5 mei 2004
- U.S. appreciates Russia’s role in fight against terrorism; adopts sanctions on Chechen terrorists: (i) According to the latest annual report of the U.S. Department of State, Russia is playing a key role in the global fight against terrorism. Last year, Moscow put forward a series of internal and global anti-terrorist initiatives which consolidated this key role. According to the U.S. Department of State, the most serious terrorist threat in Russia comes from the Chechen territory (RIA Novosti). (ii) RIA Novosti reports that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has included three terrorist groups operating in Chechnya in the list of international terrorist organisations whose members are banned from entering the United States. The ban is also valid for the financial supporters of the three organisations (RIA Novosti).
- Akhmat Kadyrov: Maskhadov’s detention is a matter of a few days: All media report on a search operation launched by the Chechen authorities following a rebel attack at a post of the Chechen Presidential security guards in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district. Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov is believed to have personally led the attack. Gazeta (front page) quotes Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov as saying that the detention or liquidation of Aslan Maskhadov is a matter of a few days. Kadyrov also said that until recently, Maskhadov was not hiding in the mountains, as it was repeatedly claimed by representatives of the Federal forces, but lived in the Chechen town of Gudermes (Kommersant, Gazeta, Interfax).
- Murderers of journalists sentenced: The Moscow City Court has sentenced three former policemen to lengthy prison terms for the murder of journalist Vladimir Sukhomlin. Sukhomlin, who was among the founders of the Internet Military-Historical Forum and also ran the websites www.serbia.ru and www.chechnya.ru, was killed in January 2003. Gazeta notes that the organiser of the crime remains unknown (Gazeta, Interfax).
6 mei 2004
- Search for Maskhadov continues in Chechnya: A wide-scale search operation for Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov and other rebels who attacked a checkpoint of Chechen Presidential security service on 1 May, continues to attract the attention of the Russian media. According to Interfax, 200 Chechen policemen are involved in the operation. Kommersant reports in a front-page article that the police have blocked two villages in the Gudermes district, where Akhmed Avdorkhanov, the Head of Maskhadov’s security service, is expected to hide. The daily highlights, however, that the main aim of Chechen policemen is not Avdorkhanov but Aslan Maskhadov whom they shall try to capture by the inauguration of President Putin on 7 May. However, in the view of Gazeta, once again, Maskhadov has managed to escape (Interfax, Kommersant, Gazeta).
- Trial of two Russian citizens resumes in Qatar: A Qatari court has resumed the trial of two Russian citizens accused of involvement in the assassination of Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev last February. The media note that the court has finished questioning witnesses for the prosecution, and yesterday one of the defendants was interrogated. According to Interfax, the defendant claimed that he had been tortured and refused to testify. Kommersant highlights that the Qatari court did not allow the defendants to meet with their lawyers prior to the interrogation. Gazeta (front-page) notes that prosecutors have prepared “an unpleasant surprise” for the defence team by presenting a video-taped testimony of the defendants who pleaded guilty and gave details of the crime (Kommersant, Interfax, Gazeta).
- Former Chechen PM to run for Volgograd Governor?: Former Chechen Prime Minister Anatoly Popov, who currently holds the post of Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Construction and Housing Complex, has paid a visit to his native the city of Volgograd. Kommersant links the visit to Popov’s intention to run for the Volgograd Governor next December. The daily notes, however, that Popov said he had not made a final decision whether to contest the election (Kommersant).
- NGO claims 25,000 Russian soldiers died in Chechnya since 1994: Ekho Moskvy quotes Valentina Melnikova, the Head of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, as saying that according to the estimates of her organisation, about 25,000 Russian soldiers and policemen have been killed in Chechnya since 1994. At least 50,000 Russian servicemen have received wounds and serious injuries, Melnikova said (Ekho Moskvy).
11 mei 2004
- Chechen President killed: Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov was killed in a bomb explosion at a Grozny stadium during Victory Day celebrations on 9 May. The death toll in the terrorist attack stands at six, 63 people were wounded. Khusein Isayev, the Chechen State Council Chairman, was among those killed. General Valery Baranov, Commander of the Joint Federal Forces in the North Caucasus, was seriously wounded. Kommersant (front page) notes that Kadyrov was the target of at least 17 assassination attempts during his “turbulent life”. According to Izvestia, the late Chechen President said shortly before the assassination that his death would not change anything, as “separatism and extremism have suffered a final defeat” in the Republic (All media).
