The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume IX Number 08 (12 May 2004)

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Susan J. Cavan
Security Services by Fabian Adami
Foreign Relations by Scott C. Dullea
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Kate Martin
Armed Forces by Paul J. Lyons

Newly Independent States

Western Region by Elena Selyuk
Caucasus by Ariela Shapiro

Central Asia by David W. Montgomery

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Opportunities of historical significance

Vladimir Putin was inaugurated Saturday, May 8th as President of the Russian Federation, serving his second (final?) term. His inaugural speech was brief but replete with fine democratic rhetoric.

"Only free people in a free country can be successful. This is the foundation of Russia’s economic growth and of its political stability." (1)

Putin also promised to achieve "a real, tangible increase" in the "quality of life" of the population. (2) He even seemed to take personal responsibility for the fulfillment of his promises, recalling perhaps, a more autocratic era: "[I]n Russia, the head of state has been responsible and will be responsible for everything." (3)

He did hedge a bit however, on the presidential liability issue, "stress[ing] that the success and prosperity of Russia cannot and must not depend on a single person, or a single political party, a single political force." (4) I’m sure that sentiment provides cold comfort for his government.

Putin identified the need to build a vibrant, multi-party democracy as the foundation of a successful Russian state, but the words of his inaugural address fly in the face of his actions throughout his first term in office. This second inauguration thus provides an ideal occasion for considering his job performance to this point, and his likely course for the next few years.

According to political analyst Vasili Fartyshev, Putin’s focus (particularly of the last two years) on organization, and reorganization, of state structures, the state’s connection with business and oligarchs, regional reforms, etc. has resulted in perhaps the most acclaimed accomplishment to date: "Putin has restored manageability." (5)

Cause for concern arises however, when contemplating just what Putin will do with his ability to manage the state. While it is true that his critics, and some colleagues too, worried from the initial moments of Putin’s rule that his "dictatorship of law" would cause Russia’s transformation to tilt more toward a dictatorship than a Rechtsstaat, Putin has spent much of his first term either rooting out or co-opting detractors, whether from the state, regional or defense industries, media, business, legislature or even "oligarchic circles." A new round of reforms promises tighter vertical control for the coming phase of Putin’s regime. Thus, the question, what next?

Through his words, Putin lauds the progress of democracy in Russia, notably at a meeting with the Central Electoral Commission. According to the president, Russia’s rounds of elections (local, parliamentary, presidential, etc.) are occurring "almost constantly," and providing "the clearest possible demonstration of the development of democracy" in the country. (6)

The cynicism with which those thoughts, like the fine sentiments of his inaugural address, were enunciated is disturbing. Clearly Putin is a popular figure, and he may have even won a fair electoral fight, but with the doubts that sprang from his selection as Yel’tsin’s heir to his first presidential election in 2000 (and the piles of burning ballots behind polling stations) (7) through the stuffed ballot boxes of last year’s parliamentary elections to the tired rerun of a presidential election farce this year, elections Russian-style are no longer recognizable as a guidepost on a transitional path to democracy, let alone its crowning achievement. Curse the day the simple conduct of an "election-like event" became synonymous with democracy.

As for other priorities, Putin has chosen to highlight the responsibilities of business owners, and even of whole industries. In one instance, the implied threat of renationalization of the energy sector may have been intended as a threat to one of the longest survivors of Russia’s post-Soviet political life: Anatoli Chubais. Speaking at a meeting of local citizens in the northern town of Salekhard, Putin emphasized the need "for businesses to be responsible in the territories of their operation." (8)

In what may be a related event, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov, responding to an order from the Khakassia Arbitration Court (in Siberia), ordered the transfer of ownership of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant from Anatoli Chubais’ Unified Energy System power monopoly back to actual state control.(9) Should Chubais (and other large business owners like Vladimir Potanin and his Norilsk Nickel) be concerned that this may be the beginning of a renationalization trend? Perhaps the threat of renationalization is best viewed instead as a tool in targeted attacks. Either way, with Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail, any wealthy Russian business owner has to think (and act) carefully in response to almost any government initiative. Does this qualify under Putin’s definition of a "free people" in a "free country"?

Putin people celebrate

Before Putin was even reinaugurated, a little known youth group called "For Stability" began its campaign to extend the president’s term. The students rallied and gathered signatures in support of the holding of a referendum on a ten year extension to President Putin’s term in office. "For Stability," according to its leader Dmitri Aniskin, was organized through the internet and personal contact among primarily college students from Moscow-area schools. An "action group" within the movement, comprising 152 of the 200 "activists" in the organization presented the Moscow City Electoral Commission with registration documents. This gives the Commission 15 days (until May 20) to issue a decision on registering the organization. (10)

Another Putin youth movement, "Going Together," rallied the night before Putin’s inauguration on Sparrow Hills in Moscow to celebrate both the president’s second inauguration and the movement’s fourth anniversary. Vasili Yakimenko, chairman of "Going Together," described Putin as the "role model" for the organization’s members. 15,000 participants are estimated to have attended the rally, carrying portraits of Putin and slogans in support of his policies. (11)

Source Notes

  1. RTR Russia TV, 0740 GMT, 7 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Johnson’s Russia List (JRL), #8199, 10 May 04.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. "History Gives Vladimir Putin a Chance," Parlamentskaya gazeta, 6 May 04; What the Papers Say (WPS) via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
  6. Russia TV, 2 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
  7. Some of the daring (especially given the rough ride — out of the country — given media owners at the time) and vivid political reporting on the 2000 elections can be found at
  8. ITAR-TASS in English 1029 GMT, 29 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-200-0429 via World news Connection (WNC).
  9. Prime TASS in English, 29 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0429 via WNC.
  10. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 4 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0504 via WNC.
  11., 7 May 04 via JRL #8199, 10 May 04.


By Susan J. Cavan (






In the past month and a half, President Vladimir Putin has made it increasingly clear that the Security Services are to undergo reform. That the MVD was to be a central issue in the reforms was indicated weeks ago. On 26 March, President Putin spoke at a gathering of senior MVD officers, telling them that their agency must reform, or face imposed change from above. (1) On 19 April, after a meeting with his Security Council, Putin told the Russian newspaper Gazeta that he was determined to "work with the leaders of the security segment on appropriate changes at these ministries." (2) According to the same Gazeta article, the changes would include: A reduction in Deputies to the General Staff and to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, as well as the Directors of the FSB and SVR. The article also confirmed that the MVD would be a major target of reforms, and would lose its broad range of authority, to be turned instead into a regular police force. (3) The MVD has reportedly been the subject of an inordinately large number of complaints from the public about corruption and poor investigative skills, while confusion remains over the organization's primary duties and responsibilities. (4)

In discussing possible reorganization of the FSB, the Gazeta piece stated that many functions, such as counterterrorism, counterespionage, and counter-corruption could be removed from its jurisdiction. (5) But are the security organs really to be reformed, or is something more reminiscent of Soviet times at work in this situation?

