With the announcement that President Putins signature collection drive has been deemed a success, the incumbents presidential campaign is finally gearing up for the month-long challenge. According to the head of Putins voter initiative group, Oleg Katulin, who is also a rector of Moscow State Law Academy, 8 million signatures were gathered in support of Putins presidential bid. After rigorous examination by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), only 1.16% of the signatures of a test sample were evaluated as being of questionable provenance. (1)
The CEC Chairman, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, took the opportunity of the medias interest in the presidential campaigns to explain the process of signature verification. The CEC runs two shifts of up to one hundred workers who look for 31 signs of questionable certification. Confirmation of the signature generally comes in the form of personal data from the passport of individual signatories. The signature lists should also contain a verifiable signature by an authorized representative of the candidate. (2)
Putin received the go-ahead from the CEC with signatures to spare, therefore the Kremlin has moved to establish his campaign office for the March elections. While Dmitri Medvedev has headed Putins campaigns previously, Dmitri Kozak will lead the incumbent Presidents bid this year. [Previously, when Medvedev led the campaign staff, he held the title of First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration. He is now the Chief of Staff and Kozak has the "First Deputy" title.]
While the Center is just getting its main campaign staff together, one aspect of the presidential election campaign is progressing quite rapidly: The regional structures and each regions leading lights have nearly all been recruited to ensure that Putins name, virtues, and bright intentions are front and center for the electorate and to ensure that they turn out to mark their ballots properly too, of course. Clearly, this work is advancing in conjunction with the signature gathering effort. Whether this is being run by direct Kremlin intervention, through regional representatives (of any one of a number of branches of service), or at the initiative of savvy local leaders, it is obvious that the regions are performing as if they have significant incentives (or are avoiding significant disincentive) for their effort on behalf of the committee to re-elect the President.
Putins philosophy for winning a second (last?) term sits firmly on three broad pillars: physical security (counteracting terrorism, reducing the level of conflict in Chechnya, fighting bandit groups); social services provisions (hence the State Council meeting on the needs of pensioners); and economic security (this may explain, in part, why Mikhail Khodorkovsky sits in jail).
Putin has honed these themes in a series of speeches given since mid-January. Putin delivered a speech before an enlarged session of the Federal Security Services board on January 15 (3), which explicitly outlined his strategy. In addition to stressing the importance of the security services in "counteracting terrorism," Putin further detailed his concept of "guaranteeing economic security."
While the president did stress the important role of the entire law enforcement system in protecting the individual from both criminal and "if necessary, from administrative arbitrariness," he added an unusual, but populist emphasis on the protection of intellectual property, "the systemic protection of Russian design and technologies." (4)
Putin also touched lightly, but intriguingly, on the issue of illegal migrations. While noting the steps taking towards "liberalizing migration legislation" Putin goes on to complain however, that illegal migrants are entering border regions where they are not needed. "Russia needs an inflow of labor," he concludes "but it needs them in particular places." (5)
He did also mention the problems of illegal immigration that left the migrants without rights under law and therefore subject to criminal and administrative illegalities at any number of levels, thus increasing the potential for criminal activity and violations, especially in identifiable border regions.
At an address to the State Council Presidium not quite two weeks later, Putin sounded another theme, which he subsequently raised in governmental meetings: the social protection of pensionersa subject that has needed urgent attention for a decade. Putin notes that there are nearly 30 million pensioners in need of services. (6) While touching familiar political ground by claiming never to have "made empty promises," and decrying those who would just "pump more money into the social sector," Putin suggests a joint governmental-legislative effort to assign responsibility at the local levels for the distribution of services. He also recommends the creation of "a real market for social services and
in introducing innovative forms of social assistance." (7) It is well nigh time the Kremlin took the needs of its aged population seriously, and while Putin may well be simply handing out campaign candy, perhaps he will force some movement in the regions for the protection of local elderly residents.
By the end of the month, Putin addressed the college of the General Prosecutors Office, where, instead of making the standard pitch for criminal prevention, Putin noted the changes his administration (chiefly under the direction of Dmitri Kozak) had made to the judicial system. Prosecutors will have far less involvement in investigatory work, and will focus primarily on the prosecution of charges in order, in part, to prevent the far-too-frequent patterns of individuals being incarcerated for months, if not years, only to stand trial and be acquitted due to either flimsy evidence, or poor prosecution work. The prosecutor, claimed Putin, "now bears the responsibility for proving and justifying the charges made." (8)
Citing last years statistics, Putin noted that 3 million crimes were "registered" last year: "one in every ten
committed by teenagers," and more than one third of all crimes went unsolved.(9) It was, however, the Prosecutors supervisory function that seemed to draw the Presidents attention. Putin called on the Prosecutors to be more active in preventative measures and fighting economic corruption. Putin also seemed intent to remind prosecutors that fighting economic crime was not meant to create another avenue for corruption. "Legality," he reminded them, "is a general state concept and not a political or agency-based category." (10)
Putin has certainly launched his campaign with a solid electoral strategy, despite the dearth of realistic opposition challenge. His policies sound reasonable and even hopeful. Now if only the security services would step away from the presidential levers of power, and leave governing to the choice of the governed, we could rejoice in Russias presidential election season, and perhaps a challenger or two might emerge to force even more detailed policy promises and campaign commitments.
By Susan J. Cavan (email@example.com)
Fallout from Moscow bombing case continues
In December 2003, the FSB seized 4,000 copies of the book "The FSB Blows Up Russia," written by FSB defector Aleksandr Litvinenko. At the time, the Security Services claimed that the book was unfit for public consumption because it constituted "anti-government propaganda." (1)
In the last two weeks however, the FSB seems to have broadened the scope of its investigation; A criminal case is now being built, based upon the allegation that the book reveals classified information. (2)
On 28 January, Alexander Podrabinek, editor-in-chief of Prima, the news agency which originally purchased the 4,000 books later seized by the FSB, was summoned to Lefortovo prison by the FSB, where he underwent intensive questioning by counterintelligence officers. Podrabinek was released without charge the same day. Two days after his release, Podrabinek gave interviews by telephone to The Moscow Times and Ekho Moskvy. Podrabinek reported that he had been questioned at length about Primas financial dealings. He reported that he had refused to answer their questions, because the interrogation had "nothing to do with the state secrets case," and "everything to do with us." (3) He added that his questioning and the seizure of the books amounted to "a shock attack on freedom of the press in Russia." (4)
The fact that Podrabinek made this statement is particularly striking. He was a dissident in the Soviet-era, and served time in prison as a political prisoner for several years during the 1970s. Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, he has continued his political activities, traveling to Cuba and China amongst other locations, to "advise dissidents in places that are still under communist rule." (5) Prima News agency was founded in 2000, and Podrabinek has been its editor-in-chief since its inception.
