Daily Archives: February 27, 2008


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW539 2008-02-27 15:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0539/01 0581544
O 271544Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000539 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2018 
     B. MOSCOW 251 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells: reasons 1.4 (b/d). 
1.  (C) Summary:  In the wake of scandalous comments by a 
Russian TV commentator calling the assassination of former 
Serbian PM Djindjic "well-deserved," First Deputy PM Dmitriy 
Medvedev and FM Lavrov traveled to Belgrade on February 25 to 
mend fences, reiterate Russia's support for Serbian 
territorial integrity, and affirm the continuation of Russian 
foreign policy in the Balkans during Medvedev's (presumed) 
presidency.  The MFA insisted that Medvedev's brief meeting 
with Republika Srpska PM Dodik in Belgrade focused on support 
for Dayton.  During the visit, Gazprom signed an agreement 
with Serbian gas company Srbijagas to start performing 
studies for the South Stream route.  Analysts viewed this as 
an easy foreign policy "solo" for Medvedev, given the Russian 
political consensus on the illegitimacy of Kosovo's 
independence.  Russian officials and press remained hostile 
to U.S. policy towards Kosovo, harshly criticizing U.S. 
characterizations of Russian policy and predicting an 
increase in separatist movemen 
ts and related terrorism.  Russian NATO envoy clarified that 
Russia would not use force in Kosovo.  End Summary. 
Medvedev and Lavrov Mend Fences in Belgrade 
2.  (C) On February 25, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy 
Medvedev and FM Lavrov visited Belgrade, in the first "solo" 
foreign policy outing by the Russian presidential heir 
apparent.  Serbian Embassy Political Counselor Boris Sekulic 
described the visit to us as hastily arranged, coming in 
response to scandalous comments by Russian reporter 
Konstantin Semin during a February 21 broadcast on a 
state-owned television station, to the effect that the 
Western-leaning Serbian former PM Djindjic's assassination 
was a "well-earned bullet" for "selling heroes of the Serbian 
Resistance to the Hague."  Calling Djindjic a "Western 
puppet," who dismembered the Serbian Army, Semin went on to 
insinuate that Tadic was following Djindjic's legacy of 
selling out to the West. 
3.  (C) The Serbian Foreign Ministry demanded a formal 
apology from the state television channel, calling Semin's 
comments "offensive" and "justifying the murder of a 
democratically elected leader."  MFA Serbia Desk Chief Denis 
Kuznedelev told us that Serbian FM Jeremic called Lavrov to 
complain and received an apology, as well as Lavrov's public 
statement that Semin's comments were "nonsense and his own 
opinion."  (Note: Semin is also author of several attacks on 
the U.S., including the documentary "Empire of Good," which 
equated the promotion of democracy with the extension of U.S. 
hegemony.)  Sekulic told us that Serbian officials were 
skeptical that Semin's comments could air on a state-owned 
channel and not be "someone's" position, if not the official 
government line.  He told us that the Serbian Embassy has 
submitted a formal note of complaint to the television 
station asking for an apology, but had not received an answer 
and that no action had been taken against Semin.  Russian 
media widely reported th 
e outrage in Serbia provoked by Semin's comments. 
Medvedev Burnishes Foreign Policy Credentials 
4.  (C) According to reports from the Kremlin press pool, 
Medvedev faced a frosty first session with President Tadic, 
who was not on hand at the airport for Medvedev's arrival and 
who kept Putin's successor waiting for his first meeting. 
Medvedev did the needful, apologizing for Semin's comments 
and reaffirming Russian support for Serbian territorial 
integrity.  Kuznedelev told us the Medvedev reassured both 
Tadic and PM Kostunica that Russia would continue to 
recognize Serbia's "internationally recognized borders," 
obstruct Kosovo's entry into international organizations such 
as the OSCE and Council of Europe, and support stability in 
northern Kosovo.  He told us that Medvedev's visit signaled 
that Russian foreign policy towards Serbia would remain 
consistent under his presumed presidency.  Kuznedelev 
confirmed that Medvedev met with Republika Srpska PM Dodik as 
well, but said only that they "talked about upholding the 
Dayton Accords."  Russian press reports contrasted Tadic's 
aloofness with PM Kostunica's 
 effusive welcome of Medvedev. 
5. (SBU) During the visit, Gazprom chief Alexey Miller and 
his counterpart from Serbia's state-owned gas company 
Srbijagas signed an agreement to start the process of 
performing feasibility studies for a proposed extension of 
the South Stream gas pipeline through Serbia.  The agreement 
MOSCOW 00000539  002 OF 003 
follows up on an "Umbrella Intergovernmental Agreement" on 
the same project, signed during Tadic and Kostunica's visit 
to Moscow last month, but does not yet establish the company, 
to be 51% owned by Gazprom, that would own and operate the 
pipeline on Serbian territory.  The deal is related to a &#x000
A;separate agreement paving the way for Gazprom Neft to acquire 
51% of Serbia's national oil and gas monopoly, NIS.  Visiting 
Hungary after Serbia, Russian officials reportedly reached 
agreement on the transit through Hungarian territory of the 
South Stream pipeline, which is expected to be signed in 
Moscow in the coming week.  Both agreements, however, still 
appear very preliminary in nature, and the Serbian Embassy 
here has taken pains 
 to emphasize to us that the terms of the deal can be 
6.  (C) Analysts we spoke to emphasized that, notwithstanding 
the alleged frosty atmosphere with Tadic, this was an easy 
foreign policy venture for the president presumptive, given 
the unanimous Russian official and public support for Putin's 
rejection of Kosovo's independence.  Director of the 
Kremlin-friendly Center for Political Technology Igor Bunin 
reiterated that Medvedev's visit answered the Russian 
public's demand for continuity on this foreign policy issue. 
The liberal editor of "Russia in Global Affairs" Fyodor 
Lukyanov dismissed the notion that the visit reflected 
Medvedev's status as a "puppet" of Putin, arguing that "the 
trip does not tell you anything about Medvedev's future 
strength as president, but tells you everything about 
Russia's views on Kosovo." 
Russia Accuses U.S. of Cynicism 
7.  (U) Russian commentary on western recognition of Kosovo 
remains harsh.  In a February 24 press statement, the MFA 
responded harshly to U.S. criticism of Russia's stance, 
labeling the U.S. policy "cynical."  The statement charged 
that the U.S. "openly humiliates the Serbian people," tied 
"Belgrade's Euro-Atlantic prospects...to Serbia's 
dismemberment," and resulted in 100,000 Serbs being driven 
into modern-day ghettoes.  It denied that Russia was isolated 
on Kosovo, noting that "most countries" would prefer a legal 
solution based on compromise.  The statement also rebutted 
doubts on Russia's contributions to Kosovo's settlement, 
noting that Russia withdrew peacekeepers in 2004 because of 
"principled disagreement with the unilateral tilt in Kosovo 
Russian Officials Foresee More Separatism 
8.  (SBU) Presidential Envoy for Counterterrorism Safronov 
stated that Kosovo's independence had the potential for 
"setting in motion dangerous trends" and foresaw an increase 
in separatist movements and terrorist acts.  Likening the 
West's support of Kosovo to the 1938 Munich Agreement, 
Safronov warned that Kosovo could "unleash a powerful force 
of destruction" with unforeseen consequences.  He said that 
"the trigger has been cocked, and nobody knows what kind of 
short will be fired and when."  MFA Special Envoy for the 
Balkins Botsan-Kharchenko said that the current situation in 
Kosovo "may lead to the isolation of the Kosovar Serbs" which 
"could lead to the actual division of Kosovo." 
9.  (SBU) Russian media continues to worry about the opening 
of "Pandora's box."  News listed some of the "200" possible 
trouble spots, ranging from Republika Srpska to Scotland, and 
some presenters have posited that "world order may be 
collapsing."  Commentators argue that fewer countries have 
recognized Kosovo than the U.S. planned, noting specifically 
that no CIS country, including allies such as Georgia, have 
recognized Kosovo. Even liberal publications continue to 
refer to Kosovo as the "mutinous region." 
10.  (SBU) Liberal Democratic Party leader Zhirinovskiy, 
known for his hyperbolic statements, said on February 25 that 
the "U.S. will try to separate Russia," using the precedent 
of Kosovo.  As reported in Russian press, Zhirinovskiy said 
that the U.S. will "urge" Russia to recognize Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia, and then support the independence of the North 
Caucasus republics of Russia.  Zhirinovskiy supported Russian 
recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but worried that 
would cause retaliation in the form of Western recognition of 
Chechnya and Kabardino-Balkaria. 
Rogozin Clarifies: No Force in Kosovo 
11.  (C) Russian envoy to NATO Rogozin "clarified" his 
comments from a February 22 press conference, stating that 
Russia "would never use force" to solve the Kosovo problem. 
MOSCOW 00000539  003 OF 003 
Rogozin's statements had been widely interpreted in the press 
as advocating the use of force to restore international law. 
Sekulic told us that Kostunica asked Putin last year, at a 
meeting in St. Petersburg, if Putin would provide 
peacekeeping forces "if the situation in Kosovo grew 
violent."  While Sekulic said that he did not know Putin's 
reply, MFA officials have previously ruled out the 
possibility in meetings with us. 
12.  (C)  While Russia's stance towards the frozen conflicts 
in the wake of Kosovo's independence remains shrouded in 
ambiguity, its support for Serbia's territorial integrity is 
unambiguous.  This was an easy foreign policy turn for 
Medvedev, designed to show that he can fill Putin's shoes on 
the international stage and operate beyond his Gazprom brief. 




