Happy birthday, Mr. President
President Putin celebrated his 52nd birthday on October 7th with a gathering of friends, including one of Ukraines presidential candidates, and flattering press reports on his precocious childhood, featuring a "Hero of our Time" article (in Komsomolskaya pravda) that contained an interview with his former German language teacher. (1)
There was, of course, also evidence of political wit at play: Nezavisimaya gazeta noted the "coincidence" of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg opening its 222nd season on Putins birthday with a production of Glinkas opera, "A Life for the Tsar." While this tale, which is set in the time of the troubles in the 17th century and tells the story of a peasant who sacrifices his life to save the Tsar from Polish assassins, had been a traditional season opener before the Bolshevik revolution, the theatre management has chosen an intriguing time to revive the tradition. The opening nights performance on October 7th was a sell-out. (2)
With the "promotion" of Dmitri Kozak to the post of Southern Russia/Caucasus Tsar, one of the deputy heads of the government apparatus, Sergei Naryshkin, was appointed to replace Kozak as government Chief-of-Staff. (3)
Naryshkin worked alongside Vladimir Putin in the St. Petersburg Mayors office under Anatoli Sobchak, and also served as an aide to the economic advisor in the Soviet (and later Russian) embassy in Belgium. (4) This background suggests a connection to foreign intelligence work, thus making Naryshkin yet another of the siloviki in Putins administration, as well as another Petersburger. Not surprisingly, Naryshkin has announced that "interaction" between the Government Secretariat and the security organs has been strengthened in response to President Putins decrees on anti-terrorism. (5)
One of Naryshkins earliest tasks was to supervise the creation of the new Ministry of Regional Development, which will combine social, economic, ethnic and security concerns under one ministerial umbrella. At least initially, the ministry will focus on southern Russia, the northern Caucasus and Chechnya. The new Ministry is short-staffed at the moment, with only 240 employees, but Naryshkin seemed assured that the personnel would be supplemented once it is created officially. (6)
Kozak also has had to relinquish his chairmanship of the Commission for Administrative Reform, which, given the level of criticism that this particular task has evoked and the strength of bureaucratic resistance to change, may not be too great a sacrifice. The new Chair of the Commission is Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov, who will now be responsible for implementing the Kozak reforms. (7) May he have better luck than Kozak had with it.
The Presidents Special Representative for Resolving the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, Aleksei Kulakovsky, who has had a lot to answer for since the Beslan tragedy, also has now been dismissed. Kulakovskys portfolio, theoretically, will be folded into the new remit for Caucasus Tsar Kozak. (8)
President Putin recently decreed minor changes to the composition of the Security Council. Leonid Drachevsky, former Presidential Envoy to Siberia [who will now be joining U.E.S. as Deputy CEO (9)] and Vladimir Yakovlev, former Presidential Envoy to the Southern District, have been replaced by former Chief of the General Staff, Anatoli Kvashnin, who takes over for Drachevsky in Siberia, and Dmitri Kozak, who is, of course, the new Southern District Envoy. Yuri Baluyevsky, the new Chief of the General Staff also has been added to the Council. (10) These changes appear to be primarily pro forma: the decree concerns individuals added or removed from the Council ex officio, and does not seem to reflect their relative proximity to presidential decision-making. By decree, Putin established the membership of the Security Council to reflect the accoutrements of office rather than personal authority; however, it represents a dual system of Security Council membership, with the "permanent members" drawn primarily from the security services and the heads of the legislative branch, and the "members" reflecting the Presidents Representatives, the Ministers of Finance, Justice and Emergencies and the Chief of a denuded General Staff. (11) Just which members are present at which meetings would be an interesting piece of information to obtain from the Kremlin.
Surkov speaks for the administration
Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration, Vladislav Surkov, chose an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda to expound on the rationale behind the Presidents changes regarding the political system, and the general reaction to the Beslan tragedy.
In response to a question of "Why us?"Why terrorist incidents like Beslan happen to RussiaSurkov answered by dividing "the people making decisions in America, Europe and the East" into two groups: those who "believe our democracy has a future"; and those whose "goal is the destruction of Russia and the establishment of numerous ineffectual quasi-states in its vast expanses." (12) The interviewer did not, apparently, follow up to determine whether Russias "vast expanses" included the territory of the former Soviet Union, thus suggesting that the Independent States around Russias borders might be endangered by Putins response to terrorism.
Surkov did couch the conflicts in the Caucasus and elsewhere along Russias "southern borders" in historical terms, claiming that violence in the region with the goal of weakening Russia "was already practiced in the 19th and 20th centuries." (13) He also rebuked those who call for dialogue with Chechens over the question of independence, by highlighting how poorly governed Chechnya was in the late 1990s, when it gained de facto independence from Russia with the Khasavyurt agreement, blaming "Ichkerian gangs" for the lawlessness and violence of the region (and chastising human rights organizations for not speaking louder then).
When questioned on the purpose of Putins internal political reforms, Surkov reminded his audience that the underlying goal (apparently of terrorists and critics alike) was the "destruction of the Russian state." Putin therefore was "obligated to implement the constitutional principle of the unity of the executive branch of government to the fullest extent." (14) Surkov identified an interesting result of this unity: "The competition between the centre and the territories for the evasion of responsibility for political errors and organizational shortcomings will cease." (15) Apparently, the way to subvert external threats of violence and silence foreign critics is to stop Russian bureaucrats from trying to blame each other for administrative mistakes.
Other reforms, such as the creation of a Public Chamber, which will by inhabited by "experts" rather than the public, was conceived as a channel, not for social oversight of a weighted executive arm, but rather, according to Surkov: "The new body would be expected to place the bureaucracy under civil oversight and guarantee public appraisal of major legislative bills and administrative ordinances." (16)
Surkovs tunnel vision with regard to the need for the "power vertical" to emasculate local, regional, and perhaps even some central administrators and apparatchiki, is likely to be the product of two experiences: the first involves the repeated efforts at reform of the government, the Kozak reforms being the most recent, and the repeated failures graft and corruption are still rife in the Russia administration (and Russia is by no means alone in this quandary). The second experience was described by Surkov himself. It is the hangover of the Soviet era, mixed with the turmoil of transition: "The moral crisis that came into being within the pseudo-collectivist communist regime is still raging. The moral majority is taking shape too slowly. Meanwhile, the
petty thieves and gossips, informers and bribe-takers, con artists and opportunists are as active and agile as they were in the old Soviet days." (17)
Surkovs remedy is "to learn the skills of real collectivism anew. (
) [T]o study not the works of Lenin but the experience of civil society." (18) Unfortunately, Russian civil society is being denied the sunlight of open media and choked back by an oppressive security service presence in governmentthroughout the executive, controlling the legislative and judicial branches and now moving through the regions. Coupled with the persecution of wealthy and powerful men like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, it sounds like the present administration might make Lenin proud.