- Putin: Kadyrov killed but did not depart from this world defeated: Meeting with Kadyrov’s son Ramzan several hours after the terrorist attack, President Putin said that “Kadyrov was killed on 9 May, the day marking our national holiday, Victory Day, but he did not leave this world defeated”. Kadyrov “had been shielding Chechnya and the Chechen people, confidently leading his Republic to a peaceful life”, Putin said (Interfax).
- Power vacuum in Chechnya?: Following the assassination of Akhmat Kadyrov, 32-year-old Chechen Prime Minister Sergey Abramov became acting Chechen President. The media, however, doubt his ability to “manage the situation in Chechnya on behalf of Moscow”. According to The Moscow Times, the assassination of Kadyrov “has created a power vacuum in Chechnya that the Kremlin might find hard to fill”. Novye izvestia notes that some politicians, including Dmitry Rogozin and Lubov Sliska, have called for the introduction of direct presidential rule in Chechnya. However, according to Kommersant, the Kremlin is more likely to avoid any extraordinary measures and to support a new presidential election as soon as possible in the Republic. In the paper’s view, this election could be held by 5 September. Kommersant notes that the fight for the post of the Chechen President will be
“more fierce” than in the 2003, when Akhmat Kadyrov was elected. The media mention Kadyrov’s son Ramzan as one of possible candidates for the Chechen President. According to an opinion quoted by Vedomosti (front-page), the meeting between Ramzan Kadyrov and President Putin on the day of the terrorist act and his appointment as the First Chechen Vice Prime Minister indicate that “Kadyrov’s son is treated seriously” (All media).
12 mei 2004
- Putin flies to Chechnya: Yesterday, President Putin flew to Grozny and ordered that reinforcements be sent to the Chechen police force and that a Cabinet delegation visit the republic to explore ways to speed up the reconstruction effort. Kommersant highlights that the President was horrified by the helicopter view of Grozny and urged the Government to resume reconstruction efforts. According to the daily, acting Minister of Economic Development German Gref is likely to head the Cabinet’s delegation, which is to visit Chechnya in the near future. Vremya novostei (front page) comments that it was President Putin’s third and possibly most “disturbing” “blitz-visit” to Chechnya, as “it turned out that active combat actions are still going on, that the enemy, repeatedly proclaimed encircled and dispersed, is capable of hitting the best protected targets”. The media also report that during his visit to Chechnya, Putin attended a meeting with members of the Chechen Government, met with relatives of late Chechen leaders, and visited the wounded Commander of Federal Forces in North Caucasus, Valery Baranov, in hospital (All media).
- Kadyrov’s son not to run for Chechen President due to age qualifications: Yesterday, the Head of the Central Election Commission Alexander Veshnyakov confirmed that the Chechen presidential election is to be held by 5 September, and that the Chechen Election Commission is to announce the election date within the next two weeks. Although none of possible candidates have so far confirmed their intention to participate in the election, the media have named likely favourites in the campaign. According to Kommersant, the 27-year old son of late Akhmat Kadyrov Ramzan will not run for the Chechen President due to the age qualifications set up by Chechen Constitution, according to which a Chechen President can be no younger than 30. In the paper’s view, the list of possible presidential candidates may include Taus Dzhabrailov, a close ally of Akhmat Kadyrov who was elected Chairman of the Chechen State Council yesterday, and Ruslan Yamadayev, Head of United Russia’s branch in Chechnya and a representative of Kadyrov’s family clan ‘Benoi’. Aslambek Aslakhanov, Putin’s advisor on Chechnya, says in a front-page interview with Rossiyskaya gazeta that he does not intend to run for the Chechen President. Vremya novostei quotes Malik Saidullayev, one of Akhmat Kadyrov’s opponents in the 2003 election, as saying that “no matter who is elected President, he will have few chances for a long presidency”. Nezavisimaya gazeta reports on the issue in a front-page article entitled “A vacancy for a person doomed to die” (Kommersant, Interfax, Vremya novostei, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- Taus Dzhabrailov appointed Chairman of the Chechen State Council: Yesterday, Taus Dzhabrailov was elected Chairman of the Chechen State Council. Taus Dzhabrailov earlier held the post of Chechen Minister for Nationalities, Information and Foreign Relations. On 10 May, acting Chechen President Sergey Abramov appointed Dzhabrailov as the Republic’s Deputy Prime Minister. The election was held following the death of the former State Council Chairman Isayev in the 9 May bombing in Grozny (Kommersant, Interfax).
