Russia: The Gangsters Strike Back
September 14, 2006: Yesterday, a top member of the Russian central bank was assassinated, apparently by gangsters working for corrupt officials. The dead man, Andrei Kozlov, was a major figure in the effort to eliminate government corruption. Kozlov was particularly active in closing small banks that had been set up mainly to support criminal activities. Since president Vladimir Putin took power in 2005, such killings have declined greatly. Putin, a former secret police official, was quick to crack down on the many criminal gangs that were feeding off the growing Russian economy. But Putin did not wipe out corruption and criminal coercion, he simply eliminated the many less competent crooks. The gangsters still in business are much more capable, and know that the murder of senior officials is counterproductive. Much better to use threats or other forms of coercion. But about once a year, there is an assassination attempt on a senior government official, followed by a lot of retribution by the security services. These police actions don't get much publicity, but the criminal gangs feel it. Despite this, some of the gangsters feel the threat from the government is worth making a stand, and going to war with the officials responsible. There is still a lot of corruption out there, especially in the military. But its the criminals in the civilian economy who are doing the most damage, although nor nearly as much as in the 1990s.
September 13, 2006: A firefight broke out between Ingush police and Chechen police commandos, apparently when the Chechens, returning from a night mission in Ingushetia, mistook the Ingush police for Islamic terrorists disguised as police. Four policemen died, and several more were wounded.
September 10, 2006: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan signed a treaty prohibiting the Central Asian nations from having nuclear weapons. But this agreement did not cancel a 1992 treaty that allows Russia, under certain circumstances, to move nuclear weapons into Central Asia. The new agreement also puts controls on the export and use of uranium mined in Central Asia.
September 7, 2006: The third chemical weapons destruction plant was opened 800 kilometers northeast of Moscow. It will destroy 4,000 tons of chemical weapons in the next six months. Russia is behind schedule in destroying its old chemical weapons, but is nonetheless eager to get on with it. The older this stuff gets, the more unstable, and difficult to store and handle, it becomes.
September 5, 2006: An electrical fire broke out in an old Victor III class nuclear sub anchored off the northern coast near Norway. Two sailors died before the fire could be put out. The sub was towed back to a nearby port and will probably be scrapped, rather than repaired. Russia is speeding up the decommissioning of older, Cold War era, nuclear subs. These boats often have design defects, or were shoddily built. There is not enough money to refurbish them, and it is difficult finding enough qualified sailors to man them. So the plan is to shrink the submarine fleet to a few dozen modern boats.