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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW538 2008-02-27 15:22 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0538/01 0581522
P 271522Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000538 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador William Burns for Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) In a February 27 meeting, Minister of Regional 
Development Dmitry Kozak told the Ambassador that the GOR was 
committed to a policy of economic decentralization but that 
the pace would vary from region to region depending on local 
factors, above all local leadership.  Kozak said different 
regions faced different obstacles to development and that the 
GOR would tailor its plans accordingly.  In that regard, he 
explained that his concept of "macro-regions" was intended to 
promote economic efficiency in the regions.  End Summary. 
Decentralization -- Region Specific 
2. (C) Kozak told the Ambassador that the central government 
recognized the importance of transferring authority to the 
regions to spur their economic development.  After the chaos 
of the 1990s, Russia had recentralized to restore order. 
However, this recentralization had led to red tape and 
bureaucracy which in turn was causing economic stagnation in 
many parts of the country and the central government now 
needed to begin devolving power not just to the regions but 
to municipalities as well. 
3. (C) Kozak stressed, however, that some regions were 
already developing more rapidly than others because of better 
leadership.  In transferring authority to the regions, the 
center would need to hold individual regional leaders 
accountable and be prepared to step back in as needed.  In 
that regard, the center's role in the regions would be 
directly correlated to the extent of assistance it needed to 
provide.  Those regions that needed little help would be 
allowed more freedom to run their own affairs. 
Obstacles to Regional Development 
4. (C) Kozak told the Ambassador that the GOR would tailor 
regional development plans to the specific obstacles in a 
given region.  In the Far East, for instance there was a lack 
of labor and of infrastructure.  The central government might 
need to offer incentives to attract labor, such as housing 
allowances and income supplements.  The center would also 
likely have to invest public funds in developing the region's 
infrastructure.  For instance, the Far East had 22 airports 
that needed to be refurbished and thousands of kilometers of 
roads that needed to be built if it was to develop faster. 
5. (C) In the North Caucasus, on the other hand, Kozak said 
stability had been the main problem following the Chechen 
conflict.  Central subsidies had helped restore stability and 
the main obstacle now was unemployment.  It was up to 
regional leaders to reduce their reliance on subsidies, which 
could not be maintained indefinitely, and to create 
employment opportunities by, among other things, attracting 
private investment.  Some leadership, such as in 
Kabardino-Balkaria had made progress; others such as in 
Ingushetia, were stuck or sliding backwards economically.  In 
broad terms, Kozak said the 2014 Sochi Olympics should have a 
major economic impact on the region. 
Regional Development Plans 
6. (C) Kozak said he was developing the concept of 
"macro-regions" to speed regional development.  These 
macro-regions would be encouraged to develop into 
self-sustaining economic entities with specific 
specializations.  For instance, if a region had a particular 
natural resource, then factories utilizing that resource 
would be built in the region.  This would reduce 
transportation costs and improve economic efficiency.  Kozak 
stressed that this was an economic rather than a political 
plan.  While administrative changes might be made to borders 
and the like, it would only be done so in the interest of 
economic goals. 
7. (C) Kozak said the GOR would also continue to use Special 
Economic Zones (SEZs) to promote regional development, but 
MOSCOW 00000538  002 OF 002 
only in places where development was lagging, such as the Far 
East.  SEZs and their tax and other special preferences were 
unnecessary in regions that were already developing. 
U.S. Experience 
8. (C) The Ambassador noted our own experience with 
federalism questions and offered to share it as Russia's 
decentralization went forward.  Kozak responded positively, 
welcoming any information the U.S. could provide.  He also 
responded positively to the Ambassador's suggestion that he 
meet soon with the American Chamber of Commer
ce, many of 
whose members are increasingly looking to Russia's regions 
for investment opportunities, to discuss his plans for 
regional economic development. 
9. (C) Kozak is one of the more business-like and direct 
members of the senior Russian political leadership.  He was 
only recently brought back to Moscow from the North Caucasus 
where he was President Putin's personal representative. 
Newly empowered and with a healthy budget, he has quickly 
taken charge in a ministry that had previously been a 
backwater.  While Kozak is often rumored as a candidate for 
other high-level GOR portfolios, he left the impression of 
someone who assumed he would remain in his current post for 
some time to come. 