Podrabinek believes that his interrogation is an indication that the FSB in fact, is guilty as charged by Litvinenko and Mikhail Trepashkin, stating that "the fact that they opened the case under this part of the criminal code [on state secrets] is an indirect admission that they participated in the explosions." (6) Yet, if the FSB truly wants to clear this matter up, Podrabinek seems to have offered it the perfect opportunity to do so. Podrabinek informed his interviewers that he had conveyed an offer from Litvinenko to the FSB. Litvinenko, he said, was prepared to undergo in-depth questioning by the FSB, provided that it be carried out in London, not Russia. Podrabinek stated that the FSB officers had declined to discuss the matter, telling him that a conversation with Litvinenko was unnecessary. As yet, Litvinenko has not been charged with any offense, nor has his extradition from the United Kingdom been requested by the FSB.
What these events indicate is that the FSB is not really concerned with who, outside Russia makes accusations against it. It is concerned only with silencing dissent internally. Into this task, it has devoted huge, and so far somewhat successful efforts. This conclusion is borne out by the fact that the FSB informed Podrabinek that he might face criminal charges relating to the book seizure, and further that the FSB will seize copies of the book whenever and wherever they might find them. (7)
The FSB moves in on Presidential Candidates.
Presidential elections are due to take place in Russia in March, but the intimidation of possible opponents of President Putin has already begun. First, on January 27, the leader of the National Bolshevik Party, Eduard Limonov, on radio Ekho Moskvy announced that he had information that the FSB was in the process of "closing down" his party's operations. Limonov believes that the FSB will pounce early this month. In an attempt to stave off such an event, Limonov has sent a letter to the Prosecutor Generals office, requesting protection from "renegade FSB officers." (8)
As yet no move has been made against the Bolshevik Party, but the FSB has initiated action against the Motherland Bloc. On 31 January, agents raided Motherlands headquarters in Izhevsk. According to Sergey Glazyev, Motherlands leader, the FSB was searching for evidence that Motherland had bribed voters in their campaign to collect signatures for Glazyevs Presidential campaign. Although Glazyev has already collected enough signatures to run, the final decision as to the identity of the candidates will only be released on 7 February, by the Central Electoral Commission. (9)
What is interesting about these intimidations is that the one candidate that has been voicing concerns over President Putin and the FSB, namely Irina Khakamada, has not been touched or interfered with in any way. Khakamada openly released an appeal to voters, in which she discussed the 1999 apartment bombings and the Dubrovka Theatre siege. Furthermore, Khakamada directly accused President Putin of being guilty of "state terrorism." (10) It is difficult to know exactly what to make of Khakamada's statements or of the fact that she has not been intimidated by the FSB. There seems to be no logical explanation for the fact that Khakamada has been allowed to operate freely thus far: the Russian Political Monitor, in a piece published on 21 January, claims that Putin needs a plausibly genuine opposition candidate to ensure some kind of legitimacy for his undoubted re-election. But this theory is flawed in that Putin has, on prior occasions, most recently in parliamentary elections, shown little concern with the idea that elections should appear legitimate.
(1) see NIS OBSERVED: An Analytical Review, Volume XI, Number 01 (23 Jan 04)
(2) The Moscow Times, 30 Jan 03, "FSB In a Huff About 4,400 Books" via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(5) Washington Post, 15 Oct 97, "The Loneliness of the outdated Soviet dissident," via www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/1285.html
(6) The Moscow Times, 30 Jan 03, "FSB In a Huff About 4,400 Books," via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(7) BBC Monitoring , 29 Jan 04; Ekho Moskvy News Agency via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(8) BBC Monitoring, 19 Jan 04; Ekho Moskvy News Agency via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) BBC Monitoring, 19 Jan 04; Ekho Moskvy News Agency via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(10) WPS Russian Political Monitor, 21 Jan 04, "The Plot Thickens in the Presidential Campaign," via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
By Fabian Adami (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Russian Georgian "Grand Agreement" shifts
.Russian President Vladimir Putin has relieved Boris Pastukhov of his duties as chairman of the Russian state commission for preparing the Russian-Georgian draft Treaty of Friendship, Neighborliness, Cooperation and Mutual Aid. On 21 January, Putin signed the decree, giving the task of this so-called "Grand Agreement" to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
The administration of newly inaugurated Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili may read this step positively, considering Pastukhovs reputation in Georgia as a "lobbyist of Abkhaz separatists." (1) Such a label is not difficult to imagine, given Pastukhovs ties to Yevgeni Primakov, senior Russian statesman and advocate of the integration of Russias near-abroad. Pastukhov, who is currently Primakovs deputy at the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry, previously worked for Primakov at the Foreign Ministry and followed him into the government when Primakov became Prime Minster. In 1999 and 2000, Pastukhov was a Duma deputy from Primakovs Fatherland All Russia faction.
It is unclear if placing responsibility for the Georgian-Russian treaty in the hands of the MFA signals friction between Primakov-loyalists and the followers of Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. It may, however, be taken as part of a larger effort to clean house, as Putin also relieved Abdul Khakim Sultygor and Dmitri Rogozin, special representatives to Chechnya and the Kaliningrad region, respectively.
Georgian deputy foreign minister Kakha Sikharulidze welcomed Pastukhovs removal but expressed hope that Russia would replace him with someone who "has not been noted to be either lobbying [for] Abkhaz separatists or hampering a settlement of Russo-Georgian relations." (2) Here there seems to be a misunderstanding, or perhaps false hope on the Georgian side, as the Russian Presidential Press Service makes no mention of a replacement or of a temporary nature of the reassignment of the duties; rather, it stated, "From now on, Russias Foreign Ministry will be responsible for the preparation of the treaty."(3)
As Tblisi sees the chairmanship of the treaty process now as an unknown, it is thus left to wonder about Moscows intentions, which will become evident only slowly as the Kremlin begins its dialogue with the new Georgian leadership.
Ivanov: "Russia is becoming predictable."
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has laid out the MFAs tasks for 2004. Working toward its goals of contributing to Russian security and socio-economic development, Ivanov appears to see his ministrys number one task as, promoting CIS integration and coordinating CIS inclusion in the world economy. Additionally, he intends for the MFA to work in 2004 to resolve crises in the Middle East; build up strategic partnerships with China, India, the U.S. and the E.U.; and do more "so that our compatriots abroad feel themselves more protected." (4)
Along with these tasks, Ivanov expressed his opinion that over the past decade Russia has been strengthening its position in the international arena and proclaimed that Russia has overcome the sobriquet given to it by Winston Churchill, stating, "Russia ceases to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma
and is becoming open and predictable for the outside world." (5)
Some of Russias neighbors, foreign investors and global competitors, however, may not necessarily interpret "open and predictable" to mean a Russia that is now completely reliable and non-threatening. Moreover, while these goals for the new year are benignly presented as tasks to help achieve a "global system of countering new challenges and threats," (6) Ivanovs message may also serve to reinforce the concerns of countries considered part of Russias near-abroad who are less interested in integration with Moscow and who have Russias "compatriots" living within their borders.
