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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1505
Russia without checks and balances;
Putin's former colleague takes over Transneft
Edited by Jonas Bernstein
October 17, 2007
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has just completed a visit to Russia, has said that Russian actions like the resumption of TU-95 “Bear” bomber flight to the edge of U.S. and NATO airspace off the coasts of Alaska, Britain and Guam “are really not helpful to security.” “We don’t have an adversarial relationship with Russia any longer, and I would sincerely hope that Russian military activities, as well as Russian military expenditures, would reflect that,” she told ABC News. Rice said that during her meetings in Moscow she raised concerns about Russian arms sales to countries like Syria and Iran, which “are engaged in destabilizing behavior in one of the world’s most volatile regions.”
Following a meeting with human rights activists in Moscow on October 13th, Rice said there is “too much concentration of power” in the Kremlin and that this is “problematic for democratic development” in a country with no “countervailing institutions.” “Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying. “There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the [State] Duma.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that he will leave office when his presidential term ends next year but that he will continue to play a role in domestic politics, Reuters reports. “In Russia not only the word but also the spirit of our constitution will be observed,” Putin told a news briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Wiesbaden, Germany. “But that absolutely does not mean that representatives of the current authorities have no right to take part in the political life of their own country.” Putin also said the probe into last year’s murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya is on the right track. “The Prosecutor-General has said that the case is in its final stages and I think that it is,” he said. “The question is about who ordered this murder.”
Nikolai Tokarev, a former KGB officer who served in the spy agency with Vladimir Putin in East Germany in the late 1980s, has been appointed head of Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly, Transneft. According to Prime-Tass, Tokarev has been CEO of the state-owned oil company since 2000.
Attending a summit of five Caspian Sea nations in Tehran, President Putin has warned against a U.S. military strike on Iran and invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Moscow, the Washington Times reports. The Caspian states (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, plus Russia and Iran) backed Putin, stating in a final declaration that “under no circumstances” would they allow third countries to use their territories “to launch aggression or other military action” against any member state. Still, while Putin vowed to finish building Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, he refused to promise that nuclear fuel for Bushehr would be delivered before he leaves office. “I only gave promises to my mother when I was a small boy,” he said.
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who heads the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, has declared in an article published in the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that Vladimir Putin “will remain national leader regardless of the office he will be holding” after his second and final constitutionally-mandated term ends next year. Earlier this month, Putin agreed to head United Russia’s list of candidates in the State Duma elections, scheduled for December 2nd, and said he might serve as prime minister. “It is precisely on 2 December 2007 that the issue of the country’s leader will be decided,” Gryzlov wrote. “That leader is, must be and will be Vladimir Putin.”