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Russia Report: June 9, 2005


9 June 2005, Volume 5, Number 23
DOMESTIC POLITICS
DOES NORTH OSSETIAN LEADER'S DEPARTURE HERALD OTHER RESIGNATIONS?
By Jean-Christophe Peuch

North Ossetia's 71-year-old president, Aleksandr Dzasokhov, announced his resignation on 31 May after talks with President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District. The veteran leader said he is stepping down voluntarily so that a younger politician can take his place. But analysts believe that the Kremlin forced Dzasokhov out in a bid to reassert central control over the small North Caucasus republic. Will other regional leaders soon follow?

Addressing reporters at the outcome of a meeting with Dmitrii Kozak, the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dzasokhov said he had sent a letter to Putin requesting that his term in office be abridged.

"I'm pretty sure I've made the right decision," Dzasokhov said. "It is extremely important that we open the way to a younger generation. We should sometimes look at ourselves with hindsight. We would then see that following us is a generation of politically mature and well-prepared people."

A longtime Communist leader, Dzasokhov first became North Ossetia's president in 1998. He was reelected three years ago. His mandate was due to expire at the end of this year.

Dzasokhov claimed he first thought about stepping down well before the September 2004 Beslan hostage crisis that resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people, many of whom were schoolchildren.

Accusing Dzasokhov of mishandling the crisis, Beslan residents and regional opposition parties staged street rallies for months, demanding his resignation. In January, protesters blockaded the main highway linking southern Russia to Azerbaijan.

Despite his earlier criticism of Dzasokhov, Putin denied on 1 June he had anything to do with the departure of the North Ossetian leader. But most political commentators believe Dzasokhov did not decide to step down on his own. Russia's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant" newspapers quoted unidentified government officials on 1 June as saying Dzasokhov resigned under direct pressure from Kozak.

Both dailies suggested the final decision to dismiss Dzasokhov was reached two months ago after he refused to sign an agreement to facilitate the return to North Ossetia's Prigorodnii Raion of ethnic Ingush displaced by the 1992 Ossetian-Ingush conflict.

But analysts argue that the Kremlin had many other reasons to replace Dzasokhov -- who was considered loyal but no longer able to manage his small republic.

Vakha Petrov is editor in chief of yufo.ru, an information website specializing in regional affairs based in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. He told RFE/RL that years of economic mismanagement, corruption, and clan politics had long undermined Dzasokhov's popularity.

"Dzasokhov had long stopped suiting the Kremlin, even before the Beslan events," Petrov said. "His position within the republic had already been weakened, and with Beslan he lost all remnants of legitimacy. His rating then dropped down to 7 percent. You can imagine what this means for the head of a republic, especially in the North Caucasus region, where the situation can explode at any moment. Dzasokhov had lost all legitimacy, and it seems that this is why it had been decided to dismiss him long ago. Simply, the implementation of this decision had been delayed."

Petrov said he believes the main reason that federal authorities refrained from dismissing Dzasokhov immediately after Beslan is that they did not want to give the impression they were yielding to pressure from the public. He said Kremlin officials feared this might trigger a wave of similar protests in neighboring republics.

Grigorii Shvedov, the editor in chief of Russia's "Caucasian Knot" information website, said he believes other unpopular regional leaders -- such as Kabardino-Balkaria's Valerii Kokov, Daghestan's State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, or Ingushetia's Murat Zyazikov -- might soon meet a fate similar to Dzasokhov's.

"I believe the [North Ossetian] model will be applied elsewhere," Shvedov said. "The only question is whether the Kremlin has a real plan. The actions of the federal authorities show that they have no strategic development plan for either the North Caucasus or the Southern Federal District as a whole. There is a Russian policy toward Georgia. There are Russian policies toward Armenia and Azerbaijan -- even if they contradict each other. But, aside from a vague idea that we need to combat Wahabbism -- which allegedly embodies terrorism -- we don't know of any clear-cut policy toward the North Caucasus."

Putin has long indicated he is unhappy with the leaders of the North Caucasus republics.

In a televised interview in 2004, the Russian president castigated the region's leaders, citing as an example a multiple-murder case involving the son-in-law of Karachaevo-Cherkessia's President Mustafa Batdyev and the street protests it had triggered.

"What we have there are regional clans that are vying for influence and trying to use power leverage to settle economic problems and divide up property," Putin said.

