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Russia Report: February 14, 2001


14 February 2001, Volume 3, Number 7
PAN REGIONAL ISSUES
MORE 'RESIGNATIONS' PREDICTED IN FAR EAST PROVINCE AND OTHER REGIONS.
Following quickly after the arrival of presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii in Vladivostok on 12 February, 12 of former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko's deputy governors tendered their resignation. The next day, the new Acting Governor and former First Deputy Governor Valentin Dubinin said that seven of these 12 resignations had been accepted, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported. Dubinin added that the personnel reshuffle will be extended to the krai's law enforcement and other power organs, including that of the local prosecutor. On the same day, Gleb Pavlovskii, head of the Fund for Effective Politics and unofficial Kremlin advisor, told "Vremya novostei" that "the dismissals and resignations will not end with Nazdratenko's...I think there will be many casualties." Pavlovskii added that "the upcoming reforms will affect virtually all levels of government, from the Cabinet down to the regional organizations." On the other hand, Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said that "it's still too early to speculate whether Nazdratenko's resignation sets a precedent." But he continued that he does not "rule out the possibility that St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel may encounter problems soon." JAC

HAS PUTIN'S REGIONAL POLICY VEERED OFF COURSE...
A number of Moscow-based newspapers have suggested that President Putin's regional policy has shifted dramatically, particularly with the Kremlin's support of legislation allowing most governors a third term. President Putin signed that bill into law on 13 February (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January 2001). "Itogi" on 6 February 2001 argues that Kremlin's regional policy no longer appears "intelligible," and the president has apparently "forgotten" why he needs the seven presidential envoys to the districts. The weekly, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group, suggests that the recent legislation allowing most governors a third term and the readiness of the president to "give the land question" to the governors goes against the logic behind the creation of the seven envoys, which was to limit -- not expand -- governors' power (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Report," 2 February 2001). In contrast to "Itogi," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 February suggests that the Kremlin's apparent lack of opposition to the bill allowing most regional leaders a third term may be a tactical ploy designed not to aggravate the current political situation. That newspaper, which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, notes that the Kremlin is reportedly planning to alter the constitution and reduce the number of regions. Therefore, in three years the existing regions may not exist within their current borders -- nor, presumably, will their leaders. JAC

...OR IS PUTIN FOLLOWING THE YELTSIN MODEL?
"Kommersant-Vlast" in its 31 January issue puts the Kremlin's support for additional terms for regional leaders in another context. It suggests that the Kremlin is worried about growing opposition from the regional leaders and worsening economic conditions, such as falling oil prices and new demands from Russia's creditors. It therefore decided that "it was necessary to secure the unity and integrity of the whole executive branch. It could not afford to risk facing the looming economic crisis without reliable political support in the regions." The weekly suggests further that "Putin is restoring the principle of political loyalty from regional leaders, which Yeltsin used before him." However, Putin has an advantage that Yeltsin didn't have: Armed with the legislation that the Duma passed last summer enabling him to dismiss regional leaders who violate federal laws, Putin has a stick to use if "a regional leader forgets his proper place in the scheme of things." JAC

ENVOYS BECOMING POLITICAL ACTORS RATHER THAN OVERSEERS...
In a long discussion of contradictory tendencies in Putin's regional policy (see item above), "Itogi" argues in its issue on 6 February that the office of the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts is evolving in a way that is opposite of what was originally intended. According the weekly, the office of the envoys was established because "executive power in the regions had become practically uncontrolled, and the law enforcement organs, which according to the Constitution are supposed to battle lawlessness in the regions, had fallen into a relationship of complete dependence on the governors." The "authors" of the May 2000 decree which created the seven envoys "clearly wanted to create an organ whose functions were primarily that of control," according to the weekly. But that decree carried the seeds of its own demise: it gave the envoys ancillary responsibilities such as participating in the development of long-term economic strategies for their districts and approving appointments of federal officials. And these activities, according to the weekly, undermine the envoys' primary function, control, by involving them in the region's political life. Making the matter worse is that the envoys themselves are trying to grasp additional powers, of a more political nature; the weekly cites as an example, presidential envoy to the Volga region Sergei Kirienko's draft legislation on the envoys, which "emphasizes the political character of the envoy's activities." The weekly argues that the gubernatorial elections last fall demonstrated how the political engagement of the envoys undermines the realization of their supervisory functions. Regional residents complained about how local election commissions "tolerated incredible things" such as forgeries and the use of administrative and other resources, but "the envoys did not intervene in a single region or call the federal center to introduce order." Instead, the envoys "practically all more or less openly played on the side of one of the candidates." JAC

