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Russia Report: December 4, 2002

4 December 2002, Volume 2, Number 41
Federation Council members have long been irritated by the ease with which they can be recalled by the regional politicians who sent them to the upper house. But relief may be on the way in the form of amendments to the law on the status of Federation Council deputies, which was approved by the State Duma in the first reading on 29 November. According to "Izvestiya" on 30 November, the amendments would bar the removal of Federation Council deputies during their first year of service. In addition, a two-thirds vote in the Federation Council would be required to approve any motion from a regional legislature to recall a senator, "Gazeta" reported on 2 December. Finally, the amendments would also allow senators to vote against the interests of the regions they ostensibly represent, if those interests conflict with recommendations from the president, government, or a Federation Council committee.

Duma Deputy Oleg Utkin (Unity) proposed the bill, which passed with the support of the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People's Deputy, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions. However, political observers have attributed the bill to Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov. Over the past week, several of his critics have pointed out that Mironov has reason to feel nervous about his political future. Voters in St. Petersburg will elect a new city legislature on 8 December, and the new legislators may not confirm Mironov's mandate to serve in the upper house. Speaking to REN-TV on 29 November, Mironov defended the attempt to regulate procedures for recalling members of the upper house, saying that in recent months regional authorities have recalled eight Federation Council deputies without giving a reason for doing so.

The proposed changes to the status of senators have, however, drawn sharp criticism from politicians who rarely agree with one another. The political council of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) on 3 December urged President Vladimir Putin to oppose the amendments on the grounds that they violate constitutional principles such as federalism and the separation of powers. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said the amendments would make Russia a "unitary state" and effect a "genuine constitutional coup," "Gazeta" reported on 4 December. Communist Duma Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov told the 30 November edition of "Izvestiya" that, "The draft law is aimed at securing the Federation Council's obedient execution of the will of the president and government, as is already done by the pro-government majority in the State Duma."

Not surprisingly, the Kremlin appears to support the proposed changes to the procedure for recalling senators. "Izvestiya" quoted Putin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, as saying, "In the relatively near future, we will come to elect senators directly, but now a sort of intermediate model is being proposed: The Federation Council is formed [without elections] but is sufficiently independent of regional organs [of power]." (Laura Belin)

Vladimir Putin went to Ryazan on 29 November to meet with leaders of the 18 regions that are part of the Central Federal District. Various political and economic issues were on the agenda, but the main theme of the discussion was the distribution of powers between the center and the regions. Putin told the regional leaders that the government had prepared draft laws that would broaden regions' opportunities but also increase their responsibility for spurring economic growth, RTR reported on 29 November. Among other things, the bills would amend Russia's Budget Code and Tax Code.

Putin sought to reassure the governors about some specific economic issues raised during the meeting in Ryazan. For instance, the governor of Voronezh Oblast expressed concern about the recent decision by Aeroflot to purchase planes manufactured by the European company Airbus rather than domestic aircraft built in Voronezh. Putin said the Finance Ministry and the government as a whole supported certain limits on the purchase of foreign aircraft by Aeroflot. According to "Trud" on 4 December, some governors also asked Putin to impose quotas on meat imports, and the president promised to instruct the government to do so. (Laura Belin)

Murtaza Rakhimov did not get all the changes he wanted in the new constitution of the Republic of Bashkortostan, but his dominant place in the republic's political life is secure. Rakhimov had sought to abolish the presidency and make Bashkortostan a parliamentary republic (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 17 October 2002). However, the republican parliament, which rubber-stamps most of Rakhimov's initiatives, nearly unanimously rejected the proposal to eliminate the presidency. Instead, the new constitution, approved by a joint session of parliament on 3 December and signed by Rakhimov the same day, expands the president's authority by combining the positions of president and prime minister. "Kommersant" reported on 4 December that most of the differences between the new and old republican constitutions are merely cosmetic. For instance, the new text replaced the word "sovereignty," which irritated federal officials, with the word "statehood." According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 4 December, other changes were also aimed at bringing the constitution in line with federal legislation. For instance, the State Assembly will have one fewer chamber and 50 fewer deputies, and the heads of local and raion administrations will be elected rather than appointed by the republican president. (Laura Belin)

