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Johnson's Russia List
16 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Russia Lowers Capsule To Sunken Sub.
2. AFP: Man From Caucasus Arrested In Connection With Moscow
3. Interfax: RUSSIAN OFFICIAL DISAGREES WITH N. KOREAN CLAIM THAT
MISSILE PROGRAM PROPOSAL WAS JOKE.
4. Toronto Globe&Mail: John Helmer, THE ARCTIC -- THE RUSSIAN
NAVY'S STRATEGIC LAKE.
5. The Irish Times: Seamus Martin, Safety a casualty of Russian
6. The Independent (UK): Rupert Cornwell, Welcome to
dumping ground for a decrepit nuclear fleet.
7. Washington Times: David Sands, Submarine disaster fodder for
8. Reuters: More work needed on Russia's loose nukes-US experts.
9. Novaya Gazeta: WHO IS BEHIND PUTIN?
10. Washington Post: Daniel Williams, Putin Makes Mark In First
11. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN PAPER SAYS PUTIN "COMPLETELY UNSUITED
TO ROLE OF LEADER"
12. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN SUB ACCIDENT LINKED TO POOR
MAINTENANCE; MEDITERRANEAN PLANS IN DOUBT.
13. St. Petersburg Times: Galina Stolyarova, Duma's Nuclear Waste
Proposal Draws Protest.]
Russia Lowers Capsule To Sunken Sub
August 16, 2000
By JIM HEINTZ
MOSCOW (AP) - Russian rescuers lowered a bell-shaped capsule early Wednesday
to a sunken nuclear submarine lying on the Arctic Sea floor, but there was no
immediate word that the escape apparatus had actually made contact with the
vessel holding 116 crewmen.
The rescuers repeatedly tried to lower the capsule Tuesday but their attempts
had been frustrated by storms on the Barents Sea. There has been no
communication with the Kursk since an apparent explosion sent the sub to the
bottom during the weekend.
Navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov, said the situation was ``extremely
grave,'' with the crew expected to run out of oxygen on Friday. Navy
officials said water appeared to be leaking into the submarine.
Kuroyedov described what appeared to be extensive damage. He said the
submarine's periscope was up but its navigation room was damaged, the railing
was dented and the protective cover of two missile tubes on the vessel's
right side was missing.
Two U.S. government officials said Tuesday in Washington that a Navy
submarine in the area detected the sound of an explosion and it was the
``working assumption'' that the noise was related to the sinking of the
Kursk. The officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition they not
be named, said the sound was not a missile being fired.
Kuroyedov said earlier Tuesday that there appeared to have been an explosion
in the torpedo compartment in the nose of the submarine, sending it crashing
to the sea bottom. He said earlier that the Kursk had likely collided with
something and it wasn't clear why he had changed his assessment.
Wednesday's announcement was the first time that the Navy actually said the
escape capsule was anywhere near the submarine.
The Russian Navy said visibility near the Kursk submarine was only 6 to 15
feet and there were strong currents, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The rescue operation faced severe difficulties. The bell-shaped capsule must
latch on to a cargo hatch on the submarine, a precision maneuver made even
more challenging because the Kursk was reportedly leaning at a sharp angle.
Even if the capsule successfully docks with the sub and sailors can enter it,
the capsule can hold only 20 people at a time and officials say bringing it
to the surface could take up to seven hours. The slow rise is necessary to
prevent decompression sickness - the potentially crippling or fatal condition
known as ``the bends.''
It would be a laborious and nerve-fraying process under the best of
circumstances, and weather forecasts indicated conditions in the disaster
area would be rough for several days.
Russia refused offers from the United States and Britain to send trained
rescue personnel and equipment even though the Russian navy lacks
sophisticated rescue gear. Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said coordinating
the rescue with other countries would take too much time and ``we cannot
afford to waste it.''
However, a group of Russian military officers went to NATO headquarters in
Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday night to see what kind of assistance the
alliance could offer, a NATO source said on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. officials said Tuesday that the sound of the explosion was detected
Saturday. The Russian government has said the accident that brought down the
Kursk happened Sunday during military exercises. The discrepancy could not be
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley declined to say what, if anything,
U.S. vessels may have heard from their position ``a couple of hundred'' miles
away from the place the sub went down.
An explosion inside the submarine's torpedo chamber, which contains warheads,
would probably have caused extensive casualties, analysts said. Navy
officials said casualties could not be ``ruled out,'' Interfax reported.
While immediate concerns focused on the crew, there was also worry over
whether the accident would result in a leak of radioactive material. The
prospects of such a leak were difficult to assess because it is not known
what befell the Kursk, one of the Russian navy's most modern ships.
Russian officials said the Kursk's two nuclear reactors had been switched off
and it was not carrying nuclear weapons.
Several compartments inside the submarine were flooded, officials said.
Submarines are divided into compartments that can be sealed in case of
``Something extraordinary beyond the imagination of an engineer'' had
happened, the chief designer of the submarine, Igor Baranov told the
ITAR-Tass news agency.
Russian and Western submarines sometimes play cat-and-mouse games in the area
and have scraped each other in the past. The U.S. Navy said Monday it had a
monitoring ship in the area, but Quigley said there was no evidence that any
U.S. vessel was involved in the accident.
Russian nuclear submarines have been involved in a string of accidents in
recent decades. The navy, like the rest of the Russian military, is
desperately short of money and performs almost no maintenance on its ships.
