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Russia Report: January 31, 2001

31 January 2001, Volume 3, Number 5
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a degree requiring the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts to coordinate their activities more closely with his presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin, Russian agencies reported on 30 January. Putin is planning to sign another decree, reducing the number of personnel in the Main Territorial Administration (GTU) within the presidential administration from 105 to 40 persons, according to a variety of sources. An unidentified Kremlin source told ITAR-TASS that the envoys themselves are preparing suggestions for improving their own work and possibly reducing the number of federal workers in their regions. Reports of the decree follow a meeting between Putin, Voloshin, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and the seven envoys on 27 January. "Kommersant-Daily" on 30 January interpreted the developments as a decisive victory for the presidential envoys in their bureaucratic turf war with the GTU (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 January 2001). Previous news accounts of the struggle have suggested that the envoys are supported by Ivanov in their quest for additional power, while the GTU's cause has been advanced by Voloshin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 November 2000). That the envoys are subordinated to Voloshin rather than Ivanov suggests that Putin's approach to the struggle has perhaps been to split the difference. A better indication of the envoys' victory will be if they manage to win additional powers, as presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko reportedly asked for earlier. JAC

State Duma deputies voted on 25 January to approve in the third and final reading legislation that would allow some 69 regional leaders to seek a third term and an additional 17 to seek a fourth. The legislation originally extended additional terms to a smaller group of governors and republic presidents, but State Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Georgii Boos offered an amendment in the second reading that widened the number of eligible regional leaders. [Perhaps not accidentally Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a former close colleague of Boos's, is now eligible to seek a third term.] An amendment proffered by deputy (independent) Vladimir Ryzhkov that would have narrowed the pool of leaders eligible for third terms lost out to Boos' amendment. The Duma deputies' concessions to current regional leaders were considered so generous that Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov was even prompted to criticize the effort, declaring on 27 January that "I think there must be limits on terms of office." According to the current version of the law, which will now head to the Federation Council where it is likely to receive a warm reception, a governor's first term is considered to start after October 1999. The new stipulation presents a particular boon to Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who may now run not only for a third term but also a fourth (see item below.) Also eligible for a fourth term will be the leaders of the republics of Kalmykia, Ingushetia, Adygeya, Tuva, Kabardino-Balkaria, Buryatia, Bashkortostan, Sakha, Komi and Chuvashia as well as the governors of Tomsk, Omsk, Novgorod, Sverdlovsk, Belgorod, and Orel Oblasts, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 January. Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov, who has been harshly critical of some of President Putin's federation reforms, told reporters in Cheboksary on 29 January that he will not even seek a third term, although he is eligible under the Duma legislation. "Eight years in this job -- this is hellish labor, titanic work," he said. His second term will end in December 2001. JAC

The Kremlin took no official stance toward the Boos-sponsored changes. Presidential envoy to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov denied that the Kremlin had engaged in a lobbying effort, but he did not criticize the bill's new content. In addition, Boos told "Segodnya" that President Putin expressed his support for the bill when he met with Duma faction leaders on 18 January. The pro-Kremlin Unity also voted unanimously for the legislation during its second and third readings. Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center told "The Moscow Times" in its issue on 26 January that the Kremlin is expecting the presidential envoys to the federal districts to become stronger, so it then "will be completely irrelevant who is in power in the regions." JAC

President Putin has reportedly weighed in on the ongoing discussion of the elimination of Russia's ten autonomous okrugs and one autonomous oblast and their reabsorption into the oblasts and krais of which they are a part (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 January 2001). At a recent meeting with Duma faction leaders, Putin spoke in favor of "improving" the territorial and administrative divisions of Russia, "Vedomosti" reported on 23 January, citing Union of Rightist Forces member and deputy speaker Irina Khakamada. According to Khakamada, Putin said that there are examples of autonomous okrugs where the number of people of the titular nationality is very small and for them the territorial-administrative definition does not play a particularly important role. "The indigenous people are dying out, but these regions are being mercilessly used by financial groups as a base for pumping out money to a particular company," she said, revealing that Putin cited the Khanty-Mansii and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs, which are part of Tyumen Oblast, as examples. The Khanty, Mansii and Forest Nenets comprise less than 1.5 percent of the population in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, according to the daily. However, another deputy speaker, Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko), had a slightly different take on the meeting with Putin. He told "The Moscow Times" in its 30 January issue that the "president was very cautious and convinced that there shouldn't be hasty steps in regional integration." JAC

