Friday, June 13, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s New Man in North Caucasus Highlights Russian Worries about Sochi Olympics

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 13 – The new presidential plenipotentiary for the Southern Federal District earlier served as a prosecutor in Sochi and justice minister in Moscow, a background that explains the Kremlin’s decision to put appoint him: its nervousness about preparations for the Sochi Olympics and its desire to have a senior official in the area adjoining Abkhazia.
According to the current "Argumenty nedeli" “no one” can doubt that “V[ladimir] Ustinov was appointed” to deal with the Olympic Games and to make sure that Russia is in a position to host them in a way that will bring credit to Moscow just as Dmitry Kozak was named earlier to quiet the Chechen conflict (
Because of his earlier service as a prosecutor in Sochi who knows where the bodies there are buried as it were and his work as both prosecutor general and justice minister at the center who oversaw some of the most sensitive political cases of the last decade, Ustinov is ideal from Moscow’s point of view especially in the wake of turmoil in the state corporation involved.
But “Argumenty nedeli” suggests that Ustinov may find it more difficult to build a relationship with Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov, although it is worth noting that the new presidential plenipotentiary for the region has had more than a little experience in dealing with the Chechens and other North Caucasians over the last 15 years.
Born into a law enforcement family in Khabarovsk kray in 1953, Ustinov graduated from the Kharkov Law Institute in 1978. He served his apprenticeship as a prosecutor in Krasnodar kray before becoming prosecutor in Sochi in 1992 and then was promoted to be first deputy prosecutor in Krasnodar kray itself.
In 1997, he was named deputy general prosecutor of the country as a whole, and then in 1998-1999, he headed the prosecutorial department responsible for the execution of federal laws on security and international relations in the North Caucasus and as coordinator of the law enforcement bodies of the republics and krays in that region.
In July 1999, he was appointed prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, in which capacity he supervised the investigations of the terrorist attacks in Moscow and Volgodonsk, the Kursk submarine disaster, the Yukos case, and Salman Raduyev, and he secured the release of former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov from Swiss custody.
He published several books and numerous articles in the Russian media and in 2003 defended his doctor dissertation at Moscow’s Diplomatic Academy on the struggle against terrorism, a study that was subsequently published in both Russian and English (ISBN 5-224-04468-5 under the title “Indictment of Terror.”
In June 2006, President Vladimir Putin named Ustinov the Russian Federation’s justice minister, a position he retained until his appointment to his current post last month.
This background suggests that Putin and Medvedev view Ustinov as a specially trusted and skilled operator, something that is likely to serve him in good stead not only in making sure that preparations for the Olympics in 2014 proceed as Moscow intends but also in dealing with a variety of regional issues, including relations with Abkhazia.
All that makes Ustinov a man to watch, probably the most important presidential plenipotentiary at the present time and certainly the one who faces the most difficult challenges and who enjoys the kind of support at the center which make it likely that he will be a player on all issues in his own federal district and in neighboring ones and countries as well.

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