Man From Caucasus Arrested In Connection With Moscow Bombing
MOSCOW, Aug 15, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russian police have arrested a
man from the troubled Caucasus region who they believe to be behind last
week's Moscow bombing which killed 12 people and injured hundreds, the
prosecutor's office said Tuesday.
The Caucasian was arrested during a search by police, who found traces of
explosives on his hands, the prosecutor's office said.
Experts were examining the traces, officials said.
Police launched a massive search for the perpetrators of last Tuesday's bomb
blast in a central Moscow underpass, with many officials blaming extremists
from the breakaway southern republic of Chechnya.
The blast killed 12 people and wounded more than 120.
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL DISAGREES WITH N. KOREAN CLAIM THAT MISSILE PROGRAM
PROPOSAL WAS JOKE
MOSCOW. Aug 15 (Interfax) - A member of the Russian delegation that
accompanied President Vladimir Putin during a recent visit to Pyongyang
has expressed his surprise to Interfax over South Korean and Western
media reports that the North Korean leader has dismissed the
understanding on the national missile program as a joke.
"When Russian President Putin's partner at the talks in Pyongyang
told his so-called joke, he had a most serious expression on his face.
Moreover, it could be called impenetrable," the official said.
"And in any case the documents signed in Pyongyang are no joke," he
"All jokes aside, if we speak of the serious issue which the North
Korean missile program is, it may be better for all interested parties
to return to the subject again and consider it thoroughly. Especially as
the Russian side has made much progress. So this is no subject for
joking," he said.
At a Sunday meeting with South Korean media figures, North Korean
leader Kim Chong-il said that his statements of Pyongyang possibly
cutting its missile program in exchange for the United States agreeing
to take North Korean satellites to space should be taken as a joke. He
claimed that he spoke of this and other questions related to missile
technologies only in passing during his meeting with Putin. He also said
that North Korea does not intend to give up the development of missile
technologies - the export of which brings big foreign currency returns -
if the U.S. agrees to compensate for the losses by paying $1 billion a
year. He said North Korea exported missiles to Iran and Syria.
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000
From: "John Helmer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: THE ARCTIC -- THE RUSSIAN NAVY'S STRATEGIC LAKE
In the Toronto Globe&Mail, August 16.
THE ARCTIC -- THE RUSSIAN NAVY'S STRATEGIC LAKE
>From John Helmer in Moscow
For forty years, the Kremlin, the Moscow-based General Staff, and the Navy
command have silently argued among themselves over how important the Arctic
Ocean is to Russia's warfighting strategy.
Looking at the sea from above the North Pole, many Russian naval officers
viewed the inhospitable body of water and ice as a strategic lake that
could hide and protect enough missile-armed submarines to threaten Canada
and the United States with so much destruction as to deter war. Until the
mid-1970s, the Arctic submarine force was Moscow's insurance, in case its
nuclear forces deployed elsewhere were knocked out in the early stages of
exchange with the US and NATO. The narrowness of the Arctic entrances and
exits seemed to guarantee its defence against intruders.
Today, no one in Moscow will say for sure what exactly was the force that
crushed the "Kursk's" bow, and sent her to the seabed, 140 kilometres from
the Murmansk coast. All reports, however, suggest it was an intruder of sorts
-- either an old mine, or depth-charge, or less likely, another, foreign
As the hours of oxygen left to the "Kursk" crew are consumed, and the risks
a rescue attempt in stormy seas are calculated by President Vladimir Putin,
many Russians are asking whether the lake is so strategically valuable, it
is worth risking so many Russian lives to defend.
But what few Russians, or westerners realize, is that this lake is about to
become more economically valuable than ever before, and thus even more
crucial for Russian submarines to guard. The reason is oil.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago, Russia's oil companies
found that the country's most valuable asset could no longer be shipped to
market through domestic ports on the Baltic Sea. Instead, Russian oil was
forced through chokepoints in Latvia and Lithuania that could be easily closed
by Russia's rivals and enemies.
To avoid that, the Russian government and its oil and gas giants have been
carefully planning for the day when the new oilfields of northwest Russia
could have outlets to the sea through Russian ports. That has
meant the revival of the Arctic Ocean, and projects worth billions of dollars
to lift the oil, pipe it, store it, and ship it from the Arctic shore,
through the Pechora and Barents Seas.
Due east of the "Kursk's" position, a new oil terminal is being built today
at Vanandei by LUKoil, Russia's leading oil producer. The first
loading of crude will be attempted there this week. Oil from inland wells
be piped to holding-tanks at Vanandei, and then piped offshore to a floating
facility, where tankers will dock. The current capacity of the Vanandei
terminal is 5 million tons per annum (100,000 barrels per day). LUKoil plans
to expand this threefold within five years.
The company is also commissioning a fleet of icebreaker-tankers to ferry this
cargo to Murmansk, where the oil will be transferred to larger vessels for
shipment to Western Europe.
Officials of Gazprom, Russia's (and the world's) largest gas company, have
equally ambitious plans to develop the Prirazlomnoye oilfield, which lies
under the Pechora Sea.
Sovkomflot, Russia's leading shipping company, says it anticipates the future,
not more than a decade away, when the volume of Arctic oil will be so large,
it will require fleets of supertankers to move the product to its European
The new strategic reality in the Arctic Ocean is that there is at least as
much untapped oil there than all of the resources of the Caspian Sea and
Central Asia combined. And all of that oil belongs to Russia. Guarding the
sealanes for that oil to reach market, and keeping intruders out, is
natural for the Kremlin and the Russian Navy. As natural as the Pentagon's
attitude for more than twenty-five years towards protecting the movement of
oil through the Persian Gulf.
