Monthly Archives: April 2008

08MOSCOW1217, IMPACT OF RISING FOOD/COMMODITY PRICES – RUSSIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1217 2008-04-30 14:42 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0014
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1217/01 1211442
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301442Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7879
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS MOSCOW 001217 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/RUS, EEB/TPP/ABT/ATP FOR SPECK 
TREASURY FOR TORGERSON 
DOC FOR 4231/IEP/EUR/JBROUGHER 
NSC FOR WARLICK 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON EFIN EAGR RS
SUBJECT: IMPACT OF RISING FOOD/COMMODITY PRICES - RUSSIA 
 
REF: A. STATE 39410 
     B. GAIN REPORT RS8031 
     C. MOSCOW 366 
     D. (07) MOSCOW 5373 
     E. (07) MOSCOW 5200 
     F. (07) MOSCOW 5133 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  1.  (SBU) In Russia, basic commodity prices for products 
have spiraled in recent months, with price increases 
registered of up to 70 percent nationwide for vegetable oils, 
and 50 to 100 percent for potatoes in some regions in Russia. 
 The poorest in Russia, who spend nearly two-thirds of their 
monthly incomes on food, have been hardest hit.  However, 
only one known protest has been held, in Vladivostok.  The 
government has restricted grain and fertilizer exports as 
well as imposed price freezes--due to expire on May 1--on 
"socially significant" foodstuffs.  Russia,s 
market-distorting prescriptions have been inadequate, 
however, failing to rein in inflation and to increase 
production sufficiently to address domestic and export 
demands.  End Summary. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
Food and Agricultural Commodity Demand 
-------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) The agricultural commodities that constitute the 
bulk of Russia's food demand are beef and pork, poultry, 
eggs, milk and dairy, vegetable oils, grains and sugar, and 
vegetables.  The pass-through effect that world prices have 
had on these items domestically in the last year has varied 
significantly.  For instance, granulated sugar prices rose 
6.4 percent on average nationwide from mid-March 2007 to 
mid-March 2008, but bulk domestic sunflower oil climbed more 
than 70 percent in the same period.  The variation in prices 
among regions was also pronounced, owing to differences in 
preferences as well as costs associated with inputs such as 
transportation.  The price for a kilogram of potatoes in 
Primorskiy Kray (the southern area of Russia's Pacific coast) 
increased 10.3 percent during the year between March 2007 and 
March 2008, whereas in Sverdlovsk Oblast' (just east of the 
Urals) the price rose 98.9 percent. 
 
3.  (SBU) Spending on food consumes approximately 50 percent 
of a household's income.  The poorest 10 percent of Russia's 
population spent RUB 1,045 per month per capita, almost USD 
43 or 70 percent of monthly income, on food during 2007.  The 
wealthiest 10 percent, however, spent RUB 9,806 per month, 
nearly USD 400 or 26 percent of monthly income.  The 
regressive nature of food price increases are particularly 
acute for the urban poor who lack access to household garden 
plots.  Government officials' recognition of this 
circumstance informed their decision in late 2007 to 
formulate an agreement with food processors and retailers to 
freeze prices for "socially significant" products. 
 
------ 
Supply 
------ 
 
4.  (SBU) Grain and oilseed producers increased their supply 
in response to rising world prices.  The area planted last 
fall marked a reversal of the steady decline that had begun 
in the 1970s.  According to the sowing intentions declared by 
many producers, the grain and oilseed area for 2008 should be 
10 percent greater than for 2007.  Higher dairy prices have, 
likewise, raised interest in boosting herd averages (average 
milk yield per cow) by importing improved foreign dairy 
genetics.  Rising grain prices, however, have in turn raised 
production costs and, thereby, served as a brake on the 
growth of beef, dairy, and pork output.  High input prices in 
combination with underdeveloped marketing infrastructure have 
depressed the prices paid to many producers below the 
break-even point. 
 
5.  (SBU) Russia's grain crop for 2007 was high enough to 
allow the country to emerge as the third-largest wheat 
exporter for the year.  Russia's agricultural production 
overall, however, has not kept pace with the country's pace 
of demand.  Incomes have grown 7 to 10 percent annually since 
1998, but production has grown by only 1 to 3 percent 
annually during the same period.  As a result, imports have 
risen each year, from USD 11 billion in 2003 to USD 27.5 
billion in 2007. 
 
----------------- 
Domestic Politics 
----------------- 
 
6.  (SBU) In fall 2007, the perceived "food effect" on 
Russia's inflation prompted senior government officials to 
adopt "stabilization" measures to hinder the growth of rising 
prices.  The concern among some Cabinet officials appeared to 
be that the inflation spike just before the Duma (parliament) 
elections in December 2007 would discourage voters from 
providing a constitutional majority to the United Russia 
Party, whose ticket President Putin had agreed to lead. 
Consequently, Prime Minister Zubkov and Agriculture Minister 
Gordeyev, acco
rding to media reports, began pressuring food 
processors and retailers to absorb rising food costs so 
consumers would face stable prices in the run-up to the 
elections.  The Ministry of Agriculture also acted to 
increase domestic supplies of grains and fertilizer by 
raising export duties and drafted a voluntary agreement with 
retailers to freeze prices on "socially significant" items 
through the spring of 2008. 
 
7.  (SBU) Memories of the 2005 protests against the 
monetization of benefits also probably informed the decision 
to pursue these measures.  The monetization effort sought to 
supply certain groups, such as pensioners, with budget funds 
in lieu of free services, such as public transportation, 
which the groups had received as an entitlement.  To date, 
only one known organized protest against rising food prices 
has been held, in Vladivostok on April 26, 2008. 
 
------- 
Economy 
------- 
 
8.  (SBU) Russia's commodity-heavy economy has grown as world 
prices of many commodities, particularly oil, have risen to 
record levels.  The rising tide of Russia's petrochemical 
industry has lifted many boats, from government revenues, to 
transportation, construction, and steel to banking, hotels, 
and telecommunications.  As a result of this growth, 
government spending and wages have risen steadily during the 
last ten years.  Experts cite these monetary factors as key 
causes behind Russia's 11.9 percent inflation for 2007, but 
acknowledge that higher food prices helped push inflation 
higher.  Wages, for instance, have risen faster than 
productivity in recent years.  The bulk of these so-called 
"salary overhangs" have gone directly into the economy in the 
form of consumer spending.  Increased government spending, on 
public sector salaries and on the formation of state 
corporations, has also driven prices up.  Fiscal expenditures 
equalled 20.3 percent of GDP in 2007, nearly 4 percent of GDP 
higher than in 2006. 
 
9.  (SBU) Underinvestment has also exacerbated inflation. 
The pace of salary increases have meant that domestic 
producers of all goods, including food, have not been able to 
keep pace with the demand for higher quality products. 
Producers have made some investments to expand capacity, but 
imports of consumer goods have filled the gap and have 
exacerbated inflation.  As it stands, however, imports into 
Russia and their prices are growing.  Domestic demand for 
food has more than doubled in real terms since 2000, 
according to many estimates, but domestic production has 
increased only 20 percent.  Russia imports an estimated 40 
percent of its food supply. 
 
------------ 
GOR Policies 
------------ 
 
10.  (SBU) The GOR's policy response to date has been a 
series of attempts at "stabilization" measures to slow 
inflation and shore up the domestic supply of food. 
Increased export duties on wheat, barley and mineral 
fertilizers as well as releases of reserve grain stocks to 
selected millers have been among the government's efforts to 
insulate domestic prices from the influence of global trends. 
 Although the higher duties are set to expire on June 30, the 
duties could remain above their pre-intervention level. 
Ministry of Agriculture officials are considering instituting 
a program that would use grain export revenues to provide 
compensation for domestic poultry producers' feed expenses. 
 