Regional experts appear to support the idea that the decision to replace Dzasokhov stems from Putin's plans to reinforce the so-called power vertical throughout the North Caucasus area.

Petrov of yufo.ru warned that any attempt at disrupting the balance of power that exists, for example, in Daghestan -- where the regional leader is chosen under a delicate ethnicity-based rotating system -- could foster further destabilization.

"If the head of this republic were to be appointed [by the Kremlin], that would signal the end of the existing system and could create serious problems," Petrov said. "One can even say with a great deal of certainty that that would trigger political tensions that could in turn degenerate into full-scale interethnic unrest. The same thing goes for all republics in the region -- even though it is less of a problem in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, or, to an even lesser extent, in Ingushetia."

Petrov said the Kremlin, which is reportedly aware of those risks, might play for time and "decide not to decide" -- that is, to not replace other regional leaders in the immediate future.

In the meantime, Dzasokhov suggested a possible way out. The outgoing North Ossetian leader voiced comments on 31 May that sounded like a thinly veiled recommendation to his regional counterparts.

"I am setting a precedent," he told journalists in Vladikavkaz, adding, "While everyone else is trying to have his mandate extended, I decided to shorten mine."

REAPPOINTING THE INCUMBENTS.
At the beginning of the year, a political reform took effect that eliminated the direct election of regional executive-branch heads and replaced them with a system under which local legislatures confirm nominees selected by the president. Since then, about one-quarter of Russia's 89 regions have gone through the process and only three incumbents have been replaced. Below is a chronological list of President Vladimir Putin's choices so far. (Robert Coalson)

4 February--Primorskii Krai--Incumbent Sergei Darkin reappointed.

17 February--Tyumen Oblast--Incumbent Sergei Sobyanin reappointed.

18 February--Vladimir Oblast--Incumbent Nikolai Vinogradov reappointed.

22 February--Kursk Oblast--Incumbent Aleksandr Mikhailov reappointed.

24 February--Amur Oblast--Incumbent Leonid Korotkov reappointed.

24 February--Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug--Incumbent Aleksandr Filipenko reappointed.

25 February--Jewish Autonomous Okrug--Incumbent Nikolai Volkov reappointed.

3 March--Saratov Oblast--Unified Russia activist and former Balkovo nuclear-power plant director Pavel Ipatov named to replace incumbent Dmitrii Ayatskov. Ayatskov subsequently named ambassador to Belarus.

11 March--Evenk Autonomous Okrug--Incumbent Boris Zolotarev reappointed.

11 March--Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug--Incumbent Yurii Neelov reappointed.

25 March--Republic of Tatarstan--Incumbent Mintimer Shaimiev reappointed.

30 March--Tula Oblast--Engineer Vyacheslav Dudka appointed to replace popular Communist incumbent Vasilii Starodubtsev.

15 April--Koryak Autonomous Okrug--Deputy Governor Oleg Kozhemyako appointed to replace disgraced incumbent Vladimir Loginov, who was fired on 9 March by President Putin for failure to cope with his responsibilities.

18 April--Chelyabinsk Oblast--Incumbent Petr Sumin reappointed.

20 April--Kemerovo Oblast--Incumbent Aman Tuleev reappointed.

21 April--Kostroma Oblast--Incumbent Viktor Shershunov reappointed.

23 April--Orel Oblast--Incumbent Yegor Stroev reappointed.

26 April--Samara Oblast--Incumbent Konstantin Titov reappointed.

14 May--Penza Oblast--Incumbent Vasilii Bochkarev reappointed.

28 May--Lipetsk Oblast--Incumbent Oleg Korolev reappointed.

8 June--North Ossetia--Legislative speaker Taymuraz Mamsurov appointed to replace President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, who resigned under Kremlin pressure. Dzasokhov was made the republic's representative in the Federation Council.

(Sources: RFE/RL, Panorama, Moscow Carnegie Center)

NASHI GATHERS MOMENTUM
By Robert Coalson

The pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi continued to hog the media spotlight this week, following a 1 June report in "Izvestiya" that several of the organization's leaders met behind closed doors in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin the previous day. Although the Kremlin refused to confirm or deny the meeting, Nashi co-leader Vasilii Yakemenko, who says he attended the meeting, provided details to the daily and to other media outlets.