The World Tatar Congress has issued an appeal to President Putin asking him to veto recently passed amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that would require all written alphabets of such languages to be based on the Cyrillic script (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 27 November 2002), reported on 2 December. "Such a decision by the state...without considering the views of the people involved is unprecedented in history," the appeal reads. It also claims that the amendments are unconstitutional and that they are harmful to ethnic relations in the federation. On 29 November, the Tatar State Council also appealed to Putin to veto the amendments and said that it will appeal the amendments in the Constitutional Court if Putin signs them, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 December. Meanwhile, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev has also criticized a recent Education Ministry proposal to introduce a course on Orthodox culture into the public-school curriculum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002), saying that it violates the principle of the separation of church and state, the daily also reported. (Robert Coalson)

Journalists covering this year's legislative elections in St. Petersburg, scheduled for 8 December, have frequently described the campaign as dull. Some familiar dirty tricks are still in fashion: Races in many districts feature "doubles," candidates with identical names, so as to confuse the voters. But compared to the 1998 campaign for the city legislature, marred by numerous scandals and the assassination of Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, there has been less controversy and less media coverage. As a result, observers expect a low turnout, possibly low enough to invalidate the results in some of the city's 50 electoral districts. (City law requires turnout of at least 20 percent for a valid election.)

"Izvestiya" speculated on 2 December that low turnout may be good news for St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. First elected in 1996, he will have to step down when his term expires in 2004, in accordance with the current St. Petersburg charter. However, if Yakovlev's supporters gain a majority in the new legislature, they may be able to amend the charter in time for next spring's gubernatorial election, which would allow Yakovlev to seek a third term. "Izvestiya" noted that Yakovlev has not openly endorsed a "governor's list" of candidates (although several versions of such a list have circulated on the Internet). Instead, his administration appears to be working quietly to help supporters win as many districts as possible. In districts where Yakovlev's allies have poor prospects, the administration is trying to ensure that either the governor's vocal opponents lose or the election is invalidated by low turnout.

On the other hand, low turnout (as long as it remains above 20 percent) would probably help most of the 48 incumbents who are seeking re-election to the city legislature. With an average of eight candidates running in each district and only a plurality needed to win, the greater name recognition of most incumbents gives them a natural advantage. More important, St. Petersburg law sets aside 2 percent of budget expenditures for legislators to spend in their districts at their discretion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002).

Sociologist Tatyana Protasenko told the 3 December edition of "Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal" that many deputies use the funds to buy foodstuffs for pensioners over a period of years. By the time these politicians face re-election, they may have fed 10 percent of district residents, making it all but impossible for challengers to prevail. The magazine cited experts predicting that only five or six St. Petersburg districts will elect new legislators on 8 December. If that is the case, Yakovlev is unlikely to obtain the new city charter he needs; a two-thirds majority is required to amend the charter, and the new legislature will not oblige if most incumbents are able to fend off challengers backed by the governor. (Laura Belin)

The 8 December mayoral election in Novgorod could have serious implications for Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak, one of Russia's most prominent regional leaders. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 December, the local business elite, once united behind Prusak, is now divided between his favored candidate, Nikolai Grazhdankin, and incumbent Sergei Lobach. Telman Mkhitaryan, the leading businessman opposing Prusak, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that the dispute is not over economic policy; rather, Prusak has "neglected" the local elite and gotten carried away with political games at the federal level, Mkhitaryan said. Prusak faced only token opposition in the gubernatorial races he won in 1995 and 1999. But local businessmen have a stronger candidate in mind (the director of a large enterprise) for the next election, which is scheduled for September 2003. A victory for the current Novgorod mayor would embolden the opposition businessmen ahead of Prusak's re-election campaign. (Laura Belin)

Viktor Cherchenko, a carpenter from the village of Yagodnoe, on 2 December became the second person to register to compete in the 2 February election for governor of Magadan Oblast, RIA-Novosti reported. The first candidate was Magadan Mayor Nikolai Karpenko, who submitted his documents on 29 November, the first day of registration for the ballot. Meanwhile, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich has announced that he will not participate in the election, reported on 2 December, citing Abramovich's press secretary. The election is being held to replace Valentin Tsvetkov, who was murdered in Moscow on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2002). (Robert Coalson)

