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Russia Report: August 4, 2004


4 August 2004, Volume 4, Number 30
FOREIGN POLICY
THE CLANDESTINE SOVIET UNION
By Victor Yasmann

Nationalist revanchism has been gaining momentum in recent years among various political groups in Russia and has been greeted with some sympathy from the Kremlin. In the past, this sentiment has taken the form of open calls for the restoration of the Soviet Union, but recently a more provocative set of ideas has been making the rounds in Russia.

Maksim Kalashnikov, author of "The Broken Sword Of Empire" (1998) and "Battle For The Heavens" (2000), books that glorified Soviet militarism and earned him the moniker of "Russia's Tom Clancy," gave new impetus to the revanchist movement with the 2003 publication of "Forward To The USSR-2," a book that is subtitled "The National Idea Or The Direction Of The Main Offensive." Kalashnikov's real name is Vladimir Kucherenko, and he is a former deputy editor of the online magazine "Stringer" and a journalist for "Rossiiskaya gazeta." "Forward To The USSR-2" has gone through several editions over the last 18 months and its popularity has become widespread.

Kalashnikov's vision of USSR-2 is a version of an unrealized scenario for the reform of the Soviet Union that dates back to the early 1980s and that is attributed to then KGB Director Yurii Andropov. It was later popularized by the nationalist ideologue Aleksandr Prokhanov. "In 1980, the United States had a nightmare in which it saw the transformation of the USSR, a country with a clumsy socialist economy, into the smart, aggressive, and strong-willed super corporation Red Star," reads the cover blurb to "Forward To The USSR-2." "It might have emerged as a creature never before seen in history, combining the most advanced Soviet defense technologies with billions of petro dollars and the incredible might of the Soviet secret services. The United States did everything in its power to make sure this scenario never materialized, but can we realize it now?"

Kalashnikov, who has rejected Western models of economic development for Russia, answers a definite "yes" to this question. Those who advocate Western liberal economics, Kalashnikov writes, argue that if Russia follows their policies, the country will reach Western living standards within a few decades. "However, under the conditions of globalization, we do not have this much time," Kalashnikov wrote.

Kalashnikov, however, also rejects calls for the restoration of the former Soviet system, describing the Soviet Union as "the country of the party's miasma." "Nationalizing Russia's old-fashioned and obsolete industry as the Communists suggest is absolute stupidity," he wrote.

Likewise, Kalashnikov rejects economic-development models such as those pursued by China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, or Pakistan. He argues that Russia cannot become a cheap producer of consumer goods because it does not have a cheap labor force, inexpensive and accessible natural resources, or convenient means of transporting manufactured goods to world markets. He notes that Russian workers must pay as much on utilities and other costs associated with surviving in Russia's harsh climate as workers in the countries mentioned above earn each year. This fact alone is enough to make Russia goods uncompetitive on international markets.

Kalashnikov also argues that basing the Russian economy on the export of mineral resources is short sighted. He repeats the arguments that noted military economist Andrei Parshev put forward in his 2000 book "Why Russia Is Not America" (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," "Why The West Doesn't And Won't Invest In Russia," 25 July 2000). In that book, Parshev argued that once the Soviet-built economic and transportation infrastructure is exhausted, the extraction of Russia natural resources will become forbiddingly expensive.

The only way for Russia to thrive is through the dream of USSR-2, Kalashnikov argues, urging the country to adopt several innovative development strategies that he calls "miracles."

Kalashnikov's first miracle is financial. He argues that it is stupid to use oil revenues to create a stabilization fund to repay the debts racked up by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Instead, Russia should sue the West to demand the return of gold deposited in Western banks by the Czarist government during World War I. Kalashnikov argues that Russia must lodge such suits before 2014-17 or the government's claims will expire.

Next, Kalashnikov calls for an ideological miracle. He says the state must put forward an ideology that will be broadly attractive and which will help the country avoid "suicidal clashes" with China and Islam. Such an ideology must help the country develop previously unthinkable alliances, such as with Saudi Arabia, he writes.

The next step, Kalashnikov argues, is an "ethno-psychological" miracle. He writes that the new state cannot be created with the current mentality of the Russia people, who he says are "ignorant not only of national ideals, but even of their own self-interests." "Therefore, it is necessary to create a new nation from the remnants of the Russian people, a new race that possesses the novel psychological quality of seeing itself as 'a nation of super-creators and geniuses," Kalashnikov writes, echoing classic Nazi-style rhetoric.

