MOSCOW, October 17 (RIA Novosti)



The militants' attack at Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, on October 13, confirmed a recent trend which nobody wanted to talk about. The ark of the armed conflict is gradually spreading to the whole of the North Caucasus, said Andrei Ryabov, a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

They are not strong enough now to take and keep a big city, and the actions of the Russian security-related forces to cut short the raid were much more professional this time than during last year's attack at Nazran, Ingushetia, experts say.

However, this is not a reason to believe that instability in the region can be conserved at a safe level by improving military operations without changing the state's policy in the region. Radical Islamic and separatist movements in the North Caucasus have a broad and growing support base. Otherwise we would not have seen surprise raids by militants who quickly disappear after the operation.

Reasons for this are poverty, the marginal character of the bulk of the local population, Moscow's reliance on the leaders who pursue its policy but are not trusted by their people and the ineffective social and economic policy of the Kremlin. When vast sums of money that is channeled into regional development is spent on the construction of elite cottages, what might one expect? And the last reason is the multiplicity of policies pursued by various federal agencies that have serious interests in the North Caucasus.

If we leave everything as it is, there will come a time when additional armed forces consisting of conscripts will become necessary to normalize the situation in the North Caucasus. This would be a sure way to provoking growing public discontent in other regions of Russia, where powerful protest movements can appear even despite a strong vertical structure of power.

A relevant example is the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which began with the authorities' unwillingness to restore order in Azerbaijan, the expert said.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta


Prominent Russian politicians have this to say about the latest North Caucasian terrorist outbreak:

Dmitry ROGOZIN, leader of the Rodina (Homeland) party:

Federal authorities are weak. This is the main cause. Vladimir Putin should stop supporting local leaders who boast special privileges. Constitutional provisions are being interpreted differently there. The North Caucasian population does not receive any dividends from this. Consequently, it is becoming more discontent with local authorities and Russia. Secondly, regional social stratification can be compared to that in Africa.

Nikita BELYKH, leader of the SPS (Union of Right Forces) party:

The North Caucasian terrorist threat has evolved for a long time. This situation has persisted for years due to the Russian Federation's ineffective regional policy.

Gennady GUDKOV, member of the State Duma's Security Committee:

All-out corruption inside institutions of state authority and lack of feedback from the people is the main factor. Terrorists take advantage of this situation. Criminal masterminds easily recruit supporters, with corruption facilitating large-scale outrages. Russia's ineffective law-enforcement agencies and secret services are riddled with corruption. This country has never seen such corruption in the past. As a matter of fact, nobody feels ashamed of this.

Oleg KULIKOV, secretary of the Russian Communist Party's central committee:

First of all, Moscow lacks a clear-cut and coherent social and confessional policy for the North Caucasus that is plagued by extremism and social tension. Seventy percent of the local population is jobless. Extremists recruit their supporters from among these underprivileged and socially vulnerable strata. Secondly, our secret services are weak because the best operatives had resigned after the Soviet Union's demise.

Novye Izvestia


The analysis of the development of the four State Dumas before the 1917 revolution and the four post-Soviet Dumas reveals many similarities, said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a deputy of the lower house of the Russian parliament. Parliamentarism is not taking root in Russia, he said. "We still cannot create a parliament that would be independent of the supreme authorities and pursue a policy of its own."

The first State Duma (1906) stood in stark opposition to the tsar and hence was dissolved barely three months after its election. People dubbed it "the Duma of public outrage." The second Duma was an opposition body also and hence did not last much longer. In the third and fourth Dumas, the tsar and the government had the ear of the majority and did what they wanted to, Ryzhkov said. This is why the fourth Duma was called "lackeys," or a Duma of "yes" men.

The history of the four post-Soviet Dumas is a near-carbon copy of their pre-revolutionary predecessors. The first Russian Duma fought for its rights while standing in opposition to the authorities. The second Duma remained in opposition, but "in the third and fourth Dumas the president and the government joined forces, ensured the victory of the pro-presidential party, and gained full control of the parliament," the deputy said.

Ryzhkov said that both before the 1917 revolution and today, Russian deputies were and are, fighting for very similar things: a responsible cabinet, meaning a government of the parliamentary majority. "The four tsar's Dumas demanded this, and the current Dumas are doing the same. Neither has attained their goals," the deputy said.

Irina Khakamada, the leader of the Our Choice party who had sat on three Dumas, shares this view. She said that the current parliament did not play an independent role but was only rubberstamping the laws submitted by the government.

In fact, the State Duma is a giant machine that acts as a democratic backdrop, Khakamada said. It is a mere adornment of the rigid vertical system of power.

Vremya Novostei


Russia's Industry and Energy Ministry and its gas giant, Gazprom, admit that they have become deadlocked in creating a joint gas supply network for Eastern Siberia and the Far East. The Russian Gas Society's supervisory board held its session on Friday, with ministerial and Gazprom representatives saying that it was impossible to comprehensively exploit regional resources. This is hardly surprising because there is no market either in Russia or abroad to supply large amounts of East Siberian gas.

It seems that Gazprom does not want to focus on Sakhalin projects. The company plans to accomplish relatively small strategic objectives. First of all, Gazprom wants to receive the official status of the sole exporter of all East Siberian gas. Secondly, it wants to prevent the uncontrolled development of the Kovyktinski gas condensate deposit in the Irkutsk region, Eastern Siberia. This deposit contains an estimated 1.4 trillion cubic meters of gas and 95 million tons of gas condensate. The Russian-British company TNK-BP has the license to develop this deposit. However, the Industry and Energy Ministry does not want to assume responsibility for chartering the guidelines to exploit East Siberian gas resources.

"The scale and complexity of projected changes and extremely uncertain long-term development parameters make it impossible to compile an optimal list of long-term production projects. We therefore plan to implement this program stage by stage," Anatoly Yanovsky, director of the Ministry's fuel-and-energy sector department, said. According to Yanovsky, federal authorities will complete the preliminary stage in 18 to 24 months. During that time the government will access and scale down possible risks and pave the ground for Eastern Siberia's comprehensive development.

Experts said a year ago that investments to develop the whole of Eastern Siberia would amount to $25-30 billion. This estimate has now been revised to $50 billion.



The government has finally decided how to go about reforming the oil sector. On October 14, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry announced a package of measures to stimulate production. Experts call the decision timely and logical.

"Mineral tax breaks are likely to be introduced in 2007, and an oil exchange to be set up in 2006," Kirill Androsov, departmental head at the ministry, said on Friday. He said most of the deposits in Western Siberia and Pechora area are unprofitable, with new fields, mainly on the shelf, unattractive to oil companies.

Amendments to the Tax Code and other supporting legislation, as well as regulations for the exchange, may be ready in December for coordination between ministries and government departments.

Also, the official said, the excise tax on high-quality fuel may be reduced in 2006, and that on low-quality raised. Lastly, the ministry does not rule out handing down a resource extraction tax on low-quality oil suppliers during a specified fiscal period. In Androsov's view, this measure may improve the overall quality of Russian blend.

Specialists consider the proposals justified. Grigory Vygon, an independent analyst, thinks tax breaks on minerals are really needed. "The lowering of the tax on extraction," he says, "is important for new deposits. High risks due to taxation make new projects non-starters. Exhausted fields also need exemptions. But the government should set guidelines for assessing the extent of their depletion."

The oil exchange, on the other hand, believes Vygon, is a peripheral issue. "For an exchange to function normally, the country must have a petroleum market. But over recent years the state has been taking great pains to prevent one from emerging."

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