...AS ONE GOVERNOR CALLS THEM UNNECESSARY...
Meanwhile, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak has expressed additional, more direct criticism of the institution of the envoys in remarks to reporters on 7 February, Interfax reported. Prusak said that envoys "are needed in the North Caucasus, where there is an unstable situation, and in the Far East, where because of the severe cold people are freezing, and possibly, the envoys could be of some help there." He continued, "But as regards the Northwestern district, I am convinced that an envoy is not necessary. None of us, unlike in the Volga district, violate federal laws." (Novgorod along with the republics of Karelia and Komi, Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Murmansk, and Pskov Oblasts, the city of St. Petersburg, and Nenets Autonomous Okrug comprise the Northwestern district, whose envoy is Viktor Cherkesov.) Prusak added that he is glad that Putin recently signed a decree subordinating the envoys to presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 February 2001). Last month Prusak criticized plans to reduce the size of the Main Territorial Administration within the Kremlin which has battled the envoys for influence ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 January 2001). JAC

...AND THEY PLAY HOST TO NEW ORGANIZATIONS.
The presidential envoys to the Central, Siberian, and Far East districts and their staff have been busy hosting meetings of new all-district organs that they have created. At the end of December, presidential envoy to the Central federal district Georgii Poltavchenko hosted a meeting in Kaluga of his new structure, a district council composed of the leaders of the 18 regions within the Central district, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 February. At the meeting, council members elected Federation Council Chairman and Orel Oblast Chairman Yegor Stroev as head of the new council. They also discussed establishing an investment agency that will attract capital to the regions within the district, and Poltavchenko suggested that the governors prepare suggestions for improving legislation that could be presented jointly to the president. "A single voice is weak, the voice of 18 is much stronger," Poltavchenko noted. Meanwhile, in Novosibirsk, deputy presidential envoy to the Siberian district Igor Prostyakov oversaw a session of the new organ devoted to resolving economic problems on a district-wide scale on 8 February, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Attending the meeting were the deputy governors of all 16 regions, local industrialists, such as representatives from Norilsk Nickel, and various academics. The previous week, according to the daily, a council made up representatives of all the Siberian regions' force structures was convened. On 9 February, Konstantin Pulikovskii, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern district, opened a session of the district's governmental commission on the use of hydrobiological resources. JAC

CEC HEAD SEEKS TO END GOVERNORS' PRACTICE OF RESIGNING TO SEEK REELECTION...
In an interview with "Segodnya" on 6 February, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that his commission is hoping to discourage the practice among incumbent governors of resigning their office early and then seeking re-election in order to move up election dates in their regions. Veshnyakov declared "Early elections are dangerous, because a regional leader who steps down automatically has an advantage over his potential rivals. Any fair fight is out of the question under those circumstances. If the law is suitably amended, the ability of regional leaders to play electoral games will be restricted." At a seminar with members of Unity on 10 February, Veshnyakov said that his commission has already prepared several amendments to prevent such occurrences, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, in Irkutsk Oblast, legislators there have rejected a bid by the incumbent Governor Boris Govorin to move up gubernatorial elections (see item below). Last month, former Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev resigned from his office and plans to seek re-election in early elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January 2001). JAC

...AND PROMISES THAT ANY MISBEHAVIOR BY OLIGARCH-GOVERNORS WILL BE PUNISHED.
When asked about the recent elections of business leaders to the post of governors of the tiny regions where their companies dominate the local economy, Veshnyakov told reporters on 2 February that he recognizes that there is a danger that such governors could start to "confuse government coffers with those of their companies' or their own." However, he said that there are laws in place to discourage such behavior. "If the pessimists' fear are justified, then this tendency will be dealt a most powerful blow." Last month, Norilsk Nickel head Aleksandr Khloponin became head of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January 2001), and former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich now oversees Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. JAC

EVENK
YUKOS EXECUTIVE GETS INCUMBENT''S BACKING.
Evenk Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Bokovikov, who recently announced that he will not seek re-election, has announced his support for the YUKOS executive Boris Zolotarev, a candidate in the region's 8 April race, RFE/RL's Krasnoyarsk correspondent reported on 8 February. According to the correspondent, Bokovikov's chief competition was originally expected to be Evgenii Vasiliev, federal inspector for Taimyr and Evenk autonomous okrugs. Vasiliev's political opponents have accused him of representing the interests of certain oil companies, particularly YUKOS. However, according to the correspondent, the Kremlin reportedly refused to support Vasiliev's candidacy. Zolotarev, who lives in Moscow, suddenly expressed his interest in leading the region. On 9 February, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Vasiliev has resigned, and the office of presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district is explaining his departure as a result of the envoy's dissatisfaction with Vasiliev's plans to compete in the upcoming election. JAC