The centerpiece of Kalashnikov's project is the "organizational" wonder. He proposes creating a clandestine state behind the facade of the Russian Federation, a country which he sees as "incurably ill and destined to perish." He describes the clandestine state as "a network that combines the features of a party, an army, a secret service, the mafia, a church, and a business community." "This kind of networked brotherhood should exist alongside the official Russian state, never openly warring with it," Kalashnikov writes. "The brotherhood should form a strategic union with the Russian president."

Kalashnikov argues that such a parallel state will be able to act where the official state cannot. Utilizing its covert status, it will be able to operate wherever there are Russian communities -- in Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and even Europe and the United States. One of the first tasks of this secret state will be to regain control over financial resources controlled by the oligarchs and, more broadly, by the entire class of "new Russians." "Using psychological and other special methods, we will turn them into zombies, obedient to the will of the secret state and investing their money where the state tells them to," Kalashnikov writes in the foreword to "Forward To The USSR-2."

"Superficially, nothing will change and the current business community, with its assets in Russia and abroad, will continue to operate," Kalashnikov writes, "but in reality control over financial flows will be recaptured by the secret state. In this way, we will avoid accusations of violating civil and property rights and other such nonsense. There will be no mass arrests, no demonstrative transfers of confiscated money into state funds." He writes that it is sufficient to apply pressure successfully to one or two oligarchs in order to bring all of them into submission.

Leaving no doubt as to whom he has in mind, Kalashnikov writes in his latest book, "Ride The Lightning" (2003), about an oligarch named Samuil Modorkovskii and a company called Sokos, clear allusions to embattled oil giant Yukos and its former CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovskii. Kalashnikov describes Modorkovskii as smart and energetic, but as someone who sees no future for Russia and who is looking to transfer the money gained from exploiting Russia's oil to the West. "Coercion and levers of fear should be used [against such people]," Kalashnikov writes, seeming to justify the campaign against Khodorkovskii that was about to unfold. "God himself allows us to fight them with sophistication and acute cruelty."

As for geographic expansion, Kalashnikov argues that it should not be necessary to repeat the experience of the Soviet Union. USSR-2 will be a "federal empire" and the states of the South Caucasus, Ukraine, and, especially, the Central Asian republics can enter the new USSR with their own sovereignty, legislation, and currencies intact. "We should tell our former southern republics that friendship with the United States will bring them no good," Kalashnikov writes. He said that while the United States criticizes these countries for corruption and human rights violations, Russia will not demand any liberalization and will not intervene in their internal affairs.

Instead, Russia will build military bases "that will defend both your and our security," Kalashnikov writes. Russia will build nuclear-power plants and desalinization plants "for which you can pay with gold and uranium." In return Russia will ask little -- "equal status" for ethnic Russians, unfettered access for "our imperial television channels," and a role for Russian capital in the exploration and exploitation of local natural resources.

It remains uncertain exactly how influential Kalashnikov's books and ideas actually are in Russia's corridors of power. But it cannot be denied that many, many pages from his books echo the most frightening headlines in contemporary Russian news reports. Many scenes in his books seem like the latest breaking news from Moscow.

KREMLIN/WHITE HOUSE
NEW CASH BENEFITS LAW SAID TO EASE LIFE IN THE PROVINCES
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

A new law replacing most in-kind social benefits with cash payments was passed by the State Duma on 3 August in its second reading by a vote of 304-120, Russia media reported. After a 10-hour debate and the presentation of nearly 5,000 amendments, some 1,000 changes were pushed through to many critics' satisfaction and the bill seems now certain to be adopted, gazeta.ru and Russian agencies reported on 3 August. While the bill has yet to pass its third reading in the Duma and to be passed by the Federation Council before being ready for President Vladimir Putin's signature, regional leaders have gotten the message from the Kremlin that if they oppose this reform, they may well lose their seats come the next elections. Some Duma deputies grumbled that they were given a table of the numerous amendments only the morning of the vote, and the Communist Party tried and failed to introduce an amendment requiring the disbanding of the Duma itself if the bill passed, polit.ru reported 3 August.