There has been discussion in the Russian press to the effect that the so-called reforms may, in fact, amount to a move toward the familiar Soviet-style Security Service. Some proposals recommend uniting the various service functions under one banner, in a fashion similar to the KGB. On 19 April, Versiya reported that the FSB and the SVR would be merged into one agency headquartered in the Lubyanka. (6) A second, even more worrisome rumor surfaced in Yezhenedelnyi Zhurnal during the week of 26 April-2 May. According to this article, the major agencies, namely the FSB, SVR, the Federal Guard Service, the Drug enforcement agency, FAPSI, and the as yet to-be-created Federal Investigative Service will be merged into one ‘super agency’ that will be controlled by Viktor Ivanov, President Putin's former KGB colleague, who has for some time been in charge of re-building Russia’s arms industries. (7)

If these rumors are true, there is likely to be considerable consternation within the security organs. First Nikolai Patrushev, current head of the FSB might lose, if not his position, then at least some authority. The same is true of SVR Director Sergei Lebedev, and Viktor Cherkesov, head of Russia’s Drug Enforcement Agency. Concern has also been aired by those agents of the FSB who would be transferred to the Federal Investigative Service. This is because Dmitri Kozak, Head of the Government Apparat has indicated that officers who are transferred to the new agency or directorate, if the ‘super agency’ rumors are true, will lose their military ranks and privileges, and become civilians (as is the case with FBI agents in the United States). Of major concern in regard to this aspect is the fact that these FSB officers might lose, or have severely reduced, their pensions, as well as the authority granted to ‘military’ officers. (8)

Are these "reforms" real or are they simply cosmetic? It should be stated first, that it seems to be a goal of the "reforms" to try to reduce somewhat or actually to end the corruption that is so endemic in the Security Apparatus: Yuri Zaostrovtsev, one of Nikolai Patrushev’s most loyal deputies, was recently fired, allegedly for involvement in a bribery scandal during the recent Yukos crisis, (9) and apparently President Putin wishes to reduce the appearance of "luxury cars parked near the colleges of the FSB." (10) But simply firing officers will not solve the problem of corruption. The root cause of this, according to Pavel Felgenhauer, is that agents simply are not paid enough. Felgenhauer, together with Boris Kalachev, a professor at the University of the Ministry of the Interior, argued that in order to avoid corruption, officers would need to be paid between $1000 and $1200 per month. This is a salary level that Russia simply does not "have enough money" to sustain. (11) If this indeed is the case, there seems little hope of ending corruption, and Zaostrovtsev’s firing must be viewed solely through the prism of a publicity stunt, designed to assure the public that corruption at high levels is being addressed.

Moreover, based on his personal history, and Patrushev’s closeness to him, it is highly unlikely that President Putin will seek to reduce the FSB’s power or jurisdiction, despite the rumors in the media. If it is true that some or all of Russia’s security agencies are to be re-united in a fashion reminiscent of the KGB, only one logical conclusion can be drawn: That President Putin wishes to establish a fully vertical power structure, wherein all the branches of the security services report to one individual, be it Viktor Ivanov, or equally likely, Patrushev, with that individual reporting directly to Putin. This idea is deeply worrisome, because it would finally remove all pretense that Russia has a "separation of powers" system, similar to that prevailing between institutions in the United States.

Source Notes

(1) See NIS Observed An Analytical Review, Volume IX, Number 06, 8 Apr 04.
(2) Gazeta, 20 Apr 04; via BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(3) Ibid.
(4) See NIS Observed An Analytical Review, Volume IX, Number 06, 8th April 2004.
(5) Gazeta, 20 Apr 04; via BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(6) Versiya, 19 Apr 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(7) Yezhenedelnyi Zhurnal, 26 Apr-2 May 04; WPS Russian Political Monitor via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(8) Versiya, 19 Apr 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) Yezhenedelnyi Zhurnal, 26 Apr-2 May 04; WPS Russian Political Monitor via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(10) Ibid.
(11) NTV Mir, 24 Apr 04; via BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.

By Fabian Adami (




Who’s who at Smolenskaya Square: A review of Russia’s deputy foreign ministers

On 27 April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that his ministry would comply with Kremlin guidelines to reduce its staff. Unlike other ministries, which have handed over functions to other federal agencies or consolidated responsibilities with other ministries, Lavrov says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will "retain all of its functions." (1) He acknowledged, however, that he would reduce the number of deputy foreign ministers.

Given Russia’s wide ranging foreign policy activities, it may seem to be a difficult task to decide which of the twelve deputy foreign ministers to let go. However, the Kremlin’s guidance to cut back on personnel is also an opportunity for Lavrov (by subtraction) to create a staff that is more closely aligned with him, rather than the previous foreign ministers (who appointed the current staff). This pending housecleaning at the MFA is an ideal opportunity to examine the roster of deputy foreign ministers, their assignments, backgrounds and potential for future service. (2)

The current deputy foreign ministers generally can be divided into three categories: security service professionals (siloviki), career diplomats and those that were apparently selected for a specific quality they possess.

There are currently two veterans of the security services among the deputy foreign ministers.

Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov: A real silovik, Trubnikov is one of the MFA’s three First Deputy Foreign Ministers. He worked for the KGB from 1967-1991. While serving as head of the KGB in Azerbaijan in January 1990, Trubnikov was purported to have been involved in military operations to "put down demonstrators" which resulted in the death of over 100 civilians. This operation was reportedly inspired and orchestrated by President Mikhail Gorbachev’s special advisor (who later became Russian Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister), Yevgeni Primakov. (3) In 1992, Trubnikov served as First Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) under its Director, Primakov, and when Primakov became Foreign Minister, Trubnikov replaced him as SVR head. In June 2000, he was appointed First Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the Russian President to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Though he is a versatile representative of the MFA, he is generally immersed in issues related to the CIS, particularly the problems involving Nagorno-Karabakh and Moldova. While his security services background and the relevance of his work in Moldova and the Caucasus might bode well for his future employment at the MFA, his ties to Primakov might be too strong for Lavrov’s liking.

Anatoli Ye. Safonov: Another of the siloviki, Safonov worked with the KGB from 1988-91, and from 1991-99 with the Russian Ministry of Security and the Federal Security Service (FSB), serving as Deputy Director from 1995-99. Notably, his time as deputy director overlapped with Vladimir Putin’s leadership of the FSB service from 1998-99. That relationship and his charge as the MFA’s primary agent for issues related to the fight against terrorism could provide him with solid job security.

Career diplomats make up the plurality of the deputy foreign ministers. All but one of them began their diplomatic careers in Soviet times, although, all of the deputy foreign ministers were appointed to their current posts under President Vladimir Putin.

Valeri V. Loshchinin: Loshchinin is another one of the MFA’s three first deputies. He worked in the MFA of the Soviet Republic of Belarus (beginning in 1965), then he served as Russian ambassador to Belarus, and worked in the MFA’s Second European Department under Yevgeni Primakov. He was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister in 2001 initially with the task of supervising Russia’s relationship with the CIS countries (4) and in 2002 was named First Deputy Minister. Loshchinin remains entrenched in Russian-CIS relations, most recently heading a delegation in Beijing to discuss mutual Russian and Chinese concerns regarding the CIS.

Vladimir A. Chizhov: A veteran of the MFA of the USSR and Russia’s MFA under Primakov, Chizhov served as Deputy Director and Director of the Second and Third European Departments (5) of the MFA, respectively. In 1996, Chizhov served as Deputy High Commissioner for a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He served from 2000 to 2002 as Russian envoy for Balkan issues and was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister in November 2002. His tasks as deputy foreign minister generally revolve around his European expertise; he often handles issues involving the European Union (E.U.), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Council of Europe. Most recently, Chizhov has been engaged in events surrounding Russian-E.U. relations connected with the E.U.’s 1 May enlargement and in planning for the 21 May E.U.-Russia Summit in Moscow.

