|Plain Text - Entire Issue
1. Moscow Times editorial: No Checks And Balances, Just Big
2. AFP: Russia pledges to ratify US nuclear treaty despite delay in vote.
3. Vremya Novostei: THE WAR IN IRAQ: THE WAY IT WILL BE. Russian experts discuss likely scenarios for war in Iraq.
4. Trud: Andrei Nikolaev, THE DREAM OF REASON. The political consequences of war in Iraq.
5. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Nikolai Zlobin, An Imperfect Union. The US-Russia relationship should "survive" Iraq to maintain its strategic partnership.
6. Moscow Times: Matt Bivens, Rebel Envoy Makes Case for Peace.(re Chechnya)
7. Montreal Gazette: Michael Mainville, Tired of fighting and tired of dying: Some pin hopes on weekend referendum; others say it won't change anything.
8. Bangkok Post: Evgeny Belenkiy, Republic's ordinary people finally have their say.
9. FrontPageMagazine.com: Vladimir Bukovsky and Elena Bonner, An Open Letter to President Bush.
10. Jamestown Foundation Russia and Eurasia Review: Philip Hanson, JOINING IN BUT NOT SIGNING UP? RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC 'INTEGRATION' INTO EUROPE.
11. pravda.ru: Illegal Foreigners Run Billion-Dollar Deals at Russian Banks. Foreigners use Russian financial system to obtain profit.
12. gazeta.ru: Prosecutors block return of war trophies.
13. RFE/RL: Farangis Najibullah, Central Asia: Why Is Russia Suddenly Paying So Much Attention To Dushanbe And Bishkek?
March 19, 2003
No Checks And Balances, Just Big Sticks
In the weeks preceding the U.S.-British-Spanish war council in Azores,
Washington exerted strong pressure on Moscow to abstain from, if not
support, a UN Security Council resolution paving the way for war in Iraq.
Alternating on- and off-the-record statements, U.S. diplomats outlined a
complete set of sticks that would be applied if Russia continued to resist
the will of the hawkish coalition. Russia was bluntly warned that its WTO
bid would be jeopardized and that the humiliating Jackson-Vanick amendment
would remain in place indefinitely. The United States also hinted that
Russian oil companies might be locked out of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq
altogether, while a newly installed regime would be unable to honor the
country's $8 billion debt to Russia.
Russia did not bow to what sometimes resembled economic blackmail, and
sided with France and Germany in opposition to war.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his deputies took turns promising that
Russia would veto the automatic use of force against Iraq. Finally, after
more than two weeks of silence, President Vladimir Putin weighed in Monday
and said war would be a mistake. On Tuesday, he expressed his regret over
U.S. President George W. Bush's ultimatum.
It may prove impossible to discern how much Russia's stance factored in the
decision by the U.S.-led alliance to bypass the UN Security Council
It already is clear, however, that the decision has allowed Russia to avoid
a showdown over a vote in the Security Council. Russia had risked
antagonizing the United States by vetoing the resolution or alienating
France and Germany by abstaining.
While this allows Moscow to save face in the Washington's seemingly
unstoppable drive for war, it throws into question the last global checks
on the might of the United States.
Russia and the rest of the world now have to ask themselves what was all
the diplomatic wrangling for if the United States is going to be able to go
ahead regardless of world opinion.
The U.S. sidestep of the UN means that Russia and other countries should
really be concerned about the accelerating erosion of the post-World War II
system of international law that required at least some sort of
authorization from the international community before a superpower and its
allies-for-the-hour could attack another country.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Tuesday warned that the global
anti-terrorism coalition is at risk of falling apart over the bid for war.
He called on the Security Council to bring the Iraq crisis back into the
framework of international law. He also warned that a war could mushroom
into "a confrontation of civilizations."
Russia has to keep up the pressure. Let's hope that the United States
starts listening instead of merely threatening to use its economic might
against those that dare to defy its wishes.
Russia pledges to ratify US nuclear treaty despite delay in vote
March 19, 2003
Russia is committed to a major nuclear disarmament treaty with the United
States despite Russian lawmakers' move to delay ratification in protest at
the impending US attack on Iraq, the foreign ministry confirmed.
Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov delivered this message to US Deputy
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley in telephone talks Tuesday, the
RIA-Novosti news agency quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
They agreed on the importance of US-Russian accords "aimed at
strategic stability, including the agreement on the reduction of offensive
weapons, whose ratification is in both countries' interests and that of
international security as a whole," the ministry said.
The Russian parliament said on Tuesday it was putting off ratification of
the treaty until at least April after Washington gave President Saddam
Hussein a 48 hour deadline to leave Iraq or face war.
Ratification of the so-called "Moscow treaty" had been scheduled for Friday.
Earlier this month, the US Senate ratified the treaty, which provides for a
two-thirds reduction of both countries' long-range nuclear warheads from
around 6,000 warheads each today to under 2,200 by 2012.
Cash-strapped Russia had long battled for the disarmament treaty, which
allows it to mothball its ageing nuclear weapons stockpile instead of
spending millions to maintain or replace them.
March 19, 2003
THE WAR IN IRAQ: THE WAY IT WILL BE
Russian experts discuss likely scenarios for war in Iraq
Author: Nikolai Poroskov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
ACCORDING TO ALL THE FORECASTS, THE US MILITARY OPERATION IN IRAQ IS
LIKELY TO START TOMORROW, IF NOT TODAY. RUSSIAN EXPERTS GIVE THEIR
OPINIONS ABOUT THE LIKELY COURSE OF A WAR IN IRAQ. RATHER THAN
REPEATING OPERATION DESERT STORM, THE US LEADERSHIP MAY CHOOSE VERY
According to all the forecasts, the US military operation in Iraq
is likely to start tomorrow, if not today. People think that war is a
matter that has already been decided. Observers differ in only one
thing: on the basis of which scenario these events will unfold.
Operation controllers even of countries which this war is hardly
likely to reach are wracking their brains over this. We asked military
experts to talk about the possible scenarios for the war in its
KURDS AND SHIITES WILL GIVE IRAQIS A REMINDER OF THEIR GRIEVANCES
Ivan Safranchuk, Director of the Russian representative office of
the Center for Defense Information: From war to war, the scenarios of
the Americans remain standard ones. In Iraq, for two to three days
they will destroy the anti-aircraft defense of the enemy with planes
from bases and aircraft carriers. In recent years these defense
systems have almost been completely crushed by regular precise
groupings. Having cleared the sky, they will strike infrastructure,
ammunition dumps, fuel depots, and troop concentrations with the same
planes, but with different weaponry. Planes with heavy bombs from the
airbase of Diego Garcia will help them in this. After clearing the
land surface for three to four days, they will move from Kuwait and
from the coast towards Baghdad.
There will be no broad front formed from the territory of Turkey,
but Kurdish and Shiite armed groups will surely be used. These will
not go right to Baghdad, of course, but they will settle scores with
local officers who have repressed them for years.
The attack of coalition forces in the desert will be rapid and
may slow down if chemical weapons are used by Iraqi units. On the
other hand, in the cities the coalition will definitely meet
opposition from the Iraq Republican Guard. Casualties in large numbers
amongst the civilian population are possible. The world community,
already unhappy with the United States, will raise its voice, as
people say. However, it is possible that the matter will not go as far
as casualties among Iraqi citizens in large numbers if the opposition
and the agent network created in recent years shows itself and
The new thing about this operation will be that everything about
it will be bigger and more powerful, because, you see, the task is not
to liberate little Kuwait, but to occupy a large country.