Putin keeps West out of post-Soviet air defense
Among the countries of the Single Economic Space, Kazakhstan may be the prime candidate for an eventual union with Russia, according to a Nezavisimaya gazeta report (7), especially considering Moscows recent problems with Ukraine and Belarus.
In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Astana to strengthen Russias military, economic and political ties with its southern neighbor even further. Whereas the U.S. and E.U. have recently been critical of Kazakhstans poor human rights record, Putin focused on business while visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. (8)
Although the summits resulting agreements, including one on the status of borders, the LUKoil-KazMunaigaz oilfield development cooperation agreement [both are discussed in a previous edition of the NIS Observed] and renewal of Russias lease on the Baikonaur space center through the year 2050 all constitute important steps in strengthening the Russian-Kazakh relationship, there was an even more significant accomplishment with respect to Moscows CIS integration goals. During the talks, Putin and his delegation "convinced" Astana to reject a bid by Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. to modernize Kazakhstans air defense system.
The Kremlin, which, according to an Ekho Moskvy radio report prior to Putins visit, had been concerned about increasing military cooperation between Astana and Western countries, including the U.S., Britain, Spain and Turkey, (9) argued that such an agreement would violate a 1995 CIS security arrangement to establish a single air defense system among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member countries. Indeed, the talks resulted in Astanas backing off from a modernization contract with the Western bidders and, in turn, offering the opportunity to Russia. Following Putins departure, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov met with his Kazakh counterpart in Moscow where they signed agreements in several spheres of military cooperation, including the joint air defense system, and discussed the terms of supply of Russian military hardware and technologies to Kazakhstan. This successful elimination of what the Kremlin portrayed as a Western attempt to intrude on the CIS air defense arrangement may be seen as a key triumph in its fight to maintain some semblance of an organized defensive structure in the CIS or at least the appearance of one.
Despite these successes and the ground they may have gained for Moscow in Central Asia, Putin apparently still came home disappointed that Kazakhstan has not abandoned its plans to participate in the Baku-Ceyhan (BC) pipeline project. (10) Briefing his cabinet members on the trip, the Russian president suggested Russia should consider seriously providing for the transportation of Kazakh energy resources.
(1) Imedi TV, 22 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(3) Prime-TASS, 22 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(4) Federal News Service via Johnsons Russia List (JRL) #8020, 16 Jan 04.
(5) ITAR-TASS, 21 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(6) Federal News Service (http://www.fednews.ru/) via Johnsons Russia List (JRL) #8020, 16 Jan 04.
(7) Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 26 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring, 28 Jan 04, via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(8) Asia Times, 12 Jan 04 via JRL #8011, 13 Jan 04.
(9) Ekho Moskvy, 9 Jan 04 via JRL #8008, 10 Jan 04.
(10) Kommersant, 10 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
By Scott C. Dullea (email@example.com)
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Digging up vote(r)s...
Fallout continues from the December parliamentary elections, as accusations of chicanery abound, while political parties and coalitions teeter on the verge of splintering. Meanwhile, a few politicians are preparing for the 14 March presidential elections, despite the fact that, as everyone acknowledges (this time), the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
The question of how fair elections in Russia can be has evolved into an interesting intellectual exercise almost everyone but the winners seems to agree that the parliamentary elections were slanted to ensure victory for United Russia, yet there appears to be little political will to do anything about it. The party of power remains in power, after all. Even the impending presidential elections, which might have served as a catalyst for a thorough investigation of the misuse of power during campaigns, wont do so, since the incumbent president currently is polling so high at the moment that it doesnt really matter (in the short term) how fair the elections will be. The long term, however, is an entirely different matter.
The parties that fared worse than expected in the December 2003 elections continue to decry the manner in which the vote counts were handled. They are not alone in their dismay, or in their ineffectiveness, Comments from the international community about the abuse of administrative resources, the shortage of unbiased media reporting and the sorry state of Russias move toward democracy (1) have caused minor irritations. however they have largely been ignored. US Secretary of State Colin Powell came out strongly against the elections (2) at least for a minute or two before focusing on the plus side (even though he had to go back 30 years to find a situation that was worse) and commenting on what he called the countrys "remarkable transformation to a democratic system of government." (3) And the OSCE, which should be accustomed to no one listening by now, did issue a report that castigated the elections for failing to meet acceptable standards, "most notably those pertaining to: unimpeded access to the media on a non-discriminatory basis, a clear separation between the State and political parties, and guarantees to enable political parties to compete on the basis of equal treatment." (4)
However, the OSCE report may have missed a critical blip in the "democratic" process. While noting the federal Central Election Commissions (CECs) generally professional approach to the elections, the OSCE concentrated on the voting process itself. It didnt examine the vote-counting process, which is the crux of party complaints. The Union of Right Forces (SPS), YABLOKO and the Communist Party (KPRF) came up with a different vote count than the official results, which were compiled with the assistance of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI). The unusual coalition of political parties obtained data from the polling stations about the number of votes processed, and reportedly found a substantial discrepancy between the number of ballots issued and the total number determined to be valid, invalid, annulled, etc. Their conclusion: "extra ballots were physically added" a lot of extra ballots, roughly 3.5 million. The ballots allegedly served to dilute votes for SPS, YABLOO and the KPRF. (5)
Yet such allegations have spurred no official investigations. Indeed, CEC Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov characterized the alternative vote count as suspicious, because the server used by the coalition was based in London, and not Russia. He subsequently discounted the claims of discrepancies. "[W]hen you take a close look, its only a matter of one vote here, two votes there, five votes somewhere else. Yes, people should be penalized for these discrepancies but you cant possibly question the outcome to the extent youre doing!" he said. (6) Two of the three parties involved in the vote count SPS and KPRF have quieted down, but YABLOKO leader Grigori Yavlinsky remains undaunted, and announced his intention to take his complaint to the Supreme Court. Yet here he may face a bigger peril: Since no one has questioned the behavior of the CEC (at least during the polling), Yavlinskys fight is with the numerous regional election commissions, not the federal structure. (7) In the end, the sheer number of cases he would have to launch may prove too much even for him.