Aleksandr Nazarchuk, who chairs the Legislative Assembly in Altai Krai, has proposed holding referenda in that krai and in neighboring Altai Republic on merging the two regions, "Kommersant" reported on 4 December. Nazarchuk first proposed holding such a referendum in May 2001, but the leader of the Altai Republic, Semen Zubakin, opposed the idea. Nazarchuk has worked closely in the past with current Altai Republic leader Mikhail Lapshin, who was elected in December 2001. (Lapshin and Nazarchuk were the top two candidates for the Agrarian Party of Russia in the 1995 State Duma elections.) However, Lapshin opposes a merger with Altai Krai, according to "Kommersant." The paper said Nazarchuk revived the proposal after politicians in the Altai Republic, including an aide to Lapshin, called for transferring a city and several rural raions from the krai to the republic. (Laura Belin)

State officials representing Saratov Oblast and the Russian Orthodox Church, including Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov and Archbishop Aleksandr, met on 30 November to discuss cooperation to promote Russian Orthodoxy, "Gazeta" reported on 3 December. Participants in the meeting agreed that the state should help the Russian Orthodox Church battle other religious sects and missionaries. Ayatskov also favors earmarking budget funds at the oblast and raion levels to support religious projects, such as rebuilding the Aleksandr Nevskii Cathedral, which Soviet officials tore down during the 1930s. "Gazeta" noted that Ayatskov had poor relations with church officials for a long time but that the two sides patched things up recently. The newspaper argued that the Saratov diocese needs additional funding and Ayatskov needs the authority of the church. LB

Speaking to journalists in Saratov on 2 December, State Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unity) announced that budget funds cannot be spent on the religious activities proposed by Ayatskov and that financing for the Russian Orthodox Church will have to come from private sponsors, "Gazeta" reported on 3 December. (Article 14 of the Russian Constitution declares that Russia is a secular state.) "Gazeta" argued that Ayatskov is quite capable of raising money from private business. However, the governor seems committed to cementing ties between his administration and the church. During the 30 November meeting of state and church officials, he declared: "It's not important that our church is separated from the state now. That boundary is purely conditional. The church and the authorities share one society. And we need consolidation with the Russian Orthodox Church like never before." LB

The Duma on 29 November approved in the first reading the government's draft law on reforming Russia's communal services, which would phase out subsidies for utilities payments, such as electricity, water, and gas. Two days earlier, the reform package went down to defeat with just 221 votes in favor, five short of a majority. The defeat was widely expected, since numerous deputies had slammed the proposals, and the Duma council had already rejected an earlier version of the government-sponsored package.

However, People's Deputy faction leader Gennadii Raikov called on the Duma to consider the reforms again. Although some deputies objected that the house rules prohibit resubmitting a bill that has been rejected, Raikov prevailed. On 29 November, 246 deputies voted for the reform package. According to the 2 December edition of "Vedomosti," the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, Union of Rightist Forces, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions supported the bill nearly unanimously, as did most members of the People's Deputy faction and a majority of those in Russian Regions. on 2 December quoted Yabloko Duma Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin as saying that "the government pretended that they amended [the bill], and the centrists pretended that they believed it."

The Communist, Agro-Industrial, and Yabloko factions unanimously opposed the bill, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev also voted against the communal-services reform package. A fierce battle is likely to ensue before the Duma considers the bill in the second reading. Although government officials have described the reform package as a priority, the proposed measures would be deeply unpopular, and the December 2003 Duma elections are looming. (Laura Belin)

The State Duma on 20 November approved in its third and final reading a draft law on the election of State Duma deputies, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. The new law raises the percentage of the vote necessary for parties to qualify for party-list seats from 5 to 7 beginning with the December 2007 Duma elections. Moreover, only parties with branches in more than half the 89 subjects of the federation or blocs containing at least one such party will be eligible for party-list seats, and blocs may have no more than three member groups. Also, parties that are represented in the Duma will no longer have to gather signatures in support of their presidential candidates.