BODY BAGS AS PART OF WAR PREPARATIONS
Comments from Alexander Sharavin, Director of the Political and
Military Analysis Institute: Several dozen scenarios for the
development of events in Iraq currently exist. In seven or eight of
them the events are described in great detail. I think, however, that
not one of them will come to reality totally; otherwise it would be
sensible to disband the Pentagon. I think that something unusual will
happen. It is not for no reason that the operation is entitled "Shock
and Awe". Of course, the already created bases will be used, strikes
will be carried out also from the Persian Gulf, and they will not do
without the use of some of the experience from Operation Desert Storm.
In the United States there are experienced generals, nevertheless, and
they will hardly do exactly the same thing again. Since autumn of last
year, special forces of the US, Britain, Israel, and some other
countries have been operating in Iraq. They have prepared something.
Exactly what - we will find out only during the execution of the
I think that military action without direct contact will be used,
mainly. The application of land forces must also not be ruled out,
although Bush will not be forgiven in the United States for human
casualties. Nevertheless, going by the available information the
Pentagon has already gathered a supply of several thousand body bags.
However, I think that this is simply one aspect of good preparation
for the war, taking everything into consideration. Nothing more.
IF THEY FEAR HIGH CASUALTIES, THE AMERICANS WILL USE NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Comments by Valentin Belokon, an active member of the Russian
Cosmonautics Academy, and a specialist in the field of explosion
physics: Americans fear and panic about human casualties in large
numbers and under this threat they will even go as far as the use of
nuclear weapons. In Los Alamos a 5 kiloton bomb was created with the
ability to penetrate the earth to the depth of dozens of meters. It is
designed for strikes on bunkers with control centers, ammunition
dumps, and people. The Livermore Laboratory has created a nuclear
version of a hollow charge explosion, the strike capacities of which
are beyond the human imagination.
The electromagnetic impulse (EMI) created either with the help of
an atmospheric nuclear explosion or a new type of non-nuclear weaponry
could be used for destruction of all the Iraqi electronic equipment.
The use of a vacuum bomb should not be ruled out. It has a simple
principle. At the start, a special microscopic suspension is sprayed
out, it mixes with the air and, expanding in volume, it is transformed
into an explosive. Its ignition with the help of a laser beam creates
a massive explosion in a single instant over an enormous amount of
territory. Because of the great drop in air pressure, people's eyes
pop out of their sockets and eardrums burst. There would be large
numbers of people killed and maimed. It is strange, but the UN has not
included this bomb among weapons of mass destruction.
AN OCCUPATION SUPERVISED BY THE NAVY
Comments made by Mikhail Nenashev, chairman of a national
organization called the Movement for Support of the Navy: America and
Britain will do the spadework with the help of their naval forces.
Now, the first air strikes will be delivered from aircraft carriers.
They also have landing vessels there. When the land operation
finishes, the forces of the navy will stay for a long time onwards, in
order to maintain surveillance of Iraq. The assignment of this kind of
significance to the navy by the Americans is a reason for us to
strengthen our naval military forces, because if this is not done
Russia will turn out to be someone's target as well.
(Translated by Alexander Mazzucchelli)
March 19, 2003
THE DREAM OF REASON
The political consequences of war in Iraq
Author: Army General Andrei Nikolaev, chairman of the Duma defense
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
THE AMERICANS WILL NOT STOP THERE. AFTER IRAQ, THEY WILL RAISE THE
ISSUE OF IRAN - THEN NORTH KOREA - THEN SOME OTHER STATE. THERE WILL
BE A PERMANENT CRISIS, FLOWING FROM ONE NATION TO ANOTHER. AND WE WILL
REAP THE HARVEST OF THE EXPERIMENTS THE AMERICANS ARE CONDUCTING ON
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.
The United States is already running late with the start of its
military operation, given how it plans to carry this out: several days
of missile strikes, followed by a special operation against Saddam
Hussein himself, with the goal of capturing or killing him, and a
subsequent intervention with the goal of occupying the most important
regions of Iraq. All this should take between two weeks and one month.
The longer it continues, the more problems will be caused by
increasingly hot weather: this will create additional and rather
significant difficulties for military action.
However, problems of a political nature are far more serious, and
they will have an impact on the consequences of the military
operation. The fact that France, Belgium, Germany, and other NATO
members are not prepared to follow the Americans without a word of
dissent is highly significant. And the Americans were not prepared for
such developments. Washington immediately labelled these nations "old
Europe". However, the US has not actually run up against old Europe,
but a new way of thinking in Europe - which has started to understand
that it might be possible to go too far under the American flag. We
have seen the consequences of such policies in the Balkans and in
Afghanistan... The Americans drag their allies into a US-created
conflict, and then abandon them. They abandoned their European allies
in the Balkans, transferring the burden to their shoulders. In
Afghanistan, everything was dumped on Germany.
At an international security conference in Munich, German Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer openly asked the Americans: "We had not yet
solved the first problem - the Balkans - when we went into
Afghanistan. And we have not yet solved that second problem - but now
there's a third! How long will this go on?" The Germans are now in
charge in Afghanistan. Why? What is Germany doing there? It is quite
incomprehensible - in military, political, and financial terms - why
Germany has been dragged into that situation.
Frequently, and justifiably, it is noted that this will be a war
for the possession of energy resources. But there is yet another
aspect. The United States seeks to use Iraq for testing its latest
weapons. You will agree that shooting on a testing range is one thing,
but shooting in a real war situation is quite another. It might be
sacrilegious to say so, but real experience cannot be gained on a
The Americans are seeking new business for their defense sector -
which brought Bush to power; it is a matter of repaying the debts
which took the form of investment in the election campaign of the
incumbent president. Specialists estimate that the most intensive days
of the military campaign will cost the United States millions of
dollars per day. Senior American military commanders say they intend
to use up to 3,000 smart bombs and missiles. And after the war, the
Pentagon will say: we need to replace those 3,000 weapons. That means
new orders for the defense sector. The Americans believe the
forthcoming Gulf war will cost around $200 billion. Yes, this means
the blood of innocent people - but it also means jobs for Americans.
This will be a huge gift for the defense sector, promising
breakthroughs in weapons technology.
This wouldn't be the first time that the Americans have pulled
ahead by setting somebody else back by years. Look at Yugoslavia. They
got rid of Milosevic, but has anything changed? Has the problem of
Kosovo been solved - have its Serbs returned to their former homes?
No. The European Union and the United States declared that they would
provide funding to restore the economy in the conflict region. Where
is that money? Having conclusively demolished Yugoslavia as a state,
they formed new relationships with Serbia and Montenegro. But has
anything positive been achieved? It is said that the gunfire has
stopped there. But there is no peace either.
The situation in Afghanistan is similar. The Taliban is gone, but
what has changed for Afghanistan? True, cultural and historical
artefacts are no longer being destroyed, but the drug trade has not
been eliminated, and neither have terrorist organizations.
What will happen if they overthrow Saddam Hussein? Firstly, this
is yet to be achieved. Secondly, changing the regime in Iraq could
change the situation enough to destabilize the entire Middle East, and
more. Look at the Kurds, for example. Destabilizing the situation in
Iraq may prompt the Kurds to try to implement what they have wanted
for centuries: to create their own state. And this would directly
affect the interests of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and other nations in the
In that event, Russia would be placed in a very difficult
position. We undoubtedly have political, economic, and military
interests in Iraq, since it is a central node forming a political
connection between different regions: the Middle East, the Hindustan
peninsula, Central Asia. And the Americans will not stop there. After
Iraq, they will raise the issue of Iran - then North Korea - then some
other state. There will be a permanent crisis, flowing from one nation
to another. All this, next door to Russia, India, and China - but not
to America. America is far away. All of us are close by. And it will
be we who reap the harvest of the experiments the Americans are
conducting on the international community.
