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Russia Report: July 31, 2002

31 July 2002, Volume 2, Number 25
"They study the Nani language at lesson once a week. At that level, they already forget what they have learned from one lesson to the next. English they know more of. If they spoke [Nani] in everyday life, at home, then it would somehow survive. [But] they do not speak it at home, their parents themselves do not speak it, everywhere Russian is spoken. We live among Russians. If one goes to study a language somewhere, then it is the Russian language or for a foreign language, English. I occasionally speak [in Nani] with my own children, they understand, but they answer me in Russian. And my grandchildren, naturally, will not know this language. This is how a language silently dies out."

Zhanna Oktanko, former middle-school teacher in village of Sikachaalyan in Khabarovsk Krai, interviewed on 20 July 2002 broadcast of RFE/RL's Russian Service program, "Korrespondentskii chas" (Nani is a member of the Tungus language group; at the time of the 1979 Soviet census it had only 6,900 speakers.)

At a government session on 25 July, Igor Shuvalov, head of the government apparatus, said that the government is including in its package of priority legislation for the fall 10 bills that would redistribute responsibilities and resources among various levels of government, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 July. The bills have been drafted by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak's presidential commission on demarcating these responsibilities. According to "Izvestiya," which acquired a copy of the approved text of the new concept, the next phase of federal reform will operate according to three principles, including the immutability of the constitution and the inadmissibility of one part of government placing financial responsibilities on another without also transferring the necessary sums. An unidentified source on Kozak's commission told the daily that two laws will be introduced on 15 September that will start the new federal reforms, one amending the law on general principles of state power and another on local self-rule. JAC

"Gazeta" the same day carried a different version of events, one which asserted that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov unexpectedly expressed opposition to the Kremlin and "ordered Shuvalov to write up new proposals for administrative reform, which should 'correct' Kozak's conception." According to the daily, Kasyanov ordered Shuvalov to develop a new concept of administrative reform that the cabinet will consider at the end of September -- the same time at which Kozak's commission will finish polishing its own plan. JAC

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin pledged on 29 July that the government will make good on all wages owed to state-sector workers such as teachers and medical workers by 1 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The daily noted that the previous week Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko made a similar promise, but said payments would be made by 1 August. According to the daily, President Vladimir Putin again raised the issue of vacation pay owed to teachers at the government session on 29 July. According to "Izvestiya" on 28 July, 57 regions have no salary arrears, while in 17 regions the situation is particularly bad. For example, teachers in Tula Oblast have not been paid their June wages or their vacation pay, and the total debt owed to education workers there is estimated at 30 million rubles ($950,000). JAC

According to "Vremya MN" on 27 July, doctors in many regions have also not been paid. For example, doctors in Kirov Oblast, Krasnoyarsk Krai, the Tuva Republic, and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug have not been paid for more than a month. According to the daily, total indebtedness to medical-sector workers nationwide has reached 1.38 billion rubles ($43 million). Nikolai Volodin, who heads the department for medical establishments and cadre policy at the Health Ministry, which tracks the payment of salaries to medical workers, said that they first contact the directors of ministry subdivisions and departments and local administrations. If they are not responsive, then Volodin's office meets with whomever is responsible in Moscow. According to Volodin, in the majority of cases, "moral pressure" -- rather than punishment -- is a "sufficiently effective method." JAC

The majority of deputies selected for the Chavash Republic's legislature in 21 July elections allegedly come from the so-called presidential list, although the republic's executive continues to deny that such a list exists, RFE/RL's Cheboksary correspondent reported the next day. The majority of the new legislators are also directors of agricultural enterprises, medium-sized industrial enterprises, and various state-sector enterprises, particularly in the field of heath care. The administration can look forward to a productive relationship with the legislature since the only organized opposition party in the republic, the Communist Party, won in only eight of 73 districts. According to ITAR-TASS, the Chavash elections are one of the last to be conducted under the old rules, which did not require that at least half of the legislators be selected according to party lists. JAC

Control over the arrivals, registrations, and stays of foreign citizens will be strengthened in Chelyabinsk Oblast, announced Sergei Petrov, the deputy head of the administration for the passport-visa service of the Interior Ministry in the oblast, reported on 17 July. According to Petrov, it was decided to adopt new measures after the massive inflow of Tajiks and Azerbaijanis into the Kashirinskii Market in the oblast's center. According to Petrov, immigrants from the former Soviet Union are the cheapest work force in the oblast and are used to build roads and buildings and do gardening. Petrov added that special attention will also be paid to places where immigrants live, such as dormitories, and to people who provide foreigners with housing and transportation. Last April, legislators in the oblast city of Magnitogorsk adopted a joint appeal to the oblast governor and legislature to close the city to foreigners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2002). JAC