That is the new reason why the "Kursk" was exercising above the 69th
It is the reason why there is much more to this drama than the perilousness
the rescue, the lives of the "Kursk" crew, or the prestige and pretentions of
The Irish Times
August 15, 2000
Safety a casualty of Russian economic decline
By Seamus Martin
RUSSIA: Conditions on board Russian naval vessels and particularly on
submarines are extremely uncomfortable at the best of times. The ships,
crewed mainly by young conscripts under a professional officer corps, have
suffered due to the country's economic difficulties. Two senior officers who
informed western sources of the dangers caused by the dilapidation of nuclear
powered submarines have been charged with high treason.
In 1992 I was a member of the first group of foreign journalists to visit the
closed city of Sevastopol, home base of the Black Sea fleet. Sailors on the
submarines I visited were housed in cramped conditions. Movement between one
section of the vessel to another was achieved by crawling through tunnel-like
spaces with barely enough room to accommodate one person. Despite being in
the safety of port one got a strong feeling of the horrific atmosphere that
could prevail in the event of an accident at sea.
Some of the conscripts I spoke to came from the steppes of central and
eastern Russia. They spoke of having seen the sea for the first time in their
lives upon arrival at the base for training. To add to the lack of comfort
the submarines and even the hospital ship where I was billeted due to a water
shortage at the local hotel, hosted other forms of life. The tarakan, the
indestructible Russian cockroach, was present in numbers and travelled the
seas with what was once a proud and mighty navy.
Although the last fatal accident involving a Soviet submarine took place in
1989, when the nuclear-powered Komsomolets went down more than 200 miles off
the Norwegian coast with the loss of 42 lives, there has been considerable
concern about the state of Russia's submarine fleet since the dissolution of
the USSR in 1991.
With internal conflict continuing in the Northern Caucasus more emphasis has
been placed on equipment used by the army and the air force than on the
maintenance of naval resources.
The Kursk, constructed in 1994, is the only nuclear submarine built in Russia
since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The current state of Russia's nuclear fleet is a matter of controversy. The
FSB, one of the KGB's successor agencies, has challenged a not guilty verdict
on Capt Alexander Nikitin who made the Norwegian agency Bellona aware of
environmental risks from nuclear reactors in submarines of the Northern Fleet.
On the other side of the vast country Capt Grigory Pasko was brought to trial
on charges of high treason relating to articles written for Japanese
publications on the state of vessels in the Pacific Fleet at Vladivostok.
The Independent (UK)
16 August 2000
Welcome to Murmansk, dumping ground for a decrepit nuclear fleet
By Rupert Cornwell
The massive grey concrete slab boasts "Hero City" as you drive into the bleak
expanses of Murmansk. Today, "Radiation Scare City" might be a better name
for the great ice-free port above the Arctic Circle, destination for the
Allied convoy lifeline in the Second World War.
Murmansk is still an important port. But its main post-Soviet distinction is
as the gateway to the Kola peninsula in far north-west Russia, and to the
bases of the country's Northern Fleet, generator of perhaps the greatest â€“
certainly the least protected â€“ concentration of nuclear waste on earth.
Solid radioactive waste is stored at 11 separate sites around the peninsula,
sometimes in the open without protection. Liquid waste is stored at the five
main naval bases on the Kola, usually in equally poor conditions.
The stricken submarine Kursk was based at Zapadnaya Litsa, or "Western
Estuary", 30 miles east of Russia's border with Norway. On the western shore
lies Andreyeva Bay, where 21000 spent fuel rods â€“ equal to 90 reactor cores
â€“ are stored in rusting containers and tanks whose contents are exposed to
On the eastern side is Nerpicha, home to six 30,000-ton Typhoons crammed with
nuclear warheads, the largest submarines built.
For curious Westerners, Murmansk is as far as you get. Severomorsk, the
headquarters of the Northern Fleet which lies 10 miles to the north, is
closed to foreigners, and Zapadnaya Litsa is off limits even to Russians,
apart from workers at the bases and the submariners.
But, as always, secrecy breeds rumour. Wedged claustrophobically along the
eastern side of its fjord, Murmansk is a city where you feel you are living
on the nuclear edge. Still moored close to its very centre is the infamous
cargo ship Lepse, laden with hundreds of damaged fuel elements from
nuclear-powered ice-breakers based in the port. Clean-up work on the Lepse
But memories are still fresh of a few hours one May day in 1998. Rumours
flashed around Severomorsk that a Delta-class submarine carrying nuclear
missiles had a major accident in the Barents Sea. When the stories reached
Murmansk and its population of 500,000, children were sent home from school
and police were issued with iodine tablets.
Calm returned only when the regional governor and senior Northern Fleet
officers held a press conference to insist the episode had been merely a
planned exercise to test reaction to a possible nuclear accident aboard a
Thomas Nilsen, a specialist at Norway's Bellona Foundation, the world
authority on the nuclear pollution threat of the Northern Fleet, was
sceptical then about that explanation. And the Kursk disaster is no surprise
to him now.
"Since the financial collapse of autumn 1998, the situation has been
desperate for the Northern Fleet," he said. "There hasn't been enough money
for wages and maintenance, and the best officers have left for jobs where at
least their salaries are paid."