A 7 percent barrier would be daunting for some parties that only narrowly cleared the 5 percent barrier in 1999, such as Yabloko and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. However, State Duma Speaker Seleznev noted in an interview published in "Tribuna" on 27 November that the Duma deputies to be elected in December 2003 will make the final decision about rules governing the 2007 election. If past experience is any guide, they may well change the rules again; so far no two Duma elections have taken place under the same electoral law. (Robert Coalson/Laura Belin)

Name of law_____________________________Date approved_____No. of reading

Law on status of Federation Council deputies___29 November______first

Law on reform of communal services_________29 November_______first

Law on elections to the State Duma___________20 November_______third

The Federation Council on 27 November passed a series of amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that would require all alphabets of such languages to be based on the Cyrillic script, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 122 in favor and three opposed, with five abstentions. The Duma passed the amendments on 14 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). "This federal law only strengthens the graphic basis of these languages and only when their written form is used as a state language," said Valeriya Kadokhova, chairwoman of the council's Committee on the Federation and Regional Policies. "The right of the republics to establish their own state languages remains intact." Refqet Altynbayev, who represents Tatarstan in the council, spoke against the measure and said it violates the constitution. Karelia's representative, Yurii Ponomarev, said the mandatory use of Cyrillic would hinder the development of the Karelian language. "Some words would simply lose their meaning," he said. (Robert Coalson)

In accordance with amendments to the law on burials approved by the Federation Council on 27 November, the government would be prohibited from returning the bodies of "terrorists" killed in antiterrorism operations to their relatives or even informing those relatives where the bodies have been buried, Russian media reported. "Gazeta" on 28 November reported that some lawyers think the amendments may be difficult to implement. The Federation Council apparatus added an odd remark to the text of the draft amendments: "The new procedure will be applied only to persons whose death came as a result of the interruption of a terrorist act. If the death of a terrorist participating in a hostage taking comes, for example, from heart failure before the interruption of said terrorist act, then a different procedure should apply in relation to his burial." But Valentina Demina, the deputy chairwoman of the Federation Council Social Policy Committee, said that remark did not justify rejecting the bill, which she said, "fully conforms to the constitution and the law on battling terrorism." (Laura Belin)

Also on 27 November, the Federation Council approved amendments to the law on licensing various forms of activity, Ekho Moskvy reported. If Putin signs the amendments into law, it will become possible for companies to sell gasoline through gas stations without a special license. The law would also eliminate some duplication and administrative red tape with respect to regulating other businesses in the oil-and-gas sector. (Laura Belin)

Name of law_________________________________________Date approved

Law on languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation____27 November

Law on burials_______________________________________27 November

Law on licensing various forms of activity_________________27 November

The People's Party of the Russian Federation (NPRF) held a closed plenum in Moscow on 30 November to discuss strategy ahead of the December 2003 parliamentary elections. The participants agreed to field candidates in some 60 single-member districts during the campaign for the State Duma but deferred until May 2003 a decision on whether to field a party list as well. Party head Gennadii Raikov promised to carry on "sharp polemics" with the leadership of the Communist Party, which he accused of misleading rank-and-file Communists, "Kommersant" reported on 2 December. Speaking to a "Kommersant" correspondent, Raikov described Unified Russia as an ally, but one with which his party will never merge, because, "They are the party of power, and we are the party of the people, which supports the president on the main issues. Unified Russia has nothing to fear from us; we will not touch their electorate." Raikov said that the NPRF and Unified Russia will coordinate their activities so as not to compete against each other in the 225 single-member districts.

Raikov discussed the NPRF's strategy in more detail in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 4 December. He claimed that the party has some 80,000 members, many of them young people who have never belonged to another political party. Asked where the NPRF fits into Russia's political spectrum, Raikov said, "We are a socially oriented party, located close to the center-left." Asked how his party will differentiate itself from others, Raikov said: "We are a pragmatic party and do not promise people a bright future. A person living today should live decently today." Asked about potential allies, Raikov did not name any specific party or political movement, but rather "patriotically oriented" public organizations "that think, as we do, that it's time to bring order to Russia."