Residents of the Kunashak Raion of northern Chelyabinsk Oblast have formed a voluntary citizens' patrol to combat crime stemming from neighboring Kurgan and Sverdlovsk oblasts, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 July. The unit is headed by Marat Abilov and has approximately 14 members. Local officials donated 10,000 rubles ($320) to equip the patrol with nightsticks and binoculars. The raion has a population of 34,000 and is served by just 94 police officers -- about one for every 11 villages. According to Abilov, raiders from neighboring oblasts frequently steal nonferrous metals from cemeteries and telephone-switching stations and rustle cattle and other livestock. Police estimate that 85 percent of all crimes committed in the raion are committed by residents of the neighboring oblasts. An official with the local administration told the daily that they are working on upgrading the legal status of the patrols, including granting them additional budgetary funds and the rights to search automobiles and homes and to carry firearms. RC

Talks in Brussels between Russia and the European Union over the status of the Kaliningrad exclave after expected EU expansion in 2004 were described as "rather tense" by a Russian participant, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. "Russia has made no concessions," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov said, adding that the EU also remained intransigent on the issue of visa-free travel between the exclave and the rest of Russia. Meanwhile, a public opinion poll in Kaliningrad Oblast revealed that 46 percent of residents believe their life will become worse after neighboring Lithuania and Poland join the EU and that bonds between the oblast and the rest of Russia will be weakened, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Sixty-eight percent believe that Russia should insist on visa-free transit. Just 8 percent said that expansion will be beneficial for the oblast. RC

Plans by Khabarovsk Krai authorities to build a pontoon bridge linking the disputed Bolshoi Ussuriiskii Island in the Amur River with the krai may provoke a diplomatic crisis with China, which considers that island and neighboring Damanskii Island its territory, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 July. According to the daily, Chinese officials have already lodged an official protest against the Khabarovsk Krai legislature's decision to build the bridge. In the meantime, Chinese workers are trying to fill in the Kazakevich Channel, which runs between China and the island. Krai legislators are hoping the construction of the bridge, which would be opened twice a day for half an hour for boats to pass through, will force the Chinese not to fill the channel, but to deepen it. "The more water there is between China and the islands, the firmer will be Russia's sovereignty over them," said Yurii Yefimenko, chairman of the public committee for the retention of the islands. JAC

NTV reported on 29 July that stakes in three major coal mines in Krasnoyarsk Krai were sold without the knowledge of the krai administration and at the very low price of 1 ruble per share -- for a total of 770,000 rubles ($24,000). The krai administration has a stake in the coal companies, which control the Berezovskii, Borodinskii, and Nazarovskii open-pit mines, according to the station. Administration officials said that they only learned of the deal six weeks after it was completed. Vyacheslav Nikonov, the krai legislature's representative in the Federation Council, said that "it will not be difficult to declare the deal invalid." The krai is in the midst of a gubernatorial election campaign to replace the late Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who spent much of his time in office fighting to retain control over the krai's coal industry. JAC

Meanwhile, in an article in "Izvestiya" on 28 July, a candidate in the 8 September race, Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, wrote that he thinks the bureaucratic apparatus of the krai and municipal administration should be cut by 65-75 percent, and the entire krai civil service should be transferred to a contract basis. Khloponin suggested increasing government expenditures on investment construction as a way of spurring economic growth in the region. At the same time, he said he is opposed to state investment in industrial enterprises, because that is a "direct route for corruption." The krai's goal in investing should be not only to stimulate development but also to form a market for local manufacturers. "Enterprises should not be given fish, but a fishing pole with which to catch them," he wrote. JAC

German Sterligov, another candidate in the 8 September gubernatorial election, told reporters on 26 July that "Siberia risks becoming Chinese" and "the growth of the Chinese population numbering in the billions will lead to the extinction of native residents," RIA-Novosti reported. Sterligov also called for introducing a ban on abortions "because if we do not stop now and start reproducing, it will be too late." Sterligov is one of the founders of the Alisa trading group and is a former business partner of another businessman-candidate in the election, Artem Tarasov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). JAC

Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Viktor Tolokonskii has launched a weekly concert series in a central park of Novosibirsk featuring -- himself, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 July. At the first concert on 21 July, around 200 people -- most of them pensioners -- gathered to hear Tolokonskii offer up his renditions of musical hits from the past 15 years such as "Lilac Fog" (Sirenevyi tuman). The audience was enthusiastic, responding at the end of each song with applause and bouquets of lilies-of-the-valley, according to the daily. Yurii Korobchenko, director of the oblast's information department, explained that "singing is an opportunity for the governor to become closer to the people" and to relate to them not as an authority figure but "as an ordinary person." Meanwhile, local political analysts offered a different explanation: They told the daily that they consider the governor's decision to take up crooning as an indication that the next gubernatorial campaign has already begun. JAC