But one of the first things Vladimir Putin did after becoming President was
spend a night on a nuclear missile submarine at Murmansk. "That was a sign of
how important he believes the fleet to be," Mr Nilsen said. "Since then the
fleet has been under more pressure."
After Admiral Hyman Rickover, a founder of the United States's nuclear navy,
made a goodwill visit to the giant nuclear icebreaker Lenin in Murmansk, he
tested himself, and found that in half an hour he had absorbed as much
radioactivity as in half a lifetime on US nuclear-powered craft.
August 15, 2000
Submarine disaster fodder for arms debate
By David Sands
Russia's latest nuclear submarine disaster provides ammunition to both
factions in a raging debate in Moscow over the future of the country's
once-proud military machine.
Even as rescue crews race to save more than 100 Russian submariners
trapped at the bottom of the Barents Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin is
trying to broker a deal in the bureaucratic feud between those favoring
Russia's heavy reliance on nuclear arms and those who say the country must
devote more scarce rubles to the country's conventional forces.
Mr. Putin chaired a four-hour Security Council meeting Friday, hearing
arguments from Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, the leading supporter of a
strong and independent nuclear force, and Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin,
who wants to boost conventional defense spending and fold the nuclear forces
into a single military command structure.
"My suspicion is that the submarine disaster feeds into Kvashnin's
arguments," said David Johnson, a Russian military expert at the
Washington-based Center for Defense Intelligence.
"This would be a very expensive loss if the submarine can't be
salvaged," Mr. Johnson said. "It certainly complicates the argument that the
nuclear force is such a wonderful centerpiece of Russian security."
Backers of an emphasis on conventional military power point to the
immense difficulties the Russian army and security forces have had in
subduing a few thousand guerrillas in the brutal war in Chechnya.
Russian troops fighting in the breakaway republic are said to lack
night-fighting equipment, basic air support, even bulletproof vests, because
of past defense cuts.
About 70 percent of Russia's defense procurement budget goes to support
the long-range nuclear force.
The Russian navy has not been spared the severe cuts that followed the
collapse of the Soviet Union. Many warships do not receive the regular
servicing needed to keep them seaworthy, according to naval officers and
But Bill Hoehn, director of the Washington office of the
Russian-American Security Advisory Council, said the incident actually could
strengthen the nuclear faction, as more details of the sub's plight emerge.
"If it comes to light that the sub had trouble because of poor
maintenance or a lack of resources, you can make the argument that the
nuclear forces need more budget support, not less," Mr. Hoehn said.
Mr. Sergeyev's supporters, who remain powerfully positioned throughout
the Russian government, also argue that the country's land- and sea-based
nuclear forces â€” even in their deteriorating state â€” give Moscow a seat
the table and strong diplomatic leverage when the world's leading powers
Russia has complicated U.S. national missile defense efforts and scored
points in Europe and Asia by balking at changes to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty, they note.
Speculation also surfaced yesterday that the crippled Russian submarine,
an Oscar-2 class nuclear-powered "aircraft-carrier buster," sank after
colliding with a foreign submarine. NATO forces were in the region observing
a major Russian naval exercise.
That NATO countries put so much time and effort into observing the
exercise shows the impact even a diminished nuclear force can have.
So far, however, Mr. Putin appears to be siding with Mr. Kvashnin and
those backing a more robust conventional force.
Late last month, some 10 senior military officers linked to Mr. Sergeyev
were fired or abruptly retired. The purge followed a public airing of the
Sergeyev-Kvashnin debate, and was widely interpreted as an effort by Mr.
Putin to cut the defense secretary down to size.
No official announcements were made after Friday's all-hands meeting on
But Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov talked afterward of a
"balancing" of defense resources, strongly implying that the heavy tilt
toward nuclear forces was being reviewed.
Analysts said yesterday that Mr. Putin must tread cautiously. He rode to
power in large part on the early success of the Chechnya war and has
consistently cultivated the military as he consolidated his position.
The stranded Kursk submarine is considered the flagship of the Russian
Northern Fleet. Mr. Putin, dressed in a naval uniform, inspected the Northern
Fleet in the first days after his election in March and even spent a night
aboard a submarine.
"I think the debate is still very active, even if it's gone behind
doors," said Oleg Bukharin, a Russian military expert at Princeton.
More work needed on Russia's loose nukes-US experts
WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Independent arms control experts on Tuesday
said the U.S. government should urgently boost a multi-million dollar
programme meant to ensure Moscow's nuclear bomb material does not fall into
A report presented to both the U.S. and Russian governments said it was vital
to reinvigorate the programme to head off ``one of the real national security
concerns facing the United States,'' which had lost its priority with U.S.
The report, by the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, said
interest in the programme, begun in 1992 and rapidly expanded amid growing
public concern over so-called ``loose nukes'' in the mid 1990s, was flagging.
``Much of the sense of urgency appears to have been lost,'' it said, adding
the issue was no longer a central one for U.S. and Russian political leaders
and that a wrong impression had been created that most of the work had been
The United States has helped secure nuclear materials in former Soviet states
since the end of the Cold War a decade ago, when the collapse of the economy
and central control raised the risk that the materials would be acquired by
terrorist groups or states hostile to Washington.
The three authors of the report said that strained U.S. relations with
Russia, the removal of U.S. nuclear laboratories from a managing role in the
programme and a lowering of the sense of the risk posed were hobbling the
Russia was restricting access to key sites, where U.S. specialists sought to
introduce security gates and devices. Accounting systems and new impetus were
needed from the top political levels to revive the initiative, they said.