Recep Erdogan, the new prime minister of Turkey, has announced
that a final decision on making military bases available to the United
States will only be made after a vote of confidence in the government.
The White House commented that for "slow" Ankara, there is no longer
any point in hoping for the $15 billion of aid promised to Turkey
(Translated by Andrei Ryabochkin)
March 18, 2003
Nikolai Zlobin: An Imperfect Union. The US-Russia relationship should
"survive" Iraq to maintain its strategic partnership.
Nikolai Zlobin is Director of Russian & Asian Programs, Center for Defense
No one needs to be convinced that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. No
one - not the Germans or the French - suggests anything other than
disarmament. Both critics and supporters of the Bush administration assume
that WMDs are present. The difference is that some countries want to give
inspectors more time to look for them, while other countries ask, why drag
things out any longer? When people in Moscow and Paris say that it's
important to give the inspectors time and opportunity to find WMDs, they
want to give legitimacy and, if possible, a non-military character to the
process of disarmament. All discussions today revolve around how to disarm
Saddam, and why the disarmament should begin with Iraq, rather than North
Americans initially insisted that Saddam follow the demands of Resolution
1441, not simply "cooperate" with the UN inspectors. And there lies the
difference between Americans and Europeans in interpreting the resolution.
Americans talk about compliance, and Saddam argues that he hasn't resisted
the inspectors and is even "helping" them. But Washington could care less
for "growing cooperation" between Baghdad and the inspectors.
The resolution had a few linguistic issues that have taken on a political
meaning. The term "material breach" may be interpreted in various ways, for
example. It could mean a "serious breach," as the Europeans seem to think,
but it could also mean any concrete breach. This begs the question, why are
there such formulations that are susceptible to interpretations? Is this
the result of the double entendres of diplomacy?
The moment has arrived for testing the reliability and unity of the
anti-terror coalition. On the eve of the decisive UN debates and a new
report by Hans Blix, Russia once again faces a choice. The stakes are quite
high. And here, in my opinion, is where Russia should demonstrate that it
understands the US position, something that has already been done at the
presidential level (no one in the White House believes in the
Moscow-Paris-Berlin alliance). To paraphrase Stalin, Saddams come and go,
but the US-Russia strategic partnership remains. And partners don't always
have to agree - for instance, when it comes to the tactics of dealing with
Many believe the war is being conducted for Iraqi oil, but this
underestimates a post-Saddam government's potential for independence. After
the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, for example, Americans were unable to get
either lower oil prices from the Kuwaitis, or direct foreign investment
into the country's oil industry.
It won't do to rely upon American promises to look after Russian oil
interests. Of course, Bush can lobby American companies, but Big Business
might not listen. The oil corporations probably won't heed Bush if his
suggestions do not address their concerns. The logical conclusion is that
even with a pro-American government in Baghdad, it's uncertain that any
promises come to fruition.
The situation could be different if the country looks like post-WWII Japan,
when General MacArthur was firmly planted in Tokyo and wrote the
Constitution himself. If so, the White House would be a lot more
influential which is, in principle, good for Russia. If Baghdad turns out
to have a fairly independent government, then Russia has few chances to
stay in the market at all.
What, then, should be the Russian agenda, given the inevitability of a
post-Saddam Iraq? Here the choice is between short-term gains and long-term
ones. Reaching the short-term goals means attempting to secure guarantees
for its tangible interests (repayment of loans, maintenance of trade
contracts). The chances for that are, evidently, remote.
The second path is to push for a political victory. The most important
thing here is for the US-Russia relationship to "survive" Iraq and
cultivate a strategic partnership. For Russia, this means to avoid butting
horns and blocking American actions. Knowing how to disagree while
remaining friends -- that is the greatest political wisdom. A union with
the US is Russia's strategic choice; Iraq is a tactical one. The US is in
fact the only rich, reliable, politically stable and independent partner
The economic matters - Russian interests in Iraq - should not be forgotten,
of course, but in the current situation they are of secondary importance.
If Russia concentrates on the short-term economic profit and, failing to
receive it, ignores Washington or takes offense to it, this would result in
colossal losses in the next generation. Russia is interested in stabilizing
the region, but less from an oil production viewpoint and more from the
growth of markets for Russian manufacturing.
If the military operation proceeds badly, many regimes in the region will
stumble or collapse, possibly bringing Muslim radicals into power. That's
why the US would gladly take any assistance, including peacekeepers, MPs,
humanitarian and economic aid. It's high time for Russia to demonstrate its
readiness to offer just that.
March 19, 2003
Rebel Envoy Makes Case for Peace
By Matt Bivens
Special to The Moscow Times
WASHINGTON -- A representative of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov
presented a plan in Washington on Tuesday that calls for UN peacekeeping
forces to occupy Chechnya, Russian forces to pull out and Chechnya to be
granted full independence -- conditional on it rapidly becoming democratic
and peaceful under UN tutelage.
Ilyas Akhmadov, who is described as Maskhadov's foreign minister, said his
48-page program for ending the war was modeled on United Nations Security
Council resolutions to install UN administrations and peacekeepers in
Kosovo and East Timor.
Akhmadov's is the latest of many academic-sounding road maps to end the
bloodiest war on European soil -- one that has killed or made homeless
about half of Chechnya's pre-war population of 1.1 million people and has
now settled into a stalemate-like grind with no clear end in sight.
As peace plans go, his stood out mainly for taking a harder line: Most
other plans have left it open to negotiation whether Chechnya might remain
part of Russia, but the new proposal insists negotiations start with the
assumption Chechnya will secede.
Maskhadov himself reiterated this Tuesday. In remarks reported on the
separatist web site Kavkazcenter.com, he appealed "to all our republic's
citizens to unite at this hard time, and to openly declare that there can
be no alternative to an independent Chechen state."
The firm insistence that only full independence will do came just five days
before Chechnya votes in a Kremlin-sponsored constitutional referendum.
President Vladimir Putin suggested this week that if Chechens accept the
constitution in Sunday's vote, they might be offered a "special status"
within Russia -- presumably meaning enough autonomy to run their affairs,
but something short of independent statehood.
For now the meat of Akhmadov's plan -- thousands of UN blue-helmets
marching into Grozny and Gudermes -- seems wholly improbable. Russia
ignored the plan and is plowing ahead with the referendum. U.S.
policymakers have been short on sympathy for Chechnya ever since they
embraced Russia as a war-on-terror ally after Sept. 11, 2001, and so would
have ignored the plan even if President George Bush hadn't upstaged it by
giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war.
Asked in an interview whether he had any backing at the UN for his plan,
Akhmadov said, "I hope the UN will at least pay attention. Though we have
to admit to ourselves that neither during the first war in 1994-96 nor
during the second war from 1999 to present has the UN ever paid much
attention. However, if it seems an exotic plan at the moment, similar
proposals for UN rule in Kosovo and East Timor seemed just as exotic when
they were first announced."
Akhmadov's plan also calls for a war crimes tribunal that he said could
mete out justice to war criminals on all sides of the conflict. So, for
example, Russia's demands that notorious guerrillas like Shamil Basayev be
handed over as part of any peace deal could be deferred to the tribunal.
Basayev is notorious for, among other things, leading a 1995 raid on the
Russian town of Budyonnovsk that left more than 100 civilians dead.
But Akhmadov said that peace talks shouldn't be contingent on
of who should give up who."
"Believe me, our list [of enemy war criminals] is much longer than
he said. "There is General [Vladimir] Shamanov, who organized a massacre in
Alkhan-Yurt. There is General [Gennady] Troshev and General [Vladimir]
Bulgakov who together completely destroyed the city of Grozny, in part by
using illegal fuel-air bombs, killing tens of thousands of civilians."