- Independent Newspapers (U.K.), 8 Oct 04 via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
- RIA-Novosti, 7 Oct 04 via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
- Agence France Presse, 13 Sep 04 via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
- Gazeta, #170; RusData Dialine, 15 Sep 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
- Interfax, 1239 GMT, 2 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1002 via World News Connection.
- Itar-Tass, 11323 GMT, 2 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1002 via World News Connection.
Prime-Tass (English) Business Newswire, 17 Sep 04 via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
- Itar-Tass news digest, 7 Oct 04 via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
- Prime-TASS, 1601 GMT, 1 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection.
- Itar-Tass, 1 Oct 04; WPS Defense and Security via Lexis-Nexis and Itar-Tass, 1 Oct 04, 0900 GMT; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
- Komsomolskaya Pravda, 29 Sep 04; BBC Monitoring International Reports via Lexis-Nexis Academic Database.
By Susan J. Cavan (email@example.com)
The case of the alleged would-be terrorist Aleksandr Pumane, who reportedly died of massive injuries in hospital after having been detained and questioned by authorities in Moscow on 18 September, has not been resolved. Original reports claimed that Moscow police and security service representatives apprehended Pumane, who had delivered a car rigged with explosives to Kutuzovskii Prospekt, along the presidential motor route. After a few hours of "questioning" in the early morning hours, 38-year old Pumane was delivered to Sklifosovsky hospital where he died of massive injuries. (1) Initially dismissed as a case of overzealous security personnel attempting to show that they could play hardball with terrorists, new developments make this case appear somewhat more sinister.
Mr. Pumanes wife, Natalya, arrived at the morgue on 22 September to identify his corpse, but even after half an hour, she could not verify the body was his. In fact, she claims to doubt that it is his corpse. Two former co-workers who also attempted to identify the body at the morgue, more forcefully denied that it was Pumanes, forcing coroners to refer to dental records. The body in the morgue, evidently, is smaller in stature and does not appear to have the same scars that Pumane was known to have. (2)
Moreover, investigations have shed new light on Mr. Pumanes past and his actions leading up to his detention and death. Pumane was a retired Russian naval officer who, some months earlier, had shown his wife an Interpol badge and identification, which he claimed constituted his credentials as a technical specialist with that agency. The Russian Interpol bureau refused to confirm his status, and his wife did not find the ID and badge among his belongings at the morgue. (3)
New details of the events on the night of his detention have been reported. Pumane allegedly was detained driving a Lada rigged with land mines and TNT set to be detonated with a remote control device. He was detained not by counter-terrorism personnel, but by police officers patrolling the area in an effort to crack down on a recent spate of car thefts. Pumane allegedly told police, during his interrogation, where to find a second car also rigged with explosives. According to police, Pumane, a St. Petersburg resident visiting the area to see a friend, had been offered $1,000 by a stranger to park the two cars at designated locations. (4) Following Pumanes arrest, reports described a parade of up to 150 interrogators, including representatives from the Interior Ministry (MVD), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Main Administration for Combating Organized Crime, all eager to question Mr. Pumane. Consequently, while local police began the interrogation, there were periods of time during which outside agencies led the questioning. (5)
The FSB and MVD both have vehemently denied involvement in the beating, each blaming the other instead. In what appears to be an effort to protect his own position, Vladimir Pronin, chief of the Moscow Police, has either discharged or reprimanded ten members of the Moscow police force. Thus far only Major Vyacheslav Dushenko, a discharged supervisor with the Moscow police forces organized crime division has been charged with a crime, albeit in absentiahe has not been seen recently. As members of the FSB and MVD likely were schooled in the value of the information a suspect such as Putame might provide, it seems unlikely that professionals of these organizations would commit such a crime. (6)
Still, enough inconsistencies have been reported, largely by Kommersant, to fuel heated conspiracy theories. Some insist Pumane was put into a witness protection program, with some homeless vagrant beaten and left at the morgue in his stead; others wonder if it was an interrupted attempt by security services to stage a pseudo-terrorist event, to be stopped just in time for the security services to claim victory and attempt to repair their reputation so tarnished by the Beslan siege. (7) The latter theory mirrors speculation concerning the events linked to the discovery, almost five years ago, of what was originally reported as three sacks of highly explosive hexogen in the basement of a Ryazan apartment building. In the Ryazan case, Aleksei Kartofelnikov, a resident of the apartment, reported to the police suspicious activity by individuals loading sacks into the basement. Police evacuated the building and carted the sacks away. The FSB later explained that the sacks contained only sugar and were planted there "to test local vigilance." Five years later, residents still are not sure whether the FSB account is correct, if the sacks actually contained hexogen and locals discovered what the security services could not, or even if government agents themselves had planted the explosives in an attempt to taint the Chechen cause, but had their clandestine plan discovered before it could come to fruition. (8)
What is clear is that the Russian mechanism for dealing with suspected terrorists and their accomplices is far from standardized or proportionate. The presence of so many interested parties indicates no clear line of responsibility in such cases. Pumanes death indicates that there were persons involved in this process, either by design or serendipity, who appear to be unschooled in the proper techniques of interrogation. As discussed previously, the fact that local police apprehended a would-be terrorist is a clear success; his death is a setback, in practical terms and in terms of the states public image.
However, perhaps help is on the way. On 1 October, the Russian actor Aristarkh Livanov announced that he would lead a new non-governmental movement, Russia-Antiterror. This effort will have as its goal the "organization of preventative measures aimed at averting acts of terror, public monitoring of places of mass attendance, the holding of educational sessions and informing the authorities of violations discovered in the activities of specific organizations." The movement will rely on observations and reports of suspicious activities by members and others to the security services in an attempt to subvert terrorist actions before another Beslan siege can take place. Anatoli Bozhkov, a member of the Expert Council of Russia's "Human Rights Ombudsman," who is another leader of Russia-Antiterror, denied that the movement was looking for informants, but media reports of the announcement offered skepticism concerning both the legitimacy of the movement and its likely effect. It appears that the movement's call to action will result in an upswing of "nuisance reports," which may become painful reminders of Soviet past. (9)
Livanov was to travel to Rostov-na-Donu, a region noted for its Cossack traditions, for the inauguration of a new branch of the movement. Perhaps the leadership saw some benefit from linking Russia-Antiterror with the image of Don Cossacks, but violence and vigilantism are also a part of the heritage. (10) Although the aims of this movement may contain well-intentioned appeals for public caution and observation of suspicious acts, given the history of such "popular" movements in the Soviet Union, many in Russia doubt whether chaste motives are at play. It remains to be seen, however, whether such a movement, if indeed it does take hold in Russia, will have any impact on Russian society.
- See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review Volume IX Number 14 (29 September 2004).
- "Pumane Was Interpol Technician'," Kommersant, 28 Sep 04.