The so-called International Material Protection, Control and Accounting
programme, overseen by the Department of Energy, is budgeted this year at
about $170 million. It is one part of a total programme of about $900 million
of U.S. assistance to former Soviet States in 2000 to dismantle and secure
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
WHO IS BEHIND PUTIN?
Alexander TARASOV, leading expert at the Feniks centre of new
sociology and practical policy study
Behind Vladimir Putin is not only Yeltsin's Family but
also Russia's new ruling class - the bureaucratic bourgeoisie.
It is a typical ruling class of a colonial or a semi-colonial
First there appeared colonial officials - the Soviet
nomenklatura, in our case - who then privatized all which they
could get hold, thereby turning into a specific kind of
bourgeoisie. Unlike the classical, Western, bourgeoisie,
members of this class created their capital themselves.
This class is split into several warring clans. The
strongest positions belong to those of them who get profits by
the export of Russian natural resources to the West and whose
incomes practically do not depend on the economic situation in
Russia - be it recession or recovery.
August 15, 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin Makes Mark In First 100 Days
By Daniel Williams
MOSCOW, Aug. 14 President Vladimir Putin completed his first 100 days in
office today, and the assessment of Russian political observers was virtually
unanimous: The hard-charging former KGB spy has radically changed the balance
of power in Russia's unwieldy political system.
Methodically and with unexpected ease, Putin has cowed influential tycoons
into accepting a reduced role in setting government policy, and he also has
weakened the national clout of Russia's 89 elected governors. At the same
time, Putin has created new organs evidently aimed at bolstering the
Kremlin's domination of political life.
With his law-and-order rhetoric and calls for a powerful Russian state, Putin
apparently stands for what the public wants--creating order out of chaos. For
his efforts, he has been awarded spectacularly high public approval ratings.
Polls say no less than 70 percent of Russians endorse his government.
Unease over Putin's actions comes mainly from liberals who fear that his
drive to establish "vertical power," as he calls it, seriously undermines
Russia's nascent democracy. In the view of critics, Putin is throwing out the
good with the bad. Some even paint a "Back to the Future" scenario, in which
Putin revives features of Soviet-era rule in disguise.
For example, Putin's placement of security officials and secret agents in key
Kremlin positions upsets some observers. Four of seven "super-governors,"
appointed to watch over elected officials across Russia, are members of the
Federal Security Service, the KGB's domestic successor organization, or the
police. The Kremlin's Security Council, which under Putin is handling
sensitive issues such as military preparedness, is headed by a KGB
acquaintance from Putin's days as a spy. Putin also plans to create an
unelected "state council," whose exact functions are unclear, although some
observers are calling it a new Politburo, which was the highest council in
the Soviet Communist Party.
Recent efforts to recruit students to spy on young activists and the possible
reopening of a case against environmentalist Alexander Nikitin, who
researched Russia's history of nuclear accidents at sea, have raised fears
that old police-state practices are returning.
"Power will be concentrated in the president's retinue, which will mean
moving toward authoritarianism," said Igor Bunin, a newspaper columnist and
analyst at the Center for Political Technologies. "In this case, another
logic will work--the logic of a traditional Russian cycle, which implies that
after reforms, Russia must be frozen a bit."
"Does this mean that President Putin believes the country he governs is
absolutely hopeless and that its citizens are talentless and slavishly
resigned?" asked the newspaper Obshchaya Gazeta. "This is the only
explanation for the deliberate construction of such a power hierarchy
[created] in order to maintain some stability."
These concerns seem to be strictly a minority view. Putin still benefits from
his hard-line stance on the separatist southern region of Chechnya.
Parliament Speaker Gennady Seleznev put the battle there against "terrorists"
at the top of a list of Putin's 100-day achievements.
Putin's steps to rein in the "oligarchs," the group of businessmen who
accumulated vast riches through cut-rate purchases of government property
during Russia's bumpy transition to democracy, also seemed to satisfy a
public craving. In a poll this month by the All-Russian Public Opinion
Research Center, about 60 percent of people surveyed believed that big
business habitually violates the law. Three out of four Russians said the
oligarchs should be prosecuted.
Putin's government has moved against them through a series of investigations
and raids by tax officials. None has resulted in criminal charges, but the
offensive appears to have made the oligarchs unwilling to challenge Putin.
Last month, 21 oligarchs met with Putin, and he insisted they stay out of
politics and begin to pay proper taxes. They appeared to consent to his
wishes, press reports said.
Exceptions to the quiet retreat were Vladimir Gusinsky, who owns Russia's
only independent television channel, and Boris Berezovsky, a one-man
conglomerate who exercised considerable influence on President Boris
Gusinsky appeared to escape embezzlement charges partly because of the
international uproar over his brief arrest in June. His NTV newscasts were
the only ones to cover the Chechen war in critical terms, and they came to be
regarded as Russia's main bastion of free media. The battle against Gusinsky
is probably not over. Gazprom, the government-controlled natural gas
monopoly, is threatening to wrest control of NTV from Gusinsky by calling in
loans--reportedly at Putin's urging.