Last-minute concerns were removed after negotiations with the government regarding retaining in-kind benefits for victims and clean-up crews of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear-plant accident and for residents of the remote regions of the Far North. Nonetheless, Chornobyl victims stood outside the parliament complaining that existing and contemplated benefits are not enough to cover their costly medicines.

Starting on 1 January 2005, welfare recipients will obtain "social packages" of 450 rubles ($15) for medicine, public transit, and telephone service. Then in 2006, they will be able to decide if they would rather keep this amount in cash or accept government vouchers for the same services.

Russian state-controlled television has provided extensive coverage of the social-benefits issue for weeks, mainly to build sentiment in favor of this Kremlin-originated initiative to abolish 55 laws governing the administration of health, transit, and vacation benefits for nearly a quarter of the Russian population. The idea is to put cash into the hands of war veterans, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups so that they can have more discretion in purchases. A useful political by-product is the unsettling of legions of provincial administrators of such benefits, who are believed to mismanage funds or even steal from the public-support coffers.

Thousands of citizens have participated in demonstrations for and against the legislation that were sponsored by various national and regional parties in Moscow and other Russian cities. Polit.ru reported on 3 August that Yabloko members opposing the legislation wrapped themselves in bandages like mummies and paraded with signs reading: "This is what you will look like without benefits." Vladimir Zhirinovskii, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, appeared last week with 250,000 rubles to hand out to a crowd of curiosity-seekers in a sardonic snub of the measure, and barely avoided a scuffle before being led away by police. Unified Russia, the party of power, supports the measure and has sent its deputies out to the provinces to drum up support.

The greatest fear about the new legislation is that there will not be enough cash in the Russian budget to pump through the system. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov told RTR's "Vesti" on 3 August that due to the improving economy, Russia now has some 170 billion rubles ($5.8 billion) for social spending in 2005, as opposed to 40 billion rubles this year, making it possible to quadruple the amount available for various types of benefits. Yet "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 3 August that the government's claim of 171 billion rubles available could only be met by tapping into Russia's stabilization fund, something that President Putin has said he will not do. It was not clear where the money is going to come from, "Kommersant-Daily" commented.

Provincial residents have not been as troubled by the larger issues of funding because they point out bluntly that they simply haven't seen the benefits in any form. "Give us the money, we never see the benefits, and it will make less work for you and we will have more," elderly beneficiaries have been quoted as saying in Russian newspapers and on television. Beneficiaries are supposed to receive subsidies for telephone service, for example, but there are no telephone lines in some provincial areas. In Vladimir Oblast, RTR reported, vouchers for transportation are worthless in places without roads, and for people too disabled to walk. Many complain about nonexistent or difficult-to-access public transportation. In some provincial towns, scores of private jitneys have sprung up to take rural Russians to their far-flung homes, and they charge fees beyond the pocketbooks of the elderly and disabled. Creaking old buses are available far less frequently to accept those eligible for free rides. Sometimes drivers paste signs in their window saying that they cannot accept free riders, or they tell such riders rudely to get off because they cannot subsidize them.

Bus companies are not to blame for the problem, as "Vesti" found in examining their difficulties in several cities last month. Local officials simply do not allocate enough money to fund operating costs and repairs for municipal and rural transport, and the fares that non-beneficiaries pay are not enough to cover even gasoline for some lines. Bus-company owners object that local administrations are "feeding from the trough" -- an allegation made in numerous stories covering the issue.

Like paying back wages and supplying pensions in full and on time, the benefits law is designed to serve as a populist boost for Putin's rule and as a lever against recalcitrant local potentates who set up their own bases. Yet little study has been made of how local budgets are really being spent, and what needs there really are in the villages. For example, "Vesti" reported that elders in one village said they hope they can pool the new cash benefits to repair the village well, rather than giving individuals bus fares when they do not plan to travel anywhere. Most pensioners and veterans interviewed have said they would use the money to buy food and medicine because telephones and transportation are not always available, so the money Moscow was spending on them was not reaching them anyway.