- "Car Tied to Bomb Plot Linked to Chechen," by Carl Schreck, St. Petersburg Times, 21 Sep 04 via ISI Emerging Markets database.
- "MVD, FSB Reportedly Blaming Each Other for Terrorist Suspect's Death," Izvestiya, 21 Sep 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0921 via World News Connection.
- "Policeman charged in absentia in Pumane's death case," ITAR-Tass News Agency, 6 Oct 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
- "Keystone Kops Take on Terrorism," by Yulia Latynina, Moscow Times, 29 Sep 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
- "Sacks in the Basement Still Trouble Ryazan," by Anatoly Medetsky, Moscow Times, 24 Sep 04 via Johnsons Russia List (JRL), #8379, 24 Sep 04.
- "Public Organization To Combat Terrorism To Be Set Up," RIA-Novosti, 1 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection; "I Squeal to the Soviet Union," by Yuliya Taratuta, Kommersant, 2 Oct 04 and "New Counterterrorism Organization Established, Begins Work 4 Oct 04," RIA-Novosti, 4 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1004 via World News Connection.
(10) "Don Cossacks." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001; online at (http://www.bartleby.com/65/do/DonCossa.html).
By Eric Beene (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Democracy is never perfect but always evolving towards perfection; democracy is not a mere set of laws and institutions but a way of thinking and living
; democracy is not immutable but in evolution." (1)
Keeping up with PACE
The Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE), considered the oldest international parliamentary assembly (founded in 1949), recently completed its autumn session in Strasbourg, which ran from 4-8 October. As one of PACEs forty-six member states, Russia played an important role in this meeting, since the Council focused on issues of terrorism, human rights and democracy. Russias tenuous relationship with Georgia was also a relevant topic of discussion. These issues were considered in the context of President Putins recent initiatives following the Beslan massacre, and both direct and indirect challenges were made for Russia to fulfill the conditions of its membership to PACE which include pluralistic democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Will Russia keep up with PACE in these areas?
PACE and Terrorism
At the 6 October session, PACE called for a "common legal area" for action against terrorism in Europe, including a single definition of terrorism in the laws of the Council of Europes member states. (2) The resolution and recommendation that were adopted at the end of the session were based on a report by Russias Konstantin Kosachev, which, in summary, stated that the states of Europe have not been sufficiently alert to the grave dangers of terrorism, nor have they taken effective action to counter them. The report stressed that fighting terrorism must always be compatible with human rights and fundamental freedoms and envisaged that measures would be taken by PACE, both at national and international levels, to strengthen the common response to the challenge of terrorism.
Mr. Kosachev should be pleased with the outcome of his report, since the resolution and recommendations adopted contained numerous proposals that would bring members together in the fight against terrorism. The Assembly stated that "no cause can justify terrorism" and that "every act of terrorism regardless of the reasons given, aims pursued
is a challenge to democracy and must be considered a crime against humanity
.There are no good or bad terrorists." (3) PACE, however, reaffirmed its position of principle that the fight against terrorism must never be incongruous with the fundamental freedoms and human rights which it has the task of protecting: "wherever those rights are violated this weakens the international coalition in the fight against terrorism, and drives new supporters into the hands of the terrorists." (4) Also addressed were the supposedly deep-rooted causes of terrorism poverty, exclusion, inequality, despair, impunity, disregard for rights of national minorities which were assumed to provide fertile soil for terrorism.
In spite of the mixed pleasure Mr. Kosachev may have felt regarding his reports outcome, does President Putin have a share in it? He should be pleased that the Assembly justified no cause for terrorism, not even Chechen separatism, and for the efforts PACE extended to strengthen a European coalition on terror. But what about those enumerated deep-rooted causes of terrorism? Is Putin prepared to embrace a fight against those, as well? Hate crimes against foreigners, including many Caucasians, have increased since Beslan, with innocent people being attacked in their homes, on the Metro and in their businesses; sadly, the Moscow police has described some of the actions only as "hooliganism." (5) Poverty, frustration and despair continue to dominate Chechnya and increasingly its surrounding regions what does Putin plan to do to combat these issues? Little emphasis has been given to these core matters; instead the heavy-handed approach of response to terror prevails.
PACE, Human Rights and Democracy
On 7 October, PACE deliberated extensively on the situation in Chechnya, reaffirming its commitment to advance human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the Republic, as an integral part of the Russian Federation, deploring the grave conditions in which the Chechens have to live. The gross violence which persists in Chechnya and continues to be a significant formative factor for a whole generation of Chechens, was condemned and the Assembly called for concerted action by local, regional and federal Chechen authorities to help alleviate the situation. (6) Criminal acts constituting serious human rights violations, committed by all sides of the conflict were condemned as well. PACE suggested negotiations to help resolve the conflict with all those guilty of crimes receiving just punishment through appropriate judicial procedures. (7) The Assembly recognized that the conflict within the North Caucasus was spreading like an epidemic, threatening the rule of law throughout the Russian Federation (8) and must be stopped in order to prevent further casualties, destruction of property, forced disappearances, hostage-taking and continued displacement of persons from their homes. PACE urged the Russian Duma, as a matter of urgency to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate alleged abuses by different branches of the executive and to address the apparent malfunctioning of the military prosecutors office in charge of the region. (9) However, PACE welcomed the trend of establishing regional ombudsmen in the Russian Federation, specifically for the Chechen Republic. Unfortunately, PACE's recommendations could not specify solutions, thus generating, instead, more questions, such as with whom should Russia negotiate? What judicial procedures were in place to punish "all sides" in the Chechen conflict? And what actions might PACE take to enforce its proposals.
During the 8 October session, PACE discussed new concepts to evaluate the state of democratic development, realizing that such development is insufficient in certain member states. PACE believes that democracy today is in a crisis, reflected low turn out at elections, lack of interest/participation in public life and decreasing respect for and confidence in political parties and politicians. (10) Democratic reform and development to counter the democratic deficit must be based on a full integration of democratic norms and practices into the administrative, political and judicial systems, including normative standards as well as their implementation at an operational level. (11) PACE desires to monitor and assist struggling democracies (like Russia) and has constituted parameters for evaluation of democracy within a given country. Transparency of governmental action and administration, accountability of decision-making bodies towards the public, openness of political decision-making, development of political pluralism and the way in which parties are financed and function, development of civic multiculturalism and equality of citizens, the independence of media from government structures and the effectiveness of anti-discrimination rules are just some of the evaluative parameters. (12) It is obvious, given Putins recent political "reforms," crackdown on the media and seeming blindness to Russias internal ethnic conflicts, that Russia needs to make a sharp reversal in these areas if it is going to be judged on par with the level of democracy PACE hopes to promote within its member states. Democracys nature may be one of evolution but it will take real effort to ensure Russian democracy rather than witness its collapse under the weight of Putin's increasingly "vertical" government.