Andrei I. Denisov: Denisov has worked in the MFA since 1992, including as Director of the MFA’s Economic Cooperation Department. In 2000, he was Ambassador to Egypt. The December 2001 ITAR-TASS report that announced his appointment as Deputy Foreign Minister described him as being in charge of Russia's relations with CIS member-countries and of supervising economic cooperation. (6) Despite these reported assignment concentrations, Denisov deals with issues ranging from terrorism cooperation, to Black Sea regional negotiations, to the North Korea situation.

Aleksei L. Fedotov: A.L. Fedotov has served in the MFA since 1972, devoting most of that time to relations with the countries of South and Southeast Asia, including service at the USSR embassy in Singapore. In July 2000, he was appointed deputy foreign minister. A review of his activity as deputy minister reveals no particular regional focus, although one ITAR-TASS report from July 2002 describes him as being "in charge of the ministry's work with personnel." (7)

Yuri V. Fedotov: Yu. V. Fedotov began working with the USSR MFA in 1971. He served as Deputy to Moscow’s permanent representative to the United Nations (U.N.) from 1991-93 and later as Director of the MFA’s International Organizations Department. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in July 2002. Yuri Fedotov is one of the most visible Deputy Foreign Ministers, giving the appearance that he may be a particular favorite of the Kremlin. An April 2004 ITAR-TASS report described him as the Deputy Foreign Minister "in charge of the ministry's contacts with the U.N." (8) His recent work in East Asia might indicate that he is in line to replace Aleksandr Losyukov as Russia’s specialist in East Asia relations. (9)

Sergei I. Kislyak: A veteran of the USSR’s MFA, Kislyak served in the Soviet embassy in the United States and later as Deputy Director of the MFA’s International Organizations Department. From 1994-98 he directed the MFA’s Department for Issues of Security and Disarmament. From 1998-2003 he served as Russian Ambassador to Belgium and representative at the Russia-NATO Council, from where he was temporarily recalled to Moscow in 1999 in protest over NATO’s military actions in Kosovo. He was appointed deputy foreign minister in 2003. Making use of his scientific education and technical background, (10) Kislyak has frequently handled Russia’s issues of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Sergei S. Razov: This veteran of the USSR’s and then Russia’s MFA since 1975 focused, in Soviet times, primarily on East Asian affairs. Later, he served as Russian Ambassador to Mongolia (1992-96) and then to Poland (1999-2002). In March of 2002 he was named deputy foreign minister. Upon his appointment, the MFA announced: "New Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov — apart from being in charge of relations with Central, Eastern and Southeastern European countries including "the Balkan knot" — will coordinate problems of the Kaliningrad Region." (11) A review of his work indicates he has done just that, including frequent consultations with Turkey.

Aleksandr V. Saltanov: Saltanov began working in the Soviet MFA in 1970. Throughout his career, he has focused on the Middle East, serving in various positions in Kuwait and Syria. He has also worked in the MFA’s Departments of Middle East Countries and of the Middle East and North Africa. From 1992-98 he was Russian Ambassador to Jordan and since October 2001 has served as Deputy Foreign Minister. His more than 30 years of experience and extensive network of contacts in the Middle East make him Smolenskaya Square’s expert on the region. His duties appear to be restricted to activities in that region alone. Given his value as a Middle East specialist (rivaled only by that of his former boss, Yevgeni Primakov) and the relevancy of the Middle East to Russia’s contemporary foreign policy, Saltanov is unlikely to be let go anytime soon.

There are three more deputy foreign ministers whose professional backgrounds lack significant diplomatic experience but who perhaps were hired based on other criteria.

Viktor I. Kalyuzhny: Kalyuzhny’s educational and professional background in the oil business no doubt makes him a valuable asset to the MFA. He was trained at the Ufa Oil Institute in 1970 and then worked in various positions in and related to the oil industry, ranging from underground oil well repair foreman to first vice president of the Eastern Oil Co. During the Soviet era, Kalyuzhny represented the oil industry in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and in 1997 he entered Russian politics as a deputy in the State Duma of the Tomsk region. From 1998-2000 Kalyuzhny was First Deputy Minister and then Minister of Fuel and Power Engineering. In May 2000, he was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the Russian President to the Caspian Sea region. In this capacity he continues to lead Russia’s efforts to negotiate a settlement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Eleonora V. Mitrofanova: First Deputy Foreign Minister Mitrofanova holds a doctorate in economics. She worked privately until 1993 when she served as a State Duma deputy and later worked as an auditor at the Russian Accounting Chamber. In 2001-03 she served as Deputy General Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and was appointed to her current post in May 2003 with the specific task of "protecting the rights of fellow countrymen abroad." (12) Mitrofanova has focused primarily on the situation in the Baltic countries and in Turkmenistan. Her résumé, which reflects a career that is uniquely short on diplomatic experience compared to her peers, might lead one to speculate that her appointment was partially intended to gain the administration points for women’s rights (she was the first ever Russian Deputy Foreign Minister). (13) But with the presidential elections over and the Baltic countries now belonging to the E.U., she might have lost some of her value to the foreign ministry team and the Kremlin.

Doku G. Zavgayev: Although Zavgayev has seven years of diplomatic experience as Russian ambassador to Tanzania from 1997-2004, some Russian analysts argue that the appointment of this former Moscow-backed president of the Russian Republic of Chechnya to the MFA was an merely an attempt to bolster "Moscow's contention that the restive Caucasian republic (…) is being integrated into the Russian Federation." (14) Upon returning from Tanzania in February 2004, Zavgayev was, according to MFA Spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko, put "in charge of [the MFA’s] business administration and financial issues, while also carrying out foreign political assignments like all other [deputy foreign ministers]." (15) Since his appointment however, Zavgayev has largely been invisible in the news reports of foreign affairs.

A dramatic purge of deputy foreign ministers in the near future is unlikely. Personnel levels (currently there are twelve deputy ministers) are not at their highest (there were 15 at one point under Igor Ivanov), and the ministry already seems pressed to cover all spheres of its foreign relations with its current staff. However, some of the deputy foreign ministers are less active and/or less regionally or topically focused than some of their colleagues. As such, they might be considered less valuable to the Ministry than the others. Foreign Minister Lavrov may also be considering a shift in focus for the MF. While the CIS remains important to Russia, Lavrov specifically pointed out that there was no need to devote a department to focusing on the CIS as a distinct entity. (16) The issue of personal loyalty and patronage will also likely enter the equation, and new appointments and dismissals may provide a rare insight into the political connections among MFA officials. President Putin will no doubt also have input into the formation of his foreign ministry team.