In that interview, Raikov also defended his party's support for reintroducing the death penalty and making homosexuality a crime. Asked how Russia could resume executions in light of its membership in the Council of Europe, Raikov pointed out that 100,000 murders are committed in Russia each year. He argued that countries with low crime rates might not need the death penalty, but Russia is not one of them. Although the People's Deputy Duma faction has introduced a draft law to criminalize homosexuality, Raikov claimed not to be very interested in the issue. Nevertheless, he commented that "If we are fighting for spirituality, for making the nation healthy, then we have to liberate ourselves from all filth that has come to us from other shores."

Alongside the interview with Raikov, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" published commentary by sociologist Leonid Sedov and political analyst Sergei Markov. Sedov predicted that the People's Party has little chance of success on the party-list ballot but could do well in the single-member districts, particularly if many governors support NPRF candidates. In contrast, Markov suggested that with enough political, financial, administrative, and media support, the NPRF could clear the 5 percent barrier needed to win Duma seats awarded from party lists. Both Sedov and Markov agreed that Raikov's center-left posturing is aimed at winning votes at the expense of the Communist Party. (Several other parties will try to fill the center-left niche next year, most notably former Communist Gennadii Seleznev's Party of Russia's Rebirth.) The NPRF's populist initiatives on the death penalty and homosexuality are intended to win over voters who backed Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in earlier elections. LB

Altai Republic head Mikhail Lapshin may face a challenge to his leadership of the Agrarian Party of Russia (APR), NTV reported on 30 November. Several participants in a 30 November meeting of party activists supported replacing Lapshin. Nikolai Shirokov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg Committee on Economic Development, argued that, "Everyone has his limits" and that in light of his duties as head of the Altai Republic, Lapshin should step aside and let "new, fresh forces" run the APR. Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Gordeev, who also heads the Russian Agrarian Movement, appears to be the main contender to replace Lapshin. He declared on 30 November that the APR's cadres had aged and that "techniques being applied in this party no longer correspond to the current moment," RTR reported. Gordeev added that many supported restructuring the party and replacing its leader in order to raise the Agrarians' standing with the public. However, NTV quoted Gordeev as saying: "I do not view myself as a party leader. It's enough that I was chosen to lead the Russian Agrarian Movement. But I think that the basic skeleton, including the Agrarian Party leader, should be changed, of course."

Lapshin has indicated that he will not go without a fight. Speaking at the 30 November meeting, he reminded his party colleagues that replacing the veteran prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin with the young Sergei Kirienko in 1998 had caused the country to be "wrecked" for several months, NTV reported. Lapshin also argued that Yevgenii Primakov, who replaced Kirienko as prime minister, served the country well despite his advanced age.

The divisions within the Agrarian leadership do not bode well for a party that recently approved plans to run independently in the State Duma elections scheduled for December 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 2002). The APR surprised many observers by winning more than 8 percent of the vote in the 1993 parliamentary elections, but the party failed to clear the 5 percent barrier in 1995. During the 1999 parliamentary campaign, the Agrarians did not field their own party list; Lapshin was among party leaders who supported the opposition alliance Fatherland-All Russia, while prominent members of the Agrarian faction in the Duma backed the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Gaining 5 percent of the party-list vote would be a daunting task even for a united APR and would become even more difficult if activists are dissatisfied with the party leadership.

On the other hand, the Agrarians are unique among Russian political parties in that they have managed to form factions in the last two Dumas without clearing the 5 percent threshold. Agrarian candidates won 20 single-member districts in 1995, and the Communist Party subsequently "donated" enough of its own successful candidates to allow an Agrarian faction to be formed. Following the 1999 elections, deputies elected on the Fatherland-All Russia and Communist party lists, as well as deputies elected as independents in single-member districts, formed the Agro-Industrial faction. Unlike Russian political movements that have quickly unraveled after failing to win 5 percent of the party-list vote, the Agrarians could remain a political force even if their showing in next year's election is unimpressive. (Laura Belin)

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is preparing to do electoral battle next year as head of the Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR), which held a plenum in Moscow on 30 November. In his address to party members, Gorbachev expressed support for Vladimir Putin, whom he described as "the main generator of ideas on both strategic and tactical issues," TVS reported. He noted that his party's support for Putin was "not unconditional" but said "there is a tendency toward turning the situation around, changing things for the better, in the interests of the majority." Relations between Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin were hostile throughout the 1990s, but Putin has treated Gorbachev with more respect, and the former Soviet leader has reciprocated by praising Putin's leadership on many occasions. Gorbachev made clear, however, that the SDPR does not support the current government's economic policy, "Kommersant" reported on 2 December.

