3 October 2001, Volume
RUSSIA'S SOUTHERN REGIONS BRACE FOR INCREASED FLOW OF REFUGEES, DRUGS.
The prospect of a U.S. military strike against terrorist forces in Afghanistan has heightened regional leaders' concerns about refugee flows over Russia's southern border. On 25 September, Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin expressed his fears of a "wave" of refugees from Central Asia and called for reinforcing the oblast's 800-kilometer border with Kazakhstan. Sumin told Interfax-Eurasia on 26 September that the regions in addition to his own that are the most vulnerable to refugee flows are the Orenburg and Kurgan oblasts. On 21 September, Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonskii also called for strengthening his region's border with Kazakhstan, noting that the dividing line does not have a full-state status. Authorities in Astrakhan are also bracing for not only increased flows of refugees but also drugs from Central Asia, RFE/RL's Astrakhan correspondent reported on 22 September. According to the correspondent, the only entry point in Russia for trains from Dushanbe, Tajikistan is Astrakhan. And policemen in the local railway station are already overwhelmed trying to check the hundreds of passengers that arrive each Saturday. Nine policemen cover the train station with three persons per shift. The weekly train is always full to overflowing with some passengers standing in the aisles, and carries not only refugees but also narcotics. Already, in the first eight months of the year police have seized seven kilograms of heroin. The Kazakh government has twice suspended rail traffic from Tajikistan, in the fall of 2000 and again in June 2001, on the grounds that the trains are unsanitary and many passengers do not have valid tickets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October and 16 November 2000, and 9 June 2001). JAC
ROSSEL ACCUSES UNNAMED 'FORCES' OF TRYING TO BREAK UP INTERREGIONAL ASSOCIATION...
Members of the Greater Urals Interregional Economic Association gathered in Yekaterinburg on 28 September to observe the 10th anniversary of its founding, Interfax-Eurasia reported. At that meeting the president of the association, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, suggested that the presidential envoys to the Urals and the Volga federal districts be invited to join the association. Last year, Interfax-Eurasia quoted the presidential envoy to the Urals federal district, Petr Latyshev, as saying that he believes the association is obsolete and all of its functions should be transferred to state organs ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 October 2000). Addressing the meeting on 28 September, Rossel said complications have recently arisen in the work of the organization as a result of a series of pronouncements about the pointlessness of the organization under current conditions. Rossel noted that "it is no secret there are forces that are trying to break up the Urals economic association." And he asked, "Why have delegations from several regions not participated in our work today?" According to Interfax-Eurasia, the presidents of Bashkortostan and Udmurtia and the head of the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug attended the 10th anniversary meeting, while the Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, and Orenburg oblasts sent deputy governors. Tyumen Oblast is also a member of the association, but the agency did not report it as having sent a representative. Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin is a former deputy of envoy Latyshev. JAC
...AS SIBERIAN ASSOCIATION MEETS WITH ENVOY, FEDERAL MINISTERS...
Meanwhile, in Novosibirsk on 1 and 2 October, the interregional economic association Siberian Accord held a joint session attended by presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district Leonid Drachevskii, heads of the administrations of the Siberian regions, and with representatives from the federal ministries, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The officials discussed among other things the regions' preparations for winter and power-sharing agreements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2001). JAC
...AS SOME URAL ASSOCIATION MEMBERS ASK MOSCOW TO RETURN POWERS.
At a press conference following the association's session, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Udmurtia President Aleksandr Volkov, and Rossel told reporters that they believe the federal center should return some of its powers to the regions, according to Interfax-Eurasia. The leaders also noted that their association corresponds fully with the Russian Constitution. When asked about the 2002 draft budget, Rakhimov noted that "the budget as a whole illustrates the tendency to concentrate resources in the center, which cannot make regions happy." He said that of the 48 billion rubles ($916 million) collected in his republic, some 27 billion rubles will have to be transferred to the center. Rossel commented that such an approach is faulty in principle because "the better the federation subjects work, the worse their budget." JAC
ELECTION HEAD CHIDES VOLGA LEADERS...
Commenting on a recent suggestion by Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov that his commission should be empowered to name some of the members of local election commissions (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 September 2001), Sverdlovsk Governor Rossel said on 1 October that candidates for chairs of the election commissions in the regions should be agreed upon only after consultations with the heads of those regions. On 27 September, Veshnyakov told reporters in Yekaterinburg that one of the goals of revising election legislation will be to reduce the use of "administrative resources" during elections at all levels. (Veshnyakov was attending an interregional conference on election legislation in Yekaterinburg.) Rossel, who was at the press conference, noted that the power of legislators at all levels should be curbed; while agreeing, Veshnyakov countered that the administrative resources of governors are incomparably higher than that of legislators. Veshnyakov also stressed that all officials involved in an upcoming election should go on vacation during the campaign period, and noted that Sverdlovsk Governor Rossel and Bashkortostan President Rakhimov did not do so during the lead-up to their reelections. JAC
...AS FATHERLAND OFFICIAL CALLS FOR MORE PARTY CONTROLS OVER REGIONAL LEADERS.