According to "Vedomosti," Russia's energy barons are particularly alarmed by any plan to alter the status of Tyumen Oblast's autonomous okrugs, because they believe it would mean that the oil and gas located in these okrugs would be directly controlled by Moscow. (Some 60 percent of all of Russia's oil resources and around 90 percent of its gas are located in Tyumen Oblast, according to People's Deputy group leader Gennadii Raikov, who was elected from a single-mandate district in the oblast.) An unidentified representative of one large Russian oil company told the daily that "any changes [in the okrugs] are not in our interest." The source continued that his or her oil company supports "stability" and with any kind of merger or new association, everything would have to start anew, such as relations with the tax service and administration which "will cost more money." JAC

The draft legislation that the Ministry of Nationalities and Federation Affairs has been preparing on the process by which federation subjects can voluntarily merge with each other is apparently already available for review for Duma deputies (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 January 2001). According to "The Moscow Times" on 30 January, Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent), a member of the Duma Committee on Federation and Regional Policy, said the draft legislation is in strict accordance with the Constitution and the complicated procedure for completing mergers "offers a guarantee that there will be no forced integration." JAC

The Pension Fund is planning to create a single pension service with administrators in 48 regions, Interfax AFI reported on 29 January. According to the agency, over the next 2-3 months, the Pension Fund is planning on signing agreements about the creation of a single pension service with the leaders of 15 regions. An unidentifed fund official told the agency that so far only two regions have expressed any opposition to the plan, Moscow and Tula. JAC

As expected, Norilsk Nickel General Director Aleksandr Khloponin won the 28 January gubernatorial elections in Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, unseating incumbent Governor Gennadii Nedelin who has been in the region's administration for the past three decades. Khloponin, 36, will reportedly be the youngest governor in Russia, according to ITAR-TASS. Norilsk Mining, a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, is the chief employer in the region, and provides as much as 85 percent of the region's budget, according to "Vedomosti" on 30 January. According to the daily, Khloponin's victory constitutes only the most recent political gain by the company in the region. For example, the current mayor of Bolshoi Norilsk is a former director of Norilsk Mining. In addition, the company last year helped its candidates get elected to the local okrug legislature, Mikhail Malyutin of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepeneurs' Expert Institute told "The Moscow Times." The incumbent Nedelin complained to NTV that Khloponin's victory was a result of President Putin's crackdown on the country's oligarchs: "The president of our Russian Federation has pushed the oligarchs aside on a federal level and they have been forced to move. Where? Into the regions, and not only into Taimyr and Chukotka." Prior to the election, the local election commission chairman in the okrug reported a number of irregularities during the lead-up to the election (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 January 2001). However, on election day itself Central Election Commission Chairman Sergei Bolshakov and chief federal inspector for Taimyr and Evenk Autonomous Okrugs Evgenii Vasilev observed that the balloting proceeded smoothly, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. JAC

Taimyr____Aleksandr Khloponin (62%)___Gennadii Nedelin (33%)

Source: "Vedomosti" 30 January 2001

On 25 January, Kemerovo Oblast's legislature accepted the resignation of Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev. An early election will now be held on 22 April, the same day as municipal government elections. Tuleev had announced earlier that he wants gubernatorial elections to take place this April rather than in October, when they are currently scheduled ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2001). Tuleev claims he wanted the change of date in order to save the oblast money, since two elections could be held at once. When asked by "Izvestiya" on 26 January, why he didn't shift municipal elections to coincide with gubernatorial elections, he said "I wouldn't have objected to doing so, but unfortunately election laws do not permit this." When asked about Tuleev's plans on 24 January, Central Election Commission Chairman Veshnyakov told reporters that "today no legal obstacles exist for [such a move]," however, "from a moral point of view there are nuances." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that his party has not yet decided whether it will support Tuleev in his re-election bid, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. JAC

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu wrapped up on 29 January another mission to Primorskii Krai to resolve that region's ongoing energy crisis. According to RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent the same day, some 16,000 residences remain without heat, but Shoigu has pledged that all homes will be heated by 6 February. Last month, during a similar mission to the krai, Shoigu claimed that all heating would be functioning in the krai by 18 December (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 January 2001). Last week, about 200 people in the village of Razdolnoe in Primorskii Krai tried to block the Trans-Siberian railway to protest the lack to heat to their homes, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 24 January. JAC