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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW536 2008-02-27 14:54 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0536/01 0581454
R 271454Z FEB 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: A. 06 Moscow 5353 
 B. 06 Moscow 4543 
 C. 06 Moscow 1811 
MOSCOW 00000536  001.2 OF 003 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  Russia's HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to grow, 
though not at the same fast pace that occurred in 2000-2002. 
Infections continue to be concentrated among injecting drug users, 
but the epidemic is also spreading through heterosexual sex, 
primarily among the partners of high risk groups such as sex workers 
and drug users.  In 2007, 44 percent of new cases were among women, 
most estimated to be among or linked to high risk groups.  Russian 
Government spending on HIV/AIDS treatment has grown exponentially, 
and over 30,000 people are now receiving anti-retroviral therapy. 
Although the government has spent comparatively little on HIV 
prevention activities, Government officials recognize that they must 
increase spending in this area, and have been looking to the NGO 
community for examples of successful outreach, prevention and care 
programs.  Russia will face significant challenges to increase 
adherence to therapy among patients, and to effectively tackle 
AIDS-related co-infections such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.  END 
HIV/AIDS Cases Growing Steadily 
2. (U) Some 400 medical professionals and researchers from regional 
AIDS centers, the Health and Social Development Ministry, health 
NGOs, and research institutes gathered in Suzdal December 4-6 for 
the annual All-Russian Conference on HIV/AIDS.  Gennadiy 
Onishchenko, Russia's Chief Medical Officer and the head of the 
Federal Surveillance Service for Consumer Rights Protection and 
Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor), opened the conference by stating 
that despite substantial efforts over the last several years, 
Russia's HIV/AIDS epidemic was growing steadily.  About 403,100 HIV 
cases had been officially registered in Russia since the HIV/AIDS 
epidemic began 26 years ago, of whom some 350,000 people were still 
alive today. 
3. (U) According to Vadim Prokovskiy, Director of the Federal AIDS 
Center, the number of newly registered HIV cases in 2006 stood at 
39,652, a 1.7 percent increase over the number of cases registered 
in 2005.  This number was still well below the 87,823 cases recorded 
in 2001, when the number of new cases reached its highest level. 
Intravenous drug use remains the most common route of transmission 
of HIV infection, with 65 percent of newly registered cases among 
drug users. More than 44 percent of new HIV cases were registered 
among women in 2006, indicating a growth of heterosexual 
transmission, though experts believe this growth is primarily 
because of transmission to sex partners of intravenous drug users. 
There are a growing number of secondary opportunistic diseases, such 
as Tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis, and kaposi sarcoma, among 
HIV-positive individuals, which was reflected in a forty percent 
growth in the amount of deaths among HIV positive individuals in 
2006 compared to the previous year.  Some 9,000 Russians have active 
TB/HIV co-infections, and a significant proportion of HIV-positive 
people also have hepatitis B or C.  By the end of 2006, there were 
41,500 HIV positive Russian prisoners out of a total population of 
871,693 prisoners.  Some 3,037 prisoners are currently receiving 
anti-retroviral therapy (ART) through programs supported by the 
Global Fund, but prison authorities estimate at least 4,800 
prisoners currently need such therapy. 
Russians Bristle at International Criticism 
4. (SBU) UNAIDS estimates there are over one million people living 
with HIV/AIDS in Russia, making up two thirds of all HIV/AIDS cases 
in Eastern and Central Europe.  Federal AIDS Center head Pokrovskiy 
has stated he generally agrees with that assessment, but Chief 
Medical Officer Onishchenko has publicly disagreed and complained 
about the lack of clarity in how UNAIDS derives its estimates. 
Onishchenko has also bristled at suggestions from former USUN 
Ambassador Holbrooke (now head of the Global Business Coalition on 
HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria) that Russia is losing the battle against 
the epidemic.  Last November, Onishchenko and drug control 
authorities were also quick to reject a recommendation from Human 
Rights Watch International that Russia legalize the treatment of 
drug substitution therapy with methadone for heroin addicts, an 
issue which affects many HIV/AIDS patients (Ref A).  Likewise, on 
MOSCOW 00000536  002.2 OF 003 
February 18, some 30 protesters from United Russia's "Young Guard" 
movement shouted "We will not let you take methadone!" outside an 
international conference
on Evidence-Based Substance Abuse Treatment 
in the Era of HIV/AIDS, which was organized by the Russian Mental 
Health Research Institute and Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS. 
Russia Expands HIV Treatment 
5. (U) Under Russia's National Priority Health Project (Ref C), 
federal government spending on HIV/AIDS treatment has gone up 
exponentially since 2005, and now stands at over $200 million per 
year.  The government exceeded its target of 30,000 HIV-positive 
people receiving ART by the end of 2007.  The GOR expects to provide 
40,000 patients with access to ART during 2008, and treat 52,000 
with ART by 2009.  These targets are for federally funded programs. 
In addition, more than 9,000 people living with HIV in Russia are 
receiving ART under Global Fund programs, according to the Russian 
Healthcare Foundation.  Despite the federal and Global Fund 
programs, many more Russians need ART than are currently receiving 
it, and that number is expected to continue rising over the next few 
6. (SBU) Most Russian experts believe that problems of stigma, lack 
of consistent drug supply (ART) and access to care remain critical 
problems for those in need of treatment.  The failure of physicians 
to implement diagnostic and monitoring standards for out-patients at 
HIV centers is another reason why not everyone who needs ART is 
receiving this life-saving therapy.  Observers also state it has 
been difficult for the GOR to conduct outreach to most at-risk 
populations, such as drug users and commercial sex workers.  During 
the past year, however, the Health and Social Development Ministry 
has awarded tenders to some NGOs to conduct outreach activities 
among vulnerable populations, which has supplemented existing 
outreach programs supported by the Global Fund and USG. 
7. (SBU) Russian adherence rates (i.e., how many people who start 
ART continue treatment) are on par with levels in other parts of 
Europe, with about ten percent of patients abandoning treatment per 
year.  Some 2,771 patients gave up treatment for various reasons 
during 2007.  Mikhail Rukavishnikov, head of the Society of People 
Living With HIV/AIDS, told us recently that adherence is one of the 
biggest concerns of his organization.  In his view, the GOR is 
failing to counsel, provide social support, and to educate those on 
ART about the need to continue taking medicines, and many patients 
do not understand that they need to receive ART indefinitely.  The 
lack of availability of quality drug rehabilitation programs also 
contributes to adherence problems in Russia.  Government officials, 
however, have made positive comments about the impact of faith-based 
groups and other NGOS that have developed psycho-social support 
programs for drug addicts undergoing rehabilitation. 
Government Prevention Efforts Lagging 
8. (U) Despite the massive spending on treatment and care, Russia 
spends comparatively little on efforts to prevent the further spread 
of HIV.  The GOR budgeted around $8 million for prevention 
activities in 2007, though the number is expected to rise to over 
$16 million in 2008 and over $28 million in 2009. In addition, only 
about 25 percent of the prevention funds in 2007 are being spent on 
prevention activities among high-risk groups. Leading health 
officials such as Pokrovskiy and Onishchenko publicly acknowledge 
that the country needs to devote more resources to prevention, and 
they have pledged to seek additional funding from the government for 
these activities. 
Rising Tide of Co-Infections 
9. (U) Observers expect that the number of AIDS-related 
co-infections will grow over the next few years, as the immune 
systems of the large number of people infected with HIV from 2000 to 
2002 become compromised.  Accordingly, the need for treatment and 
care of AIDS patients is expected to increase significantly.  TB is 
already the leading cause of death among HIV positive people, 
accounting for 59 percent of all deaths among this group in 2006 
(Ref B).  The number of active TB/HIV co-infections has risen from 
2,524 cases registered in 2002, to 9,102 cases in 2006. 
10. (SBU) Chief Medical Officer Onishchenko has also expressed 
MOSCOW 00000536  003.2 OF 003 
concern over the high rates of hepatitis B and C co-infections among 
people living with HIV/AIDS. During 2008 Rospotrebnadzor will begin 
supplying 32 pilot regions with lab equipment and medicines to 
diagnose and treat 8,500 patients suffering from Hepatitis/HIV 
co-infections.  In a recent meeting, Onishchenko told us privately 
that he is concerned about the fact that treatment for co-infections 
is funded by regional budgets, whereas the federal government pays 
for HIV/AIDS treatment.  He said the federal government will review 
that funding arrangement, and may ultimately decide to fund 
treatment of co-infections at the federal level as well. 
11. (SBU) While making great strides in HIV treatment, Russia's 
health professionals and policy-makers still face tough challenges 
in conducting prevention, treatment and care activities among 
socially-marginalized and vulnerable populations like drugs users 
and commercial sex workers.  The country will have to grapple with 
how to procure drugs at affordable prices and maintain an adequate 
supply of drugs to treat co-infections.  It was encouraging that the 
GOR created a national HIV/AIDS Commission in 2006, chaired by the 
Health and Social Development Minister, that included both health 
professionals, health NGOs, and people living with HIV/AIDS. 
Unfortunately, the commission has only met twice, and has done 
little so far to develop national policies or strategies for 
tackling the thorny HIV/AIDS issues that lie ahead. 