PACE and Georgia
On 7 October PACE held an emergency debate regarding increasingly heated Georgian-Russian relations. Konstantin Kosachev, the Russian delegation head, stated that PACE is not the rostrum for Georgia to settle a score with Russia. He came down on Georgian delegates for their allegedly harsh tone and said, "Tbilisi has problems with Abkhazia and South Ossetia [separatist regions within Georgia]. It ought to settle those problems at home, rather than on the international scene." (13) Nino Burjanadze of Georgias parliament accused Russia of using double standards concerning Chechen and Abkhaz (as well as South Ossetian) separatists.
What lies ahead for Russia at this point, specifically concerning the issues raised and discussed during this recent PACE session, depends on Putins response. Many of Putins initiatives were challenged by PACE and concern for the fate of democracy in the Russian Federation was evident. Just how this concern translates into action, either by motivating Putin, or, if need be, sanctioning him, may provide evidence of the effectiveness of PACE.
(1) Resolution 1407 of Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE), "New Concepts to Evaluate the State of Democratic Development, 8 Oct 04; (assembly.coe.int/Documents/AdoptedText/ta04/ERES1407.html).
(2) Doc. 10312 of PACE, "Challenge of Terrorism in Council of Europe States"; 5 Oct 04; (assembly.coe.int).
(4) "PACE Calls for Common Legal Area for Action Against Terrorism in Europe"; 6 Oct 04; [(assembly.coe.int (CPID 1573)].
(5) Moscow News, 29 Sep 04 via ISI Emerging Markets.
(6) Resolution 1402 of PACE, "The Political Situation in the Chechen Republic"; 7 Oct 04 (assembly.coe.int).
(7) Resolution 1403 of PACE, "The Human Rights Situation in the Chechen Republic"; 7 Oct 04; (assembly.coe.int).
(10) Resolution 1407 of PACE, ibid.
(13) RIA Novosti, "Georgia Uses PACE to Settle Score With Russia?"; 7 Oct 04 via (www.en.rian.ru/rian.index.html).
By Rebecca Mulder (email@example.com)
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
New media limitations
Curtailment and control of the media continues to be a theme in Russia, from the banning of newspaper stands in metro stations (1) to the issuing of eighteen media warnings to nationwide news services in the last three months. (2) Although the Duma recently voted down a bill restricting media coverage of special operations during hostage events, (3) media freedom does not appear to have a promising future.
The decision to clear Moscow metro stations of newspaper and other vendors is part of the governments "anti-terrorism" precautions. A side effect of the decision is the potential for one media company or a coalition of such companies to purchase the rights to metro access. This "anti-terrorism" measure could result in the creation of a monopoly for one company (or the state?). (4)
The eighteen warnings issued by the Russian Federal Service for the Enforcement of Media Legislation and the Protection of Cultural Heritage have the potential to have a serious impact on the media. "
we can raise the issue of recalling their licenses after a second similar warning is issued," said Leonid Nadirov, First Deputy Minister of Culture and Mass Media. (5)
A new media bill is being examined by the legislature. The bill builds on four pillars: freedom of media and prohibition of censorship, the founding of newspapers and TV channels, media licensing and registration, and the rights and duties of journalists. Some of the points in contention involve the type of censorship being prohibited, whether the Internet qualifies as a form of media (thereby falling under the same constraints), and the inclusion of newspaper owners in the legislation. (6)
The operational details of Putins "reforms," initiated as a response to the events at Beslan, continue to emerge. The most recent aspects involve the judiciary and the implications of the elimination of the direct election of governors. Other items include charging under-performing political parties for media election services as well as a new piece of legislation affecting non-profit organizations.
The judicial branch constitutes the latest target of Putins reforms. The Supreme Qualification Collegium is a 29 member body that appoints judges to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Arbitration Court. Under current law, the Collegium is the only body with authority to dismiss judges. The Federation Council bill proposes reducing the number of judges in the Collegium to 21, with ten public representatives appointed by the Federation Council, ten judges nominated by the President and confirmed by the Federation Council, and one person serving as the Presidents representative. Collegium judges can be fired by the President with the consent of the Collegium under the new bill; authority to fire public representatives would rest with the (now emasculated) Federation Council. (7)
If the bill passes, it will consolidate additional power in the executive branch. The legislature is already in the process of being emasculated; bringing the judicial branch under executive appointment will only diminish further dwindling remainder of intra-governmental checks and balances.
The details of Putins "strengthening of the power vertical" in the executive branch became somewhat clearer recently. In addition to the authority to nominate governors for the regions, Putin will have the power to dissolve regional legislatures that fail to confirm his nominees. (8) That limits further any regional input into the appointment process.
Fourteen political blocs and parties are in debt to the government because of election media services, and it is possible that some of them will be disbanded. The parties that did not pass the requisite 2% threshold in the State Duma election now owe the government for television and radio air time to run campaign materials. (9) Apparently, if lack of popular support fails to dissolve a political party, the Russian government will speed the process.
A bill involving the taxation of non-profit organizations has the potential to affect non-profit funding. Non-profits, in order to make gifts, must be on a special government list. If they are not, the recipient will be taxed 25% of the gift. The law also requires non-profits to have a "guarantee letter" from the federal or local government. (10) This offers considerable opportunities for official corruption. The necessity of procuring a letter from the government also could prohibit non-profits from taking positions that oppose or challenge the government for fear of losing their ability to function effectively. The bill is open for amendments until October 15; it is slated to go into effect a month later.
The rally phenomena
There have been several rallies and demonstrations in the last month or so. If one accepts rallies as a form of political expression, it is interesting to review the subjects of the various demonstrations. One protest unsuccessfully demanded the resignation of the president of North Ossetia; (11) a second objected to the reduction of public funding for university education; (12) a third was staged by the government as an "anti-terrorism" rally following Beslan (13) and an October 3 march commemorated the events of 1993 during the siege of the White House by President Yel'tsin. (14) Over the course of the same month, President Putin advocated a number of changes that will affect significantly the distribution of power within the Russian Federation (or, at any rate, formalize his ongoing process of power consolidation).
In pursuing these changes, Putin has solicited the help of the media and the church, in addition to creating a Public Chamber which may or may not prove to be a significant social advisory body. Putins overtures to the church were somewhat backhanded. His speech to religious leaders solicited their support in the national cause of anti-terrorism. In a question and answer session, one of the bishops complained about illegal Chinese immigration. Putin serenely suggested that the bishop proselytize the immigrants, suggesting that it would be "a great area of pastoral work." (15)
What is surprising is the lack of serious political outcry over Putins reforms, even though some polls suggest that Russians do not favor them. (16) There have been no riots or protests over the new laws. Instead, the current demonstrations concern economic or security issues, and the reliving of glory days. This would suggest that, although Russians may object to the changes, they are more concerned about economic and security matters. Of course, it may also reflect an acceptance of Putin's consolidation of control and/or apathy because of the public's inability to reverse these trends. The media have questioned the reforms, but primarily by quoting academics and western governments. (Indeed, it seems almost as though Putin spends more time defending his reforms vis-à-vis the west than his own constituency.) There appears to be little chance that Russians will protest when the measures (and the subsequent curtailment of democratic processes) are implemented.