- Oleg Zhidkov appointed Deputy Presidential Envoy to Southern Federal District: Kommersant reports in an article entitled “Former Mayor of Grozny filled the power vacuum” that yesterday, Oleg Zhidkov was appointed Deputy Presidential Envoy to the Southern Federal District. A native of the Chechen capital, Zhidkov was Mayor of Grozny in 2001-2003. As the Deputy Envoy, Zhidkov will monitor the situation in Chechnya, notes the daily (Kommersant, Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
- Assassination of Kadyrov postpones Putin’s state-of –the-nation address: Nezavisimaya gazeta (front page) reports that the assassination of Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov has postponed Putin’s state-of-the-nation address, which was expected this week. Moreover, in the paper’s view, some changes will have to be introduced into the text of the address, as the President will not be able to declare, as he did in his inauguration speech, that we “have stopped the aggression of international terrorism” (Nezavisimaya gazeta).
- Court acquits four servicemen accused of murdering Chechen civilians: Yesterday, a Rostov-on-Don military court acquitted four Russian special forces servicemen who were accused of murdering six civilians in Chechnya. The acquittal followed a not guilty verdict by a jury, which believed that the servicemen followed direct orders of their commanders. The servicemen had opened fire on a car that did not obey their order to stop; out of the six people in the car one was killed and two others wounded. According to the defence, the servicemen were then instructed to kill the survivors. Kommersant reports that the acquitted servicemen are planning to seek compensation for moral damage, as they had been kept in custody for two and a half years. The article in Kommersant is headed “Generally speaking, civilian Chechens may be killed”. The Moscow Times recalls that it was only the second time that servicemen faced charges for killing civilians in Chechnya. Vremya novostei notes that more court hearings are to follow, including the case of military sappers who shot dead two Chechen shepherds without any apparent reason in 1999. A front-page article in Novye izvestia is entitled “Good murderers” (All media).
13 mei 2004
- Duma adopts Statement on 9 May terrorist act in Grozny: Yesterday evening, the State Duma approved a Statement on the 9 May terrorist act in Grozny, which claimed the life of Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov, in a 339-35 vote. Kommersant notes that the Statement was prepared by Duma’s Committees on Security and on International Affairs. However, the daily highlights that the Duma decided to exclude the “international part of the Statement”, which puts the terrorist act in Chechnya on a par with terrorist acts in Spain and Jordan. This amendment was put forward by independent deputy Vladimir Ryzkhov, who “declared that Chechnya is an internal affair of Russia” (Kommersant, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- Media on possible candidates for Chechen President: Yesterday, the Presidential Envoy to the Southern Federal District Vladimir Yakovlev confirmed that the next Presidential election in Chechnya would be held on 5 September. The media continue to comment on the list of possible candidates for the post of the Chechen President. Vremya novostei quotes Aslambek Aslakhanov, Putin’s advisor on Chechnya, as saying that he will think about his participation in the election, “if Chechens insist”. The daily also reports that, according to Aslakhanov, Presidential election in Chechnya should be combined with Parliamentary and local elections. Taus Dhabrailov, the recently elected Chairman of the Chechen State Council, says in an interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta that Moscow-based Chechens do not have “the moral right” to run for the Chechen President. In the view of The Moscow Times, Kadyrov’s son Ramzan “will almost certainly become the next Kremlin-appointed ruler of the rebellious region” (All media).
- Moscow criticises Swedish FM for using double standards: Interfax reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds of using “double standards” after Freivalds said that her government did not consider the people behind 9 May bombing that killed Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov to be terrorists. “Such an approach does not contribute to an atmosphere of confidence in relations between Russia and Sweden”, the Ministry said (Interfax).