11.  (SBU) In October 2007, Ministry of Agriculture officials 
implemented a voluntary agreement with producers, processors 
and retail supermarkets to absorb rising food costs as a 
means of ensuring consumers would face stable prices on 
"socially significant" foodstuffs.  In an effort to extend 
and amplify the scope of this agreement, the Ministry of 
Economic Development and Trade has drafted legislation for 
Cabinet consideration that would cap retail price margins on 
many of these same "significant" products.  The Ministry of 
Agriculture has also developed a program of minimum threshold 
prices as an incentive for domestic producers to ensure that 
the current food supply will not suffer shortages and, thus, 
foist higher prices onto consumers. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
12. (SBU) The lifting of price controls is expected to 
trigger even higher inflation, now at 14 percent for the past 
12 months. Russia,s government has few tools at its disposal 
to rein in inflation, further ruble appreciation will hurt 
exporters.  As long as worldwide commodity prices stay high, 
Russian inflation will remain double-digit, with Russia,s 
most vulnerable populations suffering the most. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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08MOSCOW1216, GREEK PM SIGNS SOUTH STREAM AGREEMENT, POLITICAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1216 2008-04-30 14:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2134
PP RUEHBW RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #1216/01 1211417
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301417Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7877
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001216 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS, FOR EEB/ESC/IEC GALLOGLY AND WRIGHT 
EUR/CARC, SCA (GALLAGHER, SUMAR) 
DOE FOR FREDRIKSEN, HEGBORG, EKIMOFF 
DOC FOR 4231/IEP/EUR/JBROUGHER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2018 
TAGS: EPET ENRG ECON PREL RS
SUBJECT: GREEK PM SIGNS SOUTH STREAM AGREEMENT, POLITICAL 
ISSUES ONLY BRIEFLY DISCUSSED 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 252 
 
     B. MOSCOW 222 
     C. 07 MOSCOW 5242 
     D. ATHENS 262 
     E. BUDAPEST 210 
     F. SOFIA 48 
 
Classified By: Acting Econ MC Kathleen Doherty for Reasons 1.4 (b/d) 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C) Greek Embassy Political Counselor Dimitrios Ioannou 
told us the South Stream (reftels) gas pipeline deal signed 
during Prime Minister Karamanlis's April 29-30 visit to 
Moscow contains "almost no specifics."  He said the agreement 
calls for 50-50 ownership on Greek territory and for a 
decision on its future "within 24 months" of the completion 
of a feasibility study.  He said there was "nothing 
memorable" about other issues discussed including Kosovo, 
FYROM, and the Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline (BAP).  He 
was unaware of any discussion of Abkhazia/Georgia during the 
PM's visit.  End summary. 
 
------------ 
SOUTH STREAM 
------------ 
 
2. (C) Ioannou called the April 29-30 visit of Prime Minister 
Karamanlis a success in achieving an introductory meeting 
with President-elect Medvedev and signing an 
inter-governmental agreement (IGA) on the South Stream gas 
pipeline.  According to Ioannou, the South Stream IGA is 
merely a broad framework with few details, although "the 
lawyers spent many hours scrutinizing every word."  He said 
Greece worked off the model provided by Bulgaria and Hungary 
(refs E and F), securing 50-50 ownership of the pipeline on 
Greek territory.  President Putin and Karamanlis witnessed 
the signing of the deal by Russian Minister of Industry and 
Energy Khristenko and Greek Minister of Development Folias. 
The Greek partner in the pipeline is state-owned gas 
transport company, DESFA, with Gazprom owning the Russian 
half. 
 
3. (C) Ioannou said the only timeline in the agreement is a 
call for a decision on the future of the pipeline "within 24 
months" of the completion of a feasibility study.  The 
agreement also specifies the initial volume of the pipeline 
on Greek territory (10 bcm) and that Greece can use some 
unspecified amount for domestic consumption, with the rest 
transiting to other European countries. 
 
------------------------------- 
KOSOVO, FYROM, BAP, and GEORGIA 
------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) Ioannou said the rest of the visit, which lasted less 
than 24 hours, produced "nothing memorable."  He said Greece 
was satisfied with Putin's statement on FYROM, which 
recognized the need for an agreement between Greece and 
Macedonia.  According to Ioannou, however, the Greek press 
generally found Putin's statement "too ambiguous."  He 
described Russia's and Greece's positions on Kosovo as "not 
necessarily converging," even though Greece has not 
recognized Kosovo's independence.  He said Putin reiterated 
Russia's opposition to Kosovo's independence, while 
Karamanlis reiterated Greece's wait-and-see approach and its 
concerns about Kosovo setting a precedent that may not be in 
Greece's interest.  On BAP, Ioannou was vague, simply saying 
that Putin and Karamanlis agreed that it was "going well and 
was on schedule."  Ioannou did not know whether Greek 
concerns over Russian presidential instructions expanding 
relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia were raised. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
5. (C) Aside from the South Stream agreement, Karamanlis's 
visit appears to have been relatively uneventful.  An IGA 
 
MOSCOW 00001216  002 OF 002 
 
 
with Greece on South Stream should be the final one Gazprom 
needs to proceed with its ambitious proposed pipeline. 
However, we note again that given the multiple jurisdictions 
involved and the legal, financial, and logistical 
complications the project faces, completion of the pipeline, 
as ref D also suggests, is many years away. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1215, MORE FROM THE RUMOR MILL: READING PUTIN’S

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1215 2008-04-30 14:14 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de/

VZCZCXRO2125
RR RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1215/01 1211414
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301414Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7874
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 001215

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/29/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR ECON RS
SUBJECT: MORE FROM THE RUMOR MILL: READING PUTIN'S
PRE-INAUGURATION SIGNALS

REF: MOSCOW 1187 AND PREVIOUS 

Classified By: CDA Daniel Russell: Reasons 1.4 (b, d).

1. (C) Summary: Among some Kremlin-critics and
establishment figures, speculation has grown over the past
month that Putin and his entourage may be laying the
groundwork for a return to the Kremlin, rather than
safe-guarding the transition of President-elect Medvedev.
While our contacts speculate that Putin has kept his
political options open, some point to his self-conceived
"historic mission" to return Russia to its former glory,
concerns over a rapacious and self-devouring elite, and
distrust of Medvedev's long-term ambitions as fueling recent
maneuvers to further entrench the out-going president's
powers. Acknowledging Medvedev's personal loyalty to Putin,
observers point to competition among staff and rumors over
Mrs. Medvedev's ambitions for her husband. Rumors
notwithstanding, little of this speculation has a factual
underpinning, but it does reflect continual nervousness among
the elite about Putin's intentions and the fate of the
tandemocracy. Putin's intentions and actions have rarely (if
ever) been correctly forecast over the past year by Moscow's
political elite. End Summary

Putin: Once and Future President?
---------------------------------

2. (C) Some Moscow politicians and Kremlin watchers are
reading post-electoral and pre-inaugural political maneuvers
(ref a) as signs of the possibility that Putin could return
to the Kremlin, either at the end of Medvedev's term or -- in
the event of underperformance or disloyalty -- before. As
Kremlin opponent xxxxx told the Ambassador, Putin's
continued domination of political life, the focus on his
transition to the White House (rather than on Medvedev's
shift to Putin's Kremlin office), the possible creation of a
Cabinet-like host of Deputy Prime Ministers, and Putin's
decision to take up leadership of the ruling party, has
fueled theories that Putin could be keeping his options open
to return as President. Putin's  xxxxx and
others have stressed, is how to override the political
predisposition that leads Russians to look to the Kremlin
(whether to the Tsar or the General Secretary) for authority.
As president, xxxxx argued, Medvedev's stature will be
enhanced both constitutionally and psychologically.

3. (C) Acknowledging today's shift in political speculation
away from the hypothesis that Putin would serve a limited
period as Prime Minister in order to safeguard Medvedev's
transition, prominent xxxxx
argued that Putin's decision to lead United Russia was about
protecting his own interests, and not those of Medvedev.
Absent a pre-existing gentleman's agreement with the
President-elect, xxxxx characterized Putin's choreography
of the last several weeks as a "humiliation" of his
successor. xxxxx 
told us that, based on blowback from Kremlin ideological guru
Vladislav Surkov over critical xxxxx articles, it was clear to
him that "Putin wants to be the leading guy." As an example
of Kremlin sensitivities, xxxxx pointed to Surkov's quick
intervention in the wake of an NG article that described
Medvedev's prospective rule as a period of liberal thaw.
Because the term "thaw" connotes Khrushchev's initial reign,
xxxxx noted, it begged the question of "who was Stalin"
and implied that change was needed, rather than the
continuation of Putin's course.

Putin's Historic Mission, Internecine Clans
-------------------------------------------

4. (C) Pointing to Putin's sense of historical mission in
returning Russia to its previous world power status, analysts
tell us that intra-elite divisions remain too poisonous and
the prospect for elite conflict too great for Putin to remove
himself from a power construct that he (and not a system of
checks and balances) polices. xxxxx who also serves on
Medvedev's think tank, questioned why Putin sought
"dictatorial powers" over the party, given his preexisting de
facto command of United Russia. His decision was "alarming,"
xxxxx claimed, because it demonstrated the uncertainty
that exists in Putin's entourage over the political
transition, despite the fact that "all executive powers will
be shared between Putin and Medvedev" and the government
machinery will be "as focused on Putin, if not more."
xxxxx separately suggested that Putin's party leadership
was an additional layer of protection should Medvedev become
too confident with the presidential perquisites and seek to
modify Putin's imprimatur.

Moscow 00001215 002 of 003



5. (C) As a long-time advocate of a third presidential term
for Putin, xxxxx editor xxxxx told us
that Putin had been hemmed in by his desire for international
legitimacy, even though amending the Russian constitution to
remove term limits would have been "easy and understandable
in the context of Russia's stage of political development."
xxxxx speculated that the de facto rejiggering of power
between the Kremlin and White House was awkward, but
necessary, given Putin's self-imposed requirem
ent of
respecting the Russian constitution. While xxxxx argued
that the concentration of power was a "temporary phase" in a
"long, very long" evolution to more democratic institutions,
liberal critics like former Duma deputy xxxxx see
the accumulation of power -- with Putin in "de facto and de
jure control over the club of the top administrative and
economic nomenclature" -- as an end in itself. As xxxxx
noted, the flurry of presidential orders shifting Kremlin
staff to White House positions in advance of Putin becoming
Prime Minister on May 8 were an interesting reflection of
Putin's mentality: rather than have "little Dima" sign the
presidential decrees authorizing the transfer of cadre, Putin
continued to dictate the terms of his premier-ship, revealing
how lopsided this partnership will be at the outset.

