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Russia Report: March 15, 2002


15 March 2002, Volume 4, Number 9
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES
PUTIN POISED TO GET RIGHT TO APPOINT GOVERNORS?
The Russian president could receive the right to appoint the heads of the federation as early as this year, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told journalists on 12 March following a meeting with Duma deputies that day. Veshnyakov said that his commission supports amending current election laws so that the president has the right to appoint a regional leader if regional elections are declared invalid because less than 50 percent of registered voters participated, Interfax reported. Veshnyakov had earlier called such a proposal "nonsense" but now has agreed to the idea with certain conditions: The president would make the appointment with the agreement of the local legislature and for a limited time period such as two years (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 February 2002). "Izvestiya" commented that Veshnyakov's change of heart "will distress many governors." JAC

SAKHA, TATARSTAN OFFICIALS SAYS THEY'RE FINISHED WITH FIXING THEIR CONSTITUTIONS.
At a press conference in Yakutsk, the speaker of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic's upper house, Vasilii Filippov, acknowledged that he and his colleague have not gotten rid of all the inconsistencies between the republican constitution and the federal constitution, Interfax reported. In particular, deputies did not agree to exclude the requirement that speakers of both chambers in the republican legislature must have mastery of both the Yakut and Russian languages. However, President Vyacheslav Shtyrov declared on 7 March that the republican legislators have removed "practically all" of the conflicts between the republican constitution and its federal counterpart, and he thinks that the republican prosecutor's recommendation that the parliament be dissolved would be "politically inappropriate" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2002). Meanwhile, in Kazan, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told visiting U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow on 7 March that there will be no further serious changes in the bill amending Tatarstan's Constitution since it has already been passed in its first reading, Interfax reported. Shaimiev explained that it is necessary that Russia remain a federal government and not become a unitary one. On 6 March, Vershbow declared that Russia's future depends on the development of its regions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Vershbow also said that the U.S. is interested in the way that federal relations are arranged in Russia during Putin's tenure, and in how people in territorial entities evaluate these relations. JAC

CITIZENS WANT ENVOYS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT HOUSING, LAW ENFORCEMENT...
The office of the presidential envoy to the Urals federal district, Petr Latyshev, received more than 2,400 written and verbal appeals from Russian citizens during the first two months of 2002, while another 800 citizens showed up personally at Latyshev's headquarters in Yekaterinburg, rosbalt.ru reported on 11 March. According to the agency, most petitioners had questions about housing or the provision of public utilities, the work of local judicial or law enforcement bodies, the competence of local prosecutors, and the social needs of the population. Last December, the office of the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, Sergei Kirienko, reported that Kirienko had received 5,843 written appeals since the office opened in July 2000. It also reported that more than one-fourth of the letters were about the works of the courts, prosecutors, and the police; another 24 percent was about housing (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 December 2001). JAC

...AS ENVOYS EXPRESSES THEIR OWN DISSATISFACTION WITH LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS.
The presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, told reporters in Khabarovsk on 12 March that he is dissatisfied with the work of law enforcement organs in a number of regions in his district, although he did not specify which ones, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Pulikovskii made his remarks following a meeting of the directors of auditing and law enforcement agencies in the district at which the problems of corruption and economic crimes in the timber and fishing industries were discussed. The previous week, the deputy presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, Valentin Stepankov, suggested that law enforcement agencies in Perm Oblast needed improving. He announced the results of an opinion survey conducted by FAPSI among residents of Perm Oblast, regions.ru reported on 6 March, citing Region-Inform-Perm. Stepankov highlighted one particular finding: 22 percent of respondents said they would turn to a criminal group rather than to the police if their rights were violated or they were victims of a crime. Stepankov added that only two law enforcement structures are under the control of the envoy's office in Perm, the offices of the Federal Tax Police and the Interior Ministry. JAC

NEW AMBASSADOR TO BE SENT TO NOVOSIBIRSK TO OVERSEE REGIONAL FOREIGN POLICY...
A branch of the Foreign Ministry is being established in Novosibirsk, the capital of the Siberian federal district, presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district Leonid Drachevskii announced on 7 March. The head of the mission will have the rank of ambassador and will "orchestrate the expansion of relations between regions and neighboring countries, such as China," ITAR-TASS reported. According to Drachevskii, "quite a few border problems have accumulated in this sphere." JAC

...AS ENVOY RAISES QUESTION OF MERGER...
Drachevskii, who was visiting the Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug on 7 March, also commented on proposals that the okrug should be absorbed into neighboring Irkutsk Oblast, regions.ru reported. According to Drachevskii, such a merger should be undertaken only if the populations of the two regions agree. "This step should be painstakingly thought out and considered," he added. According to APN, he also said that "so far there is no defined plan for a merger and no analysis of the costs and benefits of such a step." Last April, the head of the okrug, Valentin Maleev, spoke in favor of a merger with Irkutsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2001). JAC

