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Russia Report: March 12, 2001


12 March 2001, Volume 1, Number 8
DUMA
Legislation Name of law____________Date Approved_________# of Reading

Law on lyrics to national_____7 March_____________1st
anthem (Aleksandrov)

Law on the pay scale _______7 March____________2nd
for state sector workers

WHO'S PULLING UNITY'S STRINGS? Following Unity's surprise announcement on 5 March that it will join the Communist and Agro-Industrial group in voting no confidence in the government (see item above), Russian media and analysts immediately began to speculate on where the idea originated. Few people have assumed that anyone in Unity was responsible, despite the fact that Unity's leadership said that the impetus came from the party's regional organs. ("Segodnya" reported on 7 March that Unity regional faction members categorically deny this assertion.) "Obshchaya gazeta" in its issue no. 10 suggested that presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin may have been the "mastermind." With reference only to a "well-informed source," the weekly reported that at the end of February/middle of March, Voloshin convened in the Kremlin a small group to examine different scenarios for dissolving the Duma. The primary rationale reportedly offered for dissolving the Duma was that it is unlikely to pass land, pension, and communal housing reform legislation and that it would also be unlikely to support either Voloshin or Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin as prime minister. On 7 March, "Izvestiya" also reported that Voloshin held a meeting around that time with unofficial Kremlin advisor Gleb Pavlovskii. The newspaper speculated that Voloshin and Pavlovskii "may have decided that it is necessary to 'change the scenery.'"

That Pavlovskii gave an interview to his website, strana.ru, on 20 February in which he himself suggests dissolving the Duma in order to weaken the Communists would appear to support the notion that Pavlovskii might have played a role in Unity's announcement. In the interview, Pavlovskii suggested that President Vladimir Putin with his strong approval rating "could help those parties that were formed to support the president to improve their position in the Duma." The Communists, he predicted, "would lose their place in the Duma."

Of course, the timing and content of the interview may only be a coincidence. But it is true that Pavlovskii was present at the creation of Unity movement in 1999, and, according to "Profil" on 27 December 1999, he even told NTV that he should be given the lion's share of the credit for the movement's victory in the Duma elections that year. Pavlovskii's Fund for Effective Policies was among those PR firms hired to work on Unity's image during the lead-up to the 1999 State Duma elections. Should there be a new round of Duma elections, Pavlovskii would likely play a prominent role. And "Vedomosti" suggested on 7 March those parties in the Kremlin that support dismissing the Duma are likely those who stand to gain from such an action: "It's quite clear who stands to gain from elections -- those who can make millions of rubles from campaigns, increase their status in the Kremlin, and prove that the president can't do without them." JAC

PROFILE: GLEB PAVLOVSKII Gleb Olegovich Pavlovskii celebrated his 50th birthday last week -- smack in the middle of a political controversy, a not uncommon situation for him over the past decade. Born in Odessa in 1951, he spent his childhood and adolescence in Ukraine. In 1973, he completed his history studies at the university there, where he was a dissident who distributed "samizdat." After university, he taught history to schoolchildren for three years, and then worked for six years as a carpenter, according to "Kto est kto" of September 1997. He then spent three years in internal exile in the republic of Komi. However, it might not be completely accurate to consider Pavlovskii one of the last human rights martyrs of the late Soviet period. Human rights activist Yelena Bonner reportedly once said of Pavlovskii: "I knew Pavlovskii for what he was back in 1980 or 1981 when he gave evidence against Sergei Adamovich Kovalev's son to the KGB," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 2 March,

With the advent of "perestroika," Pavlovskii was able to reinvent himself, becoming in 1987 deputy chief editor of the journal "Vek XX i mir" and from December 1993 he was its chief editor. He also was a co-founder of the journal "Sreda" and served as chairman of the board of directors of the Postfactum agency. Pavlovskii first entered national politics as a Yeltsin supporter, organizing one of the first demonstrations in support of Yeltsin in May 1989. However, during Yeltsin's battle with the parliament in 1993, Pavlovskii appeared to turn against Yeltsin and actively criticized the government's actions against free speech such as the closing of the newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and pulling off the air of Aleksandr Lyubimov's television program.

Pavlovskii apparently later changed his mind about Yeltsin, becoming a campaign advisor for him in 1996. Pavlovskii also later changed his mind about press freedom, writing on his website, strana.ru, last fall, that press freedom has become a tool for the degradation and destruction of society and that recent moves against Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii and Boris Berezovskii have limited the danger that these oligarchs represent, but has not precluded the possible "takeover of their holdings" by foreigners with their own political agendas (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 2 October 2000).