6. (C) Amidst the political uncertainty, the idea of Russia
evolving into a parliamentary republic is batted around, but
mostly batted down. While both xxxxx and RAO UES and SPS
opposition party deputy xxxxx were at a loss to
explain Putin's decision to head United Russia absent a
strategy based on constitutionally reconfiguring Russia's
political system, each conceded Putin's public opposition to
the idea. Given Putin's domination of politics since
Medvedev's March 2 electoral win, many viewed his comments at
the one-year memorial of former President Yeltsin's death,
that the presidency would "continue to serve the Russian
people and protect (Russia's) sovereign interests," as
significant. xxxxx confirmed to us that during the course
of his xxxxx with Medvedev,
the President-elect was insistent that Russia required a
presidential system and dismissive of public speculation over
the "tandem."

7. (C) xxxxx while discounting the role of opposition
parties at present, warned against GOR policies that created
competition between bureaucrats rather than parties. While
Russia was not a democracy, xxxxx maintained that it was
on a path that could lead to democracy, but only if more
pluralism was built into the system. The problem with the
ruling party's self-conscious imitation of Japan's Liberal
Democratic Party, with its creation of "clubs," he stressed,
was that United Russia lacked intra-party ideological
coherence and competition. At the end of the day, it would
not matter what liberal United Russia Duma deputy Pligin
thought, but rather how the Kremlin told him to vote that
would determine the outcome of any Duma contest. The
challenge for Medvedev, xxxxx posited, will be to
reintroduce faith in the system among middle class voters,
who stayed home or spoiled their ballot, that their voice
matters. It is that portion of the electorate, xxxxx
stressed, that the government will need to rely upon for
support for economic modernization.

Staff and Spousal Ambitions
---------------------------

8. (C) The maneuvering begs the question of what Putin and
his entourage could possibly fear in the reflexively loyal
Medvedev. Ekspert magazine speculated that the mere
formation of an economic think-tank (ref b) by the
President-elect had been enough to raise concerns of a rival
team and vision. When asked, xxxxx did not dispute the
analysis, acknowledging that between the outgoing and
incoming presidents' staff there were elements of
competition. Even on minor issues, such as extending press
invitations for the inauguration, xxxxx said that
confusion over lines of authority had led to delay. United
Russia Duma deputy and Kremlin spin-doctor Sergey Markov
admitted to us that the transition had produced legislative
and political paralysis, with everyone "waiting for
directions" on how to work with the tandem.

9. (C) The role of Medvedev's wife, Svetlana, in generating
tensions between the camps remains the subject of avid
gossip. xxxxx hinting at Svetlana's reputation for
aggressive social climbing, xxxxx was less discrete, calling her a "stupid and
ambitious" woman, who purportedly had already drawn up a list
of officials who should "suffer" for their betrayal of

Moscow 00001215 003 of 003


Medvedev when First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov was
ascendant.

Comment
-------

10. (C) In the absence of facts, speculation is driving
Moscow political currents. While it will be months before we
get a better sense of the division of labor between Medvedev
and Putin, the sense here is that the pre-inaugural
atmospherics have diminished, rather than buttressed
Medvedev's political stature and fueled nervousness among
Moscow's hyper-sensitive political elite as to whether the
succession question has been definitively resolved. Putin
has been master of the political surprise over the past year
and consistently bamboozled the chattering class and pundits
as to his long-term intentions.
Russell

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1214, MEDVEDEV ON THE MEDIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1214 2008-04-30 14:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2111
PP RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1214/01 1211406
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301406Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7872
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001214 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR RS SOCI
SUBJECT: MEDVEDEV ON THE MEDIA 
 
REF: MOSCOW 260 
 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells.  Reason:  1.4 (d). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  President-elect Medvedev's April 29 public 
endorsement of Russian television as among "the best in the 
world" coupled with his advocacy of the unregulated internet 
are consistent with his more extended, but as-yet 
unpublished, interviews.  His comments leave the impression 
that Russians "deserve the news they seek," while his 
endorsement of the internet as "unregulatable" appears to 
accept the limits of state control.  The post-election 
transition has not produced any easing in Kremlin controls, 
according to "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" Editor Remchukov, who 
describes mounting pressure in response to critical NG 
articles.  End Summary 
 
Medvedev Supports Kremlin-colored TV 
------------------------------------ 
 
2. (SBU) President-elect Medvedev engaged the press on April 
29 at the Russian national weekly newspaper "Argumenty i 
Fakty"(AiF), in his first "informal" press conference since 
his election in March.  His comments on the state of Russian 
television as "among the best in the world" and his dismissal 
of criticism about the administration's heavy-handed 
influence over the medium drew the greatest attention, with 
some interpreting his remarks as suggesting that he sees 
little need in reforming the relationship between the state 
and national television.  He described the mass media as a 
separate branch of power and called on the press to "tell the 
truth and bear responsibility for the materials they 
publish."  (The latter clause may have been a swipe at the 
now closed tabloid Moskovskiy Korrespondent, which earlier 
this month published an article alleging Putin planned to 
marry gymnast-turned-Duma deputy Alina Kabayeva). 
 
3. (U) Medvedev followed his comments about television by 
again advocating the internet - where the range of opinion 
ranges from nationalist to libertarian - as an important 
personal source of information. As such, his words may have 
been a subtle indicator of Medvedev's commitment to 
maintaining a space where a more open exchange of views can 
take place outside of the mainstream television news. 
 
Russians Deserve the News They Seek 
----------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C)  Medvedev's public remarks mirrored the tone of his 
extended interviews with prominent television journalist 
Nikolai Svanidze, which are due to be published in late May. 
In contrast to the impression Medvedev created in his private 
conversation with Civil Forces Leader Mikhail Barshchevskiy, 
of being amenable to a loosening of Kremlin controls over 
prime time television (reftel), Svanidze told us that 
Medvedev projected satisfaction with the state of Russian 
television.  When coupled with Medvedev's categorical 
statements that internet and satellite television were 
"unregulated and unregulatable," Svanidze interpreted the 
President-elect's position as being that Russians "deserved 
the news that they sought."  Svanidze emphasized the 
generational difference between Medvedev and Putin, with 
Medvedev an active purveyor of news on the internet -- a 
point the President-elect emphasized again during his session 
with the AiF staff.  By example, Svanidze argued, Medvedev 
was advertising the value of alternate sources of information 
from those traditionally fed to the Kremlin by an obedient 
bureaucracy. 
 
Media Pressure Continues 
------------------------ 
 
5.  (C)  A clearly disillusioned "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" editor 
Konstantin Remchukov expressed strong concern to us over the 
media tone being set during the political transition.  Citing 
Kremlin unhappiness with several NG articles -- including its 
three-day scoop on the presidential instructions expanding 
relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, critical reporting 
of ruling party maneuvers in the Duma, and an earlier piece 
debunking Russia's effort at creating an indigenous GPS 
system -- Remchukov said his paper and staff have come under 
increasing pressure since the March 2 presidential elections. 
 The trial of Remchukov's deputy, accused of extortion and 
narcotics possession, was advanced to this week, with the 
lead investigator purportedly telling Remchukov that "other 
forces" were driving the legal pace and judicial charges. 
Remchukov noted that Russian-owned or influenced television 
have ceased referring to NG-articles or commentary, and 
Remchukov has been struck from the roles of acceptable 
political commentators on national television (with the 
"Kultura" channel also unable to issue an invitation, despite 
Remchukov's prominent status as a supporter of the arts). 
 