Meanwhile, two parties are facing what may turn out to be serious divisions in the ranks. The Union of Right Forces, having lost out on party-list Duma seats, accepted the resignations of the partys leaders Boris Nemtsov, Irina Khakamada, Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar at its January meeting, (8) and refused to back Khakamadas announced candidacy in the presidential campaign. Out of 137 delegates present at the congress, only 61 delegates voted to support her run. (9)
The voluntarily tendered resignations did little to appease the discontent within the party over the election results. According to a draft document developed by special working group set up to analyze the reasons for the partys bleak showing, and led by Konstantin Remchukov one of the contenders to lead the party the blame rested on ineffective leadership at the federal level, particularly Nemtsov, Executive Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, and the Executive Committee branch leaders. However, the working group suffered its own dissension over the report, and the document could not be finalized. (10)
Khakamadas candidacy also is causing ripples of discord within the ranks of YABLOKO. That partys deputy chairman, Sergey Mitrokhin, warned that "measures will be taken" against party leaders who use party offices to assist in her quest for signatures. (11)
Moreover, the electoral bloc that had joined the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) with the Peoples Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) is undergoing its own crisis, as KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov and NPSR Executive Committee Chairman Gennady Semigin publicly trade insults. At issue: Zyuganovs responsibility for the KPRFs dismal showing in the December 2003 elections (according to Semigin) and Semigins "megalomania" (according to Zyuganov). (12) Another bloc already has dissolved the coalition between Gennady Seleznevs Party for the Rebirth of Russia and the Russian Party of Life. Indicating that he, at least, has learned his lesson (although a bit late for his political career), Seleznev said that his party would support Putin, and that the coalition with the Party of Life was a mistake. (13)
Even electoral success is no guarantee of a long political relationship, however. Sergei Glazyev, who founded the Rodina (Motherland) bloc with Dmitri Rogozin, has formed a new movement, Popular Patriotic Union Rodina, to help his presidential campaign. One month after Rodina overcome the five-percent vote hurdle to obtain party-list Duma seats, the hastily formed bloc was demonstrating a remarkable lack of cohesiveness: Despite the administration's refusal to support the registration demands of presidential hopeful (and Rodina-backed) Viktor Gerashchenko, Rogozin would not support the self-nominated Glazyev's run. (14)
... And burying the competition
A recent poll indicates that Putin would receive nearly 80 percent of the vote in the 14 March elections, leaving his competitors in the dust. That popularity has brought the departure of one candidate, businessman Vladimir Bryntsalov, from the race. (15) Now Putin is facing six challengers, who have managed to submit either party nominations or the required number of signatures for registration: Khakamada; Federation Council Speaker Sergey Mironov; Ivan Rybkin, the former Security Council Secretary; Nikolay Kharitonov of the KPRF; Oleg Malyshkin of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR); and Sergey Glazyev, the leader of the Rodina bloc. (16)
The motivation behind many of the candidacies remains questionable. While Mironov has repeatedly stated that he supports Putin wholeheartedly, and plans to use the campaign as a platform to express his support of the man hes challenging (17), another candidacy is raising eyebrows as well. Malyshkin had been viewed as the sacrificial goat meant to keep the LDPR in the campaign. Now it appears that his party has a more devious aim in mind bait and switch. As LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky explained recently, "You just give us your votes and elect Malyshkin. He will appoint me the prime minister and will resign a month later." (18) Of course, Zhirinovskys use of the word "democratic" has always been, at best, ironic, and, at worst, insulting.
Until recently, Zhirinovskys absence from the race was believed to have been due to the same thing keeping other party leaders from running: Putin cannot be beaten. Most are looking toward the subsequent presidential elections as their next chance for office, A new group has emerged that also is looking toward the end of Putins second term not, necessarily, to regain office (although thats always a possible motivation) but primarily to regain a semblance of democracy. Apparently, only the utter dearth of a democratic process can bring together Russias democrats (with some notable, and not unexpected, exceptions). The "2008 Committee: Free Choice," a collection of democrats, has announced its plans to seek "the election of a new president in 2008 through free and honest elections." (19)
The committees founders include former Duma deputy and SPS leader Boris Nemtsov, Yevgeny Kiselev, editor of Moskovsky novosti, writer Viktor Shenderovich, poet Igor Irtenyev, economist Yuliya Latynina, and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. Declaring the 2004 elections to be "a farce," the committee members intend to stir up discontent among the usual suspects students and local intelligentsia. "Democratic forces need to regroup. People, citizens have to consolidate on a very broad democratic platform. That is why we are talking about the problems of the year 2008. In other words, the train 2004 is gone. And nothing can be done about it," Kasparov said at a press conference last month. (20)
Deputies start flexing their muscles
Still quite cocky with their success in the parliamentary elections, members of United Russia have proclaimed themselves king of the hill within the Duma and are now starting to shout it outside as well. Having taken all the committee chairmanships, (21) the party is ready to take over the government, according to Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. "As a party of parliamentary majority, United Russia is ready to take part in forming the Cabinet of Ministers," Gryzlov said. Indeed, instead of leaving the pesky chore of deciding who should be considered for the cabinet to Putin, the party believes it should create a list from which Putin could choose. Indeed, the partys leaders already have prepared a list to replace Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov's cabinet. Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov explained that "we are not going to blame our mistakes on anyone else and we feel no fear. As we fought to win, we must assume the entire responsibility now." (22) Candidates must be party members, Gryzlov said, although they will have to suspend their party membership immediately, since high-level state officials are banned from party memberships de facto if not de jure, as Gryzlov himself demonstrated when he unofficially led the party while serving as Interior Minister.
While Gryzlov manages to rule the Duma roost, his counterpart in the Federation Council, Sergey Mironov, has had to deal with a deputy unwilling to bow before him. Still, Mironov managed to squash the challenger. A conflict of opinion about how the Council should function led to the departure of the first deputy speaker, Valeri Goreglyad, who announced his resignation last month. "My decision is due to my ideological position and my convictions," he told journalists on 20 January. Stating that those convictions included the notion that all members of the Federation Council should have equal standing in basic parliamentary procedure, Goreglyad seemed to indicate that a power struggle was ongoing in the Council, with Mironov advocating the elimination of the deputy speaker position. Goreglyad noted his own support for rotating the leadership of the Council, which he characterized as a "necessary element of democracy." (23)
Alas, either his convictions or his standing against Mironov was shakier than he may have believed. Eight days later, Goreglyad explained his resignation differently, giving cause to expect his departure from the Council as well as from the deputy speaker post. "I have come to the conclusion that I have worked long enough in legislative bodies, and now I should try my hand in some other types of work in executive bodies or economic entities," he said on 28 January. (24)
(1) The NIS Observed, 21 Jan 04; and Rossiyskaya gazeta, 27 Jan 04 via Johnsons Russia List (JRL) #8038, 29 Jan 04.
(2) Reuters, 26 Jan 04 via JRL #8032, 26 Jan 04.
(3) Ekho Moskvy, 0620 GMT, 27 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via JRL #8035, 27 Jan 04.
(4) OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Election Observation Mission Final Report, 27 Jan 04 via JRL #8041, 30 Jan 04.