Yakemenko, 34, told "Izvestiya" that all four national commissars, as Nashi's central leaders are called, and Nashi regional coordinators from St. Petersburg, Voronezh, Tula, Bryansk, Tambov, and other cities participated in the meeting with Putin, at which Putin expressed surprise that Nashi was able to bring out 60,000 people to a Moscow rally on 15 May. Yakemenko told grani.ru on 2 June that 12 Nashi activists were at the meeting, which lasted about two hours.

"We discussed a wide circle of issues from within Russia and from beyond its borders," Yakemenko told the daily. "In part, we discussed Russia's position with respect to the Baltic states and Russia's relations with the European Union. Among domestic issues, we discussed issues of youth politics and relations between youth and the state. Of course we discussed the important question 'where are we going?'"

"The president of Russia did us a great honor and demonstrated his solidarity with 'our' [nashi, which means "our" in Russian] patriotic views," Yakemenko told grani.ru. "We hope very much that such contacts will become regular."

The meeting with Putin (and the media attention that accompanied it) and the massive 15 May rally, at which Nashi staged a symbolic passing of the torch from the World War II generation to the Nashi generation, are the latest manifestations of the movement's rapidly growing prominence.

In addition, Nashi announced last week a new program to train young managers at specially created Nashi academies, with the goal of replacing the current "defeatist generation" of bureaucrats over the next few years. "This year our unique educational program will train 3,000 of our commissars," Yakemenko told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 31 May. "In five years, we will have trained 10,000 and in eight, 100,000. These are the people who in reality will carry out the modernization of the country when they occupy key posts at all levels of power. It will be a revolution, not in form, but in content."

At a time when most observers believe the state's persecution of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii has dried up funding for non-Kremlin-sponsored political initiatives, Nashi seems to be thriving financially as well. The meeting with Putin will almost certainly be seen as a signal by Kremlin-friendly businessmen that this is a project to be supported. So far, Nashi has relied heavily on state resources, including holding its founding congress in a facility owned by the Academy of Sciences. On 28 April, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Nashi has had particular support from Tver Oblast Governor Dmitrii Zelenin, who spoke at Nashi's founding congress together with Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko. The daily reported that Nashi activists are being trained at a police training facility in the oblast and are organizing street patrols in Tver.

The 15 May rally in Moscow, however, involved bringing in activists from at least 30 federation subjects, as well as considerable expenditures on promotional materials, signs, entertainment, and the like. Yakemenko has refused to disclose how much the demonstration cost, but he told "Novye izvestiya" on 27 May that it was "very expensive." He told kreml.org on 24 May that it cost "a great deal of money indeed" and "a monstrous amount." The creation of a national network of educational academies, the first of which is already operating in Moscow, will also demand considerable resources.

Some voices have been warning that the Nashi movement could ultimately prove dangerous and uncontrollable. Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov sharply criticized the organization on 19 May and again on 31 May. He told RosBalt on 31 May that "grown-up men" stand behind Nashi. "We need to talk to these men and convince them that although this may seem like an easy path, it could turn out to be very difficult and absolutely incorrect," Mironov said. Instead of protecting Russia from a "colored" revolution, Nashi "could stand at the head of their own kind of revolution." In his earlier comments, Mironov called Nashi "ideological wolves that could become uncontrollable."

MEDIA
GAZPROM MAKES THE NEWS
By Claire Bigg

Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas monopoly, acquired control on 3 June of the prominent "Izvestiya" daily newspaper. Gazprom is the same state-owned entity that four years ago took control of NTV, a major television station critical of the government, after a battle between the Kremlin and NTV's owner. Now, the purchase of "Izvestiya" has raised fears that the Kremlin will clamp down on one of the country's most independent and professional dailies.

Gazprom-Media, a subsidiary of Russia's state-controlled gas giant, announced on 3 June it had purchased a controlling stake in "Izvestiya." The official spokesman for Gazprom-Media refused to comment, however, and the company said in a written statement that it will not reveal the value of the deal. Gazprom bought just over 50 percent of "Izvestiya" shares from Interros, a vast holding company belonging to oligarch Vladimir Potanin.

A number of media professionals have voiced deep concern over the Gazprom takeover of "Izvestiya," a respected daily considered to be one of Russia's most objective, high-brow publications. Many view the takeover as the latest move in the Kremlin's campaign to silence news organizations critical of its policy.