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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW535 2008-02-27 14:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow


DE RUEHMO #0535/01 0581447
O 271447Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 000535 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reasons:  1.4 (b,d). 
1. (C) Summary:  The slander case against "For Human Rights" 
Chairman Lev Ponomarev that was opened on February 22 
continued to move forward the week of February 25 with 
Ponomarev called in for questioning on February 26 and case 
materials provided to Ponomarev's lawyer the same day.  In 
conversations February 26 and 27, Ponomarev and other human 
rights activists traced the case to a combination of bad 
blood between Ponomarev and the GOR official he allegedly 
slandered --prison system chief Yuriy Kalinin-- as well as 
GOR agencies attempting to demonstrate their usefulness in 
advance of the presidential succession and anxiety in some 
government quarters as the succession process proceeds. 
Ponomarev and Moscow Helsinki Group Chairman Lyudmila 
Alekseveya believe that with the completion of the succession 
process the case may not go to trial. If it does go to trial, 
they expect that Ponomarev will be found guilty, but 
sentenced only to pay a fine rather than serve a term of 
incarceration.  Ponomarev guessed the trial could take place 
within the month.  Ambassador raised the Ponomarev case with 
MFA DFM Yakovenko February 26.  Yakovenko had no substantive 
comment.  End summary. 
Long-Running Case 
2. (C) As widely reported in the media, on February 22, a 
criminal case was opened against "For Human Rights" Chairman 
Lev Ponomarev for Ponomarev's alleged slander of the Director 
of the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments 
(FSEP) Director, General Yuriy Kalinin.  The criminal case 
was opened on the basis of an April 23, 2007, decision of a 
Moscow court, which found false Ponomarev's accusation that 
Kalinin was responsible for torture that was occurring in 
Russia's prison system.  The Moscow court agreed that Kalinin 
had been slandered in a November 10, 2006, article, entitled 
"During Kalinin's Reign Forty Torture Zones Have Appeared in 
Russia."  The news agency that published Ponomarev's article, 
Regnum, issued a retraction after a court ruling. 
3. (C) Ponomarev has signed an agreement not to leave the 
country while the investigation proceeds.  Depending on what 
subsection of Russian Criminal Code Article 129 (defamation) 
he is charged with, if found guilty, Ponomarev could be 
forced to pay a fine or serve as much as three years in 
Ponomarev, Other HR Activists 
Think Fine, Not Prison, Likely 
4. (C) In a February 27 conversation, Ponomarev guessed that 
the case against him was "indirectly" associated with the 
March 2 presidential elections and the succession process, 
with Kalinin and others attempting to demonstrate to the 
incoming Medvedev team that he will be "necessary to his 
administration."  Ponomarev also noted that his relations 
with the FSEP Chief have been bad for several years. 
Ponomarev's repeated calls for Kalinin's resignation and his 
efforts to hold Kalinin personally responsible for abuses in 
the prison system had gone down badly with the General. 
Ponomarev acknowledged that the sentence, if he is found 
guilty, could range from a fine to three years.  He had been 
questioned February 26, Ponomarev said, and his lawyer, Igor 
Meskhiyev, was currently acquainting himself with the case 
evidence.  (Meskhiyev has been the lawyer for Yukos defendant 
Platon Lebedev.)  Ponomarev expected that the trial, if it 
occurred, would take place within one month.  Interestingly, 
Ponomarev did not trace his current difficulties to the 
February 12 Wall Street Journal article, entitled "Putin's 
Torture Colonies" in which he is prominently cited. 
5. (C) In a separate, February 27 conversation Moscow 
Helsinki Watch Chairman Lyudmila Alekseyeva suggested that 
election anxiety may have contributed to Ponomarev's 
troubles; "although I don't understand why they are anxious," 
she added.  Alekseyeva suggested that the authorities during 
the transition period, "even without orders from above," felt 
it necessary to "ensure order" and, more importantly, to 
demonstrate to their superiors that they are doing so. 
Pointing to the large number of police that have been on 
Moscow's streets in the last several days, Alekseyeva said 
she had asked a special forces commander if they had been 
ordered to deploy, and been told "no."  "They just want to 
show their bosses they are ready for anything," she said. 
Alekseyeva predicted that the case will go nowhere.  The 
charges are "nonsense," she said, but even so, the local 
human rights community was gearing up to make noise about 
Ponomarev's plight.  Alekseyeva did not mention the WSJ 
article as a cause of Ponomarev's troubles. 
6. (C) Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch February 27 
ascribed the case to GOR "agencies trying to strengthen their 
positions" in advance of the succession.  She was less 
convinced that any insecurity about the upcoming succession 
remained, as "the opposition has been vanquish
ed."  Like 
Alekseyeva, Lokshina thought that initial furor would soon 
die down, and that, at worse, Ponomarev would have to pay a 
7. (C) In a February 26 conversation, William Smirnov of the 
Presidential Council of Human Rights backed Ponomarev's 
criticisms of the prison system, but thought that attempting 
to trace all of its problems personally to Kalinin was a 
tactical error.  Unlike the others, Smirnov thought that the 
case could produce serious problems for Ponomarev, but he 
guessed that a symbolic punishment was more likely, as 
anything else would be "not the best way for a new president 
to begin" his term of office. 
8. (C) In a February 26 conversation, Ambassador raised the 
Ponomarev affair with MFA DFM Yakovenko.  Yakovenko had no 
substantive comment. 
9. (C) It seems hard to believe that the February 12 article 
did not stimulate renewed interest on the part of the 
authorities in this long-dormant case.  It is possible that 
the article jogged the memories of those with both an ax to 
grind against Ponomarev and an urge to make themselves useful 
as the succession process continues and a new president 
prepares to take his place in the Kremlin.  Ambassador will 
continue to raise the Ponomarev case with GOR representatives. 