(5) Novaya gazeta, no. 6, 29 Jan 04 via JRL #8041, 30 Jan 04.
(7) ITAR-TASS, 1313 GMT, 22 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0122 via World News Connection.
(8) Moscow Times, 26 Jan 04 via JRL #8032, 26 Jan 04.
(9) ITAR-TASS, 1917 GMT, 24 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0124 via World News Connection.
(10) IZVESTIYA, 21 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0122 via World News Connection.
(11) (Rossiyskaya gazeta, 21 Jan 04, p. 3; FBIS-SOV-2004-0121 via World News Connection.
(12) Rossiyskaya gazeta, 21 Jan 04, p. 3; FBIS-SOV-2004-0127 via World News Connection.
(13) ITAR-TASS, 2050 GMT, 16 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0116 via World News Connection.
(14) Moscow Times, 2 Feb 04 via JRL #8044, 2 Feb 04
(15) ITAR-TASS, 1315 GMT, 28 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0128 via World News Connection.
(16) ITAR-TASS, 1721 GMT, 28 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0128 via World News Connection.
(17) ITAR-TASS, 2115 GMT, 22 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0122 via World News Connection.
(18) ITAR-TASS, 1549 GMT, 14 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0114 via World News Connection.
(19) Rossiyskaya gazeta, 20 Jan 04, p. 3; FBIS-SOV-2004-0120 via World News Connection.
(20) INTERFAX, 20 Jan 04; JRL #8029, 23 Jan 04.
(21) Mayak Radio, 1500 GMT, 13 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0113 via World News Connection.
(22) Izvestiya, 24 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0127 via World News Connection.
(23) ITAR-TASS, 1141 GMT, 20 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0120 via World News Connection.
(24) ITAR-TASS, 0902 GMT, 28 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0128 via World News Connection.
By Kate Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Throughout this article, when referring to equipment, the Russian name is cited first, followed by the NATO designation (if it has one) in quotes.
Yel'tsin had a Rock Concert, Putin has a War Game
In another sign of resurgent efforts to conduct realistic training, Russia will soon hold its largest strategic war game in 22 years, according to reports from Moscow. This major military exercise is scheduled to take place for several days in the middle of this month and will involve numerous units in three military districts (Moscow, Leningrad and Volga-Urals), several bomber and tanker regiments of the 37th Air Army (Long Range Aviation Command), the Northern Fleet submarine force, both offensive and defensive units of the Strategic Missile Force and several elements of the Space Forces. Uniformed troops of the Interior Ministry (MVD) and Federal Security Service (FSB) border units will also play important roles. Sources indicate that while the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff will be in overall control of the war games, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian armed forces, will be personally involved in portions of the exercise and lead what we in the military call the "Hot Wash;" that is the "lessons-learned" conference conducted immediately after an exercise. ()
The business paper, Kommersant, which broke the story on 30 January 04, gave a detailed list of activities, which include units and commands across the breadth of Russia. Indications are that the exercise scenario will begin with forces at peacetime locations and readiness, and then ramp up through various levels of scripted pre-conflict tension (including what Russians call the "special period" just before hostilities), finally blossoming into full-scale war. () The MVD and FSB troops most likely will exercise their mission to secure the periphery and critical installations of the nation, while the military units and headquarters will increase their alert status and make all available forces ready for action. Once the forces are "cocked on" alert, they will report their readiness to execute the war plan through their various headquarters to Chief of the General Staff Anatoli Kvashnin who, theoretically, will continually update Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and, probably President Putin. Although unconfirmed at this time, it seems highly probable that the higher command echelons, perhaps even including President Putin, will decamp Moscow for the hardened underground bunkers in the vicinity that were built during the Cold War days.
Next, a carefully flagged "EXERCISE ONLY" warning of simulated attack will be issued by the Russian attack warning system to the survivable elements of the military and government in their bunkers, where President Putin or more likely Minister Ivanov in the role of president, will issue an exercise attack order detailing the (scripted) attack response plan. At this point, the action will switch back to the tactical units. The 22nd Air Division will launch the 14 remaining Tupolev-160 "Blackjack" bombers in the Russian Air Force inventory, along with up to 22 TU-95MS "Bear H" bombers, all from Engels Air Base in Saratov Oblast. Simultaneously, some of the 50 plus "Backfire C" non-strategic bombers of the 52nd and 840th Bomber Regiments will launch from Shaikovka and Soltsy Air Bases, respectively. No mention was made of the 42 TU-95MS bombers of the 73rd Heavy-Bomber Division at Ukrainka Air Base in Khabarovsk Krai, so it is likely they will maintain a real-world response capability while the other units exercise. As part of the exercise, some of the Tu-160s will launch unarmed Kh-55 "AS-15 Kitchen" cruise missiles over the North Atlantic, while other Tu-160s and the Tu-95MSs will conduct simulated cruise missile launches while flying over Siberia and the Arctic ice towards U.S. and Canadian airspace. Meanwhile, the "Backfire" bombers will drop conventional bombs on the Vladimirovka target range near Astrakhan. IL-78 "Midas" tankers forward deployed to various bases from their home at Ryazan Air Base will refuel the "Blackjacks" and "Bears" on their return routes. ()
Since Russia resumed these types of exercises in the late 1990s, these polar route bombers, under the watchful eye of forward deployed U.S. and Canadian AWACS and fighter forces under NORAD command, have ventured to within 37 miles of the Alaska Air Defense Intercept Zone (ADIZ) before veering back toward home. ()
While upwards of several dozen aircraft range over Russia and the frozen north, the Strategic Missile Forces will conduct a test launch of an unarmed, but highly instrumented, Topol-M "SS-27" intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a test warhead from the Russian ICBM test site at Plesetsk to the usual impact range on the Kamchatka peninsula. Similarly, a Northern Fleet Project 667BDRM "Delta IV" nuclear-powered SSBN of the 12th Submarine Squadron will sortie from its base at Gadzhiyevo (at Sayda Inlet in Yagelnaya Bay) to launch an unarmed RSM-54 "SS-N-23 Skiff" sea-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the Barents Sea test range. ()
Not to be left out, the only existing (ironic, isnt it?) anti-ballistic missile system in the world, the A-135 ABM system defending Moscow, will participate in this exercise. The entire system, including the Don-2N phased-array radar, short-range 53T6 "Gazelle" and long-range 51T6 "Gorgon" interceptor missiles will be run through a drill by their battle management center at Sofrino, outside Moscow. The 3rd Space and Missile Defense Army of the Space Forces, which runs the A-135 system along the rest of the Russian early warning system, will also monitor the various ICBM, SLBM and space launches. ()
Finally, Russia will exercise a capability that the U.S. is not even close to at this time: rapid launch of replacement satellites lost in accidents or, in as this exercise, enemy actions. A Molniya-M booster will launch what is likely to be a Molniya-1T military communications satellite from Plesetsk, while a Zenith-2 booster will launch an unknown type of satellite, likely also to be a military communications satellite or an Oko-type early-warning satellite. ()
This years exercise is similar in scope to a major Soviet war game held in 1982, known as the "seven-hour nuclear war," which reportedly inspired President Reagan to press ahead with the Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI has evolved over the ensuing decades into todays Ballistic Missile Defense program, which will soon have active elements in place. The current Russian exercise, unlike the 1982 war game, is unlikely to cause concern in the West, because, by treaty, Russia will notify the US (and others) of its intention to launch any ICBM or SLBM 24-hours in advance with a description of the launch and target areas. Whereas decades ago, such exercises were planned and conducted in secrecy, today both Russia and the US go to great lengths to ensure such activities are announced to the other well in advance. ()
The U.S. conducts similar exercises annually, to test the capability and readiness of its strategic nuclear (and in the last few years, strategic non-nuclear) reconnaissance and strike forces. The most recent "Global Guardian" exercise, involving American bombers and other strategic assets, was held in October 03. According to the U.S. Air Combat Command, "The primary purpose of the exercise was to test and validate emergency war order command, control and execution procedures." ()
Every nuclear-type exercise by either Russia or the U.S. is tightly scripted and controlled, both to achieve the best training benefit and to ensure there is no chance that anything will get out of control. Every message during this upcoming exercise will be flagged "EXERCISE ONLY" or "EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE." Also, any test launches made during these war games will have unarmed, albeit highly-instrumented, missiles and warheads. The Russians have efficiently tied their tactical launch and deployment training to their operational level and national-strategic command and control exercises.