"I am very much afraid that there will be attempts to cleanse 'Izvestiya' and make it as loyal as everything that belongs to this huge holding, Gazprom-Media, to make media outlets obedient," said Manana Aslamasyan, the vice president of Russia's National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters.

Mikhail Kozhokin, a former editor in chief of "Izvestiya," said both sides might well have had a financial interest in the deal. But he also described Gazprom's purchase of "Izvestiya" as an attempt to muzzle independent media.

"In Russia, business is interknitted with politics, just as business decisions and political processes are interknitted in the media sphere," Kozhokin said. "Media outlets increasingly find themselves under the control, or the strong influence, of the government through a variety of methods."

In 2001, after a trial of strength between the Kremlin and the exiled media baron Vladimir Gusinskii, Gazprom took control of NTV, a major television station overtly critical of President Vladimir Putin's regime.

In the official statement, the head of Gazprom-Media remained ambiguous about possible changes in the "Izvestiya" editorial staff. He said his company needs to carry out a detailed analysis of the situation within the paper before deciding whether to introduce such changes.

Many experts fear "Izvestiya" will meet the same fate as NTV, which was deserted by a number of prominent journalists after the Gazprom takeover. The television station has since considerably toned down its criticism of the government.

Igor Yakovenko, the general secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, accused Gazprom of "killing" NTV and called the "Izvestiya" deal "bad news" for the daily. He said "Izvestiya" was well managed by ProfMedia, the publishing arm of Interros, and predicted that Gazprom would run the prestigious daily into the ground.

"When 'Izvestiya' belonged to the ProfMedia holding -- although this holding is extremely loyal to the authorities -- these people did business and therefore looked for ways to keep 'Izvestiya' running and make it truly interesting," Yakovenko said. "[The takeover] will lead to the destruction of one of Russia's oldest and best media brands."

The takeover has also prompted speculation that Potanin is selling "Izvestiya" to Gazprom as a gesture of goodwill toward the Kremlin. Potanin is viewed as someone who is particularly careful not to anger the Kremlin.

Following the Beslan hostage tragedy in September, "Izvestiya" Editor-in-Chief Raf Shakirov resigned amid rumors that Potanin had asked him to leave for fear the Kremlin would be riled by the explicit photographs of the massacre published by "Izvestiya."

GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES NEW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TELEVISION CHANNEL
By Claire Bigg

Russia wants to shake off its "bear" image, and it is planning to do so by launching a new English-language satellite television station, Russia Today. Russian authorities, who are heavily subsidizing the project, announced on 7 June that Russia Today will start broadcasting before the end of the year in the United States, Europe, and some Asian countries. In Russia, the venture has inspired a mix of interest and apprehension, raising fears that the station will turn into a Kremlin propaganda machine.

The government had long floated the idea of creating a Russian English-language television station aimed at improving Russia's standing abroad. In 2001, then-Media Minister Mikhail Lesin lamented the negative coverage of Russia in the West and declared the country must promote a positive image for itself if it wanted to avoid "always looking like bears."

Speaking at a press conference on 7 June, Federal Press and Mass Communications Agency Director Mikhail Seslavinskii agreed that the world needs to know more about Russia: "A big segment that exists in other developed countries was missing [in Russia] -- an account in English of what is happening now in the Russian Federation."

Seslavinskii said Russia Today could not have been created without help from the government, which has earmarked some $30 million to get the station off the ground. But he was quick to dismiss claims that the Kremlin -- which has been slammed in the West for clamping down on independent media -- will have a say in the channel's editorial policy.

"I just can't image a special department somewhere in the corridors of power where people would sit and read the news in English, and cross things out with a red pen -- 'We say this, we don't say that, there is a grammatical mistake here and two commas missing there,'" Seslavinskii said. "The company will work on its own as an independent editorial office."

Russia Today's Editor in Chief is Margarita Simonyan, a 25-year-old former Kremlin reporter for the RTR state television. She says the new channel, which in the long run hopes to support itself through advertising, will offer a Russian view on world news. She vowed the channel will provide a platform of expression for all political forces, including opposition parties.

Simonyan concedes that competition for global English-language television is tough, but nonetheless has ambitious plans for the new station and its 300-strong team.