Source Notes

(1) ITAR-TASS, 27 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0427 via World News Connection.
(2) All of the following biographical information in this report, unless otherwise noted, comes from the "Who’s Who in Russia" website
(3) Yasmann, Victor. RFE/RL Daily Report, No. 12, 20 Jan 92, p. 3; and "Vesti" broadcast, Moscow Television Network, 1900 GMT, 22 Jul 92, trans. FBIS-SOV-92-143, 24 July 1992, p. 68 via Waller, J. Michael "Who is Making Foreign Policy?" Perspective Vol. V, No. 3, Jan./Feb. 1995. <>
(4) ITAR-TASS, 30 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(5) The Second European Department focuses on the Baltic States and northern Europe; the Third European Department focuses on Central and Eastern Europe.
(6) ITAR-TASS, 30 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(7) ITAR-TASS, 4 Jul 02; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(8) ITAR-TASS, 5 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) Former Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov was appointed ambassador to Japan in March 2004.
(10) Kislyak is a 1973 graduate of the Moscow Physics and Engineering Institute, worked in 1973-74 as an engineer-physicist at the Kurchatov Nuclear Power Engineering Institute and served in 1991-93 as deputy director and in 1994-95 as director of the MFA’s Department of International Scientific and Technological Cooperation.
(11) BNS, 25 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(12) NTV MIR, 26 May 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(13) <> 26 May 03.
(14) Agence France Presse 19 Feb 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
(15) ITAR-TASS, 18 Feb 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(16) ITAR-TASS, 27 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.

By Scott C. Dullea (





Wishing on a star

It’s official: regions aspiring to autonomy are a thing of the past in Russia. Indeed, it appears as though regional officials have been relegated to composing wish lists and funding anything the center says they should, with no autonomous power and little chance of gaining any. The central government debates draft legislation (for submission to the Duma in May) to ensconce the power division between the center and the regions. (1)

One of the last holdouts, the Republic of Bashkortostan, finally has acceded to the inevitable. Despite years of maintaining an independent stance, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov announced at a recent meeting of the republic’s parliament that "Bashkortostan has always declared for effective vertical of the executive authorities and supports the policy of the federal authorities to consolidate the Russian state." He assigned the parliament the task of amending the republic’s Fundamental Law so that is in line with the federal government’s legislation. (2) In presidential elections last year, Rakhimov faced strong opposition from a Moscow-backed candidate, though, to be sure, Rakhimov was not averse to imposing pressure on all sectors of society to ensure his triumph. (3)

Publishing an appeal to the Fradkov government, Yaroslavl Oblast’ Governor Anatoli Lisitsyn bemoaned the increasing powerlessness of officials away from the center. "The [Kasianov] cabinet of ministers did not take our role in development of the economy and social sphere into account.... In the last three years the government has not assembled all the governors to discuss problems a single time, not even to ‘let off steam.’ ... During this time the federal Center adopted many poorly thought-out decisions that ultimately worsened the state of affairs in the local areas and exacerbated the inequality among subjects of the Federation," he warned. Indeed, he said, the center has been siphoning off funding at the expense of much-needed local improvements, leading to an increase in social tensions. (4) A subsequent article noted widespread dissatisfaction among regional leaders concerning the decrease in their powers in the face of an increasingly strong center. (5)

The federal government is doing everything in its not-inconsiderable power to ensure obedience, including the placement of individuals with proven loyalty to Moscow in leadership positions. One case in point: the recent appointment of 33-year-old Sergei Gaplikov as prime minister of Chuvash Republic after the republic’s governor, Nikolai Federov, dismissed the previous government, purportedly as part of administrative reform (although initial announcements were noticeably vague on details). (6) Federov announced that he had selected Gaplikov after meeting and discussing the situation with federal ministers, members of the presidential staff, and Chuvash parliamentary speaker Mikhail Mikhailov. Gaplikov recently served as a deputy chief in the federal Ministry for Economic Development and Trade. (7)

So, what’s a concerned regional official to do? Make gestures whose meaninglessness will be highlighted by the center’s attitude, apparently. The governors of the Far East and Baikal territories have signed a memorandum — already signed by the leaders of the Jewish autonomous region, Khabarovsk and Maritime territories, as well as the governor of the Chita region — seeking to protect the Amur territory from an ecological disaster. The leaders are appealing to the Russian Federation government, along with international NGOs, to support the initiative in Moscow and in the international arena, to create a mechanism for cooperation with Mongolia and China to protect the river. The main concern is that increased pollution will adversely affect the 75-100 million individuals who live in the Amur territory. (8)


A rose by any other name...

The Duma has decided not to censor the media overtly, but that doesn’t mean that MPs will stop trying to pass legislative proscriptions. More importantly, of course, it doesn’t mean that censorship won’t happen covertly.

A release by the Reporters without Borders organization noted that government control over most media and the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM) served as a contributing factor to Russia’s "further deterioration in press freedom." The organization also highlighted the trials and detentions of journalists Grigori Pasko (released after serving two-thirds of his four-year sentence) and German Galkin (appealing a one-year sentence of hard labor) for their reporting; attacks by regional authorities against journalists; the deaths of five reporters (although whether those murders were linked to professional activity has not been determined) and the kidnapping of a sixth; as well as severe restrictions on access to Chechnya. (9)

While dealing with these challenges, the media still must cope with overzealous MPs who seek to control press coverage. One recently withdrawn attempt — a draft that would have prohibited showing the bodies of terrorism victims — prompted that champion of press freedoms, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, to announce that there was no need to restrict further the coverage of terrorist acts. "We have a sufficient legal framework for mass media to respond correctly to situations connected with terrorist acts," he said. (10) Other proposals, which do not have the support of the Duma’s Information Policy Committee, include a bill prohibiting media coverage (beyond official government announcements) of terrorist activity, a ban on the broadcast of all scenes of violence between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.; and an official, and explicit, description of pornography. Rather than encourage these initiatives, according to the chairman, Valeri Komissarov, the committee is working closely with the media to protest freedom of speech and prevent "censorship or return to 1937." (11) How much freedom of speech will be left to the media, however, is still open to question. Komissarov is credited with proposing a ban on media coverage of terrorism’s victims, although one speaker in the Duma reportedly stated that the ban originated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Yet the committee chairman subsequently signaled a change of heart concerning the proposed ban, citing a lack of support by the professional journalist community.

Apparently, there is strong public support for censorship of the media, but that’s where the connection to Duma attempts at censorship end. A survey conducted in mid-April by the VTsIOM polling center indicated that 62 percent of Russians were in favor of government censorship of television. Yet this shouldn’t be taken as meaning that the populace supports the notion of government-managed media. According to the polling, the public is more concerned with censoring sex and pornography, as well as violence, cruelty and crime, than with government interference in programs on political topics or news shows. (12)


Source Notes

1. ITAR-TASS, 1231 GMT, 26 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0426 via World News Connection.
2. ITAR-TASS,1452 GMT, 22 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0422 via World News Connection.
3. Noviye izvestia, 4 Nov 03, Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press via Lexis-Nexis; Ren-TV, 1830 GMT, 7 Dec 03, BBC Monitoring International Reports via Lexis-Nexis.
4. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 22 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0422 via World News Connection.
5. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 30 Apr 04, BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
6. ITAR-TASS, 5 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
7. Rossiyskaya gazeta, 28 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0429 via World News Connection.
8. ITAR-TASS, 0649 GMT, 22 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0422 via World News Connection.
9. Reporters Without Borders, The 2003 Global Press Freedom World Tour, Russia-2004 Annual Report, via Johnson's Russia List, #8194, 4 May 04.
10. ITAR-TASS, 28 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0428 via World News Connection.
11. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 29 Apr 04, FBIS-SOV-2004-0504 via World News Connection.
12. Rosbalt, 30 Apr 04, via Johnson’s Russia List #8190, 30 Apr 04.