U.S. plans are changing somewhat. The U.S. Strategic Command has been given new missions in the last few years which are much less nuclear oriented, so while Russia is conducting its largest nuclear exercise in decades, the U.S. exercise schedule calls for a regular, but much less robust set of nuclear war games each year. In the words of one briefing, "Nuke ops [are] no longer [the only] focus of [STRATCOMs] command exercise program." ()
Traditionally, Russia has conducted major war games at various force levels during what is known as the winter training cycle, and I have no doubt that there is a legitimate reason to conduct this exercise at this time. It also seems likely, as has been pointed out by several experts (), that the timing of the exercise is very beneficial to President Putin, coming as it does just weeks before the presidential election. Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Moscow office of the Center for Defense Information, observes that the Kremlin claim that this exercise is somehow tied to counter-terrorism training is bunk. Both Safranchuk and independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer see the timing of this grand display of national might as more than coincidental. As Safranchuk noted, "The exercise will make a great show
" just prior to the 14 March election. ()
(1) Kommersant, 30 Jan 04; WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html via Johnson's Russia List (JRL) #8042, 31 Jan 04; AP via (www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/02/02/001.html).
(3) Ibid. Detailed information on strategic forces is from "The Russian Nuclear Forces Project" run by The Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Aircraft details are at: http://www.russianforces.org/eng/aviation. For additional details see http://www3.oup.co.uk/milbal/hdb/Volume_103/Issue_01/
(4) Authors personal observations while working in the NORAD Command Center. Details of Feb 01 and Apr 02 exercises are in "The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists", Jul/Aug 03, pp. 70-72 (http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/nukenotes/ja03nukenote.html).
(5) Kommersant, Jan 30, 04; WPS Monitoring Agency; www.wps.ru/e_index.html via JRL #8042, 31 January 2004. Detailed information on strategic forces is from "The Russian Nuclear Forces Project" run by The Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology; ICBM details are at http://www.russianforces.org/eng/missiles/; SLBM details are at http://www.russianforces.org/eng/navy/. For additional details see http://www3.oup.co.uk/milbal/hdb/Volume_103/Issue_01/
(6) Ibid. Detailed information on ABM forces is from "The Russian Nuclear Forces Project" run by The Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology at http://www.russianforces.org/eng/defense/ For additional details see http://www3.oup.co.uk/milbal/hdb/Volume_103/Issue_01/
(7) Ibid. See "The NIS Observed, Vol IX Number 01 (23 January 2004)" for additional details on Plesetsk and Baikonaur space and ICBM complexes. Details on military boosters and satellites can be found at RussianSpaceWeb.com (www.russianspaceweb.com/spacecraft_military.html).
(9) Air Combat Command News Service, (www2.acc.af.mil/accnews/nov03/03325.html).
(10) U.S. STRATCOM Briefing, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/training/19_stratcom.ppt
(11) Moscow Times, 3 Feb 2004 Editorial via Johnson's Russia List #8046, 3 Feb 04 (www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/02/02/001.html).
(12) AP, 30 Jan 04 via RFE/RL Newsline, 2 Feb 04; AP via JRL #8042, 31 Jan 04.
By Lt Col Kris Beasley, USAF
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Dept of Defense or the United States government.
Newly Independent States
And the struggle goes on
The Belarussian opposition coalition "Five-Plus" decided to nominate 220 candidates to run in the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the fall of 2004. Not all names of the candidates are announced yet, but some are already known: former minister of foreign economic relations Mikhail Marynich, former presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, former defense minister Pavel Kazlowski and other prominent figures. (1) The opposition coalition is remaining optimistic about its ability to change the political situation in Belarus. The alliance leaders claim that the Five-Plus has managed to unite 90% of Belarussian political forces; over 200 NGOs have also joined the coalition.
The government, meanwhile, continues to attempt to intimidate the opposition. In the past few weeks numerous anti-opposition "measures" have been taken by the authorities. On January 19, the leaders of six opposition parties were stopped at the Belarusian-Polish border; their belongings were searched and two leaders were subjected to personal searches. The Five-Plus leaders were travelling to Warsaw for a meeting with Polish politicians and journalists. (2) Also, the January edition of the unregistered Asambleya bulletin, the only national periodical in Belarus to provide coverage of NGO activities, was seized by forces from the prosecutor's office at the Minsk post office. (3) Furthermore, Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (BDG) was denied distribution through the Belarussian post. (4) The opposition believes that this action is connected with the upcoming parliamentary elections in the fall.
And the list goes on
The amount of governmental censorship and assault on the opposition that goes on in Belarus is so frequent that the news about these developments has become almost mundane - a rather scary situation, indicative of a true dictatorship, in fact; a dictatorship which is endorsed by the majority of the Belarussians.
Natural Gas supply update.