14 mei 2004
- Chechen State Council asks President Putin to overrule Republic’s Constitution: Yesterday the Chechen State Council appealed to President Putin with a request to overrule the Republic’s Constitution and to allow Akhmat Kadyrov’s son Ramzan to run for the Chechen President. At 27, Ramzan Kadyrov is too young to replace his father, according to the Chechen Constitution. Kommersant notes that Kadyrov Jr was elusive about his plans to run for the Chechen President but admitted that he may do so “if the people ask me to”. Nezavisimaya gazeta quotes an expert opinion, according to which the Kremlin is likely to put a stake on a representative of Kadyrov’s team in the upcoming election as “this is the only opportunity to avoid a collapse of the whole power system built by Akhmat Kadyrov” (All media).
- Prosecutor: poor security behind 9 May terrorist attack in Grozny: Several media outlets quote Deputy Prosecutor General Sergey Fridinsky as saying that a lack of professionalism in providing security was among the reasons for the 9 May terrorist act in Grozny that claimed the life of Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov and five other people. According to Fridinsky, prosecutors suggested that an attempt to destabilise the situation in the Republic could be one of the motives behind the attack (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
17 mei 2004
- Gref says Russia to draw up economic programme for Chechnya: German Gref, the Acting Economic Development and Trade Minister, expressed shock on seeing the state of destruction in Grozny, when he visited the city on Saturday as the head of a Government delegation made up of officials from a number of ministries and agencies. He stated that the Russian Government would draw up a 3-year programme for restoring Chechnya’s economy and social sector, adding that the number of projects funded by Moscow should be reduced to favour of key infrastructure projects. (All media)
- Schwimmer: CoE wants to continue work in Chechnya; lack of pluralism in Russian media: At a press conference in Moscow on Saturday, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer stressed that the Council intends to continue its cooperation with the Russian leadership to ensure the observance of human rights in Chechnya and to organise the training of electoral workers and civil servants to ensure fair and transparent elections in Chechnya this autumn. Schwimmer also expressed concerns over the lack of pluralism in Russian media, especially in the electronic media. He added that “a lot of progress” had been made in the observance of human rights in Russia. (Interfax)
- Kadyrov’s son stands firm in anti-rebel line: In a televised interview on Saturday, the son of the assassinated Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and Chechen 1st Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov emphasized that the Chechen administration would stick to its tough anti-rebel line. He also pledged loyalty to the Chechen Constitution and denied reports that he was planning to run for Chechen President. (Rossiya Channel)
18 mei 2004
- Putin meets Cabinet members: At a meeting between Cabinet Ministers, acting Minister of Economic Development German Gref reported about his recent visit to Chechnya and demanded to increase the financing of the reconstruction of the Republic. “If we want to rebuild the Republic’s economy we have to increase spending on infrastructure”, said Gref. He proposed making a list of priorities for 2005 and beyond in order to concentrate financial resources for reconstruction. According to Kommersant Daily the budgetary funds continue to disappear in Chechnya. The Audit Chamber in 2002 assessed 711 million roubles were misused in Chechnya. Last year, only 100 sites out of 364 were rebuilt. (Kommersant Daily)
- Basayev claims responsibility for assassination of Kadyrov:Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev on Monday claimed responsibility for the assassination of Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and for the first time threatened to carry out an attack on President Vladimir Putin. Kadyrov’s death in a bomb blast during Victory Day celebrations in Grozny was an execution according to a Shariah court ruling, Basayev said. At the end of the statement, Basayev mockingly said that rebels are plotting an attack against Putin. “We are interested in who will be appointed Prime Minister of Russia - Katya or Masha - should we successfully conduct operation Moska-2,” apparently referring to Putin’s two daughters and the recent appointment of Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of the slain leader, as the first deputy Chechen Prime Minister. (All Media)
- Three Chechen policemen and eight Interior Troops died in Urus-Martan district, Chechnya on Monday: At 9:30 a.m. rebels ambushed and opened fire at a police UAZ off-road vehicle in the outskirts of Alkhan-Yurt. When an armoured vehicle with Interior Troops drove to the clash scene the rebels activated another charge planted in advance. (Interfax, RIA Novosti)
- Gantamirov to run for presidency in Chechnya: Former Mayor of Grozny Bislan Gantamirov is ready to run for Chechen President. He said this during his interview with Echo Moskvi radio station. Meanwhile the head of the Chechen Electoral Committee Addul-Kerim Arsakhanov said at the press conference in Grozny that the exact date for the extraordinary Presidential elections in Chechnya will be decided in July.(Itar-Tass, Rosbalt, Vremya Novostei)
19 mei 2004
- Putin to deliver state-of-the-nation address on 26 May: Kommersant (front page) reports that President Putin will deliver his annual state-of-the-nation address on 26 May, and Putin’s meeting with representatives of business associations will therefore be postponed until June. As Putin’s address was expected at an earlier date, The Moscow Times notes that the delay may be linked to the assassination of Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov on 9 May (Kommersant, The Moscow Times).