By Kate Martin (



Armed Forces

Three-pronged diplomacy in Georgia

Unlike the Abkhaz precedent, in which Russian military force was used first to enable secessionists to prevail and then to preserve their gains, in the recent confrontation between Georgia and would-be Adjar secessionist Abashidze, Russia abstained from intervention. Putin took a cautious stance between the government of Mikheil Saakashvili and factions tied to Aslan Abashidze. With Abashidze’s resignation and flight to Moscow now a reality, the outcome might have been different but for the neutral stance of Russian troops stationed in Georgia.

The Putin Administration had an opportunity to undermine the Saakashvili government’s hold on power, but chose not to do so. As several former Soviet republics move to consolidate their ties with the west through NATO and the E.U., Russia may have been tempted to seek "compensation" in the Caucasus. Abashidze looked to Moscow for such support, only to realize it would not materialize.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented to INTERFAX on 06 May at the conclusion of the impasse that "We are satisfied with the fact that the situation surrounding Adjaria was settled in a peaceful manner and that the parties managed to avoid bloodshed, the option Russia has always favored." (1) His statements came at the conclusion of talks with Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili. In fact, there was a two-pronged diplomatic effort by Sergei Lavrov (in dealing with President Saakashvili's government) and former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov (in dealing with Abashidze). ITAR-TASS opined that "there is no doubt that the visit to [the Adjar capital] Batumi by Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov influenced Abashidze's decision." (2)

There is ongoing speculation that ex-Russian Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev was behind the demolition of bridges linking Adjaria to Georgia, but "to subdue Adjaria, Mr. Saakashvili needed the assent of powerful Russians; [and] he appears to have got it." (3) Russian forces in their remaining two bases at Akhalkalaki and Batumi did raise their security and alert status, and the Adjar "militia forces at Choloki seemed to believe that Russia would back them in the event of an armed conflict. Many of them told IWPR (Institute for War & Peace Reporting) that the Russian military base in Batumi had placed one battalion on high alert. The ‘Russian factor,’ which Abashidze has for years used as leverage in his standoff with Tbilisi, [was] of critical importance." (4) Yet, the Russian military intervention failed to materialize.

Yevgeni Ivanov, Press Secretary for the Russian embassy in Georgia, stated, "We believe this is Georgia’s internal affair and the Georgian authorities themselves should resolve the problem in the autonomous republic. At the same time, we believe that the main thing is to prevent bloodshed. A military conflict will exacerbate the situation in Georgia itself, as well as in the area as a whole. It will also have a negative impact on relations between Georgia and Russia. We have said more than once that the 12th Russian Military Base stationed in Batumi has clear-cut instructions from the Russian Defense Ministry command to maintain neutrality and not to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs." (5)

The risk of Russian intervention constituted a genuine concern for the Saakashvili government, amplified by the fact that "up to 70 percent of the 12th Russian military base in Batumi are local residents, but all of them have Russian citizenship." (6) The Georgian Defense Minister, Gela Bezhuashvili, acted to reduce the likelihood of Russian military involvement by trying to prevent "provocations being hatched by illegal Adzharian armed formations against servicemen of the Russian military base in Batumi."(7) He warned that "measures will be taken to prevent any provocation against servicemen of the Russian base in Batumi and against their families."(8)

The possibility of Russian intervention increased exponentially as tensions between Batumi and Tbilisi increased over the course of President Saakashvili’s 10-day ultimatum to Adjaria — calling for the resignation of Abashidze and the disbanding of militia forces. The potential for conflict was heightened by the 30 April to 02 May "Dioskuria-2004" exercises conducted by Georgian Armed Forces near Poti. Givi Iukuridze, Georgian Chief of the General Staff stated that the exercise could be viewed as a show of force or a dress rehearsal for impending conflict with Batumi, adding, "the maneuvers will be conducted in Poti but if the troops receive an order to go to Batumi they will go."(9) During the maneuvers, the Adjars demolished three bridges across the Choloki and Kakuti rivers as well as sections of the Batumi-Tbilisi railroad line.

Russia concluded apparently that, in the light of the absence of support for Abashidze in Adjaria, prudence was the better part of wisdom and offered him asylum in Moscow.

Source Notes

(1) RFE/RL NEWSLINE, Vol. 8, No. 86, Part I, 07 May 2004.
(2) RFE/RL NEWSLINE, Vol. 8, No. 86, Part I, 07 May 2004.
(3) The Economist (UK), May 8-14, 2004 via Johnson's Russia List, #8198, 07 May 2004.
(4) Institute for War & Peace Reporting (; Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 230 05 May 2004 via Johnson's Russia List; #8196; 6 May 2004.
(5) Mayak Radio, 5 May 04 1100 GMT; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection.
(6) ITAR-TASS, 5 May 2004 1224 GMT; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection.
(7) ITAR-TASS, 5 May 04 1235 GMT; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection.
(8) ITAR-TASS, 5 May 04 1235 GMT; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection.
(9) Gazeta, 05 May 2004; What the Paper’s Say via ISI Emerging Markets - Defense and Security database.

By Paul Lyons (





Dniester talks resume

Moldovan Dniester talks resumed on 26 April after an almost six month break. The previous round of negotiations ended in November 2003, after Vladimir Voronin's refusal to sign the Kozak memorandum, which proposed the creation of an asymmetric federation in Moldova. Failure of the November talks to reach an agreement created an atmosphere of stagnation and decreased expectations for a successful outcome.

The current negotiations show that differences are still great between Chisinau and Tiraspol. The Dniester region is asking for a status equal with that of Moldova (the two entities would pay their foreign debts separately and have separate armies), while Chisinau is proposing a grant of autonomy similar to that given the Gagauz. (1) "The Moldovan side struck out all compromises from the Russian memorandum, which had been reached during its preparation last year," said Foreign Minister of the Dniester republic Valeri Litskai. (2) The Moldovan side claims that the document that was submitted this time did not bring anything new, the difference, they claim, is only that "previously they [Tiraspol] included the notion of federation, while now it was replaced with the notion of a federation of two parts." (3) Both sides agree, however, that the region should be demilitarized and the creation of a new federal state should be decided on the basis of a referendum. (4)

Earlier in the month of April, two representatives of the Moldovan centrist opposition reportedly met with the Foreign Minister and the security head of the Dniester region in Moscow. They allegedly agreed to sign the Russian plan to create a federation in Moldova if the current President Vladimir Voronin is not re-elected president in 2005. (5) Dimitru Diacov and Dimitru Braghis also met with the deputy head of the Kremlin administration Vladislav Surkov and discussed the strengthening of the pro-Moscow centrist forces in Moldova. It is possible that after Moldova's 2005 parliamentary elections, Russia will strongly support the consolidation of the centrist forces in Moldova and a possible alliance with the communists in order to make possible the election of Serafim Urechen as President of Moldova (instead of Voronin). Tiraspol and Moscow are not optimistic about the success of the Dniester settlement talks under the current president. (6) The next session in the negotiating process on a Dniester region settlement has been set for 25-26 May 2004. (7)


"…a surrealistic period is beginning in Ukrainian politics, a period of strange, unpredictable alliances, incomprehensible talks and absurd compromises."

Yulia Timoshenko

Stay tuned…

The atmosphere of Ukrainian politics is tensing up before the October 2004 presidential elections. The situation is more uncertain than ever. The political reform bill failed in the parliament on 8 April, only six votes short of passage. The nomination of Viktor Yanukovych as presidential candidate for the pro-governmental "majority" followed on 14 April. Yanukovych's nomination does not mean that Kuchma is "out of the picture," however. It seems likely that he may still have an ace up his sleeve.

