|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Prosecutors Investigate Report That Nalchik Raids Presaged Bigger Attack
A story that the Oct. 13 raids against law enforcement offices in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, in the Russian North Caucasus, may have been designed to be parlayed into larger-scale attacks, was published by the Texas-based Stratfor think tank on Oct. 19. Statements by Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel confirm that the Stratfor report is being taken seriously.
In an article headlined "Nalchik: the 9/11 that wasn't," and bylined "Fred Burton," Stratfor cited "Russian military contacts and other sources" as saying that "the events in Nalchik apparently were supposed to be only the first phase of a plan that ultimately was to include flying explosives-laden aircraft into high-profile targets elsewhere in Russia. Though the exact targets have not been confirmed, sources say possible targets included the Kremlin, a military district headquarters and railway hub in Rostov-on-Don, a nuclear plant in the vicinity of Saratov, and a hydroelectric plant or dam on the Volga." While urging caution towards the source reports, Stratfor commented that the insurgents' targetting of the Nalchik airport at the beginning of their operation, while relatively ineffective (perhaps merely diversionary) raids were launched against other points in the city, tends to support them. The Burton article suggested that Russian counterintelligence was more effective than previously known, and had managed to preempt the bigger operation.
Shepel told Interfax Oct. 28, "Our information indicates that the terrorists planned to strike against 40 targets in Nalchik, including seizure of the local airport. We also intend to investigate reports on plans by [Chechen separatist field commander Shamil] Basayev to use civilian aircraft as weapons of terror." Interfax also cited the Stratfor analysis. In another update, widely aired by Russian media on Nov. 11, Shepel said that Ruslan Nakhushev, the director of the Islamic Studies Institute in Nalchik, who has recently disappeared, is a suspect in the Nalchik attacks.
Russia Studies French Unrest
There is intense discussion of the recent riots in France, within Russian political circles and media. The Russian context is defined by the growing number of ethnically non-Russian migrant laborers in the country, as a labor shortage develops in Russia, due to the horrendous demographicsthe collapse of the Russian populationbrought about by the foreign-monetarist-guided "reforms" since 1992. A Russian state television broadcast, monitored by the BBC on Nov. 7, talked in terms of a need to attract 2 million foreign workers each year, starting now. It said that 500,000 Chinese workers are already in Russia, and that this number will soon have to rise into the millions. "Yes, it is a problem," the program commented, "but the extremely acute manpower shortage is an even greater problemfatal for the nation."
According to State Duma Deputy Otari Arshba (United Russia), the "2 million per year" figure comes from the UN, while Russian researchers put the need for gastarbeiter at 700,000 annually.
Vice Speaker of the Duma Lyubov Sliska said Nov. 7 that "there are people who are kindling similar passions" in Russia, creating a danger of violence like in France. Rodina Party leader Dmitri Rogozin said Nov. 6, according to Interfax, that he had asked Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev to undertake "preventive work with communities of immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia, to prevent violent rioting in Moscow and other Russian cities." (At the same time, Rogozin himself came under fire for appearing in a "clean up Moscow" mayoral campaign ad, which included visual images of Caucasus-region migrants as "garbage.") There has recently been an increase in violent attacks on foreigners in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities, including the murder of a Peruvian student in Voronezh.
Media attention to the issue has included sensationalist articles, like Komsomolskaya Pravda's "nightmare scenario" of Nov. 8: "Ethnic groupings from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, fighting the Chinese for spheres of influence in Central Siberia. In fact, this is not science fiction; this is the bitter reality of recent years." The article went on to detail demographic shifts in Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories, just north of the North Caucasus, and in Siberia.