MOSCOW 00001214  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
6.  (C)  Distancing himself from earlier predictions of a 
more liberal Medvedev tone, Remchukov argued that the 
political transition revealed that Putin still intended to be 
"master of the media," with the publicized beefing up of the 
White House press office an indicator that the future Prime 
Minister was not
prepared to cede the media limelight or 
control.  Remchukov recounted efforts by Ekspert Editor 
Valeriy Fadeyev to run interference between NG and Kremlin 
ideological guru Vladislav Surkov.  When Surkov threatened to 
"run over" Remchukov and his paper, Fadeyev -- a personal 
friend of Remchukov -- undertook to pass on the advice that 
NG should be more careful in its coverage.  While Fadeyev's 
support has translated into invitations to Remchukov to 
participate in the United Russia-organized "2020 debates" 
over Russia's future, the Kremlin has disinvited the editor 
from other roundtable sessions.  (When we met with Renchukov 
he had not yet received his invitation to the Kremlin's 
"insider only"  inaugural celebrations, but he has since been 
invited to many of the events.) While caveating his remarks 
with the comment that it would take several more months 
before the contours of the tandem become clear, Remchukov 
said he was increasingly convinced that Putin and Medvedev 
were "ideological brothers," differing only in tone.  The 
bright spot, he conceded, remained internet. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
7.  (C)  Medvedev's comments lauding Russian television, 
coupled with the "voluntary" closure of "Moskovskiy 
Korrespondent" and the draft law permitting the closure of 
newspapers without judicial review for the publication of 
libelous material have dampened expectations of a "thaw" in 
Russian media control.  At the same time, Medvedev's emphasis 
on internet, at a time of rapidly increasing internet 
penetration and elite reliance on electronic reporting, 
appears to send a strong signal that the President-elect 
understands the limits of state control. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1213, PROGRESS, PROBLEMS FOR RELIGIONS IN RUSSIA

WikiLeaks Link

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1213 2008-04-30 14:04 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2101
RR RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1213/01 1211404
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301404Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7867
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 001213 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2018 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI RS
SUBJECT: PROGRESS, PROBLEMS FOR RELIGIONS IN RUSSIA 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i. Daniel A. Russell.  Reason:  1.4 
(d). 
 
1. (C) Summary:  Recent conversations with representatives of 
Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations show that the 
rapid growth in membership that accompanied the turbulent 
'90s has come to an end.  Most representatives ascribe the 
current stagnation to the unprecedented prosperity which, 
they say, has made Russians more inclined to go to the mall 
than to church. At the same time, the increasing influence of 
Russian Orthodoxy, especially in some of the regions, a 
creeping suspicion of any non-Orthodox denomination, and a 
very competitive real estate market have complicated the 
efforts of the Protestants to extend their reach.  Most of 
the denominations surveyed have adjusted to the new 
conditions in which they operate, and seem to have accepted a 
fraying status quo, in which progress in one area may be 
accompanied by setbacks in another, as a fact of life.  End 
summary. 
 
Religious Portrait of Russia 
---------------------------- 
 
2. (U) The Federal Registration Service has calculated the 
following mix of religions and denominations in Russia as of 
January 1, 2008.  The first figure is the number of 
registered religious organizations, the second the religion 
or denomination's percentage of the number of registered 
religious organizations in Russia. 
 
Russian Orthodox:  12586/55 percent 
Muslims:  3815/17 percent 
Pentecostals:  1355/6 percent 
Baptists:  903/4 percent 
Evangelicals:  703/3 percent 
Seventh Day Adventists:  608/3 percent 
Jehovah's Witnesses:  400/2 percent 
Jews:  286/1 percent 
Old Believers:  283/1 percent 
Roman Catholics:  240/1 percent 
Lutherans:  228/1 percent 
Christians of the Evangelical Faith:  226/1 percent 
Buddhists:  200/1 percent 
Presbyterians:  179/1 percent 
Methodists:  111/.5 percent 
Other beliefs:  743/3 percent 
 
Tougher Times Since the '90s 
---------------------------- 
 
3. (C) In recent conversations, Moscow representatives of the 
Union of Evangelical Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, 
Pentecostals, Lutherans, Methodists, and Roman Catholics, in 
addition to two NGOs that follow religious freedom issues in 
Russia, concurred that Protestant denominations expanded most 
rapidly during the turbulent '90s, when a combination of 
economic insecurity, the attractiveness of anything 
"foreign," the novelty of religious belief after seventy 
years of official atheism, and the active proselytizing of 
western missionaries combined to produce explosive growth for 
non-Russian Orthodox denominations. 
 
4. (C) Ten years later much has changed. Explosive economic 
growth has made unapologetic materialism the new religion in 
Russia.  Prosperity, combined with a suspicion, fed by the 
GOR, of anything "foreign," a revived and increasingly 
assertive Russian Orthodox Church, and a rough-and-tumble 
property market have combined to slow the growth of 
Protestant denominations.  Their church leaderships have, in 
most cases, adjusted to the new circumstances in which they 
must work.  They have reduced or completely eliminated the 
number of foreign religious workers, cut or reduced their 
financial ties to the West, ended public proselytizing, 
cultivated allies in the Presidential Administration and/or 
local administrations, and increased the number of services 
conducted in existing buildings instead of attempting to 
build new churches. 
 
5. (C) In all cases, the adjustments have enabled the 
denominations to continue to function.  Many of their 
representatives, like head of the Baptist Church Vitaliy 
Vlasenko and Yaroslav Sivulskiy of the Jehovah's Witnesses, 
are the children of ministers who spent years in prison camps 
during the Soviet period, and they voice few complaints about 
the circumstances in which they currently work.  Others, like 
the Mormon representatives and Roman Catholic priests, appear 
to have decided that public complaints could backfire, and 
they tend to minimize the problems they are encountering in 
conversations with us. 
 
6. (C) The problems are largely the same for all Protestant 
denominations: 
 
MOSCOW 00001213  002 OF 005 
 
 
 
-- acquiring property on which to build new churches or 
acquiring permission to build on property they already own; 
 
-- protecting their parishes in some of the regions from an 
unholy alliance of Russian Orthodox clerics and avaricious 
local officials; 
 
-- overcoming the reluctance of local businessmen to fund 
church-sponsored activities not sanctioned by the local 
administration; 
 
Property Battles 
---------------- 
 
7. (C) Problems acquiring, maintaining control of, and 
receiving permission to build on property in Russia are not 
confined to Protestant denominations.  Outright confiscation 
of property of all stripes has become so common that the 
Public Chamber has published a brochure designed to aid 
businessmen and homeowners in protecting th
eir property from 
"raiders," and stories of Muscovites who return from a trip 
abroad or even from a summer at their dachas to find their 
apartment in the hands of someone else are heard regularly 
here. 
 
8. (C) Religious organizations are in a more difficult 
position than businesses, as the solution to most property 
problems is a bribe, something a church cannot readily offer. 
 In addition, a church building is seen by local 
administration officials as unlikely to generate revenue 
month-in, month-out on the same scale as a business.  As a 
result, denominations that acquired property in the '90s 
often find themselves unable to get permission to expand now. 
 
9. (C) Director of the Baptists' Department of External 
Church Relations Vitaliy Vlasenko told us that his 
denomination had ended its quest to acquire land for the 
construction of new churches.  The Baptists had multiplied 
the number of services conducted in existing churches and in 
other cases were convening in the homes of members. 
(Vlasenko numbered the Baptist's churches and groups at 1710, 
with about 80 thousand active members throughout Russia.  His 
denomination is distinct from the autonomous Baptists, which 
has 20. 000 - 30,000 members.) 
 
10. (C) The Baptist's land problems had prompted it to go to 
court where, in Moscow region alone, four cases were pending 
against local administrations that had refused permission to 
build on land that the denomination owned.  In a fifth case, 
in the village of Balashaka, the Baptists had succeeded in 
building a church but, to date, had not been given permission 
to operate. 
 
11. (C) Senior Pastor of the Seventh Day Adventists Vasiliy 
Stolyar told us that efforts to acquire property or build new 
churches were stymied by the church's refusal to bribe local 
officials and a sense in some of the local administrations 
that it was safer to say "no" and avoid possible future 
problems. In any event, Stolyar said, the Adventists were 
growing only slowly, and their chief impediment was 
"secularism," not the Russian government.  He thought that 
the number of Adventists in Russia had stabilized.  About 3 
-5,000 were baptized into membership last year, but about the 
same number had died, Stolyar said. 
 
12. (C) In Pentecostal Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy's telling, 
the fate of his church in the regions hinged in many cases on 
the conduct of the leading local Russian Orthodox cleric and 
his influence on the local administration.  Ryakhovskiy cited 
Archbishop Klimentiy of Kaluga and Archbishop Ioan of 
Belgorod as particularly retrograde.  Vlasenko thought that 
Kolomna Archbishop Yuvenaliy had "too much influence on the 
governor."  Their hostility to Protestant denominations, when 
combined with the inability of officials in local 
administrations to distinguish between a faith and a "sect," 
further complicated already difficult commercial transactions 
for his church.  Ryakhovskiy and Vlasenko told us their 
denominations as a rule were faring better in Siberia than in 
European Russia. 
 
13. (C) According to Jehovah's Witnesses church 
representative Yaroslav Sivulskiy, Moscow and the Moscow 
region are the most problematic to work in. An inability to 
expand meant that thirty communities were sharing the Kingdom 
Hall in Moscow.  Some of the denomination's 93 communities in 
the Moscow region experience difficulties in renting 
facilities for services.  In St. Petersburg, according to 
Sivulskiy, the denomination's 73 communities have been 
subjected to frequent inspections, but continue to operate. 
 