In Tomsk Oblast, for example, 42 percent of the budget is going to public support, including to 50,000 disabled persons. "Tomskie vesti" reported on 24 July. But the vouchers for telephone service are going unused for those without lines in their areas, and public transportation is nonexistent in many places. The hope is that with the reforms, more targeted assistance in cash will eliminate waste and the potential for misspending or theft, and save the province some money it can reallocate

Russia is saddled with the crimes and mistakes of the past, including having to take care of victims of political persecution and Chornobyl. War veterans are sacrosanct, and no public discussion about any kind of means testing for this group has ever been politically feasible. Officials note that more men have now passed through the wars in Chechnya than in the war in Afghanistan. Far from dying out as the World War II generation passes away, the ranks of veterans are being filled with new people, physically and mentally crippled in war and often unable to obtain necessary rehabilitation in their towns.

There has been little debate about the potential effect on the markets, legal and illegal, in medicines and other health services of the anticipated infusion of cash into the system. Officials are not worried about the logistics of handing out so many cash packets, as they plan to use existing pension rolls and increase online registration systems. Some local officials believe they can reduce administration costs involved in parceling out benefits by type and residence. With federal help, both administrative and financial, they will simply be able to increase pensions to include various types of benefits.

No one questions the concept of free vacations for veterans of war, Chornobyl, or industry. A staple of Soviet propaganda for years, the idea of an annual two-to-four-week vacation in a sanatorium with fresh air and sunshine and various health procedures is central to the Russian notion of good health. Exploiting fears of losing this privilege, rowdy National Bolshevik Party demonstrators stormed the Health Ministry building to protest against the bill on 3 August, putting up leaflets and throwing portraits of Putin and other leaders out of windows before being restrained by police.

For most Russians, however, marginal parties and groups demonstrating against the law are colorful but not representative. The "park bench" has spoken -- grandmothers and veterans who sit in the courtyards of state housing projects and municipal parks are largely in favor of a measure to put more discretionary cash in their hands, if somewhat apprehensive about any type of change that might be bungled by inept administrators. They reason that it is now the turn of Russian provincials to receive something from the state, since it is they who have been most harmed by market reforms and who previously bore the brunt of Soviet collectivization and industrialization.

ENERGY
PIPELINES OF POWER
By Victor Yasmann

On 27 July, the board of directors of state oil company Rosneft selected deputy presidential administration head Igor Sechin as its new chairman. Analysts were quick to see the move as part of a pattern designed to boost Kremlin control over the oil sector as a whole. They turned the spotlight on Sechin himself and on Rosneft.

Sechin is believed to be one of President Vladimir Putin's closest loyalists, having worked for him for some 11 years. Sechin graduated from the Department of German and Romance Studies at Leningrad State University in 1984, specializing in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

After graduation, Sechin worked as a "military translator," a term which is often a euphemism meaning that he worked for military intelligence (GRU). He also served with a Soviet Army unit in Angola. In 1988, he joined the foreign-trade department of the Leningrad city administration, taking responsibility for relations with Leningrad's sister cities Rio de Janeiro, Milan, and Barcelona. He befriended Putin in 1990 when both men participated in a trade delegation to Rio de Janeiro. In 1991, Putin took over the city's foreign-trade department.

In 1996, Sechin followed Putin to Moscow, working under him in the administration of then President Boris Yeltsin. Since Putin became president, Sechin has held senior posts within his administration.

"Kommersant-Vlast," No. 27, of 14 July 2003, described Sechin as a leader of the so-called Petersburg chekisty. In a memorandum published on 2 September 2003, Effective Politics Foundation head and Kremlin insider Gleb Pavlovskii accused Sechin and the chekisty of plotting to take power within the presidential administration in order to squeeze out all holdovers from the so-called Family of the Yeltsin era. Pavlovskii, himself an ally of Yeltsin-era holdover Aleksandr Voloshin, who at that time was the head of Putin's administration, complained that the chekisty were planning a crippling redistribution of property in order to benefit themselves and their supporters.

National Strategy Institute Director Stanislav Belkovskii earlier this year named Sechin as one of the organizers of the assault on oil giant Yukos and oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskii (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 7 April and 15 July 2004). On 5 July, Belkovskii posted an analysis on the National Strategy Institute website (http://www.apn.ru) in which he wrote that the Kremlin would reject any compromises offered by Yukos or former Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii and would instead implement a plan purportedly drafted by Sechin that would entail the takeover of Yukos assets by state-controlled Rosneft and Gazprom. Under the plan, court bailiffs would sell Yukos's assets to those companies at cut-rate prices.