"Of course we understand that it is difficult to compete with the big companies in the world that exist on this market," Simonyan said. "But we have some things they don't have. I don't know if you do, but I don't know a single foreigner who wasn't surprised the first time he came to Russia. I think this happens precisely because Russia is not often portrayed in the way it looks when one arrives here. I would like to show my country the way I see it, the way my editorial team and the people with whom I work see it."

Some observers have welcomed the project as an opportunity to tell foreigners more about a country that largely remains an enigma abroad. Yassen Zassourskii, the dean of the journalism department at Moscow State University, says the station has a good chance of attracting viewers, provided it remains objective and does not focus too much on Russia.

"Much will depend on how the channel's service is organized," he said. "This is one thing I know: it will get ratings, success, and it will be watched if it provides extensive and varied information on what is happening in the world, on Russia's point of view on this, and is sufficiently many-sided."

Others, however, are not convinced. Igor Yakovenko, the general-secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, is convinced Russia Today will become a propaganda tool for the Kremlin and is doomed to failure. He considers the creation of the channel to be positive in itself, but condemns the fact that it will be broadcast within the country as well as abroad: "The presence of a state monopoly in the media makes attempts at improving Russia's external image problematic. The United States forbids its own state radio station to broadcast in the United States, because it is bad for people's health. Russia has the opposite policy. They think propaganda should hit their own citizens first. This is a big problem."

Russia Today is set to begin broadcasting before the end of the year with the backing of the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency and RTR state television.

CHECHNYA
NEW RESISTANCE LEADER VOWS NO MORE HOSTAGE TAKINGS
By Liz Fuller

Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev, the successor to slain Chechen President and resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service on 3 June that he strongly condemns terrorism, and said it is not part of the resistance's policy.

Sadullaev also said that while the resistance will continue to try to inflict the maximum damage on the Russian armed forces and military targets, they will not attack peaceful civilians, women, and children, and will not take them hostage. Sadullaev was answering questions submitted to him by RFE/RL.

Sadullaev was virtually unknown until he was named Chechen president three months ago following Maskhadov's death. It is therefore not possible to say with any certainty whether he played any role in the Moscow theater hostage taking in October 2002 or last September's hostage taking in Beslan. Russian officials blame both Maskhadov and radical field commander Shamil Basaev for those terrorist acts.

Sadullaev admitted that Maskhadov's killing on 8 March was "a painful blow for us," but he added that the ongoing struggle for the freedom of the Chechen people is not being waged in the name of one man. "If something happens to one of us, it does not mean the war of liberation will end; those who survive will continue the struggle."

Sadullaev said that in 2001, "at the beginning of the second war," Maskhadov signed a decree naming Sadullaev vice president but, at Sadullaev's request, did not make that decree public. Sadullaev said "I did not believe that he would be killed and I would take his place...I did not want him to die first." He said that "when peace comes...we shall hold elections and elect a new president."

Sadullaev said that Maskhadov's death has not resulted and will not result in any "hasty" changes in tactics. He said "Aslan believed that this cause is just and he was ready to die for it if need be." He went on: "the path we have chosen is the only one and we have one single goal. Freedom is impossible in an unfree country, and in an unfree country human rights are worthless and cannot be protected. Russia has shown us this yesterday and continues to do so today."

Sadullaev claimed that human rights have never been respected in Russia, and he cited the example of TV footage on combating crime which frequently shows Russian policemen beating a detainee who is lying on the ground. If a man is already on the ground, Sadullaev argued, there is no need to beat him. He said such police brutality in Russia is "the norm." For that reason, Sadullaev continued, "there is no way Russia can teach us human rights or justice."

Asked about his relations with radical field commander Shamil Basaev, Sadullaev hinted at disagreements within the Chechen resistance leadership, but he did not at any point mention Basaev by name. He said he is trying to maintain unity within the resistance and channel its efforts in a single direction, and for that reason he will neither sever relations with anyone or try to force anyone to cooperate against his will. "Our nation is very small," he pointed out, and so unity is of paramount importance.

He said that in line with Maskhadov's decree of 2001 naming him vice president, it was envisaged that field commanders should meet and take decisions on "important strategic issues" and matters of internal and foreign policy only after discussing them within the Defense Council.