14. (C) Roman Catholic Bishop Kovalevskiy refused to be drawn 
 
MOSCOW 00001213  003 OF 005 
 
 
into a discussion of any problems his church might be 
experiencing in the regions.  The Church was not expanding, 
Kovalevskiy said, and consequently did not have collisions 
over property, except over those churches that had been 
privatized during the '90s.  In all such cases that 
Kovalevskiy described to us, he was not hopeful that 
restitution would occur. 
 
Working With The Authorities 
---------------------------- 
 
15. (C) All of the church representatives described concerted 
efforts to work with GOR authorities at the national and 
regional level.  Vlasenko told us that the Baptists had 
proposed to local authorities in Smolensk, Lipetsk, Perm, and 
Belgorod regions a formal agreement that would regulate their 
presence, in order to avoid future collisions.  Smolensk had 
not responded to the overture, while conversations were 
underway in the other regions. 
 
16. (C) Virtually all of the representatives described 
frequent meetings and good contacts with the Presidential 
Administration.  In most cases, however, they acknowledged 
that the Administration was unable to resolve problems that 
occurred in the regions. Ryakhovskiy and Stolyar thought the 
Presidential Council on Religious Affairs, of which they are 
members, was a useful tool for bringing the concerns of the 
Protestant denominations to the attention of the authorities. 
Both agreed, however, that the regions were a law to 
themselves, and that Federal structures were generally either 
disinclined, or powerless, to intervene. 
 
Working With The Russian Orthodox Church 
---------------------------------------- 
 
17. (C) All acknowledged that the leadership of the Russian 
Orthodox Church, while conservative, and intent on 
establishing it primacy in Russia, was amenable to dialogue, 
and saw a place in Russia for Protestant denominations, 
especially the historical ones.  Protestant members of the 
Presidential Council on Religious Affairs reported 
constructive conversations with their Russian Orthodox 
counterparts. All reported varying degrees of cooperation in 
the regions, with much hinging on the attitude of the local 
representative of the Russian Orthodox Church and his 
relationship with members of the local administration. 
 
18. (C) With the replacement of the Polish-national head of 
the Roman Catholic Church with the Italian, Archbishop Paolo 
Pezzi, and a German, Pope Benedict XVI instead of his Polish 
predecessor, relations with the Russian Orthodox Church had 
warmed noticeably, Catholic Father Kovalevskiy said. 
Kovalevskiy joined Russian Orthodox Secretary of 
Inter-confessional Affairs Priest Igor Vyzhanov, in speaking 
highly of the improved atmosphere.  Kovalevskiy described the 
church's shared interest in forming a "united front" to 
defend Christian values against secularism, and noted that 
the two churches were joined in their opposition to 
homosexuality as well. A working group devoted to improving 
relations between the two denominations had been formed.  It 
met every three months and Kovalevskiy was hopeful that 
concrete progress would result. 
 &#
x000A;19. (C) Still, Kovalevskiy felt that the Russian Orthodox 
Church could work harder to curb some in its ranks who were 
hostile to any accommodation with non-Orthodox denominations. 
 He saw the continued existence of such factions as proof 
that the Moscow Patriarchy was as unsuccessful in exerting 
centralized religious control as the Kremlin has been in 
exerting centralized political control over its nominally 
subordinate entities. 
 
20. (C) Vyzhanov criticized the Roman Catholic Church's 
continued reliance on foreign priests, who "do not understand 
conditions here" as a continued impediment to improved 
cooperation on the local level.  Kovalevskiy agreed that it 
would be better rely on ethnically Russian priests, but noted 
that the Roman Catholic Seminary in St. Petersburg did not 
graduate enough priests to staff the country's parishes. 
 
21. (C) Stolyar described the Seventh Day Adventists' 
relations with the Russian Orthodox Church as "good."  The 
Head of the ROC's External Relations Department, Father 
Chaplin, was a frequent visitor to the Adventists' 
headquarters church in Moscow.  Chaplin had attempted to 
intercede on problems that his denomination experienced in 
the regions, Stolyar said, in waving off any potential 
conflict. 
 
Businessmen On The Sidelines 
---------------------------- 
 
 
MOSCOW 00001213  004 OF 005 
 
 
22. (C) A number of factors complicated funding for the 
Protestant churches.  Stolyar of the Seventh Day Adventists 
told us that funding from the United States had dried up, 
after the initial novelty of a revived, post-Soviet Adventism 
had warn off.  "They've moved on to China, or someplace," he 
said. Others, like Vlasenko, said that efforts to establish 
transparent funding for his church had run aground on the 
reluctance of businessmen, many reliant on state contracts, 
to have their names openly associated with a church regarded 
by suspicion by the GOR and the localities.  Many 
businessmen, Vlasenko said, were willing to hand him 
"bundles" of cash with the proviso that he not reveal the 
source.  Vlasenko worried that such a practice might make his 
church vulnerable to allegations of foreign funding. 
 
The Media:  Friend and Foe 
-------------------------- 
 
23. (C) Ryakhovskiy on the day of our meeting, was incensed 
at a broadcast that had aired April 8 on the national news 
program "Vesti."  The program portrayed a Christian mission 
"Good News" as a "sect" that was planning to convert the 
movie theater "Balkany" in St. Petersburg into a church.  The 
result, said Ryakhovskiy, was that a group of "drunk young 
men" broke windows in the theater and the police, when they 
finally arrived at the scene, were more concerned with the 
nature of the service conducted than with the vandalism that 
had occurred. 
 
24. (C) Ryakhovskiy showed us as well an article in the 
Kaluga edition of the weekly newspaper Argumenty i Fakty, 
which labeled members of the local Pentecostal chapters 
"members of a sect," and agitated against their continued 
presence in the city.  Such article were not uncommon in 
provincial newspapers, where the Russian Orthodox Church was 
generally more influential, and the local authorities less 
able to distinguish between an established religion and a 
"cult," he said. 
 
25. (C) On the other hand, the Seventh Day Adventist's 
Stolyar related with some pride his used of satellite 
television to broadcast ten days of educational programming 
to parishioners in Nizhniy Novgorod with no interference from 
the local authorities.  That effort was followed by a second, 
ten-day link-up for Russian-language audiences that, Stolyar 
estimated might, have reached as many as one million viewers. 
 The series had the explicit endorsement of the Presidential 
Administration, Stolyar said, since the Adventists were 
clever enough to package it as a seminar conducted as part of 
the "Year of the Family." 
 
Visas 
----- 
 
26. (C) The only contact to mention visas was Kovalevskiy, 
who was at pains to note that restrictions on religious 
workers were a fact of life in many countries, not just 
Russia.  Kovalevskiy, himself a Russian citizen, also praised 
the efforts of the Presidential Administration to resolve the 
visa problem the new regulations posed for Italian citizen 
Archbishop Pezzi.  Kovalevskiy believed that the 
Administration might find a way to make an exception to the 
rules governing the amount of time a religious worker could 
be in Russia in order to allow Pezzi to be a more or less 
permanent presence, Kovalevskiy said. 
 
27. (C) Stolyar noted that the Adventists were an all-Russian 
organization; not because of prospective visa problems, but 
because they believed foreign ministers made their 
denomination a lighting rod for both a GOR worried about 
foreign influence in any form, and for a population willing 
to believe even the wildest conspiracy theories about the 
intention of westerners.  Stolyar credited the all-Russian 
strategy for helping his denomination to minimize the 
difficulties of working in Russia. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
28. (C) NGO Forum 18's Geraldine Fagan and the NGO Sova's 
Aleksandr Verkhovskiy concurred that continued growth for 
Protestant denominations was held hostage to a waning 
interest in things spiritual, hostage in some cases by the 
Russian Orthodox establishment at the local levels, a 
rough-and-tumble real estate market, and the average Russia's 
suspicious of "foreign" faiths, even if they had been present 
in Russia for hundreds of years.  Most necessary over the 
medium term, said Fagan, was a more concerted effort to 
educate both the provincial priesthood and Russian citizens 
about other Christian denominations, in part so that they 
would not be lumped together with doomsday cults and the 
occult. Courses on the Orthodox tradition, if expanded to 
 
MOSCOW 00001213  005 OF 005 
 
 
include a consideration of Christianity, and non-Christian 
religions in all of their diversity, might be a first step in 
that direction, she thought. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1211, RUSSIA-GEORGIA: “FRIENDS” DEMARCHE; MORE TROOPS

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
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. #08MOSCOW1211.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1211 2008-04-30 13:23 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2044
OO RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1211/01 1211323
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301323Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7862
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001211 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/29/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA-GEORGIA: "FRIENDS" DEMARCHE; MORE TROOPS 
FOR PKO 
 
REF: MOSCOW 1170 
 
Classified By: CDA Daniel A. Russell.  Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1.  (C) Summary.  Russia responded to the April 29 joint 
demarche on Abkhazia by the four Friends with the 
well-rehearsed recitation of its policy and announcement of a 
plan to increase the number of CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia 
to 3000.  MFA Fourth CIS Department Director Kelin expressed 
displeasure at the "breakdown" of the Friends Group and 
insisted that the April 16 Putin instructions had been a 
restrained response given both Georgian moves and the Kosovo 
"precedent."  Kelin announced reinforcement of the CIS 
peacekeeping force of up to 1000 more troops, claiming this 
was necessary to counterbalance Georgia's military build-up 
in the Upper Kodori and along the "border."  Kelin questioned 
the authenticity of the video publicized by the GOG as 
evidence of Russian involvement in the April 21 UAV shootdown 
incident.  Charge expressed serious concern about the 
introduction of more troops into Abkhazia and reminded Kelin 
of our call on all sides to show restraint.  End summary. 
 