The presidential majority turned out not to be a majority after all. The failure to pass the political reform bill indicates that many pro-government politicians are "playing their own game." (8) Yulia Timoshenko in her recent article "Ukrainian Opposition Leader Hails End of Kuchma Era" names some unusual alliances that are currently in play on the Ukrainian political scene: "Kuchma and the U.S., Medvedchuk and Moroz, Pinchuk and the U.S., and Symonenko and Russia." (9) Even if Kuchma wanted to run for a third term, she claims, there is so much kompromat' piled up against him (the Georgy Gongadze case, e.g.) that he might have agreed to step down at the request of the U.S., in return for certain guarantees for his future prosperity and security. As for Medvedchuk, he seems to be more in favor of (the opposition candidate) Moroz becoming president, since it is more likely that Moroz will carry out constitutional reform.

In addition, several defections last year from the pro-presidential majority (Ivan Pliusch, Oleksandr Zincheko and Anton Butenko) exemplify increasing disunity among the ruling elite. (10) Zinchenko was expelled from the SDPU for protesting against Ukraine's membership in the Single Economic Space. Butenko (Ukraine's ambassador to Romania) resigned over the same issue and Pliusch was not content with Havryth's agreement to, in fact, head the pro-presidential parliamentary majority. (11)

One of the reasons Kuchma nominated Yanukovych as the presidential candidate from the pro-Kuchma majority was to keep that very majority in check and demonstrate to the deputies that he is still in charge. Moreover, if Kuchma still wants to try to push political reform through the parliament one more time, he needs a lot of support. By nominating the country's second most popular politician as a presidential candidate, Kuchma might be signaling to supporters that it is still possible to pass the reform bill with the help of Yanukovych. Kuchma also wants to be sure that the majority he leaves behind is willing to assure him a comfortable retirement after his term comes to an end. (12)

Even though Kuchma and his allies have lost the political reform battle and the pro-presidential majority is falling apart, it does not mean that the opposition has won the war yet. First, Kuchma is still entitled to run for a third term based on the December ruling of the Constitutional Court. This is an unlikely scenario, however, as the E.U. and U.S., whose opinions are important to Ukrainian authorities, are not likely to accept the legitimacy of such an outcome. Kuchma may also simply change his mind and nominate a completely different candidate for the race. Wolodymyr Lytvyn, the parliamentary speaker, is one option. (13) Some other possible candidates are Defense Minster Yevhen Marchuk, as well as Serhiy Tyhypko or Valery Pustoytenko. (14) The game is not over yet and there might be more surprises in store. Stay tuned…


A key opposition figure arrested

A well-known public and political figure and one of the founders of the Five-Plus opposition coalition, Mikhail Marynich, was detained by the Belarussian KGB on 28 April. Marynich is a presidential candidate, who heads the Business Initiative NGO, was head of the Minsk city government, ambassador to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, minister of foreign economic relations in 1994-98, and ambassador to Latvia, Estonia and Finland in 1999-2001. (15)

Marynich was charged under Article 377, Part 2 of the Penal Code of Belarus with "theft of or damage to documents, seals and stamps," and under Article 295 Part 2 with "illegal actions in relation to firearms, ammunition or explosives." (16) Many believe that this action is aimed at curtailing Marynich's presidential ambitions. "The trumped-up cases against potential candidates who could be fielded by the coalition in the parliamentary elections follow in the wake of an escalating onslaught on opposition parties, public organizations, trade unions and independent media outlets," reads the statement issued by leaders of the Five-Plus coalition. (17)

and another arrest…

The leader of the Belarussian national strike committee of entrepreneurs and a participant of the European Coalition "Free Belarus," Valery Levanewski, was detained on 1 May. Levanewski was inviting city residents to take part in an unauthorized rally on 1 May. His two children were also detained the same day. The police stopped their car, searched their belongings and confiscated the posters they had. The family complained that while in custody, they were harassed and threatened, and refused access to a telephone. (18)

and another one…

Several activists of unregistered Youth Front and Young Social Democrats organizations were detained by plain-clothes police on 1 May during a rally that they organized to mark E.U. expansion as well as Labor Day. "This is crazy. We just wanted to celebrate E.U. enlargement and our connection to European civilization," the detained commented. (19) This arrest is yet another demonstration of the arbitrary nature of the Belarussian authorities and their readiness to suppress any deviations from Belarussian state ideology.

Source Notes

(1) ProTV, 27 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(2) ITAR-TASS, 30 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0430 via World News Connection.
(3) ProTV, 1 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) ProTV, 27 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(5) Flux, 27 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) Ibid.
(7) Moscow ITAR-TASS, 30 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0430 via World News Connection.
(8) Ukrainskaya Pravda website, 16 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring, 19 Apr 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) Ibid.
(10) Kuzio, Taraz, RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine report via
(11) Ibid.
(12) Zerkalo Nedeli, 17 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) Ukrainskaya Pravda website, 16 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring, 19 Apr 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(14) Zerkalo Nedeli, 17 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(15) Belapan News Agency, 27 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(16) Belapan News Agency, 28 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(17) Belapan News Agency, 28 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(18) Charter-97 web site, 3 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(19) Belapan News Agency, 1 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.

By Elena Selyuk (


Caucasus Report


Moscow’s man assassinated

On Sunday 10 May at 10:35am, a bomb ripped through Dynamo stadium in Grozny during a Victory Day ceremony, killing Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, Khusein Isayev, head of Chechnya’s State Council, and Eli Isayev, Chechnya’s Finance Minister. (1) The Russian Commander of Forces in Chechnya, Colonel General Valeri Baranov is in critical condition and has been replaced temporarily by Colonel General Mikhail Pankov, with Chechen Prime Minster Sergei Abramov stepping in as Chechnya’s acting president. (2) The attack harshly underlines the difficulties Russia faces in "restoring order" to Chechnya, despite a massive military presence, and despite Kremlin claims that normalcy is being restored after nearly five years of fighting. Grozny has an immense contingent of Russian troops, and yet they still have not been able to eliminate insurgents in the city. Although no group, as yet, has claimed responsibility for the explosion, suspicion inevitably fell on separatists, who have tried to assassinate Kadyrov several times before. In an interview given to rebel news agency Chechenpress, however, secessionist leader Aslan Maskhadov denied any involvement in the stadium bombing.

Kadyrov had been a Chechen separatist in the mid-1990s, but switched to Moscow's side at the start of the current Chechen war in October 1999, earning the enmity of many Chechen fighters. In October 2002, Kadyrov ran for and won the presidency of Chechnya in a Moscow rigged election, which was widely viewed as illegitimate.