- Aggravation of “mine war” in Chechnya: Three Chechen policemen and eight Interior Troops servicemen were ambushed and killed in Chechnya on Monday. Izvestia (front page) notes that it was the Federal forces’ largest loss in Chechnya this year. Several days earlier, a Federal forces’ truck exploded, wounding four policemen, and another four people have been injured in other explosions of vehicles in the same period. According to the daily, these incidents reflect an aggravation of “the mine war” in Chechnya, which was predicted by Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Interior Troops Commander. Interfax quotes Yevgeny Yershov, Chief of the Interior Ministry Provisional Centre in the North Caucasus, as saying that the situation in Chechnya remains complex, but generally under control (Izvestia, Interfax, Novye izvestia).
- Colonel Budanov convicted of killing Chechen girl asks for pardon: Interfax reports that the Ulyanovsk regional clemency commission will consider today an appeal for pardon from Colonel Yury Budanov, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for murdering a Chechen girl and is serving his sentence in the Ulyanovsk region. NTV notes that the composition of the regional clemency commission was approved by regional Governor Shamanov, who had commanded the Federal forces in Chechnya. Rossiyskaya gazeta recalls that it will be up to President Putin to make a final verdict on Budanov’s appeal (Interfax, NTV, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
20 mei 2004
- Colonel Budanov recalls his pardon plea: Colonel Yury Budanov, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for the murder of a Chechen girl, has withdrawn his plea for pardon. Budanov explained his decision by the uncertainty surrounding his citizenship, as well as by the fact the he has no place to live and no job (Interfax, Vremya novostei).
- Acquittal of murderers of Chechen civilians appealed: The defence lawyer of the victims in the case of Captain Eduard Ulman’s squad, which was charged with killing civilians in Chechnya, has appealed the acquittal of the squad in the Military Board of the Russian Supreme Court (Interfax).
21 mei 2004
- Kadyrov Jr pledges compliance with the Chechen Constitution: Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the late Chechen President, has rejected rumours of his possible participation in the next Chechen Presidential elections. “I will not breach the Constitution adopted at the referendum under any circumstances”, he said. At 27, Kadyrov Jr. is too young to run for the Chechen presidency under the republic’s Constitution. Nezavisimaya gazeta (front page) reports on the growing political weight of Ramzan Kadyrov in the republic (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
24 mei 2004
- Chechen presidential election set for 29 August: The Chechen Election Commission decided on Friday to hold the Republic’s presidential election on 29 August. The media note that it was decided to hold the election in late August rather then in early September “in order not to prevent children from studying”, as the majority of polling stations are to be located in school buildings. Kommersant comments that although no candidates have been registered so far, it is apparent that “the major fight will be between” the supporters of the late President Kadyrov and his political opponents (Vremya novostei, Kommersant, Vedomosti, Interfax, Itar-Tass).
- Another ally of Maskhadov surrenders: Kommersant reports in an article headed “Aslan Maskhadov has no one to lean on any more” that on Saturday separatist field commander Sulim Eldarov, who was known to belong to the inner circle of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, voluntarily gave himself up to law enforcement agencies. In the paper’s view, Eldarov was the last “influential person” in Maskhadov’s inner circle, and his surrender will considerably consolidate the authority of Ramzan Kadyrov, who like his late father may be able to urge rebels to stop resistance (Kommersant, Interfax, Gazeta)
- The Russian press on Saturday and Monday broadly praised agreements reached at the 13th EU-Russia Summit, as well as its business-like and friendly atmosphere. It is noted that there seems to be progress on the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol though no specific deadlines were agreed. The media comment that the EU did not draw specific attention to the Chechen issue, apart from condemning the recent terrorist attack in Grozny. The papers also pay special tribute to Romano Prodi for having done much to achieve the WTO breakthrough.