Rosneft is Russia's sixth leading oil producer. In 2003, it pumped 19.4 million tons of oil, generating revenues of $3.6 billion. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Rosneft, though, is that it is 100 percent state-owned. An enlarged Rosneft headed by Putin loyalist Sechin, together with Transneft, the state-owned oil-pipeline network, would be able to form a cartel that would have a stranglehold on Russian oil exports and could determine the rules of the game, a 27 July comment on the National Strategy Council website argued.

"Before our eyes we are seeing the emergence of a pipeline empire that will be quite different from a 'liberal empire,'" the website commented, referring to a proposal put forward in December 2003 by then Union of Rightist Forces co-leader Anatolii Chubais. The driving force behind this new empire will be the Kremlin-connected political elite, not independent businesspeople advocating so-called liberal values.

STATE DUMA
NEW CHANGES TO BUDGET CODE TO TIGHTEN CENTER'S CONTROL OVER MONEY FLOWS...
State Duma deputies voted on 2 August to adopt a bill in its second reading amending the Budget Code, RIA-Novosti reported. The amendments redefine financial responsibilities among the various levels of government. The bill, if enacted, would amend more than 150 legislative acts, according to "Vremya novostei" on 3 August. More than 5,000 amendments were considered, 1,000 of which were recommended for adoption. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the same day, the "chief intrigue" of the bill in its second reading was a struggle by the Finance Ministry to liquidate the regional treasuries. When the Duma's Budget Committee objected, the ministry compromised and suggested that all budgets be serviced by the federal treasury after 1 January 2006. Regions that want to keep their own treasuries will first have to conclude an agreement with the federal center. In a televised meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov noted that "there are regions that are likely to lose money in the beginning, because the distribution of resources among regions is unequal. However, we envisage [revenue] in the draft budget for 2005 will cover gaps that might appear in the budgets of certain regions." The third reading of the bill is scheduled for 5 August, according to RIA-Novosti. JAC

...AS DEPUTIES FAVOR GREATER JOB SECURITY FOR THEIR COUNTERPARTS IN FEDERATION COUNCIL...
Deputies voted on 31 July to approve a bill in its first reading that would make it harder for regional executives and legislators to dismiss their Federation Council representatives, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 August. The vote was 321 in favor with 64 against and four abstentions, RosBalt reported. According to the daily, Federation Council members may be dismissed before their terms expire for the same reasons as State Duma deputies: a government appointment, a written resignation, loss of citizenship, or a court decision. Communist State Duma Deputy Anatolii Lokot objected to the bill, saying: "Doesn't it seem to you that we are slowly but surely moving toward the creation of a House of Lords?" Former Federation Council member and Communist State Duma Deputy Nikolai Kondratenko spoke in favor of the direct election of Federation Council members. "More than 70 percent of Federation Council [members] are Muscovites," he said. "Is this really federalism in action? How can [Federation Council member for Novgorod Oblast Gennadii] Burbulis represent his territory, which he doesn't know?" JAC

...AND VOTE TO REQUIRE REGIONS TO PICK A SENATOR.
The bill also stipulates that regional legislatures must confirm a new representative to the chamber within three months of the election of a new legislature or governor, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 August. The governors of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and Khabarovsk and Volgograd oblasts have not sent representatives for almost a year, according to RosBalt. According to Federation Council Deputy Chairwoman Svetlana Orlova, 131 of the 178 members of the council have changed since the new rules for forming the upper legislative chamber came into effect on 1 January 2002. JAC

DUMA PASSES PART OF HOUSING-REFORM PACKAGE...
The State Duma met on 31 July in a special session and approved dozens of bills. The Duma adopted in their third and final readings eight of 28 laws that are part of a package of legislation aimed at reforming the housing market, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. The remaining bills will be considered in their second and third readings at the end of September, according to State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov (Unified Russia). According to ORT, the laws are important for the preparation of the 2005 federal budget and cannot be postponed until fall. The bills passed already are designed to end the monopoly of a few companies dominating the housing-construction market and to make it easier for citizens to obtain mortgages. Deputies also passed a bill in its second and third readings providing witnesses and other participants in criminal proceedings with protection, according to Interfax and RosBalt. The bill was supported unanimously and, if enacted, will provide witnesses who are considered to be in danger with new homes, jobs, and identities. JAC