With the 1999 Duma campaign and subsequent presidential campaign, Pavlovskii gained an even higher profile than he had as the alleged architect of Yeltsin's 1996 victory. Pavlovskii has widely been credited for being behind the creation of the Unity party; some sources even claim Yeltsin's "early retirement" was Pavlovskii's idea. Since Putin was elected president, Pavlovskii has had an increasingly higher profile, holding frequent interviews with mass media on a variety of issues, and frequently presenting what he claims is the Kremlin point of view.

Pavlovskii's favorite methods include "provocations," starting with the one that gained him notoriety in 1994 when he was revealed to be the author of "Theory No. 1" in "Obshchaya gazeta." That article professed to be a transcript of a conversation between Oleg Soskovets, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Yurii Luzhkov planning the overthrow of the government. Criminal proceedings on suspicion of fomenting a destabilization of a society were launched against Pavlovskii, but were later dropped. More recently, he is suspected of being behind the website www.lujkov.ru, on which compromising material about Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was placed during the lead-up to the 1999 Duma elections. Certainly, Pavlovskii made no secret of his distaste for Luzhkov, telling "Sobesednik" in July of 1999 that Luzhkov would make a "weak and cruel" president. "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Luzhkov, has been a continuing source of negative articles and information about Pavlovskii.

Last November, Pavlovskii charged that a new political attack on President Putin had been launched. Leading the attack, according to Pavlovskii, were three governors with the assistance of NTV, Media-MOST organs, and other news organizations, such as "Moskovskii komsomolets." Their aim was reportedly to provoke a government crisis, the revision of the constitution, and a purge of the presidential administration. Now, as it appears that Russia may truly be on the verge of a government crisis, fingers may start to point back at Pavlovskii. JAC

WHO IS PUTIN? PERHAPS HE HASN'T MADE UP HIS MIND. President Putin conducted his first "Internet" interview on 6 March on line at gazeta.ru, strana.ru, and bbc online (news.bbc.co.uk/hi/russian/news/default.stm.). Despite its innovative format, the interview broke little new ground. Some 16,000 questions were submitted, which were funneled through three journalists from those sites. While a few of the questions might be considered "provocative," Putin was perhaps even less revealing in his answers than usual, although more minutiae of the president's likes and dislikes were revealed, such as the fact that this favorite authors are Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. In an article following the interview, BBC journalist Bridget Kendall reported that Putin appeared to react testily to questions about Chechnya. She also reported that Putin's press aides were "happy to admit that this whole experiment was to make him look good as well as to promote the Internet in Russia." Kendall also observed that Putin does not come across as either "tough" or as an "egoist," although the "nostalgia for Russia's past glories...really does seem to come from the heart." She concludes that it "rings true when those who know him say he never sought to be president."

That image of Putin -- an intelligent, reserved man, plucked from obscurity and thrust into a position in which he is perhaps reacting rather than leading -- was reflected in the Russian press as well last week. In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 6 March, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) faction leader Boris Nemtsov says that Putin is "unlike his predecessor [President Boris Yeltsin] and "is a rather cautious person." Nemtsov suggested that Putin asks for "too much advice" and reported that "some among the Moscow political elite think Putin is afraid of making decisions." He also suggested that Putin is "hostage to public opinion." In an interview with "Itogi" in its issue no. 9, fellow SPS deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin takes an almost identical tack, saying that Putin is a "weaker president" than Yeltsin and that for Putin, "his approval rating has become an end in itself." Writing in "Vedomosti" on 7 March, Vitalii Portnikov asserts that cabinet "crisis" this week is at least in part attributable to the fact that "Putin still hasn't defined his goals and intentions." All of these observations follow similar assertions in a string of publications from "Novoe vremya," "Nezavisimaya gazeta," "Moskovskii komsomolets," and "Itogi" that the Putin administration can be characterized as drifting (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 & 9 February 2001). JAC

CADRES
BIG FISH LURED TO BIGGER POND. Next week, the State Fishing Commission will host the second in a series of auctions of fish and seafood catch quotas in Moscow. The occasion will also mark the first auction to occur under the leadership of the commission's new head, former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. Last month, the first auctions were held for pollack and herring catches, and according to Aleksandr Moiseev, who was then acting chairman of the commission, no company or individual from Primorskii Krai participated in the auction. He told reporters on 19 February that this absence "shows who is opposed to holding such auctions." Moiseev added that the auction process will make the awarding of quotas more transparent. Before the auctions were instituted, all fishing quotas were distributed by regional administrations, in theory, for free and generally according to methods previously employed by Soviet central planners such as capacity and level of catch the previous year.