Characteristically, many Russian papers ran the story on their front pages and accompanied the articles with titles such as “Entrance ticket received” (Vedomosti); “Russia has passed the WTO test” (Kommersant); “Romano, thank you very much” (Izvestia), underlining the satisfaction of the Russian side on the outcome of the negotiations. The comments on the friendly atmosphere at the Summit were also enhanced by the front-page photos of Vladimir Putin and Romano Prodi shaking hands (Izvestia) and embracing at a news conference in the Kremlin (The Moscow Times, Trud), as well as by the pictures of smiling faces of participants in the Summit (Vedomosti, Rossiyskaya gazeta and others).
Most articles contain comments on the Protocol concluding Russia’s negotiations with the EU on accession to the WTO, which was signed at the Summit.
Izvestia quotes President Putin as calling the Protocol “a long-awaited, balanced agreement”. The Moscow Times adds that the resulting compromise clearly pleased the two sides, and goes on to quote Romano Prodi as saying that “both sides gave way in order to accommodate the delicate political and economic issues important to each”. However, in the view of Novye Izvestia, the Protocol was signed at the price of big concessions by Russia.
** The print media summarise the results as follows:
- Kommersant (Monday issue) reports that one of the main EU requests to Russia was improved market access to the financial services sector and tariff reduction in some sectors, in particular cars and aircraft. The sides reached an agreement on transitional periods of six-seven years for tariff reductions in these sectors. The Rostelekom monopoly will be maintained until 2007. Russia does not need to open up the banking and insurance sectors completely. The issue of the TransSiberian Over-flight charges was also on the table. It was decided to reform the system by 2013. Russia made some concessions to the EU on the issue of domestic gas prices. Russia agreed to a gradual increase in the domestic gas prices in line with the level envisaged in the country’s Energy Strategy: from the current level of $27-28 per 1,000 m3 to $37-42 in 2006 and $49-57 in 2010. Russia agreed with the EU formula that the domestic gas price should cover costs and provide a normal rate of return. Russia also promised to give foreign producers access to Russia’s gas pipelines. The export monopoly of Gazprom will be preserved.
- Rossiyskaya gazeta (Saturday issue) reports that Russia agreed to gradual increases in domestic gas prices. However, Russia will keep Gazprom’s export monopoly and will only give foreigners access to gas pipelines if there is spare transportation capacity. On the Trans-Siberian over-flight charges the EU and Russia will conclude an agreement next year with the goal of giving up the current system of charges by 2012. The schedule of tariff reductions envisages transitional periods ranging from 2-3 years to 3-7 years. Russia has agreed to eliminate Rostelekom’s monopoly. Russia did not agree to direct branching in Russia for foreign banks.
- Vedomosti (Monday issue) specifies that on energy, Russia took an obligation to increase the domestic gas price to $35-39 per 1,000 cubic meters by 2006 and up to $50 per 1,000 cubic meters by 2010. Russia also agreed not to raise the export duties on oil and gas above the current levels. The paper also quotes a source in Gazprom welcoming the agreement and saying that “the limit for increases in export duties was established and the plan for a gradual increase in gas prices was agreed upon”. Russia will be obliged to implement a gradual tariff reduction for cars, spare car parts and aircraft. A source in the Russian delegation said that Russia had proposed to introduce a transitional period of seven-eight years for the reduction in tariffs on cars (to 15%) and on large aircraft (to 12-15%). Rostelekom’s monopoly will be liquidated starting from 2007. Russia did not accept the EU request to allow direct branching by foreign banks in Russia. The share of foreign banks in Russia’s banking system will be limited. EU insurance companies will receive the right to offer services on trans-border insurance for international cargo deliveries. The system of Trans-Siberian over-flight charges will be changed after 2013.