NED Targets 'Democracy'-Building in Russia
The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 4, allocates $95 million through the National Endowment for Democracy for "promoting democracy, good governance, human rights, independent media, and the role of law throughout the world." The assignment of $4 million to programs for developing political parties in Russia drew attention in that country, where not only is foreign funding for political parties illegal, but President Putin has come out strongly against foreign funding of non-governmental organizations, engaged in politics. On July 20, as Izvestia of Nov. 8 reminded, Putin said, "I object categorically to funding from abroad for political activity in the Russian Federation.... No self-respecting state permits this. And we will not permit it."
A law currently before the State Duma would require re-registration of all NGOs in Russia, preceded by a review of their activity.
Coverage in Vremya Novostei noted that the American bill earmarks $2.8 billion for combatting HIV/AIDS around the world, but that up to $80 million in HIV/AIDS and related assistance for Russia is tied, in the legislation, to good-behavior reports from the Bush Administration to Congress, concerning issues that range from technical assistance for Iran's nuclear program, to freedom of action for NGOs in Chechnya.
Aliyev Moves To Control Post-Election Turmoil in Azerbaijan
Both anti-government protests and rallies in support of President Ilham Aliyev took place in Baku, Azerbaijan after Nov. 6 Parliamentary elections, in which Aliyev's New Azerbaijan Party (known as YAP) claimed 63 out of 125 seats. About 15 seats went to opposition candidates, while independents got 44. The International Election Observation Mission, comprised of OSCE, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and Council of Europe observers, declared the elections to have been sub-standard. U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli announced American disappointment on Nov. 7, citing "major irregularities and fraud." Elements of the election scene were farcical, including a last-minute attempt to use indelible purple "I have voted" ink, imported from Michael Saakashvili's Georgia, which didn't work.
November 9 saw an authorized opposition demonstration in Baku to protest the announced outcome, followed by another protest the next day, but also a much larger (20,000+) rally in support of YAP and Aliyev. On Nov. 10 President Aliyev fired two regional governors for corrupt election practices, while the Central Elections Commission overturned the results in a number of districts and is examining others.
In Russia, where the Foreign Ministry officially stated that any irregularities in the Azerbaijan vote were minor, the opposition is seen as U.S.-controlled. That is because its leading figure, Rasul Guliyev, spent nine years in exile in the USA (and London), after fleeing prosecution for embezzlement in the mid-1990s. Russian television reports portrayed the opposition Azatlyg (Freedom) bloc's leaders as "racing from one Western embassy to another," to get instructions.
Moscow Reiterates: Iran Is Entitled to Nuclear Energy
Speaking at the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference in Washington, D.C. Nov. 8, academician Alexander Rumyantsev, the director of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, reaffirmed Iran's right to civilian nuclear energy. It was pointed out in a question by EIR that, regarding Iran and North Korea, Russia had followed a policy of engagement, and willingness to provide civilian nuclear energy. Meanwhile the U.S. policy of unilateral sanctions has failed, as seen in the amendment to the Iran Non-Proliferation Act last week by the U.S. Congress, required to ensure that American astronauts can stay on the International Space Station. "Iran has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol," Rumyantsev responded, "and under the Treaty each signator is entitled to build a civilian nuclear power industry."
Before leaving for Washington, Rumyantsev had told the media that Russia would be willing to build a nuclear power plant in North Korea, and that perhaps all the parties to the Six Power talks on Korea would pitch in.
As of Nov. 11, the Russian Security Council head and former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was in Tehran for talks with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, including about nuclear power. Ivanov was expected to present an offer to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, in a joint program. Iranian National Security Council head Ali Larijani stated, "What is important for Iran is to enrich (uranium) on its soil," however, he added that if an offer were made, "we will discuss it."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected "to have results in the near future." He added that Russia was "cooperating closely with the EU troika, the United States, and the IAEA, to resolve politically all the questions linked to the Iranian nuclear program." The Russian offer has been discussed since June, according to a Rosatom spokesman. In parallel, according to an EU diplomat, the EU has drafted a proposal to the same effect, entitled, "Elements of a Long-Term Solution." It names Russia, and copies have been sent to Moscow and Washington.