Russian news agencies reported on 22 July that the Oktyabrskii and Ussuriiskii raions in Primorskii Krai were flooded. According to ITAR-TASS, some 1,500 people were affected, as 783 houses and 20,000 hectares of cropland were inundated. According to TV-6, Governor Sergei Darkin said that the flooding might have been caused by opened spillways at a Chinese water reservoir located near the krai's border. He added that Chinese officials have so far not confirmed that the spillways were open. However, some specialists at the federal Ministry for Natural Resources believe that the northeastern part of China does not have enough water in its system to cause the kind of damage that occurred in the krai, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 July. JAC

The Saratov Oblast legislature approved on 17 July a law that allows Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov to seek a third term, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. In addition, the legislation provides Ayatskov with a personal pension equal to 75 percent of his current salary for the rest of his life after he leaves office. According to a recent Constitutional Court decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002), the regions are allowed to determine whether the term the current governor is serving should be considered as starting in October 1999, the date on which the law on general principles for organizing legislative and executive organs of power in the subjects of the federation came into force, or from the moment of the introduction of an analogous local law on regional leaders' term. According to the daily, the oblast's charter limits governors to two terms, and local legislators had the legal right to consider Ayatskov's current term his last one. However, the legislature, which enjoys a close relationship with the oblast executive branch, decided to keep Ayatskov. JAC

KURSK. A criminal case has been launched against Kursk Mayor Sergei Maltsev, who is accused of using about 2.5 million rubles ($79,000) in budget money to purchase an Audi-A8 automobile, reported on 25 July citing Interfax. ... NIZHNII NOVGOROD. Deputy head of the city of Nizhnii Novgorod's administration Vyacheslav Sashchenkov has been arrested for accepting a $20,000 bribe, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. ... PSKOV. Deputy head of the Pskov Oblast administration and chairman of the oblast's Committee for the Administration of State Property Dmitrii Dervoed has resigned from his post effective 1 August, following the conclusion of the investigation of criminal charges against him for misappropriation or embezzlement, AK&M reported on 29 July.

IN: Deputy head of the presidential administration Major General Viktor Ivanov has been appointed to head the newly created main administration for CIS affairs within the presidential administration, "Rossiiskie vesti" reported on 25 July.

OUT: Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a decree dismissing Sergei Zivenko, the general director of the state alcohol monopoly, Rosspirtprom, and replacing him with Petr Myasoedov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 July. Myasoedov is a former major general with the St. Petersburg tax police, and previously worked on the staff of Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko.

IN: Aleksandr Derkach has been appointed deputy minister of natural resources, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 July. Derkach is a former deputy minister for federation affairs, nationalities, and migration policy.

1-15 August: International Kansk video festival will take place in Kansk, Krasnoyarsk Krai

2 August: First flight of new airline line route connecting Kaliningrad and Warsaw

8 August: Government to submit draft 2003 budget to State Duma, according to President Putin on 29 July

8-10 August: Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov will visit Krasnoyarsk to check preparations for upcoming election

12 August: Second anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine

12 August: Russia's first full-scale facility for the destruction of chemical weapons will be launched in Gornyi in Saratov Oblast, according to presidential envoy Sergei Kirienko

13 August: Court hearing will resume in case against Media-MOST Finance Director Anton Titov

15-23 August: Coal miners from a variety of regions to picket federal government building in Moscow to protest unpaid wages

Second half of August: Prime Minister Kasyanov to visit China

23 August: Russian and U.S. trade officials plan to initial an agreement on Russian exports of cold rolled steel to U.S. market

26 August: Government will submit a draft 2003 budget to the State Duma, according to Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin on 6 June

Beginning of September: Prime Minister Kasyanov to visit Johannesburg, South Africa

September: Dalai Lama will visit the republics of Buryatia, Tuva, and Kalmykia, according to Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on 11 June

September: Symposium and investment fair for atomic-power plants to take place in Vladivostok

1 September: New Arbitration Procedure Code comes into force

1 September: Deadline by which heads of regional branches of the Union of Rightist Forces must submit names of candidates for single-mandate districts in the 2003 State Duma elections, according to

8 September: Gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk

10-11 September: The fourth annual conference of the regional administrations of countries in Northeast Asia will take place in Khabarovsk

14-23 September: The World Association of Female Entrepreneurs will hold its 50th international congress in St. Petersburg

15 September: Mayoral elections will be held in Nizhnii Novgorod

15 September: Government will submit to the Duma amendments to the law on Russian as a state language

18 September: First plenary meeting of State Duma's fall session

26-27 September: Association of Election Organizers from the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe will hold a special conference in Moscow, according to "Izvestiya" on 17 June

29 September: By-election in single-mandate district in Omsk Oblast for State Duma seat formerly occupied by Aleksandr Vereteno, who died in April

1 October: Ferry service will start between Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, according to deputy presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Andrei Stepanov

7 October: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova, according to Interfax on 13 May

20 October: By-election in single-mandate district in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug for State Duma seat once occupied by Aleksandr Lotorev, who now directs the Duma's apparatus

26-27 October: Putin to attend APEC summit in Los Cabos, Mexico

14 November: Meeting of united political council of Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko scheduled.