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Russia Report: January 16, 2002


16 January 2002, Volume 4, Number 2

NOTE TO READERS:
The next edition of "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" will appear on 30 January.
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES
FATE OF REGIONAL TV STATIONS HANGS IN THE BALANCE ALONG WITH FATE OF TV-6.
Because of the recent court decision upholding the ordered liquidation of TV-6, a number of regional television stations find themselves in an awkward position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). For example, TV-6 Perm, which is a sister company of the Moscow-based TV-6, could lose its frequency and its broadcasting license, regions.ru reported on 15 January citing Region-Inform-Perm. Chief editor for TV-6 Perm Yelena Suntsovaya said that currently everything depends of the good will of Media Minister Mikhail Lesin. TV-6 Perm's General Director Boris Kuzmin said that his station feels powerless to influence the process occurring with the liquidation of all media associated with Boris Berezovsky. According to regions.ru, there are 16 more regional television stations in a situation similar to TV-6 Perm. In addition, there are more than 200 network partners in various cities across Russia. JAC

NEW MEMBERS COMMENT ON UPPER CHAMBER...
In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 12 January, Vadim Gustov, representative for Vladimir Oblast, commented on new changes expected in the Federation Council. Gustov, who is a former governor of Leningrad Oblast and a former deputy prime minister under Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, said that he believes that the total number of committees in the upper house will be increased by only two or three, but no more. Gustov himself will head the Committee on the CIS. Two questions he said the committee will quickly address will be the issues of migration and refugees. According to Gustov, dozens of new laws are needed. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 January, Nikolai Tulaev, representative from Kaliningrad Oblast and deputy chairman of the Regulations Commission, said that the number of committees in the Federation Council will increase from 11 to 16 and the number of commissions to six. He added that members will meet twice a month rather than just once as was the case previously. He said that the Federation group will not have an official status, and that the new regulations for the upper house do not envision the creation of factions, interregional groups or other kinds of associations. JAC

...AS OLIGARCHS VIE FOR LEADERSHIP OF KEY ECONOMIC COMMITTEES...
"Vremya novostei" reported on 10 January that Sergei Pugachev, the head of Mezhprombank and representative to the Federation Council for the Tuva Republic, is competing for the chairmanship of a newly created committee for financial markets in the upper legislative house. According to the daily, Yevgenii Bushmin (Nizhnii Novgorod) has already been selected to head the Budget Committee and Aleksandr Nazarov (Chukotka) will head the Committee on the North. Bushmin is a former deputy finance minister. (For an almost complete listing of the new members of the Federation Council, see "RFE/RL Political Weekly," 14 January 2002). JAC

...MUSCOVITES CLASH WITH ST. PETERSBURGERS IN UPPER CHAMBER...
Former Federation Council press service director Yurii Argunov told reporters in Moscow on 15 January that he was resigning because of his disagreement "with the new rules of the game in the information field," RIA-Novosti reported. However, Lyudmila Fomicheva, press secretary for Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, told reporters that Argunov has violated civil service ethics and since he has lost the struggle to retain his position is acting like a "dishonorable and unscrupulous" person. She added that the ethics of many Muscovites in the civil service leaves something to be desired, according regions.ru. According to "Vremya MN" on 15 January, Fomicheva is a recent transfer to Moscow from St. Petersburg. Like President Putin, she too worked in the office of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. JAC

...AND MORE RESIDENTS FROM NORTHERN CITY MOVE SOUTH.
Fomicheva both worked as Sobchak's press secretary and also headed the office of then-Deputy Mayor Putin. Other former St. Petersburgers in the Federation Council are Petr Tkachenko, director of the chairman's apparatus, Vasilii Arzhantsev, head of the speaker's secretariat, and deputy head of the secretariat Yevgenii Chaikovskii. The likely new head of the press service, according to the daily, is Aleksei Kedrin who headed the press service of the St. Petersburg administration during Sobchak's tenure. JAC

NATIONALITIES MINISTER SAYS FIGHT BEING WAGED OVER ISLAM WITHIN RUSSIA.
Russia's minister without portfolio for nationality issues, Vladimir Zorin, told a gathering in Tyumen Oblast that agitation among Muslims in Russia is currently his most acute policy problem, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 January citing strana.ru. Zorin said the struggle for a "Russian Islam" has begun, adding it is not yet clear if this religion will take a similar form to that which exists in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. He added that the state is responsible for the rights of each of its citizens and should fight extremism and criminality. Meanwhile, Zorin's former boss, presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko, told Interfax on 9 January that traditional Islam needs to be strengthened in Russia in order to avoid becoming radicalized. Kirienko complained that over the past few years, hundreds of religious leaders have returned to Russia from training in Arabic countries such as Saudi Arabia and began spreading radical versions of Islam, such as Wahhabism, which are alien to Russian Muslims. JAC