When governor, Nazdratenko awarded quotas on the basis of the principle of loyalty, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern district Konstantin Pulikovskii told reporters in Vladivostok on 14 February. New entrants to the market were closed out of the market in the krai, according to Peter Kirkow in the book "Russia's Provinces." For example, the private company Dalvent was denied a fishing quota for a number of years, and in July 1994 its boats were actually requisitioned by a decree of Nazdratenko's administration because they had allegedly not been "supervised."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Nazdratenko was categorically opposed to the government introducing auctions, and together with a number of other governors in the Far Eastern district sent a letter to President Putin protesting the change. They argued that the sales of quotas would sharply increase the costs of seafood, making Russian seafood uncompetitive in the world market. They also claimed that poorer fishing communities would be unable to participate, and in late February before the first auction was held, some 300 fishermen in Vladivostok participated in a protest against the auctions.

As an open opponent of the policy which he would have to implement and a living embodiment of why the policy was enacted in the first place, Nazdratenko struck many observers as an odd choice to head the State Fishing Commission. Most analysts have attributed Putin's appointment of Nazdratenko as "weakness." Putin apparently didn't have enough evidence of malfeasance to dismiss him, so he had to lure him to Moscow with the bait of a plum job that Nazdratenko clearly wanted.

A more charitable, although not necessarily realistic, view may be that the Kremlin thought that making Nazdratenko happy at least for a short time might be the best way of ridding the region of him. With a network of cronies throughout the krai, Nazdratenko may have been simply too dangerous to leave in the region, particularly when presidential envoy Pulikovskii appears to be trying at least partially to cleanse the administration of Nazdratenko allies in preparation for May gubernatorial elections. There is a pattern of regional governors moving into federal-level jobs in which they often do not stay even as long as a year. It is possible that the presidential administration hopes to ease Nazdratenko out of his new position soon after the elections. Nazdratenko's predecessor at the commission, Yuri Sinelnik, was fired in January for participating in a dubious fishing deal, according to "The Moscow Times" on 15 February. And it's not hard to imagine that Nazdratenko may follow in Sinelnik's footsteps. But it is also not hard to imagine that Nazdratenko may manage to turn the State Fishing Commission into another independent power base, much in the same way that another troublesome official, Boris Yeltsin, did with the Construction Ministry when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wanted to chuck him on the dustbin of history. JAC

CORRUPTION WATCH Nuclear Power Minister Yevgenii Adamov has been accused of continuing to engage in business activities while serving as minister from 1998, and before that while serving as head of NIKIET, an institute for the development of classified energy technologies, from 1986 to 1998, according to a report of the State Duma's Anti-Corruption Commission presented last month. Adamov allegedly also used his post to appoint his business associates to positions in the nuclear power sector. According to the report, "the fact that Adamov engaged in commercial activity while he was director of NIKIET and nuclear power minister has been fully proven." The report is available on Greenpeace's website, www.greenpeace.ru/econews/2001/march/adamov.htm. Next week, the State Duma is scheduled to consider legislation in its second reading allowing imports of spent nuclear fuel, a controversial bill which Adamov has strongly supported. If the bill manages to pass the State Duma, it may face a tough time in the Federation Council where a number of senators have spoken out against it, including Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev and former Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev. JAC

POLITICAL CALENDAR 14 March: State Duma to hold no-confidence vote in the government.

16-18 March: State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev to visit Iraq.

18 March: By-election for State Duma seat in Moscow Oblast left vacant by death of German Titov.

19 March: First session of the National Council on Pension Reform will take place.

20-22 March: Three auctions for fish and seafood catch quotas will be held in Moscow.

22 March: State Duma will debate in its second reading a law allowing the import of spent nuclear fuel.

23 March: President Putin to visit Stockholm for meeting with EU country leaders.

April: Communist Party plenary congress, according to "Segodnya" on 7 March.

11-12, 28 April: Auctions for fishing catch quotas will be held in Moscow.

24 March: Daily newspaper, "Vremya MN," will cease publication.

1 June: Deadline by which government should prepare measure for combating illegal immigration, according to ITAR-TASS on 7 March.

July: Chinese President Jiang Zemin to visit Moscow.