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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW531 2008-02-27 13:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow


DE RUEHMO #0531/01 0581325
P 271325Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 000531



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2018

REF: A. 07 MOSCOW 4543

Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns for reason 1.4(d).

1. (C) Summary: The Russian prison system combines the
country's emblematic features - vast distances, harsh
climate, and an uncaring bureaucracy - and fuses them into a
massive instrument of punishment. Russia imprisons a greater
portion of its population than almost any other country in
the world (second only to the U.S.). In contrast to other
Western countries, the system is foremost focused on
punishment, not rehabilitation, and while statisics are
difficult to compare, produces a lower rate of recidivism.
Recent prison riots, new prisoner shock tactics, and smuggled
videos of prison mistreatment have highlighted the cruelties
and corruption in the system. Health conditions in Russian
prisons are poor and infection rates for contagious diseases
are much higher than in the general population, but
surprisingly the mortality rate for men in these prisons is
only one-third the rate on the outside - a statistic that
says much more about the dangers of alcoholism and road
safety than it does about healthy living behind bars.
Reports of abuses in the prison system have been answered
with calls for reform, most recently in the Human Rights
Ombudsman's annual report and by the President's Human Rights
Council. While NGO activists such as the embattled Lev
Ponomarev praise the work of Lukin, the insurmountable
challenges posed by the physical and cultural nature of the
prison system mean that efforts to improve conditions or to
alter the character of the system from punishment to
rehabilitation are likely to produce only superficial
improvements. End summary.

Structure of the Prison System

2. (U) The Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments
(FSIN), part of the Ministry of Justice, administers more
than 700 Russian jails and prisons across the country (this
cable does not address the military prison system operated by
the Ministry of Defense). There are four levels of
incarceration as prisoners move through the justice system:
temporary police custody facilities for those held pending
charges; pretrial detention facilities (SIZOs) for those
charged with crimes; lower-security correctional labor
colonies (ITKs); and high-security prisons for more dangerous
prisoners and for those who violate the rules of ITKs.
Convicted juveniles serve their sentences in "educational
labor colonies" (VTKs) for juveniles, in almost all cases
separate from adult prisoners.

3. (C) According to Lev Ponomarev, who recently established
the NGO "For Prisoners' Rights," the authorities use a
two-tier system of administration. The prison officials and
the guards protect the perimeter of the facilities and
provide the upper layer of security, but then they elevate
select prisoners to act as internal enforcers among the other
prisoners. These elite prisoners receive privileges and
protections in return for enforcing a brutal form of order
within the prisons. Ponomarev called this a "low-risk ghetto
system" for the guards. "If one of their enforcers gets
killed by another, they can just promote a new one. Maybe
even the one that killed the last boss." Ponomarev told us
that the prisoners have little choice, and cited an example
of one member of the National Bolshevik Party who was sent
into solitary confinement for one year for refusing to act as
an enforcer.

4. (C) This system of using prisoners to enforce discipline
and order was formally established by the Ministry of Justice
in 2005. According to William Smirnov, a member of the
President's Council on Human Rights, the MOJ formalized a
system that had long existed. Smirnov defended the system,
telling us that "It was not a bad idea, but it was poorly

5. (C) According to Viktoriya Sergeyeva of Prison Reform
International (PRI) in Moscow, the source of the problems is
the Ministry of Justice and the FSIN. The low pay and low
prestige of prison administrators and guards, combined with a
lack of oversight and accountability, have created an abusive
system rife with cruelty and corruption. Guards use
violence, threats of violence, or the lack of protection to
extort prisoners. Other guards take bribes for allowing
relatives to smuggle in goods to prisoners. Sergeyeva said
that prison administrators knew what was occurring and
probably received a cut from the guards.


The Inmates

6. (U) According to FSIN statistics, as of July, there were
approximately 889,600 people in the custody of the criminal
justice system, including 63,000 women and 12,100 juveniles.
This rate of 630 prisoners per 100,000 citizens is second in
the world only to the United States (702 per 100,000). The
number of prisoners has increased in recent years. Compared
to July 2005, the total number of prisoners has increased by
101,000 ( 13 percent), the number of women prisoners
increased by 15,000 ( 31 percent), and the number of juvenile

prisoners decreased by 2,400 (-17 percent). Not
surprisingly, most prisoners are poorer and less educated
that the general population; only 1.3 percent of male
prisoners have university degrees, compared to 22.5 percent
of the general population, and nearly 60 percent of convicts
were unemployed prior to their arrests. Seventy percent are

7. (C) During the last year, there have been scattered
reports of uprisings in prisons, including a revolt and
jailbreak at the youth prison in Togliatti (Samara Oblast).
According to Ponomarev, this revolt was triggered by the
transfer of a large number of 20 year-old prisoners to an
adult prison. By law, he explained, convicts sentenced
before they turn 18 are sent to youth prisons, where they may
stay until they turn 21, at which time they are transferred
to an adult prison. Other protest actions, such as hunger
strikes, are still common, but Ponomarev described a new
shock tactic whereby prisoners will en masse slice open a
vein on their arms or neck in protest of mass beatings.
While the poor conditions in the prisons have not further
deteriorated in the past few years, the prisoners are
becoming more organized. "Smuggled cell phones are enabling
prisoners to communicate better and to coordinate mass
action," said Ponomarev.