Berezovsky, meanwhile, has tried to put on the mantle of an opposition
leader. He organized a group of intellectuals, actors and journalists who
signed a manifesto dedicating a new "movement" to promote freedom of thought
and an independent media. The document warned of the fragility of Russian
democracy, which is "too young and too dependent on the recent totalitarian
Berezovsky, who once characterized politics as the best investment, doesn't
shy away from acknowledging that his activities are in defense of his vast
business interests. "Yes, I fight for my interests," he said in a recent
interview. "I'm lucky that my interests coincide with those of millions of
Regional governors played a role in national politics through seats on the
Federation Council, the upper house of the legislature. Putin stripped them
of their automatic seats in that forum and also reserved the right to fire
Besides reordering politics, Putin took a first major step toward reforming
Russia's economy, winning legislative endorsement of a new tax code that sets
a flat rate of 13 percent. The objective is to release business from complex
and heavy obligations that led to widespread evasion.
He has also moved to shift resources from Russia's decaying nuclear arsenal
to conventional forces.
RUSSIAN PAPER SAYS PUTIN "COMPLETELY UNSUITED TO ROLE OF LEADER"
Russia is standing at a crossroads and its leader, President Vladimir Putin,
is a man who has the single-mindedness which is essential for success.
However, he has no understanding of the path he wants to take and is
completely unsuited to the role of leader of a great state in an era of
change. The following is the text of an article published by the Russian
newspaper 'Izvestiya' on 15th August:
WHICH WAY YOU GO, COLONEL?
By Pyotr AKOPO
One meeting in the Kremlin last week - [President] Vladimir Putin assembled
the chief editors of several of the capital's newspapers - went virtually
unnoticed. There would have been nothing special in the actual fact of the
meeting but for the nature of the those who were invited. In addition to the
chief editors of perfectly liberal newspapers like `Argumenty i Fakty' and
`Vremya Novostey', Aleksandr Prokhanov and Valentin Chikin, who head the main
newspapers of the radical nationalist-communist opposition, `Zavtra' and
`Sovetskaya Rossiya', came to see the president. Moreover, while Sovraska
[derogatory term for `Sovetskaya Rossiya', usual abbreviation of which is
Sovros] is simply the mouthpiece of the Communists, `Zavtra' and its editor,
Prokhanov, are the main ideologues of the nationalists. And although Putin
did not tell Prokhanov anything sensational, the liberal press would have
abused the previous president more vehemently for the fact of holding such a
meeting than for all the "family" escapades taken together. But now silence
reigns. So what has changed? Merely the fact that the pro-Putin campaign
continues: Both the democrats and the nationalists consider him to be "their
own", or, more precisely, want to make him such. The president himself,
however, gives no guarantees whatsoever to anyone. Moreover, by his own words
and deeds he increasingly confuses the situation, allowing both camps to hope
that there will be reciprocity.
For all the liberal intelligentsia's suspicions (Putin is a KGB officer who
wants to become a dictator), the democrats still regard the president as
"their own". First, he was brought into office by perfectly "democratic
forces" - the old president's staff, television, and [tycoon] Berezovskiy in
the final analysis. Second, he is surrounded by perfectly democratic people -
economists, ministers and PR people. Third, Putin himself worked for a "true
democrat", [former St Petersburg mayor Anatoliy] Sobchak, and then for
Yeltsin, and besides, he speaks German. Fourth, the president stresses all
the time his commitment to fundamental democratic values - the free market,
freedom of expression and democratic elections. Of course many of Putin's
actions - the Babitskiy episode [Radio Liberty reporter who disappeared in
Chechnya], the raid on NTV, the war in Chechnya, the reshaping of the
branches of power - displease the democrats, but it is possible to close your
eyes to them. The main thing, after all, is to maintain the policy of
The nationalists also have many objections to the regime, but they are
inclined to see Putin as "evolving in the right direction". First, he was
brought into office by the people's love for a tough stance on Chechnya.
Second, he has surrounded himself with the right people - people who come
from the special services, the traditional exponents of state-minded, that is
to say, patriotic views. Third, Putin himself has spent a large part of his
life in the security services and has never disowned them. Fourth, he is
putting his all into combating the oligarchs and regional barons and is
strengthening central authority. Fifth, Putin is increasingly looking towards
the East and is not afraid to make friends with the Americans' enemies -
North Korea, Libya and Iran. Of course many of Putin's statements - on
democracy, Russia as part of Europe, and the refusal to revise the results of
privatization - displease the patriots, but these, after all, are mere words.
So what kind of man is Putin, then - a Westernizer or a Slavophile, an
advocate of forcing Russia into "world civilization" (as the pax americana is
increasingly often called) or an adherent of the "special Russian path"? Even
Putin himself has no answer to this question. Having through the dictates of
chance obtained supreme power in a Russia undergoing a most profound crisis,
Col Putin really does not know what he should do or what path he should take.
This is almost undetectable only because, unlike that other colonel, Nikolay
Romanov, who ruled Russia at the start of the [last] century, Putin is
possessed of resolution and is not given to intellectual reflection on his
every action. While the tsar knew perfectly well where he wanted to take
Russia, but lacked firmness when making decisions, Putin has no understanding
of the path to take but does have the single-mindedness essential for
success. Russia really does stand at the crossroads and the direction of its
development, like 100 years ago, depends to a large extent on a colonel who
is completely unsuited to the role of leader of a great state in an era of
RUSSIAN SUB ACCIDENT LINKED TO POOR MAINTENANCE; MEDITERRANEAN PLANS IN DOUBT
Source: `Nezavisimaya Gazeta', Moscow, in Russian 15 Aug 00
The Russian newspaper 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' has said that Russia's Kursk
nuclear submarine, stranded at the bottom of the Barents Sea, has probably
fallen victim to poor maintenance and that the accident has thrown into doubt
plans by the Russian navy to dispatch a group of ships to the Mediterranean
later this year. However, lessons have been learnt from the loss of the
Komsomolets submarine in 1989, which was probably what averted graver
consequences and dictated the actions of the Kursk captain. Follows the text
of Valeriy Aleksin's article on 15th August. Subheadings are the original's
>From `Nezavisimaya Gazeta''s files:
The nuclear submarine Kursk, series 949A (Oscar-2 in the NATO
classification), was built at the Severodvinsk machine building enterprise in
1994, entered service in the Northern Fleet in 1995, and is one of the newest
ships in the Russian navy. It has an underwater displacement of 23,860
tonnes, a maximum underwater speed of 32 knots (60 km/hour), a dive depth of
500 meters, and a crew of 107, including 52 officers; it is self-sufficient
for 120 days. It is armed with 24 Granit supersonic antiship cruise missiles
designed to destroy enemy aircraft carriers and large surface warships at a
distance of up to 500 km. In addition, it is armed with 24 antisubmarine
missiles and all-purpose torpedoes with a firing range of 50-80 km.