2.  (C) On April 29, the Charge d'Affaires, jointly with 
Charges from Germany and the UK, and the French Deputy Chief 
of Mission, delivered a demarche on Abkhazia to MFA Fourth 
CIS Director Andrey Kelin.  The demarche urged the GOR to 
revoke or not implement Putin's April 16 instructions, 
expressed deep concern about the shooting down of the 
Georgian UAV over Abkhazia, recommended a UNOMIG 
investigation of the incident, and requested a meeting of the 
Friends as soon as possible.  The demarche reiterated strong 
support for Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, 
and called on all parties to renounce any armed action. 
 
3.  (C) Reiterating DFM Denisov's April 24 points to the 
visiting UK Permanent Under Secretary Rickett (reftel), Kelin 
stressed Russia's continuing respect for Georgia's 
territorial integrity and alleged that the GOR's efforts to 
promote peace and goodwill had not been reciprocated by 
Georgia.  Per Kelin, in the aftermath of Kosovo's declaration 
of independence and "destabilizing" Georgian moves in the 
Upper Kodori George, Putin's instructions were the minimum 
Russia could do to alleviate the mounting furor in the Duma 
and the Federation Council, among the public, and in the 
separatist regions.  The instructions were designed to 
respond to the basic needs of the population when Georgia, 
having neither control over Abkhazia nor the trust of the 
Abkhaz, could not meet the basic needs of Abkhaz residents. 
After 15 years, the people of Abkhazia had expectations that 
their basic needs and rights would be met from economic 
opportunity to education.  Putin's instructions were intended 
to address the humanitarian needs and economic aspirations of 
the population of Abkhazia.  This meant Russia had to have 
contact with de facto authorities, said Kelin.  Kelin was 
vague about the "mechanisms" to accomplish this, but 
indicated Russian government agencies would work together 
with their Abkhaz counterparts such as the Russian Ministry 
of Justice's involvement in combating organized crime in 
Abkhazia.  In response to the Charge's request, Kelin 
declined to provide the text of the Putin instructions. 
 
4.  (C) Kelin categorically stated that Russia had no plans 
for military moves in Abkhazia.  As for military-technical 
cooperation with Abkhazia, "that was excluded," he said. 
Kelin insisted that Russia's actions were in conformity with 
international law and should not preclude cooperation with 
Georgia.  Kelin said that Georgia's participation in helping 
the Abkhaz people would be welcome.  Kelin also pointed out 
that Russia's steps to increase cooperation and communication 
with Georgia.  He cited Putin's lengthy phone call with 
Saakashvili and the resumption of direct transportation links 
days after the instructions were issued.  He did not 
explicitly deny Russian responsibility for the April 21 UAV 
incident but questioned the authenticity of the video.  He 
highlighted the strange behavior of the fighter flying 
beneath the UAV and firing up (against the normal practice of 
firing down), the fact that the missile launched from a pylon 
fitted near the end of the wing, whereas weapons pylons on 
Russian MIGs were located much closer to the fuselage, the 
mysterious white trace which was not indication of an 
air-to-air missile launch, and the topography on the video 
that does not correspond to the locality of the incident. 
Kelin claimed that it was unclear when and where the 
Georgians recorded the video but it was "not accidental" they 
refused to show the video at the April 23 UNSC session. 
 
5.  (C) Kelin broke the news of the GOR's plan to increase 
the number of CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia from 2000 to 3000 
which, he said, was consistent with the PKO's mandate. (Note: 
The troop limits were set out in the Decision of CIS Heads of 
State signed on August 22, 1994.)  Kelin claimed that the 
 
MOSCOW 00001211  002 OF 002 
 
 
increase was necessary to counterbalance Georgia's violation 
of the 1994
Moscow Agreement, specifically the continued 
presence of Georgian troops in the Upper Kodori George and 
the overflights of Abkhazia by Georgian drones.  He cited 
Georgia's "destabilizing" military build-up along the 
"border" -- up to 1500 troops and 6 artillery pieces -- and 
up to 26 UAV flights over Abkhazia since last August.  He 
also cited the Patriot Youth Camp which continued its 
activities in defiance of the UNSYG's advice to close it. 
Kelin blamed Georgia for its failure to build trust and 
refuse to sign the non-use of violence agreement with the 
Abkhaz.  Under such circumstances, the presence of Russian 
peacekeepers remained the decisive factor in preventing an 
escalation of tensions.  The Charge reminded Kelin that the 
U.S. was urging all sides to show restraint; a military 
solution was not an option; and the introduction of more 
troops would only increase tensions. 
 
6,  (C) Kelin expressed displeasure at the "breakdown" of the 
Friends Group and commented that the Friends process was 
stalled.  When the German Charge asked for a preliminary 
reaction to the idea of a Friends meeting in one of the 
capitals, Kelin said that the GOR was not against a Friends' 
meeting but asked that it be scheduled after May 10, 
following the Russian presidential inauguration and holidays. 
 On the idea of a UNOMIG investigation of the UAV incident, 
Kelin simply claimed that the GOR had not yet received 
anything official from UNOMIG to convene an investigation. 
He added that as a first step, UNOMIG should be in contact 
with the de facto Abkhaz authorities. 
 
7.  (C) The MFA issued a public statement a few hours later, 
restating the points made by Kelin.  The statement followed 
an earlier announcement by the Ministry of Defense that 
Georgia was preparing to wage a war in Abkhazia; the 
assertion by Valeriy Kenyaikin, MFA Special Representative 
for the CIS, that Russia would react with military means if 
Georgia-Abkhazia relations could not prevent a military 
scenario; and the commentary of Sergey Mironov, Chairman of 
the Federation Council, that Russia's military involvement 
would be justified if lives of Russian citizens are 
threatened in Abkhazia. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1200, ZIMBABWE DEMARCHE DELIVERED: GOR FAVORS HANDS OFF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1200 2008-04-30 03:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1472
RR RUEHBW RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHMO #1200 1210331
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 300331Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7851
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 0033
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 0295
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001200 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/28/2018 
TAGS: KDEM PHUM PINS PREL
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE DEMARCHE DELIVERED:  GOR FAVORS HANDS OFF 
APPROACH 
 
REF: A. STATE 44905 
 
     B. STATE 41930 
 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Alice G. Wells For Reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary:  The MFA told us Russia's "usual position" of 
noninterference in the internal matters of sovereign states 
applied in the case of Zimbabwe and that only the South 
African Development Community could legitimately engage on 
the results of the recent elections.  MFA officials said the 
GOR was taking a "wait and see" approach before deciding what 
to do next, noting that the Russian Embassy in Harare had not 
reported widespread human rights abuses during the election. 
The MFA expressed hope that the situation will calm down 
soon, as Russian companies were eager to do business in 
Zimbabwe.  End Summary. 
 
------------------ 
Hands Off Zimbabwe 
------------------ 
 
2. (C) We delivered ref A demarche on April 29 to MFA Senior 
Counselor for International Organizations Petr Ilichev. 
Ilichev reiterated that the GOR considered the current 
political crisis in Zimbabwe a regional matter better handled 
within Africa than at the UNSC.  He argued that before the 
U.S. calls for a formal UNSC meeting on Zimbabwe it would be 
best to hear what the South Africans report during today's 
informal UNSC consultations on their attempt to use "quiet 
diplomacy" to settle the crisis. 
 
3. (C) Head of the MFA Zimbabwe Desk Andrey Stolyarov agreed, 
telling us that the people of Zimbabwe must resolve the 
political crisis themselves.  According to Stolyarov, neither 
the UN Security Council, the G8, nor any other international 
organization except the South African Development Community 
should concern itself with Zimbabwe's election results (ref 
B).  According to Stolyarov, Russia's stance is in keeping 
with the GOR's general dislike of intervening in the internal 
matters of other states. 
 
4. (C) Stolyarov told us that it is too early to tell what 
steps should be taken next.  He argued a "wait and see" 
approach was best because the results of the Presidential 
elections have not been released, and he cautioned against 
applying international pressure while the votes were still 
being counted.  Stolyarov said Russian diplomats were 
accredited election monitors during the elections, and 
despite opposition claims of victory, a second round election 
may be necessary.  In the meantime, the GOR is prepared to 
send humanitarian aid. 
 