IS PUTIN POWERLESS TO IMPROVE THE HEATING SITUATION?
Following President Putin's meeting with Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais on 12 January and an instruction to the government on 10 January to investigate the heating supply disruptions, Dalenergo announced on 14 January that it is resuming power outages in three cities in Primorskii Krai. Electricity will be provided only in the morning hours beginning on 15 January in retaliation for the buildup of a debt of 64.5 million rubles ($2.1 million), according to ITAR-TASS. Some military units, prisons, and federally funded research centers will be affected. Meanwhile, residents in Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast still lack heat, NTV reported on 14 January. According to the station, some residents have installed wood-burning stoves. Ust-Kut Mayor Yevgenii Koreiko resigned last month following a phone call from a local student during a nationally televised question-and-answer program with President Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). JAC

MANY REGIONS LEFT SCRAMBLING TO MEET ORDERED WAGE HIKE.
"Nizhegorodskie novosti" reported on 9 January that 82 of Russia's 89 federation subjects have been put in a tough situation by President Putin's decision to raise the wages of state sectors workers. At a press conference in Nizhnii Novgorod last month, Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said his oblast was only able to raise teachers' and doctors' wages in December with help from the federal Finance Ministry, and in January it will be even more difficult to make wage payments because tax receipts are typically low at the beginning of the year. However, one local foreign-language teacher, Olga Shchitova, told the daily that her wages in December turned out to be lower than November's. And a nurse at local hospital going by the name "Anna B" reported that she received no wages at all in December. According to Anna B, rumors are circulating at her hospital that wages will not be raised before March. JAC

REGIONAL VOTERS SAID TO HAVE A 'SAY' IN OLIGARCHIC ARRANGEMENTS.
In an interview with "Novoe vremya" on 6 January, Dmitrii Oreshkin, the director of the Merkator research center, said LUKoil is "very active" and is quite often "successful" in regional elections. According to Oreshkin, the company does not care if the candidate is left or right: For example, the company supported Governor Nikolai Maksyuta in Volgograd Oblast, Governor Vladimir Yegorov in Kaliningrad Oblast, and Anatolii Yefremov in Arkhangelsk Oblast. According to Oreshkin, LUKoil's conscious "corporate strategy" is that is it necessary to control the largest regions to protect its business, and "it does this through elections." He continued: "Earlier there was a covert lobbying system, but now it is more or less done legally through elections. In this, there is the obvious sadness because voters in the best case are invited to rubber-stamp the result of an agreement between oligarchic structures. But this is a positive moment," he said, "because nonetheless the voters are appealed to. Before, no one asked them anything." JAC

INFORMATION SECURITY COMMISSION IN THE WORKS IN THE FAR EAST.
Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii has launched the creation of an interdepartmental commission for information security, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 9 January. The commission's membership will be composed of the directors of the Far East departments of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI), chairmen of state technical commissions, as well as representatives of the municipal administrations in the district. Pulikovskii's press secretary, Yevgenii Anushin, said that the commission will focus on the protection of databanks of commercial and state enterprises. It will not control the activities of journalists, he said. JAC

KEMEROVO
SECURITY STILL INADEQUATE IN RUSSIAN COAL MINES.
Following a methanol leak, a coal mine exploded on 13 January in Vorkuta, Komi Republic, gazeta.ru reported the same day. Five miners were killed and 12 others were seriously burned. In the Kemerovo Oblast, a coal miner died after a mine caved in, RBK added. The two accidents occurred just a few days after the World Bank closed its Coal Sector Adjustment Loan on 31 December. Security has long been a concern for the Russian coal industry, and there has been little progress noted in this area. The last tragedy in the Kemerovo Oblast was on 25-26 December 2001, when four people died following a methanol explosion, RBK then reported. Following the December explosions, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev asked for a security audit of the Kuzbass coal mines. VC

KRASNODAR
REGION FIGHTS AGAINST FLOODING.
Flooding in the southern areas of Krasnodar Krai has forced 1,800 people to evacuate from 900 homes, more than a third of which need to be completely rebuilt, Russian agencies reported on 14 January. On 12 January, helicopters dropped bombs to break up ice floes blocking a nearby river to ease the situation, ORT reported, showing residents wading through flooded streets knee-deep in water. The level of the Kuban River fell around 19 centimeters overnight to around 181 centimeters, the critical level being 190 centimeters. The weather in Krasnodar was forecast to remain above freezing, threatening more flooding, and snow remains at levels of up to 1.5 meters in the region, ITAR-TASS added. VC