In an interview with "Vek" on 28 September, Vyacheslav Volodin, the new leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction in the Duma, made his own suggestions for regional elections. According to Volodin, Russia's political parties should nominate candidates for gubernatorial posts. "And if the [governor] starts to behave willfully in his post, then he should not be nominated for a second term," Volodin said. JAC
REGIONAL LEADERS REMINDED OF PUTIN'S POWER TO DISMISS THEM.
Sergei Medvedev, the deputy head of administration of the Prosecutor-General's Office in the Siberian federal district, told Interfax-Eurasia on 24 September that 160 normative acts remain on the books in that district that violate federal laws. The Altai Republic has 30 laws on the books that violate federal legislation, which is the highest number in the Siberian region. The Altai Krai is second with 24, and Novosibirsk Oblast with 18. The constitutions of the Altai Republic and those of Buryatia and Khakasia are also in violation of the Federal Constitution, according to Medvedev. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 September that the Altai Republic has already previously been given notice about its constitution, when first deputy presidential envoy to the Siberian district Igor Prostyakov announced that the envoy's office had requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office initiate legal proceedings against the leadership of a region that has not brought its laws into compliance with federal legislation. He reminded regional leaders at the time that the president has the right to strip a regional leader of his post if he violates federal law on more than one occasion. JAC
MINORITY LANGUAGES AT RISK OF DYING OUT.
An article published in "Vremya MN" on 26 September on the occasion of Europe's Language Day said that languages spoken by only a handful of people in Russia are now at the mercy of the whims of regional leaders rather than of any central policy as to whether they will survive or die out. These languages saw their first major decline from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s when textbooks and instruction in them were reduced by Moscow's fiat. But since 1991, one of the "small" languages has died out -- Kerek, which was spoken in parts of Chukotka -- and many of the 60 others in this category are threatened with extinction, the article said. It also noted that Russia up to now has never signed a single international convention on the protection of small ethnic groups and languages spoken by relatively few people. Dmitrii Nasilov, a language professor at the Institute for Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University, told the daily that there are two reasons for the worsening situation regarding the languages of numerically small peoples: "The ethnic groups themselves almost do not support linguistic self-awareness, and all levels of public authorities pay little attention to the issue of language." The newspaper also cites a website on languages of Russia that reports that only 42 percent of the Saami consider Saamii to be their native language, and only 23 percent of the Nivkhii know the Nivkhii language. PG/JAC
VOLGA ETHNIC GROUPS CALL ON ENVOY TO SET UP DIASPORA COUNCIL.
Representatives of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Udmurtia have recommended that a coordinating council for work with ethnic diasporas be established in the Volga federal district, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 28 September. Around 100 representatives of the three republics gathered on 28 September in Naberezhnye Chelny in Tatarstan to discuss the problems of diasporas. According to the agency, there are around 8 million Tatars, two-thirds of whom live outside of Tatarstan, and there are 800,000 Udmurts, of whom 250,000 live in Udmurtia. JAC
EARLY ELECTIONS PREDICTED FOR BASHKORTOSTAN.
The latest issue of the independent monthly, "Otechestvo," suggested on 1 October that the next presidential elections in Bashkortostan will probably be held in the first half of 2002, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov will face off against Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov in a bid for a third term in office. The magazine, which is published outside Bashkortostan, suggested that Baydavletov would be a strong rival, since he enjoys the support of many of the administration heads of the republic's districts. PG
PRESIDENTIAL RACE GETS CROWDED.
As of 1 October, some nine candidates were registered to compete in the 16 December presidential elections in the Chavash Republic, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Candidates have until 10 November to present signatures supporting their candidacy to the local election commission. So far, incumbent President Nikolai Fedorov will compete against Stanislav Borisov, a lieutenant general in the Federal Security Service; Federation Council member Nikolai Ivanov; State Duma deputy (Communist) Valentin Shurchanov; and Nikolai Grigorev, the chairman of the political council of the regional branch of Union of Rightist Forces, according to the agency. JAC
CONFLICT OVER ECONOMIC ZONE LOOMING?