Akhmadov's plan can be found online at
www.peaceinchechnya.org/peaceplans.htm. The web site is run by the American
Committee for Peace in Chechnya, a conservative foreign policy group
founded by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former
Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
Chechnya and Kosovo: A Comparison
Population 1.6 million 1.1 million
Total killed 10,000 180,000**
Total killed, as a % of population 0.6 16.4
Total displaced 559,300 350,000
Total displaced, as a % of population 34.9 31.8
Total number of mass graves discovered 527 11***
Total number of deceased discovered in mass graves 3,600 1,034
Total disappearances 2,750 4,400
*All figures include the first war from 1994-96
**This is a conservative estimate.
***Total graves discovered near Russian military installations since 1999.
Research into mass burials from the 1994-96 war remains inconclusive due to
continuing hostilities and the expulsion of many Western human rights
groups from the region.
Source: American Committee for Peace in Chechnya
March 19, 2003
Tired of fighting and tired of dying: Some pin hopes on weekend referendum;
others say it won't change anything
By Michael Mainville
Squatting next to the gas-burning stove in the canvas tent she shares with
nine relatives, 53-year-old Zainap Dashaeva proudly shows off her copy of
Chechnya's new draft constitution.
Along with 20,000 of her fellow Chechens, Dashaeva fled to refugee camps in
neighbouring Ingushetia when Russia sent troops into Chechnya in 1999 in
its second post-Soviet campaign to crush an armed separatist movement.
Over the past 10 years, tens of thousands have died in the bloody conflict
and Dashaeva's home town, the Chechen capital of Grozny, has been reduced
"We're tired of fighting. We're tired of dying. We just want it to
So despite her belief that her people deserve independence, Dashaeva plans
to vote this Sunday for a new constitution that would see Chechnya remain
part of the Russian federation. "I want my children and grandchildren to
live in peace," she said.
But Dashaeva seems to be an exception among the refugees in Ingushetia's
tent cities. Most say the vote is a sham and are refusing to take part.
Even Dashaeva's brother, Baudi Shakhtamirov, sees no point in
participating. "Even if I don't go, my name is going to be there with an
'X' beside it," Shakhtamirov, 49, said with a hearty laugh, echoing a
common belief that the poll will be fixed.
The Kremlin is touting the referendum - which will pave the way for
presidential and parliamentary elections in the republic - as the key to
bringing peace to the region.
Human rights groups have condemned the vote, saying it cannot be held
fairly in conditions of war. Russia contends that the situation in Chechnya
is under control but service-men die almost daily in rebel attacks.
Rights groups also say that Chechen voters are under intense pressure to
back the constitution. They have long accused Russian forces of carrying
out kidnappings, beatings and killings in Chechnya and say efforts to
intimidate the public have increased in the run-up to the vote.
Memorial, one of the few independent organizations operating in Chechnya,
said it documented 42 cases of civilians disappearing in January and February.
"People living under such conditions cannot freely express their
Memorial's Lipkhan Bazayeva said. "This whole referendum is a moral abuse
of the Chechen people."
Memorial has also documented cases of officials in the pro-Moscow Chechen
administration abusing their positions to build support for the referendum.
In some cases, Memorial said, Chechens have been told they won't be
eligible for humanitarian aid or their pensions if they don't vote.
Up to 38,000 federal troops stationed in Chechnya will also be allowed to
take part in the vote - a move Bazayeva called "absurd." Last month, Lord
Judd, the Council of Europe's rapporteur for the region, resigned in
protest against Russia's decision to go ahead with the vote.
The council later backed the referendum, calling it "a considerable step
toward a political settlement," but also announced that it would not be
sending observers for security reasons.
Russian officials say Chechens are free to vote as they please in the
referendum and that while some "over-zealous officials" have gone too far
in promoting the constitution, the vote will be fair.
A 50-per-cent turnout is required for the referendum to be valid. A simple
majority will be enough for the constitution to be approved.
The Russian government says about 540,000 people will be eligible to vote,
including the refugees in Ingushetia - also in the Russian federation - who
are to be bused to polling stations at border checkpoints.
Still, only about half of those living in the camps have registered to vote
and many here say they want nothing to do with the referendum.
"Referendum or not, the situation will be the same," said Arbi
26, who lives with his family in a Sputnik tent.
Refugees said that instead of pushing forward with the vote, Moscow should
negotiate with Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected
the republic's president in 1997, shortly after the end of the first
Chechen war. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who won the presidency in
2000 after taking a tough stance on Chechnya, has refused to negotiate with
Maskhadov and other rebel leaders.
"Maskhadov is our legal president, he was elected our leader," said
Khachukaeva, Arbi's mother. "If the Russians would only agree to talk with
him this war would already be over."
March 19, 2003
Republic's ordinary people finally have their say
By EVGENY BELENKIY
Evgeny Belenkiy is a Bangkok-based Russian journalist.
With the Iraqi issue getting more and more coverage every hour, Chechnya
has virtually slipped off the news pages.
This is understandable. Chechnya has become for the rest of the world what
it has been for Russians since the beginning _ a major internal problem of
Russia, with a lot of pain and suffering attached to it, a problem which
both the federal government and pragmatic elements among the Chechen people
have been addressing for several years _ and not solely by military means.
There are some very evident results of this work. There have been no major
clashes between federal forces and Chechen separatist groups for over a
year, and all of the bigger separatist groups have been destroyed, with
some laying down their arms and returning to peaceful lives. The remaining
fighting units, now fewer in number and much smaller, have resorted to
terrorist tactics (killing federal and Chechen officials, launching the
attack on a Moscow theatre, etc). Law and order in the republic are now
maintained by a Chechen police force rather than federal troops. In Grozny
and other cities and towns, life is becoming more normal.
Yet this is not the end of the problem. The return to complete normality
will take years. It has not only been the buildings and homes thoroughly
destroyed in Chechnya but also the legal system and the legal basis of
Chechnya enjoyed a short period of total de facto independence from 1996 to
2000. During that time, there was no constitution, the only law was Sharia
law, central administration had only virtual control over field commanders,
international terrorist training camps grew all over the republic,
kidnapping for ransom became the most profitable business, and cars stolen
from all over Europe ended up in Chechnya as there was practically no way
to apprehend even common thieves.
These ``great achievements'' did not improve the life of the general
population: pensions were not paid, government employees received no
salaries, and social welfare ceased to exist. Military operations by
federal forces which came as a response to the Chechen fighters' attacks in
the neighbouring Russian republic of Dagestan added to the suffering of the
people, because there is no such thing as a military operation that doesn't
hurt civilians along the way.
The federal counter-measures were well justified. With the rebels' plans of
forming a huge quasi-state, the Khalifat, in the Muslim areas of northern
Caucasus and further south, stability of the whole of southern Russia was
Now, with hostilities decreasing rapidly, the first order of business is to
restore the legal framework of society, to elect a functional government
with a clear mandate from the people.
However incredible it might look after so many Western media reports to the
contrary, the majority of the republic's one million residents are not as
much interested in independence from Russia as in a stable and peaceful
A little over half a million people in Chechnya are 18 years old or older
and thus eligible to take part in elections. On Sunday, March 23, these
voters will take part in a referendum on three basic legal documents: the
constitution of the Chechen republic and two election laws, presidential
Every ethnic autonomous republic in Russia has its own president,
parliament and constitution, its own laws and its own cabinet. Political
and administrative autonomy usually does not cover defence, foreign policy,
national security, but even in these matters, especially the last two, the
republics play prominent roles within the federal framework. Economic
autonomy is practically unlimited, plus all the republics receive federal
funds. Every republic has two representatives on the Council of the
Federation, the Russian upper house.