-------------------------- 
Human Rights Not A Concern 
-------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Stolyarov maintained that there were too many 
conflicting reports to conclude definitively that human 
rights abuses were widespread during the elections. 
According to Stolyarov, the Russian Embassy in Harare has not 
sent any reports confirming allegations of human rights 
abuses.  When asked about the recent arms shipment destined 
for Zimbabwe that was forced to return to China, Stolyarov 
said the transaction was a bilateral issue between China and 
Zimbabwe.  He also pointed out China and Zimbabwe signed the 
contract for the shipment a year ago.  He did, however, 
acknowledge the timing of the shipment was especially bad. 
 
----------------------- 
Unrest Bad For Business 
----------------------- 
 
6. (C) Stolyarov expressed the GOR's hope for a quick 
resolution to the current election crisis because "the 
current state of affairs is bad for Russian businesses."  He 
said that, while Russia and Zimbabwe do not conduct much 
business, there were fruit importers, mining companies, 
agricultural companies, and others that were eager to invest 
in a peaceful, stable Zimbabwe.  Regardless of the outcome of 
the elections, Stolyarov said, the GOR will continue to work 
with the GOZ. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1197, CONFUSING PICTURE FOR NGOS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1197 2008-04-29 15:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0895
PP RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1197/01 1201506
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291506Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7843
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001197 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/29/2018 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI RS
SUBJECT: CONFUSING PICTURE FOR NGOS 
 
REF: 07 MOSCOW 5878 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i. Daniel A. Russell. Reason:  1.4 
(d). 
 
1.    (C) Summary: Three recent developments suggest that 
both the Federal Registration Service (FRS), which is charged 
with enforcing much of the amended NGO law, and the NGOs 
themselves continue to struggle with the law and the 
sometimes confusing requirements it has imposed.  On the one 
hand, with the passage of the April 15 deadline for NGOs to 
submit their annual activity reports, the FRS has 
accommodated those NGOs struggling to meet the deadline. The 
Service has agreed that filings posted, even if not received, 
by April 15 will be considered on time. The FRS has also 
agreed to accept late filings without penalty if a reasonable 
excuse is presented.  At the same time, the FRS's faulty 
statistics on the number of NGOs it has registered and 
de-registered over the last year, suggested that it is as 
overwhelmed by the volume of work as its clients. A further 
source of confusion for some NGOs is the FRS practice of 
interpreting some laws differently than the GOR ministries 
generally charged with enforcing them.  To date, none of our 
partners in human rights, health or other activities has been 
targeted for de-registration or audit purposes.  We will 
continue to advocate for the amendment of the burdensome 
reporting requirements.  End summary. 
 
FRS Conciliatory on Deadlines 
----------------------------- 
 
2. (U) April 15 was the deadline for all NGOs in Russia to 
file reports with the Federal Registration Service (FRS). 
Russian NGOs file one annual report whereas the burden on 
foreign NGOs is substantially heavier, with additional 
reporting obligations throughout the year (reftel). The 
reports must indicate activities in 2007, income and 
expenses, individuals in leadership positions, and any 
resources received from foreign sources. 
 
3. (U) While the NGO law gives the FRS authority to seek the 
liquidation of a non-compliant NGO, the FRS announced that it 
would limit court procedures to the de-registration of 
inactive NGOs from the registration rolls, starting with 
those that did not file in 2006 or 2007.  The FRS announced 
that it would accept late reports if an NGO had a valid 
reason for the late submission, and said that if an NGO had 
mailed its report by April 15, then it had fulfilled the 
requirements of the law, even if the report is not received 
until much later. The English-language newspaper The Moscow 
Times reported on April 21 that the FRS had extended the 
deadline by two weeks, although no official announcement to 
that effect was found on the FRS website. 
 
4. (U) The deadline presented an opportunity for some NGOs to 
voice their displeasure with the burden of the annual report. 
 Lev Ponomarev, head of the Movement for Human Rights, 
complained that the requirements imposed by the NGO law and 
the FRS were "suffocating civil society."  Ponomarev alleged 
that his deputy spent about three weeks collecting and 
sorting documents for the annual submission. 
 
FRS Data on NGOs Appear Unreliable 
---------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) Recent data released by the FRS suggest that it is 
struggling as much with the cascade of data it must process 
as the NGOs which supply it. Darya Miloslavskaya, Program 
Coordinator of the USG-sponsored Civil Society Legal Support 
Program of the International Center for Non-profit Law told 
us that the FRS's statistics appear in some cases to be 
internally inconsistent.  The FRS, for example, contends that 
it has denied about 13 percent of all registration 
applications, a percentage that does not tally with the 
indicated number of denials and/or the indicated number of 
registration actions recorded on the FRS website.  In order 
for the 11,044 denials reported by the FRS to represent 13 
percent of the total, the number of initial registrations 
would have had to be much higher than the 62,223 that the FRS 
website shows.  FRS spokesmen said that improperly completed 
applications or insufficient documentation prompted most of 
the refusals. 
 
6. (U) FRS data show there were 227,577 registered NGOs 
active as of January 1, 2008, a drop of about 12,000 in the 
course of a year. Moscow and St. Petersburg had the most 
registered NGOs with 18,505 and 16,663 respectively. The FRS 
also reported that about 13,000 NGOs were audited in 2007. 
Last year the FRS went to court to request de-registration of 
8,300 NGOs, of which the courts approved 6,600 at the end of 
2007.  The FRS indicated that 5,400 of these NGOs had 
effectively ceased operations while the remainder had 
 
MOSCOW 00001197  002 OF 002 
 
 
violated FRS regulations.  We have canvassed our partners 
working on human rights, health and other issues and did not 
find any that had been targeted for de-registration or audit 
purposes. 
 
Define "Education" 
------------------ 
 
7. (C) The NGO law gives the FRS wide powers to review NGO &#x00
0A;compliance not only with the federal NGO law but with the tax 
law, the law on extremism, and the law on education.  In some 
cases, according to Miloslavskaya, the FRS has a history of 
interpreting laws quite differently from the ministries of 
original jurisdiction.  For example, the FRS often 
interpreted seminars or practical training that NGOs provide 
to workers or volunteers as education and required that the 
affected NGOs conform to the law on education.  However, the 
Ministry of Education itself does not acknowledge that 
occasional seminars, or training that do not lead to a 
degree, rise to the level of education.  Efforts by NGOs to 
convince FRS officials of the need to bring the agency's 
interpretation into conformance with that of the Ministry of 
Education have, to date, not succeeded. 
 
Local Registration Limits NGO Movement 
-------------------------------------- 
 
8. (C) Another source of confusion for some NGOs is the 
registration's territorial requirements.  By law, an NGO must 
register in the region or regions in which it intends to 
operate.  At times, however, the FRS has defined the work of 
an NGO to include not just the maintenance of an office in a 
particular region, but meetings with like-minded NGOs in 
other regions or travel to a region for a day or two of 
training.  If the NGO has not registered to operate in the 
region of the meeting or training, the FRS could issue a 
written warning.  Two written warnings give the FRS the 
option to seek a court-ordered liquidation of the NGO. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) We will continue to advocate for the amendment of the 
NGO law, as factual evidence mounts regarding the 
unreasonable reporting burden it places on NGOs. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1195, GOR TRANSNISTRIA NEGOTIATOR SATISFIED WITH PROGRESS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1195 2008-04-29 12:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0693
OO RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1195/01 1201247
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291247Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7840
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001195 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/28/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV RS
SUBJECT: GOR TRANSNISTRIA NEGOTIATOR SATISFIED WITH PROGRESS 
 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1.  (C) In an April 28 meeting, Russian Special Negotiator 
for Transnistria Nesterushkin reviewed the results of his 
"positive" April 21-22 consultations in Chisinau and 
Tiraspol, stressing that talks between Moldova and 
Transnistria appeared to be moving in the right direction. 
Nesterushkin's meetings with Moldovan and Transnistrian 
officials, which followed up on the recent meeting between 
Presidents Voronin and Smirnov and the "5 2" meetings in 
Odessa, reassured Russia that Chisinau and Tiraspol remained 
focused on the four recently formed working groups.  However, 
Nesterushkin expressed concern that the "unchanged" 
negotiating positions of each side, Moldova's "rush" to 
complete an agreement in the next several weeks, and the 
strong opposition to Voronin's integration proposals in the 
Moldovan parliament threatened to undermine the progress. 
Nesterushkin stressed that the five mediating and observer 
countries needed to maintain the pressure on Chisinau and 
Tiraspol to adopt more pragmatic positions, particularly in 
the working groups, and praised the U.S. decision to engage 
with Smirnov.  End Summary. 
 
We've Made Progress... 
---------------------- 
 
2.  (C) On April 28, Russian Special Negotiator for 
Transnistria Valeriy Nesterushkin told us that his April 
21-22 visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol were very "useful and 
revealing."  Moldovan Reintegration Minister Sova and 
Transnistrian "FM" Litskai told Nesterushkin in separate 
meetings that the April 11 meeting between Presidents Voronin 
and Smirnov was a "pivotal moment" in the settlement talks. 
Nesterushkin said that as a result of the presidential 
meeting, both Sova and Litskai had a "clear mandate" to open 
official lines of communication (as opposed to the 
"unofficial" talks in the past) and reach a "mutually 
acceptable agreement."  Nesterushkin commented that the 
increased commitment on both sides to find a solution was 
reflected in the "constructive and positive" April 14-15 5 2 
meetings (in the context of an OSCE seminar) in Odessa. 
 