Aleksandr Veshnyakov, head of the Central Electoral Commission, explains: "If we put the question frankly do we wish to remain an integrated state capable of protecting civil rights and liberties and ensuring their security? then, most likely, citizens will agree with the reforms." (17) As long as the population sees the reforms as helping maintain a more stable, secure society, it is not likely to resist.
(1) "Papers Vanish in Metro Anti-Terror Drive," Moscow Times, 4 Oct 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(2) "18 warnings issued to Russian media," Interfax, 6 Oct 04 via Johnsons Russia List (JRL), #8397, 6 Oct 04.
(3) "Russian Duma Committee Turns Down Bill Restricting Media During Hostage Crises," Itar-Tass, 23 Sep 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0923 via World News Connection.
(4) "Moscow looks at issue of newspaper/magazine sales," Info Prod - Strategic Business Information, 3 Oct 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database; "Papers Vanish in Metro Anti-Terror Drive," Moscow Times, 4 Oct 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(5) "18 warnings issued to Russian media," Interfax, 6 Oct 04 via Johnsons Russia List (JRL), #8397, 6 Oct 04.
(6) "Self-censorship: Citizens are expected to learn to restrict their freedom of speech," Novye Izvestia, 7 Oct 04 via JRL #8399, 7 Oct 04.
(7) "The Case Against a Lapdog Judiciary," Moscow Times, 4 Oct 04, via JRL #8392, 3 Oct 04; "Judges Who Lost Their Jobs Speak Out," Moscow Times, 6 Oct 04 via JRL #8396, 6 Oct 04.
(8) "Putin equalized governors with salespeople and forwarders," Izvestia, 30 Sep 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) "Unsuccessful Blocs, Parties Owe Debts for Media Election Services," Itar-Tass, 1 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection. (10) "Open season for hunting captain grant," Izvestia, 7 Oct 04 via JRL #8399, 7 Oct 04.
(11) "Ossetia Ministers Fired After Angry Protest," Moscow Times, 9 Sep 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) "Russian University Students Protest Commercialization of Tertiary Education," Interfax, 1 Oct 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection.
(13) "Officials rally 130,000 against terror," Moscow Times, 8 Sep 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
(14) "Russia's Communists observe failed 1993 revolt," AFP, 3 Oct 04 via JRL #8392.
(15) "Church blames destruction of family for demographic crisis," Itar-Tass, 6 Oct 04 via JRL #9398, 7 Oct 04.
(16) "Choosing the Route: Public opinion on electoral reforms," Argumenty i Fakty, 6 Oct 04 via JRL #8399, 7 Oct 04.
(17) "Indirect democracy," Itogi, 7 Oct 04 via JRL #8399, 7 Oct 04.
By Robyn Angley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Another obstacle removed
On 29 September, Army General Nikolai Kormiltsev tendered his resignation as Commander in Chief of Russias Ground Forces. Kormiltsev released the reins of Russias largest military service and entered a military hospital for examination. (1) Although no specific reasons were cited for Kormilstevs departure, several recent developments in the Ministry of Defense, and not medical reasons, are likely to have driven him from his post. The recent realignment within the Defense Ministry stripped the deputy minister title from the Commander of the Ground Forces, kicking that position one level further down the food chain, and reducing access to the defense minister and to the president. Additionally, it is speculated that Kormiltsev had disagreements with the newly appointed Chief of the General Staff, General Baluyevsky. Appointed in 2001 to reform the Ground Troops, Kormiltsev resisted certain General Staff's recommendations (including organizing the forces into brigades rather than divisions), but may still have been seen as a Kvashnin ally.
A report in Nezavisimaya gazeta listed three possible candidates to fill the now vacant Ground Forces Commander position: Colonel General Morozov, Ground Forces Chief of General Staff and acting-Commander of the Ground Forces; Army General Valentin Bobryshev, commander of the Leningrad Military District; and Colonel General Vladimir Boldyrev, commander of the Volga-Urals Military District. (3) Morozov is not a "headline grabber" and as ground forces chief of the General Staff, he is intimately familiar with the work that needs to be accomplished immediately within the ground forces. Bobrysev seems to have some political clout and has been mentioned for promotion numerous times over the past several years, but is one year away from mandatory retirement and it is not likely hell leave his post in St Petersburg that he has held comfortably for more than 4 years. (4) Boldyrev had previously been seen as someone who could lead reform when he was appointed Commander of the North Caucasus Military District. He was on an upward career path until July 2004 when he was reassigned to Command the Volga-Urals Military District. This was widely interpreted as a demotion for his role in not preventing the bloody surprise attack by Chechen rebels into Ingushetia earlier this year. (5) A fourth candidate recently identified by Interfax-AVN is Col-General Aleksei Maslov, currently the Chief of Staff of the North Caucasus Military District. Maslov was moved to his current position in 2003, shortly after the upwardly-mobile Boldyrev was moved to his post as commander of the that district. Having overseen and managed the transition to an all-professional force in Chechnya, Maslov may have the experience required to complete the transition throughout the ground forces. (6)
Meeting the threat?
No national strategy yet exists that is sufficient to guide the comprehensive restructuring of the Russian armed forces to put them more in line with the current threat environment. Nonetheless, Putin, Ivanov and now Baluyevsky are driving specific efforts to address some of the gaps between current threats and current capability by beefing up Ministry of Defense forces in the Caucasus. Putin started talking in July of 2004 about Defense Ministry troops reinforcing Interior Ministry forces in anti-terrorism efforts. General Baluyevsky recently repeated this concept in testimony to the Federation Council. On a number of occasions, Ivanov has mentioned the requirement to develop two professional mountainous brigades and have them stationed in the Caucasus. Although the details are sketchy, there is evidence that there has been action to back up these pronouncements. The Finance Ministry has allocated an additional 5 billion rubles to be spent in the Caucasus before the end of the year on "a number of orders to provide special equipment for the interior and defense ministries to fight terrorism," according to the head of the Economic Development Ministry, German Gref. (7) The 2005 budget, currently being discussed by the Duma, includes more than 6 billion rubles for the construction of two new military bases in the Caucasus. (8) Ivanov is still intent on making good on the promise that no conscripted servicemen will serve in Chechnya after 1 January 2005. Conversion of all power-wielding structures to a professional "contract" force is scheduled to be completed by then. (9) But the Russian military has had to expend considerable resources to make this political imperative a reality. The contract unit in Chechnya, the 42d Motorized Division, is still having retention problems despite its personnel getting paid nearly three times the amount offered recruits in other districts. (10)
Additionally, the Interfax-AVN website cited statements by Aleksandr Koval, an assistant to the 58th Army commander, claiming that Russian army troops will conduct a joint exercise with Border Troops in a mountainous region in Ingushetia. According to Koval, this is the first such joint exercise between army units and the border troops. The reported objective of the exercise is to refine joint combat operations and multi-level defense against large enemy forces in mountainous terrain. The threat of "large enemy forces" invading from the south is questionable, but the location and force composition of this exercise is probably more significant than its stated aim. The exercise is taking place in the mountains of Ingushetia very near the border with Georgia and Chechnya with a force made up of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry. (11) It is very likely that Russia is also using this exercise to send a message to its Georgian neighbors. The sum total of the funding, manning, and training efforts in the Caucasus involving Defense Ministry troops seems to indicate that Putin and his administration expect the Defense Ministry to play an increasing role in Russias war on terrorism inside, as well as potentially outside, of its national borders.