It will be the same way with Chechnya, with one exception: no autonomous
republic's constitution addresses matters of citizenship in a detailed
manner, stating only that its population holds citizenship of the Russian
Federation. In the draft of the Chechen constitution, a notion of
citizenship of the Chechen republic has been introduced as a compromise
between the federal government and Chechen politicians heading the current
Some would argue that this notion of citizenship is just a federal carrot
to the federal stick of military presence in the republic, but it does not
look this way. A constitution is not a temporary arrangement, and if the
Russian government is ready to create such a precedent in the most
important permanent legal document of an autonomous republic, it is a
calculated risk on the national level of governance, which puts the matter
miles beyond any kind of stick-and-carrot policy designed for local
It means first of all that at this point core interests of the federal
government and those of the majority of the Chechen people have come closer
together than they have ever been since 1991. Unlike in the first Chechen
conflict _ the war of 1995-96 _ today there is no economy to fight over. It
has been destroyed, and there are very few people left with any ambitions,
besides the ambition to live in peace, to rebuild a some-time prosperous
and ethnically tolerant republic.
There are two forms of political life: politics of the politicians and
politics of the people. In a working democracy, in times of stability we do
not mind all that much when the will of the people is slightly
misrepresented by our chosen representatives, provided that the overall
system works well and the opposition is active and vigilant. In times of
crisis, especially a long-lasting crisis, the whole set up changes
immediately, and the general population becomes much more politically
active, finding ways to express their will clearly and loudly. An
obligation of a democratic government is to provide the means for such
expression whenever possible, and a referendum, as well as an election, is
the highest form of expression of the people's political will stipulated in
the constitution of the Russian Federation.
This Sunday, residents of Chechnya are going to vote on the drafts of the
constitution and two election laws. If it passes, this constitution might
very well go down in history as the Constitution of Peace and
Reconciliation. As the first step to normality and stability, who in his
right mind would oppose this?
March 10, 2003
An Open Letter to President Bush
By Vladimir Bukovsky and Elena Bonner
Vladimir Bukovsky is a former Soviet dissident who spent twelve years in
Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for his fight for
freedom, and whose works include To Build a Castle and Judgement in Moscow.
Elena Bonner is a former Soviet dissident, human rights activist and widow of
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov.
Dear Mr. President,
Before the bombs begin to fall, leaving us no time for calm reflections, it
seems only natural to step back and try to assess the overall picture as it
develops. No, we are not joining those who seek to dissuade you from taking a
military action in Iraq. On the contrary, we think that this action is long
overdue, and that Iraqi people were left to suffer from the evil regime of
Saddam Hussein for too long. Neither can we share the pacifist sentiments
expressed recently by many millions of marchers. Our own experience under no
less evil regime of the Soviet Union has taught us that freedom is one of a
few things in this world worthy of fighting and dying for. And the sooner we
do it the better because such regimes, as history proved time and again,
leave us no option but to confront them and to destroy them for they, by
their very nature, are both oppressive internally and aggressive externally.
Equally, we fail to grasp why is it suddenly so important to obtain yet
another Security Council Resolution, if it was not deemed to be important in
a far more questionable case of NATO campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999.
Surely, Milocevic's regime pales by comparison with that of Saddam.
But why is it necessary to fight for such a noble cause in alliance with the
states ruled by the regimes essentially no different from that of Saddam
Hussein and of the former Soviet Union? Why must we condone near
extermination of some nations in order to liberate others? Is it not an
unacceptable price to pay for a dubious advantage such alliances may bring?
The case in point is, of course, Russia. Contrary to popular belief in the
West, it is not on the way to democracy and market economy. Last presidential
elections show you what kind of democracy this country had established for
itself, when the voters had a choice between a Communist leader and a KGB
colonel. That is elections Russian-style.
Indeed, the KGB has won. After ten years of some hesitant, half-hearted
attempts at reform, the power was handed back to them, once again, and they
were very quick to re-establish their authority throughout the country, as
well as to reinstate the old symbols of the Soviet Union - the national
anthem and the Red flag in the Army. The last outlets of independent media
were closed down one by one. We did not have political prisoners for ten
years; we have them now. Several people are already imprisoned for speaking
out against the war in Chechnya, or some abuses of the military powers over
there, or about the pollution by the military nuclear waste. Chechnya today
is one of the festering wounds of the country, where, in view of many
international observers, actually a genocide is perpetrated against the small
There are plenty of well-documented reports about so-called ''zachistka''
(cleansing operations), when the whole population of villages placed into
filtration camps, tortured, murdered and only those of them would survive
whose family provided ransom. Corruption today in Russia is something out of
the other world. It is not a corruption anymore, it is a system where the KGB
(now called FSB) is running most of the organised crime, protection racket,
drug trafficking, arms sales and contract killings. In reality, they became
something like a crime syndicate, not unlike the famous ''Spectre'' from
And yet, as the effort to create anti-terrorist coalition was launched,
British Prime-Minister Tony Blair, undoubtedly in consultation with
Washington, went to Russia and welcomed aboard this new ally. He expressed
his delight that in this war Russia will finally stand alongside the West,
particularly he said, "because Russia has such a vast experience in fighting
We never thought we will live long enough to hear such words from a leading
Western politician. It is almost as callous and ridiculous as to say that
Germany has a vast experience in dealing with Jews. Russia, in its former
incarnation as the Soviet Union, has practically invented modern political
terrorism, elevating it to the level of state policy. First, in order to
control its own population, and then, in order to spread its influence across
Their "experience" in dealing with Muslim terrorism is even more
As you undoubtedly know, they were arming Saddam for decades, providing him,
among other things, with facilities for biological warfare. Another Muslim
country, Afghanistan, is probably even more appropriate example. There is
little doubt in our minds that the current pitiful state of this country,
including emergence of the Taliban movement, is a direct consequence of the
1978 Soviet-inspired "April Revolution" there, and when it failed, of the
1979 Soviet invasion which destabilised the country and plunged it into the
nightmare of 20-years long civil war. Is this the experience the West seeks
But, of course, the above-mentioned statement by Tony Blair was much more
than just a callous stupidity. It was meant to signify a change in the
Western attitude toward Russian behaviour in Chechnya. Prior to September 11,
Western criticism of Russian genocide there, mild and muted as it might be,
still served to restrain the Russian rulers. Now, after making Russia a
partner in the coalition, no such restraining influence is provided.
Moreover, this senseless genocidal war on a small nation is proclaimed to be
an experience the West should learn from. If this is a case now, can anyone
explain why Slobodan Milocevic is still in jail in The Hague? In all
fairness, he should be instantly released and awarded a Nobel Peace Prize,
because his "experience in fighting Muslim terrorism" in Bosnia and Kosovo is
hardly different from Russian experience in Chechnya, except his achievements
in this field pale by comparison with Russian atrocities.
This, however, was only a beginning. The danger of "partnership"
criminal regimes is that they never stop until they make you an accomplice in
their crimes. Slowly but surely, the Russian rulers force their Western
partners to accept their crimes in Chechnya as a part of common struggle with
terrorism. Your administration has already yielded to that pressure and
included a number of Chechen groups into your "black list" of international
terrorist organisations, although you know nothing about them except for what
the KGB tells you. Suddenly, Western law enforcement agencies became some
sort of errand boys for the KGB, as they are obliged to arrest anyone Moscow
points out as a "terrorist" and to start extradition procedure, even if a
person in question is a well-known official representative of the legitimate
Chechen government, like Ahmed Zakaev. If this is to continue, you can safely
count us all as terrorists, Mr. President: since your new friend Mr. Putin
has officially defined any Chechen supporter as a terrorist, we all qualify.