--------------------------------------------- -
Distance, Climate, and Isolation as Punishment
--------------------------------------------- -

8. (U) The prison system incorporates Russia's vast distances
and harsh climate into the system of punishment. Although
the law states that prisoners should not be incarcerated
outside the region where they lived or were convicted unless
local prisons are overcrowded, this rule is routinely
disregarded, according to Sergeyeva. Many prisons are
located in isolated regions with harsh climates and use
buildings that are not adequately heated, cooled, or
ventilated. Often, the transfer of prisoners far from their
homes is due to space concerns, but it is also used as a form
of punishment for troublesome prisoners. The best known
example of this treatment is Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, who is
imprisoned in Chita, nearly 3,000 miles from his native
Moscow. His associate, Platon Lebedev is imprisoned nearly
1,200 miles from Moscow above the Arctic Circle. The
Moscow-based Open Health Institute (OHI) reported that this
physical isolation leads to personal isolation, and that
between 50 and 80 percent of all prisoners had not received
any visitors in the prior three months. This isolation from
family and friends has negative repercussions on future
rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

9. (U) Due to the nature of this federal (not regional)
system, juveniles and women are more likely to be located far
from their homes. For example, there are only three prisons
in the country for the 1,000 girl prisoners - one in Tomsk
for all of Siberia and the Far East, one in Ryazan, and one
in Belgorod. This great distance makes it almost impossible
for families to have regular contact with their children.

10. (U) Prison guards still rely heavily on traditional forms
of violence and deprivation to maintain control. Solitary
confinement for long periods (sometimes longer than one year)
while illegal is reportedly used, and some isolation cells
are too small for the inmate to fully stretch out lying down.
In what Ponomarev said was a typical incident, he showed us
a video filmed by a guard and sent anonymously to For
Prisoners' Rights. The video, since posted on YouTube, shows
prison guards marching out prisoners in a Sverdlovsk Oblast
prison past dogs. Some prisoners were then stripped to the
waist, stretched out over tables, and then beaten with billy
clubs by the guards. "This is routine behavior," said
Ponomarev, "what is different is that it was recorded."
REN-TV aired short segments of the video during an evening
newscast. A recent news report from Kalmykiya claimed that
after a new warden was appointed to a local SIZO, the
Ministry of Justice's special forces visited the prison and
beat up every detainee saying that it was a greeting from the
new warden. Ponomarev said that such reports surfaced
relatively rarely, and that prison administrators will
continue to exploit their remote locations and be able to
ward off scrutiny from the press, NGOs, or government

11. (U) According to Sergeyeva, the recidivism rate in Russia
is only 36 percent (compared to more than 50 percent in the
United States or the United Kingdom). She attributed this
low number to a combination of factors, including the longer
average Russian prison term which keeps men in jail and a
genuine fear of returning to prison. (Note: It is difficult
to evenly compare the U.S. and Russian statistics since U.S.
conditions vary from state to state and from the federal
prisons. End note.) "We still have the problem that when
these prisoners return to society, they have no system of
assistance. The federal budget finances the prisons and the
punishment, but they leave it up to regional and local
government to finance the rehabilitation and health costs.
They break them, and then we own them."

Health Conditions

12. (U) Conditions in pre-detention facilities (SIZOs) are
generally worse than in the prisons. The prison system does
not have enough SIZOs to handle the large number of the
accused, and overcrowding and squalid conditions are
widespread. Many SIZOs lack toilets, and inmates use
buckets. In a well-documented case at the European Court of
Human Rights (Mayzit v. Russia, No. 63378/00), the court
found Russia in violation of the Prohibition of Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment by placing Yuriy Mayzit in severely
overcrowded cells with less than two square meters per person
(the Russian legal minimum is four square meters/person, the
European minimum is seven square meters/person). According
to Human Rights activists and the Ombudsman Lukin, similar
conditions (or worse) exist throughout the system.

13. (U) Health conditions in prisons are poor. Overcrowding
is common, the infection rates of resistant TB and HIV/AIDS
are much higher than in the general population, and even
though the TB infection rate has greatly decreased since
1999, the active TB rate among prisoner is still five times
higher than in the civilian population (Ref A). According to
the Open Health Institute (OHI), there were 41,500 inmates
with HIV/AIDS in 2006, approximately ten percent of the cases
in the country. Prisoners with active TB are segregated from
the regular prison population and are given rigorous medical
treatment, but because the treatment of normal TB lasts up to
12 months and even longer for drug-resistant TB, many
prisoners are released before they complete treatment and an
estimated 40 percent fail to continue their treatment on the
outside. A 2005 study by OHI revealed that former prisoners
carry these infections back to the general population upon
their release, a
nd they account for an estimated 20 percent
of new TB cases in the civilian population.

14. (U) OHI Deputy Director Aleksey Bobrik reported a
counterintuitive statistic that even though the mortality
rate from infectious diseases was greater in prisons than in
the general population, the overall mortality rate for men in
prison was only one-third that of the general population.
Bobrik and the other OHI researchers attributed this to the
absence of binge drinking, car accidents, and industrial
accidents in prison. Long-term health for inmates, however,
suffers greatly as the poor nutrition, stress, and disease
manifest themselves later in life.

First-Hand Observations

15. (SBU) Embassy and Consulate employees have visited
several jails and prisons across Russia and report that
conditions are generally poor. In the Kholmsk pre-trial
detention center on Sakhalin Island, the facilities are
literally crumbling, it is dangerous to walk the hallways,
and the dark living quarters lack every amenity. One
American detainee was initially denied a bed, and his health
deteriorated noticeably during the weeks he was held there.

16. (SBU) The facilities that consular staff see are
generally better than the prevailing living conditions,
according to prisoners. Consular officers generally will
meet with prisoners in a waiting room, sometimes under a
guard's watch, but often alone in a room. We have the
greatest access to the prison in Mordovia, which is used for
foreign citizens, but we cannot say that it is typical of the
system. An American citizen convicted of pedophilia used
money and goods sent from the outside to buy the favor and
protection of the prison commandant. He had no complaints
about threats from other prisoners, which is not typical of
Russian prisons where pedophiles are reportedly at the bottom
of the prisoner caste system.