Presidential envoy to the Northwestern federal district Viktor Cherkesov presented his new deputy for Kaliningrad Oblast, Andrei Stepanov, in Kaliningrad on 26 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the daily, Stepanov is an old acquaintance of President Putin and the former chief federal inspector for Leningrad Oblast. Like Putin, Stepanov was also a deputy to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. Stepanov told the daily that his main task in his new position will be to fulfill the earlier directive of the Security Council, which reportedly ordered that control over the special economic zone be transferred from the control of the oblast administration to the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 1 August 2001). Several newspapers at the time characterized the Security Council decision as a move to introduce "soft presidential rule." According to the website strana.ru on 26 September, Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov told local reporters at a press conference in the spring that dual rule in the region would lead to "chaos and disintegration." He said, "if the [presidential] administration takes over economic management of the special economic zone, with what will the administration of Kaliningrad Oblast occupy itself?" Meanwhile, Sergei Ryabukhin, an auditor with the Audit Chamber, announced the results of an audit conducted on the oblast's budget. According to Ryabukhin, the goal of transforming Kaliningrad from a recipient to a donor region has not been met. That goal was set by the federal government some five years ago when the special economic zones were established. JAC
OLD RIVALS BECOME OLD FRIENDS.
More than 60 specialists from the office of Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, have been working in Primorskii Krai to conduct an audit to ensure that the presidential decree and orders as well as other federal laws have been obeyed, Radio Rossii reported on 25 September. First deputy envoy Gennadii Apanasenko, who was a contender in the recent gubernatorial elections, said that the audit had long been planned and was not connected with the new krai administration. "Our goal is only to check, to learn about the situation, and work out recommendations to resolve problems," Apanasenko declared. Six days later, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Apanasenko gave his former competitor passing marks. According to the daily, Apanasenko said that "in the energy sphere, Primore has made great progress. For the first time, in five years, the norms for fuel supply have been met." The daily noted that new Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin "has found a common language with [the office of] presidential envoy [Pulikovskii]." JAC
SOLDIER'S MOTHER COMPLAINS OF SLAVE LABOR.
Lidia Guseva, the mother of soldier Aleksandr Gusev, has appealed to the Nizhnii Novgorod Soldiers' Mothers Committee, complaining about the conditions under which her son was serving in the Russian army, RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent reported on 22 September. Aleksandr Gusev was serving not in the North Caucasus but in "peaceful" Volgograd Oblast; however, he and 15 other draftees are working 14-hour days of hard physical labor on a watermelon plantation. Gusev wrote to his mother saying that two soldiers had already died and that if she didn't bring him home he would soon arrive in a "zinc box." With money in hand, Lidia Guseva traveled to Volgograd and brought her son home. However, he was in such a poor psychological state that he had to be immediately hospitalized upon his return. Representatives of his military unit arrived seeking his return to service, but the military prosecutor in Nizhnii Novgorod is conducting an investigation of the soldier's charges. JAC
CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION GIVES RACE ITS SEAL OF APPROVAL.
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters in Moscow on 24 September that the election in Rostov Oblast the previous day had been observed by a number of representatives of different public movements and parties, and not one serious complaint was made. According to Interfax, Veshnyakov said that the likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning the election result is small. The same day, presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev announced that he is certain that "Rostov Oblast will become the example for how to conduct elections for the republics of Adygeya, Kalmykia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and North Ossetia, which will hold elections next year." Incumbent Governor Vladimir Chub won the election with 78.2 percent of the vote -- following the elimination of two competitors during the registration process. JAC
NEW TAX ARRANGEMENTS LEAVE REGION IN THE POORHOUSE.
The head of the agricultural department in the Vologda Oblast administration, Leonid Frygin, has ordered members of his department to limit their telephone calls outside of the city limits of Vologda to no more than three minutes, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 October. Frygin declared that three minutes "is sufficient to conduct official business, and workers who want to conduct personal conversations can pay for them out of their own pockets." According to the daily, the oblast budget is so tight that soon workers will have to economize even when it comes to paperclips. Expenditures on agriculture have been cut 40 percent, health services have received 30 percent less than planned, and capital investments have been cut by half. Overall, the oblast budget is 1.6 billion rubles smaller, and the reason, according to the daily, is the new fiscal arrangement with the center under which revenues from the most stable, easiest tax to collect, the value-added tax, flow to the federal government. Next year, the oblast is expecting to face even tighter finances because of the declining profits at local metals firm Severstal. That company provides some 70 percent of the oblast's budget, according to the daily. JAC
FAR EAST CITIES CONTINUE TO LEAD WITH HIGH FOOD PRICES.
The following table shows the price of a basket of 25 basic food products in August 2001 in a variety of Far Eastern cities. In August, Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, had the highest food prices in all of Russia. JACRegion_________________Price of Food Basket, rubles*
*$1 = 29.48 rubles Source: Khabarovsk Krai State Statistics Committee as cited by Interfax-Eurasia on 14 September.