Thus the first casualty of yet undeclared war, its first "collateral
is the basic principle upon which your country was built and which is
enshrined in your country's Declaration of Independence as a right of a
nation to rise up against a tyranic government or a foreign occupation. And
we are left utterly confused: was George Washington a terrorist or a freedom
There is nothing more dangerous in the war of ideas than the "realpolitik"
approach which brought us so many disasters in the past. After all, was not
Osama bin Laden a by-product of similar "marriage of convenience" at one
point? Was it not true also in the case of Saddam Hussein? And is it not true
that your new "partners" such as Russia secretly sell military equipment
(including nuclear technology) to the Axis of Evil countries even now? Will
the United States ever learn this lesson, or will it continue forever to
build up new enemies while fighting present ones?
In a few days, Mr. President, millions across the world will be glued to the
television screens absorbed in a spectacular drama of the modern warfare, and
the bigger picture of the world will escape our minds. Bedazzled by the
firepower, fascinated by the "smart weapons" in action, we might only
occasionally ask ourselves: "Why is the US government not as smart as its
weapons are? Why does it always make it so difficult to support it, even when
it fights for a just and noble cause?"
But when the dust settles and Saddam Hussein disappears with it, a far more
troubling question will remain: was it a victory or was it a defeat?
Sincerely, Vladimir Bukovsky and Elena Bonner.
Russia and Eurasia Review
Volume 2, Issue 6
March 18, 2003
JOINING IN BUT NOT SIGNING UP? RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC 'INTEGRATION' INTO EUROPE
by Philip Hanson
Philip Hanson is an emeritus professor of the political economy of Russia and
Eastern Europe at Birmingham University in England.
Post-communist change in Russia includes, among many other things, changes in
Russia's commercial dealings with the outside world. The part of the outside
world that exerts the strongest gravitational pull on the Russian economy, by
virtue of its location and its economic size, is Europe--chiefly, but not
exclusively, the present European Union of fifteen states. How are Russia's
economic ties with Europe developing? Is it reasonable to envisage some sort
of Russian 'integration into Europe' over the next decade or so? Russia and
the EU have, after all, an array of formal relations: a Partnership and
Cooperation Agreement, official 'strategies' toward one another, six-monthly
summit meetings, and an agenda that includes the creation of a Common
European Economic Space spanning Russia and an enlarged EU. Yet this
relationship is problematic.
It is clear that Russia is rejoining the trading world. It now has by global
standards a small, open economy. Its 2002 GDP of about US$350 billion (with
rubles converted to dollars at the current exchange rate) puts it on a par
with some of Europe's smaller economies. (At purchasing power parity, that
is, taking into account domestic prices, Russia's GDP is estimated at
US$1,100 billion by the World Bank.) Merchandise exports plus imports work
out at 48 percent of that GDP, making the Russian economy, on that measure,
about as open as Germany. This is a huge change. In the depths of Stalin's
'Socialism in One Country,' on the eve of World War II, Soviet foreign trade
was no more than 1 percent of GDP.
In other respects, however, Russia's integration into the world economy is
still rather limited.
Import tariff levels are not high (a weighted average of 10.05 percent in
early 2002), but there are some high individual tariffs--on autos, for
example. More strikingly, there are still some export duties, notably on oil,
which reflects a gulf between world and domestic energy prices reminiscent of
the days of central planning. Domestic gas and oil prices are, respectively,
about 15-30 percent of the world price, due to a combination of limits on
export capacity and the government's desire to protect domestic consumers.
Partly through the deliberate choice of local elites, Russia is much less
open to foreign investment than it is to trade. The UN Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD), in its 2002 survey of foreign direct investment,
put Russia 104th out of 140 countries on its performance in attracting FDI.
Russia has been rather more conspicuous as an exporter of capital, but that
is bad news for a poor country.
So far as the movement of people is concerned, there is more, and easier,
crossing of Russia's borders than there used to be of Soviet borders. In 2001
the EU15 countries together issued about one million visas to Russian
citizens, and visitors to Russia have increased in number as well.
Nonetheless, bureaucratic hassles remain, and last November Russia tightened
its procedures. For most people it is easier to get, say, a Japanese or
Indian visa than a Russian one.
This is the background against which Moscow and Brussels have begun to talk
about a Common European Economic Space. What this means is still being
discussed. One might expect it to mean at least a free trade area, but it
probably does not. Whatever it is, Russia's reclassification by Brussels as a
market economy, and Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO),
are prerequisites for it. How it would fit with European Commission President
Romano Prodi's proclaimed but vague 'Proximity Policy' for all EU neighbors
is completely unclear.
For policy makers in Moscow, the EU is proving to be a difficult and
frustrating partner. Here are some examples.
Market-economy status was expected to give Russia some protection against
what was in practice unilateral imposition by the EU of anti-dumping controls
on Russian goods. Yet no sooner had that market-economy status been achieved,
in November of last year, than the EU amended its anti-dumping legislation so
that some of the protection was taken away.
In the negotiations over WTO accession the European Commission has been
particularly tough on the subject of Russian domestic energy prices.
Initially, Brussels demanded an equalization of Russian domestic and world
electricity and gas prices. This was excessive. Very low domestic energy
prices do indeed amount to a form of subsidy to Russian manufacturers.
However, the equilibrium exchange rate of the ruble, like that of other
developing-country currencies, is well below purchasing power parity. So if
ruble energy prices inside Russia were made equal to world prices at the
exchange rate, those energy prices would in fact be high relative to
non-energy prices, in international perspective.
One unheralded achievement of Russia's economic transformation is that the
country can once more, as in Tsarist times, export grain when good weather
produces a bumper harvest, as in the past two years. And it can do so without
(as Stalin did) simultaneously starving its own people. The EU, however, is
not about to reform its Common Agricultural Policy, so Russian grain
exporters encounter barriers in entering EU markets.
Many issues such as these can be resolved in time through negotiation. And
nobody seriously contends that Russia itself does not have a lot to do to
make its economy more genuinely open and competitive. But two underlying
problems exist on the EU side of the dialogue: EU protectionism and Brussels'
Anti-dumping measures, quotas and other constraints currently limit Russian
sales of steel, some basic chemicals and farm products into Western Europe.
Russian commentators--not all of them the paid mouthpieces of Russian
business interests--argue that the EU is happy to have Russia as a source of
cheap energy but is in effect hindering Russian economic diversification.
Never mind that the most severe impediments to greater efficiency among
Russian producers lie inside Russia itself: EU protectionism does not help.
In this context, the European Commission's emphasis on Russia bringing its
laws and regulations in line with those of the EU (the EU's acquis
communautaire) has so far been too strong. If that is what a Common European
Economic Space depends on, and not on genuinely free trade, the 'Common
Space' is not a good idea.
It is one thing to adopt the acquis as a condition for joining the EU, as
Poland and the other accession countries have done. The benefits of doing so
merely to be a close business partner of the EU are much less obvious.
Indeed, as Vladimir Mau and Vladimir Novikov, two liberal economists, argued
in Voprosy ekonomiki last year, quite a lot of the highly regulatory
acquis--such as the chapters on social policy and the environment--would be
damaging to Russia's economic health. Mau and Novikov reviewed the thirty
chapters of the acquis notionally applicable to Russia, and concluded that
only half-a-dozen were suitable for Russia at this time.
Even if all or most of the acquis were desirable for a liberal economy, a
situation in which one state tailors its laws to those of another without any
power to influence those laws would still entail a troublesome juridical
inequality. That is one reason why Switzerland has opted out of the European
Economic Area, and it presents difficulties for Norway, the other non-EU West
European country of any size that operates closely with the EU. For a touchy
ex-superpower, such asymmetric arrangements are not recommended.