...AND SENATOR SUGGESTS RETHINKING STATUS OF AUTONOMOUS OKRUGS.
Meanwhile, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 March, Aleksandr Nazarov, chairman of the Federation Council's Committee on Issues of the North, declared that liquidating all of the autonomous okrugs would trigger a "political collision," and that the status of autonomous okrugs needs to be "examined within the parameters of the federal constitution." He said that the autonomous okrugs need to find a way to preserve their languages and their cultures, but at the same time they must build up their economic relations. "Of course, to preserve the [ethnic] minorities, the autonomous [okrugs] should exist. But at the same time, the form of their existence should not cause damage to the federation," he concluded. JAC

DUMA LEADER SUGGESTS FEDERAL CENTER GIVE DONOR REGIONS MORE DISCRETION OVER FINANCIAL FLOWS.
In an interview published in "Respublika Tatarstan" on 7 March, the leader of the State Duma's Russian Regions faction, Oleg Morozov, said Moscow is taking more and more powers and taxes from the regions but that the responsibility for the execution of those powers -- including financial ones -- still remains with the regions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 March. Morozov said the process of strengthening the federal legal system has disrupted the economic relations between Moscow and the regions. He suggested that donor regions should pay Moscow a fixed sum and be allowed to keep any extrabudgetary funds they have above this fixed level. In addition, according to Morozov, donor regions could also aid regions that require subsidies from the federal government by investing in such regions with the money they don't send to Moscow. JAC

WAGES TO HEALTH CARE WORKERS CONTINUE TO GO UNPAID.
Health care workers in 41 of Russia's 89 regions are owed back wages, Interfax reported on 9 March, citing the Health Ministry's press service. In the majority of these regions, the backlog ranged from several days to three weeks of unpaid wages. However, in one raion in Chita Oblast, workers have not been paid for three months, and in 18 raions in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast they haven't been paid since January. The ministry is most concerned about the rise of indebtedness in Kirov, Novgorod, and Nizhnii Novgorod oblasts, Evenk Autonomous Okrug, Khabarovsk Krai and the republics of Khakasia and Sakha. JAC

AMUR
NEW ACTION AGAINST CHINESE TRADERS REPORTED IN FAR EAST.
Amur Oblast Governor Leonid Korotkov issued a decree ordering tighter controls over the trading activities of foreign citizens, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 12 March. According to the oblast administration's press service, more than 2000 foreigners, most of them Chinese, sell goods in the capital's central market often without paying the necessary taxes. Last month, officials in Kamchatka Oblast announced that they would no longer be allowing any new Chinese traders into their territory because local businessmen accused them of selling goods at "dumping" prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2002). JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN
IS BASHKORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT GROOMING A SUCCESSOR?
Rumors are circulating in Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, about a new successor to republican President Murtaza Rakhimov, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 11 March. According to Ufa sources, the newly appointed deputy prime minister in charge of the fuel and energy sector, former republican Tax Police head Lieutenant General Engels Kulmukhametov, is likely to succeed Rakhimov, to whom he is reportedly close. Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov has also been named among the potential presidential candidates. Meanwhile, the most recent issue of the Bashkortostan supplement to "Argumenty i Fakty" speculated that a recent call by republican Election Commission head Baryi Kinzyagulov to postpone presidential elections until December 2003 indicates that Rakhimov will not run for a third term and needs additional time to promote a successor. JAC

KRASNODAR
YET ANOTHER ATTACK ON A 'NOVAYA GAZETA' JOURNALIST.
Sergei Zolovkin, a journalist for "Novaya gazeta" based in Sochi, survived an assassination attempt on 11 March, Russian agencies reported the next day. A resident of Abkhazia of Armenian descent fired a pistol at Zolovkin while at his home, narrowly missing him, according to ITAR-TASS. Zolovkin then managed to detain the man until police arrived. According to lenta.ru, this is not the first attempt to murder either Zolovkin or his family. Zolovkin has received telephone threats demanding that he cease his journalistic investigations. Zolovkin most recently published an article about corruption in Krasnodar Krai. His wife's brother is currently hospitalized after having been attacked by unknown assailants. JAC

KRASNOYARSK
CONFLICT BETWEEN NORILSK NICKEL AND KRASNOYARSK CONTINUES.
Legislators in Krasnoyarsk Krai gathered for an emergency meeting on 6 March at which they ratified an agreement about interbudgetary relations between the krai and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. However, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed recalled his signature from the document. Taimyr authorities have recently objected to the fact that all tax revenues from the city of Norilsk flow to Krasnoyarsk Krai's budget rather than the okrug, despite the fact that Norilsk is located in the okrug. Under the new budget agreement, 60 percent of the revenues would flow to Taimyr and 40 percent to the krai's budget. Krasnoyarsk would be left not only with a smaller share but also one from a shrinking pot because of last year's drop in world prices for copper, nickel, and palladium. Meanwhile, krai legislators held off on sending an appeal to President Putin to resolve the situation, and have instead directed Governor Lebed to seek a solution with Taimyr during the first half of 2002. JAC