Sadullaev argued that "we have the right to accept any help that will enable us to inflict damage on the enemy in the political, ideological and economic sphere and by targeting his [armed] forces. We can do this, and we have a right to do it." He said that he met with Maskhadov shortly before he was killed to discuss possible military targets in Russia. In that context, Sadullaev stressed that attacks on such targets should avoid injuring civilians.

Sadullaev spoke with undisguised contempt of those Chechens who cooperate with the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, especially the "Kadyrovtsy," the notorious special police regiment loyal to First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whom he referred to as "pharisees." Sadullaev recalled that during a search operation in the village of Samashki several weeks ago, the Kadyrovtsy openly stole belongings from villagers' homes while Russian servicemen accompanying them stood by and watched, but did not intervene to stop them. He said of the collaborators that "there is nothing human and nothing Chechen left in them," especially Ramzan Kadyrov and Sulim Yamadaev, commander of the so-called Eastern Batallion.

Asked to comment on the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sadullaev said he seeks to create new points of tension in the North Caucasus by provoking "people who are living peacefully" to the point that there is a backlash against Moscow. Sadullaev said explosions and killings in Daghestan have become as frequent as in Grozny because Putin has no cohesive North Caucasus policy. He said the situation is just as bad in Ingushetia, and only a little better in Kabardino-Balkaria. Adyegya, for the moment, remains comparatively quiet, but Moscow is trying to provoke unrest there, too, he said.

Sadullaev predicted that Putin will move against the long-time president of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, as "he wants to install his own people everywhere." Sadullaev went on: "It was Putin who began this war and he has no way to end it. The war cannot end with us being forced to our knees and capitulating, and Putin has left himself without an alternative. With his loud pronouncements, those of a stupid and shortsighted person, he has cut off the only path to ending the war." Sadullaev predicted that the war will continue "as long as the price of oil remains high, as long as Russian kids are ready -- despite the demographic crisis -- to put on Russian uniforms and serve in the army, and until something breaks Putin's back." But he continued: "I do not think this can go on for much longer. There will have to be an end, especially as our forces are not becoming weaker, and we are prepared to go on fighting." Sadullaev went on to predict that "Putin will try to get rid of those people who witnessed massive human rights violations and genocide. He will try to destroy anyone" who could record what happened for posterity.

POLITICAL CALENDAR
11 June: The Motherland party to hold an extraordinary party congress

Late June: Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit Moscow

16 June: Moscow Arbitration Court to open hearings on Yukos's suit against the government seeking $11.5 billion in compensation for the seizure of Yuganskneftegaz

19 June: Referendum in Samara on dismissing Mayor Georgii Limanskii

20-22 June: Meeting of the Collective Security Council (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) in Moscow

23 June: Yukos shareholders meeting

24 June: Gazprom shareholders meeting

24 June: NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to visit Moscow

25 June: Meeting of the CIS Defense Ministers' Council in Moscow

4 July: 750th anniversary of the founding of Kaliningrad

5-6 July: Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, Kazakhstan

6-8 July: G-8 summit in Scotland

9 July: End of the Duma's spring session

August: CIS summit to be held in Kazan

September: First-ever Sino-Russian military exercises to be held on the Shandong Peninsula

1 September: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its plans for the elimination of the estate tax, the simplification of individual tax declarations, and the simplification of the requirements for real-estate purchases

5 September: Fall plenary session of the State Duma opens

1 October: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its economic-development plans for the Far East, the North Caucasus, and Kaliningrad Oblast

23 October: Referendums to be held in Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug about the merger of those two federation subjects

1 November: Public Chamber expected to hold first session

1 November: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its proposals for limiting foreign-capital participation in the defense sector and strategic-resource development

1 November: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its proposals for judicial reform and combating crime, especially terrorism

Second half of November: Chechnya to hold legislative elections, according to pro-Kremlin Chechen President Alu Alkhanov

1 December: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its plans for reducing traffic accidents, alcoholism, and drug addiction, as well as its proposals for improving health care

1 December: Date by which President Putin has ordered the government to submit its plan to increase state-sector wages by 50 percent within three years

2006: Russia to host a G-8 summit in St. Petersburg

1 January 2006: Date by which all political parties must conform to law on political parties, which requires at least 50,000 members and branches in one-half of all federation subjects, or either reregister as public organizations or be dissolved

4-7 June 2006: World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum to be held in Moscow, hosted by the Guild of Publishers of the Periodical Press.

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