In terms of its size and displacement, the 949A submarine is second in the
world, inferior only to Typhoon-class strategic submarine cruisers.
This type of ship is among the most important and valuable for the Russian
navy, since it is capable on its own of destroying up to half the combat
security of an enemy carrier task force (four to six ships) and damaging an
attack aircraft carrier, preventing it from carrying out its mission.
Russia's Northern and Pacific Fleets have 11 of these nuclear submarines. At
present there are no nuclear weapons on board these submarines.
Prior to this incident, there had been no major accidents on board submarines
of this class.
Seamen of the Northern Fleet are battling to save the nuclear submarine
Kursk, which suffered an accident in the Barents Sea at the end of last week.
After the sinking of the submarine Komsomolets in the Norwegian Sea in April
1989 with the loss of 42 men, the Kursk disaster is the biggest to hit the
Russian navy. The submarine crew and the Northern Fleet's rescue forces are
now fighting not only to save the men and the ship but also for the future of
The lessons of the Komsomolets learnt
The nuclear submarine Kursk, which was at sea in a combat training area,
failed to make contact with the fleet's command centre at the set time. As a
result of the measures adopted by the fleet's command it was possible to
establish fairly quickly and accurately the whereabouts of the stricken
submarine and to make contact with it. According to preliminary information,
on Sunday [13th August] during underwater navigation the Kursk suffered a
series of malfunctions as a result of which it lost speed and was forced to
drop to the sea bed. The depth in the region of the Barents Sea where the
stricken submarine is located is 100 meters and the distance from the shore
is not more than 10-15 miles (18-27 km).
According to a report from on board the submarine, its nuclear power unit has
been taken out of action and shut down. The radiation situation inside the
boat and on the surface of the sea is normal. It was necessary to shut down
the nuclear power unit to prevent it being put out of action by obstruction
of the reactor cooling systems' circulating lines by soil from the sea bed.
To all appearances, the most probable cause of the submarine accident was
water penetration of the rigid hull through leaks in the hull-mounted
installations, which may have caused electrical circuits to short and a fire
to break out in one or several compartments, and possibly flooded one of
them. As a result, the submarine lost speed because of the operation of the
nuclear power unit's emergency protection. High-pressure air for the
emergency drainage of the main ballast tanks and flotation to the surface was
not used in order to prevent a possible repetition of the Komsomolets
tragedy. Back then, the passage of high-pressure air through a burnt-out pipe
into the burning stern compartment aggravated the fire, causing the
temperature to rise to 1,000 degrees. There is no way of extinguishing a fire
like that on a submarine. It subsequently led to the burning-through of the
rigid hull installations, the penetration of external water into the
submarine, and the loss of its longitudinal stability and buoyancy.
Evidently this picture was before the eyes of the commanding officer of the
Kursk, and he was forced to do what he did: to prevent a reactor disaster and
put the submarine down on the sea bed. It cannot be ruled out that the cause
of the accident was a fire in one of the power compartments.
In any case, this incident was most likely the result of a malfunction in
vitally important mechanisms on the submarine Kursk. Because of totally
inadequate operational funding, the armaments and military hardware of the
Russian armed forces (including the navy) do not receive the full regular
preventive servicing and maintenance stipulated in the technical
A similar accident happened in the Soviet navy in Kamchatka in June 1983,
when the 670-series nuclear submarine K-429 sank because of an error by the
warrant officer-operator at the diving and surfacing station who, on diving,
failed to close a flap on the ship's ventilation system. As a result the
K-429, with a flooded No. 4 compartment and the 14 submariners who died in
it, fell to the bottom like a stone at a depth of 40 meters. Back then, the
operation to raise it to the surface took six weeks.
The ships and most up-to-date emergency rescue craft of the Northern Fleet
are in the region of the Kursk and are taking the necessary measures to
assist the stricken submarine. The rescue operation is headed by Adm
Vyacheslav Popov, commander of the Northern Fleet.
A group of experienced specialists in the sphere of emergency rescue
operations has flown in from Moscow; among them are Vice-Adm Mikhail Barskov,
deputy commander-in-chief of the navy for shipbuilding and operation of
ships, and Rear-Adm Gennadiy Verich, chief of the navy search and rescue
An inspection by divers has revealed damage to the outer hull in the bow
section of the submarine which could be the consequence of a defective exit
by a practice torpedo from a torpedo tube. According to another theory, it
could have been the explosion of a high-pressure air cylinder.