- Izvestia (Saturday issue) further notes that under the agreement signed by Russia and the EU, Russia will not exceed an average tariff level of 7.6% for industrial goods, 11% for fishery products and 13% for agricultural goods, in addition to tariff rate quotas for fresh and frozen meat and poultry of around 600 million euro per year (15% of total EU agricultural exports to Russia). Russian gas prices to industrial users will be gradually increased to between $27-28 by 2004, $37-42 by 2006 and $49-57 by 2010, which is in line with Russia’s own energy strategy. Agreement was reached to revamp the system of Trans-Siberain over-flight charges to make it cost-based, transparent and non-discriminatory by 2013 at the latest.
** The dailies also focus on Putin’s assurances to speed up the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
- Vremya novostei quotes RAO UES CEO, Anatoly Chubais, as saying that the Protocol’s ratification will be “very useful for Russian businesses, and for RAO UES as well”. However, Chubais’ statement contradicts a comment made by Russian economist Mikhail Delyagin and quoted by The Moscow Times, in which Delyagin said that “what Putin said about the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol means that the Summit was not Russia’s diplomatic victory at all”.
- According to some observers quoted by The Moscow Times, the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Russia “now seems to be a matter of time and could happen as soon as early 2005”. The daily adds that some who have followed the issue closely noted that Putin stopped just short of offering his unequivocal support and that he had carefully fashioned an escape hatch for himself by saying that the real responsibility lies with the State Duma. Kommersant notes that Putin said nothing about the date of the possible ratification. According to Izvestia, Russia might “speed up the ratification process” up to the moment of its actual accession to the WTO.
Although it was not admitted officially, “Russia in a way exchanged WTO for Kyoto”, says Izvestia. In the paper’s view, in exchange for Kyoto ratification Russia can also demand “more considerate attention to the Russian-speaking population in the EU, imminent facilitation of a visa regime with all countries of the Schengen zone, and the resolution of remaining issues on Kaliningrad”.
** According to media reports, the EU and Russia also demonstrated “unanimity” on the Chechen issue at Friday’s Summit.
- The Moscow Times highlights that “not only had the Russian side won the right to keep energy prices at the levels it wanted them, Putin was also spared any pesky reminder of Brussels’ strong concern about violations of human rights in Chechnya”.
According to a Kommersant report, President Prodi allegedly left out a critical paragraph on Chechnya in his morning speech in the Kremlin. Gazeta notes that at the Summit, Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern condemned the terrorist act which claimed the life of Akhmat Kadyrov. Rossiyskaya gazeta stresses that the EU and Russia have demonstrated unanimity on the situation in Chechnya: the EU leadership has strictly condemned the 9 May terrorist act in the Republic.
** The Russian press also contains numerous comments praising the atmosphere of the Summit and underlining its historic importance.
- Vremya novostei writes that the Summit “turned out to be historical without any exaggeration”. Rossiyskaya gazeta calls the Summit “an epochal event”. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the Summit was highly substance-oriented and business-like. “Moscow and Brussels neither focused attention on internal topics of democracy and freedom of speech, nor discussed in detail Chechnya and Yukos, but resolved the old economic problems in their relations”, adds the paper. The daily also notes that after the completion of the talks, members of the Russian delegation were in high spirits; and the Presidents of Russia and the European Commission started calling each other by Christian names, having forgotten about old disagreements between Moscow and Brussels.
** Several dailies point to the positive role played by President Romano Prodi in the achievement of agreements on Russia’s WTO accession and in the smooth running of the Summit.
“Romano, thank you very much”, reads the title of an article in Izvestia. “The course of negotiations has shown that Mr Prodi, who has already secured a successful enlargement of the European Union, will try to enter as many lines as possible into the history of his leadership in Europe”, says Vremya novostei. Kommersant believes that Russia “passed the WTO test with the help of the EC President”. In the view of The Moscow Times, Romano Prodi “bolstered his legacy as the father not only of the expanded EU, but also of closer ties with Russia”.