Despite considerable efforts to build military capability in the Caucasus to meet security needs there, failure to overhaul the Russian military force structure could result in a complete collapse of the armed forces. Sergei Ivanov sounded an alarm during television remarks on 1 October, but instead of blaming the archaic Cold War force structure, he blamed this crisis on the inability of the military to call up enough conscripts to fill its ranks. Ivanov claimed that the military stood on the verge of collapse because an unprecedented number of persons were avoiding the draft due to the poor health of Russian youths, an extraordinary number of deferment categories, and corruption. (12) Only 9.5% of draft-eligible youths will be called up this fall (compared with 30% just 10 years ago), not because thats all that is needed, but because that is all that is available. According to Vasili Smirnov, chief of the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate (GOMU) of the general staff, "We have no military draft reserve and we are raking everyone in, leaving nothing behind." (13) In fact, the call up of 176,400 conscripts will leave a shortfall of more than 30,000 in the ranks of Russian military units, leaving many units manned below the 80% level. (14)
The poor quality of the conscripted force presents additional problems. According to a report in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 54% of the young soldiers fit for the draft are not fit for service in classified units, to include airborne troops, the navy, and missile troops, due to medical deficiencies. One third of the recruits have no secondary education, 40% were "parasites" before joining the army, and 3% had criminal records. (15) This leaves most conscripts being attended to by specialists instead of commanders and instructors.
In an effort to increase the pool from which to choose its conscripts, Ivanov and the Russian army have taken steps to ease the publics fear of service in the armed forces, hoping to reduce the number of young men running away from military service. In addition to continuing to advertise that no conscripts will serve in Chechnya starting in January of 2005, the Russian army has developed the procedures to clothe and feed new recruits at the assembly points rather than their units of final destination. This seemingly minor change was designed to relieve public fears resulting from a widely publicized case of recruits freezing to death. (16) Also, the medical service chief, Major General Valeri Kulikov is encouraging young folks not to flee the draft, but rather opt for a shot at medical deferment in place of life as a fugitive. According to Kulikov, nearly half of those dodging the draft wouldnt be draft eligible due to medical problems and personality disorders. (17)
Obviously frustrated by the mismatch between the troops needed to fill the ranks of the Russian army and the conscripts available, Ivanov is prepping the battlefield for a future confrontation regarding the politically unpopular prospect of doing away with various categories of deferments. Ivanov noted that by 2008, contract servicemen are to number 150,000 and compulsory service will be reduced from two years to one year. "But then one also has to think about cutting down on exemptions, regarding which we are probably world champions. One wishes that the new soldiers are healthy and clever." (18) Apparently Ivanov thinks that political battle is better joined than is the battle to reduce and re-structure an overly burdensome military force structure.
(1) "Baluyevsky's First Victim; Ground Force Left Without Commander I Chief," Nezavisimaya gazeta, 30 Sep 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-0930 via World News Connection.
(4) "Russia: Defense Minister Criticized for Failing to Carry Out Military Reform," Financial Times Information 11 Feb 2003; World News Connection via Lexis-Nexis.
(5) "Held Accountable for June 22," Vremya novostei 20 Jul 2004; Current Digest of the Soviet Press via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) "Gen. Maslov Expected To Become Commander Of Russian Ground Forces," Interfax-AVN Military News Website 11 Oct 04; BBC Monitoring International Reports via Lexis-Nexis.
(7) "Russian Official Says Defense Ministry to Be Allocated Additional 5 Billion Rubles," ITAR-TASS, 4 Oct 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-1004 via World News Connection.
(8) "Military Bases Instead of Housing," Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 1 Oct 2004; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
(9) "Russian Defense Minister Expresses Concerns About Military Draft," Moscow RIA-Novosti, 1 Oct 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection.
(10) "Formation of Professional Army in Russia Seen Jeopardized by Low Rates of Pay," Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 27 Jul 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-0727 via World News Connection.
(11) Interfax-AVN, 4 Oct 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-1004 via World News Connection.
(12) "Russias Armed Forces on Verge of Collapse: Defense Minister," Agence France Presse, 1 Oct 2004 via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) "Russia: Fall Military Draft Predicted Shortfall, Problems Viewed," Rossiyskaya gazeta, 1 Oct 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection.
(14) "Putins Autumn Draft Edict Aimed at Strengthening Southern Borders," Komsomolskaya pravda, Moscow, 29 Sep 2004; BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union via Lexis-Nexis.
(15) "Russia: Fall Military Draft Predicted Shortfall, Problems Viewed," Rossiyskaya gazeta, 1 Oct 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection.
(17) "Russia: Reasons for Draft Dodging Discussed and Analyzed," Rossiyskaya gazeta, 30 Sep 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-0930 via World News Connection.
(18) "Russian Defense Minister Expresses Concerns About Military Draft," Moscow RIA-Novosti, 1 Oct 2004; FBIS-SOV-2004-1001 via World News Connection.
By Jeff Kubiak (email@example.com)
Russian troops and Tajik border guards
Russia and Tajikistan appear to be nearing an agreement over the future of Tajikistan's border protection. The deputy commander of Russia's border troops, Lieutenant General Aleksandr Manilov, concluded a trip to Dushanbe on 4 October where he finalized the negotiations over the transfer of border security from Russian to Tajik troops.
In April of this year, Tajik President Rakhmonov announced that Tajikistan would take over control of its own borders and would ask Russian border troops to leave the country.(1) His announcement initially was met with concern in the West due to perceived Tajik security weakness and on-going narcotics smuggling via Tajikistan. In June, President Putin convinced President Rakhmonov to put the power transfer on indefinite hold, pending a complete review and renegotiations.
With the process back on track, the Russian and Tajik delegations have concluded a draft agreement on the details of the hand over of border sections. The proposed agreement stipulates that Russia's border troops will retain an operational/liaison group in Tajikistan, train Tajik border troop officers, and provide Tajik border troops with modern Russian equipment.