KRASNOYARSK
RUSSIAN ALUMINUM, NORILSK NICKEL ALLEGEDLY PULLING STRINGS IN KRASNOYARSK.
Deputies in Krasnoyarsk Krai's Legislative Assembly re-elected Aleksandr Uss as their chairman on 9 January. Commenting on Uss's victory, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed said there had been a struggle over the speaker's nomination, and that Russian Aluminum decided to nominate Uss. Lebed added that it will likely be easier to say how the two companies will affect the lives of Krasnoyarsk residents only after two or three sessions of the krai's legislature. According to some sources, Russian Aluminum also plays a large role in the political life of the republic of Khakasia, which is headed by Lebed's brother, Aleksei. JAC

PENZA
DPA CANDIDATE EYES GOVERNOR'S SEAT.
Viktor Ilyukhin, leader of the Movement to Support the Army (DPA) and a member of the Communist faction in the State Duma, has registered as a candidate in 14 April gubernatorial elections in Penza Oblast, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 January. Ilyukhin has wide support in the oblast, having been elected to the Duma from a single-mandate district there three times. Incumbent Governor Vasilii Bochkarev told the daily that he considers Ilyukhin to be his main competition. According to the newspaper, Bochkarev announced his intention to seek re-election but has not yet filed an application with the local election commission. JAC

ST. PETERSBURG
MORE FEDERAL FUNCTIONS, FINANCING FOR SECOND CAPITAL?
Federation Council Chairman Mironov announced last week while he was in St. Petersburg that he and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev have authored a bill that would transfer some of the functions of the federal capital to St. Petersburg, polit.ru reported. The bill is currently undergoing judicial review and will eventually be introduced in the State Duma. According to Mironov, St. Petersburg was originally built as a capital city and continues to fulfill certain functions of that nature, such as hosting meetings of world leaders. However, up to this point the maintenance of historical and cultural monuments has been left up to the city to finance, and the proposed bill would make such maintenance a responsibility of the federal budget. JAC

SAKHA
RESIDENTS GET GEM OF A LEADER.
With more than 98 percent of the presidential ballot for the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic counted on 14 January, Alrosa President Vyacheslav Shtyrov won some 59.4 percent of votes in the 13 January presidential ballot compared to 34.6 percent for SAPI President Fedot Tumusov, ITAR-TASS reported. Shtyrov, who won most of the votes during the first round, was widely expected to beat Tumusov. Turnout was 76.7 percent of registered voters, which was even more than during the first round. So many people showed up to vote in the capital, Yakutsk, that some were refused admission to the polling stations, RTR reported. One likely reason for the election's "popularity" was the decision of Yakutsk authorities to hold a lottery on the day of the election in which the grand prize was a Volga automobile. JAC

ULYANOVSK
CHUBAIS MAKES AN EXCEPTION.
Legislators in Ulyanovsk Oblast's legislative assembly have again appealed to President Putin and the federal government for help with the region's heating supplies, regions.ru reported on 11 January. Legislators issued an appeal last December that did not result in any concrete measures. Deputies have therefore issued another appeal to federal authorities to adopt a quick decision on improving the supply of heat and electricity to homes, schools, and hospitals. And on 15 January, EES announced that exceptions to its policy of electricity for money will be made -- such as when there is objective evidence that delays in payments for electricity in a given area is related to objective difficulties in the budgetary system. According to ITAR-TASS, EES Chairman Anatolii Chubais cited Ulyanovsk as one example of such a region. JAC

VORONEZH
OBLAST FSB ACCUSED OF COLLECTING KOMPROMAT ON LOCAL LEGISLATORS.
Deputies in the Legislative Assembly of the city of Voronezh have accused the city mayor of compiling files of compromising materials about each of them, NTV reported on 9 January. One deputy told the network that Mayor Aleksandr Kovalev's chief of staff, who also happens to be the former director of the Voronezh FSB directorate, told the deputies that the materials will be made public if they continue to criticize the mayor. And another deputy said that Kovalev himself admitted to having ordered the investigations because he needed the materials to properly assess their work. However, the current spokesman for the FSB directorate denied that his office has ever been authorized to conduct such investigations. JAC

CORRUPTION WATCH
CHAVASH.
Artur Dzhilazyan was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 100 minimum-wage units for the illegal use of state awards and falsification of documents, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 January. Dzhilazyan, pretending that he was an official presidential advisor and recipient of the Hero of Socialist Labor medal, persuaded the city of Alatyr to give him use of a local building to start a local branch of Moscow State University's law school. ... KARELIA. The criminal case lodged against Petrozavodsk Mayor Andrei Demin on suspicion of abuse of office and bribery has been closed, regions.ru reported on 11 January. According to the mayor's press service, the case was closed because of the absence of anything criminal in Demin's actions. ... ROSTOV. A court in Rostov Oblast found former Novocherkassk prosecutor Nikolai Voskresov guilty of bribery, abuse of office, and wrongful arrests, ORT reported on 21 December. ... SAKHA. Former Sakha Republic Finance Minister Sergei Yanygin has been accused of participating in a scheme to sell $100 million worth of fake Sakha government bonds, Russian agencies reported on 10 January.

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