17. (SBU) At the women's prison in Mozhaisk (Moscow Oblast)
the Embassy and a visiting DOJ delegation were given a tour
of the prison housing facilities and clothing factory, and
then treated to a bizarre fashion and talent show by the
inmates. Eleven of the 43 women's prisons in the Russian
Federation allow inmates to have children under age three to
live on the prison grounds, and women in the other prisons
who become pregnant are transferred to prisons that allow
children. Only two, Mozhaisk and Mordovia, allow mothers to
live and sleep in the same rooms with their young children.
At age three, the children are moved to family members on the
outside or to orphanages. The facilities at Mozhaisk were
clean, well kept, and the factory where prisoners produced
uniforms for the military, police, and other government
workers appeared to be safe, well lit, and well run.

Oversight and Efforts to Reform the System

18. (C) Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told the
Ambassador in a February 7 meeting (Ref B) that prison
conditions were one of the most important issues for him, but
that he had difficulty gaining unfettered access to the
prisons and that prison authorities were the main obstacle he
faced in addressing prisoners' human rights complaints. Lukin
said that the FSIN was slowly improving conditions, and that
new construction fixed many of the problems of sanitation and

19. (SBU) On February 14, Lukin issued his 2007 Human Rights
report for Russia which reproached the FSIN for the
deplorable conditions in the prison and for their lack of
cooperation in addressing the abuses. Like the 2006 report,
the 2007 report focuses heavily on abuse in the prison
system, and Lukin noted that almost 20 percent of the total
15,000 complaints that his office received last year were
reports of ill treatment in the prisons. Lukin wrote that his
office had investigated approximately half of the prison
complaints but that he was often stonewalled by prison
authorities in getting evidence. According to Lukin, fewer
than 150 of the 1,500 cases he had brought to the attention
of prison officials resulted in any corrective action.

20. (SBU) Lukin proposes several reforms that would address
problems in the system, foremost among them being the
expansion of parole, which would ease the overcrowding of the
system, and change the focus of the prison system from
punishment to rehabilitation. He also proposes minor
changes, such as moving the prison hospital system out of the
Ministry of Justice and into the Ministry of Health. Lukin
noted that Russia already had adequate legislation to address
many of the abuses, such as keeping prisoners near their home
region or providing them with proper medical care; the
problem, however, is that the FSIN often disregards the law.

21. (C) Ponomarev and PRI's Alla Pokras both praised the work
of Lukin and Ella Pamfilova, the Chair of the Presidential
Council on Human Rights, but said that the problems in the
system were too great and too severe for them to handle.
Pamfilova told the Ambassador on February 11 that she had
been thwarted in her reform efforts by the Ministry of
Justice (Ref C). Ponomarev noted that Putin met with
Pamfilova on January 11 to discuss problems in the prisons,
but that he offered nothing substantive. Putin was quoted
saying "The situation (in prisons) has been changing slowly
but surely, largely through consistent and systematic efforts
by human rights organizations." Although Ponomarev agreed
that human rights groups were doing most of the work to
reform the system, he disagreed that the situation was
improving, or that human rights organizations could do this
work by themselves. "We can shine a light on this situation,
but the government runs the prisons -- neither we nor Lukin
himself can even gain access to the 40 worst 'torture
prisons.' How can he honestly expect that we could possibly
change this system?"

22. (U) On February 22, a Moscow court acting on a complaint
by FSIN Director Kalinin filed a suit against Ponomarev for
defamation. The suit is based upon a November 2006 interview
with Regnum.ru where Ponomarev called FSIN Director Kalinin
the "author" of the system in which select prisoners enforce
order and discipline on others. Ponomarev also described a
network of 40 "torture prisons" and alleged that torture,
beating, and rape (or the threat thereof) were used to
extract confessions and control prisoners. The prosecutor's
complaint did not take issue with Ponomarev's
characterization of the system or the allegations of torture
in the prisons, but focused instead on the fact that it was a
Ministry of Justice decree that established the system, not
Kalinin himself. If found guilty, Ponomarev faces up to
three years of first-hand experience inside the prison system.


23. (C) A system as vast and entrenched as the Russian
prison system will be difficult if not impossible to reform.
The nature of the system, which has not substantively varied
as it has evolved from tsarist prisons to the gulag to
today's system, nurtures the spread of disease, abuse, and
corruption. Observers agree that the combination of
distance, isolation, corruption, and general indifference to
the plight of convicts combine to create a system that is
brutal and will resist attempts to reveal its inner workings,
or to change it.



WikiLeaks Link

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Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #08MOSCOW530.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW530 2008-02-27 12:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow


DE RUEHMO #0530/01 0581243
R 271243Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000530 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2018 
Classified By: POL M/C Alice G. Wells, reason 1.4 (D). 
1. (C) Summary:  While the security environment in Chechnya 
has stabilized sufficiently to allow the Danish Refugee 
Council to base its operations in Grozny, Ingushetiya and 
Dagestan are experiencing increased violence due to 
separatist and extremist activities, high unemployment rates, 
easy availability of arms and explosives, and ineffective law 
enforcement agencies, the UN and NGOs report.  Unpredictable 
attacks and, even more so, federal governmental ambivalence 
regarding foreign humanitarian presence make the North 
Caucasus a difficult operating environment, according to 
expatriates doing PRM-funded humanitarian work in the region. 
 End Summary. 
UN Presents Mixed Picture 
2. (SBU) A February 11 United Nations Department of Safety 
and Security Russian Federation (UNDSS) "concept paper" 
provided to Refcoord summarized mixed developments in North 
Caucasus security and its effect on the ability of foreign 
humanitarian aid workers to undertake their mission: 
-- Chechnya:  The UN notes "perceptible improvement in the 
security environment."  Thanks to tight control by forces 
answerable to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, the UN was 
able to increase humanitarian missions to Chechnya from 136 
in 2006 to 156 in 2007. 
-- Ingushetiya:  The UN recorded an up-tick in violence 
against law enforcement and government authorities.  This 
"remained the most unstable and unpredictable republic in 
terms of security situation during 2007" in spite of enhanced 
government counter-terrorist operations. 
-- Dagestan:  As in Ingushetiya "(T)he unpredictable security 
situation is dominated by armed clashes between law 
enforcement agencies and militants, a high crime rate,...and 
increasing dexterity of militants in using explosive 
devices."  The UN observed that "(b)ombings and targeting of 
civilian officials, spiritual leaders and law enforcement 
personnel took place regularly and (are) likely to continue 
in future." 
Furthermore, the UN paper noted that, region-wide, "Despite 
the low level of home invasion and car-hijacking, kidnapping 
remains a perceived threat for the UN operations in view of 
the social tradition (sic) of kidnapping for ransom and other 
types of abduction." 
Life in a conflict zone 
3. (C) Geographic and social isolation, inadequate health 
care, and constant government monitoring of their activities 
are the main hardships afflicting humanitarian workers in the 
North Caucasus, according to Jo Hegenauer, Jr., a Canadian 
who is UN Area Security Coordinator and UNHCR Head of Office 
for the North Caucasus.  "Someone is shot and killed or a 
bomb goes off every day" in Ingushetiya Hegenauer said, but 
expatriates remain fairly safe.  Hegenauer attributed this to 
Russian concerns over western perceptions as the GOR builds 
up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, not in "Russia 
having too much at stake should an aid worker get hurt." 
4.  (C) Reflecting on his 22-year career in humanitarian aid 
during a February 20 conversation, Hegenauer said his three 
years in the Caucasus had been the most difficult.  The main 
obstacle to his agency's effectiveness, he maintained, was 
the host nation's "essential antipathy" to outside 
involvement in its internal affairs.  The GOR will find a way 
to compromise even "squeaky clean" expatriates whose work it 
fears will undermine government authority.  Unlike in a place 
with a failed or transitioning government, in Russia all the 
structures are in place to keep aid workers under constant 
surveillance, Hegenauer regretted. 
5. (SBU) Hegenauer's younger colleagues in the field express 
greater anxiety.  Refcoord met February 11 with Thomas Hill, 
the International Refugee Committee (IRC) Russia Country 
Director and spoke by telephone with Siobhan Kimmerle, 
Russian Federation Program Director for World Vision.  Both 
are American citizens in their early 30s with fluent Russian 
and previous experience in development work.  Hill had 
recently attended IRC's Regional Management Conference in 
MOSCOW 00000530  002 OF 003 
Bangkok, Thailand, bringing together country representatives 
serving in the Caucasus and Asia.  Kimmerle had attended a 
World Vision field representatives' meeting in Cyprus in 
December.  Both reported that, based on their and their 
colleagues' accounts of obstacles to achieving their aid 
objectives, their organizations have concluded that the North 
Caucasus is a hardship post on a par with Afghanistan. 
6. (C) Hill affirmed that tension in Ingushetiya has grown 
steadily since Autumn 2007 as local communities have started 
expressing their frustration at perceived favoritism, 
nepotism, and weakness in President Murat Zyazikov's 
administration.  The
Ingush, Hill concluded, want a strongman 
like Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov.  Hill, who moved to the North 
Caucasus with IRC in September 2007, reported that he has 
rewritten the Ingushetiya office's security plan, basing his 
revisions on his organization's procedures in Afghanistan. 
Based on increased violence in Ingushetiya, Hill has drawn up 
contingency plans in the event IRC is forced to close its 
Nazran office.  Hill allows his expatriate staff to spend 
only three nights and two days at a stretch in monitoring the 
IRC's programs in Chechnya.  That leaves Vladikavkaz, where 
the expatriate staff live a 45-minute drive from Nazran, as a 
potential base of operations, but IRC's local (Muslim) staff 
are not safe in (predominantly Christian) North Ossetiya. 
7. (C) Meanwhile, official corruption is an ongoing barrier 
to efficient INGO operations, Hill regretted.  Movement 
through republican border checkpoints is a problem.  This 
winter, two of his local staff lost their driver's licenses 
when they refused to pay bribes on a journey to 
Kabardino-Balkaria for staff training.  In December 2007 
Chechen officials denied IRC permission to work with the 
organization's chosen local partner on an EU-funded community 
mobilization infrastructure project, charging that the local 
group, Save the Generation, did not operate transparently. 
The Chechens recommended a different local partner, an 
organization that had not even applied for the tender.  When 
IRC objected, the authorities recommended a third 
organization, one that had applied for the tender -- but by 
this time IRC was so suspicious of republican officials' 
motives that it resolved to use its own staff. 
8. (C) Kimmerle expressed frustration similar to Hill's.  The 
previous Saturday she had wanted to travel from her 
Vladikavkaz apartment to World Vision's Nazran office to 
spend a couple of hours catching up on work, she said, but 
was refused by her security chief.  Later, she learned that 
there had been an explosion at a checkpoint she would have 
needed to traverse. 
DRC to Move to Grozny 
9. (C) One NGO, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), has decided 
to abandon its Nazran headquarters and base its operations in 
Grozny from March 2008.  In a February 14 conversation with 
Refcoord, Eugene Sienkiewicz, DRC's Head of Program, said 
that DRC is in the final stages of closing its Ingushetiya 
office and finding apartments in Grozny for its expatriate 
staff, who until now have resided in Vladikavkaz. 
Sienkiewicz, a 56-year-old American citizen, observed that 
"Ingushetiya is particularly uncomfortable right now," but 
added that the "constant, low-level" violence appears 
targeted at local officials and Russian-speaking residents, 
not expatriate aid workers.  Sienkiewicz echoed other 
assessments that place blame for the unrest in Ingushetiya on 
dissatisfaction with Zyazikov's leadership and outrage at 
authorities' overly harsh and arbitrary law enforcement, he 
posited; in Chechnya, from pro-independence and anti-Russian 
feeling.  (Note:  DRC operates only through a local partner 
in Dagestan, and its expatriate staff do not travel there. 
End note.) 
10. (C) In Chechnya, Sienkiewicz noted, Kadyrov has 
successfully pacified the territory north of the mountains, 
including Grozny, but people still do not feel safe outdoors 
after dark.  DRC will require its staff to observe an 8 p.m. 
curfew once they move to the Chechen capital.  Their 
apartments will be located sufficiently close to each other 
to share a guard post, thus keeping security expenses down. 
(Note:  World Vision and IRC achieve the same objective by 
using group houses, something DRC's somewhat older staff 
wishes to avoid.  End note.)  For any kind of movement, DRC 
will continue to use three or four armed guards and a couple 
of vehicles with drivers, just as it now does in Ingushetiya. 
Donor Considerations 
MOSCOW 00000530  003 OF 003 
11. (C) Comment:  Humanitarian assistance in the Russian 
Federation is a frustrating business because the federal 
government is wary of "interference" and weary of INGO 
presence in a region it prefers to present as poised for 
prosperity.  For the foreseeable future, humanitarian 
operations in the North Caucasus will require carefully 
planned static and mobile security arrangements. 
International aid organization staff are encouraged by the 
appreciation of local government officials bent on 
reconstruction, and by the gratitude of aid recipients who 
fear being forgotten by the outside world.  The lesson for 
donors is that security must continue to be an essential 
component of cooperative agreements.  End Comment.