For these reasons, many members of the Russian policy-making elite are now,
in British political terms, Eurosceptics. However, Russia, with the bulk of
its population west of the Urals and its CIS neighbors all economically weak,
is stuck with Europe. In the first nine months of last year 55 percent of
Russian trade was with Europe in the wider sense: the present EU15, Central
and Eastern Europe (most of it scheduled to join the EU in 2004) and Norway
and Switzerland. In geostrategic terms (possibly excepting the current Iraq
crisis) Moscow may find Washington easier to get on with than Brussels. But
less than 5 percent of Russia's trade is with the United States. Even the
largest possible increase in Russian oil sales to the United States (and that
is not going to be very large) would not greatly change that situation.
What is needed in Brussels is more flexibility. Other countries (the United
States, South Korea and Singapore, for instance) are successful trade
partners of the EU without having signed up to the acquis or to anything much
resembling it. Historically, it has not been the case that joining the world
economy is like joining a fraternity house or a Masonic lodge: you do not
necessarily have to sign up to rules set by the existing members. When Japan
ended its semi-isolation after the Meiji Restoration, it did not conform to
free-trade orthodoxy but was protectionist and also excluded foreign direct
investment. When Canadians got their industrialization going in the 1890s,
they put high tariffs on U.S. goods precisely in order to stimulate U.S.
direct investment into their country (creating what Canadian nationalist
intellectuals three generations later would deplore as a 'branch-plant
Joining the EU is like joining a secret society--complete with hazing (being
beaten over the head with all the chapters of the acquis). But that is not on
the agenda for Russia in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, it is in both
Russia's and the EU's interest to minimize the barriers to trade and
investment between them, and not to get hung up on the export to Moscow of
Brussels' imposing array of regulations.
March 18, 2003
Illegal Foreigners Run Billion-Dollar Deals at Russian Banks
Foreigners use Russian financial system to obtain profit
The money issue, the issue of the capital outflow and of the improvement of
the financial situation in the country are directly linked with the general
state of things in the Russian economy. Specialists are perfectly aware of
the things that might seem to be shocking for a common person. This does
not make the situation easier, though. There is no recipe, which can help
to let market economy vices go, no matter where they might occur – in the
United States of America, in Switzerland, or in Russia. The level of damage
directly depends on the general level of the economic mess. Needless to
mention that Russia goes in advance when it comes to the problem of mess.
The Russian state machine works in a very bad and inefficient way. The
administration of the Russian Federation president has to deal with the
improvement of the financial situation in the country as well, not to
mention such profiled departments as the Finance Ministry and the Central
Bank. The presidential administration deals with those problems, but it
deems that those activities do not bring any result.
Federal fiscal bodies (which have been recently re-organized by President
Putin) held a session in Moscow today. Viktor Ivanov, the deputy director
of the presidential administration, exposed very interesting information at
the session. As he said, natural non-resident persons cashed almost ten
billion American dollars at Russian banks last year. It is impossible to
trace that money afterwards. What was it spent for? It is not ruled out
that it was used to fund Chechen terrorists so that they could prepare new
acts of terrorism in Russia. It seems that Russian state bodies can not say
anything definite on the subject.
Furthermore, foreign citizens use the Russian financial system for getting
their own profit from it. The mentioned official said that foreigners used
Russian banks for conducting their deals that totaled about 300 billion
rubles. It does not go about legal investors, stags, and the like here.
Those operations are conducted by the people, who do not attract any
attention in Russia – migrants. The Russian government has been trying to
legalize them, although there has been no success achieved yet. To be more
precise, it goes about citizens of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, other CIS
countries, China, Korea, Vietnam. They are all either vendors or workers,
It deems that the state is not very well aware of the real scale of their
activities. This brings up a question pertaining to the efficiency of the
struggle with money-laundering. However, Russian officials have their noses
in the air: since FATF struck Russia out of its black list, it means that
the struggle is on. Viktor Ivanov, deputy director of the presidential
administration stated that “the origin of those funds is not known.”
According to his opinion, there is a reason to believe that a considerable
part of that money is implicated in organized crime. The official also
acknowledged that the scale of the Russian criminal level is a real factor,
which affected the economic security of the state.
It was very pleasant to hear such a statement from a person, whose takes
such an important official position in the country. However, there is no
need to read Russian newspapers every day in order to be able to understand
that it is also a factor, which allows thousands of various officials
(including police chiefs, even common police officers) to live on their
meager wages. Maybe, there is no need to try to find out, where those
billions were gone. It is not excluded that they are now owned by
bribe-takers, or were spent on apartments, cars, country houses, trips
abroad, mink coats for wives and so on. At least, neither officials, nor
police officers have died of hunger yet.
There is bitter irony about the fact that an official from the major
administrative department of the country said that to the employees of the
re-organized fiscal department, which tried to struggle with all that mess.
From now on, the function of the cash flow control in Russia will be
fulfilled by the financial monitoring committee that is attached to the
Russian government. Viktor Ivanov also said that vesting the functions of
the fiscal police to the Home Ministry would help to struggle with economic
crimes in a more efficient way. One shall assume that the fiscal police
existed in vain. This is so very in the Russian way – to fire people and to
spit in their faces at parting.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
March 19, 2003
Prosecutors block return of war trophies
The Prosecutor General’s Office has blocked the return of the Bremen
Kunsthalle collection to Germany, saying there were no legal grounds for
the transfer of valuables which have long become the legitimate property of
Russia by the right of acquisitive limitation. The prosecutors’ ban came
days after the Culture Ministry pledged to return the collection of
paintings taken from Bremen at the end of WWII by Soviet army captain
The scandal concerning the return of the Bremen Kunstalle collection flared
up earlier this month, after the Culture Ministry said it had brought the
drawings from St. Petersburg’s Hermitage to Moscow for transfer to Germany.
The State Duma, at the initiative of the former Soviet Culture Minister,
the chairman of the house committee for culture and tourism Nikolai
Gubenko, urged President Putin to block the ministry’s plans and lodged a
protest to the Prosecutor General’s Office claiming the ministry had been
acting in secrecy to sidestep the legislature.
The collection in question was brought to the Soviet Union in 1945 by the
Soviet army captain Viktor Baldin. Baldin, being an architect by
profession, stumbled across a collection of exquisite paintings, which
included works by such masters as Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Delacroix,
Manet, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as paintings by Durer and
Goya, in a cellar of a German castle in 1945.
Realizing their true value, Baldin carefully packed them in a large
suitcase and took them home to the Soviet Union, gathering several more
paintings from Soviet soldiers on the way. For three years he kept the
collection at home and in 1948 presented it to a state museum. In 1991 it
was transferred to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
In the early 1970s Baldin – at that time a museum director – wrote to the
Soviet leaders asking them to return the collection to Germany. However,
his requests were ignored. In the 1990s the Bremen authorities made Baldin
an honorary citizen for preserving the paintings.
Finally, in 2003, against the background of improving relationship between
the two states, the Russian government moved to return the paintings to the
Bremen Kunsthalle, where, as Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi has said,
the collection belongs by law, since it was not taken out of Germany on the
orders of the Soviet high command, and therefore could not be considered a
But the State Duma, in particular, the chairman of the Duma’s committee for
culture and tourism Nikolai Gubenko, infuriated by the decision, sent an
inquiry to the Culture Ministry on March 7, demanding that the minister
shed light on his agency’s plans to transfer the Baldin collection to
Since no response followed, on March 12 the State Duma unanimously passed
an appeal to Vladimir Putin urging him to block the Culture Ministry’s
plans to return the collection to Bremen. On the following days both sides
in the conflict held news conferences to explain their positions.