Approximately 11,500 Russian Border Troops, mostly ethnic Tajiks, cover Tajik borders. (2) Russian border troops were phased out from Kyrgyzstan in 1999. In the same year, Russian military advisors left Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan withdrew from the Collective Security Treaty. With the apparently successful elections in Afghanistan and ongoing U.S.-led counterterrorism operations in the region, Tajikistan wants to display to its regional competitors and neighbors that it too can defend its own borders.
While President Rakhmonov seems motivated by national pride and regional competition, President Putin is likely more interested in formalizing a basing agreement with Tajikistan for the 201st Motorized Rifle division. That division has lacked legal status since its "CIS Peacekeeping Mission" was terminated in 1999. During previous negotiations, Tajikistan wanted a significant say regarding the 201st Division's base operations, personnel movements, and its use in various contingencies. It also wanted more significant financial compensation for Russian military use of Tajikistan's land and infrastructure. Rakhmonovs desire for control of his own borders seems to have given Putin a very large bargaining chip and reinvigorated discussions.
Tajik border concerns
"I have been serving in the Russian border guards for over 20 years. I do not have any other profession and if the Russian Forces really do leave Badakhshan, my seven children and I will lose our means of subsistence," Ensign Nazar Mavlonazarov, who lives on the Tajik-Afghan border and works with Russian forces stationed along frontier, stated. (3)
Mavlonazarov added "As an experience border guard, I can say with certainty that the Tajik forces do not yet have the necessary experience nor the equipment to guarantee the security of this border."(4)
The plans to withdraw Russian troops from the Pamir section of Tajikistan's frontier with Afghanistan have caused significant concern amongst local residents, many of whom have staged protests in recent weeks to highlight their worries. Large segments of the population living in southeastern Tajikistan rely on jobs created by the presence of Russian troops for their economic survival. Many locals worry that plans for a withdrawal could result in an influx of drugs and other criminal activity from Afghanistan.
Russian-trained Tajik soldiers, who serve in the Border Guard, receive approximately 300 dollars per month. Tajik funded border guards make between 10 to 40 dollars per month. Based on evidence from the Beslan tragedy where terrorists bribed their way through several checkpoints, many locals are concerned that corruption will become wide-spread and allow drugs to flow easily through Tajikistan. Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov downplays these concerns and instead is determined to have Tajiks control the border by the end of this year. "The border is a symbol of the state's independence, it is unheard of for the border of one nation to be protected by border guards from another," he said earlier this year. (5)
International border concerns
The United Nations is also concerned about the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border in the event that Russian border guards are pulled out of the area. The U.N. Secretary General's Envoy to Tajikistan, Vladimir Sotirov, told journalists on 20 September, that Tajikistan's national border guard structures will have to spend "considerable funds to attain the level of equipment of Russian border troops." (6) Sotirov believes the international community's assistance to Tajikistan in this matter is of extreme importance. "So this assistance is being already given and will be continued," he pointed out. "We are all interested in the lessening of the narcotic drug traffic through the Tajikistani-Afghan border to European countries." (7) According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) press service, border guards have confiscated over 2.6 tons of narcotics on the Tajik-Afghan border, two-thirds of which consists of heroin, since the beginning of the year. (8)
On 21 September, Sotirov appeared to refine his position. "The decision made by the Tajikistani authorities to strengthen the country's independence through agreements with Russia on the gradual withdrawal of Russian border guards from the Tajik-Afghan border seems right to me," he stated in Dushanbe on Tuesday. (9) This measure "will not leave Tajikistan without the support it needs to ensure security on its southern borders as the global community is keeping an eye on this process. The international community is ready to provide and is providing Tajikistan with assistance," he said. (10)
Russia military and border security
Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Yuri Baluyevsky signed a directive outlining required security measures for Russian military units and civilian facilities located on the territory of CIS states. (11) Since the Beslan tragedy, the Russian Armed Forces have started already to upgrade the antiterrorist security system throughout the former Soviet republics. The use of Russian law enforcement organizations for military unit protection is not allowed in Tajikistan and the 201st division commanders can only count on collaboration with local security agencies. This type of collaboration often does not succeed, because national law enforcement systems in most CIS countries are still being established and hence are not always effective. The Russian Ministry of Defense noted that the creation of a reliable security system in Tajikistan in the near term was unlikely. (12) Local law enforcement agencies in Tajikistan have limited authority and security for the facilities of the 201st Motorized Infantry Division is left to the military leaders. The current garrisons of the 201st are spread out. In Dushanbe, the buildings housing the officers' families are not even located on the divisional bases.
The Russian Federation's military department admits it is extremely difficult to protect facilities based in the Central Asian states, where extremist religious organizations such as Hizb al-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Turkestan, and others are stepping up their activities. (13) If the 201st division could be located at a centralized base, then the new force protection requirements would be much easier to achieve.
Since September 11, 2001, the influence of the United States has increased in Central Asia, causing a consequent decline in Russian stature. In the last week, Kyrgyzstan signed military cooperation agreements with the U.S. and France. (14) President Putin may have reached the point where he feels it necessary to counterbalance American influence. While weakening the border security does not seem to be in Russias interest, the Kremlin has used Tajik national pride on the border issue to negotiate a favorable agreement. The final status of the 201st division likely will resolved in Moscows favor. It probably will include new basing rights that allow the military to consolidate its position and ease the force protection burden. The military arrangement might be semi-permanent and ensure that the Russian military has a primary role in Central Asia for the foreseeable future. Finally, the international community, fearing the Tajik-Afghan border being exclusively in Tajik hands, likely will pay a significant amount of the future security costs. Russia seems to have reinforced its Central Asia position at almost no cost to itself.
(1) Interfax, Moscow, 9 Jun 04 via Jamestown Eurasia daily monitor, 14 Jun 04.
(3) (www.EURASIA.org.ru), 01 Oct 04, Report by Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
(6) ITAR-ITASS, 20 Sep 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0920 via World News Connection.
(9) Moscow Interfax, 21 Sep 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0921 via World News Connection.
(11) Moscow Nezavisimaya gazeta, 23 Sep 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0923 via World News Connection.
(12) Moscow Nezavisimaya gazeta, 28 Sept 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0928 via World News Connection.
(13) Moscow Agentstvo voyennykh novostey, 17 Sep 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0917 via World News Connection.
(14) Kabar News Agency, 05 Oct 04 via Jamestown Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume 1, Issue 101.
By Kyle J. Colton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Newly Independent States
Disruption of the presidential elections in Ukraine
There is more and more talk in Ukraine about the possibility of the Ukrainian presidential elections being disrupted. There is rampant speculation as to the specifics of the various plots, but the goal of these "conspirators" seems to be uniform to prevent the opposition from coming to power.
