Putin Warns FSB on Terrorists and NGOs

Posted in Russia | 08-Feb-06 | Author: Simon Saradzhyan| Source: Moscow Times

President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian Security Service Chief Nikolai Patrushev, left, at a meeting with top officials of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, in Moscow, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday urged the Federal Security Service to prevent foreign governments from interfering in Russia through NGOs and said terrorists should be hunted down "in caves ... like rats."

In a speech at the annual meeting of the top brass of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, at its Lubyanka headquarters, Putin also criticized NGOs for a lack of diligence when accepting foreign grants. In a reference to recent FSB accusations that four British diplomats worked as spies, he said NGOs were to blame if they got caught up in scandal.

"One can only regret that this scandal has cast a shadow over NGOs, but you have nothing to do with it," Putin told his FSB audience. "It is those who accept financial aid who need to be more scrupulous."

While the security services should allow NGOs to operate, they should protect "society from any attempts to use these organizations for interference of foreign countries in Russia's internal affairs," Putin said, according to a version of his comments posted on the Kremlin web site.

Putin also advised the agency, which he headed before being appointed prime minister in 1999, on tracking down terrorists. "Make pinpoint strikes against them, find them in all the caves where they are hiding, and eliminate them like rats," he said.

In his opening remarks during the televised part of the meeting, FSB director Nikolai Patrushev listed several North Caucasus republics as among his biggest security challenges.

In a thinly veiled warning to nationalists and religious extremists, Putin also called on the FSB to thwart any attempts to provoke religious or ethnic violence in the country, which has seen a steady rise in xenophobic attacks in recent years.

In other comments published Tuesday, Putin made a foray into a range of domestic and foreign policy issues in an interview with Spanish media a day before his visit to Spain.

Putin said he would welcome another amnesty for Chechen rebels and that authorities would be prepared for a dialogue with rebels who agreed to lay down their arms and were not guilty of violent crimes, the Kremlin web site reported.

Putin also said Russia would oppose the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe becoming an overseer of other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, reiterating the Kremlin's criticism of Western monitoring of those countries' elections.

Going through a checklist of other foreign policy issues, Putin portrayed Russia's recent gas war with Ukraine as a successful attempt to secure market prices and uninterrupted supplies to Europe.

He also praised the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to refer Iran to the UN Security Council as "a balanced decision" and expressed hope that this would lead to the resolution of Iran's nuclear standoff.

In a rare explanation of the state's tactics in acquiring Yukos, Putin said that any buyer of Yuganskneftegaz, the stricken oil company's production unit that was auctioned off to pay back tax debts in December 2004, had to be wary of legal risks.

"The future owners had to think about how they would work ... in case of lawsuits. So when Baikal Finance Group bought the stake, it became the owner. Everything else happened on the secondary market.

"In this way, the potential legal claims on anyone who gained this property were practically eradicated," he said. Soon after the auction, Baikal sold Yugansk to state oil company Rosneft.

Putin also told the Spanish journalists that he was unaware that Yukos' former owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had been held in solitary confinement in the Chita region camp where he is serving an eight-year sentence.

"Prison isn't a holiday camp," Putin said. "That Khodorkovsky found himself in a punishment cell, I can say openly, I heard first from you.

"As you have drawn my attention to this, I will ask the justice minister what is going on, where they have sent him and for what."