Communist Nikolai Gubenko told reporters that the return of the paintings
was illegal. At least, he said, the authorities could demand up to $1.5
million in compensation, or ask Germany to remit part of Moscow’s enormous
''If your purse was stolen and then returned, you can give a quarter of
what was inside out of gratitude, or you can just say thank you. This is
your right,'' Mikhail Shvydkoi retorted. Shvydkoi explained that the Baldin
collection was quite different from works confiscated in postwar Germany on
the orders of the Soviet high command; hence, the 1997 restitution law does
not apply to the Bremen case. Baldin took the works at his own initiative,
Shvydkoi said, however thankful we are to Captain Baldin, in effect the
drawings were stolen, and must now be returned to where they belong.
On March 17, which was her first day in office of the president’s envoy to
the Northwestern federal district, the ex-deputy minister for social
affairs Valentina Matviyenko intervened in the dispute, announcing her
disagreement with Shvydkoi’s position: ''Such issues cannot not depend on
the wish of single individuals.''
Vladimir Putin has distanced himself from the spat and, in spite of
parliament’s request, refused to act as an arbiter, suggesting that the
culture minister hold consultations with the deputies on the matter.
Shvydkoi and Gubenko met on Monday, but failed to agree on anything. On
Monday evening the suspicious deputies were shown the collection, so that
they could make sure that the drawings were still in Russia and had not
been handed over to the German embassy.
On Tuesday the Prosecutor’s Office responded to the deputies’ calls.
are no legal grounds for the gratuitous transfer of the Bremen Kunsthalle
collection artwork to Germany, Natalia Veshnyakova, a spokesperson for the
Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, said on Tuesday. In line with the
current legislation, the artwork from the Baldin Collection belongs to
Russia by the right of ''acquisitive limitation''.
''If Russia is going to transfer trophy artwork to Germany, it must be
provided with documents confirming the rights of ownership to these
cultural valuables. Germany has not provided any such documents,''
Veshnyakova said, adding that the information submitted only proved ''that
the cultural valuables were kept or exhibited there''.
Commenting on the prosecutors’ statement on Tuesday, Culture Minister
Mikhail Shvydkoy denied doing anything in violation of the existing
legislation. He reaffirmed his ministry's position that the collection must
be returned to Germany.
Central Asia: Why Is Russia Suddenly Paying So Much Attention To Dushanbe And
By Farangis Najibullah
During an official visit to Tajikistan last week, Russian Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov said the two countries are preparing an agreement to finalize a
new Russian military base in Tajikistan. Ivanov also announced that Russian
President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Dushanbe next month and that the
base agreement will be signed during his trip. Why is Russia suddenly paying
so much attention to Tajikistan?
Prague, 18 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Salohiddin Nasriddinov, the deputy foreign
minister of Tajikistan, confirmed to RFE/RL that Moscow and Dushanbe are
discussing details about a new Russian military base in Tajikistan. The
initial decision about the base was made in 1999.
"What we signed in 1999 was a general agreement," Nasriddinov said.
basis of that agreement, now we are preparing three new, detailed documents.
We -- the two parties -- need to clarify details such as the location of the
military base and the number of Russian troops who will be stationed in the
The Russian and Tajik parliaments ratified the agreement on the base in 2001,
but the issue has largely been forgotten since then. So the announcement of
the base agreement by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov last week, as well
as Putin's upcoming trip to Dushanbe, raise questions about the timing of
Moscow's renewed interest in Tajikistan.
Tajik experts and the Russian media speculate that while the attention of the
U.S. and the rest of the West is focused on Iraq, Moscow is taking advantage
by making an effort to reassert its influence in Central Asia.
Russia is also setting up a new military air base in Kant, 25 kilometers from
the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Russian military experts are reportedly
preparing the Kant air base to station Russian jet fighters. Up to 500
Russian soldiers will be deployed in Kant.
Moscow pulled its troops out of Kyrgyzstan in 1999 but during the past few
months has been trying to forge a close alliance with Bishkek once again.
Several Russian delegations have visited Kyrgyzstan to discuss bilateral
cooperation on a variety of issues.
Vladimir Mikhailov, the chief of the Russian Air Force who visited Bishkek
and Kant last week, told journalists that Moscow never gave up on Kyrgyzstan:
"We have never gone far from Kyrgyzstan. It is not right to say that Russia
is coming back to the country. You shouldn't put it like that. We are here at
the demand of the situation."
Constantine Borovoy, a Moscow-based expert on political affairs, tells RFE/RL
that strengthening its position in the Commonwealth of the Independent States
is a top priority of Russian foreign policy: "It is the best time [for
Russia] to try to regain the control of those lost lands. The other reason is
the presidential election that takes place next year [in Russia]. Such issues
in foreign policy would attract empire-oriented voters."
Russia has maintained its position in Central Asia, especially in Tajikistan,
since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moscow still has a strong military
presence in the country with more than 25,000 troops, including almost 11,000
border guards and some 14,000 soldiers from Russia's 201st mechanized
division stationed there.
The situation changed dramatically, however, when the U.S. began its
antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan. Despite criticism by the Russian
military establishment, Putin had no choice but to allow the U.S. military
access to Central Asia, despite the region being in Russia's traditional
sphere of influence.
Since then, at least three Central Asian countries have called America their
new strategic ally. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are hosting
U.S.-led coalition troops.
In response, the U.S. has increased economic aid to the region.
During the last year, Tajikistan has received more than $100 million in
assistance. The U.S. has promised the country around $50 million in grants
and humanitarian aid for 2003. Washington raised its development assistance
to Kyrgyzstan from $40 million in 2001 to more than $70 million in 2002.
Neighboring Uzbekistan received around $120 million from the U.S. last year.
Russia cannot afford such financial assistance, and its position in the
region has been weakening because of it.
Qiyomiddin Sattori, an expert from the Sipehr think tank in Dushanbe, says it
is almost impossible now for Russia to protect its vital interests in
Tajikistan, not to mention the entire region. "I think it is rather late for
Russia to strengthen its military presence in Tajikistan. Russians had to
think about it before September 11, 2001. Now, America has a strong military
presence in the region. It has established military bases in Uzbekistan and
Kyrgyzstan. If Russia wants to build a powerful military base in Tajikistan,
I think it is a bit too late for that," Sattori said.
However, Rashid Ghani, a local expert on political and international affairs,
believes Tajikistan does not have to choose one country over another. In
addition to Russia, China, India, and Iran have expressed their willingness
to expand their cooperation with Tajikistan on military and security issues.
"If Tajikistan is drawing attention from more than one side, Tajikistan would
get more room to maneuver. Since Tajikistan does not often get attention from
the rest of the world, it is good for the country to be open both to Russia
and America, as well as to other [strategic] countries," Ghani said.
How will Tajik authorities ultimately react to Russia's apparent efforts to
strengthen its position in the country? According to the Russian press,
Ivanov has tried but failed to persuade Tajik leaders to limit their
cooperation with the U.S.
Tajik Deputy Foreign Minister Nasriddinov declined to comment on the issue.
Nasriddinov said Dushanbe will go ahead with the 1999 agreement on
establishing a new Russian military base in the country. But he categorically
ruled out the possibility of establishing additional Russian bases in
Tajikistan. "There is no question of [yet more Russian] military bases being
established in Tajikistan. We are not ready [for that]," he said.
Experts say Russia will not give up on Tajikistan so easily. Shortly after
his trip to Dushanbe, Ivanov said: "Vistas of the relations with Tajikistan
are bright and promising. Russia will do its best for their active
(RFE/RL's Tajik and Kyrgyz services contributed to this report.)