As Moscow’s point man in Chechnya, Kadyrov was central to Putin’s plan to pacify Chechnya; he oversaw the power transition from Russian forces to his 4,000 strong security forces. (3) Putin made it imperative that powers be transferred from Russian authorities to the Kadyrov regime, leaving Kadyrov with the responsibility of crushing further resistance from Chechen fighters. To this end, Kadyrov's forces carried out joint operations with Russian troops to round up Chechens seen as a threat to Russian dominance. However, the transition of power from Russia to Kadyrov came at a hefty price as Kadyrov sought control of the limited oil industry, an industry previously dominated by the Russian military. The Chechen presidential security service, headed by Ramzan Kadyrov (Akhmed's son), intermittently clashed with Russian troops keen to retain their grip on the republic. Yet the most significant move Kadyrov made in trying to secure control was to employ former rebels in his private army. These former rebels, paid from the Moscow supplied Chechen budget, in turn tried to persuade their former colleagues to unite with the Kadyrovtsi — Kadyrov’s personal army. Although Russian casualties remained very high, Kadyrov’s tactics began, slowly, to bear fruit with the surrender of crucial Maskhadov aides, such as Ichkerian defense minister Magomed Khambiyev, Boris Aidamirov and Maskhadov’s personal security chief Shaa Turlayev. (4) Additionally, according to reports by the Russian newspaper Gazeta, Kadyrov undertook a massive operation around the beginning of May to capture Maskhadov. (5)

In recent months, reports surfaced that Kadyrov had been holding talks with Maskhadov. The Russian newspaper Gazeta cited federal and Chechen sources as saying Kadyrov knew the secessionist leader was hiding in Gudermes village and had been conducting secret talks with him to arrange a surrender. (6) Such discussions — abhorrent to Moscow, which says Russia "obliterates" rather than negotiates with "terrorists" — were emphatically denied by Kadyrov (7) and are of questionable veracity, yet demonstrate his range of operations. In addition to his efforts to undermine the rebel power structure, Kadyrov, with Moscow’s heavy-handed help, rid Chechnya of power rivals. For the past four years his main political rivals, such as Malik Saidullayev and Aslanbek Aslakhanov, were kept out of Chechnya, losing touch with voters and their power base in the republic. Under strong pressure from Moscow, Saidullayev and Aslakhanov, among others, withdrew before the October presidential polls to guarantee Kadyrov a landslide win. Kadyrov’s power moves devastated Chechnya’s political landscape and leave few potential successors of quality from whom to choose. Moving quickly to fill the political vacuum created by Kadyrov’s death, Putin appointed Ramzan Kadyrov First Deputy Head of the Chechen government, indicating Putin’s intentions to give Ramzan the hot job. (8) However, Ramzan’s former position as head of Kadyrov’s security forces has not endeared him to the Chechen populace, and he lacks his father’s personal power, intelligence and connections to establish his own power base independent of Moscow.


Rose revolution on the move

The Georgian government moved swiftly May 6 to restore its authority in Adjaria, as residents celebrated the downfall of the region’s strongman, Aslan Abashidze. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili referred to Russia as playing a key role in preventing the political crisis from turning violent. Abashidze, who had been locked in a power struggle with Saakashvili for months, departed the Adjarian capital, Batumi, in the early hours of May 6 after accepting an offer of political asylum in Russia. Abashidze’s resignation came after four hours of talks with Russian National Security Council Secretary (and former Foreign Minister) Igor Ivanov, who had flown to Batumi to mediate an end to the political standoff, which up until the last moments threatened to turn violent. (9) Saakashvili described the peaceful ending to the crisis as a "big revolution" that established a precedent in the former Soviet Union. "It is the first time on post-Soviet territory that separatism failed and a conflict was resolved," Saakashvili told Russian NTV after arriving in Batumi to revel in his political victory. (10)

Saakashvili views Abashidze’s departure as the beginning of a "genuinely new era" of Georgian political stability and economic recovery, (11) as the Tbilisi-Batumi dispute eroded Georgia’s political cohesion and hampered the central government’s revenue collection ability. Batumi is one of Georgia’s main export venues, and Abashidze’s authority had maintained tight control over the customs regime in the region, but with Abashidze gone, revenue from customs duties will again start flowing to Tbilisi. In addition, the authorities announced the restoration of rail links between Batumi and other points in Georgia after Abashidze severed road and rail connections in the ill-fated effort to insulate Adjaria from Tbilisi’s pressure.

On 6 May, the Georgian parliament approved Saakashvili’s decision to impose direct presidential rule in Adjaria, and to appoint an interim council to maintain basic government functions to fill the void created by the collapse of Abashidze’s authority. Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, who is to head the election commission, stated that new elections will be organized within six weeks and that Adjaria will regain its autonomous powers once it has an elected assembly. (12)

Georgian security forces spread out across the region to head off possible provocations by Abashidze loyalists, and to prevent potential looting. At the same time, authorities arrested General Roman Dumbadze, the former commander of a Batumi-based Georgian military unit, whom the Georgian Prosecutor-General charged with treason in April after he declared loyalty to Abashidze. (13) As Abashidze cannot be indicted for his actions against the Georgian government, Tbilisi seems to have chose Dumbadze as its principal political target.

Foreign governments and international organizations congratulated Saakashvili on resolving the Tbilisi-Batumi standoff without turning to violence, as indicated by Bulgarian Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Solomon Passy's statement that "Georgia has once again shown the world an example of political maturity and adherence to democratic standards." (14) However, some voiced concern over the solidification of the new Tbilisi-Batumi relationship, including Plamen Nikolov, the special representative in Tbilisi of Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer, who called on the Georgian leadership on 6 May to set about drafting a document on the distribution of competencies between the central government and Adjaria as soon as possible. (15)

Saakashvili gave the credit for the successful outcome to Russian officials, including Ivanov and President Vladimir Putin. For Ivanov, it was the second time in six months that he had become involved in efforts to prevent a violent political confrontation in Georgia. Last November, when he held the post of foreign minister, Ivanov helped convince former president Eduard Shevardnadze to resign, thus completing the so-called Rose Revolution in Tbilisi. Georgian officials indicated that the resolution of the Tbilisi-Batumi crisis could provide a boost to Georgian-Russian relations, which have been marked by distrust and tension since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili departed for Russia on May 6 to discuss bilateral cooperation with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. "Abashidze’s resignation creates a favorable atmosphere for talks," Zurabishvili said. (16) Until recently, Moscow had provided firm political support for Abashidze, often cautioning Tbilisi against armed action. Indeed, some worried that troops stationed at a Russian military base in Batumi might intervene to protect Abashidze. However, Russian defense officials characterized the Tbilisi-Batumi confrontation as Georgia’s "internal affair," and troops at the Batumi base remained neutral as the end game surrounding Abashidze played out. (17)

While the United States kept a lower profile in the resolution of the Tbilisi-Batumi tensions then its Russian counterpart, the U.S. Ambassador to Tbilisi was in close touch with all the parties to the dispute. Additionally, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that Secretary of State Colin Powell had discussed the situation on 4 May at the United Nations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with Powell criticizing Abashidze's partial destruction of bridges and rail links between the province and Georgia and warning against other attempts to provoke military confrontation. (18)

The peaceful resolution of the Tbilisi-Batumi stand-off succeeded in endearing Saakashvili to the Western powers, elevating him to deity-like status among the Georgian populace, while laying the foundation for a working relationship with Moscow. However, the focus is shifting to the two other Georgian breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Previous presidents of Georgia tried clumsily to quell rebellions in those areas but failed. Thus far, Saakashvili has been realistic about Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saying merely that he hopes to lure them back by creating a prosperous Georgia. In Adjaria, his tactics worked. But it will be harder in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Source Notes

1. Agence France Presse (AFP), 10 May 04 via ISI Emerging Databases.
2. AFP, 9 May 04 via ISI Emerging Databases.
3. Guardian News, 9 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
4. Gazeta, 12 Mar 04 via What the Papers Say, 15 March via Lexis-Nexis; Russian ITAR-TASS, 12 March via Lexis-Nexis.
5. Gazeta, 6 May 04; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
6. Russian Interfax, 29 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis; Financial Times, 8 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
7. Novye Izvestia, 12 Ap 04, via What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis, April 14; Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 16 April, via What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
8. Financial Times, 10 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
9. Moscow ITAR-TASS, 5 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
10. NTV Moscow, 6 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
11. Guardian, 6 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
12. Adjaria Television Batumi, 8 May 04; Financial Times; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
13. Adjaria Television, Batumi, 7 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Databases.
14. Georgian Imedi TV, 6 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Databases.
15., 6 May 04 via ISI Emerging Databases.
16. Financial Times, 9 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis; RFERL, 6 May 04, Vol. 8, # 85.
17. Russian Interfax, 6 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis
18. Russian ITAR-TASS, 5 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
19. Associated Press, 5 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.