If the SDPR is to have any chance of success in next year's parliamentary election, it will need all the help it can get from the popular Putin. Gorbachev is not a charismatic public speaker -- his address to the recent plenum contained typically convoluted sentences that shifted gears in the middle -- and neither he nor social democratic parties in general have a strong electoral record in post-Soviet Russia. As a presidential candidate in 1996, Gorbachev received about 0.5 percent of the vote. He appeared in television advertisements on behalf of the Social Democrats electoral bloc during the 1999 parliamentary campaign (see "RFE/RL Russian Election Report," 3 December 1999). However, that bloc finished dead last among the 26 groups on the party-list ballot, winning just 0.08 percent of the vote. At least five other parties and electoral blocs campaigned on social democratic platforms in 1999, and none gained more than 1 percent of the vote.

Gorbachev believes a party standing for "social justice for the majority" can have broad appeal. In his speech on 30 November, he characterized the SDPR as a party for workers and hired laborers, the intelligentsia, and the middle class, according to "Kommersant." He described trade unions as the social democrats' main ally, though he dismissed the Federation of Independent Trade Unions as a "trade-union nomenklatura."

The most prominent politician to have joined Gorbachev's party so far is Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, who is chairman of the SDPR. Discussing possible political allies, he said Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, the head of the Party of Russia's Rebirth, and People's Deputy Duma faction leader Gennadii Raikov are "closest to us," but he did not rule out "a completely unexpected configuration: Yabloko, the SPS and social democracy, TVS reported. Titov supported the "party of power," Our Home Is Russia, during the 1995 parliamentary campaign. He later formed his own Voice of Russia movement and was a prominent supporter of the SPS during the 1999 campaign. (Laura Belin)

5 December: Government will consider tax policy over the next three years, according to Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin

6 December: Heads of parliament from the six countries that have joined the CIS Collective Security Treaty (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) will meet in St. Petersburg to discuss various military issues

8 December: Parliamentary elections in the city of St. Petersburg and mayoral elections in Novgorod

9 December: NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson will visit Moscow for a conference of the NATO-Russia Council to discuss the armed forces' role in the fight against terrorism

11 December: State Duma scheduled to consider 2003 budget in fourth and final reading

15 December: New plant for destroying chemical weapons is scheduled to come on line in Gornyi (Saratov Oblast)

Mid-December: Parliamentary conciliatory commission to complete work on rewriting amendments to the law on the mass media, which President Putin vetoed in late November, according to Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska

19 December: Government will consider budget policy over the next three years, according to Kudrin

24 December: Moscow District Court scheduled to consider lawsuits filed by eight people seeking a total of $7.5 million in damages from the Moscow government for suffering incurred during the October hostage crisis

26 December: Deadline by which regions should form permanent election commissions in order to comply with new federal legislation

1 January: Date by which Unified Energy Systems plans to redeem 80 percent of its debts to Russian coal companies, according to company statement on 29 August

1 January: Jury trials will begin to be held in St. Petersburg, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service

3 January: Law on countering the financing of terrorist organizations to go into effect, which will add to the list of organizations whose financial dealings receive special scrutiny and will allow the authorities to freeze financial operations for seven days if there are grounds to suspect that the operations are directed toward funding terrorism

3 January: Date until which Colonel Yurii Budanov will remain in custody on charges of murdering a young Chechen woman

15 January: Justice Minister Yurii Chaika expected to report to the Duma on proposals for criminal punishment that does not involve serving time in prison

Late January: International Monetary Fund mission scheduled to visit Moscow to evaluate the development of Russia's economy

1 February: New Labor Code will come into effect

2 February: Gubernatorial elections will be held in Magadan Oblast to replace Valentin Tsvetkov, who was assassinated in Moscow in October

16 February: Elections will be held in the Republic of Mordovia to elect the head of the republic (not called a president under republican law)

February: Labor Ministry expected to submit to the government a list of jobs to which young men seeking to perform alternative service (as opposed to military service) could be assigned

February: NATO-Russia Council will hold conference in Rome.