After Gazprom stopped its gas supply to Belarus on January 1, 2004, Iteria and Nafta have remained Belarus' sole gas suppliers. They, too however, recently announced a halt in supplying natural gas to the country, as their protocols expired on January 16. Belarus was hoping to receive natural gas from Russia at Russian domestic prices, while Russia was requesting to be sold a stake in Beltranshaz in return. After the collapse of the Beltranshaz privatization deal, Gazprom announced that it was ready to supply natural gas to Belarus at market prices, withdrew from the talks on Beltranshaz and, later in the year, halted the gas supply to Belarus. (5) It is unlikely, however, that Putin will allow the problem to take its own course he is too willing to negotiate and settle the issues of the Russian-Belarus Union as soon as possible. His latest suggested solution to the natural gas problem was to consider an intergovernmental loan to Belarus. (6)
The Crimean authorities recently decided to make Russian citizens residing in Crimean autonomous republic pay six to ten times more for communal services (heating, water, etc.) than the rest of the Crimean population. As is so often the case, pensioners bear the brunt: Vladimir Udovichenko, a pensioner, complains: "If you live in a three-room flat, you now have to pay some 150 or 130 hryvnas. And your pension is 150 hryvnas." (7) A 68-year-old woman from Yalta had to pay three hryvnas per month for water supply, now she will have to pay six times as much, and, in addition, local authorities are demanding 500 hryvnas from her as a debt on previous payments. (8)
There are approximately 170,000 Russian citizens residing in Crimea, who see these measures by the Crimean authorities as an act of discrimination, especially because they apply solely to Russian non-citizens. (9) [The total number of ethnic Russian in Crimea amounted to 1,186,000 in 2001, so that those affected constitute 14.3% of Russians who are not citizens of Ukraine; 85.7% apparently are Ukrainian or dual citizens and remain unaffected Ed] When confronted about the situation, Mr. Korniychuk, Crimean First Deputy Prime Minister said that Ukrainian housing codes guarantee low rents for Ukrainian citizens, but this provision does not extend to non-Ukrainian citizens. (10)
Some Russian citizens residing in Crimea have been paying a premium for living there for quite some time: Namely, the servicemen of the Black Sea Fleet. For years, the Black Sea Fleet has paid exorbitant taxes. The commander of the Black Sea Fleet Vladimir Masorin gave an example. "The Black Sea ensemble sometimes gives paid concerts. On earning 25,000 hryvnas the ensemble has to pay 23,000 hryvnas in taxes." (11) This seems a little unfair given that the presence of the Black Sea Fleet has a positive influence on the economic situation of the region - as additional consumers of everything from uniforms to food, it bolsters the economy. In addition, Russia has been writing 90 million rubles off Ukraine's state debt annually. (12)
The Crimean authorities appear to be acting arbitrarily If Ukraine is striving to become a member of the Western community, it should, at least, try to treat all non-citizens equitably, rather than focusing on the citizens of a single country.
On January 25, the opposition Christian Democratic Popular Party (CDPP) staged a rally in central Chisinau calling for the president's and the government's resignation, as well as early parliamentary elections. Apparently due to adverse weather conditions, only about 200 people took part in the rally. A non-stop four-day storm prevented CDPP supporters from arriving from outside of Chisinau. The meeting was very short and its participants dispersed quickly. The irony of the whole undertaking was that there were probably more policeman in the central square of Chisinau than there were protesters. More than ten busses and trucks were parked behind the government building with policemen in helmets, shields and carrying truncheons. (13) Their readiness to seal off the central square proved unnecessary. Since the rally was unauthorized, police made arrests and have started criminal cases against 30 people who took part in the protest. (14)
The CDPP leader Iurie Rosca has a difficult time finding allies among other opposition movements. He recently called for the opposition to run as one voting block in the 2005 parliamentary elections; the suggestion was not taken favorably by other opposition party leaders. Dumitru Braghis, the leader of Our Moldova Alliance, claims that such unity will "only inflict damage on Our Moldova Allianace." (15) The Democratic Party leader Dumitru Diacov believes that such an initiative is too ambitious and the opposition is more likely to run in two voting blocks - right and left-center ones. (16)
So, the Moldovan opposition remains split, which is rarely a recipe for success (even though different opposition forces did unite in the Committee for Defending Moldova's Independence and Constitution). The Moldovan President, Vladimir Voronin, is even getting worried about Moldova's next parliament becoming a one-party parliament. He cited a vivid example of recent Gagauzia elections, where 32 out of 33 people's deputies elected to the Popular Assembly are Communists. (17)
(1) MINSK BELAPAN, 19 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0119 via World News Connection.
(2) MINSK BELAPAN, 22 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0122 via World News Connection.
(3) MINSK BELAPAN, 24 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0123 via World News Connection.
(4) MINSK BELAPAN, 14 Jan 04: FBIS-SOV-2004-0114 via World News Connection.
(5) RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report, Vol 6, No. 3, 27 Jan 04 .
(6) MOSCOW ITAR-TASS, 26 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0126 via World News Connection.
(7) CHANNEL ONE TV, 20 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(8) MOSCOW ITAR-TASS, 20 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0120 via World News Connection.
(9) Channel One TV, 1800 GMT, 20 Jan 04, BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(10) MOSCOW ITAR-TASS ,20 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0120 via World News Connection.
(11) KRASNAYA ZVEZDA, 1 Sep 03; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) KRASNAYA ZVEZDA, 1 Sep 03; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) INFOTAG NEWS AGENCY, 26 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(14) PROTV, 27 Jan 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(15) CHISINAU INFOTAG, 19 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0119 via World News Connection.
(16) CHISINAU INFOTAG, 19 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0119 via World News Connection.
(17) MOLDOVA ONE TV, 3 Dec 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
Elena Selyuk (email@example.com)
Reshuffles and crackdowns
A recent scandal over the alleged wiretapping of certain parliamentary offices and changes in the election law codes have coincided with a rising opposition movement in Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan has reshuffled its government and threatened outspoken media sources. And a new media bill in Kazakhstan has been criticized, leaving to question the status of free speech in Central Asia.