LOCAL OFFICIALS TRY MILKING LIVESTOCK SITUATION TO TEACHERS' ADVANTAGE.
Officials in the Berezovskii raion in Krasnoyarsk Krai have come up with a new way to pay local teachers -- instead of wages they are given trade credits redeemable in cows, ntvru.com reported on 12 March citing Volgainform. According to the latest information more than 30 teachers, most of whom work in agricultural areas, have signed up for the programs. According to raion head Sergei Khrul, only cows and not steers are available. JAC

LIPETSK
GOVERNOR SET FOR ANOTHER TOUR OF DUTY.
Registration for candidates in the 14 April gubernatorial elections in Lipetsk Oblast closed on 9 March, and six candidates met the deadline, regions.ru reported on 11 March. Incumbent Governor Oleg Korolev will vie against Colonel-General Ivan Skuratov, a former military commander; Igor Polosin, deputy chairman of the Lipetsk city council; Gennadii Kuptsov, former head of the Lipetsk oblast administration; Yurii Bozhko, head of the Zadonskii raion administration; and Viktor Starykh, deputy direction of Sberbank's Zadonsk branch. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 March, Bozhko and Starykh are essentially doubles for Korolev. The only serious possible competitor, Vladimir Lisin, head of the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine, signed a "cooperation agreement" with Lisin last month and will not participate in the elections. Lisin said that he did not want to create further conflict in the region. According to the daily, the presidential envoy to the Central federal district, Georgii Poltavchenko, brokered the agreement with the two men and got Korolev to promise to try to improve the lives of Lipetsk residents. JAC

NOVOSIBIRSK
WAVE OF BANKRUPTCIES PREDICTED FOR SIBERIA'S DEFENSE SECTOR.
The first deputy presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district, Igor Prostyakov, told reporters in Novosibirsk on 12 March that not one of 33 defense enterprises in Novosibirsk Oblast received a single kopek in payment from the government for defense orders during January and February of this year, Interfax-Eurasia reported. And he said he is not excluding the possibility that a number of defense enterprises in the Siberian district will have to initiate bankruptcy proceedings. JAC

PRIMORE
SOUTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT RAISES QUESTIONS DURING LEAD-UP TO APEC SUMMIT.
Following an attack on him by unknown assailants on 3 March, Lee Joong Hwa, South Korea's consul-general based in Vladivostok, told Interfax three days later that the attack against him "is of considerable diplomatic significance, and is likely to influence the region's reputation worldwide...If a consul general, who is protected by law, is attacked," then no foreign national can feel safe there. Last month, Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov signed an ordinance "recommending that managers of trade, catering, and consumer business of all types make nameplates in both Russian and English and display them on their premises by 1 May in preparation for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum scheduled for September. The city is expecting to host several thousand people from APEC member countries. JAC

PSKOV
TRADE ROUTE BETWEEN ESTONIA AND NORTHWEST RUSSIA TO BE REOPENED.
Estonia and Russia are expected to sign an agreement at the end of March restoring a transportation route across Peipsi/Chudoskoe Lake, which borders Tartu, Estonia, and Pskov Oblast, Interfax reported on 8 March, citing the Baltic News Service. According to the agency, the route is navigable from April to September -- weather permitting. JAC

ROSTOV
ANOTHER REGIONAL JOURNALIST KILLED.
A journalist with the Taganrog based "Nashe Vremya" newspaper, Natalya Skryl, has died as the result of massive head injuries, Russian agencies reported on 11 March. Local police have ruled out robbery as a possible motive, since a large amount of cash and gold jewelry were not taken, according to ITAR-TASS. "Nashe Vremya" Editor in Chief Vera Yuzhanskaya believes Skryl's murder was related to her professional activities. She was recently working on a story about the struggle for control of one of Rostov Oblast's largest enterprises, according to RIA-Novosti. JAC

YAMALO-NENETS
MOSCOW OFFICIAL MIXES UP HIS NENTSY.
Meanwhile, in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, local Unified Russia branch leader Igor Nak has accused workers in the Unified Russia's party's central apparatus of being "incompetent," regions.ru reported on 7 March, citing Sever Press. Aleksandr Bespalov, chairman of Unified Russia's General Council, earlier made some disparaging remarks about the party unification process in certain regions, and included Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in a group of regional organizations that were unable to select a local party leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2002). But according to Nak, Unified Russia's General Council apparently confused the Nenets Autonomous Okrug with the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Nak suggested that people who "cannot differentiate among the 89 federation subjects should not be permitted in the future [to comment] on important political events." JAC

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