25 mei 2004
- Presidential election campaign to be launched in Chechnya today: Kommersant reports that today’s Chechen media is to publish the decision of the Chechen Election Commission to hold the presidential election on 29 August, thereby launching the presidential election campaign in the Republic. Potential candidates will be able to file applications for registration until 14 June, and the Chechen Election Commission will decide on their registration by 14 July. Kommersant states that the names of three potential candidates are already known:former Chechen Press Minister Bislan Gantamirov, Deputy Presidential Envoy in the Southern Federal District Said Peshkhoyev and Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov. According to Kommersant, Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the late Chechen President, will support Alu Alkhanov in the election (Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
- Two possible suspects in 9 May terrorist act killed: According to the regional headquarters of the federal forces in the North Caucasus, Udayev and Elikhanov, two Chechen warlords involved in the 9 May terrorist act in Grozny, were killed during a special operation of the federal forces. However, in the view of Kommersant, there is little evidence of their involvement in the terrorist act (Kommersant, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vremya novostei).
- Wave of abductions hits Ingushetia: The Moscow Times (front page) quotes Usam Baisayev of the human rights group Memorial’s office in Ingushetia as saying that the abductions and killings that frequently occur in Chechnyahave spread to neighbouring Ingushetia. According to the daily, there have been more than 40 abductions in the Republic this year alone. In the paper’s view, the wave of kidnappings has no obvious connection with the war: the victims are Ingush, not Chechen, and there is no obvious pattern as to who is seized (The Moscow Times).
28 mei 2004
- CoE’s Gil-Robles meets Putin, Lavrov, Chayka, Pamfilova, Lukin: Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles, currently in Russia to draft a report on the human rights situation in Russia, met yesterday with President Putin and Presidential Human Rights Commissioner Pamfilova. Pamfilova said that “President Putin not only listens to human rights workers, but he has supported virtually all of their proposals on improving the observance of human rights”. Foreign Minister Lavrov noted that Chechnya is disappearing from the international political agenda and that the CoE Commissioner is one of the few high-ranking CoE officials who seriously facilitate the Chechen political settlement. Lavrov also noted the low pace of the naturalisation of the ethnic Russian minorities in the Baltics, on which Gil-Robles expressed concern. The Commissioner met also with Justice Minister Chayka, Russian Ombudsman Lukin stated that Russia cooperates very constructively with Mr. Gil-Robles (Interfax).
- Last Chechen refugee camp to close on 10 June: (i) The Deputy Head of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) Yunash said that the last remaining tent refugee camp in Ingushetia will close on 10 June. 960 IDPs are still living in the remaining 200 tents of the camp; 40,000 IDPs remain overall in Ingushetia. (ii) Contradicting reports were issued yesterday on the firing of the Chechen State Council building: while a member of the Council who was in the building testified that it had been hit by two grenades and that two officers had been injured, Federal Inspector of the South Federal District Vagapov claimed that another building had been fired at and that nobody had been hurt (Interfax).
31 mei 2004
- Chechen football team wins Russia Cup: Several leading dailies, including the Monday issues of Rossiyskaya gazeta, Kommersant, Gazeta, Izvestia and Vremya novostei, contain front-page articles reporting that the Chechen football team Terek won the Russia Cup beating the Samaran team Krylya Sovetov in a match played in Moscow. Interfax reports that thousands of young people chanting “Terek, Terek” practically paralysed traffic in central Grozny on Saturday. “Terek Football players have scored a political victory”, reads a headline in Kommersant. Vremya novostei adds that by all accounts it was a political rather than a sports victory. The daily highlights that Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of the late Chechen President, succeeded his father as the president of the Terek football club, and during the match a huge portrait Akhmat Kadyrov, killed in the 9 May terrorist attack, occupied nearly half of a stadium sector (All media).
- Railway communication with Chechen capital restored: Vremya novostei reports that railway communication between the Chechen capital and Moscow was restored yesterday, after a five-year break. There will be two regular Grozny-Moscow passenger trains a week, in addition to the trains connecting Moscow with the Chechen city of Gudermes. According to the daily, regular commercial flights from Moscow to Grozny will be also launched within the next three months (Vremya novostei).
- Interview with widow of Chechen separatist leader banned from NTV programme: Kommersant reports that in accordance with a written instruction issued by NTV acting Director General, Alexander Gerasimov, an interview with the widow of Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was assassinated in Qatar, was excluded from the NTV prime-time programme “Namedni”. This was allegedly due to a request by Russian special forces. The daily recalls that two Russian officers are currently on trial in Qatar on charges of involvement in the assassination of Yandarbiyev (Kommersant).