After the situation at the scene of the accident has been assessed, with
account taken of the condition of the submarine and its crew, the optimum
calculated measures will be adopted to raise the Kursk to the surface for it
subsequently to be towed to base. Adm Popov is one of the most experienced
submariners in the Russian navy. In addition, he is accompanied by Vice-Adm
Oleg Burtsev, commander of the submarine flotilla to which the Kursk belongs.
In the event of a threat to the lives of the submarine crew, they could all
be brought to the surface using the sea rescue chamber that is built into the
submarine's central compartment.
Mediterranean plans in doubt
The accident on board the nuclear submarine Kursk happened just as the
Northern Fleet was completing a planned two-day tactical exercise with the
participation of more than 30 of the largest surface ships and support
vessels. The exercise itself completed a series of measures for the
comprehensive combat practice of ships of a multipurpose carrier group and
other naval forces with the aim of rehearsing the practical combat stability
of the multipurpose carrier group ships and the conduct of combat operations.
The accident has thrown into doubt this autumn's plans for a multipurpose
carrier group of ships from the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets headed
by the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza
Kuznetsov to sail to the Mediterranean. The plans were approved by Russian
Federation President Vladimir Putin's decree of 4th April this year on the
"Fundamentals of the Russian Federation's naval policy for the period to
2010" and were to mark the start of a Russian presence, after 10 years of
absence, in this key region of the world's oceans.
St. Petersburg Times
August 15, 2000
Duma's Nuclear Waste Proposal Draws Protest
By Galina Stolyarova
Walking down Nevsky Prospect at midday on Monday, you were more than likely
to be stopped by people in white coats and gloves and asked: "How about
taking some nuclear waste home?" There was even a choice of the waste you
could get - Taiwanese or Swiss. And the lines formed. Of course, the waste
was bricks wrapped in paper bearing nuclear-hazard stickers. But the goal was
to raise the alarm that the Duma, when it reconvenes in the fall, will be
discussing whether Russia should lease its own land to other countries for
the storage of their nuclear waste, until the half-life of the element has
In the case of uranium - which would constitute the bulk of waste imports to
Russia- the half-life is 150,000 years, making for a long lease. After
collecting their waste, participants had the opportunity to sign a petition,
which - if it reaches 2 million signatures - will require the Duma to put the
import issue to a popular vote.
According to environmentalists' statistics, Russia currently boasts a nuclear
waste load of six billion Curie - the equivalent of 120 Chernobyls. Added to
that, there are 14 tons of irradiated fuel coming from Russian nuclear power
stations, which need to be recycled.
Should the Duma vote for the proposition, it would mean adding all of that to
the imports of 20,000 tons of foreign nuclear waste between 2001 and 2030,
and the construction of several new storage facilities, e.g. in Sosnovy Bor,
Penza, Tomsk and even one on the Kuril Islands. The "waste products" - which
were also handed out with a loaf of bread as symbolic compensation for taking
the waste - went like hot cakes.
"We thought people would try to make fun of it, but of course observing such
a demand for "nuclear waste" is distressing," said Alexander Karpov of the
Natural Science Society, one of the project's organizers.
"I support the idea of putting environmental issues and the import of nuclear
waste in particular to a referendum, because people should have a chance to
express their views and say that not just money but their own lives are worth
a lot," said passerby Sergei Osnovin, deputy director of the enterprise Sokol.
"I am against building new storage facilities near St. Petersburg where I
live and my children will live. Turning a great historical center into a
nuclear cemetery isn't smart."
Svetlana Mikhailova of the "Nevsky Angel" charity foundation added her
signature to the petition as well.
"If we don't protest we don't have any right to complain," she said.
A consortium of local environmental and human rights groups, including the
local branch of Greenpeace, the St. Petersburg Gender Center and Citizens'
Watch provided the steam for Monday's shenanigans as well as for the more
serious drive for the referendum to protest the import of foreign nuclear
waste to Russia.
Currently Russian environmental law forbids the import of nuclear waste - but
that is a new law. Until 1995, trains from Finland loaded with waste from the
Lovissa nuclear plant traveled through St. Petersburg on their way to the
overloaded waste-conversion facility Mayak, in Chelyabinsk. Currently trains
filled with waste are backed up as much as 20 kilometers.
Recently, though, the idea of renting space for foreign nuclear waste has
been gaining a constituency in the Duma. Vladimir Klimov, a member of the
Duma's Power, Industry and Transport Committee, stresses that spent nuclear
fuel is not actually nuclear waste. He adds that money charged for the
storage would solve numerous financial problems in Russian industry.
Those working at Russian nuclear power stations don't necessarily share
"We have by far enough of our own waste we need to store," said Natalya
Malevannaya, head ecologist at the Leningrad Atomic Energy Station, or LAES.
Malevannaya supported the idea of building the new storage facilities, and
said this could be the best way to improve the current situation.
Environmentalists, however, doubt the safety of new storage facilities, as
they recall accidents involving the leakage of nuclear waste.
"I know there have been accidents, and if there will be more storage
facilities, this will mean more accidents," said Varya, a local supporter of
Green peace, who would not give her last name.
"Absolutely anything may happen, if you consider the period of the half-life
of uranium: 150,000 years. Who on earth can guarantee the complete
impenetrability of the containers for even several hundred years?" Karpov
"Also, if the import of nuclear waste becomes legal, there will emerge
illegal deals with companies trying to save money on safety."
"And given the current political situation, I don't feel safe. There is also
a chance that storage facilities may become a target for some insane