On 30 January, the Yabloko faction called upon Putin to remove Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko "for misuse of authority and failure to perform his duties, which have produced grave consequences in the region," ITAR-TASS reported. On 1 February, the law which was passed last year giving Russian presidents the right to dismiss regional leaders who disobey federal laws comes into effect. On 28 January, Nazdratenko told Interfax-Eurasia that he is not planning to resign. "During the krai's last elections, in which 87 percent of the population participated, 82 percent supported me," Nazdratenko noted. JAC

Following quickly on the heels of the State Duma's approval of a law allowing some regional leaders a third and in some cases even a fourth term (see item above), Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev announced on 26 January that he will seek re-election. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 30 January, Shaimiev is the only candidate so far to submit his application to the local election commission in both Russian and Tatar. He must now collect 50,000 signatures. Shaimiev is the 17th candidate to declare his candidacy in the race so far, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Shaimiev already leads his rival candidates with 86 percent of voters saying they trust or completely trust him, Efir TV channel reported on 28 January, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. State Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev was critical of Shaimiev's decision to seek re-election, telling RIA-Novosti on 29 January that "some regional leaders want to rule for life." At the same time, Seleznev said that he does not see an alternative to Shaimiev, adding that "it is very bad when someone becomes irreplaceable." JAC


Vladimir Beketov, chairman of the legislative assembly of Krasnodar Krai, on migration policy in Russia:

"We have laws but actually they do not successfully manage the situation. And as a result it is not a country but a revolving [prokhodnoi] door. Under these circumstances external forces always find a way to destabilize the situation in a strategically important region of Russia, the south, and drive us back from the Black Sea and deprive us of the most important ports and bases, resorts, etc. It is already obvious, who, which foreign centers, underwrite the conflict in Chechnya. It is possible to suggest that certain Islamic centers, or more exactly, extremists and separatists, for whom Islam is only a cover, are fostering the conditions for the development of such events in the Kuban.

"And already there is confirmation [of this]. For example, the Meskhetian Turks settled down at the entrance to [the port of] Novorosiisk, which is strategically important for all of the Kuban. Right next to it are railway tunnels and major oil and gas pipelines. [They are coming here] not just for the remarkable climate. Characteristically, one of the governments of a neighboring country is actively helping these emigrants to firmly consolidate their hold over this place, giving them vegetables, fruit and other goods. The government of Russia somehow once decided to provide help to these emigrants returning to their historic homeland. And what of that? Only some 30 families have moved. They buy their home with federal money. They leave, then soon they return to the Kuban. They take in their many relatives and legally and illegally undertake the construction of new housing. They have large families; 10-12 children is the norm. And the Slavic population is decreasing. In many villages for every thousand newborns already 500 of them are Turks.

"The [social sphere of the krai] is overburdened. We do not have enough places in schools, kindergartens, and hospitals. Unemployment is growing. And that is feeding crime. It is no secret that migrants inclined toward trade in weapons and narcotics. But the krai's budget is not the main problem. The chief problem is the future of the country, its unity. Of course, this situation is being controlled, but if all migrants are given registration for a place to live -- and they are demanding this more insistently -- then everything will become even more unpredictable. These Meskhetian Turks will certainly get hold of the real levers of power and head the local organs of self-rule. What then? Welcome to the Islamic Republic of the Kuban?"

Source: "Parlamentskaya gazeta" 27 January 2001

In an article in "Zhurnalist" issue number 12, Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defense Fund, describes the results of a survey on media freedom conducted by his organization of 87 regions in Russia (not including Chechnya and Ingushetia) during the autumn of 1999 and the spring and summer of 2000. The survey looked at a variety of components, such as freedom of access to information, freedom to create information, and freedom to distribute information. One indicator included in the index measuring freedom to distribute information is the number of bureaucratic levels one must consult in order to open an ordinary newspaper kiosk. Omsk Oblast is the record holder with 34. Simonov notes that each region violates media freedom differently -- but each of them does so. His fund had hoped to produce a three-color map based on the survey, with different colors indicating where the situation was favorable, unfavorable and where "positive and negative nuances more or less canceled each other out." Instead, the group ended up with a two-color map, since there were no "favorable" regions in Russia. Even the city of Moscow, which ranked first overall, placed 79th in terms of access to information in 2000. Simonov reported that Bashkortostan shifted its ranking from 87th to 14th during the six months that passed between the first and second phases of the survey, because it revoked the most offensive articles of its Media Code. These articles conflicted with federal legislation. JAC