Version one comes directly from Viktor Yushchenko, who called the disruption of the presidential elections in Ukraine a "working scenario" of the current Ukrainian authorities. (1) This scenario consists of printing fake ballots and distributing them in the regions; mass firing of directors of state printing houses and replacing them with individuals willing to cooperate with the current government; preventing Ukrainian expatriates from voting at 114 voting stations, which have been set up outside of Ukraines borders; controlling the voting situation in prisons and closed medical facilities, as well as, of course, continuing the campaign of mass intimidation of state workers (militia, doctors, teachers). If all else fails, and the opposition has a clear lead, then stage two of the working scenario comes into play, where numerous violations are declared to have taken place in different regions, thus negating the election results based on massive fraud. (2)
Yushchenko called on Ukrainian citizens to prevent possible election disruptions: "You are capable of the small feat of being vigilant from morning till night and of being prepared to defend your right to elect those you want." (3)
An alternate version of the election fraud theories adds the element of Russian involvement in the plot to disrupt the elections. Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky expressed an opinion that the idea to cancel the Ukrainian elections was conceived by Viktor Medvedchuk, who is supported strongly by Moscow. (4) Among the reasons for Putin not wanting Yushchenko to be the next president are, obviously, the concern that Ukraine would "drift away" from the Russian sphere of influence. Moscow might full well support the idea of disrupting the elections, which would prolong the regime of the current authorities, but it doesn't seem to have the capability on its own to have any noticeable influence on the outcome of the elections. Russia has no real infrastructure that could help it protect its interests in Ukraine, says Aleksandr Kochetkov, the president of the National Strategy Institute in Moscow. There is no noticeable pro-Russian movement in Ukraine, and no strong pro-Russian political party. There are neither political lobbyists present in the country, nor large mass media organization with pro-Russian orientation, and there are no means of supporting such organizations financially. In fact, Russia does not even have a clear political strategy towards Ukraine. Political affairs are often settled as a result of direct collaboration of the two presidents Putin and Kuchma. (5)
Finally, the third version of conspiracy theory holds that Leonid Kuchma is still not out of the picture. While he is not a registered candidate for the presidential race, should the election be disrupted and cancelled, he, as Prime Minister, is the person who retains power. And the longer he holds on to power, the more time he has to conduct political reform, which, could render presidential elections and the new president himself ceremonial attributes of the new and improved parliamentary democracy.
Belarus Democracy Act
The upcoming parliamentary elections in Belarus, as well as the political situation in the country, have failed to evoke indignation from the West for a long time. Lukashenko and his cabinet simply disregard any attempt to sanction him. The most recent attempt to convince Lukashenko to observe at least some norms of democracy seems to have been largely ignored as well. On 4 October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Belarus Democracy Act. The Act consists of five demands. They are (a) the requirement to release individuals, who have been imprisoned for political and religious convictions, (b) to recall politically motivated accusations against all opposition figures and independent journalists, (c) to explain fully the disappearance of Belarusian opposition figures and journalists, including Viktor Gonchar, Anatoli Krasovskiy, Dmitry Zabadsky, etc., (d) to stop all forms of intimidation against independent mass media outlets, independent professional unions, NGOs and religious organizations, as well as of the political opposition in Belarus and (e) to conduct free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. (6)
In case of Lukashenkos noncompliance, the U.S. promised to allocate $ 40 million to the support of the Belarusian opposition, and threatened to make public information about Lukashenkos personal income and the unlawful Belarusian arms. (7)
Lukashenkos reaction to the Act was rather harsh. He answered with attacks: "They want democracy in Belarus! They are worried about our elections and our referendum! They forgot that they have more than enough problems of their own
The U.S. has the most outdated election system. They do not have direct presidential elections,
as a result, the president who is in power now received less votes than the one who came in second. Is that normal?" (8) Lukashenko also offered to disclose to Belarusians his income, which is "a hundred thousand times smaller than their [American] presidents, or of any president, for that matter." (9)
Chances are almost non-existent that the current Act will have any influence on Lukashenko, since he is in complete control of official opinion and of the mass media, he is capable of escaping any criticism leveled at him from inside the country. Thus, the current Act serves more as a symbolic gesture showing that the U.S. is not completely indifferent to the situation in Belarus. As for promises to allocate $40 million to the Belarusian opposition, they came too late. With only several days remaining before the elections and with Lukashenkos tight control of all opposition activities, only a miracle can help the Belarusian opposition.
Meanwhile, only a fraction of those opposition candidates who applied to participate in the elections, was allowed to do so. For example, out of 17 candidates of the opposition block "Young Belarus," only four were permitted to participate in the elections. Among the reasons for denial were "premature beginning of the election campaign" and "blasphemy of the authorities." (10) In the beginning of September, in Grodno, Valeri Levonevsky and Alexandr Vasilev were sentences to two years in prison for "offending the President." Both of them were calling Belarusians out to join the action of protest against the President, who at the time was vacationing at an Austrian ski resort, at public expense. (11) Three more newspapers have been closed recently. "Regional Newspaper" was closed for three months as a result of two warnings, which were issued by the Information Ministry on the same day for violations of the media law: publishing an unregistered TV guide and switching to a weekly publication schedule without prior notification. (12) Two more newspapers, Navinki and Novaya gazeta of Smorgoni, were closed for similar "violations."
It is clear that the elections in Belarus will be neither fair nor free. The opposition has no opportunity to succeed. Feeble Western voices promising to help the Belarusian opposition on the eve of the elections came too late. Very few opposition representatives are included in the electoral committees. As for independent observers, they can only observe the voting process and not the vote counting process! (13) Even if a miniscule number of the opposition candidates manages to get into the lower chamber of the parliament, this will not constitute any threat to the current regime, since, according to the Belarusian constitution, all real power belongs to the President. One cannot help but wonder, why does the unconquerable President bother with any elections at all?
Proposed referendum in Transdniestr
There have been numerous demands from the population of Transdniestr about holding a referendum in the unrecognized Dniestr republic on the issue of building a federation with Moldova, since, under the Dniestr constitution, the Dniestr republic is a "sovereign and independent state." A working group, which consists of three deputies from the regional parliament and three executive power representatives is to begin the process of preparing the referendum in the near future. (14)
(1) Ukrainskaya pravda, 2 Oct 04 via (www.pravda.com.ua).
(3) Ukrainskaya pravda website, 2 Oct 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) Glavred, 30 Sep 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(5) Ukrainskaya pravda website, 6 Oct 04 via (www.pravda.com.ua).
(6) Gazeta SNG, 06 Oct 04 via (www.charter97.org).
(8) Charter-97 website, 06 Oct 04 via (www.charter97.org).
(10) Charter-97 website, 04 Oct 04 via (www.charter97.org/rus/news/2004/10/04/teatr).
(12) IPR Strategic Business Information Database, 4 Oct 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) Maxim Strata, Ukrainskaya pravda, 06 Oct 04 via (www.pravda.com.ua).
(14) RIA Novosti, 06 Oct 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
By Elena Selyuk (email@example.com)