DEPUTIES PUT WORDS TO THE MUSIC. State Duma deputies approved on 7 March the lyrics to Russia's new national anthem. Four texts were considered, and that penned by Sergei Mikhail was selected with an overwhelming show of support of 345 votes. The presidential administration submitted the bill containing Mikhail's lyrics. Mikhail had also authored the lyrics of the anthem of the Soviet Union, whose melody has now been readopted for Russia. Also on 7 March, deputies approved in its second reading a law on the pay scale for state sector workers. The bill would raise the rate for one measure of calculating wages from 132 rubles per month as of 1 January 2001 to 300 rubles a month as of 1 September 2001, according to Interfax-AFI. Before the vote, Minister for Labor and Social Development Aleksandr Pochinok said that the bill would be impossible to fulfill, since it would cost 80 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) in 2001 alone, a sum not provided for in the budget, according to ITAR-TASS. The government's representative to the Duma, Andrei Loginov, promised that President Putin will veto the bill, Interface reported. The Duma also rejected a proposal of Deputy (Liberal Democratic Party) Aleksei Mitrofanov to include in the day's agenda a document about providing amnesty to those persons engaged in illegal activities in the North Caucasus from 25 to 30 March 2000. The effort was designed to forgive Yurii Budanov, who is currently on trial in Rostov-na-Donu for the 27 March murder of a Chechen girl. JAC

KREMLIN & THE WHITE HOUSE
WHAT DOES UNITY WANT? As a vote of no confidence in the Russian government looms in the country's lower house, most discussion in Moscow has focused not on the government's likely fate but on that of the Duma. This odd situation resulted from a surprise announcement by the pro-Kremlin Unity faction on 5 March that although it supports the government, it would vote with the Communists on 14 March in calling for a new government. The logic, as Unity faction leader Boris Gryzlov explained it, was that if the Duma is dissolved as a result of the current political crisis, then Unity will be able to strengthen its position in the next Duma. Gryzlov told "Izvestiya" "if the position of the Communist Party does not change, Unity will do its best to reduce the Communist element in Russian politics to a minimum by means of elections." Under the Russian Constitution, if the lower house passes two votes of no confidence within a three-month period, the president must then dismiss the government or dissolve the parliament and hold new elections.

While one poll conducted by monitoring.ru confirmed Gryzlov's prediction, another by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) concluded that the Communists would retain their leading position. At the same time, the immediate reaction to Unity's bid to dismiss the Duma provoked a chorus of condemnations from across Russia's political spectrum. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov noted that new elections would cost 1.5-2 billion rubles ($52-70 million) -- money that has not been included the 1.193 trillion ruble 2001 budget. He also cautioned that "extreme groups" usually win out in "crisis situations." Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev attributed Unity's motion to its "political immaturity," while Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Yevgenii Primakov condemned the effort as "maneuvering that harms society and the state and mostly harms the president's interests." Even Unity's fellow pro-Kremlin allies in the Duma, the People's Deputy group, were opposed. People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov called Unity's plan to support the no-confidence measure an "obvious political game," and pledged that his group will not support the no-confidence vote.

Without People's Deputy's support or that of any of the remaining Duma factions and groups, it's not clear that the Communists -- even with Unity -- would have the required 226 votes to pass a no-confidence measure. If every member of the Communist, Unity, and Agro-Industrial groups vote solidly in favor of the measure, they would still need 15 votes. The support of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party faction still wouldn't be enough, since it has only 14 members.

It remained unclear last week, though, what Unity's voting plans actually are. It was also unclear how solidly Unity's deputies stand behind the statements of its faction leader Gryzlov. Deputy Duma speaker and top Unity official Lyubov Sliska spoke publicly against Unity leader Gryzlov's plans, arguing that the country doesn't need any social disturbances and that the money required for new elections could be better spent. Another Unity deputy, Aleksandr Chuev, declared that Unity "is not popular enough to go to the polls now," according to "Segodnya" on 7 March. Chuev continued, "Neither the party nor its Duma faction have achieved anything yet which would put us on the map and seize the initiative from the Communists." Meanwhile, on 7 March, following a meeting of the presidium of Unity's political council, Unity party leader Sergei Shoigu said that a final decision would not be made until 13 March, one day before the Duma is scheduled to consider the motion.

Shoigu did not exclude the possibility that Unity's leaders will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, of course, will have the final say not only in terms of how Unity behaves but also in terms of how any vote of no confidence is settled. In the end, the only casualty of the 14 March no-confidence vote may be neither the present Duma nor the government but Unity. JAC

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