3.  (C) Nesterushkin cited the launching of the working 
groups as another key indicator of the momentum generated by 
the Voronin-Smirnov meeting.  While cautioning that the four 
working groups (on transportation, health care, railroad 
connection, and the environment) were mainly 
confidence-building measures and not the commencement of 
formal settlement negotiations, Nesterushkin said that his 
recent trip to Moldova underscored the extent to which 
Chisinau and Tiraspol were committed to making progress in 
concrete areas of cooperation. 
 
...But There Is Still Room for Concern 
-------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) Nesterushkin stressed that his optimism was tempered 
by the "principally unchanged" negotiating positions of 
Chisinau and Tiraspol.  While Sova and Litskai made clear to 
Nesterushkin that each side genuinely wanted to reach a 
settlement, neither party has shown a willingness to address 
the fundamental concerns of the other.  Sova gave 
Nesteruskhin the strong impression that Chisinau was only 
interested in securing Tiraspol's immediate acceptance of 
Voronin's earlier proposals for greater autonomy and 
representation for Transnistria in a unified Moldova -- 
ideally, prior to the Moldovan parliamentary elections in 
May.  Litskai, on the other hand, dwelled almost exclusively 
on the need for Chisinau to recognize Tiraspol as an "equal 
negotiating" partner, and thus integration measures had to be 
developed on a joint basis. 
 
5.  (C) Nesterushkin also identified domestic constraints in 
Chisinau as another serious roadblock to a final settlement. 
Moldovan opposition leaders told Nesterushkin in unambiguous 
terms that Voronin's proposals to allow Transnistrians to 
occupy seats in parliament and positions in the Moldovan 
government would be met with stiff resistance if and when 
they were submitted for parliamentary approval.  Nesterushkin 
explained that Voronin's proposals would necessarily entail 
the repeal of the 2005 law determining Transnistria's status, 
and such a step would require the backing of an unsympathetic 
opposition. 
 
6.  (C) When pressed, Nesterushkin also acknowledged that the 
tensions between Smirnov and Transnistrian parliamentary 
leader Shevchuk were "real," and thus Smirnov could not count 
on "automatic" approval from his legislature.  However, he 
downplayed the likelihood that Transnistrian parliament would 
stand in the way of a settlement deal. 
 
5 2 Plays Integral Role, But Russia is "Unique" 
 
MOSCOW 00001195  002 OF 002 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
7.  (C) Nesterushkin reaffirmed Russia's commitment to the 
5 2 negotiating format and stated that the official mediators 
had to keep the momentum generated by the presidential 
meeting and Odessa talks.  He cautioned that despite recent 
expressions of political will, the "devil is in the details," 
and Chisinau and Tiraspol must demonstr
ate greater 
"flexibility and maturity" in the working groups and in their 
bilateral discussions on Voronin's proposals. 
 
8.  (C) Nesterushkin did not miss the opportunity to 
underscore Russia's "unique and helpful" contribution to the 
settlement talks.  He noted that Russia was the only member 
of the 5 2 that was able to break the impasse on high-level 
contact between Chisinau and Tiraspol.  Nesterushkin praised 
Ambassador Kirby's decision to meet with Smirnov, noting that 
such direct engagement was necessary to overcome 
Transnistrian concerns about the "impartiality" of U.S. 
mediation efforts. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1192, JUST RUSSIA FLOUNDERS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1192 2008-04-29 07:08 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0348
PP RUEHBW
DE RUEHMO #1192/01 1200708
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 290708Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7836
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001192 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/29/2018 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: JUST RUSSIA FLOUNDERS 
 
REF: MOSCOW 1031 
 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells.  Reason:  1.4 (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary: On April 25 the pro-Kremlin Just Russia (SR) 
party held its third party convention at the State Kremlin 
Palace amid speculation that its days as even a limited a 
political force were numbered.  Just Russia Chairman Mironov 
offered assembled delegates at the listless convention little 
in the way of a path forward for a party that simultaneously 
professes loyalty to Putin and opposition to the party that 
the President has elected to chair. Contributing to the 
fragility of SR's political fortunes is jockeying for top 
political sinecures, including Mironov's speakership of the 
Federation Council.  End summary. 
 
A Forum and a Conference 
------------------------ 
 
2.  (U) Following disappointing regional election results in 
March and a decision (reftel) by Putin to head the dominant 
United Russia party, a dispirited Just Russia party staged 
its third party convention on April 25 within Kremlin walls 
at the State Kremlin Palace.  The party called the conference 
to adopt changes to the party platform, to take stock after a 
relatively weak showing in the December Duma and regional 
elections, and to chart a future without the active support 
of either Putin or President-elect Medvedev. 
 
3.  (U) Delegates to the April 24-25 events gave SR Chairman 
Sergey Mironov a rather perfunctory standing ovation, before 
welcoming representatives from the socialist parties of 
Bulgaria, Ukraine, Finland, and Hungary.  A mid-level 
representative from the Chinese Communist Party Central 
Committee also spoke.  Conference delegates agreed 
--unanimously-- to a number of technical changes to the party 
charter, and backed Mironov's unopposed bid to remain party 
chairman. 
 
4.  (U) Attendance at the Just Russia convention paled when 
compared with the earlier United Russia convention two weeks 
earlier.  Putin, Medvedev, most of the cabinet, and large 
swathes of the national and regional leadership had attended 
the United Russia event, while Putin and Medvedev sent only 
taped greetings to the Just Russia convention, and other 
government representatives were absent. The 232 official 
registered delegates were overwhelmed by the thousands of 
guests, among them a large youth group supplied waving party 
placards. The majority of guests left following Mironov's 
address in order to stroll the Kremlin grounds and take 
tourist photos. 
 
5.  (C) In his keynote address, Mironov accepted blame for 
the party's poor showing in March, when it won seats in only 
five of ten local legislatures, but complained that United 
Russia had used administrative resources against SR, 
including police harassment in Yaroslavl region.  Mironov 
also drew a sharp distinction between Just Russia's platform, 
which he described as socialist, and the 
"oligarchic-bureaucratic interests" of United Russia.  Should 
a two-party system emerge from Russia, Mironov said, Just 
Russia would be United Russia's logical opposition number. 
 
6.  (C) Putin's decision to affiliate himself with United 
Russia had put the loyal Just Russia party in a difficult 
position.  Mironov attempted to extract Just Russia from the 
difficulty Putin had caused by affiliating with United Russia 
by first praising the President, then rationalizing Putin's 
decision.  Mironov credited Putin for rescuing Russia from 
the economic and political chaos of the '90s and if, Mironov 
continued, "the President considers it necessary to lead 
(United Russia) in order to continue the country's course, we 
will respect his decision."  Mironov found some solace in the 
fact that Putin had earlier stated his preference for a 
multi-party system. He hoped that Putin would end United 
Russia's practice of using negative campaign tactics and 
abuse of administrative resources in election campaigns. 
 
7.  (C) Political commentators were quick to sound Just 
Russia's death knell. The Center for Political Information's 
Aleksey Mukhin dismissed the party as a Kremlin project that 
had outlived its usefulness. Mukhin reminded his readers that 
Kremlin party ideologue Vladislav Surkov had made no secret 
of his dislike for Just Russia and that it was only Mironov's 
close association Putin that had allowed the party to 
survive. Center for Political Technology (a 
Medvedev-affiliated think tank) Deputy Boris Makarenko 
pointed to SR's removal from the ballot in Yaroslavl as 
evidence of the shrinking political space for opposition in 
Russia.  While stopping short of predicting SR's collapse, 
the Kremlin-connected editor Vitaliy Tretyakov warned that SR 
was in real trouble, in part because Mironov's sinecure as 
 
MOSCOW 00001192  002 OF 002 
 
 
Federation Council Speaker was a lucrative political plum 
during a time of shifting political forces.  While Mironov 
was a loyal Putin ally, Tretyakov speculated that he was no 
longer useful to the Kremlin.  Nezavisimaya Gazeta Editor &#x0
00A;Konstantin Remchukov speculated to us that Mironov's 
speakership could get tied up in mayoral politics, as the 
Kremlin casts about for a perch distinguished enough for 
Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov to retire to. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
8.  (C) The perfunctory event was short on both substance and 
energy.  The task of positioning Just Russia so that it is 
both loyal to Putin and in opposition to both the party he 
now heads and many of the policies to be enacted by his 
government would be beyond the ability of even the most 
skilled party operative.  Mironov is not a leader of that 
caliber, and it seems clear, absent a decision to merge 
United and Just Russia, that the party will likely continue 
to flounder until the next national election. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks