do so. Discussions between the two parties broke down, once again, in December. (FBIS Report in Russian 23 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1223 via World News Connection)
In all, eight candidates willing to face Vladimir Putin have been registered thus far: Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, who repeatedly has asserted his support of the president (Rossiyskaya gazeta in Russian 31 Dec 03 p. 3; FBIS-SOV-2004-0102 via World News Connection.) and likely is the designated sacrificial lamb meant to give the elections the flavor of democracy; Ivan Rybkin, a self-nominated candidate (the justice ministry refused to register his branch of the Liberal Democrats party for the parliamentary elections); Oleg Malyshkin, a Duma member, described as the "LDPR leader's first deputy and head of his guard" (ITAR-TASS in English 1229 GMT 30 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1230 via World News Connection); three other self-nominated candidatesIrina Khakamada representing SPS, Sergei Glazyev of Rodina, and an unaffiliated businessman, Anzori Aksentyev as well as Nikolai Kharitonov, nominated by the Communist Party, and Viktor Geraschenko, nominated by the Russians Regions party. (ITAR-TASS in English 1756 GMT 5 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0105 via World News Connection.)
It is doubtful that they will make any headway against the man who is bound to retain his seat as head of state; Vladimir Putin once again has asserted that he will not represent any political party in the election, but will run on his own. (ITAR-TASS in English 1219 GMT 18 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1218 via World News Connection.) Then again, with the state-owned media and apparat behind you, who also needs a party?
Politics can be murder
Two notable assassinations are back in the headlines, as suspects head to trial for the murders of Galina Starovoitova and Sergei Yushenkov. In each case, prosecutors are, at the very least, hinting that the motives behind the killings were political.
Six defendants were taken to court at the end of December to stand trial for the murder of Yushenkov, an MP and co-chairman of the registered faction of the Liberal Russia party, who was shot on 17 April 2003 outside his Moscow home. The defendants, headed by Mikhail Kodanev, a leading member of Liberal Russia splinter group that remains loyal to oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, include Kodanevs assistant, Alexander Vinnik, (ITAR-TASS in English 1136 GMT 26 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1226 via World News Connection.) Aleksandr Kulachinskiy, and his accomplices, Igor Kiselev, Anton Drozd and Vladislav Palkov. All have been charged with murder, attempt on the life of a state or public figure and illegal acquisition of weapons. (ITAR-TASS news agency, in Russian 0943 GMT 26 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring International Reports, 26Dec 03, via Lexis-Nexis) Prosecutors have alleged that the splintering of the party was at the core of the murder. (The NIS Observed, 9 Jul 03) Jury selection is expected to begin on 26 January.
The same number of defendants currently are charged in the murder of Starovoitova, a pro-democracy MP who was shot in the doorway of her apartment building in St. Petersburg in November 1998. Federal Security Service (FSB) investigators have charged four individuals with playing a direct role in the murder, and two with abetting the crime. Other suspects are being sought. (ITAR-TASS in English 1408 GMT 5 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0105 via World News Connection) Prosecutors have identified Vitali Akishin and Oleg Fedosov, who remains at large, as the alleged "triggermen." Notably, the six currently facing trial next monthAnatoli Voronin, Yuri Ionov, Akishin, Igor Lelyavin and Igor Krasnovreportedly are members of the anything-but-pro-democracy Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Kolchin, reportedly was a former employee of Russian military intelligence (GRU) who worked for the so-called Tambov organized crime gang when the murder took place. (St. Petersburg Times, 9 Jan 04; Johnsons Russia List, #8007, 9 January 2004; and The Toronto Star, 13 Jan 04, via Lexis-Nexis)
The case has dragged on for years, sparking rumors of a government cover-up. (Ibid) Suspicion as to possible high-level involvement remains. (The St. Petersburg Times, 19 Dec 03 via Lexis-Nexis) The latest move by prosecutorsrefusing to grant the defenses request for a jury trial (Channel One TV, 1200 GMT, 29 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis)certainly gives weight to such accusations. Indeed, some have noted their surprise that anyone has been arrested. In the end, the FSB has charged the six defendants with "an act of terrorism or an attempt to kill a state or public official so that she would cease carrying out her state or other political activity." (The St. Petersburg Times, 19 Dec 03; Lexis-Nexis
Journalisms no picnic either, apparently
Reporters in Russia face lots of obstacles to doing their jobs evaporating financial support, harassment at newspaper offices, reluctant sources. And, according to outgoing OSCE representative Freimut Duve, death. "In certain regions of Russia we have quite a high rate of censorship by killing, because if you kill a journalist who goes after corruption then you know that this journalist will be dead and quiet and other journalists will stop searching because they want to survive," Duve told Agence France-Presse. Moreover, such tactics appear to be working, Duve said: "So we have more silence now in the post-Soviet world than we had five years ago." (AFP (North European Service) in English 1659 GMT 10 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1210 via World News Connection.)
In his final report, Duve subsequently lambasted Russia, along with Italy, for moving backward on the road to press freedoms. "When I took the job in 1997 ... who would have thought that in the developing Russia, the Kremlin would again have direct or indirect control of many of the print media and most of the electronic media," he said in his report. "Who would have predicted that the just-concluded Russian State Duma elections would be so widely criticised for failing to meet international standards because of the lack of media independence?" (Paris AFP (North European Service) in English 1659 GMT 11 Dec 03; FBIS-WEU-2003-1211 via World News Connection)
The recent parliamentary elections did, indeed, provide the Russian media with numerous examples of government interference, from the above-mentioned control of state-owned media to obstructionism, particularly at the local level, towards regional outlets. Regional media complaints included confiscation of newspapers, interference in the production and distribution of papers, and intimidation of reporters, including interrogation of journalists and publishers. Prime targets were supporters of SPS and critics of United Russia. (FBIS Report in English 11 Dec 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1211 via World News Connection)
By Kate Martin (email@example.com)