Political Change in Kyrgyzstan
On 12 January, 2004, two pro-government partiesAlga and Unityannounced a merger aimed at securing seats for the December 2005 parliamentary and presidential election. (1) On 14 January, seven opposition partiesAsaba, the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, Erk, Erkindik, Kairan-El, the Republican Party, and Young Kyrgyzstan countered with their own coalition, For Peoples Power, aimed at challenging the pro-government parties. (2)
That same day, General Ismail Isakov, Chairman of the State Security Committee in the Kyrgyz Legislative Assembly (lower house of parliament) (3), held an impromptu press conference to make accusations that his office had been wiretapped. He told journalists he noticed a "very pungent smell in the air", which he initially believed to be a dead mouse. A technician investigated and found a listening device as well as a hose connected to a box (which Isakov speculated was being used to poison him). (4)
Isakov, who estimated that the device had been there for up to 18 months (5) blamed the National Security Service (SNB) for the wiretaps and called for the resignation of the leadership of the SNB, "as secretly taping the telephone calls of a member of parliament or any other citizen is an unlawful act." (6) Shortly after the discovery of the listening device in Isakovs office, five other opposition members Azimbek Beknazarov, Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, Adakhan Madumarov, Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, and Omurbek Tekebaev allegedly found similar devices that had been planted in their offices. (7)
Kalyk Imankulov, Chief of the SNB, denied claims that the devices were the work of the SNB, as they were "far too primitive." He went on to add, "We do lag behind our colleagues in neighboring countries in terms of technical equipment, but the devices that we use on the sanction of prosecutor are much more modern than the ones found by these deputies. [We] stopped using such primitive devices a decade ago. And we certainly dont have gases or powders which lead to a slow death." (8) The listening devices, which appeared to be homemade, led the SNB to express interest in working with Russian or U.S. security services to stem opposition accusations of an unfair investigation. (9)
On 15-16 January, amid accusations that Isakovs press conference was merely a publicity stunt to draw attention to the opposition movement, parliament held a special plenary session. (10) On 19 January, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev met with community representatives from Bishkek and Chui Oblast and argued against early campaigning, categorizing such activities as frivolous and burdensome to the countrys economy. (11)
Officially, the Central Election Commission (CEC) limits the number of days prior to an election that an individual can campaign for office 20 days for local elections, 25 days for parliamentary campaigns, and 35 days for presidential campaigns. (12) The electoral process has been a point of contention between pro-government and opposition groups and recent amendments to the CEC Election Code, which resulted in 206 changes to the Election Code, seem not have resolved the bickering and posturing. (13)
Accusations such as those made by Isakov, however, give opposition members press coverage that is invaluable to attaining both name recognition and identification as a worthy challenge to the current administration. But most significant is the populations perception that there can be an opposition. On 28 January, up to 400 persons gathered in Bishkek to demand the release from jail of Feliks Kulov, leader of Ar-Namys opposition party. (14) And at a more grassroots level, several dozen residents of Alamedin blocked the Bishkek-Almaty highway to protest the interrupted supply of electricity. The protestors demanded to speak with government officials and, after reaching an agreement to unblock the highway, said they would continue to protest by blocking the road until their demands are met. (15)
Political Change in Tajikistan
Following the December reshuffle and replacement of executive staff members, on 19 January Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov dismissed Vice-Premier Nigina Sharapova and a number of ministry level officials. (16) According to the presidents press secretary, Abdufattoh Sharipov, the restructuring is "intended to attract young and talented cadres to the affairs of government. And this step will also be a major factor in reducing the bureaucracy, so there wont be any duplication." (17) Critics, however, note that most of the personnel changes were reflective of levels of commitment to Rakhmonov; one of the new appointees, Abdujabbaor Rakhmonov, hails from the same province as the president and all of the new appointees are from the same party as the president, the Peoples Democratic Party of Tajikistan. (18)
Since 1997, the opposition representation in government has fallen from 30 percent to five percent (19) and opposition parties such as the Islamic Renaissance Party continue to encounter attempts to quiet their voice. (20) Ruzi Nav (New Day) and Nerui Sukhan (Power of the Word), two independent weekly newspapers, have been banned since late 2003 and two periodicals, Oila and Tojikiston, are being investigated by the government. The newspapers have been warned by the Tajik Prosecutor-Generals Office and the Ministry of Culture that if they continued publication of articles "undermining the honor and dignity" of the president and government, they would face permanent closure. (21)
Media in Kazakhstan
Free speech appears to be as threatened in Kazakhstan as it is in Tajikistan. A recent bill has been introduced to parliament which, opponents criticize, gives authorities excessive control over the media. While Sergei Duvanov, an independent journalist and outspoken critic of the government jailed since 2002 (22), was recently released from prison; his "semi-free" status means that he remains under constant supervision. And since early January, one outspoken reporter has been beaten up, another faces sentencing on allegations of slander, and the independent newspaper Diapazon had its offices raided by police. (23)
(1) Eurasianet, 16 Jan 04 via www.eurasianet.org
(2) RFE/RL Central Asia Report, 26 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(3) Isakov was also former leader of the Movement for the Resignation of Askar Akaev and Reforms for the People, and is thus a well known figure among the opposition movement.
(4) Isakov went on to comment about the box: "I believe they wanted to liquidate me this way, through gradual gassing. Sending small doses everyday, they would lead me to a heart attack." IWPR, 17 Jan 04 via www.iwpr.net
(5) Eurasianet, 16 Jan 04 via www.eurasianet.org
(6) IWPR, 17 Jan 04 via www.iwpr.net
(7) RFE/RL Central Asia Report, 26 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org; Eurasianet, 16 Jan 04 via www.eurasianet.org; IWPR, 17 Jan 04 via www.iwpr.net; and ITAR-TASS, 1452 GMT, 16 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0117 via World News Connection.
(8) IWPR, 17 Jan 04 via www.iwpr.net
(9) ITAR-TASS, 1452 GMT, 16 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0117 via World News Connection.
(10) RFE/RL Central Asia Report, 26 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(11) IWPR, 29 Jan 04 via www.iwpr.net
(12) RFE/RL Newsline, 29 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(13) RFE/RL, 28 Jan 04; RFE/RL Newsline, 29 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(14) RFE/RL Newsline, 29 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org. Kulov was a former Vice President and Mayor of Bishkek before he was imprisoned on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power. Kulovs imprisonment kept him from participating in the 2000 presidential elections, at which time he was seen as a strong opponent to Akaev.
(15) ITAR-TASS, 1332 GMT, 23 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0123 via World News Connection.
(16) ITAR-TASS, 1659 GMT, 19 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0119 via World News Connection.
(17) RFE/RL, 22 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(18) RFE/RL, 22 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(19) RFE/RL, 22 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org
(20) See NIS Observed, 23 Jan 04 via www.bu.edu/iscip
(21) Eurasianet, 14 Jan 04 via www.eurasianet.org. The limits of the newspapers can be seen, for example, in how they cover political scandals without giving too many specifics. Transparency International listed Tajikistan as one of the worlds most corrupt countries see NIS Observed, 24 Oct 03 via www.bu.edu/iscip yet many journalists are leery of providing very much detail. The Tajik Financial Control Committee recently exposed the misuse of $5 million of government funds in 2003. What would be reported is the statistics 1300 audits, 2000 officials administratively punished, 100 official fired, ITAR-TASS, 1506 GMT, 19 Jan 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0119 via World News Connection rather than names of offenders.
(22) Duvanov was arrested prior to a trip to Washington, DC, where he was scheduled to discuss the situation of the media as well as corruption in Kazakhstan. He was charged with the rape of a minor, a charge which he denies.
(23) RFE/RL, 22 Jan 04; RFE/RL Newsline, 29 Jan 04 via www.rferl.org; IWPR, 29 Jan 04 via www.iwpr.net
By David W. Montgomery (firstname.lastname@example.org)