...PROVISIONALLY LIMITS ADVERTISING OF BEER...
Legislators on 31 July also approved in its second reading a bill that would amend the law on advertising to ban the advertisement of beer on television and radio from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. The bill passed with 432 in favor, zero against, and one abstention, according to Interfax. The bill also prohibits the suggestion that drinking beer "has important significance for the achievement of social, athletic, and personal success." "In other words," according to the newspaper, "the bill bans almost all the ways that brewers currently advertise their products." Both brewers and advertisers are unhappy with the law. Experts estimate that beer advertisements accounted for about 10 percent of all television advertising last year. JAC

...AND PASSES BILL CANCELING FULL GUARANTEE ON SBERBANK ACCOUNTS.
Also on 31 July, deputies adopted in all three readings amendments to the law on insuring individual bank deposits, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. The bill cancels the 100 percent state guarantee on deposits held in the state savings bank Sberbank. Under the legislation, accounts opened before October 2004 will be insured in full, but accounts opened after that date will be reimbursed at the same rate as accounts in commercial banks -- that is, up to 100,000 rubles ($3,400) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). One of the authors of the bill, Banking Committee Deputy Chairman Vasilii Galushkin (Unified Russia), said the current system gives Sberbank an unjustified competitive advantage over other commercial banks. Sberbank currently holds around 60 percent of all retail accounts. The Communist Party, Motherland, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions opposed the bill, but it passed in its first reading with 280 votes in favor, 104 against, and one abstention. JAC

COMINGS & GOINGS
UP: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has appointed Anatolii Serdyukov as head of the Federal Tax Service, Russian news agencies reported on 28 July. Serdyukov was serving as acting head of the Tax Ministry, which is being reorganized, ITAR-TASS reported. He previously worked at the ministry's directorate in St. Petersburg.

IN: President Putin has named Valerii Tereshchenko as Russia's ambassador to Cambodia, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported on 3 August. Tereshchenko replaces Viktor Samoilenko.

POLITICAL CALENDAR
5 August: Moscow Arbitration Court will consider case against the bankrupt bank Kredittrast

6 August: State Duma deputies go on break until September

8 August: Supreme Court will consider an appeal by Pavel Zaitsev, the special police investigator who headed a high-profile corruption probe into the Grand and Tri Kita furniture stores and who was found guilty of abusing his office

12 August: Fourth anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine

12-15 August: BMW Russian Open Golf Tournament in Moscow

17 August: Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the 15-year sentence handed down to political scientist Igor Sutyagin on charges of espionage

13-29 August: Russian athletes will participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Athens

23 August: The trial of the accused murderers of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova will reopen in St. Petersburg

26 August: Deadline for the government to submit its draft 2005 budget to the State Duma

29 August: Presidential elections will be held in Chechnya

September: St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum plans to open the Hermitage Center, which will exhibit works from the Hermitage's collection, in the city of Kazan

September: OPEC President and Indonesian Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro will visit Moscow, according to Interfax

September: President Putin to visit Dushanbe

15-18 September: The third International Conference of Mayors of World Cities will be held in Moscow

20 September: The State Duma's fall session will begin

October: President Putin will visit China

October: International forum of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will be held in Moscow

1 October: Date by which government will decide whether to sell a controlling stake in Aeroflot, according to Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref

7 October: President Putin's birthday

10 October: Mayoral elections scheduled for Magadan

23-26 October: Second anniversary of the Moscow theater hostage crisis

25 October: First anniversary of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii's arrest at an airport in Novosibirsk

31 October: Presidential election in Ukraine

November: Gubernatorial election in Pskov and Kurgan oblasts

20 November: Sixth anniversary of the killing of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova

22 November: President Putin to visit Brazil

December: A draft law on toll roads will be submitted to the government, according to the Federal Highways Agency's Construction Department on 6 April

December: Gubernatorial elections in Bryansk, Kamchatka, Ulyanovsk, Volgograd, and Ivanovo oblasts

29 December: State Duma's fall session will come to a close

1 February 2005: Former President Boris Yeltsin's 74th birthday

March 2005: Gubernatorial election in Saratov Oblast

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