Ranking/Region__________Media Freedom Index

1. Moscow city________________62.9

2. St. Petersburg_______________50.2

3. Vladimir Oblast_____________49.3

4. Vologda Oblast_____________49.1

5. Sverdlovsk Oblast___________47.3

6. Orenburg Oblast_____________46.4

7. Kaluga Oblast_______________46.3

8. Yaroslavl Oblast_____________44.8

9. Irkutsk Oblast_______________44.5

10. Ivanovo Oblast_____________44.3

11. Tver Oblast________________44.1

12. Novosibirsk Oblast___________43.1

13. Leningrad Oblast_____________42.4

14. Tomsk Oblast_______________41.8

15. Sakhalin Oblast______________41.7

16. Moscow Oblast_______________41.3

17. Stavropol Krai________________41.0

18. Kaliningrad Oblast_____________40.5

19. Ulyanovsk Oblast______________40.0

20. Tambov Oblast________________39.8

21. Krasnodar Krai________________39.4

22. Murmansk Oblast_____________39.2

23. Kamchatka Oblast_____________38.8

24. Buryatia Republic______________38.8

25. Amur Oblast__________________38.4

26. Bryansk Oblast________________38.4

27. Tyumen Oblast________________38.3

28. Voronezh Oblast_______________38.3

29. Novgorod Oblast_______________38.0

30. Khanty-Mansii A.O.______________37.7

31. Rostov Oblast_________________37.6

32. Saratov Oblast_________________37.4

33. Smolensk Oblast________________37.1

34. Karelia Republic________________36.8

35. Arkhangelsk Oblast_____________36.7

36. Krasnoyarsk Krai_______________36.0

37. Perm Oblast___________________35.7

38. Altai Krai_____________________35.6

39. Kemerovo Oblast_______________35.6

40. Tula Oblast____________________35.4

41. Tatarstan Republic______________34.6

42. Astrakhan Oblast_______________34.5

43. Primorskii Krai_________________34.3

44. Komi Republic__________________34.1

45. Samara Oblast_________________33.1

46. Khakassia Republic______________32.9

47. Kostroma Oblast________________32.2

48. Orlov Oblast___________________32.2

49. Belgorod Oblast_________________32.1

50. Lipetsk Oblast__________________31.8

51. Ryazan Oblast__________________31.5

52. Ust-Ordin A.O.__________________31.5

53. Penza Oblast____________________31.4

54. Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast___________30.8

55. Omsk Oblast___________________30.7

56. Jewish A.O.____________________30.2

57. Koryak A.O.____________________30.1

58. Evenk A.O.______________________29.6

59. Taimyr A.O.____________________29.4

60. Chelyabinsk Oblast_____________29.1

61. Pskov Oblast__________________29.0

62. Adygei Republic________________29.0

63. Chita Oblast___________________28.9

64. Kursk Oblast___________________28.7

65. Kurgan Oblast___________________28.15

66. Volgograd Oblast________________28.1

67. Chuvash Republic________________27.7

68. Khabarovsk Krai_________________27.5

69. Kirov Oblast____________________27.0

70. Nenets A.O._____________________26.7

71. Mordovia Republic_______________26.3

72. Daghestan Republic______________26.3

73. Bashkortostan Republic___________26.0

74. Komi-Permyak A.O.______________22.3

75. North Ossetia Republic___________22.0

76. Kalmykia Republic_______________21.9

77. Tuva Republic__________________21.0

78. Sakha (Yakutia) Republic_________20.8

79. Altai Republic__________________20.8

80. Yamalo-Nenets A.O.______________20.6

81. Udmurtia Republic_______________20.4

82. Kabardino-Balkaria Republic________19.6

83. Agin-Buryat A.O._________________19.5

84. Marii El Republic_________________19.3

85. Magadan Oblast__________________19.1

86. Chukotka A.O.____________________18.8

87. Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic______14.6

Source: Glasnost Defense Fund