By Ariela Shapiro (



Security and Natural Disaster

Security is an essential component of governance and issues of security are a continuous theme in the agenda of Central Asian leaders and policy makers, in part for protecting their population and in part for protecting their own control of power. From the bombings in Uzbekistan in late March (1) and regional calls to streamline efforts of combating terrorism (2) to fighting drug trafficking, addressing corruption and responding to natural disasters, the governments of Central Asia are keen to repel threats to the established system of order. Such efforts, however, illustrate the intertwining connection between these states and their propensity to mitigate security threats with, at times, draconian crackdown on opposition. (3)

National Security and Law Enforcement

Last month was largely consumed with discussions about the 28 March-1 April bombings centered in Tashkent and Bukhara and the urgency for the states of Central Asia to enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism. (4) It is on this issue that Russia and Uzbekistan became linked and seemingly committed to developing closer relations. (5) Other areas of security interest that have been a persistent concern are the border regions, especially the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has maintained a continuous presence, helping Tajikistan monitor its border with Afghanistan. On a weekly basis, local papers note the efforts of Russian border guards to stop drug smugglers; during the first week in May, Russian troops conducted a special operation through which a record shipment of over 170 kg of drugs (155 kg of opium and 16.1 kg of heroin) was confiscated in a 24-hour period. (6) On 30 April, in his annual address to parliament, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said that "the remaining part of the Tajik-Afghan border will in the future be gradually handed over to Tajik border guards." (7)

This is not the first time that the transfer of border control has been discussed, (8) but the impending reality of such a transfer of power has some concerned that the Tajik border troops will be less successful in protecting the national borders (even with a Russian military presence being maintained in the country). Lieutenant-General Ghaffor Mirzoyev, head of Tajik Drug Control Agency, acknowledges the possibility of problems, but is confident that the Tajik border troops can maintain the country’s security: Some problems may arise "during a transitional period, in the so-called moment of ‘takeover and hand over (of border control),’ but it [will not last ] more than five or six months." (9)

The issue of border security is a concern that has been linked to the bombings in Uzbekistan — the attacks were allegedly organized in South Waziristan, along the Pakistani-Afghan border (10) — and the proliferation of drugs across the borders are seen as a primary source for financing the operations of militant resistance movements. Internally, however, corruption and the behavior of law enforcement services also threaten security. Rakhmonov cited corruption as "the main obstacle" to Tajikistan’s development (11) and corruption is prevalent in many sectors of Central Asian society, from economics to education to law enforcement. (12)

In Kyrgyzstan, Chynybek Aliyev, head of the Interior Ministry’s unit to fight corruption and organized crime, was killed in what was believed to be a contract murder. (13) Kyrgyzstan lies along a main drug and weapons smuggling route and corruption at many levels has allowed organized crime to flourish. Law enforcement officials in the region are seen often therefore as part of the reason for instability, as was the case in Uzbekistan where police appeared to be the primary targets of the suicide bombers.

Underpaid and under-disciplined, police routinely receive bribes — be it for minor traffic violations or overlooking zoning laws or smuggling — and their use of force is viewed, at times, as both uncontained and disproportionate. On May 1, a group of five Kyrgyz police officers allegedly beat a man seeking day labor, fracturing his skull, breaking ribs and leaving him on the side of the street. (14) In late April, three members of the Kazakh Republican Guard were found guilty in the murder of a National Security Committee employee. (15) And while numerous examples of police misconduct or abuses of power could be given, it is significant that a number of Uzbeks interviewed after the March bombings saw the police as a legitimate target for the terrorists (16) and the common perception among many citizens in Central Asia is that the law enforcement agencies are, at times, engaged in an arbitrary application of the law, concerned less with the security of the populace and more with self-interest.

Natural Disaster

Heavy rains and periodic earthquakes have precipitated a series of landslides in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. On 26 April, at least 33 persons were killed in a mudslide which destroyed at least 12 houses in the village of Kaynama, under the local administration of Budalyk, in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan. (17) Residents had been warned of the threat of a landslide two weeks earlier, but remained in their homes despite the forced evacuation of other villages in the area. (18) The Kyrgyz government set up a commission, headed by Prime Minister Nikolay Tenev, to assist in minimizing the aftereffects of natural disasters and assure the security of the population. (19) Likewise, Tajikistan’s Ministry of Emergency Situations has been active in evacuating residents from the Panjakent District in the northern part of the country. (20) In both instances, the governments have responded to the disasters and sought to implement a process that optimally protects the population at risk. Unfortunately, however, this seems to be more easily coordinated in response to a natural disaster than in instances of drug trafficking, corruption, or abuses in law enforcement.

Source Notes

(1) See NIS Observed, 8 Apr 04; 28 Apr 04 via
(2) ITAR-TASS, 1116 GMT, 5 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection.
(3) See, for example, country-specific reports by Human Rights Watch via .or Amnesty International via
(4) See, for example, ITAR-TASS, 1358 GMT; 1558 GMT, 30 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0430 via World News Connection.
(5) ITAR-TASS, 1436 GMT, 30 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0430 via World News Connection.
(6) ITAR-TASS, 0510 GMT, 5 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection. A side issue of concern, however, is that some members of the Russian military may be involved in the drug trade; these accusations, of course, are denied by Russian military spokespersons. See RFE/RL, 7 May 04 via
(7) RFE/RL, 6 May 04 via
(8) See NIS Observed, 26 Mar 04 via
(9) ITAR-TASS, 1352 GMT, 27 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0427 via World News Connection. The Russian troops will remain in the country, stationed at a Russian Military base in Tajikistan.
(10) ITAR-TASS, 1012 GMT, 29 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0429 via World News Connection.
(11) ITAR-TASS, 0907 GMT, 30 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0430 via World News Connection.
(12) For more on corruption in education, see Eurasia Insight, 29 Apr 04 via
(13) ITAR-TASS, 1844 GMT, 5 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0505 via World News Connection; BBC, 7 May 04, via; AKIPress (Bishkek), 6 May 04 via
(14) AKIpress (Bishkek), 0849 GMT, 3 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0503 via World News Connection.
(15) Ekspress-K (Almaty), 0000 GMT, 24 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0424 via World News Connection.
(16) See NIS Observed, 8 Apr 04; 28 Apr 04 via
(17) AKIpress (Bishkek), 0936 GMT, 26 Apr 04 via World News Connection.
(18) ITAR-TASS, 1656 GMT, 26 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0426 via World News Connection.
(19) ITAR-TASS, 0817 GMT, 29 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0429 via World News Connection.
(20) ITAR-TASS, 1136 GMT, 23 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0423 via World News Connection.

By David W. Montgomery (

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