IRKUTSK
IRKUTSK GOVERNOR FOILED IN BID TO MOVE UP ELECTIONS.
Irktutsk Oblast's legislative assembly rejected a proposal on 7 February by the region's Governor Boris Govorin to move up the date of the next gubernatorial election from 22 July to 22 April, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Govorin claimed that he wanted to reschedule the elections because during the summer it is reportedly more difficult to attract the minimum number of voters. Holding early elections is generally considered a favorite tactic of incumbents to catch their potential opposition off guard. Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev recently resigned and elections there will now be held on 22 April (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January 2001). JAC

MAGADAN
LOCAL EDITION CLAIMS MOSCOW HEADQUARTERS ACTING AS POLITICAL CENSOR.
The Moscow-based management of the weekly "Argumenty i Fakty" (AiF) and its regional counterpart, "Argumenty i Fakty-Magadan," are battling over the latter's coverage of the gubernatorial elections in that oblast last fall, RFE/RL's Magadan correspondent reported on 8 February. "AiF" has ordered "AiF-Magadan" to stop publishing with the "AiF" moniker because it charges that the local edition violated the weekly's editorial policy. "AiF-Magadan" engineer Vladimir Serbinov told RFE/RL that "AiF" objected to the critical articles published regarding incumbent Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov who was running in the 5 November ballot. In January, Tsvetkov, who won reelection, visited the Moscow offices of "AiF," and on 2 February, according to Serbinov, a fax arrived from AiF's director in Moscow ordering the Magadan edition to cease publishing. JAC

PRIMORE
NAZDRATENKO GOES JOB HUNTING IN MOSCOW...
Former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko announced on 11 February that he does not plan to announce his candidacy in upcoming gubernatorial elections, and a number of central political figures, including Central Election Commission Chairman Veshnyakov, have said they expect Nazdratenko to keep his word. Meanwhile, Nazdratenko flew to Moscow where he plans to continue serving as a senator in the Federation Council until the new governor has been named. He also said earlier that he will meet with President Putin on 12 February; however, Interfax reported that day that the Kremlin was refusing to confirm that a meeting was even scheduled. Unidentified sources in the krai's administration told the agency last week that it is possible that Nazdratenko will take over as head of the State Fishing Commission. However, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 8 February that its unidentified sources in the Kremlin claimed that Nazdratenko "either invented the president's proposal to move to Moscow for a job or misunderstood the president." JAC

...AS CANDIDATES SOUGHT FOR UPCOMING ELECTIONS.
During his press conference on 13 February, Acting Governor Dubinin declined to reveal whether he has any plans to run in upcoming gubernatorial elections, which local legislator Sergei Zhekov said are likely to be held on 10 June. JAC

TYUMEN
NEW GOVERNOR WANTS LONGER TERM FOR PUTIN.
Newly elected Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin told Interfax on 7 February that seven years, rather than the constitutionally-mandated four years, would be a more appropriate length for the presidential term. Sobyanin explained that "each election means significant political stress for the nation and a colossal federal expenditure." A seven-year term, as shown by world experience, would give the head of state sufficient time to carry out the reforms he initiated, Sobyanin continued. JAC

CORRUPTION WATCH
MARII EL.
The chairman of the election commission in the republic of Marii El, Yurii Petrov, was arrested and is being held in isolation in Nizhnii Novgorod, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 9 February. Last October, Nizhnii Novgorod's department for combatting organized crime launched a criminal investigation against Petrov on suspicion of receiving large bribes, such as a Volga automobile, while he was serving as head of presidential administration under then-President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn....SAKHALIN. The former head of the justice department of Sakhalin Oblast, Nina Gultyaeva, has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison on charges of embezzlement and appropriation of state resources, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 7 February. The department's former bookkeeper was also sentenced to five years and five months for embezzlement of more than one million rubles ($35,000). JAC

REGIONAL INDEX
Pump Prices Ease Across Country
The following table shows the average consumer price of one liter of gasoline in rubles from 5 February compared with the 4 December 2000 rate in a variety of cities.

Region_______Feb. Price_____Dec. Price___% change
Moscow_______8.00_________8.77________-8.7%
St. Petersburg___8.41_________9.43_______-10.8%
Nizhnii Novgorod_7.55_________7.86_______-0.4 %
Samara_________7.72_________8.65_______-10.8%
Kazan___________7.31________8.02________-8.9%
Omsk____________7.63________7.46_______+2.7%
Novosibirsk________7.96________8.27_______-3.7%
Irkutsk____________8.78________8.99_______-2.3%
Ekaterinburg______7.97_________8.37_______-4.0%
Khabarovsk_______7.45_________8.83_______-15.6%
Volgograd_________7.89________7.95_______-0.8%
Vladivostok_______8.83_________8.99________-1.8%
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk__7.56________12.12_______-37.6%

Source: State Statistics Committee as cited by Interfax on 13 February 2001 and 14 December 2000

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